When I make it to the table, dinner is served as usual: the food is warm, the atmosphere is chilly. I take my first bite is silence, silverware scrapping against dishes, small bites chewed with my mouth closed, elbows off the table.

“Amber, are you remembering to take your medication?”

“Yes, mom, but the doctor did say it would take a couple weeks for it to build up in my system.”

“Yes, I recall.” Her response sounds flat, and I am not sure what emotion lies underneath it.

“How is mima?” I ask. I can see mom’s jaw clench as she tosses her steamed vegetables around with her fork. I turn to look at dad. He looks up at me, lost somewhere behind the his glassy look.

“The doctor is concerned, Amber. Recovering from heart surgery is difficult, and your grandmother is weak.” He pauses before adding, “She really misses your grandfather.”

What was he saying? Was he suggesting that mima was ready to die? My family is like that, always implying things rather than saying them directly. It makes every conversation a riddle. Like mom’s question about medication, it wasn’t just a question about medication. I’m sure she’s drawn some parallel between today’s ride and my diagnosis. Mima’s the only comforting force in this dysfunctional family. I stab a broccoli spear.

“Your English teacher called,” Mom said setting down her fork and lacing her fingers together in front of her, “She said you seemed disengaged. I told her you were upset about your grandmother.” She had omitted the part about the diagnosis, protecting the family’s reputation, I suppose. I exhale and nod my consent. She picks up her fork and pokes at her food, again. Two weeks, Amber, two weeks. It’s a thought that’s becoming my mantra.

“I’ll be heading back to the hospital early in the morning, so I won’t be here when you wake up,” This time she spoke without looking at me. “I know I can trust you to get ready and get to school on time, right?”

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