‘I can’t believe it! I am almost home!’ she thought to herself, bouncing her leg excitedly in her seat to keep from clapping her hands like a toddler. Home, her real home, was in South Florida where she was born and raised, not Maryland where she had lived for the last 18 years. The plane was almost ready to touch down and she could begin the next chapter of her life.
Trevor, her recently graduated-very smart and very handsome son, was off on a trip with his three best friends before they all left for college. Pops had convinced her to return now instead of in late August when she had originally planned.
“Why wait another almost three months? What are you waiting for? Trevor will be gone most of the time on trips and nonsense. Come now and get settled for the summer,” he reasoned.
Always the voice of reason, her Pops was. Emma loved that man with all her heart and couldn’t imagine a life without him. Pops was her only parent, well grandparent since her own parents and grandmother were killed in a car accident when she was six. Pops took her on in the midst of losing his wife, son and daughter in law and raised her. From that day forward it was her and Pops, their little family.
He was everything she could have asked for in a caregiver. He taught her to boat, swim, helped her learn to cook, how to defend herself, helped with homework and grilled any boy that dared come to take her on a date. He even asked the neighbor, who had twin daughters the exact same age as Emma, how to do hair too. Sylvia came over every day that summer to teach Pops all kinds of different things to do with hair. He actually became very good at it.
Emma chuckled as she remembered the first few days that Sylvia came over with Lydia and Jenna for the hair lessons. That was when Emma and the twins became best friends and were joined at the hip from that point on.
Sylvia and Rich DeMarco, who were already friends with Pops before the accident, and become a second family to Emma. Even Jenna and Lydia’s older brother Ben treated her the same as he did his sisters. Ben’s best friend was Lukas Reynolds. Luke’s family lived 2 blocks away, and they became very close, all five of them. The three families were together all the time and all the kids grew up together.
Emma smiled to herself as she thought of all the pool parties, campouts, sleepovers, cookouts and birthdays they all were together for over the years. They had the best time together, laughing, teasing each other, relaxing and just living. Living was hard for Emma that first year, but these people made her life worth living.
Her new family mainly came to Pops’ house as they got older. His beautiful large house was on the Intercoastal Waterway and the three families used his dock to launch their water toys from. They all lived in the same upscale Palm Beach neighborhood, but Pops had the coveted water access. And boy how the families loved to boat! The men were always fishing and the ladies were always swimming, snorkeling or sunbathing. The pictures and memories were endless from those days.
Luke’s grandfather, John was very close with Pops, in life and in business. They shared a love of collecting war memorabilia and shared that with Luke. Ben wasn’t interested, but Luke would sit and listen to the two men talk for hours. So it didn’t surprise anyone when right after graduation Luke joined the Marines. No one was surprised when he made it to the Special Forces a few years after either. Pops, John and Rich went with Luke’s parents and sisters for the special ceremony when he joined the Raiders/MARSOC in California.
Emma was jolted from her trip down memory lane when the captain came on and told them they were on final descent. Her stomach was full of butterflies to land and be with Pops. He helped her pack up her art studio and ship it down when he flew out for Trevor’s graduation. She finished packing up her clothes, mementos and other things she wanted to keep, selling the rest. She debated on keeping the condo she purchased after her divorce, but she wasn’t coming back to Maryland for anything and sold it for a nice profit.
While it was a nice condo that served her and Trevor’s needs, it never felt like home to her. Home was in Palm Beach and she was seconds away from touching down. Thank you God! She was almost giddy with excitement. Pops already had reservations at their favorite restaurant tonight for dinner and she had plans to go out with Lydia, Jenna and Ben and their spouses at Ben’s club on the beach.
She was so excited to wear silk, linen and other soft materials and bright colors again. No more winter coats and boots! Emma was always cold and Nor’easters and wind chill factors were NOT conducive to a person who grew up in the heat all her life. Why her sweet son chose Cornell University in New York was perplexing to her. Too damn cold!
She felt the wheels touch down and taxi to the gate. She impatiently waited until they reached the gate, grabbed her carry on and purse and bolted from the plane. She was one of the first off the plane, being in first class and all but ran to the waiting area to see Pops standing there waiting for her. She saw him waiting there straight and tall with his thick silver hair, tanned skin and lean build in his navy short and light blue polo shirt. For being 82, he was in amazing shape and only looked like he was in his early 60’s. Plus his mind was still as sharp as it was when he was in his 30’s, never letting anything get past him.
She rushed into his arms as he smiled widely.
“Angel! Welcome home!!”
“Oh Pops! I am so glad to be here!”
He kissed her forehead as he held her for a few moments. She inhaled deeply to smell his familiar cologne and shampoo. Pops asked how Trevor was enjoying his trip so far with his friends as they walked to the luggage pick up. They had booked a two week trip through the Caribbean and left three days ago. She had only gotten a few text messages from him saying he arrived and the hotel was nice.
“Pops, I told him to be careful and not get any girls pregnant! And to remember not to drink since he isn’t old enough.”
He started laughing so hard that he had tears in his eyes and moved them to the side so people could pass by them.
“Oh Angel! I love that you said that! You really don’t know 18 year old men, do you? Not drink? Really? Honey, they are on islands where rum flows faster than water. Do you honestly think they are going to drink coke and lemonade when they are out on the beach or in a club? I just hope that he doesn’t get a gift that keeps on giving or needs a major dose of antibiotics. I told him as much when I talked to him yesterday.”
“He talked to you? When? He won’t answer my calls!”
Chuckling, “Angel, of course he took my call, I don’t nag about not drinking. I told him to put on a raincoat and not to drink so much that he blacks out. And I told him that I put some money in his account for them to go on some adventures. He told me some of the stuff they wanted to do at graduation, so I told them to live it up.”
“Oh Pops, is it dangerous?”
“Emma Celine Stoltman! STOP! He is an 18 year old man! You have no say, Sweetie. He will be just fine. They all will.”
Pops looked at her and saw she didn’t quite believe his words.
“Plus I hired a man to keep an eye on them while they are down there.”
She looked at him and grinned as he shrugged, “He’s my only great grandchild. Plus I remember being 18! I am not going senile.”
They continued on to collect her luggage, arm in arm. She only brought two suitcases with her and shipped the rest. Emma got a luggage cart as Pops pulled her bags off the conveyor belt. They walked together to where he had parked earlier. Emma was looking all over for his Cadillac SUV and was shocked when he stopped in front of a silver colored Mercedes SUV. Emma raised her eyebrows as he unlocked the very expensive vehicle.
“What? I can buy a new car when I want one,” he looked at his granddaughter, his eyes filled with defiance and mischief.
“I never said that you couldn’t. But isn’t this like over $100,000? I am pretty sure I have heard Trevor talk about these G wagon things.”
“Yep! I decided to treat myself.”
She kissed his cheek, shaking her head and helped put the bags in the back. They climbed in, put on their sunglasses and drove home.