Posts tagged “Gifts

Chasing Truth: Chapter 31

Posted on 24/01/2020

Image result for newspaper wrapping

      Mari stood looking out at the water and breathing in the clean scent of the ocean. To her, there was nowhere closer to heaven than this spot. It was odd, but she felt safe here. The peace that filled her in being here was created before she could even form words. She could stand here all day.

“You picked the perfect spot.”

She looked over her shoulder where Blake stood beside Miranda’s grave with one hand on the headstone. Seeing him there, having him there with her felt…right. She flashed him a quick smile.

“I wasn’t kidding when I said she loved it. I feel like I lived years of my life right here. And sometimes it feels like she’s still here.”

“She would make sure pictures got to me. There were quite a few of the two of you up here. The grins on your faces were a mile wide. I’m sure in one of them those grins were covered with slushy coloring from the ones Gage says you’re so fond of.” His smile was soft with remembrance.

“I absolutely believe that.” Her laughter tapered off in a sigh. “She was a great mom. The best. Sometimes it just hurts that I never got to know the woman.”

“She was born to be a mother.  Your mother. I’m convinced of that. The bond between you two was something special to see.” He seemed to get lost in the past for a moment.

“After these last few days, I can tell you if you want to know who Miranda was as a woman, all you have to do is look in the mirror.”

She made a soft sound in the back of her throat as she tried to fight off the emotion. “Do not make me cry,” she complained.

He chuckled. “I just wanted to give you some of the answers you were looking for.”

He’d known her mother better than probably anyone else on the planet. Many people had told her she looked just like Miranda. For him, of all people, to say she was like Miranda in personality meant the world. She absorbed his words, cherished them.

“Thank you.” She inhaled deeply and busied herself opening the bag strapped across her body. “I got you something.”

His brow raised and warmth filled his face. “You didn’t have to do that.”

“I know, but it felt right.”

She pulled out the woodcarving she’d asked Leo to do for her. It was wrapped in paper to keep it from chipping. She offered it to Blake.

      “It’s just something to mark this…us…”

“I understand. It’s a beautiful thought.”

      He took it from her hands and gently unwrapped the paper from it. A young girl stood with her hand stretched up toward a male figure looking down with his hand reaching toward hers. The fingertips just touched, symbolizing a beginning.

      She’d shown it to Tyler first, wanting to make sure it was something Blake would appreciate. He’d been silent at first, making her worry, but then he’d assured her she’d chosen well. She wasn’t convinced until she caught him toying with it a few times. She could still see his embarrassed grin when she promised to have Leo make something for him.

      She watched as Blake drew a finger over the etched details. Finally he lifted his head. The tears filling his eyes immediately made her eyes water.

      “Thank you,” he whispered.

She nodded, not trusting her own voice. Then, before she could second-guess it, she stepped into him for a tight hug. His arms closed around her, holding her close.

“This is only goodbye for now,” he promised after long moments.

“I know.”

Mari didn’t lift her head from his chest, cherishing the opportunity to hug her father. There was so much more to learn about him, but there would be time. He was no longer a blank in her life she had no hope of filling in. Whatever came of this, she was grateful for the days they’d had.

He didn’t speak again or break the hug. Only when she finally pulled away did he release her. He cleared his throat and wiped at his eye.

“I have something for you too, although it’s not nearly as nice.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a phone. “This is a more discreet way for us to stay in touch until we’re able to see each other again.”

Mari grinned and took the phone. “It’s not as pretty, no, but I think your gift beats mine. Thank you.”

“My number is in there. Reese’s is as well, although I don’t expect you to need it.”

She nodded her understanding and tucked the phone in her back pocket. Rocking back on her heels, she looked up at him. Words dried up in her throat. He was leaving and while it wasn’t a permanent goodbye, she still felt emotional about it.

“Goodbyes are hard,” she admitted with a sheepish laugh.

“They are. And they never get easier, but we’ll fill the times between them with enough goodness to make them worth it.”

She liked the sound of that. They turned together to start back down the hill in companionable silence, their shoulders brushing.

They’d agreed to say their goodbyes at the house rather than the airport and she knew that would be better. The stop at Miranda’s grave had been for Blake who wanted to go one last time before he left. It was the perfect end to his visit.

Reese and Gage were waiting for them inside the house when they returned. Gage wrapped her up in a huge playful hug and she pressed a big messy kiss to his cheek. “Take care, Old Man. And watch out for the other old man too.”

“Yes ma’am. You take it easy on Reese. Don’t you be givin’ him a hard time.”

Mari batted her eyes. “Me? Would I ever do that?”

Gage snorted, making her laugh. She was always sad to see Gage go. It was even harder this time.

Even though they’d already hugged, Blake pulled her in for another while Gage spoke quietly to Reese. She knew there was a touch of desperation in her hug, but she didn’t loosen her hold.

“I’ll see you soon,” he promised in her ear as he stroked a hand over her hair.

“I’ll look forward to it.”

He pulled back first and lifted his bag from the couch. Gage did the same with his and she followed them to the door. Reese held it open and she stood in the doorway while Blake and Gage got in the car. She waved with a smile that faded as they backed out and headed for the road. She stood there until the car was out of sight.

“They’ll be fine.”

Reese’s voice made her jump and she looked back at him. His smile was faint.

“He has added motivation to take care of himself now.”

The idea warmed her. She would hold onto that and trust Reese’s words.

<< Chapter 30 Chapter 32 >>

Chasing Truth: Chapter 20

Posted on 31/10/2014


It was time.

Mari couldn’t put it off any longer. She’d made the decision and she needed to let the others know. There was no use in dragging it out any further. She parked at her place after work and was getting ready to head to the main house when she found the stuffed toy jaguar holding a single green and yellow flower from the Rocanda trail.

She steeled herself against the emotion threatening to rise. First it was the pinwheels and now this. As always, everything Tyler did was specific to her. The time he granted her was definitely coming to an end. That was fine. She’d made more decisions about him during her tours that day too. She would deal with him later. For now she picked up the stuffed animal, trying not to hold it to her chest as she started across the grass.

When she opened the back door Allison was at the stove stirring what smelled like cabbage in a pot. Gage sat at the breakfast bar with a laptop in front of him, focused on it as if it held the answer to all life’s questions. Raoul was seated beside him, playing with his hands without any real thought.

He looked every minute of his fifty-four years. She didn’t want to see that, didn’t want to acknowledge how all of this was affecting him too.  She had her hands full dealing with her own thoughts and emotions. She couldn’t handle his too.

She shut the door behind her and just stood there. Allison turned at the sound and offered a tentative smile. She didn’t miss Raoul and Gage’s eyes on her either.

“Hey Mari. Will you join us for dinner?”

Given she hadn’t eaten a full meal all day she didn’t see a reason to turn her down. “Dinner would be good, but make it to go though. Today was a long day.”

Allison’s smile weakened as she nodded. Then her eyes landed on the stuffed animal in Mari’s hand.

“From Tyler? I haven’t seen him around much lately.”

Raoul jerked to attention then as if the same had just occurred to him. Mari shrugged off the question as she came farther inside and spun one of the stools at the bar around to take a seat.

“Things have been busy.”

She saw the raised brows at that. Truthfully, “busy” never kept her and Tyler from finding a way to spend time together before, but given the tension over news of her father she didn’t expect them to push. She was right.

She set the toy on the table and leaned her chair back on two legs. Her eyes swept over Raoul and Gage.

“I made a decision about my father.”

Both men tensed as if bracing for what she would say next. Gage closed his laptop and angled to face her fully.

“Let’s hear it,” he encouraged with a smile.

“I’ll meet him,” she said on a rushed breath. “I’m not promising anything after that, but I’ll do that much.”

Raoul seemed frozen for a minute before he nodded slowly. “Okay. Okay.” He swallowed hard. “I don’t want you to feel pushed into this, Mari.”

Gage whipped his head around to stare at him. “I don’t think she’s been pushed at all,” he said before looking to Mari. “Do you feel like you’re being pushed?”

Mari let her chair thud back to the ground on all fours, unsure of what to say. She felt pushed by her conversation with Tyler and knowing what he wanted. She felt pushed by the years of unanswered questions. She felt pushed by the vague answers Raoul had given about a man who supposedly loved her.

Raoul ignored Gage’s question and focused solely on her. “I told you I thought Miranda would want this. That wasn’t a lie, but it was a low blow. More than she would want that, she would want you happy. If this is going to make you unhappy, don’t you force yourself through it out of some sense of obligation to her. And there’s risk to this. I kept the truth from you for your safety and if you do this…there could be risks associated with that. You have to know that before you commit to a decision.”

“What kind of risks?”

“Raoul,” Gage warned.

“There are…dangerous elements associated with your father. People could try to hurt you or take you to get to him.”

“Why? And why didn’t you lay all of this out before?”

“Because it’s complicated!” he snapped stunning her. “And I’m constantly being reminded it’s not even my story to tell you! I don’t even know all of the story! I just know enough to know it could be dangerous! That my little girl could get hurt! So I have to try to protect you and give you want you want at the same time!”

Gage’s brow drew down in a furious V and he braced his hands on the edge of the island as he pinned Raoul with a hard stare.

“Is this about her…or you?” he asked.

Raoul flinched. Allison came to the table to set a foil-covered plate in front of Mari before she stood at her husband’s back.

“I deserved that,” he acknowledged and reached up to cover Allison’s hand on his shoulder. “This is about what you want and need, Mari. Whatever choice you make I can live with, I will live with. But I still want you to make sure you’re making the right choice for you.”

“Papa…” she whispered.

His hand tightened visibly on Allison’s as tears filled his eyes. Mari shoved out of her chair to go to his side, wrapping her arms around him. He turned into her. His hold was fierce, but she had no protest. It had been the two of them struggling to build a life in Miranda’s absence. For years, it had been just the two of them and he’d been the only father she’d ever known. And he was hurting.

“I’m sorry I pushed so hard,” she said quietly into the hug. “It doesn’t change this. Us. Nothing ever could.”

He shook under her words. They stayed just like that, taking shelter in one another.

“Our world already changed once,” she reminded him. “We survived. We’ll do it again.”

He laughed softly and turned his head to press a kiss to her temple. “I’ve given you everything I can. The choice is yours to make.”

Mari hesitated as she slowly pulled out of his arms. She looked at Gage before looking back to Raoul. Finally she pushed out a breath.

“I told myself I would do it for Mom, because she would want that. And that’s true, but I need to do this for me too. I’ve had questions and me being mad isn’t worth not getting the answers. So I’ll meet him. Not for Mom. Not for him. Not for anybody else. I’m doing it for me. Risks and all.” She squeezed the back of her neck as she rose from the table. “So like I said, set that up and give me a little warning. At least a day.”

Gage’s shoulders dropped and a small smile played at his lips. “You always were wise beyond your years.”

She shrugged then grabbed her gift and lifted the plate up toward Allison. With a faint smile of thanks, she backed up toward the door. “Thanks for dinner.  I’ll catch up with you guys later. Just…let me know when you know…something.”

“Goodnight Mari,” Allison returned with a gentle smile as she let herself out of the house.

It was done. The only thing left to do was wait for word from Blake. Just because she made the decision didn’t mean she was ready for the outcome though. She needed to use that time to pull herself together and prepare for that.

She crossed the yard on the little path leading back to her place and ducked under the branch of the willow tree. The moment she was free of the tangling vines she froze in her steps, squeezing the stupid stuffed animal in her other hand. Tyler sat at the bottom of the stairs leading up to her place with his elbows braced on his knees and his hands clasped in front of him. They looked at each other in silence before he eased to his feet. He didn’t move toward her though. He slipped a hand into his pocket and waited.

Taking a deep breath, she gave up on a quiet night in and walked out to meet him.


<< Chapter 19 || Chapter 21 >> 


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