It's been a long day. She's tired; too tired to cry. She'd be tired even if she hadn't just buried her mother.
She's sitting blessedly alone in the living room when movement catches her eye: she turns and sees her little brother hovering in the doorway. They don't really know each other that well—she was already a teenager when he was born, and he was still only a little kid when she left for college. He's still a little kid, really, though she feels like she's been watching him grow up since she came back to help take care of Mom these past few weeks; growing up too fast, like he's living out time-lapse photography of his childhood.
"Hey, Clyde." She pats the cushion next to her and he comes over to sit beside her without a word. She doesn't know if this kind of quiet is normal for him. She wants to ask how he's doing but if it's been for him like it's been for her, he's probably been asked that question more times today than he can count, and he won't have a better answer for her than he's had for anyone else. So she tilts her head to catch his eye and says, indicating her belly, "Want to touch it?"
His mouth does something that isn't quite a smile, but he does nod. So she puts her hand under her shirt to feel for the best spot, then reaches for him. "Here, c'mere," she says as her fingers curl around his. She puts his hand right over where the baby is kicking. His eyes get all huge and he does smile then, looking up at her
"Did you touch me like this when I was inside Mom?" he asks.
She wasn't expecting that. She has to fight down the lump that forms in her throat before she can say, "Yep."
He looks at his hand on her belly. "Were you excited I was coming?"
It would be so easy to lie, and nicer, too, but that's not the way she was raised—nor, she assumes, was he. "Not really. I was kind of into my own thing back then." She looks down at his hand, still resting on her. "I didn't think I was going to care about having a little brother," she tells him, "until the first time you smiled at me." His hand moves under hers, not pulling away, and she looks up to meet his gaze. "Everyone told me it was gas, but I knew you were smiling at me—and it was a great smile." He smiles more now, and she does, too.
"I met some of your friends today," she says, to keep the conversation going when he moves his hand away and drops it into his own lap. "A super cute blonde girl..." She can't remember the girl's name, but Clyde supplies it readily:
"Yeah, that was her." When he glances away, she adds, "Is she your girlfriend?"
He shrugs, head canting to the side, but she can see he's still smiling. "Well, she was very nice. And there were two boys—" She digs around for their names and hazards, "Token and...Greg? Craig?"
"Craig," he confirms, looking at her again. His smile has turned rueful. "Sorry."
"What are you sorry for?"
"Didn't Craig flip you off?"
She feels her eyebrow climbing upward. "No."
"Oh! Well," his brow furrows in thought, "I guess he must've liked you or something."
"Well, I liked him, too." Then, feeling sudden inspiration, she says, "Do you think you might want to come visit us for a couple of weeks this summer, after the baby is born? Maybe your friends could come for a few days, too."
"Yeah, that would be so cool!" Then the crinkle reappears on his brow. "What about Dad, though? Won't he want to see the baby?"
She hesitates; her idea was to give their dad a break by taking Clyde off his hands for a little while, but she doesn't want to tell him that. Instead she says, still the truth, "I thought it would be fun to spend some time with you. Then maybe Dad can come out, too." Because of course she wants her father to see his granddaughter. "What do you think? You want to do that?"
"Yeah." He nods for emphasis. "I can help take care of the baby—and I can cook for you!"
He nods again. "Yeah, 'cause Mom made a recipe book for me, and she put post-its on the pages with the ones that I'm old enough to do by myself already, so I can practice those before I come visit. I might need some help with some of the other ones, though."
"I can help you," she says, thinking of the pictures her parents have sent over the years of Clyde working in the kitchen with Mom; imagining herself working with him, and one day with her own daughter.
"You like to cook, too?"
It's her turn to nod before she confides with a grin, "I'm not as good as Mom, though."
"No one's as good as Mom," he says.
They fall quiet.
It's not awkward, though. She doesn't feel the need to fill it, and apparently neither does Clyde. It's the first time they've ever sat quietly together, as far as she can remember, and she likes it. Not the root cause, of course, but if that had to happen—and it did—well, she could do way worse than sitting here like this with her little brother.
"You'll have to take care of Dad now," she says some time later. Clyde looks at her, all serious, and nods. "You know what that means?"
He nods again. "It means I have to grow up now and be strong."
The lump is back in her throat. He doesn't duck away when she ruffles his hair. "It also means you have to let him take care of you sometimes, too." She isn't sure if it makes sense to him but when she says, "Do you know what I mean?", he looks her in the eye and nods, and she knows he does because Clyde has always been a question-asker when he doesn't understand.
"It means he's still my dad, right?"
She thinks that's as good an explanation as any, so she smiles and says, "Right."
She doesn't know how long he's been standing there listening to them, how much he's heard, but when she notices Dad in the doorway, he's smiling, too. He holds her gaze for a moment and then turns to Clyde before coming in wordlessly and sitting on the floor.
That's how he sits when he's in the mood to listen to music, she remembers. Clyde knows it, too, because he gets up and goes over to the records, and no one has to tell him which one to put on the old turntable. He drops the needle and there are a couple of crackles before Louis Armstrong envelops them:
"I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world..."