Blondies

By Laura Schiller

Based on: Wish/Wishful Thinking

Copyright: Alexandra Bullen

"That's all for today, folks," said the professor, tugging the cord on the white projector screen behind her to make it slide back up into the ceiling. "Have a nice weekend, and try not forget too much!" The students stood up, packing their notebooks and chattering, swirling out of the tiered rows of seats like water breaking its dam. Some of them stayed behind to talk with their teacher; she smiled at their questions, pushing her glasses up her forehead, the purple shell pendant gleaming at her throat. Eventually, however, only one student was left: one young woman, hovering by the desk, clutching her black bag.

Two women in a huge, white-and-gray classroom that smelled of chalk and strangers' perfume. This was not quite what Hazel Snow had imagined – but it would have to do.

"Jaime Matthews?" she managed to ask, on the off-chance there was a mistake.

Just looking closely at the woman before her, though, proved that she was right. Forty-year-old Jaime was softer, rounder, bottle-blonde, and had hints of crow's feet feathering her narrow dark eyes. Her fashion sense had also changed: instead of jeans and a T-shirt, Professor Matthews of San Francisco University now wore chinos, a loosely knitted blue shawl over a light green blouse, and earrings tipped with white feathers. Her stubborn, sharp-boned, beautiful face, however, was unmistakably the same.

"Depends on who's asking," said Jaime, shuffling her stack of notes. "Can I help … you?"

She looked up, saw Hazel's face and drew a deep breath, as if she'd just seen a ghost – which, in a sense, she had. Hazel wondered what the older woman was seeing: a feminine version of Reid, or an uncanny double of a friend from twenty-four years ago? Either way this was surreal, and the only way to get through it was to be as direct as possible.

"Um … hello," she said. "I'm Hazel Snow. I'm your daughter."

She did not know what she had been expecting. After her first disillusionment with Rosanna, she knew better than to hope for a tearful hug and an instant reunion. This was Jaime, after all. What she had not expected, though, was for her birth mother to stand there like a deer in the headlights, mouth half open, looking absolutely terrified.

How could I just barge in like this? Jasper was right. I should have phoned first.

"You … wow. It's just … I'm sorry." Jaime shook her curly head abruptly, settled her glasses on her nose (must be reading glasses, Hazel thought, absurdly sad at the idea of her mother losing her perfect vision) and peered at Hazel through them as if to make absolutely sure of what she saw.

"It's just that you look so much like … "

Hazel hesitated. She could lie; pretend not to know what Jaime was talking about. After all, she'd had enough shocks for one day. But on the other hand, lying throughout that entire summer on Martha's Vineyard had been difficult enough. Didn't Jaime deserve to know the truth about something so important? Now that she was middle-aged, wasn't she wise enough to handle it?

"Like my namesake, you mean."

Jaime went pale under the fluorescent light strips, as pale as her tan complexion would permit.

"How did you know?"

"You called her Blondie," Hazel continued, feeling her pulse beat in her fingertips. "You went on the carousel together and ate lobster rolls after she went with you to the clinic. The last time you saw her, you told her … " You told me you loved me, were the unspoken words that hung in the air.

Jaime clung to her podium with both hands.

"Impossible," she said flatly.

Without a word, Hazel reached down her turtleneck and pulled out a purple shell necklace identical to Jaime's.

Jaime stared at it for a long moment, fingered her own necklace, scanned Hazel's face again – and laughed, that sardonic little laugh Hazel remembered all too well.

"So that's why you didn't write, you moron," she said, sounding exactly like her teenage self. "Gawd! No wonder you look so much like – Well. When Grandma told me the world was bigger than I knew, this was not what I had in mind!"

She wrestled her notes into a black leather messenger bag, switched off the projector next to her podium with a sharp click, and emerged from behind the podium, reminding Hazel abruptly of their difference in height.

"Coffee," said Jaime. "I need coffee to process this, and you're coming with me. Don't … don't disappear again, okay? At least for the next hour. We have a lot to talk about."

/

Ten minutes later, they found themselves sitting face to face in a red booth at a nearby Starbucks, Jaime stirring her espresso with a spoon, Hazel with a cold glass of iced tea (a joke about their first unpromising meeting, which they'd only briefly smiled at). She had just finished telling the entire story – Rosanna's wake; Posey's butterfly dresses; the wishes she'd made – and once again, the silence became thick enough to cut.

"I think I knew," Jaime said quietly. "It sounds impossible – I'm a scientist, for God's sake! I tried not think about it for so many years… but I think I knew. My grandmother had premonitions sometimes, you see? Dreams of things that would later come true. Do you remember that dream I talked about, the last time I saw you?"

Hazel nodded.

"Well, I dreamed you were my daughter. That's why I named you Hazel. And … that's also why I said to you what I did."

Her wry grin, despite the new lines, brought Hazel back to the time when they had zipped up each other's dresses and teased each other about their boyfriends. It was hard to know how to behave around a brand-new mother who was also an old friend. Still, the reference to that I love you warmed Hazel's heart, and she grinned back.

"I know. You wouldn't have been so cheesy to some girl you'd only known for two months."

"Not back then, at least. With a family of my own, I've learned the value of cheesiness."

There was a joyful glow to Jaime's face in spite of her flippancy, the same glow she had worn on the carousel or with Reid.

"That's right!" Suddenly curious, Hazel leaned forward with her hands around her glass. "Tell me about them. Are you married? Do you have children?"

Jaime laughed, more genty this time. "Yes and yes. I met my husband on that dig in Peru. We trotted the globe for about ten years before finally settling down. We have a daughter too, she's four. We named her Rosanna."

They shared a brief, melancholy silence in tribute to the warmhearted artist who had mothered them both.

"I saw you with her once," said Hazel. "Your daughter, I mean. At Rosanna Scott's funeral, only I didn't know you. And later, when I came back, I saw you on the ferry, but you were too far away … "

"So you waited four years to look for me?" There was no aggression in Jaime's tone, unlike her teenage self, but Hazel still felt the implied reproach.

"I had to … process it," she explained, hoping she didn't sound too inadequate. "And I had to get over Luke. If you'd told him, or I'd run into him, as a forty-year-old man when I was still fresh from Martha's Vinyard – "

"I see what you mean." Jaime grimaced in sympathy. "In any case, he's married now. Still lives on the island, I hear he collects sailing trophies like a champion. Has a teenage son, if you can believe it."

"I'm glad he's happy," said Hazel, and she meant it. Jealousy was a flaw of which her time-travel experience had made her painfully aware, and determined to outgrow it.

"Anyway," she continued. "There's another reason I contacted you now."

She pulled her main piece of evidence out of her jeans pocket, slid it onto her finger, and held up her hand.

"You're getting married?" exclaimed Jaime.

Hazel eyed the dark blue sapphire with mock exasperation. Six years ago, she would not even have considered wearing such a thing (let alone accepting its consequences), but she'd changed a great deal since then.

"My fiançé likes to show me off. Apparently it matches my eyes."

"Well, congratulations!" Jaime beamed.

"Thanks. He's a filmmaker. Dramatic gestures are his thing. I don't suppose you've heard of him – Jasper Green?"

"Can't say I have. Sorry."

Hazel shrugged.

"But what I wanted to ask you is … will you come to my wedding?"

Jaime said nothing. Mistaking her silence for reluctance, Hazel blushed and rambled on: "It's okay if you don't. I mean, we hardly know each other … I just thought, because you are my biological mother - "

"Shut up," said Jaime.

As Hazel looked up from the glass she had been nervously spinning, she saw that her mother's eyes were bright with tears.

"I'm so happy, Hazel. More than I can say without … without reaching unacceptable levels of cheesiness." She wiped her eyes. "I never got to make you birthday cakes or see you off to prom … I'm glad there's at least one thing I can do for you."

"You can drape my veil," Hazel suggested. "And grab me if I try to bolt. Just kidding. Even my commitment issues won't stop me; you really should meet Jasper. He's sweeter than I deserve."

"I doubt that."

"And seriously, Jaime … you did do something for me."

Jaime frowned.

"You helped me understand why you gave me up."

This was a difficult topic, the one they'd both been hesitant to approach. Pain flashed across Jaime's face; Hazel remembered how her eighteen-year-old counterpart had sobbed in her arms the night the decision was made. How will it know how hard this is? What if it just thinks I didn't care? How will this baby know how much I love it already?

"You and Reid weren't ready to be parents. You deserved to be teenagers, to have your own lives … I understand. I'm not sorry about how things turned out."

"But those things you said … about being in foster care, never knowing who were … "

It was Hazel's turn to feel guilty. Jaime sounded as if those selfish, bitter words had been haunting her all along.

"I could have known who I was. People kept trying to show me how they saw me, that they cared – Jasper, my art teacher, even my foster-father. I just refused to see it. My life may not have been perfect, but it made me who I am today, and I'm not ashamed to be that person. So it all works out, you know what I mean?"

Jaime smiled shakily across the table. "When did my little Blondie become so wise?"

"Around the same time my snarky roommate did."

"You're calling me snarky?"

"Pots and kettles, right? Blondie yourself."

Jaime snorted, and before they knew it, both of them were laughing like hyenas. Nothing like a family, thought Hazel, letting her sapphire shine in the sunlight from the window. The weirder, the better. Wait 'till I tell Jasper about this.