The Unexpected House Guest
Climbing off the bus with my son, we waited for a gap in the traffic and sprinted across the highway. He just started up the hill, but I stopped and looked at it. It was a shorter walk then I had before, but after a day of work, the hill seemed so much taller and steeper. I hobbled along my body on autopilot as I thought about Lee.
I had met Lee online six months earlier in an online writing group. I hadn’t posted anything yet when I saw that she was involved in a heated argument with the group admin about a comment he left on somebody’s writing. This got me curious, so I went and read the piece and the comments and found the administrator’s comments to be totally unfair. I jumped into the argument and as the saying goes, gave it to the admin with both barrels. He soon backed down and admitted he had been unfair in his comments.
It was the next day I saw the friend’s request from her and accepted. We started talking about writing and that just flowed into other things. Soon it was like we had been friends for years just texting back and forth. Her messages all day long just helped me to make it through my day and she told me, how seeing I had messaged her, would brighten her day. That is why I was so worried today, it had been three days without a message from her. Not one word and I began to wonder if I had said something wrong.
I was still deep in thought when my son stopped and slapped me on the shoulder.
“Do you know whose truck that is?”
I looked up and parked in front of our house was a red pickup truck. I shook my head as I started forward and my eyes dropped to the license plate. It hit me, as I saw the plate and I dropped my cane and bag as I hurried forward. The driver side door popped open and a short redhead dropped out and came running to me. It was like a scene from a cheesy romance movie.
“Ian.” She nearly knocked me over as she wrapped her arms around me and buried her face in my chest.
I put my arms around her, and we stood there in the middle of the street hugging until my son came up carrying my bag and cane. He gave me a look as he passed by, I knew he wasn’t happy that she was here, but at that moment I didn’t care. I finally had to pull away a little and find out what was happening.
“Why are you here Lee? Did you leave Doug?”
“He is gone, and I needed somebody. You were the only person I could think of.”
“He left you?”
“He died.” With those words the dam burst, and she started crying.
Doug was, or had been her husband, the biggest obstacle to us being together, but I didn’t want him dead. Hell, I didn’t want her to leave him, even that would lead to regrets later and I didn’t want that for her. Him dying was something I never considered, and I felt bad for Lee’s loss I was also happy, because nothing stood between us. That was my thought until I led her into the house and saw my three boys standing in the kitchen.
I’m amazed how well my three boys turned out, with how screwed up I am, but a lot of the credit goes to my late wife. I’m not going to paint a picture of three perfect young men, they have their issues, but they deal with them. The problem was when we went to buy this house it was discussed that it was ours. No surprise guests, no moving people in without talking about it and here I was bringing a woman they didn’t know into our home. To say they were not happy was an understatement of grand proportions.
George was the oldest and was the easiest and hardest to deal with. He was a high functioning autistic but still autistic which at times made it hard for people to deal with. He didn’t like change so much, so that even after a year in our house, he was still not completely comfortable and suddenly here is a new person entering what he felt was his safe place.
Karl was my middle son and a great example of the fine line between genus and madness. He was incredible intelligent with computers, but he also inherited my schizophrenia. He had learned to deal with it for the most part but he had a temper and could explode at times.
Tim was my youngest and the one that was the most normal of all of us, which isn’t hard. He was a bright and friendly teenager. He made friends easily and was like the mediator when there was an argument between the rest of us.
I just shook my head and mouthed the word later as I led Lee upstairs to the bathroom. It took a little coaxing to get her to sit on the lid of the toilet as I ran her a bath. Once the tub was filled, I helped her undress, she was out of it and I had to do most of the work. Six months and I had never asked for a naked picture, which was kind of odd for me. I have women message me all the time online and within five minutes I am asking to see their naked pictures, but not with Lee.
Once I had her in the tub and relaxing, I slipped out and went downstairs to deal with my boys. They were waiting in the kitchen with dark angry looks on their faces. They started to speak but I beat them to the punch.
“Let me explain then you all can have your say.”
They nodded, but I could see they weren’t happy about this situation at all.
“That is Lee, my writing friend from online. Her husband just died, and she needs somebody right now. I’m asking you three just give it a few days a week at most. She’s hurting and need somebody, and I can’t just throw her out.”
George didn’t look happy, but he slowly nodded.
“A week then she is out,” Karl said with a scowl on his face.
Tim shrugged he was the easiest going of the three and would have agreed to a month or even a year if I had asked.
“She is in the tub right now. I’m going to go move her truck into the driveway and grab her suitcase.”
“I’ll move the truck and get the suitcase.” Tim volunteered and I tossed him the keys I had taken from Lee’s pocket.
“Put the suitcase in my room.”
“What about dinner?” George spoke up.
“I know it is my turn, but I don’t want to leave Lee alone that long. You make it tonight and I’ll do two of your nights.”
Karl shook his head as he walked out. I knew what he was thinking, we had made certain rules and schedules when we moved in here and in one day, they were all being thrown out because of one person. I knew I was going to have to talk to him, but not now, now Lee needed me.
Lee was asleep in the tub when I came back into the bathroom, so I sat on the floor beside it and took her hand that was hanging over the side. I sat there holding her hand just letting the hot water relax her until it began to cool. I reached out and gently shook her shoulder and she opened her eyes and smiled at me.
“The water is getting cold so I’m going to wash you and then we can go to my room.”
She nodded as I began to gently wash her. It didn’t take long, which was kind of disappointing, but I could see she wasn’t ready for anything beyond this so once I was done, I helped her out of the tub and dried her off. She put on one of my old t-shirts which was more like a short dress for her and we went to my room.
For a year I had been talking about getting a bigger bed, but I hadn’t, and now I regretted that. The small twin bed would have been cozy under other circumstances, but I knew that if I laid down with her things would happen and I didn’t think she was ready yet. I tucked her in and sat on the floor by the bed holding her hand. She just smiled and closed her eyes as she fell back to sleep. She had warned me she snored, and I soon realized she hadn’t been lying, but I laid my head on the edge of the bed and closed my eyes.
As the alarm started going off, I scrambled to grab my phone and shut it off. I was sore and stiff from sleeping in that position, but I struggled to my feet and went to turn on the coffee. It was too early to call off, but Karl would be up shortly, and this would give us a chance to talk before he went off to work.
I was just pouring myself a cup of coffee when Karl came into the kitchen.
“You aren’t dressed.”
“I’m calling off today and probably tomorrow too.”
He shook his head as he filled his travel mug. “You lecture me all the time about calling off and now you are doing it.”
“I’m not calling off to play some video game, Lee needs somebody here for her right now.”
“Do you expect us to just accept her?”
“I don’t expect anything, I hope you and your brothers will give her a chance. She is a nice woman.”
“Well, I’m not happy about you bringing your girlfriend here and forcing her on us.”
“I didn’t bring her here, I was completely surprised about her being here yesterday. The truth of the matter is I’m happy she is here. I’ve been lonely for so long and texting her was great, I think mine and her relationship could grow now that we are together.”
“You said a week and I’m holding you to that.” He said as he walked out the door.
I finished my coffee and with a fresh cup I headed back to my room. Lee was still asleep, so I booted up my computer and sat down to write. I lost myself in my writing and time just flew by as I worked on editing a story, I had started only a few days before. I was writing when I noticed that it was after 1:00 so I quickly made a bowl of chicken noodle soup and brought it in for Lee.
She woke from a gentle shake of her shoulder.
“Oh God, I thought it was a dream, but I really am here.”
“Yes, you are, and you need to eat something.”
“I’m not hungry, I just want to sleep for a little bit longer.”
“You need to eat Lee, so you can sleep after you eat this soup.”
She frowned but slid up to sit against the headboard and I sat on the edge of the bed, slowly feeding her the soup. She finished it quickly and smiled at me.
“I ate it all, so can I please just sleep a little bit longer.”
“Yes. I’ll be right back.”
By the time I got back from washing the bowl and putting it away she was asleep again. I went back to work on my writing as she snored behind me. Writing is something I can lose myself in, almost as easily as I do when reading a good book, so I wasn’t really surprised when a knock on my door made me look up and see it was already 6:00.
I hurried over to the door and opened it for Tim. He was balancing two plates of spaghetti.
“You missed dinner and I thought your friend might be hungry also.”
“Thanks. I’ll take care of the dishes after we eat.”
“Good. You know I don’t care if she stays for a while dad.”
“Your brothers are the problem.”
“They will come around they just need time.”
I nod as I take the plates. I kick the door shut since my hands are full. The noise causes Lee to sit up in the bed looking around.
“It is ok. My son was just bringing us dinner.”
“I ate all the soup earlier, do I have to eat again.”
“Yes, you do. I know you just want to sleep, but you need to take care of yourself.”
“I will eat when I’m hungry. I don’t want to put all the weight I lost back on.”
“You need the food and once you are feeling better, we will take long walks so you will keep the weight off.”
She pouted but took a plate from me. I watched her eat and almost laughed as she devoured the food like she was starving.
“I can get you more if you are still hungry.”
She blushed. “I guess I am a little hungry.”
After we ate, I picked up our plates.
“I’m going to do dishes, I’ll be back.”
She shifted around to sit on the edge of the bed. “I’m coming, I can’t let you and your boys to just wait on me.”
“Ok, but you may want to put on something besides that t-shirt.”
“I should have something in my suitcase.”
I nodded to it before I left her so she could get dressed. I was standing at the sink washing the dishes when she came up behind me and hugged me.
“Thank you again for taking care of me.”
“I told you beautiful, I would take care of you if you ever needed me.”
“I’ll dry and you can tell me where things go.”
“You are a guest so you can sit your butt down and I’ll do the dishes.”
I jumped as she smacked by ass.
“I’m going to help you, so you best let me.”
I laughed, “Ok the dish towels are in that drawer over there.”
We went back into my room and I saw that Lee had set her laptop on my desk.
“Take my chair and I’ll grab one from the kitchen.”
“No, I’ll take the kitchen chair.”
“No, you won’t. I need the hard back so sit your butt down in my chair.”
She smiled as she sat down, and I ran out to get a kitchen chair. When I came back, she was already typing away and I slid in beside her. It felt so good to just sit there writing beside her. I felt her leg pressed against mine and I smiled. I found myself glancing over at her as we worked, and I felt her turning towards me from time to time.
It was almost midnight when I started yawning. Lee smiled and saved her work.
“I think it is time we went to bed.”
“You are going to share the bed with me tonight.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. You can’t be comfortable on the floor.”
“I just don’t want you feeling you owe me anything.”
“I know you won’t take advantage of me, you are a gentleman deep down inside.”
I laughed, “Really deep down buried as deep as I could get it.”
She slapped my arm as we laid down together. It was a little awkward at first, but we were both so tired that we were soon asleep.
I woke in bed alone and for a second I thought it all had been a dream until I saw Lee’s laptop sitting next to my computer. I got up and headed for the kitchen when I heard my son and Lee talking.
“You know I just want to make him happy.”
“He was happy, and now he thinks he is happy, but what happens when you have to leave?”
“I’m here for as long as he wants me, and you and your brothers will allow me to stay.”
“You barely know him.”
“Karl, I know him well enough. I have felt a connection to him since his first message to me. I know all about him and his problems and I love him.”
“We will see.” I heard the front door slam shut and I hurried out to the kitchen.
Lee was picking a plate up off the table.
“Karl just left.”
“My alarms didn’t go off.”
“I shut them off. I won’t do it again, but you needed your sleep, plus I was making you breakfast.”
I crossed the room and hugged her. “I love you.”
“You best wait until you taste my cooking.”
I laughed and took a seat at the table. “Well, there is no time like the present.”
She brought me a plate of scrambled eggs.
“Aren’t you going to join me?”
“I’m not hungry.”
“You are going to start eating.”
“That sounds like an or else kind of statement.”
“No or else, I just don’t want you starving yourself. I love you and you making yourself sick is not something I want, so eat with me and we can walk it off later.”
“I have a better idea of how we can work it off.”
I smiled. “You just lost your husband and about the situation with him, but you need to give yourself time to grieve, before we end up in bed together.”
She laughed, “We were in bed together last night.”
“You know what I mean.”
“I don’t want to upset you but what about his funeral?”
“His family are handling it, I got the impression they would rather I didn’t show up.”
“If you don’t want to go ok, but if you want to be there to say a final goodbye, I’ll go with you.”
I watched her eyes tear up. “I know you would, but I’m exactly where I want to be.”
The week flew by as we spent as much time together as we could. I don’t know what she did while I was at work, but I saw the way my sons acted towards her changed slowly. The scowls and dirty looks went away, and I even saw Karl offer to do the dishes for her. Wednesday came and went and nobody talked about Lee leaving. One week became two and two became three. Before I realized it, we had been living together for a month. Sleeping in the same bed and writing at the same desk, but like all good things it came to an end.
I came home from work to find her in our room crying. I dropped my bag and rushed over to hug her.
“What is a matter?”
“I have to go back.”
“I don’t want to, but there are things I have to deal with back there.”
“I’ll come with you.”
“I don’t have a clue how long it is going to take, and your boys need you. Besides, you have work.”
“The boys can take care of themselves and well I can find another job. I don’t want to be alone again.”
“I’ll be back, and we can text.”
I tried to hold back the tears but as they started to run down my face, she pulled me close and we just sat there on my bed holding each other.
George carried Lee’s bag to her pickup as I gave her a hug and kiss.
“You better eat.”
“You better rest.”
We laughed as I fought to hold the tears back.
“Tim, I wrote down the recipe for my shepherd’s pie for you.”
“When you come back, we can share more recipes. I have a bunch of polish recipes from my girlfriend’s family.”
“I would love that.”
She hugs him before turning to Karl.
“When you have everything straighten away up there call us and we will come move your stuff. It will be cramped, but we will make room for your stuff.”
“Are you saying you want me to stay?”
“You make my dad happy, so yeah, you can stay.”
When Lee moved to hug him, Karl stepped back. She looked at me and I mouthed the words ‘give him time’.
George came over and gave Lee a hug. “Hurry back.”
As she pulled out of the driveway, I couldn’t hold it back any longer and burst into tears. I knew she would be back as quickly as she could, but I didn’t want one day to go by without her here with me. My boys were also tearing up even Karl, as her truck disappeared around the corner.
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