Thank you LaLa!!
Sympathy For the Devil
Chapter 6 Josef, You Devil!
Beth was in the shower and Mick was busy tearing greens for Dorothy’s salad when she immerged from his office. Her eyes sparkled with a few unshed tears but she seemed happy, if the huge smile on her face was anything to go by.
“Thank you, Mick. That was a wonderful surprise.”
“Hey, thank Logan, it was his idea. I just set up the laptop for you. At least this way you can see each other every day. It’s not as good as seeing him in person, but it’s something.”
“Yes, much better than only the phone calls. He said he loves the new phone, but he didn’t say a word about what happened to the old one,” she said with a smile.
“I’m sure,” Mick grinned with a shrug. “It’s a guy thing.”
Dorothy watched as Mick started chopping up tomatoes fresh from his garden for the salad and a cucumber, too. The salad had red leaf lettuce, spinach and some arugula in it and was going to be topped with grilled shrimp. Next, he moved to chopping herbs for the vinaigrette dressing and she could tell by the easy use of the knife that he enjoyed what he was doing.
“You really enjoy cooking, don’t you, Mick?”
“Yes, I do. It’s hard sometimes, since I can’t taste what I’m making but I’ve learned to tell if something is seasoned right by the scent of it. Well, most of the time anyway. Beth will tell me if it’s good and I just remember that scent. A good recipe helps too.”
Mick placed a little olive oil in a sauté pan and added a bit of butter. Next he put in some thinly sliced garlic and let it cook for a few minutes, until the garlic started to turn golden colored. Then he pulled it out and added in the shrimp and some herbs, also fresh from his garden.
“That smells really good,” Beth said as she came down the stairs, dressed in plaid pajama bottoms and a tee shirt.
“Yes, it does. I think my salad is going to be delicious.”
While the shrimp cooked, Mick mixed the dressing and before long it was all done and Dorothy was more than ready to eat at that point. As Beth poured her and Mick’s dinner into tall glasses she pointed at the carton of milk and grabbed it for her mom.
Half an hour later they all settled in to watch a movie and half way through it Beth noticed that her mom had dozed off. She grinned at Mick and then snuggled deeper into his body loving the feel of it as his arm held her close. Not a bad way to spend an evening.
On her way home after work Lani decided to stop and see Mrs. Carter for a chat. She really liked the older woman and she also wished that Mick would come out of the closet with her. Or was it the coffin? Whatever, get over it, Mick, she thought.
Lani realized that she tended to go to Mrs. Carter when something was weighing heavily on her mind; this time it was Clark. Well, mostly Clark, anyway. She knew that it wasn’t something that she could share, but somehow the idea of sipping tea in the cozy kitchen with Mrs. Carter just gave her a feeling of comfort.
As always, Maeve and Noodle were happy to see Lani. She was always a bright spot, Maeve thought, ushering her young guest to the kitchen table for a bit of tea. As she put the kettle on to boil she noticed the ring on Lani’s hand.
“Oh my! It would seem that you and your young man have decided to get married, Lani! Congratulations, my dear. When is the wedding?”
“September 22, next year.”
“That’s a very long time to wait. Why so long?”
“I’m pregnant and I want to wait until after the baby is born.”
The kettle started whistling and Maeve moved it off of the burner and then fixed Lani with an unhappy look. “What on earth are you waiting for? Doesn’t he want to marry you, Lani?”
“Yes, he does. He’d drag me down to the justice of the peace in a minute if I’d let him.”
“Well my goodness, let him!”
“I - I don’t want to get married like that, Mrs. Carter. I don’t want to be a pregnant bride that everyone laughs at. Or that Josef feels like he has to marry!”
“Lani, you are not in high school anymore and I’m sure the people that care about you would never think that. Do you love him, Lani? And does he love you?”
“I love him and I know that he loves me, too. I just want him to have a chance to change his mind, before we get married. I don’t want this pregnancy to make him think we have to get married.”
“Where is this young man of yours? Call him and get him here, right now!”
Lani looked at Maeve, her face a study of sheer surprise. She recognized an order when she heard one and this was definitely an order. Why did she want Josef here?
“I don’t understand, Mrs. Carter. Why do you want Josef here?”
“I want to meet this young man, my dear. Age gives me a few advantages and getting my way is one of them.” She stared at Lani and watched the younger woman’s indecision. “Well? Don’t keep me waiting my dear.”
“I don’t know that he’ll be available. He’s pretty busy,” Lani said, hoping it would discourage her. After almost a full minute of delaying she finally pulled her phone out of her purse and pushed the key that would place a call to Josef. She hoped that it would go to voice mail, but luck wasn’t with her.
“Hello, Sweetness. Are you on your way home? I am.”
“No, I’m actually at my friends house, you’ve heard me talk about Mrs. Carter?”
“Mick’s sister?” She could almost hear the grin in his voice.
“Yes. She’d like you to stop by, but I told her how busy you are.”
“Nonsense! I’d love to stop by. What’s the address?”
She gave him the address and sat back in the chair. She really wished that the tea in her cup was laced with something a lot stronger because she knew this wasn’t going to go in her favor.
In the Ferrari, Josef grinned as he pushed another button. Yes, he was a devil with fangs but he couldn’t resist.
“Hello, Josef. What’s up?” Mick said, slightly annoyed that the quiet evening at home was being disturbed.
“Now, is that any tone to take with your best friend? Tsk, tsk. Guess where I’m heading?”
“I don’t have a clue, just make the merriment quick.”
“I’m on my way to meet your sister!”
“What the hell?” Mick asked. His words were so loud that they woke up Dorothy. Beth had heard it all and had to hide a smile.
Oh, Josef. What are you doing? She let a giggle escape and watched Mick fix her with an irritated gaze.
“Yes, Lani stopped by for tea, as she often does, and Mrs. Carter, aka Maeve St. John Carter, would like to meet me. I can’t wait!”
“Josef, don’t you dare say anything to her!” Mick’s voice had taken on a higher pitch as fear of what Josef might do swept over him. “I mean it, Josef.”
“So sorry to hear that, Mick. I was hoping to help you slide in the door, pave the way, so to speak.”
“By WHAT? Telling her that I’m alive? You, you might give her a heart attack or something.”
“Well, I could always turn her if that happened.”
“You son of a… I don’t even want to talk to you. Don’t you dare, Josef. I’m serious.”
“Tell her or turn her?” Josef pushed, just because it was so much fun.
“Either.” The muscles in Mick’s face had frozen into so tight of a frown it was hard to get any words at all out.
“Aw, Mick, sometimes you're just no fun at all. Alright, I’ll play nice with your sister. Can’t say that I won’t try to get her to tell me embarrassing things about her older brother though. You’ve got to let me have something…”
His only answer was a click of the phone. Some people just don’t appreciate it when someone tries to help them. He grinned as he realized he was at the address Lani had given him; there her Maserati was, sitting in the driveway.
Josef had seen the house often, since it was on the road that eventually turned into the canyon road that led to his house. It was a neat little cottage home with a white picket fence that surrounded the front yard and if he was correct there was a small, brownish mop top dog that was often in it. He hoped that Lani had considered that because that dog might hate him. He’d hate to have to growl at it.
As he pulled into the driveway and cut the engine he saw an elderly woman standing in the doorway, with Lani right behind her. The rag mop rushed out into the yard and barked crazily at the newcomer.
“Don’t you mind him a bit. He always barks at people he doesn’t know. He might be small but he thinks he’s mighty!”
Josef unlatched the gate and stepped into the yard and the dog continued to bark. He knelt down and held his hand out, hoping that allure worked on little dogs the way it had on cats. “Hey there, fella. See, I won’t bite you!” Unless you cause me any grief, that is. Play nice.
Noodle stared at him for a moment and then dipped his head downward. Even if he didn’t like the vampire smell on him he could also smell Lani and he loved her. After a minute or so it seemed they had come to a mutually beneficial decision and Josef reached out to pat the head of the scruffy little dog. “There now, isn’t it nice to be friends?” Noodle gave a small yip sound that sounded like a yes. “Smart little guy, isn’t he?”
“Sometimes! Please, Josef, come in and have some tea,” Mrs. Carter said.
“I’d be delighted.” He gave Lani a quick kiss on the lips as he smiled at her, his eyes shining as he looked around the foyer. They followed Mrs. Carter into the kitchen and he spotted a picture of Mick, G.I. Mick, that is on the way and his grin got even bigger. “Now who is that young man? He looks a bit like you.”
“Oh my, that was my brother Michael, although everyone called him Mick. That was taken in 1942, I think. Before he went off to war.”
“Yes, that was quite a war.” As he walked through the house he saw that Lani was right, she loved purple, all shades of it, and it was displayed all over the house in various forms. He was thinking that more purple flowers were in the picture for this fine woman who had taken his fiancé to heart.
They took a seat at the cozy kitchen table and as she poured another cup of tea Maeve asked, “Cream, sugar, or lemon, Josef? How about some homemade gingersnaps?”
“Nothing but the tea, Mrs. Carter.” He patted his stomach and said, “I have to keep my boyish figure for my beautiful bride to be.” Lani cast him a look that said she wasn’t happy at the reference. He smiled at her and also wondered what prompted this visit. At Mrs. Carter’s next words his question was answered.
“Yes, about that, Josef. Do you love this young woman?”
“With all my heart and soul. Why do you ask?”
“I’m trying to determine why on earth she refuses to marry you.”
From the look she gave him he knew that she thought the fault must lie with him. From the look that Lani skewered him with he knew that he should take that blame and for a moment he considered doing it. But this was about his happiness, too. She loved him, he loved her and neither of them had any doubts about what they wanted in the future. Was this really about her not wanting to get married until she could fit into a wedding gown or was it something else. Indecision swayed in his mind as a fear crept in - maybe she didn’t really want to marry him? The thought made his heart sink because he couldn’t lose her, he couldn’t. Whatever the answer was to the problem he knew that he was on precarious ground, damned if he did and damned if he didn’t, tell the truth that is. He decided he’d rather tell the truth and deal with the consequences.
“Mrs. Carter, where I come from a man always takes his responsibilities seriously.” He laid a hand on Lani’s and gently caressed it. “This woman is the sun, the moon and the heavens to me. I can’t even imagine my life without her. And it hurts me, deeply that she wants to wait. I’m sorry Sweetness, but it does. I know you have your reasons and I can only hope that it’s not indecision or doubt about my affections for you.” He shifted slightly in the chair to face her and continued, “Lani, I’ll wait forever if you want, but please, don’t make me. The thought that our child could be born illegitimately is a pain that I can’t stand the thought of.”
She knew that he was sincere and so was she. She wanted to marry him and it wasn’t exactly about the dress, if she were being honest. She was scared that he’d resent her forever if he had to marry her. He’d said he wouldn’t turn her until he married her, she knew that he wanted her. But what about after a baby was in the picture? If she married him then he’d turn her eventually and what if he regretted it? She knew she couldn’t handle that much heartache. It was better to find out before he married her or turned her.
Lani really didn’t know what a good marriage was, other than her grandparents. They’d loved one another to the very end and died within months of one another. It was like her grandfather just couldn’t go on without his wife. Her parents never fit the bill for a happy marriage and while Dorothy and Clark had sort of been a couple, they didn’t get married until the girls were in college, even though they’d been pretty happy it had seemed.
Beth and Mick were happy, so were Robbi and Kev. Could there really be that kind of love in her life? She was constantly afraid that he would wake up one day and realize she wasn’t the fabulous woman he thought she was. How could she cope with that?
What if in the end, I’m just not worthy of him?
Her impulse was to run, but she refused to give in to it. But it was hard, when everyone kept telling her to marry him. She felt as if the world was ganging up on her and that instinct made her want to fight back. She needed to be honest with him about her fears, really brutally honest. He might not like what she had to say, and then again, he might help resolve it all. Could she trust his words? She wanted to because she knew that he was sincere in his love for her.
Both Josef and Mrs. Carter sat patiently while her mind fired off all these thoughts as rapidly as a speeding bullet.
“Josef, I - we…I am considering it, okay? But there are things to say, privately, for us. Please, Mrs. Carter, don’t be offended.”
“Of course not, Lani. I only want your happiness my dear. You have brightened up my dreary old life, never forget that. And I hope that when that wedding happens that I’ll be invited?”
Josef smiled smoothly. “You can be sure of that, Mrs. Carter. Now, tell me more about your brother. Was he terrible? Did he tease you mercilessly? I want to know everything. I’ll bet he was always in trouble, wasn’t he?” He held out his cup for more tea and Lani had to restrain herself. She knew that no good would come of this.
Rose sat staring at the preliminary results from Dorothy’s tests. She had O negative blood, which could mean that Beth’s dad had A negative. Or he just had AO negative outright. Hard to tell unless she had blood from him. Most likely it was AO- because that is what Lani had.
What surprised her was the gene panel. More information would take a bit longer to cook but this was very interesting to read, in fact, surprising. What she couldn’t understand was how it was possible.
Still, Beth’s genetics were very interesting and Rose had to wonder more than ever about her father. Whether Dorothy knew who he was or not was anyone’s guess but she wasn’t going to talk about it, that much was sure. Being raped is a horrendous experience and Rose saw that almost every day. Often women never really recovered from the strangling fear that their attackers would come back or from threats that they made to keep their victims silent.
Rose felt bad for Dorothy and wouldn’t ever want to cause her more pain. Whatever answers she was going to get she probably had. It would have to be enough. That and waiting to see what answers tomorrows results brought.
To be continued…