Double Major

By: Catherine Gayle

I sent him a quick response to let him know I thought they could work things out once we all returned to Portland, even though he’d have to make a real effort to talk it through with her.

By the time I put my phone away and looked up again, Dina and Sara had both moved their chairs so they were right next to each other, and Dina had put her arm around Sara’s shoulder. It definitely looked like Sara was still crying, but the fact that she was letting her mother hold her made me believe they were making positive progress.

I finished up my coffee, checking on them from time to time and people-watching the rest of the time. Eventually, the baristas started trying to clean up so they could close the place down, so I figured I needed to go over and break the two of them up for now. When I got to them, Sara looked up with puffy eyes and a very red, very wet nose.

“Can we change our flights?” she asked me. “Mom wants me to meet my brothers and sister. She said we could have lunch.”

“If that’s what you want,” I said, but I felt like dancing a jig. Sara may not have realized she wanted a relationship with her mother, and she may not have had a clue that she wanted to know her siblings, but I’d been thinking, since that moment in the bathroom, that things in her life were about to change for the better.

Family was a big deal to me, and it was huge to her, too. The only family she thought she had was her father, though. This might not permanently change that—one or both of them might decide it was too much effort or they didn’t want to keep going with their relationship for whatever reason—but it had the potential to expand Sara’s world in amazing ways.

The two of them got up and hugged. It was a good hug, long and tight. The kind of hug you expect from a mother and a daughter at an important point in their lives. I was pretty sure my mom and Chloe would have had a hug just like that today, too. When Sara and her mother let go, both of them sniffling, they grabbed the coffees they’d been ignoring and each took another stack of napkins as we headed out the door.

I made sure Dina got into her car and it started. Then I opened the passenger door for Sara. After we watched her mother drive off, I started the engine. “You doing all right?” I asked as I put the car in gear.

She wiped her eyes and blew her nose again, and she nodded. “Yeah. I’ll be okay.”

That helped me to breathe a little more freely, at least. We drove a couple of blocks, heading toward the hotel in silence apart from the sounds of her crying.

“Want to talk about it?” I asked.

“No.” Sara took another napkin and blew her nose again. “Yeah, I do. Because I’m so fucking confused and I don’t know what to think and who to believe. I want to hate her. I want to continue to believe that my father is infallible, that he would never do something like that. But I think she’s telling me the truth, and that just fucking pisses me off because it’s turned my whole world on its head.”

I pulled in to the hotel’s parking lot and looked for a spot near the side entrance closest to our room. “Is it necessarily a bad thing to have your world upset like this?”

“I don’t know. Maybe?”

“Why would it be bad if it means you get your mother back? And some siblings, too?”

“I might not like any of them.” She said it in her sulky voice, and sure enough, an adorable pout had taken over her entire face.

“But you might.”

“But why wouldn’t Daddy let me talk to her?”

Now the tears had started again, but at least we could go up to our room and I could hold her and let her cry it out.

“I don’t know, baby. You’ll have to ask him.” I stood up and stretched my limbs, helped her out, and took her hand in mine. “He texted me earlier. He’s worried about you.”

Sniffle. Sniffle. “He knows? Did you tell him?” Her tone had gone accusatory.

“Dina did.”

“Oh.” Sniffle. “What did he say?”

“He asked me if you hated him now.” I opened the door to our room and let her go inside ahead of me.

She went straight into the bathroom and turned on the tap to splash cold water over her face. I grabbed a towel, passing it over to her when she was done. She patted her face dry. As soon as she was done, she dropped the towel on the counter and came into my arms, holding tight around my waist just as she’d held on to her mother only minutes ago.

“Thank you,” she mumbled against my chest.

“For what?”

“For balancing out my crazy today. Hell, you do it every day. But today I was seriously on the edge, and you kept me steady. You kept me from falling over the line and not being able to come back.”

She had done that herself, though. All I’d done was stay nearby as a reminder of where she wanted to be.

I kissed the top of her head and stroked a hand over her hair, gently taking the pins and flowers and other things out so it could fall freely down her back and holding her until she felt more normal. I placed all of the hair things on the counter and massaged her scalp until she sighed contentedly.

“I love you, Cam,” she murmured after a few minutes.

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