The Attic forum: Group Story #1: SOPHY
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|Welcome to our first group story. We are writing a single story as a group in a round robin type fashion. It is not a preconceived story, the writers take what was written in the chapters before theirs and continue on with the story in their own ways.
The story will continue until it is completed. Each writer has two days to complete his/her chapter, or if necessary the designated writer will pass, and it will forward to the next writer on the list. When all writers have completed their first segment, then it starts at the beginning list of writers again and the same story continues. It is an ongoing story and could well take several weeks and turns before it nears completion.
It's exciting to start a new story, and it's exciting to read one. For those of you who would like to comment as the story goes along, here's a thread for your comments:
Please do not post to this thread, use the comment thread above. Only the story writers are allowed to post their chapters here.
Here is a list of writers and the order of their writing:
We hope you enjoy!
The guardrail looked mangled, torn from its posts, and steam seemed to be rising from the ditch below. She drove slowly past the mess of metal on her right, carefully inching her way in the rain.
Ahhhh, a pullover just beyond the guardrail, she'd stop there and take a look. This road was once a busy one, replaced now by the interstate she'd exited from several miles back. She hadn't passed a house in all those miles, and only a few cars had passed her, coming always from the opposite direction. It was the old road she'd been seeking, though, a road she'd traveled many times in the past. She'd never known it to be so deserted.
She parked her car, grabbed her umbrella from the back seat, and didn't bother to hit the lock as she left. The guard rail was behind her, the rain was pounding around her, but that steam was not fog, nor was it mist. Something was down in the ditch.
She leaned over the remaining remnants of the rail. There seemed to be nothing there, the trees were intact, but some bushes showed signs of breakage, and there was that mangled guard rail.
"Hello!" she called. "Can you hear me? Is anyone hurt?"
There was no answer, but she could now see a glimpse of red through the leafless bushes that grew along the bank above the ditch. Her cell phone was in her pocket and she quickly grabbed it to dial the emergency number.
No signal. This far into the depths of the mountains there was no signal.
Just then came a sound, a low pitched moan, followed by the frantic yelp of a dog. Sophy stayed quiet, frightened by the sudden sounds in the stillness. She waited only seconds, then yelled, "Hello, do you need help?"
Two short doggy yelps answered her, then silence.
She couldn't climb down the bank to the rocks and creek below. Her shoes were all wrong and this time of year there could be patches of ice and snow in the mountains. She couldn't risk a fall, not now, not here alone on this deserted roadway. She glanced around.
Three miles ahead she'd be in familiar territory. The home she'd left behind all those years ago was still there, she knew. Empty now, since her ex husband had died. She had no idea who lived nearby these days, but she did know her former home was empty. She was on her way there to make it ready to sell.
He'd never taken her name off the deed, not even after all the years since their divorce. His lawyer, theirs all those years ago, had called her, telling her of Jonah's death, and letting her know the house she'd lived in for ten years was still hers. She had decided only that she needed to see it once more before ridding herself of it. She had not heard from Jonah during the twenty years since their divorce, and she hardly knew what to expect. She took a deep breath and called out one more time.
"I can't easily get to you in this rain, but I'm going to get help. I'll be back as soon as I can, I promise you that. Just hold on now."
That was all she knew to say as she turned back to her car. The rain was chilling and she was worried, but she'd done all she could do, she told herself. As she reached her car, she heard another yelp, closer this time, and she looked toward the rail again. It was getting darker, but she could see a scraggly dog, black with white markings crawling beneath the guard rail. She eased toward it, and even though it was slithering on its belly, she saw the wag of its tail.
"Hello, pretty puppy, are you hurt," she crooned to the dog, shielding it from the rain with her umbrella.
The dog didn't seem to be hurt, only wet, and he licked the hand she held toward him.
"You must have an owner, were you in the car? Who are you, baby?"
"She's Joli, and she's mine, and we need a little help here," said a harsh breathless voice just behind the bushes.
Sophy jerked and turned toward the sound. She could barely make out the shape of a white shirted man, but the shirt was ripped, and she could see what appeared to be dark stains on it.
"Oh, here, let me help you, can you manage to climb over the rail, should you be moving, are you badly hurt?"
Sophy ran to him in the rain, leaning toward him to help him ease over the rail. He reached with one arm for her hand, the other was hanging limply by his side.
His breathing was heavy as he dragged one leg then the other across the rail.
"Tall," she thought, carefully trying to help him, "and familiar, very familiar."
He wiped his face with his good hand, looked at her quizzically, then crumbled in a heap at her feet.
Again Sophy jumped, and Joli ran to her master with a little yelp. Sophy held the umbrella over the man and the dog, but it hardly provided cover for any of them in this downpour. She had to get them into her car.
|Sophy laid aside the umbrella that was providing so little protection. She was already soaking wet. Summoning all the strength she had, she bent down and held the man up under each of his arms. Slowly, she started dragging him toward her car. She noticed he had a lump on his head that was bleeding, but could see no other open wounds.
It was slow going. He was broad chested and heavy and his legs seemed to go on forever. She wondered if it was even a good idea to move him given the fact that he might have some internal injuries. She decided it was better to get him out of the cold rain then wait for help which might never come. If he got too cold his temperature might drop and coupled with the trauma, his condition might get worse.
After a few yards she stopped to catch her breath. The puppy was circling around them and as she was kneeling, holding the man's head up off the road, the puppy came beside her and performed a full body shake, successfully splattering her with muddy dirty water.
"Thanks Jolie! What a wonderful present!", she said sarcastically. But her sarcasm was lost on him as he gleefully wagged his tail and looked at her adoringly.
When it seemed things were at a hopeless standstill, she spotted the dim lights of an oncoming vehicle headed in the opposite direction. Quickly, she laid the man's head down, scooped up the wet puppy, least he run out in its path, and made herself visible, waving her free arm. The car slowed and stopped. The driver crossed into her lane and pulled up behind her as she approached the car.
It was a large old Buick sedan, well built and solid. A luxury car in its day, it was now a throwback to better days gone by. A man got out of the car, pulling a hood over his head as he got out to help. She noticed he was tall and thin, a grey peppered moustache lined his top lip and as she looked into his brown face she could see the kindness and concern in his eyes.
"Hello, I'm Sophy Walker,can you please help?", she said quickly and breathlessly.
He held out his hand to take hers and said, "I'm Andy Morgan, what happened here?"
She noticed his hands were very strong and warm and she was never so happy to see another person as she was right then. As they approached the man in the road, she quickly told him about the mangled quardrail where she found the injured man and the puppy, and how she was trying to assist.
He knelt down and looked into the man's face. "Why, that's Bobby Walker!" He placed his fingers at Bobby's throat to check his pulse and satisfied with the results, he placed an arm under his back and one under his knees and picked him up as if he weighed nothing. He quickly placed him in the back of the Buick and covered him with an old army blanket that had been stashed in the trunk.
"I'm going to take Bobby to the hospital, I'm a doctor there, its not too far and I think from the looks of you, you might want to get checked out too." Soaking wet and covered in mud, she looked like she had been in the accident.
"I'm fine, just wet is all."
"Well, they might need you if a report is made to get the details. Where can we get a hold of you?"
"I was on my way to Greenville, right up the road here. I'll be staying at the old Walker house on Derby Lane."
"Ok, well if you start feeling any pain come on over to the hospital and ask for me," he said as he got in and started the car.
"What about the puppy?", she called out.
"No animals allowed in the hospital", he shouted out the car window and with that he made a u-turn and sped away in the direction of Greenville.
The rain was finally subsiding and the sun was peeking out thru the clouds. As she got into her car with the squirming puppy, and dried her face and hair, the name Bobby Walker went through her mind again.
|Bobby? No, it couldn’t be. Not little Robert. He was always so tiny and frail, and so much younger than she was. Sophy’s car slipped sideways in the mud as she started to pull away. It scraped the guardrail and put a scratch in the right rear fender of her car. There was no serious damage. It was, after all, a six year old Toyota, about time for a new one anyway.
Robert was about 12 years old the year Sophy and Jonah got married. He was Jonah’s cousin, his uncle Rudy’s son. They lived in the city and Robert used to spend summers with Jonah’s parents on their farm just outside Greenville, at least until Robert’s parents moved away. After that Sophy never saw him again. Was it possible that this man named Bobby could be little Robert? He seemed too old. But it had been 30 years and like it or not, a fiftieth birthday was in store for Sophy in just a few weeks.
Sophy was still only nineteen years old when she wed the dashing former sailor, Jonah. He was seven years her senior and he’d taught her so much in those early years of their marriage. He was so worldly, having been over seas in the Navy for four years and he lived on his own for a few years after that. It seemed that whatever she tried to do, Jonah had already done it and knew just how it should be done. He was almost like a father figure to Sophy, her own father being mostly an absentee alcoholic.
In only a few short years, however, the constant scrutiny and critique of everything she did became a bone of contention between them.
There it is! Just up there on the right. The same old wagon wheel holding the mailbox and that ridiculous 12-foot-high pole with another mailbox marked “Air Mail”. It was just one of Jonah’s many attempts at humor. He always pointed it out to anyone visiting, saying “Hey, did you see my ‘airmail’ box?”
Somehow the house didn’t seem quite as large as she remembered. It certainly needed a coat of paint and the weeds were about to take over the lawn. The Lilacs she planted all those years ago were still there and getting ready to bloom. There were daffodils blooming across the front in what used to be a beautiful little flower bed. The line of old clay bricks, lying diagonally against each other, was the only other evidence of it now.
The house was an aging ranch style home with lap siding. A porch wrapped around two sides of it and a detached building that Jonah called the car shed was at the end of the driveway. To her knowledge, there had never been a car parked in that shed.
Sophy tried the key while holding a squirming Joli under her other arm. The lock finally forgave and the door opened to a musky smelling living room that looked amazingly like the last time she saw it. The shawl she’d crocheted 20 years ago was draped over the back of that old mahogany Boston rocker, just as it had been the day she left. She attempted to take the shawl with her that day, but Jonah insisted that it was part of the furnishings much like the draperies. As stoic as he’d been when she left, Sophy recognized a wistfulness in his demeanor that couldn’t be masked.
True to their word, the gas and electric companies had both restarted their services. “Hopefully that old furnace still works.” Sophy said, half to herself and half to the dog.
The furnace clicked on and began warming the cold, damp rooms. She pulled back the curtains and opened blinds to let sunlight in. As Sophy walked through the house assessing it as a piece of real estate, she couldn’t help feeling all the memories this old house evoked. She found herself standing behind the rocker in the living room with a finial in each hand and tears streaming down her cheeks, unable to pinpoint why.
A sharp series of knocks on the door pulled her back into the present. It was then she noticed the flashing blue and red lights and the patrol officer standing on her porch.
“Good day officer. May I help you?”
“Good day ma’am.” He said tipping his wide brimmed hat. “Are you the person that found Bobby Walker out there on the Thigpen Road?”
“Yes, I am. Is he doing alright?”
“He’s been kinda in and out, hasn’t been able to tell us much. Is that your white Toyota there in the drive ma’am?”
“Why yes it is officer.”
“Can you tell me how you got that dent in the right rear fender? It looks pretty fresh.”
“When I pulled away from the accident scene back there, my car slipped in the mud and scraped the guardrail. I had forgotten about it. Is it bad?”
“Are you sure that’s how it happened, Ms. Walker? The only thing Bobby seems to remember is being forced off the road by a small white car.”
“Well it certainly wasn’t me.” Sophy insisted.
“Then you won’t mind coming into town until we get this all straightened out, will you?”
“I most certainly do mind. I had nothing to do with Mr. Walker’s accident and if you need me for anything else, I’ll be right here.”
With that Sophy went back into the house and closed the door.
The officer went back to his cruiser. She watched him as he talked on his radio and presumably wrote down her license plate number. After what seemed like an hour he turned off his flashing lights and drove away.
When she woke up this morning, Sophy was excited about the drive up to the old house. She looked forward to seeing the place again and was hopeful that it would be in near salable condition. The day before her seemed positive at 7 am. Right now it couldn’t be farther from that. She only stopped to be a ‘Good Samaritan’ and now was being accused of causing the accident.
‘Maybe I should just go into town and get this straightened out after all.’ She thought.
|Officer McDonald stood in the driveway, noting the damage on Sophy's car and thinking about the accident he was investigating. Bobby Walker, again. Would that guy ever learn not to drive when he had been drinking? How many cars had he wrecked now without killing himself or someone else? He always had a story, somebody else always forced him off the road or pulled out in front of him. And then he would change his story when he was sober again. Would Bobby's story change this time?
The radio in the patrol car crackled to life: dispatch, giving him a code that meant return to station. He had already called in the license number, and received information indicating that Sophy Walker was the registered owner of the car, and that she wasn't wanted in any other jurisdiction. He had also taken a photo of the damaged fender. White paint, not red as it would be if this vehicle had impacted Bobby Walker's car, and certainly in the wrong place anyhow. All of this was routine information, gathered any time a vehicle was involved in any way in an accident. He had chosen to stay in his present location because he had a radio signal there. Now that he had the information, he began the return trip to headquarters . On his way he stopped near the accident scene, noted and photographed the damage on the guardrail, and the skid marks near it. Rain had washed out the tire tread pattern, but the imprints of the tires were still visable. Small, about the same width as the tires on Sophy's car.
Sophy decided on a course of action. It was not what she had intended to do, but what she thought was necessary, given the circumstances. Meanwhile, she removed the bedding from Jonah's bed. She was glad she had brought her own, Jonah's bedding was old, she recognized some of it, and it was not clean. If there had been time and nice weather, she would have taken the mattress outside and beat it with a broom to rid it of dust. Lacking both time and weather to do that, she found the vacuum cleaner and vaccumed both sides of it before putting her own clean bedding on it. It did appear that Jonah had let things go in his last months on earth. He had always been a neat and clean person. It occurred to Sophy that she didn't even know how he died. Here? In the hospital? In a wreck?
Her dinner was cold cuts, cheese and crackers, and a bowl of canned fruit coctail for dessert. She had found the fruit coctail when she looked in cupboards to see if by chance there might be some pet food, but found none, so the hungry and grateful puppy got lunch meat and cheese, which seemed to be just fine.
After dinner she found some cleaning supplies and went on a cleaning binge. She hadn't thought this was going to be so emotionally difficult. The puppy thought some of it was great entertainment, especially trying to attack the dustmop and vacuum. Comic relief was a pleasant accompaniment to cleaning the house she had lived in so many years ago. Memories came flooding back, mostly sad ones, tension filled ones, unhappy ones. Sophy remembered how long it took her to decide she must leave. She realized that being childless had been a blessing because she had much more freedom to leave alone than she would have been with children. No, she wouldn't have left with children, despite Jonah's repeated unfaithfulness. At least he had not been physically abusive. Even the day she left, he had smiled and said, “You'll be back.” She never saw him again until divorce court and then never again afterward.
In the first few months after the divorce, her parents urged her to get some training to earn a decent living. Waiting tables was a hard way to provide for herself. Jonah's alimony payments were so low they were almost a joke. For a while she resisted her parent's suggestion, thinking it was not possible, but then when her grandmother died, she found that she had inherited a sum that could finance a course to give her a career as a dental hygenist. In the years that followed, she had made a comfortable living, bought a house and a car, took an occasional vacation, and lived quite happily alone with her 2 cats, a canary, and a couple of aquariums full of colorful fish. Her rose bushes were the talk of her neighborhood, and her tiny yard always looked immaculate. She was active in her church, and was quite frankly, afraid to become involved with another man. Well meaning friends had finally given up their matchmaking efforts.
“I can hardly believe my eyes!” The old man shook his head and looked at her again. “It really is you, Sophy! Maybelle is going to be so surprised to see you after all these years”. He looked stooped and wrinkled now, and was a bit hard of hearing, but was the same Jake Walker she remembered.
“Maybelle, Maybelle, where are you? Come see who came to visit.”
Maybelle emerged from the kitchen with flour all over her hands, wiping them on her apron before reaching up to smooth her hair. “Oh my goodness, it can't be! Sophy, is that really you?” Tears flowed as they exchanged hugs.
And thus began a very enjoyable visit with her former inlaws. They had been more disappointed than angry when she left Jonah, but they understood that their son was a hard man to please, and that Sophy had not been mature enough to make that judgement before she married him. And therefore, they had been forgiving, something that was second nature for them. “Forgive and ye shall be forgiven” they had often quoted the Good Book, which was their rule of life.
Maybelle asked if she'd had breakfast, and when Sophy hesitated, she said “well, you just sit down here with Jake and I'll have some biscuits and jam for you in just a minute. Will you have some coffee, too”? Sophy thought it was just as if she had never left the mountains. It felt good to be back. Her own parents were city people from Akron, Ohio, not cold, but not quite so hospitable as mountain folk. She hadn't realized until this moment how much she had missed the mountains.
Over the next couple of hours, Sophy learned much about Bobby Walker and all of his misdeeds. He was drunk more often than sober, unemployed more often than employed, owed money to all his friends, and was not generally known as dependable or honest. All in all, Bobby was a big disappointment to the family. “I guess there has to be one in every family, sometimes more” Maybelle said, shaking her head. She had received a look from Jake and seemed to cut her comment short.“Lord knows we've prayed and cried a lot for that boy, but he just keeps doin' wrong”.
“Well, apparently, he's done it again. He's in the hospital from a car wreck now. I met him yesterday afternoon just after it happened and tried to help him. Oh my goodness, I have to let his puppy out of my car, I hope she hasn't chewed the seats or gone potty in there”.
“Robert Walker, Room 126, down the hall to your right past the nurses station.”
Sophy entered the room somewhat cautiously, not sure what she would find. His head was bandaged, face swollen, eyes blackened, arm imobilized, an IV drip going into his good arm. An automated system recorded his heart rate, blood pressure and other vital statistics on a monitor above the bed. “Bobby, Bobby, do you hear me?” His eyelids fluttered, and he struggled to come up out of his sleep.
“Do I know you?”
“Yes, I'm Sophy Walker, your cousin Jonah's wife, well, exwife now. Do you remember me from when you were a little boy visiting your grandparents farm?”
He struggled to focus on her face. “Yeah, I think so”.
“I helped you yesterday after the wreck, and I am taking care of your puppy. Do you remember being in a wreck?”
“Yeah, kinda, it was raining...”
“Yes, it was raining hard. Go on, what else?”
“I was gonna to take Jolie home, then go to work...”
Sophy prompted him again when he seemed to loose focus. “Where had you been?”
“Down to Frankie's house, Billy Joe and Luke were there....”
“What were you doing?”
“Oh nuthin much, just havin a few beers and talkin about goin' coon huntin'...”
“And then what?”
“Billy Joe said he was gonna take my keys cause I'd had a couple too many.....”
“Did you give him the keys?”
“Hell no, oh, excuse me, no, I tole him I was ok”
“Did he try to take the keys?”
“Yep, and I punched him, and I got in the car before Frankie and Luke could stop me. You shudda seen how I tore outa there, throwin gravel all over em”. He smiled faintly and his eyes closed. He seemed to be drifting off again.
Sophy squeezed his hand and saw his eyes flutter open again. “And then what happened?”
“I donno, next thing I knew my head 'un arm was hurtin an' I was in the hospital”.
“l'll be going now, but I'll come back to see you again tomorrow. You get some rest.”
As Sophy rose to leave the room she ran right into Officer McDonald. “I heard it all, Ma'am, you needn't worry.”
Sophy was certainly relieved. She drove to Jake and Maybelle's house to pick up the puppy who was having a few hours at the farm while she was running errands and visiting Bobby at the hospital. Then, politely making her exit as soon as she had finished pie and coffee with them, she returned to the house to do more cleaning and decluttering. There was such a lot to do! Jonah apparently had not thrown much away. She feared that her weeklong vacation would be gone before she was half finished. Sometimes the rule of “do the worst part first” made good sense, and she remembered that now, but where was that worst part? It was all bad, so she started on the closet in the bedroom.
First, all those hanging clothes were removed, pockets checked for forgotten items, folded and put into boxes she had picked up at the grocery store. The usable things would go to the Salvation Army, the others to the trash. When the boxes were full, she made piles. Under the shoes in the corner and behind an old suitcase, she found several metal boxes that had once contained fruitcakes and Christmas cookies. She gasped in shock when she opened the first one. Money! Stacks of bills, bundled together with aged rubber bands, some so old they crumbled when she attempted to take them off. Why hadn't he put it in the bank or invested it?
She started counting. Each box contained exactly $10,000. How did a man of apparently average means accumulate so much money? It dawned on her that maybe this was not legally earned money. Carefully she put the boxes under the bed, out of sight. Safer maybe? But then she laughed at herself, because the house had been empty for months since Jonah died, and nobody had found them, indeed it appeared that nobody had even been inside the house. Not even Jonah's parents. That had seemed strange to her yesterday when she was talking with them, they had not mentioned that there had been any reason why they and their son had not been on good terms.
Now Sophy was curious about what else she might find in the house. She had rightfully inherited it, so whatever she found was hers to keep, wasn't it?
Methodically now, she went on a search of closets, the linen cupboard, kitchen cupboards, and all the places she could remember where more boxes might be hidden. What she found surprised her just as much as the boxes in the bedroom closet. What could all this mean? Had this man who apparently lived a modest, quiet life in this average house, who worked at the job he had held for decades until he was too ill to work, who drove a 15 year old car with a rusted dented passenger side door, who had not married or become involved with another woman in 20 years since their divorce, been living a double life? Could a man aquire this much money just from saving his paycheck? Maybe he had worked a second job. Maybe he had made investments that paid off and with his tendency toward not trusting people, had just kept the money as cash.
Sophy thought about the attic. It was just an unfinished space where they had stored Christmas decorations. Was it possible there was more money stored there, and maybe old financial records or something that might give her a clue? The ladder was one of those that could be pulled down with a rope. It was accessable from the end of the hallway, in front of the linen closet. Sophy walked down the hall, looked up and there was the rope with a small knot tied in the end. She pulled it, then climbed the ladder, raised up the hinged board that covered the opening and stuck her head into the dark space.
Reaching above her head, she found the string, pulled it and was relieved when the bare blub attatched to the roof beam came on. Over the years, Jonah had stored many boxes in the attic. Some were labeled, some were not. Soon she came to one that was taped shut, the only one that was. Layer after layer of tape had been cut, then new tape applied over it. Sophy decended the ladder, got a knife from the kitchen drawer and returned to open the box. Inside were what appeared to be empty envelopes, all with the same name and return address. She thought for a moment, then remembered that name from the past, but she couldn't connect it with anyone. Somebody named Barbara Collins had written to him regularly over several years, or maybe sent him a payment of some kind about once a month according to the postmarks. Why had he kept the envelopes? They, like the money, had been neatly bundled. Under the bundles of envelopes were 4 more of those square metal cookie boxes with bundled money in them. Obviously there was a connection.
She looked more carefully at the envelopes, and found notes in some, indicating that the payment was inclosed and that it was becoming more and more difficult to keep paying him to keep a secret. One pleaded with him to reduce the amount required every month, or to agree not to tell if she couldn't pay it any more. Then a few months ago, the envelopes with their payments had stopped coming, well, unless the pile of mail that had arrived since his passing contained anything. That was a possibility. She hadn't even looked at the mail.
Sophy sat there in the attic, stunned. Jonah had been blackmailing somebody! What was the secret?
Her cell phone rang, it was Maybelle reminding her of her promise to come back to share their evening meal. She realized how involved she had been with sorting and packing away Jonah's clothing, counting boxes of money, and then how much time she had spent on the treasure hunt. She apologized for having lost track of the time. Without appearing to probe, maybe she could steer the conversation a bit and get some answers.
Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
More ramblings at http://thegatheringplacehome.myfastforum.org/forum54.php
|Sophy looked at her watch, if she hurried, she had time to drop by the post office before it closed at five. She would do that, see if there was any mail being held, bring it back here, grab a quick shower and get to her former in-laws by six. She hoped to run to the grocery before they closed at nine. Life in a small town, she had not realized until then how much she enjoyed the conveniences of a city with stores that never closed, and a post office that one could access twenty-four hours a day.
When she arrived at the post office, she found the same gentleman who used to give her her mail, and to her surprise, he remembered her. “Mrs. Walker, good to see you again, are you here to collect your husband’s mail.”
Sophy was surprised, “Why yes, yes I am.” She answered.
The man clicked his tongue, “Been piling up somethin’ awful, but sure just hated to mark return to sender on everything, never know, might be somethin’ important in there.” He responded as he handed her a large white postal box filled to the brim with mail.
Sophy took the box and thanked him, as she was leaving he said, “If you ain’t plannin’ on stayin’ round here Mrs. Walker, you oughta fill out an address change for Mr. Walker before you go back.”
“Thank you, I’ll stop by and do that later this week.” Sophy said as she pushed out the post office door with the box in front of her and ran right into Dr. Morgan. “Oh excuse me, I’m sorry.” Sophy said then as she recognized him, “Dr. Morgan, thank you again for stopping and helping, I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t.”
Andy Morgan smiled at her, “No problem at all, I’m glad I could help. Are you settling in alright?”
Sophy returned the smile and thought he looked much younger in broad daylight than he had the night before, “It’s coming along, that’s about all I can say right now.”
Andy Morgan laughed, “Well, it was nice to see you under better circumstances, have a good evening.”
Sophy drove back to the house not taking time to look at the mail in the box, she was afraid if she started, she’d never make it over to Maybelle’s in time. She quickly showered, and was at the farm by six.
The meal of Fried Chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans saved from the previous years garden, and the fresh rolls were all delicious, but the pièce de résistance was the unbelievable homemade chocolate pie that looked like it was three inches thick topped with another three inches of meringue. One bite, and Sophy almost melted herself as the flavor exploded in her mouth. She had forgotten what wonderful pies Maybelle made. Of course Chocolate was her favorite and Maybelle had remembered, and told her the leftovers would be going home with Sophy. Sophy didn’t put up too much of a fight. The evening was very pleasant, but whenever Sophy tried to ask questions about Jonah, they managed to avoid answering them. She told them she needed to get to the grocery before it closed for more supplies, and though they seemed disappointed to see her leave, Jake helped her carry the packages of food to her car, Sophy carried her pie and promised to visit again in a few days.
As Sophy was hurrying around the grocery store, she turned a corner and ran her cart into another cart, she looked up to see Andy Morgan smiling at her again, and he really did have a beautiful smile. His smile brightened just a bit as he said, “We’ve got to stop meeting like this.” Sophy laughed as she apologized for trying to run him down. He assured her, “I am absolutely no worse for wear, but I think the next time we run into each other we need to make sure it is in a more appropriate place.”
As Sophy was carrying the bags into the house from the car, a thought struck her; had Andy Morgan been hinting that he wanted to ask her out? She was not sure, it had been such a long time since a man had shown any interest in her in that way, that she simply did not know. She finally convinced herself he was just being friendly as she put her purchases and the food Maybelle had sent with her away.
She grabbed a slice of the heavenly chocolate pie, a cold can of Mountain Dew, the one vice she allowed herself, and she settled in at the table to sort the immense amount of mail stuffed in the postal box.
As she sorted the mail, much of it was the same things that had come to the house all those years ago, the subscription to Playboy that Jonah said he only read the articles in. The mailers from faraway places with only a post office box and city for a return address that Sophy knew were mail order companies for smut that he liked to look at. The cable bill, the phone bill, all the same as when she lived there, he had even kept the same dentist and doctor she noticed.
There were also several more envelopes from Barbara Collins, Sophy assumed they held more cash, but she had not opened any of them yet. She had opened the statement from old Doctor Ollivet, and just reading his scrawl on the invoice had invoked some powerful memories, memories she thought she had buried long ago.
“No!” She told herself, “Do not go there.” She couldn’t help it, seeing the old doctor’s writing had reminded her of the last statement she had ever opened from him. It had simply said, ‘services rendered’ and an amount, nothing more. To her, those services he had rendered had been everything, meant everything, and had been everything and had been the reason she finally had the courage to leave him.
The tears started rolling down her cheeks for the beautiful baby girl that Jonah had forced her to give away twenty-two years ago. She had never been allowed to speak of her again. Dr. Ollivet and his attorney had handled everything and assured her that the baby had gone to a lovely couple who would give her everything she could ever dream of and more. Sophy hoped that had been true, the one positive thing she held on to was that her daughter had been given a life that she could have never provided for her.
Over the years, Sophy had thought about searching for her, but did not feel that she had anything to offer the child other than for the child to know that she had been loved, and if she could re-live her life over again, she would have taken that baby and run as far away from Jonah as she could. The fear of rejection from her daughter had stopped her, she wouldn’t be able to bear it if the child she had wanted and loved so much hated her.
Suddenly she knew who Barbara Collins was, and she had a sickening feeling in the pit of her stomach that she knew how Jonah had come to amass all of that cash… she knew in the depths of her soul that Barbara Collins was her daughter’s mother. Jonah must have found out who she was, and threatened to tell their daughter who he was, that had to be it!
“Oh Jonah.” Sophy said aloud, she didn’t think even he was capable of something so underhanded and mean. She sighed, she couldn’t put it off any longer and as she pulled the stack of letters from Barbara Collins to her, she prayed that she was wrong about Jonah.
|Lost in concentration and bitter resentment, Sophy was surprised to see the sun coming over the horizon. Spending all night at the kitchen table had not been her intentions. Sophy wasn't prepared for all she learned from the stack of letters she'd brought from the post office.
The first couple were the same pleading requests to stop the blackmail, then the tone changed. Barbara Collins was sick and getting worse. Trying to implore to Jonah's sense of compassion, Barbara revealed the doctors were not hopeful for a cure and she needed to put her affairs in order. Sophy felt her stomach twist into knots as she read the words begging Jonah end the madness. It was the last letter that left Sophy in total anguish. There, between the stack of cash and the letter was a picture. Grabbing the photo and envelop, she ran into the living room to get her laptop.
A search on the internet brought up the address quickly. Sophy was almost afraid to search for a map. The return address on the envelopes was in the same state, it was the town that was unfamiliar. In robot fashion, Sophy entered the map search. Rage filled every sense as she realized her daughter had lived only 50 miles away all these years. It was time to talk to Mayebelle and get some real answers.
Sophy hurried into the shower and got dressed with her body still dripping. She was on a mission. Rushing out the door, Sophy ran head first into the broad chest of Dr. Morgan. In her haste, she had not even heard or seen him pull up.
"Woah! Glad to see you too!" There was a twinkle in Andy's eyes. Sophy blushed and quickly stepped back. A little too quickly. She tripped over the door jamb and went down hard on her back, bouncing her head off the floor. Everything went black.
"Sophy? Sophy, can you hear me?"
A voice cut through the fog and the pain. Sophy slowly opened her eyes and quickly shut them against the glare of the bright light. Her head was pounding. Reaching up, Sophy felt a bandage wrapped around her head. She opened her eyes just enough to make out her surroundings. A hospital room, from the looks of it, filled with monitors and protruding the neon white so common in these settings.
A man was standing beside her bed, a look of concern and (was it panic?) other emotions filling his face. Cute, she thought, but unfamiliar. Trying to sit up, Sophy was gently but firmly pushed back.
"Don't try to move, yet. You hit your head pretty hard when you fell."
"I fell? From where? A skyscraper?" Try as she might, Sophy could not remember anything. Fear started building into a crescendo of panic. She could not remember anything! Nothing! Not even her name!
|“Where am I? Who is Sophie?”
Alarm flitted across Dr. Morgan’s reassuring expression. Sophy didn’t notice; her eyes had drifted shut again.
She slowly opened her eyes. A hospital room? Why was she in a hospital room? A man (the doctor?) was taking her pulse.
“Where am I? Who are you? Why am I here? Why does my head hurt?”
“Sophy, you’re in the hospital. You had a bad fall. Please lie still and don’t worry.”
“Don’t worry? Did I fall off a skyscraper? Who is Sophie?”
Again, she closed her eyes against the glare and didn’t notice Dr. Morgan beckon urgently to a passing nurse.
Opened them. “Where am I? What happened?”
“Sophy, you’re in the hospital…”
“Who is Sophie?”
Patting her arm reassuringly, Dr. Morgan turned to the nurse and asked her to page Dr. Jamison in neurology. He’d hoped she was just confused, but some degree of amnesia wasn’t unexpected after the way she’d banged her head. He knew it was most likely temporary, but it could indicate a more serious injury than he’d suspected.
While Sophy fell back into an uneasy sleep, Dr. Morgan scrounged up a post-it pad from the nurse’s station. He'd rather have his mustache pulled out bit by bit than admit he'd been inspired by an episode of "Gray's Anatomy," but there it was. He started writing.
The next time Sophy opened her eyes, he was not in the room, but a line of bright yellow post-its caught her attention. The big block letters were easy to read, but she wasn’t sure if she should be reassured by them or alarmed that somebody thought they were needed.
. Your name is Sophy. . . (ah, good to know.)
. You are in the hospital. . . (yes, well, the beeping monitors were a big clue there.)
. You fell down and hit your head. . . (ok, so this isn’t the mother of all hangovers.)
. Dr. Morgan brought you in.
. . He will be back soon. . . (good. I think. Is he cute? Haha)
. You did not fall off a skyscraper. . . (huh? Why tell me that?)
. Push the call button . . (What I need is to remember!)
. . if you need anything.
. It is next to your pillow. . . (Why can’t I remember? I don’t think the button will help with that.)
Meanwhile, Dr. Morgan and Dr. Jamison were conferring over cups of lukewarm hospital coffee. Dr. Morgan reached for a third packet of sugar, in an attempt to make the liquid in his cup more nearly drinkable. They were discussing the steps they’d need to take to evaluate Sophy. Her vitals were good, and there were two car crash victims already in radiology, so it would be another hour or two before she could get a head CT.
If she were able to answer a few questions the next time she woke up, they should be able to determine the type and extent of her amnesia. Memory loss did sometimes happen in response to trauma or severe shock. Antereograde amnesia involved the memory of events after an incident, and was fairly common although not well understood. More worrisome, she hadn’t seemed to recognize Dr. Morgan. If she’d lost memories from before her fall, that meant retrograde amnesia was also involved, and that could complicate things. Hopefully, these effects would all be temporary, but there was just no way to know right now.
If her repeated questions weren’t just due to confusion or stress, then her prognosis would be downgraded. Dr. Morgan’s eyebrows climbed his forehead in alarm as Dr. Jamison explained that injury to the hippocampus could prevent short term memories from forming, in turn preventing the formation of new long term memories. A blow to the back of the skull could easily have impacted that region. He hoped Sophy’s scans wouldn’t show any serious damage.
Andy dropped by Sophy’s room on and off during the day, as his duties permitted. He headed for home as usual that evening, picking up a steak for his supper and a meaty oxtail chunk for Marmaduke. Not that he thought the treat would keep that big slobberpuss from begging for a piece of his steak. He’d probably get one, too. He couldn’t resist imploring big brown eyes. Sophy had brown eyes…
Oh! Sophy also had that puppy of Bobby’s at her house. He’d seen the pup when she’d answered the door that morning. The poor dog was surely crossing his legs by now. He’d better swing by her place. That steak was big enough for three, in a pinch.
Wondering if she’d picked up small town habits yet, he checked under her front mat for a key. Nope. But the back door was ajar, and the screen door wasn’t latched. The frantic puppy greeted him with a quick lick and headed for the nearest bush. His business done, the pup happily followed Andy to his Buick.
Dr. Morgan’s morning rounds were uneventful, and he soon found himself heading to the second floor, looking forward to seeing Sophy and to telling her how the puppy had vied with Marmaduke to see who could take up the most space in his bed. He’d called earlier, but the next nursing shift had just started, and he couldn’t get an update on Sophy’s condition. He was nearly to her room when the loudspeaker gave its familiar rattle of static:
“Paging Dr. Morgan! Dr. Morgan to room 206, please, Dr. Morgan to room 206.”
As he rushed through the door, Dr. Morgan was almost too preoccupied with concern for Sophy to see the slight smile on her face as she turned to him.
“Dr. Morgan! Thank you for the notes. I thought I’d gone crazy, not even remembering my own name! The nurse said you’d called this morning and were probably done with rounds by now. I didn’t mean for her to page you...”
“It’s Andy to you, please. And I can’t tell you how glad I am to see you so alert this morning!”
“I’m still not sure of what happened. The nurses said you brought me in… ?”
“Yes, I was stopping by to call on you yesterday morning. You opened the door, then missed a step and fell backwards. Your head got quite a knock on the stone floor in your foyer! “
“You came to see me?” she asked, curious and slightly suspicious. “Why?”
“We can save that story for another time. Now, tell me, what is the last thing you do remember?”
“Well, I went out to see Maybelle and Jake yesterday morning, and we had breakfast. I ran some errands and went to the hospital to see how Bobby Walker was doing. Then I guess I went back to the house, and… is that when I fell?”
“No need for alarm, but I think you might be missing a day somewhere in there. I signed Bobby into rehab yesterday morning, so it must have been the previous afternoon that you came to see him. Don’t push it, and don’t worry. These things happen sometimes after a sudden shock, and banging your head like that was certainly a shock to your system.”
Dr. Morgan picked up her chart. “Dr. Jamison says here your CT scans came back clear, except for some swelling. As that goes down, you’ll probably recover more of your memories from yesterday and the evening before. “
“I lost a day?? That’s just too weird. What if I never get it back?”
“Well, it’s unlikely you missed anything of earth-shaking importance in those few hours… although… “
“What? What??” demanded Sophy, not noticing the teasing twinkle in his eye.
“I did run into you at the post office that afternoon… and I’m pretty sure you were about to ask me out.”
“Dr. Morgan!” she sputtered, then took a second look at his face. “Oh fine, be that way, take advantage of Amnesia Girl!”
They both chuckled, and then Sophy added, “You know, once they spring me from here, I would like to take you out to lunch. You’ve been just wonderful to me! Oh, wait… am I allowed to ask my doctor out? Isn’t that against the rules?”
“Now who’s teasing? But just so you know, it’s Dr. Jamison who’s in charge of your case. So you can invite me to lunch all you’d like.”
As he headed back down to the clinic, Dr. Andy Morgan noticed he was whistling.
* * *
Circles of Support for Breast Cancer
I'm learning to dance in the rain! Thank you, Sally & Chris.
|Sophy sighed and adjusted herself in the bed, wondering what it was she missed. She remembered something, she just couldn't place it. "Why?" she thought to herself, " what is wrong with me?" She touched her head gingerly, and sighed.
That night she had dreams. She dreamt of Jonah, and they were arguing. She dreamt of climbing and climbing up to a room filled with boxes. The smell of dust and musty paper filled her nostrils and sounds of a puppy crying somewhere whirled around her loudly. "Where are you?" she cried, the sense of frantic filling her with anxiety.
She awoke, with beads of sweat on her forehead, with a start, and realized she had been having crazy dreams. Squinting at the wall clock, she saw it was 4 am in the morning. Touching her head again, she could feel the pain was not as bad as it had felt before she fell asleep. Assured that she would be tended too by good caregivers in a safe place, she drifted back to a more peaceful sleep.
She awoke to the cool touch of a hand on her wrist.
"Well, good morning! Are you feeling better? " the nurse asked her.
"Yes. I think so, and I am really hungry too.." Sophy answered, rubbing her eyes.
"Breakfast is right outside the door, and then later, the Doctor will be in to see you.."
Disappearing for a few seconds, she entered with a tray of toast, cream of wheat, a glass of orange juice and some coffee. She fixed Sophys' bed table and set the tray down in front of her. Sophy breathed in "mmmm that does smell so good.." and reached for her coffee.
"Enjoy your breakfast, dear" the nurse told her as she closed the door gently behind her.
Sophy looked at the closed door and then down at her tray. It looked good, smelled good, but the first bite of toast dipped in the cream of wheat just sort of sat there while she tried to remember what her dreams were about last night. Sipping her coffee, she envisioned herself climbing the stairs. The smell of dust and paper came to her again. She looked at the lttle pile of yellow post its, on her nightstand now, and something familiar about that stack nagged at the back of her mind. Slowly, she chewed on her toast, and tried to think of what those papers reminded her of.
She looked up as the door opened with a knock and Dr. Morgan stuck his head in, smiling.
"How is my favorite Amnesia Patient doing this morning?" He stood there as if waiting for an invitation to enter the room. She lifted her hand with a piece of toast and waved him in, while washing down the bite she had been chewing with a swig of coffee .
"Better I think, but I have to get up and go somewhere..." She looked at him, as if she expected him to know where she needed to go.
"Well, we need to do a couple more tests and see how well you are improving. That bump on your head was pretty bad, you know..... where is it you need to go in such a hurry?"
He stood by her bedside, feeling her head and looking into her eyes, trying to be all business, but finding it hard to do.
She looked up at him, and then looked over at the stack of post -its.
"I think I need to go back to the house.." she answered, her voice trailing off as she looked back at him.
Remember: You get what you give in Life,so be careful of what you are giving!
|Sophy raised the head of her bed a little higher, gently added another pillow to the back of her neck, and slowly lowered her head....easy, easy.....ahhhhhh, not so much pain now, and she raised her eyes to the pattern in the ceiling. Dr. Morgan...Andy....had continued making his rounds, and she had some time before her final tests were scheduled. Andy had assured her that he would return with Dr. Jamison following her tests and together they'd decide when she could go back to her house. She decided she needed some time to think anyway and now was as good a time as any.
She hadn't said anything to Dr....Andy, because she wasn't sure, but as she lay looking at the grid on the ceiling, she remembered the attic door back at the house. She thought of the house, Jonah's house...now her house.
Jonah was dead. What caused his death? She needed to know why he died. No one had told her, but she remembered he was gone.
She remembered everything about herself, up until the day she arrived in Greenville.
Greenville. Greenville, Tennessee. That was written on the front of the post office.
The post office. The mail. Jonah's mail.
Oh dear God, Jonah's mail. She remembered the mail! All those boxes, all those letters. Jonah.....what have you done.....
A young man in blue scrubs knocked and appeared simultaneously in her doorway. Sophy jumped.
"Sophy, Sophy Walker? Are you ready for a ride?" he asked as he helped a young woman also in blue scrubs wheel in a narrow bed.
"Here we go, I just need to check that diamond bracelet of yours and we'll be on our way! You have a couple scans scheduled this morning, and we're here to escort you.....hey.....are you crying? Now don't you worry a bit, these tests don't hurt. Why, Susie and I wouldn't whisk you away just to hurt you. No sireee, we're just going on a little ride downstairs so you can see our domain. Don't you worry one little bit. We don't do pain, no, not at all!"
"Diamond br....." Sophy looked at her arm.
"Well of course it's diamonds, only the best armbands for our prettiest patients. You might think it's plastic, but oh no, only the best for you! Here we go, Ms. Sophy, let's get you settled on your chariot and wheel you away to a new adventure. Hold on tight now!"
Sophy couldn't help but smile at the charming young man whose name tag identified him as Sam.
"And away we go...." Sophy whispered as they wheeled her down the hall for her final scans. She wiped away any remains of tears.
Sophy was back in her room in time for a late lunch, and her thoughts raced through her mind as she ate. She never noticed her tomato soup was finished, her pimento cheese sandwich was gone, and her chocolate chip cookie was merely a crumb or two when once again there was a knock on the door. Andy appeared, followed by Dr. Jamison.
"Ahhhhh, a young lady enjoying her noon meal, just what I like to see," said Dr. Jamison. Andy merely smiled.
"Your tests show no signs of trauma, except possibly that lump you feel on the back of your head, how's your headache today? Any better?"
Sophy had forgotten about the headache, so busy were her thoughts. She answered honestly.
"The headache is minimal, I haven't even been thinking of it. If the tests show no problem, can I be released now?"
"I see no reason why not, as long as you have someone with you for the next 48 hours. I don't foresee a problem, but we prefer that you not be alone for awhile."
Andy spoke, "I've already talked with Maybelle, and she'd like nothing better than to spend some time with you, Sophy. So it's all settled, and since I've no patients this afternoon, I'll take you back to the house. How's that?"
"That sounds wonderful, but I'm sure I don't need Maybelle, Andy..."
"Nonsense, Sophy, that woman is delighted to watch over you. That's how moms are, you know. We've already talked, and I'll stay with you till Jake drops her off later this evening. Now, let's get the nurse to help you dress and we'll be on our way."
Sophy was released after having completed the necessary paperwork with the financial people. Andy stayed with her throughout and wheeled her out to his waiting old Buick when the final paper was signed. Sophy thought Andy a very gallant man, almost old fashioned in his gestures and his anticipation of her every need. The Buick was very roomy, and she stretched her legs as she leaned back in the comfortable seat. The car was immaculate.
It was when they were on their way that Sophy spoke.
"Andy, did you know Jonah?"
Andy glanced at her, but quickly returned his eyes to the road.
"Yes, I did know Jonah, Sophy, why do you ask?"
"Tell me about him, Andy, tell me how you knew him. You aren't from Greenville, are you? So how well did you know him? Were you his doctor?"
She already knew the answer to that one. She'd seen the bills Jonah had received, and they weren't from a Dr. Morgan.
"I moved here five years ago, Sophy, from east North Carolina. I traded one set of mountains for another. I took over Dr. Ollivet's practice after he retired two years ago, so yes, I knew Jonah. He was Dr. O's patient, and then he was mine. Not that he came in very often, but we did do a bit of fishing together since he knew the local fishing spots and I didn't. He was a nice man, a good friend."
"So you knew from the beginning who I was? Why didn't you tell me?"
"Actually, I didn't know, Sophy. I didn't know until you mentioned your name. I knew I'd heard it before, so I went back to the office and looked through a couple of files. Your name was on Jonah's records, and I put two and two together."
"But Dr. Ollivet's name is still on Jonah's medical bills."
Andy chuckled, "Ahhh, I see. Well Dr. Ollivet never thought of retiring when he ordered reams of envelopes a few years ago. We're still using them. Most folks around here know we just haven't gotten around to getting new ones yet. But that's a good sign, you're remembering things. You must have been sorting through Jonah's recent mail."
Sophy thought for a minute, then she whispered, "Andy, what caused Jonah's death?"
"Don't you know, Sophy? Hasn't anyone told you?"
"Nobody has told me a thing," Sophy said. "Nobody has said a word. I think I need to know."
"Then I'll tell you about Jonah, Sophy, and I'm sorry to be the one telling you. He was doing fine until about the time I joined Dr. O. Actually, he was reluctant to let me treat him, but he really had no choice. Jonah hadn't taken very good care of himself, Sophy, not physically anyway. But it wasn't any one thing that destroyed him, it was a combination of things. He had an ongoing battle with an ulcer that he couldn't manage to control. He refused surgery, saying he could take care of it himself. But he couldn't, or didn't. His blood pressure was out of control, too, and he seemed constantly agitated.
We got to be fishing buddies, and I'd ask him to take me to some of his favorite spots just to see if I could get him to relax for awhile. You know, two single old men just batching it, just hanging out together. But I could tell he was never relaxed.
When I first started treating him, it was for a bleeding ulcer. Are you familiar with that term, Sophy?"
Sophy nodded, watching Andy intently.
"An ulcer is caused by bacteria that eats away at the lining...in Jonah's case.....his stomach. We thought we were treating it with meds, but Jonah didn't always take his medications, and he refused surgery the first time he had a severe episode. It was almost like he didn't care."
"So he died of a bleeding ulcer? Was he in the hospital, Andy? Were you with him when he died?"
"Sophy, Andy and I were to go fishing one Saturday morning. I hadn't seen him in a couple of weeks, but we'd made plans well in advance. He hadn't called to cancel, so I went on over to his house to pick him up. I found him in that shed beside the house, his tackle box was there beside him. There was nothing we could do, Sophy, he was already gone."
Andy slowed as he reached the driveway to Sophy's house. He drove toward the shed, wondering if he should have never mentioned it. But Sophy surprised him when she turned to him and said, "Andy, do you have access to Dr. Ollivet's medical records from 22 years ago?"
|Andy turned to Sophie with a puzzled look on his face as he put the car in park.
"What are you looking for Sophy?"
She turned to look deep into Andy's eyes. She so wanted to tell him everything. She needed someone she could trust to talk to about the money, her daughter and Barbara Collins. Although she thought the doctor was kind and concerned she wasn't sure yet. She said nothing and turned her head. She suddenly felt tired and overwhelmed by the last days events. She shook her head and reached for the door handle to leave but Andy took her hand and held it. He could sense that something was on her mind other than the accident and her injuries.
"Sophy, if you ever need someone to talk to, I'm a good listener. That is, if you stand on my right side, the other side isn't working as well as it used to", he said, as he tapped his ear as if to get better reception.
Sophy smiled a big smile. "Thanks Andy".
He had a way of making her feel better and she thought when the time was right she would tell him. But now she just wanted a hot cup of tea and a shower.
"Would you like to come in for some tea?".
"Well, I thought you'd never ask", he grinned.
As they made their way to the house a truck pulled into the driveway behind them. It was Maybelle.
"Thought I'd stop by to see to ya. You be needing something hot to eat and get settled into bed so's you get some rest".
She was heavy set and huffed as she walked as if it were an effort. But she moved quickly and with determination as if she meant business. She climbed the stairs to the porch ahead of them carrying a grocery bag and waited for Sophy to open the door.
Andy slowly followed her and thought, 'I was gonna do that, oh well'.
As they entered Maybelle headed straight for the kitchen and commenced to give orders.
'Alright Sophy dear, you just sit yourself down and put your feet up and leave the rest to me."
She set down the bag and started noisily looking for pots and pans. Andy chuckled at her as he helped Sophy to a lounger and covered her with a crotcheted throw. They smiled at each other as Maybelle kept up a constant chatter about what Sophy needed for her head.
"I got just the thing for you sweetie.This is my grandmothers' remedy for headaches and such. No offense to you doc, but this is the way we do it and been doing it for years."
She came out of the kitchen with a wet towel that smelled of mint and placed it on Sophy's forehead.
"Just let that set awhile, while I make you something to fill your belly. Looks like you could use some fattening up, you so thin I can see your bones chile. Big city living and no home cooking, Lord I don't know what the world is coming to, but I'm gonna fix you up right!"
She continued on a barage of the evils of city living, home remedies and the latest gossip around town. She never paused long enough for anyone else to speak and Sophy quickly realized that listening was the only part she'd play in this conversation. Andy also soon realized he was not needed here, Maybelle had it covered and Sophy was in good hands.
"Well, I have some patients to see and better be heading out', he told Sophy.
She regretted they didn't have time alone and so did he. As they smiled at each other he took her hand and kissed it. "I'll call you later".
She hated to see him leave and he could tell because he felt the same way, but Maybelle's presence wouldn't allow them to have the intimate conversation they both wanted.
"You leaving already doc?. You missing out on my homemade biscuits and chicken and dumplings. Sure you can't stay?"
"No, I best be going. Take care of my patient. You know where to reach me if you need me." he said, as he headed out the door. Soon as the door shut, Mayebelle grinned at Sophy.
"Chile, I be thinking Doc got a soft spot for you. This town does have an ambulance and I don't rightly remember him ever driving his patients home before", she chuckled. "You work fast doncha, didnt waste no time snagging that one, he is our most eligible bachelor and easy on the eyes too."
Sophie tried to protest that she had had no such plans or intentions and was not looking to snag anyone, but Maybelles' chatter never ended and so she gave up, sat back and rested. The comforting smell of the food and Maybelles' chatter filled the warm house, and soon Sophy was fast asleep.
As Andy drove back to his office he couldn't help wondering about Sophy's question. What had happened 22 years ago that she wanted to know about now? He knew that Jonah was less than a desirable husband. Over the years his drunkeness and wild exploits with women had become the talk of the town. He spent time in the local jail frequently for disturbing the peace and assault because of his bad temper. His life style contributed to his ulcerated stomach. Mild mannered and pleasant when sober, once he started drinking he turned into a monster. Andy wondered what Sophy must have endured being married to him. He knew from his fishing trips with Jonah that he had served time in the war, and returned with demons he could not shake off. Alcohol was his way of dealing with memories he would rather forget.
In his office, he headed to the basement where Dr. Ollivets' files were kept. He had stored them because they told the medical history of the people in Greenville. He could trace back generations to determine diagnosis' that were genetic or ran in certain families. He looked for records belonging to Jonah, but after much searching located instead a file for Sophy. He tucked it under his arm and headed for his office.
But before he could get there he had an emergency call. The police in the neighboring town had been called out to the Baldwin Estate Ranch. What they found when they got there was something they had not seen in all their years on the force. The local hospital there did not have the facilities needed to deal with this tragedy and an ambulance was on its way to Greenville which was larger and better equipped. The lavish ranch was about 50 miles away and was owned by a Mrs. Barbara Collins.
|Trey Carter sat in the mobile office of the Greene County Emergency Preparedness Unit. All the training he’d received, all the drills he’d taken part in were about to be put to use. At 27 years old, he was the youngest county commander in the state. His calm exterior belied the excitement he felt inside. ‘Excitement…. Should I really feel excited about a plane crash?’ Trey thought. It was undeniable though, that’s exactly what he felt.
At 11:18 am a commuter plane holding 67 passengers and crew crashed into a field just south of the main house on Baldwin ranch. It missed the house, all the buildings even all the livestock. The only 'damage' it did on the ground was spook a herd of llamas on a neighboring ranch. A witness saw the plane at a very low elevation, barely clearing the tree tops. She said it looked as though the pilot was attempting to land in the field. The pilot managed to prevent a ‘nose-down’ crash, but the hard belly flop broke the plane in two and seriously injured all the passengers. Emergency medical personnel from three counties were arriving to lend assistance to the local EMTs. They were all looking to Trey for direction. The local hospital was in no way equipped to deal with 67 trauma victims. Trey would have to coordinate the transport of the most seriously injured to facilities that could save their lives. His ‘excitement’ slowly gave way to the gravity of the situation. His training would serve him well today.
After a much needed nap, Sophy woke to the smell of home cooking. The aroma of boiled chicken and dumplings filled the house. Maybelle sat on the sofa watching a news report on the television. The scene was a plane crash and Maybelle was watching so intently she didn’t notice that Sophy had awakened.
“Is that close by Maybelle?” Sophy asked.
Somewhat startled by Sophy’s sudden question, Maybelle replied. “Oh! Yeah, it’s just up the road a piece. Seems some airplane fell out of the sky. That’s why I don’t fly. You won’t ever see me gittin’ on a plane. Crazy, that’s what I think it is.”
The reporter was interviewing the woman who lived in the house. The name they showed on the screen seemed familiar to Sophy. ‘Barbara Collins…..hmmm that name sounds familiar.’ Sophy thought. The woman spoke briefly about her concern for the passengers on the plane.
Maybelle suddenly turned off the TV and said “Well, there’s nothin’ we can do about that, but we can sure get you fed. I got the biscuits made up but I decided to wait to put ‘em in the oven ‘til you woke up. There’s nothing worse than cold biscuits. They’ll be ready in just a jiffy.”
“Maybelle, you don’t need to be doing all this.”
“Just you hush up about what I need to be doin’. I’m here ‘cause I want to be, not ‘cause I have to be. You just relax, honey. I druther be doin’ this than anything else I can think of.”
“Well I certainly appreciate it. You are a Godsend, Maybelle.”
“The snap beans came outa the garden last year. I put ‘em in the deep freeze. Jake killed and dressed the chicken yesterday so it’s plenty fresh. We don’t keep a cow anymore so the butter for the biscuits is store bought, but it’s still pretty good.” Maybelle chattered.
“It’s all simply wonderful. I haven’t eaten like this in a very long time.”
“I can sure tell that. You ain’t nothin’ but skin and bones girl.”
Sophy and Maybelle ate and chatted for over an hour. Each time Sophy tried to bring the conversation around to Jonah or earlier times, Maybelle found something she had to do in the kitchen. It was obvious Maybelle didn’t want to discuss her son.
“I’ll be glad to stay the night here if you want me to honey.”
“That won’t be necessary Maybelle. You’ve done plenty and I think I can take care of myself from here.”
Sophy went into the room where she had stashed the envelopes with the letters and money. That’s when she remembered. “Barbara Collins! That’s where I’ve heard that name before.” Sophy exclaimed aloud.
The envelopes all seemed to be here, but they were askew and not in a neat stack the way Sophy had left them. Nothing seemed to be missing, but someone had been in here.
Sophy made some decisions on the spot. Maybelle was definitely leaving. She probably still had a key to that back door, and was the kind of person who needed to know everything about everybody. A locksmith would be called first thing in the morning to change all the exterior door locks. Until that job could be done, she would not leave the house unattended. Kitchen chairs would be put with their backs under the doorknobs for the night, and could be rigged up with a string tied to a few things on a counter or table nearby to fall off and make a clatter if somebody tried to come inside. The memory of this little country trick had surfaced just at the right time! The only time she had ever used it was for haunted houses at Halloween parties. The memory of that brought a brief smile.
With assurrances to Maybell that she would call her first thing in the morning, and a couple of times during the days and evenings, mostly to keep her away, Sophy was relieved to see the old truck leave the driveway. Hmph, she didn't need a babysitter! She felt the sore spot on her head which already was not so sore as it had been that morning.
Another decision was that she would take all the money and all those envelopes to the bank and rent safe deposit boxes for them. It wouldn't do to open a savings account until she had legal advice. Not knowing what local lawers might be trustworthy, or to whom they might be related, she decided that the safest approach would be to consult with a lawyer where she lived. She was sure that Maybelle wasn't a thief, she was just nosey, and Sophy was sure that Maybelle would not tell anybody what she had learned, not even Jake, who disapproved of her snooping, and had always said “Woman, it ain't none uh yer business. You're too nosey fer yer own good”. Sophy was glad she had stashed the money boxes under the bed and put other boxes in front of them. None of them appeared to have been moved. She was quite sure that when Andy had come to let the puppy out of the house on the day she was hurt, Maybelle had been in the house. She wondered why in all the months since J had died, when it appeared that nobody had been there at all, not even to empty the referigerator, Maybelle might have picked that day to snoop.
Andy didn't call that evening, but he did the next day, only to say that he was up to his neck in plane crash victims, and saw no end to it for the next few days. He asked her to call him if she had a problem. Sophy thanked him for his concern, said she was resting a lot and eating well and for him not to worry. No headaches, memory getting better, no she was not unsteady walking but was being careful. She had been careful not to mention that she had sent Maybelle home because Dr Jamison had wanted somebody to be with her for 48 hours. Her only company was the pup Maybell had brought back from their house when she came.
Andy was such a nice man, certainly well educated and intelligent, but not a know it all like her former husband had been with only life experiences after high school and a chip on his shoulder. He had been an authority on everything, wether he actually knew much about the subject or not. His relationships with neighbors and others had often not lasted long. He also had a temper, something that Sophy had learned about soon after their marriage when he was trying to hang a shelf, and the nail he was driving hit a hard knot. The next stroke of the hammer bent it, and then when he couldn't pull it out, he cursed loudly and threw the hammer through the window in frustration. Sophy remembered cowering in the bathroom out of his sight until he seemed to regain control. After that she was always careful not to rile him, but often was the target for his outbursts because nobody else was available.
Her thoughts then went to another painful subject, one she had kept in the background for many years. Her daughter. Jonah had not wanted children. That was another thing she had not known when they married. She remembered how surprised she was when she had told him she had finally become pregnant, and he exploded! “How could you let that happen? You know I don't want kids”. Sophy had cried, and he had stomped out of the house, left in the car and not come home for 2 days and nights. She was afraid to ask where he had been, but evidence on his clothing indicated that he has spent time with a woman. The next few months were lonely. She was sure that once he saw the baby his mind would change and he would love the child, his child. But that hadn't happened.
When she went into labor, a neighbor drove her to the hospital. Jonah was located somewhere, by someone, but he never came to see her. Dr Ollivet told her the baby needed to be kept in isolation because of some medical problems. Jake and Maybelle came to see her but when she asked if they had seen the baby they said no, they weren't allowed. Dr Ollivet had made his hospital rounds and seemed distracted whenever she asked what the baby's problem was. Three days after giving birth she was allowed to go home, but still had not been able to see her daughter. Dr Ollivet would only tell her that the baby was improving but needed to stay a few more days. Sophy was not familiar with hospital proceedures, and so she was not alarmed. Maybelle stayed with her for a night and a day, and only said that she was sure everything would be fine in a few days. Sophy was tired after a difficult delivery and did not argue. After all, Maybelle had raised several children, so she knew all about what was normal.
And then when Maybelle had gone home, and Jonah had come home from wherever he had been, he told her the baby as not coming home. No, it wasn't dead, it just wasn't going to live here in this house and that was that. He warned her not to complain to him or anybody else about it, and she had seen enough of his violent outbursts in the past 10 years to realize that he meant it. He forced her to sign a paper, but would not let her read it. Only later, when he left with the paper in hand, did she realize that she had probably signed her daughter into someone elses care, permanently. Tears flowed until there were no more tears.
She started planning right then to leave him, but had to bide her time because she had no money or transportation. Jonah spent less time at home than before, and she didn't dare ask him about it. She wept whenever she thought of her daughter, but could do nothing, and could not risk Jonah's violent temper if she showed any emotion when he was home. When her parents came to visit, laden with gifts and expecting to see their 2 month old granddaughter, she had left with them, taking only a few pictures and her clothes.
When they were safely back at her parents home in Akron, Sophy was urged to see a Doctor because she was shaking constantly and could not sleep. At his insistance she received counceling for what the Psychatrist called Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. She had heard the term before, but only in relation to soldiers returning from combat. Her parents gently urged her to try to find her child, but she could not bring herself to face possible violence from Jonah. She knew he would hunt her down if she defied him. And so she went on with building her new life, and buried the memories of her marriage and the birth of a daughter she had never been allowed to hold or even see.
Tears flowed again as Sophy remembered that she had been on her way to find Barbara Collins when she fell and hurt her head. Now, with the passage of a few days, she decided that hadn't been such a good idea after all. While she hated to make the poor woman wait, that visit would have to wait until she had legal advice so she could see the whole picture, at least from her point of view. The view from the other side would be something quite different. Another letter came from Barbara Collins. Sophy didn't open it, but did add it to the stack of envelopes in a safe deposit box. She had rented 3 large boxes, two for the bundled money and one more for the correspondance. The officer at the bank remarked that most people only needed one. She just forced a smile and said that Jonah had never thrown away anything and that she thought it wise to keep it all for taxes and such.
Several days later, Andy finally had time to visit her. He was just in time, as she was returning the next day to Akron and her job at the dental clinic. She had made no decisions about the house or it's remaining contents. She had confided in him just enough to tell him that she knew why Jonah had an ulcer, he was blackmailing someone. He asked if he could take her to dinner, and she accepted, saying there was no chance to go to lunch as they had planned.
It was a pleasant evening. They had driven to a city about 40 miles away, so as not to be seen by the locals. It never took much to start the rumor mill in a small town, and indeed the tongues were already wagging, so they thought it best not to feed that fire. Andy asked her about her job, and her activities. He told her that he had never married, and had wanted to be a small town, country doctor ever since reading a book about one as a child. He had been delighted when Dr Ollivet needed an assistant. Sophy asked if he had read her file, yes, he said he had. He only had one question. “Did you want to give up your child?”
“No, I did not. He forced me to sign something he would not let me read. I was too afraid of him to refuse”.
He nodded and said “I could see that something was really causing tension in Jonah.”
Sophy felt that she could tell him this much: “There's more, he was taking money from the woman who adopted her. A lot of money. For many years. I think I need to return it to her”.
When they said goodnight at her door, he only asked that she keep in touch, and said that his interest was personal. Sophy agreed to email exchanges and they left it at that. Despite her former bad experience with Jonah, she was interested in Andy but tried not to show it. The past two weeks had been very difficult. She was sure she couldn't trust her emotions.
Barbara Collins, although in failing health, had continued to manage the ranch she had inherited from her parents, and continued to send money to Jonah Walker. Often he had not contacted her for months at a time, and only then to tell her he wanted more money. Several years ago she had sold some of the ranch acreage to keep paying him. She had been glad not to have heard from him, and no idea that he had passed away. The plane crash in her pasture had made her feel quite vulnerable, but at the same time she was thankful that her daughter had been away at college when it happened. BrookAnn was such a tender hearted girl, it would have completely unnerved her. College had only been possible because she received a full music scollarship. Barbara had been thankful for that opportunity, as she certainly could not have financed it herself, without selling the remainder of the ranch.
The ranch was all she had in reserve to keep paying that rotten snake of a man who had made it possible for her to raise his child as her own and then betrayed her for it. She had mortgaged the ranch to the hilt. Her late husband, Reginald Collins, had been working away from home much of the time when she was supposedly pregnant with his child, and never knew the child was not his. She had been lonesome and had a brief fling with Jonah Walker, and this was the hook he used to keep the money flowing from her hand to his. This secret had weighed heavily on her conscience for most of her life. When Reginald died, she had pleaded again with Jonah, only to be told that BrookAnn would be told everything if she did not keep paying.
And then one pleasant summer day, Barbara held a letter in her hand, a letter from an attorney in Akron, Ohio. She had opened it at the mailbox, read it and found herself shaking and crying with relief and disbelief, all at the same time. She was free, and not only that, almost all of the extortion money was about to be hers again. She hurried toward the house, but then stopped. She couldn't tell BrookAnn and there was nobody else to tell. Barbara fell to her knees and simply, humbly and joyfully thanked God. She needed to talk to somebody, but who? Father O'Reilly! He would know how to handle whatever needed to come next. ***
Of all the things I've lost, I miss my mind the most.
More ramblings at http://thegatheringplacehome.myfastforum.org/forum54.php
|Father O'Reilly was not pleased to hear that Barbara had allowed herself to become a victim of Jonah, or with all of the secrets she had been keeping all of these years, but he offered to help her untangle the mess she had gotten herself into. Barbara and Father O'Reilly made plans to travel to Akron to meet with the attorney who had sent the letter.
It had been only a couple of months since Sophy had left Greenville, but so much had happened in that short amount of time. Memorial Day had just passed, and though “officially” it was summer, even if not by the calendar, to Sophy it felt like years had passed so much had happened.
Sophy’s mother had not been in the best of health for some time, since her father had passed, really, so it did not surprise her that just a few days being back in Akron, she got a call from the hospital, her mother had been admitted and was unresponsive. Within a week of returning to Akron, Sophy had buried her mother and found herself totally alone for the first time in her life.
Andy had been so supportive, after she had shared her experience with giving her daughter away with him, she felt like she could tell him anything. When her mother had passed he insisted on being there for her, and he had. He had visited several times in the months since she left Greenville, and she was grateful and thankful for that.
The task of settling her parents, now mother’s, estate had seemed daunting, but Andy had a friend from college who was an attorney in Cleveland, and it had been through his Akron office Sophy had been able to get everything in order. After everything had been probated, deeds and titles changed to Sophy’s name as the sole beneficiary, Andy had encouraged Sophy to speak with the Attorney, Charles Jenkins, about her daughter, Jonah, Barbara and the money she found in the house.
Charles had suggested a meeting with Barbara Collins, Sophy resisted at first; she simply wanted to return the money Jonah had taken from Barbara. Legally, she had no obligation to do so, morally she did, and Charles understood that, but also understood that the money might provide Sophy with the only chance she would get to talk to Barbara. Sophy felt like she was blackmailing Barbara, or at the very least holding the money hostage, but Charles reminded her that Barbara had not been completely innocent, and at the very least, Sophy deserved to meet the woman who had raised her daughter. Sophy trusted Charles to do what was right and fair.
When Sophy returned to work, her heart just wasn’t in it, and it was obvious. Though she was not fired, her employers “suggested” that it might be better for her to take an indefinite leave of absence while she straightened her life out. Sophy didn’t care, she didn’t need the money the job provided, her parents had lived frugally, saved faithfully and made very wise investments. Sophy who also lived frugally could live very comfortably on the interest alone from her inheritance, if she took into account the little expenses like gas and, lunches that she incurred because of her job, she actually would have more money than she did when she was working. Sophy decided to resign rather than take a leave of absence, and when she told Andy, his reply was “Good, now you can think of moving down here.” To Sophy’s surprise, the thought of moving was very appealing. She had no desire to live in Jonah’s house, maybe not even in Greenville, nearby sounded wonderful, but if she moved, instead of just one house to ready for market and sell, she would have three.
Sophy started going through her parent’s home, throwing things away and reliving memories was cleansing for her, she had always loved the house she grew up in, but as she went through it room by room, she knew without a doubt that she did not want to live there the remainder of her life. The house was much too large for just her and as the days warmed she realized she did not want to spend another winter in Akron’s cold and snow. She had loved the winters in Greenville, though it got cold for a few days, the weather always rebounded quickly to a milder temperature, and the area around Greenville just was not as bleak and dreary as Akron. With her parents both gone, there was nothing to keep her there, and without financial worries, she felt herself more at ease than she had been in a long time, until the call came from her attorney who said he needed to discuss “a couple” of things with her.
Sophy hoped that Barbara had agreed to meet with her, though she did not know exactly what Charles had put in the letter, she knew that he was going to tell Barbara that the money was hers again but was contingent on meeting with Sophy. When she arrived at his office she found out that Barbara had been thrilled with the offer of returning the money, and had agreed to come to Akron to collect it. Charles had obtained Sophy’s power of attorney and gone to Greenville himself to collect it shortly after she had hired him. All totaled, there was nearly half a million dollars Jonah had taken from Barbara over the years. The meeting with Barbara was scheduled for a week later at Charles' office. He did not tell Barbara that Sophy specifically would be there, he simply asked her to meet with him and other interested parties.
After Charles was finished, he asked Sophy if she had decided what she was going to do with her parent’s home. Sophy nodded and told him she was going to sell it and probably move south. Charles smiled, “I might be able to help.” He continued, “One of my partners is looking to move down here, and when he mentioned he was looking at the Tallmadge area, I told him I would talk to you first, but if he likes the home, and I’m sure he will, I’ll make sure you get at least the appraised value from it, and we’ll handle the paperwork thus avoiding realtor’s fees.”
Sophy was pleasantly surprised, “That would certainly ease one of my problems Charles, thank you.”
Charles smiled, “No thanks needed, I’ll call him, and if you’re going to be available in the next couple of days, we’ll get him and his wife down here to look at it.”
Sophy was pleased, “Does he have a family?” She asked.
Charles nodded, “Yes, three kids.”
Sophy smiled, “It’s a perfect house for a family, when my parents bought it they had hoped to have a large family, but instead it was just me. It is far too much house for me alone; it makes me happy to think there would be children living there. It is a lovely area to raise a family.”
That night when Sophy talked to Andy she told him about the meeting with Charles. Andy volunteered to come up for the meeting with Barbara, but Sophy declined, and instead asked him if he would pick up some real estate brochures for her from Anderson, which was just south of Greenville. Of course Andy was more than happy to comply.
Sophy met with the partner the following day, they were anxious to see the house, and Sophy thought, probably wanted to move things along before she changed her mind. She knew she would not change her mind, but they didn’t. The meeting went well, and they made an offer that was more than Sophy could have imagined. When she told Charles she thought their offer was too generous, Charles assured her that their offer was fair for the area and the home, and after Sophy checked some of the prices for real estate in the area similar to her parent’s home, she accepted their offer.
She and Charles met a few hours before Barbara Collins was scheduled to arrive. Charles had drawn up a document for Barbara to sign that said she would not hold Sophy responsible for anything Jonah had done, and he had also drawn up another paper that said in order for Barbara to collect the money, she had to agree to tell her daughter the truth. Sophy did not like it, but Charles said he thought it was the least she could do and was prepared to tell her that if she refused to sign that he was prepared to contest the adoption on Sophy’s behalf.
“Can we do that?” Sophy asked.
“We can do anything we want to, but with so much time passed, I’m not sure what would happen in court. However, simply by contesting the adoption it will require the daughter know what is going on.” He continued, “One way or another, your daughter will learn that she was adopted, and why.”
Sophy was not prepared for how frail Barbara Collins looked when she arrived at Charles’ office, as they sat down, Father O’Reilly explained that the trip had been difficult for Mrs. Collins, but she had insisted on keeping the appointment.
Charles briefly explained that Sophy had only gone to clear out Jonah’s house when she found the money, and their first order of business was to make sure that Barbara did not hold her responsible for it. Charles brought out the paper he had drawn up, and Barbara gladly signed it. With that out of the way, Charles went on to explain that Sophy’s daughter had been taken from her when she was born, and they had since discovered that her daughter Brook, was the baby Sophy had been forced to relinquish.
Barbara stood up, “We’re finished here.” She said.
Charles held up his hands, “Mrs. Collins, please, sit back down, we are not suggesting that you personally did anything wrong, I believe we all know that Jonah Walker is the person at fault here. Ms. Walker has done what she thought was the right thing to do; we are only asking that you do the same.
Barbara Collins reddened, “My daughter is not negotiable.” She seethed.
Charles continued, “Mrs. Collins, please be reasonable, Sophy is not asking that you give up your daughter, only that you tell her the truth and allow her to decide whether or not she wants to build a relationship with her natural mother.”
Barbara Collins stood again, this time it was Father O’Reilly who told her to sit back down, “Barbara please, it is the right thing to do. Just hear them out, please.”
When Barbara sat again, it was Sophy who spoke first, “Would you gentlemen please allow me to talk to Mrs. Collins alone?” She asked.
When they had left the room, Sophy told Barbara everything from the beginning, and by the time Sophy had finished, both she and Barbara were crying. Barbara feared that Brook would hate her forever, she explained that Brook had been spoiled her entire life, and wasn’t always the easiest person to please. Barbara said she was beautiful, intelligent and when she didn’t get her way, could be heartless. Sophy remembered hoping the entire time she was pregnant that her daughter would inherit none of Jonah’s traits, but unfortunately it seemed as though she had.
When the attorney and the priest came back to the room it was decided that Barbara would wait until Brook was home for the summer before telling her. Brook was currently in the first summer session of classes, but would be home at the beginning of July through the middle of August. Barbara did agree to sign the paper saying she would tell her, Charles had insisted even though Sophy felt it was not necessary. Barbara said she agreed to sign it as a token to Sophy to show her that she intended to keep her word. Charles wired the money Jonah had taken from Barbara to the account Barbara specified, and made copies of everything for both Sophy and Barbara. As Barbara left she hugged Sophy and said, “Take care of our girl.”
Sophy thought it was an odd statement, but thought nothing more of it, she intended to get her own house on the market and get moved before Barbara told Brook. With the money from the sale of her parent’s home, Sophy need not touch her inheritance, and would still have several hundred thousand dollars to add to her nest egg even after buying a suitable home within easy driving distance to Greenville. When her home sold, she decided she might just splurge with that money, and maybe do something for Brook, that was, if Brook wanted anything to do with her.
Sophy had not heard from Barbara Collins since they hugged at the attorney’s office in Akron a few weeks ago. She traveled to Anderson to look at three different houses Andy found for her, each was a good price, was sound and covered by warranties. Andy did all the legwork so she did not have to, and Sophy was grateful to him for that.
Sophy fell in love with the third house she looked at and made an offer on the spot. The owners accepted quickly, and Andy helped Sophy make arrangements for her belongings to be moved to her new home in Anderson. She did not even need to return to Akron.
Sophy loved the new house, and busied herself unpacking, arranging and gardening. The main selling point for her were the beautiful gardens surrounding the home. They were more elaborate and beautiful than Sophy’s own gardens in Akron, and she couldn’t wait to add personal touches to them. She made sure to let Barbara Collins know where she was by dropping a card in the mail to her. She thought about calling, but was afraid Brook might answer the phone, not wanting to take that chance, she sent the card letting Barbara know her new address and phone number and wishing her well.
A week or so after mailing the card, Sophy was in the side yard working on the pond Andy had installed for her beside the patio when a sedan appeared in her driveway. She stepped through the gate to find Father O’ Reilly walking toward her. Sophy looked past him to see if perhaps Barbara had accompanied him but saw no one. Sophy shook his hand and invited him inside for refreshments. When they were comfortable, Father O’Reilly spoke, “Ms. Walker, I felt I needed to come see you in person, I was with Barbara when your card arrived, she asked me to keep it safe for her until she could come to visit you herself.”
Sophy nodded, thinking the request strange, but not questioning just yet. The Father continued, “There is no easy way to tell you this, but Barbara has not told Brook yet, and unfortunately, Barbara passed away last night.”
Sophy was stunned, she couldn’t believe it-- she shook as the Father explained Barbara had not been or looked healthy for several years; everyone who knew her realized that. What Barbara had not told anyone was that she had Aplastic anemia, and needed a related donor's bone marrow to be able to survive.
When she was diagnosed several years ago she was told that her body had stopped making blood. At the time, doctors told her blood transfusions would be helpful for a time but severely affected patients will die unless normal bone marrow is transplanted successfully. She had been severely affected, and Barbara’s doctors tried everything, including a non-related bone marrow transplant. The procedures had prolonged her life, but her prognosis was bleak from the beginning.
It was important to Barbara, probably most important that her daughter not find out that she was not her daughter, therefore, Barbara kept her illness from Brook, she did not want her to worry, nor did she want her volunteering to be a related donor and finding out that she did not match, so Barbara had indeed gone to her grave carrying her secrets.
Barbara only confided in Father O’Reilly on the return trip from Akron that she had just a few weeks remaining on earth, and that she agreed to Sophy’s attorney and his conditions because she knew she wouldn’t live long enough to make good on her promises.
The Father continued, “Brook has no other family, I will leave it at your discretion how you want to proceed from here. I will help in any way I can, I would only ask that you give Brook sufficient time to mourn the only mother she has ever known." ***
|Brook stood in the funeral home looking very angry. How could this happen? Parents were supposed to be around for weddings and grandchildren. Holidays spent fighting over who's parents got the visit that year. Brook hadn't even thought about a serious relationship yet, let alone all those things Barbara had left her to handle alone.
People were coming in the room and offering their condolences. Brook was barely aware anyone else was around, so lost was she in her thoughts. Brook jumped when someone grabbed her hand and started pumping her arm.
"Hey Miss Brook. I sure am sorry 'bout Mis' Barbara passin'. I know yer hurtin' and all but I wanted to check in on ya'll and see if I could be any help." Brook looked up at the tall young man who was still shaking her hand. She couldn't help but smile a little at his antics. Trevor didn't know any better. He was just showing his same sweet caring spirit.
For just a minute, Brook let her memories take her back to a happier time. She and Trevor were running in the orchard at the ranch. Trevor's father had been hired to work on the ranch for the summer. 6 years later, he was still there. Trevor and Brook had grown up playing with each other. Laughing at the crazy places each had chosen to hide during games of hide-and-seek or screeching like banchees when they would jump into the cold water of the creek. It was good to see a familiar face.
"Trevor!" Brook exclaimed, with a little too much enthusiasm. "I am so glad you came. This place is stifling."
"We could take a quick walk outside if you like, Miss Brook."
"I can't leave right now."
"Sure you can. Jus' put yer head down and start bawlin'. I'll handle the rest," Trevor said with a wink.
It took Brook all of two seconds to make up her mind, drop her head and start wailing. Trevor was as good as his word. Without blinking an eye, he put his arm around the grieving daughter and escorted her outside, telling anyone watching Brook just needed a minute to calm down.
Once the two were outside, Brook shook her head and smiled.
"Some things never change, do they Trevor?"
"Awe, Miss Brook, sometimes it's ok to break the rules," Trevor answered.
It had been 4 years since Brook had last seen Trevor. They stood outside rehashing old times and catching up on each other's lives.
"So you decided to follow in your daddy's footsteps, huh?" Brook asked.
"Seems a shame to let all that learnin' go to waste. Daddy knew all about them plants and things. He was good at it too." Pride shown through as Trevor stood a little taller and swelled out his chest. Brook couldn't help but notice how muscular Trevor had grown over the years. She shook her head and tried to focus on his words.
"Why just last week, some hoity toity from Ohio come down and bought a place over in Anderson. My daddy did them flower beds there and that was the main reason that lady bought the place. All these years, and they still look just as perty as when he planted 'em." A smug smile crossed Trevor's face. "Why, when she heard I was his son, she even offered me a job helping take care o' the place for her."
A sudden thought struck Trevor. "Hey, since you need some time to just relax and all, why don't you run down there with me tomorrow? I know Miss Sophy won't mind. And I could use someone for the company."
Sophy woke up with a start. She heard voices coming through the window.
Looking out from behind her curtain she saw her grounds keeper, Trevor, and a young woman walking around talking and pointing. She rubbed her eyes and looked at the clock. It was late, she had overslept. She squinted at the clock, it was 10:00 am already!
She watched the couple as they strolled around her gardens, the young woman stooping down and sniffing as Trevor talked about what it was she was smelling. She felt like she was spying and couldn’t help but notice the young woman looked familiar.
“ Oh, Miss Sophy, she just loves her flowers”, Trevor told Brooke. “Why, she even has a
little setting swing over here, come and see,” as he led her to the double seated white
Brook looked around as she sat gingerly on the swing and patted the seat next to her.
“ Well, come on, sit down.. “ she invited Trevor.
They sat there, silent for a few minutes, rocking in unison.. “ I oiled it for her cuz it was a squeaking when she first got it,” he told Brook. He beamed at her.. “Well, what do you think?”
“Oh , it looks lovely here, you have done a wonderful job, Trev.”
Sophy decided to leave them be as she readied herself for the day. She figured they weren’t a threat and that Trevor had decided her place to be where he wanted to bring his girl.
“Funny, he never mentioned having a girlfriend before,” she thought to herself, as she looked at herself in the mirror. Washing her face was always a new adventure, she was always discovering some new glint of a gray hair or the slight beginnings of a smile crease at the corner of her eyes. When she went back to the window, they had left and she wondered where they wandered off to. She was pouring herself a cup of tea when the doorbell went off.
“Well, good morning Trevor! I wasn’t expecting you to be working today!”
She ushered them inside and led them to the breakfast nook where the windows gave
a view to the back bird baths, feeders and gardens.
“Aww… Miss Sophy, I ain’t workin’, I jus’ wanted you to meet my friend, Brook.“ He tugged at Brook's hand to bring her in front of Sophy.
”She is in town home from school cuz she just lost her Ma and all, I hope you don’t mind I brought her here.”
Sophy smiled and extended her hand, “So nice to meet you Brook, and I am so sorry for your loss.” She covered Brook’s hand with hers warmly, and gestured to the tea pot. “Would you like some tea or maybe a cold Mountain Dew?”
Brooke stared at Sophy, blinking…and then looked up at Trevor and said,” I really think we should be going, but thanks anyway.”
She pulled her hand away from Sophy, and started to turn to the door. “It was nice to meet you, though, and you have a really beautiful place here.“
As Sophy closed the door behind them, she knew in her heart she had just met her daughter for the very first time, and it hadn’t gone well, yet it hadn’t gone bad. The girl was the spitting image of herself. And she knew they both knew it.
Remember: You get what you give in Life,so be careful of what you are giving!
|She was dreaming. Again.
She was dreaming and she couldn't wake up.
She knew she'd see her mother in the dream, but she can't see her mother, her mother was just buried, 'oh please don't let me see my mother dead oh please not dead oh please not my mother dead...'
But Brook couldn't wake up.
She could see the garden, the same garden behind her home, the home she shared with her mother, the flowers they'd planted when she was a little girl, the same dream, the very same dream....and in the distance the mother figure, misty, not clear yet, in the garden wearing her sun hat, the old straw hat that she'd decorated with a blue ribbon...the mother figure came closer, slowly.....it's only a dream....only a dream.....a dream......her mother....coming slowly closer.....it's a dream, only a dreammmm.....
She tried to wake up, but she couldn't force her eyes open, she couldn't open her eyes but she could see the mother walking through the flowers....look at the flowers ....don't look at the mother....Mother's not here...we buried her...she's not here...wake up...oh please...wake up....oh please.....Mother.....Mama......and her eyes opened wider and wider still and she could not take her eyes off the mother....oh but no...it wasn't the mother....it wasn't her eyes....Mama's eyes were brown not blue....not blue...it isn't my mother......not my mother...it's that....
Brook woke! Her hands covered her mouth, holding back the scream that tried to erupt. Her heart pounded so hard she felt the bed shaking. Her shirt was soaked, as was her long hair, and tears were falling, leaving little trails from the corner of her eyes and into her hair.
"Oh God, I'm so scared. Oh please, God, I am so scared....I don't know what to do!" She didn't say the words aloud, fearing their echo would bounce around in the empty house and scare her even more.
She thought about Trevor, he'd offered to stay, sleep downstairs on the sofa, just so she wouldn't be alone. But no, Brook had never let even Trevor see her weak side. She'd always let him know she was as tough as he was, that she could handle herself in any situation, that she was not afraid of the dark!
She'd turn the light on, she'd play her piano. What time was it? Her clock told her it was nearing 3 a.m. How long had she been dreaming, she didn't know, but she knew she couldn't go back to sleep. She was too afraid of that dream returning.
She'd had that dream since she was a little girl...her mother coming to meet her across the flower garden in the back of their yard. It wasn't a dream so much as memory. Mama used to meet her in the garden every day after her nap, or as she grew older, every day when she and Trev came home from one of their days of play. Mama would meet her in the garden. And Mama would grab her up and swing her around and Brook would grab the sun hat and put it on her own head.
But then Brook hit her teen years and things changed. She didn't always agree with her Mama, she didn't always run into her arms for a hug, and she didn't always......
The tears kept streaming.
"Get a grip, girl!" she said to herself.
She got out of bed, turned away from the dream, away from the image of the woman in the dream, the woman who was not her mother. Brook turned the lamp on. She glanced in the mirror, she wiped the tears from her eyes.....her eyes.....those were the eyes she saw on the face of the woman in the dream.
The woman she met when Trevor took her to see his garden work. The woman who looked just like Brook.
Trevor had asked her when they got in his truck, he'd asked her why she didn't want to stay and visit with Miss Sophy. She'd mumbled something about having to be home, going through her mother's things, needing time alone. Trevor seemed to accept that, as he always accepted her excuses. That was just the way Trev was.
Her mind turned to Trevor, she needed to get her mind away from the dream, away from that woman who had her same eyes. Think of Trevor.
Trevor, her best friend. Trevor went to college, the local college that offered classes in horticulture, agriculture. He hadn't wanted to go, but his dad told him that things were changing so fast and Trev needed to know things his dad couldn't teach him. And Trevor was a natural in a garden. Everything he touched grew and bloomed.
Why he kept that country bumpkin accent, she'd never know. He'd graduated in the top 5 of his class, and could have used that scholarship he'd received for his master's, but not Trevor. He wanted to work in the dirt. He was only happy when he was in his greenhouse, propagating plants, he called it. Crossing one plant with another. Making sticks root and grow. Creating blooms where there had been nothing until he worked his magic on them. Yes, Brook loved him. She'd always loved him.
She'd felt her mother was pushing her toward higher things. Her mother wanted to see her in the spotlight, on stage, making that piano dance, she'd said. It was because of her mother's aspirations Brooke had to leave Trevor to go to college. Trevor was already taking classes locally when Brooke graduated from high school, and she had always wanted to go to school wherever Trevor went. But her mother had pushed her harder.
"You got that scholarship, Brook, go where the money is. The local college is fine for people like Trevor, but you got that scholarship! You have talent! Don't waste it! I'm not paying for you to go to a local college when you have a scholarship to the finest university!"
And Brooke had gone, very nearly hating her mother for pushing her away and for implying that Trevor was somehow of a lower social standing.
"He's the son of the hired help, Brook. You will not date the son of the hired help."
But college was almost over for her now. She'd have to go back for finals in only one class, it was a music class, the final was a performance. It had been easy to reschedule it after her mother died.
She walked to her baby grand sitting in the corner of the den. Her fingers found the keys, her eyes strayed to the photos on the wall. She had so much to do. The lawyer was coming tomorrow, and since she had no relatives left, her mother's friend, Father O'Reilly had promised to be there with her. She stopped playing for a minute, reaching for the list she'd made after the funeral. Questions she needed answers to. Trevor helped her make the list.
What to do about the house. Was it hers? Was there money? Where would she live if she lost the ranch. And what would she do with a ranch anyway? She was ill prepared to get a job. She'd majored in music, and what could she do with a music degree? She hadn't bothered to even get a teaching certification.
And what killed her mother? Something about blood, something about needing a donor. But her mother had not even told her she was sick. She needed to know and she needed to know now. If her mother had a blood disease that killed her, then quite possibly Brook could have inherited that same trait. She needed someone to help her find answers and maybe it would be Father O'Reilly. Living on the ranch so far from town as they did, her mother didn't have any close friends. Neither did Brook, except for Trevor. She had college friends, but they lived in other states, and Brook wasn't close to them anyway. At school, her best friend was her piano.
Her fingers kept playing, an old song her mother often hummed as she gardened, and as she worked around the house. "Old Man River...." Brook remembered. She never got a chance to tell her mother good bye. She never told her she loved her.
She and her mother had been so different. Her mom was impressed with things, and saw to it that Brook had everything she wanted. But what Brook wanted more than anything was for her mother to understand her. If only once, she wished her mother had given in and encouraged Brook to be her own person. But her mother never seemed to like who Brook really was. Even Brook had sometimes wondered if her mother thought her own daughter was down in that lower social class with Trevor. "What will people say?" was her mother's answer to everything Brook wanted to do.
But Brook had loved her, even so. And she knew that her mother loved her dearly. Now, if only she could find answers. Maybe in the morning. She'd call Trevor and ask if he could be with her when she met with the lawyer. Yes. She'd call Trevor.
She stood up from the piano, glanced at the clock on the shelf, it was nearly 6, she might as well start her day with a shower and a shampoo. She kept waiting for morning sounds, her mother always had coffee brewing by 6, the radio playing softly in the kitchen, oldies but goodies, her Mama said. Brook didn't like coffee, but she missed the scent, she missed the music playing softly on the radio.
She paused in the bathroom, brushing her long hair, glancing in the mirror. Who was that Sophy woman who had blue eyes just like......
No! She slammed the brush onto the counter. She would not go there. She would not!
|Brook tried to pull herself together. She put on a pot of strong coffee to brew while she dressed. She didn't like coffee, but felt it was necessary on this day. It seemed so odd being in the house alone. She missed her mother not being there. She looked around the kitchen as if for the first time. Everything had a different meaning now that her mother would not be coming back. The full impact of never seeing her again had not yet sunk in. It was too new. It seemed the funeral had only been a ceremony to outwardly announce the end of her mothers life. But it was only the beginning of the inside journey of learning to live without her. Life would go on in a different way, without her mother, but it would be some time before Brooks' life would not be centered on this absence. It would be a grand chapter in her life, but the story would go on, having been enriched by it.
Right now, standing in her mothers kitchen,the grief was almost overwhelming. She looked at the collection of antique teapots, the old cast iron pots hanging near the stove, and the mahogany wooden chest that held the set of silver flatware passed down through generations. She wondered how old it was and where it came from. It seemed to tell of who Barbara was and Brook realized, as she looked with new eyes, that there was much she did not know about her mother as a woman, and not just as a mother. It was too late to ask now.
She turned her thoughts to the lawyers' visit. What would he have to tell her? Would she have to find somewhere else to live? The thought of not living on the ranch was more than she could bare. It had always been her safe haven. She sipped the sweet milky coffee when she heard a car pulling into the graveled circular driveway. She walked to the front and peered through the curtains. It was Father O'Reilly.
A tall thin man with the look of one who had seen much suffering, his crinkled face always held a smile, as if he knew something everyone else didn't. His smile seemed to say that no matter the difficulty, there was an answer. She opened the door as he approached and was relieved that someone was coming to help her and keep her from being alone. Although the situation was grave, he smiled at her in a fatherly way and held her hands firmly for a while before entering. His touch made Brook feel reassured.
They sat at the kitchen table as she poured him a cup of coffee.
'Thanks for coming Father. I know you were very close to my mother and you must miss her as much as i do." Brook didn't want to acknowledge that she was glad for his company and that she needed his help.
'How are you today, Brook?" he asked. He knew that she was outwardly stoic, but inwardly needy.
"Well, I didn't get much sleep, nightmares and all kept me up. I feel like I'm in limbo about what's going to happen next . Missing mama is only half of it. I really want to get the legal end of things squared away so I can feel some peace about my future. Once I consult with the lawyers, I'll feel able to take some time to settle down and think about where my life will go without mama. "
"Brook, before the lawyers get here, there are some things I need to discuss with you." He had a lot to tell her and had thought about the best way to break it to her. He had decided that he would tell her what she needed to know to get through the lawyer's visit. He didn't want her to find out anything disturbing from a stranger.
"Brook , your mother has confided in me over the years, so if you have questions about anything, feel free to ask. I'll help in any way I can. What I'm about to say may be shocking but its time you knew."
Brook looked at him and could sense she was about to get another shock in her short life. His face was stern and she felt the news was not good.
"Brook, your mother took you in shortly after your birth in the Greenville Memorial Hospital."
Brook wasn't sure she had heard him correctly. It was as if he told her, she was not who she thought she was. She just stared at him. Then she started smiling, a smile that said, this is a joke and can't be true. she shook her head no.
"Father, surely this is a mistake. My mother would have told me if this were true. All these years and she never mentioned it. How can this be?", she asked incredulously.
Father O'Reilly was prepared for her reaction. He had told Barbara it would be best if Brook knew. Barbara had reassured him she would tell her when the time was right but had never intended to do so. She didn't know how without making herself look less than honorable in her child's eyes. She also felt Brook was too young to know the whole story and thought she might confide in her when she was older.
Brook got up from the table and walked around it. She just kept shaking her head."Brook, I'm sorry you had to find out this way and now under these circumstances. But there's more".
Brook stood still and wondered what else could there be. She was not her mother's child. That meant she had a set of parents out there somewhere. She thought of the recurrent nightmare and she thought of the woman she met just yesterday.
Father O'Relly handed her a sealed letter. "She wrote this for you and asked that I give it to you after she was gone. She knew she was dying for a long time."
Brook just looked at the letter speechless. She thought, she knew she was dying and didn't tell me? How could she keep such secrets, and from me, her only family? Her thoughts seemed to spin out of control and an anger built up in her she could hardly contain. She felt as if she had been living with a woman she did not even know.
Seeing her distress, Father placed the letter on the table, 'You can read it later when you have had time to digest all this. I know this is a big shock for you but for your own good I must also tell you that you were not legally adopted."
Brook sat down resignedly. She could not believe what was happening. It was too much. Part of her wanted to run away and part of her wanted to ask a thousand questions. Father O'Reilly then went on to tell her that when she was born, her biological mother was forced to give her away. She had been forced by her husband to sign over her child and shortly after, Brook had been given to Mrs. Collins by the attending physician who was a friend of Barbara's husband. Unbeknownst to Barbara, the same physician had informed Mr. Collins years before, that he would be unable to father children after an accident riding a horse.
Rich and powerful, he had thought the baby would persuade Barbara to stay in the marriage which she had threatened to leave. He knew she had been cheating but not with whom. His concerns were centered on what a divorce would do to his budding career as a politician. He wanted no scandals to keep him from his ambitions. Little did he know, that Brooks biological father, was his wife's lover.
Barbara knew but told no one. Only she and Jonah kept this secret for which she paid dearly, every month with a big cash payment. Shortly after Barbara received Brook, she found out she was pregnant.This could not happen. There was no way her husband could find out about this. When she started to show more than she could hide, she took Brook and a nanny to their summer cottage complaining of a need to have a change of scene. Mr. Collins readily agreed since he was embarking on his campaign and wouldn't be home much of the time anyway. There, Barbara gave birth to a baby boy in the local hospital under an assumed name. She quickly arranged to have the baby put up for adoption, and after a few days recovery went back to her old life with no one the wiser.
Or so she thought. Unbeknownst to Barbara, her nanny was a second cousin to Maybelle. She kept Maybelle informed of all of Barbara's doings while she was away. A clever, but nosey woman, she detected Barbara's plight and although she was discharged soon after Barbara returned home she wondered what happened and why Barbara came home from a two day stay at the "spa" without the baby she knew Barbara was carrying when she left. The goings on of rich folk never ceased to amaze her and she asked no questions and was handsomely paid. Maybelle, on the other hand, knowing her son was involved with Barbara, decided to do some snooping of her own. What she found out she felt obliged to share with Jonah.
Brook's anger began to seethe. Her mother, so righteous and upright, had been living a lie and Brook felt her whole life had been a lie also. She suddenly felt adrift. She was not Brook Collins and her life suddenly had no meaning. Her sense of identity vanished in an instant. She was now a sister to someone she never met. He was out there somewhere yet she was the outsider. It was more than she could bare. Without warning she picked up her coffee cup and threw it against the wall where it shattered into pieces. She let out a loud wail and before she realized it Father O'Reilly had her in his arms to console her.
"How could Mother do this to me?", she cried.
"Brook, your mother loved you dearly. You were her life and all she had in this world. She was trying to protect you, don't you see? She made sure to draw up a will leaving you everything. Even without a legal adoption, you are still the executor of the estate. You won't have to ever worry about money. All of that is explained in the letter along with information about your biological parents."
After a while, Brook stopped crying and dashed cold water on her face. She had to get it together. This was a sorry state of affairs. She felt like she had been kicked in the gut. Still unable to read the letter yet, she accepted the second cup of coffee Father offered her. While she held the cup with shaking hands, the doorbell rang. It was the lawyer. A very young man in an expensive suit, with briefcase, he came in and shook Father O'Reilly's hand formally and nodded deferentially to Brook as he sat on the living room sofa. He put his case on the coffee table and opened it, ready to get down to business.
|The next two hours were grueling for Brooke. Listening to that little geek read all the ‘wherefores’ and ‘whereas’ in the will nearly put her to sleep despite the two cups of coffee she’d drunk. When all was said and done, Brooke got everything, the house, the ranch, the cattle, the cars, the equipment, everything. It would have been so much easier to just say, ‘It’s all yours Brooke’. She suspected there wasn’t much money anymore. She’d seen her mother buying bargain items and not offering to take her shopping the way she used to. So when the young attorney didn’t mention money, she wasn’t particularly surprised.
It seemed to Brooke that the will had been covered, so why was this guy still sitting there? Surly he wasn’t trying to think of a way to ask her out right after reading her dead mother’s will and with the priest in the room with them for chrissakes.
“There is the matter of the money.” The attorney said.
“What money?” Brooke asked, surprised.
“You haven’t told her yet, Father?”
“I was just getting to that before you got here.” Father O’Reilly intoned.
“WHAT MONEY?” Brooke insisted.
“Ms. Collins, there is a total of four hundred eighty six thousand seven hundred dollars in cash. It all goes to you, with the exception of a small attorney’s fee due to my firm.” The young lawyer quietly said. “I’ll let Father O’Reilly fill you in on the other details.”
“Father, what is this guy talking about?”
“Well Brooke, it’s like this……….”
Calvin Murtagh sat in the tax preparer’s office. It was the first week of April 1985. He was being lectured about saving for his son's college education.
"Cal, if your boy's gonna go to college, you gotta start saving for it now. You can't wait 'til it's time for him to go and depend on grants or help. It might not be there." Michael Rice said.
"But Mr. Mike, I ain't got no money for college. Least wise I ain't got enough to put much aside.
"It don't have to be much Cal. Look here. You take home....what... a hundred and fifty dollars a week? All you gotta do is put 10 dollars a week in the bank. I know you been working for that Collins family over there, plus you're still mowing yards in town and I know that ain't showing up on your W-2s. So just stick a 10 dollar bill in the bank every week so that baby of yours and Effie's can go to college. When you start making a little more, put a little more aside for him. It ain't gonna be the same for him as it was for you Cal. You were able to buy that little house from the Turners on your gardeners income and partly because folks at the bank here know you. You can't expect things to be the same 20 years from now. It's hard enough for white folks without an education. Black folks won't stand a chance."
"Awright, Mr. Mike, I'll do it. I'll put half my mowin' money aside for Trevor. That'll be a little mor'n ten dollars a week."
"You won't be sorry Cal. I promise you.....you won't be sorry."
On the day Trevor graduated from high school, he had over twenty thousand dollars in an education fund. It was not enough to live on, but it was certainly enough to pay for community college and eventually a state university as long as he worked to help pay for his personal expenses. Trevor was not only the first in the Murtagh family to graduate high school; he was the first to graduate college. Calvin and Effie were certainly proud of everything he did.
Brooke spent her entire childhood with a feeling of being a degree or two off. She noticed how most other girls looked like their moms or dads. Adults would say things to
her like “You have your mother’s chin” or “You have your father’s nose.” She accepted this but never really saw it herself. She just assumed she looked different in the mirror and it never crossed her mind that she wasn’t the biological daughter of her parents.
Brooke never really had that many friends at school. Oh, there were a couple of girls that she hung out with, but they weren’t people that she confided in. They taught each other to put on make-up and they’d occasionally shop together. But when she had something she needed to talk about to someone, it was always Trevor she turned to. It was so easy to open up to him. He never judged her and he always listened, hanging on every word. No matter how silly it may have been, it seemed as though it was the most important thing Trevor had ever heard. He was always on her side in any fight, or in any perceived injustice against her.
Trevor was also a source of contention between Brooke and her mother. As Brooke got older, Barbara tried to steer her away from Trevor and toward some of the neighboring ranchers’ sons. On the few occasions that Brooke brought it up, Barbara denied it, but Brooke knew her mother was prejudiced. Barbara would say it wasn’t fitting for her to be seen going around with the hired help, or that it wasn’t good to mix business and pleasure. Brooke knew the truth and in some small part it was Brooke’s motivation to continue her close friendship with Trevor.
Trevor was in love with Brooke and had been since that first summer day when his daddy took him to the Collins’ place. Trevor was seven years old and when he wasn’t dragging a burlap bag full of trimmings to the truck, he watched the pretty little blond-haired, blue-eyed girl play alone with her dolls and toys.
Finally, one day Brooke looked straight at him and asked, “Well are you gonna come on over here and play with me or are you just gonna stand there behind the bushes and stare?”
Thus began their long and dear friendship. Now that friendship may be tested. Trevor worked for the woman whose money just made Brooke a moderately wealthy woman. She didn’t know whether to give the money back or keep it. Somehow it didn’t seem right that she profit from this crime. On the other hand it had been her family’s money that supplied this woman with nearly half a million dollars and maybe much more.
This ‘Sophy’ woman claimed she knew nothing of it all those years, but surely she profited from it. She lived in a very nice home over in Anderson that she just recently bought. Claimed she found all this money in boxes in her “ex” husband’s house. If that was so, what was she doing in his house anyway? Ex-husbands don’t leave houses to their estranged wives. Something wasn’t right about this. She decided right away that she didn’t trust this ‘Sophy Walker’
|Brook did not have time to call Trevor that morning, but just like at the funeral home, Trevor knew she needed him. He arrived just as the attorney was leaving. Brook fell into his arms and sobbed.
“Whoa Brook, honey what’s wrong?” Trevor asked gently rubbing her back as she cried.
Brook couldn’t answer him, she just sobbed. Trevor looked at the Father, Father O’Reilly shook his head slightly and said, “Brook has been given a lot of information to digest Trevor, perhaps she should lie down for a bit until she gets her bearings.”
Trevor walked Brook to her room, when he went back downstairs, the house was empty, so he decided he would make a nice lunch for Brook to try to make her feel better. Trevor went to the garden that his father still tended, and found the makings for a nice summer salad. Just as he put the salad in the refrigerator to cool and was cleaning the counter, Brook appeared.
“Hey kiddo, do you feel better?” He asked.
Brook walked directly to Trevor, grabbed him and kissed him. Trevor was taken aback, “Brook, what are you doing?” He asked when she released him.
“Trevor, do you love me?” she asked.
Trevor stammered, “What? Brook, what is wrong with you?”
Brook asked again, “Trevor, do you love me?”
Trevor stood there dumbfounded, so Brook continued, “Trevor, I’ve loved you my entire life, and I think you love me too.”
“B-B-Brook, uh, I um….” Trevor still couldn’t speak, so Brook kissed him again. She looked up at him, “I can see it in your eyes Trevor, I know you love me.”
Trevor just nodded, “Since the first time I laid eyes on you.”
Brook smiled. “Would you drive over to Asheville with me?”
Trevor nodded, “Of course I will, do you mean now or later today?”
“I’d like to leave as soon as possible, if you can.” Brook said.
Trevor shrugged, “My day is clear, I usually take Mondays off, you know that. What are we going to Asheville for?”
Brook nodded, “I need to go to the courthouse.”
Trevor nodded, “Okay, as soon as you’re ready we can go, I’ll drive.”
“I need to change and freshen my makeup, give me five minutes” Brook turned to go back to her room, then turned back to Trevor “make sure you have your Driver’s License Trev.”
“I always have it, it’s in my wallet.” Trevor said as he patted his back pocket where his wallet was.
Brook smiled, “Thank you.”
“For what?” Trevor asked.
“For loving me.”
Trevor laughed, “That’s the easiest thing in the world Brook.”
A little over an hour later, Trevor put his black jeep into park at the Buncombe County Courthouse. Brook had been quiet on the ride, and Trevor had not pushed her for conversation, he knew she would tell him about the morning when she was ready.
Brook broke the silence, “Trev, do you think you could take this week off?”
Trevor was quiet for a moment, silently going through his schedule in his mind, “Yes, I think I could probably get by with it, why?”
Brook shrugged, “I’d like to get away for a few days, can we do that?”
Trevor nodded, “Sure we can, I’ll just have to call my clients and reschedule, it shouldn’t be a problem, I’ll just double up next week.”
Brook opened up the door of the jeep, “Good. It will be fun to have a few days together where I don’t have to think about anything but you.”
Trevor nodded, “I’ll make the calls while you’re in the courthouse.”
Brook smiled, “I need you to come with me Trevor.”
Trevor was surprised, but he obliged and got out of the jeep and locked it. He walked around the jeep to where Brook stood; she reached up and kissed him again. “I love you Trevor Murtagh.” Trevor smiled, “I love you too Brook.”
Brook took his hand as they walked into the courthouse. Trevor was still processing all of this. He wasn’t sure what had made Brook say all of those things to him, and kiss him, oh, that kiss! But he was happy she had.
“Where are we going Brook?” Trevor asked. Brook replied, “Register of Deeds Office.”
When they arrived at the Register of Deeds Office, the young woman behind the desk asked what she could do for them. Brook replied, “I called earlier, I believe we have an appointment with Judge Thornburg?”
The woman smiled, “Of course, you talked to me in fact. Judge Thornburg will see you shortly, we have a little bit of paperwork to take care of first.” Brook handed the woman a paper. The woman nodded and noted that Brook had filled everything out correctly, “The internet just makes things so much easier these days, I’ll just need to see y'alls driver licenses and we’ll be all set, oh, and the fee is $80.00.” Brook handed the woman some cash then turned to Trevor, “I have been trying to think of the best way to ask you this since this morning, and for the life of me, I don’t know of any other way other than to just come right out and say it.”
Trevor looked at Brook, for someone so smart, she sure could confuse him sometimes. “Ask me what Brook? You know you can ask me anything.”
The lady behind the counter laughed, if y'all will give me your drivers licenses I’ll just leave y'all alone for a bit.”
Brook looked at Trevor, “Are you sure you love me?” she asked.
Trevor took her hands and said, “Brook I love you more than anything in this world.”
Brook smiled, “Then give that lady your driver’s license and marry me.”
In the weeks following the meeting in Ohio, and after Barbara’s confession, Father O’Reilly had been investigating on his own, the more he found out, the heavier his heart became. It had been his intention to tell Brook everything this morning, but the new information he had received via email had challenged him to change his intentions. This tangled web Jonah Walker created needed to be untangled, and all of the inflicted parties deserved the truth.
It seemed as though the fates had intervened and placed him in the middle of this mess, and he was determined to straighten it out and he figured the best place to start was with Sophy Walker.
He pulled into her driveway and saw she and Andy were sitting at the table on the patio. As he walked toward the gate, Sophy and Andy headed toward him.
“Father, it’s always good to see you.” Sophy said as she shook his hand.
“Father, nice to see you again.” Andy said as he too shook his hand.
“Dr. Morgan, Ms. Walker I wish I could say I was here under better circumstances, could we sit down please?” Father O’Reilly asked.
“Certainly. We were just enjoying the patio, but we can go inside where it’s cooler if you would prefer?” Sophy asked.
After they were seated around Sophy’s dining room table, Father O’ Reilly told them about his morning with Brook. Sophy was outraged that Brook would even consider she had kept a dime that was not hers.
“She can look at my bank statements if she wishes to, she’ll see that until my parent’s home sold, and I settled their estate, I was lucky if I had a thousand dollars in the bank at a time. Why in the world would I want to keep the money I found in Jonah’s house, even a bit of it?”
Andy put his hand on Sophy’s shoulder, “Soph, calm down, she doesn’t know you remember. She doesn’t have any idea what you went through with Jonah. Put yourself in her position for just a few moments, you might feel the same way.”
Sophy nodded, she knew that indeed, she might have a similar reaction were she in Brook’s position. She looked at Father O’Reilly and asked, “So now what do we do Father?”
Father O’Reilly shrugged, “As my mother said to me when I was younger, bide your time, she’ll come around.”
Sophy shook her head, “From everything Barbara told me about her, I am not so sure you’re right on that count, Father.”
Andy interjected, “Sophy, she’s going to want to know more about you after she calms down a bit, she won’t be able to help it, her curiosity will get the better of her.”
Father O’Reilly agreed with Andy, and then said he had more to discuss with them. Sophy waited patiently while Father O’Reilly finished his drink. After she had refilled it for him, he seemed ready to talk again. “Barbara gave me a letter for Brooke, in it she detailed everything that had happened, and she did let Brook know that she did not need adoption papers for her, because as far as the world knew, Barbara had given birth to her, so she told her not to worry about the legalities of it.”
Sophy sat and steamed as Father O’ Reilly went on. “Barbara also left a rather large box of documents for me, many of the things had nothing to do with Brook, but were things Barbara felt important enough to save over the years. Two of the documents I have been conducting a fact finding mission on myself the past couple of weeks.”
Sophy and Andy looked at each other, then back at Father O’ Reilly. He continued.
“It seems that Reginald Collins was infertile, and he knew it.”
Sophy gasped, “So he knew that Brook was not his biological child?”
“It seems that way, according to what I read.” Father Collins sighed then continued, “Shortly after Brook was born, Barbara and Jonah conceived a child together. At the time the child was conceived, Reginald Collins had been away from home approximately three months, so there was no way Barbara could pass this child off as his too.”
Sophy was shocked, “What did she do with the child?” She asked.
“She gave it to an orphanage.” Father answered.
“Oh that poor woman, here she was with a daughter that didn’t belong to her, and had to give her own child away. That poor soul.” Sophy ached for Barbara.
Andy looked at Sophy and knew in that moment that he was in love with her. She wasn’t thinking about the pain that had endured because of this mess, or what she had done without, she hurt for what Barbara Collins had went through, that kind of selflessness was so rare in a person. He didn’t know anyone else in the world like Sophy, and was glad she was a part of his life, and hoped to make her a permanent part once this mess was cleaned up.
Father O’Reilly interrupted Andy’s thoughts as he continued. “The child was a boy, he spent a few days in the orphanage, until everything could be worked out. The sisters there took good care of him. He was adopted, and I’m not sure if I should tell you this or not, but I’m going to anyway. Rudy and Susan Walker, Robert’s parents, adopted him. His name is Richard, and he just finished his undergraduate degree at Duke.”
Sophy exclaimed, “That’s why they moved away! I always wondered why they just moved and no one really knew why.” Just then, the revelation hit Sophy, “THAT is what Jonah was blackmailing Barbara over wasn’t it?”
Father O’Reilly nodded, “Yes, it is.”
Sophy shook her head, “What kind of man could father two children and just give them away without a second thought? How could I have been married to someone like that?”
Father O’Reilly spoke up again, “Ms. Walker, Sophy, I do not think you could have anticipated this when you married Jonah, however, there is more I need to tell you.”
Sophy couldn’t believe there was still more to this terrible story. “Please go on Father, she encouraged.”
“After Barbara told me about her child, I contacted the orphanage where she took him. It happens that I know most of the brothers and sisters who have worked there for the last thirty years since I have been here.” Father O’Reilly hesitated just a moment before he went on.
“When I was discussing this with Father Wilson who ran the orphanage at the time, he gave me some other information regarding another paper I found in amongst the things Barbara gave me. There is no easy way to say this, but there is another child. Your child, Ms. Walker. The paper in Barbara’s things was part of a medical file. It was part of your medical file. I assume that Dr. Olivett gave the paper to Jonah, and for whatever reason, he gave it to Barbara, perhaps in case she ever wanted to try to find the child.”
Father O’Reilly continued, “It seems after you gave birth to Brook, you were sedated because of the repair surgery Dr. Olivett needed to perform following the birth. It was while he was performing this surgery he discovered you were pregnant with twins. The second child, also a female, was much smaller than Brook, and ‘not well’ as the doctor noted on the file. The child was given to the sisters at the orphanage.”
Sophy was stunned; she had no idea that she had carried twins. “What happened to her?” Sophy whispered.
Father O’Reilly sighed, “Because of her medical problems as a child, the sisters were unable to find adoptive parents for her, she was raised at the orphanage by the nuns.”
Father O’Reilly took a piece of paper from his pocket, “Father Wilson emailed me this morning, she left the orphanage when she was eighteen, this is all he could find presently.”
Sophy read aloud, “Sara Wilson, last known address, Wilmington, North Carolina. Why Wilson?” Sophy asked. ‘
Father O’Reilly shrugged, “They had to give her a name, since Father Wilson ran the orphanage at the time, she was given his last name.”
Sophy sat in silence as tears streamed down her face, and she ached for the children she had not been allowed to raise.
Father O’Reilly stood, “I will leave you alone for now, but know that I am still working on this with Father Wilson. We are trying to locate her for you Ms. Walker.”
Andy stood and walked the Father to the door, “Thank you for coming Father, and thank you for all you’ve done.”
Trevor had entered the courthouse thinking he was going in to support his friend; he left the courthouse a married man. He still wasn’t quite sure that he was awake and not really still in his bed sleeping, because this surely seemed like a dream. Brook asked him in the elevator on the way down if they could honeymoon at the beach and Trevor had agreed. Brook’s mother still owned a condo in North Myrtle Beach, and that is where they were headed.
Trevor was excited, but he was also nervous. Of one thing he was certain; he did not have much time left on this earth, because as soon as Effie Murtagh found out her son had gotten married not only without telling her, but also without her presence, she was going to kill him.
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