Morning light slid across the mountaintops like a wash of pearl. How far away were they? Twenty miles, fifty? Drinking coffee in my living room, I watched them shine, as I did almost every dawn. Thinking of nothing but the moment, the beautiful moment.
My phone rang.
At this hour, either a wrong number or something important. I checked the caller ID before answering. Something important, then.
“Hey, Dad. What’s up?”
“Hi, Honey! How’s life up there in the islands?”
Dad was a good guy, and he loved me. But he used casual endearments only when he wanted something, a speech habit he wasn’t aware of. I turned my back on the view, sipped my coffee, and got my guard up.
“Life is fine. How’s life way down in Seattle?”
“Good. Eliane and I went to a gallery opening the other night. You should have seen the garbage they were passing off as art. We laughed so hard on the way home, the cab driver probably thought we were drunk.”
Drunk on having fun in downtown Seattle sounded good to me. Eliane was smart, witty, and a damned good artist. Didn’t fit the wicked stepmother mold in the least. I liked her a lot.
“Say hi to Eliane for me. Anyway, what’s happening?”
“It’s your mother. She’s in the hospital. From what she says, it doesn’t look good. Can you go out there and help?”
“Shouldn’t I talk to her first?”
“She asked me to call you. I don’t think she wants to talk about it that much.”
“How long does she want me to stay?”
“More a matter of how long she has left.”
“Does anyone know how long that’s likely to be? A week, a month?”
“You know how your mother is. Name, rank, and serial number, that’s about all the information she parts with.”
“That makes it kind of hard to plan things.”
“I know. Will you go? Please?”
I felt cornered. But however weird my mother could be, she was not one to cry wolf.
“Well, I guess,” I said. “If it’s okay with David. He’s not awake yet.”
“Isn’t that what women’s lib was about? Not having to ask your husband what you could do?”
I sighed. “Nobody said it was a matter of permission. But if I’m going to Mobile for I-don’t-know-how-long, it would be considerate to give him some say about it.”
“Why doesn’t he go, too? The two of you could hit New Orleans on the way back.”
“He has a deadline for his book. He’s barely going out to the mailbox.”
“Good lord. I thought authors had a little more liberty than that.”
“David says he’s tied to a desk as much as anyone else. The only difference is, it’s his own desk.”
“Sounds like you might as well go somewhere on your own, in that case. Give me a call after you talk to him, okay?”
Replacing the phone in its charger, I checked the mountains again, but the glow was gone. They looked cold and far away.