I'll take option three, please.
Leony helped him. She knew what she wanted to hear, and what that one would be, and she began to feel as though on this most tragic of days that something was about to go right for her and Gregory.
She tried to help him. “Option three?”
Her head was spinning and she was almost breathless. She knew that look, but there was no way she would have dared dream what it meant until now.
This was the one she wanted to hear.
O’Leary looked up at her and she could see the uncertainty in his eyes.
“I know this is sudden for you, so you’ll have to excuse me, and the choice will always be yours, and yours alone. You owe me nothing.”
He took a deep breath and she saw how difficult it was for him to say. She was surprised to recognize how shy and tongue-tied he had suddenly become.
“My wife… died two years ago, and I’m bringing up a son, like Gregory here, but he’s only twelve. We moved into a small cottage near the main house, as I couldn’t live in that large place by myself, not after….”
She blushed and listened, knowing what was coming, and feeling a sudden glow of warmth within her.
“I accept.” She hadn’t even let him finish.
“But…” He had been thrown off stride for a moment.
“I need a woman around the place.”
He could almost not meet her eyes, and hastened to clarify what he meant, but he was clear enough to Leony. There was a lot more he wasn’t saying.
“I need a housekeeper. Someone to look after my son and me. And your own.” She was smiling at him. But did she really understand?
“I’ll see you settled into The Outpost for a few days before you need to make up your mind, and give you some time to think it out for yourself, and decide what it is that you want to do.”
He didn’t have to tell her that people would talk. They would talk anyway. It was what they did in a small town like Harmony.
She saw what she had seen in his face many times when he had intervened for her, and sat with her to console her when she had made tea for him as they had sat outside of her trailer and talked. She’d been careful not to give the neighbors anything to gossip about by inviting him in, but he would not have gone inside anyway, and not with her being alone.
She had never consciously seen behind that look, into the inner man, as she did now. It was hard for her to believe, but she accepted what she could see.
He had loved her for herself, even when she had been trapped in marriage, and now that she wasn’t, he could speak out at last. She saw the desperate urgency in his request and concern for her. Her future had suddenly opened up again as it once had been.
“I don’t need time, and we don’t need to stay at that motel. I accept the third option. And I don’t feel either coerced or trapped.”
He was surprised by the suddenness and force of that response.
“But you do not know, you cannot know…”
“I do know, and I accept. I shall be honored to make a home for you and your son.”
“And for your own son.”
He began to relax. He hoped she had not felt pressured with these potential charges and difficult confessions hanging in the air.
“You shall want for nothing, Leony. I think you know how….” She knew.
“You know I’m not good at hiding my feelings from you since my wife died.” He hoped he wasn’t scaring her.
Indeed yes, she had seen the evidence of O’Leary’s protective feelings for her on her husband’s face the night O’Leary had picked him up from work that one day, and delivered him home in a senseless state an hour later.
He had not spoken of those feelings for her before, even though she had seen them in his eyes, and the way he treated her, always with tenderness and respect.
The death of his wife had left a void that no woman would ever fill, and yet here she was being offered everything, and the chance to walk into his life.
“I shall adopt your son, if you and he will allow me.” He was surely moving too fast, but she did not seem to think so.
“I told you I accept, Rupert. Everything. And so does Gregory”
Gregory was not about to refuse anything that made his mother so obviously happy, but why would O’Leary do this for him after what he had done, and with O’Leary knowing what he had done?
That was the first time she had ever used O’Leary’s first name.
“I will make a home for you. You shall want for nothing in return.”
The way she was smiling at him with such gratitude and even a returning of his love in her own eyes, he could not speak for some moments, scarce believing that it would work out so well for all of them.
“How do you feel about that, son? Gregory?”
The Sheriff was asking him? He was looking at him. No one had ever asked his opinion before, and he had anticipated hell; even to spending the rest of his life in ‘juvy’, or jail, not this.
He was close to tears, scarce able to believe what was happening. Surely it wouldn’t be this easy.
“I like it fine, sir. If it makes Mom happy, then it will make me happy.” And at least no one would be going to jail.
“Good. You and I will talk, tonight, and sort a few things out.”
“Glad we got that out of the way.” He was more than just relieved.
“I’ll drive you over to the house. It’s still clean and kept up, and is ready to live in. We could walk, but those cases are heavy, and I’ll show you around your new home. Our home, and introduce you to my son, when he returns from his aunt; my sister.”
He drove them to a home he had grown to love, and just as quickly had grown unable to be in, with all of the lost feelings contained within it. Feelings; good ones, could surface again now to displace those years of pain and unhappiness. They’d all go shopping that evening and stock up on food and other things the four of them would need. He’d eat better than he had for two years now. Leony was a good cook. No more of that motel food.
He’d marry Leony in another year, if she’d have him, after the village had got used to the new arrangement in his life. He had the feeling, or more... hoped, that Leony would not be too long to see all of the possibilities for her, now that she had seen his unmistakable feelings for her, and he would welcome her, and love her just as he had the only other woman he had ever loved.
That Rollins idiot had thrown away the best woman in this village, and had never appreciated her as O’Leary now would.
He drove away soon after that for his meeting with the doctor.
There were no complications with the doctor agreeing on the likely cause of death, without seeing into Rollins’s mind.
He and the sheriff had worked together before, and each respected the other’s professionalism and thoroughness. Cause of death? Suicide. Rollins had a long list of documented mental issues and problems.
Muldoons came over after that, after dark, to remove the body as the neighbor’s watched behind their windows.
Cremation would be early the next morning.
Rollins would be a minor footnote in the village chronicle that was published once each week, and after the only birth that week, and no marriages.
As promised, O’Leary sat with Gregory, later that evening as his mother prepared them dinner.
Gregory hadn’t needed to confess anything. O’Leary already knew. He did most of the talking, telling Gregory some of his own difficult history; so much like his own.
O’Leary had told him what he needed to know to get over this feeling of guilt that he would carry around with him for some time, perhaps even for the rest of his life, though Gregory felt no feeling of guilt just yet. He’d learned things about O’Leary he’d never known too.
After asking permission, he’d asked about various things he’d seen around the house that few might ever know about. A Marine Corp uniform, various medals, a saber, old hunting rifles... locked away, and other interesting things that told him much more about this man than he had ever known; …than anyone had ever known, not even O’Leary’s own son, just yet.
Gregory had fallen asleep with dreams of his future blossoming in his mind, even as his mother had left him in his own room that night. He was no longer burdened, worrying about this dreadful thing that he had done.
Despite it being known, what he had done, he was safe, and his mother was safe and he would learn to live with what he had done. For the first time, he knew what a loving home felt like. He also knew that he needed to finish school, that he would apply to enter the Marine Corp, and would follow in O’Leary’s footsteps, if he could.
O’Leary’s own son had decided to spend another night at his aunt’s home, so he and Leony had sat together, both of them feeling tired, and happy beyond belief.
To O’Leary’s surprise and gratitude, Leony had come to him, shyly at first, almost as soon as they had all retired and she had been welcomed into his arms with nothing being said at first.
She had needed to talk and to unburden herself of years of frustration.
O’Leary understood, and had welcomed her, offering to get up and to make her another coffee, but she had stopped him. She knew where she most needed to be.
She had lain in his arms, and cried as he had comforted her, stroking her head tenderly and kissing her on her brow. They had talked the night through, as they had held each other close, making their plans; simple plans at first. She was not long confessing her own long cherished dreams involving him, but she had said nothing to anyone while her husband had been alive.
His heart sang.
Her husband had wanted nothing to do with her after the first year of their marriage, and had found solace in the arms of a woman at work. She had not understood it, but had been forced to accept it.
Early that following morning she had looked up into O’Leary’s face and suggested that he should make love to her now.
They had also kissed properly for the first time.
She could still have children, and wanted to bear one or two more, if she still could, and to hell with what anyone else might think or say. She’d talk to Rupert about that too, over the next few days.
He had known such pleasure with his first wife as he also felt with this woman, making love to her, and he gave her similar fulfillment in turn. They had found each other. Soul mates.
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