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Second Time Around

Chapter 31

By Arli J

Edited by Radio Rancher
Based on Characters from Pinochle, by E Walk

We got a call from Beau on Friday afternoon. They were planning an early dinner, and they would be arriving in Prescott at 8:30 that evening. Beau had decided to rent a car when they arrived, because he hated the idea of being dependent on the buses for transportation. After I hung up from talking to him, I called Bill at the front desk and told him their plans. He had what seemed like a good idea.

"Since they won't be familiar with the area, why don't you go with the van to meet their plane? We can rent a car for them, once they get here."

"That's a great idea, and Art is planning to meet us here in the morning. He's going with us to see the house. That way, we can follow him, and we won't get lost!"

Bill chuckled. "Sounds like a plan to me! I'll give you guys a call, when the van is ready to leave for the airport."

"I hope we can get the van there a few minutes early. Beau is almost pathologically punctual, and he gets really upset, if he has to wait for something or someone. If he said 8:30, you can be sure that his plane will touch down at exactly 8:30."

"Wow! Well, I'll be sure to get you there a little early, then."

We decided to take a little nap, then have a late dinner, before we got ready to go and meet the plane. We'd had a busy week, and we expected a whirlwind weekend, with Beau in town.

We woke up about 6:30 and went down to the motel restaurant. Neither of us was particularly hungry, so we had a light meal and went back to our room to get dressed to go and meet our visitors. When we were ready to go, we decided to just relax until it was time to take the van to the airport.

Gregg was looking decidedly nervous. I couldn't imagine what might be bothering him. "Are you all right?"

"I don't know. What if Beau and Becca don't like the house?"

"What's not to like? It's a great little house, just perfect for us, and the price is right. Unless Beau finds some problem that we missed, I don't see why he wouldn't like it, and I think Becca is going to love it."

"Well, I hope so, but what if they don't like it?"

Well, what if they don't? They're not going to be living there; weare, so it really doesn't matter whether or not they like it. It's going to be ourhouse!"

"Our house." His voice was soft, almost a whisper, and he had that sweet smile that I love so much. "Oh, Harley, doesn't that sound wonderful? It's going to be our very own house, and it's got a nice sized yard. We can have flowers and...could we plant some watermelons?"

I held back the giggle and looked at him as seriously as I was able. "Yes, Gregg, we will definitely plant some watermelons." His grin was almost splitting his face. I just shook my head and changed the subject.

We chatted about our dreams and plans for the new house. It was amazing how similar they were—except for the watermelons, which I would never have considered. But, if that would make Gregg happy,....

The phone rang. It was Bill in the lobby, telling us that the van was ready to leave for the airport. I checked my watch; we would have plenty of time, so we'd be there when their plane landed. We took the elevator down to the lobby, and Bill introduced us to the driver and his assistant. They would take care of all the luggage. Bill told me that he had checked with a couple of car rentals, and we would have no trouble getting a car in the morning. Art would drive us over to pick up the car. We went out to the big stretch van waiting in front of the motel, and we were off.

The driver and his assistant were both transplanted yankees like us, who had come for a visit and decided to stay. And, like us, they had found the green of Camp Verde more comfortable than the desert. They were happy to hear that we had found a house, and they welcomed us to their little community. They told us what a friendly place it is (which we had already discovered). By the time they finished extolling the virtues of our new home-to-be, we had arrived at the airport. The van was parked in the visitors' lot, and we went inside to wait for the plane.

We didn't have long to wait. I saw the lights of the descending plane, and, as it touched down on the tarmac, I glanced at my watch. 8:30 on the dot. We watched, as the steps were wheeled up to the side of the plane. Then the door opened, and Beau stepped out to look around. Becca was behind him, followed by Brian and the two girls. Brian seemed curious about his surroundings, but the girls had decidedly sour expressions. It was apparent that they were not too happy about this visit to the Southwest.

Beau greeted us with hearty handshakes, and Becca gave us each a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek. Brian came up and shook hands, but the girls hung back. I saw Becca give them a warning look, and they came over to say hello, but their expressions were still less than happy.

The porter had unloaded their luggage from the plane, and he pushed it through the terminal to the front door, where the van driver and his assistant quickly loaded it into the van, which was now parked right at the door. On the way back to the motel, Becca filled us in on the news from the boys. They had decided to stay in Ithaca over Thanksgiving, because they both had papers due immediately after the holiday, but they were looking forward to coming home for Christmas. Since they had a two-week holiday then, Beau was planning to fly them down to see us. I could tell that Gregg was really looking forward to seeing Grant, and I had become quite fond of the boys in the short time we had together.

I drifted back to those days in Ithaca, before the unhappy experiences with the Board. I came back to the conversation just in time to hear Gregg say, "...and we're planting watermelons in our yard!" Becca grinned, and Beau raised an eyebrow. Brian was giggling.

"Why would you want to plant watermelons in the yard?"

"I like watermelons, don't you?"

"Well, yeah, but can't you just go to the store and buy one, when you want it?"

"Yes, but home-grown fruit is so much better than what you buy in the store. You can pick it when it's just at the perfect stage." Brian giggled again, and Beau looked at Becca and shook his head. "Besides, Harley said we could!"

Now all three of them looked at me with that "Have you lost your mind?" look. I just shrugged. The girls were just staring out the windows at the passing scenery and ignoring the rest of us.

The shadows were long, and it was getting dusky when we arrived at the motel. After the bellhops had taken the luggage to their suite, Beau, Becca and Brian met us in the lobby. We had decided to go to the motel restaurant for a late dessert. Becca told us that the girls were tired and had decided not to join us. From the grin on Brian's face, I got the impression that the decision to stay in their rooms had not been their own idea. We went into the restaurant and were met by a smiling Joey. He was looking tired, and he confided to me that he was glad the day was almost over. But his smile and his excellent service never faltered.

We didn't linger over our desserts; the Bensons had had a long day and a long trip. They were tired and wanted to get to bed. Gregg was looking tired, too. We rode up together on the elevator, and they said good night, as we got off at the second floor. We arranged to meet in the lobby for breakfast about nine o'clock in the morning, and then we could see about renting a car and going to look at the house.

By the time we got back to our room, Gregg was really exhausted. His limp, which had been hardly noticeable for some time now, was back, and his face was drawn. He didn't resist, when I suggested that we go to bed. I think we were both asleep in less than five minutes, cuddled together.

I awoke to sunshine in my eyes; we had forgotten to draw the drapes. I looked at the clock. It was six thirty. I got up, went to the bathroom and took care of all my needs. Then I came back to the room. Gregg was still asleep, sprawled now over most of the bed. I couldn't resist a grin; he really does look like a little boy when he's sleeping.

Shaved, showered and dressed, I went to the phone and called down to ask for coffee. In a couple of minutes there was a discreet knock at the door, and the bellhop came in with a tray. There was a small pot of coffee, two cups and a couple of pastries. He set the tray on the table, and I gave him a tip.

Gregg woke up as he was leaving. He sat on the edge of the bed, rubbing his eyes. When he could finally see, he noticed the coffee pot. "Oh, good! Coffee! That's what I need!"

We sat at the table with our coffee. The pastries were apparently made in the motel kitchen, fresh, warm and delicious. We decided that we'd go out for a little walk before the Bensons came down for breakfast. Gregg was feeling rested, and he was walking much better this morning. I was relieved to see that.

When we finished our coffee, Gregg went to the bathroom to get ready. I resisted the urge to make the bed, since the maid would be there shortly to take care of that. When Gregg returned, dressed and smiling, we took the elevator downstairs. The night clerk was still at the desk, so we just waved and said good morning on our way out the door.

It was still cool and comfortable out on the street, but I suspected that it would get quite a bit warmer later in the day. I made a mental note to mention to Bill that we needed an air-conditioned car for our guests. We walked a couple of blocks up the street from the motel. I was trying to keep an eye on Gregg, without him noticing that I was doing it. He had been doing well, since we arrived, and I was concerned about the return of his limp. But he seemed to be doing well, and he was excited about showing "our house" to Beau and Becca, to see what they thought of it. He seems very insecure about a lot of things. He almost needs approval and reassurance from someone he trusts before he can do anything. I realized that he had been looking to me for that approval in the short time of our relationship, and I made up my mind that I would give it, unasked, as often as possible. I had to wonder what his early life had been, to have left such low self esteem and insecurity.

We returned to the motel and went in to the restaurant for another cup of coffee. Joey wasn't on duty yet. He had told me that he had a split shift, nine o'clock until one, so that he would be there for the breakfast and lunch times, then five o'clock to closing. It made a long day for him, but he had a family to support, and he was doing his best. I had already come to like this young man and to respect his energy and enthusiasm.

When we finished our coffee, we sat in the lobby and talked about our plans. We would have to open a bank account and deposit the checks Beau was bringing, so that we could pay for the house, and we would have to arrange to have our things sent, along with Gregg's car, so that we would have transportation and not have to depend on buses. It seemed that there were a hundred little details that we needed to take care of, but we were both looking forward to settling in our new home.

Beau and Becca came down a few minutes before nine, and we went into the restaurant for breakfast. Brian and the girls had decided to sleep in, and they would come down when they woke up. As we were eating, Becca explained the girls' attitude the night before.

"We had made our plans to come here for the weekend, and yesterday the girls came home from school and asked if they could go to a party at one of their friends' house. It was apparently a spur of the moment idea, so I told them that our plans were made, and they were coming with us. If we had known earlier, I could have arranged with one of their friends' mothers for them to spend the weekend there, but there wasn't time now. Both of them insisted that they were old enough to stay home alone, but that was out of the question. So now I have two very unhappy young ladies on my hands. Oh, well, they're going to have to deal with it. But if their attitude doesn't change, we're going to have a head-on collision, and they're going to be even more unhappy. I'm beginning to wonder why anyone would want teenaged daughters."

Beau chuckled. "Maybe we should have a chat with your mother. She raised one."

Becca glared at him. "What do you mean by that?"

"We've said, from the time the girls were little, that they were harder to deal with than the boys. I guess they're just small women in training."

Becca's eyes narrowed to slits, as she glared at Beau. "We're going to have a discussion about that statement later, Mr. Benson!" Then she turned to us and grinned. "I hate to admit it, but he may be right. But I really don't want to hear it over breakfast!"

Beau grinned, but he changed the subject quickly. "So, we can rent a car right here?"

"That's what Bill told us. He's our favorite desk clerk, and his cousin Art, who is our real estate agent, will take us to get it. We have an appointment at eleven to see the house, and then we can take a little tour of Camp Verde, so you can see our new home."

Gregg chuckled. "That should take up about fifteen minutes! It's not a very big town, but the people there are really friendly. We're both looking forward to getting to know our neighbors. We've already met one of them."

I told them about our bus tour and meeting Rosie at the diner. Becca looked interested.

"Maybe we could go there for lunch, after we see the house, so we could meet her, too."

Gregg was getting excited now. "Yeah, we could do that! They have meat loaf, real Greek-style meat loaf!" That brought a laugh from all of us. He looked hurt.

"But it's great meat loaf! I don't see what's so funny!"

Becca reached over and patted his hand. "We're not laughing atyou, Greggie!"

"Well, it's not funny! I happen to like meat loaf!"

Beau was watching and listening to this exchange with one eyebrow raised and an amused expression on his face, but he kept out of the conversation.

Becca turned to me. "This place we're going, I saw it on the map, but I have no idea how to pronounce it."

"We were calling it 'vair-day,' trying to get as close to the Spanish as we could, but I've noticed that all the people around here make it rhyme with 'birdie.'"

She grinned. "Well, that's a bit easier on the middle American tongue. If I remember my high school Spanish, that word means 'green,' doesn't it? Why would they call it that?"

"Wait until you see the place, Becca! You're in for a little surprise."

"But why Camp Verde?"

Beau spoke up. "I was reading a little about the history of this area. There was an army camp there in the late 1800's, to protect against possible Indian raids. The town probably grew up around it, and the name just stuck."

We finished breakfast with little further conversation. When we came out to the lobby, Art was waiting for us. Since there wasn't really room for all of us in his car, Becca, Gregg and I waited at the motel, while Beau went with Art to rent the car. When they returned, we set out for Camp Verde, following Art. Despite Becca's protests, Beau was driving.

"You'd think she was my mother! She's going to coddle me to death, if nothing else."

Becca gave him a dirty look, but said no more on the subject. She settled back into her seat and watched the scenery as we drove. As we were approaching Camp Verde, she sat up straight.

"Wow! Now I know what you meant, Harley! This looks more like Nebraska than Arizona!"

Gregg grinned. "Yeah, neat, isn't it? And wait 'til you see our house!" She turned in her seat and smiled at him. "Oh, it's your house already, is it?"

He slumped down in his seat a little, and his voice was soft and insecure. "Well, we were hoping it would be our house."

Becca must have realized that she had hurt him, because she said quickly, "Well, I can't wait to see it, and, if it's what you want, you should have it! You guys deserve the best!" She turned and picked up her purse.

"Oh, yeah. I almost forgot one of the reasons we came to visit!" She fished around and pulled out two envelopes. She handed them to Gregg. One was addressed to him, and the other to me. "There are your checks. Now you can make sure it's your house." Gregg's smile almost lit up the inside of the car.

When we pulled up in front of the house—we were already thinking of it as our house—we got out and joined Art on the sidewalk. Mrs. Morton must have been watching for us, because the front door opened before we were halfway up the walk. She greeted us with smiles and welcomed us inside.

Art waited by the front door, as Mrs. Morton took us on a tour of the house. I could see Beau quietly inspecting for problems, but Becca was delighted. "Oh, this is so nice! Did you say that the furniture stays with it?"

Mrs. Morton sighed. "Yes, Clinton and I picked it out together. It was to be our home for the rest of our lives, so we chose things we could both live with. He could be a bit fussy about some things." She gave Becca a small, conspiratorial smile. "Men, you know."

Becca grinned and nodded. Beau turned to us. "I think we've just been put down; what do you guys think?"

Becca patted his hand. "Oh, no, dear. We would never do a thing like that!" She gave Mrs. Morton a smile and a wink. "But don't you want to keep these lovely things?"

Mrs. Morton sighed again. "No, I'll be living with my sister, and her home is furnished. And, anyway, there are too many memories that I'd just as soon leave behind, instead of being reminded of them every day." She dabbed at her eyes with the handkerchief she always seemed to be carrying in her left hand.

Becca gave her a small hug and a warm smile. "I can understand that."

We completed our tour around the house, and Becca took Mrs. Morton's hand. "You have a lovely home here, and I just know the guys will be happy here. There's warmth and love in every room."

Beau spoke up for the first time since we started our tour. "Yes, and this house is really well built. You don't see this kind of construction any more. This house was built by people who knew what they were doing and were proud of their work."

Mrs. Morton smiled. "Yes, we've never had a problem in all the years we lived here." She paused for a moment, then continued. "Clinton had the new roof put on five years ago. It was the summer our daughter Alison came to visit." She grinned. "We had a terrible time keeping her kids off the ladders and out of the way of the workmen!"

There was a pause, as she dabbed at her eyes again. Then she smiled brightly. "I've been a terrible hostess! Can I get you cold tea or a cup of coffee?"

Beau gave her his famous grin. "Thanks, Mrs. Morton, but we'd better be getting back. I hate to think what three teenagers on their own may have done to the motel while we've been gone."

She gave him a sympathetic grin. "I certainly understand that! I had three of my own!"

Art joined in the conversation. "So, guys, do I take it that you want to buy Mrs. Morton's house?"

"Oh, yeah!" Gregg's grin was lighting up the room. "We're going to need to go to the bank and open an account, so we can deposit the checks from New York, and then we're ready!" He paused and looked at me, and that look of insecurity came over his face. "We are ready, aren't we?"

I gave him the most reassuring smile I could. I really wanted to hug him, but this wasn't the time or place. "Of course, we're ready. We already knew we wanted the house, and now we have the money." I turned to Mrs. Morton. "What time would be good for you on Monday?"

"Any time that's convenient for you. I have no plans for the day."

Art spoke up. "I have to see a client Monday morning. Would one o'clock in the afternoon work for everyone?"

We all agreed to that, and we said our goodbyes and thank yous to Mrs. Morton for her kindness in showing us around. Then we went back to Prescott.

When we got to the motel, Brian was sitting in the lobby, watching TV. Becca had a surprised look on her face. "Why aren't you watching the TV in our room?"

"The girls were in a mood this morning. When they got up, they ordered breakfast from room service. Then they bitched about the food, the room, just about everything!"

Beau spoke up sharply: "Language, Brian!"

"I'm sorry, Dad, but there just isn't any other word for it. They kept it up until I couldn't stand any more, so I came down here to get a little peace and quiet."

Just then the elevator doors opened and the girls stepped out into the lobby. They looked surprised to see their parents standing there. Beau's face was getting red, and his expression was not pleasant.

"And where do you think you're heading now?"

"We were just going in to get some lunch."

"Wrong. You're going back upstairs to get packed. You've managed to spoil this little vacation for all of us, so we're going home." The girls started to reply, but his look stopped them.

"We'll discuss this as a family, when we get home. But for right now, get moving!"

"But, Dad, we haven't had any lunch!"

"You can eat when you get home. Do I make myself clear?"

Both girls burst into tears and rushed back to the elevator. As the door closed behind them, Beau turned to us. "I'm sorry about this, guys. I don't know what's going on with them, but they're not going to make life miserable for everyone. I was really looking forward to spending a couple of days here with you, as I know Becca was, but we just can't have this kind of behavior."

He took Becca's hand, and they went to the elevator. Brian leaned close and half whispered, "Uh, oh! Someone's going to be grounded until they're eighty-seven!" He caught up with his parents just as the elevator door opened. As the door closed behind them, Gregg and I just stood there, looking helplessly at each other. There didn't seem to be anything to say, so we went over and pushed the elevator button. We had to wait a couple of minutes until it returned for us. Then we got in and went up to the second floor. When we got to our room, we just sat down in the big, comfortable chairs and looked at each other. Gregg had the most woebegone look on his face. I reached out and took his hand. He gave me a faint smile, and we just sat, taking comfort in each other's presence.

About a half hour later, there was a knock on the door. I got up and went to the door. It was Becca and Brian. I invited them in, but Becca shook her head. "Beau's waiting with the girls in the lobby. He's called for the van to take us back to the airport. The plane will be ready when we get there." She hesitated, and her eyes filled with tears.

"I'm so sorry, guys. I don't know what's got into those girls, but I have the feeling that their father is going to get it out of them, once we get home. I love my children, and I'm usually very proud of them, but right now I'm not very proud of either of the girls."

"Why don't we go down to the lobby with you? We can at least say goodbye to all of you that way."

Gregg had followed me to the door, so we all went out and took the elevator down to the lobby. When we got there, Beau was standing to one side, with a grim expression on his face. The girls were looking very subdued. As we approached, the two girls backed up a little, and Beau approached us.

"I'm really sorry about this, guys. Maybe we can try again, when everyone's in a better mood. But I've got to tell you, I really like the house you found. I think you're going to be very happy there. Maybe the next time we come here, we can visit you in your new home. And I know that Ben and Grant are going to love it! They'll be coming down to spend a few days with you at Christmas time."

He shook hands with both of us. Becca gave each of us a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. Brian shook hands, and the girls mumbled their goodbyes. The van was parked in front of the door, and their luggage was already loaded. They went out and waved to us, as they got into the van. When they pulled away, Gregg looked at me.

"It's about lunch time. Are you hungry?"

"Not terribly. Let's see if we can order a sandwich through room service."

He grinned. "That will work for me. And coffee, too?"

"I've been really dying for a cup of coffee!"

"Me, too!" We took the elevator up to our room, and I put in a call to room service.

Editor's Notes: I think there are some serious issues with Brian's sisters. Beau can really get upset if he sees people acting unfairly. I would not want to be on the bad side of Beau. I'll tell you that.

I am so glad that Gregg and Harley are going to get their house they like so much.

I think they are going to be very happy there, away from those cold biting winters.

Oh, yeah, and they will be planting watermelons. Let's see, watermelons and meat loaf. Gregg will be in heaven.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

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