I’m in the back of a cab from JFK airport to the Upper East Side Wednesday when my mother calls.
“Are you at work, lovey?” The nasally tenor of her voice tells me she hasn’t stopped crying since she got the news about Granddad.
“Just finishing up with something.” I can’t tell her about Lila and MJ with all of this going on. “I’ve got a few things to take care of in the city, but I’ll be home tonight.”
I’m not exactly thrilled about going to the funeral tomorrow, but I’m doing it for my mother.
“Are you staying through the weekend?”
“Didn’t plan on it.”
“Didn’t Westley tell you about the reading of the will on Saturday? You might as well stick around. What’s one more day? And there’s so much family in town …”
“Granddad cut me out of the will,” I say.
There’s silence on the other line.
“We had an argument Saturday night, after Whitley’s wedding,” I say. “He told me I was no longer welcome at Rose Crossing, and I left.”
“I don’t understand … the two of you were so close … he would never …”
“It’s a long story, Mom. And I’ll tell you everything when the time is right.”
“Thayer, you have me worried now. Are you sure this is something that can wait?” she asks.
“Absolutely. I’ll see you tonight, Mom.” I end the call as the cab drops me off outside my building. I swipe my credit card, leave a tip, and head inside, giving the doorman a nod on the way to the elevator.
A pianist plays Chopin on a baby grand piano in the lobby. It was donated by one of our former residents, a concert pianist, who passed away, and ever since we get volunteers from all over the city who want to come and play for a few hours just for fun. It’s a nice way to be welcomed home, and the co-op insists this little quirk would be great for resale value.
I try to imagine Lila and MJ here, traipsing through the marble-tiled lobby and squeezing between snotty older women with their purebred pooches under their arms. Everything about Lila’s life in Summerton is easy and simple, laidback and unfussy. My life moves at the speed of light. I’m constantly jetting off to meet with clients, working fourteen-hour days, buzzing across town and back for dinners and luncheons and speaking engagements, guest lectures at NYU and Columbia, and dropping by thousand-dollars-a-plate charity events.
Lila would hate this.
And I would never expect MJ to be uprooted from the only home she’s ever known to be transplanted in the chaos that is the Manhattan school system. I didn’t even go to school in the city, and just hearing about how hard it is for parents to get their kids into freaking preschool stresses me out. That’s too much pressure to put on a child, and I would never do that to mine.
I shoot Lila a text, letting her know I landed and I’ll be in touch soon. She didn’t ask me to text her when I got back, but I think it’s a good idea to open up a casual dialogue between us.
We talked last night over coffee, and when I suggested the idea of revisiting what we once had, she damn near recoiled at the thought. Her reaction stung, and honestly, I have to say I didn’t see it coming. She sat there and claimed she still loved me and always would, and then she went on to say she had nothing to offer me.
I imagine she drew comparisons between us, our lives, and the people we grew up to be and convinced herself that there was no way the twenty-nine-year-old me would want to be with the twenty-eight-year-old her.
But she couldn’t be more wrong.
And I’m going to prove it to her, even if it takes a lifetime.
“How’s the milkshake?” I ask MJ after school on Wednesday.
She dunks a diner French fry into the top of her glass. “Amazing.”
“So I brought you here today because I wanted to tell you something,” I say, swiping a fry from her plate. This may be a huge bombshell I’m dropping on her, but I want to keep it casual and lighthearted. I’ve learned with kids, if you make something a big deal, they will too.
“Did you find us a house?”
“Not yet. I’m looking,” I say. I’ve spent every waking school hour this week searching for jobs and housing, but I kind of need one before I can get the other … so until the job thing happens, we’re going to have to stay put. “Do you remember the man who came to our house last week? With the dark hair?”
“Yeah. Your friend. The one who liked my necklace at the coffee shop.” She sips her shake, her cheeks sucked in like a vacuum.