One overcast Saturday in September, Van pulled up in his green truck, ready to work despite the weather. Although Jana initially wondered if he would be able to finish the job in time, she didn’t have to wonder long. Van was so efficient and methodical that he was finished and loading his equipment back in the truck right before the sky poured down its blessings.
Seeing Van preparing to leave, Jana ran outside and beckoned him to come in for lunch. “You won’t let us pay you, the least you can do is let us feed you,” she insisted, needing to show their gratitude in some way.
“I can accept those terms,” Van said, unable to resist Jana’s cooking. Then he quickly ran up the stairs just as huge raindrops began to sprinkle the freshly cut lawn with their elixir of life.
Following Jana to the kitchen, he soon came upon Kristin sitting at the kitchen table looking as lovely as ever. Today she had on a gold-colored, short sleeved jumpsuit with gold thong sandals on her feet. A magazine sat in her lap and her shapely legs were crossed at the knees with one shoe dangling from a well-pedicured foot.
“Hi, Kristin,” Van said as he entered the kitchen. He was still glistening with sweat and dew from his outdoor activities.
“Hello, Van,” Kristin said, trying to appear unmoved by the sight of his rippling muscles and glistening skin. “You finished just in time.”
“Yes, I did,” he said, feeling sticky all over. Then he turned to Jana with a request.
“Can I go up and take a shower before I eat? I have some changing clothes out in the truck.”
“Sure, brown-eyes,” Jana agreed. “I’m not quite finished with lunch yet anyway. Kristin, honey, will you go show Van where we keep the linen?”
“Uh...sure, Mama Gray,” Kristin said with uncertainty, while Van went out to his truck.
When he came back inside, Kristin proceeded to lead the way upstairs. Van watched with enormous pleasure as her full hips gently swayed with each step upwards. Kristin was undeniably a fine specimen and seemingly an oblivious one, too, because she was totally unaware of the impact that she was having on the man following her. Van almost hated to reach the top. In fact, he wished that there were fifty more stairs for them to climb. He could watch Kristin’s sensual stride forever.
Upstairs, Kristin gave Van a brief tour of their surroundings. It had been years since he’d been up there, but not much had changed. Jana still had the same master bedroom on the left, further down two additional rooms sat across from each other, and the bathroom was still at the end of the wide corridor with the linen closet on its right.
But what was different from what Van expected was the fact that Kristin stayed in the guestroom instead of in Sammy’s old room. I thought she would have wanted to be in there.
But Van didn’t know that Kristin had been in there. When she and Jana first arrived back in
* * *
Fifteen minutes later, a freshly scrubbed Van sat down to eat. The women had the oval-shaped table adorned with festive crab salad, drummettes, baked beans, and fruit salad. He couldn’t wait to partake of the feast before him.
After saying grace, a resourceful Jana began to do a bit of discreet matchmaking. “Van, Kristin made the crab salad. How do you like it?”
After sampling it, he nodded appreciatively. “It’s good, Kristin. Not only are you a fantastic instructor, but you’re a great cook, too. Very impressive.” As Van said that, his deep hazel eyes captured hers and held them for a long delectable moment. In the background, the rain danced against the kitchen window as they shared their moment.
All Kristin could do was nod her appreciation and smile as she admired his neat, yet extremely casual appearance in the black jeans and matching FUBU t-shirt he wore. Mmm…everything he wears looks good on him, she mused, realizing that Van was starting to get to her even more these days.
Witnessing their exchange, Jana smiled with pleasure. Then she asked, “Van, what made you open up three totally different types of businesses?”
Van tore his eyes away from Kristin to answer that question. “It’s simple really. I wanted to get paid for doing the things I loved. I love lawn work, cars, and computers. So when granddaddy left me that money, I quit my job at the power plant and opened the lawn care business. When that took off, I started the computer training business and last was the car lot.”
Then he put his fork down and grew serious. “Speaking of cars, I have one that I wanted to give to you, Cousin J. Before you say no, just listen,” Van said, putting one of his fingers in the air to silence the beginnings of Jana’s protests. He knew his older cousin too well.
Although she was just as shocked as her mother-in-law, Kristin sat quietly eating, listening, and watching their interaction. Will Jana take it? Kristin wondered, hoping that she would. Jana deserved something good to happen to her. She was long overdue for a piece of happiness. They both were.
“Cousin J, I know that things are tough for you now and I wanted to help out more than just cutting your lawn. Kristin has the car during the day and I didn’t want you stranded out here, constantly trying to find a ride for your various activities. You should know better than anyone that all country folk need reliable transportation,” Van said, reminding her of Sammy’s difficult birth. Back then, Jana had been at home alone and without adequate transportation. It was almost an hour later before the ambulance finally got her to the hospital.
“I can’t let you do that, Van,” Jana protested, now putting down her fork. Van’s generosity slightly overwhelmed her for a moment. Her eyes were wide, digesting what he’d said.
“Yes, you can and you will. Now you told me yourself that you had to sell your car and even pawn some of your jewelry to pay off the last of your personal and business debts,” Van continued.
“Yes, we wanted to be debt-free,” Jana inserted, looking down at her left hand that once held many diamond clusters, but now only contained a wedding band. While Sam Sr. had lived, he’d been very generous with her, sometimes going overboard at times. Jana had learned to tolerate his extravagance, largely because Sam would somehow always make sure that their bills got paid in the end. But now she refused to live like that. Now Jana and Kristin are more prudent with their funds. Vowing to never be caught financially unawares again, they rigorously tithe and save a portion of their incomes in high-interest bearing accounts.
“Now, you are debt-free and I want to help you stay that way and still be able to have the things you need. Cousin J, I believe that your husband and son were trying to do the best they knew how in their business dealings, but like anything else, it takes time for a business to thrive, especially in a competitive city like
Kristin watched as Jana’s resolve melted like an ice cube in the sun beneath Van’s logical concern for her well-being. He was some kind of man and Kristin was starting to feel some kind of way towards him.
“Okay, Van, I accept,” Jana said finally, throwing her hands up in surrender.
“Good, come by the car dealership Monday and pick out what you want.” Van smiled with satisfaction at being able to use his resources to positively change someone else’s life. Then he picked up his fork and resumed eating, the smile never leaving his face.
* * *
Later that night Kristin had a dream. In the dream she was holding hands with Sammy, walking through a green meadow. They were so happy just being together. They laughed as they walked, picking up vibrant flowers that were planted in the fields until their hands were full.
Suddenly they came to a fork in the road. At the fork Sammy turned to kiss Kristin goodbye. As they kissed, he began to fade away. Not wanting to let him go, she held on tighter to his hand, begging him not to leave her. Then Sammy looked at her with deep pools of love in his eyes and said, “You have to let me go, Kristin.”
“I won’t, not ever Sammy,” she cried, watching helplessly as her attempts to hold onto him were futile. He was still fading, going into some unseen place, yet not taking all of his love with him. The love stayed. In fact, Kristin felt more love than she’d ever had before. But this intense love wasn’t just radiating from Sammy. It came from someplace, Someone higher.
“You have to, Kristin. I know you’ll always love me, but you have to let go now,” Sammy said and then faded completely away.
Kristin woke up crying at that point in the dream. She continued to cry into her pillow until finally an exhausted sleep claimed her mind.