Chapter 10 – The End
The house had quieted hours before. Earlier, Jarrod had expounded the relevant facts regarding their options when it came to dealing with Matt and Martha Simmons. But not all of what happened, between brothers, was discussed; there were things he had determined the ladies did not need to know of Heath’s past.
After years of knowing her oldest son’s ways, Victoria recognized when she was not being told the entire truth, and this was what found her still awake long after she’d retired for the night. She knew the boys were not lying, but more importantly she felt their omission was an effort to protect someone. It disturbed her when she finally came to understand the brothers were protecting Heath. In her heart, Victoria knew Jarrod would have stopped by her sitting room on his way up to bed had it been Audra. As much as the only daughter was becoming a young lady, there were things in the world she just didn’t need to know, yet.
Gliding down the staircase, Victoria spied a figure standing before the fireplace in the parlor. “Tom?” she whispered. So much like her husband when troubled, she had to force herself to remember he had been taken from her six years before.
Regaining her composure, “Couldn’t you sleep?”
Unfazed at her voice, almost as if he had expected her, he shook his head. “Haven’t tried.”
“I’m willing to listen if you need to talk.”
“Ain’t nothing more needs saying.” Turning away from the fire, Heath faced the woman who had accepted him into her home, and their lives. “I’m sorry you got pulled into all the ugliness of them.”
Tinging her voice with regret, Victoria replied, “You tried to warn me. If I had just let it all alone. I am sorry Heath.”
Nodding, wanting her to know his heart, “I’m thankful for you agreeing about sending them away.”
“I will admit, I wanted them to stand trial, to have them face justice. But hearing you and Jarrod discuss what could happen….” Victoria shivered. “It doesn’t seem right.”
“Ain’t a matter of right or wrong, it’s just people.” Heath hit the side of his fisted hand against the fireplace mantle, inadvertently revealing how much he was hurting,. “You think Mr. Archer will agree with everything Jarrod wrote down.”
“I’m sure he will. With the doctor’s diagnosis and your uncle agreeing… It’s the best way to see…your aunt hopefully gets the help she needs.”
Heath turned away from Victoria and walked to a nearby window, pushing the lace curtain aside.
“What is it Heath?” Victoria followed, placing a hand on his forearm.
Shaking his head at his own reflection, “It could have all been so different.” Still holding the lace curtain with one hand, he slipped the other into a front pocket of his pants.
Victoria waited, unsure if Heath wanted a response.
“I’d of given anything to be a part of a family.”
Victoria interrupted, “Oh but Heath, you were. You mother, Aunt Rachel, and Hannah.”
“Yeah, we were a family.” A fond smile appeared on his face. “But we could have been so much more.” Memories returned to his childhood, and a young boy’s dreams. “Growing up, seeing other children with both their parents and extended families.” His voice turned bitter, “He was Momma’s brother. They were supposed to be my family…”
Reaching up to turn his face towards her, “Heath, I wish the past could have been different, that somehow….”
“No, ya take what life gives you and ya make the best of it. That’s what Momma always said.” Allowing the curtain to close, “Guess I’m just feeling sorry for myself.”
“You’re entitled to feel that way, for the way you had to live while growing up. But I hope you’ll think on the here and now as a blessing. Life gave us you, Heath. Your joining our family was an unexpected gift, and I thank God every day that you decided to come here.” Placing her hand in the crook of Heath’s elbow she led him across the floor, stopping as they arrived at the staircase, “But if you ever….” She pointed a finger to the blonde, to emphasize her point.
Heath paused, but Victoria kept him moving up the carpeted steps, but allowed him to proceed slower do to his wounded leg.
“If you ever, deliberately set your brother against you like you did before you left. Making the rest of us worry that you were leaving us.” Victoria quieted until they reached her bedroom door and stopped.
“Let’s just say you’ll receive the same punishment as your brothers when they’d do something they knew would draw my ire.”
The right side of his mouth turned up. “Jarrod said something about wooden spoons.”
“I take it you’ve had some experience with them?”
A boyish glint lit his eyes, “Only to lick the batter bowl on rare occasions,” but his hand nearest Victoria slipped to his backside, as if to protect something dear.
“Oh Heath,” she laughed and rose to her tiptoes. Placing a kiss on Heath’s cheek, “Sweet dreams, Heath. And I do mean it when I say, it’s good to have you home.”
Heath waited until the door clicked closed before lifting his hand to his cheek. Smiling at the warm glow he felt inside, he turned to walk down the carpeted hallway. He stopped and dropped his hand at seeing Nick leaning against the door frame to his room. A smirk on his face and standing ever so relaxed; arms folded across his chest, left ankle crossed in front of his right leg, toe to the ground. “We okay?”
With a smiled that reached his eyes, “Yeah, we’re more than okay.” Heath continue to his room, but paused and called, “Nick?”
Turning, “If I haven’t said it, thanks for coming after me.”
“You’re welcome. But, next time….”
“I should come right out and ask for help?”
With a wide, lop-sided grin, “It’s good to be home, big brother.”
Standing straight, “It sure is good to have you here, brother.”
Thank you to everyone for reading and to those who have left comments, they are appreciated.