“Come in,” he said. His hands trembled so he tucked them under his shirt.
She smiled as she entered the bedroom. “I thought I’d see how you were doing. I’m excited to have you here despite the circumstances.”
His large brown eyes released a torrent of tears. She sat next to him on the bed and wiped his face.
“I miss my mom. The accident happened when she was on her way to pick me up from school. Will she be okay?”
“I don’t know, Henry. The doctor said that she was rushed straight into surgery but it’s too soon to know. We’ll say a prayer for her.”
He touched her hands on his face. “You don’t treat me like Grandma and Grandpa. When bad things happen, they tell me I’m too young to know what’s going on.”
“Well, I don’t think you should keep things like that from children. They understand more than we adults think they do. Besides, she’s your mother and you deserve to know the truth.”
“Can I ask you something, Aunt Catherine?”
“Sure, Henry, and call me Cat. What’s on your mind?”
“Why is this the first time I’ve visited you? I see you at the family reunions but nowhere else.”
Cat bit her lower lip and sighed. “That’s a tough question. You see, your mom and I had a fight before you were born and we really haven’t communicated since.”
“What did you fight about?”
She laughed. “It seems so silly now, but it had to do with a toothbrush.”
Henry wrinkled his brow.
“Let me start from the beginning. The toothbrush brought all the hard feelings to the surface but it was more than that. I knocked her toothbrush on the floor one morning when I was getting ready. This was at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. She moved back in when her New York dreams didn’t pan out.”
“Why didn’t you pick up her toothbrush?”
Cat shrugged. “When she left, I became the number one daughter. When she moved back in, I thought that would change so I was jealous.”
“Each week, our teacher hands our awards for the best helper. I was winning every week. Last week I lost to Jeremy Todd. I wouldn’t speak to him anymore. That was jealousy too, huh?”
“Yes it was. The argument started over that fuzzy toothbrush and ended with me telling her that she only came back because she couldn’t make it on her own. She told me that I was jealous because I had no talent and never would.”
“But, you are a great artist. Everyone talks about your paintings.”
She hugged her nephew. “Thank you. And, your mother has a wonderful son and a successful business. I guess we were both wrong. We wasted so much time being angry at each other that we couldn’t be happy for each other.”
“Did you ever have fun?”
“Sure we did.” Cat walked over to the window where the sun was dipping below the horizon. “We used to explore for new lands in the woods and sell candied apples and cupcakes door-to-door from our little red wagon. Once, we snuck out in our bathing suits to play in the rain. We were sick for a week.”
“Wow! Mom won’t let me sell Boy Scout popcorn in the neighborhood without her.”
“Times have changed, Henry. We didn’t know how good we had it.”
“Will you and my mom ever make up?”
She turned towards her nephew. “I want to tell her how proud of her I am. I know you’re here because I’m the nearest relative, but I don’t want that to be the only reason I get to see you. You know, I use her paper company for all of my invitations for showings and business stuff.”
“She has three of your paintings in our house.”
Cat shook her head. “We’ve been so stupid, Henry. When your mom is ready for visitors, you and I will be the first faces she sees.”
The creak of the door interrupted their conversation. It was her husband.
“Cat, they just called from the hospital.”
She stood, eager to receive his news, still living in the hope of her conversation with Henry. The air seemed to grow heavy as they both watched her husband shake his head. “It happened five minutes ago.”
She pulled Henry close and rocked him in her arms.
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