Friday, December 24, 2004

"Silver And Gold," By Becke Martin - IV/IV


...at the local bar with some of the guys. He should never have had his gun with him, but he’d just gone off duty. He got in an argument when the bartender tried to cut him off. One thing led to another . . . I’ll tell Joey the truth when he’s old enough to understand. Anyway, what there was of Joe’s insurance went to a college fund for Joey. I’m not touching it.”

“What brought you to Fair Meadows?” Aiden reached out to grasp her hand in an instinctive urge to comfort her. He stopped himself abruptly when he realized how inappropriate that would be. He realized how much he missed the comfort of the casual human contact he’d enjoyed during his marriage.

“Carol died just before Thanksgiving. Children aren’t allowed in her building, but the landlord turned a blind eye while Carol was alive. After she died, there were complaints. We had to leave.”

“You’ve had it rough.” How could anyone put out a young mother and child? What was wrong with people? It was the holiday season, for God’s sake.

Ginny sat up straighter. “It’s not like we’re destitute. Carol left her condo to me, but her estate has to go through probate before I can put it on the market. The lawyer wouldn’t even let me take our things until they can sort out what belongs to who. I still had Joe’s old Ford, and I remembered Carol talking about Fair Meadows. She had visited here as a kid and liked it a lot. I filled the tank and here I am, talking a blue streak.”

Aiden played with his coffee cup, avoiding her eyes. “Where are you two staying?” He had a bad feeling they were living in her husband’s old Ford, a feeling confirmed by her silence.

“I’m not broke,” she said after a minute. “I’ve got today’s tips, and I’ll have a paycheck on Tuesday. We’ll be fine in a day or two.”

“Stay with me.” The words were out before he could come up with all the reasons why it was a bad idea. Only one thing mattered: they needed a place to stay. “You can’t really see it from here, but I live behind the bookstore. There’s plenty of room – three bedrooms, two baths. Sorry, I’m talking like a realtor again. Joey isn’t afraid of dogs, is he? I have an elderly retriever – Buster loves kids, wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Ginny laughed. “You named your dog after the puppy in the books. My son loves those stories.” Her lips thinned. “Why do people have to be so greedy? The new 'Billy and Buster' book is all Joey wants for Christmas – he knows I can’t afford much. But even if I have the money, the books will all be gone by the time I finish my shift.”

Aiden felt his pulse throb at his temple as a headache threatened. “Sometimes it’s not up to the author. When a writer sells the rights to a book, it doesn’t belong to him anymore. Could be the author regrets selling the rights to that TV network.”

“Hmmph.” Ginny shrugged. “It’s still not right. Lots of kids are going to be sad when those books sell out.”

“C’mon, Joey’s falling asleep over there. Get your things together and come on over to my place.” Aiden stopped abruptly, unsure if he was being too forward. Wondering if he’d completely lost his mind – inviting a virtual stranger to stay at his house, where, if Ginny accepted his invitation, her son would sleep in Will’s old bed.

“I’m just offering you a place to stay, Ginny. No ulterior motive. You heard Frida; she’ll be expecting a report. If I don’t behave, she won’t feed me.” Aiden didn’t know why he had the urge to reassure her when he had doubts himself. Although he dated occasionally, he’d never brought a woman back to his home. It had never felt right before.

Ginny twisted her wedding ring as if she was having similar reservations. “You seem like a nice man, and if it was just me . . . but, there’s Joey, you see. I have to make sure he’s safe.”

Aiden respected her for taking her responsibility for her son so seriously. “You’re right to be cautious.” Oddly, the more Ginny hesitated, the more certain he became that this was the right thing to do. “You can check with the sheriff, if it makes you feel more comfortable.”

“I don’t know.” Ginny swayed. She rubbed her eyes as if she could barely keep them open. When Joey shifted as if he were uncomfortable on the seat where he’d fallen asleep, his mother seemed to make a decision. “Joey needs to sleep in a real bed. If you’re sure it’s okay, I’ll let Frida know I’m leaving.”

While Ginny disappeared into the kitchen, Aiden whipped out his cell and punched speed dial. “Stephen. Any news?” He paused to listen. “Hell, yes, it’s a deal breaker. Fix this now, or I find a new agent. They might not have technically crossed the line, but they’ve certainly gone against the spirit of the deal, and time is running out. Contracts were made to be broken, Stephen, and that includes yours. Yeah, you do that.”

And if he couldn’t get the TV station to release the publisher from the ridiculous clause so they could sell the damn books, well, by God, he’d start a new series – another boy, another dog. Suddenly, he was bursting with ideas.

Frida bustled out of the kitchen with Ginny right behind her. “You’re taking them home? Good. Come by before opening tomorrow, if you’re awake – I’ll whip up some breakfast for the three of you. You two can’t work on an empty stomach, and that boy needs some meat on his bones. You’ll be safe with Aiden, Ginny. He’s one of the good guys. But you let me know if he tries to get fresh – if he wants to eat at my diner, he’ll behave himself or else.”

To hide his embarrassment, Aiden slipped out of his booth and bent over Joey’s sleeping form. He smelled of heat and little-boy-sweat, reminding him so much of Will he nearly doubled over in pain. But Joey was alive and well and in need of a warm bed. Luckily, Aiden had more than he could use. He lifted Joey over his shoulder, barely feeling the slight weight.

Aiden bid Frida goodnight and led Ginny across the street, their footsteps echoing in the silent night. The crystalline snow that had begun to fall made his house look like a Christmas card. It had been a happy house when Will was first born. It could be happy again.

Tonight, as the brightest star shone down on the three of them, he felt as if Will and Annie were watching. Buster would be joining them soon; some days the old guy could barely drag himself up from his favorite rug. Will had been four when they got the puppy for him, not long before he became ill. The loyal Golden Retriever had kept Aiden company through all the long, lonely years. Buster’s joints were stiff and painful, and his whiskers were turning white. It was going to break his heart when his dog died.

As he opened the front door, he could imagine Annie’s voice as clearly as if she were in the other room. “What have you two been up to now?” He and Will would exchange a secret grin, then Will would say, “Nuttin’, Mom. What’s for dinner? We’re staaaarving.”

What would his wife and son think about Ginny and Joey sleeping in their house, in their beds? He liked to think they’d be happy about it. For the first time in years, Aiden felt the tingle of hope. He felt as if Ginny and Joey had been led to him for a reason. Maybe they needed him as much as he needed them.

He’d written the first Billy and Buster after his son’s illness was diagnosed, and wrote the second book at Will’s request after a difficult round of chemo. After Will died, Aiden just kept writing, long after he’d lost the spark, because kids enjoyed the stories. He’d kept his anonymity because he missed Will too much to talk about the books and what they meant to him; they hit too close to home, Buster and not-Will.

Every boy should have a dog. Aiden wondered how Ginny would feel if he offered to get Joey a puppy for Christmas. He was making assumptions he had no right to make. He barely knew Ginny or her son. But he believed in a future with her the way he believed in Santa Claus. Aiden remembered the words of the famous editorial responding to another Virginia as if they were etched into his heart. He quoted softly to himself, “‘The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see’.”

As he laid the sleeping boy on his son’s old bed, Aiden felt a sense of rightness. When Ginny met his eyes with a shy smile, he reached for her hand and squeezed it lightly. Linking her fingers with his, he switched on the night light. Buster pushed past them and walked over to the bed, sniffing at Joey’s slight form. Aiden felt something uncoil in his chest when Buster curled up next to the bed, just like in the old days.

Ginny broke the silence. “Thank you. Those aren’t big enough words, but I don’t know what else to say. I hardly know you, but I feel as if Joey and I have come home.”

Aiden drew Ginny into his arms and held her. Just held her. It wasn’t a thunderbolt, wasn’t fireworks, but it was magic, all right. And he believed. Hell yes, he believed.

For the first time in years, he could hardly wait for Christmas.


THE END


This story is dedicated to two wonderful children who died too soon:
Chance Carr and Emily Paeltz

Copyright 2009 by Rebecca Martin Davis

45 comments:

Kara said...

Simply beautiful...what a truly wonderful story...makes me believe in Christmas all over again!!

Becke Davis said...

Kara - Thank you soooo much!

Bethany said...

I decided to read it over lunch at work...I had to close my door I started tearing up. This was splendid.

Becke Davis said...

Bethany - It's a wonderful feeling to know my story moved you. Merry Christmas!

Gannon Carr said...

Becke, what a lovely story! I loved it! Merry Christmas!

Becke Davis said...

I'm so glad you liked it, Gannon!

Monica Burns said...

DAMN! That was wonderful!! You've got such a fabulous voice Becke. It takes talent to write well-rounded short story, and you did it. It was delightful! Thanks to Michelle for sharing your story with us. I loved it.

Becke Davis said...

Wow, Monica -- thank you SO MUCH! You made my day.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

ack! I posted this on the first page cause I got confused. shocker!

Mon, that's why I felt strongly about sharing Becke's story after she was generous enough to say ok. Good short stories should look deceptively simple, like there's nothing to em but story and emotion. when you think back on them, that's when a reader puts pieces together and goes, 'wow, that was pretty deep,' or maybe they never realize it, which is even better. But if one really digs looking at what bones are holding up the skin of a story, it's easy to see why this one gets the blood flowing. You go, 'oh, what a great way to take care of that potential problem in a line; that could have been a nightmare, but that device headed it off at the pass, etc." It's part of why category deserves respect, because of the nature of writing vigorously, yet still conveying full-impact emotions, ebbs and flows w/out the luxury of 10s of Ks of words.

a thing of beauty when it's done right. I do dig the shorts.

Becke Davis said...

I've been hooked on short stories since I read paperback anthologies of The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock stories when I was a teenager. The first fiction I ever wrote was a short story with a Hitchcock-type twist ending. Wish I could find a copy of that one!

Monica Burns said...

I should have added that I only compliment when I really mean it. If I don't like something I just keep my mouth shut. So my praise is well-deserved IMHO.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

A divine way to live,Mon!

And I probably should add that the only other original content I've ever posted at RBTB was written by JR Ward and Lisa Kleypas...

Becke Davis said...

Mon -Good thing you didn't read some of my earlier work. Rosie can tell you, I never get it right the first time! But I AM learning!

Pat Cochran said...

Becke and Michelle,

Such a lovely story! It truly warms
the heart! It sweetly and succinctly
tells all the tale. I really do love
short stories.

Pat Cochran

hope101 said...

Lovely, Becke. Perfect for the season and it made me tear up too. And now I'm gonna tweet about it. ;)

Jan

Monica Burns said...

It's part of why category deserves respect, because of the nature of writing vigorously, yet still conveying full-impact emotions, ebbs and flows w/out the luxury of 10s of Ks of words.

And I freely admit I don't have the talent for writing a story in such a confined amount of words, which is why I'm in awe of those who can do it. It's a gift.

And Becke, to be placed in the company of Ward and Kleypas is a TRUE compliment.

Rosie can tell you, I never get it right the first time! But I AM learning!

A writer should never stop learning. i just get irritable when I've finished something and a couple months down the road realize how I could have written it better. Such is the angst of a writer. *grin* And if Rosie hasn't said it, "practice makes perfect."

And for the life of me, although you've mentioned Rosie's name as inspiration, I am at a loss as how to channel this conversation into the swill of sexual innuendo. ARRRGGH!! I'm losing my touch. Nope, there it is. I'mmmmm baaaaack!

Becke Davis said...

Pat - I'm so glad you liked the story!

Hope - It's so much fun to see you here! Thanks for the tweets!

Becke Davis said...

Michelle!!!! OH MY GOD! I'm having heart failure here. I had no idea I was in such august company!

Wow, now I'm REALLY nervous!

Monica, "the swill of sexual innuendo?" Well, Rosie's probably at work now, but just wait until she shows up. We'll find a way!

Becke Davis said...

BTW, if I go silent for awhile it's because I'm in the car and my battery on my laptop is about to go. I'll check back later, from Macon, Georgia! It's raining and miserable in KY.

Kay Thomas said...

Aww, Becke-
This was lovely. Your voice is marvelous. I didn't want it to end. : ) What a wonderful way to start the Christmas break.

Thanks so much for sharing it here, MIchelle.

Merry Christmas to you both!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful....I want to cry!

Anne Buono said...

Oh Becke - I'ts wonderful. What a wonderful way to start the week before Christmas and really get into the holiday spirit. Have a safe trip and a very Merry Christmas...

AnneB

PS Thanks Michelle for posting the story. A special gift from one of Santa's elves ...Merry Christmas to you also

Stacy McKitrick said...

I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing!

amy kennedy said...

Darn it. I posted my comment on the first page. Well, there it will stay.

Absolutely heartwarming.

Pamela Keener said...

This story was absolutely amazing.
So heartwarming that I still have tears falling as I write this. It makes one believe in Christmas miracles.
Thank you Becke for writing & thank you Michelle for giving Becke a place to share her words.
Love & Hugs,
Pam

bbaugh290 said...

I loved the story. thank you :)

Becke Davis said...

Sorry I'm late responding to all your incredibly kind comments. We've been on the road today, caught in a major blizzard on I-75 South.

My laptop battery died so I've missed all the fun, but I was so excited to find the party still going on when I finally got to the hotel!

Bbaugh - thank you so much, I'm glad you enjoyed the story!

Pamela - It's a wonderful feeling to read that my story moved you so much.

Amy - I think we have comment threads going on three pages now. Fine with me!

Stacy! I'm so glad you came here, too!

AnneB - I'll join you in thanking Michelle for giving me this marvelous opportunity. She's the best!

Anonymous - I'm so pleased that you liked the story!

Kay! It's so nice of you to read my story! It was so much fun hanging out with you in DC in July. We're on for Nashville, right?

Becke Davis said...

I was so glad that Dave liked the story -- especially since it was written from a male perspective. My husband is a romantic but doesn't read it. Still, he read my story and I was shocked when he really liked it. He said, "I can see Tom Hanks in Aiden's part" -- instantly casting it as a chick flick movie.

I loved the idea of Tom Hanks as Aiden, but can't come up with Ginny. How would you cast her? Do you agree that Tom could play Aiden, or who would you pick instead?

Monica Burns said...

Christian Bale or Eric Bana as Aiden

Scarlett Johansen as Ginny. Just ONCE I'd like to see that woman play anything but a slut!! I think she can act, but they always put her in the other woman roles. Grrr, but I do like her as an actress.

or....Natalie Portman as Ginny...but Scarlett would be better. LOL

Becke Davis said...

You know, I could see Eric Bana as Aiden . . .

Are any of you old enough to remember the last episode of Bonanza? I think Michael Landon wrote and directed it, and it starred him ("Little Joe") with Bonnie Bedelia as his wife.

Ever since my husband and I saw that, back around 1970!, we use "a Bonnie Bedelia" to describe a woman who is beautiful in a vulnerable way. That's how I picture Ginny.

Hey Mon -- good luck with the book signing!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Lovely, heart-warming story Becke!

Becke Davis said...

I'm so glad you liked it, Kandy!

PJ said...

Oh Becke, what a beautiful gift to us all! I'm sitting here with tears streaming down my face but a warm glow in my heart. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. It's the first original work of yours that I've read. I sure hope it won't be the last!

PJ said...

Becke, Bonnie Bedelia would be a perfect Ginny! I remember that episode of Bonanza. Had tears streaming down my face then too. ;-)

Becke Davis said...

PJ - Knowing how much romance you read, it really means a lot that you liked the story.

I'm sure there's an actress Ginny's age (thirty-ish) with Bonnie Bedelia's traits, but I can't think of one.

That episode of Bonanza was so powerful; I've never forgotten it.

Rosemary Harris said...

I can't believe you made me cry. My husband is going to come up here and ask what's wrong.

I see indie favorite Hope Davis as Ginny and Russell Crowe as Aidan - but then I see Russell Crowe everywhere. How about Colin Firth?

Barbara E. said...

What a wonderful story, I loved it!

Becke Davis said...

Barbara - I'm so glad you liked it!

Oh, Rosemary -- Hope Davis would be great! And I'm with you on Russell Crowe, although my heroes are almost always dark. (He can dye his hair, right?) But I'm totally fine with Colin Firth, too. Or Jeremy Northam. Or Alan Rickman.

LeeAnn Pratt said...

What a beautiful story...thank you so much for sharing it with us.

Becke Davis said...

I'm so glad you liked it, LeeAnn!

Rebecca Ringler said...

Absolutely loved it!!! I've got the warm fuzzies!

Becke Davis said...

Hi Rebecca - boy, I could use some of those warm fuzzies. I'm in Florida, typing this with my coat on. What's wrong with this picture?

So glad you liked the story!

Ryan G said...

Loved it, I want more!

Becke Davis said...

Ryan - I'm thrilled that you came here and read the story! Thank you so much!

Paula R said...

Becke, this was beautiful. I just whet my appetite for more. I want to know more about Ginny and Aiden's relationship. I want to know if he got his way with the TV people. Wow!! I am choked up here. I could see the town, and the characters. I felt their emotions.

Sorry, it took so long to get to this story. I knew that I wouldn't have been able to hold myself together during Christmas time. Now, I can read it and appreciate the message without getting too distracted by tears and utter despair. Lovely!!!

Peace and love,
Paula R.