The Village Apartment Complex was now home to Emily. It certainly wasn’t the roomy hi-ranch she was raised in, but roomy enough to hold her memories. While she’d grown up on the North Shore further out on Long Island, she had now made home on the South Shore closer in to Manhattan.
Her alarm went off and she gazed at it for a moment, distracted by the annoying buzzing until it registered that she had it in her power to stop it. She reached over and slammed the snooze button, then dropped her head face down on the pillow, hugging it, trying to inhale him. It had been eons ago since he’d been in her bed, but she couldn’t accept his redolence having vanished forever. It was inconceivable, but that did not stop her from recalling him by filling in the memories with scenes that hadn’t occurred, yet might have, if only…
The phone on her night stand rang. She could have easily reached over and snatched it on the first ring, but she did not. No, she let it ring three times more before grabbing the receiver and mumbling hello.
“You haven’t left yet?”
“Almost out the door.”
“Doesn’t sound it.”
“Nat, I said I’m going. I’ll be there.”
“You sure you don’t want Bethany and me to pick you up?”
The audacity. Natalie had abused her in so many ways all through their growing up years and Emily had little desire to allow her to continue doing so during a lengthy drive from Long Island to Connecticut. “No, no. I have things—”
Damn. She should’ve hung up before Natalie put Bethany on the phone. Of course she would put her daughter on the phone. It was Natalie’s diabolical way of reminding Emily she had something that her sister didn’t. She said, “Bethany, put your mother back on the phone.”
“You can come with us,” Bethany said in her angelic voice. “Mommy said she’d make sure there was room for you.”
Emily squeezed her eyes shut and tried to contain her anger. Certainly the comment was intended to bring attention to her oversized body.
“See,” Natalie said, “even Bethany wants you—”
“I’m not going with you, Nat. I have to stop by the bakery and—”
“The bakery? The apple pie will be enough.” When Emily didn’t respond, Natalie said, “Em, you did bake the apple pie, right?”
“You didn’t bake the pie! Everyone’s gonna be so disappointed. Mom’s going to be so disappointed.”
“You had no right to volunteer me to bake the pie,” Emily said.
“Why not?” Natalie said. “Denny’s hosting and I have a lot on my hands now that…”
Truth was, Emily’s oven hadn’t been turned on in years. She’d come to rely on take-out daily. Before she allowed Natalie another word, though, she did what she’d wanted to do earlier and simply hung up.
Emily used to want to protect Natalie from herself. She’d helped Natalie get a job at the same school as the secretary where Emily taught young students how to appreciate old music but eventually regretted it, since it made it difficult to keep distance between them. Now the reunion their mother insisted upon was complicating that motive.
She curled up under the covers and closed her eyes. It was the Fourth of July, but in her imagination it was one where he was in bed with her, one where he’d suggested they not get up till late in the day—in time to watch the fireworks down at the pier. And there they were, he with his arm draped over her shoulder, the two of them awed by such colorful splendor and by each other; always awed by each other. Suddenly her reverie was interrupted once again by the snooze alarm going off.
She reached over, smacking the off button. A long, luxurious day of fantasizing had so much more appeal than the day she was committed to. Still, as difficult as it would be, she was expected to be there to celebrate her mother’s triumph over a disease that was supposed to have won, according to the doctors. She tossed the covers off and swung her thick, wobbly legs to the side of the bed. Her once firm, ample breasts were now pendulums, unattended pendulums, while her abdomen rested on her lap. She’d always been curvy, but she was no longer exotic like a Renaissance painting because there was no one to tell her so. Not anymore.
She pushed herself from the bed and shuffled down the short hallway toward the bathroom. No one understood the effort it would take her to travel the hundred or so miles to Connecticut from Long Island. Her phone rang, but she decided to let the machine get it, expecting to hear Natalie’s nagging voice.
“Emily? Emily! It’s your mother. Natalie just called. I don’t know why you two can’t ride together. She also said you were going to bring a pie from the bakery. Why didn’t you tell me you weren’t going to bake one? Well, you’re probably already on your way.” Never one to understand answering machine etiquette, Margaret Lamb hung up with a loud abrupt clunk.
The thought of climbing into the shower to begin the day was daunting so she turned around and headed back to the bedroom. Just ten more minutes with him. She climbed beneath the covers, and moments later she was sitting between his sprawled legs, his arms around her as they continued watching the fireworks.
Happy Fourth of July.
Hugging her pillow, she said aloud, “Happy Fourth of July, Coach.”