Janet is on the way to see her folks in Texas. She’s pregnant, upset and worried about her sick mother.
The woman came over to sit by her, putting Janet’s head on her shoulder. “You go ahead and cry it out, honey. You got to get the bad out before the good can come in.” She held Janet and let her sob.
One of the truckers called to her from his booth. “You gonna come refill my coffee?”
“You know where it is, don’t you?”
“Well, help yourself. While you’re up, see if anyone else needs some. This girl needs me more than you lazy bastards.”
To Janet’s surprise, the man got up and got the coffee. He made the rounds and topped off his own cup. When she’d calmed down, the woman handed her the bill. It had “On the House,” scrawled across it. Janet thanked her, leaving a handsome tip. She stopped in the bathroom. When she came out, the waitress came up with a huge teddy bear from the gift shop.
“The boys chipped in and got this for you,” she said with a happy grin. “Don’t you worry. It’s gonna be okay.”
The men stepped forward, introducing themselves, shaking her hand. They promised to keep an eye on her while she was traveling. Each of them took turns watching her all the way to Lubbock. The last man, whose final destination was Mule Shoe, followed her to her parents’ house. She waved at him as she pulled into the driveway. He honked his horn and drove off with a rumble.
Sookie ran out. When she saw Janet, she burst into tears. Evander followed, supporting her mother. Ilene was bone thin and sallow. She looked so pale and weak, Janet could hardly equate her with the robust beauty she’d been just months before.
Janet and Sookie got her bags in and Evander put Ilene to bed. They’d converted the den to a sickroom. There was a hospital bed and oxygen beside it. Janet knew without a doubt, her mother had come home to die.
The family ate an early dinner and her mother went to sleep. Janet and Sookie sat around talking to their father. Janet told them about the baby. Neither of them knew whether to be happy or sad. Janet didn’t know herself.
“So, when’s he coming back?” Sookie asked as they got ready for bed.
“I don’t know,” Janet murmured.
Christmas passed quietly. Janet and Sookie went to church, but their father stayed home with their mother. Janet called Ramona to wish her Merry Christmas, and asked if they’re been any word from Diego.
“Nothing. I know he’ll be back, Janet.”
“I don’t know if I will,” she replied. “Daddy needs me. I’m thinking of taking a leave of absence.”
“Really? Oh, Janet!”
“I have to be here.”
“At least come finish out the year.”
“I don’t know. Mom’s really bad, Mona. She’s so weak she can barely feed herself. I want her to see the baby, but… I don’t want her to suffer. I’m so confused!”
“Of course you are! I could kick my brother for leaving….”
“Mona—I can’t tell you why, but you must believe that he did what had to be done.”
“I still want to kick him. Leaving you after he got you pregnant.”
Janet’s laugh was tinged with irony. “It’s not like he did that on purpose. He didn’t know. Neither did I. Even if he had, he would have gone.”
There was a loud knock at the door. Sookie was out, Evander was with her mother.
“There’s someone at the door. I need to go.” The knock sounded louder. “I really need to go. Merry Christmas!” She hung up quickly.
The banging on the door got louder.
“Look,” she began before opening the door. “We’ve got a sick woman….”
Tex stood on the porch, fist raised to pound again. He lost his balance, falling toward her, smiling.
“Janet, baby! I’ve missed you so much!” He tried to hug her, but she ducked aside.
“You prick! Don’t touch me!”
“How dare you come here like this? My mother is dying!”
©2020 Dellani Oakes
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