Link back to Chapter 21
This is a work of fiction; I haven’t yet finished it, and it will probably get revised after it’s finished. It tells the story of Tom and Kelly’s marriage; readers of A Time to Mend will know that it will have a sad ending, but hopefully it will be a good story.
Note the things I said about revisions here.
We spent a relaxed week in Meadowvale, walking around the town, swimming at the open air pool, and occasionally going out to Myers Lake. There was a boat launch at the lake, and on a couple of occasions I borrowed Will and Sally’s canoe, loaded it onto the roof rack of my car, and took Becca canoeing; this was something we had done on the Thames when she was a young girl, but it had been years since we had been in a canoe together. The lake, of course, was a very different experience from the flowing water of the river; we paddled for half an hour or so, then sat quietly and let the canoe drift, watching the grebes swimming contentedly on the surface of the water, or diving without warning and reappearing a moment later further down the lake. Once we saw deer under the trees by the lakeshore, and a while later I thought I saw the grey shape of a coyote hiding furtively in the undergrowth, but by the time I pointed it out to Becca it had already disappeared.
I asked Becca if she was interested in meeting any more of our friends around town, and she said she wouldn’t mind doing a little of that, so we brought old Joanna Robinson over for tea one day and had a very enjoyable visit with her. Afterwards, Becca agreed with me; “That’s definitely an upper-middle-class accent”, she said.
“That’s what I thought, and I don’t think there’s any way she would have picked it up after she moved to Canada. Kelly says her husband almost completely lost his English accent before he died”.
“Really? She sounds like she just got here last week!”
“That’s what I thought. And then there’s the fact that I’ve never seen any photographs in her house dating back to before they came to Canada in 1929, and she’s never said anything to anyone – family or friends – other than that her husband was a farm labourer in the old country and he couldn’t find steady work over there”.
“Kind of amazing that they were able to afford to move here, then, don’t you think?”
“I never thought of that”, I said; “You’re right, it is surprising”.
“Have you ever talked to her about any of this?” Becca asked.
“I’ve got near it with her a couple of times, and she’s stonewalled me both times”.
“And her family members really don’t know anything?”
“I’ve never heard them say anything about it in all the years I’ve known them”, Kelly replied, “and I’m pretty close to Don and Ruth, because their mom is my aunt and we’ve always gotten along well. Tom thinks that the chances are that Mrs. Robinson has never told them anything and doesn’t want them to know. And he thinks that if we started asking them questions, they might ask her, and that might not be something she wants to have to deal with”.
“Why would she not want them to know?” Becca asked me.
“There are all kinds of possible reasons”, I replied. “Maybe they didn’t leave England in particularly pleasant circumstances; maybe there was a family quarrel or something”.
“Or maybe”, Becca said with a mischievous grin, “they were fugitives from the law, and their name wasn’t really Robinson at all!”
We laughed, and I said, “Well, all joking aside, like I said to Kelly once, I can understand why a person might not want to be asked those kinds of questions. When I first came here I didn’t really like being asked why I had come to Canada; I really didn’t want to be forever retelling the story of my quarrel with Dad, so I just gave general answers and changed the subject as quickly as I could. And if Mrs. Robinson really doesn’t want to talk about it – and it seems pretty clear to me that she doesn’t – then I think we should respect that”.
“She really seems quite fond of you, though”, Becca said.
“I like her too; I think she’s a grand old lady and I enjoy her company”.
One morning I took Becca down to meet old Charlie Blackie, warning her first, of course, that he would probably ask after the state of her soul. To my surprise, though, the old man behaved himself admirably, telling her how glad he was to meet her and how much he enjoyed visiting with me; we sat and drank coffee together and enjoyed half an hour of relaxed conversation, and then he apologized to us and told us he had to get back to work, as he had a customer coming just after lunch to pick up a sewing machine he had been repairing.
As we walked back to the house, Becca said, “Are you sure that was the same man you were talking to me about?”
“I’m as mystified as you are”, I replied; “I’ve never seen Charlie so docile”.
“Have you ever taken a woman to visit him before?”
I thought for a moment, and then said, “Just Mum, when you came over for our wedding, and come to think of it, he was pretty well-behaved with her, too. Well, who knew? Apparently Charlie doesn’t get after girls about their souls!”
“Are there even any women in his life?”
“He lost his wife about fifteen years ago; I don’t know how. I think there’s a daughter somewhere down east; he doesn’t talk about her very much, and I get the idea he doesn’t have much contact with her. I’ve got a vague idea that she’s in business of some kind, but beyond that, I’m not really sure”.
“I’m getting the idea there are definitely things he doesn’t talk about”.
“That would be true; he’s a private person, despite the fact that he’s very sociable. He’s never been very open about his personal life – at least, not while I’ve known him”.
Becca grinned; “That seems to be a common character trait among your elderly friends in Meadowvale”.
I laughed; “Well, with Mrs. Robinson and Charlie, anyway! We’ll get Kelly’s Grandma Reimer over one day and she’ll tell you so many stories about her life that your head will be spinning!”
That evening after supper I came into the living room to find Becca looking at the photographs on the wall.
“See anyone you know?” I asked as I crossed the room and stood beside her.
“Is there a particular reason why you’re displaying a picture of me when I was eleven?”
“Because you were so cute, of course!”
She turned and swatted me gently across the side of my head. “You can be a brat, you know, when you want to be!” she said with a grin.
“And apparently you can be a thug, too!”
She laughed, and then nodded toward one of the old family photos Kelly had recently had framed. “Who are those people?” she asked.
“Do you recognize Kelly’s Grandma Reimer?”
She leaned forward and peered closely at the photograph; “Is this her wedding picture?”
“Yes it is”.
“Was it taken in Meadowvale?”
“No, it was taken in the village of Rosenthal, in the Chortitza Mennonite colony in Russia, in 1920”.
“Wow”. She scrutinized the photograph for a moment, and then said, “Do you know who all the people are?”
“I know some of them, but Kelly knows them all”.
As if on cue, Kelly walked into the living room with Emma on her arm. “Did I hear my name?” she asked.
“Becca was asking about the people in this picture”.
“Right”. She came and stood beside us; “Well, the couple in the middle are my Grandpa and Grandma Reimer, Dieter and Erika; the picture was taken on their wedding day in 1920, in Chortitza”.
“That’s what Tommy was saying”.
“That’s their parents on either side of them; Peter and Anna Reimer, and Franz and Helena Rempel. Helena was from the Kroeger family; have you ever heard of Kroeger clocks?”
“No, I haven’t”.
“Well, they were very famous wall clocks; if you can find them today, they’re very valuable. My great-great grandpa, Helena’s father, was one of the best-known clockmakers in Chortitza”.
“So did your great-grandparents come to Canada too?”
“Anna Reimer did; she was the only one still alive in 1924. Her husband Peter died of starvation in 1922, and both of my grandma Reimer’s parents died of typhus in 1921”.
“Was there some kind of an epidemic?”
I smiled at Kelly; “Do you want me to take Emma?” I asked.
“Maybe”. She grinned at Becca apologetically; “Tom’s smiling because he knows that you’ve accidentally gotten me talking about something that’s become really important to me, but it may not be so interesting to you. I’ve spent a lot of time with my grandparents over the past few months finding out about my family history; I know a lot more now about the things they went through in Russia between 1917 and 1924, although there’s still a lot I don’t know. Do you want me to tell you some of it? I honestly won’t be offended if you’re not interested”.
“No, I don’t mind”, Becca replied; “I remember you mentioning something about it when we were in Edinburgh for Rick’s wedding, but it hasn’t really stuck in my mind”.
I held out my hands to Emma, and she gave me a big smile as Kelly passed her to me. “I’ll leave you to it”, I said; “I’m going to take Emma out to the back yard for a few minutes so she can help me pull some weeds”.
“Don’t let her eat dirt!” Kelly replied with a grin.
A couple of nights later I woke up at about one-thirty in the morning and realized I was still alone in our bed. I had left Kelly and Becca out on the deck at about ten-thirty; Kelly had told me she would be in to pray with me in a few minutes, but eventually I had fallen asleep waiting for her. It was a warm night and I was lying on top of the comforter; I got to my feet quietly, slipped out into the darkened corridor and checked that Emma was still sleeping peacefully in her room. I went out to the kitchen to get a glass of water, and it was then that I noticed the light on the deck. I filled up my glass at the kitchen sink, then went round to the sliding door at the back of the dining area; the door was open, and I slid open the screen and stepped outside. Kelly and Becca were still sitting in the wooden deck chairs on either side of the picnic table, a teapot and a couple of empty mugs between them, and the citronella candles burning around them. Kelly grinned at me apologetically; “I guess I didn’t make it in for prayers, did I?”
I leaned over and kissed her; “You two okay?” I asked.
“Girl talk”, she replied, nodding at Becca. I glanced at my sister, and saw immediately that she had been crying. I put my hand on her shoulder, and immediately she covered it with her own.
“I should go back inside”, I said softly; “I didn’t mean to interrupt”.
“Sorry, Tommy”, Becca whispered; “I didn’t mean to shut you out. It’s just that Kelly and I started talking, and then…”
I shook my head; “If and when you’re ready”, I said quietly.
“I’m not”, she said apologetically; “not yet, anyway”.
“That’s okay. I’ll leave you girls to it, then”.
Kelly smiled at me and put her hand on my arm as I went past; “Thanks”, she said; “I really will be in before too long. Is Emma okay?”
“Yeah, she’s still sound asleep”. I kissed her again, and then went back inside.
The story eventually came out a few days later, around a campfire at Whistler’s Campground in Jasper; we had come up to the mountains after spending three days with Krista and Steve at Waskesiu. It was a warm evening; after a day at Maligne Lake we had come home to cook our supper and eat, and then we had wandered with Emma for a while. She was the kind of toddler who loved everything about being outdoors; she wanted to splash in every stream and stop to listen to every strange noise, and every time she saw one of the elk who wandered freely through the campground at Whistler’s she would squeal with delight, and we would have to restrain her from trying to run over and give it a hug.
It took her a long time to settle down when we got back to our campsite; she finally fell asleep in the tent at around nine-thirty, and then I boiled water over the camp stove, and the three of us sat around the small fire I had made, drinking hot chocolate and eating roasted marshmallows. Becca was sitting to the left of me, and Kelly to my right, in a rough semi-circle around the fire pit. Whistler’s is a big campground; we could hear the occasional sounds of talking and laughter from other nearby campsites, and now and again campers would walk past the entrance to our site in the gathering dark. We talked about our day at Maligne Lake and the other places we had seen so far on our trip, and eventually, without any sort of prompting from Kelly or me, Becca started talking about Peter.
“How long have you known him?” I asked gently.
“Ever since I went up to high school in Wallingford. He’s actually from Wallingford; he was a year ahead of me, and we were both swimmers. That’s how we met. But we were friends for five years before we started going out”.
She looked down at the empty mug on her lap. “He’s not just a swimmer”, she said, “he’s a distance runner too, and a really good student. He’s in sciences – he wants to be a marine biologist. He’s going up to Cambridge in September to read biology, I think, but I’m not really sure; I haven’t actually spoken to him since the end of May”.
She was quiet for a moment, and I leaned forward and tossed another log on the campfire. We watched as the flames licked around it and the wood began to crackle, and then she said, “He asked me out last June, about the same time you told us that Kelly was going to have chemo. I was really happy; I’ve liked him for a long time, and occasionally I thought perhaps he liked me too. It turned out that he did, and we spent most of last summer doing things together”. She smiled ruefully; “I might have been a bit obsessed”, she said, “but he was really good to me, kind and considerate, and he was always lots of fun”.
She glanced at me; “You know I’ve always been ‘Becca’, ever since I can remember; that’s the name I liked, and everyone’s always called me that. But Peter always called me ‘Rebecca’; I didn’t like it at first, but eventually I got used to it, and then I actually liked it a lot; it sounded – well, sort of formal and courtly, you know? As if we were in Camelot or something. And he was never ‘Pete’ – always ‘Peter’. That’s the way it was for us for the first few months – he was playful and romantic and fun, but he was always gentle and respectful as well”.
“You loved him”, I said softly.
She nodded, and I saw the tears in her eyes. “Totally”, she said; “He was my first real boyfriend, and I fell for him, head over heels”.
I reached over and took her hand in mine, and she smiled, and wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her fleece top. “It was like he was my safe place”, she said. “Mum does her best, like you said, but she can’t change Dad, and you know what it’s like around our house – when he’s home, it’s like tiptoeing through a minefield. Of course, it’s not like I haven’t got good friends, like Stevie and Corinna – and Chrissie – or at least, Chrissie was my friend…”. She shook her head; “But he was my safest place”, she continued. “I knew he’d always be gentle and he’d never intentionally hurt me or put me down or anything like that”.
“That must have been really special”, Kelly said softly.
“Yes, it was. While it lasted”.
She lapsed into silence again, and I waited, knowing that she would continue the story when she was ready. Kelly drained her mug, leaned over and put it down on the ground beside her chair. I glanced at her surreptitiously, knowing that she had been burning the midnight oil a few times with Becca; even now, nearly six months after she had been given a clean bill of health, I couldn’t stop myself from feeling protective of her or feeling anxious that she would tire herself out.
“He wanted to sleep with me”, Becca said suddenly, and I could see that she was watching for my reaction.
“He told you that?” I asked, trying to keep my voice even.
“Not at first. Sometimes when we went for walks we would kiss a lot. And sometimes when I was out babysitting he would come by after the kids were asleep, and then, well, you know, we’d make out a bit on the couch…”
I opened my mouth to speak, but Kelly put her hand on my arm, and I waited for Becca to continue.
“I didn’t want to go any further than that, but I soon realized that he did. This would have been back in February or March. He kept trying to go further than I wanted to. He wasn’t rough with me or anything, but he kept after me about it. Then one night when Mum and Dad were out late at a party he came over to the house, and – well, that’s when I finally let him…”
“Please tell me that you used some sort of protection”, I said.
She looked at me, and I saw that her eyes were wet. “Please don’t be mad at me, Tommy”, she said desperately; “I knew you’d be upset, and that’s why I didn’t want to tell you…”
I shook my head, leaned forward and took her hand again. “I’m sorry”, I said; “I didn’t mean to sound like I was angry. I’m not Dad, Becs; I’m just me. Tell me what you want me to know, and I promise I won’t judge you or anything like that”.
She blinked back her tears, squeezed my hand, and said, “I really didn’t enjoy it, Tommy; I was so afraid that Mum and Dad might come home early and find us, or something like that. But he wanted it so much, and I loved him and I didn’t want to disappoint him…”
“Did he force you?” I asked.
“No, it wasn’t like that. He knew I wasn’t wild about the idea, but I didn’t tell him he couldn’t”. I saw the sudden understanding dawn on her face, and she said, “You’re asking me if he raped me, aren’t you?”
“I guess I am”.
“No, he didn’t force me. But afterwards I was upset; I tried to hide it, but I think he knew it. We slept together three or four times after that, always at his house when his mum and dad were out – I should have said that he’s the youngest son, and the only one left at home. But I could never shake that fear of us being discovered, and I don’t think it was very enjoyable for him”.
“So he started looking elsewhere”, I said softly.
She nodded, and I saw the tears in her eyes again. “I knew he and Chrissie had become friends through the swim team, but I didn’t know that she fancied him too”.
“How did you find out?”
“He told me himself, if you can believe it”. She smiled grimly; “He was very gentlemanly about it at first; he said he could see that I wasn’t happy with him any more, and so maybe it would be better if we parted so that we could each find someone more suited to our needs. I don’t know why – just instinct, maybe – but I asked him if he had someone in mind, and at first he tried to avoid the question, but eventually he admitted he’d been seeing Chrissie for a few weeks. And then I got angry with him and started shouting at him; I asked him if he thought she’d be any better in bed than I was, and that was when he lost his temper and said yes, actually, she was much better than me, and they’d been having some pretty wild times together”.
“Bastard!” I whispered.
Again she shook her head; “I wish I could just be mad at him like that; it would be so much easier if I could. I’ve called him names like that, and worse, but the thing is…” Her voice petered out and she put her hand over her mouth, the tears running down her face.
“You’re still in love with him”, I said.
“I’m pathetic, aren’t I?” she sobbed.
I got up then, took her hand, and said, “Come here”. She got to her feet, and I put my arms around her and hugged her. “You’re not pathetic”, I said, continuing to hold her close; “He was wrong to put pressure on you to have sex when you really didn’t want to, and he was wrong to betray you when he wasn’t getting what he wanted out of you. And now you still love him, and he’s hurt you very, very badly, and so you’re confused and you can’t figure out what you should feel”. I leaned back, looked at her, and said, “I know what I feel; I want to find him, hold him down, and remove some of his body parts without the benefit of anesthetic!”
She laughed suddenly through her tears; “Oh, Tommy!” she said, “I’ve been so scared to tell you about this; I wanted to, but I was scared you’d be angry at me”.
I hugged her again; “Not angry at you at all”, I replied. “I know it was hard for you to talk about this with me, what with you being a girl and me being a boy, and your big brother too”.
I felt her nodding against my shoulder; “Kelly told me to trust you. She was right, of course”.
“I’m guessing you haven’t told anyone else about it”.
“Well, everyone at school knows he dumped me and moved on, but no one knows the details, no. Kelly was the first person I told”.
I heard Kelly get to her feet, and I felt her putting her arms around the two of us. “You were right to tell us”, she said softly; “You needed to talk to someone about it; it must have been hard for you to carry this around all by yourself for the last two months”.
“Yes – I know Mum suspects something, but of course, I was even more scared of talking to her about it. And as for Dad…”
“Yeah, enough said”, I replied.
After a moment the three of us separated; Becca took out a handkerchief and wiped her eyes, and we sat down again. “So you wanted to get away so that you wouldn’t have to see him all summer, right?” I asked.
“It wasn’t that I didn’t want to see you, too”, she replied, “but the main thing was to get as far away as I could. Not that I’d usually see him in Northwood, but you know, we go into Wallingford fairly often, and…”
“Yeah. But by the time you go home, it’ll only be about three weeks until term starts in Cambridge”.
“Yes. Of course, I’ll have to go to school in Wallingford, but hopefully I won’t see him before he leaves town. I really need to find a way of getting him out of my head before term starts, or I’m going to be totally messed up for the Upper Sixth, and I’ve really got to concentrate and work hard”.
At that moment we heard a whimper from the tent, and then a little cry. Kelly got to her feet; “I think she’s dreaming”, she said; “I’ll go make sure she’s okay”. She got to her feet and put her hand on Becca’s shoulder. “I’m going to get into my sleeping bag pretty soon”, she said; “Do you mind? I’m actually really tired”.
“Of course I don’t mind! I’m sorry, Kelly; I’ve been keeping you up late a lot, and I know you need to get your rest”.
“No need to apologize; I like sitting up and talking with you. Okay, I’d better go and settle her down again”.
She went over to the tent, bent to unzip the door, and slipped inside, zipping it up again behind her. I looked across at my sister; “Are you okay?” I asked.
“I will be. I feel a lot better now I’ve told you the story”.
“Thanks for trusting us; we don’t take that for granted”.
She was quiet for a minute, and then she said, “Tommy, thank you for marrying Kelly”.
I laughed softly; “I think I know what you mean, but it sounds funny to hear you say it”.
“I’ve never met anyone like her”, she said; “She really cares about people, and she’s so genuine and honest. And after all she’s been through, to care about my stuff the way she does…”
“Yeah, I know I’m a lucky man”.
“We all are. It sounds cheesy, but she’s the best person I know”.
“It doesn’t sound cheesy at all. And just so you know, I agree with you”.
She stretched her arms over her head and said, “So, on a completely different subject, what are we going to do tomorrow?”
“Well, if the weather’s good, I might take you on a long hike up a steep slope”.
“What about Kelly and Emma?”
“Kelly told me to take you on a couple of long hikes, so you wouldn’t miss out on everything that Jasper can offer. What do you think? Do you feel ready for something pretty strenuous?”
“I’m game; where are we going?”
“Edith Cavell Meadows.”
“That’s the big white mountain behind Whistler’s, right?”
“Yes, but we won’t be climbing the mountain itself; you need ropes and pitons to do that. The Meadows trail climbs the ridge beside the mountain, on the other side of the glacial pool. You drive up to the parking lot, and then it’s about a three kilometre hike to the top of the trail, with about a five hundred metre elevation, so it’s fairly steep at times. But the views are spectacular; it’s my favourite hike in Jasper”.
“How long does it take?”
“From the parking lot, it takes me about two hours to the top, and an hour back down. But of course, if the weather’s nice, there’s no hurry. And then we can cool off in Annette Lake afterwards”. I grinned at her; “What do you think – are you up for it?”
“I think I am”.
We got back to Meadowvale on August 11th, a couple of days before Becca’s seventeenth birthday. We had been gone for just over two weeks; we had spent the first three days with Steve and Krista and little Michael in Prince Albert National Park, going swimming and canoeing, along with a little horseback riding and a lot of sunbathing on the beach. Emma and Michael had gotten to know each other a little better, and Krista and Steve had made Becca very welcome, as I knew they would.
From there we had driven straight to Jasper, where we had camped at Whistler’s for a week. We had taken Becca down to the Columbia Icefields and shown her the glaciers; we had done the spectacular boat trip to Spirit Island on Maligne Lake, and we had walked Maligne Canyon with Emma riding in a child carrier backpack on my back. Becca and I had done our hike up the Mount Edith Cavell trail, we had all gone canoeing at Pyramid Lake several times, and we had ridden the tramway up the side of Whistler’s Mountain and then hiked to the top, with me carrying Emma on my back once again. And on our last full day in Jasper we had driven west across the B.C. border to Mount Robson Provincial Park, where we had hiked up to Kinney Lake and back, enjoying the luxurious vegetation on the western slope of the Rockies, and the deep green of the lake with the grey mountains rising steeply on every side.
At the end of the week we had driven east to Edmonton, where we had enjoyed the music at the Folk Music Festival for three nights. The musical styles were more to my taste and Kelly’s than Becca’s, but she told us that she was enjoying herself nonetheless, wandering from stage to stage listening to the many different performers, sampling food at the various food tents, and just generally breathing in the atmosphere of the event. “I feel like I’m at Woodstock or something”, she said to us on the Saturday afternoon while we were sitting on the hill in Gallagher Park, eating pizza and looking down on the main stage.
“You look the part, too”, I replied, gesturing toward her cut-off jeans, psychedelic-coloured tee-shirt, and open sandals. “All you need now is some beads and a headband”.
She laughed; “If Dad could see me now!” she said.
After the festival was over we drove down to Saskatoon where we spent a night with Brenda and Gary and Ryan; Ryan was nearly four now, and of course he and Emma knew each other well. Brenda and Gary both took a night off work to be with us; Gary barbecued steaks for us, and afterwards we had a long and enjoyable conversation over a bottle of wine. That was when Brenda told us hesitantly, watching Kelly out of the corner of her eye, that she had just discovered she was expecting another baby at the beginning of March. We all congratulated them, but I knew Kelly well enough to know that beneath her cheerful smiles and good wishes she was struggling not to cry, and I was pretty sure that Brenda knew it too. Before we went to bed I saw the two of them talking quietly together, leaning back against the kitchen sink, and before they parted for the night they hugged each other for a long time.
It was an easy drive back up to Meadowvale the next day; we left the city after lunch and we pulled into our driveway around two-thirty in the afternoon. Emma was visibly delighted to be home, and she ran through the house, checking every little nook and cranny to make sure everything was in its proper place, before settling down in the living room to get reacquainted with her friends in the toy box. Kelly went through the house herself, opening windows and letting the fresh air in, before starting a load of laundry, unpacking all our camping gear and putting it back on the shelves in the basement.
Becca disappeared into her room for a while; I helped Kelly with the camping gear, answered some telephone messages and drove down to the Co-op to get some groceries, and then came home and made a pot of coffee. The door to Becca’s room was not quite closed, so I poured her a mug of coffee and then knocked lightly; “Are you awake, Becs?” I asked. “I poured you some coffee”.
“Come in, Tommy”, she replied.
I pushed the door open to find her sitting cross-legged on her bed writing in her journal, with the curtains closed and a fan blowing warm air across the room. “It’s a bit warm in here”, she said with a grin.
I put the mug down on her bedside table. “There’s a nice breeze outside”, I said, “but it’s not blowing from the right direction to get into this room. You might find it more comfortable out on the deck; I was going to rig up the umbrella to keep the sun off the table anyway”.
“I just wanted to be alone for a while”, she said; “I got behind writing up my journal while we were in Edmonton, and I wanted to get it all down while it was fresh in my mind”. She smiled at me; “It was a wonderful trip, Tommy; one of the best holidays I’ve ever had. Thank you”.
“You’re welcome. I’m going to go out to the deck now and rig up that umbrella, and then I might just fall asleep in my chair out there. Come and wake me up when you’re ready; I’ve got something I need to ask you about, but it’ll keep until you’re done”.
She woke me up about half an hour later; I had taken my coffee and my current book out there, but the warm air and the gentle afternoon breeze had done their work, and I had very quickly fallen asleep. I woke to the touch of her hand on my arm; “I poured you a fresh cup”, she said with a grin; “Yours was cold”.
“Thank you”, I replied with a yawn, sitting up in my chair; “Where’s Kelly and Emma?”
“Kelly told me to tell you she was taking Emma down to the swimming pool, and we could meet them there if we wanted”.
“Sounds good”, I replied, taking a sip from the mug she had filled for me.
“What was it you wanted to ask me about?” she said, sitting down across the picnic table from me with the umbrella shading her face from the sun.
“Ah, yes, well, Will and Sally have gotten wind of the fact that Thursday’s your birthday”.
“I wonder who might have told them?” she replied reproachfully.
“Well, that’s for me to know and you to find out!”
She laughed; “So, what’s going on?” she asked.
“Nothing that you don’t want to go on. Will just told me that he and Sally haven’t seen as much of you as they’d have liked so far, and if you were okay with it, they’d be glad to host a little party for you on Thursday night”.
“Who would be there?”
“Relatives, I expect”.
She looked at me archly; “Tommy, you have rather a lot of them!”
“I guess I do”, I replied with a grin. “Well, Will thought he’d invite Joe and Ellie and the kids, and apparently Krista and Steve and Mike are coming tomorrow – which, by the way, I didn’t know”.
“So this would be a gathering of Will and Sally’s family, for my birthday”.
“Something like that”.
“I think I could go along with that!”
“I somehow thought you would”.
And so Becca’s last two weeks with us went by; it would be wrong to say that they went fast, because we spent the days as lazily as we could, and in fact, for two or three of them, we did nothing all day except play with Emma, take her to the swimming pool in the afternoon, and sit out on the deck reading. Becca, like me, enjoyed reading, and she had been raiding my bookshelves, sampling authors she had never heard of before, as well as revisiting a couple of old favourites. On two or three mornings Kelly left Emma with me and took Becca up to Hugo and Millie’s to ride the horses, and once again, on a couple of warm nights, the two of them sat up late on the deck, drinking herbal tea and talking.
“What are you guys talking about out there?” I asked Kelly one morning.
“Lots of things”, she replied. “We’re still talking about the whole Peter thing but we’ve also got onto your dad…”
“Ah; she and I have had that conversation as well”.
“Yeah, well, it’s a big one. And then there’s a whole big theme called ‘life’, what’s important and what’s not important, what works and what doesn’t, and all that. Oh, and stories, too – she’s very interested in what it was like to grow up here, and in my family history, and we’ve even touched on Christianity a few times”.
“I’m glad you guys are getting on so well”.
“So am I, but I’m going to back off for the last few days, Tom”.
“Because she’s your sister, and I feel like I’ve kind of monopolized her while she’s been here”.
“No, not at all; like you said, she needed someone she could talk girl talk with. She’s got friends, but a sister’s different, if she’s a sister you can get along with. I feel that way about Joe, you know; he’s the brother I can get along with”.
“Yeah, I know. But anyway, I think you should take her out to the lake a couple more times and just keep her to yourself for a few hours”.
“Might be hard; she’s pretty taken with Emma too”.
“Yeah, I guess that’s true!”
Becca flew home on Monday August 24th; I was starting work the next day. We had a few people over for supper the night before to say their goodbyes, and then Kelly and Emma and I drove her down to Saskatoon the following afternoon to catch the overnight flight.
When it came time for her to leave us and go through security she clung to us desperately. “I wish I didn’t have to go”, she said to me; “This has been my best ever holiday”.
“It’s been great to have you”.
“I’m better, Tommy; I want you to know that”.
“Yes; I don’t mean that I’m completely over Peter, but I’m in a much better frame of mind than I was five weeks ago”.
“That’s good, then”.
She turned to Kelly, and the two of them put their arms around each other and held each other tight. “You be sure to write, now”, Kelly said, “and call me any time. I’ll always be glad to hear from you”.
“Thank you – and thank you for everything”. Becca stepped back, and I saw the emotion on her face. “Will you be coming to England next year?” she asked me.
“I don’t know”, I replied, glancing at Kelly, “but if we’re not, you come back again. If money’s an issue, we’ll send you the fare. We’ve talked about this”.
She hugged me again, and then picked Emma up and said, “Don’t forget me now, Em; I’m your Auntie Becca, remember?”
Emma nodded solemnly, and then put her arms around Becca’s neck. “Aw, that’s a nice hug for Auntie Becca”, Kelly said.
Becca kissed Emma, smiled at her, and said, “Right – Auntie’s got to go, now”. She slung her backpack over her shoulder, hugged Kelly and me one more time, and said, “I’ll ring you when I get home”.
“You be sure to do that”, I said, “and give Mum and Dad my love”.
Link to Chapter 23