Mom is radiant at the breakfast table of the large farmhouse. “Slept good?” she asks, holding out a basket of hot sandwiches.
“Delicious,” I lie. Titia was in the room with Boy and me and woke us up around two o’clock, after that I lay worrying about Tom until dawn. He is disappointed that we haven’t seen each other for a week and now he wants to go out for a night together. “That making love in an alley is not really possible,” he texted. “We’re not teenagers anymore, are we?” I haven’t answered yet because I don’t know what I want. I miss him too, very much even, but I know we can’t see each other anymore because I have to choose my family. On the other hand, I think: maybe it’s good to spend a night together, then we can banish the sexual tension for good. As I go through the pros and cons for the umpteenth time, I eat a croissant with strawberry jam with long teeth. Mom sees it and looks at me with concern. “Are you okay, sweetie?”
“Fine, yes.” I quickly put on my happy face.
But in the afternoon, when we are at the petting zoo, she starts talking about it again. By then I’m so tired of Titia’s whining, Willeke’s angry looks, the lack of sleep and the long walk we took in the morning that I start to cry. She wraps her arms around me and strokes my back. Until Titia pulls my pants. “Mom three?” she asks in her sweet voice.
I lift her up. “Moms are sometimes sad too.” Then I grab her under the armpits and twist her around until she screams with laughter.
Around five o’clock, Engelien and I have a glass of wine and start preparing dinner. Spaghetti with two sauces: one vegetarian and one with meat. While cutting vegetables, we talk about her new job. Engelien is now doing something at a policy level for a health organization, and her biggest problem is the staff shortage. She is afraid that the organization will come to a screeching halt in a few years. Then we talk about salaries and politics, and then she starts talking about Wils. “How quiet she is, it seems as if she is not feeling well. Is she having problems at school?”
“I think things are going well, otherwise I would have heard.”
I myself hear that I sound like a worthless mother, which is why I tell her that she is heartbroken. “She thought her babysitter’s father had a crush on her. Then she sent that man a letter asking if he wants to continue with her when she is an adult.”
Engelien looks at me with wide eyes. “Oh, that poor girl. I remember once being madly in love with my French teacher. I dreamed that he would show me all the beautiful places in Paris. It later turned out that he had a relationship with a girl from VWO-6. It was quite the wrong guy.”
I nod. “I also think that about Willem. She’s not stupid and he probably loved getting so much attention from a pretty young girl. At that age they still hang on your every word!”
“We really don’t do that anymore!” she laughs. “On the other hand, those teenage girls get all kinds of things into their heads.”
Somewhere a glass falls on the floor. When we look up we see Wils looking at us furiously. “Mom! Why are you talking about me to Engelien? I hate you!”
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