I Love You Becauseby_Lynn_©
"Save it, Jeremy. Officer, he's all yours," Nelson said, joining them.
Confused, Wade tried to take in the scene around him. One police officer had already handcuffed Ralph, while another was doing the same to Jeremy.
"Wade, we suspected these two from the beginning. All we needed was a bit more proof. We're really sorry for letting you think we didn't believe you. Nelson and I both felt bad about that the entire time."
"We trusted Suzanne when we hired you, but your attitude has convinced us she was right. You've proven you're serious about turning your life around, Wade," Nelson said, picking up the explanation.
"You guys believed in me," Wade said, making it more a statement than a question as he shook Cody's hand.
"There was never a doubt," Nelson replied, as he clasped Wade's hand.
Cody held his hand out, waiting for Wade to accept his apology as well.
It took a while Cody and Nelson to finish all the police reports, but Wade went home as soon as they'd gotten his statement.
That evening, Wade told Johnnie about the events of the day.
"Yup, I knew it would be all right," Johnnie said.
"Thanks Johnnie. You helped me through a rough week."
"I know. That's what friends are for, right?" Wade asked.
The two laughed before Johnnie waved. "Good night, son. My shows are on."
"See you tomorrow Johnnie."
Wade grinned, the stress of the theft gone. When Suzanne showed up again, he could tell her it was resolved too. He fell asleep looking forward to work the next day.
A week later, Nelson waved as he jogged across the gravel driveway and grinned. "I see you're checking on the progress again, Suzanne."
"I think she's anxious to move in. At least every other day she's here now," Wade said.
"If you lived in an old dilapidated place like mine, you would be too. Do you think the fire department would want to use it for practice when I'm out?"
"Come on, you know it's not that bad. It's just small, and you want more space," Nelson replied.
"The colors are outdated, it needs new flooring in the bedroom, the carpet is shot, the yard is a mess, and the siding is green," she said, ticking each item off on her fingers.
"Those can all be fixed," Wade replied. "Sounds like a bit of hard work would make it look just fine. Most of that one person can do alone."
"There you go, Suzanne. Why don't you let Wade rent your old house, and he can do some of the repairs it needs," Nelson said.
"I really didn't know what I was going to do with it, but I like that idea."
"You're not serious." Wade looked from one to the other, waiting for them to tell him it was a joke.
"The structure is safe, and it has good wiring. Think you can change out a kitchen counter and sink, Wade?" Nelson asked.
"I can learn what I don't know, Nelson."
"What about your apartment? Do you have a lease?" Suzanne asked.
"No, it's by the month," he responded.
"Nelson, how about the three of us go over to my place and let him have a look?"
She grinned at the two men, knowing it wasn't quite quitting time but that Nelson wouldn't mind.
"Wade, you can ride with me. We'll stop back here and get your truck later," Nelson said, nodding.
It was far from dilapidated, Wade decided as they pulled into the driveway fifteen minutes later. Ignoring the odd shade of green on the siding, he pictured it in a pale gray to go with the charcoal shingles. Sliding out of the truck, he followed Nelson up the path to the front porch where Suzanne waited at the door.
Stepping over the threshold, Wade felt as though he was finally home. Not the dumpy trailers and or cheap apartments his mother dragged him to, but that one place you couldn't wait to be at the end of the day. Replacing the worn carpet and painting the walls would make a big difference, but none of that mattered.
"I can't believe you're leaving here," he said, turning as he spoke. "This place is . . ."
Suzanne leaned against Nelson, grinning at something he was saying.
"Ah, am I missing something?" he asked, confused.
"Nelson was telling me about a—"
"Are you two related? I know you're not involved." Walking up to them, he waited for an answer.
"You know I lost my husband a few years ago. He was Nelson's partner in the investment company, Wade," Suzanne said. "We've known each other for close to twenty years now."
"She's a good friend to our entire family, Wade. Suzanne is like a sister to me, if that makes sense."
"Yes, it does, Nelson. I'm sorry for questioning you. I was just surprised."
"It's not a secret, and don't apologize," Suzanne said.
"That's why you chose his subdivision for your new house?" Wade decided that made sense and smiled.
"Not really. I'm one of the investors for the entire project," she replied, chuckling when she saw his stunned look.
"She just prefers sitting in that stuffy little office of hers, Wade," Nelson said. "I gave up asking her to quit that job long ago."
"I'm glad she didn't. Where would I be if she had?"
"You'd have found a way, but having Suzanne on your side never hurts."
"All right, enough of me, lets get back to why we're here, okay boys?" Suzanne asked, shaking her head.
Nelson took out his ever-present notepad, jotting down what he thought the house needed. Wade pointed out what he could do alone, and the two men sat at the table working out some numbers. Suzanne stayed back, thinking how much Wade had opened up since she'd met him.
"I picked up a few odd skills here and there that will come in handy if you're serious about this," Wade said, facing Suzanne a bit later.
"Over the years, I was happy here. I've just reached a point in my life where I'm ready for a change. This place needs work and the yard requires constant maintenance. I'll be sixty in a couple years, Wade, and it's too much for me," she replied.
Picking up the paper in front of him, he gave her a soft smile. "I can do this, and make it a place you'll be proud to visit."
She saw so much looking at the young man sitting in her kitchen. There was a determination in him to prove to the world that he wasn't destined to be a loser all his life.
"I know you will."
Riding back to the construction site, the two men continued discussing improvements for the house.
"It just needs someone to give it new life, Wade."
"Sort of like me?"
"Yes, a bit like that," Nelson said, smiling.
Wade again thought how different his life would have been with Suzanne for a mother. Not for the wealth, but for the obvious love she shared so openly with those she cared for. He looked at Nelson, a stranger to him just months ago, and knew he was more than just a boss.
"You know, I'm really seeing how this friend thing works," Wade said.
"Johnnie, I'm moving."
The old man looked at Wade and smiled. "Is there a road 'tween here and where you're going?"
"Yeah, but it won't be the same, you know?"
"Life never stays the same, son. We wouldn't want it to, either."
"No, I guess you're right. It's a great opportunity for me."
"Well then, tell me all about it," Johnnie said, joining Wade on the steps.
"My parole officer, Suzanne, is having a house built in that new subdivision I'm working in. Once she moves, I'll rent her old one. It needs work, Johnnie, but I think I can do it all."
"What's it need?"
"Most of it's cosmetic, like carpeting, paint, yard work, and some light fixtures. The kitchen needs a new counter and sink for sure, and the vinyl floor is in rough shape."
"That's all simple stuff. I done all them things before."
"It's not too far from here, Johnnie. Maybe once I move, you'd like to come out and visit?" Wade asked.
"Well now, I reckon you can count on that son."
"You know Johnnie, when I first came to Boden, I hated it here. You know the only reason I ended up here was my truck gave out and I couldn't afford to fix it. Working at the factory those first few days just added to my frustration."
"This town has some good people," Johnnie said.
"Suzanne never doubted me. She's my friend, Johnnie. Just one that I've made since I came here," Wade said, looking straight at Johnnie.
"Yep, she done you good then. You can't have too many friends. Time for my shows. Night, son."
"Good night, Johnnie. See you tomorrow."
"You can count on it."
Wade smiled as Johnnie made his way into his house. He was losing a neighbor when he moved, yes. Far more important though, he'd made a friend.
The steady pop of the nail gun slowed then stopped. Cody took off his safety glasses and wiped the sweat from his forehead when he saw Wade approach.
"You heard, I guess, that I'm moving into Suzanne's old house?"
"She mentioned it yesterday, yeah. You think you can handle all the work out there?" Cody asked.
"I don't know, Cody. The painting and yard work, yes. Ripping the carpets out I can do, but if I find a problem under there, I don't know."
"If you need help, you know where I am. My time is limited, but I can offer ideas and tips on how to take care of things for you," Cody said.
"That would be great. Nelson helped me draw up some numbers to figure out what some of it should cost," Wade replied.
Laughing, Cody shook his head. "That sounds like the kind of thing he'd do."
"This will be the first time I've had a place I could call my own, you know that Cody? When I was growing up, we lived in dumpy trailers, or run-down apartments. Over the years, I've never had anything much better. Suzanne's place might need work, but I don't look at it from that way."
"Life isn't about showing off what you have. If you can go back out in the world and make something of yourself after you've been knocked down so many times, you're far richer than any millionaire on earth."
Wade studied his boss for a moment, letting his words settle, knowing they were for him.
"You know, Cody, you're a pretty good guy."
"It goes both ways, Wade," Cody said, placing his hand on Wade's shoulder.
Wade stared at the paper in disbelief. He ran his thumb over the stamped seal proving it was official. Standing outside the courthouse, the words ran together as he struggled to believe them.
"How does it feel, to be free of it all?"
She stood several feet away, smiling at him.
"You did this, didn't you Suzanne?"
"So I know a few people. That doesn't mean they did anything illegal or crossed the line for me. You've earned this, Wade," she said, walking up to him.
"I thought with leaving town after Lou died and all the times I was fired, it would never happen. Yet, the proof is right here. I've been discharged from parole."
"They just didn't see you the same as I did then. I'm sorry no one else ever had faith in you," she replied.
"I still don't understand how you did, or what you saw."
"Behind your attitude of anger and the defensiveness, there was pain and sadness. That's all in your past now. The future is wide open for you," she replied.
"You've done so much for me."
Without thinking about it, Wade pulled the older woman close and hugged her tight. All the emotions he struggled to express went into that one simple gesture.
When he finally released her and stepped back, Suzanne had tears in her eyes.
"You're welcome, Wade."
Nodding, he understood the true meaning of friends.
The paper laid on the step next him. Wade needed the proof as reassurance he wasn't dreaming yet. So many things had happened to him in such a short time that he could hardly believe it all anymore.
"You look mighty serious there, son."
"I went to court today. The judge discharged me from parole, Johnnie."
"Well now, that sounds like good news, so you should be smiling."
"Some days, I feel as if I walked through a magical door and landed in front of the good fairy. Each time she waves that wand, something special happens to me," Wade said.
Johnnie smiled and nodded at the analogy, but didn't say anything.
"I have this awesome job working for two great guys. Next week I'm moving into a place that I can fix up and call my own."
"Those are nice things to have, son," Johnnie said.
"The most important thing though is that I have real friends. It took me over thirty years to figure out how to be one, and I might not have it right still. But I'm trying really hard, Johnnie."
"People recognize a good soul even in someone that's been knocked down before. You just got to get back up and prove to yourself who you really are inside, son. That's what they see, the fighter, the spirit that doesn't give up, and the glimmer of hope inside."
"It'll feel weird, not seeing you every day Johnnie. You're a smart man, and I'm very glad I met you," Wade said.
"Well, you can always call me up to come help rip that carpet out."
"You know, I think I'll do that. We can even stop in time for you to get home to watch your shows."
"Now that's what I call taking care of a friend, son," Johnnie said, winking and grinning.
Wade smiled at Johnnie then turned serious. "Can you love a friend? I don't mean like being in love with someone, but just love them?"
When Johnnie didn't answer, Wade thought maybe his question was too personal. Or that it just made the old man uncomfortable.
"It's okay if—"
"Son, there are a lot of different kinds of love in this world. Children, in most cases, have an unconditional love for their parents they don't even understand. Teenagers, and young adults, go through several stages of falling in love that's really more about sex, lust, and need. A couple that marries has a love that binds them together deep in their souls. Over the years, it turns into a comfortable respect," Johnnie said, looking right at Wade.
"Not all parents love their kids, and there isn't a special someone out there for everybody," Wade replied. "But none of those you said are friends."
"Friends are part of life, son. They might not always be the same one, but most people have one. There's childhood, the teens, college, and as we grow older, the friends that we make as neighbors. Each one plays an important role in our life. Friends help us financially, physically, and psychologically, each one earning our love not just for what they do, but for who they are."
"Suzanne has become a special friend, and so are my bosses."
"You're a fortunate man to have them in your life. Don't abuse the relationships," Johnnie said. "Finding true friends isn't easy and doesn't happen every day."
"It's odd though Johnnie. I always thought a person only had room for one friend in their life. That's wrong, though. I have one other really special friend too."
"That right?" Johnnie asked.
"Yeah, he's a little older and a lot wiser than I am."
"Bet it's someone from 'Lucy's Laundromat'."
"Ah Johnnie, am I ever glad I landed in Boden. You've become a friend of mine and I enjoy spending time with you," Wade replied.
"Friends come in all shapes, sizes and ages. They can be in our lives a little or a lot. As for loving them, I think you know that answer on your own, son."
"Some days, I wonder how my life would have been with Suzanne as my mother. The things she's done for me now are so hard to comprehend at times though. I smile whenever I see her, Johnnie. I have a future because of the way she never doubted me. I know that I can always count on her to help me."
Johnnie nodded and laid his arm across Wade's shoulder. "I'm honored to be the one you shared all that with. She needs to hear it too, you know."
"Yeah, but the time has to be right. I can't just walk up to her and blurt it out."
"You'll know when it is 'cause you'll feel it," Johnnie said.
"You're right." Catching a glimpse of his watch, Wade gasped. "Oh no, you've missed your shows."
"No problem, son. It's all part of being friends."
"Yeah, I'm learning," Wade said and smiled.
"Get some sleep. Tomorrow's another work day, and come this weekend, you'll need your energy to help your friend move."
"I will. Good night Johnnie and thank you."
"That's what friends are for."
Johnnie made his way across the yards, a smile on his face that Wade couldn't see. Right from the beginning, he'd known the young man had the ability to do well. A little encouragement and help from friends was all he needed to set him back on the right path.
Grinning as he closed his apartment door, Wade got ready for bed without paying attention and slid into bed. Thoughts of his future filled his head as he went to sleep.
The house was empty. Suzanne heard the muted voices of the two men from outdoors as they secured the last items in Nelson's truck while she wandered through the rooms.
"Nelson is doing a final check around the house and yard. He'll be a few minutes."
She stood by the front picture window, staring off into space.
"Suzanne? Are you all right?"
"My husband and I bought this place after we found out we couldn't have children. It was always our dream to live in a big house in town where there would be neighbors with kids too. One just didn't seem right to us without the other, so we sold our first home and came here," she said, not turning his way.
"It's beautiful here."
"Years of memories will always be with me, Wade. I'm ready to start again, to let this place go. It needs someone like you to give it life. You can restore the beauty to it, I know you can."
"The past several months you've given me a new life, Suzanne. I'd lost my faith in the world, but you didn't listen to what they said. No one ever went out of the way for me. Just being able to say I have a future is still overwhelming at times to me," he said, truth and respect in his voice.
"Ah, Wade, they didn't look inside. You're a good man, with a past that's behind you. Just like me, it was time to start over."
"I have this neighbor, at the apartments, who's been listening to me as I try to figure things out. Cody and Nelson both helped me at work and with many other things. Each one has taught me more since I've been here than I think I knew in thirty years before."
Smiling, Suzanne nodded in understanding, proud of the young man standing before her.
"Suzanne, I hope you don't take this the wrong way . . ."
"Whatever it is, Wade, we can talk it through," she said when he didn't go on.
"I just want you to know that I love you. For all the reasons I've said, for things I haven't, and for being a true friend. Most of all, I love you because you're you."
No words came out as Suzanne stepped closer and hugged him. His arms went around her, holding her tight as they shared the emotional moment. He felt the evidence of her tears through his shirt and knew it was all right.
When she at last moved away, she gave him a little smile. "My friend, I love you too."
"I won't let you down, Suzanne."
"There was never a doubt in my mind, Wade."
Linking her arm through his, they walked outside. Nelson sat on the tailgate of his truck, singing along to the radio . . .
I love you for the way you never doubted me
But most of all I love you cause you're you