Friday, October 09, 2015

Awkward Moments

Mary’s stepmother Harriet said she would be there in about half-an-hour and hung up.

“Should I leave?” asked Emily, “I don’t think your stepmother would understand my being here.”

“No, No, I want a witness. She said she had some things for me, it’s probably some more unwanted baggage that she wants to dump on me,” replied Mary, “I’ll just tell her that you live in the building—that’s not even a lie.”

“It isn’t exactly the whole truth either, but this isn’t a court of law,” replied Emily. “That will work.”

“Sooo… tell me more about your night of passion with the lord of the dance,” said Mary, with a twinkle in her eye, “Details.”

“Oh, you’ll make me blush,” said Emily, laughing, “A lady must have some secrets.”

“Okay. Are you going to see him again?”

“Mmm, maybe. Maybe not.”

“Coquette!” hissed Mary.

“He asked for my number. I told him I didn’t have one. He didn’t believe me. Call me old-fashioned, but I wouldn’t dream of giving out a phone number on the first date.”

More laughter, from both women.

“How about the clothes?” said Mary, pointing to the sweatpants and top that Marcel had lent Emily. “Or are you just going to keep them as souvenirs?”

Emily pulled a card out of her jacket pocket.

“I’ll have them delivered.” she said, “Seriously, I didn’t tell him anything about me.”

“Not even your name?” asked Mary.

“I told him my name was Carroll, but I didn’t spell it, so that’s not a lie either.”

“How did you get home?” asked Mary.

“He lent me money for a cab.”

“What destination did you give when you ordered it?” Mary continued.

“Pike Place Market. Close enough to walk home from, big enough to hide in.”

The intercom buzzed and Harriet appeared on the CCTV, standing in the lobby.

“It’s your mother,” came the voice from the speaker.

“Com’on up, 10th floor, #1012,” said Mary as she pressed the button. She turned back to Emily and said, “Here we go.”

After a couple of minutes, there was a rap at the door and Mary got up and opened it.

“Hello, Harriet,” said Mary, “Harriet, this is Emily. She’s a neighbor, she lives on the 9th floor. Emily, this is my stepmother.”

“I’m her adoptive parent. Mary, you know I don’t like it when you call me stepmother,” said Harriet.

Harriet was a small woman in her mid-sixties. Her hair was blonde with frosted accents, it appeared to be expensively styled, as were her clothes. She was holding a large manila folder. Emily, with a closed expression, eyed her closely.

“How have you been Harriet?” said Mary, “How are things in Santa Fe?”

“I am well. I am leaving New Mexico, the property values in Santa Fe have gone up so much that I received an offer that I literally could not refuse. I’m moving to a retirement community in Florida. I came up here to take care of a few matters with George. I also brought you some papers, papers related to your adoption, I thought that you should have them.”

“The locked drawer,” said Mary.

“Why yes, how is it that you remember that drawer?” said Harriet. “The lock was broken. It hadn’t been opened in years… I had to have the dresser taken apart to get these out.”

“Now I know why I couldn’t pick the lock,” said Mary.

When Harriet handed Mary the envelope she noticed Mary’s belly.

“You’re pregnant,” Harriet said. Emily detected disapproval in Harriet’s voice, “I didn’t think that you liked men.”

“I’m married now,” Mary said. She had learned not get into even the slightest disagreement with her stepmother. Mary always tried to be short and non-committal when answering Harriet’s provocations, “My husband, Sean, will be here shortly.”

Mary then realized that Harriet was unaware of the events of the past few years. It had been eight years since they had been in communication. Harriet had strongly disapproved of Mary’s on-line gaming empire, thinking it illegal. Mary had ‘written her off’ then, and had made no further efforts to contact her. Mary talked with George, her adoptive father, from time to time, more as a courtesy—they had never been close—but he had been supportive of her interest in computer games. He must have given Harriet her phone number.  Mary didn’t think that George would talk to Harriet about her. He had never understood Harriet’s attitude toward Mary, or even why Harriet had insisted on her adoption in the first place.

“The papers are private,” said Harriet, looking at Emily.

“Emily is a close friend,” said Mary, “I’ll look at these later, or is there some reason I should open this now?”

“Do what you will, you always do,” said Harriet, testily.

“Thank you, Harriet,” said Mary calmly, “Is there anything else you’d like to discuss?”

Harriet fished a piece of paper out of her purse.

“Here, this is my number at my new place. You could call me once in a while,” Harriet said, her voice shaking with emotion, “It wouldn’t kill you—to call—would it?”

“Thank you, Harriet,” said Mary, “Do you need a ride?”

“A cab is waiting for me downstairs,” Harriet said sharply, “I’m going.”

“Thank you for taking the time to give me these,” said Mary, coldly.

After Harriet had left, Emily and Mary sat looking at the unopened envelope for several minutes. Finally, Mary picked it up.

“It is time to find out who I really am," she said.


By Professor Batty