Ed, Sally and Paul had a light evening meal and afterward Ed asked if he could use the kitchen table. He had to do the paperwork that he usually did during the day on Sundays. His job required he travel through out the state to calibrate the machines that his company manufactured.
This was done once a month and took him into several hospitals and even into the State Medical Examiner's laboratory. His firm also did some work for the weights and measures lab. Not difficult but he had to be very precise, and it did entail a great amount of traveling.
Ed didn't forget to call Cindy before she went to bed. She didn't have too much to say, but was highly excited about seeing Paul and Sally, again. Penny was in the shower so he didn't get to talk to her. Cindy said they had most everything they needed to put on a fabulous Thanksgiving meal. The call ended on that note.
Sally had Ed's breakfast ready for him at six the next morning. He had said he could pick something up at McDonalds, but was pleased she was so thoughtful. Just before he left, Ed went into Paul's room. Paul was just waking up and was startled to see someone other than his mother.
This made him quite agitated, but Ed did the same thing, he did the day before, "Calm, Paul. Be calm. This is Ed. I have to leave soon. I will be back tomorrow afternoon and then we are going for a long ride. I'm taking you to where Penny and Cindy live. You will be glad to see them, won't you?"
"Okay then, I'll be seeing you." Ed took Paul's hand in both of his and squeezed it affectionately.
When it came time to say goodbye to Sally, Ed wanted so much to hug her. She solved the problem of his indecisiveness. "Thank you, Ed, for the most wonderful weekend. And thank you for being so kind to Paul and treating him as an individual. Most people don't see that he is, but you did right off. I know he is aware of your consideration too." Sally came into his arms with a hug. "Now I have to get ready for work. We will be ready to go when you get here tomorrow afternoon." Sally was still standing there watching him as he pulled away.
Sally's co-workers were waiting for her when she entered an hour later at the store. Curious, they wanted to know all about this man who had been shopping with her son on Sunday morning. Sally had never been the center of attention like this before. A plain, friendly outgoing person, Sally usually garnered pity because of Paul, but now there apparently was a man in her life. The gossip really started when she told the manager she was taking a personal day Wednesday and a vacation day on Saturday.
The manager objected. "No way, Sally. You can't have both of those days. I have given you Friday off already. I just can't do it."
"Well, then I won't have to come in on Monday either, will I?"
The manager peered closely at this person that had never stood up to his demands before. He decided that she was serious. "Okay, if it means that much to you, I guess I can get cover for you. But you know I'm going to ask you to cover for someone else when they need time off and I'm going to remind you of this when I do."
Sally collected Paul from the lady who watched him and arrived home at four. Her mother's car was parked on the street with her mother sitting in it. "Mom, what are you doing here?"
"I'm waiting for you and I want to talk. It's been too long since I have. And if you want to know about what, well, I haven't the slightest idea. Here, I brought a casserole for your supper tonight. You used to like this so I made it for you. I'll even stay and eat with you if you can find it in your heart to forgive me just a little."
"Of course, Mom, I forgive you. Come in. Paul, this lady is your grandmother. She hasn't seen you for a long time. Now you be calm and don't upset her, because I want her to like you."
Sally sat Paul at the old computer where he played his usual games on 'Free Cell' while she got supper ready. Her mother had not been in this house for fourteen years and not many times before that. "Mom, the house needs picking up I know, but I had a house guest over the weekend. I usually pull the house together before I go to work, but I made his breakfast so didn't have time."
"Sally, I know I'm prying, but who is this man? You may not know it, but I have always been interested in your life and I have never heard of you having an overnight male guest before. Are things that bad?"
It took a minute for what was inferred to sink in. "Mom, you are wrong in thinking that he was here to sleep with me. I wished you weren't. If I had a chance and he was that sort, I would climb into his bed in a minute. That man is a friend of Penny Peters, Bob's old girlfriend. In fact Penny works for him as housekeeper and she and Cindy live in his house. You know how pretty Penny is and how plain I am? What chance would I have to compete with her?"
Tears were rolling down Sally's face. "In fact he talked to them twice while he was here this weekend. I have never minded people having more than me, but I envy Penny so much--and she is my friend.
"The reason Ed came here was to get some of her things. He is stopping on his way home tomorrow afternoon to pick them up. These are some of the things that were in Bob's apartment when he got evicted. You should see him with Paul. He wants to help find out if there is some way to give Paul a fuller existence.
"A doctor friend of his is going to be at his house on Thanksgiving. Ed wants the doctor to see Paul so he invited us for dinner. When he picks up Penny's stuff, Paul and I are going with him for the rest of the week to visit Penny and Cindy."
"You be careful, dear. You haven't known this man very long. He might not be as nice as he seems."
"You mean he could be like Bob? Be nice and then when things turn out wrong, start beating on someone who loves you?"
"I keep hearing Bob beat up Penny. She must have done something to provoke him. Do you know what actually happened? Bob hasn't said much except that Penny left him."
Sally told her mother what Penny and Cindy had told her and how Penny was treated by Bob. Then how she was rescued and what their life was like living and working in Ed's house. She also told how Cindy raved over Ed and how she was hoping that Ed was going to be her new dad.
Myra decided it was time to go. "Sally, I'm glad I came over tonight. Can I come again? I would like to hear all about your holiday with Penny. I must say my grandson isn't as much trouble as I was led to believe. Maybe when I get to know him better, I can help you out sometimes."
"Mom, I've had the best time talking to you. I wish Dad would come some times, too. I still can't understand him and why he cut me out of his life so completely."
"The problem with your father is he is the chief and once he makes a decision he can't back down. This is with the men he has under him and he feels he has to treat his family the same way. I do see some signs of him softening a little, so maybe some day?"
Ed was right on time, just as he said he would be. Sally had boxed some of Penny's belongings and they were sitting in the middle of the living room waiting to be loaded. Paul was excited, always in motion and with the moves he was unable to control, and it was almost like viewing a ritual dance. Ed said, "It is going to take us up to three hours, so let's get started. Penny will have something prepared for us to eat when we get home."
"That's fine, Ed, but I had to put up something for Paul so I brought you a sandwich too. Actually I had the deli at the store make them. I hope you like it."
After loading the car and putting Paul in the front and Sally in back, they were on their way. An hour into their journey, Paul was getting sleepy so Sally and he changed places. It was dark and Ed turned off the dash-lights when he started the car stereo playing. Somewhere Ed had picked up some tapes of instrumental love songs. He had the volume adjusted so a conversation could be carried on without being drowned out by the music, and yet it was there to set the mood.
"Sally, I'm interested in people when I meet them. I like to know all about them. Tell me your life story ... well any of it you care to share. If you are interested I could tell you a little bit about myself. We've got a couple of hours yet and this will pass the time."
"Okay, but it is pretty dull. My childhood centered on my father. I thought he was the most wonderful father a kid could ever have. I see him different now, of course. I found out when I was married how stern and intractable he could be. He likes to manipulate his family and friends and has a grandiose image of himself and how righteous he is in his decisions.
"I suppose I am a little like him. No, I take that back. I'm not. I'm just stubborn about people who have hurt me. I am changing though." Sally went on to tell about her mother's visit last night. "I felt so good when she left. The only regrets I have are that I didn't insist we get together before this. It took my mother to make the first move and I love her for that. She intimated that Dad might come around some time in the future. That would be wonderful."
"Maybe you shouldn't wait for him to make the first move. Why don't you see him first? It worked with your mother and how you feel about her. It just might work with him."
A couple of miles went by before Sally answered. "I was going to wait and see if he came to me, but you are right, I'll talk to mother. If I can do it so he thinks it is his idea, it will work. I know it will."
"That sounds like good strategy to me. Your father seems like one who can't bear to lose face. If he knows that he could have or should have and you prevented him from having to admit it--you will have won the battle with him."
Ed told Sally about how his life had been almost perfect until his wife died. The knowledge that she had been unfaithful hurt, but he had put that behind him. Now he was back to enjoying himself again.
"I have to ask, do you have any plans for a woman in your life? It seems to me that Penny is the most likely. Not only that there is Cindy and you obviously adore her. Cindy would love to have you for a daddy, you know."
"I know, and it is almost a schoolgirl crush she has on me. I've thought a lot about what I would say to her if Penny and I don't have a relationship. But I couldn't marry a woman just because her child wanted me for a dad. That would be a recipe for disaster. Whatever happens, Cindy will be one of my most cherished friends even if I don't become her dad."
Sally thought to herself, "At least he isn't committed yet. I can still daydream about him. No law against that. In fact if I pretend I'm sleepy, I'll just slip into one little happy dream right now and Ed won't know."
Ed had his thoughts, too. "God, how could you place such burdens on your people? Sally wants so little. All she wants to hear from someone is I love you, and that someone mean it. What would she do if right this minute, if I woke her up and said I love you, Sally? Too few hours I have known her, but some day I might just say that to her."
The miles sped behind Ed and the distance shortened. "Sally, wake up. I want to show you some things. Okay, see that side road there. That is where Penny drove her car into the bushes, and stayed until it was out of gas. Soon we will be coming to where I saw her and Cindy huddled in the rain beside the road. They were a pretty dejected pair. Penny was hurt and Cindy was coming down with a bad cold." There was nothing to see really, but Ed wanted to have Sally visualize what he saw that night.
"My driveway is coming up soon, would you wake Paul? I want him to see my home. I bet Cindy comes out before we stop. She has been so excited about you both coming." Ed was right; Cindy was at the car door almost before the car came to rest. Penny was standing in the doorway waiting. It was a perfect reception among the friends who had not seen each other for a couple of months.
Cindy hugged Ed and Sally just as soon as Paul was out of the car. "Ed, I have been waiting forever. I didn't think you would ever get here. Thank you for bringing Paul. I've missed him so much." She grabbed Paul's hand and together she and Ed led Paul into the house between them.
Ed had seen Cindy and Sally hug, but Penny was more reserved with him. "Ed, I'm glad you are home. It has been a long lonely week here with you away. I guess that is why Cindy and I look forward to your calls at night. Come on in the kitchen, I have supper ready to put on the table." As Ed headed for the bedroom where he had been sleeping, Penny said, "You are in the master bedroom now. I put all of your things in there and Cindy and I are sleeping in the other room."
Cindy was jumping up and down. "Mom got twin beds, so I don't have to sleep with her anymore. Isn't that great?"
Ed was laughing, "What did you do with the old bed, trade it in?"