Home for the Holidays
Having filled themselves with the best Virginia breakfast Munchie could make they scattered around the house and outside, the sun was out but it was cold and snow still covered the ground. Terry crunched down to the stables with Jack to tend the horses.
Toni and Connie and Donna picked up the den stuffing boxes and wrapping paper in to large trash bags. Donna was thinking about Terry leaving.
“Toni…if there’s anything you need or anything I can do while Terry’s gone…”
“Thanks, Donna I’m going to try and tough it out on my own this time. I promised him the last time I would.”
“Where is he going?” Connie had missed it all the night before and Max hadn’t said anything to her.
“He’s leaving for Bolivia tomorrow, there’s a woman being held hostage and Dino has asked for his help.”
“Oh, Toni…same goes for me if there’s anything or if you want to come and stay with us, please do the invitation is there.”
“I think I’ll stay here, Munchie’s here you know.” She sat down in a chair. “I know this is what he does, and I have to let him be who he is, but…it’s hard.” She looked down at her jeweled hands. “I’ll be okay.” She wasn’t going to give in to tears.
“Is…Jean Paul going too?”
“I think so; his whole team is going so yes. It means they’re going in for rescue, the talk is over.” Toni ran a hand through her hair.
“Penny will be upset I’m sure.”
“Tell her to call me, I’m getting a little better at this now.” She smiled weakly and got up picking up a bow she spotted.
Max and John were out on the front veranda with John’s boys playing with remote controlled vehicles.
“What Terry said last night and God forbid it should ever come to that, what the hell would you do, Max?”
“Oh, fuck I don’t know…maintain two households, split myself into.”
“That’s the problem none of us are free to do…what we’d want to.”
“Would you want to, John?”
“Hell yes in a heartbeat.”
“But you had a chance and didn’t.”
“Years have passed, Max, but I still love her.”
“There was a time I would have…moved everything out of the way for her but my life is too complicated now with Connie and Maxi. Just pray he comes back all of a piece. If he doesn’t then I’ll do what I have to.”
“Hey stop that, Mikey you’re gonna break it.” John went after his son.
“Terry, do I need to stay here with Toni, because I can.”
“I don’t know, Jack; she seems to think she can handle it on her own. I’d like it if she could. If you’re going to stay until New Years you’ll know by then what kind of condition she’s in.” Terry filled a feed trough with oats. “You can decide that, I trust you.”
“I may stay a few days after Max and his family leave, it’s easier when there’s a lot of people around you but when they all go home…then reality will sink in.”
“Yeah, I know, that’s when she gives up and goes to bed, don’t let her do that; make her get up and get busy doing something, if you have to send Munchie on holiday…don’t let her sink into that pit ,mate”
“No it’s not a good place to be, I’ll do what I can for her.”
Terry looked up empting his bucket, “That’s all I can ask for.”
“What is it, Claire? “ Donna bent down and Claire ran to the hall.
“I think she wants you to follow her,” Toni straightened up and pulled her trash bag out of the den.
Claire ran to the back door, “The door’s open who’s outside?” Donna opened the door
“Where’s Jacky?” Toni asked and went to the kitchen where Munchie was putting something in the oven.
“I’ve not seen him in here I thought he was with you in the den with the little girl.”
“Jac-kay” she called out. Toni ran through the house and opened the front door and then to the back door where Donna was already outside following Claire through the snow.
“She thinks this is a game or something, won’t stop long enough for me to catch her.” Donna said.
“Jac-kay!” Toni called again, “You haven’t seen him out here?”
“No,” Donna stopped for a minute and Claire took off again, “Claire, come back here,” She was running now down towards the pool.
“The stables,” Toni said and set off running. Donna’s scream brought her up short and she turned to her left, heart in her mouth, “Jacky,” She could barely get a breath.
Jacky had climbed out on the pool cover which was heavy with snow so that the edges of it dipped into the water every now and again in places.
Donna held onto Claire who was pointing out toward Jacky.
“Oh my God,”
Toni screamed, “Jacky!” How had he gotten outside without anybody noticing, had
he opened the door, she began pulling off her boots with every intention of
walking out on that cover and getting her son.
“You aren’t going anywhere,” Terry grabbed her arms. It was Jack, now bootless and coatless, that stepped onto the cover fully expecting to go under and he did but he came up with Jacky, he’d caught him as he slid towards the water, he was a little damp around the edges, but fine and laughing having a great time.
Later all dried and dressed and having a warm drink Jack chuckled at the boy’s daring do, “He’s his father’s son, no doubt about that.” He said to John who shook his head.
Terry came downstairs with a dry Jacky who must have got a dressing down; he had his thumb in his mouth when he was brought to Jack, who took him.
“He has something to say.” Terry said.
Finally a small, “fank you,” was heard.
“When you learn to swim you can go in the water but not before, you are not a fish you are a boy, a very small boy.” Jack explained.
Terry left him with Jack and went to the back door to have a look at the latch.
Munchie had made a pot of tea, as much for herself as for anybody else, her hands were still shaking as she picked up her cup.
“You know that makes me think about where we live, I’m gonna fence it in so Claire doesn’t get to the water.” John said bouncing her on his knee.
“If it wasn’t for Claire I’m not sure we would have found him…before…” Donna bit it off.
“What do you mean?” Max asked leaning against the kitchen counter.
“She came and got me and led me to the pool, she did; now how she knew he was there I don’t know.”
Max knew but he wasn’t going to voice it here in front of Munchie, “I suppose a fence around the pool is in order and possibly a walk around the property to see what else needs protection from Jacky.”
Munchie spoke up, “If he was here more often he’d know where his boundaries lie.”
“I’m afraid my good woman, that this boy is so like his father that boundaries are to be climbed over, scaled or dug under….there’s no help for him except a few years and a little common sense, which he will learn by doing the wrong things first.” Jack smiled and ran his hand through Jacky’s curls.
Having satisfied himself over the back door latch, Terry went back upstairs to their room where Toni was desperately trying to get herself together. She’d changed her clothes, washed her face and brushed her hair but the shaking inside and out had not stopped. The sight of Jacky out on that pool cover ,and then Terry leaving tomorrow was trying to tear her apart.
He opened the bedroom door and came over to her where she sat on the bench in front of her dressing table. He met her eyes in the mirror.
“The lady of the house is required downstairs, tradition has it that dinner is to be served at 4:00 and Munchie is having herself a cup of tea at the table in the kitchen while food simmers on the stove and burns in the oven. We have a houseful of guests, even if they are family, they have to be fed, the table has not been set and John’s boys are eating the candy dishes dry.”
“You want me to put my big girl britches on and deal with it don’t you?” she managed a little smile.
“You got it, luv.”
Toni took the hand he laid on her shoulder and kissed his palm. “Okay,” she stood up, “Get out of my way.”
“That’s my girl.” He grinned and gave her bottom a smack as she passed by him. It wasn’t time yet to think about tomorrow when he would leave her. He’d think about that…tomorrow.