As expected his parents weren’t happy that Colt was leaving for a few days. His dad expected him to say and run the farm now and forget about his career in music. Towards the end Diana quietly but firmly pushed him out the door. “Go” she demanded “I can manage for a few days without you.”
“Will have to accept that his son has a life beyond this farm.”
“I thought he had,” he shrugged “but I guess he thinks since I’m here that I’ll never leave.”
“We are leaving right?” she looked up into his eyes “you’re not going to move us to the country permanently are you?”
“What if I did?” he asked put his arms around her.
“I might have to divorce you,” she told him tilting her head up.
“Would you?” he asked kissing the sensitive spot on her neck.
“It would be difficult,” she moaned “especially when you do things like this.”
“I’ll have to remember that for future reference” he made his way up to her mouth pulling her closer to him “I’m going to miss you.”
Running her tongue across her bottom lip savoring his taste she leaned into him “I’ll miss you more.”
Her comment brought a smile to his face “I could debate that but I’ll be late for my flight.”
“I know,” she sighed taking a step back “call me when you get in.”
Squeezing her hand he nodded as he turned to drive to the airport. “You’re sure you don’t need the car?” he asked before pulling out of the driveway.
“I’m sure,” she waved to him “besides your parents have plenty of cars I can use.” She stood on the porch until he was out of sight. Sighing she went into the house.
It had been an uneventful flight into Bridgeport. He found it kind of ironic that he could have been living in the city and all the time Bella could have been walking past him. Would she be happy so see him? He wondered if she ever thought about the family she left behind twenty-two years ago. Did she wish they had never found her?
Opening his hotel room he tossed the room key on the TV stand before flopping on the bed. All he wanted to do was close his eyes and sleep buy he had things to do. Phone calls to make. Groaning he sat up pulled his phone out “when can we meet?”
“As soon as possible” the investigator said “your sister is getting antsy and I have a feeling she’s ready to bolt.”
“Are you talking tonight?” Colt asked glancing at the time. His entire body was crying for sleep. He couldn’t remember the last time he had been able to sleep past five in the morning.
“That would be best,” the man told him “I can pick you up at the hotel around six and take you to the meeting spot.”
Glancing at the clock he stifled a yawn. That gave him two hours to freshen up and not fall asleep. “Ok” he sighed giving in. He hoped the trip would be worth it. Disconnecting from the call he decided to take a hot shower hoping to revive his waning energy.
He relaxed under the shower head as the hot water and steam penetrated his overworked muscles. He hated to get out even when his fingers became water logged. He smiled as he remembered his sister telling him it was time to get out of the bath and he had held up his hand “I’m not even pruney yet.” How much had she changed through the years? Would he even recognize her? Was she married? How many kids did she have?
Leaving the bathroom he realized he should have called Diana. Glancing at the time he knew he had barely enough time to dress and meet the investigator in the lobby. He would have to call her later.
He walked into the lobby an an older man came through the entry. “Mr Critchley?” the man asked coming up to him.
“Err yes,” Colt acknowledged the man “and you are?”
“Mr Dorman, the investigator your wife hired.” Looking around “just you then?”
“You said come alone otherwise we might scare her off,” Colt said beginning to feel uneasy.
“Quite right,” the man smiled “shall we be going?”
Stifling his anxiety Colt nodded and followed the older man to a car parked along the road. Stopping short Colt asked “you drive that?”
“Sure thing,” she slapped the hood affectionately “It’s the only thing the ex-wife didn’t take.” He laughed at Colts look of dismay “she’s never let me down. It may look like a rust bucket but it’s a mechanical wonder.”
Opening the door Colt wondered what was keeping it together, duct tape and chewing gum he guessed. The interior was worse then the outside. He scrunched his nose up in distaste as he waited for investigator to toss a weeks worth of left over wrappings of partially eaten food into the backseat. Sitting down he tried not to think about what his feet just sank into in the sea of discarded paper cups and plastic bottles that littered the floor.
Flies buzzed around his face seeking the remnants of sticky syrup from the drink cups from half a dozen fast food restaurants. “Sorry about the mess,” the man said putting the car into gear “I practically live in here; especially when I’m on the job.”
Nodding Cold shivered imagining what the man’s house must look like it his car was any example. He frowned as they drove deeper and deeper into the seedier side of the city.
“She lives here?” he asked staring up at the dilapidated building with half it’s window either broken or boarded up.
Giving him a sideways glance “what did you expect? The Ritz Carlton?”
“No I just…” he let his words hang there in the air. He had hoped she had been able to support herself as well as Diana had been able to. The little boy inside him who idolized his big sister was having their dreams shattered by reality.
He followed the investigator up the rickety steps and through the flimsy door that had long lost any pretense of a barrier to the outside world. The hallway was dark and dingy. He heard scurrying sounds of little feet he hoped were cats but feared were rats. He bumped into the man when he stopped in front of a door and knocked. A young man about twenty or twenty-one opened the door.
While the investigator and the kid talked Colt found himself wondering if this could be his nephew. He wasn’t that much younger then he was. “Colt this Isabella’s son Kirk.”
Startled Colt jumped when the boy extended his hand “sorry I…sorry,” he finished lamely shaking the boys hand.
“Mom’s expecting you” the boy said in a not so friendly tone.
Nodding Colt stepped into the apartment blinking in surprise at the unexpected brightness and cleanliness. Somehow he was expecting more squalor like the rest of the building. He followed the boy into the living room. He stopped and stared “Belle?” he asked the woman sitting on the couch.
The woman glared at him for a moment “what are you doing here?” she demanded.
Her angry half snarled words had Cold taking several steps backwards “I…I…I” his words got stuck in his throat. She really didn’t want him there he thought as a heavy weight settled around his heart.
“Mom” the boy snapped using a tone Colt would never use when speaking to his parents “I want him here.” He turned to Colt “we should talk in the kitchen.” The boy led the way “would you like something to drink? I’d stay away from the water unless you like it brown.”
“Do you have coke?” Colt asked as he sat down at the rickety but clean table.
Setting a can in front of him the boy sat down and took a drink of his. “Mom isn’t too happy that you found us,” Kirk told him “but I’ve been hoping that one day I’d meet the family.” He looked down at the table “I put out feelers on SimBook to see if anyone would come forward with information. All I knew was the state my grandparents had their farm and that my mother had a little brother.”
Colt shook his head “I’m sorry I didn’t find you sooner. I didn’t even know you were alive.” Colt looked into the living room where his beloved sister still sat in stony silence. “I was told Belle had been killed in a car accident. I never questioned it.”
“Why would you?” the woman called from the other room. “You were only six years old.” She got up and joined them int he kitchen “I suppose it was easier then telling you the truth.” She eyed him in open curiosity “how did you find out?”
Colt stared at her a moment debating on whether he should tell her. Sighing he said “it came out after mom tried to take my daughter Isabel away from us.” She gasped in shock “my wife hired the investigator after that. Diana felt the best thing was to give our parents a sense of closure.”
“You’re married?” she asked when he nodded she asked “kids?”
“I’ve been married for three years. I have three kids. Isabel is eight, Kevin is five and Christopher is two. You’d like Diana I met in her in Bridgeport when Isabel was two years old. She was struggling to support herself and her daughter without the support of her family. Too ashamed to the choices she had made and thinking they wouldn’t understand.” He looked up at her “will you please come home?”
She shook her head “I can’t…I’m sorry.”
“Mom please” Kirk begged “I majored in agriculture and I’ll never be able to use what I learned here in the city.”
“You want to farm?” Colt asked in surprise.
“Yeah I’d do anything to get out of this stink hole,” Kirk grimaced in distaste.
“So you want to farm more than you love your mom,” Isabella asked putting on a petulant air reminding Colt of his mom. She glared at him when he snorted “what’s so funny?”
“You” he blurted without thinking “your doing to him what mom did to us. Making him feel guilty for pursuing his dreams instead of staying at home and becoming what our parents wanted.” He turned to Kirk explaining “I love music. I left the farm swearing I’d never to go back. I’m finally making a name for myself in the music industry. Then Dad had a heart attack. I went back to help run the farm. It’s been over a year and I hate it. I’m not a farmer.”
“They’ll never accept my illegitimate son” Belle snarled at them squashing any hope her son might have had of taking over the farm.
“I don’t see why not,” Colt objected “they’ve accepted my kids. Two of which were born out of wedlock.”
“Mom please,” Kirk pleaded “I want to do this.”
“What if they reject us?” she asked him.
“Then you can go on to the next hovel…”
“But you won’t come with me, will you?” she asked.
“No I’m done with the city.” He shook his head “even if it’s not Grandpa’s farm I’ll look for work on another farm. I’ve got to try.”
“I know,” she said throwing her hands up “I give up. We’ll go back.”