I pause before hitting Accept.
I mean, I haven't talked to her in years. I shouldn't be this nervous, should I? I should be happy. Right?
But what can I do -hang up on my mother? I have to answer.
She needs her family's support right now. She can't make it through this alone, you know, they all said.
But they fail to realize that I went through it too. I went through the hours of my mom drinking and snorting crack also. I had to deal with calling the cops when she lost control of herself and started hitting Bobby. I called 911 when I found her on the ground -clearly because of an overdose. But was it my fault?
No. She did this to herself.
Within seconds, Caroline's face filled the screen.
"My my, have you grown, Bambi."
Bambi, my nickname when I was little. My nickname when Mom was sober. My nickname that brings back, what is it they say, the good old days?
Caroline looks the same. Same stick-straight black hair that made her look like that time Johnny Weir took his mask off on The Masked Singer. Sticky and black and straight. The only difference is it always looks like that.
Unlike my hair, which always stays frizzy. And it's cinnamon brown, not black. No matter how many times I try to flat iron it, it still manages to puff right back up. I call it my little fur bag on top of my head.
And Caroline's eyes could pierce right through your soul. Her eyes nearly look like Neal McDonough's eyes. They are bright blue and they remind you of winter and ice. They can take you through a snowstorm if you looked the right way.
Now, Caroline is looking at me with her head cocked to the side like a confused puppy.
"Earth to Bambi! Earth to Bambi!"
"Oh, sorry, Mom. I- I guess I spaced out a little."
"It's alright. I know it must be difficult seeing me after all these years. Grandma taking good care of you?"
"Yes, she's the best. She makes the best brownies."
"I used to love her brownies as a kid! You know she has her own recipe. Maybe you could learn since you want to be a pastry chef and all."
I never told her I wanted to be a pastry chef.
"Who- who told you I want to be a pastry chef?"
"Oh. Bobby never told you?"
"Told me what?"
What is up with people keeping everything from me? My own brother is keeping things from me? We used to be so tight with each other. Now we're just getting more distant as the days pass. I think it's because of what happened with him and Mom. Maybe I should go talk to him?
"Well, honey. We've been talking on the phone for months now."
"Tal- talking on the phone?" I echo.
"We didn't want to upset you during your midterms. We just-"
"My midterms were two weeks ago!"
"I know, but I just wanted to apologize and tell everyone I'm sorry that I let them down. I- I'm doing better, really."
"Are you, Caroline?"
There was silence on the other end. I could see Caroline had plastered a smile on her face, but I could see that she was fighting back tears.
"Yes. I am doing better. Thanks for asking, I guess."
"No problem." I scoff
"Why don't you believe me? It's been years, Bambi."
"Don't call me that."
"I'm sorry, Ashley. Listen-"
"No! You listen. I've waited three years for this call. Three years! I've waited for the satisfaction that my mom was better. We were going to be a family."
"I know and-"
"Shut up! They told me that you needed help. They told me that you needed a family. You needed us. Meanwhile, you go and talk to my brother instead of me. I'm the one who stayed by the bedside in the hospital! I called 911! I saved your life! It was me, Mom! It was me."
Oh no, I'm crying now. I can't let her see me cry. I have to get up. Hang up. Do something. But I can't move. It's like Caroline doesn't even notice the mini-battle I have going on inside my head because she keeps talking.
"I know it was you. I didn't know if you wanted to talk to me with all the added stress of SATs and midterms going on. I didn't know if it was the right time."
"Mom, it's always the right time to call me and let me know you haven't relapsed again."
"I know, I'm sorry. It's stressful and you're mad at me and I get it. Just- I want to hug you and tell you that everything is okay but I don't know how you'd react."
"I'd hug you back."
"Well, good. Look at me."
Looking at her, I see the shadow of tears she must've wiped away while I was debating whether I should hang up or not. She looks just like my mom before everything bad happened.
But as I look around her, I see the familiarity of Grandma's porch. I see Grandma's flying flower pots hanging from the roof and the wind chimes whistling in the wind. The neighbors across the street peeking out of their window looking over at the strange lady on Grandma's porch.
"Go to your front door."
I walk out of my room slowly and tread down the stairs to the front door. I see a shadow against the stained glass door.
"I- I'm here."
I open the door, and as soon as I do, Mom embraces me in a hug. She smells different. For once she doesn't have booze on her breath. But she smells like... soap.
Her hair has gotten longer since the last time I saw her. She crying in between my shoulder blade and I cry between hers. I've never felt so happy to be standing in front of my mom in a long time.
Her breath comes out raggedy. Like she has phlegm in her lungs. Her body is shaking against mine as I try to hold her as long as I can.
"I'm so sorry, Bambi. Please forgive me. For everything I've done, please forgive me."
"Mom, I forgive you."
All it takes is one step, to realize the magic of the moment you have at hand to forgive someone.