Sylvia's Mother Ch. 33byD.C. Roi©
Jason went home the afternoon they returned from the Poconos and although he waited anxiously for a call from Karen, none came. As the summer passed, he became more and more resigned to the fact that he never would get the call he fervently hoped for.
When school began that fall, he discovered that Sylvia had returned to her old snobby ways, her old style of dress, and her old group of friends. She hardly spoke two words to him the entire school year. He did occasionally see Brenda, but she acted as if she was embarrassed to see him and they didn't talk. He saw Karen, with her husband, at graduation, but she looked embarrassed when he tried to catch her eye and didn't acknowledge that she'd seen him.
Six years passed, six years that produced a remarkable change in the lives of all of the people involved in the fateful week that Jason visited to the Dooley cabin in the Poconos.
Jason continued to work at Biggie Burgers and, because his boss liked him and knew he was interested in computers, he asked the young man if he could write a computer program to help keep track of the company's business. Jason did write the program, which worked so well that when Biggie Burgers expanded into a small, but successful regional chain, he became quite wealthy. He listened to his father and got a royalty contract. Later he was able to sell the rights to the program he'd written to a large company that specialized in business software. He received a shockingly large sum plus stock options in the deal.
Jason invested most of his income in stocks, bonds, and property, and most of his investments proved quite lucrative. In fact, though few people in town knew it, he was a millionaire several times over by the time he was twenty-five.
Jason tried dating and even managed a few serious relationships, but none of them lasted very long. He dated one girl for almost two years, the longest he dated anyone. But, when he asked her to marry him, she surprised him by turning him down. "You don't love me, Jason," she told him, looking very sad. " I'm not sure you can love anyone. There's...there's someone else you love, I think. Someone who will always be there, someone I can't compete with."
Jason ruefully had to acknowledge that she was right. Even though he hadn't heard from her in six years, Karen Dooley was the only woman he loved and would ever love.
Wanting to keep busy, although he didn't need the money, he bought a small chain of computer stores. He worked part-time in all of them, but only a few people knew he was the owner and that was the way he wanted it.
And, although he owned several pricey apartment buildings, he chose to live in a small, one-bedroom apartment in one of the lower-rent buildings he owned. His only extravagances were a house he bought for his folks in Florida when his father retired, another piece of property he bought for sentimental reasons, and a couple of pickup trucks he'd restored.
He kept track of the Dooley family and knew a lot more about them than they realized he did, but he made no attempt to contact them. From time to time, he'd see Karen and Sylvia around town, but they never saw him; that was the way he wanted it. He'd heard Brenda had moved away somewhere and hadn't seen her in ages.
Then, almost seven years to the day he last had contact with Karen Dooley, Jason walked out of a branch bank in the local mall one afternoon and, as he was heading across the parking lot toward his pickup, he noticed two women walking toward him. One of the women - who looked familiar - was dark-haired, wore glasses, and was a bit on the husky side, but attractive. Her companion, who was shorter and red-haired, had a bit of a masculine look. Both of the women were dressed in jeans and sweatshirts and were wearing riding boots.
The dark-haired woman looked at Jason and smiled. "Jason...Jason Weeks, is that you?" she asked.
Jason looked at her a bit more carefully and a smile formed on his face. "Brenda. Brenda Dooley," he said, recognizing Sylvia's sister, who he hadn't seen in almost five years. She'd slimmed down a little, and was wearing her hair cut very short in a style that was almost mannish.
Brenda nodded. "God, it's been what, five years?" she asked. "I haven't seen you since you graduated from high school. How are you?"
"I'm fine, Brenda," Jason replied, "How are you?" He realized he was a little uncomfortable. Seeing Brenda brought back a lot of painful memories.
"Great!" she said. She gestured in the direction of her companion. "Jason, I'd like you to meet Anne Hanson. Anne's my partner."
"Pleased to meet you, Anne," Jason said. "It looks as if Karen's suspicion that her daughter was gay was right," he thought, recalling a conversation he'd had with Brenda's mother years earlier. He grinned. "I can tell by your outfits that you're both cowgirls," he said, misquoting an old song to tease the two women.
Both Brenda and Anne smiled and nodded. "Anne and I have a horse farm out on the old Millerville Road," she said. "We raise and train Lippet Morgans. What have you been up to since high school?"
"Lots of stuff," Jason said, "Hey, it's lunchtime and I was just about to go and get myself something to eat. Would you ladies like to join me? My treat. We can talk about old times, and what I've been doing since high school, over lunch."
Brenda looked at Anne, who smiled and nodded, then she turned to Jason. "Sure, why not? It will be fun to catch up," she said.
A few minutes later, they were seated in a small restaurant near the bank. "So what have you been up to since you graduated?" Brenda asked. "You never did get to be a lawyer, did you?"
"Nope, I never did," Jason replied. "I wound up writing some computer software back when I was working at Biggie Burgers. I wound up being a computer programmer instead of becoming a lawyer."
"You sorry you didn't get to law school?" Brenda asked.
Jason shook his head. "No, not really," he replied. "I'm happy doing what I'm doing. A big software firm bought the rights to a program I wrote for Biggie Burger. I own some computer stores now - the 'Hometown Computer' chain, that's me." He figured it wouldn't matter if he didn't mention the real estate holdings he had.
"So what you're saying is you're doing pretty well financially, is that it?" Brenda asked.
"I guess you could say that," Jason said. He grinned. "Besides the computer stores, I invested in another company here in town a few years ago. I own 51 percent of it."
Brenda looked puzzled, as if she wasn't sure why he was telling her about his business interests. "What company is that?" she asked.
"MD Industries," Jason replied, grinning.
Brenda's eyes and mouth both opened wide. "No shit?" she exclaimed.
"Wasn't that your father's business?" Anne asked.
"Yeah, it was," Brenda said. "Jeez, Jason, I knew somebody bought a majority stake in the company back when Dad got in trouble, but I had no idea it was you. You know Mom owns 25 percent, don't you?" She studied his face carefully, then she grinned, nodded her head, and said, "Yeah, of course you do. Does Mom know you're the majority investor?" Her eyes brightened when Jason shook his head. "I didn't think so. How'd you keep her from finding out?"
"A holding company I control holds the stock. If your mother had really looked, she probably could have found out who the primary owner was, but I don't think she looked too hard," Jason said.
"Yeah, business has never been Mom's best thing," Brenda said. She frowned at him. "If you know about the company, then you have to know my folks got divorced," she said.
Jason felt his face growing warm as he nodded.
"So, if you knew my folks were divorced, how come you didn't get in touch with Mom?" Brenda asked.
"I wasn't sure she wanted me to get in touch," Jason replied. "I mean, it has been six years. And things did come to a pretty sudden stop back then."
"Is this the guy you told me about?" Anne asked. "The one your Mom had..."
Brenda looked at her partner and nodded. "This is him," she told Anne. She turned back to Jason and shook her head. "I know it's been six years, and I figure you were pretty hurt because you thought Mom dumped you back then, but something tells me that even though you think you know a lot about our family, there are some things you may not know."
"Like what?" Jason asked. He felt a little light-headed. Finally, it seemed, he might get some answers to questions he'd been asking himself for six years. "How is your mother doing?" he asked.
Brenda shrugged. "She tried dating after she and Dad split up, but she wasn't happy with anybody she dated..." She grinned at Jason and shook her head. "Of course, the fact that you weren't one of the people calling her for dates might have had something to do with why she wasn't happy with any of them," she said.
"I didn't think she wanted to see me any more," Jason said. "I mean, after that time in the Poconos..." He couldn't count the number of times he'd wanted to call Karen, but fear of rejection kept him from doing it. Now he was beginning to think he'd really been stupid.
Brenda shook her head and gave him a long-suffering look. "For a guy who claims he's a big business success, you can be a real dummy, you know that, Jason?" she said. "Do you know what happened after we got home that week?"
Jason shook his head.
"When we got home, Dad announced that he realized he had a drinking problem and was going into a program to get sober," Brenda said. "He said he needed all our support, especially Mom's, if it was going to work. You know how Mom is - she already felt a little responsible for his drinking - so his saying he needed her help really hooked her, even though I think she came home that week ready to divorce him."
"She...she did?" Jason asked. His heart began to pound a little faster.
"Yeah, I think she was ready to dump him then," Brenda said. "But she didn't, and she didn't know how to tell you what she was doing, or why. And the thing was, Dad did sober up. For about a year he went to AA, didn't drink, and was starting to act like he might make it."
"Then what?" Jason asked.
"He fell off the wagon," Brenda said sadly. "Christ, his drinking got worse than ever after that. That's when his business went on the rocks. A year later, Mom decided she'd had enough and they got divorced." She shook her head. "You know, it's weird. After the divorce, Dad sobered up again. He moved to Florida, got remarried, and now he owns a little motel down there. He's still sober and he's happier than I've ever seen him."
"What about your mother?" Jason asked. She was the person he was interested in. He could have cared less about her father.
"Like I said," Brenda told him, "she's dated some, but there's nobody she's interested in." She paused and grinned at him. "At least nobody who's calling her, anyhow."
"Are...are you saying you...you think I...I should call her and ask her out?" Jason stammered. "You...you think she...she might be...you know...interested?"
Brenda looked at her partner and chuckled. "To listen to this guy talk, you'd never believe he used to be the captain of the high school debating team, would you?" She turned back to Jason. "Yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying," she said firmly. "Remember back when you told me what was going on between you and Mom?"
"You mean that night you suckered me into admitting it?" Jason replied with a smile.
"Yeah, that night," Brenda said, chuckling. "Well, one of the things I told you, if you remember, was that Mom was happier then than I'd ever seen her. And I know for a fact she hasn't been that happy since. Not even close." She looked at him very carefully. "What about you, Jason, have you been happy since then? Are you happy now?"
He shook his head slowly and, very softly said, "No...not like I was then."
"Well?" Brenda said.
Jason looked across the table at her. "Well what?" he asked.
"When are you going to call her?" Brenda asked.
Jason shrugged and said, "I...I'm not sure. I...I have to think about it."
"Look, Jason, thanks for lunch, but we've got to get going," Brenda said. "We have horses that need tending to back at the farm, and the vet's coming this afternoon. It was great seeing you again." She and Anne stood up. Jason stood up, too. "And dammit," Brenda said, just before she left, "Call Mom, will you? Don't waste time thinking about it, just call her. You guys had something pretty special going six years ago. You've both wasted too damn much time looking for it somewhere else. Take care Jason."
"Ah...you, too, Brenda," Jason said. Stunned by what she'd told him, he stood there watching the two women walk out of the restaurant.