Authors: Donna Fasano
Tags: #General Fiction
“I need to go inside,” the old man demanded. “Come and take me inside.”
A gentle breeze blew a tendril of Ruth’s brown hair across her face. She automatically swiped it aside and tucked it under her bonnet, smudging dirt across her forehead in the process. Tyne noticed the rich, black soil caked under the woman’s short nails, evidence of her work in the garden.
Tyne had never seen regret expressed so clearly on anyone’s face before, and her heart twisted into a painful knot.
“I should go,” Ruth told Lucas. The sad, painful smile she offered them seemed to strain her lips.
“Wait.” He reached out and placed his hand on top of hers on the gatepost in an effort to hold her there, if only for a moment longer. “Just a second.”
They stood in the open, summer sunshine raining down on them, a floral-scented breeze rustling the leaves of a nearby tree, yet Tyne felt there wasn’t air enough for her to take a breath.
“Are you happy?” he asked.
The old man chose that moment to call her name once again.
Ruth’s expression never changed. She searched Lucas’s face and finally whispered, “I’m content.” She blinked once and went very still. “I want you to know that I’ve prayed for you every day, Lucas.”
For several seconds he didn’t move, the look in his eyes intense but inscrutable. There was no way to tell if hearing his mother speak his name for the first time triggered pleasure or distress. His jaw muscle jumped, and Tyne feared he might tell her exactly what she could do with her prayers. Finally, he released her hand, reached around, pulled his wallet from his back pocket and slid out a business card. He offered it to her. She accepted the card in silence, tucking it beneath the waistband of her apron without looking at it, a
nd after a final long glance at his face, she turned away.
Now it was Tyne being tugged along by Lucas toward the car. That couldn’t be it. That couldn’t be all they were going to say to one another. They had years to catch up on, memories to share, regrets to express.
Before she could think of a polite way to articulate her thoughts, they were in the car and driving away from the house. Tyne glanced behind her, stricken with sadness by the sight of that closed gate.
just don’t understand.”
Besides ordering coffee from the waitress in the café, this was the first thing Lucas had said since leaving Ruth Yoder’s house.
Tyne had tried to get him to talk, but not knowing what he was thinking or how he was feeling, she couldn’t gauge how to best be supportive. Should she compliment the woman? Rail against her? Lucas’s mother had been neither warm and welcoming, nor unreceptive. So Tyne waited for Lucas to take the lead. But he hadn’t. He’d uttered not a word. He’d just driven.
Even though the car was f”erd fheaded in the wrong direction, she’d kept quiet, figuring he needed time to think. After about twenty minutes or so, he’d pulled into the parking lot of the coffee shop.
“I mean,” he continued, absently swirling the spoon around in the heavy ceramic mug, “I realize religion is important to some people. But—” he tilted his head “—more important than raising your kid?”
Memories from her own past floated up to haunt her. She glanced out the window toward the parking lot.
There must be millions of different reasons why people give up their babies
Tyne had been young and unmarried and scared when she’d considered giving Zach up for adoption. In the end, she’d made the right decision. A rush of relief hit her just as it had a thousand times over the years.
Gazing across the table at Lucas, she couldn’t deny the affinity she felt for Ruth Yoder. Surely, the woman had experienced the same deep desperation Tyne had. She couldn’t imagine any woman facing that dilemma without doing a huge amount of soul-searching.
“She’s the one who made the mistake.” His tone went hard. “Why did I have to suffer? Why did I have to grow up without a mother because she hadn’t been smart enough to insist on a condom?”
Tyne reached out and touched his arm. “Stop talking nonsense. If she’d used birth control, you wouldn’t be here.”
,” he said.
Instinctively, she knew he was referring to the old man. Ruth Yoder’s father.
“How can a man ignore his own grandson for nearly half a lifetime?” Lucas shook his head. “The good bishop probably saw me as evil.” His lips twisted as he mocked, “The spawn of his daughter’s sin.”
“Oh, stop, Lucas. I mean it. This isn’t helping.” His arm felt warm beneath her fingertips. He was being so ridiculous she wanted to laugh at him, but she didn’t dare risk hurting his feelings. “You could spend the rest of your life making dire speculations, and all you’re doing is torturing yourself. You don’t know anything about the circumstances your mother and father were facing.”
He captured her fingers in his, nodding. “You’re right.” He took a deep breath, and when he released it, the tension in his shoulders eased. “You’re absolutely right.” The hint of a smile he offered was rueful. “I can always count on you to set me straight, can’t I?”
The smile she shot back was broad. “You betcha.”
He sipped his coffee and set the mug on the table. “She seemed afraid of her father, didn’t she?”
Tyne only nodded.
“I guess she just couldn’t find the strength to go against him, her church, her beliefs—” he shrugged “—her community. They’re a tight-knit bunch. And since her name’s still Yoder, I guess she never married. Unless she divorced and took back her name. Do the Amish believe in divorce? Do they allow it?” Lucas heaved a sigh. “I know almost nothing about them. Who knows what repercussions she’s had to deal with all these years?”
His grip on her didn’t lessen.
“Focus on the good,” she told him, ignoring the tiny frown that marred his brow. “She thought about you every day. You heard her say it.”
He didn’t react immediately, but then his head slowly bobbed. He lifted her hand a few inches.
“Thank you,” he murmured. “For urging me to do this. For going with me. For letting me vent.” He kissed the valley between her first and second knuckles and then pressed them to his chin. “For everything.”
Excitement trilled in her stomach and her body flushed with heat. When he set her fingers free, she tucked her hand in her lap to hide its trembling.
“Things might not have turned out kve fi as I’d imagined, and the whole meeting was over almost before it started, but I am glad I went.” He grasped the mug. “Listen, all this had me thinking. I, um, I want to thank you for having the strength to go against everyone and raise Zach on your own. If you hadn’t, he wouldn’t know us.” He paused. “Can you imagine that?”
“You were brave, Tyne,” he said.
The compliment made her uncomfortable. “I don’t know about that. But I
naïve and inexperienced, and there were times when I felt extremely ill-equipped as a parent. That’s for sure.”
Lucas chuckled. “You have to stop regretting that bobby pin incident.”
“It wasn’t only that.” She balled up her paper napkin. “There were times—” Closing her eyes for an instant, she shook her head. There was no easy way to sum up those infant and toddler years full of motherly mishaps. “I think the worst was dealing with the grief of losing his step-father.”
His eyebrows arched and he blinked twice. “You were married?”
“I guess I should have mentioned it before, but…” She looked across the café where several other customers enjoyed a late afternoon snack. “It happened so long ago that—” she lifted a shoulder. “I met David when I catered a party for his construction company. It wasn’t
company. He was a cabinet maker for the company. He made beautiful furniture.” She slid back on the Naugahyde bench. “He was older than I was by quite a few years, and we were just friends at first. Because of him I started my first savings account. And he looked over a used car I wanted to buy. Things like that.” Memories made her smile. “When he suggested marriage, I actually laughed at him. His feelings were terribly hurt.
“Anyway, he knew I was struggling financially. Knew I was raising Zach by myself. Zach was two then. Just a toddler.” She smiled. “David doted on him.” A powerful sadness swept through her and she paused long enough to rein it in. “David presented a very logical argument; he didn’t have anyone to depend on, Zach and I didn’t, either. He thought we made a great team. We did get along well. So I agreed to marry him.” She looked Lucas in the eye. “It wasn’t a love match by any means. We both knew that. We were a team. It was a partnership.”
She felt an odd reprieve to be able to tell Lucas that, and she refused to stop and wonder why that would be. “But we were happy together. David was good to me. And he loved Zach.” The napkin was a tight ball in the palm of her hand. “We were together just three years though.”
It had taken a long time for her to talk about this without tears coming to her eyes. “There was an accident on the site. They were never able to tell me if he lost his grip on the bank of cabinets he was installing because he had a heart attack, or if he had a heart attack after the cabinets fell on him. He died on the way to the hospital.”
She swallowed around the lump in her throat, determined to finish her story. “Do you have any idea how hard it is to explain death to a five year old?” Tyne focused on breathing, slow and steady. “That child cried himself to sleep for weeks.”
Lucas waved the waitress away when she came offering a refill.
“I’m forever indebted to David. Because of the insurance pay out, I could stop worrying so much about money. Oh, things remained tight. But I had the funds for a down payment on the house. And I was able to buy a partnership in Easy Feasts when the opportunity arose.” She ran the pad of her middle finger around the rim of her mug. “I’m sorry. This certainly wasn’t the best time for me to unload all that on you.”
Lucas slid his coffee mug toward the end of the table. “I’m glad you did. I’ve been wondering, you know. How yo k knl tu and Zach have fared over the years. Where you lived; how you got along. I thought about you from time to time. Wondered if you got married. If you were happy.” He waited until she looked at him before adding, “I’m really glad that Zach had you, Tyne. I’m happy you raised him.”
His gaze slid away from her and the air chilled a degree or two. Then he offered her a synthetic smile. “So, um, you and Rob. I guess this is the love match you’ve been waiting for?”
She just sat there, startled as much by his odd and suddenly artificial demeanor as by his question. He went from warm and appreciative to cool and measuring in mere seconds. It threw her off kilter.
Love match? She and Rob? She let the phrase sink in.
If Rob was her love match, why had she reacted to that tiny kiss Lucas planted on her hand just now? Then again, had she ever thought of Rob as the man of her dreams? The questions made her stomach go queasy. She was engaged to him. Had promised to become his wife. Shouldn’t she answer Lucas with a resounding
Why had she only thought of Rob a handful of times since leaving Philly? They’d talked on the phone several times, but now that she was truly conscious of the exchanges, she realized that Rob had initiated all three conversations. The notion to call him hadn’t even entered Tyne’s head. Had she been that consumed with Zach and his problems? She looked at Lucas and frowned. Then she swallowed, pushing her coffee cup away, fearful of putting another sip of the stuff in her unsettled belly.
Lucas’s chuckle sounded forced. “I’m sorry. Really, Tyne. Forgive my questions. Your love life is none of my business.” He shook his head, his words picking up speed. “That would be as bad as you asking me about mine. Love life, that is. Not that you
.” His gaze skidded from his coffee cup, to the condiment basket, to her face and back to his cup. “And not that there’d be anything to tell.” He grasped and released the handle of his mug several times. “I’ve dated, sure. But—” he shook his head again, his brows rising slightly “—I’ve never expected to find ‘the real thing,’ if you know what I mean. I learned the truth about
myth long ago.”
Their eyes met again, and his face went hot before he scanned the café for the waitress.
Tyne’s heart thudded so hard against her ribs she was certain he must hear it. She’d been the one who had taught him the truth about ‘the real thing.’ She’d taught him the futility of looking for true love. That was all too clear.
The conversation turned as sticky as the humid August day.
“We should probably go, don’t you think?” Clamping her hand firmly on her purse, she slid out of the booth.
“Yeah.” He pulled out his wallet and tossed several bills on the table, clearly relieved that she’d changed the subject. “You’re right. We should head on home.”
• • •
Lucas had kept himself
busy all day Sunday. After cleaning the carburetor on the ancient lawn mower, he’d mowed the lawn. He’d trimmed back the overgrown bushes on the property and called to have the piles of branches removed. He’d washed his car and cleaned out the shed in the back yard.
Tyne didn’t know if he was avoiding her because he needed some time to think about his meeting with his mother, or if it was because he was feeling embarrassed about having tread on the prickly ground of their love lives.
Here it was Monday morning, and they’d barely finished their coffee and the cinnamon buns she’d baked when there had been a knock at the front door. Another Wikweko resident had come looking for legal ad k fo anvice from Lucas. The man and woman had both looked troubled as they had settled onto the couch in the living room, so Tyne had slipped on a pair of sneakers and walked into town to give Lucas the quiet he needed to consult on the couple’s problem.
Although the people had left by the time Tyne returned home in the afternoon, Lucas continued to work, spending several hours making notes and telephone calls, she assumed, to his office in the City. He’d stopped to eat the simple dinner of Cobb salad she’d fixed them. And while their conversation was a little awkward, that’s when she’d learned that the couple had been swindled out of their life savings by a fraudulent financial planner and they were hoping Lucas could somehow find a way to help them recoup their losses.