HIS WAY HOME
Before you read Part 4, be sure to read parts 1, 2 and 3 by other fab HarperImpulse authors:
Written Fireside, Part 4
by Lynn Marie Hulsman
Walter struggled to hoist himself out of the chair. The poor man was wracked with urgency, but couldn’t relate to Beth where he needed to be or why. “I’ve stayed far too long…” His eyes scanned the middle distance. The photograph fell to the floor.
“Please rest,” Beth jumping to her feet to steady her troubled guest. She feared he’d fall and hurt himself further. In the short space of time that he’d been sitting by the fire, he seemed to have aged ten years.
She slid under his arm to steady his tall frame. “Let’s make a deal, Walter. My partner, Matthew, is an EMT…”
“Emergency Medical Technician.” A fresh pain stabbed Beth in the heart. If only she could take back her judgmental words. She felt so alone. “He drives an ambulance. If you’ll just lie down until he gets home, we’ll help you get back to your Rose.”
He chuckled softly. “To get back to Rose… that I must do on my own. But I can’t go yet.” He allowed himself to be led to the downstairs guest room, shuffling on heavy feet. “You see, I’m here to make it right. I just have to remember… I can almost remember…” He sat on the side of the bed.
“Please, lie down,” Beth pleaded. She was torn. Perhaps she should call 911, but she felt protective. She didn’t want Walter chucked in a psych ward, friendless. “I’ll call Matthew and apologize,” she said distractedly.
“Did you quarrel with your man?” Suddenly Walter was alert, his eyes bright and focused on Beth. “Do you love him?”
Beth squirmed. Matthew had asked her the same question point blank hours before. She did, of course. But having been laid off, and the threat of losing the farm had brought stress to the relationship.
“Take my counsel,” he said sincerely, “don’t trifle with love. He eased his sodden shoes off, prying them with his feet. Lying back, he let out a wheezy sigh. “Why did you argue?” he asked breathily.
Her face flamed. “It’s stupid, really.” Beth felt exposed. She usually played things close to the vest, and she already felt more intimate with this strange grandfather figure than with some people in her own family. “It was about money.” She folded the quilt upward from the foot of the bed, tucking Walter in.
“Money means nothing,” he whispered. “You can’t take it with you, they say…” He trailed off, and Beth leaned in to hear him. “There was a girl once… a farm girl.” He wheezed. Beth stood stock still, listening to Walter’s words. “Not your class, Father said…Mother cried…didn’t raise you to take care of a nobody…”
Walter’s eyes closed, and for a brief second, Beth was afraid he’d stopped breathing. It was hard to tell. Satisfied that he’d be allright for the time being, she backed out of the guest room, flicking off the light. Steeling herself to call Matthew, she began planning what she’d say, if she’d apologize. How she’d apologize.
“Beth,” Matthew said. Startled, she turned around to see him standing in the middle of the living room as if she’d conjured him up by wanting him so badly.
He held out the photograph from Walter’s wallet. His face was pale. “Where did you get this picture of my grandmother?”