Abie was so sick the morning of the funeral, Davis was actually afraid she wasn’t going to be able to make it. He wanted to tell her his concerns about what he thought might be happening, but at the moment, and under the circumstances, he didn’t think it was the time. She’d finally managed to get herself ready, eating some crackers and sipping on ginger ale. The day was bitterly cold, and even now in mid-March there was a chance of snow in the afternoon. So he made sure she had everything to stay warm out at the burial site, and gave Lucy some crackers to hide in her purse for his wife.
They walked into the large church, seeing a handful of people who’d come: Allie and Peter, Kitty, and Rich, and a couple of women Abie said were from the place where she stayed for quite some time. Lucy went to go say hello to the women she knew, before the mass started. But he saw a man sitting in the back of the church, well away from everyone. “Sugar, who’s that man back there?” he asked, praying to God it wasn’t the man who was searching for her.
She turned her head along with the girls, stared for a minute and then gave a tired shrug. “I don’t quite know. I’ve never seen him before,” she told him. He was just so happy that she didn’t say Grayson. “Maybe he was just a man that knew Mom from the hospital, and now he’s paying his respects.”
They all took their seats as the priest made his way up front, where a pale gray casket stood adorned with pink and white flowers, a picture of Loretta next to it. As the priest began the service, Davis said his own prayer that his wife could sit through the ceremony.
After the mass and some words and a blessing, it was time to go to the gravesite. Davis knew this was going to be hard. And as they stood there listening to the priest give the final blessing before burial, his arm went around Abie to help her stand in her grief.
They all let her say goodbye to her mom in privacy. Davis hung back; the others went to the brownstone for the preparation of the gathering. But Abie just stood there staring down at the casket. The wind whipped her long black coat around her, but she seemed oblivious to the bite in the air. He walked up to her and hugged her to his side. “Abie, honey, it’s cold out. We need to start headin’ back to the brownstone,” he hinted. She nodded her head but didn’t move. “Come on, sugar. Allie’s cookin’ something good up for you,” he offered, gently pulling her away.
The man who had been sitting in the back of the church approached them then, and at first he stiffened, not knowing who the hell this guy was. But the closer he got, Davis knew right away who he was. He held on to Abie, as another shock was coming at her this morning.
She looked up when the man was right in front of them. Blue eyes in a clean-shaven face confronted the woman in front of him. “Hello, kitten,” came his gravelly voice. Her frown was quick, as this man called her by her mother’s pet name for her. “I’m sorry, I don’t believe we’ve met before, have we?” she asked, confused.
The tall man frowned at her. “I guess she was as good as her word. I should’ve known Sally would’ve never told you about me,” he chuckled sadly.
“Sally; do you mean my Aunt Sally?” He didn’t say anything to that, but looked at Abie with a sadness that was written all over his face.
“I’m sorry, but do I know you?” she asked.
His shoulders sagged. “Yes, kitten, you do…”
“How do you know about my mother’s pet name for me?”
He smiled at her. “Well, I’m the one who gave you that name. When you were a baby you’d crawl up on my lap and curl up to go to sleep on me, just like a kitten. Your ma always loved that nickname for you. I guess it stuck even after I was gone.”
Realization dawned on her, and she just stood there looking at him. Davis reached out, extending his hand. “Davis Mills. I’m Adire’s husband,” he told him by way of a greeting.
“Jason Black. I guess I’m your father-in-law,” he offered, and Abie gasped. The man looked over at her and Davis could see the pain in his eyes. “Why don’t you follow us to our place…”
“No,” Abie quickly told him. “I don’t want this man anywhere near me. Just go back to whatever hole you crawled out from,” she told him angrily.
He frowned, coming closer, and she looked up at him. “Kitten, I know you’re angry at me, and yah have every right to be. But I was telling youah ma that I wanted to talk to yah, she thought it would be a good idea as well.”
“You talked to Mom…?”
“Yeah, I did. We’ve been talking for ovah a yeah now. I could see she was getting sicker, and I wanted her to introduce us again. So we all could have a sit-down over what happened all those years ago. Get something resolved between all of us.”
Her brows went together. “Mom agreed to this?”
“Yeah, she did. It was time to start healing.”
“Mom wasn’t…afraid of you?” she asked, baffled.
“No, kitten, youah ma was never afraid of me.” He ran his hand through his hair and then fixed his hat. “Look, please let me come ovah and talk to yah. If yah don’t like what I have to say, and yah never want to see me again, then I’ll leave and you’ll never hear from me again, I promise.”
Davis leaned down, whispering in her ear. “Sugar, you need to get out of this cold. Just have him come over and see what he wants to say. You’ll kick yourself in the long run if you don’t,” he suggested.
She stared at her father, who had her color hair, and eyes, deciding what she wanted to do. “Fine. You may say your peace,” she told him. “But if what you say holds no value, other than you’re sorry for abandoning us, then you might as well not bother coming over. I don’t need to hear such lies on the day I buried my mother.”
“Okay, I can do that,” he said with a half-smile.
Davis walked away with her waist under his hand to bring her to the car. Tony came and opened the door for her and she quietly got into the car. Davis followed, pulled her to him and kissed her on the top of her head. “Well, at least you can have some of your questions answered,” he said. She nodded, but didn’t speak the whole way home. Once they were at the brownstone her father pulled in behind them, and she walked him into the front room. Davis gave everyone a quick explanation of what was happening, and told them to go on ahead with everything, they’d be back.
When he stepped back into the front room, Jason Black sat in front of his daughter looking very nervous, and also sad. Abie on the other hand looked rather peaked and about ready to faint, so he made his way next to her for support. Abie sat there patiently, waiting for her father to speak. She made not one utterance to him, just stared at him. And Davis knew all too well that his little wife could be very patient when trying to make her point.
Jason sighed, leaning forward with his hat in his hand. “First I want you to know that I always loved your ma. I was young and dumb when I left you two. I thought I was heading into the major leagues, to have a baseball career.I didn’t want a wife and daughter to get in the way of my so-called fame,” he told her.
She nodded, anticipating his words. “All right, you loved her. Is that it?”
“No…that’s not it. I want to tell yah that I did come back to you two.”
She leaned forward now. “What do you mean by that?”
“I came back to youah ma about a year later. I knew I was stupid for leaving her,” he spluttered.
“If you came back, why didn’t I know about it?” she asked.
His large hands ran over his face in frustration at the memory. “Because she told me she was with someone. Your ma was so beautiful, I knew someone would come and snatch ’er up. But I didn’t care; I wanted her back.
“Then she told me that she was pregnant.” His face fell after he said that. “She was so mad at me for putting her through everything I did. She told me that she still loved me, but it was too late…that I was too late!
“When she was hurt, I came back again, but this time Sally got ahold of me before I went in to see her. She came unleashed at me, screaming that it was all my fault that Loretta was hurt, that I was a selfish, self-centered disgrace of a man. And the last thing that you and youah ma needed was a man who would leave them again when things got tough.” Jason held in a sob after he spoke, but took a deep breath to continue on. “She was right though, youah Aunt Sally was right. She gave me a chance to come in and take care of you and youah ma, but she was so hurt, physically, and mentally. And I wasn’t strong enough. I was a coward, an angry, jealous coward,” he confessed. “I was leaving the hospital, I had gotten a call from the AAA up in Maine to go play ball there. So I packed up my Mustang and was heading off. Sally came and told me that if I left, if I couldn’t be the man that her girls needed him to be, she’d make sure I was erased from youah lives.” He finally looked up at her. “Did yah know I played baseball? I was even in the AA for a little while?” he asked.
She shook her head. “I was never told anything about you. I was never shown a picture of you, and your name wasn’t mentioned anywhere near me. I remember you were tall, and I remember trying to comfort my mom after you left. I would hum ‘take me out to the ball game,’ and that would soothe her,” I whispered. “You’re the reason she loved that song. I just realized, after all those years.”
He nodded. “That was the song I would sing to her before one of my games. But despite my love for you two I did what I did best, Adire, I walked away from my wife, and child.” He wiped at a tear that escaped, clearing his throat. “And youah Aunt Sally did what she told me she would do, too.”
“Why come find me now? You’ve been out of my life since I was a child, why come trying to make amends with me now? With Mom?”
“Kitten, I’m a sixty-year-old man. I’ve nothing in my life but a washed-up career of playing AAA ball, and a couple pictures of a family I once had,” he began.
“Yes, but it seems odd that you make your way to me after I’m married to a man of wealth.” Her brow went up, looking her father over. “So what do you really expect to get from me? Do you have gambling debts that need to be paid off? Are you in trouble with the IRS or something, and you’re hoping my husband will pay off your obligations to people you’re indebted to?”
Jason looked to Davis in confusion, and he knew that Abie’s father had no idea who he was. “I’m not asking for anything, Adire. I just want a chance to know my daughter, that’s all. When yah get to be my age and yah look back over youah life, seeing all the mistakes that you’ve made, yah just wanna chance to do something right,” he pleaded with her. “I made a lot of mistakes, kitten. But I never stopped loving yah.”
She nodded her head again at him, but remained skeptical. She tilted her head. “Where do you live now?”
“I’m back in Southie. East Sixth Street, top floor of a triple deckah.”
“You’ve explained quite a bit that I never truly understood about what happened, and I thank you for that. But right now I really need to grieve the loss of my mother. I’m not sure if I should give you another chance, seeing you could walk away from us so easily before,” she told him softly.
He nodded his head, looking at the floor. Abie sighed, looking at the man in front of her after she said those words, and squeezed Davis’s hand. “But I guess we could start out slowly. Maybe meet for a cup of coffee some time.” She paused. “I mean, if Mom was willing to let you back in to talk to her, then I suppose I can, also,” she whispered.
He looked up with a shocked expression, then stood up and came to her, kissing the top of her head and smiling. “I hope to hear from yah real soon, kitten. I’ll leave yah with youah friends now…and thank you,” he told her softly. Then he shook Davis’s hand. “It was nice meeting yah.”
“Likewise,” he told his father-in-law, standing to show him out.
“Bye…” Abie began.
“Dad,” he said.
“What?” she replied softly.
“Dad. Please, just call me Dad, Adire.” He smiled hesitantly, and left.
Abie sat back on the sofa, looking at the place where her father had been sitting. Davis sat next to her, taking her into his arms. “Well, I think that went really good.” He smiled, but it faltered at her silence. “You okay, sugar?” he asked her gently, not liking her coloring at all.
“No, I think I’m rather a mess at the moment, Davis. And awfully overwhelmed under the circumstances.” She turned to look over her shoulder at him. “I feel very nauseated. Not to mention I have a sharp pain in my side.”
That had him worried. “Why don’t we go sit in the kitchen with everyone? You’ve had a long day already, and it’s only eleven a.m.” He smiled, helping her from the sofa. She took his arm very unsteadily. “Yes, that does sound rather comforting at the moment. And I’m very hungry again,” she admitted.
“All right, sugar. Then why don’t you have Allie fix you something to eat,” he suggested, his hands going around her waist to steady her, and helping her to the kitchen.
“Yes, that’s a lovely idea.”
Time passed and after about an hour, everyone sat around the table talking, but the girls were laughing at Kitty again. Seemed Kitty was the hellion of the group, and was the one that always seemed to find trouble.
“And do you remember the time Kitty got the lifeguard fired!” Allie hollered over to Abie, who was laughing.
“Who could forget the scandal of ’88!” she laughed. “He was caught with his trunks down!” she giggled to Allie, who was banging the table.
Davis leaned over to Peter. “They always like this?” he questioned. He shook his head. “No, worse.”
Kitty crossed her arms, sitting on Richie’s lap and pouting. “That’s so not fair, bringing that shit up right now!” she griped. “You two be quiet or I’ll bring up youah secrets,” she threatened.
That had Allie laughing even harder, and Peter cracked a smile. “Oh yeah, threaten A.B., I dare yah… Just like before and see what happens,” she snickered, looking her direction, and Abie lifted her bottle to her in salute.
“Oh hell no! I’m not asking the dominatrix to do anything. She just laughs and goes and does it. There’s no point, she doesn’t get embarrassed at all!” she bellowed, crossing her arms.
Everyone turned to Abie, who had a little grin of mischief on her face. “And what does that mean, sugar?” Davis asked with a smile.
Both women laughed, and he saw Rich hug his strawberry-blonde firecracker, who wasn’t too happy at the moment. Davis knew that look all too well; Rich had it bad for Kitty. He chuckled to himself as Rich gave him the “go get screwed” look.
“Oh my gosh! Allie… Is that an engagement ring I see?” Abie asked.
Allie showed off her hand. “Why, yes it is,” she smiled coyly.
Kitty jumped forward. “OMG! Let me see that!” She swiped Allie’s hand away from Abie. “About freakin’ time, Pete!” she yelled.
“Yes, what she said, Peter!” Abie smiled, then turned to Allie with that snicker on her face. “So he was going to up and leave you, was he? Possibly having an affair with some seductive Frenchwoman,” she snorted.
Peter’s head popped up, looking over at his fiancée. “What?” he asked her in shock.
“Well, yah see… When I went to Savannah…” she started stammering, when Lucy walked into the kitchen with a deep frown, looking over at Davis.
“Davis, there’s a man at the front door to see you. He told me to tell you that he’s not leaving unless you come out right now and speak with him. He wants me to also tell you that it’s on urgent business.” Lucy’s hands twisted in concern; her eyes kept darting over to Abie. “I tried to tell him that this was a gathering for a funeral, which just seemed to make him madder.”
His eyes went wide, and he looked over at Rich, who was thinking of the same person he was. “Honey, you just stay right here, okay? I’ll go see who it is and get rid of them,” he told her, kissing her head and jumping out of the chair to deal with this shit quickly.
“But Davis…” she yelled, but he saw Lucy put her hand on her shoulder, saying something to soothe the situation.
Rich was right next to him as they made their way to the front door. “It couldn’t be him, bubba! What the hell would he be comin’ here for?” he growled. Davis pushed his hair out of his face. “Beats the hell out of me. But you and I both know it’s him, damn it!” he told Rich angrily.
They walked out to the front room. And there stood William Mills, in all his cockiness and arrogance. Never concerned for the people around him, just what he could get for himself. Not even an hour ago Jason Black sat here, devastated by what happened to his wife. And now here sat the man who had caused everyone’s anguish, but couldn’t care less about it.
“I can’t fucking believe you have the nerve to show your face at my home!” Davis barked at his father.
William turned to see him. “What do you expect? I’ve been trying to get hold of you for weeks now, boy. Then I just had some twit come to my office, informing me that you’re going after my wages to pay penance to Loretta Black over the ‘crimes’ I committed on her!” he yelled loudly.
Davis turned his head to look towards the kitchen, then back at his father. “I’ve been busy the last couple months, Dad, you can call me on Monday. I’ll talk to you then, but right…” he began.
“Yes, I’ve heard through the grapevine that you married that girl from Revere.” He shook his head.“You never learn, do you? You don’t marry the help, Davis, you just play with it.” He chuckled meanly, wanting to get his goat.
Rich snatched Davis’s arm, stopping him from doing something stupid. It was like William came over for that exact purpose. “Look here, ol’ man, that’s my wife. Now you need to be packin’ up your shit and headin’ out of here. My little missus will not see the son of bitch who hurt her momma in the safety of her own damn home!” he seethed. They were eye to eye when he spoke his next words. “And you’re going to pay for your crimes, Dad. I’m going to make sure you do, any way that I can. Blood be damned!”
William threw his arms in the air like Davis was crazy. “She’s dead, Davis. What the hell good does that do anybody, giving away my damn money if she’s dead!” he yelled once more.
His eyes went wide at his father’s knowledge. “You knew! You knew that Loretta passed, and yet you still came here knowing what was going on…? You really are a no-good son of a bitch!” he growled angrily at his father.
Rich swore, making his way behind him. “Abie, sweetheart…”
“Davis? What’s going on…”Abie said, then stopped dead at the sight of William in their front room. “What… Davis, what is he doing here?” she gasped, and started to hyperventilate. All color left her face at the sight of his father.
He swore under his breath, going to Abie. Damn it, she’d been through so much today, this was the last damn thing she needed. “You need to get the fuck out before I call the cops!” he yelled to the man in back of him.
When he had Abie securely in his arms, he turned to face his father. William’s face was angry red and Rich stood between them so he couldn’t move further into the house. “I’m coming to your damn office on Monday, boy. And then all this shit better be taken care of, or so help me, you don’t even want to know the damage I’m going to cause!” he roared at him, walking to the door and slamming it shut behind him.
He turned back to her and her face was still white as a sheet. Until that moment, he knew, she’d almost forgotten who his father was, how his family played such a devastating part in her life. Now with his dad’s performance, it came rushing back to her.
“Abie honey, he’s gone. He’s not comin’ back, sugar,” he promised her.
She swayed on her feet, blinking at him. “Davis, I really don’t feel so well…” she murmured, then collapsed to the ground.
“Shit!” he yelled, going over to catch her before she hit the floor, and barely managing it. He laid her down, lightly tapping her cheeks to get her to wake up. “Abie, come on honey, wake up for me. Adire, I need you to get up, sugar!” he pleaded, but she didn’t move. He looked over at Rich. “Call 911.”