6 years later
New Industrial Site On the Mainland
The building was positively huge. Little Michael kept staring up at it with his little mouth open and pointing. He was only three years old and something of this size should be a dragon or a hill or something to his mind.
“It’s your grandfather’s new factory,” Angeline told her little son.
He squirmed in her arms wanting to walk across the open area for the carriages to tie up in. It was flat, dusty ground but Angeline was of two minds to let him down. If she did, he’d likely get dirty and there was to be a photographer there today.
“Oh, let him down,” Angeline’s mother said. “He’s big enough to run with the other kids. It’s not like you’re holding Joe back.”
That was true, Angeline and Tucker’s eldest, Joe, had come into the world with all the strength and gusto of a steam engine at full throttle. He’d been an exceptionally busy baby, a quick and determined toddler, and now at just five years old, he was a bright, energetic boy with a broad smile and an agile mind. He kept Angeline far too busy, and she was happy when he could run off with his cousins and friends.
There were already a lot of people gathered. The children were running in and out of the clumps of adults, meeting their friends and family as they went. Joe seemed to be in the lead. He’d already found Sophie and her family.
Angeline let her youngest down and straightened his little jacket and shirt. “Now be careful Michael,” she said. “You’re to stay clean.”
He nodded. “Yes, mama,” he said.
She smiled and kissed his cheek. He looked up at her and then at his grandmother who positively doted on him and turned to run off.
Angeline sighed. He’d never stay clean. Michael was different from his brother. He was calmer, quieter. Angeline liked to think of him as a little thinker, a ponderer who watched and weighed up options. Of course, that was wishful thinking. Given half the chance he’d race along on his little legs calling after his brother. And he’d get dirty in a trice.
Luckily, Sophie’s little one, Tessa spotted him and came hurrying over. She smiled at Angeline and offered Michael her hand. She was a year older than Michael and she always took care of him when they were together. Tessa was a sober-minded little girl who loved her dollies and playing house. She was well-tempered and very smart. And to Sophie’s greatest joy, as she told everyone, often, had none of her mother’s afflictions. She was as healthy as a horse.
“Come Mikey,” Tessa said. “Walk with me.”
“Wanna run,” he said, shaking his little head and making his chocolate curls swing around his little face.
“Alright. But just for a little,” Tessa said. She understood him so well.
Sophie waved and Angeline and her mother walked over to them.
“Where’s Harry?” Angeline asked, looking around for the tall banker.
“Working,” Sophie said. “He’s here to inspect the building for the bank.” She sighed. “His work is never done. I take it Tuck is inside calming Edwin down?”
“Henry’s there too,” Josephine said with a wry grin. “He gets rather worked up, doesn’t he?”
They all grinned. As his years had grown, so had Edwin’s nerves. Things like public speaking which had once been his joy and passion were now sources of fear. His memory was going and that was causing Edwin a lot of trouble. Good thing he had Tuck with him.
“Ah! Here’s your father,” Josephine said, touching Angeline’s elbow. “And he looks dashing.”
Angeline turned to see her father, Jose Alverez walking towards them. He had a large black hat on his head and looked every bit the dashing older gentleman. Accompanying him was a small woman of Spanish descent named Rosa Jimenez.
“Ah, my ladies,” Alvarez said by way of greeting. “It’s a good turnout, isn’t it?”
“It certainly is,” Josephine said with a broad grin.
Angeline was so glad that her parents, who hadn’t spoken since before her birth, were now great friends. Her father, who had never settled down before, had found himself a little patch of land not far from the dairy farm where she and Tucker still lived. He’d set about growing fruit and nut trees and raising horses. He was as happy as a cat with an endless supply of cream.
Although he had come back into their lives in a strange and not entirely legal way, the judge had said that because of his actions, saving them from the gunmen Oswald hired, he could serve just six months in jail. He did that and when he came out, he was a changed man. Edwin, Henry, and Tucker all helped him to get settled and for the first time in her life, Angeline felt like she had a whole family around her.
Michael spotting his Grandpapa, came charging over yelling, “Pappie! Pappie!”
Alvarez scooped the little man up and hugged him.
“Aunty Rosie!” Michael yelled including his new favorite person, who secretly snuck him sweets, in the hug. Angeline turned a blind eye to the treats Rosa, a sweet woman who seemed to love her father dearly, gave to her son. What were grandparents for if not to spoil the kids. What was the point to them if not to sidle over the line parents drew in the sand and let the children bend, if not break the rules?
“Hello, everyone,” came a voice from the crowd.
Angeline turned to find Enola and her brood walking up to them. Her husband Leonard was pushing the stroller across the park, trying to make people get out of the way. Enola’s twin boys, Phillip and Walter were six years old and their sister, Mary-Jane was eighteen months old. She sat up in her stroller watching the world with large, blue eyes.
“Have we missed anything of importance?” Enola asked. “Only, MJ decided to throw up down the back of my dress and I had to change.” She pulled her face in a grimace.
“You haven’t missed a thing,” Sophie said. “We were just wondering if Elmira and Tuck were trying to bolster Edwin’s courage so he could come out and make his speech.”
“Oh dear,” Enola said looking worried. “Do you think he’ll be alright?”
Everyone shrugged. There was no telling what kind of day Edwin Tucker was having. A good memory day or a bad one. Would he be able to stand and deliver his few words on the podium? They could see it set up at the entrance to what was Edwin’s marvelous addition to this industrial age, where things were being built and created at a phenomenal pace. He was a forward thinker or had been only a couple of years ago.
It seemed that since that night at the farm where Oswald had assaulted Edwin so terribly, scared him so deeply, Edwin had suffered some sort of debilitating fear that crept over him from time to time. When stressed or worried he would shake and shiver and retreat into his shell.
Many physicians had been called but none had found anything physically wrong with him. Edwin was suffering from a psychological affliction. And there were few doctors in the area who had any idea what to do with him.
“I’ll go and see what’s going on,” Angeline said.
Enola smiled and taking her hand, squeezed it tightly. “Thank you.”
Angeline nodded and made her way through the crowd to the side door to the factory. It was unlocked and she stepped into the dim light of the place. It had light wells in the ceiling that let through sunlight onto the large, open area below. This was what Edwin and Tucker called the loading bay where the finished dairy products would be loaded into carts to be taken to general stores and such places all over from Galveston to Hitchcock to Alta Loma and beyond.
She made her way to a door at the far end and opened that one. Beyond it was a different world of white tiles and large steel tables that smelled strongly of bleach. Everything was spotlessly clean. There was another door to the left and she took that one, heading up a flight of steps to the floor above. Here were offices. There was probably an easier way to reach them, but she didn’t know it.
At the top of the stairs, she found Edwin, Elmira, Henry, and Tuck in an office. Edwin was pale, his hands shaking and his forehead dripping sweat.
“Honestly, Edwin,” Elmira said hotly. “It’s one little speech and then it’s done.”
Her husband cast small, scared eyes on her and looked away.
Elmira sighed and threw her hands up. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Angie,” Tucker said spotting her in the doorway. He smiled and held out a hand to her. She crossed the floor to him and took his hand, rising on her toes to kiss his cheek.
“How are things going?” Angeline asked.
Tucker shrugged. “Not great. Are there a lot of people waiting?”
She nodded. “Most of the people in the area seem to have shown up. That and all the family are here so that’s a crowd anyway.” She chuckled.
“Oh, no!” Edwin moaned. “Send them all home. I can’t do this.”
Angeline left Tucker’s side and went to his father behind his desk. She felt sorry for the old man. Even though for the longest time she’d thought of men as useless things, she was fond of her father-in-law, and he was clearly suffering. He needed help.
For a few minutes she tried to get him to talk to her about how he was feeling. But he wouldn’t say anything. Eventually, she turned to Tucker.
“Well, it’s up to you and Elmira,” she said. “You’ll have to do the speech together.”
Elmira turned, frowning. “Are you insane? It’s not a woman’s place to do such things.”
Angeline shrugged. “What else can we do? Someone must speak. You’re the brains behind the products that are being created here, aren’t you?”
Her mother-in-law nodded.
“Well, then you should speak about those and let people know what they can expect to find in their local traders,” Angeline said inventing wildly as she spoke. Her relationship with Elmira was always balancing on a tightrope. One misstep and it would crash down, and she’d have to start again.
Before Elmira could say anything, Angeline forged ahead turning to Tucker, “And you’ve been instrumental helping Edwin with the building, keeping things on track. So, why don’t you talk about this fabulous new building?”
There was a moment of contemplative silence as everyone considered this suggestion.
“It’s preposterous,” Elmira said. “Edwin has always been the face of the company. If he isn’t out there people will talk and things will get complicated.”
“Will they?” Tucker asked. “You’ve always been there with Father. So why should people think anything? Anyway, this is all for the reporters more than anything else. They will write what we tell them to.”
“You could say that Edwin is under the weather,” Angeline suggested. “He looks ill.”
Everyone turned to look at poor Edwin who certainly didn’t look healthy.
“It’s only a suggestion and not an outright lie,” Angeline continued. “He is suffering from something medical.”
Elmira considered this. She looked at Tucker for a long time and then finally nodded. Stepping towards her son, she fixed his cravat and his jacket, smoothing them and setting them straight. Then she tried to get his hair to look neat. It had a mind of its own and rarely lay neatly in place unless it was glued to his head like Oswald’s hair had been.
The thought of that maniac, sly, snake always made Angeline’s blood boil. Perhaps it did something similar to Edwin. They would have to get him some serious help. Angeline had been reading up, in private about such things and there were amazing medical advances in treating the mind being made in Europe. Perhaps with his project done, Edwin and Elmira could travel to find him the help he needed.
Now wasn’t the time to suggest such a thing. Elmira was clearly tense, and she was now composing herself to go out and speak to the public, which was something she’d never done before.
All of these considerations flittered through Angeline’s mind quickly as she waited for Elmira to speak.
“Alright,” she said eventually. “Ethan and I will speak to the people waiting outside. If you’re fine with that?” This last she directed to Ethan himself.
If there was one thing Tucker could be described as then self-assured would be it. He was cool, calm and collected. His eyes were bright, his hands steady and when he nodded to his mother, there was no doubt in Angeline’s mind that he would do a fantastic job of it.
After all, he was tall, handsome, charismatic and had a lovely voice. There was nothing to improve upon and he would be an excellent stand-in for his father.
That settled they all made their way down the way Angeline had come so that they arrived at the podium through the factory.
Angeline put her arms around her husband’s neck and kissed him chastely on the lips. It didn’t matter, he always made her knees go weak and left her longing for more of his kisses. Well, there was always tonight when they were alone. Then, they could kiss as much as they desired. With that happy thought, she smoothed his shoulders and smiling at Elmira, left the building through the door she’d come in by.
She found the rest of the family waiting in the crowd by the podium. Everyone was waiting, wondering what was going on and why it was taking so long. The children, who had been excited and enthusiastic, were becoming bored and restless. She spotted her two playing at the back of the crowd with their cousins and friends, but the games seemed less rambunctious.
“Is everything alright?” Enola asked. She had little MJ in her arms and the little girl was playing with her mother’s collar.
“Yes, everything is fine,” Angeline said.
Before she could say anything, else Tucker took to the stage and began to deliver the speech his father was supposed to have given.
It went well and everyone applauded. When he and Elmira were done speaking the press asked questions and there were pictures taken. Some with the whole family.
Angeline was pleased. When it was all over, they went to Elmira and Edwin’s house in Galveston for a late lunch. The children played until they were all horribly overtired and this fantastic day that marked the new beginning of a great many things for the Tuckers and their extended family, drew to an end.
Angeline hoped this new development, of Tucker taking a move active role in running and advertising the company would take them all to newer and greater things. In a couple of days, she would casually mention that doctors overseas were helping people with mental problems to Tucker. Leaving the papers around, that told of these miraculous advances, wouldn’t hurt and eventually, Edwin would get the care he needed. She would see to it.
As for everything else, well Angeline thought life was looking good. She had a wonderful husband and a beautiful family.
That evening Angeline and Tucker sat on their porch swing, his arm around her shoulders and watched the moon rise. It was golden and bright. Everywhere the crickets were singing their nocturnal serenades and the cows lowed quietly in the darkness.
“Are you glad you answered that advertisement I put I the paper?” Tucker asked.
It was an odd question and Angeline considered her answer. “Don’t you think I would have left by now if I wasn’t?” she asked.
He nodded. “Just checking,” he said.
For a while they let the night sounds surround them. Tucker shifted, nuzzling her neck with his nose. It made her giggle. Soon he was kissing her neck. It was an invitation to trouble and would likely end in delight, but she was in the mood for a little naughtiness. Turning to him she kissed him long and passionately. He responded in kind. It seemed he too was in the mood and as he swept her into his arms she sighed. This was certainly the good life. And she couldn’t imagine her existence without Tucker in it. It had been a bumpy, maddening road to get here but she was so very glad she had walked along it. Because there was nothing as wonderful in the world as true love.