In truth, I hadn't expected my mom to care whether I was around for the summer or not. And maybe she wouldn't have, if I'd been going anywhere else. Factor my dad into the equation, though, and things changed. They always did. "I can only imagine what kind of situation you're about to walk into," she said, smiling. "Your father with a newborn! At his age! It's comic."
"I'll let you know," I told her.
"Oh, you must. I will require regular updates."
I watched as she stuck her hands into the water, soaping up a glass. "So," I said, "what did you think of Hollis's girlfriend?"
My mother sighed, wearily. "What was she doing here, again?"
"Hollis sent her back with a gift for me."
"Really," she said, depositing a couple of glasses into the dish rack. "What was it?"
"A picture frame. From Greece. With a picture of Hollis in it."
"Ah." She turned off the water, using the back of her wrist to brush her hair from her face. "Did you tell her she should have kept it for herself, since it's probably the only way she'll ever see him again?"
Even though I'd had this exact same thought, after hearing my mom say it aloud I felt sorry for Tara, with her open, friendly face, the confident way she'd headed into the house, so secure in her standing as Hollis's one and only. "You never know," I said. "Maybe Hollis has changed, and they'll get engaged."
My mom turned around and narrowed her eyes at me. "Now, Auden," she said. "What have I told you about people changing?"
"That they don't?"
She directed her attention back to the sink, dunking a plate, and as she did I caught sight of the pair of black, hip-nerdy eyeglasses sitting on the counter by the door. Suddenly, it all made sense: the voices I'd heard so late, her being up early, uncharacteristically eager to clean out everything from the night before. I considered picking the glasses up, making sure she saw me, just to make a point of my own. But instead, I ignored them as we said our good-byes, her pulling me in for a tight hug—she always held you close, like she'd never let you go—before doing just that and sending me on my way.
My dad and Heidi's house was just what I expected. Cute, painted white with green shutters, it had a wide front porch dotted with rocking chairs and potted flowers and a friendly yellow ceramic pineapple hanging from the door that said WELCOME! All that was missing was a white picket fence.
I pulled in, spotting my dad's beat-up Volvo in the open garage, with a newer-looking Prius parked beside it. As soon as I cut my engine I could hear the ocean, loud enough that it had to be very close. Sure enough, as I peered around the side of the house, all I could see was beach grass and a wide swath of blue, stretching all the way to the horizon.