The front door opened, and Tom extended his hand.
“I brought rosé. Seems to go with everything.”
“Fair enough. I’ve got the grill warming up, and your sister is just finishing her salad. Come on in.” He used our handshake to pull me into the house.
I walked down the hallway, and Monica wiped her hands on a towel. She ran around the island and gave me a hug. “So how’s the new town dentist?”
“Ugh. Old Doctor Thorp’s records are such a mess I’m surprised the dental board wasn’t all over him. If I don’t get them sorted out, they’ll be all over me.”
“Here. Let me take that. I’ll put it in the refrigerator to chill for a bit. Tom will need a minute before the steaks go on.” She put the wine away and carried her salad to the table. “So… Have you been to see Mom since you moved back?”
“Not yet. There’s just so much to do with the new business. Besides, I don’t like those places. They’re like a holding pen for death.”
“I don’t like them either, but she’s your mother.”
“I have to go in Saturday and work on those files. I’ll knock off at noon and swing by. How bad is she?”
“Kind of catatonic most of the time, but she has her moments. Might be good for her to see you.”
Tom stuck his head inside. “Ten more minutes you two.”
Monica got up and set the table.
“The old house seems smaller now to me. Maybe it’s because I’ve been gone so long.”
“Same old house. You’ve just been living in the city for a while, and expect more.”
“That’s not it. Even my old room seems smaller. I haven’t been sleeping well either.”
Tom brought in the platter of thick ribeyes.
“You get instant potatoes tonight. I didn’t have time to bake some. Hope that’s alright.”
“Not a problem, Sis.”
Tom opened the wine and sat down with three glasses. “So what’s the topic?”
“Mom,” we said in unison.
“She got pretty bad at the end. Spent most of her time on the back porch, just staring into the forest. Neighbors said they saw her out there at two o’clock some nights. Like she was sitting with an old friend.”
“Never mind that,” Monica said. “Older people often keep irregular hours.”
“Just her and old Rusty,” I said. “Wish she had him with her now. Might help.”
“Might,” Monica said. She dished up our plates and tried the wine, pronouncing it wonderful.
“He isn’t handling it well either. I hear him whining on that back porch at nights. I’ve tried leaving food out, but he never eats it. Won’t come in the house. When I go outside, I see him slinking into the forest. If I could, I’d leash him up and take him to see her.”
“You must be mistaken,” Monica said.
“I think I’d recognize old Rusty.”
Tom put a hand over my wrist. “I buried old Rusty in that forest two years ago. That was about the time your mom started slipping away.”
Some places the veil is thin. Two old companions can comfort each other between our world and the next. One waiting patiently for the other to cross over. The other one ticking away the hours until they can be together once more.