Squire’s Isle Created by Geonn Cannon

The Last Day

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Summary: Someone says goodbye to the island, and a relationship comes to a sudden and unexpected end.

The mirror revealed Jill’s silent return to the bedroom, this time with a baby on her hip. Patricia sighed and dropped her hands in defeat. “Now I know I’m stalling, if you were able to get the beast ready before me.”

Jill smiled and crossed the room. “You have reason to delay. Here, take her. I’ll… see what I can do here.” She handed Patricia the baby and proceeded to finish wrangling Patricia’s hair. Patricia held Isabel so they could look into each other’s eyes. Isabel reached out and smacked her hand flat against her mother’s face. Patricia retaliated by kissing the baby’s fingers.

“Back down to one kid in the house,” Jill said.

“Yeah. I had just gotten used to two.”

“Look at it this way.” She put her hands on Patricia’s shoulders and whispered, “Now we have her outnumbered.”

Patricia said, “Yeah, but we’ll be down a babysitter.”

“True.” She rubbed Patricia’s arms. “There. You’re as beautiful as ever. Come on or we’ll be late.”

Patricia sighed and adjusted Isabel on her hip. She didn’t want to go, but she knew her absence wouldn’t stop the day from happening. She passed by Michael’s bedroom and paused to look inside. His bags were standing against the wall next to the door. The books were still on their shelves, and pictures were still hanging on the wall, but she knew that everything that made the room Michael’s was packed away. Now it was just a guest room.

“Trish,” Jill said softly from the top of the stairs.

“Okay.” She started moving again. “Thank you for being the pragmatic one here.”

Jill said, “I’m saving my breakdown for when he actually leaves. I’ll be counting on you then.”

“Good luck with that.”

They locked the house while Jill secured Isabel in her car seat, and Patricia drove them to the high school gym. Originally she’d been anxious about attending graduation. She was afraid that having the mayor there would be an unnecessary spectacle. Jill convinced her that everyone would be too wrapped up in their own kid to even notice her, then pointed out that Patricia would never forgive herself if she sat out. It was just one of the many times Jill had been able to read Patricia’s mind while simultaneously seeing the future, and she was grateful for it.

They parked near the entrance and slipped in, taking a seat on the risers just inside the door. They waved to a few of the parents they knew because Michael was friends with their kids, and Jill got up briefly to go speak with one of the teachers she knew. Patricia tried not to feel abandoned with the baby, even when a shadow fell over her and she looked up to see Nicholas standing next to her.

“Hi. I’m not sure which seat is taken.”

“Jill is sitting here,” she gestured to her left and scooted over slightly. “You can sit here.”

He turned and lowered himself onto the riser next to her. For one brief second she felt unmoored, as if she had slipped into an alternate reality where she and Nicholas had never gotten divorced. She took a deep breath to steady herself, and Isabel reached up and lightly patted her chin. “Mama.”

Nicholas looked at the baby. “She’s already talking?”

“She’s nineteen months old.”

“Nineteen…? Wow. Time flies, doesn’t it?”

Patricia bent down and kissed the top of Isabel’s head. He had a point; the past year had flown by in a blur. It seemed like only a few weeks ago when Nicholas had shown up on the island with his bright idea. When Michael agreed to it, Patricia comforted herself with the fact she would have a whole year to prepare. Where had that time gone? How could it already be nearly over? She reached down and let Isabel play with her fingers.

Jill made her way back and scooted past Nicholas to take her seat. “Sorry. Hi, Nicholas.”

“Hi,” he said.

Patricia smiled. Not rude, not curt, but not exactly friendly on either side. She settled Isabel on her lap and moved her hand down to brush Jill’s fingers. Jill bumped her shoulder against Patricia’s. “Linda said they’re going to start up any minute now.”

Patricia nodded. To Nicholas she said, “Do you have his room all set up?”

“Yeah. Everything’s ready and waiting for him. I was thinking we could have the goodbye party tonight, then head out tomorrow morning.”

“Sounds fine,” Patricia said.

He looked at her. “Are you sure you’re okay with this?”

“It was his choice,” Patricia said. “And it will be good with him. That doesn’t mean I have to be thrilled with it. We’re going to miss him.”

Jill put her hand in the small of Patricia’s back and rubbed it gently. A year earlier, right before Michael’s senior year began, Nicholas came to them with an idea. He wanted Michael to move to Seattle with him so they could spend the summer together before college started. It would give them some much-needed bonding time, plus it would let Michael see what life was like off the island. Both Patricia and Jill had only left the island for school, and they both knew how jarring it could be to give up their tiny town for something as big and confusing as the mainland.

Patricia remembered the conversation she and Jill had after Nicholas left. “The decision has to be Michael’s. Whatever he decides it what we’ll do. But I think I’m in favor of him going.” Jill had been surprised, so Patricia explained. “I was the bad guy in our divorce. I cheated, I broke our vows, and Nicholas had every right to be a jackass about it. But he was the one who left. He was the one who said I could keep the house and keep full custody of Michael so he didn’t have to be uprooted from his school. Nicholas made the big sacrifice first. Now it’s our turn.”

“If Michael says yes,” Jill reminded her.

Patricia had taken her hand. “Right. If Michael says yes.”

But of course he had agreed. A whole summer in Seattle with his dad? The same dad who let Michael and Callie sleep in the same room the night they stayed with him so they could see a Radiation Canary concert? Patricia was still absolutely livid about that, but what was done was done. Michael did say yes, after making sure Jill and Patricia were both okay with the idea. And in just a few short hours, their son would be leaving the island for the foreseeable future. Summer with his father, then college, then maybe he and Callie would move in somewhere in the suburbs and never–

Patricia handed Isabel to Jill. “I need air.”

“Trish… they’re about to start.”

“I can’t…”

“Sh.” Jill leaned in, her face veiled by Patricia’s hair as she pressed her lips to Patricia’s ear. “Just this minute. This minute right now. You’re living ten years of minutes all at once, so you need to let them go. Take a deep breath. Let it out. Take another one. Okay? Just stay in this minute. Keep them in order, babe. Just breathe.”

Patricia closed her eyes and felt herself calming. “Thank you.”

“Better?”

“Yeah.” She swallowed the lump in her throat. “Thank you, Jilly bean.”

Jill smiled. When Patricia faced forward again she saw Nicholas was making a point to scan the rest of the room so he wouldn’t seem like he was intruding on the moment. She also knew he was jealous of what she had with Jill. Not because he wanted her back, but because his attempts at relationships were hardly successes. He had been engaged once, but Michael came back from one of his weekend visits warning them not to mention the would-be stepmother again.

Patricia felt bad for him. They’d been divorced for ten years, and she could now admit he was a good man underneath it all. He was kind and generous, and he’d let her go without any legal difficulties. Sure, he’d been a bit of an asshole in their personal life. But she had cheated on him. It was hard to imagine anyone not being at least a little prickish in response to that.

In a way, letting Michael go was her way of thanking him and apologizing to him at the same time. He’d been patient. He’d settled for weekends and a few weeks in the summer. He hadn’t fussed when Jill wanted to adopt Michael. His son now bore the name of his ex and her new wife. She couldn’t imagine how that would feel.

“Nicholas.” He looked at her. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

“Michael.”

He smiled and nodded, then faced forward again. The kids were filing in now, boys in black robes and girls in black, everyone wearing yellow stoles that had the graduation year embroidered in cursive. Nicholas spotted Michael first and pointed him out. Patricia smiled when she saw him, his hair poking out from under the cap. Jill leaned heavily against her side.

“Look at him. How is he that old?”

Patricia shook her head in disbelief. “Doesn’t exactly look like the kid you had in fifth grade, huh?”

Jill grinned and hugged Isabel. “I hope this one doesn’t go quite as fast.”

“Brace yourself, Jilly bean. She’ll go even faster.”

The kids took their seats. The principal stood at the podium and began speaking. Patricia listened with half her attention, focusing on Michael. Everyone had decorated their caps with sayings, pictures, or pop culture references she wasn’t ashamed to admit were lost on her. Michael’s mortarboard had a picture of Jill and Patricia holding Isabel on one side, and a picture of his father on the other. At the top was a picture of him and Callie taken on the ferry. Her boy was lucky.

There were three hundred and ten seniors that year, a relatively large group, and Michael was near the front. When Isabel was born, she had been given Colby as a surname rather than hyphenating. Michael had changed his name as well – for the fourth and final time in his young life – to show that he and Isabel were part of one family rather than a blending. The most-recent name change meant he was near the front of the class, and his name was called quickly.

She applauded when the principal said his name, grinning widely when he accepted his diploma and posed for the picture. He looked out at the crowd, spotted his parents, and lifted his hand to them as he stepped off the stage and walked back to his seat.

Nicholas said, “I guess there was one thing about our marriage that wasn’t a mistake.”

“I guess so,” Patricia said.

They listened for the rest of the class, then joined the flood of parents onto the gym floor to find Michael. He hugged them all and posed with Patricia and Jill, then Nicholas.

“I’m surprised Callie isn’t here,” Jill said.

He took off his mortarboard. “I don’t like reminding her that she’s dating a high school kid. Which, you know, she’s not anymore.” He smiled and took Isabel from Jill. She grabbed his stole and pulled it over her head.

Patricia grinned at the baby’s antics. “No, she’s not. Come on. We’ll go grab some dinner before the big get-together at the house.”

Jill said, “Are you sure you don’t want to go on the class extravaganza? I heard a bunch of kids are going to Island Hop.”

“I already spent all day with my friends. I want to spend tonight at home. What can I say? I’m a mamas’ boy.” He looked at Nicholas. “And a daddy’s boy.”

Jill said, “We’ll try to make it a special night for you.”

“Beer?”

“Not that special,” Patricia said. “Come on. It’s your last night on Squire’s Isle, and I literally have the keys to the city. The sky is the limit, bud.”

 

#

 

Patricia was worried they would have to deal with crowds no matter where they went, but everyone who didn’t board the ferry for the Island Hop seemed to be at home with their families. Michael coordinated with Callie via text message, and the whole group met up at Smooth Glass Bar & Grill. They had most of the dining room to themselves. They ordered their food and used the time before it was brought out to give Michael his graduation gifts.

Patricia and Jill had gotten him a Hamilton Flight Timer watch. He wasn’t a pilot yet, but they hoped the gift showed how much faith they had in him. It was extremely expensive, but it paled in comparison to Nicholas’ gift. Michael was still teary-eyed over the watch, rubbing the leather band as he admired how the light glinted off its face, but he tore his attention away long enough to open the small box from his father.

“Oh, cool… a keychain.” He held it up so Patricia and Jill could see the design. It looked like a vintage plane altimeter complete with a bit of wear and tear to make it look like it had seen use. “This is awesome, Dad. Thanks.”

“Well, I figured you would need something to put your apartment key on. And the other key.”

Michael and Callie both looked up. “What other key?”

“The car key. If you think I’m driving you to school every day, and up to Anacortes to take the ferry to come see your moms, you’re crazy.”

“You got me a car?”

“Of course I didn’t get you a car,” Nicholas said. “We’re going to start looking together, next weekend. You should pick it out yourself.”

Michael looked at Patricia and Jill. “Is this… is this okay?”

Patricia smiled and nodded. Nicholas had done the right thing by clearing it with Patricia and Jill before he bought it just to make sure he wasn’t overstepping his bounds. They wouldn’t be able to buy him a car, and she was glad that Nicholas had been willing. It was going to make Michael’s life in Seattle infinitely easier if he didn’t have to worry about public transportation or Ubers. Michael got out of his chair and hugged his father, then hugged Jill and Patricia.

“Thank you for the watch. It was exactly what I wanted.”

“We love you, kiddo,” Patricia said.

They ate their dinner and Nicholas insisted on paying for dessert. After cake and ice cream, Callie had to get home to take care of her brother, so she begged off. Michael walked her out, and Patricia watched him escort her to the parking lot. Such a gentleman, and so grown up. He had already worked his final day at the airport reservation desk. Elena Grey, his boss, told him that she would have a job waiting for him if he ever wanted to come back. He told her to save a plane for him.

She could see him standing outside with Callie. They were standing a respectable distance apart, their heads down, occasionally shrugging or gesturing with their hands. Michael nodded. Callie rubbed his arm.

Patricia straightened. “Oh, no.”

Jill and Nicholas both looked at her. “What? What’s wrong?”

The past few weeks had been about cutting ties to the island. Cleaning out his room, quitting his job, opening a bank account in Seattle… She knew that in the internet age, a hundred miles was hardly long-distance. But if Callie was going to stay on the island and Michael was moving away and starting college.

“Goddamn it.” Patricia started to stand up, but Jill put a hand on her shoulder.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m… I…” She dropped back into her seat. “I don’t know.”

Nicholas said, “He doesn’t need his mom crashing out there and making things worse.”

“Nicholas is right.” Patricia stared at Jill, who shrugged. “Hey, if the two of us are agreeing, we must be on the right side.”

Patricia balled up her napkin and tossed it onto the table. “This sucks.”

“It does,” Nicholas said. “But there’s nothing we can do about it.”

The three of them tried not to watch through the front window as Callie and Michael hugged. She picked up her bicycle. Michael said something – probably offering her a ride home – and she shook her head. She kissed his cheek, threw her leg over the bike, and pushed away from the curb. Michael watched her go and then went back into the restaurant. He sat down and sighed.

“I know you all probably saw that.”

“Saw what?” Jill said. “Isabel was making a fuss.”

He smiled. “I just broke up with Callie.”

Patricia was taken aback. “Wait, you broke up with her?”

He shrugged. “Sort of. It was a mutual thing, I guess? We’d kind of been talking about it for a while. She didn’t know when she would have time to visit Seattle, and I didn’t know if I’d be able to come up here very much, and neither of us really like the long distance thing. It’s three hours to Seattle and three hours back, and that’s if you don’t hit any traffic. It’s just far enough away to be a hassle. So we decided to cool it off now before we resented each other. That way there’s a chance down the line, if we still have feelings for each other, we can come back.”

Patricia smiled. “That sounds like a very good idea. Are you okay?”

“I guess. It sucks.” He looked at the table and sighed. “I don’t know. We’re still friends. That helps.”

“We’re here if you need to talk,” Jill said. “All of us.”

“Thanks, Mom Jay.”

Isabel began fussing and Patricia freed her from the high chair. “I think we’re all pretty much done here. Why don’t we head home? Michael and Nicholas have a pretty big day ahead of them tomorrow, and I think Izzie here is on her last legs.”

“She’s not the only one,” Jill said. “Nicholas, you’re more than welcome to spend the night at our house.”

“The bed and breakfast is fine. But thank you.”

They made arrangements to leave at nine in the morning so they could take the 9:55 ferry. Nicholas wished them a good night, then Patricia and Jill drove Michael home. He went directly upstairs, which was to be expected after his first relationship came to such an abrupt end. He seemed sad but not in a worrisome way. She had faith he would get over it and move on just fine. He was a tough kid. She lingered in the doorway of the dark living room and crossed her arms over her chest. She was upset she couldn’t be mad at Callie, couldn’t swear vengeance on the evil little bitch who broke her son’s heart.

Jill stepped past her, kissing her neck as she turned on the light. “He’s a tough kid. He’ll get through this.”

“I was just thinking that. Izzie?”

“Miraculously did not wake up when I put her to bed. I figure we only have half an hour, though.” She dropped onto the couch and patted the cushion next to her. Patricia ignored the suggestion and stretched out with her head on her wife’s lap. Jill put one hand on Patricia’s forehead and the other on her stomach. They could hear Michael’s music playing from his room, just loud enough to be heard in the silence of the house.

“I get the feeling we’re going to miss that tomorrow.”

“I already miss it,” Jill said.

Patricia smiled. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Don’t you want to know what for?”

Jill sighed. “Oh, I do so much for you, I just figured…”

Patricia pulled Jill’s hand down and bit the meaty part of her palm. “I meant for Isabel. As hard as it is saying goodbye to Michael, it would be a million times harder if we didn’t have her.”

“Well, in seventeen years, we’re going to have to say goodbye to her, too.”

“That’s okay. We’ll have five or six more babies by then.”

Jill laughed and bent down to kiss Patricia’s lips. “Wanna go up to bed? Starting tomorrow we’re going to be down a babysitter.”

“Two, if Callie… I mean, I assume…”

“Oh, right. I guess it would probably be a little awkward calling her to watch her ex-boyfriend’s sister.” She brushed Patricia’s hair away from her face. “But I know how much she loves Isabel… how about we just make it clear to her that it’s okay with us if she wants to babysit, and we’ll understand if she doesn’t think it’s a good idea.”

Patricia said, “That sounds like a great idea.”

“Well, years of mediating arguments between kids… you learn some negotiating tactics.”

“I’ll call her in a few days to let her know where we stand on it. But for now, I want to get out of these shoes and into some pajamas.”

Jill said, “That sounds ideal.”

They helped each other off the couch and headed up to bed. Patricia paused next to Michael’s bedroom door, listening to the music that was still playing from inside. Any other night she would have asked him to turn it down a little, but tonight she didn’t have it in her. Instead she just knocked quietly and wished him a good night. He responded and turned the music down without her asking. Jill smiled, and Patricia put her head on her wife’s shoulder.

She hated the idea of not seeing Michael for a day, let alone weeks or months at a time. Round trip, her son would be six hours and a hundred miles away. Like Michael had said at dinner, it was just far enough to make it a hassle to drop in on each other. She tightened her grip on Jill’s hand, letting herself be pulled into their bedroom. They would get a good night’s sleep, maybe make love or just fall asleep in each other’s arms, and tomorrow they’d figure out their role as mothers to a half-empty nest.

2 Responses to “The Last Day”

  • You do these slice of life stories so well, Geonn. Always a pleasure to read the emotional nuances of a couple navigating a relationship milestone with you at the helm of their ‘ship.

  • Thank you so much! I just love checking in with these wonderful ladies. I’m so glad I get to call their home mine. 🙂

Morgan (Webmaster) on July 19th, 2015 at 4:23 am