"Have a great day, Mom, and happy anniversary. Twenty-five years of not yelling at Dad when he leaves his socks on the floor and his dirty plate on top of the dishwasher. Major achievement. Are you seeing Mimi today?"
"This afternoon." Grace slid her laptop into her bag. "I made macarons, like the ones she used to buy in Paris. You know what a sweet tooth your great-grandmother has."
"Because she lived in Paris during the war and she had no food. Sometimes she was too weak to dance. Can you even imagine that?"
"That's probably why she talks to you about it. She doesn't want you to take things for granted." She opened the box she'd carefully packed that morning, revealing pastel macarons lined up in neat rows of rainbow perfection.
Sophie made a sound that was almost a purr. "Wow. I don't suppose I could...?"
"No." Grace closed the box. "But I might have packed a couple for your lunch." She tried not to think about the sugar, or how Monica would react to the inclusion of empty calories in a lunch box.
"You're the best, Mom." Sophie kissed her cheek and Grace felt warmth flood through her.
"Do you need a favor or something?"
"Don't be cynical." Sophie grabbed her coat. "Not many people would teach French at an assisted living center, that's all. I think you're amazing."
Grace felt like a fraud. She didn't do it out of any sense of charity, but because she liked the people. They were always so pleased to see her. They made her feel valued.
It was embarrassing to think she could still be needy at her age.
"Their French Club is the best part of my week. Today being Valentine's Day, I've allowed myself to be creative." She picked up the stack of menus she'd designed. "The staff are laying the tables in the restaurant with red-and-white tablecloths. We're eating French food, I'm playing music... Knowing your great-grandmother, there will be dancing. What do you think?"
"Ooh la-la, I think it sounds great." Sophie grinned. "Just remember that the average age of Mimi's friends is ninety. Don't give them all heart attacks."
"I'm pretty sure Robert has his eye on Mimi."
"Mimi is a minx. I hope I'm like her when I'm ninety. She has this wicked twinkle in her eye...
It must have been fun having her living with you when you were growing up." It had been lifesaving. And that, of course, was why Mimi had moved in.
It was a time she'd never discussed with her daughter. "She's one in a million. You'll be okay tonight?" She checked the kitchen was tidy. "There's casserole in the fridge. All you need to do is heat it up."
"I'm eighteen, Mom. You don't have to worry about me." Sophie glanced out the window as a car pulled up outside. "Karen is here. I need to run. Bye."
Telling Grace not to worry was like asking a fish not to swim.
Two minutes after Sophie had left, she slid on her coat, picked up her keys and walked to the car.
Turning the heat up, she focused on the drive.
Four mornings a week, Grace taught French and Spanish at the local middle school. She also tutored children who were struggling and occasionally gave lessons to adults keen to improve their language skills.