Loving a Strong WomanbyLove2ReadLit©
There are several references to the ancient roots of Valentine's Day as well as the more contemporary aspects throughout this story. See if you can find them all. Leave the number you suspect in the comments below, along with your thoughts. Don't forget to vote!
"I can't believe you got the girls a dog without asking me. But it is a sweetheart of an animal. And you're right. It needed a good home." Esther, my magnificent girlfriend, admitted.
"Speaking of that" I said "I want to ask you something. Can we talk about this inside?" The girls led Maggie, their new bull terrier, out the backdoor of Es' studio and into the small yard.
"What did you want to talk about" Es' green eyes looked up at me.
"I was looking at a house, that boarded up one between the lake and the woods, and I was thinking of buying it. It needs work, but it is a nice size property, and the house has a good amount of room."
"Well you buy and sell for a living; you know what is going to make a profit. If you like it you should put in a bid."
"Before I do, I want to get your opinion. Would you come with me tomorrow night to see it?" I asked, trying to hide the nervousness in my voice. I wasn't thinking of flipping this house-I wanted to buy it for Es and the girls and I. After I nearly blew it the first time I met the real Esther Holland, she had agreed to go out with me and after dating for over a year I knew I wanted to at least have us all under one roof. I really wanted to marry Es and adopt our girls, but her ex had done a number on her and the idea of another marriage was something she had said she didn't think she was ready for. She often said it was enough to just have the love we did between us.
Es was without a doubt the strongest, most independent woman I had ever met. After her ex left and tried to railroad Esther in both the custody and divorce proceedings, she picked herself up and calmly defended herself, soundly refuted his false claims, and won primary custody of her daughter Ava. The court still allowed him visitation, and Esther managed to keep her cool whenever it came time to schedule those meetings.
I had met the ex a few years at church before everything happened, and honestly didn't like the guy from the start. He was always trying to impress me with stories about how well he was doing or the research he did about the readings, but he would never include Es in the conversation or really seem interested in her. She would stand idle with Ava until he motioned to her. I always remembered how she had such a bright smile, but couldn't hide the sadness in her eyes. After the divorce it was like that sadness evaporated and Esther was allowed to finally breathe and be her own person.
About a year after the divorce, I saw Esther and Ava at church and another girl around Ava's age was with them. Esther, though she looked a little tired, could not stop smiling and had this almost iridescent glow about her. I was so struck that I had to introduce myself to this almost completely new individual.
"Esther? Esther Adams?"
"Hi! It's Esther Holland. Do I know you? I am terrible with names, but you sort of look familiar."
"We met a couple years ago. Roman Silva. I almost didn't recognize you. You look almost like a completely different person."
"Thank you. We are feeling better. Life isn't perfect, but" she motioned to Ava and the other girl, "my daughters and I are doing our best and that's all we can do."
"I remember your one daughter, Ava i think, but I don't remember meeting another."
Esther took a breath and guided the other girl in front of her, "Sarah is my newest" she said, giving the girl's smaller frame a gentle hug but letting go when she started to fidget and look uncomfortable with the attention "I am fostering her right now and if she decides she wants to stay we'll begin the adoption process."
"Wow, and you're doing this by yourself?"
"I found out I was capable of doing a lot of things by myself, Mr. Silva. A child needs to be surrounded by love, and if only one parent is well-adjusted than a single parent household may be the better place for them."
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean any offense. It is just something I haven't heard of happening before."
"I understand a single parent adoption might be a foreign idea. But it is possible. Anyway, I'm sorry to have to rush, but my girls and I have errands to run and they have homework to finish. Have a good rest of your day."
It took almost three months after that for Es to warm up to me enough to go out for a quick lunch during the workweek. That brightness I first saw didn't dim even in the greasy sub shop that was the only place you could get a sandwich in 20 minutes. Es was bubbly, energetic, sweet, and gracious to everyone she met. I left that meeting wanting to be in Esther's life, in whatever way she would let me.
Her priority was always her girls, and even my mom said she could have learned a few things from Esther when my brothers and I were growing up. She was that good of a mom. When Sarah decided she wanted to stay with Es, the adoption process became her main focus. "Roman you are great guy and I don't want you to think that I am not interested in being around you, but I have to think about myself and my girls first. Sarah wants me to adopt her and the three of us need to take this time to make sure we have what we need. I am probably not going to be able to talk or text much and I am just not going to have the time to go out. Whatever this is we are doing, it is going to have to take a backseat." I found her honesty stunning. Hell, I found Esther stunning. Not only did I tell her I wasn't going anywhere, I went back and organized with some of our church friends to do meal prep or dinner drop offs and school pickups if a hearing was moved.
It took over six months to get everything in order, but when Sarah's adoption went through it seemed like everyone we knew wanted to celebrate this family coming together.
I couldn't hide how much I cared about Esther, Ava, and Sarah. And I didn't want to. I wanted to show Esther as much love as possible. She inspired me to be a better person. She didn't take bullshit from anyone and kept me honest and on my toes.
I loved Ava and Sarah like they were my own. Both girls were shaping up to be as strong-willed as their mother. Ava was now 10 and almost identical to photos of Es at that age. Insanely smart too. Sometimes it scared us how fast Ava could pick up a new concept or skill in school. Sarah was 11, but her unmanaged attention deficit disorder and time spent in the foster care system had left her two grades behind in school, angry with herself, and wary about the world. Esther herself having the disorder, understood what it was going to take and that was probably one of the big reasons the state approved Sarah's adoption to a single woman. Esther was able to connect with Sarah and get her the help she needed in school. And Ava would take time to help explain homework or school assignments to Sarah at home. In the last year, Sarah's reading and math scores improved to almost a full grade level than where she had been before the adoption. I was constantly amazed by what Esther had been able to do and how well she was raising these two young ladies. I would consider it both a gift and honor to be dad to these young ladies and husband to such a beautiful, strong woman.
"Thank you for coming to look at the house with me. I appreciate your honesty and any feedback you can give is going to be awesome." Es turned to grab the lamb chops and I wrapped my arms around her waist. "I can bring these out to the grill. Is there anything else you need help with?" I asked, giving her a firm but gentle squeeze.
Es let out a low moan, "my neck and shoulders are really tense. Perhaps a massage later?"
"I think I have a few ideas to relieve some of that tension."
Es laughed, "Hmm, I bet you do." She took a sip of her drink, "go ahead. I'm sure you want to go play with Maggie too. I'll be right out."
I leaned in and gave Es a slow kiss, holding just a hint of promises and passion, before pulling away and heading out to talk to the girls. Thankfully when I asked them if they would be alright with all of us living together, the squeals were kept low and Es didn't suspect anything when she came out to check the grill. As the meat rested, the four of us ran around the yard behind Esther's studio just enjoying the start of what I hoped to be the last summer I would spend living separate from the most important women in my life.
Es had been in a meeting with a gallery owner, so it worked to my advantage that she met me at the house. The realtor was almost ready to put the "under contract" sign out when I jumped out and asked her to hold off until I had Es take a look at the house. Es pulled up about five minutes later.
"Wow, Rome, this is a nice size property."
"I thought so. It's a really nice selling feature. A family could have most of the yard to play, add on to the house, build a storage garage or gazebo. The possibilities are almost endless."
Es' face squished when she saw the overgrown pathway and bushes that wrapped around the porch. "Those will probably need to go. There is so much growth here you are having a hard time seeing the house."
We walked in the front door and I breathed a sigh of relief when her face changed into the awe of the entryway. I could see her either putting one of her personal pieces on that wall or turning it into a mural. Thank you God. At least she likes the front part.
The realtor was going into her sales pitch, "There are five bedrooms, three bathrooms a half bath on the first floor as well as the basement. Half the basement is finished while the other half is for the washer/dryer and heating and cooling."
We walked through each room, I watched Esther's face take in each space. When finished, the realtor let us into the kitchen as she went out to get the paperwork.
"So Hun, what do you think?"
"There are gaps in the walls between the drywall and floor in at least four rooms that are big enough for animals to get in. With being right against the woods, I would expect at least one or two animals have tried to nest here. You would need to fumigate. The kitchen needs a new floor and appliances, but the cabinets can be refinished. If you can put in a low but reasonable offer, I think you might be able to turn a decent profit."
"I saw those gaps too. It might be worth taking all the drywall out of those rooms and fumigating."
"Rome, how long are you looking to spend on the renovation? Won't people be looking to move in before the winter?"
"I am thinking I might want to spend some more time and see if I can get a better return on my investment. I was thinking I might want to wait until the right buyer came along. It's a larger house and the property is a great size. I think this would make a good family home. Either a couple just starting or if they have a couple kids already and are looking to add on maybe in a couple years. It would be a good size too for either a blended or foster family, don't you think.."
"It would be a good size for a growing family" Es responded thoughtfully.
"That's what I mean. You were lucky in that your apartment had the space to foster Sarah. Some people might be looking to adopt one or two more or even try having a baby themselves. This would be a great place for a couple with two older girls like Avan and Sarah, and then perhaps a younger child later on."
"I see what you're saying."
"Would you do it again? Have another child?"
"If I were in a home this size, and I knew the girls were ok and on board with it I would consider it. I would also have to consider my ADD and if bringing another child was the best for me."
"I think you could do it" I reassured her "what you have done with Sarah and Ava is nothing short of amazing."
The realtor came back in with the paperwork. It was time to fess up. I took a deep breath. "Hun, I need to be honest with you. I'm not considering buying the house for just anyone."
"You brought me out on a weeknight to walk through a house you're not buying? What are you thinking?"
"I want to buy this house for you. And the girls. I want us all to be under one roof as a family. While I want to marry you and have more kids, I want to wait until you are ready. But until then I would be honored if you and the girls moved in with me. I already asked the girls and they are on board."
"Yes, Roman. There is a lot to plan out, but if the girls are ok with it then yes, we'll move in with you."
I could have done backflips at those words. I think Esther was okay with my picking her up and spinning around the kitchen.
Just a couple more weeks and we could move in. The kitchen appliances arrived and all I was waiting on were the plumbing in the downstairs bathroom and laundry to be approved. Damn home inspectors had to take their sweet time. At least we would be around the same area so the girls didn't have too much more bus time added to their schedules. It would have been nice to have this done well before the start of the school year, but with the construction delays and inspectors it wasn't happening.
The sun was going to be setting in an hour or two and while it still amazed me, I wanted to hurry up and get home. The view of the river and the woods would only get better when I could watch Es look at it every night, I said to myself.
I slid the oven and dishwasher into place and was turning to clean up my tools when I saw I had a missed call. Opening my phone, I saw Sarah and our neighbor, Mrs. Williams, had tried to call me at least a dozen times. I hit the 'Callback' button and heard Sarah's wobbly, sad voice. "R-Roman?"
"Yeah, sweetie I am just finishing up at the house before the inspection tomorrow. I think Mom's habit of having the cell on silent rubbed off on me. What's going on?"
"We're not at home. It's Mom. She started feeling bad after lunch and when she went to the bathroom there was so much blood. I called Mrs. Williams and she brought us to the hospital."
"What?! Ok. I am getting my shit together. Are you three at Lupine or Mercy?"
"Lupine. Mom's OB GYN is here and she had an appointment already scheduled for today. Ava's here too. She called her dad and canceled their weekend saying she didn't want to leave when Mom was sick. He sounded pissed but she said she didn't care."
"Sweetie, I am on my way. I'll be there in 10 minutes. You and Ava are doing a good job and I want you both to know everything is going to be fine. If it wasn't then Mom would already have been admitted. Ok?"
Es didn't tell me she had a doctor's appointment today; she hadn't mentioned feeling sick so maybe it is just an exam. But Sarah saying there was a lot of blood had me worried. I sped my way down the back roads, feeling like my heart was going to take up permanent residence in my knees. 'Please God, let her be ok. Don't let me unknowingly have lied to my daughters.'
Lupine was a generally easier hospital to navigate. Offices, inpatient, and outpatient had their own separate buildings, and thankfully all the signs were visible. "Fuck the elevator, stairs will be quicker" I said to myself breaking into a full on sprint.
I am fast, but two minutes with not knowing what the fuck was going one with Esther had me feeling like I had been running two hours. I was breathless and shaking when Mrs. Williams caught me in the waiting room.
"Roman! The girls are in the exam room with Esther."
"Which one" I replied, still winded from my sprint.
"Thanks JoAnn. You go on home, I don't know how long we'll be here and I can drive us all back."
"Just the same I'll wait and make sure you are fit to drive. My Peter was never good about doctors and often I was driving myself to and from my own appointments. There is something about a man when his woman is ill. Some of them tend to not think straight"
I walked away. At this point I didn't care. What mattered to me wasn't in the waiting room. I turned left at the arrow pointing to the exam rooms. Then another left, and knocked on the door.
The voice on the other end was professional, but soft, "Come in."
"Excuse me, I was told a Ms. Esther Holland was in here." "Roman!" both Ava and Sarah exclaimed, as they turned from the silent monitor, running over to hug me before the doctor turned her head.
"Mr. Silva. I'm Dr. Patel. Nice to meet you."
Our girls had been standing next to Es, but moved to the other corner so I could sit down. It was a little cold in the room for me, so I could only imagine how she was feeling with just the hospital gown still in the stirrups and blanket over half her legs. She had a wall of tears she was fighting to keep in her eyes when I went to kiss her forehead. "Hey, it's ok" I said, taking her small hands into mine and putting them in my lap. I needed to reassure myself as much as her that whatever I was about to hear was fixable.
"Ms. Holland" the doctor began "has a blighted ovum. The egg that was released was fertilized but never formed into a proper embryo and now her body is trying to discard it. The body's process can take several days, and can be very painful. We have a couple options regarding treatment."
My brain couldn't decide if I should be happy Es was going to be ok or devastated that her body was going to put her in more pain. But I was completely confused as to how this happened. "Doctor, excuse me. I've never heard of a, what's-it-ovum before. Is this something that happens with IUDs?"
"No Mr. Silva, a blighted ovum can happen to any woman. It doesn't just occur after having a device removed."
I was about to correct the Dr. when Esther interrupted my thoughts "What are the options?"
Dr. Patel continued, "It is unlikely that your body, Esther, will expel the ovum tonight on its own. I can either have you come back tomorrow morning around 9 and I can perform a D&C procedure to remove the ovum and scrape the excess uterine lining. The procedure should take about 15-20 minutes once you are under anesthesia, and you could go home that afternoon. You should take it easy for a few days, and no strenuous activity or sex until after evaluation. Or I could prescribe the medications to help expel the uterine lining and manage the pain. Whatever you choose, I want to see you back here in two to three weeks for evaluation."
Esther had been looking down at her gown, and I wasn't sure if she was processing the information or had started to emotionally shut down. I was about ask Dr. Patel another question when Es spoke up with her decision, "I can be here tomorrow morning. Thank you doctor."
Dr. Patel couldn't hold back the look of sadness in her face, "of course. I'll also send some of the tissue off for analysis as a precaution. From my examination today, I don't expect to see anything abnormal, but with your age I feel it is better to rule out everything."
Now I could see Esther was really fighting with herself. She wanted to break down, but was hell bent on not doing it in a hospital or in front of her girls. "Is there anything else we have to do today doctor, it is getting late and I know three ladies who could use some rest after today" I asked.
"No eating or drinking after midnight. Please see the receptionist on your way out and confirm tomorrow's appointment. I'll leave you to get changed and I'll see you tomorrow."
"Thank you doctor" Es said, in what I have come to recognize as her emotionally-drained work voice. The one she often uses when she has spent hours without sleep and is trying to explain a piece to either someone who doesn't see her vision or just wants her art because of her name.