“You know, you are like a son to us. Sidney loves you like you were from his loins.”
“He’s been a father to me.” I teared up. “I can never repay him for everything he’s given me, all the advice and support.”
“You don’t need to repay him. Just come and visit when you can.”
“I’ll be here every week, Betty. You know that. And I will continue to do everything I can. I just want to see him talk again.”
“I don’t know.” She sighed. “He’s old, this isn’t his first stroke. I told him to be careful with what he eats.” She wiped away some tears. “But what’s the point of nagging now?”
“Are you going to be okay? I can stay the night if you need help.”
“No.” She shook her head. “I can handle one night by myself. The CNA starts tomorrow and she’ll be with us 7 days a week.”
“It will be good for you to have some help.”
“I just can’t do it by myself. I can’t carry him and bathe him and feed him.” She squeezed my arm. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t complain.”
“Betty, you’re not complaining.” I shook my head and gave her a big hug. “You’re the strongest woman I know.”
“You’re a good boy, Noah.” She rubbed my cheek.
“I don’t know about that,” I sighed, reluctant to get into the car. “Call me if you need anything, okay. No matter what time.”
“I will, thank you Noah. You drive home safely, you hear.”
“Yes, mam.” I got into the car and drove off with Betty waving behind me. I felt sad as I drove home. My heart was full of sorrow and sadness and all I wanted to do was cry. I thought about Sidney’s face as we had put him into bed. His eyes were full of emotions, yet he couldn’t express them. When he tried to talk, nothing came. Yet, I knew he wanted to say something. There was frustration in his glance and eventually he tuned us out. I tried talking to him, but it was weird talking to someone who couldn’t respond.
I felt so helpless. I kept talking and talking, trying to make him laugh, but he just stared at me with a blank unhappy expression. In all the years that I’d known Sidney, he had never not had a smile on his face. He’d always been the one to bring me out of my funk. He’d always been the one to tell me what to do and I missed his words of wisdom. I’d never regretted going to Palm Bonita until now. Maybe if I hadn’t gone, I would have noticed that he looked sick. Maybe I could have done something to prevent the strokes. I’d missed out on a year of conversations with him and now I may never be able to speak to him again.
I drove aimlessly, not wanting to go home and have Skylar see me so upset. I was frustrated and angry. Yet, there was nothing I could do. This was life. It was never going to be one smooth sweet ride. I was beginning to understand that. It didn’t matter how many hurdles I had already crossed, there were always more waiting for me. I drove into a Target parking lot and stopped the car. It took only a few moments for my tears to come flying out. I hit the steering wheel in frustration, wanting to shout and scream. Why had this happened to Sidney? It wasn’t fair. What had he done? Hadn’t he and Betty already had a tough enough life? I was worried about Betty as well, I knew she was putting on a brave face, but I noticed that her hair was looking whiter than ever. She wasn’t even bothering to dye it anymore. Her clothes didn’t look like they had been ironed, and she looked scared and worried. I didn’t know how she was able to cope without telling her kids, but I knew that Sidney had always said that if he ever got sick, he wouldn’t want his children to know. “Sickness is a part of life,” he used to say. “I don’t want them to spend years of their lives worried about me. I want them to live their lives and do what they want to do free of guilt.” At the time, I had agreed with what he had said, but now I wasn’t so sure that was such a good idea. His kids deserved to know what had happened to him. I would want to know if he was my dad.
I bit my lip as I thought about my mom and her phone call. I hadn’t told Zane and Lucky everything about that call. I’d only told them that she wanted me to meet my brother. I hadn’t told them that she was dying of cancer. I hadn’t wanted to think about it. If I didn’t think about it, it wouldn’t be real. But now that I was faced with Sidney’s immortality, I couldn’t stop thinking about my mother. I’d spent half my life thinking about her and our eventual reunion. I had dreamed of our joyful reunion every night for years. I’d been obsessed with finding her, and I had been devastated when I had met her and everything I had thought was wrong. Aside from the fact that she loves you, a voice whispered inside of my head. She never stopped loving you.
I tried to remember the words that Skylar had spoken at the picnic, something about not being able to fully love until you had forgiveness in your heart. And I knew, that she and the TV preacher were right. I still harbored resentment and pain in my heart and I knew that if she died before we talked it out, I would never forgive myself. I wiped away my tears and pulled out my phone. I knew that Sidney would want me to make this call. I smiled to myself as I thought about what he would do when I told him. I hoped that it would bring a smile to his face.
“Bonjour, comment ca va?”
“Noah?” Her voice was light with disbelief.
“Noah!” She almost sung my name. “I am so happy to hear from you.”
“Sidney had a stroke.”
“Oh, no. That’s horrible. I’m sorry.”
“He can’t talk.” I paused as I felt tears rising and threatening to fall. “He can’t talk and he can’t move. It’s the second one he has had in the last couple of weeks. He didn’t tell me about the first one.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Noah. I know he’s your friend.”
“He’s more than my friend. He’s the father I never had. He’s my mentor. He believed in me and trusted in me when no one else did.”
“I have always believed in you, Noah.”
“You left.” I shouted. “You abandoned me and my brother and then you disowned my brother.”
“I was wrong to do that.”
“I’m only calling to talk to you because I can’t talk to Sidney.” I ignored her. “And because Skylar taught me that to move on in life we have to forgive those who have hurt us.”
“It kills me that I hurt you.”
“You don’t get to say that. You don’t get to try and make everything okay. I don’t want you in my life.”
“I’m your mother, Noah.”
“And Sidney is my best friend.” I felt the tears rushing out of my eyes again. “You don’t understand how I’m feeling right now.”
“You feel like a piece of you has been ripped out and you can’t find the hole to stuff it and stop the pain.” She spoke slowly.
“You don’t know how I feel.”
“My cancers in remission.”
“What?” My heart stopped for a moment.
“The chemo worked. I’m in remission.”
“So you don’t have cancer anymore?”
“That’s right, for now I’m cancer free.” Her voice grew soft. “If you were calling me because of what I said in my last call, about me dying and wanting to see you, you don’t have to feel guilty. I’m not dying anymore. Well, at least not of cancer.”
“So you’re fine?”
“I’m cancer free, but I’m not fine. I want to see you.”
“You made your choice years ago.”
“I’ll tell your father I don’t need the money anymore. If that will prove to you how much I want a relationship with you.”
“What will you do for money?” I scoffed.
“I can sell the farmhouse. We can move to an apartment somewhere. I’d rather have you in my life, I’d rather Pierre get to know his brother.”
“What about Zane?”
“I was immature and petty.” She sighed. “I will have him in my life if he will have me.”
“Really?” I asked suspiciously.
“I know I’ve a lot to make up for.” She sighed. “I don’t want to waste this opportunity to have you in my life again.”
“You almost sound sincere.”
“Give me a chance, Noah. Let me prove myself to you. Please.”
“I guess so.” I took a deep breath. “But I’m not coming to visit any time soon. If things go well, I will come next year and bring Skylar during the summer.”
“That would be nice. I can’t wait to meet her.”
“Yeah, she’d like to have a grandma.” I said the word grandma hesitantly.
“And I would love to be one.”
“I guess we’ll see how it goes.” I sat back, feeling content with the way the conversation had gone. I knew that Sidney would be happy that I was trying to make amends with my mother. Thinking of Sidney again made me shiver. I couldn’t imagine never being able to talk to him again. I just didn’t know what I would do if I never got to hear his advice or his laugh again.
Robin opened the door and stood there with her arms wide open. I fell into them and pulled her into my arms, before slamming the door shut. Wordlessly, we walked to her bedroom. I tore my clothes off and watched as she slipped off the gown she was wearing. She was na**d underneath it and I grabbed ahold of her and fell onto the bed with her on top of me, kissing her hard. Our fingers explored each other and she rolled me over onto my back and pulled away from me and stared at me intently. She stared at my bloodshot eyes and kissed every inch of them, licking the residue of tears from my cheeks.
I rolled her over onto her back and kissed my way down her stomach to her most intimate of places. My tongue found her bud, already soaked with lust and I lapped her up with my tongue, delighting at the taste of her as she trembled beneath me. I closed my eyes as my tongue entered her and she buckled underneath me, with a small whimper. I was glad for the silence, there were no words to ruin the moment. There were no words that could touch the magic of the silence that filled the room as our two bodies connected and became one. Robin was like home to me. I hadn’t known her long and we were still in the beginning stages of dating, but I knew in my heart and soul that one day she was going to become my wife. I looked up at her before I entered her, and I felt my heart explode as she kissed her lips lightly against mine as she clenched her legs around my waist and then whispered in my ear.
“I love you, Noah Beaumont.” Five simple words, but they were better than any orgasm I’d ever had. I wanted to ask her to marry me then. I wanted to get down on bended knee and beg her to be my wife, but I knew it wasn’t the right time. When I proposed it was going to be in the midst of a joyous occasion, not when I was still in sorrow over the ill health of my best friend. I loved Robin, but I wanted to ensure that when I told her and asked her to spend the rest of her life with me, that she knew it was for all the right reasons.
“Let’s sing another song.” Skylar was giddy with excitement and I shared a smile with Zane as Noah and Skylar started another chorus of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”
“You guys aren’t getting tired yet?” Zane peered at them in the rearview mirror and then squeezed my knee. “We should be there in about another hour or so.”
“Awesome.” I smiled at him, before yawning. “I can’t believe you surprised me with a family trip to Napa.”
“I thought it would be something you’d enjoy.”
“It is.” I smiled happily. “It’s the perfect way for us all to relax after the last two weeks.”
“Thanks for inviting me guys.” Robin chimed in from the backseat. “I’m happy to be included in family trips. I’ve been dreaming of this day for years.” She laughed. “Only I was ten in the dream.”
“Better late than never though.” Noah kissed her on the cheek and she nodded happily. “Though you really didn’t need to bring 3 suitcases for a weekend trip.”
“You know us girls,” Robin rolled her eyes at Noah. “Can’t go anywhere without an assortment of clothes.”
“Typical female.” Zane threw in and they all laughed.
“So what’s the plan for the weekend?” I wondered aloud. “I’m curious what we’re all going to do, seeing as Skylar and I can’t drink alcohol.”
“I have some things planned.” Zane’s eyes sparkled at me and I knew he was keeping a secret from me, but I decided to be patient.
“And when will I know of these plans?”
“Tomorrow morning.” He grinned. “You’ll know all about them tomorrow morning.”
“I know the plans.” Skylar squealed and I saw Noah’s hand fly to her mouth and cover it before he whispered something in her ear. I looked over at Zane and witnessed him giving Noah a quick death stare before pulling into a gas station.
“Let’s fill up one last time and then we can be on our way again.” Zane hopped out of the car and then stuck his head back in. “Uh, Robin do you think you could help me with something for a second. I want to make sure I didn’t leave something important at home.”
“Sure,” She hopped out of the car and then I turned to look at Noah.
“Okay, what is going on?”