1. a slightly disreputable barroom.

Elsa slowed the Subaru to stop, at the tap of her mother’s cane on her arm. She bent forward slightly, peering through the bug-splattered windshield into the night at what looked like an old shanty in a desolate town.

“Mom… what are we doing here” she asked, fear overtaking the disapproval that had tempered their spontaneous road trip from Canada.

The click of the unlatched seat belt drew her eyes to her mother.

“Mom,” Elsa screamed. “You can’t be serious! You’re not going in that place, if–”

The loud crack of her mother’s cane against the dashboard stopped the flow of words. Tears stung Elsa’s blue eyes. Even after the stroke, her mother’s temperament
was still the same. The quiet, devout woman with big, deep brown eyes was as stubborn as they came and could always end the conversation.

Elsa’s mother opened the door and shifted her weight onto her good leg, as Elsa came scrambling around the car to help her.

“Mom,” Elsa said gingerly, “I know you know what you’re doing; I’m just concerned for your safety…”

Elsa Carmichael bore the weight of her mother, making up for the 67 year old’s weakness from the damage done to the left side of her body.

As they struggled up the stairs, Elsa felt desperate. What if they were attacked once inside? She clung tightly to the pepper spray dangling from a keychain. Maybe she could carry her mother out with enough adrenaline pumping through her veins.

It wasn’t until her mother stopped abruptly that Elsa realized she wasn’t going to accompany her inside. She tried to think of something to persuade her, but one look in those clear eyes and Elsa knew to stay put.

She wanted to cry, but she was 50 and that wouldn’t help. She felt panic grip her.

Somehow it was like she was 7 all over again, waiting outside the principal’s office while her mother made a plea for Elsa to attend the best predatory school in the province, even though they couldn’t afford it. The principal had exited the office smiling, followed by her mother. Elsa was enrolled that day.

Her mother had always been strong, organized, methodical, level-headed. This three-day road trip was unlike her. This place was unlike her. But she’d scrawled the address on a sheet of paper and staged a two-day hunger strike to make the trip happen.

“Oh, God, help us…” Elsa whispered, as her mother stepped through the doors and into the smoke-filled groggery.

As usual, smoke filled the entreat room, but in the corner, just like always, sat a familiar figure. And despite the noise, she heard him say her name. As he rose and moved slowly toward her, more from age then hesitation, the past overtook her and it was like she was a teenager again.

“Abigail Carmichael, you said you’d never set foot in this town again until the day you died,” Brandon Sweeney said, with a light laugh.

Abigail looked up into her daughter’s blue eyes.

“I did…” she said, slowly, “a thousand times…”

Without additional words, the day the both knew would come welcomed them as they exited Sweeney’s Pub to set wrong things right.


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