Sun God Seeks...surrogate?(9)

By: Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

He reached out and swept the hair from my forehead. “That doesn’t matter. But it is important you listen to me.” His deep voice washed over me like a calming tropical wave.

I was about to say something. It was…

I’d already forgotten.

His hand cupped my cheek, and when he stared into my eyes, the expression on his divinely handsome face was unreadable. Warmth. Suspicion. Acceptance and determination.

Me sooo confused. I sighed inwardly while my mind floated in a pool of dopey bliss.

“Penelope, please focus,” he said affectionately.

I nodded dumbly. “Okay,” I whispered.

Why can’t I think straight?

“Good,” he said. “Because you’re not thinking this through properly. Not everything in life is a question of absolutes, love.”

He called me “love.” I liked the sound of that.

“Not an absolute?” I asked.

He traced his finger along my jaw. “No. This is why you must keep an open mind. This is why you must come to see me.”

“See you. Uh-huh,” I responded, my mind feeling rich with a hormone-induced fog.

He leaned forward and pressed his lips to mine. A soul-shattering surge of elation rocketed through my body. I wanted him with every cell in my body, every molecule of oxygen in my blood, and every beat of my heart. I never wanted to be without him, his touch, or the sweet, rich, exotic scent of him that filled my lungs.

“Ah. Now you’re catching on.” He made a deep hearty chuckle.

The screech of my alarm clock pierced my ears and jolted me to life like a defibrillator. I blinked and found myself face up on the floor next to my bed.

I clenched my fist over my chest as the adrenaline fueled my palpitating heart. “Son of a beach ball,” I said in a breathy voice. “What the hell was that?”

Oh great. Now I’m talking like that crazy lady.

“Are you all right, Penelope?”

The thin silhouette of my mom in her pajamas appeared in the doorway.

“Must’ve fallen out of bed,” I replied.

She flipped on the light, causing me to wince.

“Oh, Penelope,” she sighed. “You look like you haven’t slept in days. I told you, no more double shifts.”

I smiled. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

She didn’t laugh at that.

“Sorry.” I rolled over and crawled back into bed, flopping facedown. “I have a lot on my mind.”

“You know, baby,”—the bed sank when she deposited herself next to me—“I’ve been meaning to talk to you about all this. About me.”

I flipped onto my back.

My mom’s frizzy blond braid and bloodshot hazel eyes broadcasted her exhaustion, and her posture—sagging shoulders and head hung low—reeked of surrender.

Well, maybe she’d given up. But I hadn’t. Not yet.

“Penelope, I can’t keep letting you sacrifice your life for me. I’m your mother. I’m supposed to take care of you. Not the other way around, sweetie.”

I mumbled a few angry words and got up to collect my clothes for the day. I knew what speech was coming next: her back-up plan. I’d heard it fifty times, and I’d rejected it fifty different ways. She had a cousin, a holistic healer in California, who’d offered to take her in and treat her. Although the probability of success would be extremely low, it was fine by me. But she didn’t want me to go with her, and that was ridiculous. She insisted I stay in New York and move on with my life: apply for financial aid, finish school, get a boyfriend…live. What she really meant was she planned to wither away, out of sight from me.

I stared at her face. Despite the hollow cheeks and dark shadows under her eyes, she still held a youthful appearance with barely a wrinkle. In perfect health she could pass for my sister. She was beautiful and strong and I loved her with all my heart, which is why I blurted out, “I got the money. A private grant.”

Her eyes filled with tears. “But, how?”

“It’s one of these trust fund charities. Sorry I didn’t say anything last night when I found out, but you were asleep. Didn’t want to wake you.”

She hugged me with as much energy as her weak body could muster. “I love you, Penelope. You truly are an angel.” She pulled away. “I almost forgot! It’s your birthday. Now we have two things to celebrate.”

Ugh. I hated celebrating my birthday. It was one of my many quirks. Something about getting older made me feel…old. And now that I had to see Cimil again, I felt even less like celebrating.

She left the room and returned with a small box. “I hope you like it.”

“Oh my God, how did you find the energy to buy me something?” Sometimes it truly is the thought that counts.

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