Except for the extra mileage entrenched around her glassy, stoned-looking eyes, her face looked the same—all smiley and everything. She reeked of sweet, yet medicinal perfume. A COACH bag dangled from her wrist, and sparkly jewelry adorned her fingers, ears, and neck.
I felt nothing; not rage, not excitement, not anything. And then she went toward my dad and hugged him. Then me. Then my husband.
Confusion drizzled over me.
I think my arm went up to kind of encase her as she hugged me like a normal person hugs—arms reached around and squeezing me a bit.
She wouldn’t stop smiling. She looked happy. Really happy. And that pissed me off a bit and fueled my judging her from her perfectly painted red toenails to her matching fake fingernails.
We all played follow the leader to the dining area of the steakhouse my nephew Jordan (her son) wanted us to meet at for his birthday dinner celebration.
It may have been nearly twenty years since we sat at the same table to have a meal, but she really hadn’t changed all that much: she still thought everything was funny, she still found nothing to talk about (and talk about it a lot), she still pulled off the Dumb Blond thing really well.
Only difference was that now she sat next to her boyfriend whom she was living with—along with his two kids, a 13-year-old and 5-year-old—instead of my brother and their children.
Anger started brewing as I started reflecting.
She can leave her own kids when they weren’t even 5 and 10 (now in their 20s) for occasional weekend visits with them, but here she is living with some guy and his kids, taking on a motherly role?
Her boyfriend’s 5-year-old, a girl, leaned against her and she put her arm around the girl and brought her in closer. Both with straw-colored hair, I’m sure the wait staff thought they were mother and daughter.
I looked over at Jordan whom she left when he wasn’t even 5. Was he seeing this too? Was he steaming inside too? Was he wondering why she, his own mother, could act motherly toward this little girl when she couldn’t act that way toward him nearly 20 years ago?
“What kind of wine do you have?” she asked the waiter, batting her glossy eyes at him while he rattled off a list of wines. “Oh,” she cackled before he finished with the list, “I’ll have a white zinfandel.”
I’m certain my eyes rolled at this point, but I pretended to be looking at the light fixtures to avoid confrontation. This was about Jordan and his birthday after all. This wasn’t about me and my disdain for this fake-ass, wanna-be-someone-she-never-will-be woman who used to be my best friend. It’s never been about that. It’s always about the kids. Always.
I squeezed my daughter in closer to me and asked if I could color with her, avoiding making anymore eye contact with Jordan’s mom.
I was, after all, waiting on a steak dinner to come, and I wanted to be able to stomach it.