“Something’s not right.” Jane Summers flinched as the sound of her mother’s observation rose from the speaker of the telephone receiver that she held up to her right ear. They had barely begun their conversation, and Jane had yet to mention anything about her life since the morning she’d heard Mozart coming from her kitchen table.
Jane Summers regained her composure. “It’s — been a weird week, Mom.” She listened intently for some guiding question, oh dear whatever do you mean by that, but for several seconds all she heard was the static from their connection. The flavor of their conversations was rarely spiced with such meaningful pauses.
“It’s the static.” Of course, Jane thought, and let her mother continue. “You don’t get static on a cell. If we had a bad connection you’d be breaking up, but there wouldn’t be — ” Jane, unsure of how to respond, let this second pause continue. “Are you on your land line?”
“Yes.” Jane hadn’t been sure why she’d decided not to use her smart phone to call her mother. She knew from browsing its call history (Wings had shown her how to do that just last night) that she — or at least the she that belonged to this world — had used her smart phone to call her mother every week. But that evening, when she’d decided that for better or worse she had to have this conversation, she had instinctively reached for her old familiar gray phone, hanging on the wall next to her refrigerator. She twirled its curly cord in her fingers, playfully. “I’m calling from the kitchen.”
“Is Brad there?” Jane was now annoyed — she’s changing the subject to Brad?
“No, Brad isn’t here.” Jane felt relieved — it was one of few sentences she had uttered lately that didn’t need further explanation, wasn’t filled with evasion, or couldn’t sound insane.
“Brad called me the other day.” Jane nearly dropped the receiver — as far as she knew, Brad had never called her mother, had only met her a few times. How did he — and then she remembered him looking through the contact list on her phone just before the concert Friday. “He says he’s worried about you.”
Jane almost asked if he had told her mother anything about his proposal, and her evasive non-answer, then realized there was no need. She would have called immediately after hearing about a proposal.
“You still there?” The sound of her mother’s voice made Jane realize she hadn’t spoken for several seconds.
“Sorry. Look, Mom — I’ve got something really weird to tell you.”
“Oh?” Her mother’s voice sounded almost playful.
“No, really, I mean weird, like you’re going to think I’m crazy or something.”
Her mother sighed heavily, its sound reaching Jane’s ear with an almost physical impact. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned from being a parent, it’s patience. Go on, dear — tell me what’s going on, and I promise not to laugh at you.”
“Laugh — ” Her mother’s sarcasm was the catalyst that finally gave her the determination she needed to continue. “All right then — here goes.”