He sat in the very first row. It was only him in that row. There were really, if you thought about it, no others to even be there. It had been him and his son, his Jaime for such a long time, a long and very difficult time.
Now he was here, in the house, to attend to burying Jaime.
He was deep in thought for many minutes, as he waited with the others for the beginning.
"How many times do I have to go through this in one lifetime?" he asked himself, with bitter intentions.
It certainly cast his mind back on the very same kind of event for his Evie, Jaime's Mom. That event had not really faded, and that had been years ago.
There was, of course, no answer to the query. It just sat there, stuck in Glen's mind.
It was certainly true that both the Mom, his lovely Evie, and Jaime seemed to be cut from the same bolt of cloth.
He remembered her the way she was at their beginning. His 'roman candle' he'd called her, ever ready to go off in a crazy direction, adding life and zest to their relationship. But it had changed, and it seemed that after a while, after Jaime's birth, Evie had never been the same.
She'd taken some pain pills for a complaint of some kind and then it was always the pain pills. He'd tried to help her wean away from them but that was never totally a success.
Evie had buried herself in the bottle then and in the pill bottle, until the combination simply took her away. In the very end, she apologized to him and asked him to be good to their Jaime. She'd said that she simply wanted her rest now, getting away from drinking and the pills.
The doctors had told Glen that there was going to be little help for her, until and unless she was ready to sweep it all from her.
But the damage to her physical constitution was too great and it was simple pneumonia that carried her away from him, from them.
Then it was raising Jaime, struggling to be a good single father. It worked for many of those years. It worked until in the latter years of high school and the first years at the university Jaime had met his 'crowd', as he called them, and was as heavily into drugs as they.
All of this played in Glen's mind like a strange and off-key symphony. It was hard, these days, for him to get rid of that mental cacophony, that drowned out his thinking and left him with a head ache and a soul ache.
And now here he was, at another of these funerals; this one was for Jaime and was at least as hard as the last one had been.
During those difficult years, Glen Stowell had found his release in the business and that had been as grand a success as anyone could imagine or hope for.
It left Glen in a position to give Jaime everything that he'd wanted. "Maybe a bad thing," he'd said to himself any number of times. But it just seemed as though the lurking, almost, madness that had taken his Evie was there for Jaime next. Glen didn't even pretend to understand it.
He broke out of the reverie just then, and disciplined himself to stop the glooming about things that were past and done.
He felt, at times like this, as though there had been so few years, instances of the 'normal', as though his life had been beset by demons and his loved ones always seemed to be the victims.
He shook his head again and banished the thoughts. He'd been over this material so many times over the years. He'd talked to a counselor many times, a priest friend of his, and had worked with it all until he was as quiet in his mind with it as possible.
Just then, with the memories locked back in their mental box, that's where Father Fred had trained him to put them, commenting that one day he'd be able simply to banish them altogether, into the outer darkness, where they belong or into a mental trash can, to put them finally away, and that time was certainly coming, though it was interrupted by Jaime's overdose death, just then he saw Cherry come in. She had little Galinda in her arms and sat in the very back row.
The thought struck Glen immediately and he acted on it, being sure of its correctness.
He went to the funeral director and made a simple request. The man nodded and said he'd do it and went off to accomplish Glen's request.
Then Glen shocked the people there by getting up and walking down the aisle.
He got to the very back, and stood by Cherry. She looked up and him and managed a wan smile. The tears were flowing down her cheeks.
She stood, when he got to her. She wrapped an arm around his neck, using the other arm to hold the little bundle that Galinda was.
"I'm so sorry," she said.
"Thank you!" he murmured.
"I really tried," she said.
"I know that!" he answered.
"There simply was no going back for him, it seemed!" he said next.
Then he took her by the elbow and said: "Come and sit with me."
"Really?" she asked.
"Really!" he said, "We need to face this together."
Cherry, went with him, crying now outwardly.
He stopped by the chairs in the front row, a chair for him, that had been there and a chair now for her. He held her again, letting her cry, before they sat down.
They sat for the brief service, with Galinda lying down on Cherry's lap and positively making eyes at Glen She had a pacifier in her mouth and didn't make a fuss at all. At one point, when they were finishing up, Glen simply took the baby in his arms and held her, with her making her soft noises right next to his ear.
When they were finished, with Glen still holding the baby, they circulated a bit.
Glen insisted on Cherry staying with him. It made her feel much more secure. The possible failure that she felt was her own for not helping Jaime overcome his drugging habits was a heavy burden for her. She felt so much better, with Glen attending to her, as he did, and helping to take care of the baby.
The funeral was followed by a light and catered luncheon: not very fussy and not very formal. For that time period, Cherry and Galinda stayed with Glen.
When the luncheon was done, and Glen had seen to the financial arrangements that needed to be settled, Cherry, with Galinda and Glen were left.
"How'd you get here?" he asked.
"I got a ride," she said.
"Give you one home?" he asked.
"Yes, thank you," she said. Then she blushed as she began to speak her mind: "Thank you so much for taking care of me and Galinda," she said. "It's been so hard."
"Yes, I know, love," Glen said. "And I also know that there was nothing, absolutely nothing to be done to help him, as long as he wasn't ready or willing to help himself. I know how much we tried, both of us."
She cried again, and put an arm around his neck.
"Thank you for that," she said.
"Now, I want you to call me, if you need anything at all!" he said to her next, bending to kiss her on the cheek.
"I promise," she said.
"I certainly don't want to lose track of either you or the lovely Galinda," he said finally.
He drove them to the trailer park, where she and Jaime had been living. She was still staying there. He dropped her off at the entrance of the park, and watched as she and Galinda went off to their trailer.
He drove home then, and settled in with his thoughts and a stinger; he felt that he needed one just then.
(Glen Stowell was certainly not a huge drinker; at least he was not much of a drinker. His experiences with Evie had made that kind of impression on him but now and again he had something, like a glass of wine, or a glass of stout or a stinger, when the situation called for it. This was one of those times.)
A KIND OF RESCUE:
He was in his reverie, when the phone rang. It was Cherry. She was crying.
"Honey," he said. "What is it?"
"They're gone!" she said.
"Gone?" he said, simply repeating her word.
"Yes," she said, "Only a note on the door of the trailer. It merely says 'Sorry about Jaime; the rest of us are heading off.'"
"I'll be right there," he said.
"Didn't know whom to call," she said softly.
"Me, of course!" he said. "You wait, I'm coming."
He was as good as his word. She was waiting for him, and, once he got there, it took him a few long minutes to calm her down.
"Don't know what to do now," she said, "They took everything. I know that we didn't have much but they took everything."
"It's simple," he said, "You're coming home with me, both of you. That's what we're going to do."
They rode in silence for just a bit. She kept smiling at him and Galinda was making her contented sounds.
"She's such a love," he said, "Like her Momma!"
She smiled, and said: "You are being wonderful."
"Well, you two are my own!" he replied.
She leaned over and put her head on his shoulder. "That makes me feel so happy!"
"I intend to take care of you and that lovely little girl!" he declared.
"And," he went on, "I know that we'll need to shop; if they've taken everything, then we need to get you outfitted and get the things that we need for Galinda too."
Each new act of kindness on his part, impressed Cherry more and more; it left her smiling.
"Tell me then," he said, "What we need for her. Maybe we should shop for her right away; we'll do that first."
"Yes, please," she said.
They talked about the things that they needed for Galinda. He'd brought with him, on that rescue trip, his large suburban and had the room for the things that they needed to shop for.
They decided to do that right away.
He also figured that it would get her mind off of the events of that afternoon. It did serve to do that.
At this point in his life, Glen Stowell was 38 years old. He'd married his Evie early in his life and was already a father by the time he was 20. He was also a widower at the age of 28.
He was, by his present age, a fairly decent success in business; he had a very good head for it, and it left him well off. Living alone these days, but well off.
He 'religiously' attended to his exercising and tried to watch his diet, to take care of himself, and it seemed to be working. He was 6'1" and carried his 185 lbs very well.
His hair was curly and was graying at a very early age but it simply added to his attractiveness.
Cherry, i.e. Cheryl, Windsmore had been one of the factors that Glen was hoping would bring his Jaime around. He liked her level headedness right from the beginning, when he'd met her. That was during the time before Jaime had gotten so deeply into drugs with some of his friends.
She was, just then, 21 years old and petite. Rather large in the breast, 36c, with brown, sometimes frosted, hair. She'd certainly regained her pleasing shape, after the birth of Galinda.
It had even seemed, for short while, to both Cherry and Glen that the birth of Galinda was settling Jaime down. But the pull of the 'crowd' had reasserted itself and his habits had simply gotten more and more intense.
They had a conversation in the car, when they arrived at the mall.
"I've been so scared, since I realized that they'd left, even though without Jamie, I don't think that I wanted to stay with them," she said, as they sat in the car. "It's mostly for my Galinda that I've been frightened."
"Well," Glen said, "I'll tell you how it's going to be; I'm going to take you home and simply take care of you. You and lovely Galinda are mine and you need not be frightened about anything!"
She cried then, and hugged him, with Galinda sleeping at that point between them.
"Well, let's shop for what she'll need," he said, "Tomorrow will be our chance to shop for what you need!"
"Thank you!" she said, and kissed his cheek.
The shopping turned out to be a fairly positive experience for both Glen and Cherry. She was flat out pleased to be buying things for her Galinda. At one point, when Galinda was getting fussy, they stopped at tables in the mall. He got them drinks and Cherry fed Galinda. It calmed her.
She made some protestations about the cost of things but Glen simply put up a hand, and said: "Honey, all of this is necessary! Let's just do this! I intend to take care of both of you. It'll be her first tonight but tomorrow or so we're going to shop for you, for everything that you need."
It made her blush. "Thank you," she said, "You're being so grand."
It was that for them. They got the suburban loaded with their stuff for little Galinda and then he drove them home.
One of the perks that Glen had allowed himself, though he lived alone, up to that point, was his house. It was in a neighborhood with fairly large houses, each set on lots that were both wide and deep. The houses there were also angled to provide privacy for the owners.
As they turned into the street, it was a cul-de-sac, Cherry involuntarily let out a little mew of surprise.
"Here?" she said, looking at Glen with wide eyes. "You live here?" she repeated. Glen knew, of course, that Jaime, once he was away and into 'the crowd', never came to see him. Cherry had never had a chance to see where he lived. All of the contacts with Jaime and his friends, including Cherry, happened, when Glen made the effort.
He smiled at her, as he slowed down to pull into the driveway, pushing a button to raise the garage door.
"No, honey," he said, softly through his smile, "We live here!"
It caused a new flood of tears for Cherry, who spoke, in a soft and happy voice to little Galinda: "Look, sweetie, this is where we're gonna live. Uncle Glen is bringing us here to live with him. Isn't it grand?"
Galinda gave off some of her normally happy sounds.
"See," Cherry said, "She agrees with me! This is grand!"
She had, at that point, her arms around Glen's neck and was kissing the side of his face.
Glen was tempted to turn his face and kiss her but resisted that impulse, simply saying to himself: "Down boy! This is Jaime's girlfriend and little girl. Let's not forget that!"
He did, however, hug Cherry back and planted a kiss on the side of her cheek.
The very first thing that they did was take a tour of the house. It was a sprawling two story with the master suite on the upper floor, as well as the main guest suite. It had a kitchen with a counter for breakfasting and, on the other side of the counter, a free standing stove and preparation area, with a row of appliances and cabinets on the wall beyond, broken up by a window that looked out over the back yard. There was a dining room off to the side and a living room that went down a few steps, and was dominated by a large stone fireplace. There was, in addition, on a lower level a family room that was the main tv watching area and, off to the side, a workout room, the mechanical room and a few empty rooms. Glen had a library/den off on the other side of the living room also.
They worked then, once the big 'tour' was done, with Cherry happily making sounds about all of the features of the house, and cooing to little Galinda about how lovely 'their' house was, to unload the suburban.
Glen took the boxes and items up to the main guest suite, across the hall from his master suite and they began to set all of the needed things up.
They worked at it together and soon had the crib, and diaper changing area all prepared. There was a closet that had shelves on one side and plenty of room for Galinda's supplies.
"Need to feed her?" he asked.
"Yes," Cherry said, "But first!"
She put Galinda down on the bed on her back where she wiggled around and made soft noises, and went to him.
"What you're doing is so grand!" she said, holding onto him. "You're saving our lives! That's what you're doing. I didn't so much care for me," she went on, "I'd made a kind of mess of my life but I wanted it better for her, and now you're making it that way."
She looked up at him —- and he was once again tempted to kiss her, pushing that impulse away yet again —- and she asked in a soft voice, full of the emotion of the moment: "Glen, may we really stay here? Live here? May we?"
"Yes, and yes!" he said. "It's time that this big place has some life. It pleases me no end to have you here!"
He had tears in his own eyes now and said: "We're going to do this for Jaime! That's what we'll do! I'm so sorry that my Evie isn't here to meet you and lovely, lovely Galinda."
"Now dinner for Galinda?" he asked.
"Yes," Cherry said brightly.
"And for us too!" he said. "What would you like?"
"I don't know," she said, fairly happily, "What do you suggest?"
"How about if I order a pizza for us tonight?" he asked.
"Oh, pizza!" Cherry said with enthusiasm. "I love pizza! This is being so grand!" She said this, not for the last time.
They went to the kitchen and Cherry heated a bottle for Galinda, while Glen called for a pizza for the two of them.
"Would you like a coke with it?" he asked Cherry, holding his hand over the phone.
"Please!" she said, and he ordered the cokes also.
When he hung up the phone, he asked her: "Mind if I have beer?"
"Not at all," she said.
"Did they drink much?" he wanted to know and held up a hand then, saying: "Don't tell me anything that you don't want to! That you'd rather not!"
But she held up a hand then and said: "No, I want to talk to you about it, all of it; how it was and all. I just do."
"Fine," he said, "In your own time."
They fed Galinda the bottle, while they waited for the pizza. Glen asked if he might do the feeding and Cherry simply smiled and said 'yes'.
He had the baby then in his arms and fed her the bottle. She took it eagerly, while Cherry simply sat and looked on. While he was feeding Galinda, the doorbell rang.
"Oh," he said, turning and saying to Cherry: "My wallet is in my back pocket, can you get it and pay the pizza delivery guy.
Cherry did that and came back with the pizza's and a six pack of cokes.
By then Glen was finished feeding Galinda and had her over his shoulder to 'burp' her. After that, the baby began to simply fall asleep.
Glen set up tray tables for him and Cherry in the tv room. They lay Galinda down on the davenport there, next to Cherry and had a pleasant time, eating their dinner, while watching the news on tv.
Once they'd eaten, Glen asked: "Bed times?"
"Oh," Cherry said, "I'm so tired and I know that she is also."
Then she had a thought and said, with her hand in front of her mouth, and the beginning of a pained look on her face: "Oh, I forgot! I have nothing!"
"The house father to the rescue!" Glen said, going off.
He came back soon and had a tee shirt for Cherry and a pair of red silk boxers. It made her giggle behind her hand
"Bet I'll look grand in these!" she said, "Thank you, so much."
She yawned then and said: "Oh, I am tired."
"Yes," he said, "It's been that kind of day. Let's get you settled."
They went together to the guest suite, where Galinda's crib was, and Glen pointed out to Cherry where she'd find the towels and all of the kind of cosmetics that he had stashed in the adjoining bathroom.
"I think I might like a bath!" Cherry said.
"Why don't I watch the princess, while you bathe?" he asked.
"Oh, thank you," Cherry said.
Glen took Galinda with him and settled down with the tv again in the family room. She still slept peacefully. He watched some tv, with the sound muted until, finally, Cherry appeared from her bath. She looked positively radiant in the tee shirt and silky shorts.
Glen was grinning, as she came into the room, and, noticing his adulation, she dipped a curtsy for him.
"I have this for you," he said, picking up a short, yellow silk robe and offering it to him.
"Oh, this is gorgeous!" she said, sighing. "Thank you!" She choked up at bit and said, in explanation: "This is so hard to get used to!"
"I'll keep trying then," he said, smiling at her.
Then she was hugging him and saying into his ear: "Oh, Glen, it was never this way; I wanted it to be but I was never as important as the drugs, not ever, and I'm sorry to mention that."
"No," he said, "We've both suffered what we've suffered and the truth is not going to hurt us at all!"
"Yes," she said, "The truth is not going to hurt us."
Then she stepped back and twirled. "I feel so pretty!" she said.
He smiled and said: "And so you are!"
"Need to wear these tomorrow?" she said with a giggle.
"As a matter of fact," he said, "I took your clothes and already have them in the washer.
She grinned and said: "The man knows how!"
"Yes," he said, "Have been on my own here for a number of years but maybe not any longer."
"That's so nice," she replied, "To hear you say that. This is so different than the trailer and all of the 'crowd'. It's so nice for Galinda and me!"
"It's the way I want it to be for you!" he explained, and he was hugging her, holding her again.
As he hugged her, she yawned.
"Oh, sorry!' she said, giggling behind her hand.
"No," he said, "It's been that kind of day; why don't you take the princess and go ahead to bed. I have some things to do in the library. It's where I'll be, if you need me."
"Yes," she said, "I am so tired."
"What time breakfast in the morning?" he asked.
"Oh, I'll probably be up early with Galinda," she said.
"If I'm not up, then wake me," was his reply. "Then I'll get breakfast."
"Or I can do that," she said.
Glen woke during the night. He was a fairly light sleeper. He heard Galinda fussing and got up, trudging to the guest suite, where Cherry was changing a diaper and had a bottle for Galinda.
"Sorry that you woke," Cherry said.
"No, it's fine," he said to her. "How often is she up during the night?"
"About two or three times," Cherry said.
"Okay, I'm going back to bed," he said and went to his room.
He woke again and this time it was close to 5 AM. He went again to the guest suite, where Cherry was just getting up.
She crafted a smile for him and said: "She needs her diaper changed and a little milk."
"Good," he said, "I can do that. You go and get into my bed and I'll tend to this and stay with her."
"Oh, that's so nice!" Cherry said, giving him a hug, as she left the room.
Glen was cooing and talking in a soft voice to Galinda, as he changed her wet diaper and then gave her a little milk to drink. It sent her off to sleep again, with him looking on and simply smiling.
He put her back in her crib and lay down on Cherry's bed. It was there that he woke at 7 AM, when Cherry came knocking on the door.
"I'll take her with me to the kitchen," Cherry said. "I can make coffee and maybe breakfast."
"Great!" he said, smiling. "I'll take a quick shower and will be right down.
He was down in about a half hour. Cherry had a smile for him and he even got a cheery greeting from Galinda, as he came into the kitchen.
"There are the beauties!" he said.
Cherry blushed and Galinda laughed, when he tickled her under the chin.
"What do you think, Mom," he asked. "Shopping day?"
"That will be nice!" Cherry said. "Thank you!"
"I"ve got your clothes for the day finished and in the dryer but we'll get you outfitted today with everything that you need," was his next statement.
As usual, it brought tears to Cherry's eyes. "What have I ever done to deserve someone lovely like you?" she wondered.
"You were marvelous to my son and you have produced the loveliest little girl imaginable! And I'm claiming you and her for my own!" he said.
She hugged him and thanked him again.
"I'll get ready now," she said.
"Yes," was his answer, "It'll be the three of us!"
"Yes, the three of us!" Cherry agreed, and went to get dressed, carrying Galinda with her.
The shopping was a huge success. They did it together, the three of them. Galinda only fussed a little bit. As a matter of fact, Glen had purchased a kind of sling that let Galinda sit in the sling about on his chest. They had Galinda there in the sling for their shopping adventure.
The shopping process took them through the very breadth of the woman's part of the store. They had a sales lady that wanted to help them and stayed with them as they shopped for clothes: from nightgowns to blouses, with every possible stop in between.
Cherry was almost in a fey mood from the joy of it. They paused once in the middle to go and feed Galinda, who began to fuss a bit. Then Glen took her into the men's room and changed a diaper and they were good for more shopping then.
They stopped off for some Chinese food for their dinner on the way home. It had turned into a very special day for them.
Once they were home, Cherry decided, and announced such, to change her clothes into some of the new clothes. She choose a tee shirt and running pants, with new, clean undies.
When she came into the room, Glen had Galinda sitting up on his lap and making happy noises. Cherry simply put her arms up in the air to be on display for Glen and Galinda, after she came into the room.
Glen clapped and, taking Galinda's hands helped her to clap too. It made Galinda giggle with delight.
The time period that ensued was an exciting one. Galinda was at that age, when new things and new changes came quickly. Both Cherry and Glen delighted in each new phase and trick that Galinda came up with.
In those months, Galinda learned to sit up and she began to crawl, which made her almost impossibly happy.
The changes, and bits of progress were all documented with their cameras. The whole time period was a pure delight for Cherry and Glen. During that time period, Cherry began to refer to Glen, when she was talking to Galinda, as Poppa. It made Glen tremendously happy.
Glen and Cherry had some long discussions, at that time. They both agreed that Cherry should be the one who stayed home. She'd be taking care of Galinda and also managing the house for them, everything from meals to grocery shopping. That was their goal. They also decided on someone to clean the house several times a month.
He made sure that he sat down with Cherry, who in all of this was displaying a level of maturity that was at the same time helpful and pleasing, to talk to her about their finances. He also always made sure that he referred to them as 'their' finances. It probably should be mentioned that Cerry was blown away by 'how much' 'they' had.
Glen also initiated some practical everyday measures for them. They went and got a new iPhone for Cherry, and Glen got copies of both his credit card and his debit card for her.
He also made sure that she realized that there was a car in the garage for her. He had his large Suburban, and in addition there was a silver BMW sedan. To her surprise, he simply told her that the BMW would be hers and always available for her. He'd use the Suburban, which was much more to his taste.
They decided that one of the empty downstairs rooms would be for Cherry, and shopped to furnish it.
These were all issues that they dealt with, as they went through the process of settling in with one another and learning to live with each other.
It was an exciting time for them. Cherry more and more took over the household tasks, showing, in the process, maturity and good organization. Though they shared cooking tasks, she did a lot of the meal planning and preparation.
They went through certain changes in their relationship during those months also. For his part, though he was really attracted to Cherry, Glen made sure that he stayed 'backed off' from those kinds of things. He didn't want to be 'forcing' himself on her in any way.
They became great parents, in effect, to Galinda, and shared all of the providing of her needs. She responded to each of them and the two of them very well.
It needs to be admitted, however, that, as those months slipped by, and Galinda was learning new skills for herself, there was growing between Cherry and Glen a kind of tension.
Cherry was, by the time a few months went by, simply and totally in love with Glen. She thought of it constantly but detected his stance of holding back, though not realizing what his reasons were, and made it a point to respect that turn of mind in him.
It all changed and came to a kind of head during the middle of a week, a few months later. Cherry was in the bedroom, still the guest suite, with Galinda. She'd given her an afternoon bath. For the bath, she simply joined Galinda in the tub, holding her on her lap. It made Galinda giggle with delight.
The two ladies of the house were lounging on the bed and having a kind of giggle fest. They didn't hear Glen come home from work a bit early.