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The Sun Never Rises: Chapter Sixteen
Have We Come to the End?
I honestly can’t say, but it’s been one hell of a ride, and I don’t want it to end.
So I’ll leave the door open.
Max is almost home with Katie in tow.
Let’s see what kind of reception they get.
And oh, by the way, Max and Katie want you to know how appreciative they are that all of you traveled with them.
“Grilled cheese and hot chocolate.”
“What?” Katie asked.
“The snow outside, reminds me of winters in Seattle when I was growing up. We’d go out sledding, me and my friends, stay out for long hours till we were almost blue and we couldn’t feel our fingers, and then we’d all head over to my house where my mom would have grilled cheese and hot chocolate waiting for us. Those were good times.”
She snuggled closer to me. Shivered a bit. We had just crossed over Snoqualmie Pass, the main thoroughfare connecting eastern and western Washington. We only had about an hour to go before the Seattle skyline came into view.
“I don’t have memories like that, Max.” That’s all she said. In truth, that’s all she had to say.
I let her words hang over us for awhile. The snow on the Pass turned to rain on the west side, not a hard rain, just enough to remind us that winter wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The evergreens stood tall guarding the freeway, snow clinging tenaciously to the branches, and forests slowly gave way to buildings, scattered at first, but then in increasing numbers.
“They’re going to hate me, Max.”
“Not my family, they won’t.”
The Skyline Appears
We passed Lake Sammamish, losing elevation as we continued, and then the city of Bellevue came into view, getting closer with each mile, Bellevue for a few miles and then Lake Washington and the skyline of Seattle dead ahead, tall and proud, the city of my childhood, the city where all of my good memories resided, and just like that tears were flowing down my cheeks, finding a way through the stubble, washing over me, cleansing me, bathing me in sweet surrender. I held Katie tighter.
“We’re home, Katie,” and even as I said those words I knew their truth. It was my home. It was where I needed to be. Familiar streets, familiar buildings, all came into view then, and memories flooded over me with each old discovery. There was the corner of 8th and James were Tommy Boyd and I sold magazines to finance a basketball tournament for our high school team. There was Smith Tower, an antiquated symbol of Seattle’s past, where my sister and I raced down the stairwell, her falling on the second floor, breaking her arm, Mom so damned pissed at me for not taking better care of my little sister. There was Pike’s Place Market, the street vendors, the tossed salmon, all manner of seafoods available, where Theresa Young and I had our first date, and there was the Space Needle, a lifelong reminder of my first kiss, at its base, Theresa telling me she loved me and always would.
The last I heard Theresa was married to a dentist, had three kids, and was living in Los Angeles, doing well for herself, or so mutual friends said, and I was happy for her, hoped she had a long, productive life.
And then the waltz down Memory Lane was completed and the bus pulled into the Greyhound station, and just as it did the clouds parted and I swear to the Almighty the sun broke through, a cold sun for sure, but the first glimpse of it since that long journey began, and it splashed down on us as we stepped off that bus and there, thirty feet from us, my family stood, Mom, Dad, and sister Jeannie, and all manner of chaos ensued as Jeannie came running at me, all flowing hair and flowing tears, a smile to melt your heart, and literally flew into my arms, me picking her up, twirling her around, her face buried in my neck, our tears mixing, us laughing, and then it was Mom’s turn, her familiar scent embracing me, whispered words that her baby boy was home, praise be, oh how she loved me, thank you God.
And standing close by, waiting his turn, my dad, a smile dominating his rugged features, dressed in a suit, one of the few times I could remember him ever wearing a suit, and as Mom released me my Dad stepped forward, snapped to attention, and saluted me.
“Welcome home, soldier,” he said, and his handshake was firm and his hug firmer still, the strength still there, the ability to make me feel safe, still there, and “I love you” filled the air.
“Lord Almighty, where are our manners?” my mother said, us still hugging each other, finding nourishment in that physical touch. “And who, Max, is this beautiful woman with you? Lordy, is this the Katie you told me about? Well child, you are much too pretty to be hanging with this boy of mine,” and then it was Katie’s turn to be smothered in hugs and kisses, and she looked pretty confused by it all, overwhelmed really, smiling gamely, trying to keep up with three conversations all going at once, “oh, you’re so pretty,” and “I love your hair,” and “Isn’t she just the most beautiful woman,” and “what in the world are you doing with my brother?”
And Kate was all “pleased to meet you,” and “I hope you don’t mind me barging in” and “thank you so much for the reception,” doing her best to not get swallowed up and drown in all the love pouring forth, and all in all it was pretty damned wonderful.
It hadn’t changed much, the home of my childhood.
“Painted it last summer,” Dad said, and you could tell he was proud of it, but new paint or not, it was the same home, the type of home that says “welcome, come on in, don’t you worry about taking your shoes off, this home was meant to be lived in,” and walking through the front door it was all there, eighteen years of memories, eighteen years that shaped me, overwhelming really, and Katie took my hand and squeezed, stood up on tiptoes and whispered “it’s all right, Max, there’s love here,” and I knew her words to be true.
And just as I expected, Mom had a big meal waiting, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, my favorite green bean salad, and we all sat down at the table, a family tradition, important matters were always discussed at our dining room table, Mom saying good food made weighty matters a little lighter.
“I suppose,” I said, “you’ll be wanting an explanation why I disappeared for ten years. I’m not sure I can explain. I just…”
“It’s not necessary, Max,” Mom said. “You’re here now and that’s all that matters. In time, if you want, we can talk about it all, but right now, let’s just love each other and give thanks for our blessings. And Katie, if the time comes you ever want to talk about it all, know you’re safe here, and you’re welcome for as long as you can stand us.”
“Maybe you’d change your mind if you knew my background,” Katie said. “I’ve worked the streets for thirteen years now. I’m a homeless hooker, folks. I surely appreciate your hospitality, and I’m pretty sure I’m in love with your son, but bottom line, I’m a hooker. You deserve the truth and I’m tired of hiding from it.” She just blurted it out, couldn’t hold it in any longer, clearing the air early on, looking for reactions.
“Katie, would you like more mashed potatoes?” My dad passed the dish to her, not waiting for her answer. “Do you mind if I tell you a story while we eat?” Katie shook her head.
“My son there,” Dad said, pointing at me, “and my daughter, both of them, they never knew their Grandpa on my side of the family, my father. Truth is he died in prison while serving life for murder, a murder he committed while robbing a gas station. This was when I was about twelve, I guess, so I grew up as a teen knowing my old man was a thief and a killer. Those were tough times. Me and my older brother, we both worked after school each day, helping our mother with the bills, doing a man’s work to keep food on the table and the lights turned on.
“Anyway, there wasn’t much happiness in our family, and I would go to bed each night promising myself that when I finally got married, I was raising a happy family in a happy home, that I would do whatever it damned well took to make sure there was love in the home, and a feeling that no matter what happens outside of this home, this would always be a safe place.
“That’s my way of saying, Katie, and I know my wife, daughter, and son feel the same, we don’t give a damn what happened in your past. This is your safe place from now on. Now dammit, girl, would you please pass the chicken. I talked myself into an appetite.”
And so It Goes
It’s been a month now since the homecoming.
There are tough days. There are brilliant days. Katie and I are learning to take it all in stride. I’ve gotten a job down on the Ballard docks, my dad coming through with his longshoreman connections. It’s good pay and honest labor.
Katie, she’s working too. My sister Jeannie found her a job as a barista, working right alongside her, about a mile from our home. The tips are great and customers love Katie.
I understand how they feel.
We talked the other night, Katie and me, late at night while laying in bed, the sounds of the house settling all around us. We agreed that Seattle felt right to both of us, that maybe we should stay awhile, let the love wash over us and cleanse us of the past. I’m not sure that’s entirely possible, but I’m willing to give it a go.
THAT’S ALL FOR NOW
There’s’ a lot of healing still left for Katie and Max, but I feel good about leaving them for now.
They’ve become friends of mine and, in my opinion, friends should stay in touch.
So don’t be surprised if we come back to see how they’re doing in the near future.
Thanks for tagging along.
2016 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)