Annie & Jack After Forty

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Chapter 11

Annie

“So the drop-down drawers, lock, pull out, and they pull out short, so behind them, there are hidden compartments, more cool drop hidey-holes for your Dad.” I look around the library room. “What about your Mom?” I ask. Everyday he shows me little hiding spots all over the house for him, Ben and his Dad, I don’t think I’ve seen any for his mother.

“Of course, I gave her her own hidey-holes as you call them. Come here, and I’ll show you. She has her spots all over the house that I don’t plan to tell anyone or check until long after she’s gone. I know these are obvious, but I’ll let you see.”

I follow him into his Mom’s bedroom, excited about seeing another one of his spots. His fifteen-year-old brain was working overtime, thinking of unique things for his family. I think it fascinating how his young, intelligent mind worked. I think everything about him is fascinating.

“The bench seats around the bay windows in this sitting area are fireproof safes with hidden compartments below. They can only be accessed by unlatching and removing things in a certain order. I’d never leave my Mom out, she a hell of a woman who has put up with a lot from the three of us. Her main places are in her kitchen and the outside patio where she gardens. You’ll get to meet my mom in a couple of weeks. Tell me about yours, Annie. Are you close to your mom and family?”

“My mom was killed walking home from work a long time ago.” I hate this question. It’s only human nature when people ask, but it still hurts after all these years.

“How long ago?” His voice is gentle.

“It’s been twenty-four years, almost twenty-five.”

“Christ, I’m sorry, Annie. My mom is a pain in my ass, but she keeps me on my toes. My dad was laid back like Ben; his death still pisses me off to this day; it’s hard losing a parent.”

“How did you lose your dad?” I ask him. I can see and feel his pain when he talks about his father. He talks a lot about him while he’s showing me something cool about the house.

“Seven years ago, he had a stroke; he never was the same. He lived for a year, not like himself at all, but he was here, at home, with us. He was diagnosed shortly after his stroke with lung cancer; it took him down fast; six months after the diagnosis, he was gone. He was a smoker his whole life. He loved a good strong cocktail and he liked entertaining, being around lots of people.”

“So you had a cool, laidback, gentle dad? Sounds wonderful, Jack.” My eyes fill with warmth.

“He was cool, laidback, happy, proud of his work and family. I’m thankful that I moved home and got to spend the last three years of his healthy life, spending time at home with him. He lived to meet and fall in love with Sophie. He got to enjoy Ben and me happy and passionate about our paths in life and our achievements and accomplishments.” He tries for a smile, but it looks forced.

“Make sure you count your blessings, Jack. It really does make you feel better.” I feel his pain when he talks about his dad. I know from all he’s shared with me, they were very close. I can always count on a dimpled smile from him whenever he tells me an ornery story about his father, and some stories have all been full of orneriness.

His phone rings for the second time in the last fifteen minutes. He doesn’t ignore it this time, “Excuse me, I need to get this.” He turns serious and leaves.

I sigh and look for Derek. Jack’s back to all business, and I need to get a grip on myself. I’m becoming addicted to grumpy Jack Phillips and his rare dimple smiles.

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