I keep hoping Gabby will come back in with the flowers, but she’s nowhere to be seen.
“Well,” I say, “don’t.” My tone is polite but not particularly warm. Given the fact that it wasn’t a very nice thing to say in the first place, I think I’ve shown my hand.
“OK,” he says. “I should probably get going. You probably need your rest, and I should get to work . . .”
“Yeah,” I say. “Sure.”
He heads toward the door and turns around. “You know I would do anything for you, right? If you need anything at all . . . ?”
I nod. “Thanks.”
He nods and looks down at the floor and then back up at me. He looks as if he’s going to say something, but he doesn’t. He just taps his hand on the door frame one time and then walks through it.
Gabby comes right back in. “Sorry,” she says. “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I got back with the flowers a while ago, and I could hear you guys were having a conversation. I didn’t want to . . .”
“It’s cool,” I say as she puts the flowers down on the counter by the door. I wonder where she found the vase. It’s nice. The flowers are beautiful. Most men would have brought carnations.
She looks at me. “You’re upset about the Katherine thing.”
“So you did eavesdrop.”
“I never said that I didn’t. I just said I didn’t mean to.”
I laugh. “I’m not upset about the Katherine thing,” I say, defending myself. “It just confirmed for me that trying something with him again . . . it’s maybe not the best idea.”
She grabs my hand for a moment. “OK,” she says.
I pick up the remote and turn on the TV. Gabby grabs her purse.
“Yeah, I have to get back to the office for a meeting. But your family’s almost here. They texted me a few minutes ago saying they were parking. You’ll have some time with them, and then I’ll leave work, get a change of clothes for tomorrow, and be back here for our nightly slumber party.”
“You don’t need to stay here tonight,” I say.
She frowns at me, as if I’m telling a lie.
“I’m serious,” I say, laughing. “My parents can stay. Sarah can stay. No one has to stay. I’m serious. Go home. Spend time with Mark. I’m OK.”
My mom pokes her head in. “Hi, sweetheart!” she says. “Hi, Gabrielle!” she adds when she sees her.
“Hi, Maureen,” Gabby says, giving her a hug. “I was just taking off.” She calls to me from the door. “I’ll call you later. We’ll discuss it.”
I laugh. “OK.”
My mom comes in farther. My dad joins her.
“Hi, guys,” I say. “How are you?”
“How are we?” my dad says. “How are we?” He turns to my mom. “Would you listen to this kid? She gets in a car accident, and when she can talk, the first thing she asks us is how we are.” He comes to me and gives me a gentle hug. I’m getting called out on this by everyone lately, but How are you? is a perfectly reasonable question to ask another human being as a greeting.
“Incredible,” my mom says. She comes around my other side.
“Sarah will be up in a minute,” my dad says.
“She gets frustrated trying to parallel park,” my mom whispers. “She learned how to drive where you park on the left side of the road.”
“You can’t park in the garage here?” I ask.
My dad laughs. “Clearly, you have never visited someone in the hospital. The rates are maddening.”
Good old Mom and Dad. Sarah comes in the door.
“You got it?” my mom asks.
“It’s fine,” Sarah says. She breathes. “Hi,” she says to me. “How are you?”
“I’m OK,” I say.
“You look like you feel better than yesterday,” my dad says. “You’ve got some color in your face.”
“And your voice sounds good,” my mom adds.
Sarah steps closer to me. “I cannot tell you how good it feels to look at you and know you’re OK. To hear your voice.” She can see that my mom is getting teary. “But the bad news is that your bun is really screwed up,” she says. “Here.” She takes my head in her hands and pulls my hair out of the elastic.
“Easy now,” I say to her. “There’s a person attached to that hair.”
“You’re fine,” she says. “Wait.” She stops herself. “You are fine, right? Gabby said the damage is all on your lower half.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I say. “Go ahead.”
She drops my hair and walks toward her purse. “You need your hair brushed. Is no one brushing your hair around here?”
She pulls a brush from her purse and starts running it through my hair. It feels nice, except for the moments when she finds deep-rooted tangles at the base of my scalp. I wince as she picks at them, trying to work them free.
“Do you remember when you were little,” my mom says as she sits down, “and you used to get those huge knots in your hair from when you would try to braid it yourself?”
“Not really,” I say. “But if it felt anything like Sarah yanking at my scalp, I can understand why I blocked it out.”
It’s not audible, and her face is behind me, but I know for a fact that Sarah is rolling her eyes at me.
“Yeah, you hated it then, too, and I told you to stop playing with your hair if you didn’t want me to sit there and detangle it. You told me you wanted to cut it all off. And I told you no.
“Obviously,” Sarah says as she puts the brush down and pulls my hair into a high bun.
“Can you do it higher?” I ask. “I don’t like it when I can feel it hit the bed.” She lets my hair down and tries again.
“OK, well, long story short,” my mom says.
“It’s a little late for that,” my dad jokes. She gives him a look. The look wives and mothers have been giving to husbands and fathers for centuries.
“Anyway,” she says pointedly, “you went into the kitchen when I wasn’t looking and chopped off your own hair.”
“Oh, right,” I say, vaguely remembering seeing pictures of my hair cropped. “I think you told me this story before.”
“It was so short. Above your ears!” she says. “And I ran into the kitchen and saw what you did, and I said, ‘Why did you do that?’ and you said, ‘I don’t know, I felt like it.’ ”
“A Hannah Savannah sentiment if there ever was one,” my dad says proudly. “If that doesn’t describe you, I honestly don’t know what does. ‘I don’t know, I felt like it.’ ” He laughs to himself.
This is exactly the kind of stuff I’m trying to change about myself.
“Yeah, OK, Doug, but that’s not the moral of the story,” my mom says.
My dad puts his hands up in mock regret. “My apologies,” he says. “I’d hate to guess the wrong moral to a story. Call the police!”
“Must you interrupt every story I try to tell?” my mom asks, and then she waves him off. “What I was getting at is that we had to take you to the hairdresser, and they cut your hair into a little pixie cut, which I’d never seen for a little girl. I mean, you were no more than six years old.”
That’s what I remember, seeing pictures of myself with hair cropped tight to my head.
“Get to the point, Mom,” Sarah says. “By the time this story is over, I’ll be ninety-four years old.”
It’s jarring to hear Sarah tease my mom. I would never say something like that to her.
“Fine,” my mom says. “Hannah, your hair was gorgeous. Really stunning. Women kept stopping me at Gelson’s to ask me where I had the idea to cut your hair like that. I gave them the number of the lady who did it. She ended up moving her business out of the Valley and into Beverly Hills. Last I heard, she cut that Jerry Maguire kid’s hair once. The end.”
“That story was even worse than I thought it was going to be,” Sarah says. “There! I’m done.”