I pour myself a glass of hot lemonade and sit down at the kitchen table. In crime shows, I'd know how many seconds it's been since it happened. In real life, Mom's dead, and I can't be bothered to count.
The person across from me at the table is thinking wistfully of bourbon and better days. Her name is something like Lucy. I am making her life difficult. Lucy sighs gently, so as not to seem like she's more miserable than me while still making it clear that she is, and asks "Howya doing sweetie?" I spend too long trying to think of a biting yet honest response so she kind of answers for me. "It's hard to put a name on, huh." She is nodding in a sad way, if that's even possible. It reminds me of Mom and I suddenly need a hug.
"You know, Susan," that's her name; "you really don't have to do this." I look at her with what I hope is a cold stare. "I really don't need any help." Her smile has just the right mixture of condescension and genuine concern.
"Oh sweetie, I'm not going to leave you at a time like this." I almost laugh out loud. Jesus Susan, you make it sound like we're a couple of struggling lovers in a silent French movie. Susan speaks again to reaffirm me. "I would never leave you." I accidentally raise my eyebrows and have to force a snort back up my nose.
"Thank you, Susan." My voice is wavery and unstable in the way all voices are when there's something very funny about whatever's being discussed, but to her I sound as if I'm on the edge of a breakdown which, to be honest, would not be entirely out of character. Picking up on the wrong social cues, Susan embraces me. All at once, I become aware of my appearance.
"Goodbye Mia," she says as I follow her out my front door. Actually, it's pronounced Maya, I think to myself furtively. She waves from the window of her blue 1990 Subaru Loyale and disappears for another two days. I find myself blushing on my front porch for the first time since the mail woman brought me flowers. I walk back inside to find the ghost of my mother giggling at me from the counter by the stove. She sits cross legged; her long overalls have a rip in the left knee.
"Oh, shut up." The ghost keeps laughing. "Come on, this is not that funny." She rocks back and forth with the force of her cackles. "Mom," I giggle out. "Stop!" I'm bent over and laughing, probably looking insane, but I don't care. The ghost and me are snorting and giggling and guffawing and any other synonym for laughter you can find in the dictionary until there are tears in our eyes.
When our fit finally ends, my dead mother turns her heavily-lined eyes to mine and says, "I cannot believe you're in love with the grief counselor."
"Whatever. She was hot in highschool," I laugh.
"She's hot now," Mom says. "Call her."
The ghost of my mother in long overalls and a floral shirt vanishes, her outline melting into the branches of the lemon tree. I reach out the window and pick a small one, then grab a knife and cut it in two. I suck on the lemon the way my mother told me not to. In my head, she scolds me and threatens canker sores.