“Okay Bennie, Genevieve is all packed and ready to leave,” said Kelly, running over in his mind the things that needed to be done before Bennie and Genevieve left on their trip. It seemed that nothing was forgotten.
“Have you told Alexis that her mother is going to Japan?” asked Bennie.
“Yes,” said Kelly, worried about how calmly his daughter took the news.
“How did she take it? Did you explain that her mother would be gone a lot longer than normal?” asked Bennie, worried about how he was going to handle a trip that was so different from any he took with the artist before.
“She didn’t seem to be the least bit disturbed by it. I hate to say it, but I think that Genevieve’s being so distant lately makes it where Alexis isn’t going to miss her much,” said Kelly, his worry evident in his voice.
“Don’t fret. When we get back you will have your wife back to normal. This is just a phase. It will pass,” Bennie assured Kelly.
“Bennie, you see how things are don’t you? You understand how much Genevieve and I are depending on you?” asked Kelly.
“Yes, I understand. And of course I will go with Genevieve, and stay with her until it is time to come home. I won’t let you down,” said Bennie, to assure himself as much as Kelly.
Kelly looked at Bennie somewhat askance trying to remember when the young model started calling his wife by her first name. “You know that I would go myself, if it were possible, but we have to think of what is best for Alexis first. Of course next to me, you are the closest friend Genevieve has who would be able to go with her.”
“I know Kelly, and don’t worry I will look after her. Just relax and look after our little sugarplum and the two of us will be back before you know it,” said Bennie, trying to smile, hoping that it wouldn’t be too long, but wishing he didn’t have to make the trip. He owed the Archies so much he felt that he must make this sacrifice, though it would cost him a role that he put a lot of time and effort into pursuing. It was his dream role, riding alongside the Duke, not on his own palomino, but still, with the Duke. He didn’t tell Kelly what he was giving up, feeling that if he did, Kelly would never let him make the sacrifice.
When Eileen returned from a visit to some distant family, she was surprised to find that Genevieve was gone, taking her young model with her. She had heard all about Genevieve’s trip from her daughter-in-law, who often called her during her time out of town, but she expected the two to be back by now.
“Hello, Eileen, did you have a good time at your cousin’s house?” asked Kelly, looking up from the breakfast table were he was having coffee.
“It was a very good time Mr. A! You should have waited for me to come make the coffee. You knew I was coming this morning,” said Eileen, with a slight edge of hurt in her voice.
“I am sorry Eileen, I guess I just got in the habit while you were gone,” said Kelly.
“Where is your misses?” asked Eileen, delicately sniffing the air and not smelling the tail-tail sign of turpentine, “I heard around town that she was off visiting her mother again, but I thought she would be back by now.”
“Well, her client is a bit of a recluse. She will be away working there on a private commission for him, in his home,” said Kelly, trying to sound nonchalant. “And as usual, you are the only one in town that knows that she is on a business trip.”
“Well, of course Mr. Archie, as always. Does Mrs. Archie ever really visit her mother?” asked Eileen, as she started checking around the kitchen to see what needed to be put back in order after her absence.
“Oh, goodness, I guess we never told you. Genevieve’s mother passed away quite some time ago.” Kelly informed her.
“I am sorry Mr. Archie, if I spoke out of bounds,” said Eileen, quickly.
“No, no, don’t worry about it. We really didn’t think it through when we came up with that story. I just hope no one ever looks into Genevieve’s background and finds that out,” said Kelly, thoughtfully.
“But Mr. Archie, if anyone looked into her background, wouldn’t they find out her secret anyway?” questioned Eileen.
“You are right. If people knew who she was, it would be the seven day wonder, not that we lied about her mother,” said Kelly with amusement at himself.
Changing the subject, asked Eileen, “Were does this special client live? Will Genevieve be home soon?”
“Japan … Tokyo, but we are not really sure. When she took this commission, she agreed to stay in the client’s area until the canvas, or maybe canvases are finished. It is something we are just going to have to get used to. Call it the price of success. It means the world to my lovely wife to get this commission. It is going to open up a whole world of clients to her. I am sure she is going to enjoy Tokyo, and maybe she will go visit her sister in Hong Kong,” said Kelly, feeling like his heart was being torn out, but assuring himself that he could have done nothing else. Letting her go was best for the woman he loved.
“Oh, dear, letting her go off to Japan? That is so very far away. I hear men their don’t treat women well,” said Eileen, very worried, thinking about some of the story-lines she read in her romance novels, and shivered slightly.
“Well, don’t worry about that. Bennie has gone with her. He may be young, but he is a very mature man, and he will look after Genevieve’s best interest. He is devoted to her,” said Kelly, wishing that he could have gone, and halfway wishing that Bennie wasn’t quite so devoted. He tried to assure himself that Bennie’s devotion was born of gratefulness at being rescued by the artist, from the life he once lived on the streets. Kelly tried to comfort himself with the self-assurance his wife was too old to have any improper feelings for a boy who just barely legal age.
Alexis’ Aunt Dana, though she never had children of her own, didn’t think that a man could take care of a daughter alone. Every time Genevieve went out of town, since Dana had returned to Misty, Dana tried to make her sister-in-law leave Alexis at her home. Every time Genevieve wavered on the issue, Alexis forgot that she was a good child and pitched a fit, screaming that she didn’t want to sleep with those horrible sniffling dogs, putting an end to the argument until the next trip.
This time Dana was out of town on a mission trip when Genevieve departed. On her return was Dana was outraged to hear that Kelly had been taking care of the child alone for weeks without even the hired woman’s help. She descended on the farm, to take matters in her capable hands. Kelly made himself scarce on seeing her car come down the road, leaving Eileen to handle his sister. Eileen gladly took on the job of telling Dana that Alexis would be staying at the farm, not coming into town to stay at the house that once was her grandmothers.
As the days passed, with no word from Genevieve, but with regular updates from Bennie, Kelly missed her more and more each day. Alexis spent more and more time buried in her books, made possible by the regular visits of Wendy in the Bookmobile.
“Mrs. Giffin, I think you should stop inviting Mrs. Jessie in for pastries and milk all the time,” announced Alexis to the housekeeper one morning.
“Why is that?” responded Eileen, surprised at Alexis’ lack of a sense of hospitably, especially since Wendy was bringing Alexis’ beloved books to the farm.
“My goodness, Mrs. Giffin, don’t you see how fat she is getting?” asked Alexis, with astonishment.
“Oh, child, Wendy isn’t getting fat! She is going to have a baby!” said Eileen trying unsuccessfully to stifle her laughter.
“Oh!” said Alexis, and asked thoughtfully, thinking about how the mare became so plump before having her twins. “Are you feeding her a lot so that she will have twins?”
“Ha, Ha, Ha, oh, Alexis, it doesn’t work that way. I am feeding her a lot because she is eating for two,” said Eileen, glad to see Kelly coming into the kitchen to distract his daughter from her questioning, but Alexis wasn’t through with the subject.
“Daddy, did you know that Mrs. Jessie is eating for two?” demanded Alexis, giving her father a very intense look.
“Well, yes, I have noticed that,” said Kelly, flushing a little.
“Is that so? I guess I am the last person around here to learn about anything!” stated Alexis, before flouncing out of the kitchen and back upstairs to her latest book.
Kelly and Eileen, left alone in the kitchen, looked at each other for a moment before asked Kelly, “She is just four-years-old, isn’t she?”
“Sometime she seems more like 30, Mr. Archie,” she said, with an indulgent smile. “It will be good when her mother gets home.”
“I came in to tell you the news. I just got off the phone with Bennie. He said that they would be back Friday!” said Kelly, joy filling his face and voice.
“Mrs. Archie it is so good to see you back home. I hope you enjoyed yourself in Japan,” said Eileen, as she puttered around the bedroom, helping Genevieve unpack. “You certainly got some lovely things while you were there.”
“Yes, I was very busy, but just before I left Japan, I was able to go shopping. It was quite an experience,” said Genevieve.
“Mommy what is this?” asked Alexis, who was also helping with the unpacking. Of course Alexis’ idea of unpacking was just to search through her mother’s suitcases to find her presents.
“That, my little one is a kimono. I just didn’t realize how small it was when I bought it. Now I just don’t know what to do with it, you know it won’t fit me,” said Genevieve, kidding her daughter.
“Oh, Mommy I will take it,” said Alexis, as if she were doing her mother a great favor solving the problem.
“That is a good idea, dear,” said Genevieve, her heart filling with love for the little face that seemed to have aged so much while she was gone. “I bet if you dig around you can find some other things that I bought by mistake as well.”
When the unpacking was done and various gifts distributed, Genevieve announced, “I have missed riding so much. The whether is so mild today, only 86 degrees.”
“Why of course! That sounds like fun. How about it Alexis, can you drag yourself away from your book long enough to remind Cheyenne who you are,” said Kelly, thinking to himself that Alexis needed to get reacquainted with her mother, after the long separation.
“Daddy, I am not that bad. I have been riding Cheyenne every day!” retorted Alexis.
“I was just kidding you sweetie,” said Kelly, noting that Alexis was getting quite thin skinned when it came to being teased.
With the two horses and Alexis’ pony saddled, the family headed out, watched by Eileen who was in the truck garden selecting the best vegetables for their lunch, thinking how nice it was that Mrs. Archie thought to bring her a present. She was afraid that she would end up putting the silk pin cushion in a shelf to show it off, not able to stick pins into the beautiful silk covering.
Alexis rode well ahead of her parents, carrying on a spirited conversation with her pony, about the book she was reading. If the animal could have been able to understand her chatter, it would have got a remarkable view of humans filtered through the adventure books she was now reading.
“I have to warn you, dear, we are in for another row with my uncle,” said Kelly trying to keep his tone of voice as light as possible.
“Oh, goodness, how is that?” asked Genevieve, realizing that there was one very good benefit to being away for so long.
“Well, he and Carol insisted that I come to dinner more often with Alexis while you were gone. I think they don’t think I can take care of her myself, and just wanted to see for themselves how she was doing,” said Kelly.
“Yes, you told me about that, and that you were visiting Dana more often as well. I thought it was working out well,” responded Genevieve.
“I thought so too. The visits to Dana are going well. She is relaxing a lot about religion when Alexis is there, though not in general. Alexis seems to really enjoy her company, and when she is with Alexis, Dana almost seems to be her old self again … almost. The problem is visiting with Milstead. I think Toby is being mean to Alexis. You saw how touchy she has become with a little good-natured teasing?” asked Kelly.
“Yes, I did notice that. I was going to ask you if you were teasing her too much. Is Toby teasing her?” asked Genevieve.
“Well, I don’t see him do it, but from the way Alexis acts, I think he is. I have talked to Alexis about it and she just says she doesn’t like him. I think she is embarrassed that he can get under her skin the way he does,” said Kelly.
“Have you talked to Milstead and Carol about it?” asked Genevieve, knowing that the couple never could see anything wrong with their boy.
“Oh yes; As you can well imagine, they assured me that it is no more than the way children interact with each other. I got a lecture from my uncle about not codling Alexis, telling me that she would have to learn how to stand up to other kids when she went to school,” said Kelly. “The teasing isn’t all.”
“Oh, dear, what else? He hasn’t taken up hitting her again? Has he?” asked Genevieve, distressed.
“No, I think that was just a phase he went through. I don’t think Alexis was old enough to even remember it, though it might be what is behind her not liking her cousin. No, what I am talking about is that he let Alexis read his horror comics. She has such a vivid imagination, and the first thing I knew, she was having nightmares about vampires and werewolf’s, for about a week,” responded Kelly.
“Well, we can cut way back on our visits to their house,” said Genevieve, knowing that now she was back, Kelly would deflect the pressure, his uncle put on him through phone calls from his mother begging her son not to cut her brother out of his life, by saying he must keep his wife happy.
“Kelly, you were right. It was the right for me to go away. It seems that Alexis took my being away very well,” said Genevieve, as she nestled her head into his shoulder, as he pulled the coverlet up to ward off the chilly air coming in though the open window. “I am sorry I resisted it at first.”
“You know, I didn’t want you to leave. But you see now that it was for the best. I wish I could have gone with you, but my staying here was best for Alexis. You are right though; Alexis took your absence well. We were lucky that we taught her to read. She was so lost in her books, I think that so long as someone was feeding her she might not have noticed if we both were gone,” he murmured into her hair.
“Yes, I hope I never have to go away again. Alexis is growing up so fast. It seems like our days are flying,” she said, sighing.
“I know dear, some things are just out of our control. But remember, if you need to go again, it is okay; you do what you have to do. Bennie and I have your back, always,” he said, his voice becoming thick with emotion.
“I love you too, forever and a day,” whispered Genevieve, before drifting off to sleep, glad to be back home.