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Cross My Heart

He thought I was asleep and my heart nearly broke at his words. It probably wasn't the proper thing to do, feign sleep I mean, but I don't think I would have known what to say at that moment. Had he known that I was listening I know he would have clamped down his emotions and avoided me from then on. Growing up the way he did set in place a lot of self defenses that are just too much a part of him to break from. Although sometimes I could see that he really tried to.

He held my hand and I imagined that he was hunched over trying not to look at me as he talked. "I never had a mother. At least, I never knew her. I was only five when they found me. The priests at the orphanage said that it was the trauma of being abandoned, that's why I don't remember her."

I felt him switch the hand holding mine as he shifted positions. "Truth is, I don't remember anything from before I was found or much of the first year I was at the orphanage. I don't even know what my mother called me. I wouldn't talk at all when they found me and so the nuns named me. Hmmf...what a name too, huh?!"

I felt something damp drop onto my hand and I realized that he was crying. My Templeton was crying! I almost let him know I was listening, that I was there. I wanted so much to pull him close and hold him.

He sniffed and I knew he was wiping the tears away, "You have to be alright Mrs. Eta! You have to...I...I know you have your own family but...I just wanted you to know...You..."

I felt him shift his attention back to the hand he was holding. He caressed each of my fingers as though he thought I might break, then my hand was suddenly encased in both of his. His voice was so hushed that I almost didn't hear him, "You're like a mother to me."

I couldn't hold myself still any longer and just as I was about to reach out and stroke the head that was now resting on my bed, I heard the door open and my hand quickly cooled with release from it's warm entrapment. I heard quite murmers from the entrance to my hospital room and then the sound of retreating footsteps.

I couldn't bring myself to sleep for quite a while after that. Every time I closed my eyes, I heard his voice again. It had been a long time since my emotions had been stirred up so much. After hours of quiet contemplation, my thoughts finally calmed, I slipped into dreamless sleep.

***

"John! It's so good of you to come by." I gave his shoulders a gentle squeeze as he leaned over to kiss my cheek.

"How are you feeling? I saw the doctor leave while I was waiting."

I dismissed his worry with a wave of my hand, "Oh, I'm fine! All this fuss, everybody worrying...I'm fine..."

"If you were fine, you wouldn't be in here."

"You know doctors...What do they know? Just a little heart palpitation and they want to run tests and observe..."

I could see that I wasn't that convincing, "John, really, it was nothing. All the tests come back and tell me the same thing. Eta, you're getting old."

This got a laugh out of him, "Mrs. Eta, dispite your age, you're one of the youngest people I know."

I patted his hand for humoring an old woman and then glanced aound, "Where are the boys?"

"BA is at his Mother's and I left Murdock at home watching over Face."

"Why? What's wrong with Templeton?"

"Like yourself, nothing to worry about. He just looked a little peaked so I ordered him to get some rest. He's been really worried about you."

I could tell that he was trying to decide if he should ask me something that was on his mind or maybe just forget about it. "What's on your mind, John?"

"Well," He didn't look very comfortable bringing up the subject, "it's just that Face...um... he cares about you a great deal..."

I decided to spare him, "And you're worried that I'll somehow let him down and he'll be disappointed?"

"Ahh...He's had a lot of disappointment in his life..."

I reached out and took his hand, "John, I'm gonna share something with you. You've met Jimmy, my oldest son." At his nod I took a breath and continued, "I had another son. His name was Samuel, we called him Sam. He went to Vietnam."

John looked up and I could see the confusion in his eyes. He wasn't sure why I was telling him this but I knew it would allay his fears, so I went on, "He didn't come home."

"But what does that have to do with Face?"

"Sam was only twenty when he went to Vietnam. He was so young. He had a passion for life that I have rarely seen since, even in my other children. He loved everyone. He could make you laugh or cry with just a look. He felt the pain of everything around him. If a friend was hurting he was hurting too. But he also had such joy in him...

There was just something about him that drew people to him. It took a while to get through to him but once you did...well, then you were there whether you wanted to be or not. Templeton is a lot like him, John."

"I'm sorry for your loss. A lot of good kids died over there."

"After..." I nodded my head unable to say the words and he nodded in understanding, "After, I got a letter from his unit. They wanted me to know how much they would miss him, they said even in the worst of times he always thought of his unit first, and that he'd saved them all. My boy was a good man, John. Since I met Templeton, it's almost like having him back."

"He would be honored to hear you say that, Mrs. Eta. He never had a real family. We've tried to be that for him but I can see that he's found a mother now."

"Thank you, John. You've done a wonderful job raising those boys. I'll do my best to be whatever he needs."

"I know you will. I just had to be sure."

I smiled at him, "Now, get out of here. It's a beautiful day. You should be out there enjoying it, not in here disturbing my beauty sleep."

John has such a good laugh. He raised my hand to his lis for a kiss and then gave me knightly bow, such a charmer too, "As you wish, M'lady..."

I watched him go and my thoughts drifted back over the conversation we had had and further back to the one sided conversation of the previous night. "I'll keep my promise, Templeton. Cross my heart and hope to..."

***Fini***