Friday, January 16, 2015

Arlissa - Day 176 -190

Dear Sister,

Yes, I know that I'm not your real sister, but ever since we met, so long ago, I have felt a connection to you that I can't explain. You know how we used to know exactly what the other was going to say. 

Anyway, I've always felt I was not really a part of my family. I've searched through all the important papers that my mom has put back, and I've never found my birth certificate. Oh, I've found all the others, so it just confirmed my not belonging. 

So I've decided that you can be my true sister. Because of this, I want you to raise my little Benny as your own. The other paper with this one is his official birth certificate. I want him to know he is loved for himself and not for who was his Mama and Daddy. I hope you will do this for both me and Benny. 

Love, your Kindred Spirit, 
Martha Rose O'Hanlon"

"Now what do I do? I've already given over custody to Mrs. Tunstall." Alyssa was in a quandary. "I guess I should show these to her and Mr. Tunstall and see what they have to say." 

She sat down in the chair at Mildred's desk and bowed her head to ask for guidance. This was going to affect the futures of many people and only God knew what the best course was to be taken. 

"Dear Heavenly Father, here I come again with more questions than I have answers for. Please tell me what I should do. Amen."

Leaning back in Mildred's chair, she closed her eyes, remembering...

" 'Lissa, did you know that my Granny locked me in the cellar when I was only a few years old? I had wet the bed or some such thing, and she was 'teaching me a lesson'. There were rats crawling around down there and she left the lights off. My dad was up in Pennsylvania, taking care of Mom. Mom had some kind of illness that was catching. He thought I'd be better off down here. My granny came up and got me, I think. It's been so long ago."

"Oh, no! Did you tell your ma or your pa what she did?"

"No, I was afraid to. I was afraid they'd not believe me. I still have nightmares about that and sometimes have to sleep with the light on."

"You poor girl! I remember when your granny died! That's when we met."

"Yeah, you were so shy, and I was so surprised to see somebody who looked so much like us living out here. Are you sure you're not akin to us?"

"No, I'm not sure of anything about my relatives. I'm embarrassed to say, I don't know who my pa is. Nobody'll tell me."

"Then we can pretend we're sisters. Do you like to read?"

"Yes, I spend a lot of time reading, when I get the chance."

"Have you ever read that story about the two girls that became friends and lived up in Canada somewhere, and said they were kindred spirits?"

"Oh, yeah, I have!"

"Well, we can say we're kindred spirits then, can't we?"

It was just a snatch of conversation, but Arlissa remembered it just like it had been yesterday. 

She wiped the moisture from her eyes. She had to do right by her twin sister; she just had to. But what was the right thing to do for the boy? That was the question.

"I need to talk to Savannah - that's the next thing to do, before I even see Helen Tunstall."

Arlissa remembered Rosie telling her how much she envied 'Lissa having the sweet granny she did.

"Well, she was a mama to me as well as a granny," 'Lissa had replied.

"Sometimes I think about my daddy and how he would beat Zeb and Mama. He would come in after drinking all afternoon after work. He never beat me, though. I never could figure out except maybe he loved me more than them. I don't know why that was, either. He called me his little Rosie-love. When he died, my whole world turned upside down and me and Mama just quit talking except for her arguing at me. She had to go to work, and I had to do stuff I didn't have to do before."

"What did you have to do?"

"Had to start doing the wash and cleaning the house, taking care of my younger brothers and sister. Life was no fun anymore."

"Oh..." I had wondered what was so bad about that. I had always been responsible for a lot of those things with Granny. Just didn't have to take care of brothers and sisters, cause I didn't have any. I remember thinking that I'd have loved to have some. 

Rosie had felt the sisterhood link that we shared, just as I had. I wondered if she realized it now that she was not with us any more. I felt great sorrow that she had not died a Christian. I would never see her again. 

I wept again in sorrow for both our losses. 

Soon, Billy's cousin arrived with my car. 

"Hey, you must be the gorgeous girl old Billy was talking about," he exclaimed when he entered the Sheriff's office.

 "Keep your eyes offa her, cousin!" said Billy, walking out of the Sheriff's office. 

"Aw, keep your stuffed shirt on, Billy! I ain't doin' no harm to her! Here's your key, honey bunch! You need to bring that car in and let me tune it up for you. It's running real rough, no joking." He smiled ingratiatingly at Arlissa, and despite herself, she smiled back.

"Thank you, Mr. Williams. How much do I owe you?"

"No charge, except maybe a date to go to the Dixie Drive-in Movie on Saturday?"

"Back off, Cousin! I told ya, She's not for you. Anyway, she already has a fella. You've delivered the car, now she's going to be going."

"Bye, you all. Thank you both for all the help. I've got a lady I need to talk to, and an important decision to be making. "

She left them both standing, arguing with one another, and getting into her car, she headed for the hospital and her Aunt Savannah.

It felt good to be driving again. She hated having to rely on others to take her where she needed to go. She had always loved being independent. Probably got that from her Granny. She never saw anybody as independent as her Granny.

Within minutes, she was at the hospital, heading for the ICU. When she arrived at the desk, she was asked to sign in and tell what relation she was to the patient.

"I'm her niece," replied Arlissa. "Can she talk?"

"You may only stay for five minutes, and please don't excite her. She has been very badly beaten. She is in unit four."

Arlissa very quietly entered the unit and when she saw the lady lying in the bed, she saw that there were tubes running into her nose and arms. She wore bandages on her head, as well. Her eyes were surrounded by bruises that were varying shades of blue and purple. 

She slowly approached the bed and sat beside the woman. Reaching out, she softly lifted the limp hand and looked at it. There were callouses on the tips of the fingers. The index and middle fingers were stained yellow holding cigarettes.

The patient stirred and moaned. There would be no answers coming from her on that day. 

Arlissa stood and kissed the lady's forehead, and left quietly.

She stopped at the desk and left her phone number. 

"I'll be back tomorrow to visit her. If she awakens before then, please let her know that her niece, Arlissa Hinton, was here and that I'll be back. Also tell her that I said I was sorry."

Arlissa didn't want to worry her Granny with this latest news, and so she decided to just go home for the day. She had a lot to think about. The papers could wait awhile. 

It was getting late in the day, anyway and it had been a long one, to boot. 

The box would have to wait, as well. 

Never before had Arlissa felt so much at sixes and sevens. Where to go? What to do? Did she want to go back out to the farm before it was finished? Or maybe to see the Tunstalls/O'Hanlons? Or back to the Sheriff's house. She felt like a leaf fluttering in the wind, unsure of where she should be.

She decided she would just go to the Sheriff's and talk with Sarah. She was a very wise woman and was sure to know a lot of the history of the area. After all, all the clothing she owned was there at the Sheriff's home, and even if she did go back to the farm, she would need that.

Arriving soon at the Sheriff's, she was met at the door by Sarah.

"Oh, Sarah! I'm so glad to be back here. It has been such a haven for me! I really need to talk to you, if you have time."

"Why sure, Baby! What's got you in such a dither, anyway? Come on in here, while I finish making our supper. Give me just a minute to check on Mz. Bradbury. She's been having a rough day of it today. Poor lady is wasting away to nothing. I don't know how much longer she can last."

"I'll just come with you. Maybe I can be of some help to you, and get my mind off my own worries."

"Of course, I'd be glad to have your help. Uh, oh, I need to change her. This happens sometimes; if you don't want to stay and help me, that is okay. It is sometimes unpleasant."

"Nonsense. I'm no shrinking violet, Ms. Sarah. I'll be glad to help change her and the bed, as well."

They got busy and cleaned up the sweet lady in the bed, then put a clean gown on her. Sarah lifted her and put her into the chair near the bed for a few minutes. 

"If you would just stand by her and make sure she doesn't fall from the chair, I'll change the bed. It is much easier with her out of it, although I quite often change it with her in it."

"Hey, sweetness! Do you remember this lady?"

The woman looked closely at Arlissa. 

"Savannah! Where have you been? Why don't you ever come to see me?"

"I've been wanting to! Now, I'm here to visit!" Arlissa replied.

"You gonna marry that fella you've been going with? Is that where you've been? What's his name? Oh, I forget so much."

Arlissa floundered about for an answer, then replied, "Well, sure. Uh...Jimmy is his name."

Within minutes, they had the bed changed and the sweet woman was back in it. Sarah put pillows at her back and placed her on her side, to help prevent bed sores. 

"Would you tell me a story, Savannah?" asked Maggie Lou Bradshaw, the very sick lady who lay quietly in the bed.

Arlissa looking compassionately at her, replied, "Of course, I'd be happy to. What kind of story would you like to hear?"

"A true story, please. A happily ever after story."

Arlissa smiled. 

"Well, let me see, now. Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Arlissa, who wished to know who her father was. She had never seen him, but she knew he existed, because she was there. She lived with her Grandmother and Grandfather, because her mother passed away when she was born. Now, that may seem sad, but we never get to decide those things. She was happy with her grandparents and grew strong and learned lots of things. 

Arlissa had friends all around. One of her best friends was a girl named Rose who looked just like she did. They both had red hair and blue eyes the color of cornflowers. In fact they looked so much alike they could have been sisters. The two girls spent many happy hours together. She finally found out who her father was and discovered she and her friend were in fact sisters. She lived happily ever after."

"Thank you, Savannah! That was a good story. Now I can go to sleep, I think. Would you maybe sing to me, like you used to sing?"

"What song would you like to hear?"

"Mockingbird Hill. You remember that one, don't you?"

Fortunately, Arlissa did know that one, at least most of the words. However she decided to hum it and as she did, Maggie Lou drifted off to sleep.

Sarah wiped her eyes as she watched the tender exchange between the two women. Then she touched Arlissa's elbow and they quietly left the room.

"Come into the kitchen with me, Arlissa. I know it may be a bit early for supper, but we could have some hot tea and a couple of cookies. I have a feeling you really need to talk, right?"

"Yes! I really do. I have some questions that you might be able to answer, questions that need some answers." 

Arlissa sat while Sarah put the kettle on the old range and lit the flame.

"Now, fire away. I'm ready. I think you may want to know more about your parentage, but I need to know that I won't be stepping on anyone else's territory if I answer them. I can't tell you everything you want to know, perhaps, but I'll try."

"What can you tell me?"

"First, tell me what you know, if you will."

"Well, I know that I had a twin sister who was taken by Savannah O'Hanlon to her brother, Seamus O'Hanlon, and they took me to Pennsylvania to his wife, and told her that my Ma had me and didn't want me. My Ma had me in the night soon after Rosie was born, and then Ma died the next day. I don't know if she told Savannah to take Rosie to our Pa, or if she was told Rosie was born dead. I believe she told Ma that my sister had died in birth."

"Maybe she felt like twins would be too much for your Grandma to handle. She might have known she was going to die. Quite often, people who are gravely ill somehow know when they are near death."

"I know that she asked Granny to put up a marker for her baby that supposedly died. She made Ma promise not to tell me who my Pa was or that I had had a twin. Why would she want to keep it from me? Why shouldn't I know?"

"We were told by your grandparents that your father had been killed in service, that your parents had been married secretly and then when your mother died in childbirth, it was easier to just raise you with the same last name as the grandparents. It seems your grandparents had to save your mother's reputation in some way."

"So, two lies were told, one to me, and one to the general public."

"Yes, but I believe those who were close to your family and the O'Hanlons knew the real story, most likely."

"But why wouldn't someone have told me?"

"Out of respect for you and your grandparents probably."

"I see. The big regret that I have is that all that time, I could have been told, after I met Rosie, that we were actually twins. I could actually have spent time knowing, then."

"Ah, yes, but then, think about the fallout from knowing this at that time! You were secure with your Granny and she was with a family who loved her. Be happy with knowing that you did get to spend as much time with her, as you did."

At the whistling of the kettle, Sarah got up and poured the water over the tea bags. Then she poured the tea in cups for each of them and placed the cookies before them.

Arlissa handed the letter to Sarah that Rosie had written

"Read this, please, and tell me what you think."

Sarah read closely and then reread it.

Handing it back to the young woman, Sarah, reflecting on the contents, gave an added opinion.

"I don't believe it could have made a lot of difference as for how you felt about each other. You two were at close as you could have been, maybe closer. When you know you are twin sisters in reality, there is almost always a feeling of competition. This letter speaks of friendship that goes beyond that. If you had known you were sisters for real, what would that have done to all the relationships in the two families? Would they have combined or competed?"

"Hmmm. I hadn't thought about that. But how do I approach the O'Hanlons now?"

"How do you want to approach them? As a sister? As a friend? Have you discussed this letter with them, or told them of your kinship?"

Arlissa picked up the cup and sipped the tea, thinking about Sarah's question.

 "I'm planning to meet with them tomorrow and then I guess I'll just tell them my story very simply and take it from there. Mrs. Tunstall already knows of mine and Rosie's kinship. In fact, she loaned me this photograph album."

Arlissa opened the album so that she and Sarah could look at the pictures.

"See, this is a photo of Savannah when she was about my Ma's age when Rosie and I were born. I can understand why Maggie Lou, in her mixed up mind, thinks I'm her. We do favor each other, don't we?"

"Yes, child, you do. I heard today, by way of the town grapevine, that Savannah is just barely hanging on, due to a beating from that trouble-making foreigner that came to town."

"I went to see her this afternoon; in fact, I just came from there. She is drifting in and out of consciousness, I believe. I can't think how she hung on long enough to tell the Sheriff what had happened. Maybe someone else told him. I don't know. I felt so very sorry for her. I know that she is the only real witness that can verify that Rose and I are, indeed, sisters, since she saw us born."

"Bless your heart, child! I'm sure no one can know what you've gone through in your lifetime."

"Oh, now, don't be feeling sorry for me, Miss Sarah! I've had a good life with people that love me. I'd never whine over that. Say, look at this picture of Rose when she was just a baby. It looks just like I did in a picture Granny has of me. No wonder my Pa wanted to take me home with him when I was three. He must have known then, or suspected that Rose had a twin. My Granny can be something fierce when she wants to be. He didn't stand a chance of getting me away from her and Grandpa."

Just then, Sheriff Bradshaw entered his home and came into the kitchen.

He flopped down into one of the kitchen chairs and wiped his forehead with his handkerchief.

"Oh, my! Oh, my! I've never seen anything like it," he uttered under his breath. "You got any fresh coffee, Sarah? I'm wiped out!"

"Why, whatever has happened, Woody?"

"Just got through working that wreck out on Dead Man's Curve between town and where you live."

"I remember you leaving to work on it. How did it happen?" 

"The dang fool went off the road and down the deep incline. He was driving a flashy convertible, with the top down, apparently. It seems he was thrown from the car and it landed on top of him. Blew up and burned him almost beyond recognition. Money was blowing all over the place."

"Oh, I'll bet it was Alberto Donelli, wasn't it? I remember seeing him in it one day," replied Arlissa.

"Yep. We found a bunch of drugs in the bag that he took with him. It got thrown out as well. There were only a couple of bundles of money still left in the bag. I guess that will belong to the little boy, since he is Donelli's."

"As his guardian, can I decide what should be done with that money?"

"Why, yes, I guess you could. What would you suggest, anyway?"

"I'd like to use it to pay for Savannah's hospitalization. After all, he is the one who put her there. It is only fitting that the money be used to help her. From what I can gather, she is down on her luck, anyway. Otherwise, I don't think she would have had anything to do with slime like him."

"Why don't you discuss it with the family, Arlissa?" 

This suggestion came from Sarah, who had been listening intently to the whole conversation. 

"Yes, I suppose that would be the best. Especially since I decided to let Zeb and Angie have custody of Benny. He does have the last name of O'Hanlon. But then, she was my twin sister. Oh, I don't know..."

"Well, I've got to notify Donelli's next of kin, if I can locate them. I know he comes from Philadelphia. I might as well go ahead and contact them now. Excuse me, Sarah and Arlissa."

He headed into the living room where he had some privacy to talk to law enforcement in Philadelphia. Then he went into the bedroom to check on Maggie Lou, and found her sleeping. He leaned down and kissed her brow.

Within a few minutes, he was back in the kitchen. 

"Ah...apparently, the Donellis wield quite a bit of influence in that town. They are a family of some importance, with their fingers in quite a few pies. The police are going to contact the father and mother in the next little while and I am to await further instructions about the body. I am sure some questions will be coming our way, but don't worry. I can handle anything they need to know."

"Do you think they are going to cause trouble, Woody?" Sarah was a natural worrier, especially where her friends were concerned.

"Nah! Nothing I can't handle. We did everything by the book."

"Do you think they'll try to get Benny away from us?" 

The thought had just occurred to Arlissa, and worried her. 

"Now, let's not borrow trouble, ladies! Just take things as they come!" 

He tried to assure both of them not to worry needlessly.

"Well, let's get some supper on the table! I'm afraid it's just leftovers from lunch today, but the roast was mighty good and I've still got some green beans and little roasted potatoes. I'll slice some fresh home-made bread and toast it. Arlissa, would you like to help me?"

"Sure, my Granny always said, 'Many hands make for light work.' I know it's true."

Within minutes they were all seated and the Sheriff bowed his head and gave thanks. 

"Sheriff Woody, I went by the hospital this afternoon to see Savannah, but she was in really bad shape. I didn't get to talk to her, but I'm aiming to go back tomorrow and see if she's any  better."

"That's a good idea, Arlissa. She needs friends right now, and understanding. I knew her way back when I was a new Sheriff. I watched her go downhill, getting into first one kind of trouble, then another. I knew all the O'Hanlons. I felt sorry for them. They had a tough row to hoe."

"Tell me more, Sheriff. Since they're my relatives, I'd like to know how many there were and who they were."

"Well, now, let me see... there was Seamus, the oldest..."

"He was my Pa," she interrupted.

Sheriff Bradshaw looked at Sarah, lifting his eyebrows.

Sarah just nodded in affirmation telling him that Arlissa knew the truth now, for sure.

He went on..."then there was Savannah, she came next; then there was Carolina, then Lloyd, who was a regular hellion,  next...ah, let me see...Nancy Jane (named after her Ma)...last came Bernice, named after her grandmother on her Mama's side of the family."

"Oh, my goodness! I've got lots of relatives, then, haven't I?"

"Well, you know, folks around here don't have right small families, at least back in the twenties and thirties, they didn't." This came from Sarah, with a chuckle.

"What happened to all of them, Sheriff?"

"Well, now, you know that Seamus was killed back in '56 or '57; Savannah - well, let's just say she got on the wrong side of the tracks for a while...they all left home as soon as they could, what with the kind of parents they had. The old man straightened out a few years before he died, thanks to Zeb's efforts helping him to see the light."

Arlissa spoke up then.

"I used to see Mrs. O'Hanlon some around town once in awhile when I was growing up. but didn't know her, really. She always had a sour look on her face, like she had been eating dill pickles or something. I was afraid of her. I know now she was my Grandma, and, somehow, now, I feel cheated of knowing that. Maybe it could have made a difference in both our lives, me knowing that."

Arlissa sat and thought for a couple of minutes, then the light dawned upon her.

"But, she knew, didn't she? And never said anything to anybody. She could have looked at me with a smile or something, couldn't she? Maybe said something to my Granny about how pretty I was and patted me on the head; or put her arm around me? She most usually just looked at me and then turned her head away." 

Sarah looked sympathetically at the young woman.

"Well, it was her loss, too, honey. Maybe she didn't want to stir up a hornet's nest. Who knows what goes through other people's minds? Goodness knows, she probably had enough problems to deal with on her own. From what I know, the old man really ruled the roost with an iron fist."

"Yeah, he was influential in town, too. He was head of the town council for quite a few years; I had to deal with him on a daily basis sometimes. Finally, he gave it up, after Seamus's kids came to live on the farm with their mother."

"Do you know where any of my aunts and uncles are now, Sheriff?"

"Not for sure; I think maybe most of them moved away. You probably have heaps of cousins, somewhere, though."

"Well, tomorrow, for sure, I'm planning on going in to see Savannah. At least, I know where she is. Then I need to go see Ellen and Jake Tunstall and all of them."

"I see you have a photograph album lying over there on the counter."

"Yes, maybe you could spend a little time with me and Sarah, and help me identify some of the people in it?"

 "Sure, when would you like to do that?" 

She took a good long look at him, his fatigue was clearly showing.

"Why don't we do it in the morning. I don't know about you, but it's been a long day today, and I'd say we'd feel more like doing the looking tomorrow, if you don't care."

He smiled knowingly at her, appreciating her thoughtfulness, but decided that the present time would be better.

"Well, if you don't mind, I'm kinda curious about the pictures. Could we take a few minutes right now, maybe?"

"Sure, Sheriff, and, Sarah, I'd like you to look, too, and maybe, since you've lived around here a long time, you'd know some of them. You said you knew Savannah."

The three of them gathered around the album.

"Now, this here is a picture of the old man and Martha Jane when they got married, I'd say," quipped Woody.

"Oh, my, look at those clothes they're wearing. That's back in the early 1900's," Sarah piped up. "Here under the picture is March 20, 1920." 

"Where? Oh, it's written on that little white space around the picture. Let's slip it out of the corners where it's mounted and look on the back."

They looked on the back of the photo and saw Sean and Martha Jane O'Hanlon written in fading letters, along with the date.

They found pictures of the couple's children as they were growing up, not so very many of after they were grown. There were a few of grandchildren, but not many. Apparently, the old lady was not a very sentimental soul.

Inside, near the back, they found some written pages that looked as though they had been unfolded and refolded many times. It was stuck in the margin of the album, as though it was either a treasure, long forgotten, or a missive that could not be tolerated, and hidden in order to forget.

"Look! A letter? Maybe a love letter? What do you think, Sarah? Sheriff? Should I read it? Would it be okay, since these are my relatives?"

"Well, most likely, Ellen Tunstall knows about every thing that is in the album, and she did loan it to you to look through," Sarah opined. 

"Sheriff?" He just shrugged his shoulders. "You might find out some more about your beginnings."

Arlissa tenuously unfolded the pieces of paper. It was a letter.

"Ma. I reckon you know that our Rose is my child, but not Ellen's by birthing. You remember when I brought Martha Rose down last year when Ellen was having such a hard time carrying Zeb? 

Did something happen while she was with you? She hasn't been sleeping good since I brought her back home. She's nervous all the time, too. 

Anyways, I wanted to ask a favor of you. I believe that Rose has a twin sister named Arlissa. Her grandparents are raising her, and having a hard time of it. I'm not making enough money to send any to them, but I know you are close by and can help them when they have needs.

As you most likely know, their Mama, Eleanor Hinton and I were planning on getting married. We had a big fight, and like a fool, I ran off and joined the army. I really loved that woman. I know we could have made a go of it, if she'd only listened to reason. 

I didn't know she was in the family way until Savannah showed up with little Rose. Savannah never said nothing about there being another baby. I would have taken both of them.

Please, go out of your way to be kind to the Hinton's. It's my fault that little Arlissa has no daddy to care for her. I did try to get custody of her last year. Show them love, Ma. I don't want a kid of mine growing up thinking that she didn't have a father who cared about her.

Your son, 

Arlissa held the letter close to her breast, while the tears rolled down her cheeks. 

"I just knew my father loved me. Somehow, I just knew he wouldn't have forgotten me."

"Never once did I get the idea that my Granny O'Hanlon cared anything about me. So far as I know, she never gave us anything or came to visit us. Was she ashamed of me?"

"Do you know for certain that she never came to see you? Maybe back before you have any memories to rely on?"

"Oh, I don't know! I've got to ask Granny. Seems like the more I learn the more questions I have. Would I be better off, just saying, 'Oh, well, I just need to go on from here and let the past be the past!'?" 

"Well, now, Sweetie, that's up to you. Maybe you need to consider it. I don't have any dog in this fight. I just would like to see you happy, as I'm sure your Granny would as well."

"I need to get to bed in a bit. I have a big day tomorrow, I'm sure. Today has been a long one. I've got to go see my O'Hanlon family, and Granny, and also Savannah. I'm sure Zeb and Angie are wanting to be heading back to Tennessee. They'll most likely be taking little Benny back with them."

Just then the phone rang and the three looked at it as though it was a snake, ready to bite one of them. Usually when the phone rang that late around there, it was not good news.

"Relax, ladies... I'll get it. You know I'm always getting calls that don't necessarily mean bad news."

"Hello...Oh, yes, this is Sheriff Bradshaw. No, no, that's okay. I hadn't gone to bed yet. In fact, I've been waiting to hear from you, Mr. Donatelli."

The sheriff lifted his eyebrows and looked at the two women. 

"Just a moment, let me go into the other room."

Sheriff Bradshaw laid down the phone and indicated silently for them to hang it up when he got into the living room.

"He doesn't like to discuss business in front of us. That way he can keep his sheriffing separate from his home life.   

 "Ah, I see. Very smart!"

"Yes, that's how he's kept the job for so long. Being smart. Besides the fact, that he's good at it."

Within a few minutes, Woody was back in the kitchen with the two women. 

"Well, I need to get to bed, ladies. I'd say tomorrow is going to be a busy one. Lots of things to take care of. Thank you for all you do for my family, Sarah. I realize I don't say that often enough. You always go the extra mile."

He gave Sarah a friendly hug and tiredly headed for his and Maggie's bedroom.

Sarah wiped her eyes, and watched him go. 

"That man has a whole heap of worries on his shoulders, if he let it be. I know his faith is what keeps him on an even keel. He's a good man, Arlissa, with a kind heart. I don't know what he'll do when Maggie is gone."

Arlissa sat there lost in thought. Her mind was on a different track.

"Do you suppose the Donatellis will come here to see what happened with their son? Or just have the body shipped back to Pennsylvania? I'm sure they must have questions. I wonder what they're like..."

"Now, girl, don't you go looking for trouble. You hear?!! I'd say naturally, they'll want to have all the particulars, but maybe they're nothing like their son."

"Hmmm. I wouldn't count on it. Seems like he had to get that attitude of his from somewhere."