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Fiction

Twisting the phone cord around my finger, I didn’t know what to do. I stood still for longer than I would have liked before I decided to dial the number.

“You ok?” My mother’s voice sounded breathless as she answered. 

“Yes. Fine.”

I heard her exhale. “Ok. Good.”

“I’m just scared.”

“Aww I know.”

“Can you come over? I’m afraid to be alone.”

“Sure. How about I take you to breakfast?”

“That sounds great. Thanks!”

***

Sitting in the tight booth at IHOP I felt anxious but safer than I had felt earlier when alone. I wiped the spotted knife and fork with my napkin and took a sip of water.

“Coffee?” The waitress stood over us with a tempting pot.

“Yes, please.” My mother lifted her mug towards her.

“None for me, thanks.” I put my hand over the mug placed in front of me as if she would go ahead and pour a cup against my wishes.

“Hun, you can have a cup of coffee at this point?” My mom looked at me questioningly. 

“Nah, I’d rather not.” I turned to the waitress. “Two scrambled eggs and buttered rye toast please. And a glass of OJ.”

“Same for me,” my mom said when the waitress turned to her. “And you can leave the coffee pot.”

***

Taking a bite of the eggs I immediately felt full, but knew I had to eat something. My mother was enjoying her breakfast, piling the eggs onto her toast, eating it all together.

“I’ve always loved IHOP. Remember coming here with my parents?”

“I do.” I knew she would bring that up, she does every time we go there. So predictable but in a good comforting way. 

“Grandma always ordered the French toast. Grandpa was more of a meat and potatoes guy, but he indulged us by coming here. It’s funny, I can’t eat French toast without thinking of her to this day. That powdered sugar does it every time.”

I thought back to having brunch there with my grandparents some years ago. I seem to remember being more interested in the cute waiter than in my grandparents’ stories. I winced at that admission to myself. Had I been a bit older or a bit more mature, I would have listened carefully to their tales from long ago and asked questions while I had the chance. Somehow my grandparents had been related to me but not quite relatable to me.

I smiled at my mother, realizing how much she must miss her parents, wanting to cheer her up. “Are you excited?”

“You have no idea.” She smiled back at me.

I watched her finish her meal while mine sat uneaten and cold. My mind wandered to places I had been avoiding. I suddenly realized I had never experienced great pain and didn’t know if I could handle it. Studying my mother’s face, I decided against bringing that up although desperately looking for advice. 

“You have some savings, right?”

She surprised me with that turn of conversation, bringing me back to the present. The question made me instantly sweat, which had become a common reaction these days. I thought of my pathetic bank account, the absolute lack of savings despite my best efforts, working until the last minute. My expenses going up while my income flatlined was my new reality.

“Sure, I have a little bit of savings.” I wasn’t lying. I had some loose change at the bottom of my bag mixed in with the shredded tissues and gum wrappers. 

“I’ll help as much as I can.” 

“I know.” I didn’t want to ask but was relieved to hear her say that. My mom, a single parent, struggled but always found a way to make things work, never complaining. She was stronger than I had ever given her credit for I realized more as time went on.

I remembered the day when I realized that my mother had feelings. What an odd thing to put into a solid thought, a fact. I had been lying on the couch in the living room watching TV, maybe the Flintstones, always a favorite of mine back in the days of my childhood. My mother came in pushing the vacuum cleaner looking down, seriously intent on her housework. With the TV drowned out I watched her instead, back and forth she went, unaware of me watching her. It was a moment of epiphany. My mother was not just there in my world taking care of me but had a world of her own. Her own thoughts. Her own feelings. Her own wishes. Just as I had an entire collection of emotion in my mind, so did she in her own mind. I was shocked. Was it wrong to have not realized it until then? Or was it okay since I was a child?

“Honey, you’re not eating. Maybe you want to order some fruit instead?”

“Sure.” That sounded light and refreshing, and I was willing to try anything. The eggs were stuck in my throat, the toast dry despite the thick layer of butter.

“Some fruit for my daughter when you get a chance,” my mother called out to the passing waitress then looked at me and smiled.

She reached across the table grabbing my hand, holding it in hers. My natural impulse was to pull away, slide my hand out from under hers and place it on my lap. I let it stay there this time allowing her the affection.

The waitress placed a bowl of fruit in the middle of the table to share between us. I managed to get down some bites of melon before the heartburn hit. 

“Ready?” I tentatively reached for the check, grateful when she beat me to it.

“Don’t be silly.”  My mother opened her bag, removing her wallet.

Pleased to see the generous tip on the table, the waitress called out, “Have a nice day!” as we slowly got up to make the trek out the door.

We looked at each other incredulously. “Have a nice day?”  I questioned the casual remark, laughing.

“Have a nice day!” My mother repeated the now singsong phrase of the day. She started to laugh also.

“Have a nice day!” I couldn’t control myself, saying it again, feeling the release of some anxiety.

The customers stopped eating and looked at us being ridiculous but not backing down. We called out to all, “Have a nice day!” and was instantly rewarded with the sentiment back.

The waitress stopped in her tracks looking confused. “What?” 

I couldn’t answer. The simple “Have a nice day” when my entire life was about to change at any moment was ludicrous to me. I was going to be plunged into the unknown, with no turning back.

My mother, taking charge once again, looked around the crowded restaurant and made the announcement “Today is my daughter’s due date!” She was beaming with joy. Applause broke out as I felt a mighty kick. My little one was about to arrive.

December 10, 2023 21:31

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6 comments

Kristi Gott
07:30 Dec 17, 2023

This story drew me in right away and I felt suspense while wondering what was happening. Well done!

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Hannah Lynn
14:11 Dec 17, 2023

Thank you, Kristi! I really wanted to drop just enough hints but not too many as the story unfolded. I’m glad you enjoyed it’. 😊

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Patricia Casey
03:53 Dec 17, 2023

Hi Hannah, I love your story. You hinted throughout about the ending but still left it mysterious until the final sentence. I like how you brought the grandparents into the scene through the memory of food for the special day of a new member arriving in the family. Patricia

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Hannah Lynn
14:09 Dec 17, 2023

Thank you so much, Patricia! Your praise means a lot to me. Yes I can still remember my grandparents perfectly when going to their favorite restaurant. It brings it all back down to the littlest detail. Thanks for reading! 😊

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Danie Holland
15:46 Dec 11, 2023

Oh, I loved this Hannah. It is truly a mental shift when you go from being a child to being a parent. You start to see everything in a different light. Great work here. “Sure, I have a little bit of savings.” I wasn’t lying. I had some loose change at the bottom of my bag mixed in with the shredded tissues and gum wrappers. -- also me. Relatable, ha! Thank you for the story, Danie

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Hannah Lynn
19:38 Dec 11, 2023

Thanks so much, Danie! The loose change at the bottom of the bag is no joke! 😊 A lot of us feel the pain! Becoming a parent is really indescribable. I’m glad you enjoyed the story!

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