"Sammy, Rosette, Carla! Time for dinner," I shout. I finish setting the table as they race down the hall. It sounds like a herd of elephants in a stampede, running away from a possible threat.
They laugh and sit down in there designated spots. Their faces are so happy, so clueless. Blind the things happening around them and for that i am grateful.
I shake my head, trying to forget about money and the bills we have to pay. I start dishing out food to stop them from seeing my hands shake.
"Mom," Sam complains, "you know I don't like green beans."
I look at him and say, "You get what you get and you should be thankful for the food that we do have, now quit complaining and eat your beans."
He pouts and nods gently, his blond curls bouncing. He got his hair from his father; he got everything from him actually, a mini-me. His hair, his baby blue eyes, his dimples and especially his height.
I sit down and serve myself quietly. We eat in silence for a bit, everyone in their own world, but eventually Sam breaks the tension and asks, "Mom, why do you have to make beans?"
I sigh heavily and throw him the 'don't start' look. He lowers his head and starts to eat again.
Rosette starts talking then pretty soon everyone is saying something.
My head is pounding and I can't hear anything but the ringing in my ears. I stand up abruptly and leave the room hastily. They stop talking and I can hear someone get up and follow me, but i don't look back.
Seconds later I hear a small rap on the door and a few moments later, it creaks open. A hand rests on my shoulder and the bed sinks lower. I turn away from her, scared of what she'll think of me.
"Hey," Rosette whispers. I shake my head and nudge her. "Look, I'm not stupid, I know what's happening and I know how bad it is. Just don't shut us out and please don't shut out Sammy, he's been through enough. I also happen to know you won't accept help or even think to go get some, so I took matters into my own hands and I talked to Casey. She said she'd help and she going to talk to the bank. We've got this and next month covered and Casey isn't going to ask for much back," she says standing up. "We all love you and believe in you, so you got to believe in yourself otherwise you're going to ruin us all. Now please go out there and tell Carla that it isn't her fault you left, you know how she can get."
She hugs me and pulls me up beside her. I cast a glance at her face, so broad and beautiful. Red hair and hazel eyes sparkle and shimmer as she looks back at me. She'll make a good housewife and mother, even a successful business woman if she puts her mind to it. I don't know what I would do without her.
She heads out, giving me time to pull myself together to present myself back in front of the family. I wipe my hands on the back of my jeans and shove them in my pockets.
I walk into the kitchen to see everyone eating and find them acting like I haven't left. Rosette catches my eye and gives me a small, reassuring nod. I smile back and sit down.
We all sat in silence until I decide to break it, "I'm sorry for my outburst and leaving you guys, it was unnecessary. It's none of your faults," I say looking straight at Carla.
Her strawberry blond curls bounce up and down in understanding. Her soft eyes and plump cheeks glow in happiness,
She's so fragile, blaming herself for Garrett dying. They were driving to go get ice cream when Carla spotted a hobo on the side of the road. She squealed in excitement and Garrett looked back to make sure she was alright when a semi pulled in front of him. He was killed instantly. She never forgave herself and I never forget her face the day she found out his death. It was too much sorrow for a five year old girl.
"Mom, if you had to pick any other vegetable to feed us, besides green beans what would it be?"
I laugh and shake my head, "Sam if you make one more comment on the stupid beans you'll be sleeping on the couch."
He laughs and takes a bit of the long, green vegetable. I nod in satisfaction when he swallows a mouth full.
When dinners done everyone clears the table and Carla and I wash the dishes. It's a nice system we have, Carla and me wash and Sammy and Rosette put away.
"So," I ask her, "How's school going?"
"Good," she says rinsing off a cracked glass, "We're learning about adding and subtracting now. Mrs. Gordon is really nice and likes to help me out during lunch if I come in."
"That's good, so are you getting the concept down?"
"What's concept?" she asks.
"Um, are you getting how it works," I explain, unplugging the sink.
"Oh, yep it's really easy now."
"Well maybe you'll have to show me how good you are one of these times," I tell her. She nods her head and runs off toward Sam's room.
I try to smile, but it comes out more of a grimace. I sigh and sit down shakily.
Rosette comes in quietly and rubs my back in comfort. "Hang in there, now I've got an essay that's due and I got to work on it, ok," she says giving me one finally rub and heads to her room.
I sigh and close my eyes, wishing that I could disappear, sink right into the floor and never be seen again.
I open my eyes and pick up the phone, a 'thank you' is in order and I might as well get it done. I dial Casey's number and hope she won't be disappointed in me.
"Hello," she sings. I hesitate to answer, not knowing what to say.
"Heather, are you there?"
I open my dry mouth and manage to squeak out a few words, "Yes, I'm here."
"Good," she says, "so i take it Rosette talked to you." I nod. She waits a bit then says, "Ok, well don't worry about paying me back right away; I'm glad i could help."
I picture her sitting at her kitchen table, making cards for a tea party she's planning for later this week, the phone wedged between her shoulder and ear, smiling at her handy work.
"Thank you," I whisper through clenched teeth. As much as I need and want the help I can't stand the thought of relying on someone else. Rosette always seems to put me in a similar position.
Somehow she managed to hear my thanks and replies happily, "No problem, any time you're in trouble just give me a call, I'd be more than happy to help."
I close my eyes, my shoulders sagging in relief, she's not mad at me
"So how are Sammy and Carla doing?" she asks.
I snap my eyes open, to see the pale mustard yellow walls. "Fine," I say, trying to keep the sharpness out of my voice.
"Good to hear, well I've got to get going, things to do sights to see. Call me if you need someone to talk to."
I put the phone down and sigh heavily. My chest falls but doesn't rise. My mind is absorbed so much in Casey that I forget to breath. Only when my heart is hammering, my lungs are about to burst and I can't ignore the fact that I need to take a breath, I open my mouth and suck in. Air rushes through my body and fills my lungs.
I sit there and gasp a bit until my head is clear and my thoughts returns back to Casey.
She was Garrett's best friend since Jr. High. I use to think that they were a couple or had something for each other, but soon I realized that they were like soul friends. She always looked out for us, even now that he's gone.