Roy DeSoto rushed in the front door of his suburban home and nearly tripped over Joanne’s suite case. He’d managed to get home thirty minutes early after her urgent call to the station an hour ago. He stepped around the luggage and pulled his wife into a comforting embrace.
"Have you heard any news?" he asked.
"She’s in surgery. It’s definitely a broken hip." Joanne didn’t lift her head from Roy’s shoulder to answer. She needed the comfort.
"Your mother’s a strong woman, honey," Roy said. His lips brushed her cheek.
"I know." Joanne stepped back, reluctantly leaving Roy’s embrace. "She’s going to be down for a while, you know. This is major surgery." Her voice wavered slightly.
"I know it is." Roy studied his shoes and the carpet between them. "You take all the time you need. We’ll be okay here on our own."
Joanne exhaled an audible puff. "There’s no one else that can help her right now."
Stepping close, Roy took her hands in his. "I know, Jo. I didn’t say that to make you feel guilty." He shrugged his shoulders. "I meant to reassure you." And me, he thought.
Joanne nodded, not trusting her voice. She stepped into her husband’s warm embrace again, committing his essence to memory for the upcoming weeks.
Roy inhaled his wife’s sweetness deeply as he held her close. She’d visited her mother before, alone. It was the best way for all involved. Roy suppressed a shudder. He shouldn’t think ill of anyone injured, not even his mother-in-law. But he couldn’t help it.
"Don’t let her run you ragged, Jo." Roy whispered in her ear and held her a little tighter, a protective gesture.
"Roy. She’s hurt."
"I mean it, Jo." Pushing down the anger that wanted to well up, Roy relaxed his grip slightly. "Call me every day. Please."
"Of course," she answered softly into his shirt. She knew she would need his strength. Even though her mother needed help, Joanne knew it wouldn’t be easy. She may have to call Roy more than once a day.
Roy tucked Joanne’s bags in his Porsche. He didn’t like giving it up – not even to his wife. But he would be Mr. Mom for a while and that included the station wagon. He shoved his hands in his pockets and looked at the behemoth with faux wood grain stretched across the side. He had to hold back the shudder again.
"Well, I guess I’m ready," Joanne said.
"Drive careful." Roy gave her a brief ‘public’ embrace and peck on the cheek. She had a bright yellow scarf over her hair and tied below her chin. Her large, white framed sun glasses completed her convertible driver look.
"Don’t worry, dear," Joanne said flatly. "I won’t hurt your baby."
Roy flushed, but recovered when Jo followed with a kiss on his cheek.
"Love you," she whispered. Her arm trailed down his, briefly clasping hands.
Roy’s throat constricted, making his "Love you" a hoarse whisper. He’d desperately wanted to take their earlier ‘private’ embrace and kisses upstairs to the bedroom. But he didn’t want to delay her, make her feel that she was late and had to rush. He wanted her back soon and in one piece – his car, too.
Watching his wife drive away made Roy’s chest feel funny, like his heart wanted to leap out and race after her. His stomach flopped as she turned the corner much faster than he would have. He resisted the urge to chase her down in the station wagon and get his car back. Sitting on the concrete steps to his stoop, he stared at the faded blue and brown hulk. He couldn’t cart the kids around in his car. The station wagon was practical. When he got his baby back then what – trade for Johnny’s Rover again? Would he want Johnny cruising for chicks any more than Joanne speeding around corners in it? No.
Standing, he looked over the luggage rack of the station wagon, staring down the street where Joanne had disappeared. He tried not to think of black tire marks on the corner and realized that he missed her terribly already.