By now you know I try to write stories about loving couples. No cheating allowed. This story fits into the same vein. If it is not what you want to read don;t complain at the end.
I have been here all along, since my last story. I have written and discarded a number of stories, I just was not happy with the outcome.
I hope you enjoy this one
I learned about heartache at a very young age. I didn't know what a soul mate was but I knew there was something very special about the girl who lived across the farm lane from us. Her daddy worked for the man who owned that farm.
We were just two skinny little farm kids. Everyone called her Sweet Pea. The name fit her just fine. Her Mom and Dad were Mr. and Mrs Johnson.
My Dad and Uncle James, his twin brother, owned the farm we lived on. They inherited it from their dad.
My name is John S Binder Jr. Everyone called me Spud. It seemed as though everybody had a nickname, some were of the sort that children best not be caught repeating.
It was on a cloudy Friday late into the fall of the year when a group of men showed up in a truck. I didn't like their look nor the things they said. They were crude in the way they talked and their actions. One man decided to pee on the back tires of the truck, he saw me staring with my eyes wide and mouth open. He turned in my direction and shook it at me. Behavior such as that was frowned upon in our parts.
Dad walked over and spoke to him. The man replied "Sorry Kid" in a loud voice, then turned around and walked away.
Dad returned and informed me that they were from a town a ways down the road.
The man who owned the farm was through with his crops for the year and couldn't afford to pay the hired hand through to the next spring. Their agreement was that he would pay to move them to their next job if one was found within a month after letting Mr Johnson go. If there was no job the family could stay rent free until the next spring, like they did the last two winters. The Johnson's had little money left from what they had earned that year and that house was bitter cold in the winter. The siding had gaps and holes and the wind blew right through.
I looked at my dad and pleaded for him to buy the farm so they could stay there. Dad slowly shook his head and softly told me " ... we don't have that kind of money."
"Please Daddy!" I pleaded. "I can give their little ones all my toys and I have all the pennies in my piggy bank to help. Every time we find a penny we put it in the big piggy bank you gave me.
Please Daddy, some day I'm going to marry my Sweet Pea! I may be young now, but soon I'll be a man, I love her Daddy! Please don't let them take my sweetheart away!"
Sweet Pea and I had been friends for almost three years, that was how long they had lived across the road on the farm. We did everything together, we walked to and from school, attended Sunday School, we helped each other with our chores and when our work was done, weather permitting we would then play down by the gate until our mothers would call us in for supper.
The neighbors all referred to us as "the twins". It was as if we were joined at the hip. Then, there was the hair ... OH, yes, the hair. We both had flaming red hair. With the hair came the freckles, she had that a lot worse than me. There were about three hundred people on the farms and in the surrounding area. We were the only two in our world that had that flaming red hair.
When the truck was loaded it went away. Soon my Mom and Dad went over and took a basket of food for their journey. A short time later I watched, heartbroken, from my bedroom window, as Sweet Pea looked up from her window in the car and waved through her tears as they slowly drove down the road. My world can crashing down around me.
I picked at my supper that evening and went to bed soon after without being told.
The next morning as Dad and I were doing chores he explained to me that life was not fair. "Sometimes through no fault of your own, your plans can come crashing down all around you, and all you can do is to watch as it happens."
"Daddy, I may only be seven, but one day I'll find her and we'll get married. Just you wait and see."
It was only a few years later when Daddy was caught up in a piece of equipment, he came close to loosing his left arm. He was right handed so he could still do most things, his hand took years and lots of therapy before it was close to normal.
James took over the farm, he had to hire a hand to help until his children could do more.
Later when we moved to a town Mom and Dad both had to take jobs. Dad took a job at the local feed mill while Mom was hired on as a cook at the diner two blocks from home. I was still an only child. I was told that my job was to do the very best I could in school. My job was to make it through college and get a job that paid well. My job was to become somebody: they didn't want me to be a dirt poor farmer. The poor rich they called it.
Between both jobs, a small profit from the farm and odd jobs that I did we were able to purchase the "handyman special" house we were renting, and fix it up.
The mill sold lumber and things as a sideline to the feeds and other animal products. Occasionally an order would come in wrong or an item would not sell, if Dad could use it he was allowed to buy it at cost, or it was just left in stock to be sold later.
One day his car would not start after work. He really needed to pick up Mom and get her to the doctor. She was eight months along with our second baby. Tony, his boss, offered to drive him home and take them wherever they needed to go. When he pulled up in front of the house he saw the appearance. It was late summer and he knew the roof wouldn't make it through another winter.
Dad was a proud man, he would not accept charity; not any way or any how. When Dad got to work the next morning he was asked if he needed help with his car. The garage next to the mill came over and determined it was the battery. Roy the mechanic replaced it, forty dollars he told Dad; his cost. You can pay me a bit each week for it.
Now, Dad and I had a good reputation in town for carpentry skills. We worked most weekends with crews from one of the churches doing repairs for the elderly. His work was top grade every time. I was the apprentice. I was his left arm if you will. He spent as much time teaching me how to do the work as we did actually doing the job. Roy said "If you can come over to the house I have some repairs my wife has been after me to get done. We can trade work, hour for hour, to cover the labor on your car."
The next week the materials were delivered and we went to work on the following Monday, it was a holiday. We were done with the agreed upon work by noon. We continued to work until four. The new wood was painted, caulked and all the rest of the wood that surrounded the new had a coat of paint and was re-caulked where needed. Roy had worked all day at the garage and was amazed at what we had completed.
Before Roy could say anything Dad told him the way it was going to be. "A mechanic makes double what a carpenter would, therefore I need to work 2 hours for each one you do for me."
"But I only worked about an hour on your car" Roy protested.
"You can hold it in reserve in case I ever need another repair."
That was the beginning of a wonderful friendship, each of them doing more than expected for the other. After some years they decided they both owed each other so much they couldn't afford to stop being friends.
The week after the car repair Tony asked Dad into the office, "I seem to have forgotten to do your yearly review last year" he told Dad.
"The company is just barely breaking even" Dad countered.
"Oh, we are doing better than that"
It went on and on for about ten minutes before Tony got to the main subject. "I should have paid you about four thousand dollars more over the last year, by my calculations. I just happen to have a load of shingles that should cover your house. I can give them to you at cost to cover the shortfall in your wages. You will also see the raise in your next paycheck. I know you can use it with the baby soon here."They argued for the next half hour about how Dad could not accept charity, and how dangerous it was for him to be on a roof. Dad was soon called to the yard to handle a customer problem, it took two minutes. When Dad returned to the office Tony was gone for the day ... according to his secretary.
On Sunday, church was unusually full, the sermon was on helping others and graciously accepting help in return. After the sermon was finished the preacher from the church with the home repair project walked up the aisle and joined our preacher at the pulpit.
He spoke to the assembled; "In return for all the wonderful things John binder and his son Spud have done for our community we are declaring this week Binder family appreciation week. All of our workers are to be praised for their efforts and good work; we think it is right to repay them for all of their efforts..."
I looked over and saw Mom tugging urgently on Dad's arm. He bent down to hear what she had to say. His mouth dropped open and his eyes went wide. He spoke up loudly; " I'm about to give birth, I mean my wife is pregnant, WE NEED TO GO!" With that Mom led him out of the church to the car.
I could see him mumbling and fumbling with the keys, finally I read Mom's lips "Would you like me to drive?" she gently asked.
"Yes, ummm, N, NO" he stuttered.
"I know it is just beginning" she softly spoke, "We have a number of hours before it happens." Dad settled down and drove off at just a slightly higher speed than necessary.
I went back inside to hear what they had to say, "Dad's just a little excited because Mom is ready to deliver." I said, as I returned to my seat.
"Let's all join in silent prayer for John and his family " one of the preachers said.
A little more than an hour later we still had not returned to "Binder Day". The program was put on hold for another day.
Soon the service stopped again, I saw a lady leaning it toward the pulpit whispering. Our preacher, Rev Sam, pointed to me and called me up. He spoke to me quietly. He turned from me and announced "Spud has a baby sister, I have been told her hair is even redder than his ... As if that is possible!"
What they didn't get to tell us was starting after church the men were meeting at our house to re-shingle the roof.
I was driven to the hospital by a man who shook my hand as I got out. I thanked him for his kindness.
As I walked into the hospital people were pointing toward me and whispering things like "I bet that's him, He's got to be the brother, and so forth."
Everyone knew where I needed to go and helped me along the way. I was directed into a room, Mom was laying on one bed and Dad was on another with a big goose egg of a knot on his forehead. Mom pointed to the bundle in her arms. The red hair stuck out just a wildly as mine, the color was certainly bright, what there was of the hair. "Meet your sister." she said, as I looked at her.
"What happened to Dad?" I asked.
"When he saw the red hair he got excited and lost his balance." she said. I found out years later that he passed out during the birth.
Three days later they named her Emily Rose. Mom, like her mom, was named Emily, the name Rose stuck with her for life, for obvious reasons.
In the spring we planted a rose bush in the front corner of the yard, I had ordered it special because the color was so close to our hair. It is still there to this day.
Rose and I were well known in the community, for obvious reasons. As a result and because it was expected of us we were always on our best behavior.
In high school I joined the football team and played baseball too. I was soon the starting quarterback and the best pitcher on the baseball team. Wherever I went Rose was there with me, just like a shadow. By my senior year I was big and strong. In football we went to the state championship game only to loose it by two points. I had three no hitters that spring; we went all the way to be state champions.
I wasn't valedictorian, but came real close. I was awarded an academic scholarship to the local branch of the state university and graduated from there with high honors. My degree was in engineering. I soon found myself out looking to join the work force.
Rose cried when I found a job about two hundred miles away.
All throughout school I never forgot my Sweet Pea. I was always looking for her wherever I went. I especially thought of her when Dad and I returned to the farm each fall to hunt.
I had been working for the same company, rapidly climbing the ladder and moving higher. Soon there was no place for me to advance without moving to another facility. I agreed to relocate to another facility about three hundred and fifty miles away. The new location was twenty five miles from the farm and was actually closer to home, this allowed me to get home more often.
Over the years Rose had become a real stunner; she was going into high school the next year.
The new job was in research and development engineering for the company. I was just getting my feet wet when they transferred in another person to the department. She was to be my clerk and assistant. The girl was terribly shy; she was also the most stunning brunet I had ever seen. She always had a sad look in her eyes that her makeup only partially hid. I did not understand why she always wore it so heavily.
It took eight months before she could be alone in the same room with me for more than a few minutes. We slowly became friends. Her name was Ellen Sue Thomas, "call me Sue" she always said. I noticed she watched me closely when she thought I wasn't looking.
I was still watching everywhere for my Sweet Pea. I hoped she turned out to be as wonderful as Sue was.
After working together for another year we finally became good friends. Once I asked her to lunch, she shook her head "NO". Later she told me "You are a wonderful friend. I have loved another for a long time now. I lost track of him years ago. Can we still be friends?"
I assured her "I could be fine with that."
And so it came to be; we were the best of friends, but always looking for our other...
One day she didn't come in to work, I was beside myself with worry. Later that afternoon she called me to let me know her step father had died. When she returned she was much happier.
A few months later we were asked to spend some time at another location nearer my home town. The company would pay for two hotel rooms and all meals while away. The project involved an item too large to move.
We arrived on a Wednesday and were on site for ten days, twelve hours a day. On the second weekend we were there the entire team took both days off to relax. It remained that way until the job was completed; work one weekend and off the next.
I asked if she would like to go for a ride to forget the stress we had been under. After some consideration we headed out into the country. Sue seemed to notice I had a destination in mind and began to question me on it
"All in good time" I responded.
After a while she sat up straighter and began to pay attention more. As we drove past an unusual rock formation she gasped slightly. "I sometimes dream about a rock that looks like that" she said.
Coming around another turn I heard her mumble "OH, MY!"
I asked "What?"
She was holding her hand over her mouth. Soon we came alongside a tractor being driven at the edge of the fields. I slowed to a stop, as did the tractor. My cousin Elroy jumped down and ran over shouting "Is that you Spud?" I got out and we shook hands.
"Pa is down at the barns" he said. I got back in, only to see her looking out the window on the other side. Was she looking for something or just trying to hide her eyes. I could see her chin as it trembled slightly. What was wrong? She wouldn't tell me. Just before we turned in the drive she turned back to face front and sighed.
We spent the day visiting. When Uncle James saw her he said "You sure know how to pick-um. This one is almost as pretty as the little red head years ago." I shook my head to indicate not to continue.
We had a good time and she relaxed to enjoy the day. I noticed Sue would slip deep into thought from time to time. She was all smiles as we drove back to the hotel.
"Can we stop at a store on the way back. I need a few things."
I allowed her to go in on her own as she requested. Back at the motel I escorted her to her room and she said, "I'll see you at breakfast tomorrow. Call me before you head down." And with that I was dismissed.
In the morning I called and went down. Soon after sitting, I heard a voice behind me softly saying "I will always be your Sweet Pea!"
I turned to see the most beautiful red head in the world. The makeup was gone and the freckles were back too. Her smile lit up the room. I was so stunned I forgot to breathe.
She reached around and pushed my mouth closed. "It's not very becoming to stare like that." Then she slid into the booth beside me.
The waitress came over and she announced "We will both have our usual."
Stunned? Not me. I had trouble catching my breath. Then the tears began. She reached around me to hold me.
We stayed that way until the food arrived. "Eat it, we have another long day ahead."
When we left the cafe she took my keys. "You're not in any condition to drive and I know where I am going."
As she drove I heard the story of her life.
"Dad went to work for a cruel man when we moved from the farm. He was forced to work long hours in all weather. He became weaker and weaker as the years went by. Soon he was down in the bed too weak to do anything. Then he died.
Momma and the rest of the family were heartbroken, I was devastated for the second time in my life. The boss came around, even before Daddy was buried and demanded we move out.
He came back the next day and asked why we were still there. Momma told him we had nowhere to go.
He took her aside and said to her that the only way we could stay is if she married him. Four weeks later it happened. We moved into his big house. Being the only child with red hair he said I had to either dye it brown like his or keep my head shaved. The red hair angered him because, he said, it proved I was not his.
I heard rumors that after I turned eighteen I was to join him in his bed.
I graduated on June fourth and turned eighteen on the ninth. Between the two dates Momma told me to get away. A neighbor, Mr Pete, took me in for a few weeks before sending me to live with his daughter. He paid my way to school to learn the secretarial skills necessary to support myself and do the work I do with you. For years I have been communicating with my family through him.
My stepfather died not too long ago as you know. He left no will, the law said Momma got everything. Over the years she watched everything he did. She restructured his company, the workers are happier and it is now more profitable than ever.
I have been in love with you since we began working together. I was amazed that I fell so fast for you. While we were working together I grew to love you as John, not knowing you were the same man I was looking and holding out for. I think I understand why now."
I listened to her story in stunned silence. Shortly after she finished her story we slowed and turned into a long drive. It twisted and turned through the trees that lined it on both sides. As we crested the hill I saw a house off to the right. It was a modest rancher, nothing like the driveway might have led you to expect.
As she parked the car I recognized her mother, the beautiful face and smooth skin gave her away. I had remembered her because I felt that is what Sweet Pea would look like now. I realized that Sweet Pea was even prettier than her mother.
I also recognized her voice when she spoke to her daughter, "You always said you would find your boy, I don't know why I ever doubted you. My, my; Spud you look even better than your dad!"
At that statement a car came around the last corner on the drive, I instantly recognized it was my family. Why were they here?
I was finally introduced to Mr Pete. As the day continued, more people arrived; most were relatives of one family or another. Others were important local people.
Early in the afternoon Mr Pete announced, "Lunch is served out near the pool." A special table was setup to the left of the serving line; we were invited to eat with Mr Pete, our parents and his other special guests. I was amazed to find myself seated next to the owner of the company we worked for. After we all had taken our fill and many of the guests had departed a story began.
Our host began; "Sue, um ... excuse me ... Sweet Pea, I am truly sorry for the abuse your father was subjected to by a member of my family. I had no idea.
I am heart broken to admit I was related to your step father. He was my older brother. He managed to drive my soon to be wife away from me. By the time I found her she had married another man. When she finally found out what he had done she was too far in love with the other man to leave. She admitted she still had strong feelings for me, but it was too late. She said she did not have it in her to destroy another man's life. I have spent time with them and agree with her. Because I loved her so much I was more concerned with her happiness than my own. I could never destroy her marriage and happiness. I told her so.
My brother wanted to steal my wife from me. She listened to his words and decided that she needed to get away from the entire family. If one person was as corrupt as he said I was, then the entire family must be the same. He bashed me too well to ever have a chance to win her. The week before we were to marry she slipped away with only an overnight bag under the cover of darkness. She drove five hours in the wrong direction. She spent the night in a motel charged to a card in my name and reversed course the next morning, dropping off of the end of the earth and out of sight. Her first job paid her as a contractor for two years before she met her current husband.
After she left me I was persuaded to sell my share of the family company to my brother. Frankly I did not like what I was seeing of him and didn't want to be financially ruined when he drove it out of business. I invested my money wisely and now live well for my efforts.
I returned from my quest to find my wife the week after your father died, your mother had already agreed to marry him by that time. I tried to talk her out of it. Your mother, Nancy, has always been a woman of her word, you should be proud of her. She did what she felt she had to, to keep your family together. She also made sure to never have a child by my brother, if she had one she felt that her children with your father were in danger.
Sweet Pea, when she sent you to me she knew I would do everything in my power to protect you. My brother never found out that I had impregnated my high school girlfriend. Her parents forbid that we marry. I have dutifully paid child support and visited my daughter every chance I dared. I willingly paid triple what the court ordered, to be sure she did not go without. I put money aside for her to go to whatever school she wished. Her mother died when she was sixteen, by then her grandparents were sorry we had not married and to this day welcome me into their home with open arms.
I was so impressed by your determination to find Spud that I took steps to be sure you had the best shot ever to return to each other." Then he handed us a penny "You will know what to do with this when the time comes."
Another man took over at that point.
I am William Armstrong. I am a retired state trooper. I now run my own detective agency. There were rumors for months that a person was looking for the best detective money could buy. When Pete came to interview me I was honored to speak to him. Three months later he returned to me and asked me to work for him.
He explained that no one was to know who he was searching for; that would be you, Spud. He explained that a young girl he knew claimed to still love her childhood friend. He wanted me to find that friend so he could get them together and see what happened." He spoke of the search and he too handed us a penny when he was through.
A number of others spoke on their parts of the investigation. Each handed us a penny when they were through.
The owner of our company, Mr Hanson spoke last.