This story is a continuation of Aftermath.
They knew it could happen, but Rafe and Evelyn McCawley had wanted to tell their oldest son about his parentage when they felt he was old enough. They hadn't counted on him overhearing a conversation and now it was time to explain to him about how he came to be.
The screen door banged shut as Danny McCawley left his parents alone in the front parlor.
Rafe McCawley watched his eldest son walk away and he sighed because for the first time in sixteen years, he felt like a fraud. The knowledge of his best friend and his girl had hurt him deeply, but in his death had given Rafe the responsibility of his child. And even before he'd married Evelyn, her baby had become his.
They'd had two children of their own after they'd returned to Tennessee and for anyone who cared to observe, the two younger McCawley children were treated no differently than their older brother. But there was a closeness between Rafe and Danny that was the envy of many fathers and sons in Shelby.
He was brought back to the present by the feel of Evelyn's arms around his waist. Her head was on his shoulder and she sighed as well. "We knew this day could come Rafe." Her voice was barely above a whisper and he could feel her tremble against him. "We just thought we'd be able to tell him."
A tear rolled down his cheek and he sighed again. "He's my son damn it! He's always been my son!"
"I know Rafe and in his heart Danny does too. We just have to give him some time to take it all in." She tried to reassure him.
The sound of the crop duster being started up got Rafe and Evelyn to the door. He was out on the porch and ran toward the barn. He ain't supposed to be flyin' by himself yet! He'd taken his son up with him for the first time when he was three years old and after that, Rafe couldn't keep him away.
He stood and watched helplessly as Danny took the plane down the rough dirt runway and lifted into the sky. Don't let anythin' happen to him. He said almost as a prayer.
Evelyn had followed her husband out to the barn and when she'd caught up to him, tucked her hand through his arm. "You taught him to fly Rafe, he'll be all right."
"How can you be so damn calm about this?"
"Because he's like you. Once he's up in the air, his instinct takes over and all he thinks about is flying. Come on, let's go inside. He needs some time to himself to sort all of this out."
Rafe nodded and took Evelyn's hand and walked with her back to the house, but not before he took a last look over his shoulder to see the plane that had become a speck on the horizon.
Danny Walker was in his usual spot.
He'd watched his only child grow up with the two people he'd cared about the most in his life and he'd been happier than he ever thought possible.
He knew Rafe would love the boy as his own but now that his son knew the truth about the man he'd always believed to be his father, Danny worried that the relationship between the two would be irreparably damaged. And he was powerless to help.
"How's it going Danny?" Anthony Fusco joined him and frowned.
"It ain't good Anthony. Danny knows that Rafe ain't his daddy." He sighed and ran a hand through his hair.
He nodded. "We heard. But you knew that this could happen."
"Yea. But I was really hopin' that Danny would get through his life without ever havin' any doubt's that he was Rafe's son."
"I'm sorry Danny." He said and put a hand on his friend's shoulder to try and comfort him in some way.
"Me too. What's worse is that there ain't anythin' I can do to help."
Anthony looked at his friend. "You helped them once before or have you forgotten."
"I ain't forgotten anythin' and I know what you're talkin' about. But now ain't the time because this is somethin' that's between Rafe and Danny and they need to work it out without any interference from me."
"I think you could help."
Danny shook his head. "All I'd do is complicate matters." And when he tried to press the issue Danny cut him off. "Leave it alone Anthony, this is somethin' that's between them and they have to work it out themselves."
"You could talk to Evelyn." Anthony wasn't going to give up.
He was incredulous. 'That would really help things, wouldn't it? I could go talk to Evelyn when I'm the one responsible for Danny not bein' Rafe's."
"I'm only trying to help."
Danny sighed. "I know that and I'm tryin' to tell you that the best way that I can help is to stay out of it. Rafe is the only daddy that Danny knows and this is something that a father and a son have to work through."
"All right Danny, whatever you say." Anthony relented.
"Thank you." And he sighed as he watched Rafe and Evelyn go back into the house.
Supper had been achingly awkward.
Danny had come back in time for the evening meal and refused to look at either of his parents. Thomas and Sarah McCawley had been told about the situation and tried to carry on as normally as possible. Their grandson had been dealt a blow and they wanted him to know that nothing had changed.
When the meal was finished, Danny left the house. Rafe followed him as far as the front door and watched him go. He sighed and could feel the tears gather in his eyes. His son was in a lot of pain and there wasn't anything he could do to help him.
"Come on son, let's go outside." Thomas had come up behind him and put a hand on his shoulder.
They walked out on to the front porch and sat down on the swing. Thomas lit his pipe and he sat with his only son and watched as Danny sat down in front of the marker.
"Just love him son, he'll be all right."
"I don't know Daddy. I grew up never havin' any doubts that I was your son. Danny don't have that anymore."
"Rafe, until now Danny never had any doubts that you were his daddy. You never treated him any differently than you treated Sarah or Joseph and he knows that. What you did do was treat him like your first born and he knows that too."
"I hope you're right Daddy." Rafe sighed.
"Give him time son, give him time." Thomas said as he puffed on his pipe and they sat together in the evening twilight and watched Rafe's oldest son at Danny Walker's marker.