By Barbara Sibbald
— That’s delicious salad*, says Trish, putting down her fork. I’m still starving all the time.
She pats her protruding tummy.
— He’s insatiable!
— You look fabulous, Trish. And you don’t seem to have gained too much.
— No, I’m good. Hey, I’ve been talking about myself all through dinner. What’s up with you?
— I’m in shock, says Fiona. I got an email from Dad today, telling me he’s coming to town next week.
— More like fifteen. I can’t remember the last time he came here, says Fiona. I saw him maybe two years ago, when I went to that magazine conference in Vancouver. But now he’s been invited to a meeting here, all expenses paid, to be part of an advisory group on the Young Offenders Act. It was his specialty, even though he’s retired now.
— So where are you meeting him?
— Here. For dinner on Wednesday night. We thought that would be best so he could see the new house and spend some time with Gavin — although that’s never really seemed to be a priority for him. Plus, we can have some time to talk without waiters hovering.
— Didn’t you get some nasty letter from him?
— Yeah, his will. He basically left everything to his new wife, Lorelei. I talked to a mediator and sent him a letter saying that I understand that he needs to take care of her, but I pointed out that Neil’s in a bad way and that it would be great to have an educational fund for Gavin. There’s plenty for everyone.
— What about you and Luc?
— I left us out of it. We’ll pay down the mortgage eventually and Luc has a good pension coming.
— Well, that seems fair enough, I wonder….
Gavin slams through the screen door; Fiona notices at once how pale he is.
— I need a mom hug, he says.
— Honey! Fiona puts her arms around him, pleased at being wanted by her fourteen-year-old son, but alarmed too.
— What’s wrong? Are you okay? she asks.
— I saw an accident, he stammers. A woman. And she got run over. Her whole body. She screamed and screamed.
He is weeping now.
— Sit down, sit down, honey.
Fiona sits across from him, holding his hand.
— Start at the beginning. Take a deep breath and tell me what happened. Trish, could you get a glass of water?
— I was coming home from the concert, walking down Albert to catch a bus, and this car comes whipping out of an underground garage, going way too fast, and hits this woman. Runs right over her. And I run to help, but all at once there’s a crowd of people. Someone’s talking to the woman, someone’s calling an ambulance on their cell. Then I see this man to the side; he’s crying and shaking and I think, that’s her husband, so I go over to him. I don’t know what to do, so I ask, is that your wife? And he nods and there are tears all over his face, so I tell him everything’s going to be okay. People are looking after her, an ambulance is coming.
Gavin takes a sip of water. Fiona squeezes his hand.
— That was kind of you.
— Then this little boy comes and tugs at the man’s coat: Dad, Dad! He’s crying. Then the boy just walks away. So I ask the man if I should go look after his son, because obviously he can’t. And he looks me right in the eyes and says, Please, please. So I go over to the boy and crouch down beside him, blocking his view of the accident. And I ask him questions to distract him: Where do you live? How old are you? — he was six. And then he yells: I want my mom! I want my mom! So I tell him, your mom’s okay. Everyone is looking after her. Then I start asking him other questions, like what’s his favourite subject in school and does he have pets. Then the ambulance comes and they load the woman in, and I’m still trying to distract Joel, the little boy. Then the father comes for Joel and they get into the ambulance and they just drive away. And I started walking really fast, thinking about Joel and what his life will be like if his mom dies. It could have been me that got hit. Another thirty seconds and it would have been me. Or Joel. He’s only six.
Fiona puts her arms around him.
She looks into her son’s pale face, trying to assess the damage.
— Mom, what about the woman? Do you think she’ll be okay?
— Maybe there’ll be an article in the paper tomorrow. If she was talking and everything, well, I don’t know. It’s hard to say. But you did the right thing. You did all you could, and a lot more than other people would have done.
Gavin says nothing.
— You’re mom’s right, says Trish.
Gavin looks at her, aware for the first time that she’s in the room and feels embarrassed by his tears, his reaction. Trish is his mom’s friend but she’s closer to his age, and he’s always felt a bit attracted to her.
— I’m going to take a shower, he says.
Fiona nods. I’ll make you a cocoa, she says.
— I’m not a baby, he says. I’ll be okay.
He stomps up the stairs.
— He’ll be okay, Trish says to Fiona. It’s just the shock
— I’ll go up when he’s out of the shower, says Fiona.
— He’s right though, it could have been him. One minute you’re complaining about a dull concert and — she snaps her fingers — like that, your life can change forever. Good thing Dad’s coming next week.
*Green beans on endive
1 pound green beans
1 head Belgian endive
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon oregano
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ to ½ cup diced red onion (to taste)
- Wash and trim beans. Cook in a large pot of boiling salted water, in batches, until tender-crisp (6 to 8 minutes) Drain and rinse under cold running water. Pat dry. Refrigerate until serving time.
- Wipe and separate endive leaves. Wrap in paper towels and refrigerate until serving time.
- Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, mayo, garlic, oregano, sugar and salt and pepper until smooth. Stir in onion.
- An hour before serving, pour dressing over beans and gently toss.
To serve, arrange endive leaves around the edge of large serving plate, and pile the beans in the centre. Or, serve the beans on endive leaves. Beautiful either way!