“I wish I could stay for a while,” Rachel said to her brother. They were outside on his porch. It was Saturday and she had brought her daughter, Emily to spend the day with him.
“Why can’t you?” he asked.
She sighed. “I have to go grocery shopping, to the cleaners and then, I’m going to the nursing home to visit Granny. One of the care workers mentioned that you visit every week.”
“Yes, I do.”
“You were always Granny’s favorite. It must make her happy to see you.”
“Yes. I wish she didn’t have to be in the nursing home, though.”
“I know. If she weren’t suffering from Parkinson’s, one of us could have had her live with us.”
“Yes. The staff at the nursing home are very caring. They take very good care of her.”
“Yes, they do. Mom chose a really good nursing home for her. I’ve heard so many horror stories of other nursing homes.”
“Speaking of Mom, she mentioned that things are getting better between Jennifer and you.” Jennifer was Emily’s older sister.
“Yes. We’re on speaking terms again. Last week Saturday, her father and I had dinner with her and Rick.”
“How did that go?”
“Believe it or not, it turned out to be a rather pleasant evening. She and Rick are engaged.”
“Yes, it is.”
“Is it a secret or can I call and congratulate her?”
“She said that she was going to call you with the news.”
“All right. I’ll wait until I hear from her.”
“It would have been so much better if they had gotten married before the baby was born.”
“Yes, it would have been.”
“So, who’s this Shiloh whom Emily keeps talking about?”
“She’s a girl from school. She’s graduating in June.”
“Is that all she is?”
He stiffened and moved away. “What do you mean?” he asked warily.
“It sounds like this girl visits you often.”
“Yes, to talk about things to do with her education.”
“Oh.” She studied him closely. “If there’s nothing between you two why are you blushing?”
He touched his face. “I’m not blushing,” he retorted. “Men don’t blush.”
She laughed. “Whoever this Shiloh is, she’s got a fan in Emily and she’s got you all flustered. I think it’s sweet.”
“Sweet? Shiloh is nineteen, just one year younger than Jennifer and I happen to be in a relationship with a woman who’s closer to my age.”
“Does she know about Shiloh?”
“There’s nothing to know. Didn’t you say that you couldn’t stay long?”
She laughed again. “All right, I get the hint. I’ll be going. I’ll just go and say goodbye to Emily and then I’ll be off.”
Shiloh stood among the bushes watching them. She was walking up the sidewalk when she saw them on the porch. She stopped in front of a parked car. She wasn’t sure that she should go when the woman was there or wait. She decided to wait until she left. And as soon as she saw her get into her car and drive away, she continued up the street.
When she reached the house, Mr. Gladstone was still on the porch. He smiled when he saw her. “Hello, Shiloh.”
“Hello, Mr. Gladstone.”
“Emily’s inside. Her mother left a few minutes ago.”
So that was Emily’s mother she had seen leaving. She was sorry now that she hadn’t met her. Perhaps another time.
They went inside the house and Emily ran to her, very pleased to see her. They hugged and Shiloh thanked her for the drawing. They played for a while and then it was time to go to Verona Park.
It was a lovely day for being outdoors. Emily wanted Shiloh to sit at the back with her so she did. While the little girl played with her doll, Shiloh and Mr. Gladstone talked.
“So, how is your sister? Still chewing pencil toppers?”
“Yes, but she stopped sucking her thumb.”
“That’s good. You must be relieved.”
“I am. And now it’s Baby basil and contagious hiccups with her.”
“My mother tried giving her Baby Gourmet Finger Foods Tomato Basil Slices Lentil & Chickpea Puffs as a healthy snack but it every time she has it, she hiccups like crazy and it makes her cry. So, my mother had to stop giving it to her. Now, she has the Banana Blueberry Pea Munch Mix. I tried it and didn’t like it at all.”
“I didn’t know that hiccups were contagious.”
“Yawns are contagious but hiccups aren’t. But when my mother sees my sister hiccupping she starts to breathe funny and ends up getting hiccups. And this lasts for about a half hour and then, they’re fine again. It’s so weird. Sometimes I think my family is weird.”
He smiled. “I know a lot of parents who think that teenagers are weird and have trouble understanding them.”
“Well, I’m not one of those teenagers. My parents don’t have any problems with me. I’m bright, sensible and I don’t get into trouble.”
“What about boys?”
“I would never get into trouble with a boy. My parents don’t have to worry about me getting pregnant or anything like that.”
“That’s good to hear.” If Jennifer had the same convictions as Shiloh, she would be going to college in the Fall too.
They arrived at the park and went straight to the playground and while Emily went down the slides, they sat on the bench and kept an eye on her as they chatted. “Does Emily have any siblings?”
“Yes. Jennifer, her older sister. She’s a year younger than you.”
“Oh. Which college is she going to in September?”
“She isn’t going to college.”
“She got pregnant two years ago in her senior year at high-school. She graduated but decided not to go to college but to take care of her baby. She moved out of her parents’ house and in with the baby’s father. They recently got engaged.”
“Wow. My parents would have had a fit if I had done what she did. I hope Emily doesn’t end up doing the same thing.”
“I hope not either.”
“Did Jennifer like school?”
“I don’t know.”
“Maybe she didn’t like school and that’s why she got pregnant so that she would have an excuse not to go to college. “
I know what you mean. I have heard of teenage girls who intentionally get pregnant because they can’t see themselves being anything else but a mother. Other life goals seem out of their reach–unrealistic or unattainable. Now, I wish I had spoken to Jennifer during her senior year.”
“Which high school did she go to?”
“Sacred Heart Grammar School.”
“One of my cousins attended there. It’s a Catholic school.”
“Yes, it is and has a very good reputation. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for Jennifer. I wish now that she had attended Sunnyside. Perhaps the two of you could have become friends and you could have had a positive influence on her.”
“At least she is getting married and maybe one day, she might be persuaded to continue her education.”
“Yes. She can enroll in a tertiary institution or in a vocational school or an alternative education center. Other options are distance education which would allow her to study at home, enrolling online or an open college. There are schools some schools which offer specific programs to support pregnant or parenting students. One of these days, I will discuss these options with her. She’s a bright girl and I hate to see her not taking advantage of our education system.”
They talked about other things and then, it was time to head over to Bob Evans. He and Shiloh both had the Honey Butter Chicken and Biscuit Meal with mashed potato and corn while Emily had the Homestyle Fried Chicken Tenders with fries. She had the chocolate milk while they had the lemonade. For dessert, he had the Double Crust Apple Pie, Shiloh had the Classic Cherry Pie and Emily had a Chocolate Chunk Cookie.
After Shiloh took Emily to the washroom, it was time to go. Emily was sleeping so Shiloh said in the front. “Thanks for inviting me to spend the afternoon with Emily and you,” she said to him. “I had a terrific time.”
“You’re welcome, Shiloh and I had a terrific time too. And so did Emily.”
“One of these days, when I visit, I should bring my sister with me so that they can play together. They’re the same age.”
“Sure,” she smiled, thinking that while the two little girls played on the living-room floor, she and he could relax on the sofa and talk.