Wes just looked at her. “You know, sometimes things do go the way they’re supposed to. It’s not unheard of.”
“It is for us,” Delia said with a sigh. “Anyway, now we at least we have plenty of time to get ready. Which I guess, you know, is good.” She still didn’t sound convinced.
“Don’t worry,” Wes said, as we started back toward her house. “I’m sure disaster will strike any minute now.”
Delia reached down, taking Lucy’s hand. “Yeah,” she said, seeming encouraged. “You’re probably right.”
As we packed for the job, though, things kept happening. Or, more accurately, not happening. Whereas we usually had to cram all the carts in and hope they’d fit, for some reason this time Delia had managed to organize the items in the coolers so economically that we were able to take one less, so everything went in easily, with even (gasp!) room left over. The best round serving platter, which had been missing for weeks, suddenly turned up in the garage, behind one of the freezers. And, most amazing of all, instead of racing down Sweetbud Road already late, we finished with time to spare and actually found ourselves having to kill time instead of scramble for it. It was a little weird, I had to admit.
Delia and I ended up on the front steps fanning ourselves, while Bert and Wes milled around the garage, packing the last few things. “So,” she said, leaning back on her hands in an effort to get comfortable. “I heard you quit your job.”
I glanced at Wes, who was passing by with a box of napkins. “Couldn’t help it,” he said. “It’s just too good not to tell.”
“Maybe you should tell my mom, then,” I said, pulling my hair back behind my neck.
“No thanks,” he said, before disappearing back into the garage.
“You really think she’ll be mad?” Delia asked me. “From what you’ve said about that job, you were miserable there.”
“I was,” I said. “But to her, it’s not about that. It’s about the fact that I made a commitment.”
“And that this job would look good on my transcript.”
“And,” I finished, “it fits right in with what she wants me to be.”
I ran the fabric of my shirt between my thumb and forefinger, remembering our conversation that morning, as well as the one the night before. “Perfect,” I said.
Delia shook her head. “Come on,” she said, waving her hand as if brushing this very thought aside, “I’m sure she doesn’t want that.”
“Why wouldn’t she?” I asked.
“Well, for starters, because it’s impossible.” She leaned back again, shifting her weight a little bit. “And secondly, because she’s your mother. And mothers, of all people, are the least likely to care about such things.”
“Yeah, right,” I said glumly.
“I’m serious.” She stretched her feet out in front of her, smoothing her hands over her belly. “I know something about this, okay? All I care about for Lucy, and Wes and Bert, is that they be happy. Healthy. And good people, you know? I’m not perfect, not by a long shot. So why would I expect them to be?”
“My mom’s not like that,” I told her, shaking my head.
“Okay,” she said. “Then what is she like?”
I sat there for a second, considering this, surprised, as the seconds passed, that the answer didn’t come more easily. “She works too much,” I began, then stopped. “I mean, since my dad died she’s had to carry the whole business. There’s always so much to do, I worry about her. A lot.”
Delia didn’t say anything. I could feel her watching me.
“And I think she works so much because she can be in control of it, you know?” I said. She nodded. “It makes her feel, I don’t know, safe.”
“I can understand that,” Delia said softly. “Losing someone can make you feel very out of control. Totally so.”
“I know,” I said. “But it’s not really fair. Like, after my dad died, I wanted to be okay for her. So I was. Even when I had to fake it. But now, when I really do feel okay, she’s not happy with me. Because I’m not perfect anymore.”
“Grieving doesn’t make you imperfect,” Delia said quietly, as Bert came back out to the van, adjusting one of the carts inside. “It makes you human. We all deal with things differently, Macy. Your mom is missing your dad in her own way, every day. Maybe you should ask her about it.”
“I can’t,” I said. “I can’t even bring him up. I tried this morning for the first time in ages, and she just shut down.”
“Then try again.” She moved closer to me, putting an arm around my shoulder. “Look, everyone mourns at their own pace. Maybe you’re just a little bit ahead of her, but she’ll get to you eventually. The important thing is that you keep trying to talk to each other, even if it’s difficult at first. It gets easier. I promise.”
I felt so tired all of a sudden that I just relaxed into her shoulder, leaning my head there. She smoothed her hand over my hair, saying nothing. “Thank you,” I said.
“Oh, sweetie,” she replied, her voice vibrating under my cheek. “You’re so welcome.”
We sat there like that, not talking, for a good minute or two. Then, from the garage, we heard it.
It was Bert who shrieked in response to this. I knew it instantly.
Delia sighed loudly. “Honestly,” she said.
“That’s ten,” I heard Wes say, and Bert grumbled something I couldn’t make out in return. “And counting.”
Once we got to the party, our good-luck trend continued. It seemed at first that we were off to a normal start, when we arrived to find that the large gas grills Delia had ordered from her equipment company would not, no matter how many times Wes tried, ignite with any sort of flame.
“Oh, my God!” she was hissing at me as people started arriving. “This is a cookout. A cookout. You have to cook outside. It’s part of the definition!”
And then, suddenly, there was a whoosh, and we had fire. It turned out that the gas tanks just hadn’t been hooked up. No problem.
Then, about an hour later, as I was doing a last round of appetizers before the grilled items came out, Bert noticed that we’d only brought one case of hamburger patties instead of two, which left us about, oh, a hundred or so short.