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A note from Marlboro Man

Second Chapter. In order to make sense first should be read first.

Part 2: The Two-Step

 

We had been hard at it for six weeks; Trish and I were making satisfactory progress. When it was possible, I had arranged my works schedule around Trish’s. She had proved herself to be quite the enthusiastic student. I was impressed because she was willing to spend the hours needed to speed up the two different projects. We were doing our normal early clean up on a Sunday when I got a phone call from one of the au pairs employed in our city.

The young lady I had met during a safety class for those new to the area that were freshly hired from overseas to work for the elite within our community. She had wisely kept my business card. She believed that the child she was responsible for was being stalked when they were out in the park. She told me what time they would be there the next day. I told her to go about her day as she would normally and promised that I would be there checking things out to see if her fears were right.

The local park she referred to was one of the few that catered to preschoolers so I knew I had to come up with a disguise that would blend in with those who used the area. So, Trish and I discussed in humor the clothing I would wear. Little did we know that the one she sarcastically joked about would be close to what I came up with.

I had learned over the last few weeks that family was particularly important to the Malley’s. They got together every Sunday rain or shine for supper regardless of what was going on. As a result, Trish and I had to shut down early on that day.

I found everything about Trish’s relationship with her family intriguing because for me it was an eye opening experience. I had never seen such closeness or trust expressed so freely in my life. It caused me to do a lot of reevaluating about my walk in life.

********

At nine o’clock Monday morning I was walking through Southeast Missouri Hospital carrying a dozen yellow roses in a nicely styled white vase heading for the maternity ward. I had two reasons, I wanted to make sure I passed the public’s image of what I had made myself up to be, and I wanted to surprise Trish.

I thought I looked surprisingly good dressed up as a female wearing a reddish-brown long-haired wig with a dark ruby red lipstick on my lips. I wore one inch opened toed heels, a very feminine pair of blue jeans with a feminine boyish styled sweater blouse to cover the body form I was wearing which had a built-in girdle. I had the appearance of being well endowed in the breast department which were hidden thanks to the style of the clothing I was wearing.

I had my favorite shirt hanging off my shoulder as if it was a scarf, along with a shoulder purse. The eyelash makeup had thickened my lashes and added much needed length making them a feature that stood out. It forced one to look more at my eyes than my whole face. I had even gone to the extreme by trimming and shaping my eyebrows like most females do. Little did I realize that the boys I worked with would tease me about them for weeks. Blush, actors makeup, a chin extender, and a spray of powder had changed the basic shape of my face.

As I worked at changing my image, I used my memory of my aunt Cathy to guide me as I used the trade items to create the look I was going for. Between getting dressed and made up I had wasted three hours. With the work all done I looked like any other woman did. I was pleased with the result but needed to test it out before I went into the field.

A lot of men were taking a second look at me as I walked through the hospital halls heading to the elevator to take me to the floor Trish was on. It was weird because it was something I could see myself doing especially if a nice looking woman caught my eye. That told me I had done a better job at camouflaging myself then I thought.

The false fingernails helped to slender my small hands. I had even applied red nail polish to all my nails. Trish thought it was a hoot that her wrists were bigger than mine. The Malley females in general all thought I needed some meat on my bones.

As I got on the elevator one of the hospital staff security guards joined me. I recognized him as the one that had been chatting with Trish that first weekend. The poor man could not help himself and tried to flirt with me. Like a woman would I gently shot him down. We walked down the maternity hall together towards the nurse's station. I asked to see Trish Malley.

Jennifer the nurse working with her went to the door behind the nurses station and told her she had someone wanting to speak to her. Trish came out and her mouth dropped in total surprise as soon as she saw my shirt. It was nice to see those blue eyes sparkling in delight.

My voice lessons during university years was paying dividends because I was using it them to alter my voice. It had taken me about half an hour of rehearing before I found the tone I liked. When I spoke I sounded like I was a transplant from England.

“What are you doing here,” Trish asked while smiling.

“Just dropping these off for you before I head out in the field,” I said in a soft feminine voice while handing the flowers to her.

Trish accepted them with a big smile then set them on the counter. Turning back to me I leaned down and wrapped her in my arms giving her a deep exceptionally long sensual kiss before walking away.

“Damn Trish, I never knew you were into girls.” I heard Stephen the security person say loudly as I waited for the elevator. “I guess that’s why I was never able to discern some interest from you. I just wasn’t your type.”

I had to bite my tongue, so I did not laugh because I though the whole situation was quite comical.

“Oh God,” said Trish as she looked over at Jen who was still in awe of what she had witnessed.

“I got a video of it,” Jen said, “and I still don’t believe it. I thought until today that we shared everything. I did not have a clue. How long have you swung both ways?”

Just as the elevator door open Stephen had caught up to me. Thankfully, he was going up and I was going down.

Trish read the card; it said some roses for a ‘rose’ S.

“Jen that was Scott,” Trish said. “But no one will believe it. He did it again. I’m going to be talked about all day because a lot of people saw it.”

“Sure, it was,” Jen said. “I bet that’s what you tell everyone. Sorry that voice was just too soft for it to be a man. Is the lady a friend of Scott’s and does he know you are using him as a shield?”

“Well, it was,” Trish said, “and I can prove it.”

How?” Jen asked.

“If he wants me to know it's him, he always wears the shirt I tore off of him that first day we met,” Trish explained. “Text it to me so I can add it to the other two disguises I have of him.”

“Nice try, but it’s not going to work,” Jen said. “I have to admit I’m surprised that you would say that because I have never known you to just out and out lie.”

Trish realized that if her best friend Jennifer didn’t believe her no one would. For the rest of the day, she had to endure unwanted looks and whispers behind her back. Even from some of her patients. Trish leaned that the truth did not matter. Believe came from seeing and there was no argument in what they saw.

It was about four fifteen in the afternoon when Trish got called into one of the patient's rooms because her girlfriend was on tv.

Trish yelled, “Jen you got to see this.”

They rushed in together to discover I had stopped a kidnapping in progress, and it had resulted in two men from out of state being arrested. The female reporter was asking me a lot of questions which I was answering in my female voice.

“Detective any concluding thoughts,” The reporter asked?

“Yes, I don’t know how you ladies do it. I never realized how much work and effort you go through just to make yourselves look this good. I will never ever complain again about how long it takes for my girlfriend to get ready to go out. I can’t wait till I can get out of this bra and girdle,” I said using my normal male voice. “They are too damn uncomfortable and irritating.”

“You’re a man,” the reporter said in shock. “Did you get yourself looking this good by yourself? Have you always been able to alter your voice?”

‘Yes, I learned how to alter my voice as I minored in drama at school and no my girlfriend helped me get dressed like this, but it has come with a hook,” I said.

“What's that.” The reporter asked.

“I have to go on a girls night out with her dressed like this in the future,” I said.

The female reporter lost it in laughter and said: “To his girlfriend can I borrow him for a night dressed like this? I’ve always fantasized about being with another woman.”

That interview would be replayed during the five pm, six pm, and the ten pm news because not only did it cover a major story but entertained the public too.

Trish lost it and started laughing while saying ‘I’m going to get Scott for this. The looks I had to endure today because of what he planted into their minds will be with me forever.”

“You, said it was Scott, but I did not believe it. Hell, no one who saw him kissing you did,” Jennifer said. “You two and your ongoing relationship are going to be talked about in the halls for weeks.”

“Now you know why our developing relationship is so hard to explain,” Trish said. “I’m still trying to figure it out. Each time I see him in disguise it is like another side of him is opening up. Each one revealing something about him that I did not know.”

“Is he a complex man?” Jen asked.”

Trish thought about that for a while and then said, “More a private man. He has to be in his line of work. When he is working, he is extremely focused. Even with the furniture, his mind is on what he’s doing. Yet when he is showing me how to do something, he explains why it is best to do it that way. It’s like he is always trying to answer every question I might have before I ask them. A lot of what he knows he has learned by trial and error.”

Jennifer sent the video to Trish’s mother saying you got to see what I took today. Then added watch channel twelve news to figure it out. Then she forwarded a copy of the video to Trish.

Trish texted me saying can my girlfriend take me out to Red Lobster for dinner. When I read it, I broke out in laughter. I texted back; be there to pick you up at seven.

Jenifer had to show the girls who were replacing them the excitement of the day when they came in early to prepare for the shift change and to get updates on what was happening. It was about five to seven when I showed up. Trish had texted Tina not to pick her up. It was common for Tina to be driving her sister's car.

It's not very often a man gets introduced to three females while dressed in drag, but I did. For a few minutes, I was the center of attention. Everyone and their uncles had to get their picture with me including some of the new mothers. Of course, they all had to tease Trish a lot by asking her when we were going on our girls night out. She replied in a strange town on a long weekend. We walked out of the hospital hand in hand.

“I was thrilled when you brought me the flowers,” Trish said, “but no one would believe it was you until one of the patients caught you on the four o’clock news.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t think it out,” I said, “I should have. I promise to be more thoughtful in the future.”

“Don’t, the day went by fast,” Trish said. “I bet a lot who saw us will be totally shocked when the watch the news. The new mothers had something to discuss besides what was happening with their newborn babies. Every one of our patients had to ask about how we met.”

We sat across from each other as we ate dinner. Trish could not get over how good I had made myself look. After dinner, we had gone back to the apartment Trish and Tina shared. It was about ten when I left.

In doing follow-ups the following day the au pair informed me that the husband's wife was in the hospital because she had given birth to another child. I texted Trish asking about her. She had delivered the previous night. The two we had in custody that afternoon during questioning had confessed that they had been hired by the husband to take the child as he was planning on a divorce. He wanted the fake kidnapping of the child as a bargaining chip.

Trish texted me a six-thirty that her husband had shown up to see his wife and new daughter. I radioed in for a team, and they met me. We headed up to take him into custody. I had Trish tell him that there were problems with the paperwork, and he needed to go straighten them out. As soon as he walked out, we arrested him. What would end up happening to him would be up to the DA.

For the next hour, I spent the time walking the lady through what I knew. It opened Trish’s eyes to what is not shown about the job from the mass media.

********

Over the last three months, we had de assembled the sofa and love seat so we could take them to the upholstery shop. It had been a slow and lengthy process removing all the dowels. Because of the size of them I had to custom make replacements for them for when we put sofa and love seat back together.

The upholstery shop had to make from scratch some of the metal parts needed for the repairs to the support system and order the material used to cover them from France. Trish was amazed as I made the stain and paint, we needed as close to what they had used back then. We tested each batch on scrap pieces of wood and compared the result to the pictures we had taken. I also had bought fifty lbs. of black tea leaves, not ground which had led Trish to ask a lot of questions.

We had soaked a lot of the pieces in a huge vat to take off the years and years of painting and repainting from the original pieces. Then the fine sanding to smooth out all blemishes and rough spots we found. Trish was still worried about the huge gash in the dining table which was now completely clean of all the paint.

Trish had noticed me bring a small sander with a collection bag with it into the garage with a metal container of a special goop I had made. Along with a bunch of peacock feathers and some exceptionally fine glass straw like sticks. When she asked what the items were for, I said for the fixing of the table. Once I started working on it I could not stop until it was finished. I told her it was a slow and deliberate process that required time and patience.

Out of the blue, there was a knock at the garage side door. It was one of the neighborhood kids from a block over needing to talk to me. The young eleven year old boy had snuck out of his parents’ house. His father was holding his mother and sibling’s hostage with a gun and if he wondered if there was something I could do about it. I headed over to his parents’ house after telling the boy to stay with Trish. Trish called dispatch and told them what was going on.

The backdoor of the house was open, so I quietly entered after removing my shoes. I could hear voices, so I carefully edged my way towards them. From the sound of the man’s voice, I discovered the father was a man that I knew. As a former vet he had a history of going off his meds and doing stuff like this. That told me that he may mentally be lost in a time period he had relived many times.

I had almost reached him and was preparing to disarm him when he turned to face me. To his surprise his automatic response caused the gun to fire. The bullet ended up hitting me in the right shoulder. Still not completely out of it mentally he dropped the gun saying he was sorry. It allowed me to quickly cuff him.

Within minutes re-enforcement were there to take him into custody, and I was on my way by ambulance the hospital. The bullet had gone clear through and was stuck in the upper part of the wall. I asked Ted, Beth’s husband to let Trish know what was happening and gave him my keys to give to her.

By the time she got to the hospital, I was already in surgery. The operation went well. It was when I was in recovery that the problems started. I had awoken, got out of bed, and was putting my clothes back on. The nurse working in the recovery room at the time told me I could not do that. I told her quite rudely where to go and how to do it. She called the doctor who tried to stop me, and he found out the hard way that it was not going to work. In a panic, they called security.

When Trish saw Stephen and a couple of other security guards coming in, she asked what was going on.

“A cop just awoke from surgery and insists he is going home,” Stephen said. “They want us to restrain him and tie him to the bed.”

“Don’t bother I will handle him. It’s Scott, Stephen but since I don’t have my hospital identification with me and I’m not family I will need you to escort me in,” Trish said.

Stephen did as she asked. Trish found me standing against the wall refusing to cooperate with anyone and arguing with two of the hospital staff. I had already got my blue jeans on and was working on putting on my boots.

Trish walked up to me and slapped me. Everybody was shocked. “Scott,” she said with a firm voice, “you get back in that bed right now. You're just too weak to go home right now and you know it.”

I looked at her in anger and said, “Fine, but if I am going to die, I’ll die with my boots on.”

I moved over and sat on the bed.

“You can’t stay dressed like that, your clothes are all bloody and may be contaminated,” Trish said. “So, you're going to have to get out of them.”

“Over my dead body. I will when Brad has brought me some underwear and clean clothing from home,” I said. “I’m not going to wear a hospital gown that allows everybody access to my ass.”

“Scott when was the last time you were in a hospital as a patient?” Trish asked me having realized that something else was going on inside of my mind.

I said, “never, I have stayed away from them ever since I was seven. I watched them take my parents, and the next thing I remember was seeing them in a pine box.”

“Scott, do you trust me?” Trish asked as she took my hand in hers with her eyes looking directly at mine.

“Of course, I do,” I replied. “You would not have gotten away with hitting me if I didn’t.”

“Then I will be here to walk you through it,” she said, “until they let you out.”

When she said that I laid back down on the bed and started to calm down. The fellow hospital staff was amazed.

The surgeon asked Trish who she was.

Stephen said, “She’s one of the best nurses this hospital has on staff.”

“What's your relationship with Scott?”

Stephen stepped in saying, “Those two have not figured that out yet so just consider them good friends. Scott appears to be the type of person that trusts no one so thank god that Trish was here to unwind him.”

When I awoke in the room, they had assigned me Trish was there watching over me. The nursing staff came in to check up on me. After they had left Trish sat down on the bed facing me.

“Scott, you know about my childhood, it’s time you opened up and told me yours,” Trish said. “I need to understand where your fear of hospitals comes from.”

“I was seven years old when I got awoken by my dad one morning and told to get dressed. When I came downstairs, he was waiting for me. He told me he had done an awfully terrible thing because he had lost his temper. He calmly made me breakfast and watched me eat. Afterward, he took me outside to the front step with the phone. He said I want you to promise me son, that when I go back inside you will call the police to come to our house. Remember always that in life there is always a price to be paid for what you do. Today I have to pay for mine in a way that best for all concerned. Remember always that your mother and I have always loved you,” I said. “While I was talking to the police officer, we both heard the shotgun going off.”

Trish had tears running down her cheeks.

“My mother and father were still alive when the ambulance took them. Her lover my dad's best friend was not. He had come home from work early because of a power failure at the plant and caught them in the act. I learned years later they died on the operating table,” I explained.

Trish now understood why Scott had said to Linda that it was best because of his family’s history that he did not allow himself to love. He had seen the cost of love at its worst and still did not see the emotional sides that had been in play.

“My maternal grandparents took me in, but my grandmother could not stand to look at me, because I reminded her of what my dad had done to her daughter.” I went on, “my grandfather and I made part of the barn loft into a one-room apartment for me to live in because my grandmother would only allow me in the house to eat and shower.”

“I knew that I was just a burden to them and was not really wanted. With no tv, I had to develop other things to occupy my time. I found myself attracted to wood. A semi-retired farmer to the north of us became my best friend. It was he, that gave me his skill and knowledge about furniture and all things wood,” I explained.

“It was worse at school and on the bus. Everyone knew who I was and what my dad had done. Most parents didn’t want their children having anything to do with me, so I had very few friends growing up,” I said. “That had drawn the neighbor to the north and me even closer.”

“One night while he was visiting his married daughter’s family there was a house fire caused by an electrical shortage that gutted most of the kitchen. The house insurance provider wrote the whole thing off. I helped him tear it out and thought most of the cupboards were savable, so together we moved it into the free space in my loft,” I explained. “I spend hours and hours on it and finally had got it back to where you thought it was brand new. He also had given me his huge dining set that had been written off at the same time for the same reason.”

“When I turned fifteen the lawyer for my parent's estate which was now mine contacted me through my school. My mother had life insurance of two hundred thousand dollars and after settling all the debts and selling all the assets with interest it had reached almost three hundred thousand dollars,” I said as a paused before going on.

“My maternal grandfather had given me a hand written note that said when I turned sixteen, I was on my own. I had the lawyer using my grandfather’s note start the procedure to have my name changed and have me legal declared as being self-dependent,” I said.

“Wood rot had eaten at my grandparents' kitchen for years. When she fell through the floor, they gutted the whole thing and rebuilt it. My death uncle who was ignored by the family and I talked in sign language,” I explained. “The family had enough to reframe the kitchen, drywall it and do the floor but not enough to finish the kitchen.”

“I took my uncle to the loft and showed him the finished kitchen and dining furniture that I had there. He thought it was beautiful and asked me if I had restored it. I said yes and told him to take it for the house. He warned me that his brothers and sisters would take the credit,” I said noticing how attentive Trish was being. “I said that it didn’t matter because in my eyes I was paying for my room and board.”

“The day I turned sixteen they had finished the project, Granddad and Grandma could now move back in,” I said. “I legally had a new name and was independent. I had placed my meager belongings which were basically hand me downs from extended members of my grandparents family in the back of my uncle's truck while the family was showing my grandparents the finished project. I asked him to drive me to the nursing home where my former neighbor now lived.”

“Before leaving the truck, I gave a letter to my uncle and asked him to hold it till his father came looking for me,” I disclosed.

“I went to introduce myself to my best friend with my new name. I had taken his last name as my own. James was the first name of my death uncle and Scott was my father’s first name, “ I revealed. “That night began the journey that brought me here. I bought the property I own via a tax sale while I was going to school and made a living tearing down buildings.”

Trish just held my hand till I went back to sleep.

To Trish, what she had just learned explained so very many things. On the way to the hospital, she had been too worried to drive so Ted had driven her. Trying to get her not to worry he had revealed that Scott was indeed the mysterious Mr. Claus. A man who had appeared thirteen years ago leaving much-needed help on needy doors in the month of December. He had started small but each year his charitable deeds kept growing as did his reputation.

Trish understood now that her Scott was a Renaissance Man not by choice but by circumstances of life. Many who had terrible things happen to them in childhood carried on doing bad things throughout their adult lives as if it were a learned behavior. Scott had turned it and forced himself to become a better person. While he slept, she quietly wept while wondering why she was brought into his life.

When her sister Terry was expecting the twins, she and her husband had lost everything because of fire at the apartment building they lived in. It had been him that had given them a fresh start. There was no explanation of how they were chosen or why. It was something her sister still talked about today. Over the years in her eyes, Mr. Claus had become a god.

Mr. Claus’s Representative, a priest had shown up. He had gotten them a new home with no money down that they still owned and got them a no-interest loan for five years. That had allowed them to bring their total debts down fast.

When they opened the garage doors, they discovered all the household items needed to start a life. All they got from Mr. Claus was a note that said always remember to pass it on. Three or four times a year some family in some ways were brought back by the magic of Mr. Claus.

She called her younger sister and explained what happened. Told her what Scott wanted Brad to do. Both of them were there when I woke up along with her parents. Brad had brought me plenty of clean clothing. The shooting had happened on Sunday. The following Wednesday while Trish was working, I was released.

She came down after work to discover I was gone. She phoned Brad and Tina who knew nothing and was beginning to panic when her mother called. They had come home to find me working in the garage using my one good arm.

A few minutes later Trish was watching me from the garage door working on the table. I had sanded down the top of the table saving all the fine wood dust and had been working for hours on healing the wood by slowly bringing it back to life. Using a peacock feather, I bushed a smidgen of the goop into the gash in the table. Then poured a bit of the dust in front of me. I blew it softly into the gash using the fine glass straw-like tubes in the same direction as the lines in the wood went. Covering it with a dish towel I ran a hot iron over it. Then I would repeat the process all over again.

I talked to the wood as I was working on it as if it were real. For me, it was my way of healing myself. When my dear friend saw me doing that, he said “your probably one of the few that believe anything created by God has a soul.”

Trish watched me for an hour repeating the process before entering her parents’ house. During that time, she realized that Scott would be a great husband and father if she was so inclined. She felt a sense of sadness because he like her had sworn off of love. She talked with her parents explaining what I was doing.

Later she knocked on the garage door and said, “Scott come you have to eat and drink.”

As I unplugged the Iron and resealed the goop up, she noticed the large deep gash was almost gone.

“If I had not seen it, I would not believe it,” Trish said. “Does anyone else know this technique?”

“Not that I know of,” I replied. “It’s a dying art form. If it had not been for my life’s journey, I would not have learned it.”

Trish watched me as I ate the three toasted egg and cheese sandwiches with gusto. I had to admit that I had not realized how hungry I had been.

‘How much longer do you think it will take you?” Trish asked.

“About an hour or two if everything goes smoothly then two days for it to cure,” I answered her with.

“What’s in the goop?” Trish asked.

“Boiled down tree sap with a clear dry industrial hardener mixed in,” I said. “The heat from the iron helps the dust, and goop meld into one without tainting anything. The natural sugar in the wood helps in the healing of it.”

It took longer than I figured but it was done. After cleaning up I went out and laid down on the lawn just to rest for a few before heading home. I ended up falling asleep. Unknow to myself Trish had noticed me and brought out a blanket and a pillow because she wanted to make sure that I did not catch a chill. After laying down beside me so she could watch me for a few she covered us both up before falling asleep.

********

Helen and John Malley were dressed having a quick bite to eat and a coffee before heading out the door to go to work when they noticed us asleep in the back yard. Trish was tight against me. Sometime during the night, I had wrapped my arm around her as her backside was against my body.

“When do you think they will realize that they’re falling in love with each other,” Helen asked?

“Not knowing much about Scott’s past that’s an unknown,” John said. “Both have kept their thoughts to themselves. Their own stubbornness is stopping them both from admitting anything. He trusts her completely because no one else could have convinced him to stay in the hospital.”

“If they don’t figure it all out soon,” Helen said, “I may have to sit down and have a talk with my oldest daughter.”

“Don’t you dare,” John replied, “I will not allow what happened the last time to happen again. Stay out of it because time will allow them to work it out.”

“Well, the sooner the better. The suspense of it is starting to get to me,” Helen said. “I don’t want them waiting too long because it will end up with one of them walking away.”

“Better to have it fall apart naturally then to feel responsible for interfering only to have it all blow up in your face,” John stated. “Remember you still haven’t let go of the guilt you feel because of what happened.”

----------------

We had put down three coats of stain and paint depending on how it had originally been done. All the wood had now been restored to its original condition when the pieces were first created. After giving them time to thoroughly bind together we had them spread all out over the place laying on thick carboard in the back yard. Thank God it was a warm summer day.

I had spread out the bulk tea leaves over the spots where according to the pictures we had taken before starting where the touches of Fatima needed to be restored. This was the tricky spot. If you over soaked the bulk tea leaves, it would cause running, if not enough moisture it was a waste of time. The key was keeping the leaves damp at all times. The acid and oil in the leaves would mix into the fresh paint creating the naturally aged look we wanted.

Since I was off because of injury Trish took some of her permanent time off earned and used it to be with me. She set the clock timer on her phone to remind her to check on the water level of the leaves and had four or five spray bottles for misting when needed.

With that all done we started on the second project of the day. Trish held the beams that were going over her parent's patio as I bolted them into place. Once completed I went to work using a drill and wood screws to build it with a few modifications. Her parents had never noticed that in our spare time we had been precutting the wood. In two hours, I had it built.

That allowed Trish to take down the flower boxes off the flat deck. From the side of the porch, we had placed every four feet a ten-foot high pole in an L shape layout which we had added panels of a lattice type on both sides. It started where the patio started and stopped at the side entrance of the back porch of her parents’ house.

With a spray painter It took half an hour to stain it. When it was dry, we gave it its second coat to make sure that it would stay. Trish thought it was beautiful. Then I did it again applying weatherproofing to protect it from the heavy rains that always came. On the outside wall, we planted a mixture of spring and fall wisteria. That way her mother could have her favorite flowers blooming all year.

Over the pathway, we laid down a double layer of industrial-grade metal screen mesh eight feet wide. It was designed to allow water to flow through it but would stop anything from growing up. The grass underneath would eventually rot away. Trish set the flower boxes she had bought where she wanted them before we laid down the six inch wide three inch deep yard stones. Then we filled the section with store-bought bags of cedar mulch until we had it completely filled. The red cedar would kill anything that found a way to come to life.

Trish and I moved their unfinished picnic table which we had stained to match into the new building. I then had moved his barbeque equipment into the now finished gazebo once I had done a power wash on it and reconnected everything. We were sitting there drinking a cold beer when they pulled into the driveway with another workday behind them.

They came around the corner between the garage and house to see the finished project. It was one of those things they had spent hours talking about but had never done. Trish was incredibly pleased by her mother’s tear-stained eyes and whispered she is trying hard not to lose it.

“Before you two say anything, we did it because you refused to charge us rent for the space we used,” Trish explained. “Mom you will have to decide for yourself what you want for your flower boxes and find the soil to put in them.”

“Scott lets go to the store and pick some fresh steaks for supper,” John said. “We will do them up on the barbeque when we get back.”

So off we went. I realized that he had felt that his wife needed some private time with her daughter, when we pulled into the legion, I knew what I thought was right. After a couple, we swung by and got the steaks.

Helen hugged me just a bit too long when we got back before whispering, “over nine years ago the daughter I raised died, thanks to you, for being the way you are she was brought back to me.”

For three days we babysat the furniture before we started putting it all back together. I swung by the upholstery shop and picked up the restored pieces which were all wrapped tightly in bubble wrap. It was a labor-intense job because it all had to be hand-stitched. Finally, I packed up all my tools and equipment I had at the house because we were done. Using Murphy’s furniture oil, we shinned them all out. Trish was in awe of how beautiful it all looked.

Trish was surprised when her dad’s friend the insurance adjuster swung by to do an appraisal for insurance purposes on what we had done. While I was off doing something, the adjuster asked Trish if he could take her picture. She asked him why?

Two reasons he explained. “I need a permanent record of the protégée of Scott whose getting credit for this restoration. I always keep a permanent record of whatever a restorer has done. The quality of what was done proves just how good you are, and my wife wanted a picture of the woman she believes has captured Scott’s heart.”

“So, what do you think of the restoration?” Trish asked with a growing sense of pride.

“Perfection as always the two of you spared no expense. The material alone on the seventeenth-century French sofa and love seat had to cost at least ten thousand. It was hand-stitched as was the original.”

Trish was stunned, she had no clue that I had spent so much.

“Can I ask you what your plans are for it?” he asked.

“Tomorrow’s my mother’s birthday we will be moving it into their house in the morning. That’s why we didn’t let them see it as it was being done,” Trish explained.

“Young lady that is one hell of a birthday gift,” he said.

********

Friday was a zoo. The three Malley daughters removed all the China and accessories from the dining room as Brad and I removed the living room furniture and the removed the current dining room furniture. We moved the restored stuff in reverse doing the dining room first. We had finished storing the old furniture in the garage when my universe came crashing down.

We had successful lowed the tarps of the tent and packed them on the truck. Brad had just finished loosening the bolts and taking them off on the inside of the garage. I in a rush bumped into a pole bringing the whole frame down on me. Trish came rushing out after hearing the crash to find me out cold underneath all the aluminum metal.

“Goddammit Scott!” Trish screamed in tears as she reached to hold my head. “You die before me, and I will kill you.”

Brad and Tina worked at getting the pipes off me and loaded unto the truck. Trish had gotten underneath my head and was holding it in her lap. For Tina it was the perfect time to confront her sister.

“Trish, why did you say what you did to Scott?” Tina asked in an attempt to get her to finally admit her feelings.

“When I saw him lying there, I finally realized I want to spend the rest of my life with him,” Trish finally admitted as her tears flowed freely. “He’s what no man has ever been before. My one. I love him.”

“Have you told him that?” Tina asked.

“I think she just did. Look at Scott’s arm,” Brad said. “Tina lets go into the house and give them a few minutes alone.”

I had reached up and was pulling Trish’s head down. I could not help but notice her tear-stained butter cup eyes because they were so consuming.

“I feel the same way, but I needed to hear it from you first,” I said, “until now I was fighting myself, not willing to admit it.”

Tina and Brad had finished putting away all the dishes in the China cabinet. Tina had reminded Brad that they could not use one particular drawer, so they worked it all in. It was now about four in the afternoon. When Trish walked in through the back door.

“Where’s Scott?” Tina asked as she took a quick picture of her sister standing there with grass stains all over her clothing and her hair going everywhere. With a huge grin on her tear-stained face.

“He went to my car to get Mom’s birthday card,” Trish said. “We are going to say the furniture is from the family.”

“No!” said Tina, “you can’t, it was your love that you and Scott put into this that makes it too personal. They will know the truth so don’t lie about it.”

I walked in and handed Trish the card bag. Brad threw me his keys and said catch. Tina captured a picture of how wild I looked.

“We are so happy that you two finally figured it out,” Tina said.

“You two need to go get cleaned up,” Brad said. “So, take my car and I can pick it up later from your place on the way home. We are almost done in here, so it won’t take long to finish loading the pipes and poles.”

I handed him my keys for the truck.

Trish went to say something, but Tina stopped her.

‘Look Mom’s going to be an emotional basket case tonight when she’s seen all of this,” Tina said. “The first person dad will call is you. So go get yourself cleaned up and ready for it.”

Trish took out the card and wrote it into it. Then she wrote Mom on the envelope before inserting the card back into it.

We thanked them for their help and head out. I headed for Jayson’s Jewelry in downtown Cape.

“Why are we here?” Trish asked.

“To get you your promissory ring,” I replied. “Besides, I have something I have to pick up.”

The item I ready to pick up was something I had decided to give to Trish out of friendship. It was to thank her for working with me while working on the furniture. It now had a different meaning because of the change in status of our relationship.

We found the one she wanted. The clerk processed the purchase and went into the back to pick up the finished order that I had already paid for. Then it was off to her apartment where she had a quick shower and got changed. She had gotten dressed as if we were going out for the night for something special. I thought that when we got to my place, I better do the same. She grabbed her purse, and we were on our way.

We pulled off the interstate on the exit ramp for Marble Hill or Jackson and turned right to head back into Jackson. Taking the first right we drove about a mile when we approached my house.

“Look!” said Trish, “that’s my aunt's favorite house in December. The way it is decorated during the season she says it looks like the perfect Christmas cottage. The way those tall trees flow in the wind is stunning.”

She watched me slow down and take the next driveway in then turn in between the row of trees she had bragged about.

“You own the Christmas cottage?” she said in amazement.

“Yes, what you see from the road is the side of the house,” I explained as I drove in parking the car in front of the house. Trish was surprised at how large it was.

We walked into the house together. Stopping at the kitchen I threw Brad's keys on the counter. I was pouring her a glass of wine and was making myself a Scotch and water when Ruby Jackson came down the stairs.

“Hi Scott, I’m almost done then I will be out of here,” Ruby said.

I smiled seeing Trish questioning eyes because I could sense a bit of jealousy.

“Ruby, I want you to meet Trish,” I said. “Trish, Ruby is the captain’s wife, and they own the franchise for ‘Molly’s Maids” in this area.”

The look of relief and then a great big smile came over her Trish’s face. It was fun watching Ruby come to the realization of who Trish was.

“It looks like my husband was right when he cuffed the two of you together,” Ruby said.

“Ruby, can you plan to make up the second master for Trish and set it up with whatever she uses,” I asked?

“I can get it done tonight if you can spare Trish for a few,” Ruby replied.

“Go ahead I will head up and get myself cleaned up for the evening,” I said.

While I was showering and getting changed. Rub showed Trish the second master. It had a huge queen size bed so old it still had the heavy metal frame at the bottom. I had set the queen size box springs and mattress on top of them. A matching dresser with mirror, two full-size dressers and two nightstands to complete the set.

On one side was a walk-in closet and a laundry room with its own linen closet. The other side of the bed was the master bathroom with the sunken built-in tub. Trish picked out what she wanted on the bed and told Ruby the basics she had at home in her bathroom. Ruby texted the list to one of her staff and said it would be here in an hour.

“Trish when my husband saw the two of you were behaving that day it reminded him of us,” Ruby explained. “His captain did the same thing to us. We have been married for over thirty-five years. When we got engaged the captain gave me the cuffs we wore. We had it framed and put under glass.”

“Ruby this is the promissory ring I just got,” Trish said as she showed it to her. “Not even my family knows yet.”

********

I had gone to the big garage and taken out the fully restored nineteen sixty-four Chevy impala and put the top down. I had it parked in front of the house. I came back into see Ruby giving Trish a tour of the house.

“Trish said “I am amazed at the quality of furniture you have. Did you restore it all yourself?”

“Yes, and a lot more over the last ten years. The two floors beneath this are also filled with what I have restored,” I said. “I ship three or four items a year to auction them off it helps to pay a few bills.”

Trish got a tear in her eye because she realized that it was his own sweat and tears that provided him the funds to do what he did. For a man who said it was best not to love. By becoming Mr. Claus, he shared his love in a way that could be seen by all.

********

John and Helen pulled in from another long day at work. Tomorrow would be the day the family celebrated her birthday. Tonight, they would go out for a late dinner just the two of them. John was surprised to find the tent was gone. That meant they had completed the work and that all was left was to repair the three holes. Helen had gotten the back door opened and he followed her in.

He went to the cupboard and prepared to pour them a before-dinner drink. He had just joined her at the kitchen table with the bourbon and cokes as she read the birthday card from the envelope that had been left on the kitchen table. Instantly her tears started flowing freely. He took the card out of her hand and read it.

Mom! ‘Happy Birthday” Scott and I have ended our former relationship. Your birthday present can be found in the dining room and in the front room. Love you, Trish, and Scott. Ps. Scott and I are now a couple in love trying to work our hang-ups out.

No wonder his wife was crying. She was letting go of the personal guilt she had held because of what had happened years ago. She was also getting her ultimate dream because her eldest daughter had once again found a way to allow herself to be in love again.

Knowing the only way his wife was going to be able to calm down was having her eldest daughter in front of her. He picked up the phone to call her.

I listened while Trish was on her cell. Her sister had been right. Her mother hadn’t even seen the furniture she had just read the card. Trish said we were on the way. I grabbed a twelve-pack of red, white, and blue. It had been a cheap popular beer back in the day. You could still by it as a specialty beer but only at the retail shop of the plant that made it. Running out through the front door I leaned in and placed the beer on the floorboards behind the front seat.

Twenty minutes later we pulled into her parent's driveway. Together we walked into the kitchen through the back door. John looked relieved to see us. Trish went to her mother to start to get her to calm down. John offered us a drink. Instantly her mother started to calm down.

“When did you two work it out,” Helen asked.

“I heard a crash, ran outside to see Scott out cold beneath all the tent poles,” Trish explained. ‘I blurted out Scott if you die before me, I will kill you. Tina confronted me with that thought. I admitted that Scott was my one, and I loved him. Scott awoke to hear me and said he felt the same way.”

As we all drank our Bourbons and Cokes, we decided to go out for supper. I suggested we go to a family restaurant in Marble Hill that they had never heard of.

“It's an old fashioned pizza place that does pizza the Italian way. The pizza is actually a covered pie. Between the four of us, we will have difficulty eating an extra-large one,” I said. “Even on a Friday night, we will get right in.”

That sold it, I said that since my car was behind, we will take it, but that John could drive. So out we went ready to climb in. When Trish’s parents saw the nineteen sixty four Chevy Impala convertible that we were going to go in they had to walk around it before getting in. It was black on the outside with a red interior.

“We double dated with Shelia and Eve Brown back in the day. Eve’s father owned one that looked like this,” John said. “We spent hours driving the back roads listening to the hits of the day. The memories you have reminded us of just made this day more special for us.”

“Then I don’t have to tell you what or where the dimmer switch is if we need it,” I respond as I open the back door to let Trish slide in. “Drive to Marble Hill like you would in the old days.”

Once we were out of the driveway, I had Trish’s Mom open the glove box. “Sirius play the hits from the do-wop days and early sixties.”

As we were leaving town, I pulled out two cans of beer and handed them to Helen.

“They still make this,” she said. “That’s all we drank back in the day. We could get six cans for a dollar.”

Trish and I were tight as two bunnies in heat in the back seat watching the show in the front. Trish’s Mom was in her glory reliving in spirit those days. She would sing along with each song she knew. Believe me the way she was belting them out left me with the impression that she knew all of them. Trish and I were caught up in the moment and were sneaking kissing when we could. We thought we were getting away with it, but we were wrong.

“If you two kids could stop what you are doing for a moment and pass us another beer,” John said joyfully, “it would be appreciated.”

We’d been busted by the rearview mirror. As we entered the ‘Hill’ I made a phone call. As we parked the car a young ten year old boy of African American descent approached us.

“Hi uncle Scott,” he said. “I was surprised to see that you’re not driving. Do mom and dad know you’re coming?”

“Nope going to surprise them,” I said while handing him ten dollars. “Watch the car and get rid of the empties.”

We entered the restaurant and found our seats. The place was steady but not overly busy. The server a young lady of East Asian decent came to our table from behind me.

“Misty, we want a pitcher of beer and an extra-large Scotts special,” I said.

“Uncle Scott. What a surprise. It’s good to see you. Were mom and dad expecting you?” she asked.

I stood up and hugged her tight.

“No were celebrating a birthday and decided on the lark to come here,” I replied.

“Whose birthday?” she asked.

“My girlfriend’s mother,” I replied. “Misty this is my girlfriend Trish and her parents Mr. and Mrs. Malley.”

Misty introduced herself to them then said in fun, “You got yourself a girlfriend, gee I was hoping you were waiting for me. I will get mom to bring the pitcher so you can surprise her, and I will give Dad your order.”

Misty came back with the four beer glasses. Her mother following right behind. As she put it down, I said. “Hello Shania, it’s good to see you.”

I stood up. Trish was surprised to see that Shania looked like us.

“Shania I would like to introduce you to Helen and John Malley and their daughter Trish,” I said. “So, you don’t have to wonder Trish is my girlfriend.”

After exchanging greeting Shania said, “Trish how did you get him to stop running?”

With a smile and a laugh, Trish said, “It took the police captain to handcuff us to each other for six hours.”

We were still chatting with her when her husband came out with the special on a large stand. The three Malley’s were surprised by how thick the covered pie was. Misty ran to get us our plates and silverware. Witt is an army vet who had lost part of his leg thanks to a bomb. I had been friends with both of them for years.

“Hi Scott,” Witt said, “it’s good to see you again. Shania why are you smiling.”

“You win, we will be adopting two more as soon as we can make room for them,” Shania replied.

“Nah you're pulling my leg,” he said. “You told me that we could adopt two more when Scott got a girlfriend because you knew that would never happen.”

“Excuse me,” Trish said. “You stand corrected because Scott gave me this today.”

Trish held out her hand showing all the promissory ring to all. Her mother started to tear up.

John said, “it's just a ring.”

Helen said emotionally, “Yes but it says everything.”

Witt would not allow us to pay for anything because he was getting his dream, more family. The two new children they would be adopting would bring their blended family to a total of eight. It was after eleven before we got out of the restaurant. The future in-laws and Trish had to admit it was the best pizza they had ever eaten.

We were on the way home driving the back roads. Each of us holding an open beer in our hands. Trish’s mother was standing up dancing to the music in the front seat while singing as loud as she could. I had my feet outside of the car as Trish and I were laying in the back seat necking like teenagers in heat. That’s when the flashing red lights and siren started. John pulled over and shut the car off as Trish and I quickly sat up.

The officer approached the car with his flashlight on. Checked out the people in the front seat. Saw the open beer cans. The turned the flashlight towards us.

“Jesus Christ Scott it's you,” Ted said. “Give me a few I have to talk to the boss about this.”

Ted came back and said, “Trish, Beth wants to talk to you.” Then he handed her his phone.

“Hi Beth,” Trish said. “I guess we went overboard we were having a double celebration.”

“Oh really,” Beth said, “so that was why Scott, and you were caught making out in the back seat.”

“We were celebrating my mother’s birthday and the fact that I got my promissory ring today,” Trish said.

“Oh my god. Congratulations. Ok we will make this as painless as possible, but Ted had called in to say he was stopping a vehicle. Scott and you dinner at my place a week from Saturday. Who else knows?”

“Nobody,” Trish said. “We want to keep it as quiet as possible for now because we both have things to work out.”

“Sounds good to me now let me talk to my husband,” Beth said.

A few minutes later Ted came back and asked John for his driver's license. When he came back with it. He had his ticket booklet open.

“I’m giving you a fifty dollar fine for failing to have your load properly secured,” Ted said. “I will have to follow you home so keep the beers out of sight and keep the music turned down to a reasonable level.”

If there were ever four adults who felt young and foolish, believe me, we were it. Let me tell you being followed by police kind of kills the mood.

When we pulled into the driveway Ted drove on. That’s when we lost it and started to laugh.

“Being stopped in a nineteen sixty-four Chevy impala convertible with us all acting like we had no problems in the world and walking away with just a fine,” John said, “is something I will be smiling about for weeks.”

“I will pay for the ticket John,” I said.

“Oh no you won’t I am going to write the cheque to pay the fine, frame this and put it on a wall,” he said firmly.

Helen turned and looked at us and said, “Thank you for making this a birthday that I will never forget.”

“It’s not over yet mom we are now going to show you your birthday present,” Trish said.

Once we got her inside, we had her close her eyes. John led his wife into the dining room which Trish had entered to turn the lights on.

“Open your eyes Mom,” Trish said.

The dining room set looked beautiful. It was the first time they had seen it set up since we had unloaded it weeks before. The China cabinet, the hutch, the table, two captain chairs, and the six normal chairs fit into the room perfectly.

“I can’t accept this,” Helen said, “it’s too much. You should keep it for your future.”

“Mom stop,” Trish said, “Scott owns the Christmas cottage and its filled with antiques as fine as these.”

“Now close your eyes again we will lead you into the front room,” Trish said.

Trish went into the front room. The girls had done a real wonderful job rearranging everything. The old and the new seemed to belong together. John led his wife in. When she opened her eyes, we all heard the gasped sounds coming from her throat. The seventeenth-century French furniture set was the centerpiece of the room.

“It’s beautiful, the rose pattern is quite unique,” Helen said. “I can’t believe how stunning the set is. I think I might be afraid to use it.”

“The material is as original as it could be but with one difference,” I said. “I had both pieces scotch guarded against possible stains.”

Helen walked over to me and hugged me before kissing me on the cheek. Then John and I left them and went back into the kitchen where he noticed the appraisal files sitting on top of the fridge. He looked through them in detail before saying anything.

“You knew all along what you had given to Trish,” he said. “It’s hard to believe that it would cost more to replace them than what they're worth. You’ve been in love with her since that first day.”

“She had captured me when her nose flared just before she hit me for the third time. I knew that she was a lioness who would die to protect her cubs,” I said with a chuckle. “For a moment I thought with her temper she would blow flames.”

“Well, Son you got a Texas mickey coming for taming the shrew!” John said.

“You will need those files to put a rider on your insurance policy,” I said, “they have to be listed like expensive jewelry.”

We had heard Trish and her mother go upstairs. When they came down Trish was carrying a brown large Macy’s bag with items in it. I noticed her tap her wrist with her finger. I realized she was telling me it was time for us to go. I stood up and we said our goodnights.

“Where are we going?” I asked as soon as we were out of the driveway.

“Home, I got a new bed I want to try sleeping in tonight,” she said as she slide over beside me. “Mom is so wound up she will be keeping dad up half the night.”

“Dad saw the appraisals on the furniture and decided he’s not going to tell your mother,” I said, “because if he did, she would be afraid to use it.”

“How much is it all worth?” She asked.

“Even in the depressed market we are going through now the love seat and sofa because of the quality of the material used is very rare,” I explained. “Each piece of the set is appraised at about thirty thousand dollars, but to replace it would be around fifty thousand each. The dining area furniture as a set is worth about fifty thousand, if pieced out you could get about seventy thousand. Replacement via auctions is around eighty thousand.”

“You knew what it was worth,” Trish said. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“If I had of you would never have gotten me to help you,” I said. “Because you would have not touched it.”

John and Helen were getting ready for bed. In her excitement, she had completely let it slip past her what Trish had revealed. Scott owed the Christmas cottage. That place was renowned for the message the Christmas decorations display would imprint on those viewing it. Those in the upper-middle class would use it to base what they would do for Christmas from it. During the season that house was must-see.

“John I just realized that karma has given back twice as good to Trish and Scott for what they have gone through,” Helen said. “it's not if but when they will get married.”

John laid there waiting for her to say something else but when he turned to look at her, she was already sleeping. It had been an emotionally exhausting day for her. It wasn't long until he joined her.

As soon as we got home Trish headed up to see her bedroom. Ruby had done a wonderful job. The satin sheets had been turned down to allow her to slide in. The heavy quit was folded and lay at the bottom of the bed. Trish first hung the clothing she had taken from her mother’s house. The housecoat and nightwear she had made for marriage plus a few other pieces of clothing. Going into the bathroom she saw it was stocked with everything she had asked for. Before changing into her full-length nightgown, she removed all the makeup off her face and washed.

When she came back downstairs, she discovered me laying on the couch watching a movie. She joined me. It didn’t take long till we fell asleep.

********

I’m not sure who woke up first, or if we did it together. It was almost nine o’clock. When we finally got off the couch, I started coffee while Trish checked her messages. She had eight from her mother and two from her younger sister. As she dialed her sister first, she put the speaker on.

“Hi sis, just a warning, Mom knows you didn’t come home last night. She called me because you were not answering your phone,” Tina said. “Are you alright?”

“Things couldn’t be better. I’m with Scott,” Trish said. “We just woke up. How is our mom?”

“She’s ecstatic. Dad says she keeps walking into the front room and the dining room as if she is trying to convince herself that it’s all real,” Tina said.

“Are you going to be joining us for our typical birthday lunch at Terry’s today?” Trish asked.

“No, I’m working from eleven to seven,” Tina said.

“Then I will tell you why moms so ecstatic today. Scott bought me my promissory ring last night. We broke the news to her over dinner,” Trish said. “It’s beautiful, I find myself looking at it constantly.”

“Congrats to the two of you. We could talk but it looks like mother is trying to call me so I’m going to shut it off while I shower and get ready for work. Love you bye,” Tina said before she hung up.

I handed Trish her coffee which she drank black. She took a sip of it and smiled as I put creamer and sugar in mine. I then leaned over and kissed her before saying, good morning love.

Then Trish’s phone rang again. “It’s my mom here we go again.” Throwing on the speaker. I listened.

“Good morning mom, Scott and I just got up. Happy birthday,” Trish said.

“Thank you, we were wondering if you and Scott could help us move our old furniture over to Terry’s and Robert’s,” Mom said. “Or do you want it?”

“Mom our apartment’s full, and Scott’s house would not compliment it,” Trish explained. “Outside of the modern kitchen and living room which is furnished it’s all filled with antiques.”

I nodded my head and lifted two fingers up and then hit my wrist with them causing Trish to chuckle.

“We can be there around eleven Mom,” Trish responded. “If that’s okay with you.”

“That’s perfect. Once the boys have loaded, we will order our lunch and go and pick it up,” Helen said. “By the time we get there they should have it all done. I will call Terry to let her know were comming.”

I quickly made us a couple of bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches for breakfast. At eleven we pulled into her parent's place. John and I started loading their furniture. John was looking forward to getting his garage back. Once loaded we headed over.

Terry’s and Robert’s house was fairly modern. It had an island in the kitchen where they could sit six. We would be setting up her parent's dining set after moving her current table and chairs to the garage. Roberts's younger brother was coming to get it. Their couch and chair would go downstairs in the boy's playroom.

There was one big problem Robert told me. It was the shrine Terry had in the corner. He explained that she built it to remind them how much an unknown man had done for them all. Over the years every time Mr. Claus was mentioned in the papers it was added to.

“Do you want it taken care of for good?” I asked.

“Hell yes, you never forget the blessings you been given, and we do try in our own way to pass it on. I just don’t need a reminder shoved down my face every day,” Robert said.

“Done let me take the fall,” I said. “It might be hot and heavy for a while but by the end of the day you will be free of it for good. Just follow my lead when we get back in the house.”

Robert and I carried the hutch in and pretended to get into an argument over where we should put it. After saying this was not solving anything, I went over to the shrine in the corner and started to rip it down.

“You can’t do that,” Terry said with emotions, “That’s my way of paying respect to him.”

“No,” I said. “You’ve made a man who can be as big an asshole as me your god. If he were here right now, he would be doing what I am doing because he would not approve of it.”

I continued ripping all the stuff up putting it on the kitchen island. Robert and I then continued on as dad passed the rest of the items down to us and we took it in. Terry had gone to their bedroom in tears. Once outside to get more stuff Robert thanked me.

When we were done moving the furniture, I went back to close up the back of the truck.

Terry followed me out and said, “You may be Trish’s friend but your no longer allowed in my house.”

“If that’s the way you want it,” I said, “fine by me.”

Robert, John, and I were sitting in the garage drinking a cold beer when Trish and Helen pulled up. As they walked to the house the stopped and said come on in lunch is here.

“We can’t,” Robert said. “Since Scott can’t go in as long as he is here, we won’t be going either. Under the circumstances, it might be best to plan to eat out here.”

“What happened,” asked Helen?

“Scott tore down your daughter’s shrine, and has been excommunicated,” John said. “We are all so glad he did.”

Nobody could understand why Trish started giggling, even her mother looked at her in puzzlement.

“Relax, let me go put my sister in place,” Trish said. “She’s about to get gum sacked with some truths. Let’s go in mom so I can talk to my sister in private while you get things set up for lunch.”

No sooner had Trish gone into the house when Terri was on her. I learned later I was given every foul name she could think of. When Trish got tired of the bull shit, she landed a right on her cheek.

“Just shut the ‘F’ up,” Trish said. “I’ve I had enough of you bull shit. Follow me to one of the bedrooms.”

As she did Terry said, “Why there is nothing you can say that is going to change my mind on anything.”

Once they were in the master bedroom Trish closed the door.

“Scott knows very well what kind of man Mr. Claus is and why he is that way,” Trish said. “He lives his life just trying to make sure the good he does outweigh the bad. Nothing more nothing less.”

“How in the hell would Scott know how Mr. Claus thinks?” Terry said. “Nobody knows who he is.”

“Scott does because it’s another one of his many disguises,” Trish said in complete honesty. “He was the priest that came into your life, and he gave you both a second chance. He was the one behind the five-year interest-free mortgage you got. I still do not know how or why he chooses those he helps out. Just be thankful that he does.”

“If that is true, why didn’t he tell me,” Terry asked?

“I’ve learned he has never admitted it to anyone,” Trish explained. “I myself discovered it by accident and still was not sure until someone else verified it.”

Between tears, Terry asked. “Who all knows?”

“A few police officers who work with him, me and now you. When I told him, I knew I had to promise to keep it a secret. Now I expect you to do the same,” Trish said. “It works so well this way because it allows him the freedom to live his life the way he wants. I want you to make peace with him.”

“Sis that will be easy to do,” Terry said. “We all know how much my family owes him. I promise sis If you do anything to hurt that man, I will kick your ass all the way to Mexico.”

Trish followed her sister back into the kitchen to see her reach up to the cupboard above the fridge and pull down an expensive bottle of scotch. Taking a glass, she put some ice in it and cracked open the bottle of scotch. After pouring some in she added some water and headed out towards the garage carrying the drink with her. Terry was going to do something she hadn’t done for years and that was to apologize to a man who wasn’t her father or husband.

“What did you say to her?” Helen asked Trish.

“Just the facts she needs to know,” Trish replied, “before her judgment becomes her belief.”

No sooner had she said that John and Robert were coming through the door. They explained that Terry wants to talk to Scott alone.

Terri still had tears in her eyes when she spoke. “Trish told me. Why didn’t you just tell me?”

She handed me the drink as I responded. “You wouldn’t have believed me. You needed to be shocked out of the reality you were in. Sometimes it’s the only way one can see the truth.”

“You are right, I wasn’t ready. It took Trish giving me her right to force me to listen,” Terry said. “Just so you know you’ll always walk on water in my eyes. My husband and I owe you so much. Let’s go in and eat.”

“Nah it’s been a while since I had an argument with one of the Malley women,” I said. “Can I milk it a bit more.”

“Sure, make fun of me now,” she said. “We don’t want the food to get cold so let's go eat.”

Trish and her mother had picked up the barbeque for lunch. We had chicken, ribs, baked beans, and fries. Surprisingly for some reason, it was better than normal. When they told me where they bought it, I knew why. The had ordered it from Bill’s restaurant.

Terry and Robert's sons we learned were with his parents for the weekend. During the meal, they discussed going to the legion dance that night. I asked Trish if she was going, and she replied she hadn’t gone in years. Then she surprised her father.

“Dad, is it too late to get one more set of tickets?” Trish asked.

“I don’t know let me call Stew and ask?” he responded.

We heard John learn that there was none available as they were sold out. I knew better. The legion management always held some back in case important people decided they wanted to come.

“John give me the phone,” I said. “Let me talk to him.”

John handed me the phone and before I spoke, I turned the speaker on.

“Stew, Its Scott. Do me a favor I want you to stop scratching your ass, sit down and pay attention,” I said in my normal strong voice. “The tickets John was looking for were for me and his daughter.”

“Nice try Scott but that’s bullshit. Tina is too young for you to look at, Terry’s married, and the ice princess has shot so many men down that it's believed by most that she’s a close closet lesbian,” Stew replied.

“Stew it’s Trish, answer me this. Do you know what is meant when Scott describes a woman as a ‘BBBB’?”

“Sorry for shooting my mouth Trish,” Stew said. “When we tried to set him up and failed, he would just say she’s not a ‘BBBB’ I’m safe. Why?”

“Because the first day he met me back in early March Scott said I was a ‘BBBB’ and that meant trouble,” Trish said. “Last night I accepted his promissory ring.”

“Unbelievable,” Stew said in shock. “Give me an hour and swing by and pick up the tickets. My wife is not going to believe this, I’m having a tough time coming to grips with it.”

I said, “thanks Stew” and hung up.

Terry looked at her mom and said, “Is this is for real.”

Helen replied, “We were having dinner together when we learned about it last night. I have been floating on air since I came home last night.”

Both of them started to tear up out of the joy they were expressing. Robert stuck out his hand and said congrats. I took it and said thanks. Trish had to show Terry her ring.

Just as we were pulling out Robert's brother drove in. Sitting with him in the passenger side of his truck was Linda.

“Trish looks like we will have to watch out,” I said. “That is, one pissed off young lady who’s going to be on the warpath.”

********

When we pulled into Stew’s place both he and his wife were at the front door waiting to invite us in. Dawn had to see the ring first thing. Stew had to pour us all a drink, so we ended up having a Rye and Coke.

“Scott, I better warn you, Lacy and her boys are the band that is playing tonight,” Dawn said. “You know the moment she sees you you’re going to be asked to sing a few tunes.”

“Look, let her know I will do four songs at the start of her second session,” I said, “but the catch is she has to have the band back me on a fifth with a rift of three or four cords which I will disclose to them.”

Stew tossed the tickets in front of me. I went to get my wallet out. He said to put it away it’s our way of saying congrats to the two of you.

“Dawn do you still have time to make a special liquor run before you set up the bar for the night?” I asked.

“For you yes,” she said. “What do you need?”

“Enough medium champagne for eight and everything that goes with it,” I said. “Not only did Trish get her ring yesterday, but it was her mother’s birthday. We are celebrating both tonight.”

Her eyes lit up and she said, “you willing to pay for the equipment and donate it to the legion?”

“Of course, as long as you don’t go overboard,” I said with a smile.

“What songs will you be singing,” Trish asked?

“According to Lacy, years ago Scott was hired at a concert as a grunt,” Dawn explained. “The artist playing was known for the playing of the blues. During a break in the concert, the artist overheard Scott say anyone can play someone else’s song. A true blues player can turn any song into the blues.”

“So, when the artist came back on stage, he called me out,” I said. “He didn’t figure I’d do it. I came out with a bottle of red wine in my hand, took the hat off his head stuck it on mine and sat down at the piano. I placed a single bottle of red wine on it and started playing a blues version of Neil Diamonds “Red Red Wine.”

“Lacy said when he started the song the crowd went silent, by the time he was done there were audible sounds of weeping. It was if they could feel his pain,” Dawn said. “The only instrument used was that piano.”

Trish said “If you were that good at playing music? Why didn’t you pursue it?”

“It wasn’t what I wanted in life,” I said. “I had other dreams to chase.”

It brought memories back to me of sitting at the piano at the neighbors to the north practicing the scales as he began teaching me his second love. For nine years twice a week I had trained on the piano. Peter had loved my hands because they were so delicate and agile.

Trish took my hand in hers,” I’m glad you did.”

It was almost four o’clock in the afternoon, we quickly went to Trish apartment and walked out with a bunch of clothes. I had to make five trips carrying her clothing on hangers to load them on a bar I used to tie thing down with at the back of the box. Thankfully, the dance started at nine.

Trish had to have a bubble bath before dressing after we had moved in all of the clothing she had brought over. I had her take a flute of wine with her. I went and put the truck back into the garage and brought out my ford explorer for the evening. I then went up and got ready.

I was in awe when Trish came down the steps dressed for the evening. She was wearing a long length low cut red dress with matching heels. Her red hair hung down resting on her shoulders. I had never seen her look so elegant. I was wearing black dress pants a blue shirt and a black sports coat.

When we arrived, everyone was there before us. During the band’s first break while at the bar to get more drinks, I passed John the gift I had for Trish. I told him that I was going to be called up to sing five songs. When I sang the fourth song by ‘Johnny Nash’ I wanted him to give it to his daughter. Sure, enough I got called up by Lacy.

I started by saying that there were four stages to the blues. The first was right after the breakup. I did my version of ‘Good time Charlies got the blues.’ The second was when time had taken you to the bottom. I had placed a bottle of red wine on the piano. I sat down and started playing Neil Diamond’s Red Red Wine making it a blues version. It sounded like the piano itself was weeping. At times while using one hand only on the piano I would grab the wine bottle and drink out of it. The way it came across it appeared that the wine was now my lover.

The third was the stage of nothingness. To illustrate that I sang a song made famous by Johnny Cash, Sunday Morning coming down. I watched John pass the gift to Trish as I started the fourth. The envelope covering the small card said to my ‘BBBB.’

I watched her open the envelope and read the flower sized card inside. It read to my beautiful bewitching bitchy bitch with love.

I started by saying that the fourth stage was when you started living again. I sang the song I can see clearly now.

Trish had handed the card to her mother. I watched as she read it. She still had a smile on her face as her tears flowed.

I said, “it is only after this journey is over that you realize you did it to yourself because you did not know what love was at all.”

That was when I had the band play the rift. Trish walked up to me with her tears flowing until she joined me on the stage as I wound down the ending of the song.

To the good ole boys who still call me a friend. Let me leave you with this warning as this song ends. When you see that Beautiful Bewitching Bitchy Bitch walking towards you, run. For the moment, your eyes meet hers a lifetime of Woman trouble has begun.

I led Trish on the dance floor. As the band played at my request lady in red. No one joined us but they gave us a stand ovation when we walked off the floor.

We got back to our table. John and Robert had gotten the champagne. We toasted Helen and congratulated her.

“Trish, you got to admit that Scott described you to a T when he called you a ‘BBBB” Helen said with pride. “I love it. Now open the gift.”

I watched as Trish unwrapped it slowly. Inside was two earnings that said ‘BB’ and a silver necklace with an ornament that said ‘BBBB.’ Both were made of small even diamonds.

Tina help Trish put the necklace on after she had put the earrings on. All the ladies thought the set was beautiful. Trish after smothering me in kisses had to run to the bathroom to see how she looked.

My girlfriend's mother looked at me while smiling and said, “Well done.”

********

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A note from Marlboro Man

second of five chapters three more to come


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Marlboro Man

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