Lex and Lu(4)

By: J. Santiago

Even in her exhausted state, Jo knew Willa needed to talk to her mom. She’d seen that move countless times over the years, although when the kids were younger the excuses had been different. There was the nail polish that they couldn’t find or the brush that had too much hair stuck in it. In her house, Jo had heard about the cleat that was missing or the toilet that hadn’t been flushed. Excuses all, to get their mother or father alone to ask for a sleepover, or to borrow the car, or for money.

Conversation had picked up around her, but she wasn’t in it. Her mind had moved on to the things she needed to take care of over the next few days. When Amber and Willa reappeared with wine, Jo started to decline. Willa poured her a glass anyway. “You’ll need this,” Willa explained.

“What can we help with?” Cami inquired.

“I am sure there will be things, but at the moment, I don’t know specifically,” Jo answered, still absorbed with making her internal list. Distracted, she missed the byplay going on around her, so she was surprised when Stacy, Cami, LeeAnn, and Natalie began to make excuses to head out.

“I’ll get with you when she’s had a chance to make the arrangements,” interceded Amber.

Standing, Jo embraced them all—Stacy, Cami, LeeAnn, and Natalie. More alert now, she said good-bye to her friends. Over the years, they had been there for all of the growing pains that families experience. And normally, you didn’t go through anything that one of the other women had not already been through. You could always rely on someone’s willingness to discuss her own struggles. It had become another family unit that wrapped around each of their own and made the struggles easier to bear. They knew each other pretty well. Which is why Jo didn’t hesitate to sit down at the table, pick up her wine, and pin Willa with the death stare that she was famous for.

“What the hell’s going on, Willa?”

Willa looked to her mother. Somehow, she felt Amber could deliver the news more effectively.

“Willa just got a text from Lu.” Amber paused, gently picked up her wine, and took another fortifying sip. “She’s on her way home.”

Jo leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes. She wasn’t surprised, not really. Maybe it was time. In her mind she saw her family fracturing even more but there was little she could do about a decision that had been made earlier. Partly horrified, partly relieved, she looked at Amber and Willa.

“Is she coming alone?” Jo asked, fearful of the answer.

“Yes,” Willa replied.

“Thank fucking God!” she murmured. Maybe she wasn’t ready to set things straight.

Exhausted after a hard game and a sleepless night, Lex rolled over and shut off the alarm clock on his iPod before the blast of music coming from it shattered the early morning quiet. Eighteen hours of knowing that his dad was dead hadn’t lessened his sense of disbelief. His father had died while he in the midst of his pregame warm-up. His manager had handed him the phone as he walked off the pitch so that his mother could tell him before his game. Normally they would have waited, but with information flying all over the globe at warp speed, they were afraid that a reporter would ask him about it in postgame interviews. And the last thing they wanted was for Lex to be blindsided by that kind of news.

He wasn’t sure whose idea it had been. But knowing his mother as he did, he was pretty sure she had forced his agent to have his club make the arrangements since Lex never checked his phone once he entered the stadium. He also knew his mother figured he’d play in his game. She’d spent the majority of Lex’s life making sure he could play soccer, so his walking onto the field a couple of hours after learning that his father had died wouldn’t have shocked her.

Playing in a critical game was exactly the kind of therapy he needed. Sex would have been good too, but he’d been avoiding that for a bit. No messy entanglements allowed this season. And that would have made his father proud. Lex managed a fleeting smile, thinking of the last conversation he’d had with his dad about that subject. They’d been out at a pub down the street from his club’s stadium when his father mentioned Lex’s lack of a groupie—as he referred to all of the women Lex had been with since he was 18.

“Bit of a dry spell?” he’d said, winking at Lex.

Lex graciously acknowledged the dig. “No sir. Just trying to focus in on playing soccer.”

His dad grinned. “Yes, I’ve been wondering when you were going to get serious about the sport.”

He laughed. One of the things he loved about his dad was his ability to look at things from Lex’s perspective. “Ya know how it is, Pops. Even when things are supposed to be uncomplicated with women, they don’t ever stay that way.”

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