He'd done it. He'd gotten away from his family. Now he was alone in a coffee shop at the back corner of this mountain village, far from home. Shuffling snowboard boots against concrete floors mixed with the whistling steam belches rising from the cappuccino maker. Young people in oversized and droopy ski pants wandered through. He was away from his kids' prying eyes. They were always watching him, making sure he hadn't done something to himself or died in a puddle of his own grief. He told them he was alright.
How could he be alright? How could he be anything without the woman he'd lived with for more than 55 years? She'd left him. She'd promised she wouldn't. "She died, Dad," He could hear his daughter's words. "It wasn't like she made the choice."
"It doesn't matter," he'd said. "Leave me alone with my memories."
"We're not going to do that."
When had they become so bossy, he wondered. Pay back for all the times he made them do their homework. He gulped his coffee. A blister was forming at the roof of his mouth. Jesus, why the hell was he drinking this crap so fast?
Some kid in a bright striped green jacket and pants so low on his hips they might fall down and expose more than anyone cares to see, is standing in front of him, snowboard in one hand, a coffee in the other. "Can I sit?" His eyes seem to plead.
He wants to say, "No you can't", but shrugs.
The kid plops himself down. Coffee splatters black beads.
He shuffles over.
The kid wipes the table with this glove. "No biggy."
He rubs the back of his neck. Why?
"You been up?" the kid asks.
"If you're waiting for the rain to ease," the kid says, "you'll be waiting a long time. Let's face it; a bad day on the mountain is better than a good day anywhere else."
You don't know. Any day with her was better.
"A loner. Right?" the kid says. "Me too."
"Then why don't we sit here quietly. Finish our coffees."
The kid chuckles. "My granddad says that."
"So what's your story?" The kid leans towards him, puts his elbows on the table. The pompom on his toque bobs forward.
Great. Another interfering do-gooder. "No story."
"I grew up here," the kid continues. "So lucky."
He takes another sip of coffee. Damn it, he thinks. The heat annoys the blister.
"Well we're all lucky aren't we?"
What the hell does this kid know about luck?
"You got family?"
"See what'd I tell you," the kid says, wide-eyed as if he's discovered the cure to everything wrong in the world. "Family is where it's at. My mom is cooking up a storm tonight and then we're going to cut down our own tree and my grandparents are coming over to help decorate it. I feel like a kid again especially here in Whistler."
"You still are."
"Is your family coming to get you?"
"I hope not."
"Don't you like them?"
"People should live their own lives. Stop interfering in everybody's business."
"Anytime I've been away from home, my Mom wanted me to call her."
He thinks of his dead wife, how she always made the kids call home when they were traveling. "You call me collect," she used to say. "If I don't hear from you, I'll find you. Then you'll be sorry." He chuckles. She could be so maddening.
"Are you laughing at me?" The kid asks.
"Sort of," he says. He taps the kid's hand with his own. "Just kidding." She would be furious with him if she knew what he was doing, the lengths he'd gone to be alone, avoid his own kids, his grandkids, his great grandkids. She'd kill him. He laughs. This time it comes from a place near his belly, a place he'd totally forgotten.
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