Short Stories

How Could You Mum

If the situation weren’t so frustrating, it would be quite comical.

“What is going on Mum?”

Chelsea switched off the television and faced her mum, Eva.

“Why did you switch off the telly?” Eva asked.

“You like that crap?”

“Jess likes it, right Jess?”

Jess got up from the couch. “I am ok.” He walked away to play his computer games. He gave Eva that ‘Here we go again’ look. He was too smart to get caught up in his mother’s bad mood.

Eva had known this would happen sooner or later. She had been very careful with her words. She did not want to bring up any unnecessary emotions or disturb the peace while her daughter, Chelsea, and her grandson, Jess, were visiting.

Ever since Chelsea had separated from Kurt, her bad moods had got worse. Last year the divorce had made her impossible to even talk to on the phone.

It was like walking on eggshells. Eva looked at Chelsea, not knowing what to expect.

“Tell me!” Chelsea demanded.

Eva did not know what Chelsea wanted to know. She tried to think whether she had forgotten something or done something that Chelsea disapproved of.

“Mum!” Chelsea’s face was unhappy.

She saw the wrinkles around her daughter’s eyes. It hurt her. Her baby was getting old. She still remembered how loveable Chelsea had been when she was a child. The big round eyes with long curly eyelashes. She was her little doll, her precious little doll.

“Did I do something wrong?” The way that Eva asked Chelsea this was very much like a little girl asking her mother, worried her mother would tell her off for something she had done.

“You tell me!” Chelsea’s face was like that of the stepmother in the ‘Snow White’ movie.

“I have nothing to tell, Chelsea.”

She used to be so close to Chelsea. They would go to the pastry store to choose afternoon tea after Chelsea finished school for the day and sit on the park bench, if it was a sunny day, to eat the pastries. Then they would help each other clean the crumbs from their faces.

Chelsea would tell her everything that happened at the school. Meagan saw Mr Short holding Miss Samson’s hand, Gina’s parents got divorced, Penny’s brother got in trouble with the police, Angie’s mum got cancer, Tammy and Susanne were not speaking to each other. Chelsea used to tell her that she was looking forward to seeing her after school and couldn’t wait to tell her what was happening. In those days, Eva insisted on only working until 3 o’clock so she could spend time with her children. She didn’t want her children to grow up without her care and love.

They went shopping together, helping each other choose what to try on. They would spend lots of time in the dressing room. Sometimes they didn’t buy anything because they couldn’t agree on the same outfit.

They used to go to the library together when Chelsea was very young. Eva helped her choose books to read. In her teens, they read the same books and then talked about them afterwards. They were each other’s best friend. Those were the best days of her life.

Things changed after Chelsea and Kurt got married. Soon they moved to Sydney for Kurt’s career. Seeing each other a few times a year was not enough to keep their ties strong; gradually the distance took over.

She still loved Chelsea dearly. She was her only surviving child but she learnt to keep things to herself. Chelsea had enough to deal with every day; she did not need to hear her mother’s trivial little things. They talked less and less on the phone as the years went by.

Every time they were together, they never had enough time for Chelsea to talk about Jess, Kurt and work, let alone enough time for Eva to tell her what was going on in her own life.

That was alright for Eva. As long as she knew that Chelsea was ok, she felt good. She was the mother after all; that is how a mother feels. A mother was always there for her children; children may not always be there for their mother. A mother gives her children the best of everything, putting her children’s needs first, often missing out on satisfying her own needs.

Adult children give themselves first priority. If there’s any time or energy left over, they might think of their parents.

“Why are you so happy?” Chelsea asked.

“I am happy because you and Jess are here. I haven’t seen you for 6 months. I miss you both.”

“I said you can come to Sydney, stay with us for a while. It’s not like you still have work commitments.”

“Who’s going to look after Fluffy?”

“Put her in the cage and take her with you.”

“Fluffy is old now. I couldn’t lock her in the cage for that long. She would suffer. She doesn’t like to be in the cage. Every time we go to the vet it’s a struggle. She cries all the way there and back and that’s only a 5-minute drive.”

“What a pain.”

“Fluffy has given me lots of comfort. I don’t know what I would do without her.”

“You better learn how to live without her. She’s 15 years old now, she could go any time. You know that, don’t you?”

“Yes! She is 16 but some cats do live until 20.”

“Most of them have a life expectancy of 12.”

“I know! I won’t think about it just yet.”

“You’ve got to. You have to face the facts.”

“I’ll deal with it when it comes.”

The phone rang. Eva didn’t move.

“Mum, why don’t you answer the phone?”

“That’s alright. If it’s important, they will call again.”

Chelsea picked up the phone. “Hello… that’s right, who is this?… right, she’s here…”

*      *      *

“Mum!” Chelsea had that look of Snow White’s stepmother again.

Eva tried to distract Chelsea.

“Do you want a cup of tea?”

“I knew something was going on the moment I saw you at the airport.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Who was that man?”

“Oh, that’s Max. I am going to make some tea.”

Eva walked into the kitchen. Chelsea followed close behind.

“Would you put the kettle on? I am going to the toilet.”

Eva changed her mind. She walked into the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror, trying to think of how to tell Chelsea about Max.

She could say ‘Max is the leader of our walking group’. No, she could not tell her daughter a lie. She couldn’t tell her daughter the truth either. She didn’t want to lose her daughter’s respect. Chelsea’s opinion of her was everything to her. She wanted Chelsea to hold onto her faith in her. What could she do?

Reluctantly Eva walked into the lounge again. Chelsea had made two mugs of tea. She picked up her mug. She could feel her daughter’s eyes watching her like an eagle.

“Are you in a relationship?”

Eva jumped, like a little girl caught doing something wrong.

“No, no, no…”

“Are you involved with Max?”

“No, not really.”

“Mum, it’s alright to have a relationship with someone. That’s what people do.”

“Oh, Max and I are just friends. You know, at our age, that’s all we’re able to be.”

“If you two are just friends, why do you have to hide it?”

“I am not hiding anything. I just didn’t think it was relevant to mention him to you.”

“Mum, you are not telling me the truth. It is me you are talking to. I know you are keeping something from me.”

“I am not keeping anything from you. What do you want to know?”

Eva didn’t want to talk about Max but it looked like she had no choice.

“Where did you two meet?”

“It’s a long story.”

“I’ve got the whole night.”

*      *      *

Fluffy had arthritis so Eva had been taking her to the vet to have an injection every month for the past two years.

On one of those days, the receptionist was busy with a gentleman so she waited patiently.

“She’s in a better place now. Not many cats live to the age of 21. You did a good job looking after her. Try to remember the good times. Take it easy, Max.”

Max thanked the receptionist. When he turned around to walk out of the clinic, Eva saw the tears on his face.

“You don’t often see a man showing his feelings.”

“SNAG – Sensitive New Age Guy.” The receptionist winked at her.

It took Eva a long while to work out what the receptionist had said. Once she worked it out, she couldn’t help thinking about it with a smile.

Two days later, Eva was sitting outside a coffee shop with her walking group members from the Community Centre, after their routine weekly morning walk. A plumber’s car pulled over next to the curb. Max, wearing a pair of overalls, got out of the car.

When Eva’s eyes met Max’s, they recognised each other and greeted each other with a smile. Max took a toolbox from the boot and went into a shop, a few doors away from where she was sitting.

After they finished their drinks, all the other ladies wanted to go shopping. Eva stayed put and took a book out to read.

“It must be a good book.”

Eva looked up and saw Max standing next to her.

“One of the best. I love reading Maupassant’s writing.”

“The greatest French short story writer.”

“You know him!”

“I know I am not young but I am not that old either. Don’t let my grey hair mislead you. I think the king of the short story died before the 1900s.”

“Have you read his stories?”

“Not all of them. If I could get my hands on them all, I would. I think he wrote more than 300 short stories.”

“So many? I thought I had all his stories but I don’t even have half of them.”

“Do you have a story called ‘A Crisis’?”

“No, I don’t think so. This is the fourth time I’ve read this book in the past 30 years. I remember nearly all of the titles.”

“I got many of the stories from the internet but have not been able to get that one. Do you have the story called ‘Chali’?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Well, I better go do some work before I can relax. When will you be here again?”

“Our walking group comes to this shop every week after walking.”

“I’ll see you here this time next week then. I’ll bring a copy of ‘Chali’ for you.”

They became friends. Except for that one time when she saw Max in his overalls, he always turned up wearing nice shirt and trousers, his face always clean shaven. In fact, he always smelt good with aftershave.

They both loved reading. Through each other’s encouragement and suggestions, they read books ranging from the classics to modern literature, from dramas to mysteries, from biographies to fantasy books. They went to the library to choose books together. They talked about what they read and their thoughts on the books.

Eva kept pen and paper with her while she was reading to take down notes for later discussion with Max. Reading became more interesting than ever before. It was like time had gone back to when Chelsea was younger.

Watching movies was another thing they had in common. They got into watching DVDs as well.

Max was not a pushy guy, that’s why they met at the coffee shop or cinema for many months before visiting each other’s house to watch movies on Netflix or Stan.

Max brought a certain childlike enthusiasm to her life, like a breath of fresh air. The time they spent together brought a sense of innocence, wonder and magic in all that was around her. Eva found herself daring to do things she wouldn’t normally consider. She had so much fun with him.

People she knew or were acquainted with were mostly like complicated machinery. She had to be careful not to push the wrong button, otherwise things wouldn’t work the way she hoped. Spending time with Max was like immersing herself in a relaxed, pure and simple atmosphere. He was exactly what you saw with no hidden agenda. He laughed wholeheartedly and said what was on his mind.

Sarcasm, maliciousness and vindictiveness were not in him. Eva enjoyed the sincere, honest and trusting interactions with Max.

*      *      *

“How could you be friends with a plumber?”

Chelsea was not pleased. Eva knew she wouldn’t be. That was the very reason she didn’t want to mention Max to her daughter. She knew Chelsea was a judgmental person.

“Why couldn’t I? I am not working for him.”

“What about intellectual compatibility?”

“I just told you. We have common interests like reading and movies.”

“Yes Mum but you are a scientist. What would a plumber know about science?”

“We are not working on a science project together, we are friends. Are you telling me I shouldn’t have a plumber as a friend? Or he shouldn’t have a scientist as a friend?”

“You two would be living in two different worlds.”

“That’s what makes our friendship more interesting.”

“You are trying to tell me that you enjoy his company? Or are you trying to convince yourself that you enjoy his company?”

Normally, it was the mother who worried about her daughter’s choice of date. Now, the tables were turned and the grown up daughter was worried about her elderly mother. Chelsea was all fired up over the subject. Eva looked at her twisted face and thought, if the situation weren’t so frustrating, it would be quite comical.

“How can you be so light hearted about it? Mum? He could be after your money, you know.”

“Give me some credit, would you? Am I that bad that someone couldn’t like me as I am? Am I worthless without money?”

“What do you think Dad would say?”

“Your Dad is dead.”

“If he were still alive, this conversation wouldn’t even be taking place.”

“Leave him out of it, would you?”

“I can’t leave him out. Sorry Mum. Dad was an accomplished man. He loved you all his life. If you don’t think of me, at least think of him.”

“My being friends with Max has nothing to do with your Dad.”

“You can’t wipe away the fact that he was your husband. You still carry his surname.”

“The fact is he is already dead. Let’s change the subject.”

“I won’t change the subject. I am Dad’s daughter and I’ve got the right to speak up for him.”

Eva was finding it difficult to open up to Chelsea. She actually preferred to stay within her own little universe, sheltered from the reality that only gave her loneliness and isolation.

She thought the past was all in the past once her husband was gone. She had managed to stay in the lukewarm relationship even though her feelings had faded a long time ago. When it all ended, she couldn’t help feeling relieved, after having pretended for too long they were a happy couple, at too great a cost.

“Did you hear me Mum? How could you do that to Dad?”

*      *      *

She had loved Travis. He had been her one and only. They had been so happy together. Well, she thought they had been so happy together; one loving idea of hers changed it all.

When Toby was born, Chelsea was nearly two years old. They both had demanding jobs and with two children under the age of two, they needed an extra pair of hands. Eva’s mother wasn’t feeling the best at the time so was not able to care for the children when Eva went back to work.

They employed a nanny named Caroline to help out. She was great, willing to help any time of the day and any day of the week. It gave them the freedom to stay late at work if necessary.

One night, the children were with Eva’s mother because Caroline was out on a date. She said he was the love of her life; she would go to the ends of the Earth with him.

Poor Travis had to work late again. She thought it would be nice to pay him a surprise visit after she finished work. She bought some of Travis’ favourite mini pastries and turned up at his office.

It was the worst idea she had ever had in her married life. It ended her romantic feelings for Travis – she saw Caroline sitting on Travis’ desk…

She threw the box of pastries on the floor and quickly walked out of Travis’ office.

Suddenly she felt so alone. Travis had become a total stranger to her. Her happiness was just a fantasy. Travis had given her nothing but false promises. How could she have been so naïve? How could she not have realised her husband had brought his mistress into their home? They were together under her nose.

Many times, she thought of leaving him but the thought of Chelsea and Toby changed her mind. As time passed, the wound healed but the ugly scar never went away.

Toby’s accident created a cold war between them. They both buried themselves in their work so they wouldn’t have to deal with the problems at home. Outsiders viewed their workaholic attitudes as indicators of being high achievers.

She slept in Toby’s room after he was gone. Staying in the room that her son had slept in for 16 years was a way for her to cope with the loss. She also hoped it would lead sarcastic Travis to make the decision that she hesitated to make.

After Travis’ wake, while cleaning up his possessions, she had found a letter from Caroline’s mother to him. She apologised for not understanding her daughter’s love for him. The way he had supported her during the few years leading up to her death changed her opinion of him. She thanked him for the generous amount of money he had sent her. 

Finding out her own husband had lost the will to live after his mistress was gone hurt more than finding out he had never ended the affair.

*      *      *

Eva stared at the mug in her hands. She could not look at her daughter’s eyes.

“Shall we make this visit a happy memory for the future? Drop the subject for everyone’s sake.”

“I miss Dad.”


“Good? Is that all you can say?”

“I know you miss your Dad, I miss mine too.”

“Do you miss my Dad? You never talk about him. If I die, would you wipe me from your memory like you did Dad?”

“That’s enough Chelsea!”

“Why aren’t you grateful? Look at Kurt. What a bastard he is compared to Dad!”

“People often say women marry men just like their fathers.”

“They were wrong, weren’t they? Look at me, how Kurt made me so miserable.”

“It’ll get better. Time will change how you feel.”

“You don’t have any clue about how I feel. Dad spoilt you.”

Eva bit her tongue.

“Can you believe it? She is older than me but he said she makes him happy.”

“Don’t do that to yourself. That’s Kurt’s choice, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

“Men, I hate them all, except Dad.”

“Kurt did what he did. There’s no need to blame other men. The blaming game is not very nice to play. You have Jess’ welfare to think about. In another few years he will be a man.”

“You can talk. What do you think he will feel when he finds out you have a boyfriend?”

Jess walked into the lounge.

“Cool Gran. Mum, you should have one too.”

He picked up his book and walked out again. Eva couldn’t help laughing at what he had said. Chelsea relaxed, the laughter loosening her facial muscles.

“Love makes the world go around.”

“My goodness, you are in love. That’s why you look so bright and cheerful; you are like a teenage girl. To have a relationship is one thing, to be in love is another. No, please mum. Don’t be silly and don’t make a fool of yourself.”

“Why it is ok to have a relationship as long as there are no feelings involved?”

“That’s what people do now. They’re partners with someone for a while, then they move onto the next.”

“The ‘next’ what?”

“Next man or woman.”

“How long do they stay with one another?”

“Till they’ve both had enough of one another.”

“Had enough?”

“That’s right. After a while the same old routine gets boring. That’s the time to move on. Or until someone better turns up.”

“So, no feelings are involved; it’s just purely physical?”

“Once feelings are involved, it becomes difficult when one party has had enough.”

“You are telling me we all should behave like machines?”

“Mum, I didn’t make the rules. It is the current trend. That’s what people do nowadays.”

“You must agree with it. That’s why you asked me to do the same.”

“I would do it if I ever meet the right man. I don’t want to get married again. To have to clean up after a man and cook for him even if I worked long hours like him? No thanks. Marriage is a sentence for women. Men on the other hand do what they like. Society is mainly controlled by men so they are protected. Women don’t want husbands anymore. They use them then kick them out when their use by date is up.”

 “Chelsea, that thinking is crazy.”

“Mum, welcome to the 21st century.”

“Sydney has changed you.”

“It didn’t just happen in Sydney; the whole of Australia is like that. In fact the whole world behaves the same. You are out of touch with the world. You should watch the news. You can retire from work but not from life.”

Eva took several deep breaths. Chelsea was like a vampire, draining all of her energy. That kind of atmosphere was difficult for her to manage. She had to try hard to keep her cool.

“Many older women meet guys and fall for their cunning tricks. Soon they’ve lost everything – their house, properties, money. There was a widow I heard about who met a man who was charming and attentive so she fell in love with him. They lived together for a while. When he left her, he took half of everything she owned. She lost her house, the house her late husband left her.”

“Here you go again.”

“Not every man is as nice as Dad. There are plenty of crooks out there.”

“Don’t you worry about me, I am fine.”

“What does Max want from you? Think about it.”

“What do I have? A house in need of renovation and an old car that needs to be replaced. I am not a very good catch for anyone.”

“This house may not be modern but the land is worth something. Without this place, where would you stay?”

“I am not marrying Max, we are friends.”

“Why don’t you be friends with someone like Dad?”

Eva thought ‘Never in a million years’. Be friends with someone who betrays his spouse? How good could such a person be? Living a lie, pretending to be someone he’s not? No one could admire a deceitful man. Who could like anyone who was dishonest towards his own family? 

*      *      *

The sound of the French doors opening caught Eva’s attention. She waited for a while. It was much too quiet. She got up from bed, put on her dressing gown and went to check. Being on her own for the past five years meant her ears were tuned into any sound the house made. One could not be too careful. She always checked all the doors and windows before retiring to bed, even if it was just for a short nap.

Jess was sound asleep in Travis’ old room. Chelsea wasn’t in her bed. The bathroom was dark. Eva guessed she was in the garden. At that late hour, it would be quite chilly outside in the garden. Chelsea would catch a cold without some warm clothing.

Eva stepped into the garden. She could hear Chelsea was crying.

She wanted to walk away and leave Chelsea to deal with her emotions, then she had second thoughts. She could not leave her beloved daughter in that unsympathetic environment.

“Come inside Chelsea, it is much warmer.”

Eva remembered she used to stand in the shower and cry. She didn’t want Travis and her children to see her tears. She suffered her pain in silence but it did not make her suffering any less and it did not prevent the accident that happened to Toby.

Chelsea was cold and shivering. Eva put a blanket around her, switched on the heating and put a cup of hot drink in her hand to warm her up.

“Do you want me to stay with you or do you want to be on your own?”

“What is wrong with me?”

“Nothing is wrong with you. Human beings tried to create a society with a system to protect people. The problem is we all have different needs. One system can’t be suitable for everyone.”

“My marriage failure disappointed me. I can’t face it, Mum!”

“We face many disappointments in our lives, many which we have no control of. You have to face it and move on. Just be glad that he made the tough decision…”

“There’s nothing to be glad about.”

“Do you wish that he had lied to you and had the affair behind your back?”

“What kind of choice is that?”

“You didn’t have a choice. The choice was his not yours.”

“I always thought I would marry a man like Dad.”

Eva thought, ‘Thank God you didn’t’.

Chelsea was 39 when Kurt told her he wanted to be freed from their commitment. She had only been 28 when she found out about Travis’ infidelity. She couldn’t tell her mother. Women of her mother’s generation believed that as long as the man came home, everything was alright.

She hoped Chelsea would find another man. It shouldn’t be too hard. Kurt was not a man she would have chosen for her precious daughter anyway. There was no depth to him. She didn’t know why Chelsea had married him in the first place. There were plenty of men better than him around. She had actually cried when Chelsea told her she had accepted his proposal.

Travis had disliked Kurt. He never told her that but she saw the disapproval in his eyes whenever Kurt’s name was mentioned. It may have pleased him to know that Chelsea was no longer with Kurt. Travis had sacrificed his own happiness. Wouldn’t he have been pleased to know that his daughter had the second chance that he never had?

“Mum, I want so much to be like you. You’ve achieved so much in your life. You were successful in your career. You were outstanding in your generation. None of my friends’ mothers are as exceptional as you. You were admired by so many. Your husband worshipped the ground you walked on. I am your daughter but look at me, I am useless. I am as ordinary as they come. My husband abandoned me for a woman who had less status in society than me. How could it have gone so wrong? Am I your daughter? Why aren’t your genes working for me?”

Chelsea was hysterical, sobbing like never before. Eva’s heart was aching. She felt bad, really bad. She thought of all those times she had kept her pain to herself to protect her children. She hadn’t wanted them to feel guilty about her unhappiness. It hadn’t worked for Toby. It had taken her another 24 years to realise that it had not worked for Chelsea either.

She knew Chelsea loved her Dad. She did not want to destroy Chelsea’s perfect image of Travis, not for Travis’ sake but for her own daughter’s mental state.

Chelsea was hurt. She thought her mother had it all; if only she knew.

“Chelsea darling, forgive me for never telling you the truth but I was not the lucky woman you thought I was.”

Eva tried to find the right words and the right way to break the truth to her daughter. She wanted Chelsea to see that there was nothing good in her life, except her and Jess. Her life was full of sadness and loneliness. She had put her heart into her work, just to help her cope with home life, to occupy her time so she didn’t have time to think about her pathetic life.

“What truth? You have nothing to tell me that I don’t already know.”

“Did you know your father had a mistress?”

“What mistress?”

“When you were young, he took a woman to our home to help out as a nanny and she was his mistress until she died…”

“Are you talking about Caroline?”

“You knew?”

“Dad told me.”

“You didn’t think that was wrong?”

“Dad said he had been foolish, that he had done the wrong thing. When he saw how upset you were, he realised he was hurting you. He didn’t want to lose you so he ended the affair and tried very hard to win you back…”

“I read the letter that Caroline’s mother sent him. It showed that he was with her until the end.”

“I read the letter too.

Caroline was really in love with Dad. After Dad wouldn’t see her again, she kept trying to contact Dad. Dad was worried that you might find out and leave him. He did not give in. Dad hadn’t seen her for about 30 years when one day, out of the blue, she contacted Dad and asked for help. She had advanced cancer. The doctor had already given up on her. She asked Dad to support her search for alternative treatments.

Dad gave her the money for the treatments plus the expenses she needed for travel. It was a lot of money. In the end, she still died. Dad gave her mother a lump sum of money to cope with the loss.

When Dad and Caroline met again, she was already dying. Dad said he couldn’t recognise her. He helped her because she asked and Dad could not turn away a person in need. You know what Dad was like. You’re like that too. If someone you know turned to you for help, you would try your best to help them.

A few years after Dad ended things with Caroline, she actually got married. Her husband died a few years before she got sick.

Caroline claimed that she was always really in love with Dad. Dad let her fascination get to him and made the mistake of having the affair.

He could not bear to think of his life without you in it. He spent all his life trying to win you back. He said he missed the good times with you. He hoped you would see his pain and forgive him for what he had done wrong.”

Eva remembered her loneliness as she listened to Chelsea. After her daughter had moved out, she and Travis seldom ate together at the dining table. They lived two different lives, like two unrelated people sharing the same house. She didn’t tell Travis what she did, he didn’t tell her either. Often, they didn’t see each other for days.

She hadn’t been trying to punish him for what he had done. Hatred was not part of her character. It was simply because he had broken her trust; she couldn’t bring herself to believe what he had to say.

For her, to trust Travis was to be able to predict what he would do when a situation arose. She had exposed her vulnerabilities to Travis, believing he would not take advantage of her openness. After she had experienced his untrustworthiness, she did not feel safe with him anymore. She couldn’t think ahead. Her longer term goals didn’t include him. Life with him was one day at a time.

“Mum, are you listening?”

“He destroyed his own happiness as well as mine.”

“Couldn’t you forgive him? He admitted he had made a mistake.”

“If Kurt came back to you, could you trust him again?”

“Oh no, not Kurt.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t trust someone untrustworthy.”

“Now you know how I felt.”

“Dad was different!”

“Why was your Dad different?”

“Dad loved you. His lifelong love for you made it different. He told me, ever since he saw you, he just knew that you were the one for him. He never wanted another woman. You were all he wanted ever since he was 19 years old. He said he loved your mind. You were smarter than anyone he ever knew. You could be anybody that you wanted to be. You were more beautiful than any woman he had ever seen. Most of all you were polished…”

“That’s enough Chelsea.”

“I’m not making it up, those were Dad’s words.”

“I know, he told me that 40 years ago.”

“He told me one Christmas, maybe seven or eight years ago. Can you see how much Dad loved you? How I wish I could meet a man who loved me the way that Dad loved you.”

Eva stood up from the couch. She had had the urge to shake Travis, to ask him why he wouldn’t leave her alone. But Travis was long gone. She had already lost her chance. Chelsea had reopened her feelings for Travis. That suppressed love had been sealed and frozen by his actions.

Chelsea put her arms around her mother. For once she knew right there and then that her mother needed more comfort than her.

Eva could not control her tears, the first tears she had shed since her husband told her that he was not well. She knew her grieving for Travis had begun.

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