“Uncle Bobby,” Rachel said, “this is Jeff Hollister.”
It was a hot, sunny Saturday afternoon in Pittsburgh and the vast back lawn was full of people. Uncle Bobby shook my hand and then put a protective arm over Rachel’s shoulders. Uncle Bobby had a big belly. The three of us talked for awhile and then Uncle Bobby said to me, “So, Rachel tells me you’re looking for a new apartment.”
I glanced at Rachel and said, “I think I’m going to need more room.”
“Jeff, there’s Mother.”
As we walked over to meet Mrs. Bloomberg I looked around at all the people. One very pregnant woman sat in a lawn chair under the shade of a tree. She was fanning herself with an oriental style fan. A tall, skinny redheaded man in a multi-colored shirt and white shorts bent over her with a paper plate full of food. She smiled up at him and took the plate of food.
“Well,” Mrs Bloomberg said to Rachel, “I finally get to meet your new gentleman friend.”
“Mother, this is Jeff Hollister.”
“Yes,” Mrs Bloomberg said, looking me over. I wore white deck shoes with no socks, white painter’s overalls with the cuffs rolled up and an old gray short sleeve jersey. A rubber band held my dark brown hair back in a long pony tail. “Rachel didn’t tell me you owned a yacht, Mr. Hollister.”
“Rachel, dear, please find your father and tell him he simply must come out and help me with this mob. I can’t do it all alone and I don’t want him and his cronies fouling up the house with those awful smelling cigars. They can watch baseball any time.” Rachel gave me a look and then left. Mrs. Bloomberg turned to me and said, “Who wants to watch a last place team anyway?” She smiled.
Mrs. Bloomberg was tall and slim. She wore a sleeveless, shimmering blue long dress. She was the only woman wearing a long dress. She had clear, dark brown eyes. Her skin was unblemished and nearly unlined. She didn’t appear to be sweating. Taking my left arm, she began to walk me around the vast, well kept lawn.
“Tell me a little about yourself, Mr. Hollister.”
Teenagers splashed about in the in-ground swimming pool. The smell of grilling meat floated in the warm air. A volleyball game was going on. Many of the adults stood around laughing, talking and drinking.
“I teach composition and literature at the community college.”
“I’d like to move on to a four year institution.”
“I’m thirty-four. I hope some day to run a little book shop of my own.”
Several people had approached to talk to her, but by some signal I could not detect she had let them know she was not to be disturbed.
She said, “Rachel is my youngest. I assume she has informed you of the unhappiness caused by her previous marriage, a most unsuitable match.”
I felt guilty…
The next day, Sunday, Rachel and I went to visit friends. I drove. The sky was bright blue and the air was warm.
“It’s beautiful out this way,” Rachel said.
Pennsylvania farm land rolled by on both sides of the highway. There were cows muching and horses grazing and acres and acres of corn. Anthony and Christine Johnson lived just outside of Harrisburg. Tony was my best friend. I parked in his driveway.
“Hello hello hello,” Tony called to us as he came down his modest front lawn. In the driveway he and I bear hugged each other. And then he turned to Rachel and said, “Rachel, welcome back.” They hugged and kissed each other on the cheek. Tony said, “Christine and little Brandon are out back. Rachel, you look great, girl. Jeff must be good for you.”
“We’ll see how good he is.”
Later, Tony and I went down into the game room. We sat at the short bar sipping bottled beer. An Alicia Keys CD played softly in the background. I looked around. He and Christine had done a lot of remodeling.
Tony said, “I’m getting this vibe. Is everything okay between you and Rachel?”
I took a long pull on my beer. I swore him to secrecy. And then I told him.