Replete Heart "
By Joanne Grier
Bree spent her time with
Charles while Devin handled the packing and shipping of their wedding
Charles shared all of his adventures while they had been on their honeymoon, including how Angel had made friends with Father. Bree smiled and laughed as he described Angel’s daily visits with Father and how slowly Father began to voluntarily pick him up when he mewed and rubbed against his pant legs.
Mary came to see if Charles wished to spend time with the children and wasn’t surprised when he refused, saying he needed to be with his Angel Bree. Mary stayed to chat with Bree and her comments about Father and Angel were very insightful. Mary told her how Father had begun to pet and cuddle Angel and, in her opinion, Father was more open, less guarded, with his emotions with Angel as he wasn’t fearful of being rejected or having his love thrown in his face, all the things that had happened to him in his life Above.
Devin arrived and told her
he had arranged to have her car shipped by rail to
As evening approached, Devin was tired from all the work necessary to prepare for them to leave on the morrow. Catherine had come Below wishing to spend this last evening with them, and the members of Devin’s immediate family also gathered to spend what would be their last night together for many months. Together they witnessed the joy light Father’s dark eyes when they told him they wished he would join them, as their friends wanted to have an impromptu party. Father quickly offered the library for the gathering. Bree smiled, touched his hand and asked if there were anything she could do to help make the room ready.
Bree went to speak with William about the possibility of some snacks while Devin worked at bringing chairs from other parts of the library to the central area. William returned with Bree, carrying a tray filled with assorted cupcakes and a few pieces of pie left over from the evening meal. The library soon filled with Devin’s immediate family, as he lovingly called those in the tunnels with whom he felt closest.
Vincent wore a mysterious smile as he looked at Devin. From her seat beside him, Catherine asked what caused his smile. “Devin has changed; see how the light shimmers in his eyes, and the lack of stiffness in his shoulders. Bree’s love has truly completed him. With her the bitter hurtful years seem to have left him and he seems more peaceful.” His small sigh was barely audible but Catherine was aware of the love that was encapsulated in that small breath. Vincent’s eyes sparkled with happiness as he rejoiced in Devin’s newly discovered serenity. Catherine squeezed his hand as she watched the joyful family.
His reaction captured the hearts of the entire room as he smiled his sweet smile, laughed and cried all at the same time. He quickly jumped up, taking the portrait over to Bree and Devin, then snatched it back to show it to Vincent and Catherine. “My Angel Bree, all mine.” He showed the picture to Angel and of course he was positive the soft mew he heard was Angel’s voice of approval.
The portraits were passed around, each person agreeing how beautiful Bree looked in both pictures. Charles informed them that he was going to put his picture in his bedroom so he would watch over and protect Bree all night long.
The intimate friends stayed together until well after midnight, no one wishing to leave the warm, happy gathering. Each of them knew that the coming winter would mean they would be apart until after the spring thaw. Devin maintained it was not wise to expose Charles to winter travel because of his susceptibility to respiratory problems.
Bree was a born kisser and no one escaped her warm hugs and kisses as she bid each person goodnight. Father was slightly startled as she wrapped him in a warm hug and then kissed him soundly on the lips. Vincent and Devin watched in silence as Father’s face gained a sharper pink tone. It was Devin’s turn to be startled when Father took him in his arms, hugged him, and kissed his cheek. Vincent and Catherine exchanged a look over the scene they had just witnessed.
The calls of goodnight echoed in the passageways as everyone moved toward their chambers.
They were an hour later in
leaving the city than Devin would have liked, but the traffic headed
north was light and he was able to make up time. Once again they spent
the night with the
They found a note from Dr. Edmonds pinned to the interior door saying he had shopped for basic groceries, including tea and coffee, had started the generator, turned on the water, and had lit the water heater, so they should be all set. Devin suggested they leave their luggage until morning and everyone happily agreed, as they were all eager to get inside and relax.
Angel explored his home, sniffing all his toys as if to reassure himself that all this belonged to him. He had traveled well, as they had stopped every two hours to allow him to play on his lead to help keep his energy level low. He had been contented to ride inside Charles’ shirt and would occasionally seek Bree’s lap.
While Devin built them a fire, Bree and Charles prepared a light supper for them. She found a hearty soup that Dr. Edmonds had left in the fridge and while that heated, she made sandwiches and Charles opened some canned fruit.
Bree smiled happily as she viewed Devin and Charles as they settled to consume their first official at-home meal as a family. Her heart thrummed loudly as she took their hands to say grace. She wanted to start off this first meal in the manner she hoped their lives would move forward. As she prayed she asked God’s blessing upon them as they joined three separate lives into one family.
After they settled in the living room, they placed a call to Catherine to notify her they had arrived safely so that she could pass the message along to Vincent and Pops. She was delighted to hear from them but didn’t talk long, as she could hear the tiredness in their voices.
Devin and Charles took Angel out for his nightly run but tonight he was lethargic from traveling and after only thirty minutes he was ready to come inside. Shortly afterward, Charles announced he was sleepy and would they excuse him. When Devin went in to read to him, he found Charles and Angel fast asleep.
He and Bree cuddled on the sofa enjoying the fire and after a while they, too, became sleepy. Devin banked the fire and went to join Bree in their bedroom.
Their first two weeks were filled with unpacking boxes and finding places to store all their gifts. Mr. McWilliams from the forest preserve stopped by to let them know their request to build onto the cabin had been approved and they were free to start on construction as soon as they liked. Devin immediately began to draft plans for the room additions. From his original concept, Devin decided to make their bedroom five feet wider, giving them room for two walk-in closets as well as a larger bathroom. He knew that they still roughly had a good month before the temperatures made concrete work impossible. He placed a phone call to Peter, explained what he needed, and Peter promised to get back to him quickly.
Later that day Peter called, telling him the plans were approved; he had advanced the necessary funds and Cullen and Winslow would arrive in two days. Now that he had two master concrete workers, he ordered the foundation dug so it would be all ready when his helpers arrived. He retrieved the inflatable mattresses from their storage shed and Charles agreed it would be fun to have Cullen and Winslow bunk with him for the time they were there.
Bree shopped and cooked, getting ready for her first tunnel family guests. She prepared several meaty casseroles, selected protein-rich lunch meat for sandwiches, and got in an extra supply of tea and coffee, since she remembered both men always seemed to have cups near at hand during her time in the tunnels.
The contractor who dug the foundation had only been gone from the property about two hours before Cullen and Winslow arrived. The concrete blocks and concrete mixer were already on site, so after a sandwich and two cups of coffee, they began to work.
Bree snapped pictures, wanting not only to have photographs for their family album, but also to share with Vincent. They might be hundreds of miles apart but she wanted Vincent to know he was always in their thoughts and wanted to share their world with him.
From the sound of deep male voices coming from the yard Bree had a good idea of how it had sounded the year before when Charles and Devin had constructed the new front porch after Devin’s leg had gone through the old porch. She heard much laughter and occasionally she heard them singing along to the radio. Charles worked alongside Devin and he was obviously happy to once again be helping Dev do construction work.
Bree settled at the desk, wishing that she could simply pick up the phone and be instantly talking to Vincent. But since that wasn’t possible, she took out her pen and stationery and began her first letter to her new brother.
We are settling in nicely and it is so good to have Cullen and Winslow with us. Devin said he wanted to get the foundation for the new bedroom completed before the snow begins, as he hopes to raise the walls before the weather proves difficult. As we talked about it, he said he could use two master concrete workers and he knew of none better than Cullen and Winslow. They are all in the yard working, laughing and singing, and Devin couldn’t be happier. I miss you and want you to know that if you change your mind, you are always welcome to make your home with us.
Hopefully in my next letter I will have pictures of the construction and the wonderful workers. I snuck out awhile ago and snapped some pictures as I wanted to share our world with you. Devin looks so young and happy with his tool belt slung around his waist.
May I ask how Dr. Wells is doing? Strangely, I don’t feel comfortable calling him Jacob or Father or Pops as you and Devin do. I was so pleased when he made the first move to hug and kiss Devin as we were preparing to leave. That was a positive sign, don’t you think?
Devin is leery and he is fearful that the change in Dr. Wells won’t be permanent. His wounds are deep and he desperately wants a solid relationship with his father. He can’t quite allow himself to believe. I can only be here to support him and pray that Dr. Wells will give serious thought to how his abandonment impacted his son and move forward to establish a loving fatherly relationship.
Please give our love to Catherine.
Your sister Bree
She quickly re-read the letter, included a book of postage stamps, sealed the envelope and addressed it to Vincent in care of Peter, put on her jacket and walked down the lane to their mailbox on the main road.
When she returned she gathered up Angel, put on his harness and took him out to the yard to play. As he pounced on the leaves waving in the breeze and chased the few remaining flying bugs, she laughed. She loved it when he got down on his belly and snuck along, ready to pounce on the waving grasses that captured his attention.
After bringing Angel back inside, she prepared a large pitcher of ice water, collected paper cups and went out to revive the work crew. The guys all laughed when Devin pulled her into his arms and kissed her for several long minutes. She smiled at him and then patted his butt as she walked away, which brought more laughter from Cullen and Winslow.
She could hear both showers going as she finished her last-minute preparations for dinner. Charles had come in ten minutes earlier, so he was already finished with his shower and was sitting in the kitchen slicing fruit. Slowly they trooped in, clean, with wet drippy hair, declaring they could eat an elephant if that happen to be what she was cooking tonight!
Dinner was boisterous and they all took turns in telling outrageous stories of tunnel life. Winslow took great delight in telling of the adventures Devin had led them on as they explored some of the more forbidden areas of Below. They had completed three courses of building blocks and, if tomorrow went as smoothly, they hoped to be able to begin the cutting of the floor joists on their third day.
After dinner Devin stayed to help Bree clean up while Cullen and Winslow went along to help Charles with his latest model ship. As they tidied up the kitchen, Devin told her how happy he was to be working alongside Winslow and Cullen. He admitted that he had feared Pops would refuse to allow them to come for some ridiculous reason. “Will you remember to send Peter a check tomorrow to reimburse him for their train fare? The receipt for the fare is on the blotter on the desk.” Devin smiled his thanks as he put the last of the plates into the cabinet.
Thank you for your generous supply of postage stamps. There are times when they can be quite scarce within the tunnels.
Father continues to reevaluate his position within the community and assesses his reasons for doing things. He now will ask for my opinion on issues when previously he simply made his decision and then issued his orders. He does not adapt well to change, so I am aware of his efforts to improve.
My heart also aches for Devin, knowing how Father always exalted my virtues while continuously stressing Devin’s faults. I honestly believe he was never aware of how deeply he wounded Devin and he certainly never saw his negativity as anything but a form of protection where I was concerned.
Catherine sends her love. Mary, Elizabeth, and Pascal asked to be remembered and send their affections.
I imagine Cullen and Winslow working in your yard, knowing they are both enjoying their time in the great outdoors, surrounded by all the timber and forest creatures. Father’s approving their traveling rather than instantly saying no is a good sign that he is trying to change. Peter hardly had to say more than a few words regarding the benefits of such a trip before Father was in complete agreement.
I shall look forward to seeing the pictures you mentioned of the construction. I could see them all smiling and laughing, as your words painted a delightful picture.
Bree waited until they were snuggled in bed before she gave Vincent’s letter to Devin. She felt the letter was too personal to share with Charles, as he was still unaware of the rift that had taken place, so she simply didn’t mention it. Devin turned on his side, bringing his arm across her body to hold her, his face pressed against her stomach as she tenderly stroked his back. He had only recently confided how much he loved it when she held him like this and how he felt encircled by her love. It was only with Bree he was able to articulate the pain locked inside his heart. The surety of her love and her acceptance of all he had been and was had begun to free him to speak the unspeakable.
Each day began and ended with Bree’s whispered words of love in Devin’s ear, words that he never tired of hearing.
A load of lumber was delivered, and while Cullen and Winslow continued the concrete work, Devin and Charles worked to secure tarps over the lumber, making it weather-tight. Devin realized he was taking a chance ordering lumber this late in the year, but he had weighed his options and felt the risk was worthwhile. Winslow said they were amenable to staying until they got the walls up and wrapped plus getting shingles on the roof. They hoped to make the addition as weather-tight as possible before the weather halted all construction. Tomorrow they planned to cut a door from the inside of the cabin into the addition and then hang a new insulated door, ensuring that the cabin would be airtight this winter.
Bree brought Angel to the yard for his romp but Charles was so busy he failed to notice that Bree had slipped off his harness and he was roaming freely. Bree stayed close, allowing Angel a larger circle of freedom with each visit to the yard.
That evening after dinner the phone rang and Devin was delighted to hear Catherine’s voice. He listened for a few minutes and then handed the phone to Winslow. He face clearly revealed his awe as he hesitantly said “Hello” and then his wide grin split his face.
“Catherine invited Pascal, Mary and Elizabeth to dinner and they decided it would be nice to call.” Devin watched Cullen’s face as his words registered and a slow smile appear on the usually reticent face. Cullen was unabashedly pleased when Winslow passed the phone to him. As he spoke, he shifted, rocking from foot to foot in what was a common pose familiar to Winslow, who just smiled, watching his grinning friend.
Cullen held out the phone to Devin and as he pressed it against his ear he clearly heard his father’s voice. “Devin, how are you, son? I understand your room construction is going smoothly. All of your friends convinced me that I needed to be more social and accept Catherine’s invitation to dinner.” They chatted for a few more minutes then Father asked if he might speak with Bree and Charles. The phone was passed to Charles and then to Bree, who after saying goodbye handed the phone back to Devin. “Your father wishes to tell you goodnight.”
She walked across the floor, finding the tissue box, and quickly wiped her eyes. Smiling, she turned as Cullen and Winslow whispered goodnight as they headed to the bedroom. Winslow caught and squeezed her hand briefly in a gesture of understanding then continued onward. Devin’s eyes were bright as he turned toward her and she was aware that his body trembled. Glancing at Charles, she asked if he would mind getting his own dish of ice cream as she wanted to talk to Devin for a few minutes. Positive that Charles would comply, she walked to Devin and wordlessly took him in her arms, tightly holding him.
It seems impossible to believe that Winslow and Cullen are on the train headed home. The cabin seems empty without their vital presence and I hear the echoes of their strong voices. Charles is quiet as he processes their leaving and Angel is aware of his sadness as he climbs onto Charles’ chest and rubs against his face.
We are still working through Dr. Wells’ agreeing to attend a dinner at Catherine’s and his speaking to Devin on the phone. Devin assures me that he doesn’t remember his father ever voluntarily going Above for anything, let alone a social dinner. Devin is sure Mary was responsible for his going. I know both of us wished you were there so that we could have spoken to you. If there is such an opportunity in the future, we hope you will call. Devin misses you.
Our big news is that Angel is now walking about the yard without his harness. He doesn’t venture far, going only to the edge of the trees, but still it is a big step. I fear I am guilty, as I allowed him off his harness while the guys were all working on the addition. Charles wanted to try allowing him to roam freely but was so fearful that he would get lost or hurt.
We have walked the woods searching for a perfect Christmas tree that we may dig up, use, and then return to the forest. Of course, the most perfectly shaped trees are those over fifteen feet tall, which would require cutting a hole in the roof!
Our beautiful clock says it is nearly midnight. Seeing the beauty of the clock constantly brings you to mind. I find Devin staring at it with such longing. Perhaps one day, when he is ready, he will explain the special meaning the clock has for him.
Give our love to Catherine and all the rest of our family.
Your sister Bree
Would you ask Catherine to phone to let us know that Winslow and Cullen arrived home safely? It was great to have them here, but they aren’t seasoned travelers so I’ll be concerned until I know they are safely home again.
Charles has been quiet since they left and he misses their voices and laughter. Angel walks around sniffing the pillows on the sofa, seeking their scent, and then he looks around softly mewing as if that will make them appear.
The whole time we worked, when I’d look up and saw Winslow, in my mind I expected to turn my head and find you beside me. I thought a lot about all the silly, childish projects we three worked on together, how I was scared you would get hurt but so proud of you for wanting to try to do big kid stuff. Lately my mind has been filled with memories, things I thought I had forgotten. Or perhaps more correctly, I should say things I forced myself to forget because the remembering was too painful.
Bree is asleep in our bed and I’ve already tiptoed in twice just to look at her. She’s so beautiful; not just the outside, but her inner beauty takes my breath away. Just being with her brings such peace to my soul and I feel an inner calm I’ve never previously known. I never knew that loving and being loved could be so soothing, so fulfilling, and bring such an incandescent glow to my world. It is only now that I truly understand the depth of your love for Catherine and all that her abiding love brings to you.
I’ve tried to write to Pops but it all ends in the trash. Some part of my heart is still hardened and I can’t again make the first move toward a more equitable peace. Perhaps the lost little boy will always control me, waiting and hoping he will one day sweep me into his arms and say how wrong he was to treat me as he did. I’ve tried but I can’t seem to move past the pain. Bree’s love has been freeing in many aspects but even her love can’t sweep away the fears of abandonment.
Enclosed are the last of the construction photos. I adore the one of Winslow with Angel draped around his neck. Would you look at his smile? Heart-stopping, isn’t it?
The holidays were fast
approaching and Bree scurried to complete her special projects while
keeping them secret from Charles and Devin. Yesterday she had sent a box
overnight to Peter containing gifts for their tunnel family as well as
one for Peter. A separate box was winging its way to Catherine, as well
as ones to Mrs. Hawkins and to the
Bree baked her special applesauce walnut cakes for Dr. Edmonds and for Ed as well as having small token gifts. She wanted this, their first Christmas as a family, to be special, the beginning memory of a long list of happy holidays together.
They had laughed this morning when they each noticed an increase in the number of gifts under their tree. Devin said he had counted and there were now seven gifts with Angel’s name on them, which sent him off into gales of laughter. Their tree was resplendent in a large oaken tub that held its burlap-wrapped root ball. They had draped tinsel and a string of lights around the tub to disguise it. The tree had special gingerbread people hanging as ornaments, wearing hand-stitched tunnel garb. Devin was speechless when he saw them, knowing Bree had done it to bring his tunnel heritage home.
Charles was frustrated as Angel refused to behave and steadily gnawed and tugged the bows off packages, chasing them around the living room in his own unique style of football. Devin stood in the corner, hand over his mouth, as Charles once again patiently sat Angel down and explained about bows. The recalcitrant Angel turned his head, seeming to indicate he understood all that was being said. The minute Charles turned him loose, Angel pounced on a bow, tugging it off yet another gift! Devin lost it and laughed until he was holding his stomach and tears were running down his face, his whole body shaking in glee.
Peter passed a sentry post and asked if they would send a message asking Pascal, Mary, Elizabeth, Winslow, Vincent, and Cullen to please meet him in the library as soon as possible. He trudged along, balancing the large bag on first one shoulder then shifting it to the other. When he reached the library, he was overjoyed to see everyone had beaten him there. After struggling out of his coat, he opened the bag. “Devin and Bree sent your Christmas gifts to me, so I’ve come to play Santa Claus for you.” Dragging the bag, he walked around the room, handing out large, gaily wrapped gifts to everyone.
“Well, don’t just sit there staring, open your gifts! I’ve been charged with telling your each and every reaction to Bree and Devin, so let’s get started. You go first, Mary.”
Inside her box, Mary found a beautiful blue quilted robe and matching furry slippers.
Winslow discovered several new tools like those he had used in building the room addition and a wooly extra long neck scarf.
Cullen found a new leather tool belt, a duplicate of the one Devin possessed, and two pairs of woolen socks.
Pascal discovered a pitch pipe to replace the one he had recently lost and a warm thermal shirt.
Inside of Vincent’s box was an exquisite hand-knit intarsia sweater in autumnal colors with extra-long sleeves. There was a note attached saying if the sleeves weren’t long enough, Bree would happily lengthen them. Tucked in the side of the box was also a pair of leather gloves.
Finally it was Father’s turn and his face was a sea of conflicting emotions as he stared at the large package on his desk. “It won’t bite you, Jacob, go ahead and open it.” Peter’s look was encouraging as he silently tried to move Jacob past his pain.
Slowly he lifted the lid
to reveal another hand-knit sweater in a flame-stitch pattern in subtle
shades of dark blues, a deep burgundy and a delicate gold. The second
package contained a beautifully photographed book of
Charles came knocking on their bedroom door at eight, saying that Angel was eager to open his gifts and would they please come see him. Devin was smiling and laughing as he closed the door again. “The children are up and ready for Santa’s gift.” Quickly they brushed their teeth, slipped into robes and went to receive the holiday morning. Charles had already turned on the percolator so the smell of freshly brewed coffee scented the room. When he heard the bedroom door open, he lifted the tray of cups, saucers, and the coffee and walked into the living room.
Devin poured coffee for everyone as Bree turned on some Christmas carols to make the picture complete. Angel had been busy removing several more bows from the gifts and continued batting them around the room. They took turns opening their gifts, smiling in delight and exclaiming at the cleverness of the giver. Devin and Charles both received hand-knit sweaters from Bree and neither could understand when she had managed to knit them as they had never seen her working. Charles loved the special shirt Bree had made for him, complete with a carrying pouch inside for Angel.
Charles gave Bree a pendant with a crystal angel and she cried as she kissed him. “Now you will always know you are my Angel Bree.”
Devin gave her a charm bracelet with two charms, one a house and the second a shining multi-point star. He grinned as he whispered, “You truly gave me a home and you are the shining star in my heaven.” His lips claimed her and he was still kissing her when he heard Charles giggle.
“Can’t I even neck with my wife on Christmas Day? I really do like playing kissy face with my lady, ya know.” He ruffled Charles’ hair and answered his grin with a larger one of his own.
The three of them opened all of Angel’s gifts and he was particularly excited by a mechanical mouse complete with a flipping tail that he immediately began to chase across the living room.
Later in the day, Dr. Edmonds dropped in to wish them Merry Christmas. Devin asked if he would take a couple of snapshots of the three of them and he was only too happy to oblige. They also got one of Dr. Edmonds with Angel and promised to get a duplicate copy for him.
Long after Charles and Angel had gone to bed, Bree and Devin continued to cuddle on the sofa, peaceful and happy as they watched the dancing flames in the fireplace. “This is just the beginning of all the happy holidays we’ll have. Fifty years from now we’ll remember this day, our first Christmas as a family.”
Devin’s arms tightened, drawing her closer as he kissed her. “I don’t know just how I perceived this day would be, but I’m sure I never thought I’d know this joy. Before, when I wandered the world, Christmas was just another day, one I wanted over as quickly as possible so I didn’t have to think of missing Vin so much or missing that home beneath the city.”
Bree smiled softly, innately comprehending the subtle shift in Devin’s thinking as he mentioned the tunnels as being home.
Dear Devin and Bree,
This morning I again looked at the beautiful hand-knit sweater and all the words I know have left my mind, as there is no way I may expression my thanks and gratitude. In all my years, never has anyone created a sweater specifically for me. The colors are lush and the yarn so soft. I know I shall be warm when I wear it.
I have looked through the
beautiful book on
Peter has probably reported what a marvelous time all your friends had in opening the vast array of gifts you sent. The scope of your world increased as I learned of your construction project as Winslow and Cullen told story after story of your time together. They were overjoyed at being able to spend time with the three of you while having the opportunity of serving as helpers to you.
May your new year be filled with joy and happiness.
Devin found himself over the following two weeks reading and re-reading Pops’ letter. At times he warred within, first wondering what was behind Pops; words, what devious thing was he planning to cause him pain, and then at other times his heart was soft and he accepted the letter for what it was.
Bree continued to fill her
days and was reluctant to return to work.
She was busy and contented spending her days with her family.
She was officially supposed to begin working part-time at
My dear Devin,
So we begin another year and as always I wonder where the time has gone. The older I get the quicker the years flash by at lightning speed.
I spent New Year’s Day in reflection, reviewing the years and particularly this past year. I am realizing what a profound debt of gratitude I owe you for your courage in speaking up regarding my appalling behavior relative to your wedding and bringing your beloved Bree Below. With each passing day I am more cognizant of my abject failings as a parent and father. I can no longer blame you for the discord in our relationship; that blame must squarely be placed upon my shoulders. I failed to accept my responsibility as your father, giving in to my own guilt and self-pity. The circumstances of my departure from my life Above were hard but that in no way justifies my abandonment of my child. Although it makes no sense and I can’t conceive of your possibly understanding, I must say that in some sick, perverse way, your birth was all tangled within the web of the loss of Margaret, the dissolution of our marriage, being blacklisted (yes, I now can say that word which held such power of terror and shame over me), my guilt in joining with Grace when I knew I was merely using her to temporarily assuage the ache of my body, and my need to mentally vindicate myself by becoming a leader in this new world, proving that those Above were wrong about my character.
It is impossible for me to think that you will ever find forgiveness for all the pain, the hurt I inflicted upon you. As I compassionately view your youth, I continuously fail to understand how I could have denied you and left your care to others simply because you were different than I had been as a lad. But in reality, I wonder if you were truly different or if your actions were simply your means of gaining my attention, getting me to notice you, the cry of a child desperate for a parent’s love and devotion.
Perhaps if God is kind there will still be enough time for a life for us together as father and son. I can only pray that there is.
Bree sensed Devin was distressed when he returned from the mailbox. His spine was stiff, his shoulders rigid, and he refused to look her in the eye. Absently he tossed the mail on the desk and continued on to the bedroom, closing the door none too gently. Knowing that he would need time alone, Bree continued to sit in the recliner reading to Charles, who was suffering from a migraine. A cool cloth covered his eyes and forehead and Angel lay purring on his chest. She continued to read in a calm, low voice until she heard the soft snore that indicated Charles was in a deep sleep.
Quietly she left the chair, crossed to the door and gently knocked then opened the door. “May I come in?” She waited, prepared to leave if he preferred to remain alone. At his nod she closed the door and walked to his side. His eyes brimmed with unshed tears and he swallowed continuously as he struggled. Stepping between his legs, she gathered him into her arms, holding him against her breasts as his sobs began. She didn’t question, she simply held him, allowing her love to surround him, wordlessly telling him of her love as she stroked and held him close.
He pulled her into his lap, his face pressed against her neck, and still she didn’t ask questions, only continued to offer solace and comfort. An hour passed and still her arms securely held him, silently assuring him of her love. Slowly the trembling that shook his body ceased and he grew quiet; his breathing slowly became normal.
“Would you like to talk?”
He shifted her, withdrew the letter from his pocket then settled her once more securely on his lap. He handed her the letter, watching her face as she read.
Carefully she folded the letter and laid it on the bed. She slid off his lap, stretched out on the bed then opened her arms and instinctively he curved his body to join hers. They lay together for a long time, her arms encircling him as her hands stroked the strong muscles of his back and tenderly caressed his face, her fingers smoothing over the scars on his face.
“There is part of me that wants to destroy things, vent the rage I feel for him daring to make me care! He bares his soul to me and I’m that terrified boy again, standing in the library while he railed at me, and all I want is to throw myself in his arms and beg him to love me.” His breath came in a ragged gasp and she could feel his body tremor. “He’s naked and bare in that letter, revealing more than he ever has, and all I want is to hurt him for saying things to make me care, to make me love him! What’s wrong with me that I can’t accept what he offers when it’s all I ever wanted, what I’ve dreamed of receiving?” His words and half-formed thoughts came in a jumble of often incoherent phrases. Bree said nothing, just held him tightly, pressing his hardened muscles against her softness, knowing he needed to vent all this letter had stirred within him. Instinctively she knew he needed her softness, not her words.
Finally he grew silent and for several minutes he slept, his face pressed intimately against her breasts. Even as he slept she continued to stroke him, knowing her loving touch eased the sorrow that consumed him. Their worlds had been so different; she had known only loving parents, while he had known deep rejection as a vital part of his daily world. Destiny had brought them together and their love was as deep as the ages, two souls fate had united in a consuming flame that endured and would continue to endure through the challenges of a lifetime.
The room was bathed in shadows when he opened his eyes and she smiled softly then gently kissed him. He didn’t move as it was so peaceful being enclosed within her arms. “Thank you.” His voice lacked his usual smoothness, showing some of the ravages of the past hours.
They continued to look deeply into each other’s eyes, finding that words weren’t necessary as they silently re-pledged their love. Bree felt his love as strongly as if he had spoken, but more importantly, she felt a new peace within him.
He stirred. “We should probably go see about Charles. He’s so miserable when his migraines hit.” Arm in arm, they walked to the living room to take care of Charles, who was sitting on the sofa holding his throbbing head in his hands.
Tenderly Bree helped Charles drink some soup then got some milk down him so that the strong medication didn’t wreak havoc on his sensitive stomach. She got him to eat a couple of bites of bread as added insurance against the medication. Together they helped him to his feet, steering him toward the bathroom and the waiting bath Devin had run. Bree helped to get him out of boots, socks, and shirt then she left Devin to do the rest.
Devin stayed with him and actually bathed Charles, as he was devastated by the severity of the pain that consumed him. Draining some of the water, he added more hot water as he remembered that sometimes heat helped with the pain. He began to apply hot compresses along his shoulders and neck.
“Devin, would you drape a towel over Charles? I want to try something to see if it will help his pain.”
Grabbing a large bath towel, Devin draped it over his hips, providing him modesty, as Charles was used to Bree seeing him shirtless from a previous warm weather visit last year. “OK, come in.”
Bree entered; her pants legs were rolled up past her knees. “Just try to relax.” She stepped into the tub at Charles’ back, balancing on the tub edge, and eased him back so he rested against her knees. Slowly she began to massage his scalp, working her fingers down through his hair and then repeating the procedure. She hummed softly as she worked, her face resting lightly against his ear. She continued to work then asked Devin to hand her his hair brush. “One of my former co-workers suffered with severe migraines and while there is nothing to prove his theory, he swore this helped.” She began to bring the brush down through his hair and continued to run it down over his neck and onto his shoulder muscles. “My friend swore the bristles against the skin broke up the nerve impulses along the neck and shoulders and that disturbing the nerve patterns helped the nerves to relax.” Bree worked tirelessly and after thirty minutes Charles said his head didn’t hurt as badly. She kissed his cheek then stepped from the tub, grabbed a hand towel and went into the bedroom.
Devin helped Charles into bed and Bree went to retrieve Angel, who was still asleep on the sofa. Devin took a seat in the recliner, opened the book and took out a small penlight then switched off the table lamp. His soft voice filled the room as Bree sat beside Charles, tenderly massaging his temples in slow hypnotic strokes. An hour later they quietly slipped from the room, leaving the door slightly ajar should Charles need help during the night.
“Come along; let me give you a massage. You’ve had a rough day, first me and then Charles. You deserve some serious pampering.” Taking her hand they crossed to their bedroom.
After a lengthy discussion
concerning her returning to work, Bree drove to
Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you and Catherine have a beautiful day together and that it is magical.
Charles and Devin have been whispering together so I know they are planning something. I have my own plans for my two sweetest ones which I hope will surprise and delight them.
Our snow is still deep but Ed and the preserve crew have done a fantastic job in keeping the driveway clear. Devin feels that it might be beneficial for us to purchase a high-powered lawn tractor with an attachable snow blade.
Devin worked for three hours shoveling a wide path to and around both the truck and car. The preserve crew plows the length of the drive but doesn’t do the area around our vehicles.
Were you delighted by the photo of the three of us that Dr. Edmonds took over the holidays? We were so pleased that it turned out so nicely and that we were able to send copies to you and to Dr. Wells.
Your sister Bree
Peter hung up the phone,
immediately threw some clothes into a bag, checked his medical bag, and
quickly got into his car. He hit the nearest entrance to Below and
rapidly strode toward the library. Vincent was sitting with Jacob when
he burst into the library. “I’m sorry, but I need Vincent to pack your
suitcase. We are leaving on the plane for
Vincent immediate stepped into Father’s sleeping alcove and began to pack. He laid his suit, shirt, and shoes on the bed while he searched for a sleep shirt, underwear, his shaving gear, and tooth brush. He found a pair of suitable trousers and two more shirts and then as an afterthought stuffed in the sweater Bree had made him. He worked automatically, not allowing himself to consider what Peter had said, just knowing he had to get Father ready. Father came in and started changing into his Above clothing.
The trio moved along the tunnels as quickly as Father was able to move. Peter reiterated all he had learned from Bree’s brief phone call, which wasn’t much. He pressed his extra key into Vincent’s hand, told him he would either phone a message to his home phone or he would call Catherine as soon as there was further information on Devin’s condition. “Perhaps you can arrange to stay at my home for the next twenty-four hours so that I could speak directly with you when we have news. The key will get you through the tunnel entrance off my garden and open the door. The cleaning service isn’t due until late next week, so you should be safe.”
Before he could fully comprehend all Peter had said, Jacob found himself strapped in and terrified as the jet hurtled down the runway at LaGuardia.
They landed in a pristine world of white and as they exited the jetway, they heard Peter being paged. They were directed to a courtesy phone and learned that Dr. Edmonds was waiting for them in the luggage area. Thanks to a sign he carried, they were able to quickly identify Dr. Edmonds. He hustled them into his car and headed for the Medical Center. He told them that as soon as he dropped them off, he was returning to the cabin where Ed was staying with Charles. If things got worse, he would personally bring Charles to the hospital to allow him to say goodbye to Devin. Father gasped and his eyes filled.
Once inside, they were quickly directly to the ICU and were immediately given gowns and then shown to Devin’s room. Bree sat beside him, a mask covering her nose and mouth. She held one of his hands while her other hand rested lightly over his heart as she continuously stroked him. Her voice never stopped as she looked up at them; she continued to speak of her love and that he must try to get well. After several minutes she shifted, allowing Dr. Wells to stand closer to Devin, but she refused to relinquish her place near his head.
Peter stood for a few minutes then went to speak to the nurse, wanting the latest information on Devin’s condition. He did not fail to stress his credentials, nor that Devin had been his patient. He asked for and was provided an extra chair which he carried into Devin’s room and got Jacob settled in it. They were, he now knew, in for a fight for Devin’s life, and the next thirty-six hours would be critical. Devin’s temperature remained at 103, and the antibiotics were so far unable to stem the infection that was running rampant through his body, and now there were signs of fluid in his lungs.
Father sat on the opposite side of the bed, holding Devin’s other hand, his lips silently moving in prayer. Bree continued to speak to Devin, endlessly repeating her love and her need for him to get well, to return to her. She remembered clearly following her own surgery how Devin had stayed beside her all through the night, hearing his voice as he talked of his love and need; she knew what that had meant to her and she could do nothing less for him. She paused to take a sip of water and heard Dr. Wells take up her litany. He spoke openly of his love, his wish that Devin would recover so that he might hold him in his arms and be able to tell him how much he truly loved his son.
Peter for the most part kept the hospital staff from trying to oust Bree and Father from Devin’s room. He reiterated that both of them were medical professionals and neither would do anything to impede the performance of the staff’s duties, but since Mr. Wells was critical they should cut them some slack. Peter was eloquent in his pleading with the floor nurse, who finally acceded to his wishes. The nurse brought him a chair and he sat outside the glass partition, his eyes never leaving his friends.
They came to aspirate his lungs and it was only while they did this that Bree and Dr. Wells moved away from Devin’s side. It was then that Bree cried; she knew they were helping him but she was also aware of how painful the procedure was to the patient. As soon as they finished, she took her seat beside him and again began to stroke his heart and hand.
About ten o’clock Peter phoned Dr. Edmonds from the nurses’ station to say there had been no change and that Devin was still critical. He spoke with Charles, trying to reassure him, but knew it was a hopeless cause as Charles began to cry. The sound of Charles’ agony, his soul-wrenching sobs, tore at Peter’s heart. He reached a decision, asked to speak to Dr. Edmonds again, and told him to bring Charles to the hospital.
After hanging up he sought out the head nurse and briefly described Charles’ medical condition, that he was Devin’s ward, and that there was a need for Charles to see Devin. He described his deformities and requested as much privacy as possible while Charles was there. The nurse was surprisingly amenable, saying she would do as much as possible to provide privacy.
He moved to the pay phone and placed a call to his home phone. Vincent answered on the first ring and he told him all he knew.
On their drive to the hospital, Dr. Edmonds explained to Charles what he would see and that it was important that he not allow himself to get upset, that it would be bad for Dev. He also explained that there would undoubtedly be strangers, members of the hospital staff, moving about and that he must not allow their stares to upset him, and that it was important that he stay out of their way as they worked around Devin’s bed to help him. Charles listened and nodded his understanding with each instruction.
After reaching the ICU floor, the head nurse personally handled preparing Charles to see Devin. She spoke calmly to him as she explained about the gown and the need for a mask. After he was suitably garbed, she escorted Charles to Devin’s room, left and then returned to bring a chair, as it was obvious that the large man had serious joint problems.
Bree relinquished Devin’s hand and Charles took it. Tears blurred his eyes but he controlled his voice as he began to speak. He apologized for not bringing Angel to visit him but Angel had been asleep and Dr. Edmonds said it would be best not to awaken him. His large hand stroked Devin’s smaller hand and he told Dev how much he loved Dev for taking him away from Eddie and his badness. He told Dev about the book he was reading, reciting what he could recall just as Devin read to him.
After awhile Charles stood, released Devin’s hand and took Bree’s, placing it back on Devin’s. He kissed her and then walked around to Father and kissed him. He moved to the far corner of the room where he could still clearly see Dev and sank to the floor. He sat huddled against the wall, wishing he could remain nearer to Dev, but he had promised not to be in the way and if he stayed against the wall hopefully they would let him stay. He had to be with Dev.
It took several minutes before Vincent finally remembered the childhood instructions all the tunnel children received about how to use a telephone. He remembered how foolish he thought those instructions had been but now he was glad he had learned. He picked up the phone and dialed Catherine’s number, which Peter had thoughtfully provided. She was groggy when she answered but after he explained, she said she would come to Peter’s as quickly as possible.
It seemed like hours before she arrived, but finally she was there, her arms holding him tightly. They moved through the dark house to the den, which was located well away from the street
She moved to the phone and within minutes she was speaking directly to Peter. He provided the latest update on Devin’s condition, that his temperature had dropped one degree, which was encouraging. He promised he would call them in two hours to give them the newest update.
They sat on the large leather sofa and Catherine wrapped her arms around Vincent’s large frame, trying to give him as much comfort as possible.
Their vigil continued through the long hours of the night. Bree continued her non-stop conversation, assuring Devin of her love as she also persistently stroked his body. Father sat holding his son’s hand, constantly amazed at the open directness with which Bree spoke. There was nothing about her love of Devin that she did not openly express. She caressed him with her hands and she placed kisses along his hands and arms. He heard the details of their honeymoon, the rapture of their intimacy and the utter joy she had found within his arms. She painted vivid pictures with her words as she desperately fought to keep him fighting to recover, to return to her and their life together.
The false light of morning was visible through the window when Bree asked Charles to come to the bed and speak to Dev. She took the chair the nurse had brought in for Charles and allowed him to sit closer to Devin’s head. Bree spoke softly to Charles and hesitantly he began to do as she asked.
Charles’ big hand stroked down Devin’s arm, rubbing gently but firmly back and forth as he repeatedly called. “Dev, wake up. Please, Dev, wake up, I need you.” Tears ran down Charles’ face as he continued the litany.
Father suddenly saw movement behind Devin’s closed eyelids, a flickering and then stillness. He blinked again, trying to clear his own vision, but then he saw the movement again. “Keep talking, Charles, he’s trying to wake.”
Charles, too, saw the flickering and continued to persistently rub the length of Devin’s arm while he repeatedly implored him to awaken. Devin’s eyes slowly opened and he roughly whispered, “I’m here, Charles; you’re safe, I’m here.” He tried to focus, to find the voice that was always a conscious part of his daily life, but his eyes refused to stay open. He moved his hand and gripped the large unmistakable hand that belonged to Charles. “Right heeere.” His voice weakened; he shuddered as the sound of the final “e” slowly faded. He sighed as he said “Bree” and then he slept.
Father frantically looked at the heart monitor, needing reassurance that Devin’s heart still beat. He watched, mentally counting each beat. His pulse dropped back to normal as his breathing slowed.
Bree’s head dropped to the bed and she silently cried. Charles’ big arm circled her as his head rested gently against hers. “I waked him up, Angel Bree, I waked him.” Tears streamed down his face as he looked over at Father.
Over the next fifteen hours, Devin fought the battle of his life, struggling to return to the voices of love that called him. He called out, answering the voices of his dreams. Repeatedly he called to Vin and Pops, saying how much he missed them. And always he heard Bree’s reassuring voice murmuring of her love.
Throughout the morning and into the afternoon, the battle continued. They had the infection on the run but it was entirely too early to be optimistic. Peter came in and out, checking on his friends as he checked the monitor. Charles walked out and after a hurried word with Dr. Edmonds, the two men escorted Charles to the men’s room.
Charles slumped against the wall, lightly snoring as their vigil pushed into the second night. For the most part, the hospital staff ignored Charles and his obvious difference. Father was in the family room with Peter and Dr. Edmonds as Bree continued her lonely vigilance.
“Bree.” Her head jerked up as she heard him call her name. “Bree, babe, where am I?”
Tears cascaded down her cheeks as she looked into his beautiful eyes. “We’re at the hospital. You’ve been ill.”
He tried to smile but he hurt so badly it was impossible. “I heard Charles, is he okay? He’s upset, you should chec….” His voice faded and he was again asleep.
Tears continued to stream down Bree’s face as she walked to the nurses’ station to report that Devin had awakened. She followed the head nurse back into the room, immediately going to Charles. She kneeled on the floor beside him, tenderly stroking his face as she called his name. His eyes fluttered open and he automatically smiled at his Angel Bree. She told him that Dev had awakened, that he had heard his voice and wanted to know if he was all right.
Over the next ten hours, Devin’s temperature slowly returned to normal and he woke more frequently, staying awake for five or six minutes before falling asleep. Peter and Dr. Edmonds insisted that Jacob and Charles return to the cabin to get some sleep. Peter didn’t even attempt to argue with Bree, he simply spoke with the head nurse and they moved a recliner from the family room into Devin’s room.
From the cabin, Peter phoned Vincent again to provide all the latest news. While the men got out of the clothing they had worn for three days and showered, Ed fixed breakfast for them. He had arrived at the cabin just after they had driven in so he was more than willing to assist in helping everyone get comfortable. After seeing everyone settled in a bed, Ed drove to the hospital, stopping in the cafeteria to get food for Bree. He put the tray on the counter and asked one of the nurses to take it to Bree while he donned a mask and gown.
Pleading that she wasn’t hungry, Bree tried to refuse the tray, but Ed insisted and rather than fighting, she gave in. He stayed until she had eaten every bite, then patted her shoulder and said he would return later with dinner which she was going to eat!
Two days later, Devin was transferred out of the ICU and into a private room. He was surprisingly alert but his body was exhausted and he constantly fell asleep. He attentively listened as Bree told him all about the cold he had caught from the hours he had worked in the snow to clear the snow pack around the truck, then how the cold had quickly turned into pneumonia and he had been rushed by ambulance to the ICU. The first time Father walked into his room, he simply stared. “I thought you were a dream. I could hear you talking but I thought you were a part of my hallucinations. You were really there the whole time I was in la-la land?”
“Bree phoned Peter then he came to get me and we flew here. I was terrorized as that monstrous plane charged down the runway and then when it got airborne, it slapped me back in my seat with such force! I was grateful for the speed as it brought me here to you very quickly.”
“I’m glad you were here, Pops. Bree said you never left my side and she told me what a help you were with Charles. I appreciate your helping to take care of my family.”
Father leaned over and kissed Devin’s cheek. “They, like you, are a part of my family. I do love you, Devin, and one day I hope you will no longer have doubts about my love.”
Another five days passed before Devin was released from the hospital and returned to the cabin. Over his protests, Bree and Father tucked him into bed and Charles assumed his seat next to the bed, devoting himself to constantly reading to Dev. When Bree insisted that Charles come to the table for his meals, Father slipped into the bedroom and assumed the reading. He carried a copy of his beloved Shakespeare he had found on the bookcase, flipped it open to a random spot, glanced at the text and began to recite the lines from memory.
The sound of Pops’ voice brought Devin from his light snoozing and as he listened he remembered countless nights when he had fallen asleep listening to that same calm hypnotic voice. A small half-formed smile drew the corners of his mouth up as he tried to remember; he sleepily uttered, “As You Like It, Act II.”
“You remember. It was one of your favorites, as I recall. May I get you anything?”
“Some ice water would taste good. There’s always a pitcher in the fridge.”
Father quickly walked to the kitchen, eager to do anything for Devin. He found his emotions on tenterhooks and the least thing seemed to set him to tears. Bree had found him shortly after breakfast on the sofa, his head in his hands as he sobbed. She didn’t berate him for his foolishness; she simply placed an arm around his shoulders and stroked his face. After he had regained his composure, she had simply smiled.
Peter had returned to the city the day before Devin was released but he had arranged an open-ended plane ticket for Jacob as well as cash, should he prefer to return by train. He had Jacob promise to phone him before leaving so he could pick him up and transport him home to the tunnels.
Bree sat on the edge of the bed and she told Devin of the latest adventures of Charles and Dr. Wells. “Charles was gathering up his clothes, ready to do his laundry, and he asked your father if he had dirty clothes to be washed. Well, you should have seen the two of them doing the laundry as Charles explained the workings of the washing machine. Your father was fascinated by the spin cycle and they were actually sitting, staring at the dryer as Charles explained this mechanical marvel. I had to creep back into the living room with my hand over my mouth!
“And then Angel pulled one of his stunts. Your father was asleep on the sofa and I was in your recliner reading when Angel hopped onto the sofa, walked the length of your father’s body, stopped at end of his sweater and then began to wiggle himself under the sweater and up his body just like he does to Charles. When he was done, just his nose and mouth were peeking out the neck of the sweater. Then he stuck out his tongue and began to lick your father’s chin! That’s when I had to get up because I was laughing so hard I thought surely I was gonna pee my pants!”
Devin’s smile turned into laughter as he could mentally see Angel sneaking beneath the sweater. More than once he had been on the receiving end of one of Angel’s sneak attacks of waking him up when Angel wished to play.
“Bree, honey, when are you gonna allow me to get up? I hate being alone in here when you’re out there. And when are you gonna come sleep beside me? I don’t want you on the sofa; I want you snuggled against me so I can have you in my arms all night. I get lonely without you.” He looked like a little boy pouting and she couldn’t help smiling.
“If I let you sit in the living room for a while, do you promise to come back to bed when I say so?”
“Uh huh.” His smile was blinding as he grinned at her. She helped him into a pair of socks and then his slippers. He was a little shaky as he worked his arms into his robe and had to hold on to her shoulders while she tied his belt.
His return to the living room was greeted by cheers from Charles, who immediately rushed to slip an assisting arm around Dev’s waist.
The four of us continue to live in harmony. There have been several long conversations between Devin and Dr. Wells. So far the discussions have been mild with no loud discord.
I’ve told Devin all that Dr. Wells did during his time in the hospital, the things he said and how he behaved. Having witnessed much of Devin’s pain, I don’t say anything that would be construed as taking sides. Yet because Devin is my concern and I love him so much, I feel it is my duty to fill in the blank spaces of what he couldn’t have known during his illness.
How are things progressing in the tunnels without Dr. Wells? A couple of times he has mentioned he should be going home, but Devin tells him he needs him to stay with us. Do you feel as I do that this is a good sign?
I worry about you as you have had to deal with the same battle of forgiveness. I’m so grateful that you have Catherine as your touchstone during this unrest. It’s good to know she is with you as you work through these difficult and heart-breaking issues – as I am with Devin – and that you aren’t alone as you struggle for resolution. You are always in our thoughts.
We send our love.
Your loving sister,
Devin grows stronger with each passing day and while my head knows I should pack and return home, my heart tells me this may be my opportunity to finally correct the errors of my life. Hopefully you understand my meaning. It is that, with Devin being so far from home, the prospects of quality time with him are limited. There is, I can gratefully say, more time at home for you and me to delve further into our own healing.
It may sound like favoritism – and I certainly hope you don’t consider it as such – but somehow I feel I must work harder to gain Devin’s forgiveness than I must to gain yours. Perhaps it is that my offenses against him were more egregious, more nefarious than those I perpetrated against you. He is the child of my body and I thrust him aside, preferring to lavish all my love on you because Devin was a challenge, a reminder that I never truly loved Grace, I simply used her. I did not grieve for her as I have grieved – still grieve – for Margaret.
Perhaps in His own way God arranged for Devin’s illness to happen in order that this occasion could present itself so that we might have this time together.
It seems despicable that it should take Devin’s almost dying to bring us closer together, to provide this opportunity where the past horror might be abated. If he can forgive my abandonment, I would count myself truly blessed, for I don’t know that I can ever forgive myself for rejecting my own son.
Be well and know that I love you
The letter lay on the desk and, noticing to whom it was addressed, Devin thought to add a postscript to Vin. Without purpose or forethought, his eyes saw his own name and before he could stop himself, he was reading Pops’ private thoughts to Vin. Embarrassed and disgusted with himself for violating the rules of privacy, the first rule he learned and one he always respected, he looked around to see if he had been seen. His long stride took him from the room and he sought sanctuary in the bedroom. His face burned and he threw himself into his old recliner. He was still sitting there berating himself when Angel wandered in and climbed into his lap, turned several times and presented his tummy. Automatically he began to stroke and was instantly rewarded with loud purring. “If only all the world’s problems and heartaches could be solved so easily.”
I’m writing to offer you my apology for violating your privacy. I found Pops’ letter on the desk, only meant to add a postscript to you, but instead I found myself reading your personal mail. I can only humbly ask for your forgiveness. Now I need to confess to Pops and beg his pardon for violating the rules of privacy.
As strange as you might think it, I am enjoying have Pops here. He was supportive of Bree and Charles during my illness and knowing he was caring for my family means so much.
The road is long and I struggle to walk the path toward forgiveness.
“Bree, may I join you?” Father stood in the kitchen doorway as he waited.
“Of course. Would you like some tea? It won’t take but a few minutes to fix. Please do sit down.”
As he sat he looked around the kitchen, which still seemed so foreign to him after his many years in the tunnels. The bright curtains and the crisp white of the appliances seemed distant and nothing was like his memories of his former life.
Bree heard Devin call and automatically added another cup and saucer to her tray. As Devin walked past Pops to his chair on the other side of the table, his hand reached out and he trailed it across Pops’ shoulders as he passed. It was a gesture he had done hundreds of times to both Charles and Vin, a small sign of affection. His features changed, becoming quizzical, but he shook off the feelings that touched his heart.
“Pops, I need to apologize to you. I meant to add a postscript to your letter to Vin when I saw it on the desk, but instead found myself reading it. I do apologize for violating your privacy and Vin’s. I don’t have an excuse; I just saw my name and read it.”
“Your apology is accepted and understood.” Father smiled as he sipped his tea.
The room became silent as Devin struggled to surmount his feelings. “I have to admit that I was prepared for you to yell at me for breaking the rules of privacy. I was ready to come up with some way to defend myself when I know there is no defense for what I did.”
“You were anticipating the response that until four months ago I would have given you. It would have been the response of the man who abandoned you and constantly lashed out to shield his own feelings of guilt and failure. I pray that man now lives in my past and in yours.”
The silence was profound and Devin was certain everyone could hear the loud thumping of his heart, which he knew would soon pop out of his chest. Everything within him wanted to throw himself into Pops’ arms, to press against him as he had long years ago, and feel he was safe.
Father sat on one end of the long sofa staring rather dejectedly into the fire. Being here with Devin’s family, he was seeing an entirely new side of his son, discovering that in many ways they were very much alike. He watched the loving, tender interplay between Devin and Charles, seeing all the love and kindness in how he treated Charles, the way he was a loving father, brother, and friend while leading and instructing Charles to do all of which he was capable. Devin was endlessly patient, he knew, as he had witnessed a nightmare Charles had had and the kind-hearted, gentle manner in Devin had brought him from his sea of horror and had calmed his terrified soul.
Devin strolled into the room, headed for the sofa, and then stopped as he realized Pops was sitting there. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you. I’ll just go on into the bedroom to lie down there.”
“No, you’re not interrupting and there’s plenty of room here if you’d like to rest out here.” He shifted closer to the arm of the sofa but there really was no need, as the sofa was well over six feet in length. Devin looked doubtfully at the sofa length then back at Pops. “You could always put your head in my lap,” he offered.
Devin stood staring down and suddenly from within he heard Vin as clearly as if he were standing next to him. “You either move toward love or you move away. The choice is yours.”
He toed off his slippers, sat down and swung his legs up as he lowered his head. At first his fears held him in a tight vise and he was unable to relax. The afghan from the back of the sofa settled over his shoulders and back.
“I wouldn’t want you to get chilled. Try to rest. A nap would be good for you.”
The heat from the fireplace and the warmth of the afghan worked their magic; as the warmness penetrated, he sank into oblivion. He drifted in a surreal world surrounded by smiling, happy people and children asking for their granddaddy. Bree held a beautiful little girl who drooled as she held out her arms to him.
He could feel the miniature version of Bree slip an arm around his shoulder and his heart beat joyously, then he felt her hand brush through his hair. He dreamed in this beautiful world, feeling so secure and loved. Reality gradually beckoned him and he struggled to remain within his dream. Reluctantly his eyes opened, but strangely, he could still feel the hand on his shoulder. He realized the arm was heavy and the hand stroking his forehead belonged to Pops. He forced his eyes closed again, willing his dream to return.
It feels so good to be cocooned here with Pops’ arm warmly pressing against my shoulder. I want to stay here forever. Being so close to him and his arm feels so good. It’s all I dreamed of for years, having him hold me instead of thrusting me away. I have to move, if I don’t he’ll see how much I care. Move, get away before I throw my arms around him and beg him to love like he loves Vin.
He struggled to move, but the pressure of the arm holding him increased and the hand stroked against his shoulder. “Shush, go back to sleep. I’ll hold you, just rest and get stronger. Let me hold you.” The voice was tender and pleading.
Oh, God, please, let me sleep, let me stay here. I never want to leave. His arms feels so good; please, please let me stay.
As Bree walked past the sofa she saw Devin asleep, his head pillowed against his father’s lap. Dr. Wells looked up as she passed and his face was awash with tears. She silently passed, unaware of her own tears, and quietly closed the bedroom door. Gratefully she sank into the recliner, curling onto her side as she was assaulted by Devin’s scent – the smell of his aftershave, the leather of his boots, and the pure masculine scent of his body, the musk and spice she associated with him. Silently she prayed to God to bring peace to the tortured souls of her husband and his father.
The fire burned low and still he slept. There was no longer any feeling left in his legs, but Father didn’t care if his legs never moved again. His son was against his body and never had he known such peace. As he held Devin, he thought of how seldom he had ever held his son; even when he had been a small boy, he had never taken time to cuddle or hold him close. How stupid he had been!
Devin stirred and his hand settled against a bony knee. Again he heard the soft words drift within his mind telling him to rest, to sleep. Peace gripped him and he answered its call, sliding into the surreal world that beckoned.
The clock over the fireplace had just struck and the two figures on the sofa remained as they were. The house was quiet. On padded paws Angel crossed the floor and leaped onto the back of the sofa to survey his world. Silently he walked the back of the sofa then crossed down at the arm and threaded his way upward toward Devin. He curled into the space against Devin’s stomach and began to softly purr. Devin’s hand left its resting place against Pops’ knee and he curled it against the warmth at his belly. Father looked down, suddenly aware of the soft look of Devin’s features, the peaceful childlike serenity of his face, and the protective way he encircled Angel’s body against his own. As he stared, he again berated himself for missing this part of his son’s childhood.
It was well after when Devin stirred and lifted his head. “Pops?”
Devin tried to move then he became aware of the warmth pressed against his belly. “When did he get here? Charles must be missing him.”
“Angel joined us several hours ago and was quite content. And I can hear Charles’ gentle snoring, so I doubt he is aware his shadow is missing.”
Devin struggled trying to rise but Pops arm refused to budge. “It’s been too many years since I last held you and I’m reluctant to turn you lose.” Father’s voice caught as his emotions rose to make further speech impossible. He blinked rapidly, trying to stem the tears that had started, but stopped fighting and just allowed his tears to fall. “I was so foolish. I should have shown you my love instead of allowing it to become tangled in emotions that had nothing to do with you. As I’ve held you as you slept, I’ve realized what a vital part of your childhood I missed – what I threw away because of my own sense of guilt over my treatment of Grace. I missed so much and wounded you so deeply because of my own misdirected pride.”
The suppressed emotions of a lifetime rose, flooding Devin, and he began to sob; the rent in his armor burst and all his pain poured forth. He sobbed and Father pulled him upright, holding him tightly against his chest as he released all the pain of his abandonment. The watershed of self-loathing and hate poured from him as he purged his soul of a lifetime of bitterness and contempt for all that had been denied him. Father continued to hold him long after he was spent, when all the rage had left his body and he was defenseless.
“Perhaps we may now begin anew with open hearts as men who have intimately known despair and have forged a forward path of love and respect.” Father took Devin’s face in his hands and kissed his cheeks. For a long time they looked deeply into each other’s eyes and as he looked, Devin felt a sense of peace settle within.
One week later, Father left to return to the tunnels, but not before Devin extracted a promise that he would again come to the cabin.
Life settled into a happy routine and Bree knew that Devin was finally at peace, that all his demons had been laid to rest. His features seemed to have softened and there was a lightness about him that she had never seen.
Charles had become brave, too, and now allowed his beloved Angel to roam freely about the yard. He still went out with him to play but he didn’t panic when Angel roamed into the woods.
The air was alive with the scents of spring; tiny sprigs of green began to appear and Angel began to drag fresh twigs and grasses to the door, sharing his treasures with Charles. He batted at the early spring insects, upset when he couldn’t catch them. He chased after a bird who was far too smart and fast then he returned to Charles, mewing softly in his distress.
Patiently Charles explained that it was bad to chase birds while Angel raised his eyes to Charles and began rubbing his face against his chin.
The winter thaw was upon them and they could sense the joy of spring and with it, they began the dreams of a lifetime. Healed and restored, Devin was eager for all his life would bring, strong and solid in the knowledge he was well and truly loved.
Author’s Note: My personal thanks to everyone who encouraged me to continue this story beyond its original concept. It has brought me great personal joy. I can only hope that this, the final chapter of Devin’s life with Bree, Charles, and Angel, finds you, the reader, as well satisfied and content. It’s been a wild and delightful ride for me. I wish you peace and joy.