“Okay, Mom, I’ve got it all loaded,” Quinn called as he closed the trunk of the powder blue compact Prius. It was filled from floorboards to roof with the trappings of a college student: luggage, dorm fridge, microwave oven, bedding, a goldfish bowl half full of water with a Siamese fighting fish, boxes of miscellaneous pictures and books, and a stuffed pink rabbit. A futon and frame and some miscellaneous other wooden pieces were tied down to the roof of the car. The vehicle was so loaded that it would be a miracle if the shocks were not destroyed by the time the destination was reached and it was relieved of its burden. Such was the life of the college student.
“Quinn, don’t forget the goody box. I’ve included extra cookies for your roommate.” Tina Yamamoto came out of the house carrying another box full of cookies, chips, and soda. She stepped off the porch steps and followed the curving sidewalk around to the side garage where the overloaded car waited. She had been struggling all morning with varying success to keep a smile on her face and the worry hidden, but she was failing to keep the tears from her eyes. One would periodically fall despite her best efforts. The bright morning sunlight gleamed from her loosely brushed blonde locks and glinted from the diamond-like tears in the corners of her soft gray eyes.
Quinn took after his mother’s side of the family. He was nineteen, tall—six feet, and lean with the body of a runner. He was long limbed and graceful. His hair was just a couple shades darker than his mother’s, giving his hair a dark golden sheen while hers would glint white in the sun. His hair hung in a ponytail from the top of his head to half way down his back. His sister had brushed it out for him this morning and put in the ponytail. They had made a pact that he wouldn’t cut his hair while he was at school and neither would she. She enjoyed brushing his hair, and he enjoyed indulging her. Unlike his mom’s eyes, his eyes were piercing blue like the crystal clear sky on a cloudless morning. His skin was a dark golden brown from being exposed to the sun daily for most of his life. He had a permanent tan that any California beach bunny would envy. He wore what he always wore: black nylon athletic pants with the drawstring waist band and a plain white T-shirt with a cut in the neckband, as he always felt constricted by the round neckbands.
“Quinn!” hollered a young voice, and his eight-year old little sister, with her long black locks and brown-black eyes, stood in the door of the house, her arms overflowing with stuffed animals. Rayme was beautiful in Quinn’s eyes. Whenever he saw her, he was able to remember his father. She had his soft black hair but with his mother’s curls added in and the black eyes that swallowed his soul and could see through all of his lies. Lucky for him, Rayme hadn’t discovered that particular power yet. She was getting older, though, and he wouldn’t be able to hide it from her forever.
“Rayme, put your friends back in your room. I agreed to take Snuffles, but you are not going to fill my dorm room with stuffed animals. I’m a guy, for God’s sake. I would be the laughing stock of the floor.” Quinn smiled at his sister’s pout, but she turned and dumped the load of stuffed animals in the entry and came running toward him at full speed, sprinting around his mother. She would be as fast has he was soon, especially if she kept growing. She was already tall for her age. She threw herself into her brother’s outstretched arms, and he pulled her up into a warm embrace, setting her on his hip. He buried his face into her shoulder, entwining one hand in her hair, his fingers memorizing the texture and breathing deeply to remember the scent of it. “Man, you’re getting big. Stop growing or next time you are going to break my back. Take care of Mom. You know she doesn’t look after herself very well, and with me in school, she is going to need your help.” He blew raspberries into her neck, she squealed with delight, and he let her go. “Let me say bye to Mom now. Love you, Squeakers.”
“Love you, too, Quinn. I promise, I’ll be good and help Mom. Call soon, and I can email now, so don’t forget!” Rayme’s smile was pure joy even on a morning full of goodbyes. Her laughter filled the morning as she took the box of treats from her mother’s hands and ran for the car.
“Don’t snitch my cookies. You have more in the house,” he called after her giggling form.
“Okay, my love. I’m so proud of you. Don’t over-do it. Remember your focus is school, not work or me or even Rayme. I can take care of us. I am the adult, remember.” Tina wrapped her arms around her son. “You are becoming quite the grown man these days it is hard to remember you’re no longer my little boy.”
“Mom! I’m fine. I’ll be okay. You know me. I’ll do my best. You will always be able to be proud of me.”
“That’s just it, Quinn. You do too much. I know you very well. You are just like your father in that you are driven to succeed regardless of the cost. Just please take it easy. Enjoy life a bit. You aren’t young twice.” Tina mussed his hair as she looked up into his eyes. Her smile was starting to slip.
“No time to be young. Too much to do.” Quinn smiled and laughed, then squeezed his mom tight and pushed her gently away. “Speaking of time, I need to hit the open road or I won’t be able to get everything done I need to do today…. I love you, Mom!”
“Okay, my little man… who’s obviously not so little any more. Please take care of yourself. I worry, you know.” She was trembling as Quinn stepped toward the car. He impulsively grabbed his mom’s shaking shoulders and pulled her against him once more for a quick hug and kiss on the forehead. Then abruptly, he turned his back to her and headed for the car.
“No worries, Mom! ‘Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!’” Quinn quoted his mother’s favorite old movie, Auntie Mame, while waving one arm in farewell but never turning around. He knew that if he turned around and she saw the tears that were on the verge of falling, he would never get away.
Tina burst into a strangled laugh, and the smile on her face relaxed, becoming more natural, but her response from the movie sounded slightly rough, her voice cracking, “‘So Live! Live! Live!’” Quinn got into the car and waved without meeting her eyes again. Rayme and his mom watched and waved as he backed the car out of the driveway and headed down the road toward the highway and then the interstate. It would be several hours before he arrived at his destination—Denver, Colorado, and then Colorado State University.