His One and Only
By Edwina W illiams
(Serialized story–Part 4 of 4, the conclusion of this story.)
Having a broken ankle wasn’t exactly fun, but it did allow Addie an opportunity to look around her at the house she had clung to for six years since Jerry’s death. It looked tired and dusty and she felt like she was looking at it for the first time in a long while.
Sitting on the porch swing, with its now-peeling paint, Addie swung gently to and fro as she thought back over the years since Jerry’s death. All that time, she had worked for the house, but she had not enjoyed the house. She had only enough energy to earn enough to keep paying the house’s bills. There was no energy left for her.
Addie began to think about moving and the longer she thought of it, the more sensible it seemed. She began to read real estate listings. Eventually, she discovered Clover, a gated community of condos and duplexes which looked attractive and sensible. The price was high; but she thought she could afford a one bedroom with computer alcove once her house was sold.
Jeff and Jenny went with her to view it as Addie’s foot still didn’t permit driving. As they toured the furnished display model, Addie imagined herself curled up on the comfortable sofa reading a thick book as she rested her throbbing foot on the comfortable hassock.
That afternoon she called a realtor and listed the house for sale. It was time to turn the house into the money for a comfortable retirement as Jerry had envisioned; but she was not going to go to a stuffy community for the elderly. People of all ages would be living in the community of Clover. There was a swimming pool, a walking trail and even a bike path. She was moving away from her house but not to await growing old. She was ready at last to enjoy living once more.
The dismantling of her home wasn’t easy, particularly with her ankle, although no longer in a cast, still weak and unreliable. Jeff and Jenny helped a little, as did their two grown daughters. Jerry and his wife came home and stayed a whole week sorting the thirty-five year collection of “things.” That weekend they had a yard sale. That took care of a lot of small items, and Jerry arranged with a consignment auction house to haul away the furniture that would not be making the move to the new apartment in Clover.
After Jerry and his wife went back home again, Addie realized that most of her obligations to her old home had been fulfilled. In three days her apartment would be ready and a moving company would come and move all the carefully marked items that were to go with her. Until then, she had only to wait and attempt to quell the feeling of disquiet at her impending move.
It was fall now and the shady front porch was as comfortable as it was full of nostalgia. Addie was sitting in her porch swing gently swaying to and fro. It was Saturday evening, two days before she would be moving away for good.
When she noticed a small white car pulling into her drive, she thought it must be the new owners coming a day or two early to measure something or to show the house to a relative. She was quite surprised when a tall, slim. self-assured young womanwearing simple slacks and a crisp white blouse stepped from the car and walked directly toward her.
As she watched the young woman walk across the lawn, Addie had an unmistakable feeling of expectancy. Somehow she was sure something of note was about to happen; but quite sensibly, she shook off the feeling. She had never seen this young woman before.
“Are you Mrs. Carter?” the young woman asked when she was close enough.
“Why yes, I’m Mrs. Carter. Is there something I can do for you?”
“Do you mind if I sit down.”
“You can sit by me on the swing or there in the chair.”
Addie sank back onto the swing. The young woman took the chair.
“I’m Sara Lawson,” she said. “Have you ever heard of me?”
“No, I can’t say that I have.” Addie answered.
“I was afraid not,” Sara said. “That’s why I’m here. I heard your house had been sold and I was afraid I had waited too long to come see you. There’s something I need to tell you.
“When I was sixteen I was very wild. I skipped school, tried drugs and ran with older boys. One day I skipped school and was hanging out in the pool hall attached to Ryan’s bar downtown. The guy I was with got drunk and started saying I was flirting with a couple of guys who were playing pool. Mr. Carter came in to collect an insurance premium from Ryan. He knew me because my mom had a small policy and he’d seen me every month or so for most of my life.
“He hustled me out of there and gave me a ride home and he gave me this card.” Sara pulled a small wrinkled piece of limp cardboard from her pocket. It was one of Jerry’s business cards, the same style he had used all the years Addie had been his wife.
“He told me if I ever needed anything—day or night—to call him and he would come.” Sara drew a deep breath as her eyes fell.
“One night I needed him and I called. It was the middle of the night and my boyfriend started beating me. I broke away and ran and ran and he came after me, chasing me with his car. I was sure he would run me over and I was scared to death. I finally got to the mini-mart and hid inside for a long time, scared to leave. Then I called Mr. Carter.
“He was there in twenty minutes and came inside and walked me out. On the way to my house, he told me there was a better way to live and that I deserved a better life than I was headed for.
“I don’t know whether I would have changed or not, but the next morning I heard about Mr. Carter getting killed less than half a mile from our house. I was heartbroken. I felt like I killed him. I knew he died because I called him to come out and save me from something that was all my own fault.
“Well, Mrs. Carter, I did change; and I finished high school and college and I’m working on my master’s. I’m going to make a career as a school counselor and do my best to save kids who are making the same mistakes I made.”
“Over the years, I always wondered if you knew why Mr. Carter was out that night, and I wanted to tell you why and to tell you how sorry I am that I called to ask him for help and he never got back home to you.”
A great weight fell off Addie and she felt tears running down her cheeks as she stood to meet the girl half way between the swing and the chair.
“It wasn’t your fault, young woman,” she said as she wrapped her arms around her visitor and gave her a hug. “Jerry was like that. I believe he would have gone to help you even if he had known what would happen. He’d be so proud of you.”
Ten minutes later, after promising to keep in touch, Sara returned to her car and drove away with a parting wave; but Addie continued to swing back and forth until long after dusk.
The last regrets at leaving the house where she had been Jerry’s wife slid away. For the first time in nearly seven years, there was peace in Addie’s heart. Jerry had done nothing wrong. At the time of his death, he had still been the good man she married. In her mind she could almost hear him saying, “Addie, you should have known you were my one and only girl.”
It was with that thought in mind that Addie smiled as she walked through her hall, past the boxes ready to be taken to her new home. She knew the objects packed in those boxes would bring memories of Jerry,but those memories would no longer be painful now that her heart was free of questions and doubts.
(All 4 parts of this story have now been posted. If you missed any of the story, check in the category shown below and read all the installments. Thank you for being a reader.–Edwina Williams)