I allowed him back to the house to pack his belongings. He explained that the woman was a tenant at the apartment complex he worked at; he said she had been there for him and he could talk to her; that she listened to him. She was there for him when he was so worried about me during my seizures.
“How long have you been sleeping with her?” I felt like someone had reached in and pulled out my stomach.
“Just this week, I swear Tess. I never wanted to do this to you?” He had started crying. I hated it when he cried. He came over to the bed where I sat and got down on his knees. He placed both of his hands on mine and looked up at me, tears in his eyes, “ I swear baby; I will never, ever do anything like this again. Please, can’t we work this out?”
I looked down at him, on his knees, begging me and I laughed.
“What?” he looked confused. My laughing was not the reaction he expected. I just shook my head smiling and started to cry, but still laughing at the same time.
“I find this completely ironic,” gesturing at him knelt on the floor in front of me, “you here on your knees. This is how you are supposed to pose when you are proposing, not begging for my forgiveness.”
He sighed in exasperation, he knew there was no use in begging right now. He knew I was too upset to listen.
“Was she good?” I asked. His eyes widen at this question. Did I really want to know the answer?
“I don’t know,” he quietly answered. He must have thought that was a safe answer.
“You don’t know? Well, that’s just wonderful. Let me ask you this? Did you get to pull out your little boxes of surprises?” I was getting cocky now, “You know, those little toys you are so fond of?”
“Tess, don’t do this?” He got up off his knees and sat on the bed next to me and put his arm around my shoulder, “You’re just going to get yourself all worked up and I don’t want you having another seizure.”
“Don’t!” I stood up to release his arm, “Don’t act concerned about me! You gave up that right to care about me when you decided to be with her!” The tears were hot on my cheeks now, “What’s her name Davey?”
“Does it matter?” He looked beat down.
“Yes, it does.” I stared at him.
The prison fight was all over the news. Two wounded and four dead. Both wounded were security guards, one security officer died as well as three prisoners. One of the prisoners dead was identified as Nickolas James Bloom.
I sat in Kip and Fannie’s living room watching the television in complete shock. They had found out earlier that morning when a police officer and the prison warden showed up on their doorstep. As soon as they left, Kip called me at the school; he wanted to make sure that I got Addison home before the news spread. I told Clara what had happened and pulled Addy out of her classroom.
“Where are we going Mommy?” Addison asked as she pulled on her jacket, “have you been crying?”
I don’t know why I had started crying when Kip told me that Nicky was dead. There had been many times during our marriage that I had wished he was dead, but knew deep down I wouldn’t wish death on my worst enemy.
“No Bug, I think I may have a cold. You know how your eyes water when you get a cold,” I smiled at her and helped her put her backpack on, “We are going over to Dawda and Meme’s house for a little bit, just for a visit.”
“Oh goody! Dawda always gives me quarters when I go to their house!” I felt horrible, in just a little bit we had to tell my sweet baby her daddy was dead. Granted she didn’t know him well, but she knew he was her father. We never spoke ill of him and when she asked why he was in jail, we would tell her that he just made a bad decision and broke the law. We were lucky that she never asked more than that.
I worried that the children at school would start asking her about her dad and be cruel in some way. I felt blessed that hadn’t been as issue. Now Addison would be known as the girl whose daddy died, not the girl whose daddy was in prison.
We arrived at the Bloom’s thirty minutes later. On the drive over I put in one of Addy’s Britney Spears CD’s rather than turn on the radio in fear that a news broadcast would come on.
“I’m glad you’re here Tess,” Kip met us at the door and gave me a hug, “have you said anything to her yet?” He whispered in my ear. I shook my head no. I held Addy’s hand and we walked into the living room were Fannie sat on the couch dabbing her eyes with a tissue. When she saw us, she began crying harder and opened her arms to Addison.
“Oh come give your Meme a hug darling girl,” Addison looked up at me confused, “oh you poor, poor child!”
“Fannie, Tess hasn’t said anything to Addy yet,” Kip put his arm around my waist and guided me to one of the side chairs and nodded for me to have a seat. I took my jacket off and laid it across my lap.
“Why are you crying Meme?” Addy backed away from Fannie’s strong hold, “are you sick?”
Kip sat down on the couch next to Fannie and lifted Addison onto his lap.
“No, Sweet Pea, Meme isn’t sick,” he looked at me as if to ask if it was okay to continue talking. I nodded yes, “Addy, do you remember last Sunday when you went to church with Meme and me?”
Addy nodded her head and looked directly into his face. Her gaze looked very grown up to me and I knew in my heart that from this moment on, she was somehow going to be more grown up than she should be for her age.
“Do you remember how Pastor Glen told us how we would find riches in Heaven someday?” Kip’s voice was even and soothing, very calm for a man who just lost his only child. Addison nodded again, “Do you know when people go to Heaven?”
“Yes, people go to Heaven when they get sick and die,” she answered matter-of-factly, “like when Mommy’s grandma died. She got sick and went to the hospital. She fell asleep and didn’t wake up.”
Kip looked over at me and I urged him to continue. Fannie was still dabbing her eyes with the tissue, but she said nothing and let Kip continue.
“Yes, Addy, that’s true. Sometimes when people get sick they die and sometimes they might die if they are in an accident,” his voice remained calm, but I could start to see a glistening in his eyes.
“Yeah, like when my friend’s uncle was in a car accident. She said he died, but she said he had been drinking and that is why he crashed his car into a tree,” Addison looked thoughtful for a moment, “do you think that he went to Heaven? I mean, drinking and driving is wrong and Pastor Glen said that good people go to Heaven.” Kip let out a nervous laugh; I started to worry that he wouldn’t be able to continue on.
“Well, I hope so. I think so. I would like to think that God knows people make mistakes and He would forgive us of the wrong things we do, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I think God is a really good person. Dawda, your eyes are leaking,” she reached up and placed her little hand on his cheek. This was his breaking point and he hung his head. I quickly left my chair and went to my knees on the floor in front of them.
“Addy, Dawda is trying to tell you that someone that we all love very much had to go to Heaven,” I put my hand on her knee and Kip reached over and gripped my shoulder. His eyes were squeezed shut and his grip told me ‘thank you’ for taking over this unbearable task.
“Who? Mamaw? Papaw,” the look of panic was now in her eyes, of course she would think of my parent’s.
“No, no, no. Not Mamaw or Papaw,” my hand went to her face in an attempt to ease her worry, “Addy…Addison.” Fannie let out a pained sob that startled Addison so much that tears formed in her eyes. I had to get this over with. She was starting to panic and I was beginning to choke, “Addison, Daddy died last night.”
The Bloom’s house was bustling with mourners that day of Nicky’s funeral. All of Nicky’s family was in attendance, the Bloom’s closest friends and members of the country club, several of Nicky’s friends and teachers from his high school. I felt odd being there, but Kip and Addison both insisted I be there. My parents came briefly to pay their respects to Kip and Fannie, so I dutifully came as well. The entire day, Addison only let go of my hand to hold Kip’s hand. Fannie was no comfort to her at all; she was completely wrapped up in her own grief.
I felt sorry for her, I didn’t blame her. I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to lose my only child. The thought of losing Addy made my stomach ache and I had to shake my head to quickly push that horrible thought away.
Davey called the night before, after seeing the news and asked how Addy was. He had been staying with his parents and he knew this was not the time to ask to come home. I was actually missing him and we talked on the phone for over an hour. I wasn’t ready to forgive him, but I was willing to talk. I didn’t want to be divorced twice in eight years.
So I was relieved to see Davey walk in the Bloom’s front door as I talked to Fannie’s niece, Grace. I excused myself and walked over to him. He reached down and pulled me into a tight hug and then reached down and picked Addison up into his arms.
“My goodness, you are getting too big to pick up young lady!” Addison giggled at him as he let her back down. She turned and ran over to Kip who was sitting on the couch talking to Pastor Glen.
“How are you doing?” Davey put his hands in his pockets and looked down at me. I smiled and sighed.
“I’m rather exhausted actually. I feel so odd being here,” I looked around the room at all the people milling around in black, talking in hushed tones, eating from the buffet table the Bloom’s service staff had prepared, “but Kip insisted. Said Addison needed me here.”
“Yeah, that’s probably a good thing,” we walked slowly toward the entry hall, “well you look really beautiful for someone who is so exhausted.” He could still make me blush.
“Stop,” I shook my head and looked at the floor.
When I looked up I noticed that a woman with very blond hair had walked in the front door; she stuck out like a sore thumb. Surrounded by people in dark funeral attire, this woman wore a lavender dress with white high heels and large white earrings. She made her way through the sea of black jackets and dresses until she was in full view of Davey and me. That is when I recognized who it was. Hope.
“Oh my goodness,” I stared in the direction of the tacky woman, “why is she here?” Davey turned to see who I was talking about.
“Who is that?” he asked watching her make her way towards Fannie. That’s when I saw the young boy she was pulling behind her. He was probably around six or seven years old and was dressed in tiny suit.
“She’s the reason I had the crap beat out of me every other day,” my heart was pounding out of my chest, “she is who I was supposed to be.”
Hope approached Fannie, who stood up as soon as she saw the blond and the little boy. Fannie didn’t look pleased to see Hope and though I couldn’t hear what was being said, it didn’t appear to be friendly conversation. Kip quickly approached the scene and the volume of the conversation was getting louder, but only on Hope’s end. Kip leaned in to calm her and took her by the elbow, leading her and the little boy into the kitchen.
I wished I was a fly on the wall; I wanted to know what was going on. But it was apparent that approaching Fannie was a horrible idea, her friend Francis was now sitting with her on the couch comforting her as Fannie held a tissue to her eyes. Addison came running up to me.
“Dadaw is yelling at some lady in the kitchen!” her eyes opened wide with fear. As far as I know, no one had ever heard Kip raise his voice, “she is yelling back saying he owed her something!”
“Addy, can you stay with Davey for just a few moments, so Mommy can go do something really quick?” Addy nodded and I headed towards the kitchen. As I approached the double swinging doors, several staff came rushing out without trays or pitchers. They looked upset and I pushed my way through the double doors.
“I know you set up a fund for her little brat; and I know that she is getting Nicky’s life insurance policy. I checked with my lawyers and N.J. here has a right to it just the same as her!” the woman was standing next to the counter, pointing her finger at Kip. The little boy was sitting at the table eating a cracker and oblivious to the volume that Hope was speaking to Kip.
“How dare you walk into my house making demands? How do I even know that this child belongs to Nicky? Why are we just now hearing about this?” They had no idea I was standing in the doorway. I was beginning to understand what was going on.
“Are you saying this little boy is Nicky’s?” I asked. The both stopped yelling and looked at me. I stared at the little boy trying to see Nicky in his features. I walked over to the table and sat down across from him. Neither Hope nor Kip made any attempt to move. The little boy continued to nibble on crackers but looked up at me. His hair was blond, almost white. He did look a lot like Addison, including the light blue eyes that she inherited from Nicky. He had the same dimple in the middle of his chin that Nicky had, and a cow lick at the top of his forehead that looked similar to the million pictures that Fannie had of an elementary age Nicky.
“Hi, I’m Tessa. What’s your name?” I spoke softly to the little boy.
“Nickolas. But my friends call me N.J.” N.J. Nickolas, Jr. He reached into the plastic container and pulled out another cracker.
“And this is your mommy, right? Where is your daddy?” I reached for a cracker, but didn’t eat it. I just turned it over and over between my fingers.
“Hey! Don’t talk to my kid!” Hope started towards the table. Kip stepped in her way.
His lip puckered out, “My daddy’s dead.”
Touching Trees by T L Lady is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at https://touchingtrees.wordpress.com.wouldn’t have her. So I stayed, I would make it to the year if it killed me. And it just might.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
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