Hidden Love – Chapter 9 and 10
Christine hummed as she rinsed vegetables in sink. These were the last of the tomatoes and green peppers from the garden; the fall days were getting cooler and soon the maple leaves outside the kitchen window would change into their brief but glorious burst of color. She collected the makings of a couple of sandwiches, and carried it to the table.
She had just finished slicing the tomatoes when there was a knock at the door and a cheerful “Halloo!”
“I’m in the kitchen, Gina,” she called out as she arranged the red circles on a dish. She rinsed her hands just as her older sister strolled in. By tacit agreement, they had lunch once a week together to stay in touch. This week was Christine’s turn.
Despite the same genetic makeup, the two sisters looked different. The dark brown hair and the wide-spaced light blue eyes were similar, but Christine’s shorter and more rounded stature came from their Italian mother’s side of the family. There was a seven year span between the siblings, and Gina had already been a young adult at the time of their parent’s loss.
Gina reached over and filched a slice of provolone cheese. “Is Pop-pop around?”
“He should be coming in shortly for lunch. How’s the job going?” Her sister shrugged as she leaned against the island. She worked as a nurse practitioner in the Emergency Department of Reid Hospital in town, and frequently pulled extra hours.
“I have two nurses out sick, but, since hunting season doesn’t start for another month, we aren’t too busy right now.” Her eyes focused on her younger sibling.
“There’s a new x-ray technician at the hospital. He’s 24, single and cute. Since he’s from Indianapolis, I thought maybe you could show him around.” Christine threw her hands up in a warding gesture.
“Oh, no you don’t. I’m not interested in any matchmaking attempts! Besides, can’t I look for a significant other myself?” Gina opened her mouth to reply, but they were interrupted. Instead, she grumbled under her breath, “Yeah, but you never do.”
“There are my two favorite girls!” Their grandfather’s voice boomed from the mudroom behind the house. After hugs all around, the trio sat down and applied themselves to their food. After a second round of iced tea and lemon cookies, the conversation moved to more personal subjects.
“So, Gi,” Ned began, “how are things going with you and Brett?”
Gina’s smile was quick. “He’s gone this week to Owensboro on a job. He should be back by Saturday.” Gina’s fiancé specialized in rehabbing old office buildings for current and future electrical and IT needs.
Ned nodded, and Gina went on. “I wanted to tell my sister about the new guy at the hospital…”
“Pop-pop has love letters from an old flame.” Christine interrupted, desperate to divert the conversation and not afraid to use her beloved grandfather. It was effective as Gina stopped midsentence. “Love letters?”
“Now, Chrissie,” Ned began, squirming a bit under his older niece’s scrutiny.
“In fact, I’ll go get them! I’ll clean up afterwards.” Christine bounced from the seat and hurried through the mudroom to the workshop and her grandfather’s office, grateful to miss that bullet.
Gina looked up from the last piece of brittle paper, carefully set it down on the coffee table, and leaned back into the nubby fabric of the green sofa. “So Pop-pop was a stud.”
Christine all but rolled her eyes, but a chuckle from her grandfather had her glancing his way. She decided to come to his defense.
“Pop-pop, you’re still a good-looking man. Maybe you ought to find a companion for, you know, companionship.”
Gina narrowed her eyes at her little sister. Their grandfather just shook his head.
“I’m too old to start with someone new, and I’m happy the way things are. Well,” he said as he stood up, “Time to check and update with the crew. Always good to see you, Gi” He hugged his older niece, rapped knuckles with the younger, and headed back out, taking care to scoop up the old letters off the coffee table.
“Alright, Chrissie,” Gina started, “What are you up to? I recognize that gleam in your eyes.”
Christine felt a little defensive. “I think we should try and track down his old flame, see if she is still alive and single, and have the two meet again.”
“Don’t you realize how many holes that crazy idea has?”
“If Pop-pop managed to find love at his age, wouldn’t you be happy for him?”
Gina paused for a moment. “I guess I never thought about it, but you’re right. Pop-pop has the right to happiness. What do you think we should do?”
~ ~ ~
Christine stepped into the hallowed halls of Richmond High School, pausing for a moment to look at the crest emblazoned in the terrazzo tile of the foyer. The building had been in use for many years, although it had expanded several times during the years. The administration department was still housed in the original portion.
Stepping into the office, she smiled at the receptionist.
“Hi, Heather, how are you doing today?”
Her former classmate smiled. “I’m doing pretty well.” She patted her rounded stomach. “But I’ll be glad when this one finally makes an appearance.”
“Not much longer now, right?” Christine asked.
“Due date is a month away. What brings you here today?”
Christine said, “I’m curious about the upcoming reunion. Is anyone signed up from Pop-pop’s time here? I want to see if I could arrange a luncheon or meeting for him with his old friends.”
Heather reached behind her and pulled a bulging file out of a cabinet. “I haven’t really paid attention,” she said, “I’ve been letting the volunteers do most of the data entry and follow up, since they’ll be taking over when I go on maternity leave.” She flipped through a couple of pages.
“You already know almost everyone who is signed up. Hmm,” she said thoughtfully, “Here is a new name: Vivian Walker, from Baltimore, MD.”
Christine felt a rush of excitement. It felt right; this had to be the Vivian from her grandfather’s letters. She tried to sound nonchalant as she asked, “Is there any way you can give me her contact information?”