Freddie's Find Pt. 03byJewelTran©
King was practically bouncing when he rushed into the motel that afternoon. He had wrapped up his meetings early, gone and gotten his dad, and rushed back to the motel. He wanted to get there before Freddie had to go to work. He laughed at his own foolishness - he was the boss! If he wanted her to have the night off, he could give her the night off. And that didn't sound like such a bad idea. He was giddy with the thought of seeing Freddie again.
King's father, Alexander Solomon, followed King into the motel. King rushed him over to the elevator and actually reached out and pulled him into it when the doors opened. Alexander gave King a warm smile that suggested that he knew how important this woman was to King. King had been talking nonstop since he had arrived down at the office. He knew that he had told his dad way too much to ever pretend that Freddie was just a casual acquaintance. But King was too excited about showing Freddie off to worry about ruining his reputation as a lady's man.
When they arrived on the tenth floor, King hurried over to Freddie's door. He knocked loudly. After a few moments, he knocked again and this time called out her name. When there was still no answer, King shot his dad a worried look. Without even taking the time to think about it, King pulled out his master key. Images were flashing through his mind of Freddie lying hurt inside the apartment, unable to get help. Fear clutched at his heart. He shoved open the door and barreled inside.
King called out Freddie's name and rushed first into the sitting room. When she wasn't there, he ran into the bedroom, still calling her name. After he realized that she wasn't there either, he stepped back into the other room and shot his father a confused look. His father cleared his throat and said, "King, I don't mean to pry, but this place doesn't look like anyone lives here."
For the first time since he had run into the door, King took a moment to look around. His dad was right. The room didn't look like anyone lived there. He stepped back into the bedroom and jerked open a closet door. His heart fell when he saw that it was empty. "No! She can't be gone! Where is she?" King yelled. His father didn't answer.
Running out the door, King jabbed the elevator button. His father managed to catch up with him just as the elevator doors opened. Together they rode back down to the lobby. King crossed the room in three strides. Fortunately, there were no customers at the counter, because King wasn't in the mood to wait. Joanna's eyes grew wider and wider as King loomed closer. "Tell me where she is!" he growled. Joanna didn't even try to act like she didn't know who he was talking about. She just reached behind her and pulled out the note that Freddie had left.
King tore open the envelope and read:
I've had a change of heart. New York doesn't seem to be working out for me. I want you to know how much I appreciate all that you have done for me.
King read and re-read the note, over and over. He knew that the words were in English and that he ought to be able to comprehend what they meant, but he would swear that he had never learned the language in which they were written.
Joanna watched King's reaction then said, "King, I think you ought to know something else, too. Leona was here. She was at the desk when Freddie got those flowers."
King didn't even register that Joanna knew the flowers were from him. He was certain that the whole staff already knew how he felt about Freddie.
Joanna continued, "After Freddie went upstairs, Leona disappeared. When I looked for the master key to let a maid into one of the upstairs rooms, the key was gone. A few minutes later, Leona brought the master key to the desk and said that she had found it. King, I think she said something to Freddie."
The blood rushed to King's face, as his anger boiled. He wished that he had talked to Freddie this morning and told her how he felt. Now, Leona seemed to have done it for him and he was fairly certain that she had twisted some relevant facts!
Unfortunately for Leona, she chose that moment to walk into the motel lobby. When she saw King, her face lit up in a smile of greeting. She was carrying a newspaper, and waved it at him. But her smile froze in place as King stormed toward her.
"What in the hell have you done, Leona?" King bellowed.
Leona's face paled significantly as she said, "King, what are you talking about? People are beginning to stare at us. Let's go in private and discuss whatever is bothering you. Anyway, I just had the announcement of our engagement put into tomorrow's edition, dear. Doesn't that sound wonderful?"
King had thought, until that moment, that he couldn't possibly get any angrier at Leona. But he had been wrong! King had been manipulated by Leona long enough.
He grabbed her by the arm and pushed her back toward the door. Still yelling, he said, "Leona, I don't know what part of 'get out of my life' you didn't understand last week, but I will repeat it - get out of my life! So help me God, if I ever find Freddie, I'm going to make her my wife. And as for you - you are NEVER welcomed back here. And God help you, Leona, if I ever run into you elsewhere."
With that, he opened the door and none too gently shoved her out of it. For the second time that day, Leona had a door slammed in her face.
Shocked, Leona stood on the sidewalk for a few moments before she recovered enough to respond. She ran back up to the door to yank it open, but King was holding it closed from the inside.
Furious, she screamed, "Just what am I supposed to do about our wedding announcement? King, I'll make you sorry that you picked that fat bitch over me! You have ruined me - I hope you are happy."
Shaking his head in disgust, King turned the lock on the door and walked away, ignoring Leona's continuing threats. Behind him, every one of the regular patrons and the staff who had gathered in the lobby burst into applause. King gave them all a questioning look. Joanna spoke for the group, "Good riddance to bad rubbish! Now, go find Freddie!"
King didn't need to be told twice. With his heart in his throat, he ran out the back door toward his pick-up. His dad followed him. Without knowing where to go, King drove around for over two hours looking for Freddie anywhere he could think she might be. Alexander used his cell phone to call everyone who had met Freddie during her stay in New York, but no one had heard from her. With his heart heavy and sad, King turned the truck back toward the motel. He didn't know what else to do.
When King parked the truck in the alley, he turned to thank his father for his help. But suddenly, all the pain and confusion of the last few hours overwhelmed him. Instead of the words he had expected to come out of his mouth, all that escaped was a sob. Without any warning, he threw himself into his dad's arms and began crying.
King was certain that his dad probably thought he was crazy. Hell, he thought he was crazy. But it hurts so badly. Why would Freddie let Leona tear them apart? The answer was obvious and it pounded through his head like a drum beat. Freddie was gone because he hadn't matter enough to her to stay. Maybe it would have been different if he had told her how he felt. But he hadn't told her how he felt. He hadn't told her that he loved her. And she had left him, discarding their relationship with nothing more than a three-sentence note. God, he had never hurt so badly.
Freddie knew that she wanted to go south. Her heart was breaking - she could feel the actual pain in her chest. She felt like a wounded animal who wanted to crawl back home to lick her wounds. But she really didn't have a home to go back to. In fact, there was really nowhere for her to go. Not knowing what else to do, she caught the first bus out of New York City that was headed south.
Late that evening, Freddie found herself in Richmond, Virginia. She checked into a motel close to the bus depot, so she could spend the night somewhere other than in the seat of a Greyhound. She needed to make a plan, but she didn't really have a clue as to where to go next. As she sat in the local Friendly's, eating a breakfast platter and finishing up a chocolate shake, she overheard the couple behind her.
The woman said, "Lewis, I don't care what you say, she just has to have help. We can move her in with us, or we are going to have to put her in a home. She just can't continue living alone."
The man answered, "Darling, we have been over this a million times. As sweet as she is, she is too independent for either one of those options. The doctor has said that she will be less mobile as the cancer spreads, but until then, we are just going to have to keep commuting back and forth to South Carolina. I'll ask Marshall to help, but it's going to be a long six months. She's just too healthy to be so sick and old!"
Freddie could hear the woman sniffing as though she were crying. Then she said, "Lewis, she's the dearest 90-year-old I've ever known. It's not fair that she has to life her last few months so differently from the way she has lived the rest of her life. It almost would seem a blessing if she could die sooner, so she could stay at home until the time comes." Lewis, the man, murmured some comforting words that Freddie didn't catch. But Freddie was too caught up in her thoughts to worry much about missing a few words.
Before she could talk herself out of it, Freddie jumped up, grabbed her shake and scooted around to sit in the booth with the couple. They looked at her like she had lost her mind, but Freddie rushed to explain why she was interrupting them. She said, "I know you two don't know me from Adam. But I was sitting behind you, trying to figure out where I needed to go next, and suddenly, I heard your conversation. I have just finished up a job up north, and I'm headed back down south. But I don't have another job lined up and I was wondering if maybe we could help each other. Is there any way that I could help this lady that you are talking about continue to live in her home?"
Freddie could see the hope flicker in the woman's eyes. The man looked more suspicious, but Freddie really couldn't blame him. She would be suspicious too, if someone popped out of thin air and offered to go live with an old, dying relative. But she had to convince them. "Look, I know you have to be cautious, and I really wouldn't be impressed if you did just hire me on the spot." Taking a pen and notepad out of her pocketbook, she continued, But here is my name and my last address in North Carolina. Here's the name of my minister in Raleigh, where I went to church for five years. Go home, run an internet search on me and check me out. I've checked into a motel nearby and I can stick around for a few days. Just tell me that you would consider this solution. Please?"
The woman and man looked over the information that she hand them. Then they exchanged a look that Freddie was sure held a great deal of significance. The man stuck out his hand and said, "I'm Lewis Lambeth. I work over at the seminary. I happen to know your former pastor. I'll make a call to him tonight and we'll get back with you tomorrow . . ." he glanced down at the card to read her name, "Ms. Sommers."
"Please, call me Freddie," Freddie said, as she shook both of their hands. She added, "I really appreciate you giving me this chance." With that, Freddie took her leave of the couple. And feeling hope that things might just work out, she grabbed her bill and went to the counter to pay for her supper.
The next morning, at 9:00, Lewis Lambeth phoned Freddie at her motel and told her that she had received the "stamp of approval" from her former minister. They arranged for Freddie to check out of the motel and spend a couple of days at the Lambeth home in order for them to get to know each other better. Freddie assured Mr. Lambeth that he could count on her then laughed to herself about how clichéd that sounded.
The following week was busy for Freddie. After spending a few days with Lewis and Carol, as they insisted that she call them, they gave Freddie their blessings. Lewis told her that his father had died a few years back and left his stepmother, Dottie, all alone. Never once had Dottie complained. It was only in the past few months that she had even allowed them to stay with her for longer periods of time. But the lady was 90, she had inoperable cancer and she needed some help. Freddie knew that Dottie was the answer to her prayers and she only hoped Dottie would feel the same way about her.
Freddie tried to keep busy every day in order to not think about King. But every minute that she didn't spend focused on something at hand, her mind wandered to King - what was he doing? What was he thinking? Did he miss her at all?
On Thursday, the gossip section of the local newspaper announced, the upcoming marriage of King Griffin and Leona White. The article had speculated that there was trouble in paradise since the New York City newspaper that had carried the original announcement on Tuesday, had been forced to print a retraction on Wednesday. However, the article continued, repeated calls to the offices of both King Griffin and his father, Alexander Solomon, had been unanswered.
Freddie wondered what was really going on, but she decided that her heart couldn't deal with thinking about it too much. So she threw herself into helping Carol around the house, cleaning, buying the groceries and generally doing anything to keep from having a chance to sit and think about how much her heart was hurting.
Finally, at the end of the week, Carol and Lewis took Freddie to meet Dottie. It was love at first sight between Dottie and Freddie. Within minutes, Dottie had taken Freddie off to show her some of her memorabilia from World War I.
When it came time for supper, Dottie joined Freddie in the kitchen and helped her find everything as they put together a tasty meal of chicken and dumplings. Lewis and Carol left after supper. Freddie noticed that Carol didn't look as worried any more and Lewis was actually smiling for the first time in a week. This was going to be a good fit.
Freddie grew closer and closer to Dottie over the next few months. But even with the joy that relationship brought, each day was hard for Freddie, knowing that she had chosen to walk out of King's life. However, she knew that she had to get on with her own life. And Dottie needed her. Dottie's cancer continued to spread and she had to spend more and more time resting.
Freddie read to Dottie every day and they worked crossword puzzles together. Dottie was a jigsaw puzzle wizard and they spent many hours working on 5000 piece puzzles. Dottie was happy to have someone who wanted to hear about her life and she relished telling Freddie all about her years as a young girl in the south. Dottie had traveled the world, but she had never lived anywhere but South Carolina. She was a true southern belle. The stories Dottie told reflected her love of life.
And Freddie shared stories about what she had found to love in life - all except King. She found that she just couldn't bring herself to talk about him. So, she shared with Dottie about all of the other things she loved. Freddie told Dottie about the farm she had grown up on and the animals that she cared for. She told her about how much she had loved chemistry in high school, and then flunked it in college! She told Dottie about her faith and all about her work in various churches over the years. She even showed Dottie a few of the clothes she had learned to sew in home economics.
But most of all, Freddie talked about food. Dottie shared her passion for trying new dishes and together they searched cookbooks and the internet to find exciting new tastes. Freddie told Dottie many times how much she had enjoyed being a cook in Raleigh during her college years. They even spent some time searching the internet to find the best schools to train chefs. Food was a passion they both enjoyed and relished.
In the middle of their third month together, Dottie was confined to her bed. One day, she called Freddie to her. She said, "Freddie, how are you doing?"
Freddie automatically answered, "I'm fine, Dottie."
But Dottie looked at her seriously and said, "No, you aren't. Your heart was broken when you came here. I never insisted that you tell me what happened in New York, but something did happen. I can see it in your eyes whenever we talk about New York."
Freddie blushed, but she didn't look away. She finally said, "I made a mistake in New York and almost hurt someone."
Dottie raised her eyebrow and said, "Freddie, love is never a mistake. And if I'm not wrong, what happened in New York was love wasn't it?"
Freddie could only nod her head.
Dottie sighed heavily then said, "Well, my child, I don't think you are planning on going back and trying to fix things are you?"
Freddie quietly said, "No. I can't go back."
"Well, then," Dottie said, with a forced brightness, "We need to figure out what you are going to do."
Freddie looked at Dottie questioningly and said, "Dottie, I'm going to stay here and take care of you. What else would I do?"
"That's just it, dear," Dottie said, "What else are you going to do? I'm not going to be around much longer and I want to know that you are well taken care of when I'm gone. Now, as I get further along with this cancer, I'm going to be less and less dependent upon you and more and more dependent upon my nurse. You are going to have a little more time on your hands. I want you to consider one of those internet courses."
Freddie narrowed her eyes and said, "Dottie, have you done something I need to know about?"
Dottie's eyes sparkled and she said, "Ah, you have seen right through me! Look over there in the top drawer. It is an application to that chef's school we have talked about. You can start your courses on line. Then, when I'm no longer here, you can go to the campus in Atlanta and finish up. It is only 15 months from beginning to end!"
Dottie's enthusiasm was contagious. The thought of having the opportunity to study to be a chef was very appealing to Freddie. And it obviously pleased Dottie. Squeezing Dottie's hand in gratitude, she grabbed the information and turned on the computer.
A few days later, Dottie and Freddie celebrated when the letter telling Freddie that she had been accepted into the program arrived.
Freddie took as many classes as possible in the remaining months of Dottie's life. Dottie made sure that Freddie told her all about what she was learning. Although Dottie's body was shutting down, her mind stayed active. She always had suggestions and helpful advice for Freddie. Freddie had grown to love Dottie deeply and Dottie assured her that the feeling was mutual.
When Dottie breathed her last, Freddie was there with her. Carol and Lewis were also there along with Marshall, Dottie's son by her first marriage. After the funeral, Freddie was surprised when Marshall and Lewis insisted that Freddie come to the reading of the will. She was even more surprised when the executor read out the name of the only heir - Winifred Sommers. Freddie looked from Lewis to Marshall to the executor. With a shaky voice, she said, "No - there's been some mistake. I'm not the heir - I'm just her friend." Lewis and Marshall both broke into affectionate laughter. Freddie could only stare at them in confusion.
Finally Lewis said, "Freddie, you are so much more than just a friend! Dottie loved you like a daughter. Long ago, she gave Marshall and me all the money we needed to make it on our own. She approached us a couple of months ago and proposed this arrangement. Neither one of us have any problems with this. We appreciate how much you did for Dottie. If it hadn't been for you, she would have had to leave her home. And that would have been the end right then. But you helped her stay where she wanted to be. You have become a part of this family, Freddie. We just wanted to say thank you."