Sliding onto her favorite kitchen stool, Molly, her eye brows knitted together, looked first at Dad, then Mom, then me. “What? What's going on?”
This was one time I was glad not to be the parent. Closing my eyes. My chin dropped to rest on my chest, I waited for the brewing storm to make landfall. It was Dad who took the first foray. “Mom has to go back to Seattle”
“No,” wailed Molly.
Dad reached out to hug her, but she pushed him aside. Wrapping her skinny spaghetti arms around Mom.
“Sweetheart,” he continued, ignoring the rising commotion. “Carolyn is ummmm.... sick. She's in the hospital.”
“I don't care. Mom just got back,” cried Molly.
“Oh sweetheart,” sighed Mom, stroking her bobbing curls. “I don't want to go, but I have to. Carolyn will be, actually, she is a part of our family now, and she needs me.”
Still sobbing, Molly replied, “Well I need you too. I need you to be home with me.”
“I know,” calmly acknowledged Mom. “But somethings can't be helped.”
“Then let me come with you.”
The kitchen feel silent. Mom looked to Dad. Dad looked to Mom. Mom pursed her lips. She was truly thinking about this, before asking, “What do you think, Sam? Think I could take her?”
“For a month?” scoffed Dad. “No.”
“What about for a week?” Molly's eye's lit up with hope.
“She's in second grade... Are you going to fly back and forth to escort her? Do you think it is wise she flies alone?”
Then I chimed in, “What if I go with you?”
Now Dad was rolling his eyes. “You're in high school. Miss one day and you're swimming upstream to catch up. A week and you'll be buried for a month or more.”
Then it hit me. “What if we go to school this week, but then fly out for April break?”
“You and Molly fly out alone, together....” Now Dad was pursing his lips in thought.
It would be only my second time ever on a plane. And the first time, I barely remember as I was only six years old. And this would be Molly's first time ever. My heart skipped a beat.
Turning to Mom, he surmised, “That might work. What do you think Margie? You go out now and get Carolyn's situation stabilized. Then in about ten days the girls will fly out for break.”
“I don't know Sam.” Then turning towards me she asked, “Can you handle it? The flight, alone with Molly.”
I took a deep breath. “Is it non-stop?”
“We'll try for non-stop, but usually you change planes in Chicago. Could you manage a lay over?”
“I think I can. Then looking at my traveling charge, continued, “Molly won't be a problem, will you?”
She was vibrating in Mom's arms. Still I detected her shaking her head no.
A skinny smile spread across Mom's face.
“Horrah!” We were going back. Excitement abounded. You would have thought she won the lottery. And in a way we had; but at Carolyn's expense.
As expected Mom flew back that afternoon. We were in school, so it was back to returning home in the afternoon to an empty house, dinner not ready, Dad scrambling to keep the house from imploding, Jeff hunting down the last of Mom's chocolate chip cookies, and Carolyn texting she missed the bus on account of math and would be waiting at school for her mom to pick her up.
“STUDY!” I texted back..
:o was her only response.
Watching Jeff reaching for another handful of cookies, I commented, “You should ration yourself. She's probably gone for a month or more.”
He slowed the cookie half way to his mouth, “And when she comes back who knows what it's going to be like. I mean she might not have time to bake.” He went to put the rest back in the cookie tin.
“No, really eat those,” I urged. “And you didn't have to say that.” And he didn't. I knew change was inevitable. After all Carolyn was only suppose to finish the school year and then move to Stockbridge. But that gave me over two months to get used to having my now orphaned turncoat old best friend living under the same roof. Now it looked like I would have a month.
Innocently Jeff asked, “And what if she doesn't want to move here?”
If it weren't such a serious question, it would have been comical to watch Dad's face pop up from behind the cupboards where he had been hunting down a pan. Had he forgotten his own daughter, me, just three years ago, not wanting to abandon our home on Bainbridge Island?
“Dad, really?” I scoffed
Still sporting shock and surprise, he replied, “It's just I never thought of it. What if her....” I caught a quick Dad glance towards Jeff, “illness is not because of anything attributable to her current situation? What if it's because of the pending move?”
Jeff puzzled, interjected, “I thought you said she had a bad case of the flu.”
Not mincing words, I answered, “I lied.” and returning my conversation with Dad, “...If that's the case, Mom is going to have her hands full.”
That late night call, one sided; Dad's side:
How is she?
Have you spoken with the doctors?
A quiet nod.
Have you seen Mrs. O'Brien?
She's there... been there the whole time. Oh... Devastated, I'm sure. Poor dear...
Then the tough question: Any idea why she....
No. She's not talking. Well maybe... now she'll start to feel better and open up.
Yeah, love you too. Good night.