Chapter 61 Tensile Strength
Last day of good weather tomorrow rain and 55 degrees, someone remind me why I live here. Oh yeah family, business, partners, and of course the mountains and the ocean. Just have to put up with being wet 6 months of the year. It occurred to me that I'd like to sail again a long reach Bahamas to the Dominican. Yes breeze, waves and dolphins. White beaches, conch salad, Cuban cigars, Jamaican rum and coffee, Red Stripe beer. Soon enough I suppose, soon enough. We'll test threads tonight how tight can they be stretched before breaking. Then again I suppose some bonds are unbreakable and timeless. I owned everything yesterday now it's just shorts, a t-shirt and sandals. Don't own anything else feel free to use them as you would like.
Penny held Matisse to her breast watching her husband sit on the couch by the fireplace talking on the phone. His fifth or sixth call since they'd been home she'd lost track. He was calm and being very methodical. She knew he was pushing it all down and just dealing with the reality of the situation. She walked into the hallway still feeding the baby to check on Lisel. They hadn't told her about Beverly yet. The truth was neither of them had a clue how to do it.
Lisel was at her drawing table working intently on a drawing. Penny walked over and looked over her shoulder. The picture was of a woman from the hair and glasses it was obviously Beverly holding the hand of a small boy who also had glasses. They were walking on a path she was working on the trees beside it now.
"Lisel honey that's really good where did you see this?"
"It's in Grandmama's album of daddy and her when he was little."
Penny looked around and saw a large old style photo album on the nightstand. She saw Beverly's suitcase and carryon bag beside the bed and choked back a sob. She took the book with one hand and placed it on the bed. She opened the cover and knew she couldn't go any further. Leonard's baby pictures being held by his smiling mother and proud father was just too much. She closed it and looked back at Lisel. She was looking at her. Her little head tilted to one side. "Mommy you're crying what's wrong?" Lisel gasped she had gotten it all by herself, "Oh no Grandmama isn't ever coming back is she? She died like mama." Tears were starting to fall from her eyes and she jumped up and came into Penny's free arm. Penny held her close and she let her own tears flow as well.
It was Leonard's arms around both of them that shook her out of it. The baby had stopped suckling and was asleep. She gently laid Matisse on the bed as Leonard picked up and held Lisel. Then shifted her to one arm and pulled Penny to him with the other.
Leonard knew Lisel had stopped crying and was just nuzzling his neck. Penny was quiet also just holding on. He was at a loss for what to do next. Lisel wasn't.
"Daddy put me down please."
Leonard placed her on the bed and she reached for the photo album. He had seen it sitting there and knew before she brought it to him. Lisel handed it to him with both hands. "Grandamma Beverly told me she had come to give you this but wanted me to see it first."
Leonard took the album and was about to open it when Penny's hand touched his arm.
"You might want to wait honey, just give it a little time first."
Leonard could see pleading in her eyes. Penny never looked like that. He nodded at her then looked down and smiled at Lisel. "Thank you honey I'm going to look at in a little while, mommy why don't you take Lisel and the baby out to the kitchen and get us something to eat."
Penny looked hesitant until Leonard looked toward Beverly's luggage. She knew a diversion was required. She picked up the baby and took Lisel by the hand. When Penny and the kids reached the door she stopped and looked back. Leonard smiled and nodded. Once they had left the room he zipped the suitcase and bag. Leonard took them to his closet in the bedroom and placed them in the far corner. He stared at them he hadn't thought about these items. He'd called his brother who had Beverly's will and instructions. She wanted to be cremated and have her ashes spread at her home. His brother always the cold fish had been unaware of her having any medical conditions. He did seem sullen but not overwrought.
The call to his sister had been met with similar results. She knew of no medical problems she had been suffering. She was aware that she had cosmetic surgery several years ago. She was supposed to come visit several weeks ago but it hadn't worked out. This is when his sister did breakdown. She had made excuses to postpone the visit and now was guilt ridden over it. Leonard had tried to calm her down. He'd told he had felt the same way when she wanted to come out to California to see the baby. By the end of the call they were both on an even keel he thought. Leonard had promised to email pictures of the new baby and more recent photos of Lisel.
Then he had been making arrangement for the cremation and release of the body. He had tried to get a hold of his father but had only been able to leave some messages for him. He was in Africa again doing research and was incommunicado.
His last call had been to Amy and Sheldon to see how he was holding up. Amy said he was sullen very much as he had been when his grandmother died. He held Tyler or the baby constantly. This seemed to be his coping mechanism for stress now. Leonard was satisfied and ask her to let him know he'd call to see how he was. Leonard felt the weight of the photo album in his hand. There was part of him that wanted to look inside but Penny was always right about these things. He placed the album on top of the luggage for another time.
Leonard turned toward the door with a new task in mind. He had dealt with the needs of the dead, his siblings and friend. He needed to be there for his family now he thought as he moved toward the kitchen.
Lisel was at the breakfast bar eating what Leonard knew was some pasta he had made last night. Penny was on the other side cutting up vegetables for dipping. She looked very serious and constantly looked over at Lisel. Leonard tried to put on a smile as he walked up and kissed his daughter's head.
"How's daddy's pasta today honey? Do you still like it as well as yesterday?"
Lisel nodded smiling at her father. Penny looked up at him trying to put a smile on her face. It fell off almost as quickly as it had appeared. Leonard came around the bar and made her put the knife down. He kissed her lips very softly and held her for a moment. He looked into her green eyes. They were a little red around the edges to much crying today. He really did give her his best smile this time. "Remember to laugh it helps. You know what I'm going to do? I'm going to go hold my baby daughter and find a something funny to watch."
Penny smiled at him but it was still weak. Leonard walked to the bassinet and picked up his sleeping daughter and held her to his chest rocking from foot to foot. He looked back over at Penny who had a real smile on her face now. The loving and caring smile she used so often. He smiled back, "I guess I'll watch that old TV show of yours it always made me laugh."
Penny shook her head sternly, "I don't think I want my daughter to see that just yet I'd have to explain too many things."
Leonard moved toward the couches by the TV and sat down. It only took him a moment to shake off that he had sat where his mother had been. He had to reach deep. Back to after Liisa died to stay in this moment rather than the one earlier today. He looked down at Matisse his smart and beautiful daughter. He laughed to himself he'd have give Raj a jab next week about that old remark. Looking at the baby made him feel the good things in his life. The little tiny nose and ears, her tiny fingers wrapped around his one finger. Penny came in and put the veggies and dip on the table. She sat next to Leonard and looked at the baby a soft smile on her face. She turned her head and called for Lisel.
"Come in with us sweetie daddy is going to find us a movie."
Lisel came over and got between her parents. Leonard on her left and Penny on her right, Penny wrapped her arm around her. "What movie would you like to watch Lisel?"
He could see her putting her mind to it he was hoping she wouldn't pick UP, Bambi or Snow White but something really light. She had it, "Can I watch Toy Story?"
Leonard smiled at Penny, "Toy Story it is. Tish please play Toy Story."
The screen flickered and Leonard noticed Penny and Lisel lean into each other and relax. He just continued to stare down at his baby daughter lost in thought.
Lisel had fell asleep in the middle of Toy Story 2. They'd had the foresight to get her in pajamas after the original movie had finished. Leonard had put her in bed and tucked her in, rascal in her arms Schrodinger by her head. Leonard turned to see Penny who had just fed the baby behind him.
"Tish nighttime lighting please, if she wakes up tonight wake both Penny and I"
"Yes Leonard of course"
Penny watched him walk toward her he smiled and kissed her gently on the cheek.
"I think a scotch in my spot in front of the fireplace is called for, care to join me"
Penny smiled at him, her worry not showing acting now. "Let me put the baby down and get in my PJ's then I'll join you. A cup of peppermint tea sounds nice."
Leonard smiled and headed for the great room. He felt himself grimace on the way to the kitchen but held it off. He poured a generous single malt in the tumbler and started making Penny her tea.
Penny put the baby down, tucking the blanket low on her torso.
"Tish baby monitor please"
Penny walked to Leonard's closet and opened it. She retrieved the album from atop of the luggage and started for her wardrobe.
Leonard took the tea and his scotch to the couch and took his seat setting Penny's tea on the coffee table.
"Tish turn on the fireplace and dim the lights please."
The fire lit and illuminated the area in a soft yellow flickering.
Penny crossed the great room seeing Leonard on the couch and went into her wardrobe. She put her clothes in the hamper and changed in to pink pajama bottoms and matching pink camisole. She picked up the album and headed back. Instead of going directly to the fireplace area she turned to the kitchen and retrieved Leonard's bottle of single malt scotch. She turned toward the great room with tears in her eyes. This was going to be hard on them both.
Leonard looked up from the fire as Penny came around the couch. She set his scotch bottle on the table and set down close to him the album in her hands.
Penny looked deeply into Leonard's brown eyes and said very softly, "You need to let it out honey I do too."
Leonard was afraid to let go of the calm he had forced himself to feel. This was different from Liisa. He had been grieving for weeks before her death. There had been no confliction in how he felt about his wife. But Beverly had gone so suddenly. The conflicts far from resolved. He vacillated between sadness over her death to wanting to sing the wicked witch is dead. He didn't really want to sing that he knew but it had provided a certain dark humor to keep him calm. Leonard slid his arm around Penny and she settled into her spot.
Penny laid the album on their laps and opened it to the first page she had seen earlier and looked to see his face. He didn't look surprised but was thoughtful. The first 4 pages were photos of him and his mother and father in his first year. The last contained his first birthday card a cute puppy on the front. This interested him he removed it and saw that it was signed by both of his parents with "Love you Mommy and Daddy" written below.
Leonard took a large drink of his scotch. His Uncle Floyd had shown him some of these pictures before. The birthday card of course he didn't remember. The album continued this though his first four years. There were pictures at the zoo, in the park and at birthday parties. He remembered none of them. He also noticed that none of his siblings were ever in the pictures and rarely his father. But Beverly was always there, smiling, holding him up or pointing at an animal at the zoo. He realized his father had been taking the pictures. At the end of each year was a birthday card. Each card was signed the same, and in the same hand his mother's.
After the 4th year there were no more pictures. Leonard realized he was crying when a tear splashed on his fourth birthday card. He looked up at Penny to see her crying and pulled her close.
Penny was crying for Leonard. She tried to laugh but to no avail. She just let it out crying for her and for her husband. She finally got out the question in her mind.
"What happened after you turned five?"
Leonard reached up and wiped his eyes. He felt like cursing, if she were still alive he'd have shouted at her.
"That's when the protocol started. I didn't know it then I don't even remember being five. But they took it all away god damn her."
He sat back furious and breathed. He just breathed concentrating on controlling how he breathed. He felt like he was having an asthma attack but he fought. He kept thinking just breath. He felt Penny's hand softly on his chest.
"Are you okay honey"
He suddenly was her touch had brought him back, he let the anger go and started crying.
Penny watched him saw how upset he was. She had watched his breath become fast, puffing and then him controlling it. He was still seething until she touched him and he relaxed under her touch. Her own tears were streaming down her face.
Leonard looked down at the album again. There was more on each of the next pages was a birthday card for an uncelebrated birthday. Each still signed by his mother. They became cards for a young adult and finally an actual adult. The last card would be for his birthday this year.
It was signed the same but with a footnote.
"This will probably be the last one,"
Wow, glad I got that all out. I'm interested in what you thought of it. Was it enough?
Please review and let me know.