“Hi, Louise,” Jessie says, seeing her mother in the coffee shop. It’s never “hello, mother,” not for decades. This is not a sort of passive-aggressive reminder of Louise’s addiction-induced failures as a parent. It’s an unspoken agreement between the two, a way to make their infrequent conversations more comfortable for both of them.
“Hello, sweetheart,” Louise answers. This is a bit of a departure from Louise’s usual greeting, using her daughter’s name. Jessie notices, but does not comment. “This is my friend Kassandra. Kassandra, meet my daughter, Jessie.”
Oh, Jessie thinks. That’s why – she’s introducing me. This is another departure from their routine, in which their meetings are quiet and between the two of them. “Nice to meet you,” Jessie offers, now curious as to her mother’s intent for their conversation. Will she be showing me off to all her new friends? It’s an uncharitable thought, and Jessie tries to let it go.
“Nice to meet you, too,” the young barista responds. “Can I get you something? Our bakery just delivered some lovely raspberry scones. Still warm from the oven.”
Louise and Jessie both acquiesce easily to this gentle sales job. They share a love of warm scones, although neither realizes it until right now. They laugh at the recognition of like-mindedness.
“How are you?” Jessie asks, dropping her voice to a more serious register. Despite vaccinations and masks, her mother is still old and vulnerable and the pandemic has not released them from its grip yet.
“Doing well. It’s been a roller-coaster, of course. I never would have made it this far without Douglas. He wants to meet you, of course, but I thought maybe the next time.” Louise pauses. “And you? Stephen? The kids?”
That’s, like, a dozen people for me to answer for, Jessie thinks with mild irritation. But she chooses to focus on something else. “All good, if you discount the minor scrapes and dramas. What’s this visit about, then?”
She can see in Louise’s eyes surprise that Jessie wants to get down to business. Well, those kids and the life outside this coffee shop holds lots of demands, and can’t wait forever, Jessie thinks.
“It’s about us, Jessie. Me. Our family. You.”