I leaned my head back and looked at the tree towering above me again. I can see what made you do this, I said. Do you mind if I take a picture of us?
Looking at her love for him is like looking directly into the sun.She steps back like a general, assessing her son fully. You’re looking quite well, my love, quite well. She pokes his stomach. I can’t tell you how delighted I am that you came.
Whatever I was expecting Jamie’s mother to be like—their relationship to be like—it wasn’t this. At all. I’m so confused I’ve been standing here with my mouth wide open since she grabbed him.She eyes me. Shall you introduce me, or must I do everything myself?Yes, of course. Jamie touches my shoulder. Eleanor Durran, may I present my mother, Antonia Davenport.
She takes my hand with gusto. Eleanor! How lovely. You don’t often hear that name anymore.I smile. That’s why I go by Ella.
She chuckles. Family name?
Eleanor Roosevelt, I answer. My father had delusions of grandeur.I smile back. Okay, I’ll let you know.
Connor grimaces, considers. I tried leaving the ball in your court once and it never got returned. How about this time you serve, and I’ll follow up on Wednesday? He’s already taking out his phone. Okay?This makes me laugh. Fine. It’s a plan, I say, and give him my number.
THAT NIGHT, CHARLIE, Maggie, and I get takeaway pizzas, a big jug of wine, and sit on the floor in Charlie’s room eating our feelings. The theme of the night is Walls. Charlie’s hit a wall with Ridley the Rower, Maggie’s banging her head against a wall with Tom, and I’m ignoring the wall that’s suddenly appeared between Jamie and me.I love Charlie’s room. It looks like something out of Brideshead Revisited. Oriental rugs cover the hardwood, a four-panel screen hiding the bed, a red velvet couch, and antique floor lamps. He has a collection of drippy candles in wine bottles (surely against code) and he’s put a portable washer/dryer combo in the corner. He even has a tea chest with an assortment of loose-leaf teas that I’m slowly working my way through with Charlie’s guidance. He lived here all three years of his undergraduate and was able to keep it this year as well. The college usually requires students to vacate their rooms not only over the summer, but even between terms, so they can be rented to tourists or conference attendees. Charlie must have done something for someone (or to someone) for the privilege, and I don’t want to know what it is.