I took the last sip of my apple juice and she raised her hand, signaling the waiter for the bill. The waiter nodded, added a smile, and disappeared behind the counter.
My mother and I were silent, though I’m sure to her it was not uncomfortable.
The waiter reappeared between us and set the bill down before leaning over and slipping the sign that hung in the window from open to closed. The open side faced us now.
I took it as a metaphorical sign too.
“There is something I’ve been meaning to tell you,” I started.
She hummed and picked up her coffee cup, eyes flicking up to meet mine. I took a deep breath.
“I know I’m young,” I continued, “and teenagers don’t always have everything figured out.”
My mother set down the coffee cup. It made a tiny scrapping noise as it touched the saucer. She had tracked the cups descent, not looking at me. I tried not to read into it.
“I have a boyfriend.”
I screwed up my face, trying not to be hurt by the one-word answer. I had no real reason to be worried, not really, but it stung. I waited a beat longer.
When it was evident that she wasn’t talking, I tried to elaborate.
“His name is Jackson. He’s sweet and funny. I like him.”
“Do you love him?”
The question had caught me by surprised. My mother did not often say the word “love.”
“No. I mean, I don’t think so. Not yet.”
She hummed again, in the way that she often did, “If you’re happy, I’m happy. You’re young so keep your heart close. I’m old and jaded-“
“You’re not old.”
She cut back in more forcefully, “I’m OLD and jaded. Just be careful, my son. The world can be cruel.”