Part 2223 – Mom’s Upset??

Jeff sang “The Rainbow Connection” and Clarice teared right up. It wasn’t a deliberate thinking of Gerald sort of thing. It just wham! hit her hard in the breastbone.

And she was past the point of toughing it out. “Excuse me, girls.” she said to the ladies at her table. “I have to hurry to the restroom or I will become a greatly unfortunate waterfall.”

“Well, my dear!” Aunt Vincienne gestured at Clarice with her fork. “If you need to go that bad, you’d better hurry.” The other ladies nodded and chirped in energetic agreement.

“Thank you! I’ll be right back.” Clarice rose from her chair and strode out of the banquet room. Her long, chiffon sleeves billowed behind her.

Keep it together.

Keep it all stitched together.

Don’t fall apart.

Not here.

Don’t fall apart.

She headed towards the bathrooms,

Keep it together.

Keep it all together.

This is a happy day.

Keep it all—-

She stopped.

Pretty much every woman in the restaurant was waiting in line for the woman’s restroom.

Clarice sputtered a tearful laugh. “Of course.” She turned and walked away.

She didn’t even know where to go.

I could go sit at the bar, but that’s just too darn depressing. The mother of the bride sobbing her eyes out on a bar stool. Nuh-uh. That won’t be me.

But where else am I supposed to go?

Her breathing sounded amplified.

Her skin was warm and clammy and she was fairly certain that she was going to faint.

Need fresh air.

Outside.

Head outside.

Everyone seemed to be in her way. Too many people. Too many bodies. Too many voices. Too much laughter. Too many sounds.

Must head outside.

Front door.

Front door.

Front door is right there.

Keep going.

Keep breathing.

Keep moving.

Don’t pass out.

Too crowded.

Don’t pass out.

Front door.

Here.

Outside.

Keep going.

One door.

Keep going.

Second door.

Keep going.

Clarice stepped out into the fresh air. She took a deep breath.

A young woman and her boyfriend walked to the front door. They were so happy. They were so much in love.

He looked a lot like Gerald.

Clarice exhaled a sharp, hard breath and ran to her car.

She opened the driver’s side door, sat in the seat, leaned her head against the steering wheel, and broke down.

She cried and it wasn’t a pretty kind of crying. It was hard and messy and shaky. It was years of putting on a brave face and being bright and happy for Elsie’s sake. It was years of being a widow and of being alone. Years of longing. Years of wishing. All of those years pouring down her face and grabbing her breath and rattling her hard.

And Gerald wasn’t there to comfort her.

***

Elsie watched Clarice leave. A frown furrowed her brow.

Hildreth gave her a questioning look. “What?”

Elsie shook her head. “I don’t know. I think Mom’s upset.”

“Why? What? What would she be upset about?” Hildreth seemed to think it over. “Okay. Maybe I’m asking the wrong question. What gives you the idea she’s upset?”

“I can’t explain it. It’s just from years of knowing her. Trust me, Hildreth. I know when she’s upset.”

He kissed her. “Then, go to her.” Admiration and love shined bright in his eyes. “I’ll be here waiting for you.”

“You’re not coming with me?”

He smiled. “Nah. This seems like official Vansing Women business. I’ll just be in the way.”

“Idiot! You will not be in the way. I want you to come with me.”

“I know. So, just go. I’m here, Els. I’m right here.”

She kissed him and it was not nearly as polite as his kiss had been. It was heat. It was hunger. It was fire that wanted to combust into a full conflagration.

It left him wide-eyed and breathless.

She smiled at him. “I’ll be right back.”

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