Pavane for a Suburban Mother

On a Saturday, the parking lot of farmers’ market is like a giant playground filled with bigger, meaner kids all waiting to knock into you. There is nothing more intimidating than a Main Line mother in a Land Rover who is gunning for the same parking space you’ve scoped out. She’ll cut you off without a thought, while jabbering away into her cell phone, completely oblivious that she’s driven the wrong way on a one-way lane to do it.

Someone honks at me when I cross the parking lot and block the progress of her SUV to an open parking space. I jump a little, scoot between the parked cars, and count myself lucky that I wasn’t run down and left like a grease spot on the asphalt.

Once inside the bustling farmers’ market I wander from stall to stall. I’ve forgotten what I wanted, but I meander among the bright green and yellow gourds and fat orange pumpkins, the fresh bunches of crimson radishes and deep purple eggplants. The flower stalls feature ghosts and witches scattered among the bright fall mums. Halloween has come to the farmers’ market. I can smell apple cider in the air along with the usual coffee.

I buy carrots, apples and butternut squash along with a cup of warm apple cider. Then I manage to find a lone table squeezed into a corner of the small lunch section and stare out into the parking lot.

Usually I see at least ten or more people I know at the market, but today I have been mercifully anonymous. I’m not sure what’s happening to me. Why I find it easier and easier to slip out of my life and into this quieter place. I stir at the cider, and feel my eyes fill with tears I blink away. I am a stranger in my own life.

I suppose the problem is that I’ve always drifted along with the current because I’ve been afraid. I’ve never wanted to stand out. I’ve always wanted to blend. No controversy please. Nothing unpleasant.

I dance along the edges of friendship, because friendship is a tenuous thing. It slips away quick as a whisper. I am a good friend, but I never hold on to anyone too tightly. I never talk too freely, nor drink too much. Not even with my husband, especially not with him. We dance our stately dance, always in perfect time, always in step, never quite touching.

Each year seems to weigh more and more heavily upon us, and the silences, the things unsaid, grow deeper and darker. The children John was so eager to add to our little circle have enriched us at a cost. Every year I feel as though a little portion of myself has chipped away. I am no longer me. I’m John’s wife or someone’s mom. It is little wonder that I must be introduced to John’s co-workers over and over again.

I swallow the dregs of my cider and stand up, gathering my packages. The air feels a little colder as I walk to my car. In the bright sunlight, I am little more than a passing shadow.

Storm

Ominous clouds are gathering overhead when Tess loads Emily into the shopping cart and strapped her in. She hasn’t bothered with an umbrella, though Emily’s blue raincoat drapes over the handle of the cart.

Twenty minutes. Give me twenty minutes.

Emily turns the pages of her well-chewed animal book. Content for the moment. “Coo-Coo,” she says and holds up a picture of a white cow.

“That’s right. Cow,” Tess says in a high-pitched, sing-song voice. She smiles, and Emily smiles back.

Twenty minutes. Give me twenty minutes.

Tess glances up when they pass under the security camera, she and wishes she hadn’t. Her hair, unwashed for two days, is pulled into a limp ponytail; her black tee shirt crusted with a variety of stains strains against her overlarge breasts. She’s given up trying to get back into her jeans and wears a pair of gray sweats.

She has to shop and pick up the twins. Jimmy and Nick will barrel into the car, laughing and vying for her attention, when she really wants quiet, but she’ll listen and smile and ask questions because they need her.

Life is always more hectic when James is home. It’s easier when he’s traveling. He always wants diner at six. He wants the kids in bed by eight. He wants the kitchen cleaned. He wants sex. He wants and wants.

“Ca, Ma. Ca.” Emily points to a black and white cat.

“Cat, Emily. That’s very good.” Tess kisses her youngest, the surprise baby who’d come five years after the boys. Three years after she’d lost Alice. She resents James for that too. He was driving when their car was hit. She knows it’s unfair.

Since the accident she’s had a weird recurring dream where she’s running down the Yellow Brick Road, but she’s not heading to the Emerald City. She’s heading for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but when she finds the pot, all the gold inside turns to hair curlers. Tess isn’t sure what it means, though she always did want curly hair.

She has a comfortable life. She volunteers at the boys’ school when she can get her mother to watch Emily. She just has this empty spot in her gut that won’t go away. Sometimes she thinks it’s going to swallow her whole.

Tess unloads her cart and pays for her groceries. Usually, she chats with the clerk, but today, she’s quiet. She has five minutes to get to school.

“Mamamamamama.” Emily’s wail shatters her small shell of concentration. Emily’s book lies on the floor, and she tries to wiggle out of her seat. Blood is welling out of her nose. Since she was a baby, Emily has suffered from intense and unexpected nosebleeds. They aren’t dangerous, and they usually only last a minute, but they are terrifying to Emily and to strangers.

“Is she okay?” The clerk is offering Tess a wad of tissues, which she snatches before she scoops up Emily.

“Yes, thanks. She’s got a little cold. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” Tess can feel her cheeks burning as she bends down to grab Emily’s book.

Someone says, “Poor little thing.”

Another voice mutters, “Why would you bring a sick child out in this weather?”

Tess’s eyes are stinging. The clerk, a young girl with spiked black hair and a pierced nose, gives her a sympathetic smile. “Do you need help to your car? I’ll get you help.”

Tess shakes her head. “I’m fine. I—“

But a young guy, one of the developmentally disabled kids the store hires, is already at the cart. Tess knows him vaguely. Ritchie. He wears a bright yellow poncho and gives her a big goofy smile.

“I got the cart,” he says. “Big storm outside. You need an umbrella.”

Tess grabs Emily’s blue raincoat before he goes skipping out the door with her cart. Emily’s arms are thrashing, and Tess barely forces them into the coat. “It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay,” she says, but Emily howls louder than the wind.

Tess walks the gauntlet of staring faces, ducking her head down. She passes a couple of teenage boys who look at her as if she’s some kind of circus freak, and she almost laughs when Emily flings out her snotty hand.

“Damn, is that blood?” One of the boys cringes.

The rest of the boys laugh, but at least they aren’t laughing at her.

Ritchie waits just outside the door, and she points to her big SUV. She hates it, but James insisted it was just the right car for a three-child family. Big, substantial. A real mom car.

Ritchie unloads her groceries, but declines a tip. Tess is left standing in the rain, rocking sobbing Emily against her. The little girl’s cries slowly turn to sniffs and finally Tess can slide her into her car seat along with her damp animal book. She shoves aside some of the trash in the back seat: a half-empty bottle of water, a baseball, Nick’s magnetic chess game. The detritus of her children’s lives.

She shuts the car door and walks slowly to the driver’s side ignoring the pouring rain, knowing she’ll be late for the boys, dinner will not be served at six, and James will be disappointed in her once again.

Tess gets into her car and sees that Emily has fallen asleep in the back seat. Rivulets of water run down her face, and she uses the bloody tissues to wipe her arms. Bits of white cling to her wet skin.

There’s nothing to do but go on.

She leans her head against the steering wheel for a moment before she straps on her seat belt and starts the engine.

The rain pours down like it’s the end of the world.

House for Sale

I see Jane Mullen’s silver Toyota parked at the side of the curb and glance at the clock. It’s only four now, so I’m right on time. The overcast sky makes it seem later than it really is.

She gets out of her car smiling. “I’m afraid Denise is running a little late. She said to go on and look at the house without her,” she says. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

The brick Georgian rises up three stories against the darkening sky surrounded by stately oak trees and well cut hedges. A winding slate path leads to the front door, which is painted a cheerful welcoming red. It sits atop the hill alone in the cul de sac, though neighboring houses are close by.

Robert will like that. Neighbors close, but not too close. The houses here are all different from one another, not “another cookie cutter development”. I notice a woman peering out of the window of the house closest to the Georgian on the left side. She must be the neighborhood snoop. Well, there isn’t much to see. Robert, the kids, and I live a quiet life.

Jane clears her throat. “Shall we go in?” She pulls the key from the lock box and wrestles with the front door. “Damn. I wonder if this is the right key,” she mutters, twisting and turning and pushing. The door doesn’t budge until she gives it a good shove, and then it springs open and she practically falls through the opening.

“Oh, my, I guess I pushed to hard,” she says and gives a little laugh. Uneasily, I think.

It seems quite dark now, and she flips on the lights. They’re dim, but they work. The house itself has a closed in feeling as if it has been empty for a while. We walk into the living room first. It’s spacious with a lovely brick fireplace and wide curving front window. The parquet floors need a polishing, but they are lovely. Beyond the living room is an office, and I’m surprised to see a large mahogany desk still sitting there. It matches the built in bookcases. Boxes of papers stand on the desk and files litter the floor.

“Looks like someone forgot to pack up,” Jane says in a forced cheerful voice.

“I hope we can get a hold of them,” I say.

We inspect the powder room then walk through a family room with a high ceiling to the kitchen and stop in horror. Someone has taken a hammer to the to the kitchen. Giant chunks of black granite lie on the floor, the cabinets are smashed through, and bits of broken china and glass glisten on the floor.

“Oh,” Jane says.

When we walk into the dining room, we can see that someone has smashed a hole through the ceiling. We exchange a look.

“Do you want to go upstairs?” Jane asks.

I don’t, but I do. I don’t understand if vandals have broken in and deliberately destroyed this beautiful house, but I need to look.

“I think we should. Maybe this just happened.”

We walk up the stairs, and I hear Jane’s heavy breathing. It matches my own. I wonder why my hands are so cold.

We look in the hall bath. It has been tiled in the largest, most beautiful, green glass tiles I have ever seen. They are almost translucent, and they have, for the most part, been smashed. The pale bathtub door has been shattered.

The master bedroom, which takes up the left side of the house and has two walk in closets, has it’s own bathroom with the same glass tiles in an opalescent white. I can see the dining room below through the smashed floor.

Two other bedrooms share a bath and are intact. A smaller room on the far end of the hall smells damp. The walls are covered with symbols. Stars and moons. Pentacles and suns.

We look at each other before we head up to the third floor. To our right is a storage room, filled with boxes. We hear the rustling of something, and close the door before we find out what. To the left are two bedrooms and a bath. One bedroom is empty, the walls painted white. The second has dark blue walls covered with collages. One is of faces in the throes of all kinds of emotion—fear, joy, anger. There is a collage meant to convey the horrors of war. Another collage features syringes and pills and people. A single photograph of a woman with a cat. The single bed is unmade and smells of old body odor. The room is thick with dust and the pall of sorrow.

I am shaking with cold.

“Hallo. Hallo. Sorry I’m late.” A cheerful voice calls.

Jane and I both jump. We are down the stairs in a minute to face Denise, a plump, smiling woman in a vivid red dress, who seems so terribly out of place in this horrible house.

“What happened here?” I ask.

“Oh. You mean the holes,” Denise says. “It wasn’t burglars, and the family is ready to make repairs.”

“But what happened?”

Denise sighed. “Look this house has been on the market for almost two years. It was the Evensham place. Dr. Sam Evesham, the psychiatrist? His oldest son was killed in that terrible car accident on the turnpike a few years back and his daughter ended up killing herself.” Denise shook her head. “It was too much for him. He went crazy one night. Took a hammer and started smashing away at the house then put a gun to his own head. Now nobody wants to even look at the place. It should be going for well over a million, but it probably won’t come close to that.”

“Was there a wife? Other kids?”

“The family just wants to be rid of this place. If they can’t find a buyer, they’ll probably sell to a developer. Shame really.”

“His wife?”

Denise’s eyes flicked to Jane. “He killed his wife and the remaining three kids.”

“Oh.” I looked at Jane. I was still freezing, but she looked calmer now. A little annoyed.

“I guess that means you aren’t interested,” Denise said.

I shook my head. “Sorry.”

“Maybe you wouldn’t mind waiting a minute til I lock up,” Denise said. She exchanged a look with Jane. “This place at night gives me the creeps.”

Hot Coffee

“Melissa.” The sound of his rumbling voice made her clamp her teeth together and squeeze her hands into fists

“Yes, Mr. Constantine.” It was hard, but she forced out a sugary tone. Her boss had warned her to be extra solicitous. Mr. Constantine had been requested for this project. He was a ghostwriter of some repute, and it was her job to keep him happy. In other words, she had to serve the old windbag.

She stood and walked into the office that served as his temporary home. He sat like a fat spider in the middle of a pile of notebooks, computer glowing, and lighting his round, florid face. He looked like a disheveled Santa with crooked yellow teeth and a permanent brown stain around his mouth .

“Melissa, dear, would you bring another cup of coffee?”

“Certainly, Mr. Constantine.” She picked up his oversized mug. The room stank of coffee and old cigar smoke, though she had never caught him lighting up. Just standing there for too long made her feel nauseous.

“Did you know that coffee cultivation dates back to Arabia in the 15th Century? Remnants of coffee were discovered in the Sufi Shrines of Yemen. Today it’s one of the top agricultural exports in the world.” He gave her satisfied smile.

“How fascinating.”

“Indeed. Coffee comes from the roasted beans of an evergreen shrub called Coffea Arabeca. Quite exotic sounding.”

“Hmm.” Melissa started to back out of the room.

“Don’t forget to use the coffee from my special carafe. I admit to being something of a coffee snob.” He chuckled a little.

“Absolutely. Your special coffee and the heavy cream, plus three sugars.”

“You have a good memory, dear. You should try doing research. You might find it interesting, or are you waiting for your Prince Charming? You’re a cute one. You should wear skirts more often.”

He winked, and Melissa gripped the cup. Old Jackass. What the hell did he think she did all day? She did research then rewrote the awful pamphlets her company produced in English not argot. Of course for the big projects, her boss always brought in ghostwriters. Half the time she ended up re-writing their work for a third of the pay.

 “I’ll keep it in mind,” Melissa said and left before he launched into something else. She wasn’t waiting for Prince Charming. She didn’t drink coffee, and never would now, not after watching him slurp down mug after mug. She shivered at the thought of his brown hole of a mouth that wouldn’t stop talking.

Melissa went to the break room and rinsed out the dregs then grabbed his carafe of coffee, added the cream and sugar, and stirred it. Looking around the break room, she realized she was alone, so she spit into the mug, stirred the contents again and returned to its owner.

“Is there anything else, Mr. Constantine?”

“No, dear. I must say, you’re very efficient. You remind me of my daughter.”

“Thank you.” She handed him the mug.

“My daughter would have been just around your age.”

“Would have been?” A tight little knot formed in her chest.

“Car accident,” he said, his voice dropping to a near whisper. He cleared his throat. “It was a long time ago.”

The weight of his words hit her, and she wanted to grab the cup from him.

She waited for him to call her and tell her he detected a foreign substance in the brew, but he didn’t. He slipped at his coffee and flipped through his notebooks, a contented smile on his face. Melissa tried to concentrate on her laptop.

Mr. Constantine worked quietly for the rest of the afternoon.

Remember Remember

My brain hurts today.

I’ve been trying to put together my puzzle pieces of memory, but they shape shift into nightmare phantoms, prodding me with voices of smoke and sizzle.

Remember. Remember. And you will be free.

            But what am I to remember?

The neatly joined grey walls and floors come together at perfect ninety degree angles. Overhead, a long fluorescent bulb blinks intermittently and throbs with a low wattage hum.

I hate neat lines and perfect squares.

Keys jingle jangle in the door and a chipper voice says, “Time for your medication.”

Buzz. Buzz. Buzz. I want to throw my puzzle pieces in his smiling face, but I swallow my pill with a tiny white cup of water. Or so he thinks.

The puzzle pieces watch me drop the red pill down the metal toilet and laugh. They dance around me faster and faster until I bang my head against the wired glass door and scream.

I must put the pieces together, or the white coats will come back with their forget-all machine. The taste of rubber before the void.

Remember. Remember. And you will be free.

But what am I to remember?

The students in Mrs. Irving’s counseling session slouched in their seats. It was the last period of the day, and the spring heat made the room feel stuffy and airless. Someone wore perfume that smelled like a mixture of cotton candy and vanilla. It mingled uncomfortably with the aroma of sweat and body odor that permeated the room.

“Now, kids,” Mrs. Irving said. “I know how traumatic it is when we loose a friend, especially a sweet girl like Jennifer Drew. It has repercussions that spread out through the entire community.” She spread her arms wide as if she were trying to encircle the assembled group.

Lexi Granger stifled a yawn and fumbled in her pencil case for her green pen. In its eraser she had embedded a tiny piece of a razor. Carefully she traced a white line on her finger.

“Would anyone like to share their remembrances of Jennifer?” Mrs. Irving brought her hands together.

The kids looked around. Who really wanted to talk about Jennifer Drew? She took a bunch of Oxycontin tablets and washed them down with a fifth of vodka. She had been there, and now she wasn’t. No one in this group was particularly close to her. Meredith Hargrove didn’t like her, and if Meredith didn’t like you, you were doomed.

Lexi punched the razor in the pad of her thumb and watched a drop of blood well up. In middle school Meredith used pick on her and say things like, “You should kill yourself ‘cause you’re a loser.” Now Meredith mostly left her alone. Maybe it was because in seventh grade Lexi’s mom died, and something like a shield formed around her heart.

“I didn’t really like know her,” said Missy Rogers. “We didn’t have any classes together, but it’s totally sad.” She crossed her legs and swung her stiletto-covered foot. Missy brought up the bottom half of the class. She was a good-time girl, bouncy, blonde, a three-letter jock and one of the richest kids in the school. Her parents owned a bunch of beer distributorships, and the taps flowed when Missy gave a party, which was every weekend.

Emma DiAngelo said, “Maybe she just never adjusted? Like I think she missed her old school?” She glanced at Meredith who gave her a small nod.

A few other kids offered comments about how alone Jennifer always seemed, how sad. They’re grieving and fragile, Mrs. Irving thought. She hoped they wouldn’t have a rash of copycats. It worried her.

Will Einbender stared out the window and wondered if he’d go to the funeral. He wouldn’t mind going. He’d get out of class for the morning and part of the afternoon. That’d be great.

Meredith Hargrove listened to everyone speak then said, “I think we should maybe collect money for flowers or see if there’s a charity Jennifer’s family would like us to send money to, Ms. Irving.” Meredith didn’t care in the least that Jennifer was dead. Jennifer was already the first girl in the school’s history to get fives on six AP tests her junior year. She had been admitted to Harvard and Brown and had the highest GPA in the class. Not any more. Meredith smiled at Mrs. Irving. “I don’t mind collecting the money.”

“How sweet, Meredith. What a wonderful idea.”

How stupid were adults, Lexi Granger wondered.

Meredith said, “Maybe we could talk to Mr. Roseman about setting up a scholarship.”

“You’re just amazing, Meredith,” Lexi said. She gave Meredith a poisonous smile. “I’m sure Jennifer wherever she is appreciates your . . . kindness.”

“Why thank you, Lexi,” Meredith said.

The bell rang.

“Bitch,” Meredith said as she breezed past Lexi.

Lexi grinned. “You’d better hope Jennifer’s not a vengeful ghost.”

Meredith flounced away with Emma DiAngelo.

In the locker room that afternoon Emma DiAngelo started fill her backpack when she saw Mike O’Connor, and she smiled. He starred in all the school plays and probably would have been a target for all the bullies except he also was the top ranked lacrosse goalie in the state. He was also six feet of gorgeous. Emma had a crush on him since middle school, but Meredith liked him too, so she never did more than say hi.

Mike O’Connor never said much to either of them.

Now he fiddled with the dial of his locker and threw the door open. He jammed books into his backpack. Emma was about to leave when he glanced up.

“Oh, Jesus. Just the thing to make my day, one of the Witch Bitches.”

Emma felt the air go out of her for a second. “You can’t call me that!”

“You gonna tell Meredith? Maybe send me some nasty e-mails like you did Jenny? Go ahead. I don’t give a shit. Everyone hates the both of you anyway. They only pretend to like you.”

Emma’s fingers tightened around her backpack as Mike O’Connor slammed his locker and stalked out of the room. Emma went into the bathroom and made herself puke.

Later Meredith Hargrove got into her shiny blue Audi with Emma DiAngelo and checked herself in the rearview mirror. Emma was quiet this afternoon. She said she felt sick and looked it too. Meredith hoped it wasn’t contagious. She pulled out of the parking spot and waved at Mrs. Standish, the Vice Principle.

Will Einbender joined the rest of the boys lacrosse team on the field. Coach Dickenson called for a silent prayer for Jennifer Drew before the guys started practice. Coach said Mike O’Connor wouldn’t be there today, so they’d have Greg Porter in goal. Greg was okay, but Mike was the man. Will knew Mike was close to Jennifer Drew, but practice was practice. Still, he figured Mike would be here for the game. Mike would never let down the team.

Missy Rogers wanted to get home so she could lie back on a lounge chair near the hot top and grab a beer. Her parents hadn’t opened the pool yet, but the hot tub was working. She wanted to soak up some rays while it was warm. Prom was coming, and she wanted to be tan. It would show off her new hot pink dress.

Lexi Granger walked out of the school and kept walking until she got to the park. She sat under a tree, got out her razor and began to pull it over her inner thighs. She wished it were Meredith Hargrove’s neck. She wondered why people like Jennifer seemed to get crushed while the ones like Meredith always seemed to win.

“What are you doing?”

Lexi looked up into Mike O’Connor’s face. She hadn’t heard him approach.

“Jesus Christ, are you crazy?” He sat down beside her. She wanted to tell him to shove off, but he looked so confused, Lexi didn’t have the heart.

“It makes me feel better,” she said at last. “Like the pain builds up, and I have to let it out or I’ll explode.”

He leaned back against the tree. “You shouldn’t cut yourself,” he said at last. “You should talk to someone.”

“Yeah, right. So they can tell me about my mental issues?” She dropped the razor into her pencil case. “Don’t you have someplace to be?”

“Coach let me off today. He knows Jenny and I were friends.”

“That’s good, I guess.”

He shrugged. “Tonight’s the viewing.”

“That blows.”

“Yeah.”

“So why’re you telling me?”

“Because Jenny said you were one of the few people who talked to her.”

Lexi pondered that for a few minutes. “Jenny was my peer tutor in pre-calc, y’know? She didn’t make me feel stupid. I actually got a B in math.”

She pulled out a white fuzzy dandelion top and examined it. When she was little, she used to call them wishies because when she’d blow on them, she’d make a wish and hope the little pieces of white fuzz would carry her wishes through the air.

“I don’t know why she did it,” Mike O’Connor said. “Six weeks from the end of school. She was almost free, and she couldn’t hang on any more.”

“It’s not your fault,” Lexi said. “Maybe she just was too deep into the shit.”

“Maybe.”

She touched his arm. “Hey, you think I could come to the viewing tonight? Everyone will go to the funeral tomorrow to get out of school. It’ll be a zoo.”

He looked at her for a moment and nodded. “You think you could leave the dog collar and razors at home?”

Lexi blew on the wishie. “Maybe, I’ll even wear regular clothes.”

Aftermath

A Quiet Place

ImageHe walked through the park, a book tucked under his arm, and went to look for a place not overrun by the raucous laughter of teenagers or the gurgles of children. He’d earn the right to a quiet bit of green, though it was getting harder to find it these days. Maggie always said he was a bit anti-social. He’d tell her he need a little quiet. She’d probably reply that he had al the quiet he wanted, but truth be told, he preferred to come here to sit among the ducks and swans and gulls with his book.

He made his way to his favorite spot: a small dirt path that led down to the stream. Most people didn’t bother with this path as it was very narrow and wound through a grove of trees down to the water. It was weedy and forlorn, but he liked coming this way. It was almost like a secret. He’d sit up against an old gnarled tree, book propped in his lap, and stare out over the water.

He had just settled himself when he heard footsteps, and he sighed. Usually footsteps meant a pack of teenagers with their backpacks and gadgets. They’d eat and talk too loud and roll around in the grass, leaving a mess behind. Wrappers and bottles and and half-eaten bananas. If they saw him, they’d laugh and make remarks about the “old fart under the tree”, but usually he remained invisible.

This time, however, a woman appeared. Her long auburn hair blew in front of her face, and he smiled, though she didn’t notice him. She made a pretty picture in her green jacket and black jeans as she stood by the water watching the birds soar down from the sky to alight on the sun-lit water, until he realized she was crying. The leaves on the swaying tree shivered. He heard the quacking of the ducks, the sobs of the woman, and the beating of his own heart.

He wanted to move because he felt like the intruder now, but he sat paralyzed and staring at the ground, willing himself to disappear. He listened to the woman cry the tears he couldn’t when they lowered Maggie into that deep, black hole in the ground, and he remember all the things he had meant to say to her over the years, but never did. Opportunities lost now. But he had loved her fiercely. My Old Goat. She had called him that, fondly he thought. Had she understood what was in his heart?

He looked up when he realized the air had gone still and quiet again. The woman had gone. His face was wet with tears, and he hugged his book to his chest.

Oh, Maggie, I miss you. I’ll miss you forever.