WARNING: This chapter is kind of long, so brace yourself.
We were at the tip of Autumn where thick clouds danced mightily in the grey skies, gathering up moisture to bestow rain all over Riverview’s green pastures. The trees hadn’t turned its color yet, but were on the brink of hibernation. Crops were thriving more than ever and the horses were healthy enough for breeding. It was a good time for the Riverview residents. I just wish I could say the same for us.
Now that we were all settled comfortably into the house, it still felt surreal that we were even there. One minute, we were in Meadows Glenn in a luxurious, but cozy one-bedroom house and the next, we’re here in a massive four-bedroom farmhouse. I think I still get lost every time I looked for the laundry room. As I sorted out the laundry and placed them into the washing machine, I wandered how we would be able to maintain such a big house as this. I didn’t want to worry Cyler; he was already stressed out enough with the horses.
Over the past few months, Bennie’s health had suddenly taken a turn for the worst. After being in the hospital for a couple of weeks, he was allowed to come home and rest in his own bed. The doctor stated that the cancer had spread even more than it had and we were to start making funeral arrangements soon.
Cyler didn’t want to believe that his father was getting worse, but deep down knew his time would soon expire. So to make him feel more comfortable, we prepped the room to his liking and waited on him hand-and-foot. He was so weak, he could barely do anything.
Every morning, I came downstairs to check on him. Most times he would still be sleeping, so I would take that opportunity to shower, get dressed and take care of Chance until he woke up. He never really had much of an appetite, but I tried to make him a small breakfast to keep his energy up. With Cyler’s help, we would then get him bathed and dressed and change his bedding.
“You’re always so good to me,” he spoke, barely above a whisper when I saw that he wasn’t asleep as he normally would be.
“Well, you’ve been good to us too, Bennie. It’s the very least I can do.” Bennie formed a meek smile as his eyes met mine while I straightened his sheets and blankets. “Is there anything else I can do or get for you, Bennie?”
“Please…call me Dad. You are my daughter now after all.”
“Okay…dad,” I said with a chuckle. I hadn’t known him for very long, but it somehow felt like I had known him my whole life already. “Get some rest. You have another appointment tomorrow to see Dr. Alders first thing in the morning.” Bennie nodded slightly and closed his eyes. Assuming he was falling asleep, I left the room to attend to my other chores.
After Breakfast, I cleaned up the kitchen while Chance sat on the floor and played with her toys. As I wiped down the counters, I couldn’t help but to stare at her adoringly. She sat there, disinterested in all the toys around her and stared up at me with eyes I couldn’t read. I knew she was probably lonely sometimes, being an only child. She was use to us playing with her every moment we got with her, but ever since we’ve moved here, it seemed like there wasn’t enough time. How would we manage a big house and multiple children if we can’t even manage this house with one child?
Cyler soon joined us in the living room and happily greeted Chance, who glowed with excitement at the very sight of her father. “Would you mind watching her for a bit while I go shower?” I asked and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
“I would love to! Who else am I going to spend my morning with, hmm?” Cyler sat in front of Chance and began having a conversation with her as if she had been talking back in an adult-like manner. “Don’t force her to talk if she’s not ready, Cyler. Just enjoy the quiet while it lasts!” Cyler and I giggled before I headed upstairs to bathe.
I wasn’t a pro at the whole gardening thing yet, but I was slowly getting better at keeping the plants alive every week. Since summer was gone, it was a lot easier to maintain them. Knowing how much water and sunlight was needed was the easy part. It was knowing the rare plant species that was a bit rough, but that was where the money was at so I was open to keep learning the ropes.
Besides that, I found gardening to be relaxing. I learned through my father that my grandmother Corrina use to garden as well. Even though I never knew her, I loved having that in common with her. It almost felt like she was there with me pulling weeds out of the ground.
It was an overcast day in Riverview. The dark grey clouds threatened a storm soon, but that didn’t stop anyone from attending the Riverview Farmer’s Market, a popular location for farmers and civilians to buy and sell their crops and since I had just harvested some produce from our garden, it was the place to be. I often volunteered to tend the stands on the weekends whenever I could. It was a great experience and gave me a chance to meet some of the locals and gain their respect. Bennie told us that the people here didn’t take too kindly to outsiders, but it seemed as though I had fit in just fine.
After being at the market for most of the day, I was ready to get home. My legs ached from standing for hours on end and my back was screaming for some relief. All the customers were lining up to make their final purchases while others got in their vehicles and left. I was about to pack up the stand when I saw someone walk up from the parking lot. A young woman with platinum blonde hair held her child close to her as they walked up the pathway. I wanted to shout out that we were closed, but the words wouldn’t escape my lips.
There was something about the boy. Something familiar and yet sent chills down my spine. He looked at me with knowing eyes, as if he knew a secret only I knew. The woman didn’t seem to notice me as she continued upward on the dirt path surrounded by pink chrysanthemums. Instead, her eyes kept forward on a target destination. She was not new around here, that’s for sure. She knew where she was going. Then why hadn’t I seen them before?
A flashback quickly filled my mind back to the nightmares I use to have of the strange boy that haunted my dreams. He shared the same skin complexion as I did, but had other features that resembled Renley. The boy before me had a more tanned complexion, but possessed the same eyes and hair color. This couldn’t have been him; the boy in my dreams.
I concluded years ago that the boy in my dreams must have represented the baby I had been pregnant with when I was a teenager. The guilt of my decision to end the pregnancy had haunted me for years and I regretted every minute of it…but I thought I was past it now.
The young woman and the boy swiftly walked past me and headed towards the wooden shed behind me. I felt like a stalker watching her every move. A sudden need to know who they were filled my being and I didn’t know why. The young woman took the boy into one of the restrooms and after several moments, eventually emerged back out and walked back to the parking lot where her car had been parked. Maybe she’s passing through. I assured myself that’s what she was doing and went back to packing up the produce stand.
I talked myself out of thinking it was a conspiracy during the entire car ride home. The last thing I needed was more crazy thoughts to enter into my head and more nightmares to emerge after I’ve been free from them for years now. It was just a coincidence.
“Anyone home?” I called out once I came home. Cyler came out of Bennie’s bedroom and slowly approached me with solemn eyes. “Everything all right?”
Cyler slowly shook his head and swallowed air before he uttered the very words I never wanted to hear, but knew was coming eventually. “Bennie’s gone.” We both stood in silence. Cyler kept his eyes on me while I tried to process what just came out of his mouth. “I went to check on him to see if he needed anything…but he wasn’t responding. So I called the ambulance and they’re on their way.”
“Are you sure he’s–”
“Yeah,” he quickly added with a slight nod. “He’s dead.”
The funeral was held a week later at Grace Memorial; a large graveyard dedicated to the ones who have made their presence known to the townspeople. Bennie was a legend in Riverview and was known for winning many horse competitions. His horses were always thoroughbreds and ranked the highest in all of the town and the surrounding areas. Now that he was gone, it was up to Cyler to keep his father’s legacy going. He was determined to do so, even if it killed him.
We had the wake at the house where many of Bennie’s friends came to pay their respects and reminisce about their times with him. It seemed like a good idea at the time to have it at home, but once it started, I wish I hadn’t volunteered. Cyler was trying to desperately hide his sorrow from the others that he often times had to keep excusing himself away from the company.
However, when he would return, he would get bombarded again with condolences and questions.
“I’m so sorry about your father, Cyler. He was a very sweet man,” said Mags Collins, a widow with two children who attempts to hook her claws on any wealthy man she could find.
Cyler thanked her politely and tried to catch himself into another conversation elsewhere when Trey Erickson approached the both of them. “Hey man, I’m sorry about your dad. How are you holding up?” he asked.
“As well as anyone can be held up right about now, Trey.”
Trey nodded, as if he understood.
As the night progressed, Riverview’s high society chatted and mingled mainly in the living room as they sipped on their champagne. The company that Bennie kept was of a wealthy class like himself, but they appeared to have been more snootier than I could have imagined. Bennie was the complete opposite and didn’t mind doing the dirty work himself whereas the rest would hire help to do the dirty work for them. They just owned businesses and that was it. Bennie was so much more than that.
Only two children attended the funeral and had seemed bored out of their minds at this point. I didn’t blame them. I wondered what two teenagers could have gained from attending a wake of a gentleman they probably never even knew themselves.
I was beginning to feel how they looked and decided to do something about it. The night was almost over anyhow, so it was about time everyone left.
I walked over to where Cyler was standing while with Mags and Trey were chatting his ears off and intercepted the conversation. “I’m so sorry to interrupt, but honey, I think it’s getting late, don’t you think?”
Cyler looked at me and to my pleasure, caught my hint. “Yes, yes it is. I’m very sorry you guys, but we have an early day tomorrow with the horses and all. I appreciate you all coming today and showing my father some love. I’m sure that would’ve meant a lot to him.” It took about fifteen minutes for everyone to replace their condolences and say their goodbyes to us. As the house filled with silence, Cyler and I exchanged a look that were to say ‘thank goodness they’re gone’.
“Are you okay?” Cyler asked me while we were getting ready for bed.
I shrugged while I observed myself in the vanity mirror. “It’s just weird he’s gone.”
“I know.” Cyler pulled his tank-top on and yawned. “Let’s not talk about it anymore tonight. I need to think about other things.”
I looked away from the mirror and turned my attention onto him. “I encountered something weird at the farmer’s market today.”
I paused for a moment while I thought how to word what I was about to say without sounding too crazy. I then told him about the boy I saw and how he looked so much like the boy in my nightmares.
“Okay…but he’s not that boy, so…”
“I know, it’s just…weird. He had the same platinum blonde hair, eye color and shape.” I looked down for a moment as I thought about it, then placed my attention back to him. “He looked a lot like Renley.”
“Do you think it could be his?” he asked casually.
“Maybe.” I sighed. “I hope not. Last thing I need is for him to be where I am.”
“I doubt it. We’re pretty far away from Meadows Glenn.”
“You’re right. I’m just being weird.”
“Eh, nothing really new there,” he teased. I swiped at his chest as he pulled me in for a kiss.
“I do have some news!” I chimed as I quickly pulled away from him, suddenly remembering what I needed to tell him.
“Good news, I hope. I can’t take anymore bad news today.”
“Definitely good news,” I assured.
Cyler nodded in satisfaction. “Okay, so what is this good news you have?”
“Cyler Alexander, you’re going to be a father again.”
Cyler smiled widely for the first time today and pulled me in again for another embrace. “That’s the best kind of news ever,” he said happily before gently giving me another kiss.