“What time are we meeting your mother?” He finally spoke as he kept his eyes on the paper.
Marcus raised his wrist with his watch snugly wrapped around it and checked the time. “It’s early. If you want to take a walk around the city, we should go now.”
“Okay.” There wasn’t much for me to say. I hated the distance between us. He was sitting so close to me, but he seemed so far away. Brushing those feelings aside for the time being, I stood up from the table and headed toward the bathroom before we left the hotel.
For the next few hours, Marcus and I strolled through the cool October breeze of Philadelphia’s historic area in Center City. It was exactly as I remembered it. Several wonderful memories of my father and brother resurfaced as we passed areas such as the Liberty Bell, shops on Market Street, and Old City—all places we visited when I was just a little girl. When Marcus and I passed certain streets or stores which brought back memories of my father holding my hand or Michael and I racing down the city’s pavement, I couldn’t help the slight squeal or laugh that escaped me. It was a feeling that brought the memories to life again. Although I always thought of them, being there at that moment made the time we had together to seem real again.
Marcus reached for my hand and gave it a light squeeze. I looked up at him, and there was a slight smile on his face—the first I’d seen since he stormed into my apartment the night before last. His eyes were still lost in his own world, but that tiny smile warmed and tugged at my heart. Without controlling the urge, I leaned up and kissed his lips. “I love you.” It was all I could say.
It was true, although I wished there was another word for “love,” one that expressed how deep and passionate my love was for him. The word “love” just seemed as if it weren’t enough. I had a constant whirlwind of emotions that tugged at every inch of my nerves: I felt lost without his embrace, my heart melted knowing that he was hurt or confused, and my body reacted instantly to the simplest touch from him. The look in his eyes when he gazed into mine with so much passion caused a wonderful and sickening desire that jabbed at my heart: Wonderful, because I could never have enough of him. Sickening, because if I were to ever lose him, there was no way I could recover from the pain. There had to be a word stronger than just “love.”
“Love you too.” He responded and I knew he did.
We continued to walk around until it was time to head back to the hotel. My mother, Megan, and Jeremy were meeting us at the hotel, so we could all head together to my grandparents’ home for a late lunch. As we entered the lobby, I spotted Jeremy instantly. His short blond curls and piercing blue eyes were not hard to miss. He stood as he saw us approaching. Both my mother and Megan were chatting as they sat beside each other.
Marcus shook Jeremy’s hand after I leaned in and gave Jeremy a quick hug. “Dude, I’m starving. Where can we get these cheesesteaks?”
Megan stood and reached in to hug me as she rolled her eyes at Jeremy’s comment. “He’s been talking about the damn cheesesteaks for the entire five-hour drive.” She whispered in my ear clearly annoyed.
Laughing, I pulled away and hugged my mother. “How was the ride in?” I asked Sara as we untangled from our embrace.
“It was . . . long.” She quickly glanced at Jeremy, who had a puzzled expression.
“What?” he asked. Megan and Sara shook their heads.
“It’s nice seeing you again, Sara.” Marcus leaned in and hugged my mom to break the tension.
“Same here, Marcus. Happy belated birthday. Mia said you had a wonderful time. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it.”
“Thank you. It’s okay. Yes, Mia and my mother did a wonderful job.”
Sara smiled in response and then wrapped her arm around Marcus. As she led the way out the door by his side, she asked, “How is your mother doing?”
There was a slight tug at my chest awaiting his response, but when he did answer, it was in a nonchalant matter. “She’s doing well. Thank you for asking.”
I quickly padded behind them and out the building as I rolled my eyes at Jeremy and Megan’s bantering behind me.
“Can you just behave for an hour?” Megan spat at Jeremy.
“Behave? What am I eight years old?”
Megan took a few settled breaths to calm down before she snarled. “You act as if you are.”
“Whatever. I’m hungry.”
“Ah, poor baby. Don’t worry, honey. Mommy will fill your tummy very soon.” I tried to bite back my laugh, but it didn’t work.
Well at least she was learning how to handle him.
Forty minutes later, we pulled into the driveway of a tiny brick colonial single family home located in the Somerton area of Northeast Philadelphia. It was a corner home on a quiet tree-lined street with a few similar households nestled along it. We exited my mother’s SUV rental and walked up the broken pathway toward the front porch. Leaves from the trees were scattered in the front. Some floated in the ceramic fountain that was in the center of the lawn. Sara, Jeremy, and Megan walked up the wooden porch steps as I hesitantly stood at the bottom. Marcus placed his hand on my lower back and firmly squeezed his fingers to comfort me, as if he were telling me that while he was there he wouldn’t let anything bad happen to me.
I took a few deep breaths and walked up the creaking stairs, and Marcus followed behind me. “Granny.” Megan squealed as she ran into the arms of an elderly woman who had swung the screen door open at our approach. I couldn’t quite get a good look at first. Megan squeezed the woman and then pulled back to introduce Jeremy. Sara leaned in and hugged the older woman as well. “Hi, Mom, it’s good to see you.” Sara pulled away and turned to face me. She waved her hand for me to come closer.
That was when I saw her: my grandmother. She was short and fragile with dark grey hair that was pinned into a twist. Her gentle smile warmed my heart as the blue specks in her wide eyes gleamed. “Mom, this is Mia, your granddaughter.”
“Oh, my dear.” The older woman blurted as the tears began to stream down her wrinkled cheeks. She pulled me into a tight, warm hold. “You’re so beautiful. Oh my. I can’t believe how grown up you are. Let me get a look at you.” With a sniff, she pulled back to inspect me as her eyes traced my features. “You look just like your mother, but you have your father’s smile.” That compliment gave me goose bumps and brought tears to my eyes. I couldn’t help but pull her into another hug. She swayed back and forth as we hugged and laughed.