By BARBARA SIBBALD
— Hi Mom, says Fiona. Just let me put you on speaker phone, I’m in the middle of making a carrot cake*. There. Can you hear me?
— You’ll never believe what that brother of yours is doing now, says her mother.
— Is he okay? asks Fiona anxiously.
She spoke to him on Wednesday and he seemed okay, but still…. It’s early days yet.
— He’s fine, says her mother crisply. I’m the one having a nervous breakdown. He’s moving out west. To Vancouver. To be closer to him.
— Of course, Dad. Who else? she says impatiently. For some reason, your Dad phoned out of the blue and two of them had this big kiss and make-up session.
So he did phone, thinks Fiona. He did listen to me. I can’t believe it. Maybe he is changing. Or maybe all we needed to do was talk. He’s the one who opened things up with that damn will.
— When did he call? she asks.
— Couple of days ago. And now all of the sudden, Neil’s decided to move to Vancouver. Says it will be a fresh start for him. And get this, the old tightwad actually open his wallet for Neil. Can you believe it?
Good for him, thinks Fiona. He’s finally getting involved in our lives. Luc walks into the kitchen; Fee mouths “Mom” and motions for him to be quiet.
— I guess you’ll really miss Neil, says Fiona.
— And the rent, says her mom. Everyone seems concerned about his financial wherewithal, but what about me?
— Neil couldn’t have paid rent anyway Mom. He’s not working. And if he did stay in Halifax, I don’t think he’d be moving back home. It’s time for him to be on his own.
— He’s not well enough. You know that, Fiona. He needs his mother.
— Or is it just the rent you’re worried about?
— Fee! How can you be so crass? I’m a loving mother.
— Mom, if you need the money, rent out the downstairs apartment to someone else. A student or someone.
— The laundry’s down there.
— So get it moved upstairs. It’s not such a difficult thing, Mom. I think the important thing here is Neil and helping him get better. If he thinks a move….
— There’s no way that will help him. Leaving behind all his friends and the one person in the world who loves and cares for him the most.
— Yes, me, of course, she snaps.
She hangs up and begins dialling. Good for Neil, she thinks.
— Neil’s leaving? Luc says
— Going out west. Dad’s paying.
— Wow, that’s a barn-burner.
— I’m calling Neil, she says, putting the phone back on speaker. They listen to the rings.
— Neil? It’s Fee. Luc’s here too on speakerphone.
— Hey guys. I’m guessing Mom called you, he says.
— I would have rather have heard it from you, says Fiona.
— I had to tell her first, Fee. I was going to call you tonight. I’ve been so busy getting everything set up. Packing, shipping stuff, tickets. Dad’s paying for everything. And I know you’re behind it all. He skirted around it, not wanting to share the glory, but you said you talked.
— I did, but I never expected this!
— I don’t know what’s gotten into him, says Neil, but he’s really come through. He’s even found a couple of contracts for me with his buddies. Web design for lawyers, but still, it’s a start. And there’s so much more work going on in Vancouver for me: design, apps. All sorts of stuff. More than there ever will be in Halifax.
— Where are you going to live? asks Fiona.
— He’s set that up too. Place in Burnaby, near the BCIT, so I can take courses if I want.
— Or teach them.
— Ha! As if! Anyway, it’s near stores and the SkyTrain so I’m good to go. I can’t wait.
— Neil, I haven’t heard you sound this good since…forever! I’m so glad. And what about your psychiatrist, what does she say?
— She’s a bit worried, says it’s awfully soon. But she’s hooked me up with someone she went to school with, so I have that sorted too. It just seems like this was meant to happen.
— Except for Mom.
— Well, yeah, she’s pretty upset. But you know as Dr. C says: I’m not responsible for how she’s feeling.
— It took me years to realize that, says Fiona. It’s always all about her.
— You’re right there. Listen Fee, I’ve got an appointment in twenty minutes, I’ve gotta run.
— When’s the move? she asks.
— Week tomorrow.
— I’m so happy for you, Neil.
— Thanks Fee. Love you.
— Love you too, she says and hangs up.
— I don’t think he’s ever told me that before, she says to Luc.
*Fiona’s favourite carrot cake
2 cups stirred, unsifted cake and pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups sugar
1 ½ cups canola oil
2 cups peeled, grated carrots
1 ¼ cups drained, crushed pineapple
1 cup chopped pecans
- Preheat oven to 350 °F.
- Place sifter over large bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
- Add oil and eggs, beat by hand for 1 minute.
- Add carrot, pineapple and nuts; beat to mix.
- Grease bottom of a 13×9 inch pan. Line bottom with buttered heavy brown paper.
- Pour in batter and bake on centre shelf for 40–50 minutes, or until cake springs back when touched with your fingertip.
- Cool and frost
Cream cheese frosting
4 ounce light cream cheese
½ cup butter (soft)
2 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
- Put all ingredients into a bowl and beat with hand mixer until smooth.
- Spread on cooled cake.
- Cut into squares from pan.