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The Rush-Chapter Two Conclusion

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I think she was about to say something else, but Lucas cut her off from the seat behind me. “Why do you guys have to fight all the time?” The weary helplessness in his tiny voice overwhelmed her. I think that’s why Mom always gave in to them so damn easily. In this case, I think it was also the fact that there was nothing else she could say that would prove me wrong. She knew she knew nothing about me, but was probably scared of sounding ridiculous if she said she wanted to learn about her only daughter at this point in my life. I don’t give a s*** about sounding ridiculous! If I had a girl that I happened to ignore for four years after I had more kids (which I wouldn’t), I would fight to the death to bring her back into my life if she would ever forgive me for all of the pain I would’ve caused her.

Mom took a few deep breaths before asking in a restrained voice, “What are their names?”

“You know Wes. And then there’s Seth Craig, Vincent Howard, and Sean Clifford. We’re all friends.” I answered in a voice just as restrained.

“Can you tell me which one’s which?”

“Vincent is the shortest, Sean has the black hair, and Seth has the reddish hair.”

“I want to meet them.”

“It’s a date next time you decide to pay attention,” I said toxically.

It was the end of the conversation and the rest of the ride was quiet. Emotions still flew high even in the hour of silence. Whether the boys noticed it or not, I don’t know, but they kept quiet, so I could only guess so much.

We arrived at my grandfathers just around noon time. Even if there was no fight at the beginning of the ride, Mom would still be tense since the relationship between her and her ex-husband’s father wasn’t exactly peaches and cream. I’d thought several times over whether or not I should send someone a warning text that my mom wanted to meet everyone, but decided against it. Not only because I didn’t want to ruin a good day for playing a rigorous game of tennis, but I was scared. I would deal with it later. I had an excuse not to let myself be distracted.

I didn’t have the slightest idea how to get to East Wallingford from Wilmington, but I could always tell when we were close. The area became more and more remote and less dense of people. Just like PopPop. He liked being in places where there weren’t a lot of ‘outsiders that would bother him’. Doesn’t he sound charming? I always did think he was kind of creepy, but I couldn’t tell it to anyone. I couldn’t put the wrong idea into my brothers’ heads and my mom silently agreed without confession.

The small house was in the middle of the woods of East Wallingford. Away form neighborhoods, kids, schools, stores, everything. the house had one bedroom, a kitchen, one bathroom, a living room, and a basement with almost nothing in it. PopPop wasn’t poor and he could buy a bigger house, and he always said he would. He was always ‘coming into a great deal of money for remodeling’, but never followed us up on it. He also never told us where he was expecting money from. Apparently, the date got closer every time we came back for a visit.

The outside of the house had a short stone walkway surrounded by tall trees that were covered in thick layers of emerald moss on all sides. They were very different from the ones that made up the woods in our neighborhood. They were tall, but the ones at PopPop’s were more worn down and much less friendly. Kind of....creepy in a way. PopPop said that if children ever came around (which they didn’t) they wouldn’t bother him because the all year-round Halloween trees would ward them off. Like I said, very charming.

If you dared make it past the greenery that guarded the home from dreaded children, you would come upon a small, beat-up concrete porch. The house itself wasn’t threatening at all. I think that was the point of maintaining the outer shield. The inoffensive little home was a faded grayish color. I was told that it used to be a well-maintained blue, but after Dad died, all PopPop bothered to do was garden. He kept the trees strong and healthy so that he could remain hidden in the thickets. Kind of hermit of a man.

You would expect him to be as small and unthreatening as the house he lived in, but he wasn’t. He was a big man, presumably where my Dad got his six foot four from. If there happened to be an intruder, there was no reason to worry for PopPop. He grew up on a horse farm in Kentucky, so he was very strong having ridden and broken horses in the Southern heat most of his life. He never spoke about those days, but we all knew he missed them. He had black and white pictures of him and his first Quarter horse, Scout. His father had a big black stallion named Bowling Green until PopPop was sixteen. The family cherished the memory of that horse. When I was little, they told me so much about him, I had dreams of riding him.

We pulled up the in the driveway that was matted in a carpet of old leaves and dirt. I followed Mom up the stone path up to the porch. She somehow had the courage to be the first one seen even although she was the only one that wasn’t wanted there. She would try to be gracious despite the fact that multiple homicide law suits had been filed against her by this man. To that day he remained accusatory.

PopPop opened the door before we had a chance to knock. Since me, Jimmy, and Lucas were here, he put on a fake happy face and pretended to like that fact that Mom was there. “Oh, dearest Stella!” he lied. “How.....wonderful to see you!”

Mom had always been a little taller than the average woman, but to see her next to PopPop who was at least a half foot taller than her made me cough to hide a laugh. She seemed threatened by him when she thought no one was looking at her because she was used to being a little bit higher up than most people. It wasn’t a huge blow to her ego, just not expected. At all.

“Nice to see you, too, Frank,” she answered in a voice that was making a conscious effort to sound pleasant.

His face brightened when he looked past her at me and the boys. “Oh! And here are the children! Oh, look at my little gumdrop, Mavis! Look how big you are now!”

“Hi PopPop,” I greeted as he lugged me into an awkward bear hug.

“Oh, and here are my boys! So let me see if I can do this,” he trailed off, he was going to try to guess Jimmy from Lucas. Something only someone who sees them every day could do without having to guess.

After looking back and forth at the two of them as they stood silently, he pointed to Jimmy. “James?” he asked.

Mom nodded when he looked at her.

“Ah, I knew it was you!” he exclaimed as he hugged Jimmy, and then Lucas. They didn’t like to be hugged by older men ever since they overheard Mom watching a program on Dr. Phil about pedophiles. Not that PopPop would molest anyone, but it was all grown men for them.

“Well, let’s not just stand here and let the bugs have their way with us, everyone come on in!” Two things. One, he talks only to me and the boys when he says stuff like that. Two, you can tell he’s lying to the best of his ability when he’s that friendly.

We went into the house and sat at the kitchen table. PopPop offered Mom some tea, but she refused. Jimmy and Lucas went into the family room and got busy playing their DS’s. Those two could pull all-nighters with those things and not even know it. PopPop had things he wanted to bring up with Mom and apparently it didn’t matter if I was around to hear it. Not that the adults of this family had much regard for what went into my ears. Whether they knew it or not, kids of divorced parents heard everything. Somehow, even if we weren’t consciously eavesdropping, we always knew what was happening with our parents just as they found out. Current as it can be. With regards to my deceased father, I still had things to hear. It doesn’t always take two to tango.

“You know, Stella, I really haven’t spent much time with the children. I had no idea who Jimmy was, I just guessed and now I know he’s the one in the green. I feel very guilty, they barely know me.” He did sound remorseful, maybe playing it up a little, though.

“Well, I can certainly bring them down to see you any time you feel like you want spend time with them,” Mom countered. She seemed to know where this was going before I did. “It worked out just fine this morning.”

“Uh, you know, I......hate to get you all up early and it’s not exactly easy drive up here.”

“Oh, it’s fine, Frank, really. We’ve been needing to get into the habit of waking up earlier. Especially for when school starts.....right, Mavie?”

I looked up and half smiled in dishonest agreement. I looked right back down as soon as the point was across since I’m not a good liar. ‘We’, my a**. By ‘we’ she meant her. She rolled outta bed at least five hours after me every friggin’ morning of our lives.

“I’m sure you do, Stella,” -did you notice that? That would be what we call passive aggressive.- “but I’ve been looking to change my schedule as well....”

“Frank, what are you saying?” she asked suggestively.

PopPop raised his eyebrows and looked down at his mug cluelessly. He was still struggling to hide how much he was hamming this up. “Uh, nothing in particular. I just think that if I want to see you all as much as I do, I can’t stay where I am right now. I’ve......been thinking of buying a house closer to Wilmington.”

Mom tried to hide the devastated shock in her face and voice. She didn’t want him close to her. I mean, really. If someone had sued you for the death of your own spouse, would you want them close you? “Well, that....would be nice, Frank, but you don’t know the area all that well. Would you be....okay? Down there?”

PopPop’s face became grave. “Well, that’s just it, Stella. I don’t know what I’m doing or how to get down there. I’m not sure about....houses and what I want....”

Mom started up again quickly, embracing her chance to talk him into staying where he was. “And, not only that, but Frank, do you have the money to move?”

“I have a little money saved up from my retirement,” he mumbled. “I don’t know if its enough to buy a house, but it could be....”

They continued their conversation for a while. I didn’t know how I wanted this to turn out. Our neighborhood was full of kids and excitement; everything that PopPop had tried his best to avoid at all costs. And don’t get me wrong, I have no real issue with him and neither do the boys. I just don’t think it would mash well with my Mom’s life. She already has a lot of stress being a single parent. Having to work, keep the house clean, raise three children, and still get enough sleep. She has no time for herself even with PopPop an hour away from us.

I stared into space for a while, but snapped back into reality when I heard PopPop say, “Stella, do you by any chance know or motels? Anything of the sort around Wilmington? I just thought that if I spend a few weeks around town that I could get a good feel of whether or not I like it in town enough to move.”

Without even thinking about it, but regretting it instantly I blurted out, “Ma, why can’t PopPop just stay with us for a few days?”

She shot me a little look as PopPop’s face lit up. This must have been his intent bringing all of this up in the first place. “I would like that very much, sweetie, but it’s your mother’s decision....”

And she was trapped, just like that. “When can you be ready?”

PopPop rejoiced. “Marvelous! I really can’t thank you enough, Stella, really. I’ll help around the house and everything!”

“Really, Frank, it’s nothing, always happy to help out family,” she said pleasantly, trying her hardest to keep a straight face.

We went to McDonald’s for lunch about an our after the arrangement was made. We had some fun besides the obvious awkwardness that was present the whole time. The boys didn’t seem to notice it, but I sure did. We told them about what was going to happen and they didn’t seem to care that much. I still didn’t know how I felt about it by the end of the visit. PopPop seemed happy enough and Mom had cooled down a little, but I wasn’t looking forward to the ride back with her. I knew she wouldn’t bring it up with me or admit how pissed she was that she would be stuck with PopPop for a week or two, but she didn’t have to.

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