I was coming back from town Saturday morning. A half mile from my house I saw some activity at the old Blazer place. This was a homestead that had been periodically empty for years and it belonged to me Every once in awhile someone rented it and moved in. They never stayed long.
Curious, I slowed down. I could see household stuff just dumped near the front steps. I knew from the weather report I had listened to this morning that it was setting on to rain before noon. What-the-hell, I'd stop and give the guy a hand. I backed up and pulled in near the pile of stuff.
Just then two kids looked out the open door. They looked concerned and scared at my intrusion into their little world. I would say the oldest kid, a girl, was maybe ten and the boy might reach seven or eight. "Hi, is your Dad here?"
The boy shook his head no. Then he turned and went out of sight. "Mom, somebody's here."
A woman appeared, standing in the bedroom doorway. She was dressed in too-large jeans and a flannel shirt. There was a big smudge of dirt on her cheek and her brown hair hadn't been combed. She faced me and I could see she hated the interruption. "What can I do for you?"
"I stopped to see if I could help your husband move in. It's going to rain in a couple of hours. Your belongings are going to get wet."
"No husband. The stuff will just have to get wet. This place is filthy. I can't put my stuff in here like this. Thanks for stopping though. Now if you will excuse me--" She whirled around and went back into the room leaving me standing there. I waited a minute and realized I had been dismissed. The kids were still standing by the door.
"I guess your Mom is too busy to talk. I'll tell you, my name is Bob Brandel and I live not too far up the road. Have you kids had any breakfast this morning?" Again it was the boy that answered by shaking his head no. "Too busy getting moved in I guess. Look, I have a spare coffee ring in my truck. Why don't I leave it here and if you get hungry you can eat it. I'm going to find some tarps to cover up your things. I'll be back in a little while."
The kids didn't leave the house while I went out to my pickup and got the sweet thing and a half gallon of milk. I brought it back and set it down on the steps. The little boy's eyes were riveted to the food. "Now you kids don't go away until I get back."
I was back in a half hour with enough tarps to adequately keep the rain off. The kids helped me spread the covers. "Do you have a stove to cook on?"
"No, the electricity isn't on." This was the first time the little girl had spoken. "We can't cook until next Tuesday. Mom said we could eat cold cereal until then. Thank you for the milk and the buns. They were delicious."
"I'm going into town again. Would you go ask your Mom if I can pick up anything she needs?"
The little girl went running into the house and I could hear the exchange between mother and daughter. She came back saying, "I guess not. Mom couldn't think of anything." She was almost in tears. The little girl knew instinctively I was trying to be helpful and her mother was pushing me out of their life by resisting my overtures.
"Okay then, but you will likely see me around some more. Bye now." I headed into town and went to the real estate office. I talked to the agent in charge of renting the Blazer property. "Tell me about the woman who is renting my little house down the road from me."
"The woman's name is Lisa Rounds. She has two kids, Annie ten, and Bobby seven. She is a single mom and divorced. Her husband was able to hire a better lawyer. The attorney she hired didn't do much to watch out for her interests. That was four years ago and slowly things have been going downhill for the family.
"She has had to rent increasingly less suitable properties to house them. She has a new job in the bank here as a teller and comes highly recommended. It will be touch and go as it is. I don't know how she will get to work or find someone to watch the kids."
"Sounds as if she is in a bind. Is she up-to-date on her rental finances? First, last and security deposit?"
"Yes, of course. I wouldn't have rented it to her without it."
"Well if her rent gets behind, let me know. She sounds like a lady just down on her luck."
"It looks like it." When I left there it was starting to rain. I went into the hardware store and bought a couple of things and then stopped at the grocery store. I also made a phone call to make some arrangements if they were needed. The rain was coming down really hard and the wind was pretty vicious.
I pulled up as close to the house as I could and grabbed a box that I had beside me on the seat. I headed for the door and it opened before me. "Thanks Annie, close the door quick, I think it is starting to mist a little." This was humor and Annie caught it and started to giggle.
Lisa was sitting on the one piece of furniture that she had managed to get in before the rain. I took the box over and sat it on the floor in front of her. "Please open this Mrs. Rounds while I get some more things." I looked at her and could see she had been crying.
I headed out again and brought in a big ice cooler and set this in the kitchen. Again I went out and got a bottle of propane for the stove, stopping on the way to lift the tarp where I had seen a box of kitchen utensils, tableware, and a few dishes. I was thoroughly soaked when I passed by Annie who was running the door for me.
Lisa was sitting with the camping cook stove on her lap. I picked it up and set it by the kitchen sink work area. I affixed the gas to it and after hunting for a match in my pocket, I lit it.
The kids looked at it as if it was a Christmas tree. "Bobby Junior, I think we are going to have a hamburger in about twenty minutes. Do you like them fat or skinny?"
"Fat, but skinny is okay." I opened the cooler and brought out a three pound tray of already formed hamburgers. Looking in the box of kitchenware I found a good-sized skillet and set it on the stove. I didn't have any grease, but soon enough tried out of the meat to make a delectable smell as the burgers started to cook.
"Oops, can't have a picnic without chips. Wait right here." I headed out into the rain again. I came back with a box filled with chips, soda, ketchup and rolls. I was back in time to turn the burgers. When they were done I put them together on some paper plates I had thought to supply. I opened the bag of chips and put a liberal handful on each one. "Annie, give this one to your Mom and we'll sit around her on the floor and I'll tell you all about myself."
Lisa was watching me. The kids were taking little nibbles around their buns, savoring the flavor. When I had the kids seated, I went out and poured a glass of orange soda for them. I pulled a bottle of wine out of the box and poured a half glass for Lisa and a half glass for me. "This is cheap wine only because I didn't want to fool with a cork. I guarantee it will relax you."
I took a sip. It was heavy and very sweet. "Okay first, I own this house and I apologize because I didn't have it ready for someone to move into. Usually I have a week's warning, but I guess you needed a place today. That's okay, I'll make it up to you.
"I stopped off at the realtors to get your names, so I know you are Lisa Rounds, Annie and Bobby. I live up the road just a little ways and that's been my home just about forever. This house was my grandmother's and it came to me a few years ago when she died.
"Your next door neighbors are nice people and they love kids, so feel free to visit them. They might even offer to baby-sit if you need that service. Let's see, you don't have a car. What are you going to do about that?"
"I'm going to rent one I guess when I have the funds."
"Okay, but until you do, you'll need some transportation. I'll bring my wife's car down tomorrow when I come to help you finish moving in. It is supposed to clear off tonight."
"Won't your wife mind if you lend her car to another woman?"
"I don't know, I'll ask her." I raised my eyes toward heaven and closed my eyes for a few seconds. Then I looked into Lisa's eyes. "Nope, she'd be upset if I didn't."
"Your wife is dead?"
"Yes, she left me two years ago. She left me in body, but she is still with me in my mind. She was the most kind, gentle person who was ever born. When I need to make a decision I'll ask her and she guides me. She didn't fail me when she was with me and so far she hasn't failed me now that she isn't here."
"Is that why you are helping me?"
"Not really. I do some things on my own. Things that I know she would approve of. This is one of them. Look I have to be going. There are hotdogs, buns, eggs and bacon and milk for the cereal you have. I didn't get any veggies or fruit, but you will make out until you get some. As I say, I'll see you in the morning. If you need anything, send Annie over to the neighbors to call me."
I got up off the floor and left before Lisa realized my intention. She shouted a thank you from the doorway as I was getting into my truck.
I lay in bed thinking about Lisa. I really didn't know what she looked like yet. I didn't know whether she would clean up good or not when she had her home organized. I figured she needed a friend though. I was going to call Marc and Pam first thing in the morning to help me help her. That would ease her mind about me, for I knew I had come on pretty strong. She just seemed so beat down.
I well knew how that could be, for my wife had been sick for so long I had cried both for her in her pain and me in my despair. Most of the time I couldn't do anything to relieve it.
I wasn't normally one to butt in and at first Lisa didn't appear to want anyone to help her, so I was pushed away. Maybe she would feel differently about me in the morning. I wonder if she bought that little charade about me talking to Winnie in heaven. Why did I do that? I wasn't particularly religious, I just wanted Lisa to have the use of the car. Pretty neat trick though. I was smiling when I went to sleep.
"Hi Pam, I have a new tenant in Grandma's house. She is a single mom with two kids. She has a job in town at the bank, so she isn't a deadbeat. I didn't have the house ready to move into, so I was wondering if you and Marc could help me make it up to her."
"What do you need from us?"
"Her stuff is on the front lawn. I covered it with a tarp last night. She has some furniture and a bed set. She and the two kids managed to get a couch in all by themselves. I guess that is where they slept last night. Also, the electricity isn't on and won't be until Tuesday. She is supposed to work tomorrow. Could you ask if she needs any washing done?"
"What about her kids? Where will they be?"
"I talked to the Grants. They will watch them if she isn't too proud to ask."
"I'll see that she isn't. Why didn't you take her home with you if things are so bad for her?"
"Pride. She's proud. You will see when you meet her. She's from the city and people don't help each other like we do up here."
"You mean like you do, don't you? Is she pretty?"
"I have no idea. She was in scroungy work clothes and her hair needed combing. She is tall, that's all I know. She was sitting on the couch most of the time I was there. The only time I saw her standing, she blew me off for interrupting her cleaning."
"I'll bet that is the last time she does. No one stays mad at you. Even me and I'm your sister and can get mad at you anytime I want. Okay, we'll be along as soon as breakfast is done. Nine o'clock early enough?"
"Fine. Oh, would you drive Winnie's car over there for me? I'm going to let her drive it to work."
"Bobby, what else have you done for her?"
"Come on, give."
"I didn't do anything for her. The kids were hungry though, and I bought them a snack."
"I'll find out when I get there just what you did. How old is she?"
"My age, maybe a year or two older. How would I know?"
"You could ask."
Lisa had changed her clothes from the evening before. Today she had on a blouse and a sweater. The jeans she had on this time fit her--boy did they ever. There was no hot water for a shower, but I noticed a washbasin and washcloth on the sink shelf. She must have heated water on the camp stove. Her hair hadn't been washed but she must have spent an hour brushing it for it shone. It was brown but had amber highlights in it. Lisa was a very pretty woman.
I set the carafe of coffee on the work place and she visibly raised her head to sniff it. "Oh God, I never smelled anything more wonderful. Coffee is my one weakness. Thank you." She hurried and put out two cups. I wondered what time she had risen for she had her dishes installed in the various cupboards.
"My sister will be along in a little bit to visit. If you have a plan where you want your furniture, Marc, my brother-in-law, and I will bring it in."
"That would be great. Mr. Brandel, I want to apologize for the way I acted yesterday. I was so tired when I got here, and the trucker practically dumped my things. When I came in and saw the place needed cleaning, I wanted to sit down and cry. Then you came along and I took my frustration out on you. I feel so bad. Getting the children something to eat should count for you in heaven. I don't think I ever knew anyone as nice as you."
"Stop it please, I'll be getting a swelled head." I looked out the window and saw Marc drive in. Behind him Pam came in driving Winnie's car. It was a small four-year-old Ford Escort. It only had 2100 miles on it for my wife had little time to drive before she became too sick to operate it.
Marc and Pam came in and I made the introductions. When I came to Bobby I said, "His name is the same as mine. Just so we don't get confused, I think we should call him Big Bobby and me Little Bobby. That will keep us straight. How do you feel about that?"
"I want to be Little Bobby, 'cause you're bigger than I am. Okay?"
"Little Bobby it is then."
We made short work of the move-in. When we finished, Marc took off and I said I would take Pam home.
I gave Lisa the keys to the Ford. "You know I shouldn't take this to use, but it does solve a big problem for me so I will use it until I can get a car of my own. Now if I can only find a baby-sitter I'll be all set."
"Look, if Annie and Little Bobby want to help out the older people next door, I'm sure they would be willing to help through the summer. I'll introduce you. They have been like an aunt and uncle to Pam and me forever."
The kids and Lisa hung back as we crossed the lot to the neighbors. Pam whispered to me, "Lisa doesn't have much in the way of clothes. You gave me all of Winnie's. Would you mind seeing Lisa in some of them?"
"No, I wouldn't mind. She is about the same build as Winnie was."
"Except for one thing, you mean."
"Yes, I know what you are saying. Lisa is more busty, but the clothes should still fit. You don't have to tell her where they came from, do you?"
"No, I'll just say I went crazy at a second hand shop and found they didn't fit me when I got them home."
"Sounds like a plan." When we reached the Grants' home, a puppy squeezed through Bertha Grant's legs. He bounded to the kids and they sunk down to let him lick their faces. He wiggled and tumbled all over them and pretty soon all were rolling on the lawn.
"Land's sake, Sam has found someone to play with. You kids live in the Blazer place, don't you? That's perfect. You'll have to come over anytime you want to play with the little rascal. Come in folks, I'll put coffee on. Bobby you've been a stranger and Pam, you never visit us old people anymore and we love both of you." We didn't have to introduce Lisa for Bertha took care of that, exclaiming how nice it was to have a close neighbor again.
By the time we left Burt and Bertha's, Lisa had herself a baby-sitter for weekdays--hours eight to four. Pam suggested that Lisa give her a ride home in Winnie's car to see if some clothes she had would fit her. The kids were going in my truck to my house as I had a Sunday chicken in the oven and I needed Annie to help finish preparing the vegetables, etc. Marc, Pam and Lisa could join us in an hour.
Lisa came in with smiles all over her face. She had a new wardrobe. Just what she needed to approach her new job and meet the public with confidence. This lasted until Pam gave her a tour of the ancestral home. I had pictures of my deceased wife in every room.
When she came back to the living room with Pam, she spoke sharply. "Pam and Bobby, you are doing too much for me. First I want to know why? What do you expect in return? You're digging a hole for me I can never climb out of. I don't want to be in debt to anyone. I'm sorry, I can't accept the use of the car or the clothes. I should walk out of here right now."
Oh shit, I hadn't thought about the pictures and the clothes that Pam had given Lisa as being my wife's. Many of the ones she could see Winnie wearing in the photographs. "Lisa, you aren't in a hole and you don't owe us anything, except a thank you. After today you are on your own. We just wanted to find a way for you to get back on your feet."
She looked first at Pam and then at me. Annie put her two cents in. "Mommy, you can't be mad at Big Bobby. Not after all the nice things you said about him last night after we went to bed." Little Bobby came over and stood leaning up against me, fearful that his mother was going to drive me away.
"Lisa it looks as if your kids just out-voted you. Come on, accept that we are just trying to help you, friend to friend."
"Okay for now, but please don't do more." I just smiled.
After dinner, the kids curled up and watched television while Pam and Lisa did the dishes. Lisa came in and got the kids going saying she had a lot of arranging to do and stuff to put away. Pam asked her about showers in the morning and she said Mrs. Grant had offered the use of theirs until the electricity came on. As they were leaving Annie came and asked for a hug and Bobby followed. I walked them out to the car. Lisa stood, undecided for a minute.
"Really I am overwhelmed with all of the generosity I'm receiving. Some day I hope to repay you. Just think of the mess I'd be in if you and Pam hadn't stepped in to help me. Thank you so much." Tears of gratitude shone in her eyes as she got into her vehicle.
Pam blasted me when I went in. "You could have hugged her you know."
"Maybe, but I wasn't sure. I'm sure I'll have another chance. That is if I want to. She is a little pricky and I don't want to do anything to upset her more than she is."
I am a maintenance man and trouble shooter for a commercial bakery that has plants all over New England. It was just my luck to be stuck in Maine over the next weekend. I called Bertha Grant to see how my tenants were coping. She raved about the kids and how well behaved they were.
"Those kids ask everyday when you are coming to see them. They think their mother made you mad at them all and that is why you don't visit. When are you coming home anyway?"
"Not before Wednesday. I'm working this weekend, twelve-hour days just so I can get home. How does Lisa look in Winifred's clothes?"
"Exquisite, if you must know and she wears them so well. You know Bobby, you could do worse. Your wife has been gone for two years and it is time to start thinking about the rest of your life. You did promise Winnie that you would find another mate to make you happy."
"Okay Mother Grant. I will give it some thought. Say hi to the kids for me. Oh, how is your dog doing?"
"My dog, ha! He was never my dog and you know it. Those kids have him trained already. He is sleeping at their house now. I let it slip that you got him for me as soon as you were aware of some kids moving in next door. Lisa says she is going to get even. That's good, I think."
"Do I dare go visit? She blasted me the last time I saw her."
"Oh she will forgive you. She just isn't used to people looking after her. Wait until I tell her you called and asked after the kids. Maybe I'll tell her you wanted to know how she looked all dressed up."
"Bertha, don't you dare. I was wondering, have you found out anything about her life before she moved here? I know nothing about her."
"Some. I know she was married to a lawyer. I know her husband hit her and she picked up and left with the kids. He filed against her for abandoning him and made it stick. Poor soul gets no alimony and although he is supposed to pay child support, it never comes on time and he is always way behind on payments.
"Compared to him, you are a white knight. She will do anything to keep her kids so she moves wherever work can be found. She transferred when the ex started a nasty rumor. She quit and came here with an excellent recommendation before it could damage her reputation."
"Do you believe her?"
"It sounds as if something should be done about him."
"Yes, but what?"
"I don't know. How about the kids? How do they feel about their father?"
"They are scared to death of him, but that may be because Lisa has turned them against him. I doubt it, but it is a possibility."
"Well find out what you can. I'll be home Wednesday and I'll see you then."
I didn't make it on Wednesday. It was Friday morning when I reached Bertha's just as she was pouring her second cup of coffee. She said Annie and Bobby would be along in a half hour. She didn't know if Lisa would stop on her way to work. Sometimes she did and sometimes not.
Bertha had information. The husband's name was Bill Rounds and Bertha had gleaned his address and the firm he worked for. It was located in a city about a hundred miles away. All of a sudden the door burst open and the puppy came bounding in wiggling all over. Behind him came Bobby and Annie. "Oh Big Bobby, we missed you. Where have you been? We thought we were never going to see you again."
This was Annie. Bobby was a little shy, but came to me and stood next to me. "Well, I've been out of town working. How have you been? I see Sam is glad to see me." He jumped up and licked my face. "If you are as glad to see me as he is, you can lick my face too." This brought giggles from the two kids. I looked up and Lisa was standing there.
"Good morning Lisa, and so pretty too. Did you miss me?"
"Yes, I guess I did. The kids have been bugging me as to when we would be seeing you. That will stop now for awhile anyway. Well I have to go to work. I'm glad you are home Big Bobby." I received a bright smile and she turned and left. I was beat. It had taken me seven hours of driving to get here. The kids wanted me to see how they had made a home out of my grandmother's house. I went over with them.
"Can I make you some tea, Big Bobby?"
"Gee that would be wonderful. Do you need any help?"
"No, I'll just heat some water. We have electricity now. You sit here on the couch while I heat it up."
Sam jumped up beside me and then laid down. I lay down next to him, stroking him and telling him what a nice dog he was. I don't know what time I roused up. The kids were gone as well as the dog. I realized someone was knocking on the door. Before I could get to it, it opened. A man came hesitantly in, looking around. He spotted me.
"Who the hell are you?"
"Bobby Brandel. Who the hell are you?"
"I'm Bill Rounds. I was given to understand that my wife lives here."
"Yes she does."
"Well, what are you doing here then?"
"I guess I was taking a nap. Annie was getting me a cup of tea, but I guess I dropped off on the couch. What's it to you?"
"I wanted to see my kids. Where are the little brats anyway? Where's the bitch too, as long as I'm asking?"
"The kids are at the baby-sitters and Lisa is working." I was taking a decided dislike to this person. "She'll be home this afternoon about three-thirty. I think you had better leave and come back then, unless you have a check for back support for your kids. If you do, I'll take you to where she is."
"I'll come back later." He spun the wheels of his car as he left. I headed across to the neighbors.
"Annie and Bobby, your dad was here to see you."
"I know, but Mom said never to be alone with him so we didn't come over. We called Mom. She is coming home early. I'm glad you are here to protect Mom and us."
I had slept for nearly four hours. I winked at Annie, saying I guessed my tea had got cold. Bertha made me a sandwich. The kids were very reserved, knowing instinctively that there was going to be a bad scene with their father coming soon. Three quarters of an hour later Lisa drove in and came rushing over to where we were. "Where is he?"
"I told him you would be along later. He is coming back when you get out of work."
"God, I would stay away if I could, but I suppose I'll have to see what he wants. I hate to ask you, but could you stick around, please?"
"I can do better than that. It will cost you a pot of coffee though." I went to the phone. "Hi Elaine, is Matt up? I listened for a minute. "Would you two like to meet the tenant who is renting Gram's place? The ex-husband is coming this afternoon. He was here at noon and was pretty belligerent. I thought it might be a good idea if he saw a uniform. He will be back between three and three-thirty I believe."
I put the phone down and turned to Lisa. "Troops on the way. Elaine is my cousin and married to a local policeman. I haven't talked to them in awhile. You'll like both of them. Matt works nights, nine to five. They have three teenage kids and the whole family is as nice as can be."
Bertha made the comment "You have a problem, Lisa, Bobby is right there to fix it."
"I know and I don't know how to pay him back."
"That's the nice thing about Bobby. He doesn't expect or want payback. He gets it though. When Winifred was sick everyone rallied around."
"Especially you, Bertha. I couldn't have got through it without you."
Lisa looked from me to Bertha and smiled. "He isn't just helping me then?"
"No, he helps everyone." I followed Lisa and the kids across to the other house and Lisa set about putting coffee on.
Bill Rounds arrived fifteen minutes earlier than expected. He came stomping up the steps and threw open the door. He saw me. "Lisa get this asshole out of here. I want to talk to you and I don't need an observer."
Lisa was scared, but wasn't to be pushed around. "He stays. Bobby, would you take the kids in the bedroom and shut the door. What do you want Bill?"
"I'm taking the kids. I got married a month ago and I want the kids to get to know their step-mom. They can live with us and that way I won't have to pay support."
"No way. The court said they would stay with me. You can't just take them. Besides, you haven't paid any support for the last two years. You already owe me almost seventeen thousand dollars."
"You'll never collect it, especially if I have the kids."
"I will. I've been talking to a lawyer and not one like you either. God, what I ever saw in you, I'll never understand. Your firm is nothing but an ambulance chaser. Over my dead body will you get the kids."
"Bitch, you can't stop me." I could hear scuffling in the other room and then I heard Lisa yelp and something hit the door with a loud thump. She started screaming. I opened the door and met a fist as I stuck my head out. Lisa was lying on the floor in a corner.
Bill backed off and picked up a chair to hit me. He threw it at me and grabbed Annie who was trying to escape around me. He headed for the door dragging Annie behind him.
I paused and dialed 911. I gave the address, my name as landlord, and said there was a domestic disturbance and a kidnapping in progress. Lisa, who was on her feet crying, had Little Bobby clinging to her leg as I handed her the phone. I rushed out the door.
Bill was trying to force Annie down the steps and across to his car. Just then Matt, in his police cruiser, wheeled in. Bill had Annie by one arm and was dragging her along bodily after she had fallen.
"Let go of the child! On the ground, now!" Matt had come around the back of the car.
"Fuck you! My kid. Keep your frigging nose out of this."
I almost had to laugh. Bill was in deep shit now. Annie had struggled out of her father's grasp and was running for the house. Bill turned and started after her and that's when Matt tackled him. It was all over very shortly. Matt had Bill down with his face pressed into the dirt. Elaine got out of the cruiser with a pair of cuffs in her hand and passed them to her husband.
I pointed to the house. "Elaine would you see if Lisa is badly hurt? He tossed her around violently. The kids are scared and I'm afraid Annie got scraped up a bit." I heard sirens in the distance and soon there were two more cruisers in the yard. The officers spread out, each one asking questions of us individually.
Matt said, "I'm booking him for assaulting you first and then we'll sort out the rest of it and add to the charges as need be. You will press charges won't you?"
"Yes. I've got one eye I can hardly see out of. Some protector of womanhood I turned out to be."
Lisa spoke immediately. "Don't say that. You were wonderful. I'm sorry you got hurt."
A lady officer came in and took pictures of all the injuries that Bill had caused. Lisa had a leg with scrapes and bruises and a very visible contusion on her face. I had an eye that was fast turning black and Annie had several surface lacerations from being dragged to the car.
Matt took Bill away to be booked. He was going to be in jail for the weekend and would be arraigned on Monday morning. He was going to be facing some very serious charges. Assault and battery, domestic violence with injury, assault on a child and possibly attempted kidnapping.
I was sitting on the couch after all of the officers had left. Bertha had come over and I was having my coffee that I was promised earlier. I was to give Elaine a ride home, but I hated to leave this very upset family. Pam solved that problem by showing up bearing two large pizzas.
Burt Grant came over when he saw Pam drive in and helped carry the soda pop that went with the boxed pizza. The two kids sat beside me. I figured I hadn't done much, but they felt things would have been a lot worse if I hadn't been here. They remembered the weekend two weeks ago when things looked so bleak and I had made things more pleasant for them.
First the Grants left, then Pam gave Elaine a ride home. This left me alone with the kids and Lisa. "Bobby, I'm so sorry I've brought all of this trouble down on you. Do you wish us to find another place to live?"
"Let me think. Umm, nope. I want you right here. You all keep my mind occupied. I haven't thought of my wife for two days and that's good. I used to get depressed, but I haven't since I stopped here the other day. So it is me that should be thanking you. I'm curious though, and you don't have to answer. Was your husband always like he was today?"
"No he wasn't. I'll explain sometime when we can sit down alone. It is sad and I suppose some of it was my fault, but I'll leave that for another time. I'm curious too. How do you know just what to do in an emergency? What would have happened if you hadn't had your cousin coming here? Annie might not even be here with me tonight."
"Well, short version, I was pretty wild when I was a kid--teenager if you will. My father almost gave up on me. What turned me around was the death of two friends. My friend and I were out drinking with our girlfriends and decided to have a woods party. You know, you find a secluded place in the woods and get as drunk as you can as fast as possible.
"I got falling down drunk and so did my buddy's girl. My friend took my girl and headed home. They didn't make it. My old man heard about the accident and went looking for me. When he found me, he took me, still drunk, to the accident just as my buddy and my girl were being removed. He made me watch it all.
"Next morning he sat me down and told me I was just as responsible for the accident as the two that had died. Just because I was doing the same thing my friend did I was encouraging such behavior. 'You remember this every day until you are able to help someone out of serious trouble and then maybe you can forget what you saw today.'
"I have spent a lot of sleepless nights. I gave up serious drinking and joined the military for one term but that wasn't for me. I hope I have become someone he could be proud of.
"I'm glad I had that conversation with him. He died way too young from a heart attack two years later. I haven't stayed away from people with problems. My wife was sick with early adult cancer. I knew this when I married her. I made her happy for the few years we had together. She was a treasure and I was blessed to know her and have her love.
"I don't think about that accident often anymore and that was because she could hold me and make the loss of my girlfriend and my buddy recede into the past. We were even when she passed on. She helped me and I helped her."
I had tears in my eyes when I finished my speech. The kids had got bored with adult talk and lay sleeping curled on each side of me. "Lisa, I didn't have much sleep last night. In fact I didn't have anything but a nap this morning on your couch.
"I think I'll toddle along home and get some more rest. You'll be safe enough tonight. By tomorrow you may have someone from your husband's firm up here looking into what is going on. You should have a lawyer of your own if they want to talk to you."
"Oh God, I don't have any money."
"Don't worry about that. Here is a number to call if someone shows up. Just don't say anything until he gets here."
"I hope he is better than the one I had for my divorce."
"I think he might be. He is the father of our present Lt. Governor. He is eighty, but he's still pretty sharp and he knows the laws of this state and was responsible for many of them passing in the legislature. You'll like him." I got up and was almost to the door.
"Bobby, may I hug you?"
"I'd like that."
When I was ready for bed, I went upstairs and looked in the room where my wife had spent her last days, and I looked at her picture. I had never slept in her bed, but tonight I decided I wanted to. I was ready now to let her go and move on as she had urged me to do. Lisa might just be the one. My hug with her had been very brief and that was as it should be. Maybe not the next one, though.
I was invited for Sunday dinner. My eye was brilliant, but I wore it proudly. The kids ran out to my truck when I drove up. I had quick-like put together a pumpkin pie to contribute to the meal. I leaned down and Sam ran right into my arms and kissed me all over. I guessed he wasn't much of the watch dog variety, but made a wonderful companion for the kids. I could smell roasting pork when I was led to the table by Little Bobby.
Lisa had an apron on. Today I felt free to look more closely at a woman. Her brown hair shone. Most men go for blonde or raven, but I thought a tall woman looked best with dark brown. This was just a personal preference. Maybe the freckles that Lisa sported across the bridge of her nose helped. She smiled and bid me sit. There were happy faces all around. After dinner, Lisa sent the kids out to play with Sam.
"Now Bobby, I want to tell you about your screwed up tenant. I don't want you to have any illusions about me. I haven't been a very nice person in the early years of my life. I thought I had put that time behind me four years ago when I divorced Bill. I think you are guessing that I'm your age. I'm actually four years older than you. I had good parents and I have been to college. That's where I met Bill. Was I a good girl? No I wasn't. I did drugs and I was pretty promiscuous.
"When Bill and I married we kept up with the parties until Annie came along. That's when I started to change. I gave up drugs, unless you call liquor a drug. When Bobby came along I gave that up and stopped being what you would call a loose woman.
"Bill didn't and he hated me for not continuing that lifestyle. When Little Bobby was four we had a battle royal and he gave me an ultimatum. Join him or divorce him. I found I loved my children more than I did him so I divorced him.
"Bill is smart, but he couldn't keep his lifestyle hidden from the firm he was working for and he was canned about the time the divorce was final. He hired an attorney from the firm where he is presently employed. By this time I was working and supporting the kids on my own, receiving nothing from Bill.
"I haven't seen much of him since the divorce. He did cause some troubles where I was previously employed and that is why I moved here. What he was thinking Friday, I have no idea. What did he expect to gain by trying to steal Annie? I don't know if it was revenge on me or if he wished he could get me to go back to him."
"Bill said something about getting married. Do you know anything about that?"
"No, but if he is, we will most likely see her eventually."
I was out of town Monday and Tuesday and back in the office on Wednesday. I called Matt to ask about Lisa's ex-husband. "He is still being held in jail. His attorney was up from the big city and argued for a low bail, but without success. There is going to be a hearing next week.
"I suggested to the woman, Lisa, that she get a restraining order against him. I had him checked for drugs in his system. I think he is, or was, a meth user. That may be why he was so off the wall. The results will be back before the hearing."
"How is he acting now that he has been locked up for a few days?"
"No change. He is filled with anger and I fear for the woman and her kids. I've warned her, but I don't know if it is enough. You going to keep tabs on her?"
"Yes, as much as I can. You give the department a heads up and if a call comes in, have them jump on it."
"Oh we will."
I stopped to say hi to the kids (Lisa?) on my way home. She still wore the clothes she went to work in. She was wearing one of my wife's dresses. I couldn't help but stare at her. For a minute I thought it really was Winifred. I raised my eyes to Lisa.
"Bobby, I'm sorry. I didn't know you were coming over or I would have changed."
"No. I'm glad you didn't. She was beautiful in that dress, but you are just as beautiful as she was. I was startled, that's all and I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. Please, I hope to see you in more of them. It helps me to move on.