Monday, July 28, 2014

Chapter 5



I was still watching the nurse's tail lights as she followed the ambulance when Tommy said, "Uncle Mark wants you to come inside."

I made myself stay calm as I walked up the porch steps and through the house's front door.  The inside was dark and smelled musty like it needed a serious cleaning.  I followed Tommy as he walked back to what turned out to be the kitchen.  The door and a window in there had been opened to air things out.

"Sit down.  We need to get this finished up."

"What's there to finish up?  You have your house and land."

"Don't sass me," he warned.  "It is sticking in my craw to have to have one of our boys marry a Baffa and one like you makes it doubly hard to swalla."

I noticed his tone was changing now that he had what he wanted.  I had expected it would.  That's the way most people are.  But what surprised me was Tommy stepping to my side.  "Uncle Mark, you know what Gramps said."

Mark Hartford snapped, "Don't lesson me boy.  You might be married but you still got a long way to go before you're my equal in this family."

"I'm not saying I'm your equal.  Not even trying to be.  But Gramps said ..."

"Shut up Boy.  This here Baffa ..."

A voice from the dark snapped, "Mark!"

We all jumped then Tommy smiled big and said, "Dad!  I thought you had to work."

"They short shifted us and are turning the day shift away at the gates."

"Uh oh.  Gramps said that was one of his signals."

The man I recognized as James Hartford nodded but was still looking at his brother who'd hadn't said a word since he showed up.  "Sawyer will be here in less than five.  There ain't gonna be no trouble.  Davis made his choice.  You got a problem you go take it up with your son."

"Why should I?  Wouldn't want my boy married to this ugly gal.  Don't want no damn Baffa in the family at all, sure as hell don't want one for a daughter in law.  You and Dad want this done so bad then you can finish this up.  I got better things to do."

He got up and brushed past me pushing me into the wall hard enough that I would have lost my balance if Tommy hadn't grabbed my arm.  He asked, "You need your shoe?"

"It's wet.  I'll get my spare out in just a minute."  I turned to look at the Mr. Hartford that I remembered as the man that came to all of Tommy's school activities.  "Sir?  I ..."

James Hartford stepped over and pulled out a chair for me and Tommy whispered.  "That's what gentleman do for ladies."

I patted Tommy's arm and then let him help me to sit down.  His dad meanwhile leaned against the kitchen counter top.  "I know this is a rough start.  You like to be called Kay-Lee or just Kay?"

"Kay-Lee please."

"That was your parents' names."

I nodded and explained like I had a hundred times before.  "Someone at the hospital where they brought me was trying to separate me out from the other babies that were arriving by ambulance from the health center and put their names on the name plate of the bassinet I was in in the NICU.  It kinda just stuck after that 'cause somebody thought it was some kind of memorial to them I guess."

"Hmmm.  I knew your parents you know.  Even went to school with your dad's sister Pet.  Some of us went to school with your momma.  Never did get the full story of why you were put into foster care."

Again explaining it like I had so many times before I told him, "Because of the law suit.  Everybody kept thinking there was gonna be some big pay out.  I've heard a million different reasons but that's the big one.  The state took custody of me until everything was ironed out.  I was in the hospital or pediatric rehab center for a long time anyway."

"Seems a strange thing someone wouldn't take you if you were gonna be worth so much."

I shrugged.  "Maybe if it had gone to just one person there would have been a lot but by the time they got done paying all the lawyers, paying everyone's doctor bills, and then splitting the money between the survivors or their families it wasn't much at all.  And then by that time there wasn't anyone willing or able to take me on, not with all the reconstructive surgery and stuff I still had left to have.  For the first five years of my life I was mostly a ward of the hospital and when I wasn't there I was bouncing around between rehab centers.  Even after the surgeries were over and they'd done all they could to put me back together I bounced around a lot.  Nine months is the longest I've ever stayed in one place and that was just at the Brenser's ... the last foster home where you found me."

"Hmm," he said then looked out the side door.  "See Sawyer's truck.  Tommy go out there and meet him and help him get his trailer backed in and start bringing stuff up to the porch."  Tommy was eager to please and headed out with a nod and a smile.  Mr. Hartford turned to me and said, "My son likes you."

"I like him too.  He's easy to please."

"Yeah he is.  Suppose he told you he's married now."

"Yes sir."

"No comment on it?"

"None of my business."

"If you're in the family it is."

That stopped me for a moment then I shrugged.  "Tommy and Linda are slow, not stupid.  They can do things just fine, they just have to do them in their own way at their own pace."

He nodded even though he looked a little surprised at my answer.  "You know Linda too?"

"For a long time.  We had the same social workers growing up until she was adopted by the Thorndikes."

"Wondering about her family?"

"Yes sir.  Some.  Her parents are pretty strict."

"It was their idea.  The marriage I mean.  They're older and not in real good health lately.  They'd actually hoped that Tommy would go live with them but things being the way they are ..."

"Yes sir."

"They've moved across town to live with Linda's aunt's family.  Linda's father has started having memory problems and I guess their nephew is some kind of old person's doctor ... a gerontologist."

We both heard the truck pull up and the engine turn off.  He bit his lip then said, "This ain't gonna be easy but it can work if you and Sawyer ..."

I heard boots on the wrap around porch and then a voice that said, "Uncle James."

I turned and was suddenly really glad I was sitting.  Then something inside me got a little mad.  "What kind of game is this?  I was willing to go along but ... but look at you."

All three turned and looked at me.  "And don't give me that blank face.  I mean ... look at him.  No way a guy like that is just going to volunteer to marry me.  No way.  Something is going on."

Tommy stepped forward.  "It's ok Kay-Lee.  I know Sawyer can be a little scary and ..."

"Scary?!  He's not scary.  Look at him!  He's a Greek freaking god!"  I turned to look at the man that embodied all of the attributes in my fantasy man ... the one I'd knew I'd never have except in a fantasy ... and snarled, "What is your game?  Or did you not know what you were volunteering for?"

"I knew."

"You knew.  You knew?!"

"Yeah.  You don't need to spazz out about it."

I just stood there shaking my head.  Tommy put his arm around my shoulder and said, "Just give him a chance.  Sawyer ain't so bad."

Sawyer said with a snort, "You're not helping Tommy.  Uncle James, I got this.  Just ... just you and Tommy take a walk or something."

They did though they looked reluctant and said they wouldn't be far.

I growled, "OK, what is your game?"

"No game ... uh ... Kay-Lee.  All we gotta do is be ready by noon and the Justice of the Peace said he'll marry us.  Everything is going to be up front and legal.  No one is out to hurt you ... well ... they won't hurt you but you'll definitely take some getting used to.  The Baffa and Hartford families have been known to feud."

I shook my head but he mistook it for something else.  "You backing out?"

"Of what?  The farce?"

"The bargain.  Because there is no farce.  I'm being upfront.  Bet it was Uncle Mark that set your teeth on edge.  I told them letting him handle this part of it was a bad idea.  So what about it?  You backing out?"

"Uh ... well no ... but ... look, just clue me in.  What's going on?  And don't tell me nothing is going on because just look at you.  I'm not stupid you know."

"No.  Tommy said that the only reason you were in the program that he and Linda were in was because you missed so much school and they thought you were ... er ..."

"Yeah, whatever.  People only see what they want to.  My luck overall in life has pretty much sucked which seems to make people think my brains got scrambled along with my body.  And just when I thought I might catch a break you show up."

"You keep saying that.  What is it about me that you don't like?"

"You've got to be kidding me.  You've got a mirror and I'm sure you use it a lot to get your hair to do that ... that ... wavey thing it's doing.  Well I've got a mirror too and I know exactly what I look like."

"Tommy didn't say anything about you feeling sorry for yourself."

"I'm not feeling sorry for myself!" I told him outraged at the very idea.  "But I'm not blind."

"You've got nice eyes," he said with a smile.

"Yeah and all my teeth and a great personality.  A totally winning combination."  I stopped and shook my head.  "Just don't.  If ... I mean if ... we do this I want the truth.  Whatever it is I can deal with it just like I've always dealt with everything else."  My foot started to cramp so I flopped down in the chair I'd vacated when he'd walked in.

The guy sighed and sat down in one of the other chairs around the table.  "Ok.  Here's the truth.  I'm Sawyer McGee Hartford.  I'm 22 years old.  And if you don't agree to the bargain I'm up **** creek without a paddle or a canoe.  I ain't got jack crap to my name except for my truck, my dogs, and what I got in that trailer.  The trailer ain't mine by the way, its' borrowed.  I got laid off from the snack warehouse three months ago and haven't been able to find a job yet and it ain't because I haven't been looking.  Problem isn't ‘cause I ain't willing to work, it's because I spent time in county lock up when I was nineteen when my brother in law accused me of breaking into his office and stealing his money.  After I got arrested no one would bail me out because they all believed him, including the girl that I'd been going with since we were kids, so I rotted in there until the judge got around to having a hearing.  Go to trial and it finally comes out it wasn't me but was his own brother only by then I was too damn mad at the world in general and him and my sister in particular and once they released me I made a pretty big ass out of myself proving to everyone just how mad I was.  My grandfather finally helped me pull my head outta my backside and get back on track but the damage had already been done.  My scholarship to the community college was toast and the only job I could find was pushing a broom and handcart out at the potato chip warehouse.  I'm tooling along almost getting back to square one, and back with my ex, when some ***wipe runs off with the petty cash box out of the manager's office.  They don't blame me but decide it is too much work to find out exactly who did it so they clear the decks and lay a bunch of us off that could have been the thief.  Now I do get blamed by all the other layoffs looking for a scapegoat even though I swear to God I ain't the one that took it.  My girl dumps me ... again ... and a couple of days ago my sister just rolls over and plays the good wifey when my brother in law kicks me out of the garage apartment despite the fact I been using my savings to pay the rent.  Ain't got no place to go, got no options, and I'm sick and damn tired of living off of charity."

He stopped and tried to shake the anger off then he looks at me and says, "That's how much fun I've been having and why I volunteered.  This is likely the last chance I'm gonna have.  I fall any deeper in the hole and I ain't ever climbing out."

I looked at him and then came to a decision. "I said it before you got here and I say it to your face now that you are.  I've got two stipulations before I'll agree to this.  Tommy spoke for you but I want to hear it from you."

"Alright."

"No hitting.  No addictions."

He nodded.  "Not a problem.  I ain't never been a hitter and I might toss a few back every now and again but I don't like gettin' drunk or high 'cause it's too easy for people to take advantage of you when you don't have no control.  Frankly I've got enough problems without cutting my own throat."

"You promise?"

"Yeah.  We can put it in writing.  Which brings me to a couple of stipulations of my own."

"I guess that's fair."

"Don't care if it is or not, just ain't happening any other way."  The way he was talking might have made some people angry but it didn't bother me.  It actually made me feel like he was a lot closer to being a real person than what I thought of him before.

He cleared his throat and then said, "You can't run off.  And no meeting some guy and deciding you're tired of me and want something else."

"You gotta be kidding me."

"No.  And I want it in writing."

"You're crazy.  Or blind.  Or both."  I shook my head wondering just what was wrong with the guy in front of me.  "One, running isn't something I can do much of in case you haven't noticed.  When one leg is three inches shorter than the other one it kinda puts the kibosh on that sort of thing.  And two, you also haven't seemed to notice there ain't exactly anyone lining up behind you.  From what I gather most everyone else turned down the job even though your family wants this house and land pretty bad.  And for anyone else?  Get real.  Guys - and girls too - used to call me ugly names in school.  If you don't believe me then ask Tommy, he'll back me up.  They finally fixed my shoulder and straightened my spine, and I don't have to have all the hardware on that I used to, but no matter how much fixing the doctors have done, most folks will always see me the way I used to be.  You think you got problems now?  Wait until some of them hear that you married Igor Baffa."

"Igor?!  Now nobody really called you ..."  He stopped and then said, "I guess I ... well Cutter and Donnally did mention ..."

"So see?  Even your own family is going to mess with you over it."

"Like hell they will.  Gramps has already set some ground rules."

"Ground rules?"

"Mostly they boil down to no feuding inside the family."

"Feuding.  Seriously?"

He nodded.  "Feuding is serious business.  Shows a lack of respect for the other person.  And Gramps and most of the uncles don't put up with it in the family.  But back to the stipulations."

"You've got more?"

"Yeah," he said like he was pulling his pride around him but I wasn't supposed to notice.  "You ain't allowed to flirt or do crap like that."

I laughed but it wasn't funny. "If I tried to flirt with someone they'd probably run away and get sick in the bushes.  So whatever. What about you?  You gonna flirt and stuff like that?"

"No 'cause fair is fair.  I ain't gonna run off neither.  Next thing is you can't hold sex over my head just 'cause you want something."

I nearly fell out of the chair.

6 comments:

  1. hahahahaha!! I don't know if she knows how to do that! :) thanks!

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  2. Things are about to get real for her. LOL

    Thanks Kathy

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  3. hahahaa very good. So easy to picture and hear the conversation. Thank you.

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  4. Great chapter Kathy looking for more as soon as you can.
    Wayne

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  5. LOL I can see the picture of her about to faint in my head. I would probably be about the same way she is. This is going to be another one of your great stories, can see it comin on already...would love to read MOAR!!!

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  6. Good stuff, the self image of kay-lee is appalling cause Sawyer see something different

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