Friday, December 21, 2012
Chapter Twenty Six
“Why didn't I tell you?” Emily was trying to keep from screaming at him. “Nick, you were nowhere to be found. My dad was ready to call in a private detective but I wouldn't let him. You left Camden Corners and never looked back.”
Emily's mother took Molly by the hand. “Mommy is busy, dear,” she said “why don't we wait out here for her.”
“Is Mommy mad at that man, Grandma?”
“No, dear, I'm sure they are just having a business discussion.” Peggy Ryan recognized Nick immediately. She had only met him a couple of times eight years ago but her granddaughter was unmistakably his child. Peggy couldn't hate the man, because of him, little Molly had come into their lives. She was the apple of her grandfather's eye. After many miscarriages, she finally gave birth to their only child, Emily. Peggy blamed herself for the predicament Emily found herself in when she became pregnant. Peggy didn't want to acknowledge Emily was growing up. She coddled her well into her teens. Any talk of sex and precautions embarrassed her. There was time enough for that when Emily was preparing for marriage. As it turned out, Emily had not married. It wasn't as though she didn't have offers. Even as a single mother, there were boys in town who would be more than happy to take on the responsibility of a ready made family. Emily was perfectly happy being on her own. She was financially capable of providing for herself and her daughter. They had a small, cozy home a few blocks away from Emily's parents. Although Emily never mentioned his name, Peggy suspected she was still in love with Nicolas Jordan.
“Shall we go look at the wooden Camden Corners village under the big Christmas tree again. We can watch the train go around.”
“Emily, I'm so sorry. I had no idea. I owe you an explanation of why I never called. I am finding it hard to believe we have a daughter together.”
“Nick, we didn't exactly have Molly together. As I recall, you weren't there when I was suffering from morning sickness. When everyone in town was wondering why Emily Ryan was putting on weight. When I had to tell my parents that their little girl was pregnant. You weren't anywhere near when I went into labor and experienced the worst pain of my life. My parents stood by me and my friends didn't give up on me even though I was an unwed teen mother. We weren't together through these last 7 years of our daughter's life. No, Nick, we didn't have Molly together because you never bothered to call me eight years ago.”
“Emily, I never did forget about you. I had my reasons for not calling you. I'd like to explain if you will give me a chance.”
Emily wanted to tell him she wasn't interested in his excuses. She made a mistake years ago but Molly was the result of that mistake and she would always be happy for that. She was curious as to what he would say. “Go ahead and explain. This should be a doozy.”
“I know you believed I was a friend of the Wallaces. The truth is, I was a charity case. Mrs. Wallace was going through her do-gooder stage. She plucked me out of the ghetto, cleaned me up and showed me how the rich people lived. I think she wanted to use me as an example to her son Chad that if he wasn't careful, he could end up in the slums like me.
“The month I spent in Camden Corners was the happiest in my life. I met you and fell in love for the first and only time. I did love you Emily. I have always felt guilty for what happened on our last evening together. I was a kid and I wanted you so much it hurt.”
“You weren't in that alone. I didn't exactly fight you off. I know if I'd wanted you to stop, you would have,” admitted Emily.
“I had every intention of calling you when I got back to Mapledale. My mother and I lived in a rented trailer. We didn't have a phone, but there was a pay phone at the gas station on the corner by the bus stop. I thought I had enough change in my pocket to pay for a long distance call. The Wallaces took me to their house to pick up the suitcase they made me leave there and hand over Chad's borrowed clothes. They did let me keep the clothes I was wearing. They dropped me off at the bus station and I rode back home and back to reality.
“I dialed your number and the operator informed me I had to deposit 25 cents more for the call. I didn't have any more money. Mom kept her tip money in a jar in the kitchen. I knew she wouldn't mind if I borrowed a quarter from it. After all, it was for a good cause. I was calling you.”
“I walked the few blocks to the trailer. I could hear commotion inside and my mother crying. I ran in just as a large man was giving my mother a final punch. She fell back and hit her head. There was blood oozing out of her head, but no sound whatsoever. I picked up a baseball bat that Mom kept at the door in case of burglars. I swung the bat at the man and he fell just as the police car pulled up to the trailer.
“It was like a nightmare. My mother was lying on the floor. Blood was all around her head. The man was getting up and told the police I had beaten my mother and when he tried to stop me, I swung the bat at him. I could feel the handcuffs on my wrists but I was in a daze. The next thing I knew, I was in the police station. I heard the words you are under arrest on suspicion of murder. The nightmare was continuing and I couldn't even speak my name.
“Three days later, I was told I could leave. The neighbor who initially called the police told them I hadn't arrived until just before they got there. The man that I'd hit was in jail for my mother's murder.
“I went back to the trailer and the landlord was there cleaning the blood off the rug. He had taken all of our personal belongings to the dump. I asked about the tip money jar and he said he was taking it to pay for the cleaning supplies he had to buy to get the blood up off the floor.
“I had just enough bus fare to take me to the middle of town. I found a shelter where I slept that night. The next morning, I cleaned myself up and went to look for a job. I happened to see a restaurant called Hemingway's. An older gentleman was walking down the front steps. He had the kindest face I'd ever seen. He asked me if I was lost. I told him I was looking for a job and wondered if there were any openings for a bus boy. He invited me into the restaurant, made me a ham sandwich and offered me a job. His name was Lester Hemingway. He and his wife, Eleanor were like a mother and father to me. When they found out I was living at the shelter, they insisted I come live with them.
“Emily, I wanted to go back to Camden Corners and you but I couldn't. I was ashamed of my mother and the way she died. I found out several months later that she became involved with Stanley, the man who beat her when he stopped by the pub. From what her friend said, he was a charmer and she fell for him. He had promised her the moon. He told her he wanted to marry her and would buy a house for her and her son. She believed every word until his wife walked through the doors and told her to leave her husband alone. When Stanley came into the pub later that day, his mother told him she didn't want to see him again. He followed her home and that was when the fight started.
“I was determined to make something of myself. The longer I waited to contact you, the harder it became. I was sure you would never understand. When Lester's son called and asked me to take over the new restaurant, I couldn't say no. Not only do I owe everything to Lester and want to help him out, I wanted the chance to see you again.”
“Nick, I don't know what to say. I knew you were nothing like Chad Wallace. You were too nice to be a spoiled rich boy. Every time I asked about your family, you avoided the question. I was hoping you would trust me with your secrets but you never did until now. I would never have judged you or your mother because you weren't rich. I thought you knew me better than that. Seeing you again has been a shock. I need some time to take everything in. I thought you had forgotten all about me years ago.”
“The least I can do is give you some time. I do want to get to know my daughter. I would like to become reacquainted with her mother too. I still love you Emily. I never stopped.”
Emily couldn't think straight. “Are you staying at The Merryweather?” she asked. Silly question, of course he is why would he be standing here with a suitcase in his hand otherwise.
“I'll be here for as long as it takes.”
What, on earth did he mean by that? For as long as what takes? Why did he have to be so gorgeous. He was better looking now than he had been years ago when she fell madly in love with him. She couldn't let him know that she still felt the same way. She knew someday she would have to explain to Molly why she didn't have a father like her friends did. Her grampa seemed to fill that void so far, but Emily knew the day was coming.
Nick put his arm out as if to embrace her and then pulled it back. “I'll leave you alone, Emily. You can reach me in my suite or at the restaurant. Don't make me wait too long to hear from you.”
The door closed behind him. Emily sat down at her desk. She felt sick to her stomach. Why did he have to come back into her life? She and Molly were doing just fine on their own. Molly was a happy little girl whose life was about to be turned upside down. “Nick, why did you have to show up now?” she said aloud to the walls. Even as she heard herself say it, a small part of her was so very glad to see him.
“Do you want to talk about it, dear?” Peggy asked her daughter while Emily's assistant walked with Molly to the hotel gift shop.
“Mother, I can't believe this is happening. I never thought I would see Nick again. He's here to manage Lester Hemingway's new restaurant. I'm beginning to wonder if Lester guessed Nick was Molly's father. I remember when Lester stayed here at The Merryweather before he and Lily were married. He told me after meeting Molly for the first time that she looked like someone he knew. I never put it together, but Nick worked for Lester shortly after he left here.”
Emily repeated the story Nick told her about his mother and him being homeless and broke until Lester gave him a job and a home. Peggy could tell her daughter was softening toward Nick. Years of resentment had built up in her. Emily had lost faith in all men. Maybe that's why she never opened her heart to another. Either that or she never stopped loving Nick.
Nick settled into his room. Just seeing the suite brought back memories. He had stayed in many luxury hotels in the last few years, but nothing was quite as special as The Merryweather. This was where he met Emily for the first time. He could still remember watching her filling water glasses. She was the prettiest girl he had ever seen. He brushed away the memories of his mother and how his dreams of making a life with Emily had been shattered in one afternoon. He picked up the telephone and dialed the number of Hemingway's. Lester answered on the first ring.
“Where are you boy?” he said excitedly
“Just unpacking, Lester. I rented a car at the airport and I'll be there in just a few minutes. I think I can find Hemingway's without too much trouble. I remember that old house from when I stayed here one summer.”
“Meet me in the bar. I'm allowed one beer a day and I can't think of anyone I'd rather share my allotment with.”
Nick was happy to see Lester looking so chipper. The last time was shortly after Eleanor died and the life had gone out of Lester's eyes. He looked every bit his age that time.
“Your new lady must be pretty special, Lester. You look terrific.”
“Ah, she's a gem alright. She used to play on Broadway, you know. I promised her I would bring you over to her son's house for supper tonight. Grace, my new daughter-in-law is a wonderful cook. I'd like to hire her for the restaurant, but I'd rather keep her where she is, cooking for me,” he laughed as he patted his expanding belly.
“Tell me the truth, Lester. Did you really have a difficult time finding a manager for the restaurant or did Molly Ryan have something to do with your insistence on me?”
“Can't put one over on you Nick. You always were too smart for your own good. It wasn't too difficult to figure out who Molly's father was. She looks just like you. I knew you'd been here the summer before she was born. I never told you this, but Eleanor and I used to hear you call out for Emily in your sleep when you first came to live with us. Are you sore at me Nick?”
“Lester, I could never be sore where you're concerned. I have to admit I was a bit shocked when I met Molly. She promptly informed me her name was Molly Nicole Ryan. I'm glad Emily gave her the feminine version of my name. It must mean she doesn't totally hate me.”
“Nick, I lived at The Merryweather when I first came to town. Emily and I would have long talks about lost love. Even though she is young and has never been married, she seems to be able to empathize with someone who has lost a very special person in their lives. She never hated you, Nick, I'm sure of that. I think even if Molly didn't look like you, I'd have guessed she was the Emily you dreamed about.”
“Enough of that, let's have a look around the restaurant. From what I've seen so far it looks fantastic. It's even decorated for Christmas.”
“My Lily did that. She has an eye for that kind of thing.”
After the tour of the restaurant, Nick drove Lester to the Henderson house. Lester didn't exaggerate about Grace's cooking. He looked around the table at the entire Henderson family with Walter at the head of the table and Lester at the foot. Nick thought of a Norman Rockwell painting. This is the kind of family he always wanted to a part of. He made a vow to himself that by this time next year, he would have his own family sitting around a dining room table. Emily, Molly and a baby on the way. This time he wanted to have a baby together with Emily. He would be there to hold her head when she suffered morning sickness, give her a hand to squeeze when she was in labor and help her change diapers after their child was born. Next time would be very different.