Friday, November 12
The women sat around the small table, a game of gin rummy in progress in front of them. Between the ashtrays, Styrofoam cups, cans of Diet Pepsi and Diet Mountain Dew, the bags of pork rinds and barbecued chips, there was hardly room for the cards.
When the petite young woman in the oversized blue parka walked into the room, Dottie Doucette stood up. Dottie was terribly thin. She looked older than her forty years, but a light had come back to her eyes, her friends all said. It was faint, they averred, but it was there.
When Lucy hugged her mother, Dottie felt as if she might break.
Lucy wanted to ask her mother about George Archer. She had talked to some of the women who had known her mother when they were younger, and she'd learned that Dorothy Doucette had gone out with George Archer a few times. That was probably when the man had put his eye on Lucy. Lucy knew that her mother felt guilty for so many things. Dottie Doucette did not need this burden now.
Dottie let go, wiped her eyes, reached into her pocket. She showed Lucy her chip. Six months sober.
'I'm proud of you, Mama.'
Dottie turned toward the women at the table.
'This is Lucy, my baby girl.'
The women all fussed over Lucy for a while, and Lucy let them. She'd stay on for a month or so, taking a room at a boarding house in town, in exchange for housekeeping duties. From the moment she got off the bus, she knew that she would not be staying forever, just as she knew that in many ways she had never left. Not really.
Her mother slipped on the pilled sweater that was draped over the back of the folding chair. Lucy recognized it as one she had stolen from the JC Penney's a long time ago. The sweater was getting on in years. Her mother needed a new one. Lucy promised herself she would buy it this time.
'Take me for a walk?' Dottie asked.
Out in the lobby, Lucy helped her mother on with her boots. As Lucy was tying the laces, she glanced up. Her mother was smiling.
'What?' Lucy asked.
'I used to do the same thing for you when you were small. Funny how life comes full circle.'
Yeah, Lucy thought. Life's hilarious.
They walked, arm in arm, down the path that led to the town park. The temperature was falling. Lucy bunched the sweater around her mother's neck.
Winter was coming, but that was all right. In the end, Lucy Doucette thought, the sunshine was inside. And now that she remembered everything, she could begin to forget.