She doesn’t say a word.
“In his bed. It’s just . . . Okay, I know this is going to sound insane, but there’s just something inside me that makes me have to be near him. I never imagined I would miss him this much, and being in his space, his bed, surrounded by his things . . . It just makes this emptiness I constantly feel a little easier to bear.”
“Oh, sweetheart.” Her eyes start to water, and I know it’s only seconds before she turns on the waterworks.
“Please don’t get upset. I really am okay. It’s just been a little of an adjustment. I haven’t been sleeping well, and it just all caught up on me this last month, but when I’m in his bed, I sleep like the dead. I swear it makes no sense. We had just come together and decided to take a try at a relationship. Our time was so limited before he left that it might as well have just been seconds. How is it possible to miss him so much?”
She doesn’t waste a second. My chin starts to wobble a little, so she is instantly on my side of the booth and pulling me close to her.
“You know about when your father left for his tour? I was a mess, Dani. Not just because of everything that happened after—losing my parents, our first child—even though those were enough to send me over the edge into the deep end. I was a mess because I didn’t have the one person who gives my heart a reason to beat. Don’t for one second downplay that feeling or its significance. Let me ask you this. If you think that you’re having a hard time without him, how do you think he’s handling everything? Do you think it would do him any favors to know that you’re suffering when he isn’t here?”
“No, Mom, I don’t think it would.” And honestly, it wouldn’t. If he knew how upset I was about his being gone—knowing that was one of the major reasons he didn’t want to start this between us—then it would do nothing but cause a distraction. “Of course he doesn’t know that, though, and doesn’t have a way of knowing how I’m doing.”
“My silly little girl. I’m sure you don’t realize this because this is really the first time you’ve loved someone with so much power behind it. When your other half is in pain, you always know.”
“How am I supposed to just not miss him?” I ask.
“You aren’t supposed to stop missing him, Dani. But you can’t let that desire to have him near take over your life. You’re pushing away your friends, you aren’t coming to family dinners, and hell, you haven’t even talked to your father in a few days. Something that I promise you he hasn’t missed. You have to keep living your life, but living it in a way that you have that knowledge that he’s coming home to you and this separation isn’t forever. I lived twelve years thinking that I wouldn’t ever see your father’s face, Danielle. I know pain, and I know what it feels like when you feel like you have no hope left. These feelings you have aren’t even close. You and Cohen, darling girl . . . You two have been fated from the beginning, and there isn’t a damn thing that could take that away from you.”
“What does that mean? We’ve been fated from the beginning?”
She takes a deep, shuddering breath and lets it out on a whoosh. “Let me tell you a little story. One that I hoped I never had to tell you, but one I think will help you understand why I am certain this thing between you and Cohen is much bigger than you even understand.”
She takes the next thirty minutes to tell me all about her first marriage, one I knew she had but never ever knew the terrible details. Daddy doesn’t like to talk about him, her first husband, and now that I know the hell my mother lived through during those years, I completely understand.
“You see, when I finally left my ex, I really didn’t think I had hope left, Dani. I had Dee in my life, and she probably would have been my savior for the rest of my days, but I still felt empty. Then, when we moved here, to Hope Town, that was when Greg came into our lives. He had known Dee for a while, and as you know, he served with your daddy. I always used to ask myself why God was so cruel to make me spend all of those years without your father, to take our first child away, and bring all of that pain. It wasn’t until years and years later, when I was sitting on the back porch during one of our family parties, that I realized what the big picture was. And let me tell you, I would have lived through all of that again if it would end in the same outcome.”
“I don’t understand,” I tell her.
“Let me finish, sweetheart.” She shifts in her seat and pulls something from her jacket pocket. “I took this that day. The sun was so beautiful that I just had to get a good shot of it. It was bouncing off the lake and outlining the dock and the trees around it, God, it was stunning. Here,” she says and holds something out to me.