Javi's Cafe, 17.
“Two days till Christmas!” Ema cried as the bell above the café door rang the next morning. She ran to me. “I saw you coming, and had to make sure you knew.”
“You won’t let me forget,” I said, picking her up. “Where’s your mother?”
“On the phone. But in our room. She said for me to come get her if anyone came to buy food.”
“Do you know who she’s talking with?”
“Miss Kate, I think.”
“Your mother is hoping to help Miss Kate. She’s going through a hard time right now.”
“Oh. Did you know tomorrow is Christmas Eve?”
“And if Christmas Eve is the day before Christmas, that makes today Christmas Eve Eve.”
“I guess so,” I said. “Hey Ema, tell me more about your mother.”
She wrinkled her nose and put her head to one side. “Why? You know her.”
“I know, but I want to know her better.”
“I want to help her.”
“She needs help? Like Miss Kate?”
“In a different way. We all need help, Ema. Mr. Jerome has been helping me see that. Even you need help, and I certainly do.”
“What do you want to know about mama?”
“Anything, just talk to me.”
“She’s been dancing a lot,” Ema said. “She thinks I don’t see her at night, but I do. She comes out here with just a little light on. She always seems so sad. Do you know why?”
“I might,” I said. “She has a lot to think about right now.”
“She said something to me yesterday about my grandma.”
“Yes, about something my grandma said to her before.”
“No, but I asked her why she looked so sad afterward and she said she was thinking about grandma. I think she misses her.”
“Maybe,” I said. “But let’s not assume anything. I want you to make sure you give your mother lots of help and hugs right now.”
Ema’s eyes grew wide and she nodded. “I will, Walter. I promise.”
I heard Emily ending the phone conversation. “That’s all for now,” I said.
Emily came out. “Hi, Walter!”
“That was Kate on the phone. She’s going to bring some paintings by after Christmas.”
“I’m so glad!”
“I just hope people will buy them at the soiree, or even before.”
“Me, too. It’s too bad starving artists can’t support other starving artists.”
Emily laughed. “We can help each other, though,” she said. “Life is a lot more than money, but I sure wish we had a little more of that around here.”
“We’ll keep this place afloat,” I said. “This starving artist is doing what he can to bring more people in.”
My phone rang.
“Hi Walter, it’s Jerome. They’re releasing me from the hospital today, but I need someone to come home with me and stay the night. Would you do that?”
“Of course! When should I be there?”
“Around five should be good.”
“Alright. See you then.”
“That was Jerome,” I said as I hung up. “He’s being released today.”
“Oh, good! I’ve been so worried about him.”
“He’s definitely improved, but it sounds like they want someone to stay with him for a bit just in case, so I’ll be there tonight.”
Emily nodded. “Want something hot?”
“Yes, please! An omelet and a cup of Earl Grey sound just right,” I said.
“Coming right up!”
I watched Emily work and previous conversations replayed in my mind. Most of the words just passed through and didn’t register, but one line from the last time Clara came kept coming again and again: I don’t think God would have been happy if I did what they said about Ema.
She had said that when we were talking about God. I had forgotten to ask Jerome about how to respond, but felt that doing so might be the key to Emily and her parents. I took a deep breath.
God, I prayed. I’m only guessing this is what I do. I know I can talk to you – I could before but I think I really am now that I want to know you, and I don’t really understand it all yet but I know what Jesus did has something to do with my being able to – because I can’t really talk to someone when our relationship is broken, and He fixed it for us. Healed it. Anyway, we need your help. How do I help Emily right now?
There was no lightbulb moment, so I kept thinking. And then it hit me. Emily saw reconciliation with her parents as admitting she should have aborted Ema. There may have still been some pride involved, but perhaps the bigger issue was that she felt like she couldn’t go back to them unless they changed their view on Ema first.
“One omelet and one cup of Earl Grey,” Emily said, setting a plate and mug on my table.
“Thank you.” My eyes followed her as she walked back to the counter. I shook my head. I’ve been going about this all wrong, and probably just made her resolve to not go back to her parents worse by making her feel that she was doing something wrong.
Emily, Emily, you are completely right about Ema!
I wanted to run to her and say that that moment, but held back. I’ve put my foot in my mouth too many times. I need to be sure of what I’m doing this time. Rushing in to get it done faster doesn’t help her.
But I knew I could still help her in other ways, so I busied myself doing whatever she needed me to do until the time came to go get Jerome.
“Emily, the counter is clean. I’m going to the hospital now.”
She and Ema came with me to the door, Emily with a bag of fresh scones in her hand.
“Give these to Jerome. And don’t you eat them.”
Ema hugged me. “That’s for Mr. Jerome.”
“I’ll be sure to pass it on,” I said, stepping outside.
“Tell him –” Emily stopped talking and stared at the darkening sky. A few bright stars popped out here and there, but the full moon was center-stage, rimmed with a deep, chilly blue. “Wow.”
“It’s so pretty,” Ema said.
I looked at Emily, who was standing motionless.
“The full moon reminds me of goodbyes. It looked like that the night…” She stopped again, then took Ema by the hand and went back inside.
Thank you for her memories, God. Let them heal her and bring her hope.