I hadn’t seen Aunt Ingrid in a long time, maybe three years. She had gained a lot of weight since we last met, and I figured it would be hard for anyone to stay in shape through such an awful divorce. There were boxes scattered across her new apartment, and cleaning supplies, and the parts of her computer, and dozens of other things it would take her days to pick through by herself.
My cousin Melinda was with me. As we stood near the front door, she lowered her sunglasses and glanced around warily.
“I’m so glad you two came to help me,” Ingrid gushed as she stepped over a couple of small boxes to greet us. Her smile was warm and innocent; I gave her an extra squeeze as we hugged.
“Yeah,” Melinda said, turning to look in the dining room to avoid having to hug as well. “So, you just need us to empty the boxes?”
“Mm-hmm.” Ingrid stared after her, the smile fading. I reached over and patted her arm. She went on, “All the boxes are in their right rooms, makes it a bit easier. Would you mind starting in the kitchen?”
As Melinda and I grabbed box cutters and began unearthing dinnerware, Ingrid went to the living room, humming along the way. In a few seconds she had popped in a CD.
“Ugh,” Melinda said. Thankfully, in her disgust, she remembered to keep her voice down. “Don’t tell me we have to listen to that Josh Gorban guy all day.”
“Mel,” I hissed. “Give her a break. And it’s Groban, by the way.”
She rolled her eyes so hard it had to have hurt. “Whatever. You’d think she would have gotten over him by now.”
I brushed a bit of newspaper dust off the ceramic plates. “What is there to get over? She doesn’t have to stop listening to him just because you think it’s time.”
“Whatever,” Melinda said again. She paused to observe a particularly pretty glass.
Sighing, I peeked around the kitchen wall and watched Ingrid as she dug busily through a box of DVDs. I just didn’t understand people like my cousin. She never took stock of who people were, only what they looked like, who they knew. Even though she knew what our aunt had been through, she couldn’t find a little empathy and just let the woman play the music she wanted to play.
I turned back to Melinda, my box of flatware forgotten. “You know, Mel, you could be more understanding. Sometimes people haven’t had it so easy, and there isn’t a lot to keep them going.” She kept her eyes on the cups, her hands never slowing. “Sometimes it’s all they can do to find one thing that makes them happy, that lets them forget all the crap for a while…”
Josh hit some unbelievable note then, and I looked over to Ingrid in time to see her swoon, a hand to her heart.
Her husband had been living a lie since she met him. He had a family in Toledo. But the man in the stereo could never lie to her, only give her those familiar songs, maybe even sing her to sleep on the nights when peace was elusive.
I pushed my box aside and went to help my aunt. “This is a nice song,” I said, sitting next to her.
“Oh, I know, isn’t it?” She sat back on her heels and gazed into space, and I let her listen. Then she turned to me conspiratorially. “I’m going to see him when he’s in Indianapolis next week.”
“Mm-hmm. But the poor lady I was going with went into the hospital just yesterday. Now I have an extra ticket.” Melinda came to stand behind the couch just as Ingrid added, “I’m trying to find someone from the boards to go with me.”
Melinda snorted. “The message boards? You actually do that?”
I glared at her. “Yes, Mel, just like thousands and thousands of other people.” Turning back to my aunt, I told her, “I’ll go with you, Aunt Ingrid.”
“Oh, sweetheart. You’re such a dear. I couldn’t ask you to sit through a whole concert.”
“I don’t mind. He has a nice voice.”
A week later I accompanied Aunt Ingrid on the four-hour drive to Indianapolis to see Josh. She cried when he began to sing. I put my arm around her shoulders and smiled. It was good to see her happy.
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