Mindy felt stricken. The dark obverse of everything-happens-for-a-reason was that the reason should have been identified, and prevented. If Paul cheated on her again, there had to be a reason, and it was her fault. Her weight, for starters. Mindy had let herself go. She could almost hear her mother saying it, right now. You blew up, dumplin.’ What did you expect?
Mindy had thought she was over it, but she wasn’t, not if it was happening again. She had forgiven Paul, or at least she hadn’t asked for a divorce, because she loved their family. And she loved Evan, who loved them both. But she couldn’t go through it again. Everybody deserves a second chance, but nobody deserves a third.
Mindy felt her thoughts racing, rolling into a giant bolus of anxiety, anguish, and confusion. And still, part of her reflexively wondered if she was jumping to conclusions. Maybe Evan had bought a gift for one of the girls he was dating. He was supposed to ask first, but he had done that before. Or maybe the charge was fraud or a clerical error. That had happened before, too; once somebody charged $150 worth of athletic equipment at a Footlocker in Minneapolis, using their credit card.
“Mindy? Did I lose you? Mindy!”
“Oh sorry, I think it cut out.” Mindy came out of her reverie. “The reception is bad upstairs.”
“You have cold spots in your house? I have a wireless guy. I’ll text you his contact info.”
“Great,” Mindy said, wondering about the cold spots in her house. Lately her entire house was a cold spot. She set the statement aside. “I should really go, okay?”
Heather heard her text alert coming from her uniform pocket, but it was probably nothing. The only texts she got were from creditors, written in a deceptively friendly way; Oops, life happens! Reminder, your bill is ready. Blue Cross texted her, too; You have a private message waiting. Tap link to view. It sounded tantalizing, but it was the same message. You’re late with your payment.
Heather hustled to the kitchen. She was working yet another luncheon, this time for the Women’s Service League of Central Valley. She entered the warm kitchen and grabbed three plated entrees, avoiding the new chef, a drama queen. She pushed through the swinging door for outgoing, expertly balancing the plates on her forearms. She crossed the hallway, entered the Lafayette Room, and beelined for the table. Coincidentally, it was the one in the corner, where she had served Mindy Kostis yesterday.
You look familiar to me.
Heather dismissed the thought, sidestepping fancy handbags and managing not to elbow anyone in the head, though she might have wanted to, since the Women’s Service League had decided at the last minute to hold its speeches and raffles before the meal, backing up the entire schedule, so that Heather had no hope of getting out on time again. She reached the table with a professional smile, served as unobtrusively as possible, and headed back to the kitchen, hearing another text alert sound, which gave her pause. It could be Jordan. Something could’ve gone wrong at school.
Heather stopped by the wall near the restrooms, sliding her phone from her uniform pocket. The banner on the screen showed the text was from Jordan, and it had the first three words, whoa mom u, which she didn’t understand, so she swiped to read the whole text.
whoa mom u wont believe it im starting
Heather read the text in astonishment, because something good had happened. Jordan had taken the top spot. Her heart filled with happiness and another emotion—hope. She felt unaccountably as if her son had lifted up their entire family in just one stroke. She texted back: you’re STARTING!?
Heather felt wetness come to her eyes. It was the emoticon that got to her, a generic representation of a smile that was too damn long in coming. On impulse, she scrolled to her phone function and called him.
“Ma, hold on,” Jordan answered, his voice low. Heather assumed he was going where he could talk to his mother without fear of embarrassment.
“Jordan, is this really true? You’re starting pitcher for varsity?”
“Mom, do you believe it?” Jordan asked, his voice filled with happiness.
“No, no I don’t!” Heather felt tears come to her eyes, but she blinked them away. “I’m so proud of you! You deserve it! You worked so hard, you practiced so hard!”
“Mom, it’s unreal! Coach Hardwick just told me, like, in front of everyone. I felt bad for Raz, though.”
“He’ll be okay. What did Coach Hardwick say?” Heather wanted to know every detail.
“He said, ‘starting roster for today’ and read off the names, and when he got to the pitcher, he said my name. Awesome, right, Mom?”
“So awesome! So what did you say when he said that?”
“There was nothing to say. I got my glove.” Jordan laughed, a carefree giggle that Heather remembered from when he was younger.
“Where are you now?”
“In the locker room, in a stall.” Jordan laughed again, and Heather realized that he had no one to share his happiness with except her. Raz was his closest friend, so there was nobody else left. She wished she could be there to watch him pitch, and wetness returned to her eyes. She cleared her throat.
“Well, you have a wonderful game, sweetheart. Knock them dead!”
“I will. Love you, Mom.”
“Love you, too, honey,” Heather said, hoarsely. She had no idea why she was getting so choked up. The emoticon. That giggle. Her son, who had worked so hard for so long, had finally caught a break.
“Bye.” Jordan ended the call.
Heather wiped her eyes with her fingers, then looked up to see her manager, Emily, striding toward her.
“Heather, what are you doing on the phone?” Emily asked, glaring.
“Sorry.” Heather looked Emily directly in the eye. She wasn’t about to deny it. She would take her lumps.
“Was it a personal call?”
“Yes. My son.”
“Was it an emergency?”
“Doesn’t your son know not to call you at work?”
“He didn’t call me, I called him.”
“For what reason?”
“None of your business.” Heather felt anger flicker in her chest, underneath her name tag.
“Did you have an emergency?”
Emily’s blue eyes hardened like ice. “You know you’re not allowed to make personal calls at work. We’re in the middle of a luncheon. We’re trying to get everybody served.”