“No matter the distance, I would go anywhere for you. No matter the injuries I may sustain, I would crawl to you. No matter the pain I would suffer, I would die in your place.”
My plane arrived in Santa Barbara on schedule. I took my bag and walked off the ramp. I never really asked who I should look for, or how to spot Jack’s grandpa. I had a feeling the handsome older man, who did not look his age and who was holding flowers, was the one I was looking for. He even looked like Jack. His eyes were not like Jack’s however, they were a darker brown. I walked right up to him, and he stared at me in disbelief.
“Hi, I’m Madalyn. Are you Charles?” I asked with a smile.
He only nodded while staring at me, his mouth open and his eyes wide.
I looked at the flowers he was holding.
“Are these for me?” I asked.
“Yes they are,” he finally said as he handed them to me and snapped out of his daze.
I took the flowers and wrapped my arms around him. I gave him a kiss on the cheek. “I’m so happy to meet you,” I announced in his ear as I almost cried.
“My god! You are an angel!” he pronounced as he held my arms, looking at my face. “I am very happy to meet you. Are you really Madalyn?”
I laughed. “Yes, I am Madalyn, in the flesh.”
“My lord, my lord. Just beautiful,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief.
“Thank you, Sir. But you are embarrassing me.”
“Sir? What happened to calling me Grandpa?”
“Oh yes. I mean, Sir Grandpa.”
“That’s better. Well I am Sir Chuck, in the old, wrinkly flesh, unfortunately.” He winked at me as he said this. “That’s cute, you really are calling me Grandpa. I like that. Can I take your bag, sweetheart?” he kindly asked.
“If you must. But I’m warning you, it’s heavy even though it has wheels,” I said.
“I tell ya, I may be in my seventies, but I have the strength of a twenty-five-year-old. So this bag ain’t nothin’,” he said.
At that, he took my bag and held his arm out to me. I wrapped my arm through his, taking the offer. We walked through the terminal arm in arm while he wheeled my bag behind him.
“Now I may be exaggerating about the twenty-five-year-old strength, but I surely don’t feel my age. Heck, most people my age are about to bite the dust by now,” he continued.
“You don’t look your age either,” I said as I squeezed his arm and rested my cheek against his shoulder.
“Are you flirtin’ with me, Madalyn?” he teased.
“Flirt all you want. I am goin’ to get real accustomed to having you around, that’s for damn sure. You’ve gotta’ be the prettiest little thing I’ve ever seen,” he continued.
“You’re not too bad yourself, for being in your seventies,” I complimented and sort of teased.
“Oh my god. You keep talkin’ to me like that and I’ll have to take some of that old people blood pressure medicine,” he said in a serious tone, but clearly joking.
I laughed some more at how silly he was.
“You have an accent that I picked up on. I hear it more now that we are talking in person,” he informed me.
“I don’t hear it anymore, but it’s Portuguese. Girls like me aren’t made in America,” I joked.
“Ain’t that the truth. Well, your voice and your accent just adds to the person that is you…” he said, “and YOU is beautiful.”
I laughed at him as we walked out the doors and to his car, which was a black Cadillac. He opened my door for me and popped open the trunk. I got in the car and he opened his door, getting in after setting my suitcase in the trunk.
“My god, why did you make me carry that bag. Damn near killed myself getting it in the trunk.”
“You are too much,” I said, laughing.
“Too much fun. And I ain’t even had a hit off my peace pipe today,” he joked as he started the engine and backed us up.
“Drugs are bad,” I joked.
“Drugs, yes. An herb from the earth is just a blessing. And sweetheart, do I feel blessed after about two puffs.”
His facial expression had me rolling in my seat. He could not give me a serious answer.
“Do you always talk like this?” I asked, struggling to get around my laughter.
“Well, are the Kennedy’s gun shy?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact they are,” I replied with more laughter.
“In all seriousness, I took it upon myself to be very pleasant for you because you have had a rough few days. You’ve seen and been subject to things that someone as pretty as you shouldn’t have to put up with,” he politely stated.
“Thank you. I appreciate that, and I really enjoyed the laugh. I’m actually a lot tougher than I look though,” I replied.
“I believe that to be true. Still don’t change the fact that that you have been put through a lot,” he stated.
“Well, thank you for your consideration.”
There was a brief silence as we left the airport.
“So where are we headed?” I asked.
“Well, we are goin’ to my log cabin on the other side of Santa Ynez. It’s not too far. There is a place I want to show you first on the way,” he said.
“Okay,” I replied, curious.
There was another silent moment that was interrupted as we pulled off to the shoulder of the road. The view was spectacular. We got out of the car and gazed out over the lake.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?”
“Yes, very,” I replied.
I looked in awe at the large body of water. Chuck moved closer to me and pointed out across the lake.
“This is Lake Chachuma. Do you see that area across the way?” he asked
“Yes,” I answered.
“That’s where my great granddaughter, Cara, was killed with her mother. And just to the right - you can’t see it from here - is a small path. That is where Jack spotted the police actin’ just like criminals.”
I looked out over the lake, at where the tragic events took place. Just being there turned my stomach. Knowing the history and being in the location of it made me see things differently. It all felt more terrible. As if knowing the truth wasn’t terrible enough. It was heartbreaking that something so evil could happen.
After I stood there for some time, entertaining these terrible thoughts, the lake no longer appeared beautiful to me. The waters looked black like an abyss.
“That little girl was everything to me,” Chuck said abruptly, putting his hands into the front pockets of his dark blue slacks.
The expression on the old man’s face put a stop to my heart. I quickly put my arm through his and rested my head against him.
“I’m so sorry,” I said with all sincerity.
I held onto him for a while, tracing his gaze out across the lake. “You’ve lost so much,” I said. “It’s all overwhelming to think about. It’s sad… it’s too sad…”
“I appreciate you saying that. It means you understand our grief,” he said.
“What happened to Grandpa?” he teased.
“Grandpa,” I corrected and half smiled. “What is Jack planning? I don’t want you to lose your grandson the way you lost your great granddaughter.”
He looked back to the lake.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you,” I quickly remarked.
He appeared to be gathering his thoughts, or trying to maintain his composure before speaking.
“You’re an old soul, sweetheart,” he started.
“Jack told me that once,” I interrupted.
“Well it’s true. You are young but have great understanding. I hope you understand that the laws set in place to protect us, the people, have now become chains. It’s like wrestling with a lion to go through the system and try to get justice. The American courts are the place where the truth is made to look bad and the one with the best lie wins. My dying wish is to see justice served before I am gone. I’ve assisted Jack in making this happen, and so have a few others.”
“Forgive me for saying, but aren’t you afraid of failure? You’re up against a part of the United States government. How do you get away with what has already been done? They already know he’s not actually dead. I’m afraid for myself. As we speak they are searching for those officers who came looking for us,” I said, trying to stay calm.
“We’ve decided it’s best to come out of hiding and create a problem for them. When they realize they have a big problem, they will become desperate. So, we will let them hang themselves. All the roads we’ve tried taking over the past two years have all crashed beneath us. It was heartache after heartache. I’m not going to lie to you, Maddy. Jack contacted me, and told me where he was going. He loves you, and because he loves you, he doesn’t want you involved,” he responded.
“I just don’t want to lose him. It’s something I could not move on from. Do you understand?” I said, feeling my eyes well up.
He turned and looked at me.
“I understand what you are saying. I should tell you some things about my grandson. Let’s not talk out here anymore. We’ll go to my place. I’ve got some of my famous sun tea on the deck. It will be ready when we get there,” he said, leading me back to the car.
As we passed through Santa Ynez, he took me past more history he wanted to share.
“This house right here to your right was my son’s house, Jack’s father. I take care of it now. I just haven’t been able to bring myself to sell it,” he said.
“How did his father die, if you don’t mind my asking?”
We came to a stop in front of the house.
“He had a heart attack about a year after his wife died. I say he died of a broken heart. You’ll come to learn that the men and the women, in the Rider family line all love very fiercely,” he answered. “Jack is the last Rider in our lineage. It had continued on until Ava and Cara were killed.”
“I know common Native American names are abbreviations, so what is the full last name of Rider?” I asked.
“Wave Rider. The coastal Chumash Indians,” he answered.
I smiled at hearing this.
“Wave Rider,” I repeated softly. “I like that, very much.”
We drove away and soon the city was behind us. We ended up off the beaten path, but pulled up the hill of a nice stone drive. The log cabin I had been picturing was more like a mansion.
“Nice house,” I said.
“Yeah, she’s over the top. But I do own the casino, so I get by. Just wish I had a more honest way of making a living. I share a lot of my money and give most of it to help protect the land,” he said as he opened the garage door, and we headed inside.
The house was very open, with thirty-foot ceilings and lots of sun light from all the windows. There were three big sky lights on either side of the roof. It had a lot of plants and Native American decorations. There were Chumash Indian symbols that looked like cave paintings carved into the wood. There was a real Native American bow hanging above a large fire-place made of stone. Above that was a large stone and wood plaque. Engraved on it was the name Wave Rider, with a symbol of water.
“That was my first bow I made. Jack used it quite a bit growing up when they held sporting events. He and his father always one first place in all the archery events. They had excellent hand-eye coordination. All the hunting competitions they won also. Our Jack is one helluva marksman,” Chuck said as he exited into the kitchen briefly before coming back with some sun tea.
I took a drink. I hadn’t realized how thirsty I was and the tea was very good.
“Would you like a refill?” he asked, chuckling.
“That would be nice. I was really thirsty I guess. That is really good tea by the way.”
“Well, thank you for saying so. I’m always making sun tea. I have a really good peach tea that I make as well. Would you like some of that?” he asked politely.
“I would love some,” I answered.
I followed Chuck to the kitchen, and he poured me a glass of peach tea.
“You want to sit out on the back deck? I got a pond out there.”
“That sounds nice,” I replied.
We sat across from one another in Adirondack chairs that looked to be made of the same wood as the house, or at least stained the same color. I would have normally enjoyed the sound of the breeze and songs of the birds outside, however, my mind was unsound and I had too many questions.
“Do you mind if I ask you some questions?”
“Ask away, sweetheart… actually, just a moment. I’ll go first,” he replied.
“How did you two meet?” he asked.
I took a deep breath before I got into that.
“Oh boy. This is a long story I take it?”
“Yes, but I’ll shorten it,” I replied.
“I was thirteen and my father had just died. I was really hurting from that, so I went out into the ocean with the plan never to return, if you take my meaning.”
“I believe I do. That is awfully sad, sweetheart,” he told me, his brow turned down.
“Yes, well, a thirteen-year-old girl doesn’t have any good reasoning. All of their thinking is inward at that age. I could have been in a two-foot tunnel at that time and not seen the light at the end. I saw no end to the depression I was in.”
“I’m happy that didn’t happen. It would have been a tragedy to lose someone like yourself,” he said in sympathy.
“Thank you. The only reason it didn’t happen is because of your grandson… the Angel.
“The angel? What do you mean?”
“I had no more air and my vision was black. I was almost gone,” I told him, feeling my lips quiver. “Jack stepped on me while I was under the water. Some have said that he was in the right place at the right time. I say it was too much of a coincidence to be a coincidence.”
Chuck stared at me wide-eyed and with his mouth hanging open. He tried to say a number of different things at once. He eventually got it out.
“I’ll be a son-of-a-bitch. Now, you got yourself a story there. That just gave me the goosebumps. Sweetheart, that story makes me feel all good inside. I just might a cry before this story is done.”
Chuck’s response was silly, but he was completely serious, and it caused me to well up with emotion. I hid my face in my hands as I cried, quite forcefully.
“Oh…” he said at the site of me crying. “This story really means a lot to you and I can see why.”
After somewhat composing myself I continued. “You say story… however, after that day, it consumed the rest of my life. If you don’t believe that, just read my journals.”
“I might take you up on that. I like to read,” he replied.
“One day last week, he showed up at my house. And ever since then, my life has been dangerous in every way… and I like it.”
My thoughts trailed off into the past few days’ events. I had a hard time believing them myself.
“Wow. You couldn’t make that stuff up,” he said after taking a large drink of his tea.
“I will go anywhere Jack needs to go, but after whatever plan you two have put together, would I be on the run forever?”
He took another drink of his tea before answering.
“Well, it’s not just our plan. A few on the council came up with this plan as well. And I can’t answer that because it would be jumping to conclusions no matter what answer I gave,” he replied.
“I understand I suppose. I’m just afraid I won’t ever see him again,” I pronounced, “and you seem way too laid back about this.”
“Well, getting worked up isn’t going to change anything. I’m basically taking in this calm before the storm.”
“That isn’t very comforting. Should I be here? Am I safe?” I questioned as I began to breathe heavily.
“You’ll be fine. This is a sovereign nation, they wouldn’t dare tread here. It would be too noisy.”
“With all due respect, didn’t they already tread here about three years ago when…” I didn’t finish my sentence.
“You have a point there. Which brings me to this next part.”
“What part is that?” I asked.
“Only a few Chumash police know about all of this. But we’ve left out a lot of details to be cautious, such as where Jack has been. I’ve had to pay the precinct a lot of money to keep them quiet. Plus they helped with a lot of the information we’ve gathered up to now.”
“What information is that?”
“Which police officer’s are involved and who they are in bed with. We are quite certain they have friends in the cartel,” he replied.
“Why can’t they just be arrested? I don’t understand what is being done. If other police know, why can’t they just go to the higher powers with all of this information?” I questioned.
“Let me tell you a little about Chumash law and beliefs. We live by balance and sustainability. We need to respect this balance and be responsible for it, as were our ancestors. The three bodies of life - land, air, and water - sustain us. We depend on these. Do you understand?”
“I follow you so far,” I replied.
“Good. Man’s greedy, however. Man is the problem; they want to control everything. Man’s greed interrupts nature’s way of life and the lives of the people who respect the earth. These men broke Chumash law. It’s not just our law, it’s the law of the earth. They live only to benefit themselves because of their greed. In doing so, they killed lover’s of the balance. Lover’s who respected nature’s role. They almost killed a third -Jack. Now I don’t know who else Jack saw them kill that day, but they weren’t Chumash people. And they were probably part of some rival cartel. We as Chumash, keepers of the land, cannot justify our way in the world if it is to only benefit man. If our children swim in toxic, polluted water, we pull them out. We will not turn a blind eye to a bird drinking that same water either. This crime was done by greedy men, on Chumash land. It effects all Chumash people, so they will face Chumash justice, outside of America’s laws. Even our police agree to this way. However, the fact that these crimes were done by other police, the council doesn’t trust anyone who wears a badge. Like I said, I have a few Chumash Police involved, but even then I am very wary of who I share information with.”
“I respect your heritage and its values. I just don’t want to see anyone get hurt besides those deserving. Especially not Jack,” I said.
“I’ll be fine too, sweetheart. Don’t worry about me,” he teased.
“Hey, I included you when I said, anyone.” I laughed at his cuteness.
“Listen, sweetheart. I know what you are saying, and I understand your concerns. Jack isn’t going to do much but get them riled up. And when he does that, we will be here, waiting for them to make a mistake. Hopefully it works to expose them all at once.”
“I pray for a good outcome,” I said, truly concerned.
There was a brief pause in our conversation as we sipped our tea and looked out at the pond.
“Let me ask you something. Did Jack ever tell you about his name? His real name?” Chuck asked.
“No, he kept most everything about this life secret,” I replied.
“Achak. It means Spirit Warrior. I gave it to him the night he was born. His spirit fought against death and won. We have legends amongst the Chumash people that are ancient, and we have officially recorded Jack’s birth down as a new legend from the day he took his first breath. When he was born, he came out not breathing. The doctors worked on trying to get him breathing for fifteen minutes. They handed him back to his mother and told her they were sorry.”
I couldn’t help but breathe in a sharp inhalation. I pressed my hand to my heart.
“I was in the waiting room when my son came out to me. I knew by the look on his face it was not good. I sat for an hour, listening to his wife’s exhausted, heartbroken cries as she held her still-born child. Before the doctors came to take Jack away, they let me hold him. I touched my nose to the little guy, and just talked to him. I still remember everything I said to him too. I just kept saying please, please come back. Although a name had not been chosen, I called him Achak under my breath. As my tears dropped on the little guy’s face, I felt his chest rise and fall. I waited a moment before saying anything, but when I could hear him taking breaths, I cried aloud. The doctors came in, but told me I was going to upset everyone further. They couldn’t believe that two hours after being born he took his first breaths,” he finished with heavy emotion behind every word.
“That is a wonderful story, but breaks my heart at the same time. I knew nothing about this,” I said, my hand still pressed to my heart.
“Like I told you over the phone, I like to think my grandson is special and that death looks him in the face, but turns the other way. The legend I recorded entertains that thought. Then there was an incident when he was just seventeen years of age. I think, however, that is a story for another time.”
“I look forward to hearing it,” I replied.
“His mind and spirit belong to another world, while his body exists here. That’s why he didn’t die the same day as Ava and Cara. That’s why they have failed to kill him now,” he exclaimed with an almost violent conviction.
“I hope that legend is true… I’ll believe it is true. And if it is, Achak Rider’s spirit belongs to the waters, his mind to the sky, and his body to the earth,” I said, sitting in reverie.
“You have a gift, Madalyn,” he stated.
I looked at him as I came out of my musing.
“What is that?” I questioned.
“You see,” he answered.
“I give credit to Jack. He opened my eyes the day his spirit pulled me from the water.”
Chuck led me upstairs to the second level of his house. From the first floor you couldn’t tell that the upstairs balcony wrapped around the entire second level. He opened the door to the guest room, which was moderate in size. A few boxes were stacked in two corners.
“Forgive the boxes. These are Jack’s things. I’ve kept them here. Actually, most were Ava’s and Cara’s clothes. I told him I wouldn’t get rid of them,” he informed.
“It’s fine, I have no complaints,” I replied.
He opened another door, and motioned inside. “You got your own bathroom here. If you need anything just holler. I’m going to go downstairs. I got a few things to take care of in my office.”
“Okay, no problem. I’m going to maybe have a shower and a nap.”
I waited for him to close the door before I pulled my phone out. I sent a text to my mother, telling her I had landed safely. I never said where, but mentioned I was staying with Jack’s Grandfather.
I felt bad about my behavior toward her. I guessed that she was trying to allow me to be an adult, but inside she was probably falling apart. Sending her a message was the least I could do.
After my much needed shower, I rummaged through my suitcase for something to wear. I stepped into some cotton underwear and matching bra. The boxes at the corner of the room caught my curiosity, and my curiosity always got the better of me. So I began opening a few. There were a lot of photo albums. I flipped through some of them, never lingering on one page for very long. To see the other life that was once apart of Jack broke my heart to pieces.
I took a white summer dress out of the box and held it up. It was very pretty and just my style. I pressed it up against myself and glanced in the mirror. I didn’t stop there and maybe I went too far when I stepped into the dress. It fit well. The cotton dress was simple and beautiful.
I took out another album, flipping through it as I stood in front of the mirror. I stopped in the middle, at a picture of Jack and his wife. It appeared they were on a date or a vacation. They looked beautiful and happy. She had her arms around his neck, one foot off the ground, and their cheeks were pressed together. The dress she had on in the photograph was the one that I was wearing. Glancing into the mirror, I fell to the floor in tears.
I felt such a deep sadness for what had happened to his family. It was as though I knew them. I almost ripped the dress, trying to get out of it. I just needed to get some sleep. I climbed into the blankets of the guest bed and cried myself to sleep.
A ringing caused me to stir. The second ring made me jump from my sleep. I leaped out of the bed and threw on a shirt and some jeans. I wasn’t sure what time it was, or how long I had been sleeping. The ringing was the doorbell. It could be Jack.
I opened the door, looking out over the house and through the large windows on the other side. There was a police car in the driveway. My heart sank to the floor. This was not good. Chuck answered the door and invited the police officer inside. I stood back from the railing so that I could not be seen. The officer walked into the kitchen, almost out of sight. I could see the back of the man’s shoes, however. I listened in as best I could. They kept their voices low. I couldn’t hear quite what the officer asked Charles, but I was able to make out his reply. The open design of the house caused their voices to travel in such a way it sounded as though they were talking behind me. If I closed my eyes I would not be able to tell where the voices were coming from.
“Things are set in motion that will be soon be unfolding.”
“How soon?” The officer asked.
“Friday, sometime after midnight. So it’s up to you guys to be ready in case things start getting wild.”
“Where is Jack going to be? Is he here already?” he asked.
“Now, I’ve already told you all you need to know. Any more information than that is dangerous. We still don’t know how the hell they found him clear across the country. Someone would have had to leak information,” Charles replied, quite forcefully.
“None of my guys would do that, and we keep them out of the loop anyways,” the officer told Charles.
“Well until we find out how, I cannot say too much.”
“Look, if you want my help you have to give me something. What about the girl you told me he was seeing? What part does she have in all of this?”
I moved closer to the stairs to make sure I could hear a little more clearly.
“Tommy, we have tried to keep her out as much as possible, but when two men show up and one tries to kill her, well then, she has as much reason as any to know all there is to know.”
“Well, is she still in Beaufort?”
“No, actually she’s here. And it’s probably better that she is. If anyone else showed up while Jack is gone, she’d be in some serious trouble. And from the sounds of it, someone is still there looking for him,” Charles told him.
“She’s here. As in here, here?” he questioned.
“Yes, she’s upstairs sleeping. Poor girl has had a rough couple of days,” Charles said. His sympathy and understanding put a smile on my face. He was very sweet.
“Well, can I meet her?” Tommy asked.
“No, you can’t meet her right now. I’m not going to go wake her up so that someone she doesn’t know can start asking her twenty questions,” Charles scolded.
“I don’t get it. A few days ago you came raging to me about Jack having a girlfriend, and now you invite her here?”
“Yes, I’m sorry. I maybe spoke too soon. And I didn’t invite her here, she came on her own. When I found out, I offered her my place to stay.”
“I think that was foolish, Charles. We don’t know enough about her,” Tommy informed.
“Now, don’t jump to conclusions. I know enough. She is a sweet girl and really special. Madalyn is something else. She ain’t just some woman that Jack fooled around with. There is a history between them that goes back quite a few years. She’s practically family now,” Charles came back, defending me at every turn.
The smile on my face grew bigger when he called me family.
“Family? Really?” Tommy mocked.
“I don’t need your crap, Tommy. You just have your boys ready in case I need you,” Charles told him.
“They’re not my boys. They’re police officer’s, Charles,” Tommy replied.
“And I’m the Chief. I haven’t ever been addressed as such. So you can forgive my purposeful lapse in decorum,” Charles defended.
I saw him getting ready to leave, so I lightly walked back to my room, shutting the door behind me. I checked my phone for the time. Nine in the morning? Had I really slept straight through the night?
There was a knock on my door.
“Come in,” I said.
“Hey, sweetheart, you decent?” Charles asked.
“Yes, you can come in.”
“Sorry, did the doorbell wake you up?” he asked.
“Yes, it’s okay. I can’t believe I really slept straight through the night. I guess I needed it.”
“I guess so,” he replied as he glanced at the dress I had left on the floor, but pretended not to notice.
I saw that he noticed, however, and I felt stupid. I didn’t want him having weird thoughts about me. Especially after just hearing him defend me. He began to say something, but I jumped in.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“For what, sweetheart?”
“I saw you look at the dress on the floor, then pretend not to notice,” I said.
“I don’t need to know anything,” he interjected.
“Well, I need to say something, especially since you defended me to that police officer, Tommy,” I said.
“You heard that? Yeah, he’s a negative S.O.B. He helps out a lot though I guess.”
“It’s fine. I just really appreciate what you said about me and that you called me family. It makes me feel sick with guilt though,” I truthfully said.
“What, why?” he questioned.
I shrugged my shoulders, glanced at the dress on the ground, then picked up one of the photo albums.
“Because of this. Because of the people who were once family who aren’t here anymore. How do I fit into this? I look through these photos… and she is beautiful, and they were beautiful together, and so happy.” I couldn’t hold back the tears as I poured out my heart. “It’s just awful what happened to them. And being here, I really feel it, it’s in the air… this constant mourning, this sadness. It’s as though I knew them. I just know how everyone will look at me. They will see me and wish I were someone else. Isn’t that what you wish?”
Charles stepped forward and wrapped his arms around me. The way he held onto my arms was exactly like his grandson. He grabbed my full attention.
“Now, now. Jack needs you, I know that. You are right, they were beautiful, and they were happy. His wife was real special. But, you know what?”
“You are just as special,” he told me, as he lifted my chin.
He was sweet, but what I was feeling could only be changed by one person.
“I have to tell you, the day Jack told me about you, we got into a pretty heated argument. I said some ignorant things I didn’t mean that were geared toward you. It pretty much resulted in him hanging up on me. I’ll be honest, I was a little hurt at first when he told me. Then after a few hours of thinking on it, I knew how violently Jack has always loved. And if he was defending you to that degree, I should have picked up on it and realized how special you were. All I had to do was hear your voice that day you called me and I knew you were somethin’. So I don’t want you beating yourself up over somethin’ that is out of your control. Jack will always have a place for his family, but you have untwisted his heart. You could say that you are the stitch that has closed the hole that was left there. And you can’t live long with a hole in your heart, can ya?”
I shook my head and smiled.
“So I’d say you are pretty damned important to him. Especially to be the person who fills a hole that large. If he hadn’t been found by those police, he wouldn’t be here,” Charles told me further.
“What do you mean?” I questioned
“When he told me about you, he was telling me in the nicest way possible, that he was done with chasing after revenge. Now after what he went through, losing his family so tragically, and all that planning, he was ready to give it all up… for you. He’s only here finishing it so that you two can be together, without him having to look over his shoulder. That means he let them go. It takes a special kind of person to bring that kind of peace to a man’s heart that only lusted after revenge. Trust me on that.”
My tears felt like happy tears. What he was telling me did make sense. My spirit felt rejuvenated. I leaned forward and kissed his cheek.
“Thank you for your kind words,” I told him.
“Do you feel any better?”
“Yes, I very much do,” I replied.
“Good, now can we go eat? I’m starving.”
I laughed at his cuteness. “Sure. Do I have time to get dressed?”
“You concerned about dressing up just to walk down to the kitchen?” he asked.
“Oh. I thought you meant we were going somewhere to eat,” I told him.
“Oh, heavens no. Nobody within two hundred miles can cook breakfast like me. You are in for a real treat, girlie,” he said, abandoning all modesty.
“Well, I’m looking forward to this.”
“You better be. You will not want to stop eating. And when you finally do, you’ll want to go somewhere and die because you will never be satisfied by another meal.”
I laughed at him some more as we headed down stairs.
Breakfast was incredible.
I ate so much I could barely move. The rest of the day I laid around and joked with Charles. He shared a lot of Chumash cultures with me through photographs and items. He gave me his wife’s Chumash head braid to wear.
Thursday morning I got dressed in jeans and my brown boots. I let my hair fall and tied the head braid he gave me around my forehead. I came out to show Charles, and he applauded. He gave me a few Chumash pieces of jewelry to complete my outfit.
“My late wife made all of that. I got a cotton shirt I can dig up that she made herself. I bet it would fit you,” he told me, excited.
He came back a short time later with it. The shirt was loose fitting and had embroidered Chumash symbols around the bottoms of the half sleeves. Around the neck line were small, colorful adornments that were embroidered as well. I quickly went upstairs and put it on. The neck line was low, and had a small slit in it. This allowed my three Chumash necklaces to be shown.
When I came out of the room, Charles clasped his hands together and stared at me.
“That was my most favorite shirt that she wore. It looks beautiful on you. Will you wear it proudly?”
“That’s the only way I’ll wear it,” I sincerely professed.
“Then you keep it. And wear it as often as you can. Now before you try to say that you can’t accept it, I’ll tell you that I insist.”
“I won’t argue with you. I feel like I need some feathers in my hair,” I told him, as I looked down at my Native American image.
“Well, we Chumash didn’t really use feathers like the other natives did. However, I do have a few hawk feathers if you want them.”
“Okay, thanks. Yeah, I’ll braid a few into my hair.”
“I’ll get them,” he said.
I did just that, tying a few into a small braid that I created in my hair.
Charles took a picture of me and told me how he had always wished he had been blessed with a daughter.
“Playing dress up was fun. I hadn’t gotten into that stage yet with my great granddaughter,” he sadly spoke.
After he said that, I felt good that I was able to oblige him in spending the day together and playing dress up. I possibly had fulfilled a dream the old man never got to have. He was very sweet.
Later into the evening, I sent a text message to my mother, just letting her know I was still doing okay and everything was going fine. She replied in short responses. I took that as meaning she was still hurt that I had left.
It was about ten o’clock, and I was still in my clothes. Charles had received a phone call from the casino and was getting ready to leave.
“I guess they need me at the casino. There was a mix-up with a few of the players’ chips. You going to be okay here for a while? It may be real late before I get back,” he said.
“I will be fine. If I need you, I have your number.”
“Alright, well then I will most likely see you in the morning.”
“Okay. Goodnight then,” I told him as he headed out the door.
I got ready for bed shortly after he left. I took off everything except for my bra and underwear. The feathers in my hair also stayed in.
I messed around on my phone, trying to become tired enough to fall asleep. I decided to just call Jack a few times, even though it went straight to voice mail every time. My eyes became heavy, and I made a wish that I would see him soon. I drifted off to sleep thinking only of my Jack.