Corrina got George’s okay and then left with Maria. They went down the block to an espresso bar that had opened in the last month. Corrina knew that the quality would be lost on Maria – for someone with generally good taste, she had no appreciation for fine coffee at all – but she was in the mood for a well-made cappuccino.
“So you’re really okay going back to work?” Maria said when they sat down.
“I’m really okay. It’s an adjustment, of course, but it’s not a bad adjustment. What’s the alternative, really? I’m not just going to sit in the house. I’ve heard that some people go on long trips after a spouse dies suddenly, but that just feels wrong.”
Maria seemed to consider this for a moment. “I guess you have a point. Everything just has to be feeling a little, I don’t know, tender right now, I would think.”
Corrina sipped her coffee and tried to put what she was experiencing into words. “I feel dislocated. It’s like someone came in the middle of the night and moved me to another country. That’s what it feels like at home, at least. At the bureau, everything is where it has always been. That’s kinda comforting.”
“That makes sense. Any progress with Ryan?”
“He grabbed a twenty-dollar bill out of my hand this morning. We had a millisecond of physical contact and exchanged a couple of sentences. I think we’re closer than we’ve ever been.”
Maria chuckled at Corrina’s sarcasm and warmed her hands over her cup.
Corrina continued. “To be honest, as hard as it is to deal with the suddenness of losing Gardner, I think the thing with Ryan might be worse. He’s a junior in high school. That means we’re going to be under the same roof for two more years. I’m not sure I can take two more years of this. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to how he’s taken to just blowing me off.”
“Maybe things will get better as a little more time passes. It’s gotta be pretty tender for him, too.”
“That’s what I keep telling myself, but it feels like something more than that. I made the huge mistake of mentioning our doing something together for his birthday this morning. He couldn’t have been more dismissive.”
Maria took a moment with her coffee and then said, “That was always a big thing with him and Gardner, right?”
“Huge. Out of proportion to everything else in their relationship, really. It’s so tough to know how to play this. I didn’t want to simply ignore it, though Ryan essentially told me to do exactly that this morning. I also know that if I make too much of a big deal about this, he’s going to feel like I’m trying to buy his affection or replace his father, or any number of other things that could make things worse between us – if that’s even possible.”
“You should keep trying.”
Corrina found the swiftness of Maria’s response surprising. “Do you think so? I have to tell you, that wasn’t where I was going with it. I feel like he’s just going to keep batting me away.”
Maria shrugged. “Maybe he will, but maybe he needs you to do this. Like you said, the two of you are going to be living together for at least the next two years. If you don’t make every effort and things turn out badly, you’re going to wind up blaming yourself.”
Corrina hadn’t considered that. Was this one of those things that she would have understood instinctually if she’d been Ryan’s natural mother?
“You’re right, I guess.”
“I am. And it’s good for you, too.”
That was another thing that Corrina hadn’t considered. Was it important for her to continue to make an effort because doing so was part of her own recovery? So far, it hadn’t felt like much of a recovery at all, but maybe it was like having a really bad headache – you don’t know you are at the end of it until it is over.
Maybe continuing to pursue this would in fact be good for her.