Ed arrived for breakfast at Sally's Saturday morning, not minding his having to rise early for the trip north. A big lover's kiss was waiting for him from Sally when the door was opened for him. Paul was standing behind his mother and when Ed turned to him, there was recognition in the boy's eyes. The hug was returned with some pressure. Ed thought this was the best welcome he had ever been given by anyone, anytime.
The day was spent with everyone being relaxed as possible. As the evening drew near, Ed became increasingly nervous. Paul sensed this and his movements that disappeared when he was happy, became more pronounced. Sally said to Ed after a call from Myra, "Mom said that there were going to be some guests at the table tonight. You will have to suffer through the meal before you can talk to the chief."
"You seem very unconcerned. Do you know something I don't?"
"You mean have I talked to the chief? I haven't, but mom thinks the chief is going to be okay with this. So relax. You also know, you don't have to put yourself through this. Just announce that we are getting married. What can he do? He might say something, but it will change nothing."
When Ed wanted to put his suit on, Sally vetoed this. "Wear just what you came up in, your slacks and sweater. This is what I'm wearing."
"What about the other guests? Shouldn't I get dressed up so you won't be ashamed of me?"
"No. They are old friends and I want them to see you as you really are." Ed could see that he wasn't always going to have his way. Oh well, he was willing to give up some things to get what he ultimately wanted.
There were no strange cars in the driveway so Ed thought he wouldn't have to walk into a room where there were people he didn't know. He did meet Tim, Sally's other brother. He had on his patrolman's uniform. Ed figured that being a policeman was his whole life and didn't think more about it. Bob was not there and Myra just said he had a date and would be around later. Ed saw Myra and Sally conferring, and again Sally didn't seem too concerned.
The chief was sitting in his favorite chair. Ed was surprised when the chief stood to shake his hand. After this Ed felt more relaxed. Maybe he had been accepted already. Ten minutes later Myra went to the door and greeted her guests. Ed overheard Myra say to someone, "No, he doesn't know yet. You go tell him."
Ed was dumbfounded when Cindy came bursting through the living room door and into his arms for a hug. "Guess what, Ed, we came to give you support when you ask the chief if you can marry Aunt Sally. Isn't that super?" Ed looked to the door and saw Penny and Bill Brokaw standing there with big grins on their faces.
Cindy left Ed and went to Paul hugging him and kissing him on the cheek. "You know what, Paul, when Ed and your mom are married, you are going to be living close enough so I can see you most every day. Won't that be great? I think it is super."
Ed flicked a glance at Penny and then laughed. Cindy was totally into slang. "super" was much better than "snot," though. Bill, the chief, and Ed congregated in the corner of the living room. Tim also stood by, just listening, while Bill gave the chief a rundown on Ed's wondrous qualities as both employee and friend. It was almost embarrassing and Ed was relieved when it was time to sit for dinner.
Tim was the odd man out, not saying anything. His day was made though, when Cindy said to him, "Would you pass the potatoes, Uncle Tim. Thank you. You know with your uniform on, I bet you look just like the chief did before he was made chief. You look super."
Just after the coffee, cake, and ice cream was served, the chief rapped his fork on his cup. Everyone at the table gave him their attention. He spoke. "I met Ed Bowen a couple of months ago. He spoke to me after church one day. When he finished speaking I actually disliked a man like I have never disliked one before.
"Over a period of a few short weeks though, and I won't go into details, I have come to see what kind of man he is and to agree with what his words were. I understand this dinner tonight was for him to come and ask for my daughter's hand in marriage. If it was mine to give, I would give her to him gladly. I guess I squandered that right years ago, but I'd like to welcome him into the family anyway, with all the blessing I can give."
Ed didn't think that the chief had ever been kissed in public or even in front of family before, but he did that night. First Myra went over and placed her hand on his shoulder and leaned down to kiss his cheek. He turned so she could kiss him on the lips. Then Sally did the same and called him Daddy. There were tears in his eyes and he tried to disguise the fact by drinking more coffee.
Bob came in with a young lady and introduced her around as Sammy. Bob seemed at ease and Penny did too. Bill was nervous when Penny introduced him to Bob, but saw soon that any lingering affection between Bob and Penny wasn't there. Bob came over to Ed and Sally. "Hey guy, I need to talk to you. How soon can Sally move out? My boss is raring to go. We can start the demolition on Thursday, maybe even the day before. He promised me a bonus if we could start this soon and not wait until Christmas week."
"Gee, I don't see how that is possible. I need to go to the bank here and there is a lot of stuff to move. Sally wanted to work a notice. It is just too soon." I looked over at Bill and motioned to him. "Bill, is there anyway I can get some time off this coming week? Some things have come up and I have things I need to take care of here with Sally."
"Sure take the whole week." He had a smirk on his face.
"No argument or nothing? I can have the whole week?"
"Yes, but it is going to cost you. Maybe you won't want to pay the price."
"Well, what is it?"
"Okay, Ed old boy, here's the deal. You wanted Christmas week and the following week off after New Years. You can have this week off, work next week and then have Christmas week off. You have to work after the New Year and take care of Cindy that week. That was going to be your honeymoon week I know, but I might sweeten the deal a little. Penny and I will watch Paul the last three days of Christmas week. How does that sound?"
Ed looked at Sally to see if she wanted to give up that week. She had a question. "Does that mean you will be staying here this week with me?"
Sally looked to find where her mother was. Seeing her she went over and asked her something. Coming back she said, "We'll be sleeping in Bob's room Wednesday night. If it bother's Paul too much we will have to get a motel room Thursday and maybe Friday. That we can play by ear."
"You got it, Bob. Start work on Wednesday if you want. Anything else?"
Bob looked at his sister. "Sally what are you going to do with your old furniture? Sammy and I are thinking of getting our own place. We'll be setting up on a shoestring. Can I have what you don't want?"
"What do you think, Ed?"
"How about kitchen stuff, blankets and bedding? Let him have whatever you think I don't have. That will save us trucking it or storing it. I might even have time to help move some of it. It is whatever Sally says."
Penny, Bill and Cindy went out the door with Ed, Paul and Sally, leaving the chief and Myra waving goodbye. Bill and Penny with Cindy were headed for their motel room. Cindy asked her mom, "Can Paul stay with us tonight, please? We have two big beds and he can sleep with Bill. I have to sleep with you anyway. Please, Mom?"
"Don't you think he would want to be home in his own bed?"
"Not if I'm in the same room with him."
"Well go ask Aunt Sally. You don't mind do you Bill?"
"I think it would be a good idea. Otherwise old Satan would be urging me to come over and push Cindy out of bed and crawl in with you."
Ed came over. "Are you two sure about this?"
"Yes, and have fun." Paul looked back once as Cindy guided him with an arm around him, but kept going.
Ed put his arm around Sally. "Are you ready for this, Honey?"
"Yes, Dear, I've been ready since you came to the door looking for Penny's friend. I'm a little afraid too. This hasn't happened to me in, oh so many years. I thought I had squashed any sexual feelings I had as the years rolled by. I blush to think of the thoughts I've had about you, though, even from the first night I met you."
"I'm scared too. I want to please you so much and it has been years for me. I'm thinking we are going to start out on this road together about even." Sally kept her hand on Ed's arm all the way to her home. It just helped seal the love between these two. The night ahead was waiting.
Sally was making Ed pancakes for breakfast when the four others came in. Cindy was wired. She had never slept in a motel before and the beds were so soft, you just sank right into them and went to sleep. Bill and Penny weren't so much at ease. When Paul and Cindy got to playing on the computer, Bill and Penny were quietly asked by Ed, "Okay, you act like there was a problem last night. What happened?"
Penny spoke, because Bill didn't seem to know what to say. "We put Paul into the bed that Bill and he were going to sleep in. I got Cindy ready for bed and into my bed. Bill and I sat watching TV and a little later I was thirsty so we walked downstairs to the office and I bought a bottle of water and Bill got a soda. We were gone a little more than a half hour. When we came back to the room, Cindy was in bed with Paul sound asleep. She had her arm over him and was lying close.
"This morning Bill got up to go to the bathroom and Cindy popped out of Paul's bed and into mine. She smiled and whispered Paul was afraid alone, so I crawled into bed with him. I woke up once and Bill was in bed with you so I just hugged Paul and went back to sleep. I love you Mom and then she went to sleep beside me." Penny paused, "It looked so innocent I didn't know whether to say anything or not."
"That sounds innocent enough. I guess I wouldn't worry about it. She and Paul have been friends since she was nine, hasn't she Penny? What do you think, Ed?"
"Innocent enough this time. I have to tell you though, and I'm breaking a confidence here with Cindy, that she is hoping Paul will get better so she can have him for a normal boyfriend. The only thing I have said to discourage her is that she might be cutting herself off from a normal relationship with some other boy. She was adamant--Paul is the one for her.
"It is pretty much up to you Penny, to teach Cindy what is acceptable and what is not. I'm afraid we are all into this. Sally will want what is best for Paul, as I will, for he is soon to be my son and under my protection. Bill is soon to be a step-dad to Cindy and he will be in the same position with her as I am with Paul. I don't want our concerns for, I guess you could say our kids, to disrupt our friendship with each other. Penny and Sally go back years and Bill and I go back even longer."
Sally spoke, "Do you honestly think Paul would advance far enough to be a viable boyfriend for Cindy--or anyone for that matter?" She looked at Ed and Penny.
"Who knows, but I do know I see moments when it seems Paul is here with us, not in some room of his mind that we can't reach." Penny agreed as she had seen the same tonight.
"Why haven't I seen it? I'm his mother. Have I failed my son?"
Penny tried to ease her mind, "Sally, of course not. Think about it. You have had to work and earn a living to put food on the table, heat to keep him warm, and make sure he was taken care of while you did this. With no help from family either, I might add. Soon you are going to be in position to take care of him and become more attuned to what is developing.
"I feel like we are all conspiring against Cindy. Let me start talking to her. I'll start explaining some of the things she will have to be dealing with soon as a young lady. I haven't envisioned Paul as any more than a close friend. I don't know. It is so upsetting thinking about this. Cindy has got to be wrong in her thinking, somehow. It must be just hope. Sally you are going to have to help me in this if what Ed says is true. I do want what is best for both, and that includes what is best for Paul."
Before breakfast was finished Bob and Sammy arrived. Bob was looking to see what furniture Sally was going to give him. Being in the same room with Bob still made Bill very nervous. Bob was the man who had made love to his future wife, the one that had lived with her for three years. He was also the one that had assaulted her and injured her, breaking bones in the process.
Out of hearing of the others, Ed said to Bill, "Do you trust Penny? Trust her enough to show her you do?"
"Of course I do."
"Penny has never had a chance for closure with Bob. Sally is here and Bob's new woman is with him. He will be on his best behavior. Give Penny some space and a way to compare you and Bob. It will cement your relationship beyond your wildest dreams. Let's take Cindy and Paul to church this morning.
Bill was a little uncertain, but he went over to Penny. "Say Sweet, Ed suggested that he and I take Cindy and Paul to church. You know more of what Ed has for stuff than he does, so why don't you stay and sort out what Sally wants to save? That will get us out of the way and right after lunch we can head south and for home."
"Nervous around Bob? Jealous, maybe?"
"Nervous, yes. Jealous of him? Never. Now go get Cindy ready. Ed has already spoken to Sally."