Keeping Faith by Cindy Bradford (serial 60)
The weekend before school was to start seemed an unlikely time for a teacher and her lobsterman boyfriend to choose for marrying, but the young educator was three months pregnant and showing, a fact that the Board of Education did not look upon favorably. So they had come to Patrick asking for his blessings and a rushed up ceremony. The honeymoon would definitely have to be cut short. At first Patrick was hesitant because of the circumstances of the union and of his promise to Carol that he would go with her and Olivia to see her parents in Connecticut. The choices were actually a coin toss of which he preferred less. Weekends with Carol’s father were anything but pleasant, but not going was generally not an option. Only once in their marriage had he stayed behind which hadn’t set well with Carol, and she had let him know exactly how she had felt.
He had put off the inevitable until after the camping trip. Now he braced himself for the negative reaction when he approached Carol with the dilemma. It was no more cheerful than he expected.
“Patrick, they are not even members of the church.”
“I know, Carol, but perhaps they will be.”
“You had the perfect answer…you don’t perform ceremonies for pregnant women or non-members. That’s all you had to say.”
“If I said no to every couple expecting a child, my weddings would be cut in half. At least they are going to marry.”
“Because they have to if she wants to teach here.”
“We could go to Connecticut. I don’t know why it has to be this particular weekend.”
“Because it’s Labor Day and you know my parents always have their end of the season party for their friends at the club. Besides, Daddy wants to show off Olivia.”
Feeling powerless, Patrick slumped. “I need to perform this wedding, Carol. They don’t want a civil ceremony and I’m glad for that.”
“Why can’t Reverend Markum do it?”
“The bride’s father said he wouldn’t attend if it were at the Baptist Church.”
Exasperated, she continued in her tirade. “Then I guess you have made your decision.”
“I could drive up early Saturday morning and still make the party. The wedding is Friday.”
“That’s not necessary. I’ll tell Daddy you stayed home to sanctify the bonds of holy matrimony.”
The sarcasm hung in the air like dense fog. She stormed out of the room, leaving him standing at the window, looking out at what would normally be his favorite view in the world.
For the remainder of the week neither brought up the impending trip or wedding. Patrick busied himself at work and Carol took Olivia shopping for school clothes and supplies.
“Daddy, Daddy, Look at my lunch kit,” Olivia squealed. She was holding a yellow and white rectangular metal box with Cinderella front and center.
“Let me see it better,” he said, reaching for the handle.
“I’ll show you.” She climbed into his lap, opened the box and pulled out a tiny thermos. “See, it matches!”
“What is Mommy going to put in here for you?” he asked, pretending to study the newest possession.
“A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple and a sugar cookie. We’ve already talked about it.”
“What about the thermos?”
“Juice. Do you want to hear me say my ABCs?”
“Of course, but sing them for me.”
“Okay…ABCDEFG… Now I’ve said my ABCs, tell me what you think of me.”
“I think you are the smartest, most beautiful, soon to be kindergarten girl in the whole wide world.” He kissed her on the forehead and added, “I’m going to miss you this weekend, sweetheart.”
“I’ll miss you Daddy. Mommy says you have to marry some people. Ugh! I’m never getting married.”
“But I thought Kenny was your boyfriend.”
Olivia giggled, “Oh, Daddy, you are so silly.”
Patrick noticed the shiny pink bike the minute he pulled up at the hardware store. Glistening in the sunlight, tiny strips of multi-colored plastic dangled from the handle bar covers and swayed with each passing breeze. It might as well have had Olivia’s name on it, because it was perfect.
No matter how many times he went into this store he was always amazed. He had never seen a place with so many things, so much stuff. Snow shoes hung from the ceiling and canoes and kayaks leaned against one full wall. There were pot-bellied stoves, rakes, shovels, big implements and every size of small tool. Screws and nails and bolts filled bin after bin to almost overflowing. Brooms of various shapes and lengths were cantilevered from a makeshift wooden structure. Looking around one might see every gadget, contraption and any other device known to man.
An oversized dusty metal sign over the cash register read “Any Day, Any Season, We Have What You Need.” There was no doubt in Patrick’s mind about that. If Wilson’s didn’t have it, it hadn’t been invented. The difficult task was finding it. Getting to it was harder. But it was there…somewhere.
Patrick had stopped for a package of light bulbs and a gallon of paint and left with that plus a bike, a basket for it and horn; one of those with the soft round black rubber ball that makes a deafening high-pitched squeal when it’s squeezed. Was he crazy? Olivia would love it.
The paint he bought was for the bedroom. He wanted to surprise Carol who had talked for months about wanting to change the walls to mauve from starchy white. Patrick had argued that it would make the room too dark. She had said it would add character and warmth. So today he was going to paint and if he had time, he would tend to the other chores he had put off earlier in the summer, like hammering loose nails in the shutters and cleaning the gutters. And he wanted to buy the deep plum bedspread at Berry Cottage she had been eyeing.
With school starting next week, Patrick knew winter would be upon them in no time, bringing with it all the bluster and rawness it did each year in these northeastern hamlets. The evenings were already cooling down and Patrick had noticed last night that at seven o’clock the temperature was 54°. Lately the weather experts had started predicting an unusually cold and wet winter. Anything that required attention outside, Patrick knew needed to be tackled soon.
Patrick was painting the crown molding when the phone rang at nine o’clock.
“Hi, Daddy. I miss you,” Olivia said excitedly.
“I miss you angel. What are you doing?”
“I’m at a party, but Mommy says I have to go to bed now.”
“Have you had fun?”
“Oh, yes. Nana bought me a new dress for the party. It is pink with little white kittens on it. What are you doing, Daddy,” she asked without taking a breath.
“Oh, just a few repairs around the house. I have a surprise for you when you get home tomorrow.”
“What? What is it?”
“I can’t tell you, silly girl. That’s why it is called a surprise. Where is Mommy?”
“She’s right here. She wants to talk.”
“Okay. Goodnight. Sleep tight. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“I love you, Daddy.”
“I love you, Olivia, more than life itself.” He could hear Carol whispering for Olivia to go to bed.
“Hello, honey. How’s the party?”
Carol laughed, “Like always. Same people, same stories. Be glad you didn’t come. I’m sorry I made such a big deal about it.”
“I’m sorry I didn’t go with you. I miss you.”
“How was the wedding?”
“Plain, simple. Surprisingly, there were quite a few who attended. Of course, both of them have lived here all their lives and know practically everyone in the area.”
“I guess I had better get back outside and mix. Dad will be looking for me. He is in his element right now, you know.”
“I have the picture,” Patrick said, laughing. “What time do you think you will leave?”
“Early. By six-thirty.”
“Be careful. I love you.”
“And I you, love.”
When he heard the phone click he felt suddenly lonely in the quietness of the bedroom.
It was after midnight when he finished painting. His T-shirt and work jeans were paint splattered and his muscles were already beginning to ache, but he took a look around the room and was pleased. Carol was right. It did look warmer, softer.
Pulling the old bedspread off, he folded it and put it on the top shelf of the closet. Taking the new one from its package, featherlike in its softness, he tossed it across their bed and carefully straightened the corners. For a minute he was tempted to crash on it, but the faint smell of paint fumes lingered in his nostrils. He grabbed a pillow and blanket and headed to the sunroom and was asleep in less than five minutes.