Hidden Love – Chapter 11 and 12
After Millie left, Vivian sighed as she relaxed in her favorite chair, and leaned against the crocheted antimacassar. She enjoyed the success they had in Atlantic City, but she wanted something more in her life than coming home with some extra pin money.
“I wonder if I should get a dog?” she mused out loud. Her one worry was that, at her advanced age, she may outlive the poor thing and leave it orphaned in the world. Then she shook off such maudlin thoughts as a momentary lapse.
The sound of her house phone pulled her out of her reverie.
“Moore residence. How may I help you?”
There was a long pause, and Vivian thought that the caller had hung up. Just as she pulled the phone away from her ear, she heard a tentative young female voice.
“Um, is this Vivian Walker who used to live in Richmond, Indiana? And who went to Port Richmond High School?”
Oh, this must be a follow up call from the information she sent in on the website for the upcoming reunion that she had read about.
“Why, yes, dear, although the last name is Moore, now. Are you with the reunion committee?”
“Not really. My name is Christine Jackson, and my grandfather is William Jackson. Do you know him?”
Vivian’s heart gave an almost painful thump as the words registered. She swallowed against her suddenly-dry throat as she answered, “Yes, I believe I went to school with your grandfather.”
~ ~ ~
Christine exhaled loudly, not even realizing she had held her breath. So this was the Vivian mentioned in Pop Pop’s letters! She jumped out her chair with excitement, forgetting the cord on the phone as the base fell off the desk with a thump. She quickly leaned down, picked the base up, and set it back in place, careful not to hit any buttons.
“Hello? Are you still there?” said the tinny voice from the earpiece. Christine pulled it back to her ear.
“Yes, yes, sorry, I dropped the phone. I’ve wanted to talk to you since I found the letters.”
“Yes,” Christine said, “I was restoring an old family heirloom and I found these letters between you and my grandfather.”
Vivian was surprised. “I had no idea that those letters even existed. How did you ever find them?” She paused for a moment. “How is your grandfather?”
“He is well. We work together at the shop.” Christine explained in detail the events that led up to their discovery. “So I was curious about you. Do you plan to come back to Richmond for the reunion?”
“My dear, I wouldn’t miss it for the world!” Vivian beamed. This was by far the most exciting thing that had happened in a long time.
“Then, would like to talk about a plan of mine?”
“Bill: The letters you send me sometimes give me the shivers when I think of you so far away. Just last week, we received word from a military chaplain that Bobby Glaser was killed at some place called The Hurting Forest or something like that. They said he is a hero, but his mother cried and cried. Why did he have to die in Germany, so far from home?
Every day, I pray that you will return to me safely. Please please be careful! All my love, Viv”
~ ~ ~
Ever since his grandmother was back from Atlantic City, she seemed to be distracted. Although it had been over a week since she returned, she hadn’t butted into his life once. When he asked her, she became evasive.
Paul was a little worried, but not unduly. Often his grandmother was involved in one scheme or another, and, with the exception of a few daredevil moments, none of them had ever frightened him.
He was finishing up the morning’s reconciliation when his cell phone rang. It was the captain from his fire station.
“Paul, is there any way you can pull an extra shift this weekend? Billy came down with some type of stomach bug, and we need driver for the rig. It would only be for a half-shift; we got coverage after midnight. We would just need you from 1800 hours until then.”
Paul thought for a moment. “Sure, I’ll try and get there by then, but I have to stop by my house and get my uniform. I’ll try and knock off early at work. How’s that work for you, Billy?”
“Sounds good. Thanks for the last-minute help.”
~ ~ ~
The crew was cleaning up from dinner when Paul arrived at the fire station. After a round of hellos, he placed his turnout gear by the engine, and wandered back in to the living quarters of the building.
Like most fire stations, it was built for twenty-four hour use. Upstairs was a series of one- and two person bunkrooms with sturdy comfortable twin beds and lockers. In the center of the upper floor was a common area, used for meetings, station parties, or training. A corner was devoted to exercise, with mats, free weights, and cardio machines.
Downstairs was a complete kitchen with industrial appliances and a large wooden dining table, scarred from decades of use and almost legendary. Paul filled his water bottle, and smiled at the dayshift captain. He went to high school with him, and briefly dated his sister. The auburn-headed man smiled.
“Hey Paulie, thanks for covering. I hate it when we are shorthanded” Paul clapped him on the back.
“No worries, Jack. Hey, how is Becka?” The question was asked out of politeness. Jack’s sister had recently returned to Baltimore, a newly-inked divorce decree in her hand. She had contacted Paul several times since her arrival, but he always found excuses to gently avoid her.
Jack’s smile dimmed a bit. “She still smarting over what happened, but we hope that she can start over, and with someone better than that two-timing bastard.” He eyed Paul speculatively. “I don’t suppose…”
Paul threw his hands up in a warding gesture, and Jack’s smile returned.
“Okay, she can be a bit overbearing,” Jack conceded, “But she is my baby sister. I promise I block her if I can. Next time, okay?” His friend’s eyes shifted just as they heard the sound of heels clicking across the concrete driveway.
“Oh Paul, I didn’t know you would be here,” a voice trilled, and he inwardly winced, just before he was enveloped in a cloud of expensive perfume. He smiled perfunctorily.
“Hello Becka.” She was wearing a tight-fitting knit top and a short pencil skirt. She grabbed his shoulder with a hand armed with long red nails. She kissed his cheek and trailed her hand down his arm before stepping back. Paul winced a little, but the welcoming sound of the alarms cut off any chance of communication.