"That does it. You're fired. Get your ass out of here and when you get home pack your shit and leave." I couldn't believe what I had just heard. This was my Uncle Roy telling me this. He was shouting as always, as he did every time he opened his mouth to me.
I am twenty years old and I had been living with him since my folks died when I was fifteen. The court had pressured him to take me in as he was my only living relative. I believe I was more slave than kin. He owned a convenience store. I got twenty bucks a week for working there until I finished high school and then I got $65 a week until now.
According to him that was pretty good pay along with my room and board. I stood there looking at him. I had just told him that the woman who was his present store manager had been dipping into the till and had some kind of a deal going with the delivery men. Stock would be signed for and never brought into the store. The next time that delivery man would be there she was handed some cash.
Uncle Roy had never married and he was always hiring female help to work in the store. This particular manager, was sweet-talking him from day one and on occasion, I suspect made her bed available to him. To me she was just a whore and was taking a bonus by skimming the store. When he came whining to me about profits being way under what he thought they should be, I laid it all out for him.
That is when he started shouting and fired me. I shrugged, and uncle or not, I had had enough. I headed over to the house. I picked up my clothes. My bed was made and I left my room as neat as always. Mom taught me this and I had kept to it. It had been my chore to keep the kitchen clean as well here at my uncle's. That had been no problem because Uncle Roy very seldom ate at home anyway.
I had a fifteen-year-old Ford pickup that I drove. I was allowed to fill it up at the store, but in return I had to make the call-in deliveries with it. It was mine though, and in my name. An old guy had given it to me to get it out of his yard. At home, I loaded up the pickup with my clothes. I didn't take any mementos of my folks, figuring they were as much Uncle Roy's and he wouldn't throw them out because of this. I would come get them someday.
I headed across town to another convenience store and applied. I told them what had happened. They knew Uncle Roy and how he operated and also was aware of how he used me. I was hired on the spot. My salary was three times what my uncle paid me and the promise of a raise at the end of the first month.
The first day of work, I washed up in the washroom and slept in my truck. I had to find a place to live! There was a community bulletin board at the store. I looked on that and found a room was posted. The house was owned by an old woman, just getting by on Social Security and Medicare. The rent would be reduced if the renter would do chores for her. That next night I had a bed to lay my head on and I was invited to eat with her. A month later and by the time I had started rebuilding her back porch, all my living was costing me was half the food bill. She was a lovely person near the end of her life.
Uncle Roy had realized his mistake in firing me and came begging me to return before the first month was out. No way, as I had settled into my new life very easily and was saving some money. I got along well in my new job and looked on the old lady I was rooming with as a grandmother.
I had the mechanical parts in the pickup checked over, and it was in pretty good running condition. I didn't travel much, and it would last me for a long time. The old lady had a car so I used that when I needed something better than my pickup. I used her car occasionally when I went out on a date. This was something I hadn't had time for when I was with Uncle Roy.
I was made manager of the store when I was twenty-two. I rarely talked to my uncle as I felt we had nothing to say to each other. I was ready to start looking for a wife. A college girl, Cynthia Kopek, was coming into the store occasionally and I looked at her and was attracted. She was short at five feet-one, pretty stocky, not really pretty, but seemed to be full of fun. She flirted with everyone, including me.
I found out on our first date she was just a little older than I was. She said she wasn't getting serious with anyone at this time because she was going on to law school which would take her three years to complete. We dated several times before she went away. We were intimate, but she dated others and I suspected she was with them as well. I liked her, but I wondered if she wasn't a little fast for me.
Over the next three years, I dated and had a two-year relationship with a woman my age. It broke up when her family moved west. I now had been working in a convenience store for ten years. To tell the truth, it was all I knew. Maybe I was getting bored with it and needed a change. Then Cynthia came back into my life when she passed her bar exam.
We seemed to connect. She had slimmed down, but not much. She was still a flirt and was always commenting on how such and such a man was a hunk. When she went to work for one of the law offices in the city, she said, "My boss is a hunk. He can get into my panties any time."
Gram passed away. She was the woman who I had been rooming with since leaving Uncle Roy's. She left the house to me and I had been named administrator of her small estate. As Cynthia and I became closer, I knew the house wouldn't be anything I could bring a wife to. I sold it and moved into a single room in a rooming house. This was in preparation for asking Cynthia to become my wife and I wanted my wife to decide where we would be living after we were married. I was also ready to make the move to one of the larger grocery chains as manager.
There was still the niggling doubt in my mind about Cynthia. I was in love with her and I was planning on a long engagement to make certain she would be true to me. She became a defense attorney at the law office and was beginning to win some cases. She still lived with her parents and I don't think they were too taken with me. They were pleasant enough, but reserved toward me.
I was working out a notice at the convenience store. This was the time I figured to propose as we had been seeing each other regularly and had been pretty hot and heavy together. She knew my plans about purchasing a home for myself that I could bring a wife to. I bought an engagement ring and picked it up early one morning after it had been sized. This was the day I would propose.
I called her at the office and made arrangements to take her to lunch at one o'clock. Thinking I might pick her up early, I was just pulling to the side of the street near her office because the office parking was limited. I could see the front entrance and I was ready to get out of my car when the office door opened. She was with her boss and looking up at him. He had a satchel in his hand and she had a good sized case in hers.
They hurriedly got into his Cadillac and turned to the right away from where I was parked on the street. I followed them to a motel and watched him park. He went to the motel office. Cynthia got out and removed her jacket which was her normal attire. She folded it carefully and laid it over the seat, then stood waiting by the car until her boss came back. He took off his suit jacket and did the same. They went into room number seven.
I waited an hour and decided that they were in there far too long. I didn't at this point want to see them come out. There had been no call on my cell from Cynthia and it was way past time we had arranged to be at lunch. This had happened before, and I believed at the time it was a reasonable excuse I was given. Not this time, as it was self explanatory to me.
I headed for my room, expecting at any moment my cell would ring. It didn't, even after I had time to scribble a note and enclose it in an envelope. I threw some clothes together in shopping bags and tossed them into the back of my pickup. Still no call, so I felt I had been replaced. My checking account at the bank was easily drawn down, but I left enough in it to keep it active. By three-thirty, and a stop at a mailbox, I was on my way out of town without a destination in mind.
I'd guess I was 25 miles from home when there were tornado warnings all over the radio. The sky was getting more threatening as I was watching it. I was almost at the Kentucky border, before entering Missouri. The sky was getting darker all of the time. It was now a strange, dark greenish hue. I had just crossed over the Cumberland river, when I saw a funnel and it looked like it was coming right for me. There was a farm ahead and I speeded toward it.
The small car I had been following pulled off into the barnyard. There was a partially empty bunker silo and the driver ahead pulled right into it. The driver wasn't able to go in far enough to let me drive my pickup in behind. The tornado was almost here and I was still out in the open. I grabbed my satchel with my personal papers and ran up and knocked on the driver's door. A little old lady told me to go around and get in. The wind had picked up and huge drops of water were raining down. I threw my satchel in the back seat.
We could hear the storm coming and it was almost dark as night. Suddenly there was the loudest roar I had ever heard. In front of us, we could make out the tarps covering the rest of the silage go up into the sky and were long gone. The old tires that had held the tarp down went too and the silage was spinning around. In less than a minute it looked like the bunker had been vacuumed. Then it started to pour. We had a half hour of steady downpour before it finally lightened up and the storm was gone. I looked out of the back window of the car and my pickup was nowhere to be seen.
It had been so noisy, there was no way we had been able to converse without shouting. Now we could speak in a normal voice. "I guess my pickup is gone. It looks as if I'll be hitchhiking. By the way, my name is Randy Higgins."
"My name is Millie Crowell. I'm heading for South Dakota. Where were you headed for?"
"Anywhere away from a cheating girlfriend. I was going to propose to her at noon today, but when I went to pick her up, she was getting into someone else's car. I followed the two to a motel. She didn't come out after an hour. I gave up and got out of town. The kicker is, I had made a date for one o'clock. She has done this before to me, so I'm cutting my losses. Would you like a never before used engagement ring?"
Then I remembered I was offering something I didn't have with me. It was in the glove compartment in the pickup. "You haven't heard my phone ringing either, have you?"
"No. I'm sure we would have heard it even with the storm. Let's go find your pickup."
We walked to the northeast 50 yards in the direction the storm had been traveling. We came to a bluff overlooking the river I had just crossed before the storm hit. There were several acres of rough woodland and we could see the muddy river beyond. We were near enough to where we could see things floating down the river. I could barely make out some blue metal almost to the river, a hundred or more yards from the bluff and knew it must be my vehicle. There was no way I could get to it and there would be nothing to salvage if I did.
"It looks like I'm homeless and with no way to go anywhere."
"I'll give you a ride somewhere. That's for being with me through all of this. I would have died from fear if I had been alone."
"You were smart enough to find a place to save yourself."
"Yes, and I took the only safe place so you couldn't save your truck."
"It wasn't worth much anyway. What are you going to do when you get to the Dakotas?"
"I don't know. I came into some cropland left to me by an aunt that has just passed away. I have never met her, although we wrote to each other after her husband and my husband died. She has been renting the land out and I have no idea of its value. I have one son, but he isn't into farming. He is a truck driver. I'll have to decide what to do when I get there. If you want you can go with me and help me drive."
"Okay, I'll feed us until we get there and then we'll decide what to do." Millie's car started right up and we were on the way just as the sun was going down in the west. We stayed in motels when we got tired of traveling, each paying for our own room. I paid for all the meals and she used her credit card for gas.
Did my phone ever ring, nope, and there was a good reason for that. I had left my phone on the front seat of my pickup. I thought it was with me when I ran for Millie's car back where we had ridden out the tornado. Millie and I pulled into the town where the attorney who was handling the estate about ten o'clock three days after the tornado.
"You come with me to the lawyers, Randy. I've come to depend on you. You listen to everything I say. You don't say much yourself, but I can see you care and have been great company for me. I know you are hurting over your girl, but maybe you'll fall in love with me. I'll be your new love."
And she was! Not in the physical sense, but in the 'love your mom' type of sense. When we found out about the land she had inherited, there was 500 acres of excellent corn land. It had been leased out to an adjacent farmer and he wanted to purchase it, or at least continue the lease. Her aunt had given the farmer an option of first refusal, so someday he was going to own it anyway. For us, we bought a small duplex.
Her son came though at least once a month and would visit if the load he was moving wasn't in a hurry. Sometimes it was a longer spell before we saw him again and sometimes more frequently. I liked him and he did love his mother, but wouldn't give up trucking for her. I would have if I were driving and Millie was my mother. She was so sweet.
I hunted around for a job and ended up doing what I knew best. It was in a store similar to what my Uncle Roy owned. Millie didn't work and she didn't have to. She had some money of her own and with the lease money from the farmland, she was quite well-to-do. I found out from her son that she had a heart problem that she hadn't told me about.
"You watch over my Mom and let me know if she gets sick. I shouldn't be more than a couple days getting here if I'm needed, but you can handle it anyway. You are as much her son as I am."
So I worked and occasionally dated. If a woman I was with did any flirting other than with myself when she was with me, I dropped her immediately.
I did date a young woman who was legally separated from her husband. She had two kids and I loved having them around. Sometimes they all stayed with me in the duplex. Millie would have the woman stay in her spare bedroom, while the little girl and the little boy stayed with me, but more often than not it was just the woman. She may have been using me and dated me to tweak her husband's nose.
Over time I got to know her husband and he was a pretty decent person. He loved his kids. I never was told why the separation, but both husband and wife seemed comfortable with the way they lived for now. This was at first, but that changed as the children got older. I think the two still loved each other, but wouldn't admit it. Over time I gave up being intimate with her, for I felt she belonged to the father of her children. I learned he occasionally stayed over when he brought his kids home after having them with him.
Time moved on. When I had been in South Dakota a little over three years, Millie had Jim, her son, and I into the attorney's office. This was concerning her wishes when she passed on. "Jim, you and Randy will get the cropland to divide between the two of you. I'm getting weaker as I get older. I'm going into a home to live. It is an assisted living facility and I've set it up so that the attorney will pay the bills. I have enough money to go for ten years, but we all know I won't live that long.
"That means you two will split the remainder of my estate just like the money from the land. I would like you both to visit me just as if I was living in my own home. There is no way I can force you to, but that is my wish." I had no problem with that, and in the subsequent months, Jim was here more frequently visiting his mother.
Millie had been advised often that surgery would extend her life, but she adamantly refused. "I was a nurse for many years, and I know what a patient has to do to recover from this particular operation. I'm not going to put myself through the agony of that. I don't have much pain and it is being contained successfully. When I go, I'll go."
Millie lasted three more years. They were good years for her, in part because I cared about her. The home she was in was well run and she was happy there. I seldom missed a day to go see her. I would kiss her when I came in and I would receive a kiss when I left her.
Jim and I went in on a Sunday afternoon. "Hi Randy, today is our sixth anniversary. We lived through a tornado together on this date and these have been the happiest years of my life. I think God sent you that day to be with me to ride out the storm."
Millie laughed and joked all the time we spent with her. We could see she was getting tired after we were there two hours. "Jim, I am getting weary, so give me a hug and say goodbye. You have been a wonderful son. I want to say a couple of words to Randy alone. It is something I think he should do, but it is kind of private."
"Okay Mom. I love you." Millie kept her eyes on him as he left her room.
"What's up, Millie?"
"Randy, I think you should go back to Kentucky and see if your uncle is still alive. I think you said he is about my age and we all are getting older. While you are there, look up that woman you loved so much. Check to see if she is happy. If she is, then that is good and I know you wouldn't interfere in her life. If she isn't, then maybe it is time for you to step in and make her happy."
"Whoa Millie, where did this all come from?"
"I've had it in my mind for some time. I see you with different women, but you have never loved any of them except me. There must be a reason you loved her as much as you did. It has been a long time, but maybe there is still something there for you."
"Okay Millie, I will go back. I have been thinking of my uncle lately. Maybe it is as you say and we are all getting older. I am going to stick around for awhile, though. I can't leave you. You have been the love of my life for six long years." Tears were rolling down both of our faces and we clung to each other in our goodbyes.
I went out to where Jim was waiting on me. "It isn't going to be long is it?"
"No, it isn't. She wants me to go back to where we met and resolve what she thinks is some issues I left behind me. Maybe she is right. I'll do it after she goes and not before." I kissed Millie one more time, but she wasn't able to kiss me back. That was four days later just before they closed her casket.
There was a development with the separated woman before I made up my mind for Kentucky. She and her husband came to me and said they had had the separation rescinded and were renewing their marriage vows. They gave me credit for showing the husband how to treat a woman with respect. He had learned a lesson, and she was taking him at his word. I wished them luck.
I dithered around for another month before I decided to do as Millie had advised me. Millie's estate had been mostly settled. Some details were still in the lawyers hands, but nothing that couldn't be finalized from a distance. I debated driving, but decided I would fly. I was thinking about my uncle almost constantly. I wondered if he would turn out to be as bad now as I remembered him.
I tried to keep Cynthia Kopek out of my mind too, but found that was impossible. I arrived at the Kentucky airport at one in the afternoon. I rented a vehicle and decided I would drive by my uncle's house to see if he still lived there. Apparently he did, because his name was still on the mailbox.
The outside of the house was the worst looking one in the neighborhood, being badly rundown. It was at one time the nicest one on the street. It would take a lot of repairs to put it back into shape.
I parked my car on the street and walked up the driveway that went along beside the house. Must be a child lived here now. I could see kids' plastic toys scattered around the fenced-in back yard. The fence had been added recently. I opened the door and walked in. I saw some mail that had been opened on the kitchen counter. It was addressed to my uncle, so he must be still alive.
Just then I heard a cough in the living room which was beyond the dining room. I walked slowly in and saw my uncle sitting in his usual chair. He was asleep. I sat down waiting for him to wake up. I looked around me. The house was neat and clean. It smelled clean too. That was different than when I lived here. Uncle looked neat as well. He was shaven and his clothes had been ironed.
Taking my eyes off him, I glanced around some more. When my eyes returned to him, his were open and staring at me. "Who are you?"
"I'm Randy Higgins, Uncle Roy. You know, the nephew you kicked out for telling you some facts about some woman you were shagging."
His eyes took on a shine, but he didn't say anything, just staring at me. "Beer in the refrigerator. Get me one." I went out and popped the top on two of them. I poured them into glasses and came back in, handing him one.
"That's my beer you're drinking." This when I took a long pull from the glass I was holding.
"You're still a cheap bastard Uncle Roy, and still denying me. You want me to pour it down the sink? I will just to spite you."
"No, don't waste it." Another five minutes of staring at me. "You were supposed to have died, six years ago. You're listed as having died in a tornado that went through here. It took two weeks to spot your truck, but they never found you. Where were you?"
"Let's see, maybe in South Dakota."
"Why didn't you tell me you were alive?"
"Why would I? First I didn't know I was missing and then why would you care?"
"Your mother was my sister."
"You never treated me like family. You thought more of your whores than you did me."
"At one time maybe. I have changed."
"Yeah, when you found out I was giving you true facts and you wanted me to come back and work for nothing again for you."
I was being stared at again. I asked, "What's with the fence and the kids' toys in the back yard?"
"An unwed mother I hired to keep house for me lives here. She had a kid and needed a home."
"You shagging her? If I remember right that is the way you pay your whores."
"Not this one. She's a good woman. Her man went off and left her for no reason. Left her knocked up and she had to deal with it all alone. I took pity when her family kicked her out. We made a deal so she could still work. He paused again, before saying, "The kid will be home soon."
"Is he afraid of you like I was? I mean, do you holler and scream at him like you used to at me? Maybe that comes later. You know about when he is fifteen and has just lost his mother and father. Are you going to force him to work for nothing for five frigging years and then kick him out with no place to go? Tell me is that the way it is going to be?"
Uncle Roy shook his no, and changed the subject. "Your room is empty. Would you stay here, please? Maybe I can treat you better this time."
"I can't think of why I would, but I haven't got a motel yet. Okay, but just for the night. This woman must be young enough so maybe I'll sample her, just to throw it in your face." This time I think I got to him as tears started and he couldn't hold them back. I went out and got my bags after pulling into the driveway. The drive was wide enough for two cars, so I didn't think I would be blocked in. Uncle Roy was on the phone, but hung up when I appeared with my hands full. I didn't hear what he was saying at all.
I guess we had run out of words. Uncle Roy couldn't seem to look at me, except to glance across to me occasionally. He seemed to be waiting. When he looked at his watch, a smile lit up his face. A minute later I heard a vehicle stop outside and kids laughing and shouting. I assumed correctly one would be coming through the door.
The door burst open and a child about five years old came bursting in. "Hi Grampa, I'm home." He ran over and high-fived Uncle Roy.
"Junior, we have company. Say hello to the gentleman."
The boy whirled and saw me for the first time. "Hi there Mister Gentleman."
"Hi yourself. How was school today?"
"It was okay, I guess. I like it pretty good, but I'm always glad to come home. Mom is going to be home soon and I have a new book for her to read to me. I hope she can do it before we eat supper."
"Maybe I can read it to you if she doesn't have time. I had a couple of friends about your age and I read to them."
"Can you do it now?"
"Sure." It was a book I was familiar with so I was able to not only read the words, but put separate voices to the different characters. I was into the second chapter of the book and Junior was listening raptly. Suddenly he jumped up screaming. "Mom, I have a new friend and he was reading my new book to me."
"Roy called and told me you were alive and were here."
"I am not surprised. I knew he called someone. What now? I mean with us?"
"I don't know. Junior is your son. It will be somewhat up to you."
"How do I know he is my son?"
"I have papers that proves he is. DNA doesn't lie."
"How come you had the test done if you thought I was dead?"
"I needed help. Roy demanded proof. When I proved it he took us both in. Something about screwing up once, but wouldn't take the chance for it to happen a second time."
Junior didn't want his book reading stopped and he had been pulling on my arm wanting me to continue. I looked at him. "Your Mom and I don't need to talk now. We can talk later. Where were we?"
"Right here when Mom came in. You can start right here." He was pointing at two pages that I had already read. I smiled and began where he pointed. Cynthia watched me for a little time and then I could hear her in the kitchen. Uncle Roy hadn't said a word, but I was being watched closely.
At 6 pm I set the book down when Cynthia came and announced supper. "Mom, only a few more pages and it will be finished."
"You know the rule. When supper is ready, we put things down and go wash up before coming to the table. I will let Mr. Higgins finish reading the story to you before you go to bed."
There was baked macaroni and cheese to go with hot dogs. "Oh boy, my favorite." He started gobbling his food and Cynthia spoke to him and he slowed down. Suddenly he stopped eating and looked at me. "Mom called you Mr. Higgins. That's my name. Randy Higgins, Jr. Is your name Randy too?"
"It is Randy Higgins, Senior. One big Randy and one small Randy. I'm big and you are small. Senior and Junior." Dessert was set on the table. I think Cynthia did this to keep Randy from thinking more about the relationship between us.
I asked Cynthia if she would like me to help with the dishes.
Junior was waiting for her answer. "Thank you, maybe next time. Tonight you have a book to finish reading."
Junior gave his mom a brilliant smile and headed for the living room. It didn't take long to finish the book and he took it and put it on the shelf where he told me it would be safe. "It has to go back to the library."
After Junior went to bed, Cynthia led me into the living room. Uncle Roy sat quietly in his chair. "That was pretty neat how you escaped admitting you are Junior's father. Don't you believe me?"
"I guess I have to believe you, but I think we should decide what we are going to do about us. I don't know if there is any us. I have loved you and I have hated you. Tonight I have to decide which outweighs the other."
"I still have the note you sent me. You were so wrong about me."
"I don't see how. We had a date for one o'clock. Before noon, I saw you come out and get into the car with your boss. You went to a motel with him. I saw you start undressing before you went inside. I was there watching the door for an hour and you didn't come out. How could I not believe you were inside in bed with him?
"Apparently you lucked out and Junior really is my son. In a way, that makes it worse. If you knew you were pregnant and were still screwing around that makes the disrespect more blatant."
"I did know I was pregnant when I went into that motel room." She paused, before continuing. "But I can prove that I wasn't screwing anyone and least of all my boss." Again she paused. "Randy, do you honestly believe I would do that to you?"
"I don't want to, but I saw what I saw. Another thing, you were in there a long time. I had my phone with me for more than five hours before I lost it in the tornado. You never called in all of that period of time."
"I guess I can see why you would believe that of me if that was all. Is there anything else that made you disbelieve in me?"
"I hate to mention it, but you asked. I knew you for five years before I became convinced you were unfaithful. The doubt I had about you was because you were always flirting. You often commented when you saw a man that he was a hunk and saying you would let them get into your panties because of that. I don't know how many times you described your boss as a hunk."
"Oh my God, I did say that all the time. You took me seriously didn't you?" I nodded. "Randy, I promise I was always kidding. Well except about you, of course. I still think you are a hunk, but I suppose you don't need to hear that." I shrugged my shoulders.
"Okay, I've told you why I ran away and caused both of us so much pain. You more than me, I guess."
"You've had a good life in the last six years?"
"Not bad considering. So tell me about the day I saw you and your boss going into the motel together?"
"Okay, you called and we made a date for one. Almost as soon as you hung up, a call came in from a person who was wanted by the police. He wanted to give up and turn himself in. He was scared they would shoot him. I left word at the front desk of our office what was happening and why I couldn't go to lunch with you. I guess you never came to the desk did you?"
"No I didn't, I followed you instead. How can you prove you weren't in bed with your boss? It is just your say-so and I wouldn't believe your boss either."
"How about the man we were talking to? He was there. He is still in town. The police could verify some of it as well."
"Maybe. Why didn't you at least call me?"
"He had a gun and wouldn't let us use the phone. Also we took our jackets off because he was afraid we would have some kind of recording device and he warned us before we got to the motel. He was pretty paranoid at the time. That is until I called for the police to come get him. We spent seven hours in that room. Negotiations are complicated and difficult with a scared man."
I stared, thinking and I wanted to believe her. She was attractive in a way, but not really pretty. I thought back to the older woman, Millie, I had been living next to for the last six years. They were of a size and shape. Cynthia would look like Millie in forty years time. I could live with that.
"Okay, I guess I'll admit I made an error in judgment. I think you did as well. Where do we go from here?"
"I don't know."
Uncle Roy had been listening to all of this without saying a word. Now, "It might be best if you two didn't decide anything right off. Sleep on it. Cynthia, can Randy stay in his old room? I kind of invited him."
"Why are you asking her Uncle Roy?"
"Because she owns the house, that's why."
"Because I got hit with a harassment suit and she defended me. I didn't want your kid to not have a home, so I put it in her name before we went to court."
"Then that is why she is living here?"
"No, she came here to live right after her parents found out she was pregnant and had no one to father the child. When you didn't show up after they found your pickup, there was a ceremony declaring you missing and most likely dead. We were both at the services and that is when she told me there was to be a child of yours. I didn't turn the house over to her until later."
"Roy gave me a home and promised if I could prove the baby was yours, he would let me continue to live here as long as I liked. I can turn the house back to him because I defended him in court successfully and the house wasn't really in danger. He won't hear of it, so it is mine. Your room is much like you left it when he fired you long before you met me."
"I don't know as Cynthia got much because there is a mortgage on it that she is struggling with. I was just one to never plan ahead."
"What about the store?"
Uncle Roy snorted. "With the way I was living, that was always carrying liens against it. I finally sold it before I lost it. All I have is a little bit of Social Security to live on." He stopped speaking for a few moments, then continued.
"Randy, would you think about you and me and see if you can find it in your heart to forgive me for the way I treated you. I know I don't have the right to ask, but I really am happy you are alive. I promised myself when I was at the service that I would beg it of you if you were possibly still alive."
Cynthia was watching this and she broke in with, "I'm glad you are alive as well, Randy. I don't know if we will ever have a life together, but I really am thankful you are alive and here."
"For you both, I'm glad I have finally returned. I might not have, except a little old lady advised me to the afternoon before she passed away. I promised her I would. Uncle Roy, I think we can get along together now. Cynthia, I'll tell you about this lady someday. She asked me to do something else, and I'll tell you what that was too sometime. I think I'll go to bed now, if I can. Thanks for taking me in."
I said goodnight to Uncle Roy. Cynthia followed me into the bedroom. The bed had fresh sheets on it and the top was turned down waiting for me. I wasn't aware when she did this ... maybe during the time she was getting supper. "Randy, I'm glad you are alive and have come home. I know we have a long way to go and a lot to sort out.
"I would like to have you forgive Roy, even if you can't me. His treatment of you has been preying on his mind. He has felt terrible about the way he treated you when you lived here. It wasn't more than three days ago he mentioned it. I think he has been trying to make amends by being so good to Junior.
"He has been very good to me as well. I can tell you this. He cried at the services. I did too, but that was partly because my baby would never see his father. Now he has. You are going to be a part of his life aren't you? I mean even if you aren't in mine."
"I will definitely be in his life. Yours as well after we get used to each other again. In one way you are a stranger to me. In another way it is like we were never apart."
"I feel the same. Good night Randy." We stood there looking at each other. Suddenly we were in each others arms, hugging. I leaned down and barely brushed my lips to hers.
"Good night to you, Cynthia." There were tears of happiness in her eyes as we broke apart and she turned toward the door.
It was a long sleepless night for me. I thought about that old man sleeping in another room. I had cared for two old women and I knew how little it took to make them happy. I could see love shining in his eyes when he looked at Junior. He also had been here for the baby when I wasn't. For Cynthia as well. What would have happened to both her and the baby if Uncle Roy hadn't taken them in? I suspected he was about to lose this house and had given it to Cynthia for her home as a way to save a home for them both.
I thought about Cynthia as well. My love for her had come rushing back the minute she first spoke. I felt she loved me and even when I wasn't here, the love for me had been a good memory. Otherwise she would have gone looking for a man to relieve her of the struggles of raising a child alone. I was going to do my damndest to make it up to her. I slept on that note.
Cynthia was up getting Junior ready for school. Junior was in kindergarten. I laughed when he said he was happy to see I had stayed the night and wondering if he should bring home another book from the school library.
"Why don't you get two? Maybe we will do something else, though. We will plan what to do when you get home."
"Okay. Mister, what am I supposed to call you?"
I wanted to say dad, but thought it too soon. "This week, why don't you call me Randy and maybe by next week there will be something else you'll want to call me."
"Okay. There's the bus. I'll see you this afternoon. Goodbye, Randy."
"You've been around kids quite a bit, haven't you?"
"I have. A girl of seven and a boy, Junior's age. A woman I was going with had them and they were often at my place."
"Did you love her?"
"I suppose in a way, but she is back with her husband again. They had a trial separation. They may come through here this summer and you can meet the whole family. He has relatives in Tennessee and would be going right by. The separation was his idea, but he started missing her before the divorce was granted. It really was a brilliant solution and they both learned a lot during the time apart.
"I could tell when I first saw them together that they still loved each other. It just took awhile for them to realize how much."
"You must miss having sex with her."
"Some, but not as much as you would think. It is hard to make love to one woman when you are remembering another from your past."
Cynthia started to say something, but we heard Uncle Roy coming. "Hey Randy, I was wondering if you would still be here."
"Yeah. I guess if you don't mind, I will hang around and get to know my son. Maybe my uncle as well. You seem to have changed for the better." I looked at Cynthia. "Do you have to work today?"
"Yes, I have to be there at nine. I work until three. I'm almost late as it is."
"I'll drive you this morning and then come back and hang out here. Junior and I will pick you up from work."
"He would like that." Cynthia grabbed a sweater and we got into my rental. I dropped her off and she ran in from the street. She did turn and wave before opening her office door. I returned to the house to talk to Uncle Roy.
"Okay Uncle Roy, tell me all about what happened after I left."