He calls only when he needs something. An explanation. A favor. She finds herself cringing when the caller ID shows his number. Can I not take this call? She tosses the thought around in her head. Her husband knows what she is contemplating and tells her to ignore the call. "I can't," she says and shakes her head. "I just can't."
Visibly wincing as she says hello, she wonders what it will be this time. Do they need a place to stay for the night? Does he have a question about some medicine that he's been prescribed?
"Hey, do you have a minute?" he asks.
"Sure," she says and sits back against the recliner.
"I need you to do something for me."
I knew it, she thinks and looks over to her husband, who flashes a quick smile. He can't hear the conversation, but again, he knows. He's been through this with her for the last several years.
"What do you need?"
"I went to lunch with Mr. Dotson the other day. He said he knew of some guy, working on a cure for leukemia."
She blows warm air out between her teeth and keeps listening.
"I have the information here. Can you do a little research over the next couple of days?"
She vowed last week, when he didn't listen to what she had to say and dismissed her sister's ability to do her job, to stay out of his life. "He doesn't need us," she'd said to her sister. "He wants us to do his dirty work, but really, he can fend for his own life. He's an adult."
But here she is, on the end of the line, contemplating a yes, affirming that she will help him. How can she not? It's so difficult to say no to someone intertwined in your life like he is.
"All right. Give me a few days." She jots down the information he gives her: the name of the doctor, where he works, what the name of the website is. She's happy he can't see her as she rolls her eyes.
"Sounds fine. Thank you. Tell the kids we said hi, and we'll be in touch."
She presses the end button on the phone and slams her hand onto the table.
"All my life," she yells to the walls, the children, the animals, anyone and anything in the room. "All my life he's told me to be a realist. To keep my head out of the clouds. That there's no place for a dreamer in this world." She sucks in a breath, readying herself to go on. "I'm sure what he said influenced my career path, you know? I'd have seriously considered being a writer, but I thought it wouldn't pay the bills...it was too much of a pipe dream."
The room and everyone in it stand at attention, waiting for her to continue. They aren't sure what she's going to say, only that she needs to say it.
"And now, he decides it's okay to dream? He thinks that a prayer and a cure will be found like that..." She snaps her fingers. "...and he'll be able to go on with his life, and she'll go on with hers, just like they always did. Prayer, I get that. I believe in the power of prayer. But a cure? He's not going to see it in his lifetime! She's not going to see it in hers. Realist my ass."
The group lets out a collective breath and she ambles from the room, waving her hands behind her, pushing the less-than-palatable thought of helping him out to the recesses of her mind. She places her hands on the laptop and opens the lid.
She'll eventually get around to doing the research he has asked. After all, she's reliable, if nothing else. But she'll do it in her own time. First up? That new short story that's been bouncing around in her head...