Just Once - Page 7

His mother's smile was dazzling. “At least it'll be short trip,” she quipped.

“Hey!” Art protested. “If that's the door we're going to open, I call dibs on making fun of your dress and hair!”

Art's mother gazed at him with mock severity. “And what?” she inquired in arctic tones, “is wrong with my dress and hair?”

“It's too long,” Art told her. “It doesn't suit you.”

“You really think I should wear my dress shorter?” she asked slyly. “There's a name for that, isn't there?”

“Mom! Gross!” Art mimed gagging. “Your hair, your hair is too long!” he corrected.

“Look who's talking.”

“Gah!” Art almost screamed in frustration as he threw his hands up in the air. “Stop trying to change the subject, Mom!”

“Arthur,” his mother said gently. “I know what you're trying to say. I haven't worn my hair this long since before you were born, and I haven't worn this dress for even longer because white floral print sundresses only really looked good on me for about fifteen minutes back when I was your age, but . . .” She eyed her son seriously, making sure she had his attention before continuing.

“But for one month I'm going to stay here with my mom and dad, and whenever possible I'm going to close my eyes and pretend I'm seventeen again. Because when this month is over, I'm going to have to keep my eyes open all the time dealing with divorce lawyers and figuring out how to make it as a single parent . . . so for right now this is where we're staying because this is what I need and this is where I need to be. Selfish of me, I know, but there it is.” She brushed away tears she was still refusing to shed. “Can you forgive me for that?” she quietly asked her son.

Art found himself considering his sneakers again. “When you put it that way,” he answered in a voice so low his mother could barely hear him. “What other choice do I have?”

He brought his eyes up to his mother's once more, his lips peeling back in a brave effort of a grin as he added in a stronger voice, “That doesn't involve me being a heartless, no good, piece-of-shit excuse for a son, I mean.”

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