Authors: Donna Fasano
Tags: #General Fiction
“Wikweko doesn’t have a law firm in town?” she’d asked him.
He’d shaken his head. “They’d have to drive into Oak Mills or Millersville or Lancaster. Martin and Patricia have been lied to. They were taken advantage of. It’s difficult for them to trust anyone’s advice. They weren’t sure where to turn. I’m like family, I guess. Someone to rely on without making them feel stupid for handing some stranger all that money. I’m happy that they came to me for help. Otherwise, they might have just given up. Taken the loss.”
The idea had been disturbing.
Lucas had gone back to work after dinner so Tyne had taken her book out into the backyard. But it became difficult to read in the twilight and she’d decided to take a walk.
Since Lucas had coupled the ‘love match’ phrase with Rob’s name Saturday afternoon, Tyne had thought of little else.
Did she love Rob? That one small question continued to torment her.
Before Lucas had asked her point-blank, forcing her to really and truly think it out, she’d have said she did. She cared about Rob. That much she knew. The two of them got along well enough, rarely arguing unless it was over something disrespectful Zach had said or done. Rob had no experience with teens and didn’t understand the idea that all adolescents go through a rebellious stage. He seemed understanding when it came to her job; a lot of men wouldn’t like or put up with her work schedule. He didn’t mind that she wasn’t overtly social, and that her idea of nice date was a quiet dinner and a movie at home. But were those small positives enough to base a marriage on? Would
offer a firm foundation for a life together?
Was there really such a thing as true love? Or soul mates, for that matter?
True, Rob didn’t stir in her that dizzying titillation one usually associated with the head-over-heels kind of love. But then, David never had, either. She’d gone into her first marriage with her eyes wide open, and she’d thought she was facing her future with Rob the same way. The practicality of it felt…right. She’d come to the conclusion that hot and needy kind of fervor didn’t really exist. Feverish passion was something Hollywood movie makers had created. It was a myth. A fantasy. Just as Lucas had said.
But Lucas made you feel it
She exhaled an exasperated sigh. That had happened years ago. And it had been nothing more than raging teenage hormones. She had wanted him so badly back then she’d thought she’d be completely consumed by her urges. Talk about feverish passion! She’d been frantic for him.
for him. She closed her eyes, an irrepressible smile curling her mouth. Even now, her skin burned when she thought of their fiery, frenzied love-making.
She blinked her way out of the heated memory and gazed up at the inky sky with its thick mantle of glittering stars. The wide swath of the Milky Way was clearly visible. Realizing she’d come farther than she’d meant to, she turned toward home.
They might have been kght an young and awkward, but what she and Lucas lacked in experience, they’d made up for in eagerness. One particular memory floated to the surface; in the back seat of his car, they had struggled out of their shirts, leaning forward at the same time and smacking their skulls together painfully. She chuckled out loud and was happy that she was alone with her thoughts. But her smile faded when she realized Lucas had made her feel that same intense giddiness several times since they’d come to Wikweko. A look here; a touch there. And most electrifying, that kiss he’d pressed to her hand at the café. He’d merely been thanking her, yet his lips had roused a firestorm inside her. She’d felt—
“No,” she firmly told the silky darkness. That had been nothing more than remnants from the past rising from the deep. Slivers of steamy memory that just happened to churn to the surface when he was simply showing his gratitude for her support.
Slivers from the past. Yes. That was it, exactly. Tyne lifted her left hand, the hard, cold diamond mocking her as it winked in the moonlight.
Movement on the shoulder of the roadway ahead had her squinting into the night. The large pack and bedroll the man lugged on his back made her smile. Jasper. She quickened her pace to meet him.
“You’re back,” she said, giving him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Where’s my son?” She pulled back enough that she could look into his face. “You didn’t leave him in a hole somewhere in the woods, did you?”
Jasper laughed. “You’ve been talking to Lucas, I see.”
“Yes, I have.”
“You tell my nephew that Zach figured out the solution to
problem in half the time Lucas did.”
She clapped her hands together, her smile growing wide. “That’s great. I can’t wait to rub it in.”
He shifted the strap of his backpack. “We’re not far from my house. Come have a glass of iced tea with me. I want to talk to you about Zach.”
Walking a few blocks out of her way into town was a small inconvenience if it meant hearing how her son’s weekend went.
“He’s amazing,” Jasper told her. “Even before we pitched our tent, that kid understood there was more to our camping trip than merely having some family time. He’s smart, Tyne. And he’s confident enough to speak up about what’s on his mind.”
Smoothing her hands over her upper arms, she arched her brows. “Usually, his ‘confidence’ comes through sounding suspiciously like rebellion and disrespect.”
The elderly man nodded in response. “Well, don’t be surprised if he begins to temper that.”
“Oh?” She let her hands drop to her sides in a natural swing as she walked along beside him. “What did you do? Perform some sort of miracle out there in those woods?”
He chuckled. “No, no. Not me. Zach was the one doing the work.”
They made a right onto Water Street, the moon casting shadows over the paved sidewalk.
“He easily grasped the meaning of every tale I told him. He understood the broad themes, but he also picked out the fine details that many people miss the first time around.” The sole of Jasper’s hiking boot scuffed against the concrete. “He realized we were there on serious business and he embraced the opportunity to grow.” The overhead street lamp made his dark eyes shine. “It didn’t hurt that he really wanted to impress me. I have to say I was—and still am—amazed by how mature he acted.”
Tyne listened, teetering between feeling proud of her son and wanting to ask if he was sure he was talking about Zach.
“He’s been ready for this for some time, I suspect,” Jasper said quietly. “I think what he needed was someone from outside his small circle to look him square in the eye and t kthespeell him it’s time to grow up. Time to take responsibility for himself. Time to think about his actions before he makes them, rather than dealing with the disaster afterward.”
They turned down the alley that ran behind the row of galleries.
“Don’t be surprised if he’s pensive for a few days. He’ll probably want to spend time on his own.” Jasper let himself into the back door of his shop and flipped on the light switch. “We laughed a lot. Had a lot of fun. But we talked even more. About some very serious topics. I gave him a lot to think about, Tyne.”
She lifted one shoulder. “Considering the trouble he got himself in, someone had to.” She sucked in a sharp breath. “Oh, crap. Jasper, I promised him I wouldn’t say anything.”
He let his backpack slide to the floor. “Not to worry. He told me all about his legal troubles.”
She couldn’t believe it. “He did? But he didn’t want you to know.”
“Yes, but adults don’t keep secrets.”
They looked at each other and Tyne grinned. “You really got him to believe that?”
His onyx eyes flashed. “Let me put it another way. Keeping secrets gets a person into trouble.”
They went upstairs to Jasper’s apartment, and while he went to wash his face and hands and change into some clean clothes, Tyne made herself at home, pulling out glasses, filling them with ice, pouring the tea and settling at the cozy kitchen table.
Jasper returned to the kitchen looking refreshed and fastening the bottom button on his shirt. “So where were we? Ah, yes, we were talking about your extraordinary son.”
She beamed. “Thanks for spending time with him, Jasper. It means more to me than you’ll ever know.”
“Zach is the closest thing to a grandson I’ll ever have. Growing up is hard. Making a conscious decision to act in a more mature manner is even more difficult. Every kid has to do it in his or her own time. But if I can ease the process, I’m happy to do it.” He sat down across from her. “Oh, boy, that feels good. Sitting and sleeping on the ground is hard on these old bones.”
Tyne sipped her lemon-laced tea. “Growing up
hard, isn’t it? I thought it would be the end of me, Jasper. I honestly didn’t think I’d make it through.” The glass felt cold against her fingertips. “But I did.”
Jasper nodded. “I remember. It was a bad time, Tyne. For everyone.” He went quiet a moment. “I almost think losing you was harder on Lucas than losing his father.” He rested his arm on the table. “You see, when my brother died, I was there to step into his shoes. Not that I was able to fill them like he would have, mind you. But at least Lucas had someone to see him through. When you left, he was absolutely bereft. He hurt so bad I didn’t think he could hold it all in.” His mouth flattened. “I’d never seen him like that.” The memory made him sigh. “Never. And I hope it’s something I never see again.”
They sat in silence, both caught up in the past.
When she’d left town for her Aunt Wanda’s she had known Lucas would be hurt, but she’d been too focused on the fact that her whole life had turned upside down. The pressure from her parents. The decisions about the baby that needed to be made. The prospect of her bleak future. It had all been too much.
“The thing I regret most,” she said, her voice going husky, “is that I didn’t tell him. I left town without telling him I was pregnant with his child.” She blinked back sudden tears. “That’s the least I could have done, Jasper. But, no, I show up in his office sixteen years later and say, ‘Surprise! You’re the father of a troubled teen.’”
Leaning her elbows on the table, she covere ke, have, d her face with her hands, worrying her fingertips up and down her temples. “I feel sick every time I think about how I’ve kept then apart for so many years.”
Jasper allowed her to wallow in her misery for a long moment. Then he reached across the table and gave her shoulder a gentle pat.
“I told Zach many Lenape stories this past weekend,” he said, the words soft with a smile. “Now I’ve got one for you.”
Tyne lifted her head, sitting up straight.
“Wolf went to the Creator,” Jasper began, “to complain about humans. ‘They terrorize the animals,’ Wolf charged. ‘They take more than they need. They plant their crops without replenishing the soil. They move from place to place, leaving behind their trash and debris.’ Wolf paced back and forth. ‘Why do you put up with them? Why don’t you just destroy them?’
“The Great One’s voice sounded as big as the wind. ‘It is not for you to judge my handiwork. You need to learn appreciation.’ So the Creator sent Wolf out on a mission to find the greatest human attribute.”
Jasper slid his chair closer to the table. “Wolf searched the earth, far and wide, until he found a man standing by a raging river. The man cut and carved many logs. He toiled in the hot sun, working every day, to build a bridge across the river. When he was nearly finished, Brother River rose and washed away all his work. But the man didn’t give up. He gathered more logs and continued his chore for many days until he’d completed the bridge. So Wolf gathered a drop of sweat from the man’s brow and took it to the Creator.
“’Perseverance is a wonderful quality of humans,’ the Great One told Wolf. ‘But it’s not the greatest. Keep searching.’”
Tyne rested her hands on the table, listening intently.
“Wolf sprinted east and west, north and south, until he found a woman hiking in a forest. The woman came upon a child who was facing an angry bear. Without even thinking about it, the woman waved her arms and drew Sister Bear’s attention. The animal attacked the woman while the child ran to safety.” Jasper paused to drink from his glass of tea. “Wolf had never seen anything like it. He gathered a drop of blood from the woman’s battered body and raced back to the Great One.
“The Great One smiled. ‘Sacrifice is an excellent human quality, but it isn’t the greatest. Try again.’”
Tyne realized her breathing had slowed and calm cloaked her like a promise.
Jasper leaned forward a fraction. “Wolf traveled to the ends of the earth and back, finally finding himself back in his very own forest. He came upon a man running through the woods, his bare back laced with oozing wounds from the whip. The man had been judged a thief by the town baker and his punishment had been a public lashing. Furious at having suffered another’s penalty, the man aimed to exact revenge on the real criminal.”
Silence hung in the air during Jasper’s long pause. Tyne’s heart skittered. Surely, there was more to the story.
“Well?” she asked. “Did he find the culprit?”
Jasper nodded. “Wolf followed the man to a cabin, watched from the trees as he peered through the window. The man’s face crumpled and his eyes welled with tears. He turned away, his shoulders round, all thought of revenge gone. Wolf couldn’t stand it. He had to see what had made such a change in the man. Wolf trotted to the cabin window and saw the real thief doling out bits of bread to five sunken-cheeked children. Wolf’s heart ached at the sight.”
Tyne felt her own chest paining.
“Wolf captured one of the whipped man’s tears and carefully carried to it to the Creator. ‘Forgiveness,’ Wolf proclaimed. ‘Forgiveness is the greatest human quality.’
“The Great On kThd to it toe was pleased. ‘You have done well. And you are correct. Forgiveness is what sets humans apart from all the rest of creation, and it is what fills their future with hope.’”
She knew the story had come to an end by the expression on his face. Jasper reclined against the chair back and gulped down his tea like a man dying of thirst. The ice cubes
against the bottom of the glass when he set it on the table.