“I’ll bet you didn’t expect to hear from me,” her letter began. How right she was. It had been over a year since that first dizzying night at the roller coaster, over a year since he had dared to lower his walls and risk the pain, over a year since his dreams had been crushed like so much dropped popcorn on the midway at Cedar Point and yet the memories of her still stirred him and touched something deep inside.
“I’m so very sorry for the way things ended between us last summer. I didn’t know what to do. If you want to call, my number is 488-8058. I will be here at my parents’ house for a few more days before I have to go back to school in Bowling Green. I would really like to talk with you again. I feel so trapped here, like a princess in a tower, locked away from the world. Would you be my knight and rescue me?”
He should have known better, but he called that afternoon. They spoke for quite a while, catching up on the days that had passed away, and by the time the conversation ended he had agreed to drive over to see her and to meet her parents. He tried to quiet his racing heart… without success.
She lived on the other side of Columbus in a community named Grandview Heights. It was a small suburb that had been overtaken as Columbus expanded outward, a community of stately older homes perched atop the hills overlooking the river with one quaint commercial street filled with antique shops and galleries. Her directions were not too hard to follow. The house sat high upon a hill on Grandview Avenue but was approached from a circular drive entered from a different street. Still he found it on his second attempt. As he pulled into the driveway behind this imposing home he wondered if he truly should have come. His doubts quickly faded as she ran from the house and into his arms before he had a chance to close the car door.
“I’m so glad you came!” she said. “Let’s go in and you can meet my family.” She took his hand in hers and headed for the door like she was on a mission. “This is Alice,” she said. “Alice is our maid and nanny. She’s been with us for as long as I can remember.” Alice was one of the few new faces he saw during the next hour that actually smiled back at him. Perhaps it was because she was black and wasn’t really a part of this household and therefore could share his uneasiness in this place, but he guessed it was just because she had a good heart.
The house was even bigger than the cottages at the children’s home and furnished with objects meant to be viewed, not touched. Over the mantle was a picture of an extremely imposing figure of a man in a sea captain’s uniform with no trace or intimation of a smile upon his face and beside that was a framed parchment citing his valorous exploits. “That’s my grandfather on my mother’s side. He was a hero. He rescued the survivors from a sinking ship and that is the citation he was awarded for his bravery. Mom is very proud of him and will probably insist on telling you the whole story just as soon as she and my father come down. They’re upstairs getting ready to meet you. I’ve told them all about you. Let’s sit down and get comfortable, they’ll be down in just a minute.”
During the next ‘minute’ there was a constant stream of siblings trouping through the house… down the stairs, through the sitting room, into and out of the kitchen. It was a busy household. All of her brothers and sisters were at home, except for her twin brother who had already left to return to school at Notre Dame, and it seemed that each and every one of them had to find some reason to make their presence known. The peskiest was her youngest sister, Meg. Not yet two years old and trying to act much older, she jumped up on the couch and parked herself right between them, insisting on relating the story of her day, as only a child that young can… with halting words and not quite finished thoughts that slammed into each other as they struggled to the head of the line to fall out of her mouth. It was almost a relief when her parents arrived on the scene, but that feeling didn’t last. It started to fade with their first glance and the reaction to the scene that met their gaze.
“You must be the young man we’ve been hearing so much about,” was her father’s opening line as he held out a hand for shaking. You could have heard a fly farting, had one dared exist in such sterile environs. The next twenty or thirty minutes were spent in halting attempts at conversation, her parents trying to be tolerant and him trying to be inoffensive and respectful of their attempts at dutiful hospitality. It seemed an uncomfortable eternity and he had a faint taste of how one must have felt when facing the stern gazes of the questioners during the days of the Inquisition.
the last installment for a bit… more to follow-
if there is interest