It began, of course, as a family joke. No one seemed to know exactly who started it, though the prevailing opinion was that one of the nieces, when just young, had heard someone talking about 'Auntie Mame' and associated that with her, Jenine Carlotta Bergstrom. But in any event, the name 'Aunt Maid' stuck and that's what Jennie Bergstrom was called by the family ever after.
Part of it might also have been taken as a kind of a slur, maybe. After all, Jennie, their Auntie Maid, was the one that everyone counted on to take care of whatever needed taking care of, to almost act in a serving capacity to the rest. That was there, though an unexplored thought for the most part. It was just that Momma was gone and their Auntie Maid stepped in to fill that vacuum. It was never suspected that Auntie Maid had or needed any other kind of life.
And, truth to tell, Jennie was up to it all. She was the one who mustered family forces, when something went awry and needed family attention. When there were gatherings, it was 'Auntie Maid' who contacted the others and made sure that details were seen to and carried out. She was, in addition, always in the center of those kinds of events, when they happened, with the entire family together, all her sisters, their husbands and families, working quietly to make sure that everything was done. It was a big group but 'Auntie Maid' was up to the tasks, quietly, efficiently and almost unnoticed in her goodness.
There was also a ring of truth about the 'slur' idea, since it was only Jennie Bergstrom who, despite being in her early 30's, was still unmarried. The other girls, all three of them, Andrea, Lily and Rhoda, had 'flown the coop', so to speak, a while ago and had their own families.
Jennie was left at home with Poppa, only her. She took care of the homestead for all of them, and took care of all of Poppa Joe's needs.
It was about that time too that he began to be ailing. He complained frequently about the grayness of life without his beauty, Lauralea. He often made the remark that he wanted to join her, wherever she'd gone, and that death had no fear for him at all.
At those times, Jennie simply let him talk and spoke with him about them all needing his love and strength for as long as he could still give it. Though she'd have to admit that Poppa Joe's strength was a thing of the past and he spent his time sitting and thinking, and reading, being taken well care of by the family's 'Auntie Maid'.
There was, of course, no accounting for why Jennie Bergstrom, Jenine Carlotta Bergstrom —- a name that her Momma loved, was still 'overlooked' at the age of 33. She was petite, like her Momma had been, but had a very pleasing shape, well proportioned and lovely. She was quiet though, almost too shy and had always been that way, since her childhood. The youngest of the girls, she wasn't outgoing with boys and sat on the sidelines pretty much, when her other, more vibrant sisters were gathering beaux.
There had been numerous offers by the sisters to 'fix her up' but Jennie was a determined young lady and that determination moved in the direction of 'doing it myself', as she so often said. But there were always other priorities, and always, when it came to men, it seemed, she had other things pressing in on her, other things that needed to be done.
By the time Jennie was 32, and her Poppa Joe started to need more and more attention, she was completely prepared to provide it. She assured her sisters that it was fine with her, and they expected nothing less of her. They, after all, had busy lives and children. Jennie was home with Poppa Joe and able to take care of what was needed. It's what she did. She was, after all, their 'Auntie Maid'.
As time went on, it seemed that care for Poppa Joe was taking more and more of Jennie's time and energy. She applied herself to the care with her usual attention to detail and her usual determination.
It seemed to be an almost classic American scene with one sister 'sacrificing herself', so to speak, to take care of the parent or parents. It became that sister's lot in life. It's only that in the Bergstrom family, one of the nieces at an early age had tacked on that name, Auntie Maid to Aunt Jennie the care giver, that stuck.
Jennie always giggled about it. She had that kind of temperament, and wasn't about to let the name bother her. She simply continued to do what was necessary in the situation with Poppa Joe.
They settled into a pattern at that point and the last year of Poppa Joe's life was one that was truly blessed by the kind of care that his daughter Jenine gave to him, unstintingly.
A VISIT FROM OLD TIMES:
Most of Poppa Joe's friends, had already gone and he had few to come to visit him, beside the members of the family. It was a kind of routine that he didn't complain about, though Jennie thought it was too bad. Someone to visit him might just make him feel so much better. She knew that.
It was therefore a real surprise that she answered the doorbell that Tuesday and found a tall, rather handsome looking man, with wavy gray hair, standing there.
"Yes?" she said, wondering who this might be and what he was selling or collecting for. She almost blurted her thinking out too.
"Hi," he said affably, "I'm John Coyn. I've heard via my grapevine that Joe Bergstrom is ill. He and I were pals at the plant, when I was learning the ropes and he was amazingly kind to me at the time. I've never forgotten that. I thought that I'd come to visit him a bit; I'm in town now for a number of days."
He gave her a dazzling smile and said: "Now let me see, from what I remember Joe talking about you must be Jenine!"
"Yes," she said blushing.
"He always called you 'his little flower'," John said and she blushed that much more.
"Oh," he said, "I apologize for making you ill at ease; I'm afraid that I tend to speak my mind."
"No," Jennie said, extending her hand, "I am Jennie, Jenine. Please, won't you come in. Poppa will be pleased to have a visitor. He's having a good day today."
(John Coyn was a very good looking man, at his age of 40. He'd inherited the business from his father and, at his father's insistence, had learned it all from the ground up. It was in that process that Joe Bergstrom had been such a big help, and a good friend. Others had kind of resented that the 'boss' kid' was working there but Joe was open and truly friendly in his attitude toward Johnnie Coyn. He helped him along, in the process of learning the business and all the ins and outs that he, Joe, knew so well. They never really lost touch until Joe retired and didn't get around to the shop any longer.
John Coyn had married early and disastrously. It was to a woman who wanted the future's grand successes right then, and had no patience to wait for that future to materialize.
The result was her leaving in disgust, after a number of affairs with men, to whom she complained about the way that her husband wasn't really taking care of her.
It was, by now, old history and best over and gone, as far as John Coyn was concerned.
The thing that she never realized was that John had a great head for the type of business that his father was preparing for him. The future was indeed going to be a bright one, and John had walked alone into that future.
He never heard from her, after the divorce proceedings. He knew only that she was married again at least once and off somewhere out of state.
As for John, he'd inherited the family home and the business. He'd had the home rehabbed and the business was booming under his care.
If she had only known, by the time he was 40, these days, Johnnie Coyn was set; the business was going great and she had forsaken, cheated on, and given up a man whom fate would treat very kindly. At 40, John Coyn was handsome and rich!)
Jennie wasn't feeling particularly ill at ease with this handsome man, either. That was most likely because he was a friend of Poppa Joe's, and she could readily deal with that.
She asked John in and told him that she'd go and make sure that Poppa Joe was awake.
"He's been reading and snoozing today," Jennie said, smiling at John.
She went off then and told her father that he had a visitor.
"Visitor?" he said, in his normally querulous voice.
"Yes, it's a Mr John Coyn," Jennie said.
"You mean Johnnie Coyn? That tall drink of water from C Industries?" Poppa Joe said, with a smile now creasing his face.
"Yes," Jennie said, smiling back.
"Bring him on!" Poppa Joe said, and Jennie went to get John.
When she led him into Poppa Joe's room, she was pleased to witness the reunion between the two of them. Poppa Joe got choked up to see a friend from his working days, and quickly had tears in his eyes.
"Oh, Johnnie," he said, "Isn't it grand to see you?"
"Joe Bergstrom, the man with the beautiful daughters!" John Coyn quipped, turning to Jennie and saying: "How many times I heard stories about Joe's lovely daughters!"
Jennie smiled at the scene that the two men were sharing.
"It's about time for Poppa's afternoon coffee, Mr Coyn," she said.
He held up a hand and said: "It's John, please; I almost feel like a member of Joe's family. Sorry to interrupt."
"Thank you," she said, appreciating the name thing, "I was just saying that I'm going to bring Poppa his afternoon coffee and a scone that I've made. Would you like something?"
"Sounds good to me!" John said, "I eat out so much these days that some home cooking will do me good."
She left them then to their man talk, and was pleased to hear the sound of happy, voices from Poppa Joe's room, as she went to the kitchen to get the coffee and scones.
They talked for a good long time. Jennie heard a fair amount of laughing coming from Poppa Joe's room. After a while, she fixed her father's dinner. She always fixed his favorites. Tonight it was sausage and beans, with a beer to go with it. She made enough to take up to his room two dinners, one for each of them.
John Coyn was obviously pleased with her efforts and told her so. It made Jennie blush to hear his thanks and praise.
"This is wonderful," John said, when Jennie came into the room with the dinners. "We've been having such a ball, that we didn't notice the way that the time passed."
He turned to her specifically and said: "Thank you, Jennie, this is so very nice. I never get good plain home cooking at all these days. It always seems like one hotel dining room or another, or one restaurant or another."
"You're welcome, Mr Coyn," she said.
"Please," he said, "It's John."
"John," she said simply, blushing a bit, when she said it.
She served them both, with her Father saying: "My lovely Jennie always takes such good care of me, and everyone else in the family. That's why they call her 'Auntie Maid'," he finished.
This caused Jennie to lift her head and look at him in disbelief. She felt, right then, that if there were a hole available, she would have jumped in it. She made some kind of excuse and left then.
After a bit, John Coyn left. She walked him to the door, thanking him profusely for coming to visit her father.
At the door, he bent down and kissed her cheek saying, softly: "No, 'Auntie Maid' doesn't fit at all, Pretty Jennie."
With the cheek kiss and what he said, Jennie was left smiling but blushing.
Then she went upstairs to get the dishes from her father's room. He spoke up, as soon as she entered the room:
"Honey, forgive this stupid old man with a loose tongue for saying that."
"It's okay, Poppa!" she said, kissing his cheek.
"No, it's not," he answered and "You won't hear me saying it again. I never meant to embarrass you."
"Thank you, Poppa," she said. "It was nice of him to visit."
"We go back a long way," Poppa Joe said. "We worked well together; I helped train him, and we had a lot to talk about."
A kind of pattern was set then. For a number of weeks, as long as John Coyn was in town, he came to visit Poppa Joe, and on those occasions, Jennie always made the two of them a dinner, mainly featuring Poppa Joe's favorites, meat loaf, sausage and beans, chicken tenders. She was pleased to do the fixing and John Coyn was constantly free with his thanks and praise for her taking the time.
It got to the point with Jennie where she looked forward to those few moments at the door, before John Coyn would leave on those occasions.
She made sure that the family knew nothing about this, certainly not about her own crazy dreams about John Coyn. This was for her, and for her alone.
A CRISIS OCCURS:
One item that became increasingly obvious to Jennie was how much she looked forward to John Coyn's visits, as much as her Poppa Joe did. She noticed, when he was out of town on business and unable to come by to see his friend. Those became particularly gray times for her but she pushed that kind of thinking aside, knowing how much Poppa Joe looked forward to seeing John Coyn, and put down her feelings as an expression of what Poppa Joe must have been thinking.
Then came the stroke. It was severe, and it was increasingly obvious that Poppa Joe was not going to survive it.
Jennie made family calls and everyone gathered at the house over a few days period, as they could.
John Coyn didn't come.
Poppa Joe only lasted three short days, after the stroke and then passed on, in his own mind, to be with his Lauralea again. It was almost a happy event for him personally. At the very last, he took to talking to Lauralea, as though she were right there with him in the room, and who's to say that she wasn't.
The funeral was held at St. Ignatius, their parish and Jennie made plans for a meal for everyone at the house, after the funeral. The rest did as she wished, with her in charge, as usual, performing the 'Momma' tasks. It was really 'Auntie Maid' at her best and most efficient.
There was a corresponding, creeping feeling of a greater emptiness than Jennie had suspected that was growing on her during those hard 'funeral' days.
She never had the talk with herself that might have resulted in the knowledge that she was now going to miss seeing John Coyn, who had no reason now to visit, with Poppa Joe gone.
The scene at the house that afternoon of the funeral, was calming down. Friends who had come to pay respects, and then had, had a brief bite to eat with the family members, had already drifted off to their own lives.
Father Stuart had also been by and was now gone. The only thing left was to begin the inevitable clean up, which Jennie had started, though the others were still sitting and talking.
Jennie was in the kitchen, when she heard a bit of commotion in the living room. It sounded like someone had come to visit.
The sisters all knew John Coyn. They knew that Poppa Joe had worked with him, when John was still growing and learning the business. They were aware of a good relationship between them, though they hadn't known that of late John was a constant and good companion to Poppa Joe.
They were impressed to see him, probably, it needs to be said, as much impressed with his vast amount, reputedly, of money as well as his good looks.
John went through the group of them, offering condolences, shaking hands with husbands and greeting them.
Then came the shock.
He'd greeted Lily, Andrea and Rhoda, as well as their husbands, and children. Jennie just stood there. She knew what she wanted but was too much in control of herself to go to him.
As the girls looked on, to their wonderment, John Coyn went and simply enfolded Jennie, their 'Auntie Maid', in his arms.
Jennie clung to him and sobbed: 'Thank you, thank you, thank you, John!" she said over and over again.
"Jennie, I'm so sorry," he said, "I was in Europe at a conference and just got back about an hour and a half ago. I'm so sorry that I wasn't here for you and for your wonderful Poppa Joe!"
"You're here now!" she said. "That's what counts."
At this point the sisters were way beyond shock, watching the touching scene of John Coyn comforting their sister Jennie. It had seemed as though she might just be the one of them, the only one of them, that didn't need the comforting —-which was only their illusion. But there she was, being hugged and spoken softly to by the town's most eligible bachelor. It was what was racing through their minds.
For Jennie it was different, for it meant only the one primary thing that she could think of or hope for: John Coyn was back, and was with her now.
She offered him something to eat but he replied: "Jennie, honey, I am only back in the country a little bit here. I know it's ungallant but I have to get a few things settled, at the office and the like. I can't avoid doing those. I had Poppa Joe on my schedule for tomorrow. I'm so sorry that I missed this, missed his passing."
"No, that's fine," she said softly, "You do what you need to do. I understand, and thank you for coming, Mr Coyn."
In her own mind, she thought that this was an avowal of the end of that particular relationship. Poppa Joe was gone and now John Coyn was going to be gone also. It was typical thinking for our Jennie.
"Hey, it's John," he said softly with good humor. "Don't you be calling off our friendship!"
Jennie giggled at this, as he stepped away and gave his condolences and a 'farewell' to the girls and their families before Jennie walked him to the door.
It was after that, with the sensation still sinking in with the girls that explanations were asked for, fairly eagerly.
Jennie mentioned that now and again John Coyn would visit Poppa Joe and talk over old times. She kept the explanation at that and didn't elaborate at all.
The sisters never suspected anything else, and let the matter drop. They offered to stay and help with the rest, the end of the clean up but Jennie insisted that she'd do that. She knew that it would keep her occupied for a bit, and so, she saw them off. Before they left, they all agreed to have a family meeting soon to decide about the house and such things. A time was set for that, before the 'good nights' were said.
Jennie was half way between her gray feelings about losing her Poppa Joe and the fact that John Coyn had been so nice. She suspected, somewhere inside that his last leaving of that evening might have been the end of it all.
"The end of the affair," she said out loud to herself, though it made her laugh, since there was no affair at all.
JOHN COYN VISITS:
He returned that night. It was already 10:15 PM, when the doorbell rang.
She was, by then, already dressed in her flannel nightie and a robe with her yellow fuzzy slippers on. She went to the door wondering whom it might be at that late hour.
She just stood looking for a moment, gazing, in kind of wonder, at John Coyn, who stood in the doorway smiling.
"May I come in?" he asked softly.
"Oh, sorry," she hastily said, "I'm so surprised and just happy to see you that..." That's as far as she got. Just then, seeing John Coyn at her door this late in the evening, on the day of Pappa Joe's funeral converged in Jennie's mind and the dam for her broke.
She simply grabbed him and began to cry. It was a weeping such as she hadn't done in ages and ages. It seemed to take over and consume her but for once, it didn't matter. John was there. He closed the door and reached down and simply picked Jennie up in his arms, and carried her to the living room, where there was a large, spectacularly comfortable brown lounge chair. He sat down there and held her curled up on his lap, on top of him, and simply let her cry.
For Jennie it was like the releasing of everything, just everything: Pappa Joe's death, the whole issue, which she didn't normally allow to invade her thinking, of how the family viewed her, took her for granted. It was all there and all present, and John Coyn was there and was holding her and Jennie Bergstrom simply gave into that, and cried.
At times such as this, John often enough reverted to the kind of tone and talk that he'd always heard from his Dad and his uncles growing up. He kissed her forehead and cooed into her ear: "Oh my lass! Oh my sweet one!"
Jennie heard it and it made her cry the more. He held her until she settled down and began to thank him. He hushed her and said that no thanks were necessary; he was just there is all.
"You look so cozy, Jennie Bergstrom!" he said.
She actually giggled! "Ready for bed with just a little more clean-up to do," she said.
"They should have helped," he said with only a touch of exasperation.
"It's what I do," she explained, as though trying to convince herself too.
"Yes, I know," he said, "Auntie Maid! And we're going to banish that lady from the premises!"
She blushed and smiled at him, as he got up. She thought that he was going to leave then but he took off his jacket and his tie and rolled up his sleeves. With her sitting at the table and drinking a late night glass of wine, which he'd insisted on for her, he finished the clean up.
She was amazed, as she watched. They talked, while he did the remaining tasks, now and then stopping to ask her where an item would go.
The wine proved to be too much for her. She was simply slumping into sleep, by the time he was finished with the final washing up.
He went to her then and picked her up again.
"Bed time for Pretty Jennie!" he said.
"Yes, for Pretty Jennie," she echoed, though almost asleep at the time.
He took her upstairs then and, taking the robe off of her and hanging it up, settled her into bed, pulling the covers up to her chin. She slept immediately.
"You're so pretty, Jennie! My Jennie!" he said, knowing that she was already asleep —- though through her fog of sleep she heard him and realized what he was saying, a nano second before she drifted off.
Then he went and put the lights out downstairs, and locked the doors. He went back upstairs and settled himself down in a comfortable chair, next to her bed, draping a cover over himself and slept himself.
Jennie had a fairly restless night, which was not anything new for her. She did live in a large family but was, within the family, fairly isolated, and often thoughts about this crept into her mind at night providing her with tossing and turning and moaning to the night spirits.
She began, in the middle of the night to move around restlessly. In her foggy mind either Momma or Poppa needed something and that meant that she, Jennie, had to get up and see to it.
But then there was the voice. The voice that crept through the haze of the needs that were calling her. The voice saying: "Sleep, Jennie! Sleep, lass!" And she did!
He held her at that point and stayed with her, holding her through the rest of the night. Jennie woke and was dazzled by the fact that lying next to her in bed was John Coyn, still dressed in his white shirt and suit pants.
"Ohhhhhh!" she sighed quietly.
It was a weekend and he didn't have a need to get up early, and so, she let him sleep. It was only later that she brought coffee and freshly made scones to the bedroom.
As soon as she entered, the smell got to him and he woke and smiled at her.
"Hi, Jennie lass," he said, lapsing into his Father's highland twang, an occurrence that happened when he was being especially tender.
"Oh, John," she said, "How nice!"
She put the coffee down and sat on the bed then and leaned on him to hug him. He put his arms around her and ratcheted up the issue one full notch by pulling her to him and kissing her.
Jennie just swam in it. She hadn't been a person that was kissed well or often and this was, it seemed right then, the end of the very world.
"We were fine last night," he whispered to her. "Nothing happened."
"Not true," she said, "John Coyn, everything happened! Everything in the very world happened last night! And I heard what you called me, as I went to sleep. Is that who I am, John?"
"Yes," he said, kissing her again, "Pretty Jennie, my Jennie!" he said again, as though to make a claim on her.
"Ohhhhhh!" she sighed, laying her head down on his chest.
He got up then and embraced her, as they stood in the bedroom. He took the opportunity to kiss her one more time.
"That's so nice!" she said, and giggled to herself.
"What?" he asked.
"Not a great deal of experience with kissing, I'm afraid!" she said. She blushed then and laid her head against his chest and said: "Yes, a bit of experience; had a fling myself, years ago. Family never knew. Not much of a thing either."
"True confessions?" he said, smiling down at her beaming face. "You are such a lovely one to kiss."
"I've never felt that way," she admitted. "I mean lovely! Never felt that way. Was always practical, the worker, the organizer the one who'd always be there."
"Yes," he said, "I know, 'Auntie Maid'."
"Yes," she admitted, almost ruefully.
"Thing of the past," he said.
"Is it?" she asked, wondering what his answer would be.
"It's this way," he said, sitting with her.
He had another cup of coffee and he spoke: "When I came and found your Poppa Joe, I was happy. I just liked that man; we were friends, way back before I owned the company or any of that stuff. We were just friends. But meeting you here, seeing you here was a treat for me beyond what I had ever expected."
She blushed and laid her head against him again.
"You blush, lass," he said, "But it's true."
"Ohhhh," she sighed.
"Jennie, I'm not here to make demands or anything like that. You've had enough of that from other people. I'm here to see what this 'you and I' happens to be, what it means, how it's made up and how it can grow. I'm, in many ways, a slow acting man but I will tell you that the days of you being nothing more that 'Auntie Maid' are over and done."
"It sounds so nice, hearing you say that," she answered. "I never expected anything like this for my life, and that was fine with me. I was content with the way that I was."
She looked at him then and, with a kind of determination, lifted her face and kiss him. And this was a different kind of kiss. Her lips were soft and yielding, and she was even ready when his tongue came to put pressure on her lips and slip into her mouth, causing her to moan with the newness and pleasure of it.
They broke apart; she was breathing more heavily. "That's my promise," he said.
"Yes," she answered, "Promise!"
"I have some errands that I need to run today. I have another trip coming up for a major business conference. It might have me away for almost a week and I need to do some things at home first. I'm sorry about that!" he said.
"Please don't apologize," she responded. "You're treating me so nice! So nice! It might be good to kind of think about this, enjoy it that way for just a bit."
"I need to be off then," he said, "I'll call you later in the day?"
"Yes," she said. "I'll be here. I need to get Poppa's things packed up for the GoodWill store. We all agreed that it should be done."
"Help?" he asked silently.
"No, I don't think so," she said. "I'll get it done."
"That's going to change and very soon!" he said.
They kissed at the door, as he went to leave her. Once he was gone, Jennie simply leaned against the door. At first she sighed, thinking of all of it, and then she broke down and cried, thinking about it.
He came back at 5:30 PM that evening. When Jennie answered the door, she was wearing a pair of jeans and a tee shirt.
"Dinner!" he said, standing in the doorway.
"Dinner?" she responded, not completely understanding.
"I'm here to take the lovely lady of the house to dinner!" he said, bending and kissing her.
"Too bad, since there's no lovely lady here, only me," she said with a blush.
"Okay," he replied, "That's the way it is. Tell you what, Missy, I'm going to give you exactly 20 minutes and then I'll come up to your room, strip off your clothes and dress you myself for our dinner out!"
Jennie squealed as she headed for the stairs and shouted over her shoulder: "My name isn't Missy!"
"Change your clothes," he roared at her.
"Yes, sir," she said, dipping a curtsey, "Your will, my command!"
"We'll see about that," he said, "By the way it's 18 minutes now!"
She squealed again and raced up the stairs.
He took her out to a favorite steak house, where he was known, and indeed, a partner. He was greeted warmly by the restaurant manager, Ralph, to whom John introduced 'his lovely companion' Jenine Bergstrom. Ralph then told her how pleased he was to meet her.
Jennie was blushing with the pleasure of it, and told John that, when they were seated.
She gave him an earnest look then and said: "I'm afraid that I look awfully dowdy. I have to admit that I don't have many smart clothes."
"Not a problem," John said, holding up his hand. "I'm going to take you out one day and turn you over to a woman that I know who specializes in making princesses like yourself look as good as they can.
She put her hand over her mouth and giggled into her hand.
"I have plans for you, my Jennie!" he said then.
"Don't think I could make money doing that; I haven't had much experience!" she said, laughing at the end of the sentence.
"You scamp!" he said, "What a mind on the pretty lady; I was suggesting nothing of the kind!"
"Might be exciting though," she said in the same humorous tone of voice, and had him laughing again.
"Outrageous!" he said, "I'm dining this evening with an outrageous lady!"
She smiled at him then and said: "John, you're so much fun to be with. It makes me forget everything."
"My only plan," he said, "Except for the plan to turn you over to my friend the lady who transforms princesses!"
She giggled again.
"You'll be spoiling me, if you're not careful!" she said.
"Exactly what I intend to do!" he said.
"I'm afraid, Jennie," he said, "That I'm off to Europe tomorrow. it's going to be, likely, a long trip this time, maybe up to a full week. I know that you've just had the upset with Poppa Joe's death and all, so this time I'll go alone but in the future, I intend to take you with me on those trips."
"Ohhhhh!" she said, letting the thought fairly overwhelm her. "What a lovely idea."
Then she was shaking her head and said: "I just don't know what I've done to deserve the way that you're acting toward me."
He answered right away: "You're lovely; you're humorous; you're fun to be with; your lovely; you care for people, even when they take advantage of you, like your family has; you took better than the best care of my pal Joe Bergstrom and did I mention that you're lovely?"
"No," she said, "You forgot to mention that."
But then she had tears running down her cheeks, from the loveliness of what he'd said to her.
"Thank you, John," she said softly.
And he broke into his brogue saying to her: "Oh, my lass!", as he stroked her cheek, taking the wetness of the tears from it.
"Glass of wine with your dinner?" he asked.
"Not much of a drinker here," she said.
"Goodie," he beamed, "Drink up and I'll have my way with you!"
She went into a spate of giggles, once he said that.
"You make me laugh," she said, "And that's such a nice thing!"
"Meant it!" he beamed at her.
She grinned back at him and said: "Do your worst!" She hesitated then and added: "Or your best!"
She blushed then and was waving her hand in front of her face, as though to ward off the heat.
"Look what you're turning me into," she said and he grinned at her.
During the dinner, they talked over their food. He asked her what might be coming up for her. She indicated that her sisters wanted to get together to talk things over.
"So, we'll see," she said. "I'm not sure. I'm never the first person that they consult."
He scoffed then and said: "Unless they need something." But he put up his hand then and apologized: "I'm sorry, Jennie; it's just that it makes me angry to see how they take you for granted."
"Well, there's not been too much of me to take for granted," she said. "It's as though I'm just now coming out of a kind of cave."
"Well, let's at least be in touch with what is going to happen," he said. "I'll be in Vienna for most of week but I'll make sure to contact you."
"Oh, I'll like that," she said. Then she gave him an earnest look and said: "I'm going to miss you. This is being so nice for me. It's like a dream that I expect to awaken from at any time."
"No dream," he said, putting his hand over hers, "Just us getting to know one another, and enjoying it."
"Yes," she replied, "Enjoying it."
A KIND OF CONSPIRACY AND A RESCUE:
John Coyn was busy enough to be out of touch for the first few days.
Usually Jennie's sisters were not really any closer with each other than they were with Jennie, unless it was simply uniting to make sure that Jennie did the 'necessary' things, like taking care of Poppa Joe and the like.
They had, however, been in touch with each other about the issue of the home place.
The will had been straight forward. There was a very small bequest to each of the daughters, with no favor shown for one or the other. They were all content with that, and indeed, it was more than Jennie ever expected.
The house, however, was valued in such a way that each sister stood to receive from $30,000 to $40,000 from the sale. The only difficulty, and it was about this that they put their three heads together, along with those of their husbands, was that Jennie was living there. They decided among the three of them that Jennie would be asked to move out for the sale to go through. Indeed, Al, Lily's husband, a lawyer, already had a buyer, who liked the place, had always liked it and wanted to close the deal immediately, before his friend Al realized how much he wanted it and jacked the price.
There was then a meeting of the four sister, husbands included, and at that meeting, they broke the news to Jennie, insisting that she be really excited about the potential windfall, upcoming of some $33,000.
Jennie was aghast. She certainly wanted to do what the others wanted but they were saying that they wanted her out in the coming week, to let the deal go through.
As usual, Jennie didn't raise a fuss but the potential upset, along with the upset that had been so much a part of the recent past, was devastating for her. She took her thoughts with her to her own room, promising that she'd be out in the allotted time.
The sisters were coming the very next day to begin getting things ready for an estate sale, to pick up the added benefit of selling all the household items.
This too wasn't a terrible thing for Jennie, who had her very few personal items and only those but the timing was jarring for her, and she was having a difficult time dealing with it.
That was her mood, when John Coyn finally reached her that third day of his trip. He found her weepy and disconsolate.
"Jennie, Jennie," he said, almost desperately, "What is it?"
She went into it with him then: the sisters' plan with her, Jennie, moving out immediately; they'd assured her that there was no end of good apartments for her to move to.
"Oh, John," she wailed into the phone. "I'm so sorry that you're not here. Of course, I want to do what they want but I don't just know what to do or where to go. It's so sudden, so rushed, and the money, that is pleasing them so much, doesn't bother me at all. I've never needed a lot of money; with Momma and Poppa I always had love."
She went into sobbing them.
But John spoke immediately: "Jennie," he said, "I'm going to ring off now and solve this. I will have it taken care of for you within the hour. Trust me, honey!"
"Oh, I do, John," she said, "Just talking about it with you has me feeling better."
"You just wait," he reiterated. "I'll take care of this."
Jennie cried then.
"I hate to leave you this way, Lass," he said.
"I'll be fine, John," she said, "Just talking to you and knowing that this will be taken care of immediately. You are so good to me, and I love you."
This last statement, made in a tiny voice reached John and made him grin into the phone.
"I love you too, Jennie; I will take care of this."
They hung up then, with Jennie feeling better.
The sisters were away at that point, since things had been put into shape for the estate sale and the agents would be coming the next day to get it organized.
It was forty minutes later that someone rang the doorbell.
Jennie went to the door and found there a short woman, with graying hair but a huge smile.
"Ms Jennie?" she asked.
"Yes?" Jennie said.
"I'm Mrs Atherton; I am Mr John Coyn's housekeeper. I've come to bring you to us to live with us at Three Oaks," the woman said.
"Ohhhhh," Jennie said, she'd never doubted John's word but even this kind of immediate plan had her in a tizzy.
She was weeping again and then found herself in the arms of this lovely, older woman, who was soothing her and telling her that it was going to be fine.
"Yes," Jennie said, "I think that it is. I'll get my stuff."
"No, I've brought the marines with me," Mrs Atherton said, motioning behind her, where a strapping young man, her son, stepped up to begin to take Jennie's things and put them in the large Suburban that was parked in the driveway.
"Eddie will get your things," Mrs Atherton said, "You just come with me, dear."
Jennie walked out of the house, turning and softly saying: "Momma, Poppa, I'm going now; it's time to be going on with my life. I love you both."
She wiped the tears from her eyes and went to the large van, that was now being piled with her own personal things.
Eddie soon had all of Jennie's things in the van and they drove away. Jennie had never seen 'Three Oaks' but, as soon as she saw it, fell in love with the large place.
"Oh, it's lovely!" she said.
"It's been in the Coyn family for decades untold," Mrs Atherton said.
When they got 'home', and Eddie had Jennie's things inside, Mrs Atherton invited Jennie to first have a cup of tea to settle her nerves.
They sat in a lovely screen house, off of the family room and had their tea.
"Oh," Jennie suddenly said, "I forgot to say 'thank you' to Eddie; how bad is that? I'm so sorry."