Jamie was already at the cafe when Tom walked in. She new immediately it was him. He had the same cautious smile that Brad did, and although he was a little taller than Brad, both had the same fast walk.
knowing that she might not be as easy to recognize, Jamie got up from the booth and walked over to shake Tom’s hand.
“Good morning, Tom. I’m Jamie White and I’m really happy to meet you.”
“I hope you haven’t been waiting long,” Tom said. “I thought I was right on time.”
“Oh you were. I made the trip faster than I thought I would, but really…I’ve only been here a few minutes. Please sit down. As you can see, I was quick to order a cup of coffee. Would you like something?” Jamie asked.
“Aren’t I supposed to be the chivalrous one?” Tom was grinning. “Would you like to join me in a bite to eat? I’m starving.”
Jamie declined. There was no way she was going to try to eat. Not as nervous as she was feeling.
When the server came over, Tom ordered a massive breakfast and then suggested they get right to the point.
“Let’s talk,” he said. “You must have something pretty important on your mind to track me down and then drive all the way here to meet with me.”
Jamie swallowed, took a deep breath and started with what she knew.
“Are you aware that Brad managed to acquire your grandparent’s old house? The one they lived in right before moving to the retirement community. They had leased the property out and it was in pretty bad shape. For some reason your grandparents weren’t able to hang on to it. Brad found out about the situation and was able to buy the house and the little bit of property that went with it. He has worked really hard over the years, and he now has the most beautiful horse ranch.”
Tom had been listening intently. He hadn’t received his food yet, so he began to tell Jamie what he knew.
“I heard another side to that story, but it doesn’t really matter any more. I’m happy for Brad, He’s always loved horses.”
“I know we don’t have a lot of time, Tom and there is something else I need you to know before I get to the point of my visit. It would take too long to tell you how his house has become filled with people in the past few months, but there is also a family dog.”
Jamie stopped talking while the server gave Tom his food. She was thinking she was probably talking too fast, anyway.
“Please go on,” Tom said as he put butter and syrup on his pancakes.
“I bought a farm from an older lady who now lives at Brad’s house. He was nice enough to let me look through the things that were stored in the attic in case I could use them at the farm. Our dog, Arf, came up there with me. While we were looking through things, Arf found a bundle of letters and brought them to me. Having no idea they were correspondence between your Grandmother and your Aunt Mildred, I mean I didn’t have a clue who they were or what they were talking about at first.”
“Are you telling me you read the letters?” Tom asked.
“Well yes, and I’m very sorry. It was very wrong of me.”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s done. What did the letters say?”
“Your Aunt explained to your grandparents that you had been the one to start the fire and not Brad. Apparently you could no longer live with the lie that Brad had convinced you to tell and you confessed.”
Tom put his fork down and leaned back in the booth. “I assume Brad read the letters as well.” he said.
“Yes…your Aunt went on to say that after your confession, their relationship with you changed. You became very belligerent and wouldn’t follow the rules of the house. She said she and your uncle didn’t object when you said you were going to join the service.”
“So far, that’s pretty accurate,” Tom said. “Except I was surprised that my telling them the truth would affect them like it did. Aunt Mildred couldn’t stand to have me in her sight and she told me as much. I had killed her sister. Tell me…in the letters, what did my grandparents say?”
“Jamie had no choice but to answer Tom truthfully. “They said they had no desire to have either you or Brad in their lives. They both sounded very bitter.”
The server came and removed Tom’s plate. He had eaten very little. “Sorry I ruined your appetite,” Jamie said.
“So you’re saying that Brad has only just learned all of this? I suppose you’re going to tell me he was very moved by the revelation and he wants to revive the old brotherly affection that hasn’t existed since before the fire. The fire that I started. Brad left me with our aunt and uncle and never looked back. I never heard from him again.”
“Let me tell you why I’m here, Tom. Please listen to what I have to say and then I will leave. After that, you can do whatever you feel is best.”
“Brad was just sixteen years old when your aunt and uncle took you in. He said they really had no use for him. You were so young and he knew you needed someone to take care of you. He thought your aunt and uncle would treat you well. They had no reason not to. They believed Brad was the one who started the fire. He was the guilty one in their eyes. He thought you were in good hands and would have a good life and he didn’t want to disturb that.”
“I joined the service with my aunt and uncle’s permission when I was seventeen.” Tom was leaning forward now, with both arms resting on the table…The fact that his fists were clenched gave away the emotion he was feeling. “I have been on my own for years. I always wondered if my brother ever thought about me.”
Jamie felt tears fill her eyes. “That’s the irony of it, Tom. You were both waiting to hear from the other. You both wanted desperately to be a part of each other’s lives, but no one made the first move….You see, when you aren’t involved in someone’s day to day life, you assume everything with them is wonderful. You don’t know about their fears, insecurities, and loneliness and they don’t know about yours.”
Jamie couldn’t tell if she was reaching Tom or not, but she had said all she had come to say and it was time to leave.
“I’m going now, Tom. I know you have to report to work soon. I really hope you and Brad find a way to have that brotherly relationship you both deserve. I plan to have the same conversation with him. May I have your permission to tell him we talked? He will be so proud of you when he finds out you pilot a plane for a fire rescue team.”
Tom nodded his head and got up to shake Jamie’s hand. “Have a safe trip back,” was all he said.
***We’re going to the doctor tomorrow and Katie and I are going to show everybody how many steps she can take. Bark, Bark, Bark, Bark, Bark, and Bark…One thing makes me sad. I heard Katie ask her dad, Steve, not to bring Dina. I wonder why she doesn’t want Dina to come and see her walk for the very first time? After all, Dina is Katie’s mom.
Right now I’m going to chase that squirrel over there.