Angie sat transfixed. There were simply too many thoughts, too many emotions, and too many memories colliding into one another in her poor brain and she was woefully unequipped to handle it all. It was no small wonder why she didn’t fall over with a heart attack.
“Mom,” Tiffany began as she hung her sunglasses on the front of her long sweater. “Are you alright?” She stopped abruptly.
“No.” Angie heard someone saying but didn’t realize who it was or where it was coming from. It did sound remotely like her voice, although but a shell of its usual strength. It was then that she realized that she was also shaking her head. “No, no, no,” she announced, her voice finding itself with each syllable.
Angie was seemingly powerless, as if she were part of an audience witnessing what was transpiring rather than a participant. “It can’t be. Don’t do this to me.” Angie closed her eyes and fought to hold them that way as she began to yell, defiantly. “I’ve lost her. Are you trying to drive me mad?”
But she lost the battle. She opened her eyes to see Tiffany approach and kneel before her, staring deeply into her eyes. “I swear, Mom,” she spoke tenderly. She didn’t touch her yet. It was too soon. “It is me. I’m so sorry that I was taken from you, but I am back now.” She leaned closer still, setting her hands down on the floor on each side of her. “I have found my way back to you and I will never leave you again.”
It was Tiffany. Angie had spent perhaps a hundred sleepless nights, wondering what it might have been like to hold her daughter the night of the fire and have her die in her arms. She had wished for the most basic of human desires: to kneel against the gurney in the morgue and weep over her departed flesh; to even have a body to bury. Kneeling beside her was the subject of both her bitter dreams as well as a promised, but unlived future.
“Steve!” Angie cried out suddenly. She didn’t wait to see whether her husband had heard or not, she simply yelled once more with everything that she had. She needed him beside her now. “Steve!”
Steve heard his name called out the first time and had begun to swing his legs out of bed by the time that she called again. He managed to get the closed door open, but was unable to navigate through the doorway without bumping his left side in the frame because of the cobwebs of sleep on his brain. He winced as he came barreling down the hall to see what could be the matter. He could see someone kneeling before Angie but seemed to have trouble registering just what exactly was taking place there in the middle of the room. The person pulled back a little, no doubt hearing his approaching assault, and only then did he finally see her.
“Holy Mother of God!”
He stopped dead in his tracks and had to lean against the nearest wall in order to keep himself from joining the two of them there on the floor.
“Steve,” Angie said, turning to face her husband. Her expression was blank. Even her eyes seemed drugged. “It’s Tiffany,” she stated plainly.
“I see that, dear,” Steve replied, still holding his position against the wall. He stared at his long-thought-departed daughter. She looked just the same as she did the afternoon that he had last seen her, the day that they had left her home for what was to have simply been a weekend. She smiled at him warmly, as if reading his mind.
“Hello, Dad,” she said.
“Hello, Tiffany.” His legs gave out then, and he slid down the wall. He seemed not to notice.
It was the most extraordinary of reunions; the three of them sitting on the hardwood floor in the living room and mouth of the hallway. No one moved for a good ten minutes or so as if doing so would cause one or all of them to awaken to find this were but a dream. Angie stared at her beloved daughter, speechless but reborn. Steve simply studied both of his girls, taking it all in. A smile broke out on his face as he could visibly notice the color of that rebirth filling his wife’s cheeks and lips.
Finally, Tiffany stood. Her parents studied her, marveling at her, as if she were an angel suddenly appearing before them. She reached down and took her mother’s arms at the sleeves and lifted her to her bare feet.
“You’re cold, dear,” Angie whispered as she continued to simply stare at her beautiful young face.
“I’m always cold."
Hmm? I wonder why she's always cold. What do you think it might be?
We'll talk soon.