Saturday, February 4, 2012

Brian Ottomas Ch. 18 Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle to You....

It was the day before the big move. Meadow was frantically trying to get things ready and her mood had been somewhere between irritable and frazzled. Brian understood; she was under a lot of strain. The last time they moved they hadn't accumulated so much stuff and they'd only had Heath, who'd been a toddler and Brook, who was only a couple months old. Now they had a teenager--admittedly he could help a lot--two children, a toddler and two infants, plus a gi-normous dog. They were a three-ring circus according to Brian, who referred to their current job of packing and cleaning as "taking down the tent and cleaning the cages". But Meadow's temporary edginess would soon cause an eruption between Brian and her that neither had anticipated.

Brian's old  leather wallet--as mentioned before--was an ancient, torn and bulging mess. This was in direct contrast to his personality. In most ways he was neat and organized even a bit compulsive when it came to cleanliness and order. He might wear torn tee shirts and faded jeans but they were always clean and even pressed. His half of their closet had everything efficiently arranged and he never minded helping with clean up in the house. However; his old wallet was the exception to the rule. For one of his Christmas gifts Meadow had brought him a new wallet with the kind of chain he liked; his old chain had broken some time back. But he was not using the new wallet, he was still carrying the shabby overstuffed one.

Brian's old wallet and the new one Meadow gave him for Christmas:

Meadow was boxing up things in their bedroom when she noticed the derelict wallet; Brian always left it on the bureau when he was home. This reminded her that he had yet to transfer the contents to the new wallet which still rested in the gift box in a drawer.  

This is ridiculous; he's not taking that thing when we move, Meadow decided. 

He was in the master bath fixing the tub faucet for the hundredth time and she went in to talk to him. When he heard her walk in behind him he said over his shoulder,

"Man, I'll be so happy not to have to mess with this stupid tub anymore."

She got right to the subject,

"Brian, would you PLEASE get rid of that horrid wallet? Don't you like the one I bought? If it's not what you want I can take it back and get another one."

"No, sweetheart, the new one is fantastic--I just keep forgetting to do it. I'll tell you what, why don't you go ahead and do it for me?"

Meadow frowned, 

"That's like opening your mail; you should have some privacy even if we are husband and wife. Besides you're more organized than I am and you might not like the way I do it." 

"That's crazy," he commented, and suddenly muttered a cuss word in connection with the obstinate faucet. By now he was feeling a little impatient and grumpy; he rarely swore.

"Besides," he continued, "I'm obviously NOT organized when it comes to wallets. You'll be able to throw out a lot of stuff and get it down to size."

"Okay," she shrugged.

Brian went on sputtering and complaining under his breath and working with a wrench. Then Meadow appeared in the doorway again.

Her voice sounded strained,

"I don't know what you want me to do with this." 

He looked up and she was handing him a photo.

"What are you talking about?" 

"You'll probably want this. After all, you had it hidden away so well I almost didn't see it."

Brian took it from her and looked at it. Oh, man. Crap-a-doodle-do. He had a very short flashback as he remembered the day he'd taken the photo of Lori Lassiter. Years ago. Really it felt as though it was in a previous life. Yet for just a second it was like yesterday. He'd totally forgotten that he had even taken her photo, let alone that it was still in his possession. Of course he never went through his wallet and the photo had been tucked away so it had easily been erased from is mind.

"Well? What do I do with it?" Meadow prodded angrily.

She is really steamed, Brian thought, she's always laughed about the thing with Lori, so what is the deal? On the other hand he remembered now that he used to carry it with him everywhere. Obviously for a while there he couldn't forget the girl. But all that was long before Meadow and him.

"Throw it out," he advised as he tried to hand it back to her, "I forgot I even had it."

"Well, if you've cherished it for so long I hate to just toss it," Meadow said sarcastically.

"Don't make a big deal out of this, Meadow," Brian warned.

"Oh, excuse me all to pieces! My husband carries another woman's picture around with him for years and I should just shrug it off?"

What with the stubborn faucet and now Meadow ranting at him, Brian, the usually reasonable guy, was suddenly feeling aggravated and his answer was untypically brusque.

"Look, I told you; I wasn't hiding it or cherishing it; I forgot I had it. If I had something to hide why would I ask you to go through the wallet?"

"All these years, you've kept that photo all these years, Brian! Yet you always insisted there was nothing to it!" she finally let go of her fury, waving her arms wildly.

"This is nuts. You can see she was a kid; not a woman. She had a crush on me. Okay, big deal; nothing happened. I left town. She got over me and found a boy her own age and she married him. I came back to town and found you. We fell in love, got married and, for crying out loud, we have six kids together! I've never been the one to bring it up; you were the one who kept saying 'old flame', 'she haunts you' and all that stupid stuff that you thought was so freakin' funny."

That stopped her for a minute, but then she came back with,

"Maybe I did, but I sure don't think it's funny now."

"Yeah, no kidding. I'm sorry this move is making you nuts, but if you have to take it out on me say it directly. Don't start some stupid argument over a picture from a million years ago that I didn't even know was there."

She suddenly stopped being angry. He could see tears in her eyes that made him feel more guilty than all her yelling had done. Her voice was soft and plaintive as she spoke,

"Oh, Brian, why did you keep it at all?"

He sighed. For years he'd denied to himself that he'd ever felt anything more than friendship for Lori.

"Okay. Evidently for a while I wasn't over her. Maybe not for a good while. But all that ended forever when I came to stay with you."

"So she did mean something to you once?"

"Yes, I suppose I'll have to admit that once she did. But not anymore; not for a long time. Not since I fell in love with this beautiful blonde."

Meadow continued to gaze into his eyes, wondering what this meant to her and Brian. It wasn't that she really thought he had ever been untrue to her, at least, not physically. But admittedly she wanted to be first in his heart; she didn't want to share even a part of him with anyone else except family.

"Throw it out," he repeated holding the picture out to her. She shook her head no, refusing to take it and acting almost afraid of the creased photo.

"Well, I'll throw it out," and he tossed it in the wastebasket and then emptied the wastebasket into the trash compacter in the kitchen. Meadow had followed him out of the bathroom.

"Are we okay now?" he asked, putting his arms around her. 

She nodded silently.

"Bottom line: I love you, Meadow. There's no one else. No one. Without you my life is over," he kissed her gently, and then deepened the kiss as he pulled her tight against his chest and she melted. 

He'd always been able to do that to her. As long as he loved her and wanted to be with her, she could deal. As long as he loves me best. For she now believed deep down in her heart that a tiny part of him still harbored feelings for Lori, though Brian himself might not know it. A slender thread connected them that would never be broken. Meadow tended to be a bit mystic at times; she always wanted to believe in intuition above logic, and she trusted her own instincts. If a thread was what attached him to Lori then Meadow knew that it was a whole tapestry that held him to her and the children. A tapestry comprised of many threads that made it incredibly strong and flexible. She would not bring up the subject of Lori anymore. Hopefully they would never see her again.  
"Sweetheart?" Brian spoke, his lips against her hair, "Are you all right, then?"

"Yes, Brian," she whispered against his neck.

And tomorrow would be moving day. As he held Meadow, Brian hoped fervently they could leave any and all painful memories and strained moments behind them as they made a new home.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Brian Ottomas Ch. 17 Meadow's Surprise

One night at supper Heath suddenly announced he thought it was okay for his parents to tell Brook and Willow his big secret. Meadow cast a quick glance at Brian, raising her eyebrows. They had not expected Heath to want to "go public" quite so soon, but the information was now like a rocket in his pocket. Breaking the news over the dinner table had never been their plan either, but Meadow nodded at Brian. She preferred that he be the one to tell the tale. So Brian began the story of Heath's birth, but didn't go into his own history. That information had been for Heath alone due to his situation and Brian didn't believe Brook and Willow needed to know about their grandmother's indiscretion, at least not now. 

During the narration, the girls looked at their mother from time to time as if she was a ticking time bomb about to go off, but gradually, as Heath seemed calm enough and even pointed out things he wanted his father to be sure to explain, they began to relax. Afterward they asked even more questions than Heath had, but they handled it well, saying he was still their brother all the way as far as they were concerned.

After supper the girls cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher while Heath took out the trash. Things began to go back to normal.

Little Willow went to Meadow and kissed and hugged her,

"I still love you, Momma."

Leave it to Willow to put it out there. Whenever she thought the ice needed breaking, she just stepped on it. Now they could all take a breath and relax.

A few days later Brian had Rocky outdoors in the sunshine letting him splash in the new wading pool. In the late afternoon the kids were up in the playroom, but after supper it was time for Heath's birthday.

Heath was suddenly so much taller! His parents congratulated him and each gave him a squeeze; he was definitely growing up. Then his sisters showed their affection with hugs and Willow asked somewhat worriedly,

"Will you still hang out with us sometimes, Heath?" 

He hugged her, chuckling,

"Of course, you little stinker. Don't you know big brothers take care of their little sisters?"

And, of course, he looked more like Lonnie Hammond than ever. Meadow told him he could grow his hair out a bit if he wanted to now that he was a teenager. Brian gave her a look and she shrugged; he really didn't want Heath to aspire to be like him particularly, certainly not to be some sort of miniature of him, but Meadow did. She also wanted Heath to change his hair so he'd look less like Lonnie. How could Heath help wanting to be like the father he'd looked up to for so long? He still aspired to be a musician, but Brian was trying to convince him that he should go to college and be prepared for a career with which to support himself.

"It's hard to make a good living playing in a rock band, believe me, son," he said, "I've only been making really decent money since I became manager of the club--not playing in the band. That's why I was finally able to buy the club from Uncle Dylan. And as for "making it to the big time" that is even harder and the odds are not good."

Heath listened, but he still had his dreams and he continued to practice his music with Brian.

The next day something astonishing happened. Meadow went out to the store and got back later than she'd said she would. With her she brought a dog. Now, the kids had been campaigning for some time to get a pet, but Meadow's answer had always been,

"Please. I have no desire to clean up after an animal as well as you children."

"We'll do it! We'll do everything!" had always been the cry, but on this subject Meadow had been adamant. 

Now she strolled in with, not a puppy or kitten, but a fully grown boxer. Brian took a long look at the dog and scratched his head,

"Sweetheart, he's awfully big."

"But they were going to put him down. I just couldn't let them."

"What in the world were you doing at the pound?"

"Oh, I ran into Marsha Brecht at the pharmacy and you know how she's a real animal lover, Brian. Anyway, she told me about the dog and how upset she was that she couldn't take him, but Royal had put his foot down; they already have two dogs, three cats, a hamster and a parrot. So I went by just to see him. Anyway, he's here now. He already has a name that I think is kind of dumb; 'Peanut', so I thought I'd let the kids rename him."

Brian didn't figure it would do much good to point out that while Marsha had all those animals she and Royal had only one little baby. The Ottomas house, meanwhile, had six children in a house they had long outgrown. Brian loved animals so he had no problem with the dog, but to say Meadow had surprised him was an understatement. Heath, Brook and Willow were ecstatic. They decided his new name should have the same amount of syllables so it might be easier on the dog to recognize it. They chose "Elvis". When she heard this Meadow look accusingly at Brian who threw up his hands in surrender and laughed, 

"Hey, I had nothing to do with it!"

At first the kids could hardly get to Elvis for Meadow. She insisted first thing on bathing him."To get that 'kennel' smell off him." During the bath she talked to the dog in the same way she talked to Rocky; using endearments and exaggerated praise. This made Willow giggle but Brook shushed her in a whisper,

"Don't make fun; we've waited too long to get a dog!"

But soon it was obvious that if Elvis was to learn to follow commands and have a modicum of manners with strangers they would have to take him to obedience class. Meadow admittedly did not have the patience for the long haul and Heath always had some excuse; this was because he hated being the "bad guy" and enforcing the rules of training and discipline. Brian had the patience and the strength of will; he simply did not have the time between overseeing the final touches on the new house, managing the club and helping Meadow with the packing for their move. Plus, he often helped with the babies and Rocky when he was home.

They learned of a service that would send someone out to train dogs and so they  hired her for a day to see how it worked out. She was patient and loving with Elvis, but she knew her stuff, and, best of all she was fast. In only three lessons Elvis learned the commands for come, stay, go play, go inside and go eat. She did tell them if they wanted to have Elvis excel at these commands they needed to take time to learn the lessons the same as the dog and work with him. If they didn't follow the rules she'd laid down for his training it would soon be all for naught. But for now she said she could come again if they needed her.

Not being the "bad guy" seemed to work for Heath because Elvis slept on the floor by his bed every night until they finally gave up and moved the plush dog bed from the living room up to Heath's room.

Now they were down to only a couple more days until they could move to the new house. Meadow had spent a day with Heath getting him appropriate clothes now that he was a teen, but he was not interested in socks, underwear and pajamas; she could get those alone. So she met her sister-in-law, Elaine, at Goth's and after shopping they went out to lunch.

It wouldn't be much longer until Rocky's birthday, although they wouldn't actually celebrate it until after the move. His language abilities had become quite good. When Meadow read to him he always wanted the same book so he could say the words out loud with her from memory. He thought that meant he was "reading".

Heath's old friend, Kirstie Burb, showed up to let him know she'd had her birthday, too, and to say goodbye to him before he moved. Although they would still see each other in school, he'd be living on the outskirts of Pleasantview and she still didn't drive. They went up to the music room and jammed; Kirstie was learning guitar and Heath had become quite proficient on different instruments by now thanks to his father; the piano and keyboard, the guitar and the drums. He'd been studying piano the longest though.

To their parents surprise--considering the built-in pool in their yard--Rocky's new kiddie pool became a favorite of the girls as well. They said they could swim in the big pool, but they could splash and be silly in the little one.

Meadow still doted on Elvis and often was the one who walked him--except when it was late at night because Brian insisted on doing it then. Elvis loved the walks and loved the belly-scratching he got afterward just as much.

Any worries of how Rocky would get along with Elvis were immediately put to rest. Elvis was very protective of him and quite affectionate. Whenever he sloppily "kissed" the toddler, Rocky would chuckle with delight and then hug the dog. Elvis put up with Rocky climbing on him and trying to ride him, as well as frequently using the napping dog to run his matchbox cars over as though he were rugged terrain. Nothing seemed to faze him; Elvis would just lick Rocky all over. It was very cute to see as far as the family was concerned, but they did teach him he had to be gentle with Elvis and not hurt him.

The family was in limbo; waiting to move they packed up as much of their stuff as possible and every day the builder had told them, "soon, soon." If only he would say an exact date. It was as though the family was collectively holding it's breath...