“How are you feeling?”
“Yeah. Me too.” She laughed. “This isn’t really the sort of reunion I had planned.”
“Did you have one planned?” This came out meaner than I meant it to, but I was too sick and dizzy to apologize.
She said, “Well, not planned. But, imagined.”
“Yeah. Me too.”
“Was it like this?”
“See? Me either.”
I lay down gently, faceup on the couch. I closed my eyes, but that was worse, somehow, so I opened them again and kept them straight up at the ceiling. Mom sighed and leaned forward in her chair. “Cassie, you have no idea how much I missed you. And Delia. Both of you.”
I swallowed. “Can we not do this now? I sort of feel like I’m dying, and I don’t think I can really deal with any kind of big talk right now.”
She gave a little laugh, not like she actually thought it was funny, but just that she understood, and leaned back in her chair again. I only half-listened as she talked. “The way I pictured it, I would come back to town. Unannounced, of course. In a really nice car, like a Ferrari or something. I don’t even have a car, but in the daydream, I’ve got a cool one. Nick and I both get out of the car, dressed really nice, like me in this blue skirt that I saw on a lady on the subway a few years ago, and him in his suit, which he does have, actually, a nice suit that he wears to interviews and funerals. And my hair would just be done. And we’d walk up to the house–do you still live in the same house?”
“Of course. Why would he ever move.” It wasn’t said as a question. “We’d walk up to the house, and you and Delia would come running out from the backyard, and we’d hug, and you’d hug Nick too, and you’d go crazy for the car, and we’d take you out for a ride, and we’d tell stories and catch up. You guys were always doing well. Good in school, lots of friends, nice boyfriends, no trouble. Is–” She hesitated here. “Is that pretty accurate?”
“Pretty much,” I said. I felt like saying any more would be starting into a conversation I couldn’t have right now.
We were both quiet for a minute. “Good,” she finally said. Then we went back to silence. I broke it: “I never imagined you coming back.”
“I always figured that someday I’d come to the city and find you. I didn’t think you’d ever come back on your own.”
“Honey, you know I wanted to–”
“I don’t know anything,” I said, mean again, but on purpose this time. I felt like my eyeballs wanted to pop out of my head, and that pain was defeating my mental censor. “I just figured I’d have to go and look for you. I never thought about how I’d do it, you know, actually find you, but I would go to your apartment–you live in an apartment for real, right? When you’re not here?”
“Yeah, we live in an apartment. It’s a lot like this, actually.”
“Yeah. I’d knock on your door, and you’d answer, and I would just know it was you, somehow. You do look the same. Not exactly the same, but same enough that I knew it was you right away when I saw you. But anyway. When I imagined it, I knew it was you but you wouldn’t know it was me. And I’d say, ‘Are you Margaret Fullen?’ And you’d say yes, and I’d say, ‘Do you have a daughter, Cassie?’ And you’d say, ‘Is she all right? What happened to her?’ And then–” But it felt too stupid to say the rest, that that was how I’d know that she still cared about me, even though she’d abandoned me and ignored me for a decade, and left my sister to be raised by idiot me and my idiot father, that she’d run away to this amazing life out in the world and left us all to fend for ourselves. And because she still cared about me, and loved me, and had missed me so much, she would invite me to come in and talk and then to stay and live with her, and we’d have a great life together in the city, all of the adventures I couldn’t even picture in any detail because they were so far beyond anything I’d ever seen, and we’d be so happy together. I couldn’t say any of this, of course, so I didn’t say anything at all. And neither did she. We both just groaned and sank into the individual misery of our hangovers.