In the meantime his parents had arrived from Atlanta and were staying a couple days with him. He'd planned to introduce Arlene to them at this time but, of course, that was not going to happen now.
He'd recently rented a little 2-bedroom, 2-bath house on the outskirts of Pleasantview and was squirreling away money to buy his own place in the near future. At least he now had room for his parents to bunk with him--there was no way he would have brought them to the dump he'd lived in at the downtown area of Crystal Creek.
He invited Parker over and they both enjoyed some time with their parents, playing a little poker in Pres's "game" room. All four of her sons (and her husband) worshiped their beautiful and loving mother. Rhonda never seemed to age, at least in their eyes. She also happened to be an ace at poker and Parker, Pres and their dad kept losing to her. The only one who ever beat her often was Perry.
Pres made supper but Rhonda insisted on doing the cleanup. Of course, his parents had noticed Pres's haircut right away. Not knowing of his undercover work, they believed he'd quit his job as a detective and worked in a garage.
"Oh, sweetie, you look so handsome now--"
"At least he cut his damn hair," Philip muttered.
"Yeah, I forgot to tell you I'm back on the force now," Pres exclaimed, eventually he'd tell them both why he'd been living that way for three years, but not during this visit, "The long hair had to go."
Rhonda just smiled at Pres,
"Definitely handsome, but then all my sons are gorgeous. Aren't I the lucky one?"
"Now this one should get rid of his shaggy look," Philip gestured toward Parker.
"Hey, at least it's not down past my shoulders!" Parker complained indignantly but then softened as he looked at his mother. He turned to his father,
"I guess it wouldn't hurt to kind of trim it up. Maybe I'll check out that new place in Bluewater, try to get a more professional look."
Philip nodded. He could be stern but he always backed his boys up in the end. There was no mistaking that Philip Everhart was the father of Pres and Parker--the same for Perry and Prince. Physically, though, Prince was the son who looked the most like him and who had inherited his wild streak. Perry had his confidence and Rhonda's love for children and quiet intensity, Pres was more like his mother, soft-spoken but not to be trifled with and Parker, the happy-go-lucky baby of the family, and several years younger than the other boys, was a complete puzzle to the whole family. He'd been a joyful and engaging child, spoiled by all, but sometime during college he became a little aimless and irresponsible. He didn't seem to favor one parent over the other in characteristics, the only exception being the artistic streak he'd inherited from Rhonda.
When Philip and Rhonda moved on to stay with Perry for a few days Pres went to see Thalia. He was sure she knew where Sofia had gone. Thalia was not pleased to see him. She still called him Ray so Sofia had evidently not said anything to her about his real name and job.
"Whoa! So you cut your hair--trying to be all respectable now are we?" Thalia scoffed.
Ray ignored that and told her that he wanted to find Sofia because he needed to be there for her.
"You're too late, buster. She doesn't need you, she has someone to help her. And he's not seeing two women at the same time they way you are. Yes, I know about that goody two-shoes you're seeing; I saw her with you a month ago at the movies in Bluewater. Talk about a dirty trick, Ray--you have all your nerve coming here to ask about my sister and claiming 'you want to be there for her'. It makes me--"
"It's not quite the way you think," Pres interrupted her hurriedly, "And I'm no longer seeing Arlene. If you--"
"Oh, man, what a teetotal creep you are. So you dropped the little virgin and now you're looking for Sofia! Well, she already guessed a while ago there was someone else. And she knows for sure now on account of I told her what I saw. She wouldn't say it, but it broke her heart. You are so out of luck."
"So I take it you won't tell me where she is or give me her new cell number?" Pres was grim. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Jerri lurking in the kitchen.
"No way, Jose. She's trying to get over you; she made me promise not to tell you anything. You know, Ray I used to like you a lot; now you make me sick."
Pres ignored the insult. Truthfully he didn't give a flip how Thalia thought of him except she was the only path he had to Sofia at this point. He held out a slip of paper with something written on it, his face impassive.
"When you see her will you please tell her that I'm sorry for any pain I caused? Tell her I'm not seeing anyone and if she ever wants to talk--about anything--here's my cell number and my new address."
"Ha! Fat chance!" she crossed her arms on her chest and let the paper fall to the floor.
Of course, Thalia didn't offer the information that, in truth, Sofia was not angry with Pres at all. She'd known all along there had to be someone else and she wanted him to be happy. She didn't want him to know where she was because she was pregnant. He was a nice guy, she had told Thalia, and she didn't want him to stay with her out of guilt or a misguided sense of duty. Sofia took all responsibility for her actions; she had made a conscious decision to have his child. Pres didn't owe her anything. In fact, she figured she could never repay everything he'd done for her in the past. No, Thalia was not going to tell Pres any of that--it might make him keep trying to see Sofia. Besides, she'd given her word to her sister.
Hating himself, but unable to keep from doing it, Pres asked,
"This guy who's helping her--is she in love with him? Is he living with her?"
"That is so none of your business. Now hit the road, loser!"
Feeling like the loser Thalia said he was Pres drove on home. Sofia was gone. She was lost to him and he told himself he had to accept that fact. Obviously she no longer wanted him. Guilt flooded him as he thought about the lies he'd had to tell her for three years. He'd done it for his job; at least that's what he'd told himself. In the end he'd screwed it all up. He'd let the department down; now someone else was going be forced to go undercover so they could try to close the case. He'd let Sofia down, hurting her and losing her love. He'd let Arlene down by making her think he was another kind of man. Everything was fubar.
Pres now changed his mind; he wanted danger in his life again. He wanted to get Sofia and all his mistakes off his mind, but he also wanted action. Instead of going back to the dangerous but mostly passive undercover work, he qualified for the swat team which offered not only danger but plenty of action. Even though it was hazardous work that was fine with him now. He was in pain and he was bitter, he wanted to shut off his emotions. And if he was on the swat team he could still live in the decent house he was renting. He worked long hours. He wanted to forget.
Pres missed Sofia so much; filled with desire and longing he tossed restlessly in his bed at night remembering her and the times they'd spent together. Seeing her precious face and amazing body in his head he thought how she was always so understanding, so comforting and upbeat. Why hadn't he appreciated her more when he had her?
Amazingly he did not have the same problem with Arlene. She seldom came up in his mind and that he didn't understand; after all he'd been poised to propose marriage to her. In the end he concluded that she'd never known the real him and it was a sad fact that he'd never really known the real Arlene.
When he thought of his Sofia, guilt and regret plagued him and heartache was close behind. What was worse, he believed he deserved the pain and loneliness. So he worked himself harder than ever and despaired of ever seeing Sofia again. Yep, everything had ended up totally fubar.
Next update The Brothers Everhart - Pres Ch. 12 Marking Time