Chapter Two- Another Again
Sky sat on a bench just off the walkway at Waterfront Park. At her feet laid her two Cane Corsos, Bella and Rocco. Sidney Sheldon’s The Other Side of Midnight was splayed across her lap when she saw a shadow fall over her. She looked up into the face of Brent Windsor.
“Lord have mercy, I can’t get away with not seeing you for two weeks, huh?” Sky said.
“Maybe Charleston isn’t big enough for both of us,” he replied.
“You should go back to D.C then!” Sky said.
He laughed at that and looked at the dogs who now sat alert flanking her. “How do you know where I’m from? You been asking about me?” Brent asked.
“Not! I’d know a D.C accent anywhere. I went to Howard for four years then after I graduated from Wharton I worked in Maryland. I still have plenty of friends in the area,” Sky said. She snapped her fingers and the dogs relaxed.
Brent looked around the park at the other joggers and the kids playing in the pineapple fountain. “This is a nice park, and for a Saturday it’s not too packed. Is it always like this?” he asked.
“Pretty much. There are so many places in the city to go and sit out. These two don’t like the dog park when it’s crowded so we usually walk down here. There’s a nice park across the street from our house too,” Sky said.
“Look, I just wanted to stop by to apologize for upsetting you the other week. I wasn’t trying to piss you off. I was just doing my job,” Brent said. He hadn’t meant to piss anyone off although it was often a repercussion of his work.
She accepted his apology and they passed the time talking until a little boy ran up to them and skidded to a halt upon seeing Rocco and Bella who immediately thought he came to play with them. Dark brindled and the larger of the two Rocco picked up his pull rope and threw it at the boy’s feet. He looked at Brent, who in turn looked at Sky.
“He wants to play. Both of them think that every kid in the universe has been put here to play with them,” Sky said.
The boy crept closer to Brent. She looked from Brent to the boy and could see the affection between the two in the easy way that the boy huddled close to Brent’s leg.
“Sky, this is my son Gray,” he said as the boy held out his hand to shake hers.
“Hi Gray, It’s nice to meet you. Do you like living in Charleston? Brent, did you find a good school and apartment?”
“No,” this came from Gray who sat on the bench looking sullen. “We live in a dump. It’s not like our old house.”
“He misses having a yard and our landlady Ms. Delphine loved him. She was like a grandma to him,” Brent said.
“Oh really, did you sign a lease where you are now?” she asked. When Brent shook his head no, she nodded and asked if they had plans for the day. When they said they’d just planned to come down and enjoy the park she asked if they’d like to take a walk.
“I drove here. What about my car?” Brent asked.
“I don’t think that you want to try to get these two into your vehicle and we walked here. I think you’ll both really like what I have to show you though,” she said.
“Pop, they can fit in the back of the Tahoe,” Gray said.
As they walked down the park’s walkway and a block over to where Brent had parked his car Sky asked Gray about what he’d seen of the city so far.
“Have you had a chance to go out to St. John’s Island, yet?” Sky asked.
“Not yet, I came down interviewed for the position then looked at schools and an apartment. We haven’t done many tourist type things,” Brent replied.
“Pop has to work and he has training too,” Gray added now more comfortable with the dogs who kept grinning goofily at him as they walked alongside him.
“This is it,” he said stopping beside a navy colored Tahoe. He disengaged the alarm and opened the trunk so that Sky could put the dogs in the cargo area, then he walked around to the passenger door and opened it for her. A second later they were all in the vehicle pulling into the late afternoon traffic.
“I’ll give you directions. It’s fairly close it shouldn’t take us more than five minutes to get there,” Sky said. As they rode through the streets, she pointed out another park and the mansions on the other side of East Bay Street. A few minutes later she told him to make a turn and they coasted down a residential street filled with stately old Colonial- era homes. They found a parking spot and all hopped out. They began walking past the palmetto trees and gaslights that bordered the yards.
She led them to a high wrought iron fence, pushed open the gate and walked up the stairs to a door on the side of the huge house. She keyed in an alarm and turned the knob letting them all into a spacious apartment that spanned the entire bottom floor of the house. Through the Roman shades at the front window late afternoon sun shone on the hardwood floor and the French vanilla -colored walls. Sky grinned and encouraged them to look around as she pulled out her cell phone and made a quick call. A few moments later– after Gray discovered the large closet that could double as a playroom and Brent walked through the bedrooms– the door opened and a hearty voice calling out “Hey” filled the empty space.
“Hey, Mrs. Georgia,” Sky said before allowing herself to be enveloped in a White Diamonds infused hug.
“Well, well, well. What do we have here?” Georgia May Edwards asked as she set a plate of chocolate chip cookies down on the counter.
Sky made the introductions and told Brent that Mrs. Georgia had been looking for good reliable tenants since the last family moved out eight months ago. She left them in the living room to discuss things and went to find Gray.
“Do you like it?” she asked him after finding him seated on the floor in one of the smaller bedrooms.
A short while later Brent, Sky, and Gray were all on the porch. Gray left them as he moved to explore the porch and yard.
“Why would you do this? You don’t even know us,” Brent asked. He was a bit shocked that a new apartment stemmed from his son’s complaint.
“I did it for Gray. Every child deserves a yard, Brent. He’s already been uprooted from everything he knows. He’s in a strange place without the lady he thought of as a grandma. And Mrs. Georgia needs a family to mother,” she replied.
“I’m not used to people I don’t know doing nice things for us,” he said.
“Well, around here we look out for other people. Even probation officers,” she said. She smiled as they watched Gray, who sat in the Adirondack chair at the other end of the porch, looking happily at the yard. In the short time since they’d arrived at the apartment he looked twice as happy.
“So what are you doing with him this summer? What’s he doing while you work?” Sky asked.
“He’s going to a day camp in North Charleston; it’s easy to drop him off there before I go to work,” he said. “I pick him up if I’m working late and he hangs out at the office until I’m done. Sometimes, I pick him up early when I’m done with court.”
He mistook her silence for censure and looked around, to see her watching his son, who was busy exploring the yard. He said, “Once he starts school, it will be better.”
Her head whipped towards him, “I wasn’t judging you Brent. It’s hard being a single parent, I was raised by one and he took help from family and friends to make it work for him,” she said.
“My best friend, Shawn, we’ve known each other our whole lives,” Brent said. “He only really asked me for one thing in all those years of friendship. That was to take care of his son, to raise him right.”
“What happened?” Sky asked.
“Cancer. Gray’s mom was never in the picture anyway. So I was the logical choice. I couldn’t raise him in D.C. though. It wasn’t going to work and Shawn always wanted to move down south,” he said.
Brent called Gray and told him they were leaving. As they prepared to get in the car Gray spoke. “Do you want to have dinner with us?” he asked. Brent began to admonish him but Sky laughed.
“Actually, I have plans tonight but I’d like to invite you two to come with me,” she said.
“We don’t want to intrude. He shouldn’t have imposed on you anyway after all that you’ve done for us today,” Brent said.
“Don’t be silly, I had a great time with Gray today. Even with you too, a little bit,” she said. She emphasized little by putting up her thumb and forefinger an inch apart before bursting out in laughter. “I really want you two to come with me. I promise you’ll enjoy it.”
*** *** ***
Brent thought that they would head to Thomas’ but she directed him back near Waterfront Park and told him to park on a side street near a brick wall with a foot high privacy hedge. Once they collected the dogs from the back they walked through the gate and into an immaculately manicured yard. Brent heard music playing and smelled meat being grilled. As they walked across the grass Sky leaned down to let the dogs off their leashes.
“Where are we?” Gray asked.
“My dad’s house, he’s out of town, but there’s someone that I really want you to meet,” Sky said. She pushed open a waist high gate and the dogs burst through, ran straight for the pool and dove in.
Sky and Gray burst into laughter and watched the dogs swim laps in the pool.
“Hey Baby,” her uncle Thomas said from his position at the grill. “Mr. Windsor, nice to see you again,” he said. Thomas smiled at the three of them and motioned for them to get drinks from the cooler. They grabbed drinks and walked over to a table under a large magnolia tree. A flash of movement went past the grill and headed towards them.
“Ooops, sorry Uncle T. Hey Mom, you’re here. Can I spend the night at Jonah’s?” To Brent’s surprise the boy was talking to Sky, she never mentioned being a parent. He turned towards her as the boy hugged her around the waist.
“Stephan, excuse you! Don’t you see other people sitting here?” Sky asked. Even while she admonished him, she gently brushed the wet bronze curls of his hair then turned him towards Brent. “Honey, this is Mr. Windsor and that’s his son Gray.”
“I’m sorry, hi Mr. Windsor. Hi Gray. Mom, can I spend the night with Jonah?” Stephan asked again.
“No, you may not. You’re coming home tonight,” she said.
“Yes ma’am,” Stephan said and went to the pool to talk to the dogs. A few minutes later he returned and asked if Gray wanted to go for a swim. Gray looked at his father then said yes.
“You never mentioned that you’re a mother,” Brent said while they sat at a table near the pool.
“I know, but in all fairness, it’s not like it’s something that I go around saying,” Sky replied. She looked at the edge of the pool where their two sons sat eating hamburgers, flanked by Bella and Rocco.
“You could have said something earlier, when we were talking about single parents,” he said.
“You’re right,” she said as the boys ran across the yard to join them.