"How were school and work today?" Chief asked. "You're picking at your food, and haven't said much since we sat down for dinner. Is everything okay? I don't need to make a special visit, do I? You know that I will."
"No, not at all," I laughed. Chief always says he'll come to the school and straighten out anyone if I'm having problems with bullies.
"No problems. Actually. Umm, I...
I got chosen.
Chosen for the Spring Fling Sweetheart Court," I tried to whisper.
"Come again?" Connie jumped up from her chair. "Ruby, that's great news! I mean, that is if you're interested in that kind of thing."
Connie tried to curve her excitement, but I could tell how excited she was. Trying to gauge how I was feeling about it first, she calmed all the way down.
"I see a smile," Chief poked. "Does that smile mean yes?"
"I can't hear you. You're whispering."
"A little bit louder for the people in the back."
"Yes! Yes. I am interested," I think the neighbors heard that time.
"You've got Connie so excited, she's doing her old school dances over there," Chief said.
"You're just jealous. You can go shopping with us if you'd like," Connie said.
"Stop all your winking and inviting. There is nothing I want with shopping with the two of you.
I'll let you have it. How about I just hand over my credit card?"
"Sounds like a plan," Connie said.
"That's not necessary," I interrupted. "I have money I've saved from working at the grocery store."
"I won't hear of it. It's our treat," Chief said, making his way around the table to me.
"Yes, it's our treat," Connie cosigned.
And just like that, the three of us are standing at the table hugging like a television family. It's different than what I'm used to. But their way of showing love and affection is growing on me.
"First things first," Connie started planning immediately. "We need to decide on what type of dress, hair and makeup. Where's my phone? I need to make an appointment with my hairdresser ASAP! I'm so excited for you. You're going to be absolutely stunning, sweetie."
"Before you get overly excited, I need this packet signed and returned before any of your makeover plans start. And..." Before I can get the rest out of my mouth, Connie had the packet and was on page three.
"And you need a dad escort. We're clear that you are not looking for parents, but I'm sure Chief would be more than happy to stand in as your escort. Just ask him."
"Can you just ask him for me. Or do like you do, and tell him?"
"Oh, you've got jokes," We laugh. Then Connie gets really serious. "Let me tell you something, and I want you to listen to me real good. Since the short time you've been with us, you've been a joy. Our home and lives are brighter and more purposeful with you in it. With the risk of sounding cheesy, we love you, Ruby Quinn. Now, if he says no. Then I will make him."
"Okay, okay. I'll ask him. I just have to get my thoughts together on what I want to say."
"Don't be scared. He won't bite. Now, you finish your homework while I clean the dishes."
Instead of taking my homework to my room and being alone, I spread the contents of my backpack on the table. It feels good being close to Connie in the kitchen. Watching her move around the room reminds me of times with mama. Mama was always busy cooking or cleaning, while I did homework or just sat and talked to her. That table was the centerpiece of fun, as well as some very serious conversations. Closing my eyes to take it all in, I can smell mama's perfume. I don't know if it's smell memory or actually in the air. Whatever the case, I want this to last as long as it will.
"Oh crap!" Connie screams, taking me out of my trance.
"What's going on here?" Chief ran in.
"Ruby, you stay put, and Chief don't come in here. A glass slipped out of my hand and pieces are everywhere. I'll get it cleaned up."
Although it seems like nothing, Connie's dropping of that glass was a little more than I could handle at the moment. That simple accident took me back - way back. Without a word or worry about cutting my feet, I scoop up all of my things and head to my bedroom. Throwing everything in my arms on the bed and snatched up my journal.
Dear God, it's Ruby Quinn,
Help me understand. I was in a very good place, thinking about mama without being sad. My thoughts were so focused, I could smell her perfume again. Sitting at the table while Connie washed dishes triggered some really great memories. And just like that, her dropping a glass triggered another. The day I found out mama was sick.
Mama had dropped glasses and other things before. That day was different. It changed everything. She washed dishes, while I finished my homework. Without warning, the glass slipped out of her hand, hitting the floor and shattering into what seemed like a million pieces. I had never seen mama so upset, she cried a different cry. Not one of hurt feelings, or even physical pain. Her cry came from a place of desperation that had nothing to do with the loss of a discount store glass that no longer had a match. She sobbed uncontrollably.
We sat at the kitchen table and she explained that she had ALS and what that meant. It had gotten to a point where she could no longer keep it from me. With all that has taken place, I haven't thought of that day in a very long time. Today, Connie dropping that glass took me back to a day full of uncertainty, confusion, and fear. I don't think Connie is sick with the same disease, but the thought that I could lose someone else did cross my mind. And that bothers me.
God, I've had a lot of loss and the thought of losing someone or something else...
I just can't.