But, like every other time he relived this nightmare, no one responded. He woke up with a start and sat upright in bed. He looked around, the musty scent of old books helped bring him back to the present. Breathing hard, he climbed out of bed and headed to the bathroom. He turned on the water and haphazardly splashed his face, heedless of where the water ended up. He wanted to wash away the image of his baby brother's lifeless body.
My mother had prepared dinner just like she had most of my life. She was still pretending the best she could. I knew she prayed for that miracle too. Whenever she could, she acted as if life hadn’t turned on us two years ago when my father was diagnosed. Tonight Momma even had fresh flowers on the center of the table. The basket beside them was full of freshly baked bread. She was baking a lot of bread lately. It was her way of coping, I had decided.You’re home, she said with a smile that didn’t meet her eyes. How was practice?
This was how she dealt with things: smiling, putting up a happy front. I wasn’t sure if she was trying to help me get through this or if it was the only way she could handle it. Dad just let her do whatever; he didn’t force her to face the truth. He adored her. Always had.Our house wasn’t big and fancy like the one she had grown up in. Yet she loved it. The way she took care of it and made it feel warm and inviting was proof she was proud of the life that Dad had given her. Not once did she speak about her past or the life she left behind when she married Dad.It was good. We’re ready for Friday night. I feel confident we got this, was my reply. Because, like Dad, I couldn’t let her down. If she wanted to pretend life was normal, then I would pretend with her.
Dad eating with us? I asked, wondering if he was better today. When I’d left this morning, he’d still been sleeping. No vomiting, and last night had seemed quiet.She beamed at me, and the light in her eyes seemed almost real. Yes, he is. He’s just getting dressed now after his shower. He’s looking forward to hearing all about practice. I think he’s more excited about Friday’s game than you are.
He was excited, but would he go? Last year he hadn’t been this bad. He’d been able to sit up in the stands and watch. But now I couldn’t imagine him sitting out there. Things had taken a bad turn the past month, and he wasn’t getting better. I didn’t want to shorten the time I had with him because he was going to my games when he should be resting.
What’s for dinner? I asked, changing the topic. Dad and football were hard to talk about. I had grown up loving football because it was what Dad loved most in the world, second only to his family. It was how we bonded. All those days of him tossing me the ball in the backyard and the mornings we woke up early to go running together before school. It was us. An us that was slowly fading away.Y’all, back off her. She decided she wants to talk, and y’all are gonna have her changing her mind, Brady grumbled without taking his eyes off the screen.
I just want to hear her say something, Nash called from across the room.I could stand here silent and let them go on and on, or I could say something and get this awkward moment behind me. Sucking in the courage I needed, I turned to Nash. What would you like me to say? I asked.
The room went silent. Then Nash’s face broke into a grin. Well, hell, Maggie. Even your voice is pretty.I was thinking the same thing, Gunner added, still draped around me.