Mom sniffed softly and wipes under her eyes. “I can’t believe you’re really moving out.” She looked up at the old Victorian townhouse I would be living in now and then back at me. “You know I’d be happy with you and Caleb living at home for a while longer.” “A while” being an almost infinite amount of time.
Carter laid his hand on her shoulder. “This is something she needs to do. Right?”
I smiled gratefully and nodded at him. “Yeah, it is.”
“Come home all the time,” Mom said in a tone that brooked no argument.
I wrapped my arms around her and hugged her tight. “I’ll come home when I can,” I promised. With my schedule, I doubted that I would have much time to do more than drop off and pick up Caleb, but I would try to make time for visiting.
She sniffed again and smiled sheepishly at herself. “I don’t know why this is so hard. I’m going to see you almost everyday when you bring Caleb over.”
Until I find an affordable daycare. This was the time Mom really ought to be able to slow down a little bit. With the twins eleven now, they didn’t require as much close supervision. This should be Mom’s opportunity to have some time to herself, not run after a little kid all day.
“Don’t worry,” an elderly woman said from the front door. “I’ll take good care of them.”
Mom smiled at Mrs. Burgess, the woman who owned the house and lived on the first floor. “I know they’ll be in good hands.” I hadn’t spoken with her much outside of the brief interview I’d had with her, but she seemed like a pleasant woman. She had offered to let me use the downstairs kitchen if I ever wanted, but I’d told her I’d probably keep to myself a lot.
“I better get upstairs; I’ve still got some unpacking to do.”
“Are you sure you don’t want some more help?” Mom asked.
Carter chuckled softly. “She’s a big girl, Haddie; she can handle some boxes.” He gave me a hug. “You’ll call if you need anything.” It wasn’t a question.
“Yes, I will. I’ll see you tomorrow when I drop Caleb off, Mom.
It took another few minutes, but eventually I was able to go upstairs with my son where I was, at last, alone in my little apartment. It wasn’t much; it was a two-bedroom apartment crammed into the second floor of a rather narrow old Victorian house. But it was my apartment. It was a good place for Caleb to live, and it wasn’t too far from the journal.
While Caleb explored his bedroom, I went into the living room and looked around. It was a bit out-dated and cramped, but I liked it. It didn’t feel cramped so much as cozy. Things were still going to be tough, but I couldn’t help but feel hopeful.
As soon as I walked into Nora’s apartment, I felt like a giant. I was used to being the tall guy anywhere, but my frame pretty much consumed the narrow hallway.
“The living room has a little more space,” Nora promised, leading the way past the kitchenette.
I followed her in, looking around. “It’s definitely…” I couldn’t readily think of much complimentary to say.
She laughed softly. “I know; the décor is pretty dated, but I kind of like it.” She walked around the room and smiled at me. “It isn’t much, I know, but don’t you think it’s charming?”
No, I didn’t really think so, but I couldn’t say that. Looking at the smile on my sister’s face, it was obvious that she loved the apartment. And that was really all that mattered. “I think it’s great, Nora. I’m really glad you’re happy with it.”
“Do you want anything? I just went to the store.” She grinned. “I’ve got to get used to playing hostess now, I guess.”
I shook my head and sat down on the sofa. “No, I’m good. How are things at the journal?”
“Pretty good.” She sat down and rolled her eyes. “Or, well, at least as god as ever for me. They’ve still got me doing pointless fluff pieces.”
“You need a good story.” I grinned crookedly at her. “Maybe I should specially request that you cover all my game. Because I am journalism gold.”
She snorted. “I’ll pass on the nepotism, thanks. I’m also not a sport’s writer.” She sighed. “I want to be a serious journalist. Write about real issues. How am I supposed to do that if all they give me is kitten-up-a-tree stuff?”
“I hate to say this, but it might take independent research. You may need to go find your own story and take it to them.”
“They’d probably say, ‘great, thanks; this’ll be great for this other guy.’” She shook her head. “You’re right, though. It’s the only way I’ll get noticed. I just don’t know how to find the time.”
“Well, you know I’ll help you however I can. I’m still ticked at you for not telling me when you were moving, by the way.” She’d moved in four days ago, but I’d only found out the next day.
“It’s not like I had a lot; the apartment came furnished. Mom, Carter, and I had it covered.” She bumped her shoulder into mine. “So, what’s up with you?”
I shrugged. “Pretty much the same as ever. Everything is fine.”
“Uh huh,” she said, voice dripping with disbelief. “Once more with feeling.”
I sighed softly. “I’m…” I rubbed my face, leaning forward on my thighs. Finally, I admitted, in a voice barely above a whisper, “I’m afraid I’m losing Alison.” Saying it aloud hurt. “She’s been spending a lot of time with Luc ever since our fight…It’s not really about him, though. I trust her – I really do. I just – I want to fix things with us, but I just don’t know how.”
“Josh,” Nora started in a soft, hesitant voice, “are you sure it would be such a bad thing? Losing her? You want to have a family; she doesn’t. That’s a huge difference of a opinion.”
“I know that,” I snapped. “I love her. I can’t just leave her.”
“She isn’t making you happy.” So plain, so matter-of-fact.
The gentle tone of her voice coupled with the bald-faced way she said the very thing I refused to admit to myself infuriated me. “She does make me happy!” It was only when she started and leaned away from me that I realized I’d yelled. Immediately, my anger evaporated. “Shit, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to shout.” I rubbed my face with both hands. “I love Alison,” I repeated. “And I know that she loves me. We’ve just been having a rough time. It’s to be expected after five years.” The words rang hollow, but I ignored that.
Nora didn’t say anything. She just leaned over and put her head on my shoulder.