Poison's Bend: Chapter 10
The death of my young husband filled me with a bitter despair.
He had such promise, so many plans for us and our daughter, and now he was gone!
Someone should pay...
During Ripp's funeral, I noticed a middle-aged man in a military uniform, standing respectfully to the side with his hand on the shoulder of a blond teenage boy, both of them weeping softly. Close beside the pair of them stood another young man, just a few years older than Ripp had been, and nearly a carbon copy of the older man next to him.
Except for the eyes...
...both the teenager and the young man had the same twilight-colored eyes as Ripp, but the older man’s eyes were a misty, frosty grey...
The same color as my daughter’s.
This, then, was Ripp’s estranged family... his father the General, and his two brothers; Tank and Buck. They had come to pay their last respects.
After the burial I made my way through the crowd of mourning college students... Ripp had not been at Fiesta Tech very long, but he had obviously made many friends there... and stopped in front of my father- and brothers-in-law. I had never had the chance to meet them.
Ripp was gone now, it was true, but I could still have a link to part of what he was in some small way. At last I could know the father that had haunted him for so long. The father that had made his life so miserable and caused him so much pain.
“I just can’t believe he’s gone,” the teenager was saying as I approached. “It’s not fair, Dad! Even though he’d dropped out, he told me was still going to help me fit in at college next year... and now... now he’s...” the obviously sensitive young man burst into tears, and was immediately comforted by the older man while the other young man bowed his head, sniffing.
This was the father Ripp had detested?
“General Grunt?” I said softly, holding out my hand respectfully. “I deeply regret our first meeting comes at a time of such sorrow, but I am Aerin... Aerin Grunt. I’m Ripp’s widow.”
The older man took my hand.
“Yes, I heard Ripp had married,” he replied. “I was surprised, but...” He trailed off and shrugged. “I guess I never really knew him, did I? And now it’s too late.” The misty grey eyes were filled with regret.
“He had a child, too,” I continued in a low voice. “A little girl. Did you know about that?”
The General's head snapped up quickly, his grey eyes flew open, and he gasped. “No! No, I didn’t!”
“Would you like to meet her?”
“I would.” the older man said eagerly. “Can the boys come?” He turned to his sons.
“Oui, of course they can,” I agreed. “She’s their niece, after all.”
I led the way through the house, to the nursery where my child was being looked after by a nanny temporarily hired for the funeral service.
I lifted the infant out of her crib and gently gave her to her grandfather. “Her name is Catherine,” I murmured, as the baby’s eyes fluttered open. She stared at her grandfather intently, a slight smile on her lips.
The older man gasped. “She... she has my eyes,” he whispered, his own eyes filling with tears he desperately tried to blink away. Sighing, he cradled the baby against his shoulder. “Damn it, Ripp,” he whispered, “...why didn’t you tell me? Why didn’t you just talk to me… ?”
“Look at her, Dad!” the teenager piped. “Aw, a little girl! She’s so cute!”
The oldest brother seemed overwhelmed. “Ripp never said that the reason he dropped out of college was because he had a kid on the way.”
“I think there’s a lot about your brother we didn’t know,” his father said in a strained voice. “And we never took the time to find out. That’s our fault, Tank. Sure, Ripp had his own problems, but we didn’t have to add to them.”
Tank bowed his head. “I know.”
His father cradled Catherine even closer. “I blame myself more than anything, boys, but this baby gives me another chance. It may be too late for me to be a good father to Ripp, but by the Gods, I can be the best damn grandfather this world has ever seen. I’ll do everything for her... whatever she wants, she’s going to get, and I’m going to be around her so much it’s going to be almost like I live here.”
He turned to me, “If you’ll allow it, Ma’am. Which I sure hope you will.”
Again I found myself thinking, this was the man Ripp had despised? This was the ogre of a man who my husband couldn’t bear returning home to?
I found it difficult to merge how I had pictured Ripp’s father with the man who was before me now.
This man was strong and caring. I could see it in the way he spoke to his sons, and in the self-assured, yet gentle way he handled his granddaughter. Oui, I could tell he had an extreme need for order and routine, to the point of obsession perhaps, but truly there was love behind all his actions. Oui, no matter how misunderstood by my husband they had been.
But... they had been misunderstood.
My husband had been miserable in this man’s care.
Whether he had intended it or not, the General had made Ripp’s life a living hell from the time he was a child until he left home!
A hell so terrible, that my husband could not even imagine returning to it.
Non, not even when he wasn’t sure he’d have anywhere else to go.
I had to remember that!
I had to think of Ripp.
The General needed to answer for his actions in the past!
I smiled sweetly and looked fully into the older man’s intense storm-colored eyes.
“Of course you may see Catherine as often as you wish,” I said softly. “For you, General, my door is always open.”
To Be Continued...