“She loved you, you know,” Lily says, as if she plucked the thoughts from my head.
“No, I don’t know.” My response is clipped and harsh, but I don’t care. My feelings for my mother are coiled in a giant knot that I can’t untangle. Anger, longing, and sadness are snarled together and I can’t tell one from the other.
“That’s fair.” She pauses and takes a deep breath. “Maybe I said it wrong. She loved you the only way she knew how.”
“I don’t know what that means and to be honest I’m just not sure I care.” I can feel myself getting angry, the hurt rising up inside me. “Do you know what it’s like to have to stay in your dorm alone because you have no one to go home to for the Holidays? Or what it’s like when no one shows up to see you while you’re in a foreign country by yourself?”
“No, sweetheart, I don’t” The soft tone of her voice cools my anger. I’m directing it at the wrong person, but there’s no one left to take it out on. “Your mom wasn’t a great mother, I know that, and I’m sure she knew it. I think it’s why she sent you abroad. She thought it was for the best, and I know this doesn’t make it excusable, but it’s the same way she grew up with your grandfather. It’s just how they were; they kept their emotions to themselves and their priority was work. But you, you don’t have to be that way. You can start a new way of life if you want.”
The reality of her words hits me like a punch to the stomach. That’s essentially where I was headed in life. I wanted to come back to the States, and show my mom I could make her proud. Get her attention by becoming a lawyer like her. Is that what she’d been doing with her father? I was setting myself up to walk down the same miserable path. I’d probably end up with a heart attack the same as them.
I don’t want to be alone anymore.
“You don’t have to be,” she whispers, making me realize I said the last part out loud. She’s right. I’m eighteen, I’m done with school, and the canvas is blank for me. I can do anything I want. At the thought, Bruce flashes in my mind, and all the dirty things I thought about him doing to me. I bite my lip, trying to calm the heat I feel rushing to my face.
“So, Bruce and my mom?” I let the question hang, not wanting to finish the sentence.
“No, he’s a workaholic like she was. Only when he’s not at work, he’s in his home office. I think they got married because of your grandfather. They both made partner before the ink dried on the marriage license.”
I want to pry for more information, but I don’t want to be too obvious. Before I can ask my next question, the elevator dings, and a handsome man in his late twenties strolls into the entryway. He looks like he walked out of a magazine. Damn, are people just made that way around here or something?
“Oh, my apologies, ladies, I didn’t know anyone was here. Mr. Archer’s paralegal sent me to pick up a brief he left behind. He needs it for a meeting today.”
“Hi, Jacob,” Lily says in a familiar tone. This must not be the first time he’s been here.
“Good afternoon, Mrs Lily. Don’t mind me I’ll be out of your hair in just a second. Sorry to disturb you.”
Lily nods her head at him and he looks over at me and smiles, before walking down the hall. I watch him retreat, following him with my eyes as he goes.
“He’s handsome,” Lily whispers behind me, catching me eyeing him. She has the wrong idea. He’s handsome, but he also knows where Bruce works.
You don’t have to be. Lily’s words play back in my head.
No, I don’t have to be alone anymore. I’m tired of sitting around and waiting to get what I want. I’m going for it. Glancing over at the clock, I see it’s eleven already. Maybe Bruce hasn’t left for his lunch date yet. Maybe I can ruin those plans.
When Jacob comes back down the hall, I don’t waste any time.
“Are you going to take that to Bruce?” I ask, nodding at the folder in his hand.
“Yeah, you’re Sophie, Debra’s daughter, aren’t you?” I just nod my response. “I’m Jacob, a junior associate at the firm,” he says, offering me his hand.