Gina stares out the passenger window for a while, and I’m not sure she’s going to answer me.
“Do you really want to know?” she asks.
I stifle the reply, if I didn’t want to know, I wouldn’t have asked. Instead, I just wait.
She sighs. “Warren got a DUI.”
“And you got arrested how?”
“I got arrested because when they searched me, they found a joint.”
“Oh, God. Gina.”
“Well, they booked me and I have a court date…”
I say nothing. I can’t say anything. If I lecture her, she’ll shut down. But I can’t condone this. It’s like I have a teenager, except that I don’t get the fun, toddler years to look back on longingly.
“I know what you’re thinking,” she says.
“How do you know what I’m thinking?”
“You’re thinking, ‘how could I screw up my life like this? How could I keep going out with such a jerk? How could I ruin my life like this?”
“No, I wasn’t thinking that at all.” I catch her knowing look. “Okay, so maybe I was…a little.”
“I know I’ve been screwed up, but…I don’t know. Maybe Sergeant Mitchell’s right and I should see a therapist.”
“Is this about Mom?”
“No. Yes. Maybe. I don’t know. Probably.”
“You know, I know some people. I could get a name for you. Someone good, trustworthy.” I have a few customers that work in mental health.
“No, I’ll do it on my own. In my own time.”
She reaches over and turns the volume knob on my radio up. I smirk. Sometimes my radio is psychic and plays just the right song. Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield. Gina must not feel the same way, because she switches the channel to an oldies station. I smile. The Lion Sleeps Tonight is on. It’s one of those songs that inspires us to sing at the top of our lungs, even though we have absolutely zero musical talent.
Our mom loved the oldies. We grew up on them. In fact, I didn’t even know the Top 40 songs of my early years until about seventh grade. Before that, it was 50s and 60s music all the way. And the occasional disco tune. I blame my aunt for that. She was a child of the 70s.
I miss my mom. She died my junior year in college and though time has helped with the constant sadness, the holidays still get rough. And Mother’s Day. She’d struggled with cancer for a few years and her time was up when it was up. We don’t begrudge her that. She fought it as much as she could, but in the end, it was too late. It’s one of the reasons I walk in the Atlanta 2-day every year. It’s a fundraiser for breast cancer research in the greater Atlanta area.
“I will see someone, you know. I’m getting tired of this, too.”
Gina’s looking at me, and I can see the years catching up with her. She may only be twenty-six years old, but she looks older than me. Well, at the moment she does, anyway. When she gets ready to go out to the clubs she frequents, she looks amazing. Way better than I ever did. Joie de vivre. That’s her, without a doubt. But now, in the glow of the dashboard lights and street lamps zooming past, she looks haggard.
“I know, kiddo. I know.” I reach over and squeeze her hand.
We relax back into comfortable silence, listening to songs of a bygone era until I pull into the parking garage next to the bar.
“I assumed you didn’t want to go to Aunt Maria’s place this late.”
Gina shuddered. “You assumed right. Do you mind if I crash with you for a couple of days?”
“As long as you call her tomorrow and just let her know. Otherwise, she’ll send a search party.”
We reach the door at the side of the bar and I let us in. There’s no elevator, so we have to trudge up the stairs. It’s always worse after a long day.
“Why don’t you move to a nice, cushy apartment close by?” Gina whines. “Then you’d have an elevator.”
“I like living above the bar. And unless I’m in a high-rise, I’m not going to get an elevator, so just deal with it.”
I unlock the door to my studio and flip on the lights. My answering machine is blinking so I hit play.
“Luce? Lucia? I can’t find Gina. If you hear from her, tell her to call me right away. Any time. I’ll be up until I hear from one of you.”
Gina looks at me, pleading.
“Uh-uh. No way. You call her.” I hold out the phone and she takes it.
Dialing with trembling fingers, she looks back at me once more. I cross my arms and wait.
“Uh, hi Aunt Maria.”