A Short Story
by Cobus Vermeulen
HRISTMAS isn’t always the best of holiday seasons for everybody. This was one of the problems facing Steven. He drove home for a few days over the holiday. There wasn’t any other family he could visit with, so he was stuck with them.
‘Why haven’t you gotten together with a nice young woman by now?’
He heard his annoying mother ask, many times before, hearing it whenever he walked through the door – this, without even a hello first.
Just like the other things she would say. His Jeep was nice, though not new, still he enjoyed the ride.
‘You know that you should buy yourself one of those nice black ones. Martha told me that her son bought one and only a month later, he got married! Imagine that.’
As he drove up to the turnpike, he knew that there was no way he could choose not to go through with it now. He just had to go home.
‘You don’t call so much anymore dear. Why is that?’ she would ask the third question, he remembered from the last visit.
‘Because; I moved a thousand miles away from you, so I can get some peace and quiet! Everyone’s so damn scared of telling you, what you should have heard a long time ago!’
He thought of telling her once, but like the rest of them, he too backed down from telling her what was on his mind.
As a matter of fact, the ‘pot’ on the one who would tell her straight, was almost five thousand dollars this Christmas. Everyone knew that none of them would ever tell her, without them crumbling at her reaction.
The last two hundred miles to go, lay before him. There was only one place he always frequented on his way home. Here, he would be swallowed up by the past, hiding there for as long as he could, holding onto his sanity – a small motel which served the best steak he’d ever tasted.
Then just as the sun would rise, he would literally sit on the roof or the platform in the biggest tree closest to his room, looking at the mist and the sun. He could sit there, enjoying the sight, while the sun broke through, a true sight to behold. A certain kind of peace existed there that he could enjoy. The fact he owned the place, for the last five years was also a significant factor in feeling good about the place.
Fortunately, this was something none of his family would ever know about.
Two days of hiding out there and he took off again.
The last part of this drive would probably drive him crazy. Crazy Uncle Pete would also be there – ‘John, why don’t you ever come visit me, your own father?’
Olé Pete would always give him such trouble throughout the visit, mistaking him for Pete’s dead son.
Luckily for him, they decided not to let Uncle Pete stay over more than one day this time.
“At least that’s what they said last year. I just hope that they would keep to their plan.” he said softly, keeping a close eye on the road; “I have a funny feeling that this year, is going to be a very different one.” Steven smiled broadly, driving along the mountainous road.
There was nothing like being back in the country. He could see the clear blue sky and remember all the things they’d gotten up to as children.
“We were in such trouble more often than not.” flashing his last smile, before the rest of the welcoming committee got ahold of him.
‘I really don’t see why the doctors cannot help you with your infertility or whatever it is. These days, they can do anything! Why can’t they get your sperm up to speed, keeping one of those women happy?’
They all would start to talk about the most ‘interesting’ subjects of the entire holiday out in the open, of all places.
“Bless all my children and then also in particular poor Steven,” Mom would pray for him, while everyone else would pray for her to stop; “We really hope that you will give him the opportunity to meet a woman who would be good to him, seeing that he’s impotent because of the motorcycle accident; at eight years old. He’s a good man and would love not to be alone for the rest of his life… amen.”
Right about then, Steven would reach his limit. He would make every kind of plan to get himself out of the local picnic. Not that the plan would work?
The Annual Town Festival.
‘Mother would always look there, seeing if she could hook me up with a woman. No matter if I could have children or not!’ Steven fought back the tears of anger.
“This holiday is going to be one for the books!”
BY midday, Steven drove through the open gates. A few horses were running, and he saw a few new ones he didn’t recognize. The sun was baking down on the valley and with the rain over the weekend, made the plants and animals looked more alive.
The farm looks more vibrant than what he’d seen it in such a long time.
“He’s here!” Melanie, Steven’s younger sister, shouted from the foyer.
“At least there is someone here now, which Mom can really sink her teeth into!” Bob his oldest brother shouted, only loud enough so that his mother, Emily, wouldn’t hear.
“You two are terrible, we’ve been interrogated more that you have. So, I need to thank my little brother for arriving at last!” Veronica stopped by the door before either of them got to it.
They heard the Jeep pull up and then they waited with great anticipation.
“Maybe he decided to bring a woman along this time; there might be someone to help,” Melanie wanted to say, but then felt Emily grab hold of her.
“Do you know something; that the rest of us don’t know about?” Emily asked.
“I just hoped that we might meet the last woman he was on a date with; you know like that eccentric artistic woman… the poet or something?” she blurted out as if covering for something.
They stood there, each with their own plan in mind. None of them were ever as good a mark, for her to grab onto and criticize, as Steven was.
For one thing; nothing any, one doctor could have told him, would have helped him to have children.
None of them had their insecurities discussed, throughout the town’s region like Steven had. They desperately needed her off their backs and so, the best possible way to do that, Steven having arrived.
The doorbell rang. Every one of them jumped, seeing that none of them had been paying attention as he walked up to the front door.
“Well, is anyone going to open the door?” Emily, as anxious as the rest, asked the other three siblings.
They all just stared at her.
“Isn’t it your house?” Melanie asked when the doorbell rang again.
Andrew walked out of his study, glared at the four in the foyer.
“Open the damn door!” he shouted, looking really annoyed with them.
Emily opened the door at last and studied her youngest son.
Steven indeed looked different with the beard going, though it wasn’t a full beard. He stood there in a pair of brown slacks and a white shirt with a black jacket on. His hair had been growing for some time, and he appeared to look healthier than any other time she’d seen him.
“Well, hello stranger!” Emily shouted and walked out, grabbing him for a hug with her eyes closed.
Most likely, she was praying that he would sometime soon bring home a woman, so she could start to plan her youngest son’s wedding.
She stood back, while every one of them in succession, came forward to greet him. They walked into the house; only then realizing he was still standing outside on the steps.
“What’s wrong Steven?” Emily asked, walking back toward the front door.
“Well, I really don’t know how I should say this,” he told them, “There’s something…” he faltered, “I know that you don’t, I know none of you would figure this one out and so,” he didn’t seem to be making any kind of sense.
Steven smiled broadly and stepped to the side.
There she stood, a little girl who hid in the shadow of her father. She was shorter than him, but then considering the fact that she was only ten, it was an acceptable height. She looked well dressed and had pitch black hair like he did. She also had his eyes and probably the beauty of her mother.
Everyone stood motionless, not one said a word. They had no idea what was going on. They all gaped at the child.
“Hello, who might you be?” Andrew asked, coming out first, to see what was going on.
Steven moved back to her, taking her hand and walking toward the group. Knowing that his father would be the first to greet her.
“She’s your granddaughter.”
“Yes, I can see the resemblance. So then, I’m your grandfather, and it’s mighty nice to meet you. But then, what name goes with this beautiful young woman, I see before me?” he asked, getting her to smile at the same time.
“My name is Samantha, Sam for short,” she answered, not seeming to be the least bit worried about any of them.
Steven did tell her they’d be blown away by her and of how they were a little crazy too.
“Well then, you and your father come in and let’s get the two of you settled!” Andrew said, getting the wheels rolling.
As soon as they stepped through the door, the rest of the family moved forward to greet her. All the aunts and uncles and the rest of the siblings were friendly and excited. There seemed to be only one child in the house who even remotely looked to be her age, but then, the almost ten-year-old ended up being a boy.
While Andrew walked Sam into the big house, the rest got a hold of Steven.
“What the hell is going on? Aren’t you gay?” his mother asked him, seeing that Sam was well out of earshot.
“What do you mean… gay?” he asked, feeling stunned.
“Do you really think that I’ve been telling those women in town how my boy can’t have children and most of them came out with the gay thing all on their own.” she explained.
“Yes, rather than telling them that I’m perfectly straight. No, you just had to change what was wrong with me to suit what you wanted. No wonder in the last eight years, none of those women ever called me back!” he told her, sounding really irritated.
“You mean to tell me, you would have dated anyone of them? If so, just maybe I would have known about her a while ago?” Emily asked, looking flabbergasted.
The rest just stood there and listened to what was said, not really sure where this new spunk in Steven came from.
“Have you ever stopped and listened to yourself? Have you got any idea what’s been going on around you?” he asked her, looking very calm and content.
“I really don’t know what you’re talking about? What has gotten into you?” she asked while walking away.
The rest stared at her and then back at him, not one of them wanted to get into it there and then, but curiosity would always kill the cat, eventually.
Steven walked out of the house to get the luggage and knew they would follow. With enough hands there, he roped them into helping to get the Jeep offloaded.
“How long have you known about her?” Melanie asked.
“To be honest with you, only a week.” he answered, once again, blowing them out of the water.
“Are you sure that she’s yours?” Veronica asked. “You know, women usually know who the father of their child is, but when they see a man good enough, they might claim almost anything!” she had to get it out.
“The DNA test confirms it, as well as the paperwork the welfare had of her mother. On it, she wrote my name as the father. That’s enough for me.” he defended with little worry.
“So, you are a father, after all?” Bob asked, smiling.
“There once was a hole in my soul, well maybe it’s still there, but now, she’s here, and it feels good.” Steven explained, smiling all the way back to the house.
IN the study, Sam stood by the window, looking outside. Andrew walked in.
“You really don’t have to worry; I know my son. I can see that he’s thrilled that you’re here.”
“I’m still getting use to the idea, but I do think that his mother was completely blown out of her comfort zone. I had the feeling that this holiday would be a difficult one.” she told him.
“Don’t worry too much, before you get to the end of the holiday, you’ll see that she will have come around already.”
The two of them then stood quietly at the window.
Just then, her three aunts walked into the room and stared at the pair.
“Grandpa,” Alice spoke up happily, “We need to speak with her, could you give us some time?”
“You see what I told you?” he gave her a wink.
“Hello, how are you?” one of them asked.
“I’m good, thank you, and how about you?”
“We’re delighted that you are here.” Melanie volunteered, as each of them moved closer to her, hugging her one by one.
This got the tears rolling, and they sat down, having a long hearty girl talk. When night drew closer, they came out of the room, bringing the lunch-tray with them. Earlier, Steven had very carefully walked in there to serve them the midday meal.
THE day before Christmas, neither Emily nor Steven had spoken to each other, both of them wasn’t about to give up on their position and not about to say sorry for their beliefs either.
“Why are they so angry at each other?” Sam asked.
Everyone stared at her. It was highly possible all of them weren’t really sure if the family was ready for a person who spoke the absolute truth or asked honest questions.
“What did your father tell you about Grandma?” Melanie asked her.
Although the rest of them probably didn’t want this conversation to even happen, none of them stopped it either.
“He told me every one of you made fun of him because he couldn’t have children,” she repeated his words, her very presence disputing this fact; “That’s why I’m his resident miracle. The best doctors told him, there was a one in a million chance that he would ever become a father. Then, about how his mother would be shocked, mostly at how he wasn’t going to take any nonsense from anyone, unnecessarily, because he intends to protect me.” her tone then became uncertain, “I think, it’s only now that she realized, he’s as strong-willed as she is. The only thing is, I’m the one who caused everything. That’s maybe the reason why she doesn’t want either of us here now.”
Without anyone knowing, Emily stood in the doorway with Steven just behind her.
Everyone saw this, feeling more than just a little bit wary of what was to come. They cleared the kitchen fast.
Sam sat amazed at their sudden, abrupt departure as if they’d seen a ghost or something. She turned around and saw the two of them in the doorway.
“I know that I don’t have a lot of time left, so if you want to come for a wee bit of a chat, with me – that is if you don’t mind?” Emily asked her, looking at Steven.
She then turned and walked away.
“Are you mad at me?” Sam asked Steven.
“Honey, I can’t be mad at you when you want to understand what you see. But if you don’t go speak to Grandma, and listen, giving her a chance at least, that wouldn’t be nice. We’ll talk later, not to worry.”
For her, not ever knowing him before this, getting her first hug from her father here and now was the best medicine any doctor could have prescribed. She was in his arms within a flash and held on to him with all her might.
They stood there for some time…
“Now, go to Grandma and be nice, I know you don’t know her that well, but if you give her a chance you’ll see it could be worth your while.” he told her, smiling broadly.
“Is it worthwhile for you?”
“Everything up until now was great, very much including you, for a definite fact.” he grinned and let her go, finding that it would become one of the hardest things he would have ever to do on a daily basis.
Sam walked to the big lounge and saw Emily sitting by the fire. “May I come in?”
“Yes, please dear.”
Carefully and feeling unsure, Sam went into the big room, heading to the big chair and sat on it.
Luckily, she didn’t have to get the conversation going, as soon as she sat down, Emily started to speak, “You know Steven will be a good father to you, he’s not like me, only when he gets agitated does he show it, I realized just recently. But you must understand that no one here hates you, nor would we ever dream of it or to not have you here for any holiday. I just didn’t know what was happening when I saw you and him standing outside the house like that. I was immediately unsure of what was going on. You must have felt the same way when you first met him, and you were probably dumbstruck by the event, like the rest of us, were at seeing you for the first time?”
“That’s true, I think the only person who was really happy about the news from step one, was Daddy.” she agreed, happy with the thought and the sound the word made over her lips.
“Tell me, how was it that you and Steven’s paths crossed in the end?”
“Didn’t my father tell you anything about me before this?”
“We didn’t really talk about you, he spoke to me about how I’m reacting toward the rest and how I should focus on my own life, leaving the rest to live theirs.” she answered as if hoping that sharing this would help Sam to open up as well.
For some time, they both stared into the fire with nothing said.
“My mother was involved in a car accident. I was at school when the news came to me. The Headmaster had to give me the news, we didn’t know of anyone else who would be there for me.” her voice faded away as she paused.
With this, Emily reached over and took hold of Sam’s hand as they sat there in the lingering night.
Sam finally spoke again, “When the welfare came to my other Grandparents. They didn’t want to have anything to do with me. Mom didn’t know if my dad ever wanted to have children, she was the first and last woman he ever brought here, I later found out from him. This is where their plans died as well. Not even he knows that she wanted to marry him, but now it’s all in the past.”
Another long silence stretched out in the room.
“Finally, they tracked him down. I guess because he was only now and then, in the city. He was there on business when they found him. He told them that it would be great, but there was one big problem. They got the both of us to have that DNA test and when it was a match, only then did they let us meet. They didn’t want to give either one of us any false hope.” her voice trailed off again.
“From what I hear, you and I have something in common. I had the same situation only by then I was in college. Unfortunately for me, my father was in jail, and that was why I never knew him. But now, you’re with us, and everything will be better.” Emily nodded her head and sat there in silence, having only herself to deal with as she realized her obsessive personality was the reason for a great many problems in her own life.
Before she could overthink, Sam had gotten up and got on the chair with her. Sitting in this fashion, it took some time until Sam fell asleep.
Steven came in a little later to get her and carried her to bed.
The next few days were better, and the family had a great time. Like any other family, they had some issues to work out. Luckily, there was time.
This time around, everyone eagerly waited Christmas day.
“YOU better call us as soon as you two get back in the City; I’m going to worry myself sick until I get that call.” Emily ordered them both, “Oh, before I forget, here is something for the road.” she handed them lunch and smiled very happily at Sam.
“Thank you Grandma, bye Grandpa, bye-bye!” Sam shouted, not giving Steven a chance to get something in.
“I gather you enjoyed it?” he asked.
“It… was okay.” she taunted him.
He looked over at her.
Sam burst out laughing.
“I can’t believe it, just like your mother.” he laughed.
“Please, what about her? I got you good, so don’t worry. If you need help, just call anyone of them.”
“She used to tease me in that same way,” he said, the strength in his voice dissipating, “You remind me so much of her. It’s good.” he told her, waving at the family while they drove away.
LATER down the road…
“You told me there was something that you wanted to show me, depending on how good or bad it went back there.” Sam reminded him.
“You’re right. Just give me another hour or so, and then I’ll tell you everything.” he teased her this time.
“You can’t make me wait for so long, come on D…A…D what is it?” she nagged him in the same funny whiny way as her late mother did.
“You really want to know?” he asked her.
He got off the road and drove into the parking lot of the motel they visited before they headed along the last stretch home.
She jumped out of the Jeep and saw that he stared intently at the Inn.
“I don’t suppose this is where you and she, conceived me?”
“No, but then we did stay here a few times. Not one of those times did we ever get to the farm though.” he noted, laughing now.
“You two should have gotten together!” she cried and fell on her knees to the ground.
Steven felt stunned, jumping out and knelt in front of her.
“She gave me everything that I ever could want. I’ll still be able to love her because you are here with me now. I can also love you as well. Now, let’s get a little closer.” he urged her, pulling her up.
With drying tears, she walked along with him, not in the least bit sure what she was in for. Then she noticed the sign… Sam’s Rest Inn.
“She wanted to own this place, so the day I heard that the couple wanted to sell, I came down and bought the Motel. I converted it into an Inn. The only question is,” he paused and looked at her.
“Yes, I know. You want to come back here! Yes, of course, I would love to live in an Inn!” she shouted at him and jumped into the strong arms of her Father.
They stood outside with her shouting and him spinning around in a full circle, swinging her with him. They’d been so loud that the elderly couple managing the place came out to see what the commotion was.
At the sight of the two, they also stood hand in hand, smiling at father and daughter.