Court arrived while I was on the phone. I wasn’t really absorbing what Flip was saying. He was trying to be his usual, well, flippant self, and you know how he was always matter-of-fact about medical things. But my brain just wasn’t absorbing his words well.
So I had to keep asking things like “does that mean she’s still alive?”
She was. Court eventually took the phone from me and although she was somewhat tearful she managed to absorb it a lot better. When she hung up, Ziggy handed her a tissue and she blew her nose.
“These are tears of guilt, not grief,” she said, wiping her eyes. “I feel bad for abandoning her.” She blew her nose a second time, more noisily. “Then again, I guess it takes a village.”
“Claire is always going to be a handful,” Ziggy said. “So what’s going on?”
“She’s in surgery now. Bowel obstruction, they think.” She tossed the soggy tissue into the kitchen trash can and accepted another one from Ziggy. “Sounds like we better get down there in case this is the beginning of the end.”
Ziggy sighed. “I was afraid you were going to say that.”
She snapped at him a little. “You don’t have to go.”
“But I do,” I said.
“Do you?” Ziggy asked.
“I’m the last family member who can stand her,” I said.
“I know.” He held his head. “You know I don’t want you to drag around the guilt that I’ve got, but at the same time, dear one–”
Courtney cut across him. “I’ll go. If you guys have got stuff to do, I can handle this.” She sniffed wetly.
“It’ll be better if it’s both of us,” I said. “Zig, I love you, but I really have to go.”
“And if it’s just a scare?” He pulled his bathrobe tight around him, re-tying the belt. It was some kind of Japanese silk because of course it was. “If she lives another six months, or a year, what then?”
“Let’s make a deal,” Courtney said to me. “If this is just a scare, if she pulls through… we’ve got to–I dunno–take turns going down there. Like a week at a time. I just don’t think I can stand it for longer than that, you know?”
“What do you think about talking to Janine?” I tried to take Ziggy’s hand, but he had turned away to put the box of tissues down. “About her maybe pitching in a little.”
“Great idea. You call her.”
“Uh uh. If anyone’s calling her, it’s you, Court.”
Neither of us mentioned Lilibeth, of course. “Oh come on, Daron, don’t you want to see your nephew?”
“Of course I do, but he’s your nephew, too!”
“Yeah, but it’s obvious which of his relatives he takes after.” She gestured up and down me.
I was wearing nothing but a bedthrow. “Just because I’m the one boy in the family–”
“It’s not because you’re a boy,” she said. “Well, I mean, maybe that’s why he’s decided to take after you, but that’s not what I mean. I mean the fact is that he takes after you.”
“And maybe that’s part of why Janine won’t speak to me,” I pointed out.
“I think he’s starting to take after me, honestly,” Ziggy said, while examining his nails.
“Fine, I’ll talk to her,” Court said. She picked up the phone again. “I’ll work on getting us on a flight.”
“You can use the desk in the office if you want,” Ziggy pointed out.
“You have an office…?” Court craned her neck curiously toward the door. “I never noticed you had another room.”
“It’s what’s supposed to be the bedroom,” Ziggy said with a derisive snort, as if only peons slept in their actual bedrooms.
She went into the office, which was where she was going to sleep anyway, I think, and Ziggy and I got back in bed. I pulled on an old T-shirt and he snuggled up against me again.
“You feel tense,” I said.
“Do I? I’m just worried.” He tried to relax but it didn’t work. “I’m scared.”
“Of Claire dying?”
“No. Of losing you.”
Oh jeez. “Zig. You are not losing me. You’re not competing with my mother for my affections. And even if you were somehow, it sounds like she’s not going to be around much longer.”
“It’s not that simple.” He sounded annoyed. “And this isn’t about you-my-guitar-player but you—my partner for life. Listen to me. I know firsthand that death of a family member can shake up your priorities. Make you re-evaluate life and your choices.”
Do tell. He sounded almost apologetic. But mostly scared, a touch of a quaver in his voice.
“Part of me says I should go with you down there.” He sounded forlorn, like it was the last thing in the world he wanted to do.
“Zig. I’m coming back. I’ll be back.” I kissed him on the hair.
“But will you be the same?”
How funny. Normally it was me who worried that Ziggy would change when I wasn’t looking.
There was no joy in the tables being turned, only irony.