Disclaimer: No I don't own Gary, Marissa, Crumb, Chuck, Cat, Patrick, Nick Sterling or any other character from Early Edition, and I'm not profitting financially from this story. The rest of the characters do belong to me, but I thought I'd share them with y'all.:) Oh and don't be just a reader, be a feeder. I love to hear your thoughts.
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A Heart's Reflection
I will rescue you
I will rescue you
I will shelter you from the rain
I will dry your tears
Cast away your fears
And bring you to brighter days
Whenever you're lost and confused
Like a fairy tale come true
I will rescue you
Aimee stood at the corner waiting for the walk signal. She smiled, thinking how adventurous it felt to be in a new city, making a fresh start. In one hand she had a copy of the Chicago Sun Times, opened to the classifieds. In the other hand she gripped the handle of her wheeled suitcase which held all her worldly goods. She adjusted the strap of her shoulder bag/purse and tried not to think about how she didn't have a place to stay or a job yet. She'd hoped to have more money saved before moving here, but circumstances had caused her to speed up her plans. The plane ticket had taken a sizable chunk out of her savings, but she was determined not to worry about her finances. 'I always land on my feet somehow' she thought with a smile.
Consumed with her thoughts, she didn't notice the car careening right for her. Before she knew what was happening, she was hauled out of the way and thrown to the ground. A pair of strong arms shielded her from the flying debris as the car hit the newstand where she'd purchased her paper only moments ago. She felt a sharp pain in her shin and heard the distinct sound of metal hitting cement. Seconds later, she looked up into a beautiful pair of greenish eyes, the eyes of her rescuer.
"You all right?", the owner of the eyes asked. He helped her to her feet and led her to a nearby bench as he spoke.
"Yes ......I think so. I guess I......I wasn't paying attention. Thank you ...s-so much." She mentally blamed her fumbling speech on the shock of her near death experience, and the pain in her leg which was beginning to reach her brain. She tore her eyes from his face and looked down at her shin, which had a deep gash and was beginning to bleed profusely.
"That looks pretty bad." Gary said. He felt bad that she'd gotten injured, but he didn't have a lot of time before his next save. The paper was running him ragged this morning.
"Yeah .......I had a suitcase ....." She looked over at the wreckage in confusion.
Gary got up and went in search of the missing luggage. It didn't take him long to find it. There was a tire mark across it and the zipper and handle were both broken. He carried it over to her, careful not to spill the contents. 'Oh boy!' There was a lacy bra hanging out one side that caused his face to flush with embarrassment when he noticed it. He set the suitcase down on the bench beside her and looked away as she began to rummage through it.
Aimee's face burned as she shoved the offending bra under the other clothes.
'Of all the things to be hanging out', she thought. 'It
couldn't be a sock, noooo it had to be a bra.' She continued digging, looking for something suitable to bandage her leg. Finally her hand touched a small cardboard box which had been flattened in the crash. She pulled it out and took out two maxi pads, hoping this man would keep looking the other way. No such luck! Her face continued to burn.
Gary turned just in time to see her pull something from her suitcase. The redness in his face deepened as he realized what they were. He watched as she unwrapped them and applied them to her leg, wrapping her scarf around them to keep them in place.
"That oughta do it." She glanced over at him, noting that his embarrassment was as obvious as her own.
"I'm sorry if I embarrassed you, but you know what they say, desperate times ......." Her voice trailed off. 'Of all the inane things to say, Aimee', she berated herself, once again blaming it on shock.
Gary looked at his watch. He really needed to get going soon, but he felt strangely reluctant to leave her. He watched as she gathered some of the twine from the bundles of newspapers destroyed in the crash, and tied them around her suitcase. She was compelling, this woman with the makeshift bandage tied around her leg. A moment later she rejoined him on the bench.
"Thank you so much for saving my life." She looked down for a moment, then met his eyes with her own again. "That doesn't seem enough, those two words."
"Y-You're welcome." He suddenly found himself stuttering as he contemplated her lovely green eyes. He swallowed and looked at his watch again.
"Well, you seem like you've got someplace to go. Don't let me keep you. I'm fine now, really." She smiled her most reassuring smile, hoping to erase the worry from his face. 'But isn't he sweet to worry', she thought.
"You're sure you're all right? That cut looked like it needed stitches."
"I'll get it looked at, I promise." She smiled again and stood, placing her shoulder bag on her shoulder and grabbing the broken handle of her suitcase. "Thank you again."
Gary watched her walk away for a moment. She was quite a sight, with her slight limp and her bedraggled suitcase trailing behind her. She turned and gave him a jaunty little wave and a heart-stopping smile. 'I didn't even get her name', he thought. He shook away the image of her and took off in the other direction when he remembered his next save. Once again he was running late.
'I didn't even get his name', she thought. 'Great Aimee! Gorgeous guy saves your life and do you get his name? Noooo, you're too busy with you're bra and pads.' She broke out into a fit of laughter, attracting strange looks from the people she passed.
The throbbing in her leg increased with every step, so she asked the next person she saw to point her in the direction of the nearest hospital. 'Another financial setback', she thought, worrying about her lack of medical insurance. But Aimee was never one to let her worries get her down for long.
The nearest hospital turned out to be Mission of Mercy Children's Hospital. She felt foolish going into a children's hospital, but there wasn't much choice. She stood just inside the entrance looking around for any clue as to where she should go, when a tall good looking man approached her.
"You look lost. Can I help you?" He gave her a friendly smile.
"I feel kind of silly, but I've got a cut on my leg that I need to have checked out. Do you think someone here would look at it for me?"
"I'd be happy to check it out for you." He held out his hand.
"I'm Dr. Sterling, but you can call me Nick."
You have to learn to pace yourself
You're just like everybody else
Gary sat down at the bar next to Marissa, paper in hand. It was the first break he'd had all day. He felt like putting his head down on the bar and falling asleep.
"You done with the paper for the day?", she asked. She could already tell he was exhausted, and it was only around 6:00pm.
"No, I've got a fire that burns down an entire Holiday Inn around 8:00pm."
"Does anyone get hurt?"
"No, it says there are no injuries or deaths, thanks to the fire alarm." He ran his hands through his hair, wanting nothing more than to be done for the day.
"Gary, I know this is gonna sound strange coming from me, but maybe you should just skip the fire and get some rest. After all, no one gets injured." Her voice was laced with concern for him.
He looked at her in surprise. Usually she was the first one to guilt him into taking care of every little thing in the paper.
"Y-You really think I should do that?"
"Gary, I'm sure the paper doesn't want you to run yourself into exhaustion. You won't be any good to anyone that way. Does the paper say whether or not the hotel has insurance?" She heard the rustle of the pages as he checked the article.
"Well, no, but it's a nationwide chain. Of course they'd have insurance."
"There you go. They'll probably end up making a profit off this fire."
"You sound like Chuck, you know that."
That comment left Marissa speechless for a moment. She rethought her advice, but still came to the same conclusion.
"Well, I hate to admit it, but even Chuck was right every now and again", she finally responded.
"I suppose I could take the night off from the paper. You really think it would be okay?" He was still skeptical.
"Take the night off, Gary. It'll do you some good." She smiled. "It'll also give me the chance to run some errands, if you can stay here and keep an eye on things for a while. I could be back in a few hours and you could still get to bed early. She paused for a moment, and then plunged on. "Since Erica left, I've been doing the best I can running this place---but Gary, we need a new manager. I put an ad in the paper yesterday." She sighed, prepared for an argument about how they didn't need a new manager.
"Okay!" Gary responded. His mind had drifted back to the woman with the lovely green eyes that he'd saved earlier.
"Great, I'll see you later." Marissa exited before her words would have a chance to sink in. She knew he wasn't really listening.
"Yeah, later." Gary said distractedly.
You in the mirror
I've been spying on you
I see a girl whose world
is broken in two
I get the picture
That you grew up too fast
You've got your dreams, it seems
And more than you asked
Aimee checked in to the nearest Holiday Inn after leaving the hospital. It was the only decent hotel she could afford on her limited budget, so she reserved her room for a week, optimistic that she'd find an apartment soon. She set her battered suitcase on the bed and began taking her things out to check for damage. Fortunately, the suitcase had taken the brunt of the destruction. Her clothes were all still intact. She put them away and sat down on the bed with her newly purchased Sun Times. The first one had gotten lost in the melee of the accident.
In the classifieds, she spotted an ad for a job as manager of a bar and grill called McGinty's. There were several other jobs that piqued her interest, so she circled them all in red. The one for McGinty's seemed the most promising though, as she had been manager of a small diner back home. She decided to check that one first.
She put on a fresh pair of stockings, carefully avoiding the shin area where Nick had given her seven stitches and bandaged her up. He'd been so kind, not even charging her for treatment. She was amazed to have met two such wonderful men on her first day in Chicago. Back in her small home town in Minnesota, her friends warned her that living in the big city would be tough; that people would sooner spit on you then give you the time of day. She laughed now at their warnings. They'd been proven wrong, and she was glad.
Freshening up in the bathroom, she touched the two gold bands that hung on a chain around her neck. The mirror reflected a sad and wistful Aimee for a moment.
"I miss them so much", she whispered to her reflection. A tear trailed down her cheek and she swiped it away quickly. "Enough of that", she scolded herself.
Standing now in front of the full length mirror, she straightened her black knee length skirt and her simple gray sweater, brushing off imaginary lint as she did. She examined herself with a critical eye. Five foot seven, large green eyes, thick brown hair that fell to her shoulders and framed her face, a wayward dimple that played hide and seek with her smile, and a trim figure.
"You look like manager material, so I guess you pass inspection." She saluted herself and then giggled. Talking to herself in the mirror was a habit she'd never outgrown from her childhood.
According to the paper, McGinty's was located on the corner of Illinois
and Franklin. She opened a map of the city she'd gotten at O'Hare airport
when she landed. It looked to be only about 6 or 8 blocks away, so
she decided to walk and save herself some cab fare. She grabbed her
coat and shoulder bag, double checking to make sure she had her room key,
and headed out the door.
When life doesn't go like I plan
So confused and I don't understand
It's hard cause it's out of my hands
And this is what I do
When I got nothing left to give
I run to you
By the time Aimee reached McGinty's, she was regretting her decision to walk. The pain reliever Nick had given her had worn off and now her leg was protesting every step.
She stepped into the bar and paused to take in her surroundings. Already she liked the looks of the place. It had a warm, homey feel. The television above the bar was tuned to a local newsprogram, and there were several people playing pool in the back room.
Consulting her newspaper, she stepped toward the bartender, an older gentleman, with white hair and a Santa Claus build.
"Excuse me, could you tell me where I can find Marissa Clark?"
He smiled. "Miss Clark isn't here right now. "Can I help you?"
"Oh!" The thought of walking all that way for nothing was disappointing. "I'm here about the manager position. Is there someone else I could talk to?"
Gary came out of the office and immediately spotted the woman whose green eyes had been haunting him all day. She was speaking to Crumb at the bar. His feet led him over to her as if they had a mind of their own.
"Here comes the owner now. Hobson, this young lady is here about the job."
Aimee turned and was stunned to find herself staring once again into the eyes of her rescuer. 'Amazing eyes', she thought. 'Alright Aimee, don't be a stammering fool this time.'
"H-Hello again", Gary was the first to speak.
"Hi! So this is what you do when you're not out saving lives." She laughed nervously.
He ran his hand across the back of his neck. Her words had hit too close to home.
"Uh, yeah. I'm Gary....Gary Hobson."
Gary led her over to a table and they sat. "H-How's the leg?", he asked.
"Leg? Oh, the leg! It's fine--seven stitches, the disintegrating kind." She could've kicked herself for saying such a stupid thing. Her face turned pink as her mind recalled the 'pad incident', as she'd come to think of it.
Gary's face turned pink as his mind recalled her makeshift bandage and her lacy bra. He quickly changed the subject.
"S-So you're here about the job?" His voice cracked and he cleared his throat.
"Yes, the ad says to see Marissa Clark. I have my resume." She pulled it out of her bag as she spoke.
"M-Marissa's my business partner, but uh ......His words trailed off as he took her resume and glanced over it. He already knew he would hire her. There was just something about her that fascinated him. He studied her face for a moment as something on the news caught her eye. Then suddenly she went pale.
Aimee couldn't believe what she was seeing on the news. Her hotel was on fire. She stood up and moved closer to the bar so she could hear better. Gary followed in confusion.
"What's the matter?", he asked.
"My .........my hotel is on fire." She turned and ran out the door.
Gary ran after her and when he caught up, he took her arm and stopped her.
"What are you doing?"
"I ........I don't know. I just have to get back there." She knew she wasn't making much sense, but she was too shocked to think straight. "What if they think I'm still in there?"
"Well .....let me drive you." Gary could see that she was bound and
determined to go. He suddenly felt guilty for not preventing the fire.
Gary drove back to the bar with a silent Aimee in tow. There wasn't much they could do once they'd arrived at the burning hotel. Aimee had checked with one of the firemen, who reassured her that everyone had gotten out. Then she'd stood and watched the place burn, tears streaming down her cheeks. Finally, Gary convinced her to come back to McGinty's with him.
Aimee sat in the passenger seat of Gary's jeep silently contemplating her future, which was looking pretty grim after the events of the day. 'I've lost my whole wardrobe, except for what I'm wearing. I have no place to stay, and I've lost the money I used to check in to the Holiday Inn for a week. I don't even want to think about how much I'm gonna have to spend on new clothes.'
Never one to indulge in self-pity for long, she began to plan her next steps. 'I'll find another hotel, and only pay one day at a time. Tomorrow I'll go and buy new clothes, preferrably somewhere cheap, and most of all, I'll hope and pray that Gary will give me the job at McGinty's despite my recent behaviour.'
They arrived back at the bar and went in, Aimee with high hopes of making a better impression so she could get the job, Gary with thoughts of doing anything to make up for her losses---losses which he felt responsible for.
I really wonder
Is there magic in your smile
Taking me under
Got me acting like a child
Something about you
Hits me like an avalanche
I try to stand my ground
But I don't stand a chance
Gary sat down on the corner of the desk in the office and looked at Aimee with concern. She still hadn't spoken since the fire.
She looked up at him from her seat on the couch and smiled. 'This is the sweetest man I've ever met, not to mention drop dead gorgeous. Get a grip Aimee, he's probably married.' Her eyes drifted to his left hand and took note of the absence of a wedding ring. 'Okay, just cause there's no ring, doesn't mean he's not married.'
"Are-Are you gonna be okay?" Gary was relieved to see her smile, but she still had not spoken, and he had a strange need to hear her voice.
"Yeah, I'm okay. I was just trying to figure out what to do next. I'm sorry I fell apart like that." She lowered her eyes for a moment, feeling foolish for crying over the loss of her clothes.
"I really do want this job. I hope you'll give me another interview." She tried not to sound too desperate.
"Th-That's not necessary. Y-You got the job."
"I do! Oh thank you so much." Before she realized what she was doing, she stood up and threw her arms around Gary, nearly knocking him off the desk. Then she let go just as suddenly when she came to her senses. 'Way to go Aim, the man gives you a job and you tackle him. What he must think of me! Will I ever not embarrass myself in front of this man?' She could feel her face heating up again.
"Umm, sorry about that." Her apology was spoken to the floor, since she couldn't meet his eyes.
Gary was trying not to think about how good it felt to have her in his arms for only that brief second. He could feel his face heating up again. An awkward silence fell over them for a few minutes. Finally, Aimee broke it.
"I need to find another hotel to stay in tonight. Is there one around here? Preferrably one that's not on fire", she joked.
Her joke sent a fresh wave of guilt through Gary for not preventing the fire. He laughed awkwardly.
"N-Not really, b-but ...... y-you're welcome to stay with me for the night, if you don't mind the couch. I live upstairs." He gestured toward the stairs with two fingers as he spoke, and Aimee found the gesture endearing, not to mention that adorable stutter. She briefly wondered if he only stuttered when he was nervous. 'Maybe he's just as attracted to me as I am to him. Yeah Aim, dream on! He probably thinks I'm a lunatic.'
The thought of staying with Gary was all too appealling. 'He must not be married if he's inviting me to stay. Down girl---- and start thinking with your head and not your hormones! Let's see, I can wander the streets in the dark looking for another reasonably inexpensive hotel, which will put another dent in my meager savings, or I can stay upstairs.' She really felt like there wasn't much choice.
"Thank you, that'd be nice. I don't know how I could ever repay you for all you've done for me today. I promise I won't get in your way---I travel light." She cringed at her lame joke. 'Great Aimee, any more stupid things you'd like to say?' She began to wonder if there was no end to her foolish behaviour around him.
The door opened and Marissa walked in, drawing their attention.
"Marissa." He took her by the arm and led her over to Aimee. "I-I'd like you to meet our new manager, Aimee Madison. Aimee, th-this is my partner, Marissa Clark."
"It's nice to meet you, Aimee." Marissa was polite, but she was a little surprised and put off that Gary had hired someone so quickly. She began to grow suspicious.
"It's nice to meet you too, Miss Clark. I'm looking forward to working with you." Aimee wanted to make a good impression. She already sensed that Marissa was displeased about something.
Marissa turned to Gary. "Could I speak to you privately for a moment?"
"I'll just .....uh ....go out to the bar and leave you two alone." Aimee left the office, fervently praying that she wasn't about to lose a job she hadn't even started yet.
"Gary, what's going on? Who's Aimee? And please tell me that her qualifications for running a bar include more than just a pretty face."
Gary looked at her in surprise, wondering how she always knew things like the fact that Aimee was pretty.
"Well, of course she's qualified. Don't you think I'm capable of hiring the right person for the job?" He began to pace the small office.
"Hm, I'm starting to wonder. Where did you meet her?"
"I saved her life this morning, and then tonight she came in here to see you about the job. She gave me her resume." He looked around the desk, wondering where he'd left it. "Besides, because of me she has no place to stay." He proceeded to tell her about the hotel incident.
"Oh Gary!" Marissa sank down on the couch and folded her cane, feeling guilt at her own part in stopping Gary from preventing the fire. They spoke for a few more minutes, Marissa finally agreeing to give Aimee a chance.
Gary went back out to the bar to look for Aimee. He spotted her talking
to Crumb, and heard her laugh. It was like the sweetest music he'd
I can remember
When my mind was clear and free
Now there's a feeling
Coming over me
The sweetest attraction
That my heart has ever seen
I'm going crazy making sense of anything
Gary came into his loft and found Aimee in the kitchen making hot chocolate. She was wearing the t-shirt and pajama bottoms he'd loaned her. The pajama bottoms were miles too big on her and it looked as if she had them pinned to keep them from falling off. She smiled and offered him a cup, which he gladly took. The tv was tuned to an old black and white movie. It looked as if she'd made herself right at home, a prospect that made him smile.
"I hope you don't mind that I put the tv on. I just love these old movies. Want to watch?" She sat down on the couch and pulled the blanket over her legs.
"Sure, w-what are we watching?" He sat down in the chair.
"It's 'Bringing Up Baby' with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn." She stroked the cat, which had jumped up on her lap and made himself comfortable. "I like your cat. What's his name?"
"He uh, doesn't really belong to me, it's ..... well, it's more like I belong to him. I just call him Cat."
"Oh, like in 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'" She smiled and continued petting the cat.
"Huh?" Gary had no idea what she was talking about.
"The movie, 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' with Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard. Audrey's character, Holly Golightly, had an orange tabby cat that she called Cat." 'Oh brother, Aimee! I'm sure he doesn't want to hear trivia about old movies.' She stopped talking and focused all her attention on the cat.
"Oh, I guess I missed that movie." Gary took a sip of his hot chocolate and watched her over the rim of his cup. After a moment, she looked up at him again and spoke.
"I meant to ask you before, when do you want me to start work? I can start right away, except I just need to get some new clothes first. I'll go shopping first thing in the morning. I made a list of all the things I'm gonna need." She stopped when she realized she was rambling. 'Geez Aimee, what's with you today?'
"Tomorrow's fine." Gary didn't really want to think about tomorrow, because tomorrow she would probably find a new place to stay. He was enjoying her company far too much.
They both turned their attention toward the movie and soon found themselves engrossed. Gary enjoyed Aimee's occasional laughter at the antics of the zany characters. He found himself wishing he'd sat on the couch next to her. Images of snuggling up next to her under the blanket filled his mind as he drifted off to sleep, a little smile on his face.
Aimee looked over at Gary asleep in the chair. 'My, he looks cute when he's asleep.' She had a sudden urge to snuggle up next to him. She supressed this urge and gently shook him awake.
"Huh?" Gary opened his eyes and gazed sleepily at the angel who was waking him. He had a sudden urge to pull her onto his lap and kiss her.
"You'd better go to bed. You're gonna have a stiff neck if you sleep there." 'Not that I would mind watching you sleep all night', she thought.
He scratched his head, causing his hair to stand up in one spot. "Uh, yeah.
I guess I'd better. Thanks." He stood and yawned.
"Goodnight." It wasn't long before she heard him snoring. Soon
she was asleep herself with a smile on her face, dreaming of a man with pond
The alarm went off and Gary awoke, feeling strangely happy. He heard the cat and the thump of the paper and stumbled to the door. Paper in hand, he turned and found Aimee sitting up on the couch all bundled up in her blanket, looking confused. He swallowed hard. She looked so adorable all sleepy-eyed, with her hair all mussed. 'Oh boy!'
"Good morning! What time is it?", she asked, stifling a yawn. It had taken her a moment to remember where she was, until she saw Gary going for his paper. His hair was all mussed from sleep and he looked oh so good. 'Aimee, you've really got to get yourself under control here', she reprimanded herself.
"G-Good morning. It's about 6:30."
"Oh!" She stood and went to the kitchen. "Do you mind if I make some tea?"
"N-No, you go right ahead. I'm just ......uh.....gonna take a shower."
He headed for the bathroom, still holding his paper. He
scanned the headlines for a few moments. For once, the paper was giving him a light day. There were only two stories to take care of and they were both in the same general location. Both were to occur around 9:45am. An elderly woman was going to be injured when her dog knocks over a candle and sets the apartment on fire, and a small child who was going to drink bleach when his mother wasn't looking. He stepped into the shower, planning his day as he lathered up.
Turning off the water, Gary reached for his bathrobe which usually hung from a hook on the wall. All he got was air. A vision of it laying on the floor where he'd dropped it yesterday morning came over him. He wrapped his towel around his waist and stepped out of the bathroom, hoping Aimee wasn't looking.
Aimee sipped her tea and planned her day, doing her best not to think of the man in the shower. 'First, I'll have to go shopping. Hopefully there's a Wal-mart around here somewhere, or somewhere else I can get lots of clothes really cheap.' She smiled at the prospect of getting a whole new wardrobe. She was refilling her mug of tea when she heard Gary emerge from the bathroom.
"Do you know if there are any Wal-Marts ar......?" She was struck speechless as she turned to see Gary wrapped only in a towel.
Gary stopped short at the sound of her voice and stood frozen in embarrassment. After a brief pause, he grabbed his clothes and practically ran back into the bathroom.
'Holy cow! That man is fine.' She smiled and blushed, knowing
she'd not soon forget that image, not that she wanted to.
Every moment used to feel
Like living through a
Cold and starless night
But everything's changing
Everything is feeling right
Aimee climbed into the jeep as Gary held the door for her. His manners were just one more point in his favor. Her attraction for him was getting harder to fight. When she asked him if there was a Wal-Mart in the area, he'd offered to take her, as long as she didn't mind making a stop along the way. 'Mind? I wouldn't mind flying to the moon if it meant being with you.' She almost said that outloud, but caught herself just in time.
They drove in silence for a while, Aimee lost in thought. She clasped the two gold bands around her neck and held an internal one-sided conversation with their original owners. 'Grampie and Grammie, I miss you both so much. I just wanted to tell you that I've met a wonderful man. I don't know what's going to happen, but I hope you know that I'm happy.' She looked out the window at the passing scenery and sighed with contentment. The leaves had put on their brightest colors and Aimee felt as if it were solely for her benefit.
Gary parked the jeep and pulled out his newspaper to confirm the address of the apartment building. He glanced over at Aimee and noticed her hand clasped around the two rings on the chain around her neck. He'd been wondering about those rings. They looked like wedding bands. At the same time, Aimee was wondering about that newspaper that Gary seemed so attached to.
"I've got to go in here for a few minutes, do you mind waiting here?" He hoped it wouldn't take long to prevent the fire caused by the dog, because the bleach incident was to take place here on this street as well, but the time was not specific.
"No, I don't mind at all. Take your time." In her heart she
was saying, 'I'd wait forever for you.' After Gary left the jeep, she
passed the time by watching the people passing on the street, making up stories about them in her head.
A few minutes had passed when she noticed a woman pulling a wagon loaded with groceries and a small boy of about three or four. She smiled at the sight, envisioning herself in the woman's shoes, pulling her own son, a little boy with dark hair that came to a v in the back , muddy green eyes, and a smile that could melt butter. So caught up was she in her fantasy that she almost missed seeing the little boy digging through the grocery bags, until he pulled out a small bottle of bleach.
Little Alex dropped his empty juice cup in his lap and began exploring
the depths of the bags in front of him. He pulled out items one by one,
examined them briefly and dropped them behind him in the wagon. Finally,
he came to a bottle of bleach. "Juice!", he exclaimed happily, while
his mother continued pulling the wagon, oblivious to the danger her son was
in. Aimee grew concerned when she saw him trying to pull the cap off.
She jumped out of the jeep and ran over to the woman and
child, snatching the bleach from the child's hand.
Gary came out of the apartment building after having been chewed out by the elderly woman and nearly bitten by the dog, but at least the story had changed. He spotted Aimee across the street speaking to a woman holding a small boy in her arms. The woman seemed upset about something, and Gary felt a surge of protectiveness toward Aimee. He ran across to join them, ready to defend her.
"Is everything all right?" He directed the question toward Aimee.
"Yes, fine. Everything's fine." She rubbed the woman's arm comfortingly as she spoke.
"Your girlfriend just saved my son's life." The woman turned her
attention back to Aimee, drawing her into an embrace and thanking her profusely.
Gary turned and checked the paper, discovering that the bleach story had changed.
He stared at Aimee in speechless amazement as she continued to comfort the
Gary sat at the snack bar inside the Wal-Mart pretending to read his newspaper, while Aimee did her shopping. The words blurred before him as his mind strayed toward her. He hadn't missed the looks she'd received from other men as they'd entered the store, although she seemed oblivious to the attention. He was surprised at the flash of possessiveness that took hold of him. Every now and again, he caught a quick glimpse of her passing through the aisles and his heart quickened its pace.
Aimee tried to hurry through her shopping knowing Gary was waiting for
her, but it wasn't just courtesy that made her rush. Neither she nor
Gary had bothered to correct the woman from earlier, when she mistook them
to be boyfriend/girlfriend and Aimee wished that it could be true. She hadn't
missed the looks Gary had received from other women as they'd entered the
store, although he seemed oblivious to the attention. She was surprised
at the flash of possessiveness that took hold of her.
Every now and again, she caught a quick glimpse of him at the snack bar as she passed through the aisles, and her heart quickened its pace.
An hour later, they were back in the jeep with Aimee's purchases loaded in the back seat. She'd made sure her undergarments were buried deep inside one of the bags, in the hopes of avoiding a repeat of yesterday.
"Are you hungry? I was thinking maybe we could get some lunch."
As soon as the words were out of Gary's mouth, Aimee's stomach rumbled loudly. 'Oh good grief!' She could feel the warmth suffusing her face.
Gary just laughed. "I guess that answers my question." She looked so cute when she blushed.
"Gary, thank you so much for everything you've done for me. I know I keep saying that, but I just want you to know how much I appreciate it."
"You're welcome." He parked outside a pizza place and went around
to open her door. They spoke of everything and nothing while they ate.
She told him about her home town back in Minnesota, and how she was raised
by her grandparents. He told her about growing up in Hickory and his
parents, and being an only child. They laughed together easily, and
Gary felt lighter then he had in years. Before they realized it, several
hours had passed.
It's the water that I need
It's the air that my heart breathes
And I have come to realize
Love is keeping me alive
Marissa discovered by the end of the day that Aimee was a quick study as she learned the duties of a manager. They'd been closeted in the office most of the time since she and Gary had returned from their long lunch. Gary had hovered for a while, attempting to do paper work, until Marissa sent him off to run some errands. She was amused at his distracted attempts to fill the time afforded him by the paper, and his obvious attraction for their new employee. If her instincts were correct, which they usually were, she knew the attraction was mutual. By the time, she and Aimee had finished for the day, it was getting late.
The other employees had taken to Aimee right off. She was the kind of person that people were instantly drawn to. Crumb was smitten with her in an affectionate, fatherly way and would not allow any of the more frisky male customers to bother her. The chef, George, had taken to calling her "kitchen angel" in his French/American accent, a nickname which embarrassed her to no end. The waiters and waitresses all had made her feel welcome. She was in the kitchen helping George 'test' some of his recipes and laughing over his corny jokes when Gary reappeared.
Gary smiled at the scene. While he was out, he'd been overcome by an irrational fear that Aimee had been just a dream. His relief at seeing her was palpable, and when she smiled at him, he wanted nothing more than to take her in his arms and kiss her. He somehow managed to suppress the urge.
While Gary was out, Aimee had been overcome with an irrational fear that he'd been just a dream. Her relief at seeing him was palpable, and when he smiled at her, she wanted nothing more than to run into his arms and kiss him. She somehow managed to suppress the urge.
"I'm glad you're back." She smiled at him, unconsciously conveying more than she intended by her words. "I need to get my stuff from your place."
"You found a place to stay?" He couldn't keep the disappointment out of his voice.
"Well.....no, but..... I will." 'Great Aimee, you sound desperate. You can't live off his charity forever.'
"Oh!" He hoped he didn't sound too happy that she hadn't found a place to stay. "Well, you're welcome to stay with me as long as you need to. I don't mind, and hey, it's close to work." He laughed at his own joke.
"Are you sure? I don't want to be any trouble." She knew this was probably not the wisest idea, but her dwindling finances were beginning to worry her, despite the fact that she at least had a job now.
"It's no trouble. No trouble at all."
Several days later they were sitting together in his kitchen eating home made pot pies that Aimee had baked herself. Gary had come in after dealing with the paper, and was immediately tempted by the aromas emanating from his apartment.
"Ummm, this is really good. Did you know that Marissa and I sometimes buy recipes to use at McGinty's?" He knew she was worried about her finances.
"Really! Do you think that you'd want to use this one? It was my Grammie's special recipe."
He nodded and swallowed before answering. "Just write it out for George and I'll tell Marissa to add the money to your next paycheck."
"How much money?" She hated to sound so pathetic, but as much as she loved living with Gary, she was starting to feel like a charity case. Besides which, her clothes were all still in Wal-Mart bags. She'd been checking the apartment listings everyday, and soon discovered that they were far more expensive then she'd thought.
"$700.00" Gary answered.
Aimee nearly choked when she heard the amount. $700.00 added to her savings would be enough for a security deposit on one of the cheaper apartments she'd seen listed. She barely managed to keep herself from tackling him again, she was so excited. The thought of leaving, however, sobered her.
"Thank you so much! With that money, I'll have enough to start apartment hunting." She grabbed pen and paper and began writing down the recipe.
Gary was suddenly regretting his generosity. The thought of her leaving
cast a shadow over his heart. He'd only known her a few days, yet she
was as necessary to him as food and water. He tried to comfort himself
with the fact that she would still be working for him, and that she hadn't
found an apartment yet. Finding an apartment could be a long, drawn-out
process. He was starting to feel better already.
Since we met my life's been so up in the air
Here today but by next week I could be there
On the street struggling to support my newest vice
With a sign, says 'I will work for love advice'
'Cause I will mow your lawn
If you'll tell me what I'm doing wrong
Gary sat down in the chair with the paper and watched Aimee sleeping on the couch. It was a new routine he'd started a few mornings ago. As soon as she stirred, he would pretend to be engrossed in the paper. He couldn't help himself, she just looked so beautiful and peaceful as she slept.
Aimee awoke and sat up on the couch. She noticed Gary sitting in the chair engrossed in his paper as usual. He was the first thing she saw every morning for the past few days, and the sight made her happy. She loved his five o'clock shadow, and his hair sticking up all over. The thought of not waking up to the sight of him cast a pall over her happiness, but she knew she needed to find a place of her own.
"Good morning!" They laughed as they realized they'd both spoken at the same time.
"Gary, I hate to ask, but I need some time off to look at apartments. I found a few in the paper yesterday that I can afford."
"Oh!" It was all he could manage to get past the lump in his throat. He was almost tempted to tell her she couldn't have any time off and would just have to stay with him forever.
"Well, let's see." He took the newspaper she handed him and read over the listings she'd circled. He racked his brain for some excuse not to let her go, but his mind was empty of everything except disappointment in the thought of her leaving.
"I suppose I could take you to look at these today." It was the best he could do. He hoped somewhere along the way, a brilliant plan would emerge.
"You could? That's so nice. Thank you!" Aimee's outlook
brightened at the thought of spending the day with him.
The paper had given Gary another light day, freeing him to take Aimee apartment hunting. They drove to the first address listed, which turned out to be little better than a roach motel. Gary almost kept right on driving, but Aimee was insistent on at least looking at the apartment. It turned out to be about the size of a closet, a dirty one at that.
Aimee was disappointed, but not hopeless. There were still two more to see. The second one wasn't much different than the first, just farther away from McGinty's. Aimee was starting to lose heart. The third one was the worst yet. Gary refused to stop this time, which left Aimee inexplicably angry with him. She hated feeling so dependent on others.
"Hey, why didn't you stop?"
"What do you mean, why didn't I stop? Did you see that place?"
"I at least want to see the apartment." She knew she was being completely irrational, but she couldn't stop herself.
"See the apartment? What are you nuts? That place looks like a haven for pimps, prostitutes and drug dealers. There's no way we're stopping there." His voice grew louder with each word. There was no way he'd ever allow her to take an apartment in that place. How could she even consider it? The thought of what could happen to her made him crazy.
"I can take care of myself, and .....and I don't need your approval on where I live." Her volume now matched his. "Now turn around."
"You are the most stubborn woman. Forget it, we're not going back."
"Stubborn? You are the king of stubborn." She fell silent and glared at him.
After a moment, Gary grew calm again. He couldn't stay mad when she looked so cute with her arms crossed in anger. He tried his best not to smile, but he lost the battle.
When Aimee saw him smiling, she couldn't stay mad at him. She burst out laughing, realizing how ridiculous her arguments had been. Soon Gary's laughter joined hers.
"I'm sorry." They both spoke at the same time, spawning another fit
Late at night when all the world is sleeping
I stay up and think of you
And I wish on a star that somewhere you are
Thinking of me too
Aimee was back to square one. Her heart and her head were waging
a battle and both sides were losing. It was late and she couldn't sleep,
so she got up and went to the window to converse with her reflection. She
touched the cool glass with her fingertips, imagining that she was touching
the stars in the autumn sky. 'I don't have enough money for a decent
apartment yet, but I just can't go on living here. I'm falling in love
with Gary and the longer I stay, the harder it's gonna be to leave.'
With one hand still on the glass, she reached for the two bands around her
neck with the other. 'Grammie and Grampie, I wish you
could tell me what to do. I feel so lost.' The tears started to roll down her cheeks.
Gary sat up in bed, not sure what had awakened him, until he saw Aimee standing by the window softly crying. He went to her and laid a hand gently on her shoulder.
"Hey, what's wrong?", he whispered tenderly. He was almost afraid to hear the answer, lest it be a broken heart over some man from her past, or worse, from her present.
Aimee stayed facing the window, afraid if she turned around he'd be able to read the feelings for him which were written in her eyes. She brushed away the tears and spoke.
"I'm sorry I woke you. I just miss my grandparents." She left it at that, knowing it was only partially true.
Gary was relieved to hear it. He led her back to the couch and sat down beside her.
"Tell me about them. Tell me everything." He was surprised to find that he really wanted to know, especially about those rings that seemed so special to her.
She laughed softly. "It's a long story. You may regret asking."
"I doubt it." He smiled back at her, his heart growing lighter at the sound of her soft laughter.
She took a deep breath and plunged into her story. As she spoke, her eyes reflected the depth of love and respect she held for her grandparents.
"My Grammie and Grampie used to tell me that they fell in love with each
other from the moment they met. Grammie called Grampie "her heart's
reflection". They were very poor when they got married and couldn't
even afford wedding bands, but my Grampie had silently vowed that one day
he would buy her a ring. He used to joke that he didn't want any other
men setting their sights on her. The years went by and Grampie saved
every extra penny he could for Grammie's ring. They had three
children, two that died very young, and my father. By the time their tenth anniversary was coming, Grampie had saved enough to buy Grammie a simple gold band. What he didn't know was that over the years Grammie had secretly saved every extra penny she could so she could buy Grampie a wedding ring. She used to say that she didn't want any other women getting designs on him. On the night of their anniversary, each was excited about the prospect of giving the other an engraved wedding
band. Imagine their surprise when they each opened their gift. But the real surprise came when they each read the engraving on their rings."
Aimee unclasped the chain around her neck and removed the two rings. She handed the larger one to Gary first and he held it up to the light and read it aloud. "To my heart's reflection." Then he took the smaller one from her hand and did the same. "To my heart's reflection." He handed the rings back to her and they each sat silently lost in the miracle of the story.
Finally Aimee broke the silence again. "My Grampie gave me these
rings when he was dying. He died of a broken heart only three months
after my Grammie's unexpected death. I think he tried to live for my
sake, but he just missed her so much. He said the rings were the only
legacy he had to give." She sniffed and wiped away a tear. "He
told me that someday I would meet someone special, someone that would be
my heart's reflection, and when I did, I should give him the ring as a wedding
gift." She lowered her eyes, knowing she'd already met him.
"I really miss them. I know it sounds silly, but sometimes I touch the rings and talk to them."
"That doesn't sound silly at all." He paused for a moment then asked, "What happened to your grandmother?"
"I killed her!"
If the tears
Should ever cloud your eyes
If the rain
Should ever darken
The skies above you
You'll be alright
'Cause I'm here, I'm here
And I'll turn your
Grey skies back to blue
'Cause there's nothing
I won't do for you
Gary sat shell-shocked at her response. He was sure he hadn't heard her correctly. There was no way this sweet, beautiful woman had killed her grandmother.
Aimee swallowed the tears that threatened to spill over and answered him.
"It was my fault that she died. She'd been inside all day canning
vegetables, and she asked me to go to the bank for her. I wanted her
to get out of the house for a while. It was such a beautiful day, so I begged
her to go with me. She went into the bank, and I stayed in the car
because my favorite song was playing on the radio." Her voice broke
and the tears raced down her face. "She walked in on a bank robbery
and was gunned down. I......I heard the shots and watched her fall."
body began shaking with sobs.
"You couldn't have known the bank was being robbed." He took her in his arms and held her tightly. She pulled back a little and used her sleeve to wipe at her tears.
"But...I........I should've gone to the bank by myself or been the one
to go in. I..........I had to listen to that stupid song. I.......I
hate that song now." Her sobs renewed and Gary pulled her close once again.
"It wasn't your fault. You can't let the past eat you up. Believe me, I know. I know, I know", he whispered over and over again, thinking of his own similar experience with Jeremiah. Her crying subsided as the conviction of his words pierced her consciousness. She looked up into his eyes and knew that somehow he understood.
"Tell me", she whispered, and he did. He told her about Jeremiah, and the guilt he felt, and the carpet factory. He told her things he hadn't told anyone, not even Marissa. Aimee didn't completely understand it all, but she felt his pain all the same. It was her turn to comfort him.
"You know what my Grampie told me after my Grammie died? He told
me that guilt is a useless emotion. He told me that Grammie would be
very unhappy if she knew I blamed myself. For the first time, I know
that he was right. And I bet Jeremiah wouldn't want you to feel guilty
either. You did everything you could." They continued to hold each
other, their souls knit together by shared pain.
A muffled voice invaded Aimee's dream, a dream she was reluctant to wake from. She felt as if she were wrapped in a cocoon of warmth. She tried to ignore the voice at first, wanting to stay warm and cozy, but it persisted. Prying open one eye, she squinted at her surroundings. The only thing she saw was a wall of gray cotton. Her thoughts were fuzzy with sleep. As she came more fully awake, she realized that the gray wall was Gary's t-shirt. They'd fallen asleep on the couch in each other's arms last night. The voice was coming from the alarm across the room, and the cat was now meowing insistently at the door.
From the sound of his breathing, she could tell that Gary was still asleep. 'I could get used to this', she thought. Feeling exceedingly shy, she tried to figure out how to extract herself from his arms without waking him. She stirred a little, and his arms tightened around her.
The sound of the cat meowing invaded Gary's dream, a dream he was reluctant to wake from. He felt an unfamiliar weight on his chest, a weight that was soft and warm. Prying open one eye, he squinted at the source of that weight. All he could see was a head of silky brown hair. Coming more fully awake, he realized that the hair belonged to Aimee. 'I could get used to this', he thought. Shyness overtook him as he tried to figure out how to extract himself without waking her. Too late he realized she was already awake.
"Uh, good morning." Aimee's face burned as she placed her hands on his chest for leverage as she stood.
"G-Good morning." Gary felt a sudden urgency to get the paper that
had nothing to do with the cat meowing angrily at the door.
Gary and Aimee kept a wide berth between them the rest of the day. Both were feeling awkward after their night on the couch, but it was the only thing either could think of all day.
Marissa sensed trouble in paradise immediately. She'd been happy to see the two of them drawing closer. If anyone deserved someone special like Aimee, it was Gary. She finally cornered him in the office, determined to find out what happened.
"Gary, what's going on between you and Aimee?"
"What do you mean, what's going on? There's nothing going on."
"Ha! I may be blind, Gary, but there are some things I can see. Have you told her how you felt?"
"No! You know I can't do that. I've got this." He plopped the newspaper down on the desk.
"Gary, I'm sick and tired of you using that newspaper as an excuse. That newspaper is what brought you two together in the first place. Live your life, Gary. Isn't that what Snow said?"
Gary sank down on the couch and ran his hand over the back of his neck. He knew what he was really afraid of and it had nothing to do with the newspaper. He was afraid of being rejected again like he had with Marcia, although he'd never admit it to Marissa. He suspected she already knew anyway.
"Gary, Aimee is nothing like Marcia. I know that's what you're afraid of."
He looked up sharply. It always amazed him how she could read his mind so well. "How do you do that?"
She smiled. "Just think about what I said, ok."
Every time I close my eyes I dream about
Hugging you, holding you, kissing you boy
It's driving me crazy
But even if it takes forever
To win your heart and your love and your devotion
I know it's gonna be worth the wait
Aimee awoke the next morning with a sudden craving for blueberry pancakes. She and Grammie had always made them together on Sunday mornings from Grammie's special recipe. She hadn't had them since Grammie's death, the memories had always been too painful, but now she decided it was time. 'I wonder if Gary likes blueberry pancakes.'
She ran downstairs to the McGinty's kitchen to gather the stuff she would
need. The cat ran in when she opened the door and she nearly tripped
over him. On her way back up, Aimee stooped to pick up the paper.
Without giving it a second glance, she laid it on the night stand next to
the bed where Gary still slept. She turned off his blaring alarm and
watched him sleep for a moment. She clasped the rings in her hand for
another silent conversation. 'Grammie and Grampie, I love this man
so much. He's my heart's reflection and I know I'm his, but I don't
think he knows it yet. Do you think you could whisper it in
his ear while he sleeps?' She smiled and turned to head back to her breakfast preparations, when the date on the paper caught her eye. 'Strange, it's got the wrong date.' She picked it up and flipped through it, scanning the headlines, then she set it back down and went back to the kitchen, her mind full of questions.
A wonderful aroma brought Gary out of his slumber. He soon discovered the source. He knew a moment of panic when he found Aimee'd gotten the paper, but she didn't seem to act as if she knew. Sitting down across from her, he enjoyed the best blueberry pancakes he'd ever had in his life. He wondered how she could've known they were his favorite. Neither of them spoke much, as some of the awkwardness of the day before lingered. Gary read his paper while he ate, but there wasn't much in it that required his attention. Strangely, the paper had not been quite so demanding since he'd met Aimee.
The ringing of the phone interrupted his reverie. Aimee cleared the dishes while he went to answer it. She smiled when she heard him say "hi mom". He'd painted such a funny and sweet picture of his parents with the stories he'd told her, that she felt as if she already knew them. She headed for the shower to give him some privacy.
When she came out of the bathroom, Gary was sitting in his usual chair with paper in hand. She looked so beautiful and fresh and .....He thought of the story of her grandparents rings. Could she be my heart's reflection?, he wondered. He wanted her to be, but he was still afraid. His mother had been typically over-excited when he'd told her about Aimee. She was probably already counting grandchildren, and all he'd said was that she was their new manager and that she was staying with him temporarily. His voice had cracked on the word 'temporarily', and Lois had picked up on it immediately. She insisted that Gary invite Aimee to share their family Thanksgiving dinner.
"Th-that was my mother on the phone. She wanted to invite you to Thanksgiving dinner, that is if you don't already have plans."
"No, I don't have any plans. That'd be nice, as long as you don't mind. I wouldn't want to intrude on your family time." Her heart was swelling with joy at the possibility of spending Thanksgiving with Gary and his parents.
"I-I don't mind at all." He smiled shyly, and wondered what had happened
to her own parents.
A few days later Gary and Aimee were once again in the jeep, heading for Hickory. Gary had only a few articles from the paper to deal with in the morning before they left. As the miles passed, they shared stories about past holidays. Aimee's memories were bittersweet, since this was the first holiday she'd spend without her grandparents. If it weren't for Gary, she'd probably spend the whole day crying.
Gary's curiosity finally got the best of him. "How old were you when your parents died?", he asked.
She looked at him in surprise. "I never said my parents died."
"Y-You didn't? No, I guess you didn't. I'm sorry, I guess I just assumed."
"That's okay. I'll tell you about them if you really want to know, but it's another long story." She laughed
He nodded, feeling a little foolish for his assumption.
"I told you that my grandparents had three children, two that died very
young. They were my aunts Diane and Kimberly, and they died from polio
shortly after my father was born. My Grammie said that my father, Steven,
always felt that he lived in the shadow of their memory, and he also resented
the fact that they were always poor. I think my Grammie blamed herself
when he rebelled against them. He left home at 18 and moved to California.
A few years later he came back with a wife, my mother, Susan. He wanted
to show his parents that he'd already made a better life for himself financially.
My Grammie said he made his money by gambling. Susan was expecting
me at the time, and my father really wanted a son. When
I was born, my dad was angry that I was a girl. I guess right from
the start I resembled his sisters, which only added to his anger. Susan
was very young also, and somewhat materialistic. Grammie said she was in
no way prepared for the hardships of motherhood. A few months after
I was born, they dropped me off at my grandparents and never returned.
They sent a Christmas card every year,
but they never once asked about me. I think I might have brothers, but I'm not sure."
Gary swallowed hard. He couldn't imagine anyone rejecting her that way, especially her own parents. He saw his own parents in a new light. "I'm sorry." It was all he could think to say.
"It's okay. For a while I felt like some kind of reject, especially when I'd see other kids with their parents. But I couldn't have grown up in a better home. No child could've been given more love than what I received from my grandparents, and I consider myself blessed to have been raised by them. My parents are strangers to me, and I can't help but think they did me the biggest favor when they left me."
Before she knew it, they were pulling up in front of the Hobson house.
Aimee felt her stomach clench. She was a little nervous about meeting
Gary's parents. She barely had time to calm her nerves when she found
herself wrapped in a motherly embrace.
There's no place like home for the holidays
So no matter how far away you roam
If you want to be happy in a million ways
For the holidays you can't beat home sweet home
Aimee and Lois stood in the kitchen working together to prepare the Thanksgiving meal. Bernie and Lois had both made Aimee feel right at home. Gary and his dad were in the other room fully engrossed in a football game. Their occasional shouts echoed back toward the kitchen. Aimee basked in the feeling of being part of a family once again. She was in the midst of mashing potatoes, when Lois dropped a bombshell.
"So, Aimee, just what are your intentions toward my son?" There was hope in Lois' eyes as she looked to Aimee for the answer.
She cleared her throat nervously and said, "What do you mean?". Pretending to be stupid was her only defense.
"You know what I mean. Do you love him?" Subtlety was not one of Lois' finer qualities.
"I uh......I only just met him." Aimee felt like a bug under a microscope and she began to squirm.
"Well that doesn't matter. Haven't you ever heard of love at first sight?"
"Uh......." Just then the oven buzzer went off, and Aimee grabbed some pot holders and took a pie out of the oven. She hoped the red in her face would be attributed to the blast of heat that hit her when she opened the oven door. 'Ok Aimee, think of something quick, cause I don't think she's gonna give up. Now is not the time to have scrambled eggs for brains.' She turned back just in time to see Lois staring at her knowingly with her arms crossed and a smile on her face.
"You don't have to answer, it's written all over your face, and I'm so glad." With that Lois burst into tears and threw her arms around Aimee. That's how Bernie and Gary found them.
"What's going on in here?", Bernie bellowed. "We're starving, right Gar?"
Gary just stood and stared, wondering what Aimee and his mother had been talking about.
The two women pulled apart and wiped their tears. Lois began issuing orders to everyone and soon they were ready to eat. They sat down at the table and Bernie said a prayer. When he finished, Lois cleared her throat and spoke.
"Before we start eating, I want everyone to say one thing they're thankful for."
"Mom!", Gary protested.
"Oh let her have her way so we can eat. I'm starving!" Bernie had been eyeing the gnocchi like a salivating dog from the moment they sat down.
"I'll start", Lois said. "I'm thankful to finally have my son home for a holiday, and I'm also thankful to welcome Aimee to the family."
Aimee felt as if her face could light an entire city. Gary's was as bright as her own.
"Bernie you go next", Lois ordered. She was clearly enjoying herself.
Bernie rubbed his hands together and said, "I'm thankful the paper finally gave Gary a holiday off, so we could watch the football game together."
"Dad!" Gary gave him a pointed look.
"What?" Aimee doesn't know about the paper." Bernie never was good at keeping a secret. "Sorry, I didn't know." He was like a kid with a new toy whenever he thought of the paper.
Aimee just looked at them in confusion as a tense silence filled the room. Finally, Lois broke it.
"Aimee, it's your turn."
"I'm thankful to have been included in your holiday. Thank you....for.......
for making me feel welcome." She got all choked up
and nearly started crying, and so did Lois.
"Isn't she sweet, Gary?" Lois turned her misty-eyed glance toward her son, whose response was to fidget in his seat and say, "uh.....yeah."
All eyes turned on him, expectantly, waiting for him to take his turn at being thankful. He ran a finger under his collar and cleared his throat. "I'm thankful that we're finally gonna get to eat." He laughed nervously.
Bernie joined in with "Amen to that, let's eat. Pass the gnocchi."
They began passing the food, piling their plates high. They talked
and laughed throughout the meal. Bernie and Lois told lots of Gary stories,
much to his chagrin and Aimee's enjoyment. For the first time since
her grandparents death, she felt wanted. She already loved Gary's parents,
and fervently wished that someday she truly could belong to this family.
I've been stood up and messed around
And taken for a fool
But next time round
I'm gonna change the rules
And I don't care about the things that people say
It's you I think about each and every day
Aimee sat quietly in the jeep on the way home thinking back on the conversation she and Lois had after dinner, while doing the dishes.
"Why is it that Gary never married?" She whispered the words, not wanting Gary to overhear.
"He didn't tell you?" Lois looked at her in surprise. Then she took Aimee's hand and led her to the table, as if the conversation were too serious to be had over a pile of dirty dishes.
"He was married, but his wife threw him out on their anniversary."
"Why?" Aimee couldn't have been more surprised had she'd been told that Gary was the product of Lois' union with an alien from the planet Neptune. 'What in the world would possess a woman to dump someone like Gary? She must have been on crack.'
"That's a good question. Apparently he wasn't ambitious enough for her." It was quite clear that Lois resented the woman. She proceeded to tell Aimee all about Marcia, and none of it was very flattering.
'How could a career be more important than Gary?' It was beyond her comprehension.
Gary's voice interrupted her musings. "You're awfully quiet. What are you thinking about?"
She wondered briefly if she should tell him. Then, decision made, she got straight to the point.
"Your mom told me about Marcia." She watched his face carefully for his reaction, wondering if he still had any feelings for his ex-wife.
It took a second for her words to register. "Sh-She what?"
"She told me about Marcia, your ex-wife."
"Oh! What...... exactly did she tell you?" Visions of his hands around his mother's neck played through his mind.
Aimee gave him an edited version of the conversation, not wanting him to know that it stemmed from her own curiosity about his marital status. 'He seems really upset. I wonder if he still loves her.' The thought sent a shaft of pain straight through her.
"Want to talk about it?", she asked, but she wasn't sure she wanted to.
Gary found that he really did want to talk about it. He'd never really
opened up to anyone about the pain of Marcia's rejection, not even Chuck
"She changed the locks and threw my suitcase out the window on our anniversary." He hadn't intended for the words to come out so bitterly, but they did. "I never even knew there was a problem. I'm still not sure what I did wrong."
'You married the wrong woman, that's what.' Outloud she said, "I'm sorry. That must've been very painful. Maybe you didn't do anything wrong. Maybe you both just wanted different things."
All of Gary's pain poured forth as he told her how he'd wanted to have children, and how Marcia had led him to believe she wanted that too. Aimee's heart melted at the thought of Gary as a father. She pictured him taking his son, a little miniature of himself, camping and fishing or teaching him to play ball or hockey. 'And I'd pack them a lunch, and have hot cocoa ready for them when they got home. I'd cook all their favorite meals......Ok, Aimee, you're getting carried away here.' But no matter how she tried to stop herself, the fantasy continued.
Gary felt much lighter by the time he finished his story. Aimee was so easy to talk to. Before he could stop himself, he was picturing her as the mother of his children. He envisioned a sweet little girl, with beautiful green eyes and silky brown hair, and a dimple that came and went as it pleased. She'd curl up on his lap and he'd read to her, and she'd have him wrapped around her little finger, just like her mother. The blaring of a horn brought him abruptly out of his fantasy.
Go to Installment 2
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