I read the novelization by Linda Stewart. And yeah I know Bernard Slade did a sequel, I saw the play. I didn't like the ending, so as a budding author, I wrote an ending in short story form, for my own pleasure. My ending takes place in 1987.
The End, The Beginning.
George grimaced at his callousness. He looked at his cigarette. He needed to quit. Doris had mentioned his ashtray taste last year. She’d laughed it off, but she was right. Dammit, she was hardly ever wrong. With Helen, he couldn’t tolerate being wrong…hell, she’d broken his pecker like that. Doris, she makes the negatives seem like…well nothing was really wrong. Yet, you knew she didn’t like it. George would have to quit. He tossed the cigarette to the cottage’s gravel sideway and ground it out with the toe of his Air Jordans. Coldhearted as it was, George was glad: At last Harry was dead.
George paced. Every so often, he glanced up the rise, where cars turned off the highway to enter the Sea Shadows Inn parking lot. He shook his head. He felt like he did that first morning when he woke up beside her in bed: stunned, awed, frightened, in love, yet completely at a loss as far as knowing what to do. Yes, now it was all the same to him. George half-pulled a cigarette from his pack. Just then, Chalmer’s kid came up the pathway with his tool kit from fixing something in one of the cabins further down. George laughed to himself. Angus’s son was easily his own age, yet he referred to him as a kid.
George held the cigarettes up. “You want these? I quit.” He wished he could remember the kid’s name. He was so damn good with numbers, but names…. George smiled. He remembered how he’d called Doris Dorothy all that first night.
Lawrence Chalmers nodded. He caught the Benson & Hedges neatly, “Thanks,” and strode on toward the main house.
There Josephine stood huddled within her own arms. It wasn’t the sea breeze, none today. George knew how she felt, same time, every year. She missed old Chalmers. How many years since he’d gone peacefully on a bench looking out at the ocean. In the will, Angus left the Sea Shadows Inn to Lawrence, with the stipulation that Josephine stayed as long as she wished. She’d confided in Doris, she wasn’t going anywhere.
The gravel crunched at the highway. George jerked his attention from Josephine to the road. He shoulders drooped. It wasn’t Doris. He needed a cigarette. He checked his watch. Instantly his mind did the math: Six-oh-five minus two twenty five: it was 2:40. She was late. George paced. How many jewelers had eyed him strangely when he had the time set fast in all these years since the stem in the old Elgin had broken? When they got married he’d have to get used to his watch reading the right time. The things one does for love.
And speaking of love…. He hoped he was right. He’d threatened to leave early many times before. This time he really didn’t intend to stay. He’d flown up and taken a taxi from Mendocino. The traffic was terrible, the cab fee horrific.
George stopped pacing; “The traffic!” He smiled. It turned to a pained look. His knees bothered him. The steps: he could watch for her from the cabin’s steps. He was sure she would be able to tell him how to be rid of the nag. It was a reminder left from when he’d tried to prove his youth by break dancing a few years ago. The piano bench in the cabin had caught him mid whirl. George sat and rubbed his knee and waited.
Doris waved at the policeman as she passed the accident. She hoped the cab driver was okay. The cop waved at her a little more frantically. Wasn’t my fault, she thought. Nevermind. Just a few more miles. She looked forward to seeing George, more so this year than any other. Finally, there were no secrets, nothing to hide. Nothing much. “Well, just the thirty some years of them.” For the kids’ sake, they would have to stay hidden. Unfaithful is one thing, but this problem…. Doris turned the radio on. She pushed in the cassette tape. The music would help hold back the thinking until she had George in arm. She pressed the fast-forward button. Somewhere on the tape was “If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked A Cake.” Harry never could understand her infatuation with the song. He’d called it stupid several times, but never pursued the point, luckily.
The “Sea Shadows Inn” sign came. Doris sat up, brushed back a bit of hair from her temple and checked her smile. Of course, George wouldn’t care how made up she was. He’d be ready to get her in bed anyway she looked. It was good to be chased, pursued. Being with Harry was okay, comfortable, but George, he had the thrill of the unknown. What would he be up to? His failure to apply his mathematical calculating skills to his personal actions made him so…charming, vulnerable, and, oh sure, okay…loveable. But enough to take him home to the kids, unannounced, a known quantity and quality to her, already?
Doris shifted gears in the old Studebaker. The kids had purchased it for her and Harry for their last anniversary. He loved the car. He cried. She didn’t cry. It was just a car, but now it was taking her back like the first time she’d met George. She planned to spend the weekend like always; in between the sex they would talk things through, and be ready to leave Sunday.
Doris unbuttoned the top button of her blouse. The thought of sex made her warm. The Studebaker had no air conditioning. Doris couldn’t roll the window down and ruin he hair. She stopped the cassette from fast-forward. She smiled the next song was hers and Georges’s. Her thought went ahead to the Sea Shadows Inn. How had their futures seemingly inexplicably get sealed. A good story of how they met and fell in love in one night could be as simple as they met over steak in a crowded restaurant. She was hungry, and early for the retreat. She met George when he recommended the steak. They’d met there a time or two over the years. Not too far of a stretch. Leave out a few details. We’re okay.
She wanted this to be the last time they arrived separately. Doris did want to come back until her bones were too brittle to risk contact. She hoped it worked out.
The Studebakers turn signal light blinked slowly. After traffic cleared, the gravel groaned under the car’s tires. Doris looked up at Josephine in front of the main house. When she pointed Doris looked down the way. There he sat, rubbing his knee. He stood and waved. She shook her head. He had that look on his face. What was George up to now?
When Harry had died, running, the thing that had saved him at first, Doris called George. After she told him, he’d hung up before she’d finished. In the 30 seconds that had elapsed, when he answered the phone again, he was out of breath. He’d raced through his house packing a few things, ready to be at her side, to comfort her, “For God’s sake George, to ruin everything.”
“What do you mean, Doris?”
“No one here knows you. Well…except Liz.”
“But you’re alone. Grieving. I need to be there.”
“I’ve got the kids. Georgette has moved into the house. She’s going to stay until things are settled. What would the children think if you showed up, and you know everything there is to know about me? They have the tragedy of losing their father and then…. have to grapple with the fact that their mother has cheated on him for ‘How many years?’”
“Rhetorical question, George, on their parts.”
“Well, okay, maybe I didn’t think things all the way through. I was under a certain stress. You’re right. I am sorry, though. I wouldn’t have wished this on you, not out loud.”
“I know George. Thank you. I appreciate it. I’d love for you to be here, but not now.”
“When? Marry me, Doris.” He heard a hand go over the receiver again. Someone asked Doris something. He couldn’t make it out. “Who’s that?”
“Hold on.” She held the phone away and told the interloper the call was about retreat. “That was Georgette.”
“I can’t wait to meet my namesake.”
“We’ll talk about everything in a few weeks away. I’ll be alright. Arrangements will take that long to get wrapped up. Really-“
George listened anxiously through the pause.
Quietly, Doris said, “I love you.”
He sat hard in the phone/table chair Helen had gotten from the side of the road. She’d actually gone up to the people’s door and asked for permission to take it from the trash. “Okay Doris.” He stood and looked at the chair. He peered around the empty house where Helen still spoke in the same comfortable memories Doris had spoke of when George had last proposed to her nearly ten years ago. She couldn’t give up on Harry. Life with him was comfortable. Despite George’s saying he had to be married, and he couldn’t wait, he had waited, not asking again. He said, “I love you, Doris.”
She parked and climbed out. He hurried over and hugged her. He said, “I’m sorry,” took her hand and led her to the Studebaker’s passenger door.
He opened the car.
He held his hand out, asking her to get in.
“Will you listen to me?”
“Where are we going?”
“We can get married right away, of course after the license. And then-”
“Let’s go inside.”
“Inside? What for?”
“Let’s think this through.”
“Why? After all these years, we get to do what we’ve wanted. What’s to think about? What’s the problem?”
“George, I am running for Mayor of Oakland.”
“The problem is how could I keep this from the press? The mayor had cheated on her husband for– Oh yes! They’d find the exact number -thirty three years. AND, you can not just appear in my life as my husband.”
“Dammit. I had it all worked out.” George slammed the car door shut. He squeezed Doris’s butt and put his arm around her waist. “Okay, so I didn’t think this all the way through. I’ve waited this long, what’s another few hours?”
“Hours? Oh, George, we’ll be in bed that long.” They kissed and went inside cabin 7.
Both were giddy. All the years of dreams of what could be was about to come true, maybe. After the “hours,” they’d have to figure out how to make the end into a beginning.
Soon after George and Doris were in bed, the phone rang. George froze. His eyes wide, panic-stricken, the sheets bunched as he backed away from Doris. He fell to the floor. “Oh, my God. Oh my God!”
She giggled. “It’s okay, honey. What’s the worse they can do to us, call our parents?”
Doris laughed when he peered over the edge of the bed, sheepishly. Both turned and watched the phone. After two more rings the sounds of the waves broke through the tension from behind the cabin. George peered over the bed’s edge. Doris watched him try to rationalize his reaction to the phone
He pulled himself up and said, “Force of habit. I guess this won’t be as easy to get used to as I thought. Of course, you know, we’re both still afraid; you could have answered it.”
She smiled. “You have just as much guilt when you’re innocent as you do when you’re guilty, George.” Doris patted the side of the bed. “You’re right. Ya, know, maybe it’s more fun the other way. Let’s try it out and see.” She coaxed him closer. “Now, where were we?”
The heavy breathing finished, George and Doris sat in bed propped up on pillows against the headboard. She examined her finger-nails. She found it hard to believe she was the same woman who, the first time in cabin 7, couldn’t afford a bottle of clear polish. Now she could afford to buy her own nail salon. He chewed on his nails and said what he thought: “It was just as good, Doris. Remember the lame logic I tried to get you to do it again that first morning? ‘The Russians have the bomb.’ I was like a teenager. You remember how many times we used to do it? At this age, I suppose I’d have to tell you about how the level of endorphin rises during sex. It takes away all the pain in my knee and old achy joints. Let me try something new; Whud’ya say, want to do it again?”
“You are still the same horny young pup you always were. You still can’t stop talking about it. How about after we grab a bit to eat? I was so nervous this morning I couldn’t.”
George considered talking her into more sex. He shrugged the rejection off. He’d get more sooner than the same time next year. He resisted the urge to grab her ass when she rose Doris sat at the vanity. “I saw that.”
“What?” He grinned, and then said, “Lawrence shuttered the restaurant. He said Josephine can’t keep a good eye on it. He doesn’t have the time, and besides, knows nothing about running one. ‘Too much hassle.’ he says. I’ll miss the place. The steaks were good.”
Doris laughed. “They were tough. You only liked them because you were over-run with testosterone when you sat across from me. You’d have chewed on your wing-tips and thought them great, as long as I was on the other side of the table.” She laughed again as she brushed her hair. In the mirror she watched him finish dressing and go to the piano. Doris asked, “Do I look old, George?” She touched her neck and wondered if it was time to have it tightened.
“This is for you.” He played Be My Love on the piano.
“You romantic. You dodged the question. You never could tell the whole truth.”
Still playing the tune, he watched her dress. The color of her sweater matches her eyes, he thought as she pulled it on. He hit a wrong key a time or two. George loved her breasts just as he always had. With a sigh, he finished the song. “I’d chew on wing-tips to be with you. AND…you look as young as you did in ’51.”
Doris opened the front door. “See, you still don’t lie worth a damn. Let’s get something to eat.” She waited. “Well, we going?”
“Why not, George?”
“What is it, George?”
“I have a terrific hard-on. It’d be indecent for me to go outside.” The piano plinked when he used the keys to lift himself. George stood, turned side-ways and stared at Doris. “Please?”
She sighed. “Okay. One more time. Then, really, I have to eat.” She took her sweater off. George picked up the receiver, listened to the dial tone and laid the receiver on the phone table. “You know, I love you Doris.” Grinning, he undid his pants.
Doris held out the car keys. “You want to drive, George?”
“Is it okay? Would Harry-”
Both froze, looking at each other. George could think of nothing to say but Dammit. Doris turned away from him. With a handkerchief at her eyes, she walked toward the cabin. George let the thought out. “Dammit,” loud enough to be sure only he heard it. Like he used to do with Helen, all the same she would acknowledge the remark. Even-though sometimes he swore he’d never actually said anything. George leaned against the car. “Doris. I’m sorry. It slipped.” She didn’t hear that either. He watched her wend around to the back of the cabin. George bent and groaned as he rubbed at the soreness.
“Was that Mrs. Doris Baker?”
George bolted upright. His back screamed in pain. The hurting knee nearly buckled. George bounced against the Studebaker and grabbed the car’s door handle to keep from falling. He looked up and seethed, “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“I only asked a question.”
“You usually sneak up on people to do it?” George glanced toward the back of cabin. Doris was out of view.
*beep* Do you old people get cranky from being old, or is it with you all along?”
George pushed himself from the car. He put pressure on his knee. The pain was mostly gone. Good old adrenaline. He massaged his back, just above his kidneys, it hurt, now. He eyed the kid. George guessed him to be maybe 19 or 20. He took some solace in that as young as he was he was losing his hair already. Good. Gangly, pimple faced. At 20? Good. He wore a Facts of Life t-shirt, trashy looking Levi’s and flip-flops. George wondered what the kid wanted. Sure he wasn’t being paranoid, he knew it wasn’t good.
He was about the dress the kid down like he was his own who’d done something irritatingly stupid when, standing at the end of the sidewalk leading the main house, Josephine shouted: “Hey! I thought I told you to get lost? You don’t have a room here. You’re trespassing. Beat it, NOW.” She pointed to the highway.
The kid grouched, “Bitch.” not really under his breath. He looked at George not embarrassed and strode away. He got in his beat-up car and drove away.
Hand on his back and favoring his knee, George made his way to Josephine. He had to find out who he was and what was going on. They were too close to finally getting together. Things weren’t finalized. “Thanks, Josephine,” he said. “Who was that?”
“Says he’s a reporter, from Oakland.”
“A reporter? Dammit.”
“He came in just after she did. I told him I did know of any Doris Baker. I showed him the reservation book, ‘See, no Doris here.’ He wanted to stick around. I told him I had no room for him to hang around. ‘All booked up.’ I said he’d make the guests nervous. He spouted freedom of the press. I told him ‘Private Property.’”
George listened to crunch of gravel under foot as he shifted nervously. He’d pissed Doris off and now this reporter was looking for her. Things were not going well. Going to *beep* fast. “He wanted Doris….”
“Scoop. She’s running for Mayor.” George peered back toward cabin 7.
“He has wind of you?”
George flinched. “No.” That had not occurred to him. “Couldn’t be.” He’d figured he just wanted an exclusive interview, away from the rest of the hounds. “He’d have collared me when he had a chance. He didn’t ask who I was. He just wanted her.” George rubbed his chin. He glanced out to the highway and back to Josephine. “Do her a favor?”
He pulled out his wallet and paused. Doris had given it to him on his fiftieth birthday. He’d said he keep it right where he thought she might like it the best: near his ass. She’d laughed until she cried. George said to Josephine, “Take the Studebaker and park it somewhere, away.”
She pushed the twenty back.
“I’ll garage it. Give me a jingle when you want it back.”
“I owe you. We owe you.”
“You owe me nothing. Lucky she wasn’t there. Where is she?”
“Oh, were going to get something to eat and I screwed up and mentioned Harry. I hope she didn’t jump into the ocean.”
“Nah. It always helped Angus cool down. Give her a minute and apologize. She’ll be a little better. Go talk to her.” Josephine touched George’s shoulder. She turned to go inside, then stopped and said, “What do you want for dinner?”
“We couldn’t ask you-”
She jangled the cars keys. “The Mayor of Oakland go? Here? I feel so proud; like she’s my own daughter.” The keys rattled again. Josephine grasps them still. “How will get there?”
“She’s running for it, not there yet.” He also hadn’t thought of how they’d get anywhere to go to eat when he’d given up the car. “Thank you, Josephine.”
“No problem. I’ll get my shoes and move the car.” She nodded and headed to the main house. Josephine stopped and turned. She pointed at George. “Be here at seven.”
He nodded. George wondered what happened to the new man he was supposed to be. He’d jumped her bones when she said “No.” Made a stupid assumption, without thinking and hurt her feelings. “Nice job, George,” he said like Helen. He chided himself for acting without thinking. George took a deep breath. He had to fix what he’d done.
The clouds were spreading out in anticipation of night. The sun was about to test the water. Waves crashed into the rocks below. George touched a tear on Doris’s cheek. He whispered, “Sorry.” Doris fell into George’s arms and sobbed. He hugged her and cried also.
The sun was half gone when Doris finished. “I’m sorry, George.”
“Don’t be. You lost your husband. I’d be a bigger fool than I am to think I could easily replace him. I was callous. I didn’t think. You can blot up my shirt anytime.”
She wiped her cheeks. “I bet I look like *beep*
“Doris, I’m your fly.” George closed his eyes, touched his forehead with his fingertips and shook his head.
He’d done it again. That was stupid.
“Honey, you still have a way with words. You know, I never called Harry, ‘Honey.’ That’s always been yours.”
George held his hands out; the new man in him didn’t know how to answer. “Thank you. You hungry? Josephine-”
“We can’t impose-”
“I knew you’d say that, see, just like we’re married already.” George kissed Doris. “We can’t go anywhere.”
“I don’t have a car, and yours is in hiding.”
“What have you done?”
After dinner, Doris helped Josephine tidy the kitchen up. George hovered, thinking he should at least ask if he should help. Doris loved how insecure he looked as he tried but failed to stay out of the way. Each time she gave him a peck on the cheek he thought the two of them fit together as if they’d known each other as long as pi ran.
Josephine said she felt out of sorts. Doris made her sit. She started coffee and finished the dishes. Josephine took a deep breath and fanned her self with her hand. She volunteered she’d never had children.
George started: Little Debbie, who’d sparked the unfortunate episode with the missing tooth, was a dentist to many of Hollywood’s stars. She’d offered to do her dad’s teeth, not that he didn’t trust her. It wasn’t that he never got the nerve.
“Well?” Both ladies shouted.
When he was sedated he could hear Debbie’s thin little reedy voice accusing him of deserting her in the face of the tooth fairy. “I can do without that.” His middle son was doing very well; had an accounting business, back in Connecticut: Michael Peters. He’d named it for his brother. George choked up at the mention of his dead son.
When his tales ended, Doris sipped her coffee. She smiled and pulled a folio from her purse. “Pictures?” Her oldest, Tony, was like his father, unable to hold jobs for longer periods of time, but making ends meet one way or the other, not worrying, being satisfied with the normality of it, honestly. “Annie,” she said, “has a thought process like her mother, after college, of course. She’s a real estate broker about to go out on her own.” The youngest boy, Paul, was a journalist, like Michael. He was roaming the world, gathering stories for a book. Georgette started womanhood roughly. She didn’t handle the trials and tribulations with men well. She swore off them. Doris talked her into giving life a break. After which, Georgette admitted women were just as confounding as men. George found that hilarious. When he’d regained his composure, Doris happily reported that despite Georgette’s efforts, love found her. Mr. Wonderful appeared. They married and had a baby boy. There came a hard moment. The child was named George Peter. Under Doris’s careful, cautious, scrutiny Georgette insisted, “I just like the name.”
Through the laughter and tears, the night became early morning. Despite Josephine’s “I’m fine,” and pleading that she could go on for hours more, Doris and George thanked her for dinner. She may not be tired, but they were. They helped Josephine to the recliner in which she slept most easily and left.
In their cabin, “What?” Doris said. She touched the sides of her face and wiped any crumbs that must be lingering from her lips, not really believing George would have let her go that long in such a mess.
“We don’t need these.” George flicked the light off.
“You’re glowing.” He wrapped his arms around her. “I love you, Doris. Let’s go to bed. We can talk in the morning.” George took her by the hand.
She pulled back. “My love, as much as I’d like to, we have to work this out.”
He kissed her hand, let it go and said, “Dammit,” and sat on the couch. “Sit close.” She did. He took a deep breath and let the disappointment go. “You know this place smells the same as it did back in ’52, I think.”
“We came here, first, in ’51.”
“That year it smelled like youth, raw sex. My heart beat like Patato’s conga when he played with the Conga Kings, still does.”
“And lies.” She laughed. “You know about Cuban music?”
George grinned. “We have a lifetime of great memories here, Doris. I’ve been alone for a long time, waiting for you. You were the music that kept me going, I listened. I learned.”
“I worry about you sometimes.” She looked at him sideways and nodded. “How are we going to do this?”
He looked into her eyes and was smitten all over again. She could still read him. He moved her away from his side on the couch. “Wait,” he said. “Wait just one minute.” George got up. “Stay right there. No, move over closer to the fireplace.” George directed her with a wagging finger. He threw another log on the fire, smiled and rubbed his hands together. He got the coffee service set from the window-table. After putting a cup in front of her, he took the pot to the bathroom and filled it with water.
Doris turned and watched him. She wondered what he was doing. Obviously something crazy, but she said nothing.
Back, he said, “We’ll pretend this is coffee.”
“George, what are you doing? Is this some of your craziness?”
“Bear with me.” He poured two cups of water. The sugar bowl went between them. George pulled the wing-chair up to the coffee table, opposite Doris. He started, “You know, I know just about everything about you. Like how much sugar in your coffee. He put a lump in her water. Your favorite perfume is My Sin. You have seen all of Lon McCallister’s movies. I’ve made VCR tapes of every one I could. What I don’t know about you, I want to find out slowly. Doris, will you marry me?” George held his hand up stopping her answer. “I’ll probably wind up with Connie if you don’t.”
“You told me Connie died four years ago.”
A frantic look edged onto his face. He jumped up. “God dammit. I knew I shouldn’t have told you that.”
Doris laughed at the playing out of his last marriage proposal. “Yes. I’ll marry you.”
George’s color drained away. He froze, staring at her. Doris’s worry began to creep back. George threw his hands in the air and looked toward heaven, even-though he hadn’t had much use for God in a while, he shouted, “Thank you. About damn time.” George considered jumping on the table, heard the pain in his knee and walked around to the couch, careful not to catch the table’s corner. He took Doris’s hand pulled her up to him, said I love you and kissed her.
“One more thing.” He played their song on the piano. He sang “If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked A Cake….”
Finished, he sat beside her on the couch. “How do you think we should go about this? As usual, my plan didn’t work.”
“We need to date a bit at first. You can’t be too familiar.” She paused. “Hmm. Maybe you’re a regular at retreat too.”
“Doris, I don’t think I’d come off very Catholic.”
“Oooh…this is hard. Of all the times I thought about it, I never figured out how we’d do it, get married.”
“I expected we’d just elope and let it all work itself out.”
Doris kissed George. “That I knew. No doubts. I still want to be Mayor. I can do a lot of good. I don’t want to leave Oakland.”
“I won’t get in your way. I’ll keep my mouth shut. I’ve retired from the college already. If I need money I can hang a CPA shingle anywhere. When can I move in?”
“I’m old fashioned, Sir. Having yet to be formally introduced, it could not happen…right away. We have to fit you into the retreat weekend somehow. It’s the only way our pasts can fit together.”
George raised his eyebrows. “What about tattling padres?”
“If someone does go looking for me, the father’s won’t give out any information. Privately, they’ll wonder who I am. I haven’t been in 30 some years. We can safely say we met on retreat weekend every year and leave it at that.”
“How long do we have to date? Can we still have sex?” George twisted a finger in Doris’s hair. He loved the feel of it.
“I’m afraid not, Honey. I’m running for office.”
He leaned away from her, scrunched his face up and groaned as he’d done in false-labor when Doris was about to have Georgette on the cabin’s bed.
She laughed and stood. Doris rose and held her hands out, warming them at the fireplace. George sat forward and knotted his fingers together. He thought. He gazed up at her back. “I could rent a room at your house.”
“No. I’m giving it to Georgette and her husband.”
“A duplex? We can rent halves of a duplex. Put a door in between.”
Doris turned. She eyed George.
He held his hands up, palms out, surrendering. “Just thinking out loud.”
She sat with her leg underneath her, beside him. Doris rubbed her chin. She considered all the options he’d offered, again. None would work. An idea for a campaign slogan slipped in amongst the ruminations about how to work George into her life. Doris smiled. She kissed him. “I have it.” She sat back. “Political pause here.”
He slouched. “Doris! I can’t handle this stress.” He congratulated himself. He’d considered saying it was going to give him a heart-attack, but didn’t. Maybe he was on his way to the new man he wanted to be.
“Be my campaign financial officer. Andy will understand. We’ll be together all the time.” She held George’s hand up. “You will have to keep these to yourself.”
He caressed the side of her face. “I’m not sure I could, but I accept. Can we go to bed now?”
“Sure. We only have the small stuff left. After all these years, I’ve got you into my life, how hard can the rest be?”
Doris pulled away from George. His lips followed her. Finally he gave up. “What?”
“I heard a strange noise.”
“It’s late. There’s too much going on outside.” She pointed to the front window.
He considered ignoring her, but remembered he was the new George. He crawled from the bed.
“Wait. I want to see.”
He helped Doris to her out of bed. He pulled the curtain aside. They peered out. There were several vehicles in front of the main house: two police, an ambulance and a van. George and Doris dressed and hurried to offer whatever help they could.
As they arrived, Lawrence was following the stretcher down the sidewalk.
“What’s going on?” George asked.
“I went in for a snack. She was in Angus’s chair. I pulled the blanket over her. She was cold, dead.”
Doris gasped. Tears rolled down her face. She clutched George’s arm. He said, “Dear God.” He hugged her. “We are so sorry.” It didn’t occur to him to mention he and Doris had put her there. Doris’s grief kept her from speaking. George said, “What can we do for you?”
“I don’t know. I appreciate it, but I can think of nothing. The coroner said it was probably natural causes. She was just fine today. Luckily, she had taken care of everything, after dad died. She always said she couldn’t be buried beside Dad and Mom, so she chose to be scattered in the winds off the cliff. My thoughts are scattered all over the place. And, this place…I can’t run it. She’s done everything. Josephine’s all that kept it open. I just fixed it up. My kids don’t want anything to do with it.” Lawrence sighed. He shrugged. “I don’t know, I’ll have to sell it. I’m going to miss her. I’m-” His words were choked off by his emotions.
George answered, “You ought to make out good, though. It has to be worth a lot.” Doris gave him a sharp tug on his arm. He must have said something wrong. George decided to say nothing else.
“We’re mortgaged up past Dad’s ears.”
George frowned. He couldn’t understand. The place seemed to be doing well. If Doris thought it was the wrong time he’d say nothing. The three watched the Medical Examiner’s aid close the van’s door easily. He pointed to the driver’s side mirror. Slowly the van rolled away.
Through her crying, Doris said, “I’m sorry, Lawrence.”
George shook Lawrence’s hand. “I’m sorry for your loss. Let us know about the services.” He felt Doris’s squeeze. He understood. “If you need anything, let us know.”
Lawrence nodded, his shoulders rounded more than usual, he went inside the main house.
George turned Doris toward their cabin.
George looked up. He stepped between the kid and Doris. “You again?”
Doris asked, “Who are you?”
“I’m Seth. The last name ain’t important.” He leaned to the left and looked around George. “You are Doris Baker, right?”
“Who are you?”
“I work for Sam Willis.”
Her grip on George’s hand tightened until it hurt him. With his free hand, he took a fistful of the kid’s shirt. “What do you want?”
“I work for Sam Willis.”
“I heard that,” George growled.
Doris stepped from behind him. “He’s also running for Mayor.”
The kid shoved the hand from his shirt. “Sam is the better choice. With what I know, I can ruin you.” He stabbed a finger at her.
George knocked it away. He took the kid’s shoulder, pulled him closer and whispered in the kid’s ear. “Get out of here, or I’ll kick your ass.” George shoved the kid.
Doris put her hand on George’s chest. It was warmer than she ever remembered it being. Of course, she realized, he was madder than she’d seen him before. He was out of sync with the unconfident man she’d known. She examined him in the dark. He was different, aggressive. Angry. It was a new George. He’d become her husband “Honey, wait.” Doris turned to the kid. “What do you want?”
“Quit.” He crossed his arms.
George couldn’t believe it. She was being framed. He stepped between Doris and the kid again. “Don’t” Her life was being torn apart. After she’d finally gotten where she could have everything she wanted this kid was threatening it all. “Don’t let this punk do this to you. I’ll leave. Go away. Forever.”
Doris’s mind whirled. Her thoughts were disjointed like when George stood before her in the Sea Shadow’s restaurant with his coffee pot in hand. The housewife in her stepped aside. The business part of her brain knew what to do. She hugged him. “It’s okay.” Doris stepped up to the kid. “That’s all? You’ll just walk away; leave me alone. Nothing else?”
“My word.” He crossed his heart childishly.
George Hmphed. How could she give everything up? His fists curled into balls. He’d never hit anyone before. He’d been angry enough to before, but now- he was ready to risk his life for Doris. He took a fighting stance.
She asked Seth, “How can I trust you?”
“How can you not?” He smirked.
George raised his fist. Doris stopped it with a look.
The kid went on, “Getting caught cheating is political suicide, expecially for a woman.”
“I’ll announce my withdrawal, ‘for personal reasons,’ Tuesday afternoon. I’ll need time to tell my family and staff.”
Carefully George turned Doris so she faced him. She was glowing again, luminescent. “You can’t.” He considered saying he wouldn’t allow it. She thought the slight shaking of his head was anger. He knew it was the wrong thing to do and was telling her she couldn’t. She understood. Instead of saying what he would have, before today, George said, “I will stand with you, no matter what. It’s your choice.”
“It’s okay, Honey.” She kissed him. “I have what I want. We’ll make do.”
Smiling broadly, the election won, Seth said, “I don’t care when or how, just do it.” The kid turned and strode away, his arms swinging like a Compton street thug.
No one outside of two houses, in the suburbs, on the opposite sides of Oakland knew Sam Willis was married to two women. One became unhappy enough, soon enough, to put the Mayor’s political career to an end, within days of his oath.
George and Doris watched the kid go up the gravel drive and out of view.
“Doris? Why?” George asked.
“Lawrence can’t run this place.”
“What about us?” She wrapped arms around him.
“What about us?” George paused. He scratched a spot behind his ear. “I’ve given up my teaching. You’ve given up on being mayor-”
Doris let him go. She flung her arms out, as if throwing away all that was wrong, and spun a circle in the Sea Shadows parking lot. Doris hugged George again. “We can run this place. I’ll reopen the restaurant; do catering, to make ends meet, if needed. You can do the books, ours and others. Lawrence can keep the place up. We’ll find someone for the front desk. We can live in the main house.”
“I can’t let you buy the place by yourself. I wouldn’t feel right.” Maybe I’m not all that new of man George thought.
“Okay, sure, we can split the price.” That’s the man I love. “I’d like to have my name by my husband’s on something other that the marriage license. We can be together with no questions. It’ll be our place. We can do what we like and have each other.”
George pulled Doris tight to himself. “Have you thought this through? You know that’s your weakness, not thinking things through. Well, you’re kind of crazy.”
“If you have a better idea….”
“Now? Spur of the moment? I haven’t had a chance to think it through.”
“Oh, George.” She kissed him. “The kids, all of them, can visit anytime. And whenever you want- cabin 7 is nearby. We can end where we began.”