The Pocket Watch(3)

By: Ceci Giltenan



“I’m certain ye would and as I said, I have nothing but time.”

Maggie launched into the story about loving Elliott forever and their plans for college until she reached the point where she was accepted at Georgetown.

“So, lass, it sounds like everything was heading just the direction ye wanted it to. What happened?”

“The spring before I graduated from high school, my mother became ill. She had advanced ovarian cancer and had to start treatments.”

“Och, sweetling, I am so sorry. That must have been hard on the whole family.”

Maggie nodded. “It was. I tried to do everything I could to help. I cooked and did the laundry. I made sure my little sister Paige was staying on top of her school work. I drove her to school and to her activities.”

“That is a lot of responsibility for a girl of, what, seventeen?”

“Eighteen.”

“Where was yer da?”

Maggie sighed heavily. “My dad is…well he’s brilliant. He’s a theoretical physicist and a professor in the physics department at Princeton University. But he has never been good at handling a crisis, or for that matter even the mildly unexpected. He immediately slipped into a state of denial, burying himself in his work.”

“So he allowed his child to manage things?” The old woman looked askance. “Did ye have no help? Other family members? Friends?”

“I don’t have any other family, but Elliott was my salvation. He came home every other weekend and did whatever he could. His mother helped a lot too. She’d make us dinner and drive Mom to appointments when I was at school.”

The old woman nodded approvingly.

“But by May, Mom’s condition worsened. The treatments were hard on her. She had to be hospitalized several times because of infections and to make matters worse, she wasn’t responding to the chemo.”

“Ah, poor lass. I expect I know what happened next. Ye decided not to go away to university.”

Maggie nodded. “I postponed it for a while. I knew I wasn’t going to have much time left with her.”

“And yer dream of being a nurse?”

“I enrolled at the local community college. I only took a few courses that fall. I didn’t want to over extend myself with my mom so ill.”

“And yer young man? Did he still come home to help ye?”

“Some, but not as much. He said his course load was heavier and I’m sure it was.”

The old woman’s eyes narrowed. “I suppose.”

“He came home at Christmas of course and was still here when my mother passed away that January. Paige was distraught. Dad was…was…adrift. I couldn’t have gotten through it without Elliott. I guess I was so caught up in my own grief I didn’t notice the change in him.”

“I’m so sorry, lass.”

Maggie nodded again, swallowing against the lump rising in her throat. She had cried enough for one day. When she regained her control she continued. “With mom gone, I poured myself into school. It was a welcome distraction. I guess in that I was a bit like my dad.”

“And Elliott?”

“He came home at spring break. I had the vague sense that something was amiss but I didn’t try to figure it out. When summer came, Elliott finally told me he had fallen in love with someone else and had been dating her since the fall.”

The old woman’s brows drew together and she pursed her lips in obvious disapproval.

Maggie gave her a wry smile. “I know, right? He hadn’t wanted to tell me when things were so bad with Mom.” She shook her head, “He said, ‘Mags, you know I’ll always love you, it’s just different with Amanda. But you’ll always be my best friend.’”

“Och, lass…”

Maggie shrugged, “I didn’t understand how he could believe that. I still don’t.”

“Sweetling, it was the way he kept himself from feeling like the total arse he was.”

Maggie smiled at the old woman. “No one has ever said that. I have heard everything from, ‘high school crushes seldom last’ to ‘well it’s good you can stay friends.’”

“Bah—ye’ve been talking to the wrong people. I expect yer mama would have called an arse an arse.”

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