Church was the next day and church always meant seeing my mother. Lewis always told me that Mum was a loveable enough person but her love was not easily given. This, of course, made me feel as if attaining my mother’s love and approval to be some weighty feat that even he had trouble with. As I grew older, I figured that her selectiveness was a good thing, proving her discernment and that’s where Lewis got his from.
I wore my new jacket from Donahue’s and Lewis even made a comment about it. It was almost a compliment but not quite. My parents, who were always in love, the one love I knew was certain in the world, sat at one end of the fourth pew from the back row and us children lined up, descending according to our birthdates. Alice was there too, sandwiched between Kimberly and Lewis.
I could never concentrate in church. I always got distracted too often to let the words of ministers linger and have meaning. I was stuck on how loudly and awfully the man in front of us was singing. I was caught up on examining what everyone else was wearing; counting the pieces of glass in the stained windows, how many hymnals were upside down and tucked inside the backs of wooden pews; the various sizes of choirs we have one Sunday and not the next. So, I sat not really listening at all, wondering what Mum was going to cook for lunch.
Lunch on Sundays was always at my parents’ house. It was in the countryside like Lewis and Alice’s house and it was a place that always brought up deep-rooted, unanswered questions.
Mum welcomed Lewis and Alice inside when they arrived as if it was the first time she had seen them all day, even though they had only been separated for the twelve-minute ride from the church.
I was watching it all quite bitterly from my chair in the kitchen. Dad was beside me. Dad only dressed up for church and holidays, something Mum detested thoroughly, and he always scoffed when his sons did otherwise. Kimberly could prance around in high heels and fancy hairdos with new sweet-smelling perfumes and no one would think any more of it.
Mum made soup and bread and salad and served us all at the dinner table, set with an autumny bunch of flowers in the center. Mum always dressed like she was more artistic than she really was; with layers of chunky jewelry and long, flowing sweaters. Dad, on the other hand, never dressed to his full potential; always in ill-fitting slacks with sweaters from his past. Lewis blamed it on retirement and country-living.
For the entirety of the meal, I sat with my head down, finishing as quickly as possible to keep the conversation short. I just kept praying, wishing, hoping that no one would bring up Lewis’ matchmaking attempts.
Then Kimberly looked at me and it was a look which didn’t quite have a name; it wasn’t sly or sheepish or cheeky, it was just Kimberly and the fact that she was going to start talking about you. It was almost a moment she was giving, politely, for you to start talking about something else before she began. But I didn’t catch on as swiftly as I ought.
“Mum,” she said, sitting a little straighter and interrupting Lewis and Dad’s conversation about some boat one of them was thinking about purchasing in the summertime. Mum looked up, delighted like everyone does when Kimberly addresses them. “You remember Rosie from Potter’s, don’t you?” Kimberly asked, and as the name slipped from her mouth, I dropped my fork with a loud clang. Mum wasn’t impressed.
“She’s got a hyphenated name, doesn’t she?” Mum asked, after slightly glaring at me because of the fork. “What was it?”
“Are her parents divorced?” asked Mum.
“No, no,” continued Kimberly. “I ran into her the other day and we got to talking.”
Mum looked at Kimberly for more information as if the rarity of her daughter talking about someone for so short a length of time too abnormal.
Kimberly inhaled one large gulp of air and then: “Lewis thought that she and Marty would make a good match.” Then she sucked in her lips; whether she was trying not to laugh was something I didn’t know.
“Really!” Mum screeched, looking at me and smiling. “Marty, that’s wonderful–what’s she like?”
“She’s adorable,” Kimberly said. “She’s sweet and good-looking. I think she’d fit in nicely with us, don’t you, Alice?”
“Of course,” said Alice, grinning in my direction.
My expression dropped as I stared into space. Alice and Kimberly were as much a couple as Lewis and Alice and I never imagined them initiating any other girl into their clique.
“What do you think of her, Marty?” Dad asked, poking his white head of hair out from behind Kimberly, who I was sitting beside.
I stuttered a little and tried to get something out, anything really, but Mum came back with, while pointing her fork at me, “Why haven’t you asked her out yet?”
“I don’t know her, Mum,” I argued gently. “I’ve never even spoken to her.”
“Your father didn’t know me when he came up to me. Lewis didn’t know Alice, either, did you, Lewis?”
Lewis tried to agree but Dad interrupted.
“Do you like her or not?” he asked, leaning over to see me. He looked at Mum and they both pointed their forks at one another from opposite heads of the table. “I don’t think he likes her.”
Mum nodded, agreeing. “Is she pretty?”
“She’s very pretty,” shouted Kimberly, obviously offended that I hadn’t said so in the first place.
“Why are you so upset?” I asked her.
“I just can’t believe you don’t think she’s pretty.”
“I didn’t say I didn’t think she was pretty. When did I say that?”
“You don’t think she’s pretty?” Lewis chimed in too, equally offended as our sister.
“Lewis thinks she’s pretty.”
“I picked her out,” Lewis said.
Alice hid her laugh behind her napkin and I shook my head, shocked.
“We’re going to the rugby game tomorrow, meeting her there in fact,” Kimberly stated matter-of-factly.
“Oh,” Mum said, rather pleased and getting back to her meal. “That settles it then.”
“What settles what?” I asked.
“You can see for yourself. Now,” she said, sighing and finishing off the subject. “Marty, how’s our cousin doing?”
My mother always had a way of stirring up trouble and then taming it down with simple statements and lingering looks. After that, I was fine with the rest of the conversation. There was laughter and jokes and stories told, mainly by Lewis and his charm.
After the meal, I stood near the bay window overlooking the tree-covered lawn, and wondered about what we had become. I could see the three of us children running around the trees, dashing through fall leaves and splashing through rain puddles.
Kimberly was inside her room, folding and hanging her clothes in her closet when I knocked on the open door. I walked in and landed on her bed, apparently doing something I shouldn’t have because she told me to get up instantly. Sitting up, I surveyed her things. The room claimed she was still a little girl with the same patchwork quilts on the bed, knit pillowcases at the head and old blanket at the foot; the same pop music records stacked on her bookshelves in between the hard-covered children’s books. But there were the hints of her adulthood scattered throughout the sentimental childhood memories like souvenirs from her travels; the glassy perfumes set atop the vanity and her old textbooks from Potter’s lined up with her well-worn travel guides.
She finally stopped from organizing and turned to stare at me. “Marty?” she said because I was daydreaming.
I looked over and said, “What do you wear to a rugby game?”
This is the end of Volume I, but Wayward will return
A new story series will begin soon