Ann looked up. No clouds. The moon was bright and full. Ann never tired of looking at the moon.
Jack had left the day before on a business trip. That’s what they told the kids, Mary and Jeffrey, 7 and 5 years old, respectively.
Ryan was the end point of that business trip, somewhere in Kansas. How do you explain that to a 5 or a 7 year old?
* * *
The moon seemed like a soothing face. Ann noticed the stars, each one alone and each one reflecting light from millions of years ago, some of these stars perhaps long gone and yet… present to her now. She saw the Great Bear by the horizon. She thought: “What if, from far away, human beings too were seen as lights? Each one unique and reflecting one’s truth, and groups of human beings seen as constellations.” She wondered which constellation she belonged to. In that moment, magically, she knew that she and Jack belonged to two different constellations.
Ann’s cell phone rang. She did not pick up. She was taking a walk on her lunch break. Some falling leaves brushed her face. She looked up. The light was piercing and bright through maple tree branches and leaves. As Ann moved her eyes down, still out of focus, she saw it all as a painting and noticed that the pattern of shapes and colors all belonged perfectly together. Stars and Autumn leaves filled her heart. She knew she belonged to a constellation of people. She did not yet know which one, but she knew it would come to her and she no longer was scared to be alone.
On her way back to work she checked her cell phone. At noon she had a call from school. She needed to pick up Jeffrey. It was about his dad. He’d been screaming and the counselor had spent much time with him. She had tried to remind him that his dad had gone on a business trip as he had before, and Jeffery told her she was lying. Ann took time off from work to spend the afternoon with her son. She’d never done this. She’d been so devoted to work like others are to their church… and now she felt so disinterested… she just belonged somewhere else.
When Ann picked up Jeffrey, he’d already calmed down. The counselor was trying to explain that he had been very agitated, unmanageable, that she had to call… Ann smiled, took her hand in hers, and looked into her eyes: “Jeffrey is right! We lied to him… We lied because we did not think he could take it… but really it was because I could not take it… We did not tell you either. I was not ready. I did not think you needed to know right away. I am sorry. I am truly sorry about what happened this morning and what you had to deal with. Can you forgive me? I need to go… I’d like to spend some time with Jeffrey.”
The counselor was stunned. Her mind was still trying to argue that she could not explain how Jeffrey had calmed down so suddenly. Her mind was processing the new information. And then she realized she needed to answer Ann’s question: “Sure! Sure! You need to be with Jeffrey! We’ll talk some other time!”
“Mom?” Jeffrey asked, “Mom? Can I have some ice cream? I missed lunch…”
“Are you hungry?” Ann asked him, “We can go out and get a bite?”
“No, just ice cream!” Jeffrey said.
“Ice cream then!” Ann said, “And then we’ll go to the play ground at the park.”
“To the play ground!” Jeffrey said smiling.
They drove to the ice cream store. As Ann finished parking her car, Jeffrey told her he loved her and gave her a hug. Ann felt tears coming to her eyes. “So you know your dad is not on a business trip?” Ann whispered in her son’s ear.
“Yes,” Jeffrey whispered back.
“How did you know?” Ann said softly.
“Because.” Jeffrey said as softly. And releasing the embrace he added in a normal voice. “Can we have ice cream now?”
Jeffrey’s self assurance took Ann by surprise and she smiled: “C’mon!”
(soon to be published in a collection of shorts called CONSTELLATIONS)