The next two weeks seemed to fly by. Lilly had done an obscene amount of shopping. She also had stored away items from her room, so it could be used as a guest bedroom. She boxed up pictures of her friends and then-boyfriend, and put them in the basement.
She also helped her mother paint the walls and give it a fresher look. When she closed the door that last day before heading to the airport, she was sad to see the transformation. It was like she was leaving her home for good. That saddened her. Savannah was her home, this house was her home, her parents were her home, and she was leaving them all behind.
She wished she could promise her parents to be back soon, but she honestly didn’t know what to expect with the new job. Instead, she promised to visit as often as possible.
“Lilly Pad, we want you to know how proud we are of you. You’re very independent, but not in a bad way. You will make the Texas boys cry at night, just wishing that they could be near you,” her father said through his tears.
“Oh, Dad. You are nuts. I’m not looking for a boyfriend. I want to get my career on track before I start thinking about boys, marriage or babies,” she said as she hugged her father.
Jackie joined them and said that she hoped that Lilly and Sara would get closer.
“Me too, Mom. Thankfully they are letting me stay with them while I get settled. I have to buy a car and learn my way around Houston. I’ve studied it online, but it’s not the same as driving it.” Lilly could only imagine the difference. She thought going to Alabama University was a big move. Texas was huge! Seriously, Texas was huge!
They all said their goodbyes, and her father handed her a check to help her through the first few weeks.
“Dad, I have money. I’ve been saving for years, plus I have the money from the sale of my car here.” Lilly tried giving it back, but her father wasn’t budging.
“We want to do this, Lilly,” her mother interjected. “It’s not much, but it will help you get started; maybe put a deposit down on an apartment.”
They all hugged again at the airport, and her parents promised to come down after the elections, and Lilly promised to come back for Thanksgiving or Christmas, once she knew her schedule.
When Lilly entered the plane, she let out a sigh of relief. She wasn’t sure that she was really going to be able to leave her parents behind. She had really enjoyed her stay there, but it was time to start her life. Life without her parents, life without a boyfriend, and life without a best friend. All she had waiting for her in Houston was her estranged sister and brother-in-law.
It was her brother-in-law who met her at the airport. It had been years since she had seen him. He looked tired but still attractive. He had short dark brown hair with blue eyes. No silver hair yet, but she could tell that it wouldn’t be far from frosting his temples. He looked exhausted, and she told him so.
“Thanks! I’m glad someone can see it,” he said sarcastically.
She didn’t know him well enough to know if he was teasing or serious. Deciding to ignore his comment, she inquired of her sister.
“She’s the same. Determined to have a baby no matter what it does to her body,” he said with the same tone.
“What’s it doing to her body?” Lilly was seriously worried about her sister. She didn’t even come and meet her at the airport.
“Um, let’s see, she has severe headaches, extreme mood swings, and she’s had cysts on her ovaries. She’s determined that she can do this and won’t even consider adoption. I really don’t know what to do. Any suggestions? She’s your sister,” Cole stated matter-of-factly.
“Well, I’ve not seen or spoken to her in some time, but I guess if she’s willing to undergo this, it must be extremely important.”
“And they let you graduate medical school?” he asked with a scowl.
“Well, I’m not a medical doctor, but yet they let me graduate med-school with my Veterinarian license.”
“Hope you don’t have to artificially inseminate any livestock because you will be in trouble,” he said looking at her in earnest.
Seriously, he was questioning her skills because she didn’t know about her sister’s condition? She wanted to lay into him, but remembered that they were hosting her until she got on her feet. She bit her tongue and just smiled because that’s what Southern girls did.
“Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I’m any more aware of the side-effects of fertility drugs, just incase you were wondering,” Lilly said in response. This caused Cole to laugh. She heard such emotion in his laugh. It was like he knew he was being a jerk, but she didn’t let it bother her and she gave it right back with Southern charm.
“You are right. There’s no way you would know this. It’s different anyway when handling animals. You have chosen a very difficult occupation because your clients can’t tell you what’s wrong.” Cole was trying to recover and make conversation.
“That’s true, but they can’t complain either, so I guess I will just have to be good at my job so they don’t buck me or kick me.” She laughed and was shocked when he joined her. She could tell from their initial conversation that he was uneasy but she was starting to feel that disappear.
“So, Cole, really, how bad is Sara?”
“She’s pretty bad. She has had several cysts removed and the doctors have warned her that she has greater risk of cancer, but she won’t listen. She’s had a tubal pregnancy and was so mad at me when we had to abort it. She has been withdrawn ever since. She only wants to be intimate now when it’s her ovulation cycle. Honestly, I’m doing everything I can. I just hope that having you here will help.” Cole seemed dejected and Lilly wished that she had a magic potion to help them but she didn’t think her being there was going to be much help.
“I hope so too, but please don’t get your hopes up. We’ve never been close, and then when she got married and moved, it was like we had two very different lives.”
“Well, you were like ten. That’s understandable, but surely the age difference isn’t as great now,” Cole tried to reason.
“No, not to me. She’s just thirty-three. Lord, there was a time when I thought thirty was ancient, but now it’s just right around the corner.” Lilly smiled.
Cole tried to see if there was any resemblance to Sara, but Lilly was happy and giddy about her life, whereas Sara was exhausted and miserable with hers.
They drove the rest of the way not talking about Sara. Instead they talked about their work. Cole was opening another location, not that he was excited by this, but it kept him out of Sara’s hair and that seemed to make her happy.
Cole then asked about Lilly’s job and how much she knew about it.
“Not a lot. Each year they hire one new graduate, and I got the offer this year. Of course, the main events aren’t until February- March, but until then I will be assisting with taking care of the animals and providing assistance to the FFA school programs. I am looking forward to working with future farmers.” Lilly smiled, thinking to herself.
“I’m sure you will enjoy it. So any way of getting us tickets to the performances?” Cole laughed as he said it. He wasn’t really interested in going, but just figured why not ask.
“Funny. Let me get started before I start asking for perks.”
As they continued their drive, Cole tried to explain where they were. They had left Houston Hobby Airport and were driving to Pearland. He told Lilly that from Pearland to downtown was about forty minutes depending on traffic.
“Do you know where your offices are?” Cole asked.
“Yeah, it’s not in the city, thank goodness. It’s in Alvin, I believe.”
“Oh, that’s not too far from us. It’s a lot closer than driving into the city everyday,” Cole commented.
The rest of the drive was just about non-consequential things but Lilly realized that she liked her brother-in-law after all.
When they arrived at the beautiful two-story brick house, Lilly thought it looked like all the other houses on the block. She loved that Savannah had such a diverse housing district, but all of these houses looked alike. If she didn’t jot the number down, she might accidentally approach the wrong house.
Sara opened the door, but she didn’t come to meet them. So Lilly ran up the driveway to the front door and gave her older sister a bear hug, later wishing that she had been softer with her because she seemed so fragile.
“Sara, I’m so glad to see you. It’s been forever. You look beautiful.”
“You are a liar, but thanks,” Sara said while hugging her sister back.
“Is anyone going to help me?” Cole yelled out.
Sara just turned around and entered into the house, and Lilly ran out to the car to help.
“You see? She doesn’t want anything to do with me. I hope you can reach her,” Cole said as he handed her a suitcase.
“I’ll talk with her, but I have to be gentle. She’s very weak- looking. If my mom or dad saw her, they would probably kidnap her and take her back to Savannah for some good ole Southern cooking,” Lilly stated without trying to make Cole feel uncomfortable. “Mom tells me you have kept them up-to-date on Sara’s situation. It means a lot to them.”
“I really don’t have anyone else to talk to about it. I’m so busy trying to run two clinics and then take care of Sara. I don’t have time for friends or fun. It’s just work, work, work...”
“...Makes Cole a sad boy,” Lilly laughed
“Something like that,” he said, and she watched the sadness reach his eyes. She was really upset to see this happen to them. She had always assumed that they had had the perfect marriage, but apparently that wasn’t the case.
The two walked into the house, and Sara told her that her room was upstairs on the far right.
When Lilly walked upstairs she noticed that there were several rooms upstairs, but the one on the left seemed to be occupied.
“Whose room is that?” she asked Cole.
“Mine,” he said with his head hanging down.
“What? How do you expect to get my sister pregnant if you aren’t even sleeping in the same room?”
“It wasn’t my idea, trust me. She says that I bother her with my tossing and turning and that it makes her nauseous, so one day when I was at work, I came home to find that I had been moved out of the master bedroom downstairs. I was given the nicer of the two rooms, but still I was banished from our bedroom.” It was obvious that Cole was hurt by Sara’s actions and rightly so.
“I’m sorry, Cole. I honestly had no idea, and I don’t think my parents do either.”
“And I’d like to keep it that way. I don’t want them to think that I’ve been a neglectful husband. I’ve honestly tried to help her, but she’s a fighter.”
“I have to admit, I didn’t have very high opinions of you.” Lilly admitted.
“Why? What had I done?” Cole sounded hurt.
“It wasn’t what you had done but more of what you hadn’t done. You hadn’t been to Savannah to visit my parents. You seemed aloof, in my opinion, and I thought you thought too much of yourself. I’m sorry about that,” Lilly said as she touched his forearm.
She quickly removed it because she felt a sharp burst of energy run through her body. She didn’t know if Cole felt it, but she wasn’t going to let on that there were sparks.
“Well, what else were you to think? You were just a kid.” He smiled, this time allowing it to reach his eyes. “Look, I’m going to go to bed and give you time to visit with your sister. Since you don’t start your job until Monday, I will take you tomorrow to get a car and show you how to get to your job, if you can wait until after noon.”
“That’s about the time I get up, so I guess so,” Lilly joked and said her goodnights and headed down the stairs.
“So did he tell you how horrible I am? That I am a lousy wife and can’t even get pregnant?” Sara demanded to know what they talked about, assuming that it was all negative.
“Sara, he’s concerned about you. But truth be told, he told me that after he gets off work tomorrow, he will help me find a car and a quick route to work. You will go too, won’t you?” Lilly pleaded.
“No. I don’t want to go,” Sara stated without any emotion.
“So, um, it’s obvious that you two aren’t sharing a room. What’s going on, Sara? That’s not like you,” Lilly asked.
“How would you know what is like me or not? We don’t know each other. You were a brat when I was growing up, and then you ran off to college and never came home for visits,” Sara barked.
“That’s not true, Sara. I came home every year and every summer. I am sorry that we weren’t there at the same time, but I never neglected seeing Mom and Dad.” Lilly responded.
“And you are saying I did?” Sara accused.
“No, that’s not what I’m saying. Look, it’s obvious that I got you in a bad mood, and I don’t want to argue with you. I hope you change your mind and join Cole and me on a search for my car. I have missed you, Sara,” Lilly said and reached down to hug her sister. She could feel her sister withdraw from her hug but she didn’t care. She did miss her sister and hoped that they could become friends. She was the only person she knew in Houston, except Cole and possibly Ricky, but she didn’t want to explore that last friendship.
“Goodnight, Lilly. Hope you sleep well,” Sara said without stating that she missed her too. This wasn’t lost on Lilly. She didn’t know what was wrong with Sara, but after seeing her for fifteen minutes, she could fully understand why her brother-in-law was at his wits’ ends.
Lilly went upstairs and started unpacking her suitcases. She didn’t know how long she would be staying, but from the brisk feeling she received tonight, she imagined it wouldn’t be long.
On another note, she realized that she really liked Cole. He reminded her of her father. He was the salt of the earth, helpful and caring, and it was obvious that he loved his wife, even if he didn’t particularly like her.
Lilly took a towel down and went to the bathroom to have a long shower. She didn’t even think to knock on the door; she totally forgot that she didn’t have the upstairs to herself.
When she opened the door, she saw her brother-in-law with a towel wrapped around his midsection and dripping hair on his beefy muscles. She hadn’t realized that he was so muscular and masculine. She just saw him as her sister’s husband that was ten years her senior, but tonight she saw him as a beautiful man with extremely sad eyes.
“Oh my goodness, I’m sorry,” Lilly blurted out, and ran into her room laughing. She didn’t mean to laugh, but when she got nervous, it just happened.
After Cole finished drying off and putting on his PJ bottoms, he walked toward her door and gently knocked.
Lilly pulled the covers over her head and invited him in. When Cole saw her, he just laughed. He knew she was embarrassed. So was he. But obviously neither were used to sharing a bathroom.
“Ok, so to make sure that that doesn’t happen again, we will hang a sock on the door when it is being occupied,” Cole said with sarcasm in his voice. Of course, that was the old ‘we’re busy’ signal at college, and Lilly thought it was rather humorous.
“I’m sorry, Cole. I totally forgot you were up here. I just assumed you had gone to bed,” Lilly stammered.
“I was, but I needed to shower first. It helps me unwind.”
“A glass of wine helps me unwind,” Lilly stated.
“Then follow me,” Cole instructed.
He escorted her into what would be a game room, but instead it was a small kitchenette that he used so as not to disturb his wife. In the mini-fridge were wine, cheeses, summer sausage, and of course chocolate.
“Enjoy anything you find. I usually replenish it each week. There’s also a TV in here, so you can watch movies or just relax with a good book.” Cole tried to make it less awkward, but if he had only known that him being partially undressed made Lilly feel awkward enough.
“Thanks! I might take you up on that offer.” She smiled and then said, “If you are done with the shower, I’d like to wash all the airport grime off me and get ready for bed.”
“Sure thing. By the way, how did it go with Sara?” he asked hopefully.
“Not so great. She accused me of talking behind her back and then when I told her we were talking about my job, she just seemed disinterested. When I brought up the separate bedrooms, she full out attacked me and said that I didn’t know her at all and that I was just a brat. Not a good start,” Lilly said remorsefully.
Cole took his little sister-in-law into his arms and said that it wasn’t her fault. He knew how bad Sara’s personal attacks could be, and he hated that Lilly was getting them so quickly.
Lilly pulled back, not wanting to enjoy the physical contact, and instead said that she would try again tomorrow, but for now she wanted to take a hot bath and relax her tired muscles.
They said their goodnights, and Cole’s night was one mixed with images of Lilly laughing at his jokes, being happy to be around him, and Sara was nowhere in sight. Lilly, on the other hand, her dreams were filled with Sara being hateful and Lilly running into Cole’s arms. She felt safe there but still couldn’t understand why she needed protection from her fragile sister. In either case, both didn’t have peaceful sleep.
The next morning, by the time Lilly was awake, Cole had gone to the office. She noticed that he had made his bed and kept his room very tidy. She would be inspired by this and try to do the same. She wasn’t the tidiest person. She wasn’t a slob, but she didn’t see any reason to make a bed when she was just going to get back into it later.
Sara kept a very tidy house, which Lilly assumed she picked up from their mother.
“So what is on the agenda today?” Sara asked when she saw her down the stairs.
“Um, Cole offered to take me car shopping and to show me how to get to my job. You are coming, please?” Lilly begged.
Sara smiled and said that she would be joining.
“Oh, Lilly, I’m sorry I was so ugly with you last night. I don’t know what is going on with my body,” Sara apologized.
“Cole told me that your body is being poisoned; is that true?” Lilly asked, genuinely concerned about her sister.
“I don’t know. It’s really the last hope I have if I’m going to carry a child.”
“And what if you can’t carry a child?” Lilly asked her sister if she would consider adoption.
“No. It has to be Williams’ blood. I can’t bear to have a child from a different bloodline,” Sara answered with sincerity.
“Well, if it’s God’s wish, you will have your child,” Lilly said as she wrapped her arms around her eldest sister.
“You sound like Mom.” Sara smiled and then asked how they were doing.
Lilly related the day they went to the campaign, and how their dad won over the crowd and his opponent dropped out.
“That’s amazing. Too bad neither of us wanted to go into politics,” Sara said.
“You still could, if you wanted to,” Lilly suggested. Maybe she needed a distraction.
“No, I’m meant to be a mother, and that’s what I intend on being.” Sara was determined; Lilly would give her that one.
About an hour later, they received a call from Cole asking if they were ready, which of course they were not. “We will be by the time you come home,” Sara answered.
“You are going?” he asked his wife.
“I am. Is that ok?” she asked.
“Absolutely. I’m so glad you changed your mind.” Cole promised to be there within an hour and that set the timeframe for the girls to get dressed.
“He’s happy you are going, isn’t he?” Lilly asked Sara.
“He’s a good man, Sara. You need to give him some slack. He really is trying to please you.”
“It’s like there is a part of me that knows that, but I feel unworthy, so I lash out. I don’t even realize that I do it until I see his reaction.”
“So why not invite him back into your bed?” Lilly honestly couldn’t understand how Sara could be married to him and not want to be with him every night.
“I’m not ready. We have our monthly appointments and right now, that’s all I can handle.”
“But that’s not love, Sara. That’s clinical. He loves you,” Lilly stated to Sara, deciding not to hold back from telling her what she thought.
“Well I’m not ready,” Sara said as if that was the last thing to be said on the subject.
Lilly took the hint and ran upstairs and started dressing for the afternoon. She had her checkbook for a deposit, and her letter of employment for proof of income. She didn’t know what she wanted, but figured she’d try to get the best deal possible.
In honor of her brother-in-law, she decided to make her bed. Her mother would fall over dead. She smiled.
When she came back downstairs, she overheard Sara and Cole arguing. Sara had decided not to go. She didn’t want to waste her energy on such trivial tasks.
“Sara, you aren’t coming? What happened? You were coming just an hour ago,” Lilly asked.
“It’s none of your business. Now just get out before I get angry,” she yelled at Lilly, and pushed her and Cole out of the house.
“I don’t understand,” Lilly said, fighting back her tears.
“It’s my fault. I was so happy that she was coming out that I went and hugged her and kissed her forehead,” Cole recited.
“And she started acting like that? Because of a hug and peck on the forehead? I think she’s bipolar. I actually think this is more my fault than yours,” Lilly said as she confided into him their earlier conversation.
“Lilly, I don’t know that she even loves me. I have tried but she’s really pushing me away. If it wasn’t for the fact that I don’t believe in divorce, I don’t think I’d stay. She’s mean and abusive and can say the nastiest of things to me. She doesn’t care about my feelings,” Cole stated sadly.
“Have you told my parents?” Lilly asked.
“Not all of it. Just that Sara isn’t the same person anymore, but I take blame for it. I can’t call them and tell them how much she hates me and not take ownership of it.”
“Cole, you are not at fault. I don’t know what’s going on, but I believe it is the shots.”
“The tubal pregnancy was really the final straw. She hates me for authorizing the doctors to abort the baby. I tried to explain that if she carried it any longer, she would die, but she wouldn’t listen. That’s when she moved me out and gave me monthly visitations.”
“I told her that’s not love, that’s clinical,” Lilly stated.
“And what did she say?” he asked.
“Just that she wasn’t ready. She ended the conversation and didn’t want to talk anymore. I’m sorry if I ruined this afternoon for you,” Lilly said, thinking back to their earlier conversation, when Sara was happy and seemed like her old self.
“Don’t worry about it. This isn’t the first time. Let’s see if we can find you a car,” Cole said as he headed out to Alvin, giving her directions of how to get to Alvin from his house.