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Installment 13

 

“Jimmy, why are you watching television?” Andrea asked when she found him planted in front of the new large-screen tv.

“Because the pool didn’t have any water in it.” he said gruffly.

She frowned at him. “Rick said you’ve decided to stay longer.”

“Uh huh.”

“Why?”

“I like the bed.”

“Jimmy!”

“Can’t I stay for a while? I really have no other plans.” he told her.

“Are you having money problems?” she asked softly.

He smiled. “No, I’m covered. You know that.”

“Did the wanderlust drain from your veins?” she queried.

“I guess. I’ve seen just about everything I ever dreamed about and more. I traveled for a lot of years, Andrea. This is the only place I could conceivably call home. Where you are is home.” his voice was hoarse and rough.

“Okay, I guess you can stay. And don’t think it was all that sweet talking that did it.” She got to her feet. “And I expect you’ll be helping me paint the pool tomorrow.”

“A man’s work is never done.” he sighed, turning back to the television as she left the room.

 

 

“I don’t understand.” Andrea stood stiffly while Lee leaned on her shoulder. “Why has he decided to plant himself?” She bent slightly to help him slide onto the bed.

“Maybe he’s feeling his age.”

She thought about that as Lee worked his shoes off. “I guess that’s possible.”

He grunted and whipped his shirt over his head. “Would you get me my pajamas, please?”

She gave him his pajamas. “Are you okay here? I want to go ask Rick something.”

“Sure, go on.” he waved his hand at her.

She nodded and left him alone. Walking slowly, she went down the short hall into the kitchen and toward the front of the house. Turning right she entered the massive study where she found Rick sitting at the large cherry desk. “Rick?”

He looked up. “Hi.”

“Can I talk to you for a minute?” she asked tentatively.

“Sure.” He leaned back in his chair and waved at the chair on the other side of the desk.

She perched on the edge of the seat. “I want your opinion on something.”

“Okay, shoot.”

“What do you think about me trying to find my parents?”

“Do you want to find them?”

“I don’t know. But after Lee, I mean, what will I have left?” Tears welled up in her eyes. “I’m sure Jimmy won’t stay still for long and then I’ll be alone again. Just like after...”

“After Brian died.” Rick said quietly.

“Who told you?” she asked tearfully.

“I picked up most of it from your poetry and then I asked Lee.” he responded.

“I had no one. I was barely seventeen when Jimmy left.” she sighed and wiped at her cheeks with her hands. “Do you think I should see them?”

His throat tightened. “I don’t know. I don’t really know how you lost touch in the first place. I don’t know the circumstances surrounding this.”

“If I decide to find them, would you help me?”

“Andrea, I don’t usually get involved in a case that’s close to me personally. You’re family now and I couldn’t...” he rambled.

She stood. “No, I understand. I’m sorry I bothered you.” She practically ran from the room.

He was on his feet to call her back but he didn’t. All he wanted to do was hold her until everything else disappeared. But Lee should be the one doing that, he reminded himself.

 

 

“Come on you guys! Haul your butts out here and get to work!” Andrea called early the next morning.

Rick came out with Jimmy following. A few minutes later, Lee hobbled out with his walker.

“Come on, lets get to it!” she yelled at them.

“Hey!” Lee called out in a hurt voice. “I thought I was gonna supervise.”

“I’m sorry, dear.” she responded, grabbing a can of paint and going down the steps into the pool. “Please, go on, supervise to your heart’s content.”

“Thank you.” He let Rick help him sit on the edge of the pool. “Now, everyone in the pool. Open those cans! Hurry up, now!” he instructed.

“Don’t push it, Lee. You know I don’t take kindly to orders.” Rick growled.

“Oh stop grousing! This is gonna be fun.” she called out to him.

“Get to it! Paint that pool, you manual laborers, you.” Lee called, swinging his legs.

“Do you want me to paint your legs?” Rick threatened.

“No, thank you.” he answered demurely.

“Then shut up!”

“Okay.”

She grinned up at Lee and continued painting her wall. “He loves you.”

“Do not!” Rick called over his shoulder.

She laughed and ran up behind him, flicking the paintbrush at his back.

Rick slapped at his neck before whirling around. “Hey!”

Giggling, she turned and raced away from him. She ran to Jimmy’s side and hid behind him as Rick stalked her.

“I’ll get you!” he called, returning to his side of the pool.

She sauntered back to her space and resumed her painting. About ten minutes later, she saw Lee looking past her shoulder. Wincing, she turned around and found herself nose-to-nose with a paintbrush. “Ugh!”

Rick burst into laughter. “I was trying to paint your hair! If you hadn’t turned around, it would have worked.”

She wiped at the paint on her face with her free hand. “I appreciated that.” Quickly, before he could move away, she painted a lightning bolt on his black tee shirt. “Oopsie.”

He looked down and groaned. “I hate this color!”

She laughed and went to get a rag to wipe her face.

At about one o’clock, Jimmy climbed the steps out of the pool. “I say we break for lunch.”

Andrea looked over their work and nodded. “We got a lot accomplished. I think we’re due for a break.” she agreed.

Rick followed her out of the pool. “Do we have to finish this today?”

“Absolutely.” Lee piped up from the lounge chair where he had been reading a book.

“My hand hurts.” Rick complained, rolling his shoulders and his wrist. “My shoulder, too.”

“Aw, poor baby.” she cooed, slipping off her paint-splattered shoes and going into the house.

“Was that supposed to be sarcastic?!” Rick yelled after her.

“Of course not.” Jimmy patted his shoulder as he passed by him to go inside.

“They’re picking on me, aren’t they?” he asked Lee, following him slowly into the house.

“Yup.”

“Trust you to be cruelly and brutally honest.” Rick muttered.

“What are brothers for?”

Andrea heard the tail end of their conversation and she felt a sharp pain pierce her heart. Closing her refrigerator, she turned to them. “I’ll be right back.” She rushed out of the kitchen and into her bedroom where she fell onto the bed. She pressed her face into the mattress to muffle her crying. A flip comment like that could just set her off, even after all these years.

“Andi?”

She buried her face deeper into the bedspread at the sound of his voice.

Lee shuffled over to the bed and sat down next to her hip. He stroked her hair and rubbed her back, trying to comfort her. “Please stop. You know I turn to a mass of jello when you cry.”

She laughed in spite of herself.

He pulled her to a sitting position, then cradled her in his arms. “I’m sorry.” he whispered.

“F... for what?” she hiccuped.

“I should have thought about what I was saying before I said it.” he held her tight. “I forget that these things sometimes just hit.”

“Don’t be sorry. You couldn’t have known.” she answered, burying her face in his neck.

 

 

“Do you think she’s all right?” Rick asked Jimmy. They were both sitting at the kitchen table with a beer.

“I’m sure she’s fine. After all, Lee is with her.” Jimmy stated matter-of-factly.

Rick felt his throat clog up. Yes she was with her husband, in his arms. Closing his eyes, he swallowed the rise of disgust in his throat.

Lee ambled back into the kitchen. “She’ll be out in a minute. So, what should we have for lunch?”

“Is she all right?”

“Of course. It must have been the paint fumes.” Andi had asked him to lie so they wouldn’t all start censoring their comments around her. Sometimes the comments stung, sometimes they didn’t.

Rick frowned at Lee’s statement. They had been painting outside, in the open air where the paint fumes could just waft away. “As long as she’s all right.”

“I’m fine, thanks.”

Rick turned to find her standing in the doorway to the kitchen. Nodding, he jumped to his feet and went to the refrigerator. “Can I make you something to eat?” he offered.

“I think I’ll just have some fruit, thanks.”

He nodded and opened the refrigerator door to look inside. “Maybe we ought to hire a housekeeper. Someone who’ll cook for us.”

“What would you like? I’ll make it for you.” she spoke up.

“No, I’ll make myself a cheese sandwich. No reason why you should cook for me.” Rick told her before reaching into the refrigerator.

Lee stared at his older brother in astonishment. This was the man who had a maid, a cook, a gardener and a personal assistant at home?! The man who still had a subservient secretary to make his coffee and run his errands?! At least, that was how Rick had presented himself.

“Hey Rick, wouldja make me a cheese sandwich, too?” Lee called out.

“Sure. With or without potato chips?”

Lee grinned at Jimmy’s disgusted look. “With.”

“Gotcha.”

She watched all of this quietly before grabbing a banana and going back outside.

Rick followed her with his eyes, watching as she went past the pool and onto the path that wound its way through her garden. He waited until she disappeared from sight before turning back to his lunch preparations. “Jim, sandwich?”

 

 

“All right, troops, back to work!” Lee called out a while later. “Where’s Andi?”

“Last I saw her, she was out in the garden.” Rick answered. “I’ll go get her.” He sauntered off toward the path. Winding his way along the path through the elaborate gardens, he looked around for her. “Andrea?”

“Over here!” she called out. “To the left of the azalea.”

“The what?”

“Never mind, I’ll come to you.”

He heard shuffling sounds and then she appeared from behind some bushes. “Oh, hi.”

“Hi.”

“How do you feel?” he held out his hand to help her step over some small plants.

“I’m fine, thank you.”

“Well, Lee has announced that we should finish painting the pool now.” he informed her.

“Oh, okay. Lets go, then.” She turned back toward the house.

“Are you sure you’re all right? You’re not dizzy or nauseated, are you?”

“I’m okay, honestly. There’s no need to worry about me.” She started back along the path with him following her.

“Andrea?”

“Hmm?”

“If you ever need anything, promise me you’ll come to me.” his voice was soft.

“That’s very kind of you, Rick, but I have Lee.” she answered, the pool just coming into view.

He grabbed her arm to stop her. “If you can’t tell Lee, for whatever reason...”

“I have no secrets from Lee.” she whispered before pulling her arms from his grasp and walking off.

He followed at a slower pace. He hadn’t meant to upset her, just to let her know that he would be there if she needed someone.

 

 

Andrea lay awake in bed, staring at the ceiling. “Lee?” she whispered. When he made no response, she carefully rolled out of bed. They had had a long afternoon, finishing up the pool. By the time they finished and had dinner, everyone was dead on their feet, including her. But now, sleep eluded her.

Tiptoeing across the room, she opened the door and slipped out. She went down the hallway and into the kitchen. There she found Rick, sitting at the kitchen table, reading her poems. He hadn’t heard nor seen her and she contemplated turning tail and running. But instead she continued into the room and went to the refrigerator. Pulling out the container of orange juice, she took it with her to retrieve a glass. Once she poured herself some juice, she went to join Rick at the table.

He looked up and started to close the book. “Hi.”

“Don’t shut it.” she said, holding out her hand to stop him. “I didn’t mean to interrupt you.”

“I, uh, don’t know what to say.” he mumbled.

“I wasn’t looking for you to say anything. If I’m making you uncomfortable, I’ll leave.” she offered.

“No, it’s okay. I just feel funny being caught reading poetry. I haven’t read poetry since college.” he answered.

“I didn’t ‘catch’ you reading poetry. It isn’t illegal to read poems or anything, for that matter. I’m glad you’re giving poetry another chance. And if you have a question about anything, mine or otherwise, don’t hesitate to ask.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, even though they say poetry has one meaning, it really doesn’t. Teachers especially like to convince you that a poem has a specific meaning when really, it could have a different meaning for each person who reads it. It’s all in the reader’s interpretation. But then, there are some times, when you just can’t see anything at all. Then, maybe I can help, okay?” she finished.

“All right, I’ll remember.”

“I guess I’d better go to sleep. Good night, Rick.” She stood, taking her still full glass of juice with her. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Good night.” he called softly.

 

 

Andi slipped back through the doorway and closed the door behind her. She stood for a moment waiting for her eyes to adjust to the darkness. When she could make out the furniture, she crossed the room to the couch. For some reason, she just couldn’t bear to get back into bed with Lee. Grabbing her pillow and her robe, she stretched out on the couch and covered herself up. She curled up on her side, her back facing the back of the couch. By now she could easily make out Lee’s form on the bed. He was doing well, looking and walking better. The end of next week he was due back for his first checkup and maybe Dr. Hayes would have some good news for them.

 

 

Rick jumped to his feet when the phone rang, knowing everyone else was still asleep. Grabbing the receiver, he picked it up. “Hello?” he paused, listening as the caller rambled on. “Hold on, let me get him.” He dropped the phone onto the counter and headed for Lee’s room. Ron Jacobs was on the phone and needed to speak with Lee.

He saw that the door was open a crack so he pushed it open farther and walked into the room. There he found something strange. Lee was stretched out on one side of the king-size bed while Andrea was curled up on the couch. He stared at her for a moment before going to Lee’s side and shaking him lightly.

“Lee, Ron Jacobs is on the phone and he says it’s important.” he whispered.

“Huh?”

“Ron Jacobs is on the phone.”

Lee’s eyes popped open and he reached out to pick up the receiver next to the bed. “Thanks.”

Rick nodded and left the room, closing the door behind him. He returned to the kitchen where he found Jimmy at the table, drinking a cup of coffee.

“‘Morning.” he greeted Rick.

“Yes. Can I talk to you?”

“Sure, what’s up?” the older man sat up straighter.

“How much do you know about Lee and Andrea’s marriage?” Rick asked softly, sliding into his chair.

“What do you mean?”

“Something just seems strange.”

Jimmy leaned back in his chair. “Seems normal to me.”

Rick didn’t say anything to anyone about what he had seen. But later in the day, Andrea approached him cautiously. He thought she was going to spill the beans.

“Rick, can I talk to you?” she asked.

“Sure. Why don’t we go into the study.” He followed her through the house to the study where he closed the door behind her. She sank onto the chair in front of his desk while he settled onto the chair behind the big desk. “What’s going on?”

She wanted to blurt out the strange feelings she was getting about him, but didn’t. “Lee’s first appointment is next Friday.”

“Yes, I know.” This wasn’t right. Where were the tearful confessions, the explanations?

“Are you planning on going back to England at all?”

“Why?”

“I was just thinking, maybe you want to take Lee with you for a little while. Like a week or so?” she suggested.

“What does he think?”

“I haven’t mentioned it to him. I keep trying to give you guys some time alone, but he keeps foiling my plans.” she joked lamely.

“You mean, send Lee away and you stay here?” he asked incredulously.

“Well, yes.”

“You don’t have the least bit of interest in going to England to find your parents?” he prodded.

“Who said they were in England?” she asked curiously, wondering if he had done some searching of his own.

“I thought Jimmy mentioned something the other night when we were playing cards.” was his answer.

“Oh. Well, no, I’ve decided that I don’t want to see them. I mean, maybe Jimmy will stay for a while and he’s almost like my father... Anyway, what do you think about it?”

“What?”

“You, Lee, England?”

“We’ll see.” he stood. “Was that all?”

“Um, not really.”

He sat down again, deciding that she had just been stalling and now she would tell him everything. “Yes?”

“Lee told me that you wanted us to have a baby. Him and me, that is.” she corrected.

His face flushed a deep red. “Yes, well...”

“Please don’t push it. It makes him uncomfortable.” she said softly.

“Why?”

“For him to even think about having a child that he may never see grow up, let alone never see, is awful! It’s depressing for him and I’m begging you to let it go.” she explained.

“But you don’t want his child?”

Her wide green eyes turned sad. “I respect Lee’s wishes and I won’t go against them.”

Right at that moment she looked like a woman very much in love. “You know that Lee says no kids because he doesn’t want to leave you to raise a child alone.”

“And you disagree with that?”

Her voice was getting stronger and more confident, like she was ready for a fight. “Yes. I see that you are a very strong woman who would have the availability of large sums of money to help her. Thousands of women raise their children alone without the aid of money so as I see it, you’d be sitting pretty.”

“Most of those women don’t choose to be in that position. I have that choice and it has been made.”

“I think it’s a mistake. With all your money...”

“A child needs more than money, Rick! It needs love and a family! I never wanted for anything when I was little except love. I would have given up everything I had for some love. And you know what? Eventually I did. I left everything behind to find love.”

“You could give a child love! You have so much love to give.”

“Not enough.” She stood up.

“Andrea...”

“I would prefer it if you didn’t mention this conversation to Lee, it would only upset him. And I’ll thank you not to bring it up again with me, either. My opinion on this subject is clear.” she stated firmly.

“Andrea!” his voice was sharp as she turned away. “I mentioned this once before, I don’t take kindly to orders.”

Her chin lifted a notch. “Tough.” Then she turned and walked out.

“Dammit!” he reached for the phone and dialed quickly. “Yes, I’d like to make a reservation for next Saturday. Yes, one ticket, one way, to London.”

Andrea stood outside the doorway, just out of sight. Her throat tightened as he requested a reservation for one.

“Andrea, eavesdropping isn’t nice.”

She turned to Jimmy, with tears in her eyes. “He’s leaving.” she whispered.

“What?”

She tugged him across the hall into the library. “He just made a reservation to fly home next weekend.”

“Maybe he has business.” he suggested.

“Jimmy, I don’t know what to do! I think I have feelings for Rick!” her lower lip began to tremble.

“I think he’s beginning to suspect something about your marriage to Lee.” Jimmy warned her. “He asked me about it this morning.”

“Maybe it’s best that he leave, then. We wouldn’t want him to find out.” she decided.

Out in the hall, Rick froze in his tracks as Andrea’s last words floated out to greet him. He trotted silently into the kitchen before they could come out of the room and catch him eavesdropping.

 

 

Rick cornered Lee later in the evening, wanting to find out what was really going on.

“Lee, I’d like to speak with you, please.”

Andrea looked up from the television in the family room. “Is something wrong?”

He gave her a hard glare, then looked back at his brother. “I’ll be waiting for you in the study.” Then, he turned and left the room.

“Lee?”

He shrugged and got to his feet. “I’ll be all right.”

She watched him disappear, then she sat silently in front of the tv. A few minutes later, she turned off the television. The sound of loud, angry voices could be heard throughout the whole first floor of the house. She couldn’t make out their words but the argument went on for a long while. Finally, she heard the study door creak open, then the opening and slamming of the front door. Jumping to her feet, she raced into the hallway. “Lee!” Down the hallway she flew, into the foyer and over to the den where she halted in the open doorway. “Lee?”

“I’m all right.”

“Oh, thank God.” she rushed into the room and over to his side. She fell to her knees and cupped his face in her hands. “He didn’t hit you, did he?”

He laughed and covered her hands with his own. “No, sweetheart, he didn’t.”

“What happened?”

“We had an argument as big as the one about Emily.” he told her.

“Oh, no. It was over me, wasn’t it?”

“Not really.”

“Yes, it was and I’m so sorry. Please, don’t let me come between you two.” she pleaded.

“Oh, Andi.” he brushed her hair out of her eyes. “Everything will be okay.”