CHAPTER 1 

Tell my heart to hold its pace

To slow this racing pulse.

Closed eyes,

Heavy breath,

Envisioning the potential landslide.

Extracting the wreckage once buried.

Waiting, just waiting.

The second hand on the clock broken like me, who I was.

A tug of war in human nature,

going forward while the past becomes present.

My mind crawling with uncertainty,

Uncomfortable in my own skin.

Relief in tomorrow that this moment will have already passed.

Wishing, aching, yearning till then.

Waiting, just waiting.

~IH

This string in my hand keeps pulling, tickling my arm and catching on my skinny stackable David Yurman bracelets. Shifting with the wind, one yellow balloon attached floating delicately above my head. It may have been a bit much for the occasion. The light physical weight, a stark contrast from the fear and intoxicating beverages that once held my grip. After all, it’s not exactly my mother’s birthday, but my daughters insisted on the balloon. So here we are, helium included.

 

Twins don’t actually run in either of our families. We have other impelling genes to pass on. The doctors said the chances of multiples were higher coming from mature eggs such as mine. Who knew? Something about a woman’s natural last attempt for kin.

 

Birthdays … it is sort of close to my mother’s birthday, only a few weeks away. She hasn’t truly celebrated her birthday in a few years, at least not the last eighteen. No cake and candles. No gifts or vacations. Not even a fancy dinner. My mother or Vera (as my sisters and I grew to call her) was never really a big birthday person anyway.

 

My girls also requested to bring a bouquet of flowers. Brightly colored tropical blooms, equipped with deep leafy green stems and four birds of paradise. A wide aqua satin ribbon ties the stalks together. The flowers are pretty breathtaking. So is today.

 

Breathtaking, that’s right, keep breathing. I need to remember to keep breathing. The air in this parking lot is thick with earthy hints of dead worms and wet grass in the distance. It’s surprisingly humid this morning. We flew thousands of miles to be here and I seem to have forgotten how warm the summer days can actually be, even here in upstate New York. Breathing in and out. In with calmness, out with my concerns. At this moment, I’m so filled with excitement, I’m not sure if I’m going to pass out or throw up.

 

“Wait till your grandmother sees you girls,” my husband says to our rambunctious daughters. Glen is one of the best things that ever happened to me, along with becoming a mother. Waiting lovingly by my side to help, on this highly anticipated day.

 

“She’s going to be so excited,” he continues.

 

“Yes, I’m sure she will be,” I chime in. This will be her first time meeting our already five-year-old girls. I went back and forth about coming here alone. With or without all the family, but decided everyone here would be a welcomed joy.

 

Our charming girls, the little bonus bundle that completed our family. A picturesque image I still have to pinch myself to believe.

 

“When can we eat? I’m starving,” my daughter asks.

 

“I’m not sure yet, I don’t really know how this works. Grab a granola bar out of my bag. Actually, grab me one, too.”

 

It’s times like these I could really use more than a bar. On second thought, that would be great. A simple little bar would do. One where I could order a strong clear martini, and another close behind. What would that help? Kind of ironic given the situation. If I were to drink right now, it would definitely be a shot of tequila. The good kind— Patron. The only kind I drink, well, at least if they have it. I mean it’s not like I wouldn’t drink Jose Cuervo or something along those lines (if that were my only option). I would certainly choose something over a less than equivalent tequila.

 

Yes, a true drink of choice. The whole experience is lovely. The salty grains scrape across the back of my hand and onto my tongue. Just before a hard glass pushes the most extravagantly burning liquid down my throat, finishing off the experience with a quick squeeze of zesty lime. The pulp still lingers on my lips. Wiping the residue from my face, a few granules push back into my mouth and that yummy salty taste appears once more. Just then I realize that I am fantasizing about my love affair with the old days. I need to stop. I need to refocus. Looking to my husband, “I’m going to give Sharon a call, I just need a minute.”

 

He nods in an understanding way and distracts the kids with yet another YouTube video on his phone.

 

Walking back to the car, I recite the serenity prayer.

 

“God grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” Breathing out, a slight feeling of relief comes over me just as she answers the phone.

 

Sharon’s a charming mature Southern woman who radiates love and comfort. She’s sort of on call for me today, understanding the importance. Clearing her entire calendar with promises to simply be by her phone. We have played out so many scenarios—it’s hard to believe the day has arrived.

 

“Hello there, Iris,” she answers. Her voice is raspy and deeper for a woman. Tales of parties she’s attended from years past.

 

“Hey, Sharon, we’re here.”

 

“Oh.” She waits for me to proceed.

 

“Yeah, I just caught myself romancing salt, lime, and Patron. So I figured I’d give you a call.”

 

“Well, I’m glad you did.” Her choices in words are as calming as the way she says them. She never rushes. Pausing widely in-between sentences and sometimes even one word to the next, appropriately of course. Not so long that you forget her original meaning. More like for time of reflection and to cautiously choose what she really wants to say next.

 

“I believe a good tequila shot was a favorite pastime of mine as well. I loved the excitement. Feeling that fierce flame slip down.”

 

“Yes, ma’am. Perpetual burning bliss.”

 

“Don’t you know it, honey? One time at ‘Mickey’s Bar,’ they ran out of salt and somehow we got it in our heads to use sugar. Let me tell you—that was a little different. That sugar didn’t help take the bite out of the fire we were guzzling back.”

 

“Yeah,” I laugh. “Probably didn’t quite do the trick.”

 

“It sure didn’t, but you better believe me that sugar didn’t stop us.”

 

“Yes, ma’am, wouldn’t have stopped me either,” I respond smiling.

 

“You’re doing great, you called. Easy does it, honey.”

 

“You’re right. Thanks, Sharon.”

 

“I’m here all day by the grace of God.”

 

Hanging up the phone, my home screen picture pops up. One of my new favorites. The twins and some neighborhood playmates piled high. Laying one on top of the other in what was supposed to be a pyramid, each one smooching the one below. My husband attempting to protect me the way he always has, trying to block the stack of children from crashing into us. Glen’s arms stretched out, head turned toward mine, his gray hairs showing off. In a stereotypical way, he looks more distinguished. Some may even say it would be to his advantage, being an attorney and all. His glossy blue eyes a little more aged these days, but so are mine. Giving my crow’s feet a run for their Botox.

 

I sit in the car tracing my pale polished fingers over the stiches of the tan leather seat and take a glimpse at my reflection in the rear view mirror. They say not to look back, but today the past seems to be becoming present. And I worry most about what things will become after. I brush my hands through the pale blonde hair that I used to have naturally. People can change. I have changed. I take in another deep breath, fill my lungs, then exhale even slower. My thoughts collected, I let go of my expectations and I head back to meet my family. 

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THE MEETING