Authors: Donna Fasano
Tags: #General Fiction
Tyne curled her fingers around the strap of the seatbelt to keep from reaching out to her son.
“If there’s one thing about my uncle I do know,” Lucas told him, “it’s that he says what he means and means what he says.”
They had spent another forty minutes at the shop before customers came in and began wanting Jasper’s attention so they felt they should leave.
“I don’t believe Jasper knows anything about the trouble you’re in.” Tyne leaned forward. “How could he? We’re the only ones here who know about it and we haven’t said a word to anyone.” When Zach didn’t pay her any heed she reclined against the seat again to watch the passing scenery.
“Honorable is a word Uncle Jasper always uses whenever he talks about my father.” Lucas shifted his hands on the steering wheel. “I think he wants my dad to be remembered with respect and admiration.” He glanced over at Zach and then back at the road. “I can remember many,
—” he repeated the word with a chuckle “—times when my uncle explained the importance of honor to me. He felt that a man could have many things—wealth, prominence in the community, intelligence, what have you—but if he had no integrity, he had nothing worth having.”
“Is that a Lenape thing? A culture thing?” Zach asked. “To lecture on honor?”
“Well, I guess you could say that, but…” Lucas shook his head. “There’s not a single race of people I know of that would want their sons and daughters to grow up to become liars and thieves.”
The comment made Tyne smile. “That’s true enough.”
“Speaking of culture,” Zach said to Lucas, “Uncle Jasper invited me to the Community Center tomorrow night. He said the kids go to meetings every week and learn about the past. Uncle Jasper goes. And other members of the Council of Elders. He said they tell stories, true stories from history, and some folklore too. They teach the kids about the old ways, he said. How to make a rabbit trap, or how to churn butter, or grind corn, that kind of thing. He said this week they’ll have a bonfire. That they’ll teach the kids a special tribal dance.” He reached up and scratched the back of his neck. “I told him I don’t have the moves and ended up having to explain what that meant. That I dance like I have two huge left feet. He said I could learn to drum some of the rhythms. You think I could go?”
Lucas looked at Tyne in the rearview mirror. She nodded.
“Of course,” Lucas said. “I think that’s a good idea. You’ll have fun and meet some other kids from the community.” He grinned. “And you might learn something too.”
Zach dipped his chin and shook his head. “I’m not
, that’s for sure.”
When he looked at Lucas again, his expression was serious. “Could we not tell him?” he asked. “You know, about why we’re here?”
Tyne didn’t wait for Lucas to answer. “It wouldn’t be right to tell any blatant lies, son.”
“Yeah, I guess.” Zach’s tone sounded defeated. Then he swallowed and squared his shoulders. “But if nobody asks, we don’t have to offer, right?”
For the beat of several seconds all that could be heard
was the whirr of the air conditioner.
Softly, Lucas said, “We don’t have to offer. But unfortunately they aren’t called skeletons in a closet for nothing. Secrets have a way of showing their bones.”
ucas crossed the lawn
with two chilled beers in hand, heading for the picnic asptable where Tyne sat with her back to him. The small sliver of crescent moon hung too high in the night sky to offer much light, forcing him to make his way slowly across the cool grass.
He missed the reserved, almost bashful girl he remembered Tyne to be back when they’d been a couple. He’d had to work hard—coaxing and encouraging her—to get her to voice an opinion about whatever subject came up between them. Her self-consciousness had attracted him, made him want to draw her out. The memory made him smile in the darkness and pine for the innocents they’d been back then.
However, the confident, out-spoken woman she’d become thoroughly intrigued him. The interest she stirred in him is what had driven him to leave the documentary he’d been watching and seek her out, even though he knew full well that their encounter would probably end up in an argument. She’d developed self-assurance in the years since they had parted, but she’d also grown prickly as hell.
He gave a polite cough to let her know he was approaching, and when she turned, he offered a grin. “Hey, there. You up for a cold one?”
“Thanks.” She took the bottle from him and turned back to face the table when he straddled the bench. “I thought it would cool off a little when the sun went down.”
“Zach complained about the heat, so I closed the windows and turned on the air. I hope you don’t mind.”
She shook her head. “Not at all. We’ll all sleep better if it’s cooler inside.” She lifted her gaze upward. “Would you get a load of that sky?”
Stars glittered and winked like gems against the inky backdrop. “As Zach would say…
Tyne laughed at his spot-on imitation.
“You okay?” he asked. “You’ve been out here a long time by yourself.”
She lifted the bottle to her lips and then cradled it between laced fingers. “Believe it or not I’ve been watching the fireflies. When I was a girl, I used to go outside on hot summer nights and catch as many as I could in a jar. I would sit on the grass and watch them for hours.”
“I caught them too. In an old mason jar. I used to set them on my bedside table and they’d glow all night long.” He grinned. “Uncle Jasper made me let them go in the morning.”
Her mouth cocked to one side. “I wasn’t allowed to bring them inside.”
Remembering her parents, he chuckled. “No doubt.” He took a couple swallows of the cold beer, then said, “So what has you reminiscing about bugs?” She continued to stare at the glowing insects hovering and darting in the yard, and he couldn’t figure out if she hadn’t heard him or if she simply intended to ignore the question. Feeling the need to say something, he murmured, “Every kid catches fireflies.”
Tyne shook her head. “Nope,” she said quietly. “Not every kid.” She avoided his gaze. “Listen to those peepers out there. A couple of times tonight that sound became deafening. I’ve heard them every night since we arrived. I’d forgotten what it was like to fall asleep to the sound of tree frogs.” Then she glanced at him. “Do you know there are no tree frogs in the city? Oh, maybe along Kelly Drive out near the reservoir, or in Washington Square. But I don’t live near any of the parks or wooded areas. And I can’t ever remember seeing a firefly in the postage-stamp piece of grass I call a yard.”
She went quiet.
“What’s all this about, Tyne?”
Still, she didn’t look at him. “Just thinking.”
He didn’t respond, figuring she’d elaborate in her own good time. Or not. Pressing her would only lead to trouble.
She picked up the bottle took a long drink, and then set it back down on the table. “I’ve been trying to figure out where I we Cut ay snt wrong. Was it that I raised Zach in the City? Could I have avoided all this—spray paint, police stations, court appearances, that god-awful dressing down by the judge—if I had brought him back home and raised him here?”
“Tyne, people live and raise their kids where they can find work. You’ve made a success of yourself living in Philly.”
She muttered, “To my son’s detriment.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
She seemed stone deaf to his advice.
“Did he get into this trouble because I fed him too much sugar as a child? Or because I wasn’t watching close enough when he was three and he stuck a bobby pin in that electric outlet? Or because I tried to do it all on my own? Because I left him with sitters? Because I put him in day-care too early?”
Her large and beseeching eyes tore at his heart.
“Tyne, Zach is a good kid. You’ve done a good job. Okay, so he got into a little trouble. In the grand scheme of things, spray painting graffiti isn’t all that serious. We’ll get through this.”
Her breath left her in a rush and she turned to stare off at the horizon.
“You did the best you could. No one can ask more of you than that. I’m confident that you fed him right, took him to the doctor when he was sick, made sure he was inoculated against all manner of disease, made him do his homework. And I’m sure you only left him with people you trusted.” He couldn’t stop his grin. “Did he really stick a bobby pin in an outlet?”
She nodded miserably.
He wanted to laugh, but didn’t. “Lots of teens go through a rebellious period. I know
did. This trouble Zach’s in has nothing to do with where you chose to live, or that you’re a single mom, or that he might have eaten one too many donuts.”
She planted her elbow on the table, pressed her fist to her mouth.
“He probably would have experienced this defiant stage no matter where you raised him.” Lucas rolled the bottom of the bottle against the wood of the tabletop, the foamy beer sloshing against the inside of the glass. “We can’t even say that things would be different had I been in the picture from the beginning.”
She rubbed her fingers against her temple. “Every mother wants a perfect family for her child.”
“There’s no such thing as a perfect family, Tyne. Every person—every parent—has quirks. No one is faultless. No family is perfectly ideal.”
“But maybe if he’d had—”
“Stop.” He paused and spoke her name, and then he waited several long seconds for her to look at him. “You grew up in the supposedly-perfect, nuclear family. One dad. One mom. One daughter.”
“Big house,” she took up the litany, “big yard, and more
than any one little girl ever needed.” She scooted her bottom against the bench. “And I was utterly miserable.”
Lucas left the bottle next to hers so he could lift his leg over the bench to sit closer to her. “I never even met my mother. And my father died when I was really young. I don’t remember a whole lot about him. But I still remember my childhood as being very happy. I’d put my uncle up against any mom and dad team out there.”
Her mouth twisted wryly. “You were lucky.”
The scent of wild roses drifted on the slight evening breeze.
His elbows on the table, Lucas laced his fingers and rested his chin on them. “It’s not about who raises kids, Tyne. I mean, not that I know all that much about it. But logic tells me that what’s more important is that the raising is done with love.”
He knew in the light of day her eyes were a deep, clear blue, but the night turned them navy. Self-doubt shadowed them with vulnerability.
“It’s obvious that you love Zach, Tyne. It’s been impossible for me not to see it.” He pressed his lips together, realizing he owed her an apology. “I regret questioning your parenting skills in front of the judge. I shouldn’t have done that. And I’m truly sorry.”
The tension in her expression eased and at last she offered him the smallest of smiles. “Thanks, Lucas. That means a lot. A whole lot.” Instantly, the corners of her mouth turned down. “I’ve spent hours and hours trying to figure out where I’ve gone wrong. I don’t think I’ve been the best mother. It’s worrisome, you know?” She sighed. “I always thought I was on the ball with this parenting thing. I always thought I knew my son, and that I was sharp and quick in all the ways that mattered when you’re raising a child. But I just recognized over the past few days that I’m not all that sharp. And I’m certainly not quick. There have been things going on that I didn’t even know about.”
He lowered his hands into his lap and leaned forward enough so that he could see her face.
Her head tilted and her gaze connected with his. “I’ve just discovered that Zach is angry with me. He’s spitting mad, Lucas. And I haven’t a clue how long he’s felt this way.” She tucked a strand of her long hair behind her ear. “What’s worse is I have no idea
the hell he’s so mad.”
She closed her eyes, her anguish unmistakable. Lucas didn’t know what to do, what to say.
“Talk about being disillusioned.” Her laughter was spiky and sardonic. “I’ve been be-bopping along, as sanctimonious as anybody can be, thinking none of this is my fault. That I’d given him all I could. Offered him all I had. And now I’m realizing that my son has been trying to communicate—” she shook her head “—something. His frustrations, maybe? Some need I didn’t know about? I don’t know. But I completely missed the boat. I didn’t see it. I wasn’t aware. I think he’s angry that I haven’t been there for him. That’s got to be why he’s snapping and snarling at me one minute and then ignoring me the next. He still wasn’t getting my attention, so he went out and found a way to really wake me up. God, Lucas, I’m to blame for all of this.”
“No one person is to blame, Tyne,” he assured her. He was about the say more, but she turned her whole body to face him suddenly.
“Has he said anything? While the two of you have been out shooting and hiking, has he talked about how he’s feeling?” She gave a small frustrated shake of her head and her corn-silk hair rustled around her shoulders, radiant. “About me? About his life?”
Lucas shook his head. “Not really. We’ve spent a little of our time talking, getting to know one another. He told me a little about school. Some of his teachers. He’s mentioned a couple of friends, what he likes to do, places he likes to hang out, that kind of thing. I’ve told him stories from my childhood, mostly. What it was like growing up here. He seemed really interested, and I just thought that was because my teen years were so different from his.” He lifted one shoulder, one hand. “We’re in the beginning stages of this thing. Zach and I need time to build up a little trust.” She looked disappointed and he slid his fingers over her forearm. “Hey, that’s what this month is for, Tyne. Smoothing out the ruffles. Figuring out the problems and finding some answers. We don’t have to solve everything in the first week, you know?”
The stiffness in her narrow shoulders relaxed and she took a deep breath. She picked up her bottle of beer and held the cool glass first to her cheek, then to her forehead. Then she took a sip.
“Maybe you should spend some time alone with him,” Lucas suggested. “Just the two of you. Take him for a drive. Or a long walk. Ask him if he’s got any Ceshould spe questions. Open yourself up to him. You can’t find out what he’s thinking if you don’t talk to him.”
Her head bobbed as she considered his suggestion. “You’re probably right.” She nodded again, this time more firmly. “I’m sure you are, actually. I think I’ll make some plans for tomorrow. Maybe we could have lunch at the diner and then take a drive somewhere. Maybe the mall in Lancaster, or something. I’ll have to think about it.”
The silence that settled between them wasn’t the least bit awkward, which amazed Lucas. He watched the fireflies, listened to the peepers, dug his bare toes into the grass. Maybe they were all making strides where relationships were concerned.
She leaned her forearm against the corner of the table and turned her head, her long hair spilling over her lowered shoulder. He felt the urge to reach out and touch it. To see if it was as silky as he’d remembered. But he resisted.
“—what happened to your mother? I don’t remember us talking about her.”
“I don’t know any details, really. I was never encouraged to talk about her.” He reached for his bottle of beer only to realize it was empty. He set it back down. “I vaguely remember when I was very young—I can’t even say what age I was—someone told me she’d died when I was born.”
Tyne nodded, then she went still. Suddenly, her back straightened. “But she’s not in the cemetery?”
Her pointed question startled him.
“When we took tokens to your father,” she continued, “we never visited your mother’s grave.”
When Lucas had been a young man, his feelings for Tyne had taken on a whole new dimension when she’d agreed to visit the community cemetery with him to honor his father. She’d been amazed at the practice of leaving gifts to show respect and adulation for those who had passed on. During her first of many visits there, Tyne had spoken in hushed tones as she’d pointed out the small, weather-worn stuffed animals and the jewelry sitting on top of headstones, the cards and letters wedged into crevices, even money, bills faded and stiff with age weighted down with smooth river rocks on the grassy mounds. She’d been amazed that the graveyard hadn’t been ransacked and Lucas had explained that no one would dare touch the sacred favors that people had left for their loved ones.
“If we did, I sure don’t remember it. And I’m sure I would.”
“You’re right. We never visited her grave.” Lucas felt funny, light-headed, as if he had the alcohol content of four beers racing through his veins rather than just the one. “Because she’s not buried in the cemetery.”
Tyne’s unfinished beer sat on the table, forgotten. “So, where is she? Do you know?” Her delicate brows arched high. “Haven’t you ever asked?”
If he hadn’t become so rattled by the unexpected change in the topic of the conversation, her questions would have brought a smile to his face. When they were teens, she would never have questioned him, would never have confronted him in such a bold manner. He st
udied her face, realizing what a stunningly beautiful woman she’d become.
“No,” he finally admitted, his voice coming out sounding dry and grating. “I’ve never asked.”