The President’s party arrived back in Washington, DC, in the early evening on Monday. Most everyone on the plane was groggy and a little grumpy on Tuesday. But when Sharon noticed that she was still feeling down and unsettled by Thursday, she knew something else was going on. She just wasn’t sure what
Late that afternoon, June knocked softly at Sharon’s open office door.
“Got a few?” June asked. “I just got a text from Rebecca Cooper about Jodi and Tiffany’s arrival Saturday. It’s almost as if Rebecca’s planning troop maneuvers.”
Sharon smiled weakly. “Oh, dear. I know she’s trying to help, but all this fuss. It’s not going to make things any easier on Jodi. It may even make them worse.”
“But this is Rebecca we’re talking about.” June stopped, noticing Sharon’s listlessness. “Are you okay?’
“I think so,” Sharon said slowly as she scrolled through her email. “I am feeling a little off, but it’s probably just jet lag from the trip. Oh!” She frowned at the email on her screen. “Well, that explains a lot.”
She looked away, sniffed and pressed the back of her fingers to her lips.
“What’s going on?” June asked.
“Um.” Sharon swallowed. “Why I’m so out of it. My mother just emailed me. It’s the two-year anniversary of my sister’s accident. Maman wants me to call Susan, but not get mad at her if she gets snippy. I know it’s worse for Susan, but I guess it’s still getting to me.”
“Come on. Let’s go upstairs,” June said. “I’ll have Solly send up dinner and you can have a good cry on my shoulder.”
“I don’t-” Sharon sighed, then let out a soft, but sad chuckle. “I guess I do.”
She closed the lid to her laptop, stuffed it into her briefcase, and followed June into the hallway.
Up in June’s studio, a large bare room lined with fabric cabinets, a computer station, a drawing easel and even a painter’s easel with a blank canvas on it, June and Sharon flopped onto the couch at one end.
“I forgot about the anniversary last year, too,” Sharon said, not quite crying but not quite not crying, either. “It’s not like I’ll ever forget getting that call.”
She swallowed again and fidgeted with her cuticles.
“What happened?” asked June.
“I was in Shanghai. We were working on an infrastructure project with the local government – Imtech did traffic control and general transportation planning. Mostly urban, but… Anyway, that’s irrelevant. I’d just broken up with my boyfriend, who was also my boss. The relationship wasn’t any big deal, and I’d broken it off with him. We’d just started talking about marriage and it turned out he wanted his wife to stay home and raise kids while he gallivanted all over the place.”
“Charming,” said June.
“He thought so.” Sharon shrugged. “Anyway, I was still a little raw from all that when Maman called. Susan had been hit by a car. At that point, they didn’t know if she’d even live. Or they thought she’d pull through, but didn’t know how bad it was. It was pretty confused. And I was on the other side of the world. It’s damn near a 15-hour flight under the best of circumstances. But the only flight I could get had a four-hour lay-over in Honolulu. It was just hell. The plane had wi-fi, at least, so Maman was able to send me updates. They’d had to put Susan in a coma because there was some brain swelling or something. So I got there in time for her to wake up. And she was pretty lucid, which was actually a bad thing because she couldn’t feel her legs and that’s when they told her she wouldn’t walk again.” Sharon’s tears flowed. “She was devastated. She’d be denying it one minute, then raging, then just blank. That was the worst.”
June gently rubbed Sharon’s back. “That sounds horrible.”
Sharon began drying her tears. “It was. I could only stay for a week or so. Then I had to go back to Shanghai. But that was the beginning of the end for me. I mean, I loved travelling, never staying in any one place for any length of time. But then I realized I didn’t want to be that far away from my family.”
“And yet you live on the other side of the country from them.”
“It’s not that far compared to China or Russia or a lot of other places I worked.” Sharon sniffed. “A five-hour flight, maybe. And it’s a lot easier to book a non-stop at any hour of the day. I might survive living in Belgium, but that’s the absolute furthest away I want to get. Period. I mean, except for short trips. And, yeah, I know something could happen while I was away on a short hop, but still, it just feels better being closer.”
“I get that,” said June, even though she didn’t entirely. “I don’t think I’ve ever spent that much time that far away from Mark or my dad.”
Sharon pulled her mobile phone from her briefcase. “I’d better call Susan.”