Mary Beth and Jordanbymarkelly©
(I would like to thank MissBoePeep for editing this for me, she did a great job and at such short notice. Also thanks to some friends of mine who read this and with there helpful hints pointed me in the right direction. I hope all who read this enjoy it, if you do. Then I've done my job.)
It was a typical wet and misty morning when I pulled up to the gates of the cemetery. I had hated this town when I left and hated it just as much now, and if I sat for any length of time and actually thought about what I was doing back here I would have done a nice neat one eighty and headed back home. That thought made me smile.
Hard to believe that I once called this town home and up until twenty-four hours ago it was still little more than a distant memory and getting more distant by the day. That fateful day brought it all back to me with the sound of my secretary buzzing me, seconds later she walked in with the morning mail.
"Good morning Jordan, the usual mail. And...!"
I sensed the hesitancy in her voice and immediately looked up, Peggy had a brown envelope in her other hand still sealed and kept separate. The un-opened letter was placed in front of me and the morning mail put to one side of the desk. Peggy never asked and I loved her for it, she had been with me almost since I started my company. She was the sister of a co-worker who needed a part time job to make ends meet.
At first Peggy wasn't too comfortable with such a young boss and who could blame her, when she came into my office for an interview and a twenty one year old was sat in the big chair I'm sure I would have felt the same way. But true to her nature she took it in her stride and within weeks she was running the office like clockwork. Leaving me to do the work I had always wanted to do without getting too bogged down with office details. Everything went through Peggy and absolutely nothing ever left the office in the way of gossip or information. She was my rock and I totally trusted her and had done for the last five years.
By the time I had looked up from the envelope Peggy was already at the door.
"I'll hold your calls and clear your schedule for the next hour, if you need more time, buzz me and I will make some calls." She told me.
Nodding at Peggy, she smiled and closed the door. I looked long and hard at the envelope again. So far there had been fifteen of these in five years. Peggy had opened the first so knew its content. Since then she had shared my secret and I was truly grateful I had her trust.
The first letter was a DNA report, a photo and a note from my Mom stating that the child was mine; she had made sure of that before she sent the report on to me. Now it was time to do the honorable thing. Now every Birthday, Christmas and special occasion I get another envelope with a couple of pictures and a brief letter from Mom on how Brenna was doing. For my part I wired Mom money on a monthly basis and made sure she got anything else she asked for. Mom never told me to come home, she knew that would never happen - or so I thought. Looking closely at the envelope it was the handwriting that held my attention - this was different.
Inside was a clipping from my hometown's local newspaper of Moms obituary. Mom had a short fight with heart disease before finally succumbing to a fatal heart attack; there was also a change of bank details. I'm sure Peggy heard me throw up and I was so grateful she didn't come in. When I managed to recover my composure long enough I then burst into tears. I was a total mess, covered in sick, tears fell from my face and I simply stared at the corner of the room, desperately wishing it were all some twisted joke. But knowing it wouldn't be. It took me some time to clean myself up, gather my thoughts and buzz Peggy; within seconds she came in and sat down, her pad in her hand.
"I've phoned Tony he will be down stairs in five minutes to take you home, get packed and I will send Tony the flight details when I have them confirmed. There will be a rental car waiting for you at the airport, I've already booked you into a hotel ten miles from home."
Peggy was never my right hand - she was both of them. I thanked her and headed for the door. Peggy would take care of everything in the office, anything she couldn't I would get a call about and I didn't expect many of those. Tony was already waiting when I got to the doors, two hours later I was at the airport, four hours later I was signing for my rental car. Even on the flight and the drive to the hotel I had mentally gone over everything Mom had sent me, not once did she mention in any of the letters she was ill, they were all about Brenna and only Brenna.
I was still distracted when I booked into the hotel, simply having room service and asking for an early wake up call and now I sat looking at the gates of the cemetery, an early morning mist drifted across the entrance, parting as I eventually drove in. It took me a few minutes to gather my bearings and find the family plot and of course, the newest member of that plot. The songs of the birds in the trees almost wanting to add peace to my soul, my hands seemed to shake so much as I tried to open the wrapping of the flowers, even buying these flowers outside town to make sure no one recognized me, the frustration of so many years welled up inside and my eyes misted.
Mom knew all the things I wanted to say, some I said again as I knelt by her grave and some were simply left unspoken. It was the sudden silence that struck me, only then did I hear the crunching of gravel being trodden underfoot and looked toward the path, the morning mist still making it difficult to see much further than a few yards. Spotting the silhouette through the mist first and as the mist finally parted, allowing me to see her again. The woman I left this town for six years ago vowing to Mom that I would never darken its streets again.
I raised myself from Moms plot, casting one more glance at Moms grave and mentally wishing her the peace she should have had when she was alive, then looking once more at the mother of my child.
"Hello Mary Beth, how did you know I was here?"
Mary Beth smiled and took a step closer, looked down at Moms grave and the flowers I had placed there.
"Oh they're lovely JD, your Mom would have loved those." She stated.
She then looked back at me. Her hands went to my collar and straightened it, before she placed her hands back into her coat pockets. I suppose I should have expected that action, she was always straightening bits of me and occasionally calling me scruffy, much to my Moms amusement.
"It wasn't difficult JD, I knew you would come back when I sent you the envelope, it does help that Jodie works at the Millers Inn hotel of course. She recognized you when you signed in and phoned me."
Now it suddenly dawned on me where I had seen the receptionist before. I suppose with the rush to get here and thinking about Mom I had noticed, but didn't recognize her. Mary Beth and Jodie were part of the same group at school. It seems I was caught, shrugging my shoulders and looking down at Moms grave one final time I said my farewells to her and walked back to the car. Mary Beth following alongside and, in silence sat in the passenger seat when I unlocked the door.
"Where do you want dropping off Mary Beth?"
Turning to face me, a small smile danced across her lips, I was starting to think she had been planning this since Mom's death.
"Your Mom's old house will be fine JD you can spend some time with your daughter as well, I've got Mrs. Charwell from across the road watching her at the moment so it won't take long to bring her back."
The drive to the old house was in silence; all the while she sat and watched me. I was sure Mary Beth expected me to say something; I couldn't or was it wouldn't give her that satisfaction. Pulling into the street was a jolt for me this whole street was my security when I was growing up. It was where I learned to ride a bike, play ball games and simply chill with friends and of course Mary Beth. The outside of the old house hadn't changed, Mom loved roses and the path from the gate to the door was awash with yellows and reds, her favorite colors.
My attention was drawn back to Mary Beth when she leapt from the car and walked across the road to Mrs. Charwell's, looking over her shoulder and telling me to let myself in, the front door was open. So much on the inside had changed from the time I lived here. Mom had redecorated, but what caught my eye where the pictures. Gone were the family photo's that Mom had of Dad and me, now there were pictures of Mom, Mary Beth and Brenna and the more I looked around the day room the more I noticed the combination of all three in the pictures hanging on the walls.
"Brenna. This is your Daddy."
I spun round, Mary Beth was holding Brenna's hand, for her part Brenna just looked long and hard at me, after a moment she let go of her Mothers hand and slowly walked up to me. As she got closer I knelt down, by now we were eye to eye in height. This sweet child was even more beautiful in person than any of the pictures Mom had sent me. She was all her Mother though, from the red hair, the dark blue eyes and the freckles across her nose. My chest tightened and I felt my eyes start to mist. Brenna lifted her hand and placed it on my cheek, her hand felt so soft. I had to gulp to prevent myself from crying.
"Hello Daddy, it been a long time."
With her saying that one sentence my resolve was shot to hell, the dam of emotions towards my daughter that I had held in check, the distance that had been between us these last five years, justifying to myself daily that keeping that distance was keeping all three of them safe simply crumbled to dust. I grabbed Brenna and held her so tight, simply bursting into tears. For a moment Brenna tried to hug me in return but couldn't move her arms, so she settled on making a shushing sound in my ear.
"It's ok Daddy, Mommy will kiss it better. She does that all the time when I cry."
After what must have been an age of holding this angel in my arms desperately trying to stop crying and Brenna gently whispering. "It's ok Daddy."
I let her go. Her dress was wet with my tears. Mary Beth noticed and told Brenna to go to her room and she would be in shortly to help her change. Brenna gave me one last hug and extracted a promise from me not to leave while she was getting changed and dashed out of the day room, moments later I heard a door close. It took me a moment to register what had only just happened and I looked at Mary Beth. She must have noticed the questioning look on my face.
"It's in the will JD, your Mom gave us the house, she knew you would never come back here to live so she gave it to us."
There seemed no reason in arguing the point. Mom was right; after all, it took her death to get me here after six years so living here again would never happen in my lifetime. I moved off of the floor and sat on the couch, once satisfied that I wasn't leaving Mary Beth went to help Brenna get changed. So many memories passed through my mind as I sat in what was once my home interspersed with sounds of giggling coming from Brenna's room, seconds later a door burst open and the sound of my little girl rushed into the day room.
Her smile lit up the room when she saw me sitting on the couch. In two leaps she was now on my lap, her arms wrapped around my neck. Mary Beth followed with a photo album, placing it on Brenna's lap and wandered into the kitchen. Brenna let go of my neck and opened the photo album from the beginning and for the next hour gave me her rendition of every picture in the album. From pictures of me as a child to Mary Beth and I in high school and then on to Brenna's birth up until now.
Mary Beth had returned from the kitchen, put an orange juice and a coffee on the table and sat across from us watching Brenna who was now so deeply involved with what she was telling me, occasionally Mary Beth would get up to check something in the kitchen and resume sitting, drinking her iced tea and listening the story of both our lives being told by Brenna on the couch.
"Why did you leave Mom and Gran?" She asked, so innocently.
Her question came from so far out on left field I didn't even see the build up. All I could do was look at Mary Beth. She put her glass down and looked at Brenna.
"Darling we have been over this. It was a grown ups fight and we were both too proud to say sorry." She told her.
Instantly Brenna looked away from me and directly at her Mom. "But if you both say sorry now can't Daddy come home to stay?"
Children's logic is a beautiful thing. I wasn't about to get too involved in this conversation but looking at Mary Beth's face I knew she was struggling.
"I have some business to attend to today, how about you and your Mom come to my hotel tomorrow and we make a day of it?"
That suggestion earned me a squeal and a hug. The now forgotten photo album started to slide off her lap, Mary Beth and I both made a grab for it catching it at the same time. It was also the first time in six years I had touched her, and she went the same color as her hair as she blushed.
Brenna leaned in close and whispered. "Daddy, Mommies gone a funny color."
Mary Beth dashed off to the bathroom mumbling she had something in her eye. I stayed until she returned and told both the girls I would see them in the morning. Mom's lawyer was expecting me. Word seemed to have got around that I was back. I was in the waiting room for only ten minutes before being ushered into his office. Martin Todd walked towards me as I came in, we shook hands and he pointed towards a seat in front of his desk our family had known Martin for years. Mom once told me both she and Dad had gone to school with Martin, he had handled everything concerning our family.
Once seated he glanced at the will again, I got the feeling it was more for effect than anything else, more so when I asked him a couple of questions about the will.
"The will was changed five years ago Jordan. Mary Beth got the house."
"Why wasn't I told of Mom's illness let alone her death?" I asked.
"Jordan, your Mom was very specific about this. She wanted a quiet burial, she even named the people to be contacted and allowed to attend, the same with the reading of the will. You were not to be contacted by anyone but Mary Beth. Not even I knew were you where."
I pondered this for a moment, Mom was ever the pragmatist, and she would have put a great deal of thought into it. The anger I had towards this town and some of the folks in it coupled with the emotions of the moment, she knew me coming here would have sparked a near riot. Mom deserved to be buried in peace, I may not have liked it, but I reluctantly understood it. Just as she knew I would say my own farewells in my own way.
"There are some photo's I would like to take back with me when I leave."
"You have to take that up with Mary Beth; the will specifies she gets the house and contents. Legally Jordan she can hold a garage sale using the entire contents of the house and there isn't a thing you can do about it."
That thought alone made me smile, but I knew what he meant. Martin opened a file and pushed an envelope across the table.
"This is all your Mom gave me to give to you. I'm so sorry for your loss Jordan I truly am, as you know your Mom was a very good friend of my family and me. We went to the funeral just as so many others wanted to, some even turned up at the church but Mary Beth turned them away."
My hand stopped before I had even got to the envelope, looking at Martin I was now so confused. Mary Beth hadn't mentioned any of this to me. He noticed and sat back in his chair, his fingers intertwined across his stomach a small smile on his face. For an instant he was re-living that moment in his mind.
"She didn't tell you did she? She welcomed those on the list at the door of the church with open arms. Those not on the list, were all told the same thing. They chose their sides six years ago, they couldn't fix the damage and heal their consciences now."
I didn't know what to say, my hand still had not touched the envelope on the table. I sat back in the chair taking in what Martin had told me. I'm sure there were a few folks out there who would be real pissed at Mary Beth right about now. I said my goodbyes to Martin tucked the envelope into my pocket and headed for the hotel. This time I noticed Jodie on reception, nodded to her as she handed me my key and went to my room. My first call was to Peggy to see how things were going, only to be rebuked and told that everything was fine and to concentrate on what I was doing here.
That damn woman was worth more than her weight in gold, so I said it with flowers that would be delivered to the office in the morning, I'm sure I would be reminded of this when the next round of pay rises came up. Still smiling at that thought I undressed and had a shower. Finally doing what I couldn't do in Martins office, read Mom's letter.
My darling son,
Not a day goes by I don't shout at you for not standing up for yourself. But as the months and years role by I see those who did both you and Mary Beth harm fall by the wayside. I know if I dug deep enough you had a hand in their downfall. You left and you grew and I'm proud of you.
Mary Beth was the daughter I never had and when her family turned against her I took her in, pregnant and desperately unhappy. We healed each other, yes we missed you terribly and knew one day you would come back and take Mary Beth and Brenna with you, but so far that stubborn streak you inherited from your Farther seems to be getting in the way.
Forgive her son, I did the day she came to my door with nothing but what she was stood in. its time to finish getting even JD, its time to get on with your life with the two people who love you so dearly that the world of hurt and embarrassment you felt that day can finally be cancelled out by there love.
Live well my son.
My tears fell onto the paper, I seemed to be doing that allot just lately. Closing the letter and putting it in my case, she was right of course it had to stop and soon it would, perhaps me being here would tip that balance and bring all this to an end. The knock at the door shook me from my thoughts. I had barely opened the door when Mary Beth came in, an overnight bag in her hand.
"Dammit JD I've waited six years for you to come back to me and when you do I feel like a school kid again."
Her head looked me up and down as she walked in, her cheeks reddened.
"Wow, haven't you filled out since you've been away? I may have fallen in love with your brains JD but I can just as easily fall for that body as well."
I closed the door, when I looked again Mary Beth was sat on the bed, bouncing up and down on it.
"I'm almost frightened to ask what your doing here Mary Beth and who's looking after Brenna?"
By now she had kicked off her shoes and her bouncing on the bed became more animated.
"Mrs. Charwell watched you come out of my house, as soon as you made tracks she was across for the gossip. I love her dearly; both she and your Mom have looked out for me ever since I moved in with your Mom."
Mary Beth had now stopped bouncing, moving further onto the bed she lay down arched her body and started undoing the buttons of her jeans. I held out my hand.
"Whoa Mary Beth just what do you think your doing?"
"Oh that's the easy part JD I'm reclaiming what's mine. The trick is making you believe it was your idea."
As totally unprepared for that answer as I was I simply laughed.
"You think that's funny JD, I told Brenna you're going to tell her tomorrow where she was made and I get to watch you squirm, oh I can't wait."