It had been almost two months since Michael Matthews shot his ex-wife with the intent to kill her. Darlene Matthew’s recovery was coming along slowly, but she was well enough to travel, and she wanted to see where Elliot had lived when he’d been away. It was a five-hour trip that Elliot and Terry had broken up into five stops, which would allow Darlene to get up and walk around.
They got a hotel room when they arrived in Maysville, Kentucky so Darlene could relax. Elliot called Russo’s Italian Restaurant and made reservations for them to have dinner there. The next day they would spend the day exploring the town and Elliot would show Darlene and Terry his favorite haunts.
When Elliot entered Russo’s, Alonzo was working the host station and had to do a double take. “Elliot!” he cried and reached out his hand to Elliot. “Where have you been, man? We miss you.”
“I miss you guys too,” Elliot said, shaking Alonzo’s hand. “Well, maybe not Russo.”
Alonzo laughed, “No one would miss him.”
“Has he mellowed any?” Elliot asked.
“No, I think he’s worse since you left. You were probably his most promising under study,” Alonzo said.
“Of course I was,” Elliot laughed and then put his arm around his mother. “Alonzo, this is my mom, Darlene and her fiancé, Terry.”
“I thought your parents were dead,” Alonzo said.
“It’s a long story,” Elliot said having forgotten that was part of his back story. “We have reservations under Cross.”
Alonzo seated the three of them, and Elliot put in an order for an appetizer sampler. After Alonzo had walked away, Elliot told Darlene and Terry, “My parents being dead was part of the back story for who I was here. This being so close to Cincinnati, the FBI couldn’t be positive that members of the Cobra Cartel were not working out of Maysville.”
“That must have been so hard to keep up with all the lies,” Darlene said.
“It was at first, but I practiced the story so much that it became second nature. It was actually kind of cool to be a new person that no one knows,” Elliot said.
“I’d love to do that,” Darlene said. “Everywhere I go I get questions about Michael and if I knew what was going on. If I don’t get questioned, I can feel people staring at me.”
Terry took Darlene’s hands and kissed her knuckles. “I’m sorry you have to deal with that, Babe.”
Elliot smiled at the warm affection his soon to be stepfather exhibited towards his mother. He was so happy she found someone who was giving her all the love she deserved.
One of the waitresses who had been working at the restaurant when Elliot left almost nine months ago came out to wait on them. “Oh my God, Elliot! You look great!”
Elliot stood and hugged the woman. “Thank you, Rachel. You look great too,” Elliot said giving her an appreciative once over. She was beautiful. A short, curvy brunette with long wavy hair and dark brown eyes.
Rachel punched Elliot in the arm. “Don’t even look at me like that now. I tried forever to get you to go out with you and me were hooked on some chick that broke your heart. I’ve got a boyfriend now.”
Snapping his fingers, Elliot said, “Dang it! The one that got away.”
“That’s right,” Rachel laughed. “You had your chance.” She turned to his mother. “I hear you’re this handsome fella’s dead mother.”
Darlene laughed at the young woman’s comical expression. “That would be me.” She put her arm around Terry, “His father’s still dead, this is my fiancé, Terry, and I’m Darlene.”
Rachel put her arm around Elliot’s waist. “Good looking family. Glad you came by the see us. Alonzo put your appetizer order in. I’m here to take your drink and meal order if you’re ready.”
Elliot and Terry ordered beer and Darlene had Sprite. She wasn’t allowed to have alcohol while she was on her pain meds. Some of the other staff who had worked with Elliot came out to say, “hi,” through the course of their meal, including Russo himself.
“You know, you can always come back to work for me,” Russo told Elliot. “You were a great understudy.”
“Thanks, Chef Russo,” Elliot said delighted with the compliment from the gruff older man. “I’ll keep that in mind. Right now I’m still figuring out what I’m going to do next, but I will definitely take the offer under consideration.”
“Good,” Russo said with his thick New York accent. “It was nice to meet you,” he said to Darlene and Terry giving them a slight bow and salute.
“Wow,” Darlene said. “You made quite a few friends here.”
“Yeah,” Elliot agreed. “I liked it here, but I liked working for Sandy better. I was the head chef and made the decisions about most of the entrees we offered.”
“Does Sandy still have the restaurant?” Darlene asked.
“Yes. She and I still talk every few days. Jason is trying so hard to keep up, but he’s still learning a lot of cooking techniques,” Elliot said.
“Are we going to meet her this trip?” Darlene asked.
“I was planning on it,” Elliot said. “I thought we’d go down to Salt Lick the day after tomorrow. I talked to the farmer who I was renting the trailer from, and he said we could stay out there if we wanted to. It’s in the middle of nowhere, but I loved it. It was so quiet and peaceful.” Elliot sipped his beer and then said, “And I thought we’d stop in Farmers on the way back and visit Cara’s mom and grandparents.”
“That’s a wonderful plan,” Darlene said. “I’d love to see Caroline and Cara.” Darlene reached over and took Elliot’s hand when his expression turned sad. “I’m so sorry how things have been between the two of you.”
“It’s okay,” Elliot lied. Cara’s rejection hurt more than he thought it would, but it was what it was. “We talk online occasionally.”
“Well, I guess that’s better than not talking at all,” Darlene said.
Rachel came back with their appetizers and took their dinner requests. After Rachel had left, Darlene took a bite of the manicotti and changed the subject. “This is amazing. Do you know how to make this?”
“Sure do,” Elliot said. “Italian is one of my specialties as are exotic foods like bison and venison. I cooked a lot of interesting dishes at Sandy’s. I’ve seriously considered coming back over here to work for her, but I don’t want to move away from you.”
“You know,” Terry said. “I’m going to be retiring this year. With your mother’s injury, there’s a good possibility she won’t be able to go back to work, so we might think about moving this way.”
Darlene looked at Terry. “Really?”
“Why not?” Terry said taking Darlene’s hand. “Both our parents are gone. My daughters haven’t spoken to me since their mother, and I got divorced. You and I are both being questioned daily about Michael. Why not make a new start over here where Elliot had a good life?”
“That would be great!” Elliot said excitedly. “I know some realtors here that you can talk to about property. It’s pretty reasonable to live in this area, or around Morehead where the restaurant is located.” Elliot turned to Terry. “We should have brought our fishing poles. We could have gone out to Cave Run Lake.”
“Why don’t we plan on coming over here for Thanksgiving,” Terry said to Darlene. “If Elliot starts to work for Sandy again. He’ll have a place over here, and we can spend that whole week over here. I’m retiring at the end of the year. Or I could retire sooner.”
“Let’s plan on that,” Darlene agreed. “Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away.” She turned to Elliot and took his hand. “It will be the first one we’ll have together without the fear of what your father might do.”
Elliot nodded. “Yes. It will be the first holiday of any kind that we won’t have to worry about what my father might do.”
Terry squeezed Darlene’s hand and reached for Elliot’s. When Elliot took his hand, he looked at the two of them and said, “You will never have to worry about that with me.”
They finished their time at the restaurant making plans for the following day. After they had left, Elliot had Terry drive down to the waterfront where the murals were lit up at night. They got out there and walked around looking at the murals and discussing how amazing each one was. They went back to their hotel and mapped out the next day, which included dinner at Sandy’s restaurant in Morehead with Caroline Marshall and her parents.