Chapter 12

Chapter 12

January 27th, 2009

 

Dakotah parked the car under the carport, and breezed into the kitchen. “Hi, Grandma! What are you doing?”

Elizabeth was sitting at the table, filling out a check. “Oh, paying the monthly utilities, Dak.” she said, frowning. “I swear, I think they get higher every month!”

“Do I have anything to do with that?” Dakotah said, suddenly self-conscious.

“A little, but you don’t impact the bill that much.” Elizabeth said, reassuringly. “That, and the extra I have to pay to feed you, are easily budgeted.”

“That’s good. I plan on paying my way, as soon as I get a job.” Dakotah said, relieved. “Oh! By the way, there’s a new department store in Auburn Hills opening, and I turned in my application there!”

“That’s great news!” Elizabeth said excitedly. “A stock boy, perhaps?”

“I don’t care. I’ll clean toilets at this point!”

Elizabeth laughed. “Be careful for what you wish for!”

“If I can clean the toilet after a couple of days of Frank using it, I can do almost anything, I think!” Dakotah said, smiling.

“I’ve always known you were a capable young man.” Elizabeth said, warmly. “How many people can self-teach themselves a hard language like Japanese?”

“Speaking of Japanese, It’s almost time to go to Ely’s.” Dakotah said, looking at the clock. “Do you need the car for anything, or is there anything that I need to pick up for you?”

“No, I’m fine.” Elizabeth said, shaking her head. “Tell her I said hello!”

“I’ll be back in a few hours.” Dakotah said, hugging his grandmother. “Love you.”

“Love you, too. Be careful.”

“Am I not always?” Dakotah said, smiling.

*****

Weak sunshine streamed into the car, as Dakotah made his way west, towards Ely’s . It had been a cold and snowy winter; although Dakotah, for the most part, enjoyed the weather, he was ready for Spring.

The drama that was prevalent during the Christmas holidays had died down considerably; life had returned to much the same as it had been before. Dakotah continued his work with the kids on Wednesdays with Vanessa, and studied with Ely a couple of times a week. It was as if the mistletoe never existed, at least it seemed so to Dakotah, which struck him as odd. Even Rebecca, who had thrown herself at him at the party, now acted very low key around him. He surmised that perhaps she had found a new flame at school, and that was perfectly fine with him.

Dakotah parked behind Ely’s car, and made his way to the house, noting the snow beginning to melt on the sidewalk. “It’ll be frozen by the time I leave tonight.” he thought to himself.

As he had always done before, he knocked on the door twice instead of using the doorbell. “Come in, it’s not locked!” Ely yelled from within.

Dakotah entered to see Ely laying on the sofa, her feet propped up on the coffee table. “Tough day?” he asked, hanging his coat on the coat rack.

“Yes.” Ely sighed. “I had a test in English today. Modal verbs. I think I passed. Who would ever think English would be harder than Japanese?”

“That’s because you have an excellent sensei!” Dakotah said, smiling. “Need a refill on your tea?” he said, noticing the empty glass next to her feet.

“Well, aren’t you domesticated!” Ely said, laughing. “You’ll make a good house husband some day!”

“Promise?” Dakotah said, taking the opportunity to flirt.

“Sure!” Ely smirked, instantly realizing the meaning behind Dakotah’s comment. “Vanessa will be pleased to have a clean house and dinner on the table after a hard day at the hospital!”

Dakotah rolled his eyes. “Don’t be expecting wedding invitations from us, okay?”

“Oh, you two are going to elope?” Ely giggled, barely containing herself.

“Ha ha. You funny girl!” Dakotah said in a bad Japanese accent. “Seriously though, we’ve kinda gone back to friend mode now.”

“Why?” Ely said, concerned. She had her suspicions on the status of their relationship, as they had not seemed particularly close at church the past few weeks.

“I don’t really know, to be honest.” Dakotah said, shrugging his shoulders. ”We don’t talk very much on the phone any more, and on Wednesdays, everything is just business.”

“Maybe she’s just been busy. I think she’s taking a couple of extra classes this semester.” Ely said, thoughtfully. “I think she’s been working overtime at the hospital too, so probably her responsibilities are squeezing you out.”

Dakotah shrugged his shoulders again. “That’s fine with me. The less drama in my life, the better.”

Ely sighed, loud enough for Dakotah to hear her. “Is there any point in arguing about the same stuff over and over again?” she said, irritated.

“What do you mean?” Dakotah said, beginning to feel dread.

“Nothing.” Ely muttered. “Someday, we will have to part ways, and you’re going to be alone, if you don’t get serious with Vanessa.” she thought. She came to regret ever kissing him.

“I take it you haven’t heard anything from UM?” Dakotah said uneasily, changing the subject.

“No.” Ely said, shaking her head. It had been two weeks since I applied. “I have no idea how long this stuff takes.”

“Are you nervous?”

“A little.” Ely said, biting her lip slightly. “Test scores were good, grades are good, interview with the Asian Studies dean went well. I’m 99% sure I made it, but there’s always a little doubt, you know?”

“You just have to have a little faith.” Dakotah said, encouragingly.

“Faith in God I have, faith in people, not so much.” Ely grimaced.

“Do you have any faith in me?” Dakotah asked, half-jokingly.

“No. None at all.“ Ely said, stone faced.

“Oh.” Dakotah could feel the blood drain from his face.

“Got you!” Ely laughed, punching Dakotah in the arm lightly. “Yes! I can still do it!”

“Hey!” Dakotah exclaimed, realizing he’d been had.

“That’s 387 to 1, in my favor!” Ely said gleefully.

“Aah, aah, you just wait until Becky hears about this!” Dakotah stammered. “She’ll be kissing me to make me feel better!”

“Not working.” Ely said, smugly. “I heard she found someone more genuine than you!”

“Really? You’re not kidding me again, are you?”

“I’m not joking. Some guy on the soccer team.” Ely said, making direct eye contact. “Does that make you sad?”

“Not in the least. Relieved, actually.” Just then, a pang of melancholy tweaked him.

Ely noticed the change in Dakotah’s countenance. “It does bother you, doesn’t it? Why? Don’t tell me you actually had feelings for her!”

“No, nothing like that.” Dakotah said, trying to shake the feeling of sadness. “More of me being put in my place once again, I think.”

“Don’t worry what about people like her do.” Ely said, trying to soothe him. “The main thing is you have true friends and family that love you very much, and would never want to hurt you.”

“Yeah, I know.” Dakotah said, trying to smile. “Let’s just hope Soccer Guy is the answer, and both of them will be happy.”

“That’s the spirit! Besides, there’s a hard-working, spiritual girl who’s crazy for you, right?”

Before Dakotah could answer, saying something along the lines of “Gee, I didn’t know you were spiritual”, Rev. Daniels breezed in.

“Look what I have!” he announced happily, waving a large envelope. It had the University of Michigan logo on it.

“Oh, Daddy!” Ely shouted anxiously. “I hope I made it!”

“If it’s a rejection letter, I would think it would be in a standard envelope, not this huge thing.” Rev. Daniels said, trying in vain to calm Ely down. “Here. It’s addressed to you, anyway.”

Hands shaking, she began to tear into the envelope. Finding the cover letter, she quickly read the contents, and began to shriek with joy.

“I made it! I’m in!” Ely gushed.

“Congratulations! I knew you’d do it!” Rev. Daniels cried, beaming.

Ely hugged her father tightly. “This is the happiest day of my life!”

“I’m so proud of you.” Rev. Daniels said, warmly. “Your mother is in Heaven right now, smiling, I guarantee it.”

“I have to call Hannah, and tell her!” Ely grabbed her cell phone, and rushed into her bedroom.

Dakotah stood there silently, carrying a sad smile. “I guess I’d better be going, then.” He said quietly, turning to get his coat.

“Whoa, son!” Rev. Daniels exclaimed, holding his hands up. “Where do you think you’re going?”

“Home, I guess.” Dakotah said, shrugging his shoulders. “No point in me staying around, if she doesn’t need me to help her study.”

“Just a moment, Dakotah.” Rev. Daniels said, holding his hand up. “You are as much part of this celebration as anyone. I have faith in my daughter that she would make it, but I know that she wouldn’t have excelled so without your help.”

Dakotah smiled weakly. “Yeah, I know. I wonder if by helping her succeed, I lose her.”

“Only God knows.” Rev. Daniels said, sympathetically, placing his hands on Dakotah’s shoulders. You have to trust in Him, and whether the answer is with Ely, or someone else, He knows what’s best for you.”

“You’re right, but I can’t imagine anyone else, even Vanessa.”

“The thing about life is that no one knows what’s around the corner. There could be someone you’ve never met, that will be the one.” Rev. Daniels said, confidently.” Look, why don’t the three of us go out to Steakmasters tonight, and celebrate?”

“I don’t know.” Dakotah replied, disconsolate.

“Dakotah, there’s something that you and I need to discuss.” Rev. Daniels said, becoming more serious.

“What is it?” Dakotah said uneasily, noting the reverend’s change of tone.

“You’ll find out, after dinner.” Rev. Daniels smiled.

“I guess I’ll come.” Dakotah said, shaking his head while smiling weakly.

Suddenly, a shriek erupted from Ely’s bedroom. Running to her father, Ely thrust a piece of paper in his hands.

“Daddy! Look at this!” she said, barely containing herself.

Rev, Daniels scanned the document, and begin to grin broadly.

“Hallelujah! This is awesome! Thank you, Lord!” he shouted, hugging Ely.

“What is it?” Dakotah asked, curious.

“Ely’s been awarded a full scholarship!” Rev. Daniels said, beaming. “Incredible!”

“That’s great!” Dakotah gushed. “Congratulations!”

“I prayed that with my money, her money, and whatever grants we could scrounge up, we could pay her way.” Rev. Daniels said, exhaling. “Most assuredly, this is a blessing!”

“Just think, all the money I saved, and I don’t even need it!” Ely said, joyously.

“Oh, you’ll need it all right.” Rev. Daniels said, holding his hand up. “Every time you want to eat out, or go to a movie, you’ll need it!”

The letter also said that during my sophomore year, I can study in Japan!” Ely gushed. “Isn’t that awesome?”

“Better keep working, honey.” Rev. Daniels said, trying in vain to keep his daughter grounded. “I hear you’ll need a lot of money over there!”

“How long will you be studying over there?” Dakotah said, suddenly concerned.

“Who knows?” Ely said, shrugging her shoulders. “Heck, if I can get a teaching job over there, I may never come back!”

Dakotah’s heart dropped, and his stomach tightened up.

“Get your coats, kids!” Rev. Daniels exclaimed. “”If we hurry, we can beat the dinner rush!”

“I-I think I’ll pass.” Dakotah mumbled, dejected.

“What?” Rev. Daniels said, surprised. “I don’t think so!” “You are an integral part of her success, and I won’t take no for an answer! Got it?”

“Okay.” Dakotah slumped his shoulders, defeated.

“Besides, you haven’t heard my proposition!”  Rev. Daniels said, opening the front door.

“Proposition? What is it?” Dakotah said, perking up slightly.

“You’ll have to find out after dinner!” Rev. Daniels said with a wink.

*****

The three procured one of the last open tables at the restaurant. Even though his heart was down, Dakotah had to admit that the New York Strip steak, baked potato, and salad was one of the best meals he had ever eaten.

“Want some dessert?” Rev. Daniels asked, smiling.

“I can’t! I’m stuffed!” Dakotah said, holding his belly. “Thank you for this meal! It’s the first time I ever had steak!”

The answer stunned Ely, and surprised Rev. Daniels briefly. “Now that dinner is over, shall we get down to business?” he said, firmly.

Dakotah instantly became uneasy; though he considered the reverend his friend and trusted elder, he wasn’t used to the reverend speaking to him in this manner.

“Aaaahhhh, okaaaaayyyy…” was all that Dakotah could muster.

“How would you like to become my administrative assistant?” Rev. Daniels said, smiling.

Dakotah didn’t immediately process the Reverend’s words; all he could muster was a blank stare.

“Wait, what?” Ely said, stunned.

“I need someone to keep track of births, deaths, anniversaries, illnesses, and such, plus keep tab of my appointments and answer the phone. 9 AM to 1PM, Monday through Friday, at the church office, Ten bucks an hour. How about it?”

“Dad, I offered to do that for you, and you said you didn’t need any help!” Ely protested.

“I actually did need help, sweetie.” Rev. Daniels said, looking down. However, I was being prideful, and very wrong. I’m sure you would do a fine job, but I really need someone during weekdays, while you’re at school.

“But why Dakotah?” Ely spoke sourly, not being sold on Dakotah’s qualifications.

“Dak is a good worker, and has excellent organizational skills.” Rev. Daniels said. “Plus, he’s polite, and when he has to, is good with people! Most of all, he needs a good job. It’s a win-win!” he said, making quotation marks with his fingers as he spoke.

Ely shook her head, “I don’t know. Couldn’t you find volunteers? They would be free!”

“Why are you so against Dak working for the church?” Rev. Daniels said, a little agitation showing in his voice.

“Having him next door five days a week, plus Sunday, is weird!” Ely said, aghast.

“Why? It’s not like he’s moving in with us, though we do have a spare bedroom.”

“Dad!”

“It’s okay Ely, I’m just fine at Grandma’s.” Dakotah said, shaking his head while grinning sheepishly.  He held his hand out across the table, towards the reverend. “What the heck, it’s a deal! I’ll take the job!”

“Great!” Rev. Daniels said exuberantly. “Will starting tomorrow be a problem?”

“I have to check with Grandma to see if she has any appointments.” Dakotah replied. “Yeah, I’ll be here tomorrow, if she’s clear.”

“Good!” Rev. Daniels said, smiling. “Now, who wants some dessert?”

*****

Flurries were falling as Dakotah made his way home; a winter of bad weather had given him plenty of practice to hone his driving skills, and tonight was no exception.

A myriad of emotions coursed through him. He was elated beyond words that he finally got a job, working for a man he admired and trusted, but Ely’s reservations troubled him; why wasn’t she on his side, as a friend should be? Ely’s acceptance and free ride at UM was a direct result of his efforts, he knew, and he could feel a deep sense of satisfaction. However, Ely would be gone, perhaps forever. In retrospect, could he have done nothing, and maybe she’d never leave? Dakotah sighed.

“At least Grandma will be happy, and Aunt Lou won’t have to send me any more money.” Dakotah said to himself. “Maybe I can save up, and buy my own car.”

He drove on Elm St., which paralleled Maple St. by one block. He thought of calling his mother at some point, to tell her the good news, sometime later in the evening. He’d have to call his Aunt Lou too, he thought.

Turning on Poplar St., the snow began to pick up a bit, temporarily reducing his visibility. Slowing down, he began to look for the porch light his grandmother always left on for him, whenever he was out at night. He passed the huge 70s station wagon parked at the curb, which, since it was three houses down from Elizabeth’s, indicated he had gone too far down the street, and had passed her driveway.

Confused, Dakotah found an empty driveway a couple of houses down the street, and turned around. Retracing his route, he realized that the porch light was not on, which struck him as odd, as Elizabeth always had it on while he was away. Pulling into the driveway, and parking under the carport, Dakotah exited the car, and realized the entire inside of the house was dark.

A chill ran down his spine as he fumbled with the keys, and his heart began to race. Finally managing to open the door, he turned on the lights to the kitchen.

“GRANDMA!” Dakotah shouted at the top of his lungs. “Grandma, are you okay? Can you hear me?”

From the living room, to the bathroom, and finally, to her bedroom, Dakotah searched and yelled, but neither found her, nor did she answer.

“Where could she have gone?” Dakotah wondered aloud. He returned to the kitchen to see if she had left a note, but found none. Confused, and concerned, he decided to try his room.

As he entered the room and turned on the lights, he saw her, and gasped. At the foot of the dresser, his grandmother was lying in a heap, motionless.

Instantly panic-stricken, and unable to speak, Dakotah rolled his grandmother on her back. Not finding a pulse, he noticed her face was purple, she was cold, and not breathing. He began to immediately administer CPR.

Under his breath, he began to pray. “Please Lord, help me! Save her!  Please!” Try as he might, there was no response from his grandmother.

Dakotah ran to the kitchen to call 911. He told them of the situation, gave them his address, and ran back into the bedroom to administer CPR again.

Within a few minutes, sirens could be heard.  Stopping the CPR, Dakotah rushed to the front door, and opened it, frantically motioning to the EMTs.

“Hurry! She’s in here!” Dakotah screamed.

Swiftly, the emergency workers, carrying their gear, strode into Dakotah’s bedroom, and stopped. One EMT started setting up equipment, while the other examined Elizabeth. Dakotah stood by, motionless, unable to breathe.

Suddenly, the EMT examining Elizabeth stood up, shaking his head. “Phil, put it up. She’s gone.”

Dakotah couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You-You’re not even going to try? Do something!” he yelled, shaking.

“Son, listen.” The first EMT said in his best soothing tone. We can’t revive her. Rigor mortis has already started. She’s been gone for at least a couple of hours. I’m very sorry.”

Dakotah stood dumbfounded, unable to move or speak. “She’s gone?” was the only thing that passed through his mind.

A hand grasped Dakotah on the shoulder, startling him, and snapping him back to reality. He wheeled around and standing before him was a middle aged policeman.

“Oh, it is you, Dakotah.” The policeman said, full of empathy. “I’m Bill Douglas. Remember, from 3rd Baptist?”

It took a moment, but Dakotah recognized the man. “Oh yeah, you’re in choir.”

“That’s correct.” Bill replied. “I know this may be difficult, but duty dictates I have to ask some questions, okay?”

“Sure.” Dakotah said, numbly.

The officer asked Dakotah the usual questions referring to when and where he found her, and so on. Dakotah answered them all fully, at least to the best of his knowledge.

“Dakotah, the EMTs are going to take her to the county morgue.” Bill said, professionally. “The coroner will do an autopsy on her tomorrow, and the funeral home will pick her up after that. You probably have no idea about who would do the services, do you?”

Dakotah shook his head.

“I’ll call Brother Higgins.” The policeman continued. “He may have an idea, and I know he’ll want to do the service.”

“Thank you.” Dakotah said.

“I guess I’m all done here.” Bill said, closing his notebook. “Is there anything I can do for you?”

Dakotah barely shook his head, still in shock.

Officer Douglas took out his wallet, and removed a small card, handing it to Dakotah. “If you need anything, my number’s on the card.” he said, sympathetically. “You take care, okay?”

Dakotah nodded. The two EMTs wheeled Elizabeth out the front door, loaded her into the ambulance, and left, Officer Douglas immediately thereafter.

Dakotah looked about the living room.  Shuffling zombielike, he walked through the kitchen, then to her bedroom, and finally his, where he found her. There was not a sound in the house, except for the occasional whirring of the furnace. He straightened the furniture the EMTs had moved, giving the appearance that no one had ever been there. He gazed at his grandfather’s picture.

“I guess you have company now.” Dakotah said, sadly. Sighing, he walked into the kitchen, and picked up the phone, dialing the first number that came to mind.

After a couple of rings, a male voice answered the phone. “Hello, Dak!” Rev. Daniels answered cheerily. “Don’t tell me you changed your mind on the job!”

“Alan…….” Dakotah tried to speak, but his voice failed him, and instead, he burst into tears.

“Dak, what’s wrong?” Rev. Daniels replied, instantly concerned. “What happened?”

“Sh-she’s gone.” Dakotah said weakly.

“Gone?” Rev. Daniels said, ascertaining the situation. “My Lord, Dakotah, how?”

“I-I don’t know.”

There was a pause on the line for a moment. “Hang on, son, I’ll be right there!” Rev. Daniels said, strongly. “Okay?”

“Okay.” Dakotah whispered.

“See you in a minute!” Rev. Daniels said rapidly, hanging up the phone.

Dakotah hung up the phone, and stared blankly at the wall for a moment. “Maybe I should call mom.” He thought to himself.

He dialed his mother’s number, hoping that Frank didn’t answer.

“Hello?” His mother answered after only one ring.

“It’s me, Mom.” Dakotah replied simply, numb.

“What’s wrong, son?” Sylvia said, immediately sensing something was very amiss.

“Grandma died.”

There was a brief pause on the line. “Oh my God, Dakotah, what happened?” Sylvia said, her voice trembling in shock.

“I don’t know. I found her on the floor in my room.” Dakotah said, slowly gathering himself. “I tried CPR, and I called 911, but when the EMTs got here, they said she’d been gone a couple of hours.”

“Are you okay?” his mother asked, not knowing what else to say.

The question angered Dakotah. “No, I’m not okay! My grandma just freaking died!” he yelled.

“Easy son, I know that, I know that!” Sylvia countered, trying to settle her son down. “I’m sorry. That was stupid of me.”

“I’m sorry too, mom.” Dakotah replied, regretting his earlier words.

“Look, son, I’ll be over in a few minutes.” Sylvia said, gathering herself. “I’m assuming that she had made plans for this day, so we need to figure out what they are.”

“Okay.” Dakotah said, suddenly overwhelmed.

“Give me a couple of minutes, and I’ll be there, okay?” Sylvia said, soothingly.

“Okay.” Dakotah replied, not knowing what else to say. Hanging up the phone for a moment, he wondered if Vanessa was busy, either at work, or at school. He couldn’t process where though. However, he felt that he needed to tell her what happened. Picking up the receiver again, he called her cell phone.

Three, then four times it rang, then it went to voice mail. Dakotah hung up without leaving a message. Suddenly, the weight of situation reappeared to him, and he began to sob.

Several moments passed. Dakotah racked his brain as to why his grandmother suddenly died, but couldn’t come up with a reason. He knew she had health problems, because of the dizzy spell she had last Halloween, but why? As far as he knew, she never did go to the doctor’s to get a diagnosis. That fact also troubled him.

Dakotah’s thoughts were interrupted by a banging of the front door. Striding quickly, he opened the front door to see Rev. Daniels and Ely standing before him.

“Oh, Dakotah!” Ely cried softly, as she rushed to hug him tightly. Stunned, he didn’t reciprocate the hug initially, but after a few seconds, held on to her with everything he had.

“Why are you here?” Dakotah said, confused.

“Why would I not be here?” Ely said, painfully, not understanding Dakotah’s words. “You’re my friend, and I love you. Where else would I be?”

“I don’t know, I figured you’d be asleep, or something.” Dakotah said, blankly.

“Dak, it’s only ten o’clock.” Ely said, gently. “I’m here for you for the duration, even if I miss school tomorrow.”

“Oh.” Dakotah said simply, his mind finally grasping her words. “Arrigato.”

“Any clue as to what happened?” Rev. Daniels asked.

“I don’t know.” Dakotah said, finally releasing Ely. “I went in my bedroom after searching the house, and I found her. EMT said she had been gone for over two hours.”

“Hmmm. I should call Brother Higgins, and tell him what happened.” Rev. Daniels said, thinking aloud. He pulled out his cell phone, and fumbled with the screen a few seconds. “Sweetie, can you help me out here?” he asked, sheepishly.

“Sure.” Ely replied, swishing her fingers over the screen. “Here you go, it’s dialing.”

“She talks me into buying one these smart phones, and I’m too dumb to work it.” Rev. Daniels said, shrugging his shoulders. “Hello?”

As Rev. Daniels began to speak to Rev. Higgins, Sylvia pulled up, locking her brakes as she hit a patch of ice, nearly hitting Rev. Daniels’ car.

“Dakotah, I’m so sorry!” Sylvia gushed, crying, as she hugged her son. “What’s going on?”

“Brother Daniels is talking to Brother Higgins, grandma’s preacher at 3rd Baptist.” Dakotah answered. “Maybe he knows something.”

“How do I hang this thing up?” Rev. Daniels asked, slightly irritated.

“Press the red phone symbol on the screen.” Ely replied, patiently.

“Brother Higgins had already been contacted by the officer in charge of the investigation regarding her death.” Rev. Daniels said. “Did you talk to him, Dakotah?”

“Yes, he goes to 3rd, and he knew grandma, too.” Dakotah said without emotion.

“Brother Higgins didn’t have any info on, if any, funeral arrangements she made.” Rev Daniels said. “If we do find anything out, we’re to let him know, so he can do the services.”

Turning to Sylvia, Rev. Daniels continued to speak. “Mrs. Howe, I presume? I’m Alan Daniels, pastor of New Hope Church. I wish we could’ve met under better circumstances.”

“Me, too.” Sylvia replied, without emotion.

“I guess we need to start looking for some information.” Rev. Daniels said, taking a deep breath. “Dak, do you have any ideas where she might have kept her personal papers?”

There’s a school teacher’s desk in the living room where she kept her bills and stuff.” Dakotah said. She usually wrote her checks here in the kitchen, though.”

The four of them went to the desk, and found it locked. “Do you know where the key is?” Sylvia asked Dakotah.

“Yeah, I think it’s in this little drawer here.” Dakotah replied, opening a small drawer in a compartment atop the desk. He reached inside, and found a small key. “I think this is it.” he announced.

Dakotah took the key, and put into the lock, turning it successfully.

“Let’s get everything, and put it on the kitchen table.” Rev, Daniels suggested. “We can look through it all there.”

The four of them began to sort through the large assortment of papers contained in the desk drawer. Not much was said, as no one was in the mood for small talk.

Sylvia stopped sorting, and looked at Dakotah. “Dakotah there’s someone we need to find soon, and tell what happened.”

“Who?” Dakotah replied, without thinking.

“Your father.”

Dakotah froze. His father was someone he rarely ever thought about. He had no memories of him, and wouldn’t know what he looked like, except for his grandmother’s photographs, and they were taken long ago.

“I’m not sure if he could be easily found.” Sylvia continued. “He owes me fourteen years of child support, and the cops couldn’t find him then when he skipped out.”

Dakotah didn’t say a word, choosing instead to resume searching through papers.

“I’m sure it’s a lot easier to find someone now, the way everyone is in a database somewhere.” Rev. Daniels said.

“I think I found something!” Ely said, animatedly. “Dad, look at this!”

Ely handed the document over to her father, who scanned the contents.

“Very good, Ely!” Rev. Daniels said. “These are documents from the funeral home on Orchard Avenue. It appears she prepaid her funeral.” He handed Ely his cell phone. “Would you text Brother Higgins, and tell him we found the funeral home documents?”

Continuing to peruse the papers, Rev. Daniels pulled several documents out of a large manila envelope. “Here we go. This looks promising.” The others stopped as he began to scan the documents. “Here’s the deed to the house, and the will. This letter looks important.”

He began to read the letter. “To whom it may concern. If you are reading this, I’m probably either dead, or severely incapacitated. If either is the case, please contact my sister Jean. Her phone number and address are below. She is both my power of attorney, and executor of my estate, depending on the circumstance. Thank you, and God Bless.”
Rev. Daniels looked at Dakotah. “Dak, do you want to do the honors?”

“I don’t understand.” Dakotah replied, puzzled.

“I think you should call your aunt.” Rev Daniels said, patiently.

“It’s past eleven PM, so I guess we call her tomorrow?” Dakotah said, unenthusiastically.

“I think you should call her now, instead of the morning.” Rev Daniels said, persuasively. “I think it’s only right that she finds out as soon as possible, and you should be the one making the call.”

“Me?” Dakotah said, uneasily.

“Yes. You’re her relative, and the one who witnessed what happened.” Rev. Daniels said compellingly. “I understand that it won’t be easy, but I think it’s the best way, don’t you?”

“Okay.” Dakotah replied, his voice tinged with dread.

Ely patted Dakotah on the back. “It’ll be okay. You can do this.” she said, soothingly.

Dakotah arose from the chair, and walked slowly to the phone. Taking a deep breath, he dialed.

“Hello?” An elderly woman’s voice answered.

“H-hello, is this the R-Reynolds residence?” Dakotah stammered.

“Yes it is.” The voice snapped. “Who is this? You are not Elizabeth Lennon!”

“N-no. “I-I’m Dakotah Lennon, her grandson.” he replied, timidly. “You probably don’t remember me.”

“No.” she replied, irritated. “Well, what is it you want, calling me in the middle of the night?”

“I-I’m afraid I have bad news.” Dakotah said, swallowing hard. “Grandma passed away earlier tonight.”

There was a pause on the line. “I see.” she said, not changing her tone. “Have you found her effects?”

“Effects?” Dakotah said, confused.

“Yes, effects.” she replied, becoming cross. “Her will, her deeds, and such.”

Dakotah was taken aback by her attitude. “Oh, yes. She left your phone number on a piece of paper with it.” he said, flatly.

“Put the documents where you found them, and leave them alone!” the woman said angrily. “I will attend to them when I get there. You shouldn’t have been snooping around things that are not of your concern!”

“How else would I have found you?” Dakotah exclaimed, flabbergasted. “You weren’t in her address book!”

“Regardless, as her executor, I advise you to return the documents to their proper place.” she said, unperturbed. “I’ll be there in the morning to collect them, and begin the process.”

“Okay.” Dakotah replied, trying to shed his frustration. “Do you have any idea when you will get here? Maybe I could fix a brunch?”

“I have not ascertained an exact time of arrival yet.” she said, without emotion. “When I do arrive, I will collect the necessary documents, and leave.”

“O-Okay.” Dakotah replied, not knowing what else to say. “See you.”

Mrs. Reynolds hung up the phone without replying. Dakotah, stunned, looked at the receiver, then hung it up, shaking his head.

“What’s wrong?” Sylvia asked.

“I don’t know.” Dakotah replied, trying to get a grasp on what was said. “She said she would be here sometime in the morning. She didn’t sound very nice.”

“Maybe she was in shock.” Rev. Daniels offered. “People sometimes act odd when tragedy strikes.”

“Maybe.” Dakotah said, shrugging his shoulders. “She said to put all the papers back in the filing cabinet, and she’ll get them when she arrives.”

Rev. Daniels nodded, and began to gather the paperwork.

“Are you staying the night here?” Sylvia asked.

“Yes, I don’t have anywhere else to go.” Dakotah said, matter-of-factly.

Sylvia began to say something, but thought better of it, knowing his answer before she even asked the question.

“ I guess I’ll live here. Don’t know why I would not be.” Dakotah said, shrugging his shoulders. “With my new job, I think I can afford the utilities, the food, and the gas.”

“You have a job?” Sylvia said, surprised.

“Yeah, I guess I’m his part time secretary.” Dakotah said, pointing to Rev. Daniels.

“I suppose that next Monday might be a better time to start, since this week will be occupied.” Rev. Daniels said. “Don’t assume that you’ll be living here, long term. Unless you’re the beneficiary in the will, the one who actually gets the house could evict you, or sell the house outright. Just a word of caution.”

The words made Dakotah uneasy, causing him to sigh. “I hope not. I don’t know what I’d do!”

“I guess I’ll be going home.” Sylvia announced, yawning. She hugged Dakotah lightly, and he embraced her in a similar fashion. “You take care, sweetie.” she said, smiling weakly. “Let me know if you need anything, okay?”

“Okay, mom.” Dakotah replied feeling that she wasn’t wholly sincere. “Love you, and thanks.”

After Sylvia left, Rev. Daniels turned to Dakotah. “I get the weirdest vibe between you two.” he said, grimacing. “It’s like her being here with you is the last thing she wanted to do, and that you didn’t want her here, either.

Dakotah thought for a moment. “I’d say that’s an accurate observation.” he sighed. “I guess she came here out of guilt. Honestly, I wish I never made the call to her.”

“I wish I had some concrete advice to give you, aside from praying for His help to guide you.” Rev. Daniels said, placing his hand on Dakotah’s shoulder. “Time will tell whether or not you two become close again.”

Dakotah nodded. “At least I have you guys here. I don’t know what I’d do.”

Well, we’re here for you, forever and ever!” Ely exclaimed, hugging Dakotah tightly.

“Remember, I’m only a phone call away, 24/7/365.” Rev. Daniels said, looking straight into Dakotah’s eyes. “My door’s always open, too.”

“Thanks.” Dakotah replied, relaxing a bit. “It means a lot to me to hear that. When the four of us were at the table together, you two felt more like my family than she did.”

“I’m sure she loves you, even though you may not feel it.” Rev. Daniels said, encouragingly. “Given time, you two may get close again.”

“”I don’t know, it feels like I have no family left!” Dakotah cried. “Mom abandoned me, my father is who-knows-where, I have an aunt and uncle that I only remember meeting once, and now my grandmother’s gone!” He began to weep.

“I know, Dakotah, losing a loved one hurts like nothing else.” Rev. Daniels said, putting his arm around Dakotah. “When I lost Ely’s mother, it took every bit of faith and strength to get through the pain. God only knows why people pass on before we think they should. I surely don’t have any answers. Nevertheless, we’re still here, and we must go on, for their sakes, and our own. As for me, I had a four year old that depended wholly on me, and I couldn’t forsake her, no matter what.”

Rev Daniels put his hands on Dakotah’s shoulders, and looked him in the eye. “As for what you should do now, I don’t have any easy answers. You know and I know that the gig at the church is only a temporary thing. I don’t see you as my secretary twenty years from now, and I think you don’t want that either, do you?”

Dakotah shook his head, without saying anything.

“The part time job at the church is only a step, the first step of a long journey for you. I hope, if meteorology is what you want to make your life’s work, then do whatever it takes to make it so. You have the skillset and work ethic to succeed.”

“I-I don’t know.” Dakotah stammered, shaking his head again.

“I’ve seen you with those kids on Wednesdays, I’ve seen you doing chores at church, and most importantly, I’ve seen your work with Ely. Once you’ve set your mind to do something, you never give up until you finish it.”

“Dad’s right, Dak.” Ely agreed. “If it wasn’t for you working with me and pushing me, I doubt I would impress UM into giving me a full scholarship.”

“Once things settle down, and you find some stability in your life, you’ll have to look inside yourself, pray for guidance, and figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life.” Rev. Daniels said. “Besides being married to my daughter!” He continued with a smirk.

“DADDY!” Ely shouted, slapping her father in the arm. Dakotah’s face reddened, but he couldn’t resist smiling a little.

“Don’t even think it, buddy!” Ely ranted, pointing her finger at Dakotah.

“On second thought, maybe that’s not such a good idea after all, Dak.” Rev. Daniels said, rubbing his arm. “She seems to be as mean as her mother! I think you should steer clear of her!” He gave Ely a wink, causing her to roll her eyes.

“Seriously though, harness the energies you use to help others, and concentrate them on yourself.” Rev. Daniels said, changing his tone to a more serious one. “Find your passion, and make it so.” he continued, pointing forward.

Dakotah took a deep breath, and exhaled loudly. “My head is starting to hurt. This is too much to take in.”

“I’m sorry Dak, but I just wanted to emphasize that this isn’t the end of the world.” Rev. Daniels said. “I think right now you should try and get some rest.”

“I’ll try.” Dakotah replied, unsure whether or not he could.

“Well, I guess I’ll be going.” Rev. Daniels said. “Remember, if you need anything, just call.”

“Be careful going home.” Dakotah said, a wave of worry passing over him. “I’ll call you tomorrow, after my aunt arrives, and we figure something out.”

Dakotah turned to Ely, and held her hands. “Thanks for coming. It really meant a lot to me.”

“I’m not going anywhere.” Ely said, her eyes piercing his.

“Huh?” Dakotah blurted, confused.

“What are you talking about?” Rev. Daniels said, surprised.

“I’m staying the night here with Dak.” Ely said, firmly. “I can’t just leave him here alone after what happened!”

“Ah, you have school tomorrow, remember?” Dakotah said, protesting slightly.

“I’m good on all my classes, and besides, I have a free ride at UM!” Ely replied, confidently. “I can afford to take the day off, so I can keep you company.”

“Alan, is this okay with you?” Dakotah asked, noting that Rev. Daniels hadn’t offered an opinion.

“Sure, I don’t see why she couldn’t, if you don’t have a problem with it.” Rev. Daniels said, thoughtfully. “As long as you two behave, and not fool around, of course!”

“Fooling around?” Ely said, indignantly. “Not happening!”

“Like she said, she has her life in order.” Rev Daniels said. “She’s old enough to make her own decisions.”

“Okay.” Dakotah said, shrugging his shoulders. “Sure. Why not?”

“Good.” Rev. Daniels said, beginning to smile a little. “Now, I mean it, you two. If something happens, I’ll have to get my shotgun out of the closet, understand?”

“Daddy, you don’t even own a shotgun!” Ely protested, rolling her eyes.

“Have you been snooping in my closet?” Rev. Daniels retorted, mocking her. “I don’t think so!”

“I-I don’t think you have anything to worry about.” Dakotah said, confused.

“It’s okay, Dak, I was just teasing.” Rev. Daniels replied calmly. “You, I trust. Others, no so much.”

“DADDY!”

“Call me if you need anything, okay, Dak?” Rev. Daniels repeated.

“Will do.” Dakotah replied, fatigue beginning to set in. “Be careful going home.”

“Be careful, Daddy, love you. “ Ely said, hugging her father.

“Love you, too.” Rev. Daniels said, hugging her back. “Be good. See you tomorrow.”

Rev. Daniels walked out in the cold, snowy night, entered his car, and slowly pulled out into the street.

Dakotah and Ely stare at each other for a moment, without saying anything.

“Can I get you anything?” Dakotah asked, otherwise at a loss for words.

“Something to sleep in would be nice.” Ely replied.

“Something to sleep in?” Dakotah asked, becoming confused.

“Yeah. I don’t want to sleep in these clothes.” Ely said, patiently. I’d like something cozy.”

“Grandma has nightgowns, but I-“

“No!” Ely shouted, horrified. “I’m not wearing her clothes!”

“Didn’t think you would.” Dakotah said, trying to calm her down. “I have some pajamas, but I don’t think they’ll fit you.”

“Ooh, that sounds good!” Ely said, contentedly. “I’ll try some on!”

Dakotah, with Ely following, entered his room, and opened a dresser drawer, pulling out a blue pair of pajamas.

“I’m going to get a shower.” Dakotah announced, pulling a pair of briefs out of another drawer.

“Whitey tighties?” Ely giggled. “I should’ve known!”

“What about it?” Dakotah exclaimed, his face becoming beet red. “They’re comfortable!” He quickly folded the underwear inside the pajamas, out of view.

Gomeni. I think it’s cute!” Ely said, smiling. “I’ll see if there’s anything I can wear.”

Dakotah entered the bathroom, locking the door behind him. Exhaling, and shaking his head, he showers quickly, and dresses. He checked his face for any growth, and finding none, he stepped outside.

Ely stood before him, wearing a yellow pair of pajamas. The sleeves extended past her hands, and the bottoms were baggy, the drawstring making a huge bow in front.

She’s really cute like this.” Dakotah thought to himself.

“These’ll work.” Ely announced.

“Can you get around without falling all over yourself?” Dakotah asked.

“I look silly, but I’ll be fine.” Ely reassured. “Question, though.”

“What?” Dakotah said, curious.

“Why did you lock the door when you took your shower?”

The question caught Dakotah off guard. “Wh-why? How did you know? Did you try to come into the bathroom?”

“As if!” Ely exclaimed, shaking her head. “No, I heard the lock click when you locked it. Did you think I was going to peep?”

“N-No!” Dakotah stammered. “I-I always have locked the bathroom door, especially when I lived at home! Frank never knocked if he needed in there, he just barged in, and did his business.”

“I’m sorry, Dak.” Ely said, changing her tone. “I didn’t mean to come across like that. It just stuck me as odd, that’s all.”

“That’s okay.” Dakotah said, staring blankly. “Look, I can’t even think right now. I have to go to bed, and try to get some rest. Aunt what’s-her-name will be here tomorrow, and I have to be ready for when she arrives.”

Dakotah slipped under the cover, and Ely did likewise. Immediately, Dakotah sat up, and stared at Ely.

“What are you doing?” he shouted, alarmed.

“Getting in bed, silly.” Ely said, puzzled. “What am I supposed to do?”

“My bed?” Dakotah said, his mind spinning.

“Do you really think I’m going to sleep on the couch, or God forbid, in your Grandmother’s bed?” Ely retorted.

“I-I-I uhhhh, it never occurred to me you’d sleep here!” Dakotah said, flabbergasted.

“Well, here I am, so calm down, lie down, and try to get some sleep!” Ely exhorted.

“O-okay.” Dakotah said, obeying Ely’s commands. “I’m sorry, but I’ve never shared my bed with anyone before. It’s really weird.”

“I guess I can understand that, since you never really had any friends.” Ely said softly. “I used to have friends from church over for sleepovers, but that kinda stopped a few years back.”

“This is usually the time I spend thinking before I fall asleep.” Dakotah said, barely above a whisper. “It’s really quiet, and I feel the most peace at this time.”

“Oh my gosh, it’s cold in this bed!” Ely said, beginning to shiver. “Why is this house always so cold?”

“Grandma kept the thermostat low to save energy, since she was on a fixed budget.” Dakotah said. “I agree, it can get cold at first, but with all these blankets, It’ll get warm, eventually.”

“Roll over on your side, please!” Ely said, pushing Dakotah.

“Why?” Dakotah asked, doing as she asked. “I’m not taking up too much of the bed, am I?”

“You’re going to be my heat source!” Ely said, snuggling up behind him, her arms folded up between her and his back. “Ahhh, that’s better!”

Dakotah laid there, speechless, and unable to move, his brain barely processing what was happening. All Dakotah knew at that moment was the girl of his dreams was lying in bed behind him, close enough to feel her breath between his shoulders.

“Are you okay?” Ely whispered, sensing something amiss.

Dakotah shook his head slightly, not saying anything.

Ely reached up and touched Dakotah’s shoulders, causing him to twitch. “My gosh, you’re so tense.” she spoke, and began to rub on his shoulders. “I’m sorry, all of this is too much, isn’t it?”

Dakotah first began to sob, then wept openly, still not saying anything. Ely stopped rubbing his shoulders, and slid her arms under his, hugging him from behind tightly.

“It’s okay, let it all out.” Ely whispered in Dakotah’s ear. “I’m here.”

Dakotah shook his head. “Y-You won’t be.” he said, under his breath.

“What do you mean?” Ely said, confused. “Where would I be?”

“Less than a year from now, you’ll be in Ann Arbor.” Dakotah said, between sobs. “And a couple of years from now, you could be in Japan!”

Ely released Dakotah from her grasp, and rolled on her back, away from him. She took a deep breath, and exhaled, shivering a bit since she was on the cold side of the bed. “You feel like you’re going to be all alone in the world, aren’t you?”

“Yeah.” Dakotah mumbled, wiping away tears.

“As long as I draw breath, you will be my best friend, and I will always hold a special place in my heart for you.” Ely said, looking at Dakotah. “But don’t you think I have the right to live my dream?”

“Yeah.” Dakotah muttered.

“Besides, you’re not alone. There’s Vanessa, and-“

“I don’t care about Vanessa!” Dakotah wailed. “You can’t make me want her any more than I can make you want me!”

Ely sighed, not saying anything.

“Besides, she’s been weird lately.” Dakotah continued, sniffling. “We hardly ever talk at church anymore, and we don’t talk on the phone like we had. She didn’t even return my call tonight.“

“I’m sure there’s a good reason, Dak.” Ely said, soothingly.

“Maybe she figured out what kind of loser I am.” Dakotah whined.

Ely became frustrated at Dakotah, but chose not to say how she felt, biting her lip in the process. After a couple of moments of reflection, she spoke.

“You’re only a loser if you’ve given up, if people have given up on you.” she said, squeezing him from behind again. “There’s a lot of people in your life that care deeply about you. For instance, how much money has your aunt from Kentucky given you?”

“Thirteen or fourteen hundred dollars.” Dakotah said, again wiping away tears.

“Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why would your aunt send you all that money?”

“Because I needed transportation.”

“Okay, that’s the literal reason.” Ely said, patiently, “But why would she help you?”

“Oh. Yeah.” Dakotah said, gathering his wits. “I guess she loves me.”

“She thinks you’re worthy enough to be helped.” Ely said confidently. “If you were a loser, do you think she would risk that much money on you?”

“I don’t guess so.”

“Right. If dad thought you were a loser, would he offered you, and only you, a job?” Ely said, her voice gathering momentum. She sighed. “And do you think he would keep playing matchmaker if you were a loser?”

“Heh. Guess not.”

“Would Mama offer Andre’s bedroom for you to stay in if you were a loser?”

Dakotah shook his head, not saying anything.

Ely took a deep breath, and began to tear up. “Dakotah Lennon, even though life may take me to the other side of the world, I will never, never, ever forget you. If I needed you, you would come, to Ann Arbor, even to Japan, no matter what it took.”

“You better believe it.” Dakotah said, choking up.

“I honestly don’t think Hannah would do that, as much as we love each other.”

“That’s because you made the wrong choice.” Dakotah said, beginning to smile.

“Time will tell, won’t it?” Ely said, laughing a little. “But, if you were a loser, would I be here spending the night with you?”

Dakotah pulled away out of Ely’s grasp, and rolled toward Ely, so that he was now facing her. “Thank you, Ely. I love you.” he whispered.

“We believe in you, Dak.” Ely whispered back. “You just have to overcome all those years of brainwashing, and believe in yourself.”

“I want to believe what all of you are saying, but it’s so hard.” Dakotah said, wiping away a tear.

“You know, I usually don’t talk spiritually, since my dad is a preacher. ” Ely said, still whispering. “But God is behind you too, if you have faith in Him, and yourself. Pray. Pray for His strength, and guidance, and He’ll help you get through this rough stretch.

“It’s kinda weird hearing you talk like that.” Dakotah said, smiling.

“Hey, I’m not totally the rebellious preacher’s daughter, right?” Ely said, beginning to laugh.

“Whatever!” Dakotah said, joining in the laughter.

Ely rolled over to the side of the bed, and picked up her cell phone. “It’s 2:17!” We’d better get some sleep!”

“Yeah, I don’t know when my aunt will be here.” Dakotah said. “I’m assuming she’ll be driving in from Rochester in the morning.”

“I’ll have Daddy pick me up in the morning. I don’t want your aunt thinking we’ve been sleeping together.”

“I guess we will be sleeping together, huh?” Dakotah said sheepishly.

“Literally, yes, but you know what I mean, baka!” Ely said, swatting him lightly.

“Well, I ‘ll set the alarm at 8:00.” Dakotah said, reaching over to adjust his alarm clock.

“I’m setting my phone to go off at 7:30.” Ely said, swiping her fingers on her phone. “I’m not taking any chances.”

“Okay, then.” Dakotah yawned, the weight of the evening finally overcoming him. “Sweet dreams.”

“Goodnight, Dak.” Ely whispered, snuggling behind Dakotah again.

“Ely?”

“What?”

“Thanks.”

“Anytime.”

“How about tomorrow night?”

Baka-yarō!”

*****

 

January 28th, 2009

 

It seemed that Dakotah had just closed his eyes when he heard the doorbell ring. Slowly getting his bearings, he closed the bedroom door behind him, and stumbled his way through the dark house to the front door.

Still groggy, his heart began to beat faster as he reached for the doorknob. “Who the heck could it be at this hour?” he thought to himself.

Standing before him in the predawn gloom, was an elderly woman, immaculately dressed in an expensive black woolen coat and matching hat.

“Dakotah Lennon, I presume?” asked the lady.

“Yes, I am.” Dakotah replied, the combination of the subfreezing temperatures and the situation at hand instantly snapping him to. “Won’t you come in?”

Dakotah quickly turned on the lamp on the side table, as the lady stepped inside. “I’m sorry, I don’t know who you are.” he said, apologetically. “Would you like a seat?”

“No thank you, I won’t be long.” the lady said, matter-of-factly. “My name is Jean Reynolds. I am Elizabeth’s sister.”

“Really?” Dakotah exclaimed, surprised. ”Don’t you live in New York, somewhere? How did you get here so fast?”

“Yes, Rochester, to be exact.” Jean said, disinterested. “Simply, I hired a private jet and flew to Flint, where I rented a car, and drove the rest of the way here. Now, where are the documents?”

“Oh, they’re over here, in the filing cabinet. I’ll get them-.”

“Thank you, no, I shall retrieve them.” Jean said, interrupting Dakotah. “I wish you hadn’t tampered with them.”

“We didn’t know who to contact!” Dakotah exclaimed, becoming irritated. “The filing cabinet contained the only papers with your contact information on it!”

“We?” Jean said coldly. “Who’s “we”?”

“Ah, it was my mom, my pastor, and his daughter.” Dakotah replied, becoming defensive. “Everything’s in there.”

“I would hope so.” Jean snapped. “If everything’s not In order, I will not hesitate to contact the proper authorities.”

Dakotah became nervous, even though he knew no one had done anything wrong. He chose not to say a word.

Jean quickly scanned the filing cabinet, retrieved the manila envelope, and looked over the contents. “They appear to all be here. I’ll pass these on to my lawyer.”

“I-If you need anything, just ask, and I’ll do my best to help.” Dakotah said, timidly.

“That would be advisable.” Jean said, indifferently. “I’m leaving now, to meet with my lawyer, and the funeral home. I will return later today. See to it that the house remains in its’ present condition.” She wheeled around and exited through the front door, leaving Dakotah speechless.

Watching his great aunt get into a black Escalade and pull away, Dakotah turned, and headed toward his bedroom. He almost opened the door, but stopped himself, and knocked instead. “It’s me.” He announced. “She’s gone now. May I come in?”

Ely opened the door, revealing a made bed, herself fully dressed, and makeup applied perfectly. “That is not a nice lady.” she stated plainly.

“Tell me about it!” Dakotah exclaimed, shaking his head. “I was wondering if she was going to call the cops on me!”

“I’d better call Dad, and have him pick me up.” Ely said, feeling uncomfortable. “I don’t want to be here when she returns.”

“I’ll take you home.” Dakotah countered. “I need some fresh air, anyway.”

“Thanks for keeping me hidden.” Ely sighed. “If she saw me in your pj’s, I would have died.”

“Thanks for making the bed.” Dakotah said, beginning to smile. “I began to wonder if she was going to start counting the silverware!”

Hurry up and get ready then, and take me home!” Ely said in a rush. “Knowing that woman, she’ll be back in an hour!”

Ely exited the bedroom as Dakotah entered it, closing the door behind him. Making sure he didn’t lock the door, he quickly changed.

“Okay, I’m ready.” Dakotah said as he left the bedroom. Pausing, and peering into the living room, his eyes began to moisten.

“What’s wrong?” Ely asked, concerned.

“Grandma always had her morning news shows on TV every day, while drinking a cup of coffee.” Dakotah said, wiping a tear. “It’s really quiet now.”

“You can do the same thing, before you come to the church. Ely said, trying to console him.

“Nah.” Dakotah said, shaking his head. “I always hated those shows. All they had was bad news, and that depressed me. I have enough trouble in my life without hearing about other’s problems.”

“That’s an odd thing for you to say, since you’re always helping others in need.” Ely said, curiously.

“If I can help them, that’s one thing.” Dakotah countered. “But I can’t fix the world’s problems, and with the news, that’s all you hear.”

Ely looked up in to Dakotah’s eyes. “I always pray for them. Don’t you?”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t seem to do any good.” Dakotah replied, avoiding eye contact.

“You don’t know that, do you?” Ely said, pointedly. “What if your prayers help one person? It would be worth it, right?”

Dakotah shrugged his shoulders, and nodded. “You’re right. Ely?”

“Yeah?”

Dakotah clutched Ely, and held her tightly. She reciprocated in kind, patting his shoulders.

“Thanks for everything.” Dakotah said, whispering into her ear.

“Anytime.” Ely whispered back. “Now let go of me, so I can breathe.”

Gomen.” Dakotah said, releasing her instantly.

*****

Dakotah took Ely home, stopping on the way at a fast food restaurant drive through for breakfast. He had planned on cooking breakfast at home, but his aunt’s arrival, and her attitude, changed his plans. In short order, he pulled into her driveway.

“Let us know what happens, okay?” Ely said, emphatically.

“You’ll be the first one I call, I guarantee it.” Dakotah said, smiling a little.

“What about your aunt in Kentucky? She doesn’t know anything about what happened, does she?”

“No.” Dakotah replied, shaking his head. ”I’ll call her this afternoon, after she gets home from work. I don’t know if Unk’s home, and their son is, well, weird.”

“He must really be weird, if you say he’s weird!” Ely said grinning.

“Hey! Pot calling the kettle black!” Dakotah said in mock indignation. They both laugh.

“Ely reached across the seat, and grasped Dakotah’s hand. “You be careful, okay?”

“Absolutely.”

“Call me?”

“Yep. Thanks.”

“See you.”

“See you.”

*****

Flurries accompanied Dakotah as he made his way home; there were isolated slick spots on the streets, but he traversed them with ease.

Arriving at his grandmother’s, he parked under the carport, and entered through the kitchen, as he had a mere 14 hours prior, before his world turned upside down. Dak listened for a moment to the silence, and sighed, but felt that it was no time to be distraught. Gathering the cleaning supplies under the sink, he set about cleaning the entire house, as well as he knew how. Elizabeth kept the house fairly clean, but with the lights on, he saw high places that needed dusting, and cobwebs in the corners of the ceiling. Nothing in the house escaped his scrutiny, from vacuuming, to scrubbing the bathroom and kitchen.

It only took a couple of hours for Dakotah to clean the entire house, as it wasn’t that dirty to begin with. Out of breath, he sat at the kitchen table, looked about, and sighed. He had busied himself earlier, not allowing himself the opportunity to think about his immediate future. However, now that the tasks had been completed, he began to consider his situation.

“What’s going to happen to me now?” Dakotah said to himself aloud. “Will I get kicked out of this house, too?” He thought that maybe he could eke out a living if he stayed there rent free, but if his aunt charged him rent, living there on $800 a month would be impossible. Although both Rev. Daniels and Mama had offered him a place to live, he didn’t feel comfortable taking them up on their offers. He certainly couldn’t go back to his mother’s! There was also his Aunt Louise’s offer to move to Kentucky, but he cringed at the thought of moving down there, away from Ely.

Dakotah heard a vehicle pull up the driveway, parking behind Elizabeth’s car. He looked out the window, and saw that it was the same Escalade as earlier. He opened the kitchen door, noting that not only his great aunt exited the SUV, but also two men and one woman as well.

“Come in this way!” Dakotah beckoned. “The walkway’s clear here!” He noticed that all four were professionally dressed and carried small briefcases, which made him uneasy.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were coming, or I would’ve fixed you some coffee, or something.” Dakotah said, anxiously. “If you wish, I’ll start a pot.”

“That won’t be necessary.” Jean snapped. ”We will do our business here, and leave.”

One of the men and the woman each pulled out a clipboard and their smartphone, and began taking notes, and snapping photos. The man was inspecting furniture, while the woman went through every room of the house.

“The other man, dressed in a black suit and a black wool overcoat, turned to Dakotah. “You’re Elizabeth’s grandson, I presume?”

“Y-Yes.” Dakotah replied, uncomfortably. “What are these people doing?”

“The lady is a realtor, and the gentleman is an antiques appraiser. “The man said with a confident air. “I am Mrs. Reynolds’ lawyer. We have to appraise the house and contents, in order to put it up for auction.”

Dakotah almost became woozy. “A-a-auction?”

“Yes.” The lawyer continued, coolly. “According to the will, Mrs. Reynolds is the executor, the one in charge of making sure Mrs. Lennon’s wishes are carried out, and any debt she may owe is paid.”

“Okay, I know that.” Dakotah said, shaking his head in disbelief. “Why an auction?”

“The will states that all of her material possessions be auctioned off, and put into a trust, with your father as the sole beneficiary.” the lawyer announced. “Of course, that’s minus any debts your grandmother may have, and any expenses generated in the process of executing the will.”

“Why are you telling him this?” Jean said angrily to her lawyer. “None of this is any of his business!”

“On the contrary, Mrs. Reynolds.” The lawyer said, remaining calm. “Dakotah is in the will as well, if you recall. All personal effects, such as her diary, and her photo albums, are to become his.”

Jean harrumphed without saying a word.

“You currently live here, correct?” the lawyer asked Dakotah.

“Y-yeah.” Dakotah stuttered, his mind swimming.

“I’m afraid you will have to vacate within 30 days.” the lawyer said in a monotone.

Dakotah was in shock, speechless.

“However, there is one exception,  that will alter the proceedings.” the lawyer continued.

“What?” Dakotah replied, weakly.

“If your father can be reached, and we haven’t been able to do that yet, he has the option to keep the house, and pay the debts.”

“If I remember correctly, no one has seen him since Harold Lennon passed.” Jean said, with an air of superiority.

“Pretty much.” Dakotah offered in a low tone. “Mom’s been trying to find him for years.”

Jean straightened her shoulders, and pointed at Dakotah. “Unless by some miracle you father happens to show up, in thirty days I expect you to have vacated these premises, is that clear?”

“Y-yeah.” Dakotah muttered, looking down.

“And another thing, young man.” Jean, continued, condescendingly. “Ms. Hawkins and Mr. George are documenting the condition of the house, and the contents therein. If any of it is damaged, or missing, you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Do I make myself absolutely clear?”

“Just who are you, anyway?” Dakotah shouted, becoming furious. “You’re not one bit sad that Grandma died!”

“How I grieve is none of your business.” Jean snapped, scornfully. “I have seen this day coming for many years, and I have taken the steps necessary to mitigate any damages resulting from her passing. This is purely business. I don’t know you, and I don’t want to know you. All you are to me is a potential loss to my bottom line, and I will not allow that to happen. Do you understand?“

“Yes.” Dakotah replied, stunned, but unbowed. The other three, having witnessed the exchange, were also stunned.

“Well, are you finished?” Jean said, irritated. The three professionals nod, without saying a word.

“Good.” Jean continued, completely ignoring Dakotah. “We’ll discuss this on the way to the office.”

Jean turned, and walked out of the house,  the three professionals in tow. Within seconds, the Cadillac could be heard roaring down the street.

Dakotah collapsed in a kitchen chair, cradled his head in his hands, and wept heavily for several minutes. After gaining his composure, he called Rev. Daniels.

“Hello?” Ely answered, anxious to hear what happened.

“Hi.” Dakotah replied, downtrodden.

“What happened?” Ely said, alarmed.

“I always thought that Frank was the worst person possible. I think my aunt is even worse than him.”

“No way.” Ely replied, shocked.

“All I am to her is someone who could mess up this precious house, like I’m some cockroach, or something.” Dakotah stated, becoming angry again.

“What?” Ely said, not understanding. “Why?”

“She and her lawyer gave me thirty days to move out of the house, and if anything happened to it, they would have me put in jail.” Dakotah said, bitterly.

“Wow.” Ely said, shaking her head in disbelief. “I’m so sorry, Dak.”

“They are going to auction everything off, with the money going to Dad, unless they find him, and he decides to keep the house.” Dakotah said, numbly.

“Your dad?” Ely said, incredulously. “Do you even remember your dad?”

“Barely.” Dakotah said, sighing. “Like they’re going to find him, anyway.”

“I’m so sorry, Dak.” Ely said, full of empathy. “What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know.” Dakotah said, his mind drawing a blank. “You don’t want me there, and staying at Mama’s-“

“It would be really weird, but my dad would take you in an instant.” Ely interrupted. “If you had no place to go, I would just deal with it for a while until I moved to UM.”

“There’s also Mama’s.” Dakotah said, sensing Ely’s unease. “Staying in Andre’s room would give me the creeps, I think.”

“And there’s Kentucky.” Ely said, stating the option neither of them wanted to talk about.

“Yeah. I definitely don’t want to go there.” Dakotah said, shaking his head. “I’d have to give everything up if I moved there.”

“That’s not saying much, sorry.” Ely said, pointedly.

“I have my friends and my church. I don’t need much else.” Dakotah said, defiantly.

“I hope you’re right.” Ely said, sighing.

Dakotah looked up at the clock. “Speaking of Kentucky, my Aunt Louise should be getting home from work now. I need to call her, and tell her what happened, even though I’m going to hear her try to sell me on moving down there.”

“Well, you owe her that. “ Ely said, matter-of-factly. “I’ll pass the word to Dad. I’m sure he’ll be calling you soon.”

“Thanks. I’ll call Rev. Higgins first, and see if he knows when the funeral is.” Dakotah said, thinking.

“That’s a good idea. Let us know, in case Dad doesn’t already know.”

“Will do.”

“Take care, Dak. I’ll be praying for you.”

“Thanks, you too.”

Dakotah hung up the phone, and, finding the phone book on the desk, looked up the phone number to 1st Baptist. After three rings, a lady answered the phone.

“Hi, this is Dakotah Lennon. Is-“

“Oh, Dakotah, I’m so sorry what happened to Elizabeth!” the voice on the line gushed.  “Do you know what happened yet?”

“No, I don’t.” Dakotah said, feeling the pain of recalling the previous night. “Is Brother Higgins in?”

“No, I’m sorry, he’s in a business meeting.” The receptionist replied unhappily. “Can I take a message, or is there something I can do?”

“When he finds out when Grandma’s funeral is, can he call me?”

“Oh wait, I have the visitation schedule right here.” the receptionist said. “It’s from 2PM to 6PM Thursday, and 10AM to 2 PM Friday, with the funeral at 2PM Friday. Didn’t you know that?”

“No, no one told me.” Dakotah said, sadly.

“You haven’t had contact with the funeral home?” the receptionist said, confused.

“No, her sister’s in charge of the preparations. I haven’t heard a thing.”

“Not to be insulting, but Brother Higgins said your aunt is…..odd.”

“She’s probably the most cold-blooded person I’ve ever met.” Dakotah said,  plainly. “Thanks for the info.”

“You’re welcome.” the receptionist said, warmly. “Oh! I have an incoming call. Take care, Dakotah.”

“You, too.”

Dakotah wrote the visitation and funeral times down, knowing that they were already etched in his mind. Taking a deep breath, he called his aunt, hoping that she would be the one answering.

“Hello?” a familiar female voice answered.

“Hi, Aunt Lou.”

“What’s wrong?” Louise immediately replied, sensing something amiss.

“Grandma passed away last night.” Dakotah said, solemnly.

“Oh my gosh!” Louise exclaimed, shocked. “How?”

“I don’t know.” Dakotah said, tiring of this response. “I found her on the floor last night, but it was too late.”

Louise paused for a moment. “So, what happening now? What are you going to do?”

“I called her sister in New York, and she came over and took over all the arrangements.” Dakotah said, plainly. “The funeral’s Friday.”

“Oh, that’s good. How are you?”

“Not so good.” Dakotah said, becoming downcast. “My great aunt’s lawyer says I have to move in thirty days. If they can’t find my father, or if he doesn’t want the house, they’re going to auction off the house.”

“Well, I don’t see that happening.” Louise said. “ What are you going to do?”

“I have no idea.” Dakotah said, bracing for what her opinion would be.

“I do. Come to Kentucky.” Louise said, forcefully.

“Thank you, no.” Dakotah said, tersely.

“Give me one good reason why not?” Louise said, becoming instantly irritated. “You’re still pining for that little gay girl, aren’t you?”

“It’s more than that.” Dakotah said, keeping his anger in check. “I have a job now.”

“Really?” Louise said, surprised. “Where?”

“At the church.” Dakotah replied, not know how she would react.

“Doing what? How much?” Louise said, becoming disappointed.

“Answering the phone, and stuff.” Dakotah said, his voice losing momentum. 200 a week.”

“You’re kidding me.” Louise said, exasperated. “That’s it?”

“Well, it’s only twenty hours a week.” Dakotah said, becoming defensive.

“Dak, you could be making 600-700 a week down here, plus insurance, vacations, even bonuses on top of that!”

“Sounds okay, but I think I’ll make a go of it up here.” Dakotah said, wishing the conversation was over.

“I think you’re making a big mistake, Dakotah.” Louise said, slowly regaining her composure. “These jobs aren’t going to stay around forever.”

“I’ll be okay, Lou, promise.” Dakotah said, trying to reassure her. “By the way, you can stop sending me money, since I have a job now. I’m not sure when I can pay you back, for all you’ve done so far, but I appreciate all the help you’ve given me.”

“Well, you’re supposedly a grown man.” Louise said, digging at Dakotah. “I’m not coming up there to drag your butt down here.”

“I know you love me,” Dakotah said, trying to regain his aunt’s confidence, “but give me a chance, okay?”

“Fine.” Louise said, sighing. “If you get your hind end in a sling, I may bail you out. Maybe.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Dakotah said, beginning to smile a little. “Thanks, Lou. Love you.”

“Love you, too, turd.” Louise said, still slightly perturbed. “You take care of yourself, and I mean it! You better call us if you need anything, you hear?”

“Got it. Bye.”

“Bye.” Louise hung up the phone, and muttered to herself, “I’m going to string that boy up, one of these days. He’s become as dumb as his mother!”

Dakotah breathed a sigh of relief, as he looked out the window. The sun began to peek out under the clouds near the horizon, leaving a pattern of reds, pinks, and purples.

“What a difference a day makes.” he sighed to himself.

The phone rang again; this time, it was Rev. Daniels.

“Tough day, eh, amigo?” Rev. Daniels said, with empathy.

“Yeah, you could say that.” Dakotah replied, suddenly feeling exhausted.

“Listen, don’t worry about what you can’t change.” Rev. Daniels said, trying to raise Dakotah’s spirits. “My advice is to pray for strength to get through the next few days. After the funeral, maybe after you finish a couple of days at church, we’ll get together, and figure a way to get you through this mess. Sound good?”

“Alan, I think those are the best words I’ve heard all day!” Dakotah cried, a wave of relief flowing over him. “Thank you!”

“Not a problem.” Rev. Daniels said, chuckling. “It’s what I do.”

“I’m tired.” Dakotah said, realizing the amount of stress he’d been under.

“It’s early, but go fix something to eat, and get some rest.” It’ll do you good.”

“I think I’ll do that!” Dakotah said, also realizing he hadn’t eaten in six hours.

“Good night, Dak. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Call me anytime if you have any concerns, okay?”

“Thanks, Alan.” Dakotah said, grateful. “Good night.”

Dakotah fixed himself a grilled cheese sandwich, and poured a glass of iced tea. Sitting at the table he clasped his hands together, and bowed his head.

“Lord, thank you for this meal. Thank you, Lord, for blessing me with people who love me, and all the help they’ve given me. And Lord, please tell Grandma I miss her. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.”

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9 responses to “Chapter 12

  • BriarCraft

    There is a saying that when you have hit bottom, the only way is up. It looks to me like Dak has hit bottom, or nearly so. Your writing continues to improve, Wiley. I did find one minor edit you might want to make. About 75% through,there is a paragraph:

    Flurries accompanied Dakotah as he made his way home; there were isolated slick spots on the streets, but he transversed them with ease.

    I think “traversed” might be a better word than “transversed”.

    Write on!

    • wileybr549

      It’s good to have editors to read one’s stuff, lol! You’re right, it does read a lot better. It’s fixed. Thanks for the good words; my original plan was to go a little further in the story with CH#12, but it had already been four months since the last post, and the chapter would probably have been in excess of 20K words, and at least another month to finish.
      It was a tough chapter to write, as I wanted to get Dakotah’s emotions and reactions right, at least to me.
      I’m really glad I was able to get back on WP, as although it didn’t totally stop me from writing, it did sap my will a bit. Although I always knew in the back of my mind never to take anything for granted here, it was still a shock when I couldn’t access this site. If anything, I now want to push the next three chapters through, before something like this happens again. I already have a good head start on Ch#13! :’ )

  • Maria

    Wow! What a beast Jean is! But unfortunately she is very real, there are covetous and heartless people in the world… Enjoyed the read and looking forward to more, I am particularly interested how it ends for Dakota.
    As Briar says, ‘write on’ Ylee!

    • wileybr549

      Thanks, Maria! I try to make the characters in this story recognizable for the readers. If you say “Ah, I know someone just like that!” then I feel I succeeded in one of my main missions.
      It’ll be while before the story ends, but the first phase is almost done!

  • Sandi

    Finally got around to reading chap 12, in the middle of the night when the cough kept me awake.
    I agree with Linda, this chapter, as full of emotion as it is, reads more fluently than previous emotional turmoil….and oh, boy, hasn’t poor Dak had some turmoil in his short life.
    The cold-hearted Jean was a nice touch, so different from the other characters in Dak’s life, who offer him love and kindness….except Frank of course!

  • wileybr549

    I’m glad you all think my writing has improved over time; even I can tell a difference from Chapter 1, lol! At some point, probably after the whole thing is over, I’ll rewrite it, and publish it on Kindle Direct, or Lulu. I realize that’s rather ambitious, but hey, gotta dream, right? :’ )

    Jean originally wasn’t a 1% wannabe, but having her that way sets up the rest of Part 1. Actually, Sylvia is in the “antagonist” camp too, IMO. She does love him as a son, but he gets “Kicked to the curb” if things get tough.

  • wileybr549

    Spent the last two weeks concentrating on the WU blog; this week, I hope to make a good dent on Ch#13, and maybe finish it next week!

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