Chapter 25 - Burying the Past
A few weeks had gone by since the funeral and the reading of the will and Barbara couldn't get the words in that letter out of her mind. It told her of the events surrounding her birth and why they were both forced to live with Howard. At first she was numb with pain and from the knowledge that her mother didn't trust her enough to reveal such a secret but as time passed she came to admire her strength and eventually forgave her.
As she gazed up at the tall office building, she recalled her conversation with Kurt and the memory gave her courage as she started across the street to confront her father. She needed to talk to him. To understand why he didn't want to be a part of her life. Kurt had given her enough information to find him, but neither he nor the letter really told of what happened between her parents and why he left. So Barbara was determined to get some answers on her own.
Arthur stood on his penthouse balcony gazing out into the city below him. Do to his work he'd lived in many places but none could compare to his childhood home. As he looked out at the beautiful skyline he recalled all the reasons he loved living here. The different cultures seemed to mingle into one as each event detailed the turning of some historical moment in the past only Boston could lay claim too. This was his home, the place of his birth, the place where he learned his trade and most importantly the place where he found his one and only love, Amy Brownstein.
He recalled the first time he saw her. Her long brown hair flowing down her back and her eyes smiling as if she possessed some hidden secret no one else was privy too. She was mesmerizing in her blue sun dress, and from that moment on he was hooked. He had to find out who she was. And so he coerced some of his friends into playing match maker, a ploy which worked to his benefit, since from their first meeting they were inseparable.
He stood plagued by memories of the past, good ones as well as bad ones when he heard a knock at the door. Putting down his coffee mug he walked over and answered it. He was surprised by the person he saw standing there. Without a word he took a step back granting her further access to his suite.
"Can I get you something?" he asked as she quietly looked around. "It's cold outside, I can make some tea."
"I'm fine, thank you," she said.
"Then would you like to have a seat?" he asked her quietly.
"This is a nice place," she whispered taking a seat near the window.
"I'm sure it doesn't compare to the Tipton but its home," she nodded. "Can I get you something to drink or eat?"
"No, I'm fine. Thank you."
As Barbara awkwardly gazed around the room she wondered if coming here was such a good idea. What could she possibly say to this man who shared her eyes but beyond that was a stranger to her. She found herself wondering what his interests were, how he lived, where he worked. It was obvious he came from money but money wasn't what she was interested in.
"How long have you lived here?"
"I grew up here, but moved away for quite a number of years. I only recently returned."
"I hear you're very smart," he said trying to break the awkwardness between them. "Top of your class."
"Close," she smiled. "I rank second after Cody."
"Still quite commendable," he told her. "I'm thoroughly impressed."
Barbara wondered how often she wanted to hear those words from Howard and how often she fell short of his expectations. There was a kindness to this man her step father never possessed and she wondered what made him leave.
"I'm sure your mom and…Howard were very proud of you," he stated.
"Howard never…" she sighed. "He was never one for giving compliments."
"Was he good to you and your mother?"
"He tried to be," she lied.
"He never hurt you?"
"No," she wanted to add until he put her in the hospital. But she kept her thoughts to herself. Howard was gone and there was no reason to bring that up.
Looking around once more she stopped upon a small snow globe and her eyes began to tear up when she picked it up. He walked over and stood next to her, watching her examine the small object.
"I bought that the Christmas your mother and I were together. She said it painted a picture of a perfect scene, one she longed to be a part of. I told her if we were ever separated to shake the globe and turn the dial and I would never be too far away."
"She kept it by her bed, I would hear the music playing and it would put me to sleep at night. One day I picked it up and looked at it. I guess I was curious and she almost had a fit. I'm sure she thought I would drop it. I liked it so much that one Christmas she bought me one to keep in my room. Of course the scene was different and the song as well, but she told me that if I ever felt lonely to play the song and she would be with me. I fell asleep to it last night."
"Where is it now?"
"It's in my daughter's room. I play it for her at night," Barbara replied. "May I?" she asked before turning the small crank and letting the music flow throughout the room.
As Silver Bells played she closed her eyes and seemed to be magically transported to a Christmas scene. Her mom was never one for over doing it on holidays, but Christmas was always the exception. Every room was decorated and cookies were baked and carols were sung. And for awhile everything seemed perfect. Her mother always had a glow around her this time of the year and she remembered on many days such as this one sitting in the living room with her eating freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, drinking apple cider and laughing at whatever game they were playing.
Barbara opened her eyes when the song ended and replaced the snow globe back onto the mantle. "I'm sorry, I miss her."
"She was a wonderful woman," he sadly stated.
"Can I ask you a question?"
"Did you mean what you wrote in the note?"
"What was she like when the two of you were together?"
"She always had a ready smile and a kind word to share."
"Then what happened to keep you away?"
"How much did he tell you?"
"Kurt gave me just enough information to find you," she stated answering his question. "He thinks it's best if you fill me in on the rest."
"Are you sure you want to hear this?"
"Yes," she replied. "Trust me there isn't too much about Howard that won't surprise me."
Arthur sat down across from her and began to fill her in on their brief courtship and the corresponding end to their relationship. The entire time he was speaking Barbara sat still quietly listening. She hated Howard for what he did to her family. If he had stayed away, she would have had the kind of family she'd always wanted. Obviously Arthur caught on to her train of thought.
"I know how you feel, but you can't spend your life living with hate. If you do, Howard wins. Let it go."
"Let it go?" she stood up beginning to pace. "How can you ask me to do that when he ruined my family's life."
"He's gone. He can't hurt any of you again."
Barbara knew that what he was saying was true, but something inside her just couldn't do it. Her mother was dead, if she was honest with herself, she'd realize that Amy had been dead for a number of years because of Howard. Her spirit and her smile gone from the moment he walked into the room. She only saw glimpses of it when he was absent. Another reason for her to hate Howard Brownstein.
"Then think about Shawn and Adele. Hate is a powerful emotion, one that can poison a person's heart faster than any venom could. Is that really what you want your children to learn from their mother?"
"Then what do you suggest?"
"Forget about Howard. Erase him from your mind and live your life."
"Speaking of living life," she paused a moment trying to gain her courage. "I was hoping, I mean that is to say, Shawn and Adele need their grandfather," Barbara waited for an answer and after what seemed like forever he granted her one.
"I thought you would never ask."
The following month she and Arthur spent a lot of time together. He was at the Tipton so much he decided to rent a room down the hall from where his family lived. Family game night became a weekly ritual as were family dinners. Everyone came to admire him and loved having him around. The twins absolutely adored him and Barbara now had not only one father but two. Life was good. With only one exception.
Barbara and Cody brought the car to a stop not a few yards from the newly polished stone that bared the name of her mother. She hadn't been here since the funeral partly because she was busy with her newfound relationship with Arthur and the twins and partly because she wasn't ready to let go.
"You okay?" Cody asked wrapping an arm around her waist and handing her the small bouquet of flowers in his hands.
"Yes, this is, being here," she replied as they made their way over toward the grave. "This place is so peaceful."
"Your mom needs a little peace."
"I think she's found it."
Barbara smiled down at the picture that was inserted on the face of the stone. She wasn't sure if her time with her mom was a dream or some kind of hallucination from all the drugs they were giving her in the hospital, but she believed with all her heart that Amy had at last found peace.
"I think she has too."
Suddenly a warm breeze picked up and she felt it wrap around her like a welcoming friend. She closed her eyes to the sensation as a feather light kiss touched her cheek. Although no one could physically be seen she knew without a doubt her mother was with her.
"Did you feel that?" Cody asked. "Like someone placed a hand on my shoulder."
"It was mom."
Cody let that statement sink in for a moment before wrapping his arms around her and pulling her toward him. Barbara leaned into the touch and placed her head on his shoulder. All her life she felt like something was missing. No matter how hard she tried that the equation wouldn't add up. Then a miracle happened she met Cody and her life changed.
All the pennies in the wishing well, all the wishes on the midnight star had led her to this moment. And finally she felt free and alive. Looking up toward Cody she made a silent promise, from this day forward she was going to live in the moment. The past was gone and with it went all the heartbreak she once knew.
AN: What can I say – it's been quite a challenge to find a way to finish this story. I think most of the problem stemmed from this being my first attempt. I guess I was having trouble letting it go. Anyway, I hope you liked it and wasn't too disappointed with the ending.