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Across The Veil Chapter 2

October 10, 2008

So, I’ve finished the first draft of this chapter and figured I’d share. 🙂

Chapter 2

The white siding on the ranch-style house shone in the New Mexico sun. No weeds spoiled the plushness of the carpet of grass in the manicured front yard. A garden gnome peeked out from behind a rainbow explosion of nasturtiums. Two large cottonwood trees, the same type that had given Alamogordo its name, reached their leafy fingers into the clear desert sky. Just off the wrought-iron railed porch a purple and pink pinwheel, stuck in the midst of tulip blooms, spun lazily in the soft breeze and gave a distinct feminine touch to the yard. Beads of water reflected the bright sunlight and slight pooling on the sidewalks remained temporary evidence of the short storm that had come through town this morning.

It all came together to scare the living bejeezus out of Liam.

He knew that the sight of this particular house shouldn’t scare him. He also knew that the house itself didn’t frighten him. What the house represented and the possibility of being greeted with open arms and a viable explanation of why his mother had spent his childhood as a single parent threatened to throw him into a full-fledged panic attack.

Laura had pushed Liam to track down and meet with his father after Evan had been born. She had said it bothered her when Liam’s predominant response was “I don’t know” to every prenatal question about the paternal grandfather.

She had said that they needed to know things like health history and such so that they would know of any genetic predispositions Evan might have for disease. Liam had agreed with this point but deep down he also wanted to confront the man that had sired him.

He wanted to ask his father why he wasn’t there those many years. Why young Liam had had to make up stories, when other kids had asked him why he didn’t have a dad, about how his father died. Why birthdays only served to mark another year of apparent rejection by someone who was supposed to love you unconditionally. Why Christmas never matched a Norman Rockwell painting.

Liam had completed the first step toward asking those questions but hesitated at beginning the next step. He sat in front of the building which housed the man that should answer to his queries and needed only to get out of his car and make his presence known.

Laura must have sensed his mental predicament because she laid a hand on his knee and said, “Remember the bug, hon.”

He smiled, more at the memory of his wife’s face while reciting her memory than at the wise banana slug. “Well, nothing to it but to do it, eh?”

Laura nodded and Liam took the lead by opening the driver’s side door. He stopped as his family exited the Corolla and squinted down the street as something caught his attention. About a block away he swore he saw the scraggly man from the Comfort Inn. That just wasn’t possible. Was it? He shook off the chill that found him again and led his family up the weedless walk and up to the front door.

He took a deep breath and pushed the button that would summon the house’s occupants, the placard above the doorbell proclaimed the owners to be the Richardsons, and two diametrically opposed factions within his mind warred over whether he hoped someone would actually answer the door.

While he stood at the closed door Laura, her left hand enclosing Evan’s right, wandered to the far end of the porch where a large picture window granted those inside a view of the well-loved front lawn. Liam felt a renewed sense of overpowering love as he looked at the two most important people in his life. The tinge of remorse remained when he regarded Evan.

“What are you doing?” he asked as he saw Laura bending down and moving slightly left then slightly right then back again.

“Nothing.”

He surmised that she was trying to get a sneak peek at the people inside the house through the drawn blinds. “You’re being nosy is what you’re doing, isn’t it?”

“Nosy? Me?”

“Yes, you, Nosy. Get over here and quit trying to look into other people’s houses.”

She stuck her tongue out at him but led Evan back in front of the door where the three stood in familial solidarity.

While waiting for the portal to his past to open, Liam once again questioned his approach to the matter. He had considered calling first. Laura found the phone number as well as the address when she did something called a Yahoo! People Search on the computer. Somehow, though, he thought that this sort of introduction should be treated like the breakup of a romantic relationship. It really should be done in person.

He still wondered if just showing up on his father’s doorstep marked him as too pushy. Maybe it showed admirable assertiveness. At this point Liam had no idea how his father would take his sudden presence and he just wanted it over with. For better or for worse.

The scrape of a chain lock from the other side of the door signaled the imminent meeting of parent and child.

The older woman who opened the door smiled the cheery smile of someone who likes to have visitors. Her eyes found Evan first, perhaps resulting from an innate grandmotherly instinct. The woman’s eyes swept up to find Laura’s next and then moved over to Liam’s face. At that point the cheery smile melted and her right hand flew up to cover her mouth, muffling the “Oh, my!” that escaped her lips.

Liam stood, stone faced, and let the woman run her eyes over him again and again repeating her “Oh, my!” at least five more times.

She composed herself enough to say, “Excuse me.” Then she stepped back a couple of steps and turned toward the rear of the house.

“Marty! Marty, you’d better get in here!”

A deeper voice answered from the bowels of the house, “Whatcha want, Bev? Whatever they’re selling, we don’t want none.”

“Just get in here, you old fool.”

Her voice dropped as Marty, Liam guessed, approached the entryway. He was still out of sight but the butterflies inhabiting Liam’s gut decided at that point to run a disco.

“Marty. Remember how you told me, right before you proposed marriage, that you weren’t sure but you might have a kid out there somewhere?”

An affirmative grunt, not far from the door, indicated that Marty did indeed remember that.

“Well, I think your eldest son is here to visit.”

“You said what?”

The suddenly gruff voice emerged from about the same distance as had the grunt which signaled to Liam that Marty had stopped just short of actually entering his view.

Bev turned toward the family of three standing on her porch, her smile returned and aimed at Liam, “I’m sorry, dear, what was your name?”

“Liam, ma’am. Liam Connolly.”

She turned back to her husband. “Liam here would like to meet you.”

A pregnant pause ensued, perhaps as Marty prepared himself to face a past he had thought buried long ago. “You’re sure he’s my boy?”

“Trust me, Marty. Get you’re butt over here.”

An eternity passed as Liam stood facing the woman who had unknowingly become his stepmother the moment she had said “I do” in front of family, friends and a minister.

When Marty took his place beside his wife, Liam stared into his own physical future. Bev could have placed a mirror in front of Liam that aged him two decades and added half a foot in height and Liam’s view would have been exactly the same.

Marty clearly thought the same thing in reverse. “My God! He’s the spittin’ image of me twenty years ago.”

Bev flashed a self-satisfied look at her husband. “That’s what I’m tellin’ you. Eerie, isn’t it?”

“You got that right. I guess there’s no need for a DNA test, then, huh?”

“We’ll have no talk of tests or anything of the sort, Marty.”

Bev turned back to Liam, “Well, come on in. You’re family.”

Liam hesitated for a few seconds, somewhat shocked at the reception, before ushering Laura and Evan through the portico then following them into the cool confines of the house.

Marty scuffed into the living room and plopped into a recliner. Bev shot a look of disapproval at him, “Where’s your manners? You should stay standing until the guests have gotten comfortable.”

He dismissed the etiquette lesson with a wave of one meaty hand, “Aw, they’re family. I ain’t gotta be polite to family. Just be glad I ain’t gotta fart.”

Evan had taken an intense interest in a small clock on one end table. When he heard Marty’s statement he looked up and, with a perfectly straight face, said, “We’re supposed to say tartar sauce.”

Liam smiled and realized at that point that he had worried for nothing with Evan’s earlier outburst. People farts trumped gnat farts anytime.

Bev looked a bit confused at Evan’s proclamation then just shook her head. “You’ll have to excuse Marty, as he apparently has hit that age where politeness is a foreign concept. Anyway, would you folks like something to drink before we get to the acquaintin’? I just brought a fresh jar of sun tea in from the patio this mornin’.”

Liam answered as Laura and Evan settled onto the plush couch, “That sounds good. Let me help you get the drinks.”

“Well, you don’t have to do that.”

“I know, but I want to.”

“Alright. Help never hurt no one.”

Liam followed his stepmother into the kitchen which had been modeled to resemble that of a farmhouse in the middle of the country’s breadbasket.

Liam marveled at the immaculate granite counter tops and the wood laminate floor that looked hard but felt almost as soft as thin carpeting. Sunlight streamed into the kitchen through a well-placed window above the double sink and splashed down on Bev as she shuffled over to the fridge.

“You want sugar in your tea, dear?”

“No. We take it straight. If we wanted a sweet drink we’d get a soda.”

She smiled. “You sound just like your father.”

That term still sounded alien to Liam. Father. He hadn’t had one of those his whole life and now he stood one room away from the one that owned the affectation in his life.

Bev got out four large glasses and a small plastic tumbler. “He didn’t desert you, you know,” she said as she filled the containers one by one.

“Excuse me?”

“Marty, your father, he didn’t desert you. He told me a lot about the whole thing while we were still dating. He never gave up hope that, if you were still around, he’d see you one day.”

“Then why didn’t he ever try to contact me.”

“Oh, he did. Even after we were married and had kids of our own. But I’ll let him tell you all that stuff. Horse’s mouth, you know.”

She placed the glasses and the tumbler onto a serving tray. Liam stepped in and grabbed the tray so that Bev didn’t have to carry it.

“Thanks, dear,” she said, smiling.

He led the way back to the living room and offered the tray to each person in turn. By the time he got back around to Bev, she had taken a seat in the other recliner. Liam looked around a bit after she took her glass.

“Just put the tray on that table over there, dear. I’ll take it back to the kitchen in a bit.”

Liam set the tray down and sat down next to Laura on the couch.

Marty sat back in his recliner and studied Liam for a few minutes. Liam shifted uncomfortably under the older man’s gaze. “Connolly you said, huh?”

“Yes, sir.”

A nod followed Marty’s signature grunt this time. “Yeah, I remember your mom.”

“Fondly, I hope?”

“Well, we’ll not get into that too far. Suffice it to say that I remember her.”

“Okay.”

“So.”

“So?”

“Ain’tcha got questions for me, boy? I know I would if I were you.”

Bev looked over at her husband and swallowed some tea. “Marty, let him go at his own pace. We don’t need to be rushin’ anything.”

Marty stared at her for a moment or two then said, “Alright. I wasn’t tryin’ to rush him. Was just tryin’ to give him an opening to find out why I’ve been gone from his life so long.”

“Well, we got plenty of time for that. Let’s just –”

Bev’s voice cut off as a glaze covered her eyes. She dropped her glass and tea spilled onto the carpet.

Marty leaped out of his chair faster than his large frame seemed capable of. “Bev! What’s wrong?”

“I – I don’t know.” She pushed herself up out of her chair and almost made a standing position but collapsed into the puddle of tea on the floor.

Marty, his eyes wild with obvious anguish, kneeled by his fallen wife. He didn’t look up from her as he yelled for someone to call 911.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 17, 2009 1:46 pm

    You’d better have more chapters written, mister! Because now I have to know what’s happening! 🙂

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