Second Chances – Part II
“Fine. We had a nice time.”
“Good. Say, I met Kelly’s husband today.”
“He came into the bank to cash a check.”
“I’ve never met him,” Maryanne said. “Is he nice?”
Luke nodded. “Yeah, I think so. His name is Chip.” He rummaged around in the refrigerator and found the milk. He poured a glass for himself and said, “Tomorrow’s Saturday. Why don’t we take the kids out to Porter’s Farm and let them cut down a tree? Amber wants to get it up this weekend.”
“Why, you know we always use our artificial tree, Luke. Real ones cost the earth, and I’d rather spend the money on the kids.”
Luke drained his milk and gave her a damp kiss on the cheek. “We’ll have a little extra money this Christmas, honey.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I got a temporary job today.”
“A job! Oh, Luke, you work hard enough as it is!”
“Relax, this one’s a piece of cake. Chip Duncan has to go to New York tomorrow, and he wants somebody to string Christmas lights across the front of the house and put up a tree for Kelly. He’s paying well so I told him I’d be glad to do it.”
The spoon in Maryanne’s hand clattered into the sink. “You can’t do that!” she exclaimed in horror.
“Because you’ll be the Duncans’ employee, that’s why. People like the Duncans don’t socialize with the help. Are you trying to ruin my friendship with Kelly?”
“No, I am not,” Luke softly and clearly enunciated. “I am trying to earn a little extra money to spend on my family at Christmas, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Appalled, Maryanne subsided. When Luke used that tone of voice she might as well save her breath.
He must have felt bad about snapping at her, for he offered to help her do the dinner dishes and extended an olive branch to her. “We can go to the municipal skating party tomorrow if you like.”
“You don’t like skating.”
“No, but you and the kids do.”
She really did have a good time at the skating party. As soon as the pond off the town square froze the city sponsored an ice skating party for the citizens. They strung Christmas lights all around the pond, built a big bonfire, and allowed merchants to set up food stalls. Various church and civic groups entertained the crowd with Christmas carols, and they finished the evening with a big fireworks display. Almost everyone turned out, and Maryanne did want to go.
“Okay, I guess we can go,” she agreed, her lukewarm acceptance meant to tell Luke exactly how angry she still felt. How could she ever be Kelly’s friend if Luke worked for Chip Duncan? Didn’t he have any pride at all? She’d starve before she took a job working for either Chip or Kelly.
They finished the dishes and eventually got the kids to bed. Maryanne brushed her teeth and joined Luke who had already gotten under the covers. He slid over and pulled her against his chest. “You’re looking mighty fine tonight, Mrs. Tinsley.”
Maryanne didn’t answer, not after the stunt he’d pulled today. Undeterred, Luke buried his hand in her hair and kissed her. “You’re more beautiful now than you were the day we got married,” he whispered. “I love you, honey.”
His hand strayed, and Maryanne pushed him away. “Not now, Luke.”
“Why not? It seems like a good time to me. Don’t you want me, sweetheart?”
A sudden spurt of anger tore through Maryanne. “I’ve always wanted you, and you know it.”
In fact, wanting Luke was exactly what got her into trouble the summer she turned eighteen. She had met Luke exactly ten days after she graduated from high school. She and Marsha had received invitations to Linda Mason’s graduation party. Linda’s mother had wanted to have the party earlier, but Linda’s father had broken his leg, and she couldn’t get around to it.
Linda had chosen to have a picnic at Robinson Lake, Maryanne could still remember the smoky aroma of the hamburgers as their juice sizzled on the charcoal. She could still remember the warmth of the early summer’s evening and how beautiful the lake had looked with a big full moon reflecting in it and almost turning night into day. And she’d never forget that handsome boy flirting with every cute girl at the party.
She had immediately liked his looks. He was tall with wonderful shoulders, dark blonde hair, and even in the dim light of early evening those compelling blue eyes had drawn her.
He had caught her staring at him so of course she had immediately turned her back on him and broke into an animated conversation with Marsha. Fifteen minutes later Linda introduced him as her cousin who lived in Texas. He and his mother had come home to Green Forest for Linda’s celebration.
They had spent the evening together, and Luke had taken her home. “I’d love to take you to a movie tomorrow,” he invited as he walked Maryanne to her door.
Maryanne hadn’t minded if he did. Luke’s mother went back home to Texas, but Luke stayed on. He and Maryanne saw each other every night, and four weeks after they started seeing each other they made love for the first time.
They had taken a picnic to Robinson Lake and gone hiking. They had found a secluded little glade and settled down to have their lunch. With bird song and the trill of a little steam in the background, Luke had coaxed her clothes from her and made her his own.
Maryanne had known that her conduct would displease her parents, but she couldn’t have resisted his kisses and his sweet loving any more than she could resist breathing. Four weeks later her period was late.
She took a home pregnancy test, and it was positive. “How can it be?” she had tearfully demanded of Luke. “Except for that one time we were always so careful.”
Luke had laid her head on his shoulder and tried to comfort her. “It only takes once, baby, but don’t worry; you aren’t in this by yourself. I have every intention of taking responsibility for you and my child. Will you marry me?”
“I…I don’t know what to do. Maybe we should… oh, I don’t know! Maybe we should give the baby up for adoption.”
Luke had decisively squashed that idea. “I don’t approve of that option, Maryanne. I love you, and I already love our baby. Don’t make a mistake that you’ll regret forever.”
So, she had told her parents. As she had expected, they didn’t take it well. In fact, even though they had paid for a small wedding, they let her know that she had made her bed and had to lie in it. If she wanted to go to college she’d have to pay for it herself.
The pregnancy had ruined Luke’s college plans too, for he now had a family to support. He had found a job working as a teller at the local bank. They had bought their small, brick home with one bathroom, and she had become a mother. Her parents loved the children, she knew that, but they never relented about college. Even now she’d love to attend the local university, but she’d never had the opportunity, and she doubted that she ever would. Thank God that Luke had worked his way up to the manager’s office. If he hadn’t she had no idea what would have become of them.
Luke brought her back to the present when he bent his head to her breast. “Stop it!” Maryanne snapped.
Luke looked hurt and a bit surprised. “Okay, have it your way. Why are you so nasty these days?”
“You wouldn’t understand.”
Piqued, Luke grunted, turned over, and didn’t even say goodnight to her. Fine. Let him be that way if he wanted to.
Copyright Elaine Cantrell