As soon as they arrived at Jack’s house, Evelyn was whisked away by the other women to help in the kitchen. Dylan headed outside to see his Uncle Ethan and his cousin’s husbands Graham and Alex. Jack sat quietly in the living room for a while then slipped into his bedroom and shut the door.“I’ll be right back, Charlotte,” Evelyn said, drying her hands on a kitchen towel. She walked through the open concept kitchen and living room and down the hall to where she had seen Jack disappear. “Jack, can I come in?”“Sure Evelyn,” came the response through the door.
“Are you okay? I can make everyone leave if you aren’t up to this.”
A bittersweet smile crossed his lips as he leafed through an old photo album. “No, it’s fine… for now. For once in my life, I don’t want to be entirely alone. I just came in here to find some pictures to show everyone.”
“Pictures of what?” she asked.
“Come sit,” he offered, moving a picture box out of her way. “I wanted to find these.”
“Oh dear, 1959,” Evelyn said. “Look at those skinny kids. “There’s Ethan, Francesca, Eleanor, Charlotte and me. Goodness that was a great summer. We all got a long so well. Even after being there for only a couple of days it was hard to be separated.” Only death could separate them all now.
“And that’s why you started the pen pal relationships that lasted for all these years,” Jack said. “I’m kind of sorry I missed it but we were still living in Wyoming at the time. Back then I was the old Jack, the one who hadn’t lived too much for his age.”
Evelyn put her hand on his arm and squeezed. “You had a bigger role to play when the summer of ’69 rolled around. You, Fran, Ethan, and Charli – the four musketeers, forging a friendship that will last forever. Now that was the summer I wish I could have been around you guys.”
“But you had just been married,” Jack said. “Cole was headed to Vietnam and your mom needed you.”
“Yeah, I guess we show up where we are meant to be. At least I was able to be there for the double wedding.”
“Yeah,” his voice choked up as he grabbed another album and opened it to pictures of him, Francesca, Ethan and Charlotte at their double wedding at The Heart of Alaska Hotel. “We go back there sometimes, just to remember. At least we used to.”
“I’m sorry Jack. You know, I did the same thing a day or two before Cole’s service. I brought out the photo albums to look at the pictures of all the adventures he and I had as kids. Cole and I with Ethan tagging along solo because the girl he loved lived hundreds of miles away. And of course our wedding pictures. I wanted everyone to see them, to see how happy we were, to see the events that had most shaped our lives.” It had been the hardest time of her life. Thank the Lord things were finally getting easier.
Jack looked away, toward the dresser and the framed pictures of Francesca that he kept there. “I could care less, but I know she would want this. Do you think they will want to see them?” he asked quietly.
“Oh Jack! I know they would love to see them. And I know Olivia, Alex, Mari and Graham will want to see them too. Maybe they can get an idea of what it is like to love someone for a lifetime.”
Evelyn stood and walked to the door. “Bring them to dinner and we’ll all reminisce. And if you decide you want everyone gone, I’ll put my mean old lady pants on and get them out of here.”
Jack laughed and smiled at her. “Thank you Evelyn. I get hope in knowing that you are six months into your loss and you can breathe easy again.”
“Most days Jack. But it gets better, bit by bit until you notice that you can keep your head above water again.”
Exactly two hours later, she kept her promise when she knew her friend had had enough. She had gotten to know him well over the last year. Every time she called Fran, it always ended with a conversation with Jack too. So when he seemed like he was about to jump out of his skin, she took matters into her own hands. “Okay everybody. I think it’s time to call it a night.”
“Oh but we’re not done with our talk yet,” her sister-in-law Charlotte said.
“Yeah, Dad needs us here,” his daughter Jennifer exclaimed.
Evelyn stood and faced the two women. “I don’t care if the conversation isn’t over. Jack needs to be a lone for a while. It’s time to leave.” She didn’t mention that they should never have been there in the first place. Jack was a man who valued his privacy and alone time.
“I’m not leaving my father,” Jennifer huffed. “He needs someone here!”
“Jennifer dear,” Evelyn sighed. “It seems as if you have forgotten what your father is like. He likes to be alone. He needs to be alone. You need to take yourself home and take care of your family. Your father can take care of himself.”
“How dare you!”
“I dare because I’m not worried about making myself feel better. Stop and think about it Jenn.”
The young woman looked like she was about to say something when her father cleared his throat. She turned to him and the look on his face made her step back and head for the coat rack. Everyone quickly filtered out of the house.
JJ Ellis is first and foremost a mom to five kids, four girls and one boy, ranging in age from 4-19. After that, she is a physically limited wife, blogger and now an author. She holds a degree in Communication Studies (Public Relations) from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas but never thought she would choose writing as a career, especially at the age of 42. She once wanted to be a publicist in the entertainment industry, but never a writer. Then one day when she was in her mid thirties she was going through what can only be described as an early ‘midlife crisis’ and ideas just started to come to her and she felt compelled to write them down. She finished her first book relatively quickly, but life got in the way and it took her eight years to revisit it and then publish her first novel. She can honestly say that now she is finally right where she wants to be.
JJ has been married to her college sweetheart (and romance novel hero) for twenty years and they reside in Casper, WY with their kids and one crazy mutt named Kreuger. She enjoys reading, writing, blogging, computing, and graphic design. She will try anything that will allow her creativity to be released.
TA Ellis is married to best selling romance Author JJ Ellis and is the father to five kids, four girls and one boy, ranging in age from 4-19. He holds a degree in Secondary Education from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and has flirted with the idea of writing for years. He however did not expect to be writing romance as Sci-fi/horror/fantasy are more to his liking. But as a sounding board for his wife, he realized he had some good ideas and the team of JJ & TA Ellis was born.
TA lives in Casper, WY with his wife and kids and one crazy mutt named Kreuger. He enjoys reading, video games and grilling. He is excited to embark on this romance journey…after all, he’s been happily married for twenty years.