As a mother of three young girls, Wendy finds ways to be creative with her time in order to edit her third novel, write devotionals and articles for Exemplify Online and Sage Girl Ministry. When she’s not writing, reading or caring for her girls she’s likely enjoying the outdoors, refinishing a furniture piece or encouraging girls in church youth group. Wendy’s work has appeared in numerous publications. Feel free to visit her blog, http://thoughtsthatmove.blogspot.com/.
Gloria inhales a jagged breath. She has anticipated this moment for over a year. Countless times, through snowstorms and heat waves, she has imagined the reunion with Justin and the expression on Justin’s upturned face.
She clutches her pocketbook to her side and fiddles with a tissue, crumpling it into a sodden white mass. Gloria tries to steady her breathing, to think only of greeting him affectionately, though something bitter and ugly branches out from within her. Her only son lives overseas in Thailand, building a church when she needs him here. Her arthritis has returned and her daughter acts as though it pains her to visit.
Justin’s last e-mail insisted they meet at a hotel. Their 2:00 A.M. landing into Seattle-Tacoma would not be conducive for a joyful reunion. Justin and Emily had exchanged vows five years ago. Gloria rubs her hands, tissue smashed in between, when she pictures the children they could have had already, but this church planting business . . . it captivates them.
Her lips and eyebrows lift in eagerness to see Justin, his arms spread wide, like he used to do as a boy preparing to fly through the playground. She scans the lobby, absent of any man. The only two people Gloria spots are a woman with her back to her, sitting in a leather chair, and a concierge, yawning so hippopotamus-like, Gloria notices her silver fillings. Gloria whistles out a loud breath, suddenly feeling dampness pool under her arms. Fearing she forgot deodorant, she debates returning to her room, but then down the corridor her vision morphs before her.
Her son, Justin.
He beams with a boyish grin and hustles to lift her up with a jostled spin. When he releases her back on the hotel lobby carpeting, Gloria dabs a coiled and softened tissue to her eyes.
“My boy. My son. You came to see me.” As quickly as those words leave her, Gloria pieces together that something is missing.
“Never mind her. We’ll visit with her in a bit. It’s good to see you, Mom.”
Gloria shivers with gratitude to hear him call her Mom. A young woman in a crisp white uniform begins vacuuming the lobby carpeting, so the two move to sit at the far end of the lobby, near a swaggering fake fern that tickles the top of Justin’s thick brown hair.
“It is . . . I’ve missed you, Justin. You and Emily.”
“I know you don’t understand our mission, our work in Thailand, but God is doing so many exciting things. Life is good.”
A baby’s cry rings out, echoing throughout the lobby, “If it’s not the vacuum, it’s a baby!” Gloria chides as she rolls her eyes and scoots to the end of her chair so she can swipe the side of her son’s face with her open palm.
“That is certainly one loud baby.” Justin chuckles.
“Why would she be feeding him in a hotel lobby anyway?” Gloria eyes the woman whose back is still facing her.
“Maybe the baby was hungry, Mom. It’s good to feed the hungry.”
“Are you starting in on that church talk again?”
“How’s your arthritis?” Justin reaches for her hand and examines it as a surgeon might.
“Horrible, and your sister hardly ever visits me.”
“In her e-mails she writes that she’s there every other day.”
“Still not enough.” Gloria huffs. “How’s Emily?”
Justin clasps his mom’s hand and signals her to stand. He slides his arm into hers and they walk toward the light streaming through the expansive hotel lobby. Shooting through the skylight windows, the sun spotlights on a patch of carpet. “Sunlight in Seattle?”
“Stranger things have happened.” Justin winks. “And technically we’re in SeaTac.”
Gloria waves his comment away. “Where are you taking me?”
“I have someone I want you to meet.” Mother and son stop just short of the woman who’d been nursing her child, the woman with her back to Gloria as she exited the elevator. “Mom, remember Emily? And this is Sylvia.”
Gloria’s eyes dilate and quickly give way to tears. “The crying baby?” Her head tilts sideways.
“Sylvia. And you were right. She cries a ton. She’s one month old today.”
“You never told me you were pregnant.”
“There are some surprises worth waiting for though, right?”
“May I hold her?” Gloria hugs Emily over the baby in her arms.
“Certainly.” Emily passes the infant to her grandmother.
The three of them stand together, a triangular reunion in the hotel lobby. Justin pats Emily’s back. Emily’s eyes are bleary and glossed over with obvious fatigue. Her smile appears strained and weak from the long flight and lack of sleep. Justin whispers something indistinguishable into his wife’s hair and pecks a kiss there.
“Your father would have loved to have seen this.” Gloria cradles Sylvia, rocking her gradually back and forth in a tight hold. Gloria’s husband, Justin’s father, passed away four years ago.
Emily and Justin exchange a knowing grin. “He already has—our heavenly Father has,” Justin says.
Gloria ignores the remark and stares upon Sylvia’s closed eyes, covered by miniature red veins, tunneling so subtly just under the skin on her face. “She’s beautiful.”
“Do you have to go back?” Gloria’s sparse tears turn to streams of salty moisture. “I need you.”
Justin allows silence to fill the space between them. Then he speaks with loving confidence. “They need us. They’re hungry, and we have food.”
Gloria fishes for the remnants of tissues in her purse. Emily hands her a fresh one. “Why Thailand? I may not be hungry, but I’m in pain and I miss you.” Sylvia sings a soft coo as she awakes and peeks up at her grandma. Gloria shifts her weight from side to side, captivated by the baby’s enormous, concentrating blue eyes.
“We miss you, Mom. That’s why we made the trip, to see you, so you could meet Sylvia.” Sylvia’s gentle gurgling noises break out into elevated cries, “Hungry again?” Justin winks at Emily.
“I’d better go feed her.” Emily gestures toward Gloria.
Gloria hugs the child snug in her arms, hesitant to let go, but she doesn’t want the child to be hungry. “You’ll come back?”
She passes Sylvia to Emily.
“We’ll come back,” Emily says with a knowing smile.
Gloria’s eyes follow as she carries Sylvia to a more private setting.
Justin takes Gloria’s arthritic hand in his. “We love you, Mom.”
Gradually, Gloria’s breathing settles. The bitterness tangled within her withers away and is released little by little with every exhalation. It will finally be all right.