Authors: Adena Halpern
Tags: #Fiction, #General
“Jeez, Gram, we’re twenty-five years old. We’re supposed to have no money right now. We won’t start making money until our thirties. Zach just has money because he got a good idea for a Web site and sold it for like fifty million dollars. Anyway, I’m not attracted to Zach. He’s cute, but Johnny is more my type. Zach is the suit-wearing type. Johnny is jeans and sneakers.”
“Just a moment. This friend has fifty million dollars?”
“Something like that.”
“Lucy, marry the rich guy! You’ll never have to worry about anything for the rest of your life!”
“Gram, I intend to make my own riches.”
I was about to tell her that it was easier my way, that she wasn’t thinking clearly, that she was too young to know better. But I realized if I did say those things, I would sound exactly like my mother. I immediately shut my mouth.
“You’re right,” I said instead. “If this Johnny makes you happy, that’s what’s most important. What do I know, anyway?”
And then Lucy’s phone rang yet again.
“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” I said, stomping my foot. “Does this happen every day?”
“Yes, if I don’t pick up the phone. She knows it’s annoying to me, so she’ll make something up and say, ‘Daddy wanted to know . . . ’ or ‘Daddy was thinking of you.’” She looked down at the phone again. “So should I answer it?”
“I don’t know,” I said, and this time I really didn’t. “Do you want to?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I should just see what she wants?”
“So pick it up.”
Lucy pressed a button and spoke into the phone. “Hello?” She heard nothing and looked at the phone. “It went through to voice mail.”
“Well, then, check your messages. Let me hear it, too; share the phone with me.”
“I’ll put it on speaker,” Lucy said, pressing another button.
“It does that?” I was shocked. “You can do that on a cell
phone?” I asked as the recording on Lucy’s phone announced that she had three messages.
“You can also take videos on a cell phone,” she told me.
“Now you’re teasing me again.”
“I’m not. But it can only store less than a minute’s worth of footage.”
“You poor thing,” I said, teasing her now. “We didn’t even have our own phone line when we were younger. We had to share a line with the people next door. Oh, Frida and I used to listen to their conversations. Mr. Hampton from next door was impotent—”
“Wait, Gram, shh, here are the messages.”
“Lucy, this is Mom.”
“Like I don’t know.” Lucy rolled her eyes.
“Aunt Frida is on my landline, worried sick about Grandma. Frida told me you were in Gram’s apartment this morning with some woman eating cake. Please give me a call. Aunt Frida is very worried.”
“Do you see what I mean? ‘Aunt Frida is worried,’ not her.”
“Oh, Frida.” I grimaced. “Can she ever stop being such a fretter? I’m gone for two hours and she thinks I’ve been kidnapped.”
“Wait, here’s the second message,” Lucy whispered.
“Hello, Lucy? It’s Mom again. Don’t forget to try me on both my cell phone and my home phone. Aunt Frida is very upset. Love, Mom.”
“You see what she does? You see how it’s not her that’s worried, it’s Aunt Frida?”
“I know that trick. I taught her that trick. That’s not her fault.”
“Wait, here’s the third message.”
“Lucy, it’s Mom. Did you lie to Aunt Frida and tell her that the woman she saw you with in Gram’s apartment was your cousin from Chicago? You know very well that we have no family in Chicago. Why would you do that? Call me back. Aunt Frida is very worried.”
“Oh, Frida!” I stomped my foot.
“I shouldn’t have said you were a cousin from Chicago.”
“Oh god. Your mother will have the police looking for me in another minute.”
“We should call her,” Lucy said. “Seriously, this is getting to be too much. You know how she freaks out.”
“Okay,” I gave in. Lucy dialed Barbara’s number and let it ring.
“She’s not there,” Lucy said. “Should I leave a message?”
“Yes. Tell her you just saw me and I’m shopping and I’m fine.”
“No, I can’t.” She shut the phone off.
“What am I going to say about the cousin in your apartment? Why would I say something like that?”
I thought about that for a second. “Oh, I don’t know. Tell her that you and your friend were having fun with Frida.”
“She’ll see right through that. That just doesn’t sound right.”
“Well, I don’t know. Look, I’ll call her later. This is wasting my day.”
“What about Frida?”
“I’ll call Frida. I’ll tell her that I’m out shopping and then going to a movie by myself. If she asks me about Barbara I’ll tell her I was planning to have lunch with her, but then I didn’t feel like it. She’ll believe me, she believes everything I tell her. I once made her believe it was raining on a sunny day.”
“You’ve told me that story about a hundred times.”
“Well, now it’s a hundred and one, Ms. Smarty Pants. Now give me your phone.”
I dialed Frida’s number.
“God, I’m hungry,” Lucy said.
“Me, too. Do they have pizza? I’d love to have a pizza.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you eat pizza,” Lucy said and laughed. “But yes, I’m sure they have pizza.”
“Good. I want to eat like a twenty-nine-year-old. Oh, to live a day and not have to worry about how much fiber I’ve had.”
“You scoff, but you’ll see. As you age regularity becomes your life.” I laughed and then remembered I was waiting for Frida to pick up. “Where the heck is she?” I asked, listening to the phone. “She never leaves the house.” I let it ring a few more times. “I don’t know where she is,” I said, handing Lucy the phone. “Here, I don’t know how to hang it up.”
Lucy touched a button and then shut the phone.
“Well, we’ll get it all straightened out after lunch,” I said.
“Yeah, let’s forget about it for now. Mom will probably forget about it.”
“And when she doesn’t, we’ll tell her where she can stick it.”
Lucy laughed. “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to you today.”
“I’m young, gorgeous, and a woman of the world,” I said, swinging my arms and accidentally bumping into a handsome man. “I’m sorry,” I said and smiled at him.
“It was my fault,” he said, giving me the once-over.
Lucy grabbed me, urging me to come on.
“He was cute!” I smiled, looking back at the man, who was
still staring at me. “And finding a cute guy was one of the things on my list today.”
“We’ve got a lot of hours left in the day. Don’t worry,” she said. “We’ll find you someone cute.”
“Someone with a nice tush.” I laughed.
“Oh, Gram.” Lucy cringed.
“Do men do that all day?”
“Do they whistle at you and look you up and down and say nice things?”
“Yes.” Lucy rolled her eyes again. “Trust me, you get sick of it.”
“Trust me”—I put my hands on her shoulders—“if there’s one thing you must never do, it’s get sick of men whistling at you, even the ones you’re not interested in. There will come a day when they don’t do that anymore, and believe me, you’ll miss it.”
A hint of worry came into Lucy’s eyes.
“I’m sorry, was that too depressing?”
“No,” she said, smiling gently. “I guess we’re both learning a lot today.”
The question I’ve grappled with, even in the years since Howard’s death, is this: What would my life have been like if I had married someone I was
with? What kind of person would I have become if I had married my soul mate? If I’d had the choice all those years ago, if my mother hadn’t stood in the way and told me to marry Howard. If I’d married with my heart, would my life have been any better? What would my daughter have been like as a result? Would Barbara have been more independent?
What is more important in life? I don’t know; maybe it’s different for women today, like Lucy, because she can go out and make it on her own. Still, it is my belief that as long as this world is round, there’s going to be that age-old question: Should you marry for love or security?
I’ve made it to seventy-five years old and I still don’t know the answer; so much for that old-age wisdom.
“Johnny!” Lucy shouted across the restaurant as we walked in.
You should have seen Johnny’s face when he saw Lucy.
Howard never looked at me in our entire marriage with such a smile.
“Excuse me for a second,” I heard him say to the customers he was helping as he held out his arms for my Lucy and gave her a great big hug. “I thought you were showing your clothes to Barneys today,” he said, looking concerned.
“I am.” She smiled at him. “It’s not for another hour, so I thought I’d pop in to see you for good luck.”
He put his arms around her again and gave her a kiss on the lips. I looked away to let them have their moment. I have to say, Lucy has good taste. He might not have had a proper profession, but boy, was he handsome.
“I’m sorry,” he said, extending his hand. “I’m Johnny.”
“Oh, sorry,” Lucy excused herself, turning to me. “This is my friend . . . er, my cousin from Baltimore, Ellie.”
“Chicago,” I corrected her.
“Did I just say Baltimore?” She laughed nervously. “I meant Chicago. This is my cousin Ellie, from Chicago.”
“Oh, of course. Well, you look exactly alike,” he said, shaking my hand.
“Everyone says that,” Lucy and I said at the same time and chuckled.
“Come sit over here”—he motioned to a table—“Zach is here. Sit with him. I’ll grab you some menus.”
“Zach is the rich one?” I whispered, nudging Lucy.
“Yes, shh,” Lucy said, nudging me back, seeming mortified. What? No one could hear us.
“Hey, Zach,” Lucy greeted him.
Zach looked up from his menu. Why did he look so familiar?
“Hey, Lucy,” he said, standing up and giving her a peck on the cheek. That’s when he looked at me. “Hey,” he said, looking as bewildered as I felt.
“This is my cousin Ellie, from Chicago,” Lucy introduced me, getting it right this time.
“Don’t I know you?” Zach asked, his blue eyes twinkling in the sunlight streaming into the restaurant.
“I think I know you, too,” I said, scouring my memory.
“Oh!” He snapped his fingers. “You’re that cute girl from the bakery this morning!”
“Oh, for goodness’ sake! You’re Blue Eyes!” I said, clapping my hands. “I don’t believe it! Is this a small world or what?”
“What did you call me?” He laughed.
“Blue Eyes. The thing I noticed first about you was those blue eyes. Doesn’t he have the most beautiful eyes, Lucy?”
I looked at Lucy, who gestured for me to calm down. It was such a small world, though, wasn’t it? Evidently, older people are more shocked that the world is so small than younger people are. Maybe it has something to do with growing up with the Internet and cable TV. So—he was the young man from the bakery this morning, with the gorgeous blue eyes! How do you like that?
“Your hair is different.”
“Yes,” I said, patting it down. “I got it cut at Lucy’s beauty parlor.”
“It looks incredible!” he said, then chuckled. “I love that you said ‘beauty parlor.’ Only my grandmother ever called it that.”
“I meant the hair salon.” I giggled nervously. “I don’t know why I said that.” But I
know why I said that—I was crazy for those eyes, those eyes!
“That’s what they call it in Chicago,” Lucy interrupted, saving me.
“Yes,” I bluffed.
“Like ‘pop’ for soda, I guess,” he commented as he pulled out two chairs. “Here, take a seat with me.”
“We’d love it, thank you,” I said, sitting across from him. Lucy took the seat next to him. When he looked down for a second, I mouthed the words
to Lucy. She put her face in her hands like she was embarrassed.
In addition to those blue eyes, boy, was he ever handsome! What a gorgeous head of hair he had! And he was tall and broad! If he wasn’t so young, I would have thought that the phrase
tall, dark, and handsome
was invented for him!
“So why were you buying all those cakes this morning?” he asked me.
“Oh, um, well . . .” I faltered.
“It’s our grandmother’s birthday. That’s why Ellie is in town,” Lucy quickly chimed in.
“Oh, that’s right. Johnny said you had your grandmother’s birthday party last night. So you were picking up the cakes today?”
“Today is Ellie’s birthday!” Lucy said, getting excited.
“Happy birthday!” Zach smiled at me. Goodness, he had nice teeth.
“Thank you!” I smiled back.
“So why were you picking up your own cakes?” He looked confused.
“Well, I was up early this morning, so I picked them up. No
big whoop.” I looked at Lucy to see if this explanation seemed plausible. She shrugged and nodded.
“So how long are you in town for?” he asked.
“Just today,” I said. “I have to go back to . . . I have to go back tomorrow.”
“Then we’ll all have to go out tonight and celebrate.” He beamed.
I beamed back, and then looked at Lucy, who seemed to be pondering the idea.
“Sounds cool!” she declared.
“Sounds really cool!” I added as Lucy, again, motioned for me to calm down. What can I say? A couple of hours and I’ve already got a date with a wealthy, blue-eyed hunk!
“So what is everyone having?” Johnny asked, coming over to the table.
“Pizzas all around?” Zach asked us.
I immediately wondered if I had a Pepcid in my purse, but then remembered that my twenty-nine-year-old self would not be needing any heartburn medication for this meal.
“With extra spicy peppers,” I added, excited.
“I’m loving your cousin!” Zach turned to Lucy and said.
“So am I.” Lucy smiled at me.
“You know, there’s this great little Italian place we could go to tonight,” Zach said.
“For what?” Johnny asked.
“We’re all going out for Ellie’s birthday,” he told him.
“Cool!” Johnny smiled.
“Why don’t we meet for a drink before?” I proposed. “Lucy,
what about one of the bars you like to go to?” I asked hopefully.