A knock interrupted Mitch while he wrapped up his third attempt at re-organizing the livingroom that morning. He took one last look around and pulled down the godforsaken Suehiro print that Jodie hung back up, sliding it behind the couch and before scurrying over to the front door. When he threw it open, he was met with his Aunt’s bright smile.
“Mon rayon de soleil!” Marie exclaimed before the standard faire la bise exchange, and Mitch beckoned her to come inside.
“I’m making tea,” he announced while taking her coat. After hanging it on the hall tree, he rummaged through a cabinet to find an inoffensive mug to offer and settled on one covered in floral print. No doubt it once belonged to Rosa.
“Do you need any help?” Marie asked, and Mitch declined. Adding a splash of milk and drizzle of honey to her tea, he brought the steaming mugs over to the coffee table and took a seat next to her on the couch. She thanked him, and reached over to cradle his cheek with her palm. “It’s so good to see you. How have things been? You look well.”
“Everyone says I look tired,” Mitch chuckled, then relaxed his shoulders and sat up a little straighter.
With a hard time limit for the visit, Mitch gave an abridged version of the events in his life since they last saw one another. Which was nearly a year ago, if his math was correct.
God, he was a shithead for not carving out more space for her and Roland.
But she alluded to being worried, so he owed some honestly to her. After all, Marie handled motherhood better than Bernadette -his biological mother- ever had. When he was 16 years old, she accidentally discovered him fooling around with one of his classmates. Later, she pulled him aside and asked no questions, but assured him with an embrace that he was loved and supported no matter what.
Years later, a devastating phone call took place with Born Again Bernadette; he found the courage to come out to her, and she informed him matter-of-factly that he was sinful and needed to repent or else he’d end up in hell. Her final act of devotion to her new lord and savior was quoting a bible verse to her own son about being an abomination before promptly hanging up. When he told Marie about what took place and tried to downplay the emotional devastation, she responded by driving out to Cambridge to console him.
While Mitch relayed the past year’s events, he realized that he never noticed fine lines on Marie’s face, and how the last remaining traces of her once brunette hair were now gray; physical reminders that time stopped for no one. He loved her, and she deserved to know much more than the rare fragments which he allowed to slip past his guarded gates. It was unfair to keep her in the dark just because he was afraid of being perceived.
Steadying his nerves, he told her about the breakup with Calvin and the injury. Her jaw went slack, prompting Mitch to apologize for not sharing either pieces of information sooner. But on a better note, he happily reported that he hadn’t relapsed, and that his roommate was helping him develop better habits. “I thought you looked bigger. Healthier,” she noted.
After a bit of risk assessment, he mentioned that he was seeing someone nice, someone that he liked very much. Marie lit up, but Mitch curbed it with, “It’s not- we’re not a thing yet, I don’t think. But he’s very sweet, just a bit-” he paused, avoiding the term ‘inexperienced’ or anything suggestive. “Well, reserved, I suppose. I’m trying to not rush it, like I always do.”
“That’s the hardest part when you really like someone,” Marie agreed. “It’ll be worth it, if he’s good for you.”
She asked about Jodie, and was relieved to hear that things improved, albeit slowly. Mitch inquired about Roland and their trip, and Marie’s diplomacy was most admirable. “What would you like me to say if Bernadette should bring you up?” she asked.
“Ideally, nothing,” Mitch grimaced, then sighed. “Say I’m fine, I guess?”
“That’s what I was thinking,” she pat his hand.
When it reached the final stretch before Marie needed to take her leave, she jumped in place and exclaimed that his belongings were in her car. “I was so terribly excited when I saw you, that I nearly forgot!” she laughed. And though Mitch insisted that he could get it all out on his own, she insisted that she was as fit as ever and lent a hand with ferrying everything inside.
Her car was nearly packed to the brim with an ample assortment of Mitch’s collected life: vinyls, instruments, miscellaneous goods like posters and books, concert DVDs and VHS tapes. Back when they made this plan to see one another, he requested that she bring a few things as his way of dipping his toes into staying put. He hadn’t anticipated the entire attic. Among the bounty was a wrapped gift, which she made him promise to wait until Christmas to open. When Mitch went for his half of the exchange, she requested that he mail the present since she didn’t want anything staying in the car for the duration of the trip. “That, or come visit when we get back. Juno misses you, and the garden’s so large now,” she added with a wink as Mitch helped her into her coat.
“I will,” promised Mitch, his heart aching at the thought of the sweet border collie now being a senior.
“Je te aime très beaucoup,” Marie reminded him on her way out.
“Je t’aime aussi,” Mitch responded. “Give Roland, Grand-mère et Grand-père my best.”
“Yes! And tell Jodie we say hello!” She turned around and blew a few kisses at him, which he caught.
Yet another departure down.