“What’s that mean?”
I wasn’t about to tell her that both Olivia and my parents had pegged her as the scapegoat for my mostly self-imposed deployments.
“They’re nosy, and they wanted to check in on us. Once they make up their mind about something like that, it’s difficult to sway them.”
“You still hold a grudge against them? They paid for your school. They’ve given you so much.”
“That’s not what it’s all about, believe it or not. They’ve done a lot for me. I don’t take that for granted. I really don’t, but we don’t see eye-to-eye about what’s important in life. That makes it really difficult to spend time with them without some sort of argument erupting.”
She rested her head on her hand and stared impassively out the window. “I guess I wouldn’t know.”
“What makes you think I want to be dependent on them any more than I did when we were together? The pressure to do exactly what they did, but more and better and to the letter was too much then, and they haven’t let up much since. My father doesn’t negotiate, and my mother is obsessed with what the rest of the world thinks about her. Not a lot of wiggle room for me to fit into that world.”
Maya had been one of the only people who really understood my situation back then. She’d been the one who made me believe that somehow I could make it all work even when my plans ran in such contrast to what my parents had planned and wanted for me. Had she forgotten all that?
“At least you have a world. It would have been easy for you to step right in to help your dad.”
“Of course it would have. But that’s not what I wanted.”
“Maybe I’m bitter. We don’t all get to do what we want.”
I caught her hand. “You could. What do you want?”
She shrugged. “I’m too busy to even think about what else I could want. Not to mention that I have to support myself.”
“Couldn’t you support yourself doing something that made you a little less miserable?”
“I don’t know, Cam. It’s a little late for dreaming.”
“Why? You can’t afford to be happy?”
She was silent for a long time. When she turned to me, her eyes were thoughtful and serious. “Are you happy?”
I shifted my focus back on the road, not sure how to answer that loaded question. I gave her hand a squeeze, hoping she realized that my happiness was beginning to rely on hers. If I had any chance at happiness, we needed to figure things out between us.
As I struggled for the right words, she pointed up the road to a sign partially obscured by the falling snow that read Laurel Estates.
“The place is up here.”
MAYA. The home was well off the beaten path, a few miles outside of the quiet main street of the nearest town. We could have landed on another planet for how different it was from our usual surroundings. The sky was darkening quickly with the late afternoon.
We walked in and were greeted by a receptionist.
“Ruth Jacobs, please.”
The petite middle-aged woman manning the desk smiled. “You are?”
“Her granddaughter, Maya.”
“Ah, of course. Just sign in, and I’ll show you to her room.”
I did, and she rose, gesturing for us to follow her.
“She’s been doing well lately,” she said in a quiet tone, “but if she gets agitated, just buzz us and we’ll come rescue you.”
She offered a smile that was both hopeful and sympathetic as we paused outside of the room.
“Thanks.” I looked up to Cameron. “Did you want to come in?”
“I can go grab some coffee or something. I don’t want to confuse her since she won’t know me.”
“She won’t know me either, but that’s fine. I’ll come find you when we’re done.”
“Who is that?” My grandmother’s voice called from inside the room.
I turned toward the sound, hoping today’s visit would go better than the last. I mouthed a goodbye to Cameron before entering quietly.
She was sitting in a chair by the window, her lower half covered with a well-loved blanket that she’d crocheted decades ago. Her hair was pure white, cut short but curling at the ends. Behind her glasses, her eyes were a soft light brown like mine, like my mother’s too.
“Hi, Grandma.” I spoke softly and smiled widely as if we’d been friends all our lives. This usually worked better than starting out with awkward reintroductions that we’d only need to make again in a few minutes. I kissed her and sat in a chair across from her, leaning in so she could see me clearly.