The screen door slid open.

“Claire,” my mother said.

“Don’t, Claire me. Just don’t,” I pleaded her.

It was bad enough that I had to be here, at her stupid house. Why did she think I came out here? My mother slid the screen back, and I huddled up on the steps of the back porch.

I pressed my palm against my forehead trying to calm my shaking nerves. I couldn’t stop shaking. I couldn’t stop crying. I drew in sobbing breaths, but my chest felt so tight that it felt like I was suffocating on air. This is the end I thought. I was going to die. Right here. Right now. Everything is over.

I don’t know when I realized that I had stopped shaking, or when my tears dried. But when I did, I opened my eyes and looked into the dark of the backyard. The sight of it suddenly scared me. I didn’t want to be alone in such a dark place. I escaped back inside and was headed for my bedroom when I saw Roseanne sitting on the living-room couch.

Was she sad?

“Oh!” Roseanne said, startled when she looked over and saw me.

“Sorry,” I said.

“No, it’s alright. I’m glad you came in.”

“Ya,” I said.

“Uh did you need anything. Maybe you’re hungry. You didn’t eat any dinner did you?”

“Right.” Now that I thought about it, I was a little hungry.

“I’ll go make something,” Roseanne said, standing up to go to the kitchen.

“Uh mom,” I said.

Roseanne looked back at me. What a sight I must have been, with my tear streaked face. I felt almost embarrassed to be looking like such a mess.

“Mom. I can’t stop thinking about him,” I said, and it was true. Even now all I could see was my father.

“Oh, sweetie,” Roseanne said looking at me with breaking eyes. “Come here,” she said coming over and bundling me up into her arms. “We’ll get through this.”

At first, I stiffened under the touch of a woman I didn’t know, but I soon relaxed. This might be a woman I didn’t know, but this woman loved me. I felt it in the way she held me against her so gently, her arms wrapped around like a warm blanket.

“I loved him too,”Roseanne said. “I know that it must sound like I’m just saying thing, but I really did love him. If I didn’t then I never would have had you.”

Yes, this woman loves me. My mother loves me.


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