Chapter 26

A note from the author: The story is almost ending; therefore, I'd like to thank some people for their encouragement and stamina. Thanks to Barbara on DC for loving and telling all about this fic from the start. Your kind words meant a lot to me. Thanks to Judy, for being a wonderful friend and beta. I miss you. And thanks to you , Jen is now my beta, and in her, I've found a wonderful new friend. Thanks Jen. Finally, thank you to everyone who continued to read this story through troubles and rl glitches. I apologize for my erratic postings. Thank you for still reading. I appreciate it. Your reward is that I've finished this story. Next week at this time the story comes to an end. Although there will be no sequel, I will post one-shot in this au from time to time. Thanks again,

el

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The Gregorys were to arrive around two. Char and Kate spent the morning getting the rooms ready for our new guests. Heath and I shoveled and plowed out last night's new round of snow while Linden and Jorge kept themselves busy doing, well, the usual moaning and groaning. 

I don't think they were exercising-- at least not in the traditional sense.

Me? I was getting my fair share of exercise. I read recently that shoveling snow burns 408 calories an hour. Sex burns 274 calories if you do it lying down in a phone booth and 60 more calories if you moan in Latin. And if you have a really small dick, you burn a lot more than if your dick is really big. I guess Heath and I are out of luck in that department. Or maybe good luck. I guess it depends what is most important, burning calories or a super-tight fit.

I'll have to remember that Latin thing. Kate's cooking was starting to put on the pounds-- I don't think eating half a jar of peanut butter with Heath should become a regular part of my diet. 

One thing about the snow here was that it was wetter and heavier than I remembered. I've never shoveled so much damn snow in my life-- it sure does snow one hell of a lot in Wisconsin. I hope their summers make up for it, because, like I told Heath, I wasn't going anywhere. At least I liked cross country skiing and the sound of snow crunching beneath my feet.

I was still shoveling the front steps when Heath finished clearing the end of the driveway and grabbed another shovel to give me a hand. With both our backs at work, we had it cleared off in no time. It was one of those bright, sunny days, and the fresh snow was perfect for packing. I couldn't help myself. I picked up a handful and flung it right at him.

Snowball fight!

Splat! Right in the side of the head. 

Heath dropped his shovel and retaliated. One, two, three. Damn, he was good. Nailed me each time. We were both laughing and ducking and throwing when the cab pulled up. Heath bent down and picked up his shovel and slung it over his shoulder. The cab slowed, then stopped in front of the steps, and the cab door swung open. Out came a freckle faced little old lady with white, fuzzy earmuffs and an over-sized wool coat. She stood staring at us all covered in snow. The cab driver didn't give us a second look as he got out and opened the trunk to get her suitcase. I shook my head, and the slushy-wet stuff flew around my head in a halo. 

"Heathcliffe?" she said.

The shovel Heath held dropped to the porch with a clang.

"Mom?"

I remembered what Heath had said-- that he didn't know what he'd say to his parents if he ever saw them again. Well, he didn't say a thing-- just threw his arms around her, hugged her tight and sobbed.

Got me crying too. 

The door opened behind me and Kate came out with Char standing behind her. Next thing I knew, they were all in one giant hug, crying and laughing. After a few moments, heads cleared and each stepped back, one by one, Heath last.

"Want to come inside?"

"Yes, son, I'd love to come inside."

---------------------------

Needless to say, the Gregorys never came: it was Ellen who planned to come all along. Linden and Jorge stayed conspicuously hidden away, making me wonder if they knew that she was the one coming not the Gregorys. As the family mingled in the anteroom, I noted how their mother tipped her head to one side as she listened just like Kate, and how her freckles, eyes and slow smile were so much like Heath's. When she laughed, it was like hearing Char.

After the initial ruckus, Heath stepped back and watched his sisters interact with his mother. Char swung her mom's suitcase in one arm and held her mother's big wool coat in the other. She was the one who finally asked, "Where's Dad?"

"He passed away last August. A heart attack at age 62," she answered, quietly.

The anteroom grew still. I cried silent tears for Heath-- for the father he'd never get to see or know. 

Char solemnly took her mother's bags to the one and only first floor room bedroom. Her reservation was only for one night. Kate asked her would she stay, would she go? Her mother smiled and told Kate this was but a short stay that she hoped would precede many longer ones. 

"I have something for you-- for you all," she said, and reached into her patch-work purse and pulled out a letter.

She handed it to Heath. He stared at it in his hand, the envelope yellow and tattered. 

"Read it after I leave tomorrow," she said. "Then think about what it says. If you want to see me again, you will know how to find me."

I, for one, wondered when someone would ask the question we all wanted to know, "Why? Why did you leave your children?"

Heath's fidgety silence told me that he was thinking the same as I. His demeanor wasn't lost on his mom either. 

"I hope you can find it inside you to forgive," she said.

"Forgiving was never the hard part," Heath said. "It was the wondering."

"I hope the letter answers some of your questions," she said. 

"Why can't we read it now? Why can you just tell us?" Char asked.

"I know it's selfish of me, but give me this time with you. After reading it, if you never want to see me again, then at least I'll have this time with you to remember. For now, all I can say is that I'm sorry, so sorry, and that we tried to find you and that we did what we thought we had to do to keep you safe. Maybe it wasn't the right thing to do, but we did it for the right reasons." 

They agreed not to read the letter until after she left and to spend this time with her without knowing the contents of the envelope. I didn't know what to think about it all. If it was me, I would have opened up that envelope and read it. But Heath wasn't me. He carefully folded the enveloped in half along the well-worn crease and put it in his pocket and waited for another day.

--------------------------

They had the time together. They laughed and reminisced. That day I learned about the younger years: about Kate getting five stitches in her knee sliding into home plate during a neighborhood softball game and about Heath breaking his arm hanging like a monkey in the tree. I learned that Heath's first word was cookie, and when he was three he used to ask everyone he met in the supermarket to "read me a story."

They talked about everything that happened before that day before Christmas when their parents left them, but said not a word about anything after. The present? They gave the usual filler information you might read on one of those copied Christmas letter: accomplishments, illnesses, deaths. When Heath got to me, Heath told her who I was, what I was to him. She never blinked, yet a deep sadness came over her. She hugged Heath tight after he told her, and she whispered something in his ear.

Later that day, we said goodbye to Linden and Jorge. The girls gave them each enough kisses to last them "until next time," Kate said. Linden blushed and Jorge blew kisses back as they left.

The next morning, we said goodbye to Heath's mom in the falling snow. The Wisconsin wind whipped through my coat and tossed around our hats and scarves. I stood on top of the steps of the bed and breakfast and shivered as I watched the girls wave long after the cab disappeared in the swirling snow. Heath hung his head, kicked a chunk of ice with his boot, then slowly lifted his eyes until they met mine. Amazing how one gentle smile melted me. The top step had drifted over with snow during the short time we stood there, and Heath stepped through it. I brushed the white flakes from his hair, then pulled his hands into my pockets to warm them.

"You ok, friend?" I asked.

His eyes wavered back to his feet, then up again to mine. "Yeah," he sighed, "I think I'm gonna be ok."

Kate stepped up behind him. "How 'bout some hot chocolate?" she offered.

We all agreed and went inside. 

"Guess we can read Mom's letter now," Char said.

"Guess we can," Heath repeated.

"I'll make that hot chocolate," she said. "I guess the kitchen is as good a place as any to read it."

---------------------

Heath reverently opened the envelope. Unfolded the letter and laid it out flat on the table in front of him. I blew into my hot cocoa as Kate and Char pulled up chairs and sat down.

"April 12, 1997. Dear Katie, Heath, and Charlene," he read, 

We so hope that somehow we will find our way to each other and these words will never have to be read by you, our dear, dear children, but if we should not find each other and you do read this, we are living in Saskatchewan in Estevan. Please come to us. Your father and I work at a small store there. You will find us as Ellen and Hal Parents.

Your father risked much to look for you, and we feared that they would find you through him. These people would do anything to get to the money since they have hurt others close to you to find us. They blackmailed your father for many years, but your father said "enough" when their greedy fingers reached for the charity funds. 

We want you to know that your father did take the money, not for himself, but to keep the money from those men. They have many connections, and we left you to keep you safe. They threatened your lives as well. They followed. We lost them only through your father's skill and a friend,s kindness. We waited and when you did not come to meet us, your father took a chance and contacted your Great Aunt Abigail. She told us she had heard nothing from you, but the Mafioso goons found her and asked where we were. She understood from what they told her that they did not know where you were. Your father and I wept tears of joy to know wherever you were, you were safe. 

Where is the money? It is gone. Your father laughed when he read in the paper that we'd hidden it away in a Swiss bank, when all he had done was to give a large, anonymous donation to the Salvation Army. Your father said, "Who would expect that from a Rabbi?"  

Your father was right. There are many things that one does not expect from a rabbi. You father's secret was safe with me all these years but like all secrets, it came to light. He feels shame for his past. It was his own shandeh. I never judged your father. He is a good man. They hounded him for his past. He chose me, and for me, that was enough. He never failed to follow one of God's  mitzvot in the years after he married me.  

We can wait here no longer. To stay longer, would allow them to find us. 

A brocheh for you, my dear children,  

Mother

He folded the letter.

"What was his shandeh, his shame?" Kate asked.

"She told me-- she whispered it in my ear last night," Heath said. 

"What?"

"Our father loved a man-- before our mother." 

"Somehow I think I'd known all along," Kate said. "It all makes sense now."

"They were happy," Char said. "I know they were."

"Of course they were," Heath said. "One thing I've learned about love is that you fall for a person-- who they are, not what they are." 

That night when we went up to our room we made more than love. 

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From: [identity profile] roby100.livejournal.com


Great chapter, thank you very much!

It's sad that it's going to finish, I have just found it and read all the prevoius chapters!

A big hug
Roby

From: [identity profile] el-wing.livejournal.com


Yes, it's sad, but I'm happy too that you've found this! Thanks for reading.

gives hug in return!

From: [identity profile] torry28.livejournal.com


I expected that the reason for leaving the children was to save them but still trying to find them. I'm pleased it was their mother to come to see them, and I'm sure they will have many good years together now, sad that they will not see their father but at least they know he was a loving man and loved their mother and his children. What was a surprise that he was in love with a man and the sadness on Heath mothers face was not because Heath was gay but life would certainly be more difficult for him loving a man.
I am sad for this story coming to an end it was such a joy to read, but I am very delighted if you will visit this universe now and then. Thank you for writing this marvelous, humorous, affectionate and compelling story in spite of having RL difficulties.
I wish you and your family a wonderful Easter.
Love,
Torry

From: [identity profile] el-wing.livejournal.com


I debated having Heath's mom stay with them, but decided that that would be presumptuous of her to think she could-- also, Heath and his sisters need time to digest the info in the letter.

Thanks so much for your kind words. I am also sad, but will do my best to write so one-shot during holidays!

Thanks, again, Torry.

love,
el

From: [identity profile] edgarsbabe.livejournal.com


Awww! So perfectly sweet!

Jake was so great in his support of Heath through this emotional time. They are wonderful together and you've painted a beautiful picture of them moving on towards their future as a deeply committed, totally in love couple.

Thank you so much for this story. It has been a joy to read!

From: [identity profile] el-wing.livejournal.com


Jake has been there for him, and Heath for Jake during the whole "Austin" thing. Glad you like the loving couple.

el


From: [identity profile] equally-dour.livejournal.com


The last line FLOORED me! *le sigh*

I don't want this story to end! *pouts* But YEAH! for future one-shots! :D

From: [identity profile] el-wing.livejournal.com


Glad you liked the last line!

Thanks for reading and enjoying!

From: [identity profile] eandj.livejournal.com


I still have a hard time picturing Heath' parents leave their children. I have to reread what Heath told Jake about this time. And now she left again after only one day???
Thank god Heath has found Jake
Paula

From: [identity profile] el-wing.livejournal.com


I reread that section to get it right too. Sad that she left, but to stay would also assume much on her part, don't you think? The last chapter will make you feel better about it all, I promise;)

Thanks, Paula for reading and commenting.

From: [identity profile] ramona4jake.livejournal.com


Wow, his father.... wow !! I'm sorry for Heath he didn't get to be together with his father ! So this mystery is solved, but only one chapter left ?!! At least we'll have one-shots ! :o)
Thank you so much !

From: [identity profile] el-wing.livejournal.com


I debated on the whole losing his father, but thought it would lend to allowing mom into Heath's life...

Thanks, for reading and taking time to comment.

el

From: [identity profile] trekfan.livejournal.com


wonderful El I am so glad that they saw their mother, it is a shame their father died young (my own father died of a heart attack at 67)

I loved the snowball fight.

One question whatever happened to Petey? Poor thing is probably feeling lonely

hugs
Linda

From: [identity profile] el-wing.livejournal.com


Thanks, Linda. My father and mother both died in their early 60's. I guess part of that leaked into the story too.

Glad you liked the snowball fight. It was fun to write.

Petey is just fine. He's in the next chapter!

Love,

el

From: [identity profile] samtyr.livejournal.com


I am so sad that this is coming to an end because I have had such a great time reading it. But I am glad to know that you will be posting one-shots in this 'verse.

I feel badly that Heath's dad died such a short time ago, and I wish his mother would have stayed longer and explained things to them rather than insisting on the letter. Then again, after so long maybe they need some time to digest everything and react to it before talking it out with her.

Thank you so much for sharing this.

PS. I know *exactly* what is meant by all that snow. Do I *ever*!!

From: [identity profile] el-wing.livejournal.com


I know what you mean about the snow too. It snowed 4 inches here this last weekend. In April. I hate it. It's pretty (like in you icon) but I don't like experiencing it first hand. Now maybe if I was in that snowball fight with Heath and Jake it wouldn't be too bad ;)

Glad you enjoyed and understood why mom didn't stick around.

Love ya,

el


From: [identity profile] haljbg.livejournal.com


I am happy they finally found out what's really happened. Very sad story but now they have their mother back.
Thanks
Emmy

From: [identity profile] el-wing.livejournal.com


Thanks, Emmy for commenting. Heath's mom might not be there to help ease the past for the moment, but he has Jake for that. His mom wil come around.


From: [identity profile] mrs-spamlad.livejournal.com


That was so great, having their mom come to see them! I'm glad that it will give them all some closure, to know for sure what happened and why their parents left. I'm happy that Heath came right out and told his mom who and what Jake is to him, too.

I just loved the line about falling for a person for who they are, not what they are- that's something I've believed for a long time.
Thanks for another great chapter :)
jill

From: [identity profile] el-wing.livejournal.com


I admit that the idea behind the line it isn't who but the person they are, isn't mine-- I heard it said in another form before by Edna St Vincent Millay; there's so much truth in that statement.

Thanks so much.

From: [identity profile] lovewithstands.livejournal.com


Such a wonderful chapter

The ending was great and so true

If only some people would see it like that :(

Great chapter looking to read more

From: [identity profile] el-wing.livejournal.com


Glad you liked the ending of the chapter. I had a difficult time with the letter! It held up this chapter for over a week because I couldn't get it right.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

el

From: [identity profile] camillar.livejournal.com


Wow, what an emotionally wrenching chapter! Beautifully written, as always. I'll miss this story when it's over, but thanks so much for sharing it with us. It's been a joy from the very start!
Camilla

From: [identity profile] melby-dc.livejournal.com


I laughed so much during the 1st part of this chp!...burning more calories by moaning in Latin, eating half a jar of peanut butter, the snow shoveling & snowball fight. You write so humorously!
You write so fabulously, both your style and your plot! I will sure hate to see this end, thank God for one-shots and for re-reading! In fact I'm already looking forward to mammoth re-reading straight thru! They, and we, have been on a tumultuous, fantastic ride! Thank you so much, XOXOXO!

From: [identity profile] el-wing.livejournal.com


I laughed so much during the 1st part of this chp!...burning more calories by moaning in Latin, eating half a jar of peanut butter, the snow shoveling & snowball fight. I love it when they rollick, too. Thanks so much for your kind words. I reread the story again when I wrote these last few chapters. It was a fun journey.

thanks,

el

From: [identity profile] el-wing.livejournal.com


(hands tissue) Thanks so much (blushes). Truth is, I'll miss this story too.

Thanks so much for your kind words.

el

From: [identity profile] bentgyro.livejournal.com


What an interesting development! Sad that they won't meet their father but they have their very interesting and strong mother still with them. I hate to see this story end but it has been so much fun to read!
Thank you!
HT

From: [identity profile] el-wing.livejournal.com


Sad that they won't meet their father but they have their very interesting and strong mother still with them. And sad to say that this will free the mother. I've seen it happen in many situations where the spouse is loved and cherished yet when they pass on the women comes into their own.

thanks for reading
el

From: [identity profile] ifyoucantfixit2.livejournal.com


This has been such an interesting journey. We have dealt with lost people. Ghosts, and discovering of deep and abiding love. I have so enjoyed finding all these characters. I enjoyed you telling about Jorge and Linden. The moaning and such. tee hee. Then the finding out about the mom and dad.
I was glad to see that Ennis's mom was very warm and friendly,
and accepting of Heath and Jakes love. It is coming together so neatly. I am however sorry to see it ending. I will miss this story a great deal. I always feel that way when one of your stories ends. love janice

From: [identity profile] el-wing.livejournal.com


Yes, Jake and Heath were as lost as the ghosts before they met: each in their own world all alone. Thanks so much for reading. I miss my characters too when it all ends.

Thanks, again, Janice,

el

From: [identity profile] hoosier67.livejournal.com


I finally read this story and I love it. I think it's nice how you added Jorge and Linden too. Your writing is witty and intelligent. I can't tell you how much I like Jack's mental and verbal rants they're great. Thanks for sharing this with us all.

Tracy

From: [identity profile] elwings-things.livejournal.com


Thanks, Tracy. Glad you came over to read the story! I've had fun writing this. Now maybe I can settle into writing that sequel to Love is Blind that I started.

Happy you found this story!

el

From: [identity profile] lawgoddess.livejournal.com


Thank you for the kind words. Talking about your story has been my pleasure.

I'll be sad to see this end, too.

A poignant chapter. And I loved the last line.

From: [identity profile] elwings-things.livejournal.com


Thanks, Barbara! It's hard ending a fic-- the writer becomes as attached to the characters as the readers, like good friends. Or in this case really, really, hot friends.

thanks for all you kind words.

el

From: [identity profile] argentine65.livejournal.com

The big bang Theory


It will be sad to say goodbye to this amazing story, one of the few in which they fall in love and keep that way from the start. I love each part of it and all the details you so well described. Now, they should think about the future and another thing I love is how Jake is accepted as family. Thank you so much for sharing. Martha

From: [identity profile] el-wing.livejournal.com

Re: The big bang Theory


one of the few in which they fall in love and keep that way from the start.

I just realized that I've never written a story where the main characters have fallen out of love. I know it's a common conflict in much of writing, but I've always found my conflict in other places.

Thanks, Martha for reading.

el

From: [identity profile] fridayblues.livejournal.com


Wow, Heath's gentle smile did melt my heart, too. I'm so going to reread this story once it's done. it's one of my fav au!rps ever.
And the last line just killed me dead.
Love you :)

From: [identity profile] elwings-things.livejournal.com


Thanks so much! Hope you're doing well. Sorry I haven't gotten to our little project yet. It's on my list. I hoping to be able to write more soon.

el

From: [identity profile] lorna59.livejournal.com


Sorry I am so late with commenting - I have left a comment for chapter 25 too if you are interested.

I really enjoyed the way Jake got the calories in the first place but I enjoyed even more him thinking up ways to burn them off.

The letter explains a lot, the mystery of Heath's parents finally solved - I actually thought this might be a let down after so long but you wrote it perfectly.

Thanks for another fine chapter.
Lorna

From: [identity profile] el-wing.livejournal.com


Thanks, glad I succeeded in explaining much of this. I like imaging ways for them to burn calories too.

thanks,
el
.