Noon Saturday arrived with my brother Ryan at my front door delivering Mom. She’d packed enough for a month which got me wondering if that was exactly her plan. Stay long enough to get me straightened out, living again, fixing myself up! I knew she worried about what I was going to do with the rest of my life, but I didn’t. I simply didn’t care. Peace and semi-solitude suited me well.
They removed boots, hats, gloves, scarves, and parkas, burying the coat rack, then joined me in the kitchen for lunch. I’d offered to make my famous butternut squash soup and toasted cheese sandwiches so we could visit before Ryan headed back into town. I also wanted to find out what he’d been doing out at the lake recently without coming to see me.
Mom got three coffee cups from the cupboard and filled them up, taking cream out of the refrigerator and setting it on the table. I made the sandwiches and Ryan filled the soup bowls. When everything was ready, we took our seats at the old kitchen table and smiled at each other. It was all so familiar- good memories surrounded us.
“This is nice,” Mom said and sipped her coffee. I was surprised to see her hands shake ever so slightly.
“Yeah, this is great!” Ryan added too enthusiastically. He took a bite of his sandwich, wiping the crumbs from his lips with his fingers. I reached for the counter behind me and got the napkins.
“Here,” I handed one to each of them. “So, how’s everyone been? I hear you’ve been around lately Ryan. I’m surprised you didn’t even stop by and say hello.”
Ryan stopped chewing and looked at me. Then he swallowed and cleared his throat. “Oh, I just made a quick trip to make sure the…ahhh…the road was getting plowed. I didn’t really have time to stop in.”
“The road? Oh I see. You could have just called you know.” I sipped my coffee and studied my brother. He knew I knew he was lying. His eyes darted from mine to Mom’s.
“Well, you know, I had other stuff to check on too. Like, you know, the…” Ryan stopped talking and just stared at his lunch.
“Good soup as always Vicki,” Mom smiled. “I always enjoy your soups this time of year.”
“Thanks Mom,” I could hardly believe this. I drilled Ryan with my eyes. “Ryan, Sheri said she saw you talking to that weird guy from the camp ground the other day. You come all the way out here and don’t come say hello to your sister yet you have time to talk to that weirdo?”
“You don’t know him, Vicki. Stop being so judgmental.” Ryan’s distaste for my attitude showed in his red face. His eyes darted away then settled on Mom. He sighed heavily, pushed his chair back and folded his arms over his chest.
“Mom, Ryan,” I felt as though we were characters in a bad play. I looked from one to the other. “Tell me what’s going on here. I feel like something’s wrong. Is something wrong? ”
“I think we should just get down to business here, Ryan,” Mom said. She suddenly looked so tired I wanted to settle her on the sofa with a pillow and a blanket. Ryan’s eyes were still on mom and I was sure there was bad news coming.
“What is it?” I asked, as my imagination went crazy.
“I have something to tell you Vicki. It’s not easy to talk about, but we’re going to make some changes in our family. We’re going to make some changes with this house and a few other things.” She took a deep breath and looked at me with teary eyes.
“Mom, do you want me to tell her?” Ryan had placed a hand over Moms. “I’m okay with it.”
“No,” Mom shook her head slowly looking hard at the scratched surface of the old wood table we’d sat around our whole lives. “No, I need to tell her.” She took a deep breath and looked straight in my eyes.
“You are not alone, Vicki. You are not the only woman to have a husband go behind her back and have a child with another woman. We are together on this. The difference is, I didn’t know about it until after your father passed away. You just found out a lot sooner.”
I couldn’t move, sure I’d heard her wrong, certain the words she’d just spoken were nonsense. “No,” was all I could say. “No way.”
“Oh, yes, I’m sorry Victoria, but it’s true. You know the young man living in the campground? Flint? I found out about a month after your father died that he’d had a son with a woman named Nancy Riggins.” She smiled so sadly it nearly broke my heart. “So, you see, that weirdo, Flint Riggins, is your half brother.”
It hit me so suddenly I nearly fell out of my chair. The eyes, the way he stood, the way he moved, his soft spoken manner. No wonder he seemed familiar. No wonder I felt uncomfortable around him. No wonder he looked at me so oddly. He knew.
“Does he know?” I blurted. “Does he know about us, our family? Who we are? That….has he met you?” I had a hold of Moms arm.
“Take it easy,” Ryan said, reaching over and giving me a little hug. “Take it easy Sis.”
“Yes, he knows.” I could see the relief in Mom’s face. “I’ve met him. Ryan and I have talked quite a bit with him in the last five months, ever since I made the discovery.” She looked at me with a sad smile, her eyes soft and loving. “Under the circumstances, we thought it best to give you a little more time. But now, well, I’ve decided I need to do something for him. He hasn’t had a very good life. It might have been acceptable to your father to simply throw a little money his way now and then, but it’s not okay with me. I won’t stand by while another winter rolls around without the decency of providing a family member with a warm place to live.”
Did a truck just run me over? Was I going to wake up and discover it was nothing more than a very bad dream? “I can’t believe this,” was all I could say. “I just can’t believe this.”
To Be Continued