Mrs. H., that’s what Gene called her and Tracy liked it so she called Ben’s mom that too, wanted to go back to the observation deck of the capital building because it was open even though it was supposed to be closed because it wasn’t even summer anymore. So they all went there. How Tracy ended up between Gene and the woman who said she was his mom was a mystery, but after catching the way the woman looked at him, Tracy was kind of glad she got in the way. And not just because of the guitar.
“So…” Mrs. H. said the way she did when she didn’t want to offend someone but wasn’t going to let that stop her from asking something. “How long have you been in Madison?”
“A few weeks.”
Mrs. H. pursed her lips and nodded, like that meant something. Maybe that it was ok because if the woman had been here all along, why hasn’t she found her long lost son before? They might have walked right past each other a hundred times and never known.
“Where did you live before you came here?”
“Chicago. Before that I was in Nashville. And before that in L.A.”
“Oh, those are all great places for music,” Tracy blurted. She glanced at Gene, who hadn’t looked up from the floor this whole time. “Hey, I know you only said you wanted to meet Gene because of him being your son and all, but maybe you could help us figure something out about the guitar.”
The woman gave her that blank look that Tracy really hated.
“Oh come on. You know about the guitar. That’s what the Facebook account is all about, the guitar with K.C. scratched into the back.” So far as Tracy was concerned, that was the heart of the matter.
“Um, yes. Yes, of course. If I can.” She looked away, and Tracy knew she wasn’t really going to help.
“You’re name’s Fran, right? Is that short for Francis?” Mrs. H. asked.
“Francesca. Francesca Longman.”
“Oh, I think I’ve heard of a Francesca Longman before,” Tracy said, trying to remember.
For a moment Fran looked kind of eager and kind of hopeful, like she wanted to be recognized.
“A songwriter, right?”
“No.” Her expression got all eroded, like a river bank in a flood.
Ooo, eroded is a good word. Tracy tried to come up with a way to use it in the conversation, but is she said what she was thinking then the woman would get upset and that would piss Gene off, and it was hard enough being Gene’s girlfriend when he was so mad about her making a Facebook page about his guitar without his permission, so she didn’t say anything.
They’d been walking through the big marble capital building all this time, going up steps and things, and finally got to the observation deck when Fran stopped short.
“I’m sorry, but something came up right before we were supposed to get together, Gene. It was great to meet you, but I have to go now. Could you give me your address? I’ll drop by as soon as…”
“No.” Mrs. H. Interrupted. “He could not.”
Gene flinched and Tracy thought for sure he would say something, but he didn’t.
“If you wish to get together with us again, we can meet here again later.”
“But if it gets late…”
“He’s a school boy. He has a curfew.”
“I know that, but…”
“I don’t like it here anyway. Let’s got to MacDonald’s instead,” Gene said. “Tomorrow after school? There’s one right across the square.” He pointed in the direction, right through the marble walls as if they were already out on the observation deck.
“Done. I’ll see you there.” She only looked at Gene and didn’t bother to say good bye to anyone as she left.
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