March 1, 2010
Cheese sauce bubbled in the fondue pot in the middle of the table. Audrey, Carl and Evan dipped bread and vegetable chunks on long fondue forks. They’d been working at it for a while. Evan swirled his around and carefully lifted out the steaming hot morsel. He blew on it, then popped it in his mouth.
“This is good, mom,” he said. “How come we never have it?”
“I don’t know, I forget about it,” Audrey said. She sipped a glass of bronze-colored ale. “I guess I associate it with skiing.”
“I hope you start associating it with this stuff,” Carl said, picking up a bottle of Belgian lambic. It was twice the size of his usual Oregon microbrew. He’d poured some into a glass for Audrey.
“So what’s the occasion?” Evan asked.
Audrey put down her fork. She reached over and grabbed Evan in a bear hug.
“I want you to know I appreciate you. And love you.”
“Gosh, mom, thanks. I love you too.”
Audrey sat down, took a mouthful of ale, then shivered as the inside of her cheeks reacted to the tartness. “You should try this when you’re older. It’s very… sour. Smoky, almost. It’s not a beginner beer.”
“Mom, are you all right?”
Audrey’s words stuck in her throat.
“Your mother saw Joe at the beach,” Carl said.
Audrey found her voice. “What do you mean, ‘Joe who’? Joe, your brother!”
“Oh. So, I guess you’re happy about that. I’m happy too. I’m definitely happy… about that.”
“You know something,” she said.
“Have you been talking to him?”
Audrey sucked in her breath. “And you didn’t say anything!”
Evan’s eyes darted back and forth between his parents. “He didn’t want me to.”
“Whoa, whoa,” Carl said. “Evan, it’s fine. Don’t worry. Why don’t you… you know.”
Evan swished some bread cubes all at once for a to-go plate, then left the immediate area. Audrey and Carl dipped and sipped in silence.
“Do you remember the first time we had fondue?” Audrey asked.
“I sure do. Mt. Bachelor.”
“It was Timberline Lodge.”
“Timberline. That’s what I said.”
“What you said was, if we have kids, once they hit eighteen, you don’t want them to hang around the house anymore.”
“In general, dear. They can hang around on weekends.”
“Well, they don’t.”
Audrey looked out the window at the full moon rising beyond the trees. Todd had joined the Air Force after a year of community college; presumably he was hanging around Japan. Joe had dropped out of Oregon State last year, so Carl had invoked the no-loitering policy and they hadn’t seen him since. Evan still lived at home, but Audrey could feel him slipping away.
She unplugged the fondue pot.
“I want my kids back.”
©2010 Pam Wells