JUST WHEN I NEEDED YOU
August 10, 2003
Rose sighed as she dropped the now rotten green peppers into the garbage. Life the past few weeks had been hell. Helga's mother had fallen ill, so she had to go stay with her, leaving Rose alone. Then Josh had tripped over the dog coming up the basement steps, breaking his arm. Now she was faced with the emotional battle of getting through her and Jack's second anniversary without him. And to top it all off, her mother was in town, expecting to have a nice dinner with her daughter and grandchildren, but the ingredients Rose needed to make dinner were either non-existent in the house or rotten. "Fuck!" Rose yelped when she stubbed her toe on a chair. She inevitably had to go to the grocery store, but dragging three young children with her sounded less than inviting. Slowly, she went to the phone to call her mother.
"Mom, it's Rose."
"Hello, Rose. What's wrong?"
"I need your help. Could you come over and watch the twins? I need to run to the store for dinner tonight."
"Of course. I'll be there shortly."
"Thanks, Mom. Bye."
Fifteen minutes later, Ruth arrived. "Thank you for doing this, Mom. I'll take Josh with me. Janelle's sleeping and Colin is in the playpen. We'll be back in a little while," Rose said, tying Josh's shoes.
Ruth smiled. "No need to thank me. I love spending time with my little angels."
Rose rolled her eyes. "Okay. We're off."
Josh fidgeted as Rose lifted him into the shopping cart seat. "Josh, you have to sit still."
"Gamma!" he declared.
"Yes, Grandma's waiting for us at home. So be a good boy and we'll get to see her faster."
Josh seemed to understand and settled into the seat, keeping himself occupied with Rose's purse strap.
Rose was trying to decide what kind of baby food to get Josh when out of the corner of her eye, she caught a familiar face. Rose shook her head. It couldn't be. After making her selections, she turned down the next aisle and ran right into another cart. "I'm so sorry," she started to say, her voice fading out when the man lifted his eyes to her. Rose's mouth dropped open. "Teddy?" she asked, her voice almost inaudible.
The man stared at her for a moment before his eyes went wide. "Rosie?"
"Oh, my God, it is you!" Rose exclaimed, throwing herself into her older brother's arms.
Teddy hugged her tight and then pulled away. "What are you doing here?"
"Me? What are you doing here?" Rose demanded, staring at the man she hadn't seen since she was eight years old.
Teddy grinned. "Grocery shopping. And you?"
At that moment, Teddy noticed the child in his youngest sister's cart. "And who's this?"
Rose smiled lovingly at the kid. "Oh, this is Josh. My son."
Unable to believe his baby sister had a baby herself, Teddy frowned. "A son? Aren't you a little young for that?"
Rose jabbed him in the ribs. "Ah, you've been away too long, dear brother. I'm all grown up now."
"How old are you now, anyway? Fifteen? Sixteen?"
Rose shook her head. "Hardly. Twenty years old, as of this past May."
"Holy crap. It has been a long time."
"Yes, it has," she said sadly. She brightened up quickly, though. "Come over to my house for dinner tonight?"
"Sure. What time?"
"You can follow me, if you want."
"All right. If we stop by my apartment first. I need to drop my food off."
Rose smiled excitedly. "Oh, that's fine. Mom's going to freak."
"Yeah, she's here for a while."
"What about Dad?"
Rose dropped a can into her cart abruptly, tears filling her eyes. "He died a few years ago," she told him, quietly.
Teddy's face went pale. "How? When?"
Rose pushed her cart next to her brother's, so that they were walking side by side. "April of '99. He died of cancer."
"Oh, my God."
Rose gave him a sympathetic smile, understanding how much it must hurt knowing he never got to say good-bye. They finished their shopping in silence. As they strolled towards their cars, Teddy turned to her. "You follow me to my place and then I'll follow you to your house."
Rose nodded. "Okay. Sounds good to me."
Once Teddy had dropped his groceries off at his place, which ironically, was no more then five miles away from Rose's, they headed towards the Dawson home. Teddy got out of his car, just as Rose unbuckled Josh and set him down. "I meant to ask you. Where's his father?"
Rose sighed. "Overseas. This stupid war separated us."
Teddy took a few bags from her trunk. "Damn, I'm sorry to hear that. Are you married?"
"Yes. Our two-year anniversary is this weekend."
"Wow. Who is he?"
Rose closed the trunk and gave him a smile. "You remember the Dawsons?"
"How could I forget? You were inseparable. Wait, you don't..."
"Come on, Josh," she called to the toddler before turning to her brother. "Actually, I do. I'm Mrs. Jack Dawson."
Teddy gasped. "You're kidding."
Rose smiled and opened the door the led from the garage to the kitchen. After depositing the bags on the table, she called out for her mother. "Mom? We're home. I've got a surprise for you."
"We're in the living room, dear."
Rose grinned at Teddy. "Ready for a blast from your past?"
Teddy sighed. "As ready as I'll ever be."
Rose led him into the large living room, where Ruth was playing with her grandson, her back turned to them. "Hey, Mom. There's someone here to see you."
"To see me? You're the only one I know out here," Ruth said, turning to face Rose. As soon as she caught sight of the man standing beside her daughter, she turned white. "Theodore? Is that really you?" She gasped.
Teddy grinned. "It's me, Mom."
Ruth embraced her long lost son, crying softly. They hugged for a little while longer until Ruth spoke up. "How did this happen?"
"Rose ran into me. Literally." Teddy laughed.
"Josh had me preoccupied and I ran into his cart," Rose explained.
Ruth shook her head. "This is unbelievable. Did Rose tell you about your father?"
Teddy nodded sadly. "Yes. I'm sorry, Mom. I should've stayed in contact."
Just then, Josh toddled into the room with his puppy following. "Gamma, up," he announced, raising his arms.
Ruth smiled and picked the child up. "Have you met your Uncle Teddy, Josh?"
Josh shook his head and hid his face in his grandmother's hair, just as a wail came from another room.
Rose sighed. "And the house comes alive," she muttered, heading down the hall.
Teddy followed her into the nursery, where she was cradling a crying baby. "Who's that?"
Rose smiled. "This is Janelle, my daughter."
"Damn, how many kids y'all have?"
"Three. Josh and the twins."
"Where's the other one?"
"In the living room. He's probably asleep in the playpen."
"How old are they?"
"Josh is a year and a half. The twins will be three months Thursday," Rose replied.
Teddy looked up at her in awe. "You weren't kidding when you say you were all grown up. My little sister, married and a mother three times over. I feel old."
Rose giggled, but then turned serious. "I've been meaning to ask you. Have you heard from or seen Lori in the past six years?"
Teddy looked at her, confused. "No, why?"
"She took off about six, seven years ago, claiming she was going to find you. Nobody's heard anything from her since."
Rose nodded solemnly. "Yeah. Mom worries about her more and more every day. She did with you, too, but now that we know you're okay, she can be at ease about you. I just hope Lori shows up okay eventually. It'll kill Mom if something happened to her."
"Damn. I had no idea."
"No, I guess not. Um..." She paused, blushing. "Would you mind leaving? I have to feed her."
Teddy grinned. "No problem. I'll be in the living room."
After dinner was served, the dishes put away and the children put in bed, Ruth, Teddy, and Rose sat down to talk. "Teddy, what have you been up to since you left?" Ruth asked curiously.
Teddy coughed. "Well, after I left I headed out to Michigan and did a few years of community college there. I met Leanne then--she's my fiancee--and we decided that once she graduated college, we'd travel the world. So that's what we did. We went everywhere, Paris, Rome, London...we even lived in Spain for a few years. We came back here in '98 then we traveled the US for awhile, until we settled in San Francisco in early 2000. We moved here last summer."
"You're engaged!" Ruth exclaimed. "Where is she now?"
"She had some family business to take care of back in Michigan. She'll be back next week."
Rose glanced at her brother. "Well, when she gets back, bring her over here for dinner. I'd love to meet her."
Teddy nodded. "Sounds good to me."
Suddenly, Rose burst into tears. "Excuse me," she mumbled, quickly exiting the room.
Teddy gave his mom a worried look. "Is she okay?"
Ruth sighed and looked back at her son sadly. "No, she's not. Jack's been gone for nine months now, and their wedding anniversary is Saturday. He's her lifeline, and I think it's getting to be too much for her, being away from him."
"Shit. Is he okay?"
"So far everything has been fine. But you have to understand about them...from their first kiss, those two were head over heels in love with each other. A little after they had been together for a year, Jack left. He was gone for three years, and those three years--dare I say--were the worst of Rose's life. He came back in May...they were married that August. Then he left again this past November. They haven't had each other all that long, and now they're forced apart again. Keeping Rose away from Jack is like keeping her from breathing. She can only last so long without him."
Teddy shook his head. "God, poor Rose. Why did Jack leave?"
Ruth hesitated, knowing how close Teddy had been to Jack's older sister Karen. "His parents died, and then Karen killed herself. I guess it was too much. He couldn't stay in Chippewa Falls. I can't say I blame him."
Teddy went pale. "Whoa..."
"Yeah, I know." Ruth paused. "We should probably get going. It's getting late."
"What about Rose?"
"She'll be okay. She doesn't need us, anyway. She needs Jack. Right now, it's best to just leave her alone."
"Positive. Come on, help your old mom back to her hotel."