by Nancy Epperly
The phone rang rudely at 5:45 AM startling Lena out of a deep sleep. Heart pounding, she yelled out, “what the heck”, and reached for her cell phone knocking it off the nightstand. She ripped off her CPAP mask and reached down to grab the phone off the hardwood floor.
“Hello?”, Lena questioned.
“Lena, this is Mandy. Lena, you there? This is Amanda.”
Lena’s mind cleared. “Oh hi Mandy, you woke me out of a deep sleep. What’s up?”
“I’m in town and wondering if I can come over this morning. I might need to be somewhere by noon, maybe sooner, but I thought it’d be great to catch up. Are you free?” Mandy asked.
Images of the dirty kitchen flashed through Lena’s mind “Sure, Mandy. Come on over. What time should I expect you?”
Mandy replied, “I was thinking 9:00 AM. Okay?”
“Sure,” Lena said. “I’ll call Tina and see if she wants to join us. It’s been a long time since the three of us got together. I’ll have breakfast waiting when you get here.”
“Sounds good. Thanks, Lena,” Mandy said with gratitude in her voice.
“Oh Mandy, before you go, can I ask where you might have to be at noon?” Lena asked.
“I’m seeing someone new but he might not be available today. I’ll tell you all about it when I get there. I think I’m in love,” Mandy said in a sing-song voice.
“See you soon Mandy,” Lena said and hung up the phone.
Lena started doing the dishes first before cooking. She loved to cook, but never mastered the art of washing the dishes immediately after dirtying them. “Hmmm, what to cook,” Lena whispered to herself. Lena had gluten and dairy allergies and Tina had fibromyalgia and found that eating a strict Paleo diet helped her condition. Lena settled on a banana bread recipe with coconut flour and scrambled eggs with grated zucchini. As Lena gathered the ingredients, her cat Poe meowed reminding Lena to call Tina.
“Hello,” Tina murmured.
“I’m sorry to call you so early,” Lena said apologetically.
“Lena, is that you,” Tina said.
“Yup, it’s me,” Lena replied.
“What time is it?” Tina questioned.
“7:30 AM and I’m really sorry I woke you. Mandy called me at 5:45 this morning and wants to know if we can all three get together at my house at 9:00. Are you game?” Lena asked. “I’m making a Paleo breakfast,” Lena said enticingly.
“Well, now I have to come”, Tina said, a littler perkier.
Lena’s two sons still lived at home. Lena was mashing ripe bananas for the bread when her youngest son Robbie walked over, kissed her forehead and said, “save me some,” as he headed out to his weekend class. I guess I’ll make two loaves Lena thought and grabbed more bananas.
Lena’s oldest son Ryan had to be at work soon and came into the kitchen to grab the lunch he’d packed the night before. Ryan headed for the door when he remembered that he hadn’t hugged his mom and circled back. Lena smiled warmly.
The zucchini was grated and Lena was cracking the eggs into the cast iron skillet when the doorbell rang.
“Coming,” Lena shouted, cracked the last egg and turned the heat down.
Tina had arrived first, promptly at 9:00 AM. As soon as Lena and Tina had hugged, Lena’s cell phone beeped. “Mandy will be about thirty minutes late.” Lena said.
“Same old Mandy,” Tina laughed.
“Let’s go ahead and eat the scrambled eggs while they’re hot,” Lena said. “Mandy never likes my cooking anyway.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Tina said rubbing her hands together. “Why is Mandy in town?”
“A man,” said Lena and they both giggled. “We’re all in our fifties and so very different. I’ve been married twice and December marks my tenth year of celibacy. You’ve never married and only occasionally date, and Mandy’s in love with love and always has a man by her side,” Lena stated.
“Well, you know why I don’t marry. After watching my siblings, cousins, and parents’ divorce, I want no part of it. Marriage doesn’t work!” Tina exclaimed.
“I wouldn’t say that. Marriage can be the greatest thing if you pick the right partner,” Lena replied.
“Then why’d you take a ten-year vow of celibacy, Lena. That’s nuts!” Tina said.
“I made that vow because after two failed marriages, and some bad dating experiences, I realized that I was choosing the same man over and over again.” Lena declared. “I didn’t want to put my kids through anymore trauma and I don’t trust myself to choose well. I have a knack for finding verbally abusive cheaters!”
“So when you reach your tenth year in December, then what?” Tina questioned.
“I might vow another ten years!” Lena said through laughter. “There’s nothing lonelier than a bad relationship.”
“I wish Mandy would figure that out,” said Tina. “You realize, if Mandy marries again it will be her fourth marriage and umpteenth relationship. Do you think she’s as happy as we are?
“She certainly seems happy at the moment. I think all three of us have our share of emotional scar tissue though,” Lena said.
“I avoided scars by not marrying,” Tina said proudly.
“Did you? You tear up every time you mention never marrying and not having kids,” Lena said, regretting it as soon as the words were out.
“Hey, that’s cruel,” said Tina with watery eyes.
“I’m sorry, Tina. We all have scars though. I caused mine by choosing poorly, you caused yours by being too afraid to choose at all,” Lena said softly.
“Lena, you’re right but please change the subject before I start bawling,” Tina said with a crooked grin. “What time is it anyway?”
Immediately following the question, the doorbell rang; it was 9:45 AM. Mandy was never on time.
Both Lena and Tina got up to greet Mandy. Big hugs, a few kisses on the cheek, and the three headed to the dining room table.
“Tina, will you grab the bread while I heat up some water for tea?” Lena asked.
“Sure thing,” Tina replied.
“What can I do to help?” Mandy asked.
“You just have a seat and tell us about this man we have to thank for your visit. Come on, what’s the scoop?” Lena asked. “Do you need to leave before noon?”
“Actually, I need to leave in an hour,” Mandy said with an exaggerated frown before jumping to an explanation. “Okay, well I’m sure you both know that Tony and I broke up about 6 months ago and how devastated I was. To get over Tony, I started using an online dating site and I think I hit the jackpot this time.”
“What’s his name?” asked Tina as she sliced the banana bread.
“Ben. Amazing Ben,” sighed Mandy. Lena, carrying the tray of tea, rolled her eyes as she walked up behind Mandy.
“Ben and I have been chatting online for about three months and we’ve met twice halfway between his house and mine. It’s about three hours to our half-way point. Anyway, he invited me to stay at his house this weekend. It’s our first time spending the night together!”
“Isn’t that kind of soon,” Lena said cautiously.
“No judgement, Lena!” Mandy said with attitude.
“No judgement, Mandy. I just don’t want you to get hurt,” Lena said gently. “Why did you say that you “might” need to be somewhere when you called?”
“Ben’s divorce isn’t final and he wasn’t sure if his wife’s travel plans were going to change due to weather. His wife’s already in the air with the kids though so it’s all clear for me to head on over to their house,” Mandy said without shame.
“How long has he been separated?” Tina asked.
“He just got separated and they’re required to maintain their separation for a year before filing,” Mandy told them as she took a bite of banana bread.
“How can they claim to be in their separation period if they still live together?” Lena asked.
“He sleeps in the basement and they both agreed to tell the court that they’ve been living apart. It’s a mutual thing,” Mandy said smiling. Mandy’s phone vibrated as a text message from Ben popped up. “I’ve got to go,” Mandy said as she stood and pushed her chair back.
Lena and Tina escorted Mandy to the door, hugged her, and waved goodbye.
“That was a short visit! Does she hear herself?” Tina asked as the door closed.
“She definitely doesn’t,” Lena said shaking her head. “I seriously doubt Ben is getting a divorce either.”
“The last time we saw Mandy she cried for 24 hours straight. I don’t really want to listen to that again,” Tina said. “But I will.”
“Me too,” Lena replied and the two went back to the table to polish off the banana bread.