Jocelyne’s eyes scanned the small coffee shop, searching. Did she get sick of waiting and leave? She wondered. Her aunt had been rather moody lately, so it wouldn’t have surprised her if she’d simply gotten fed up and left.
But then her gaze fell upon a heavily tattooed figure sitting at one of the tables. With a soft smile, she approached.
“Hey, sorry I’m late.” Jocelyne called as she drew closer. “That took a lot longer than I thought it would…”
“No worries.” Clara returned her niece’s smile. “Layla decided now was a good time to flood my phone with disgustingly cute pictures of Leo, so I’ve been pretty distracted anyway.”
Jocelyne laughed. She loved hearing Clara talk about her grandson. She was completely head-over-heels for the little boy, and her joy every time she spoke about him was contagious. It was a nice change from how oddly sullen she’d been the past few months.
“Do I get to see?” She asked.
Clara eagerly slid her phone across the table. “Your Papa’s gonna flip… Leo kicked a ball right into his toy box from all the way across the room! Future football star.” She grinned. “Look.”
Jocelyne peered down at the small screen. Honestly it looked more like Leo tripped on the ball and it just happened to roll into the toybox… But Jocelyne wasn’t about to say that. And besides, he’s pretty damn adorable no matter what.
“So cute!” She beamed, returning the phone to Clara’s hand. “I’ll let Alex know she has some competition.” Jocelyne winked as she spoke.
Her aunt just laughed. “I know, I know. I’m turning into one of those annoying-as-fuck grandmothers who oohs and ahhs over every little thing. But if I have to deal with the horrifying realization that one of my babies has a baby of his own now…” She shook her head as though in disbelief. “Well, I’m gonna take full advantage of it.”
Jocelyne joined in Clara’s laughter. “Understandable.”
“Okay, so now that I’ve gotten that out of my system…” Clara smiled. “How did the dress shopping go?”
“It was really fun… But not as easy as I was hoping it’d be.” Jocelyne replied. “Emma found a great one at the first store we went to, of course.” She shook her head. “Ben’s mother and I were a bit more challenging. Guess we’re kind of picky.” She laughed softly.
“I still remember how much Mama agonized over what to wear when Florian and I got married.” Clara smiled at the memory. “I guess no one warns you that finding your mother-of-the-bride dress can be almost as stressful as finding your wedding dress, huh?”
Jocelyne felt herself bristle at her aunt’s words. “Well I wouldn’t know anything about that, would I?” She muttered.
The smile vanished from Clara’s face instantly. “Jocelyne, what the hell’s going on with you lately?” She sighed.
Jocelyne mentally kicked herself for losing her cool so easily. Lately the littlest thing was enough to set her off. “What are you talking about?” She feigned ignorance.
“Cut the crap. You keep getting all weird and mopey almost every time someone mentions the wedding. Or Mark.” She narrowed her eyes almost suspiciously. “What gives?”
“Nothing. I’m fine.”
Jocelyne felt her irritation rising. Is she seriously gonna do this right now? “Oh, you’re one to talk, Clara.”
“You’re the one acting weird! Ever since Rory left for school, you haven’t been yourself. We all see it.”
It was Clara’s turn to look annoyed. “Hey, don’t make this about me, okay? That’s not why I’m here.”
Jocelyne’s eyes widened. “Oh, so this is about me then? What, you invited me for coffee so you could try to psychoanalyze me or something?”
“Um… kinda, yeah.” Clara admitted almost guiltily.
One look at Clara’s face, and Jocelyne found herself laughing despite herself. “Jesus, what are we? Sixteen again? Listen to us!”
“I know.” Her aunt joined in her laughter for a moment. “This is almost embarrassing.”
“Tell me about it.”
At last, Clara’s laughter began to die away. “So… judging by our reactions, we both obviously have some shit going on that we don’t wanna talk about…”
Jocelyne nodded. “And apparently we suck at hiding it. But… I’m willing to spill if you are?” She offered, still amused by the ridiculousness of it all.
She hesitated for a few moments. Part of her felt almost relieved at the chance to open up to someone about how she was feeling, yet another part of her felt so foolish speaking the words aloud.
“I’ve just been thinking a lot since Mark’s birthday.” She said at last. “It’s really starting to hit me that he’s getting older now. And it kinda feels we’re running out of time or something. Know what I mean?”
“And just I keep thinking of all that time we wasted when I was back in the US. All the stuff we could have done if I hadn’t left… Stuff like getting married.” She confessed. “And I know there’s nothing I can do to change the past now… But what about the future? I just feel like I need time to slow down or something. Before it’s too late.”
Her aunt nodded yet again. “I get it.” She said at last. “I don’t blame you for feeling like that. I probably would too, in your shoes.” Clara paused. “But… have you tried talking to Mark about all this? I mean… No offense, but duh.” She laughed softly. “He needs to know how you feel.”
“Oh, and how is that conversation supposed to go, exactly?” Jocelyne practically rolled her eyes. “’Hey, Honey. I couldn’t help but notice you’re getting kind of old, and I’m pretty terrified about you dying and leaving me all alone. So if you could try to live to be a hundred, that’d be great.’ Yeah, I don’t think so.”
“Well that wouldn’t be my choice of words, but…” Clara sighed. “Look, I’m just saying you should try. It couldn’t hurt, could it?”
Jocelyne shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ll think about it, okay?” She paused for a moment. “Alright, you got me to spill my soul. Now it’s your turn.”
“It’s stupid.” Clara muttered.
“Yeah, so was mine. So what?” Jocelyne leaned closer to her. “You know you can talk to me. What’s going on, Clara?”
She took a deep breath before replying. “It’s the kids.” She said at last. “I just miss them so damn much. I guess I feel like everything’s so empty now that Rory’s gone. You always hear people whine about ‘empty nest syndrome’… God, I had no idea it was a real thing.” Clara shook her head. “How the hell do you do it?”
“Some days it’s not easy.” Jocelyne confessed. “Especially with Alex and Tony so far away… But I got lucky with Charlie and Zayne. I get to see them a lot. So that helps.”
“And what about when you don’t see them?”
“Well, having Mark helps a hell of a lot. And work too… It keeps me busy.” Jocelyne bit her lip. “But I guess you and Florian don’t have that option anymore.” She knew her aunt and Florian had both retired from their respective careers just a few years ago.
“Nope. We just sit around all day doing nothing, basically.” Clara sighed. “It’s so fucking sad.” She almost laughed.
“Well, have you tried talking to Florian about it?” Jocelyne echoed her aunt’s suggestion. “Maybe ask him how he feels?”
“Kind of.” Clara shrugged her shoulders. “I mean, he already knows how I feel. And he’s told me he feels pretty much the same way I do… We’re just kinda stuck, I guess. We miss the way things used to be. I guess we got too used to being parents, and we aren’t sure what to do with ourselves anymore.”
“I think you need to talk to him again.” Jocelyne insisted. “And figure out how to fix this. You can’t stay miserable, Clara.”
Her aunt laughed. “Well, do you know anyone who knows how to turn back time?”
“God, I wish!” If only things could really be that easy. Jocelyne paused before continuing. “Alright, look. If I promise to talk to Mark, do you promise you’ll try talking to Florian again?” She said seriously. “And maybe we can both stop being so miserable?”
Clara hesitated. “Alright.” She replied at last. “I guess it couldn’t hurt… As long as you swear you’ll talk to Mark too.”
“I will.” Jocelyne’s lips stretched into a smile. “I promise.”
“I’ll hold you to it.” Clara took another sip of her coffee and the two women fell into silence.
Jocelyne bit her lip. Things had gotten a bit awkard… But it was worth it, wasn’t it? If she could count on anyone to give her good advice, it was Clara. Jocelyne just hoped she could find the courage to take it.
At last, she cleared her throat softly, breaking the silence.”So… now that the tough stuff’s all settled, can we get back to gushing about cute grandchildren and wedding planning?” She asked hopefully.
“Yes! Please.” Clara replied, her relief apparent on her face. “As long as you promise to give me all the details about Zayne’s girlfriend…” She smiled playfully. “Facebook stalking can only tell you so much.”