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Home for the New Year Chapter Eighteen

Grace Mullins fumbled with the edge of a lace doily she used as a coaster. “I have nothing to wear.” The back and forth exhausted Dirk. He refused to return to the Civic Center without his mother. She was just as persistent with her excuses.


Dirk leaned forward, sitting on the edge of the age-worn recliner across from her. “Mom, nobody cares what you look like. They want your company.”


“That’s easy for you to say.” She kept her green eyes trained on the edge of the wooden side table. “You’re looking like someone from the Country Music Awards.”


“Because I want to get married someday.” Dirk pressed on his thigh to remind himself to keep his cool. He sneaked a glance at the old coo-coo clock on the wall. They’d already been at it for five minutes. Time arguing with his mother was less time he had with Liz. “Please, mom, go put on that red and white top you wear. Or the one with flowers.”


“What makes you think I don’t want to get married, too.” Grace crossed her arms in front of her chest. Her strong will compensated for her diminutive stature. Dirk imagined it was the source of his tenacity. Like his mother, once he set his mind to something, it took a lot to pull him away.


“How about this,” Dirk rubbed his hands down his slacks. “Get dressed, and we can talk about this guy you’re trying to impress. Then I can check him out to see if he’s good enough for you.”


“Don’t you dare.” Dirk’s distraction worked. His mother no longer cared about her outfit.


Dirk raised his left brow to emphasize his challenge. “It must be more serious than you’re letting on if you have to be picky about your clothes.”


His mother hopped out of her chair and rushed down the hall to her bedroom. She called out behind her. “Promise me. This won’t be like the time I chaperoned the ninth grade class trip.”


Dirk’s hearty laugh followed after his mother. This time he won the battle of wills. If he kept score it would have been something like, Dirk 15 vs Mom 200,000.

He called out to reassure her there would be no retaliation for her ruining his adolescent love life. “I forgot all about that.” For an end of the year trip, his class planned a hike at Glacier National Park. His mother, unaware of Dirk’s interest in one of his classmates, buddied up with the girl. By the end of the hike, the girl was too tired to talk to Dirk. He, in turn, grumbled all summer about how his mother had stolen his opportunity to impress the girl.


Things changed since then. The girl wound up pregnant her sophomore year and moved to Billings to live with the baby’s father. Dirk graduated high school and moved on to working at the nearby ranches. His mother morphed into his companion, and it became common knowledge that Dirk accompanied his mother to all the town social events.


While Dirk listened to the stirrings of his mother preparing for the evening, he wondered about his mother remarrying. Had she picked up with a guy in the weeks when Dirk was gone?


“Nah,” he brushed aside the question. Mary and Diane wouldn’t have said anything about Dirk taking his mom to date night if it were a possibility.


He sauntered to the kitchen to get a glass of water while he was waiting. When he opened it, Dirk grinned. His mother always made sure the bottom shelf had a six-pack of beer. Alongside the beer, she stored a Tupperware container full of egg salad. When Dirk worked on the ranch, he liked to have a beer and use the egg salad as a dip with crackers or chips. If they didn’t have anything to dig it out, he’d eat it with a spoon. Dirk made a note to eat it for breakfast. Otherwise, his mother would be disappointed. Before Dirk had time to reach for the pitcher, his mother was in the kitchen. “What are we waiting for?”


Grace had the front of her hair smoothed down with a pin that had a pink flower on it. The pin matched the dress that landed slightly above her shins.


“I thought you didn’t have anything to wear?” Dirk returned the pitcher to the shelf and closed the door.


“I was saving this for church. But I guess this is as good a time as any to wear it.”


Dirk sniffed the air and caught a whiff of her perfume. He couldn’t identify it, but if asked, he would have had to say it smelled like pink flowers. “Are you wearing lipstick?” He had never seen his mother wear makeup.


“Women do that, you know,” she sassed. “We like to look nice every once in a while.”
The change in his mother was almost a little more than Dirk could take. In the three weeks he’d been gone, she picked up habits he had seen in other women, but not his mother. Grace didn’t give Dirk time to comment. “Let’s get a move on. I don’t want to miss out on the steak sandwiches.”


Again, Grace was one step ahead of Dirk. She pressed on the top on the handle and pulled the door open. “I knew it was a matter of time before things between you and Liz fizzled.” With that being her parting words, she pulled her coat off the rack and dashed through the door.

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