Chapter 15: Errands
Callie paced back and forth until the kids got home from school. She smoked one cigarette after another until only one cigarette remained in the pack and she realized that she had no way to buy more. The kids didn't immediately realize that Cade was gone. They went about their usual after school routine, putting their things away and doing their homework until supper time and then they noticed that Cade didn't come home and they began to sense there was a problem. Callie hadn't bothered to make any dinner.
"Mommy, where is daddy?" Jessica asked.
Callie's eyes welled up with tears, "He's gone for a couple of days." Callie's voice came out harsh and cold.
Ashley's heart skipped a beat at Callie's words and both Harley and Jessie suddenly became alarmed. It wasn't like Cade to leave. He had been with them every night since he got out of prison. The children could sense that Callie was in a foul mood and they were hesitant to ask her too many questions, without Cade around, they definitely didn't want to set her off if they could help it.
"I want Daddy!" Jessica stomped her feet in frustration, acting younger than her age, which annoyed all of them.
"Well, he's not coming home," Callie quipped and she planted herself in a chair in the living room and stared off into space.
Ashley was hungry and she knew her brother and sister were probably hungry too. "Can I make some macaroni and cheese?" She asked Callie.
Callie nodded, "Go ahead."
Ashley went into the kitchen and began to cook some macaroni and cheese. Harley and Jessie joined her. "Where do you think dad went?" Harley asked Ashley as she cooked.
Ashley shrugged, "How should I know?" Harley could see that his older sister was worried, and that gave him an even more uneasy feeling than he already had.
"I don't want him gone," Jessica cried and stuck her thumb in her mouth.
Ashley rushed over to Jessica and gave her a hug, "It's going to be OK Jess, he'll be back," and then she wondered if he really would be back.
Harley tried his best not to cry, but he was struggling to hold back his tears. "What if he doesn't come back?"
Ashley shook her head, "Don't talk like that Harley," and she struggled with the lump forming in her throat, and the tears that were stinging her own eyes.
Jessica ran into the living room to seek her mother for comfort. She climbed on Callie's lap and Callie held her until the macaroni and cheese was ready, then all four of them sat around the table to eat.
"Did dad say when he would be back?" Harley asked his mother in a worried voice.
"In a day or two," Callie said absently, and it was easy for Ashley to see that Callie wondered if he was really going to return.
After they ate dinner, Ashley did the dishes and then she realized it was this time for her to read to her dad like she did every night, only he wasn't there. "I need to do my reading," Ashley announced.
Callie nodded, "Yeah, you should."
"Me too," Harley chimed in.
Callie sat numbly down on the couch and listened to Ashley and Harley both read and then she helped the kids get into bed for the night. Jessica wasted very little time climbing in bed beside Ashley, because she was too afraid to stay in her own bed with Cade being gone. She stuck her thumb in her mouth. "Don't suck your thumb," Ashley scolded in the darkness, "Dad wouldn't like it."
Jessica ignored her sister's request and sucked on her thumb anyway until they both fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. Callie smoked her last cigarette and then went to bed. She rolled over and bawled with her head against her pillow until she finally fell asleep. They all needed Cade and they were scared that he wouldn't come back.
Cade drove his '68 Ford Torino all the way back to the city. Everything looked different from the vantage point of his car than it did when he walked. He slowly edged the car along the city streets until he came upon the old house where Seth and Annie still lived; the house he had left behind several months earlier.
Cade waited awhile, watching the house, until finally his mother Annie came outside alone and walked up the sidewalk. He knew this was probably his best chance to get her alone, so he followed behind her in the car. It was dusk outside and as he edged the car up behind her, Annie suddenly turned around and when she saw the car she gasped. She squinted her eyes and tried to focus. Perhaps it was the hit of meth she had just taken, but she thought she was hallucinating. "Dusty?" she asked absently.
Cade stopped the car and opened the door and got out so that she could see it was him. "Mom?"
Annie put her hand over her mouth, "Oh my God, Cade," she said and she rushed over and hugged him with all of her might, "I thought for a minute you were..." she hesitated, "Never mind."
"Get in the car," Cade instructed.
Annie looked back at the house she had left behind and reasoned that Seth was passed out and Quinn was gone somewhere, but she was still paranoid about getting in the car with Cade. It was the effect of the drugs. But despite that, she quickly got in the car and sat on the seat next to him, "I'm so glad to see you," she smiled.
Cade drove the car into a nicer part of the city so he could park the car and keep an eye on it while they went inside a small restaurant for a bite to eat. "Where did you get the car?" Annie asked. She thought for sure it was Dusty's car, even though it had been a very long time since she had last seen it.
"I got it from Grandpa Walt's farm," Cade informed her.
"So that's where you went," Annie sighed deeply. "I was very worried about you and the kids; are the kids OK?"
"Yes Ma," Cade said patiently, "We're all fine."
"This car looks just like one that Dust—" she stopped herself mid sentence because she was accustomed to never mentioning Dusty.
"It's Dusty's car," Cade said as they went inside the restaurant, "Walt kept it all of these years and I managed to get it running again."
"How is Walt?" Annie asked in a nostalgic voice.
"He's dead," Cade informed her as they sat down. He then explained to his mother about the letter he got while in prison and how Walt had left him the farm and all of his property. Cade left out most of the details. He didn't want to tell his mother too much information because he knew from experience that she would eventually share whatever he told her with Seth.
Annie was amazed to learn about Cade's good fortune. "Well old Walt always was a generous soul," she said absently.
Cade stared at his mother for awhile, and then he began to notice how painfully thin she was. When their food arrived, his mother devoured her food as if she were ravenous. Cade reasoned that she probably had not eaten much in the last several days. He didn't realize when he picked her up that she was on her way out to try and score more drugs, by prostituting herself, but he could guess. "I came to ask you some things Ma," Cade said.
Annie looked curiously at her son, "Oh God Cade," she said in desperation, "I hope you don't want me to talk about the past, you know how I hate that."
Cade nodded, "Listen Ma, I understand how you feel, and I wish I didn't have to bother you about it, but I'm desperate. I need to know more about my dad and the past." It was a subject that had been off limits all of Cade's life. "You and Dusty grew up in the same town, right?" Cade asked hopefully.
Annie slowly nodded, "Yeah."
"Did you know a man named Drake Pennington?" Cade watched the blood drain from Annie's face. She squirmed a bit in her seat and he could tell he had made her uncomfortable, "Yeah, I knew him. What about him Cade?" She asked.
"He has something against me," Cade said. "I was working a job and getting back on my feet, minding my own business, and he showed up one day out of the blue and told my boss to fire me, simply because it turns out he owns the company I was working for. For whatever reason, he wanted me gone, and as it turns out, he also wants Walt's farm."
Annie listened intently, wishing she was not high so that she could track the conversation better. She was tweaking; she really needed another fix soon so she could stay high.
"Pennington would have had the farm if I had not gone to claim it when I did," Cade explained.
Annie did not seem surprised by his words. "What do you want me to do about it Cade?"
Cade looked into his mother's cold, hard, expression, "I don't want you to do anything Ma." He could see she was not about to give him any information without a lot of persistence on his part. "I was just hoping you could tell me what you know about Drake Pennington, and my dad."
Annie looked down, "The Pennington's are wealthy," she sighed, "I remember that much."
Cade wanted to choke her because he felt she was holding out on him intentionally, just to frustrate him. "Look Ma I know we've never talked about the past, and I'm sure it's for good reason," Cade said patiently, "But I need you to tell me what you know about the Pennington's. It's very important to me." He thought of how little she had done for him his entire life, this seemed like the least she could do.
Annie paused. "You know, I wasn't always a wreck like I am now," she said absently.
Cade ran his fingers through his hair in frustration; he didn't think he was ever going to get any information from her. "I know that Ma," he said and he was about to give up hope.
"I dated your dad and Drake Pennington in high school," Annie finally said. "Drake wanted to date me, can you believe that?"
In truth, Cade could not believe anyone would want to date her when he looked at her, she was a wreck. As far as he knew she had always been poor white trash, but he reasoned it was possible she had not always been like that. "Yes, I can believe it," Cade assured her, hoping it would help her open up to him.
"I don't know for sure what happened years ago, but your Grandpa Walt and Drake's father Bill Pennington had some sort of a grudge against one another," Annie sighed, "I never did understand it." Annie sighed. "You should have seen your dad Dusty when he was young," she laughed. "He was sure a cocky son-of-a-bitch," she grinned, "and every girl in school wanted to date him, but I was the one he wanted."
Cade couldn't help but think of the old photos he had seen of his dad, a man with blonde hair and a lean muscular physique. Cade knew next to nothing about him. For some reason Cade had never thought of the man in the pictures as a real person until he listened to his mother talk about him. She had a far off look in her eyes and a happiness about her, as she talked about Dusty, that Cade had not seen in a very long time.
"Dusty was always so tan from working outside on the farm with his dad," Annie chuckled, "God, when I first saw him in grade school, I knew he was hot then, but I was very shy and ignored him at first. He was a grade or two above me and he would sneak into my classroom and steal my pencils or tease me at recess. As we grew up, the attraction between us grew stronger."
Cade was a bit surprised to hear his mother finally begin to open up about the past. "How does Pennington come into all of this?"
"Drake was Dusty's age. He was a handsome boy too," Annie laughed, "Drake and Dusty were rivals in every sense of the word. Both of them played on the high school football team, and Drake was only a starting player because of who his dad was, but Dusty was a starting player because of his abilities. Everything was always handed to Drake, but your dad Dusty had to work for everything he got."
Cade hated people like Drake Pennington who got everything they wanted handed to them on a silver platter.