Ryan stoked the fire. Although it was nearly midnight, the three of us were wide awake.
“Well,” I sighed, “Christmas is next week. Are you inviting him to town? What’s the plan for that?” I could just imagine the whole extended family gathered around the huge dining table at my parent’s house when the introduction is made. “By the way,” Mom would smile and nod toward Flint. “This is Ryan and Vicki’s half brother by another mother.” I chuckled to myself.
“I would like to have a quiet Christmas here,” Mom said. “Just the three of us and Flint. We don’t have to host the whole gang every year and under the circumstances, I think it would be nice for you to get to know him a bit.”
I hadn’t meant to grown out loud.
“Vicki, you need to change your attitude. It’s not his fault. He was fourteen when his poor excuse for a mother died, your dad abandoned him from the start, his foster homes were nightmares, and he’s been damaged serving his country. The addition will be totally private and give him a safe warm home, something he’s never had and something he certainly deserves.”
“You do need to change your attitude, Sis,” Ryan added, taking a seat next to me. “I’ve had every background check possible done. He’s never been arrested, never had so much as a traffic ticket. Once you get to know him, you’re going to see things differently, I promise.”
“I need to go to bed. I’m exhausted; you must be too.” I put an arm around Mom. “I know you’re probably doing the right thing. I just need a little time to absorb it all.” I got up and stretched. “Good night, you two. See you in the morning.”
Sleep did not come and relieve me from my mounting anxiety as I’d hoped it would. After tossing and turning for a couple of hours, I gave up. Throwing on my heavy winter robe and furry slippers, I nearly stomped out to the kitchen and put the kettle on the stove.
“Making tea?” Ryan whispered from the living room.
“Yes, want some?” I poked my head around the corner and saw my brother sitting next to the fire. It had died down to nothing more than glowing embers. “Not sleeping either, huh?”
“No,” he sighed.
I brought two cups of steaming Sleepy Time Tea into the room and handed one to Ryan.
“I can’t believe you knew about him for five months and didn’t tell me. I am so pissed at you.” I shook my head at Ryan and continued, keeping my voice low. “We’ve never kept things from each other, especially something as huge as this.”
“I’m sorry,” Ryan pulled back the screen and put a fresh log on the fire. “I didn’t think, under the circumstances with Richard, that you’d be able to handle it. And I needed a little time to process it all myself. I mean, I never would have thought Dad…it’s was just such a shock. And poor Mom, I can’t believe how great she’s handled it all.”
“Yeah, I know,” I agreed sitting next to Ryan. “So, you’ve gotten to know him pretty well?”
“Yeah, I have. Just a very humble, easy going guy. Has lot’s of trouble concentrating on any one thing for long, which is why he’s happy doing odd jobs. These winters are getting to him, though. The three or four months he lives at Mozer’s aren’t enough anymore. I’m proud of Mom for what she’s doing. He deserves a place to call home too, Vicki. And he’ll have his own door to come and go through, so really, it’s just the kitchen he’ll share with you and whoever else is here.”
“I don’t think I can stay here when he moves in, Ryan.”
“Just get to know him before you make any decisions, Sis. You may be right, but I don’t think so. I want you to go with me tomorrow to Old Man Mozer’s and pick him up. I told him to expect us. We’ll go to the café for lunch, okay? And I think Mom should stay here. She’s so stressed out about you and how you’re going to handle this. Let’s give her a break and let her stay home.”
“Alright,” I agreed reluctantly. Sipping my tea, I watched the flames leap around the log, engulfing it. It was a picture of how I felt; engulfed in something completely out of my control, something taking over. I didn’t like it one bit.
To Be Continued