Lex and Lu(6)

By: J. Santiago

“Hey, Dr. J.,” Lu ventured.

Jo looked up and the weary smile she’d sported over the last twenty-four hours appeared on her tired face. She started to rise, but Lu beat her to it and stooped down to hug her. Lu tried to hold back, but once in Dr. J.’s arms, her composure crumbled. Attempting to stop the tears, Lu heaved a sigh that ended with a dry sob. Jo, also trying to hold her emotions in check, managed to caress Lu’s back, comforting her as she had when Lu was a child.

“It’s OK, Lu,” she somehow managed, although she was far from OK.

Both, slightly embarrassed, pulled back. Lu stood and moved a chair closer so that she was facing Jo. “I’m so sorry. And sad. I’m so sad that he’s gone,” she said, wiping away the tears which seemed to have a mind of their own.

Jo reached out and rubbed Lu’s clasped hands. “I know. You and Mike always had a special relationship. Especially over the last few years. You gave him so much joy.”

“I couldn’t stay away. I don’t want this to be any harder for you, but I couldn’t not be here to say good-bye.”

“And to set things straight?” Jo said before she could stop herself. But once she said it she knew that it needed to be said. They had to have this conversation before her son arrived. Pinning Lu with the death stare she decided to move forward. “Is that why you came, Louisa May?”

Lu, startled, but only slightly, took in the double whammy. As kids they had all joked that the death stare paired with the full name meant serious trouble. Without meaning to, Lu smiled. “Dr. J.—you’re pulling out the double whammy on me at 6:00 a.m.?” she asked.

Jo laughed. “I suppose I am.”

“You know it still works. Even as a twenty-six-year-old, with my own set of responsibilities, I fold under the double whammy.” Lu got up, uncomfortable being in such close proximity. Without meaning to, she paced, rubbing her wrist, a habit left over from childhood. Again, Jo found herself smiling. So interwoven were their families that this gesture was as familiar to her as when she saw Lex’s ritual after scoring or when Pete rubbed his ear.

“When it comes to Lex, I haven’t really thought very far. Maybe that’s surprising, but it’s more about being here to celebrate Mr. P. I shouldn’t have come alone. For the first time in eight years, I am shirking my responsibilities, but I couldn’t do that to you. I just don’t know. I don’t know what it will feel like when I see him.” She stopped pacing and returned to her chair. “We were so young. But I still miss him. Not that soul-searing emptiness I experienced when he left—and let’s be honest, for a couple of years after. But we were so close for so long, I wonder what it will be like when we see each other again.”

“Lu, you know that’s not what I’m talking about,” Jo responded, more annoyed than anyone should be so early in the morning.

Lu, suddenly angry over being backed into a corner, responded with raised ire. “What about you, Dr. J.? This is as much your secret as it is mine. How much longer are you willing to keep this from your son?” she challenged.

“Do you know that he never forgave me?” Jo said, looking directly at Lu but somehow looking beyond her, into the past. “He died yesterday, and he had never really gotten over it.” Jo paused and Lu let the silence descend over them, each lost in the memories of that fateful decision.

Lex had already left for the U-20 World Cup training camp when the shit hit the fan. And even though it didn’t seem that long ago, they didn’t have smartphones as they did now. Lu often wondered if there would have been a different outcome if she and Lex had been able to communicate with each other. Could they have text messaged their way to a different outcome than the one their parents chartered for them. No day had passed that she had not regretted the outcome of the decision, but she could barely stomach the collateral damage to all of the people they loved.

“I’m at a loss here, Dr. J. I know what the right thing to do is. I have always known that. But I’m not going to be losing Lex this time. Chances are you will. And can you handle that without Mr. P. here?” Quiet settled between them again.

“I need some more coffee. Would you like some?” Jo asked.

Knowing this was far from over, Lu stood. “I’ll go,” she offered, needing to move. She picked up both mugs and went into the house. Again, she was overcome with memories of the times she had spent there. She had been walking in and out of this house at will since she was six. And although she and Lex didn’t have an auspicious beginning, they were soon inseparable.

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