“Tell me again why we’re doing this.”
He took a deep breath and considered his response. He resisted the urge to be flippant, recognizing that sarcasm, at this particular moment in time, would only further upset her. Without turning to look at her, he took her hand firmly in his and squeezed it reassuringly.
She entered the reception area, and warmly greeted the young woman stationed at the front desk.
“Hello, Angie,” she said. “How’s this semester going?”
“Great. My classes are hard, but I love my professors and I’m learning a lot,” Angie enthused. “They’re doing an art project right now.”
“Thanks,” she said as she initialed the logbook, noting the time — 3:15 p.m. Luckily, she did not have any parent-teacher conferences, teachers’ meetings or other obligations today, so she was able to leave school immediately after dismissing her students, tidying up her room, and posting tomorrow’s assignments on the blackboard. She glanced at the clock and smiled slightly as she resolved to prepare pork chops for dinner that evening. She was looking forward to a leisurely Thursday evening at home with her family.
As she walked down the hallway, she passed several brightly decorated classrooms. In one, the children were sitting in a circle on the floor, singing — or, in some cases, shouting — along with a recording. She stopped in the doorway for a moment and watched their wildly animated hand movements. The teacher turned and waved as she continued leading the enthusiastic chorus.
“So how does it really feel to be a published author?” Dana asked, as they lounged on the grassy lake shore. The mid-day sun was warm and a soft breeze occasionally rustled the water’s surface. The sky was a perfect mixture of the kind of searing blue tones that young children use in crayon drawings and randomly-scattered, soft, thin clouds.
“I’m not a published author yet,” she laughed in response.
“O.K. Fair enough. You’re a purchased author,” was Dana’s jolly retort. “I want to know all the details about how it feels to know that your novel is going to be on the shelves of all your favorite bookstores . . . all over the country, no less . . . in just a few . . . weeks?”
“I’m not sure exactly how long it will be,” she explained. “They said it should be a few weeks, but their lawyers are pouring over every word, checking all of my research. So it depends on how long that process takes to complete.”
“Blood-sucking lawyers,” Dana snorted. “Why do they have to be involved in publishing a novel, anyway?”
“So have you set a date yet?” I asked my mother a few weeks ago when she informed me that she was remarrying.
I had mixed feelings about her announcement. My father has been gone for nearly three years now. He was ripped away from us so suddenly and unexpectedly that from time to time, I still experience the shock and disbelief that I felt on that horrible day when I heard my mother’s barely audible voice on the phone and knew that I had to get home as quickly as possible.
“Come on in and make yourself comfortable,” he said warmly, gesturing toward the west side of the large, sunny room where a couch and two chairs separated by a small table were arranged casually in a semi-circle. “Sit wherever you’d like,” he continued as he picked up a manila folder from the desk on the far wall and sat down in the large, overstuffed chair in the middle of the room facing the other furniture.
“Thank you,” she said softly, selecting the wicker chair with the seat cushion, as he made a mental note of her choice. She had picked the most uncomfortable seat in the room. The one that would require her to sit virtually upright during their entire time together since it offered the least lumbar support and made squeaky, squishy noises when its occupant squirmed in a vain attempt to find a more suitable position. However, it was deliberately placed most directly across from and in line with his chair. By the time she returned next week, the chairs would be rearranged to facilitate his observation of whether she will pick the same chair or the chair in the same position relative to his.
“You’ve been across the street a good while,” he said. “I saw you there when I arrived for my first appointment this morning. That was more than two hours ago.” He studied her expression.
“I arrived early,” she responded, squirming in the chair in a futile effort to get comfortable.
As he stepped up to the podium, he felt slightly dizzy, but his determination buoyed him. He looked out into the auditorium, thankful that the lights focused upon him and the remainder of the stage area prohibited him, at least for the most part, from clearly observing the faces of the young men and women gathered there. He was only able to recognize those seated in the front-most four or five rows. When he caught a glimpse of his son’s best friend, seated in the middle of the third row surrounded by the rest of his boy’s buddies, he quickly closed his eyes and began breathing deeply. One hand on either side of the podium to steady himself, he cleared his throat, opened his eyes, and began speaking into the microphone.