Home > Never Too Late

Never Too Late
Author: Alexis Winter

One

 

 

Ella

 

 

“Mom! Have you seen my cap and gown?” my daughter, Erin, yells from up in her bedroom.

“Check the laundry room,” I shout back as I pour coffee into my to-go cup.

She comes running down the stairs, into the kitchen, and to the laundry room at record speed.

I laugh and shake my head when her sock-covered feet cause her to slide across the floor, making her look like a cartoon character who’s spinning out.

I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the glass of the microwave that’s positioned above the stove, and my smile falls. I get lost as I stare at the reflection of a woman I don’t even know anymore. How’d I get here? It seems like it was only yesterday when I was eighteen, full of excitement for the promise of a bright future. Now I’m forty years old, have crow’s feet around my eyes, and my only child is graduating from high school.

Erin comes back into the kitchen with her cap and gown in hand. She tosses them down onto the table with her books, and she grabs her shoes. “Did you remember the bake sale tomorrow to help the new senior cheerleaders pay for their uniforms?”

I nod. “I’ll pick something up after your ceremony,” I promise.

A horn honks, and I look out the bay window in the front of the house to see Erin’s boyfriend, Brock, waiting in the driveway.

“Got to go, Mom,” Erin says, standing and grabbing her things.

“Hey, wait.” I put down my coffee and take the few steps to her.

“What?” Her eyes are wide and her brows are raised. She’s anxious to get to school, to say goodbye to her high school years.

“Slow down a moment and let me look at you.” I push her blond hair behind her shoulders so I can clearly view her beautiful face. She looks so much like I did at her age. Her blue eyes match mine but hers aren’t surrounded by wrinkles. Her pink lips are full and plump, and her smile can stop anyone in their tracks. She has a bright future, and it’s only a matter of time before she leaves me and our small town in Illinois to join some of the brightest minds in the world at Harvard University.

“Mom, I’m going to be late,” she complains, rolling her striking blue eyes, but she can’t hide that smile.

I laugh. “You’re late every day,” I point out. “Plus, who cares? It’s your last day. What are they going to do, withhold your diploma?”

Her eyes grow wide, and her back gets ramrod straight as panic sets in. “Can they do that?”

I laugh. “No.” I pull her in for a hug. “I just wanted to remind you to go slow today, to take it all in. This is the last day. Your life is about to change in so many ways, and you’ll never get this back.”

She pulls back with a sweet smile, clearly more relaxed now. “Thanks, Mom. I love you.”

“I love you too.” I step back and pick up my coffee.

“Hey, is Dad going to make it to graduation tonight?”

I shrug. “I haven’t talked to him all week. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

She smiles before tugging open the door. I stand and watch out the window as she runs across the yard to the awaiting truck. Her boyfriend leans across the cab and opens the door for her. She climbs up, and they meet in the middle for a quick kiss. Seconds later, they’re backing out of the drive, ready to finish their last day of high school.

With the house now empty, I grab my purse and keys and shut off the lights as I make my way to the front door. I set the alarm and pull the door closed behind me, spinning around to lock it. I turn and walk off the porch and down the sidewalk to my black Audi parked in the driveway. I can’t help but notice how well the roses are blooming along the front of the house and how the landscaper did an amazing job at trimming the hedges to make the house look like the perfect family home.

That’s what everyone thinks, anyway. This is the perfect home for the perfect family. All they see is the nice house, nice cars, our beautiful, smart daughter who’s about to leave for an Ivy League college, and my husband who has a good job and makes lots of money. They don’t see that he’s gone more times than he’s home, leaving a wife and daughter behind to live life without him. They don’t see the fights we have because of that job. And they most definitely don’t see the regret I have when I look at my life and the way it turned out.

I push all thoughts away, and I get behind the wheel and drive over to the flower shop I own. I inherited it when I was nineteen when my mother passed away of stomach cancer. I’ve been working at the place since I was old enough to hold a pair of sheers. I walk in and the bell above the door rings. Lisa, my employee and best friend, has already opened for the day.

“Hi, love. How’s your morning?” she asks from behind the counter.

“I think I’m on the verge of a mental breakdown, but I’m here,” I reply as I’m placing my purse under the counter and pulling out my apron to tie around myself.

She giggles. “It’s the day, huh?”

I nod. “Yep.”

“Is Tom going to make it home?” She knows that Tom is a sore subject, so her tone isn’t as strong as usual. It’s slightly shaky, unsure.

I shrug. “I haven’t talked to Tom since last week.”

“What?” she asks, confused.

I plop down on the wooden stool behind the counter. “I think he’s going to ask for a divorce.”

“What? Why in the world would you think that?” She’s suddenly concerned. Like most people in this town, Lisa doesn’t know the full extent of our problems. She knows more than most, but I’ve shielded that part of my life away from her as much as I could.

“Things haven’t been good for a long time,” I confess. “We hardly ever talk anymore, and when we do, we just argue. He’s been living at his apartment in London. If it wasn’t for Erin’s graduation today, I don’t think he’d be coming home now… if he even is. I don’t know anymore.” I feel a sob make its way up my chest. “What am I going to do, Lisa? I’m forty years old, and I’m going to be going through a divorce? It’s too late to start over. I haven’t been single in twenty years. I haven’t gone on a date since I was nineteen. I don’t even know how to date anymore.” Tears are quickly filling my eyes and falling over the rims. My heart is pounding hard, threatening to beat out of my chest, and my lungs feel like they’ve suddenly forgotten how to work.

“Shhhh. Oh, honey. You’re going to be just fine,” Lisa says, coming to wrap me up in a warm hug. She holds me close, slightly rocking me back and forth while shhhh-ing me. “Everything will be great, you’ll see. You are a beautiful, sexy, successful woman. Any man in town would be more than happy to have you on his arm.”

I snort. “Like who?”

“Well, let’s see.” She steps back to think it over. “What about Jack?”

I laugh. “Jack, really? He’s been married four times, Lisa,” I remind her, rolling my eyes.

“But he’s going through a divorce,” she points out.

“Next.”

Her eyes roll up as she thinks again. “Tony?”

I shake my head. “He’s twenty years older than me and just suffered a heart attack.”

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