Monday, November 08, 2010

Harter Union: Part Eight, Chapters 4 & 5

Not much had changed in Baldwin since I left except it was expanding north, had a new school building and stoplight at Ames and Sixth Streets. Heather still lived in our old apartment like Wendy said and my old Jimmy sat in the parking lot, which explains why I never received money it. I parked and walked upstairs. I paused before knocking and ran my hand through my hair. I knocked and seconds later the lock unlatched and Heather opened the door, still as beautiful as ever.

“Oh my God! Jefferson?” she asked, her eyes lighting up along with her smile.

“Hey, babe,” I said, also smiling.

“Come in, come in. What are you doing here?”

“I moved back. Well, actually I live in Lawrence. Things didn’t really work out in New York,” I said as she ushered me over to the couch.

“Good. I’ve missed you and I always wondered why you never wrote me back.”

“I was extremely busy with work, my social life and my book,” I said.

“Oh, you’re writing a book?”

“Uh, no. I wrote a book. The Amazing Brayton Arnaz. It’s been out for a few months but it’s certainly no bestseller,” I said and realized how much I wanted to take her right here on the couch. “I would’ve actually stayed in New York but my fiancĂ©e cheated on me with my best friend so, for some reason, I came back here.”

“I’m glad you did,” Heather said putting her hand on my cheek. “I’ve missed you something awful.”

“I did, too…” I started to say but was interrupted by a baby crying in the back bedroom.

“I’m sorry,” Heather said getting up from the couch. “Joel is up.”

I got up from the couch and followed her into what used to be my room. “Joel? You have a son?”

“Yeah, he’s four months old,” Heather reached into the crib and brought up a cute little baby boy.

“So are you married or…” I asked.

“No, Joel is the product of a one-night stand and I don’t know who the father is. He keeps me up all night and working every day but I love him and that’s all that matters,” Heather said and cradled Joel in her arms as he quieted down.

“Joel. Huh,” I said. “That’s what I…”

“What you wanted to name your first son, I know,” Heather said. She stepped closer to me and looked up at me. “Do you want to hold him?”

“Yeah, sure. I guess,” Heather handed Joel to me and I very nervously and carefully cradled him. I looked down at him and smiled at Joel who tried reaching up at me. “Wow, this is kind of cool.”

“You look very natural holding him,” Heather said.

“Thanks, I think.” I replied, chuckling nervously.

“I need to get to bed,” Heather said. We had stayed up until almost one talking about what had happened in our lives. We put Joel to bed and I went to Lawrence and got some Chinese food.

“Yeah, I should get back to Lawrence. I was wondering if you’d do something with me tomorrow,” I said.

“Of course.”

“I need to go to Topeka tomorrow and I don’t want to go alone.”

“What are you going to do?” Heather asked.

“A couple things I really should’ve done a long time ago. I was thinking,” I quickly the subject, “if Joel is four months old, you would’ve had to be pregnant before I left Baldwin,” I said.

“I was. It was my own secret. No one even really noticed until I entered my final trimester. It was hard but it was worth it.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“When I found out you had already made plans to leave and I didn’t want you to stay because of Joel.”

“I understand. Get some sleep. I’ll be here around noon to pick you up. We’ll make a day of going to Topeka,” I smiled.

“Yippee,” Heather joked. I walked to the door and unlocked it. “Wait! Since it’s late, you can stay here if you want.”

I looked at Heather and her sparkling eyes. “No, I need a change of clothes and I probably need to feed Shadow and I think it’ll be easier on both of us if I go home and we wait and see what’ll happen between us.”

“Since you left, I’ve stopped sleeping around and going out with Wanda which is why I had to quit Baker. You were all I wanted. I’m sorry it took so long for me to realize it.”

“It was my fault, too. Wasting my time with Maggie and Melissa when all I needed was right here,” I said. Heather began hugging me. From the bedroom, Joel started fussing and then crying.

Heather sighed angrily and pushed away from me. “Go. Maybe this was never meant to be. I’ll see you tomorrow, Jefferson.”

Heather went around the corner to the bedroom and I opened the door. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Heather.” I left the apartment and stood outside the door for a few second. “I love you, Heather,” I said softly. I slowly walked down the stairs and outside. I got in my car, started it and drove away.

Chapter Five
Heather, Joel and I were in my car heading to Topeka on Highway 75. “Again, thank you for coming along,” I said.

“No problem. Besides work and the grocery store, I don’t get out enough so this is like a Hawaiian vacation,” she smiled.

“We’re going to a cemetery. I probably should’ve told you that,” I chuckled. “There’s someone I want you to meet.”

Another twenty minutes passed and we entered the cemetery. We parked and got out. Heather carried Joel as we trudged through the rows of stones. We stopped at one and I kneeled down beside it.

“Who’s this?” Heather asked.

“My best friend, Randy. I haven’t been out here to see him since the funeral. Everything that’s happened in Baldwin and New York made me realize that I took his friendship for granted—took everyone’s friendship for granted—and I’m never going to do that again,” I reached over and touched the headstone. “I never got a chance to say I’m sorry, Randy,” I wiped away a tear and got up.

Heather took my arm. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, there’s one more I need to visit. She’s over this way.” We walked through more rows and stopped.

“Here she is.”

“Who’s this?” Heather asked letting of my arm and shifting Joel to her other arm.

“My grandma. I’ve never been out to see her. One, because my family didn’t tell me, and two because I’m a horrible person,” I said.

“No, you’re not. You’ve been having a very busy life and I’m sure she understands,” Heather said as I kneeled down. She placed a hand on my shoulder.

I reached up and felt her fingers. “Hi, Grandma. I am so sorry that I never visited but I’m sure you’ve seen what’s gone on in my life,” I looked back at Heather and smiled. “This is Heather, my best friend and soul mate. She means a lot to me and I’m sure you would’ve loved her.”

“Do you want to be alone, Jefferson?” Heather asked, trying not to cry.

“Yeah, if you could come back in half an hour…” I gave Heather my car keys and stood up. “…I should be done here.”

“You take your time. I’m in no hurry. I’ll meet you down at the gate,” Heather kissed my cheek and started walking away. I turned back to my Grandma’s headstone and sat down cross-legged. Heather walked a few feet away from me, stopped and turned around. She smiled and a tear ran down her cheek. “Welcome home, Jeff,” she said and continued walking away.

The End