“I am. My life here with Evelyn… It’s more than I could have ever dreamed it’d be. What’s there to not be happy about?” I choose a white chocolate dipped pirouette cookie and bite off the end.
“You deserve to have it all,” she says soberly.
“With you and Ev, I already feel like I do.”
“Okay, enough of the sappy. More wine!” Kiersten declares, topping off both of our glasses.
I wash down the cookie I just devoured and set my glass down on the counter.
“Just so you know…” Kiersten starts. I lift my eyes to hers. “When we go out next Friday for New Year’s, you’re going to find someone. I don’t care who, but if you leave that bar without at least a phone number, I’m going to be pissed.”
“Maybe.” I shrug and smile. “But, I refuse to force it.”
“I’ll force it.”
Attempting to keep her calm, I pick up my glass and reply, “Okay, Kiersten.”
“Bye honey. Be good for Lori. I’ll see you on Monday.”
Evelyn rolls her eyes at my endearment but wraps her arms around my waist. “I will, Mom. Have fun with Aunt K and happy early new year.”
I kiss her soft cheek and run my fingers through her auburn hair that now falls below her waist in soft waves. It flies wildly behind her as she jogs down the steps and climbs into the backseat of Lori’s black sedan where Maggie is waving.
“Call me if you need anything at all.”
Lori turns at the sound of my voice from where she also watches our girls. “It’s crazy how much they’ve grown up, isn’t it?” She tucks a short lock of blond hair behind her heavily pierced ear. “I couldn’t believe it at first when Maggie asked to stay in a hotel over break for her birthday. What happened to having a regular sleepover and playing with dolls?”
I laugh. “No kidding. You’re brave for hosting a big co-ed party at a pool. You’ll have to let me know how many dad’s stick around to monitor those boys around their daughters.”
“Something tells me it’s not the boys I have to worry about.” She makes a face of mock horror, and we both chuckle.
“That’s because we were both once fourteen-year-old girls. Once they notice the boys, it’s all over. Teenage drama train full speed ahead.”
She sighs and readjusts the strap of her purse. “I better get going. There’s a snowstorm coming in late tonight, and I know Mags is eager to get there.”
“God speed, woman. I owe you a drink once this is all over.”
“Bye. Have fun tonight.”
“You too.” I watch her climb into the driver’s seat.
Call it a side effect of parenting, but it never gets easier letting Evelyn go away without me. I didn’t have the typical experience of family sleepovers when she was a baby, but I did have to leave her with a sitter over night for my job starting when she was around four. The beginning of those nights were the cruelest form of torture. It took a solid month for me to have some semblance of calm at work, knowing she was at someone else’s house overnight, wondering if she woke up from a bad dream or wanted to crawl into my bed just to snuggle only to find I wasn’t even there.
Would she cry for me?
Would she think I abandoned her?
She’s a teenager now, and I still wonder if she ever misses me while she’s gone, and if she knows she can always come home if she wants. I remind her of it frequently. When she goes to college, I’m going to be a complete mess.
I wave until they’re out of sight, then meander out of the winter chill to get ready.
It’s the night before New Year’s Eve, which means I need to pull out every piece of machinery in my beauty arsenal. This is the one night of the year I go full out. Styled hair, heavy makeup, expensive short dress, pencil-thin heels, and accessories up the wazoo. Drinks will be plentiful, and there’ll be no shortage of entertainment. I’m looking forward to this.
My master bath turns into beauty salon times one hundred. The moss-green countertops are covered in lotions, powders, creams, tubes, bottles, brushes, clips, combs, bobby pins, elastics, sprays, and so on and so forth. A curling wand, straightener, and big barrel curling iron are all plugged in. I’m dressed in only a towel, and having just finished shaving all parts that need to be shaved, I reach for the lotion.
I’m smooth, soft, and exfoliated. Time to get dressed.