Turning down the driveway to the trailer park where my parents lived made me nervous. I was taking her with me to meet them. The difference in how we grew up would be apparent with mine living in a trailer park and her growing up having luxuries I could only dream of.
What would she think of them, or me? Things worked differently in Iowa. I grew up in a community of blue-collar workers — scratch that. The term would be more brown color workers as I remembered vividly all the times my father would come home sweaty and dirty from the day’s work. Not at all like her parents.
Hoping for the best, I parked the car in the lot driveway. Their trailer was old but far from rundown. My father was handy. He couldn’t do a lot of the physical labor anymore with his chronic back pain, but he was too proud to let the trailer fall into disrepair like most of our neighbors.
She smiled excitedly before she gave me a quick kiss and bolted out the door. “Rea...” I didn’t have a clue what I was going to say but I thought I should at least warn her. Warn her that we weren’t in the suburbs of some fancy neighborhood in New Hampshire.
She waited for me outside of the car grinning and waving for me to join her. I wanted to impress her in the worst way, and this was not the way to do it. Slowly I exited the vehicle and made my way over to her feigning bravado despite my anxiety. The smile on her lips stayed as she dragged me to the door.
The light knock alerted to my arrival and the door opened wide in front of me. My mother all but attacked me in a huge embrace. “Logan! C’mon over and give your mother a hug.” It was hard not to notice the tears in her eyes, “It is almost as if I haven’t seen you in ages. What is it going to be like when you go into the army?” Her tears ended up producing a damp look on Rea’s eyes too and I had to shake my head. Rea had such a tender heart she couldn’t stand anyone else feeling sad.
“Thad, our son is home.” She called to dad and then finally seemed to notice I wasn’t alone. “And he brought a girl with him.” It seemed to be the ticket that finally aroused my dad into coming to the door, and they both stood side by side gawking. My embarrassment evident on my face, but Rea smirked at clearly enjoying my discomfort.
“Logan, where are your manners son?” my dad quipped.
I sighed and brought my hand around to Rea’s back. Just the simple touch made my pulse quicken. “Mom, Dad, this is Rebecca. Rebecca these are my parents.” Not a perfect introduction but I knew it was just a formality.
“So nice to meet both of you. Logan has told me so much; I feel like I already know you.” Rea politely shook both of their hands from the doorway.
“Well, my goodness aren’t you a pretty one. Come on in and let me get to know you a little better.” My mother hit me with the dishtowel in her hand, “Why didn’t you let me know you were bringing a girl home with you? I would have brought one of Mae’s pies from the diner.”
I chuckled, “Aren’t I a good enough reason to get one of her pies?”
She looked over her shoulder at me as she hustled Rea in, “No.” Rea burst into laughter as my mother took her by the arm and brought her to the living room couch. Leaning in close to her ear she didn’t lower her voice enough, not caring in the least if I heard her, “Men. Don’t let them know how much you miss them. They use that knowledge over us all the time. Crafty.” Rea emitted another round of laughter and my embarrassment faded. Oh how I loved to hear her laugh, even at my expense.
Not having been home since before the tour started over a full year ago, it looked as if the years were weighing heavy on my parents. My dad returned to his seat stifling a grimace telling me his back was ‘acting up’, a sign the warm weather was about to change.
My mother still looked lovely, but she to winced through a tinge of pain herself while sitting. Her waitressing job took its toll on her too after all those years on her feet. Looking at her always reminded me of my sister. She had the same sandy brown hair, although grayer now. Where I had my mom’s blue eyes, my sister had my father’s green hazel ones, but the facial features were the same. Both shared the same snub nose and the high cheekbones. It had been two years since she passed, and the trailer just didn’t seem the same without her. I wondered if it was why it took me so long to return, the feel of her gone too overwhelming. And I would’ve stayed away longer if I didn’t have the enrollment in the army looming above me, but even the memories of Kat couldn’t keep me from giving my parents a proper farewell before I enlisted and they lost me to the armed services.
“Sit down Rebecca and tell me about yourself.” When she lowered to the old, worn couch I winced knowing she probably bottomed out on the flat cushions.
Instead, Rea turned her attention to my mother not seeming to notice. “You can call me Rea. All my friends do.”
My mother smiled a truly radiant smile. One I hadn’t seen in a while. “Well then, you can call me Iris. And that hunk of man over there is Thad.” She motioned to dad and I just shook my head as he primped up like a peacock making me stifle a groan.
“Well don’t just stand there by the door letting all the flies in. Come on over so I can hear how the two of you met.” My face stunned at her request. We didn’t talk about what we would say to my parents. What would she be comfortable with? Did I already blow it just by bringing her here?
“I think you know my brother Brandt.” Rea took the lead.
My mother’s eyes lit up. “Your Brandt’s sister? Thad. Thad. Did you hear that? Brandt’s sister is in our living room.”
My father took time from channel surfing on the television to look in her direction. “You’re Brandt’s sister? Well, I’ll be. He helped us a while back that boy. Nice man.”
Rea’s smile widened, “Yeah, that is my brother.” She didn’t seem put out in the least with their intrusion, and I felt a sense of relief.
Honestly, she didn’t seem put out with anything as we spent the afternoon discussing flea market finds with my mother garnering the occasional nod and grunt from my dad, which in itself was truly amazing. She didn’t seem to mind in the least we were not at the Ritz in the lap of luxury, and even insisted on helping my mother with the dishes impressing me with her ability to fit in so well with my family.
After supper, we went out to the back yard before the mosquitoes made sitting outside a misery. A small fire pit in the back of the boxed-in yard soon set the night ablaze as we sat and discussed more about ourselves. My parents insisted on taking the picnic table and giving us their only two decent lawn chairs.
The talk soon turned to stories of me as a kid, as well as mentioning my sister, provoking a solemn atmosphere, although Rea didn’t shy away from helping the situation. “Logan told me that Kat had diabetes like my brother.”
“Yes, the poor little girl just couldn’t keep up to the rest of the world.” My mother’s eyes were shiny in the light of the fire.
Rea teared up as well. “I am so sorry for your loss. Logan talks so fondly of her I wish I could have met her.”
My mother dried her eyes with her coat sleeve, and exclaimed, “God just needed another angel up in heaven.”
Rea nodded and then surprised me by saying, “Well, you did a wonderful job raising this big guy.” She jabbed me in the ribs leaning into me and I put my arm around her as if it was my only natural reaction. “He helped me so much this summer. Without him, I swear my brother’s twins would have buried me in dirty diapers and creamed peas.”
My mother laughed and reached out to grab my hand, giving it a little squeeze. “My Logan was always good with kids. Practically raised Kat all by himself. He will be a great father one day.”
Rea visibly deflated after my mother’s remark. It made me remember the conversation of her saying she never wanted kids. It shouldn’t matter to me, but somehow it did. We haven’t defined what we were to each other, so I shouldn’t be thinking of a future with her in it. What was going on between us? I wanted more, craved more but really what could happen in the next three weeks? She was leaving for Seattle, or at the very least New Hampshire, and I was off to basic training and hopefully traveling Europe after. This was my plan, my dream, and I was finally going after a career I longed forever for. Why should this give me second thoughts?
“Logan will be the best father someday.” She said it in a low voice and although I could physically feel her hesitation, I didn’t know what to make of it. “That is when he gets out of the army and becomes a police officer, right?” Rea looked at me and her big brown eyes danced in the firelight not alluding to her current thoughts on the matter. The light wind blew at her hair resting in long layers around her face and shoulders, and she looked so beautiful making me feel so lucky she was mine.
But, was she?
This was just a fling. A late summer romance not meant to last. What could she see in me? I didn’t have money or fame. Hell, I didn’t even have a job after this next month. My ass would be the property of Uncle Sam, and she would be...
In the arms of someone else.
Tearing her eyes from mine, she turned back to my mother, “Tell me more about Kat?” With a flair only Rea could possess, she turned a somber moment into a way of lightening the mood with her radiance.
My mother beamed, “Oh her real name wasn’t Kat, it was Katalina.”
Rea turned to me, smiling and grabbing my hand, ”Katalina is a beautiful name. I love that name.” She said it with such intensity I knew she was being honest. Turning back to my mother she asked, “How did you pick that name? Did it have anything to do with the Catalina Islands?”
Referencing the island south of California was a common mistake, but before I could correct her, my dad chimed in with his age-old joke, “No it was because of the dressing. Her mother always loved a good salad.”
A deep chuckle erupted from her as she gripped my hand harder, squeezing and looking at me with a look of amusement on her face so jubilant it almost shone brighter than our campfire. I couldn’t believe she actually laughed at my parent’s dumb joke.
Rea surprised me more than once today. Really, if I thought about it honestly, she surprised me this whole summer. She was beautiful, amazing, kind, generous, smart, and overall wonderful. And unfortunately, I was falling in love.