After watching Mallory drive away, Chris got into his car and drove home. He sat in the driveway for a few minutes to collect his thoughts; his mom knew he had changed his mind and decided to go to the memorial service and he wasn’t ready to discuss it with her just yet.
Chris walked into the house and quietly closed the front door behind him. Carly would be in the middle of putting the kids down for the night, and he didn’t want to interrupt that process; she would kill him if the kids were kept up. He walked into the kitchen and pulled a beer out of the refrigerator, leaned against the counter and took a long pull from the bottle. He had just finished that first drink when his mom came home. He placed the bottle down on the counter, crossed his arms and waited for her to say something; she did not disappoint.
“Oh, you are back already?” Lisa took over her coat and hung it on the back of the barstool, “How did it go; were you able to talk to Mallory and clear things up?”
“It went fine,” he answered, hoping she would take the hint that he didn’t want to talk. But, she didn’t!
“It was fine? You haven’t seen her for years, and that is all you have to say? So, I guess it must not have gone as you anticipated.”
“It was a shock to see her; she is still a beautiful girl. But when I arrived I found her cozy with Josh, so I’d say I didn’t anticipate that. Then when he left, she told me that she had talked to him over the years and I didn’t expect that either.” He reached for the bottle and took another drink, “And for some reason, I announced that I wanted to take her out for us to talk and clear everything up.”
“Ok, I admit I didn’t anticipate that,” his mom responded with a dry laugh. “Did you find out where she’s been all this time?”
“Yeah, she has been in Atlanta. Apparently, she moved in with her aunt and has been there all this time. She said that she was still estranged from her parents and that had to be here because she was the only family they had left.” He took another drink and tried to guess at what his mother would ask next.
“Was she able to tell you why she left so suddenly? Maybe fill in some details?”
“No, we kept our conversation short. It was a long day for her, so I didn’t want to keep her there too long. That is why I asked to take her to lunch or dinner; so we could have some quiet time to talk.”
“Oh, I see. Well, it makes sense to talk to her after the funeral stuff is out of the way. Speaking of which, are you planning on going to the funeral?”
Chris took another drink; his bottle was just about empty. “No, I have a magazine interview scheduled for 8:30 tomorrow morning, so I won’t be able to make it.”
“You could cancel the interview to go.”
“No, I am not canceling. What would I say? It isn’t like I can tell them I am going to the funeral for the parents of my ex-girlfriend. They would be all over that shit, and I don’t need that type of publicity, and neither does Mallory.”
“Well, I still think you should have at least tried to reschedule it so you could go. It would have been a nice gesture.”
Chris just shook his head; his mother was working terribly hard at finding a way for him and Mallory to get back together. “You don’t give up do you?”
“No, not where my kids and their happiness are concerned. I am going to the funeral if you change your mind.”
“I didn’t think you were friends with the Turners so why are you going?”
“I am going with Josh’s parents. They were good friends with them, and I am going to be supportive and to pay my respects to my son’s ex-girlfriend’s parents,” she said with a devilish smile.
He drained the last of the beer in the bottle and discarded the empty in the recycling bin. “I am going to head to bed, thanks for the talk mom.” He walked over and kissed her on her head and then proceeded to go upstairs.
~ * ~
Mallory walked into the house and found John and Darby snuggled on the couch in front of the fireplace. The only light in the room was the glow provided by the fire. She felt guilty for intruding on their private time.
She tried to shut the door quietly and was going to sneak up the stairs when Darby turned her way, “Hey, we were starting to worry about you. Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I am fine. Look I will go up and leave you two alone – see you in the morning.”
“Get in here!” John’s voice boomed, “We were just keeping warm and talking while we were waiting for you.”
She slowly walked into the room and sat down in the chair across from them. “I guess the kids are in bed?”
“Yeah, Molly went down about two hours ago, and I think Henry just went to bed. He was trying to wait up for you, but he was exhausted.”
“So you guys had fun today?”
“Yeah, it was fun, and they seemed to enjoy it. We did all the tourist type stuff so Henry will have something to talk about when he gets home.” Darby moved from John’s side and leaned forward, “How was it? Are you holding up okay?”
“They had a lot of people come out to pay their respects. I guess they had a public side and a private side. Everyone thought they were wonderful and that it was such a loss to the community.” Mallory said with a bit of sadness in her voice, “To their credit, no one asked why I never came around or if I had made up with my parents. I was never brave enough to ask anyone what the ‘official’ story was about my leaving.”
“I know you are bitter, and you have every right to be, but you are doing the right thing, and I am proud of you,” Darby offered.
“Thanks, I appreciate that. At least, I didn’t have to sit through the memorial service alone; Josh showed up and sat with me. It was really sweet, and it actually brought a sense of calm to me. I am sure that sounds ridiculous.”
“No, not at all; it makes sense. He is steady in your life even though you rarely see him in person. You needed a constant for the memorial service, and he served a purpose. Of course, John and I were willing to be that for you.”
“Yeah, I know and I appreciate that. I just didn’t want to subject you and the kids to it today since you will be there for me tomorrow. In case I forget to tell you again, I do appreciate it, more than I can probably express. I guess I should mention that Chris showed up tonight.”
“Whoa, that is a bit of a surprise. I take it he spoke to you?”
“Yeah, that is why I was late coming home. He wanted to talk and offer his condolences. I suspect he was also a little shocked to see me with Josh. I had to admit that I‘ve spoken to him over the years. I didn’t tell him everything, but I suspect he has more questions. Which I suspect is why he asked if he could take me to lunch or dinner before we go back to Atlanta.”
“What did you tell him?” John asked, suddenly more interested in the conversation.
“I told him that I would like that, and I really would. I am just a little nervous about it and what I should or should not tell him.”
“You should tell him everything, but I would not do that in a public setting,” Darby offered.
“Oh, I agree,” Mallory stated as she stood from the chair. “I think I am going to go pour a glass of wine and take a hot bath. I need to relax, so I can try and get some sleep if I want to make it through tomorrow. Thanks for everything you two, I mean it.” She walked over and gave each of them a kiss on the cheek and headed to the kitchen.
With a bottle of wine in one hand and glass in the other, she made her way to the bathroom upstairs. She put the bottle and glass down and began to draw a hot bath. She hoped that this would be just what she needed to relax. It was, because as she lowered herself into the steaming hot water, she felt the weight of the day begin to dissipate. Her friends were right, she was going to need to tell Chris everything, but right now she felt like an island in a raging sea of emotion. She finished off her glass of wine and when the water began to cool it was her cue to go to bed. Alcohol always made her tired, but she was not sure if she would be able to sleep or have any peace knowing what tomorrow would bring.