“Mom?” Hands shook her shoulders. “Mom!”
Judy groaned and opened her eyes.
Celia was perched over her. “Oh, mom!”
Judy sat up and hugged her daughter, the tears starting and coming out without any filter.
After a moment, Celia asked, “Who is he?”
Judy kissed Celia’s temple then said, “Steve.” She scrambled away from Celia and shook Steve’s shoulder. “Sweetheart? Steve?”
“Mom, who is he?” Celia took another look at her and said, “And why are you dressed like this?”
Judy had her long white nightgown and dressing gown on. She hadn’t thought it could possibly do anything to go back in the excavation. Why would it?
Her jeans and tank top and cardigan had long ago disintegrated with use and wear.
Judy stroked Steve’s face and said, “Come back to me.” She shuffled closer on her knees and she realized her right knee wasn’t popping and hurting anymore. The lines that had grown on Steve’s face had faded. The grey at his temples was gone. Were they back to how they should have been?
Steve grunted once and said, “Jude?”
“Oh, Steve,” she whispered, kissing his face. “Wake up. Wake up, this is my daughter.”
He groaned again and said, “Hi.” He pushed himself to sitting up and rubbed his face. He looked at Judy and said, “Oh, Jude.”
All the changes she was feeling must be visual too.
Celia was staring at them, the obvious, open closeness between them.
“Celia, what day is it?”
“It’s the morning after you were supposed to pick up Helena. Vivi gets married in two days.”
Judy shuffled on her knees to Celia, giving her a huge hug and holding her tight. “I’ve missed you so much, sweetheart.”
Celia looked at Judy skeptically, then said, “I’m right here, mom. We talk every day. I didn’t know you had a boyfriend.”
“Husband,” Judy said.
“What?” Celia squawked.
He kissed Judy’s face, then turned to Celia and held out his hand. “Steve Marlowe.”
“Celia Reynolds.” She shook his hand and they crawled out from the mine shaft. It was open on the side from the tumble down the hill.
Judy took her time, crawling out of the excavation, looking at Celia and taking her time. But as soon as Steve was out, he called, “Oh, Jude!”
Judy scrambled out after him. Their house was still there. There hadn’t been a house there before. She was certain of it. His truck was still there. Bubba was still in the excavation too, rousing, but a bit sleepy still.
“Our house,” she said.
He nodded. “It wasn’t here before.”
“What are you guys talking about? That house has always been there. It’s been on the national register of homes all this time.”
“Who owns it?” Steve said.
“The Marlowe family set up a trust in perpetuity to care for it,” Celia said. “You should know this. You’re the beneficiary of the trust. The Marlowe family was important in setting up this area.”
Steve stood up and held his hand out to Judy. They walked together to the house and looked in the windows.
“Are you guys okay? You’re dressed all super weird.”
“We’ll all be just fine.”