"You thought I forgot, didn't you?” Roddy’s eyes sparkled as he grinned at me.
“Yeah. Hell, I forgot… well sort of… I guess it was… still in the back of my mind,” I said awkwardly as I sat down on the couch across from him. The last time I’d seen him he was in a hospital bed and practically at death’s door. But here he was, looking strong as an ox and cancer-free.
“You look good, Roddy. Healthy.”
“I feel good,” he beamed at me, “My new place is cool. Just up the way from your dad.”
“He misses you. Talks about you all the time. You should talk to him.”
“I dunno. It’s been so long. I wouldn’t know what to say.”
“Just say hello, Neecee. Just tell him you’re thinking about him.”
It was funny to hear Roddy use my childhood nickname like that. Something about his voice wrapped around the name just took me back. We talked for a long time. I pulled out my old photo albums and we went through them remembering and laughing. We talked about Malcolm, my husband; and Simon, my son and the namesake of my father. Simon was back in rehab and I didn’t know if he would stay clean this time either. Malcolm’s knee was mending slowly but it would be a while before he was back to work fulltime. My lousy job was our main income. Roddy listened to me vent. He was always good at that.
At one point I heard Malcolm yell up from the basement, “Denise, honey, who you talking to?”
“I’m on the phone, babe!” I hollered back not even flinching in the lie. I mean what was I supposed to say? I couldn’t very well tell him that I was pouring my heart out to my childhood sweetheart. Should I have said that the handsome man who shared all my secrets since kindergarten and from whom I’d gotten my first real kiss was sitting in our living room with me even though he wasn’t supposed to be there? I just don’t think that would have gone over well.
We talked a little more and then a clumsy silence fell over us.
“I’d better be going,” he said.
“Yeah,” I said.
I walked him to the door.
“Neecee?” he turned to look at me one last time, “Don’t worry about things so much, okay? Everything’s going to be alright. I promise.”
“You promise?” I said smiling.
“Hey, I kept this one, didn’t I?” that mischievous grin I knew so well flashed back at me
“Yeah. Yeah, you did.”
And then he was gone.
I picked up the photo album and stared down at a photo of us taken over forty years ago. His arm around my shoulder and mine around his; two ten-year-olds just goofing around. It was taken by my father just days before the accident. I remember after my dad’s funeral, Roddy and I sat on the back steps of my house and he’d put his arm around me as I cried for my father.
“Don’t cry Neecee. You’ll be together again in heaven,” he’d said softly.
“What if there’s no heaven?” I’d sobbed, “What if he’s gone forever? I’ll never see him again.”
“Look I tell you what,” Roddy said, “If I die before you, I’ll go see your dad and then I’ll find a way to come back and see you. That way you’ll know we’re both okay.”
“You promise?” I squeaked, though I hadn’t really thought it was possible, I’d just needed to believe it.