The matron from the fifth row watched Cory meet his attorney in the hall. She wanted to see his face when he came through the door, but sat on a bench far enough away from it that he wouldn’t notice her. She wasn’t quite ready for that. What mask he might pull on or any of the possible conversations they might have if faced with each other. No, she wasn’t ready for any of that.
Nora had felt her son’s eyes on her in the courtroom, but he hadn’t recognized her. And then the flurry with the judge and Harry going up and Cory standing here in the sad blue clothes wearing those pitiful handcuffs, it all went by so fast.
She’d kept her own eyes fastened on his face, having been starved for it too long. She noted the hard lines and pallor – It seemed a disguise painted on the face of the boy she remembered.
She’d hoped it was worth the risk of recognition to wait in the hall. In that unguarded moment when he came through the door and saw Harry, his face lighted up, and in that and his laughter she’d seen a glimpse of her boy again. That face now etched on the back sides of her eyes no matter what else happened.
How pitiful she had been back in the old days. How desperately she had tried to keep first Bill and then Cory tied to her. How long she had wandered from room to room in the empty house and how close she’d come to disappearing. And then finding that tiny ledge of hope or will inside herself – She’d almost passed it by.
Had she made a conscious decision to build on that or had it occurred instinctively? Like a terrified animal struggling for the shoreline in a flood.
Well, no matter. The fact is that she had built on it, many small steps that had led to that first job and a semblance of independence. Always making sure to give thanks for helping hands, yet allowing her self a modicum of pride at each accomplishment. And so by the time Harry came along she was no longer grasping for rescue, but standing steadily on her own two feet. That could be why he saw things in her that Bill had never seen, and was able to give her what Bill could not.
Poor Bill, she’d been such a scared girl with him, with no sense at all of who she was, no base. And poor Cory, with a child for a mother, no wonder he’d sneered at her.
Nora straightened her back and checked her watch. It had been over an hour since they’d left the building, but she and Harry had allowed for two. It should be enough time, they’d agreed, for Harry to lay the ground work of her plan. A plan for Cory to find his own ledge of hope and how he might build on it, how she might help.
She already knew what she would say when she slid into the booth across from him at the restaurant. First she would say, “I love you Cory.” And then she would say, “You can call me Nora, or Mom, whichever you prefer.”