I have been fielding a lot of questions lately on how the second Charlotte book is coming so I am providing this update: the work goes slowly.
Between family health issues, church work, the holidays and having a regular job, the demand on time is formidable. Also, procrastination is an easy temptation. I have been able to do some work though and here it is below. Please, I need input from you guys to make this work better. Thanks!
Scene: The Girlfriend Who Wasn’t There
Wednesday evening arrives with Beau and me getting ready to receive Michael and his girl. Beau is putting the finishing touches on his tie while asking me questions I can’t answer.
“What did he say her name was again?”
“Did they meet at the college?”
“He didn’t say.”
Beau finishes with his tie and turns from the mirror to make eye contact. “Did he actually say he’s bringing a girl, or is this all in your head?”
At this point I’m putting on eye liner and mascara. It’s tough to do this and talk at the same time but I have a black belt in make-up. “He said it was ‘face-to-face’ kind of news, what else could it be?”
“About a million other things. Hell, for all you know he could be bringing home a St. Bernard.”
By now I’m up to eye shadow. “Hmm, St. Bernard. Sounds like a nice Catholic girl.”
Beau has moved on to tying his shoes. “I bet she’s loyal too. All I’m saying is don’t get your hopes up darlin’. We should be happy that one of the two sons who still wants to see us is visiting.”
I let that be the end of the conversation. To go any further would bring up a painful and touchy subject. The last time Justin set foot in our house was over fifteen months ago. That’s when he and Beau got into an argument and had some choice things to say to each other. Poisoned words were exchanged like gunfire so here we are in a Mexican standoff. It’s amazing the things men say to each other when they’re angry. No wonder they start all the wars. I’m praying for a break in the awkward silence when the doorbell rings. I give Beau a quick visual inspection as we walk to the door. “Beau, tuck in your shirt tail!”
I open the door and Michael comes in to give me a big hug. “Hey Mama!”
“Hey darlin’.” I hang on his neck for a moment enjoying the embrace. Even though North Carolina State University is less than fifty miles away, I don’t see Michael nearly as much as I like. I let him go so he can greet his daddy and notice that no one is with him. I step through the doorway and take a quick look around.
“Mama? What’s wrong?”
“Oh don’t mind her son, she’s just looking for a St. Bernard.”
“Shut up Beau. Let’s all get to the table.”
As we head to the dining room Beau manages a whisper. “Glad I put on a tie…”
Since Beau and I are both working now, home-cooked meals are for special occasions. I pull out all the stops when one of my boys comes to visit. There’s fried chicken better than anything you can get from a bucket. Also, biscuits, corn, collard greens, rice and gravy. There’s mountains of food and two gallons of tea, I’m used to cooking for more than three people. After Beau says grace there’s no talk, just ten minutes of solid eating. Beau is on his second round of chicken when he breaks the silence.
“Michael, what’s this big news your mom was telling me about?”
He’s reaching for his tea and hesitates a split second before answering. “I spoke to Justin a couple of weeks ago.”
Michael is trying to be nonchalant about delivering the news. He seems to be concentrating on his plate but I know he’s looking at his Dad out of the corner of his eye for a reaction, as am I. Beau doesn’t look up ether. In the midst of dismantling a wing he mumbles “You don’t say.”
Silence again. This one’s different from before the “big news”. A thick, stale mist has enveloped us and it’s all coming from Beau. Sometimes that man irritates me. I try to remove the dark cloud.
“How is Justin? Is he okay?”
“He’s okay Mama.”
“Still in Alaska?”
“Still in Alaska Mama.”
Beau maintains his silence during the conversation. He just keeps tearing into that chicken wing without a word. He may be as mad at that chicken as I am at him.
“How did you get his number?”
“Actually he called me. He wanted some advice.”
“About what?” I say.
Michael has a matter-of-fact expression when he looks into his Daddy’s face. “He wanted advice on how to talk to you Daddy.”
Beau is done stripping the wing and grabs his napkin to wipe the grease from his hands. “Justin knows the number to this house, he can call anytime.” He tosses the napkin on his plate. “I’m gonna turn in early. See you in the morning Michael?”
“Of course Daddy.”
Beau pats Michael’s shoulder on his way past the dinner table to the bedroom. We get a view of Beau’s stubborn back as he closes the door behind him.
Michael shakes his head, “He’s impossible.”
“Your Daddy’s not impossible, just difficult.”
“Well, this is as difficult as I’ve ever seen him. He’s got a right to be upset but it’s been over a year already.”
“Some actions don’t have a time limit baby. Besides what he said to his father during that argument, Justin had one semester, just one semester left at Wake Forest and he would have finished pre-law. Graduating would have allowed him to use his Harvard scholarship. When he gave that up, it was a big deal.”
“I know, pre-law at Wake is a lot of money.”
I get up and circle the table to sit next to Michael. “You should know your Daddy better than that. Wasting three and a half years of tuition did sting, but it was never about the money. From your Daddy’s perspective, Justin threw away his entire future to sulk in Alaska. What he went through was incredibly painful, but that’s no reason to sabotage yourself.” Hoping against hope, I ask the question. “Has he changed his mind? Does he want to come back?”
“No, he only wants to be able to talk to you and Daddy again without judgement. Daddy’s last conversation with him did not end well.”
“I know, I was there.”
Michael gives a sideways look. “How come you’re okay with Justin’s decision while Daddy’s not?”
“Who says I’m okay with it? My opinion on what Justin did is the same as your father’s. But I love and support my boys. In time, Beau will remember that he should support Justin.”
“I hope so. What happens in the meantime?”
“In the meantime, I keep pouring water on that stone in the bedroom. He’ll crack, trust me.”
Michael’s smile is bleak but still a smile. “I trust you Mama.” He gets up and kisses my cheek. “Can I have my old room?”
“Anytime baby, I’ll see you in the morning. G’night.”
Michael walks down the hall and I get mentally ready to pour the water on Beau. Tonight it’s gonna be boiling water.