As the room fell silent and Kate and Linnie looked at each other, Peter McCallister inwardly gave a sigh of relief; at last the message had got through to Kate that she needed to let go of her daughter and stop running her life. This day had been a long time coming and he guessed it was hard for Kate to accept, but Linnie didn't need her mother telling her what to do any more...
As he looked at his daughter he thought – and not for the first time – that Linnie had spent too many years apologizing for something that had happened so long ago that it really had no bearing on the present at all; everybody made mistakes in life. Linnie's only mistake was falling in love too young, too soon and getting pregnant by a man with a drug problem – but that man had changed his ways long ago and Linnie had grown up too. She didn't need her mother pushing her around any more.
"Linnie?" Her father said, "Talk to your mother..."
She looked back at her Mom.
"I really am sorry." Kate said to her, "I guess I have been trying to protect you too much. I know you can run your own life and I know you don't need me telling you what to do. And what happened in the past belongs there and I should have left it behind a long time ago. I can't pretend that I'm going to welcome Marv into this family and totally trust him in five minutes because it will take longer than that because I'm your mother."
And Kate looked at Marv, then back at her daughter again.
"But I want to try and make him welcome." She told her, "And I am sorry, Linnie. I just want you to be happy."
Linnie looked back at her mother and for a moment all the quarrels they had ever fought seemed to stand between them - but it was Linnie who stepped over that barrier by giving her Mom a hug.
"I want to be happy." She told her, and she looked at Marv and smiled as he smiled back at her.
"And I'm going to be happy now, Mom – because I'm with Marv and this time it's going to work out just fine, everything will – things are different now."
When Kevin woke up the next morning he moved closer to Harry and rested his head on his shoulder, then Harry murmured something he didn't catch and smiled in his sleep and Kevin decided he looked too damned cute when he did that, so he gently kissed him.
Harry slowly opened his eyes.
"Morning." He said, sounding sleepy.
"Are you okay?" Kevin wondered, recalling how upset Harry had been over their misunderstanding.
"I'm fine." Harry promised him, putting his arms around him and giving him a hug.
Then Kevin wondered about something; the house was very quiet...
"I just need to check something." Kevin told him, and he got up and put on a bathrobe and went out into the hallway.
He checked the other bedroom, he checked the bathroom and the kitchen – then he looked outside and saw no sign of Marv's car.
Kevin went back into the bedroom.
Harry sat up and looked at him.
"What are we doing today?" He wondered.
Kevin's thoughts were still on Marv.
"I just checked the house. Marv's not here. And his car is gone too."
"Maybe he went to work."
"It's too early."
Harry thought about it.
"Maybe he went shopping?"
"It's six a.m.!"
Kevin thought some more.
"Harry, I don't want you to worry, but I don't know where Marv is!"
He realised too late he shouldn't have said that; there was a flicker of panic in Harry's eyes now.
"Is Marv okay?"
"Yes!" Kevin said quickly, "Of course he is – he was seeing Linnie yesterday. Maybe they decided to go somewhere else instead of coming back here last night."
Harry looked confused.
"Why wouldn't Marv want to come home?"
"Because he wanted to give us some privacy."
"We should call him." Harry said.
Kevin grabbed his cell phone and sat down on the bed as he called the number.
"I hope it's not too early for him." He said as the phone began to ring.
It rang for quite a while and then Marv answered it sounding half asleep.
"Yeah..." He murmured, "What is it, Harry? I'm sorry I didn't call you but last night was special and, to tell you the truth I forgot to call you and I'm sorry –"
"It's me, it's Kevin."
Marv suddenly sounded wide awake.
"Kevin? Is Harry okay?"
"Harry's fine. It was me who wondered where the hell you are! What's going on?"
Marv gave a sigh.
"Me and your sister are getting married. I took her home last night to explain everything to your parents because I figured there's been enough lies going on around here and I wanted to take an honest approach."
Kevin's eyes widened as he gave a gasp.
"You told my Mom? Are you crazy? What did she do to you?"
Marv laughed softly.
"It's all sorted out now. Your Mom's getting used to the idea. I was up half the night talking to your parents and it got later and later and then your mom said I might as well stay the night, so I stayed at your house with your sister - in your sister's room."
Kevin still felt totally stunned.
"How did you get my Mom to agree to that?"
"It wasn't so difficult to talk to her, Kevin. She just needed to listen and hear my side of the story. I really need to go back to sleep now, its early and-"
Linnie took the phone from him.
"Hi Kevin." She said, "I'm fine, Marv's fine – everything's fine. Now you really should get off the line because I'm right next to Marv I'm under the covers and... the rest is not appropriate for you to know about, so I'll see you later, okay?"
"Later Sis." He said as the call ended.
Harry looked at him.
"What's going on?"
"Nothing." Kevin told him, "It's all fine. Marv met my Mom last night –"
"Your Mom? Was she mean to him?"
Harry's dark eyes had filled with concern for his best friend.
"No," Kevin told him, carefully explaining, "He told her that he's with Linnie and my Mom was okay about it, everybody's getting along just fine, it's all okay."
"Are you sure?"
Kevin gave him a kiss.
"Yes! It's all fine; you don't have to worry about anything."
As he said those words he felt relieved for Linnie that everything had worked out okay - he kept back from Harry the fact that he was worried about how his Mom would react when she found out who his new partner was, he could just picture the look on her face when he said he was in a serious relationship with Marv's best friend Harry Lyme – the man whose lies had broken up Marv and Linnie so long ago...
But his parents had accepted Marv, and he knew that Linnie and Beth got along with Harry so it seemed to make sense that the best thing he could do was explain to his family that there was a new guy in his life. He guessed if Marv and Linnie were still sneaking around and his parents had known nothing about it he would have waited until everything was out in the open for Linnie and Beth's sake – but it was over and done with now and he was still thinking about what Marv had said about how there had been too much dishonesty and it was better to be truthful...
He looked at Harry and smiled.
"I'd like to tell my family about us."
Harry looked back at him and frowned as he thought about it.
"But your Mom might not like me - you said so."
"No, I said she might not like you because you're friends with Marv – but she gets along with Marv now, that's changed!"
Kevin reached out and stroked Harry's cheek.
"You're such a great guy, Harry! I don't think anyone could dislike you! And I'm proud of you, I love you - I want the world to know I'm with you."
Harry looked at him with that bright, trusting look in his eyes that Kevin had grown to love.
"Okay." He said, "Let's tell your family, that sounds great."
It was almost eight in the morning when Kevin called home.
"Hello!" His Mom said, sounding bright and cheerful.
"Mom, it's me. Sorry I didn't call home last night to say I wouldn't be back – I stayed at someone's house."
There was a pause, and then she spoke again, lowering her voice:
"I'm guessing it was probably your new friend? The one that sent you that picture?"
"Yeah, it was him. Actually me and him are getting very serious. It's so serious I want you to meet him because I love the guy."
"Oh, I see..."
His Mom sounded surprised; this had come out of the blue.
"But Mom, there's something you should know... this guy I'm with, you've met him before a long time ago, he's –"
Kevin didn't have a chance to finish what he was trying to say.
"Honey just tell me about the guy when you come home," She told him, "I'm in the middle of breakfast and Marv and Linnie are not up yet and I have a lot to be getting on with. Why don't you bring him over to the house? That's a good idea; bring him over to the house with you, Kevin...I'll see you later on."
And then she hung up.
"What did she say?" Harry asked him.
Kevin remembered what Marv had told him about being very careful what he said to Harry; he didn't want him to worry and expect his Mom to hate him on sight - but at the same time he wasn't sure how to tell him he hadn't had enough time to fully put her in the picture...
"Are we going to meet your family?" Harry asked him, "I think I'd like that because Beth and Linnie are your family and they are nice, they like me..."
Kevin gave a sigh as he wondered what Marv would have done in this situation. He thought about calling him back but guessed after such an early morning wake up call he had probably switched his phone off.
Kevin thought about it some more and then made up his mind: Marv was right, there had been enough lies. He didn't want to add to those lies so he decided that like Marv he would take an honest approach too.
"Yes Harry." He said, "We are going to see my family today. We'll go this morning. But let me talk to my parents first, okay? I need to tell them all about you."
"I can tell them about me." Harry replied.
And Kevin smiled.
"You're right Harry – I don't need to speak for you. But I just want to make sure they get along with you, I want them to understand everything about you. And don't worry, they'll like you – I can't imagine anyone not liking you."
As he said it he meant it with every single beat of his heart, but he still had a small flicker of doubt at the back of his mind as he wondered what his Mom would say and how she would react when she found out who his new partner was. It was great that she accepted Marv in Linnie's life now – but it might be a different matter when she met Harry, the man who had told those lies so many years ago. But it was too late to change things now because he knew when he left, Harry would insist on going with him – and he had made up his mind now – he wanted to meet his family, and Kevin knew Harry well enough by now to know that when he really wanted to do something, he went ahead and did it.
He suddenly wished he had waited, because he couldn't be sure exactly how his Mom would react.
But it was too late now, they were going over to his parent's house and he would find out her reaction soon enough...
Beth looked around the table at her family together for breakfast.
"This is great." She said as she smiled at her parents, "My Mom and my Dad are together again! It can't get any better than this!"
And Kate exchanged a glance with her husband and smiled; Beth was right – it didn't get any better than this and Kate could see that now; she only had to look in Beth's eyes and see the joy that shone from them to understand how much it mattered to her grand daughter that her parents were back together again...
"Kevin called this morning." Kate announced, "He said he's bringing his new partner over to meet us."
Marv set his coffee down on the table and looked sharply at Kate.
Kate detected a hint of unease in his voice.
"What's the matter with that?" She wondered, "I said he should bring him over."
And Linnie gave a heavy sigh as she shook her head.
"Oh Kevin!" She said aloud.
Kate blinked and looked hard at Marv.
"What should I know about this guy?" She demanded, "I get the feeling there's some kind of secret going on again!"
Linnie spoke up.
"The guy Kevin's seeing is Harry Lyme – Marv's friend Harry."
Kate's eyes grew wider as she stared at him.
"Harry Lyme?" Her voice was hushed.
"He's not the same guy he used to be!" Marv told her, "He's different now!"
Peter sensed a quarrel brewing and checked his watch.
"Come on Beth, I'm taking you to school right now."
"But Grandpa, I want to stay –"
"No." He told her, "You'll be late for school."
Beth got up from the table and glanced at her parents and her Grandmother.
"Try not to fight when I'm gone. She remarked, "It's been so nice seeing everyone get along. I don't want that to change."
"It won't change." Linnie promised her "Go to school, honey."
As Peter left and Beth followed, the room stayed silent until the front door closed.
Then Kate's eyes narrowed as she glared at Marv.
"Your best friend, that man who told lies and broke you and my daughter up is going out with my son? How can you think that's okay? How can you even call Harry a friend after what he did to you?"
Marv gave a sigh.
"Kate, just listen, please! I know what Harry did fifteen years ago, I know it was wrong but he didn't know what else to do at the time! And he doesn't even remember that, he got shot because of me, he got shot in the head and he's lucky to be alive! And he's nothing like he used to be at all- he's just this sweet, nice little guy who needs a little bit of help sometimes."
"Help?" Kate said, "What are you trying to say, Marv?"
Then she recalled what he had told her the night before when she was still reeling from the shock finding out about him and Linnie.
"You said you look after him? So what happens now you're with Linnie – you're expecting my son to take care of him?"
"It's not like that!" Marv exclaimed, "Harry's capable of having a relationship, he's a really nice guy too! He can't remember the old days, all that got wiped out when he was shot. Please don't hate him for something he can't remember doing."
Then Marv's gaze hardened.
"If you upset that guy I'll never forgive you, Kate. I can understand you holding a grudge against me, because I have all of my mind and my memories intact and if you wanted to throw the past in my face I know I can recall everything and I'll know what you're talking about - but if you upset Harry I'm leaving and I'm never coming back."
"Me too." Linnie added, "Don't be mean to Harry, Mom! If you do that I won't forgive you either - I couldn't forgive anyone who hurt that guy!"
Kate's eyes grew wider as she looked at her daughter. "You've met Harry?"
"Harry can't stand up for himself in a quarrel." Linnie told her, "It would be a really mean thing to do if you said nasty things to him, it would be really unfair!"
Kate was still staring at her.
"And I'll bet Beth's met him too, hasn't she?"
Linnie heard a trace of hurt in her mother's voice.
"Yes she has. She hated him when she found out what he did all those years ago – but it was different when she met him, because she could tell he wasn't the same guy any more. She could tell he doesn't have a mean bone in his body. Beth could see what he was like as soon as she met him. If you can't see that you're not opening your eyes, Mom! Listen to me: Harry doesn't deserve anyone hating him! Please don't be cruel to him because he won't understand that."
Kate recalled the picture Harry had sent to Kevin.
"He's not that stupid." She snapped, "He sent a..."
And she drew in a breath and lowered her voice.
"...a filthy picture to my son!"
Marv tried not to laugh - but did laugh as he looked back at Kate.
"A what, Kate?"
"A filthy picture of his private parts, he sent it to my son!"
"How come you saw it?" Linnie wondered.
"Yeah, Marv added, "How did you happen to see it, Kate? I would have thought a picture like that would be private between two guys who have something going on together..."
Kate felt awkward as she explained.
"I thought somebody sent him a joke or something so I took the phone and had a look -"
"So you shouldn't have been looking in the first place!" Linnie said, "His calls and messages are his business, not yours!"
"I know that, but –"
"But nothing, Mom!" Linnie exclaimed, "It's your own fault if you saw something you didn't approve of – it wasn't sent to you, it was for my brother!"
"I know that." Kate said quietly, and the more she thought about it the more she began to realize that she should have left his phone alone. Linnie and Marv were both right; her son's calls were none of her business.
"You're right." She said to Linnie, "I shouldn't have looked. But that's not the point – Harry's not so helpless if he can fool around like that!"
Marv looked at Linnie and wondered how she had the strength to put up with the way her mom was, she had lived with this woman for so long and he really didn't understand how she had managed to do that because Kate was hard work sometimes...
"Let's just drop this conversation, shall we?" He suggested, "You'll understand about Harry when you meet him. All we're asking you to do is not jump to conclusions, give the guy a chance. Can you do that?"
And he looked at her pleadingly.
Kate felt surprised that he was so concerned.
"What's the matter?" She asked him, "Don't you think I can be a reasonable kind of person?"
And Marv gave a heavy sigh and shut up because she really didn't want to know the answer to that question...
Just after nine that morning Kevin arrived back home.
As Harry followed him up the path and looked at the McCallister house, he said it again:
"It's a nice house, Kevin."
"I know, you already said that." He replied as his thoughts stayed firmly with his family as he hoped he was doing the right thing, bringing Harry back here when he wasn't sure about how his Mom would react...
"Maybe we should have waited." He said.
"For what?" Harry wondered.
"For... I don't know, things to settle down, maybe."
Harry looked confused.
"What things?" He asked him, "Your Mom's okay with Marv you just told me that, so what's wrong?"
Harry was starting to worry and that was the last thing Kevin wanted.
"Nothing is wrong." He promised him, "I'll never let anyone upset you; I want you to remember that."
Then Kevin slid the key in the lock and went inside.
"Kevin?"His Mom called out.
"I'm in the hallway!" He called back.
As he took off his coat he looked around and saw his Mom walking towards him - and he was relieved to see Linnie and Marv come out of the front room.
"Hi." Marv said, sounding slightly tense as he shot him a look that indicated he would definitely have preferred to speak to Kevin about this first before he decided to bring Harry over to the house.
As Kate walked up to her son she looked around.
"Where's Harry?" She wondered.
Then Harry let go of the door knob and stepped into the house, pausing to glance back at the door knob and then look at his own hand, wondering why the M on his hand was a perfect match for the M on the door; he was sure he would never figure it out, but it was a strange coincidence...
"Hi." He said as he looked at Kate and smiled.
Kate looked back at him.
"Hi." He said again, "I'm Harry, I'm Kevin's friend."
He held his hand out.
Kate was still looking at him: he still looked like the man she remembered, but the look in his eyes had changed, there was softness about them and it reflected in his voice too.
"Nice to meet ya." He said, "I'm Harry."
"You just told me that." She said quietly.
He was still smiling.
"Did I?" He wondered.
And Kate cautiously shook his hand.
"Nice to meet you Harry." She said to him.
"I'm glad you think so," Harry told her, "Kevin said he didn't know if you'd like me or not. I'm okay when you get to know me."
And Kate began to smile as she saw nothing in Harry's eyes but deepest sincerity; she could see it now – Harry had changed. The man who stood before her was nothing like the guy who had called at the house fifteen years ago, Marv was right about the shooting wiping out a lot of his past. She saw the scar that went deep into his temple and quickly stopped herself from staring as Harry looked into her eyes.
"It's nice that we can all be friends." He said to her, "Because Marv and Linnie really love each other - and I really like Kevin a lot, he means a lot to me - I love him."
Kate suddenly found she didn't have to doubt that; she knew what love looked like in a person's eyes and Harry certainly had that look when he glanced at her son...
Kevin put his arm around Harry's shoulder and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
"Me and Harry are a permanent thing." He told her, "And he's easy to get used to – you can't help but love this little guy!"
And Kate smiled at her son.
"I think you're right about that." She told him, and as she said it, she meant it from the bottom of her heart.
A couple of hours later, when Linnie got into the car with Marv and he started up the engine, she glanced back at the house.
"I can't believe we left Kevin and Harry with my Mom!" She exclaimed.
Marv pulled the car out of the driveway and they headed away from Lincoln Boulevard.
"Well there's no harm in leaving them with her – I'm so glad it's worked out okay, your Mom really has warmed to Harry. It's a good thing, too – she'll probably want him to move in there with Kevin, especially after you and Beth move out and come and live with me!"
Linnie stared at Marv, who had a big smile on his face as they drove along.
"But you told my Mom we were both going to live with her!"
Marv was still smiling.
"No, Linnie – she said it would be nice if we lived with her when we got married and I said, Maybe. That was a lie."
Linnie gave a huge sigh of relief.
"Thank God for that! I really couldn't face living with my Mom for the rest of my life even if she's trying to be nice – I just want to be out of there, I just want you and me and Beth!"
Then she realized something.
"You just lied to her! I thought you said, No more lies from now on?"
"That's right. But I was referring to great big fat ones. There's no harm in a few white lies – especially where your Mom's concerned! "
As they looked at each other Linnie smiled too.
"You're definitely right where my Moms concerned." She agreed,"But in every other way this is a new start."
Marv smiled as he thought about the future, which for him had never looked brighter.
"You bet this is a new start," He promised her, "And this time I'll make you happy."
"I know you will." Linnie replied, feeling very sure that every word was true as the two of them drove off together, heading ever closer to that future they had planned together – the happy one, the one they both very much deserved...