Raging panic possessed Robin as soon as he stepped out onto the platform. He doubled over and pressed his hands against his knees.
It’s gonna be okay.
We’re gonna be okay.
Just gotta keep breathin’.
Gotta stop shakin’.
Robin straightened up and pulled out his cell phone. He called his mom.
He closed his eyes as he listened to it ring.
She’s prob’lly asleep. She ain’t gonna answer. She’s too busy—
He exhaled relief. “Mom.”
“Robbie! Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I’m here.” He glanced around at the train station. “I’m here in Henspence. I’m fin’lly gonna do it. I’m gonna see Isellta.”
Ambrose admired Barbara as she ate her cake.
“Mmm! I wish you could have some.” Barbara said. “It tastes so good!”
“It’s okay. I’m just enjoying watching you enjoy it.”
She giggled. “That is a very tangled up sentence.”
“Ha! You think so?”
“Absolutely! I bet you can’t say that twice as fast.”
“You might be right.” Ambrose tucked her hair around her ear. “So, how about I say it like this…” He put his mouth close to her ear and whispered, “I’m just enjoying watching you enjoy it.”
He kissed the rim of her ear. “Do you want me to say it again?”
“Naughty girl.” He raised his voice to a murmur, “I’m just enjoying watching you enjoy it.”
She exhaled a soft breath. “You can make almost any sentence sound provocative and/or suggestive.”
He laughed. “Oh? Am I being suggestive, Mrs. Smith?”
She giggled. “Very. Raven would not approve.”
“And Robin would feel obliged to interrupt.”
“Hmm.” Ambrose kissed the side of her face. “But neither of them are here right now.”
“See? Trying so hard to be suggestive.”
“You make it all too easy, love.”
John came over to their table. “I’m sorry to interrupt.”
Ambrose kissed the side of her face again before turning his attention to her father. “Not a problem.”
“Can I sit—” John gestured to Raven’s unoccupied seat. “—here?”
“Certainly.” Ambrose tilted his head. “Is there a problem?”
“No.” John sat. “I just…” He pulled his chair forward and rested his arms on the table. “I just had something I needed to tell you guys. Well. More than one something, now that I think about it.”
“What’s wrong?” Barbara asked.
“Nothing.” John turned to face her. “Barbara, I saw your mother’s ghost.”
“I know. I saw her in church.”
“No. I mean, here. I saw her here.”
Barbara glanced around. “Where? Where is she?”
Barbara looked back at him.
“She wanted me to give the two of you a message.”
“Why didn’t she come to me?”
“Because. She could see that I needed her the most. And I did. I needed that one last farewell. I needed to know that. I just. I’ve missed her so much.”
Barbara put her hand on her father’s arm. “I know.”
“I wanted to know that she was okay with me moving on to Clarice. I didn’t think that she would be disappointed, but that thought was always there. Always sitting in the back of my mind. I needed to know. And now I do. Barbara, she wanted me to tell you that she is so proud of you. You are the woman she always hoped you would become.”
“If I am, it’s because of everything you taught me.”
He put his hand on top of hers. “Thank you, pumpkin. She also wanted you to know that she very highly approves of Ambrose. Her precise words.” John looked over at him. “She said that you are a much better man than you think you are. So, don’t you ever forget that.”
“I won’t, sir.”
Barbara smiled at her husband. “If you do forget, I will definitely remind you.”
Ambrose smiled back at her. “Brat.”
“Are you sure you’re okay, Robbie?”
Robin left the train station. “Heck no! I’m a total mess. If you saw me, you’d…I don’t know. Tell me to lie down with a cold washcloth on my face or back of my neck or somethin’. I don’t even know.”
He walked down the sidewalk. “Honestly? I ain’t even sure why I’m such a wreck. I’m excited to see him again. No questions there. But I got this jittery feelin’ that…I don’t know! Is it normal to feel this messed up?”
“For you? Definitely.”
“Ha. Ha. Ha. So funny.”
“I remember the night before your very first performance. You paced around your room all night.”
He smiled at the memory. “Yeah, that wrecked me pretty bad too. But this is so diff’rent. The stakes are higher. It ain’t a matter of flubbin’ my lines and embarrassin’ myself in front of friends, family, and strangers. There’s just gonna be him. Me and him. And if he don’t like what I gotta say. If he looks at me and sees nothin’ but ugly—”
“He might.” Robin stopped at a crosswalk. “Mama, walkin’ this slow ain’t makin’ me feel any better. I’m gonna let you go so I can run for it.”
“Okay. I’ll let you go. Love you, Robbie.”
“Love you too. Mama?”
“You sure you…” He watched the cars rush around the corner and down the street. “You ain’t ashamed of me?”
“No. Baby, I will never be ashamed of you. I love you. Don’t forget that. Promise me you won’t forget that.”
His eyes teared up. “I promise.”