Poppies- Chapter 38
Jobeth stood on the front porch of Chad’s parents’ house. Excited and frightened
She was going to see her daughter for the first time in years and terrified Joanna would reject her as she’d done to her.
She took a deep breath and knocked on the door. The wind rustled a few gray hairs lose and she tucked the strands back into their proper places.
Alex answered the door, surprised to see Jobeth standing before her. The women were around the same age but looked quite different from each other.
Alex was round and stern-looking, whereas Jobeth was lean and soft. It was funny how looks could be deceiving. It had been the stern-looking woman who’d taken Joanna under her wing. Nurturing her burdened soul and the soft woman who had cast her out of the nest so, without a glance back.
“Hello, Mrs. Benson,” Alex stood composed.
“Good day, Mrs. Willis.” Jobeth stood up tall and straight in front of Chad’s mother. Refusing to be looked down upon. Those days were behind her.
Alexandria Willis frown. Jobeth looked ready for a fight the way she adjusted her rigid back. She couldn’t help remembering a few years back when Joanna and Chad had first run off together. Jobeth pounding on their door. Demanding they tell her where Chad and Joanna had taken off to. When they refused, Jobeth had been furious. She’d accused Chad of ruining the Benson family. That Mara-Joy would never be the same after the cruelty their son had inflicted on their family.
Thinking about that night more than seven years ago, Alex became very angry. What did this woman want now? Was she ready to cause another scene?
I won’t let her do it, Alex thought. Joanna was a daughter to her. She would not allow this woman to hurt Joanna anymore.
A twinge of guilt crept over Jobeth. Dark and icky. She too remembered the last encounter they’d had and was not proud of herself.
“Could I please speak to my daughter?”
“She’s not here,” Alex crossed her arms over her plump breast. “She’s with Chad and the children.” She watched to see if Chad’s name made Jobeth flinch. Relieved she didn’t, she might as well tell Jobeth where they were.
“Your husband and two other daughters are with them. They are having a picnic down by the lake.” Alex hoped she wasn’t making a mistake.
“Thank you.” Jobeth’s heart raced and she turned, the urge to rush overcoming her.
Alex nodded as she watched Jobeth run down the porch stairs.
“I hope it’s not too late for you.” Alex shook her head.
Joanna sat at peace on a rock by the stream. She watched as her beautiful daughter, Jena, ran toward her calling out her name.
A warm feeling washed over Joanna as Jena stopped in front of her with a big pout protruding from rose petal lips.
How I love this child, she thought. This child represents the strong parts of myself.
Jena rested her tiny hands on her waist and pinched up her face in concern. Her wavy blond hair framed her face, making her look like a beautiful cherub.
“Mommy, please don’t look gloomy.” Jena’s voice was sweet, full of youth and innocence. She turned to her grandfather sitting on a blanket in the sand.
Joanna smiled at her father as he admired them from afar.
“I’m fine, Jena,” she said, noticing her father was listening to them. “Go play with the other children.”
Jena looked from her mother to her grandfather, shrugged her shoulders and ran off toward her father and brother.
Their laughter echoed across the lake, Joy calling out in every splash. Jena glanced back for a moment at Joanna and waved. With added vigor, Joanna waved back. Encouraged Jena jumped into the water where Chad scooped her up into his arms. She giggled arms and legs flailing as he tossed her up in the air and dropped her into the waiting water. Charles tugged at Chad’s swimming trunks, eager for his father to repeat the same process with him.
“Papa?” Pauline called, walking toward Alan.
She plunked herself down on the blanket beside him. She was a beauty of a girl. Her hair pulled back in a ponytail. Dressed in shorts and a casual button-up shirt with tennis shoes on her stocking-less feet. It amazed Alan how she could dress so plain and yet look elegant, without being aware of it. If he was honest with himself, out of all his children, it was only Pauline he could say this about. All his daughters were beauties, but only Pauline was unaware of it. This was part of what made her the loveliest. That and her innocence toward the world.
He sighed as he watched the young woman sit down beside him.
“All my children are growing up,” he said, placing his hand on Pauline’s cheek.
She clutched his hand with her own and rubbing her cheek with it.
“What’s wrong, Dad?” Pauline asked, sensing her father’s mood. Alan released his hold and turned toward Constance. She was picking apples with her family near the creek, weighted down with the baby that was about due
“I wish your mother and the rest of the family were here enjoying this glorious day with us.” He looked at Pauline’s worried face.
She felt uneasy. Alan was thirty-nine years old, but sometimes he looked much older and this frightened her. She was afraid for him all the time. She loved him and couldn’t stand the thought of anything happening to him.
“Dad, I wish that too,” Pauline gave his hand a squeeze. “But Mara-Joy — “
“Now it is not Mara-Joy’s fault,” Alan grumbled. “Constance and you are always blaming Mara-Joy for everything. You have to realize that your mother is the one who makes her own decisions in life. She always has and always will. She will have to take responsibility for her own actions. Good or bad.”
“Well,” Pauline rolled her eyes in jest, “I suppose so, Pop. Anyway, I didn’t come over here to argue about Mom, I came to tell you I have to go. Pascal is waiting for me.” She leaned over planting a kiss on his cheek. He reached up and held her face to his, feeling the heat from his daughter soak into him. He closed his eyes wishing he could protect her from the world. His sweet innocent youngest girl.
Tears she couldn’t explain formed in the corner of Pauline’s eyes. A lump was developing in her throat, choking her. She kissed her father again and stood up, dusting the sand off of her legs.
“Is this Pascal treating you right?” Alan shielded his eyes from the glaring sun beating down on him as he looked up into Pauline’s face.
“Yes, Dad,” Pauline rolled her eyes, walking away. “Of course.”
Alan bit his bottom lip. He liked George well enough but there was something about his brother, Pascal. Alan didn’t trust him.
Pauline trotted away wiping tears from her eyes. Alan wished he could be everywhere with his children, protecting them, but he couldn’t.
Jobeth stood in the hedges watching Pauline whipping tears away as she left Alan.
Wondering what was wrong with Pauline she didn’t notice Joanna standing up. Looking straight at Jobeth standing in the bushes.
“Mama!” Joanna’s voice called out with all the longing buried deep inside her soul. Alan pivoted from his spot. Joanna was running toward his wife standing in the bushes.
Jobeth, hearing Joanna, twirled towards her.
Her legs sprang into action and she began to run. Her arms spread, she scooped Joanna into her.
Joanna slammed into Jobeth, grasping her like she was drowning. They clung together, unable to let go. Each afraid the other would disappear, like a mirage that did not exist.
Alan nodded to himself, a tear rolling down his cheek. He knew Jobeth wouldn’t let him down. She never did. She never would.
“Mama,” Joanna cried on her mother’s breast. “You do love me?”
“My darling, I always have. I always have.” Jobeth kissed the top of Joanna,s head breathing in the smell of her. Craving her. Wondering how she will ever let her go.
Jena hearing the commotion, ran out of the water toward them.
Alan stood up and went to stand beside Chad who had come out of the water with Charles. They stood side by side not saying a word watching their wives embrace.
Constance and George stood watching too. Constance smiled and turned back to her husband and son, encouraging them to continue picking apples.
This was Joanna’s moment.
“I have been so foolish. Will you ever be able to forgive me?”
Jobeth lifted Joanna’s tear-streaked face to her own.
“There is nothing to forgive,” Joanna sobbed. “I have you back and that is all that matters.”
“There is so much to forgive and I plan to try to make up for the wrong I have done to this family. It’s this family that means everything to me.”
Jena confused looked up at the woman her mother was hugging. She tugged on her skirt.
Startled Jobeth looked down and felt her breath escape her.
The child was the spitting image of her brother Pauli. Her hand flew to her mouth in astonishment. Her throat tightened. Memories, long since forgotten, flooded her mind. She never forgot Pauli. She’d tucked his memory away to protect herself from old pain. Hidden away with all the ones she’d loved and lost.
“Ma? What is it?” Joanna asked, frightened. She reached to grab Jena, her heart beating frantic. Jobeth had gone white when she laid eyes on Jena. The child she’d conceived with her sister’s husband.
“Pauli,” Jobeth whispered bending down to Jena. “Do you remember me and your father telling you about your names, Joanna?”
“I don’t understand, Ma,” She held on to Jena’s arm ready to defend her child.
Jobeth touched the little girl’s face and the soft silkiness of her blond hair.
“Mara-Joy was named after Tamara, her birth mother, whom you children never knew about. Joy was a nickname Shawna had picked out for her when she was a little baby. It was very appropriate because she brought us such joy at a time when we didn’t have a lot of it.” Jobeth paused the memory vivid and fresh. Like it had only happened yesterday.
Joanna nodded, familiar with the story. She knew how Mara-Joy received the name Joy but hadn’t realized that she also carried her birth mother’s name.
“Our beautiful friend Jonah was one of the sweetest people anyone could ever have known. It almost killed your father, Shawna, and me when he died. The pain was unbearable. But,” she brightened up, “we persevered and later had a daughter — you.” Jobeth beamed at Joanna. “It only seemed right that we name you after Jonah. I needed to feel his spirit near me and so I honored him by naming my child after him, twice.”
“Twice?” Joanna blurted out confused.
“That’s another story for another time. It will all make sense, I hope, in the end.”
Jobeth paused remembering all that lead her to this very spot. Crouching before her first grandchild.
“And so you became Joanna. Then Constance came, and we named her after my mother, whom I loved with all my heart. I will tell you many stories about what a wonderful woman she was. When Pauline was born I thought she was a boy,” Jobeth chuckled. “I’ll be honest I thought all you girls were going to be boys. I wanted a son to name after your father and mine. So when I had another girl, I named her after my little brother, who died when he was a child. His name was Paul, but I called him Pauli. A fun, mischievous boy my parents and I adored.”
“That’s the name you said to Jena,” Joanna whispered, hugging Jena to her side, everything falling into place.
“Yes, it is,”
The little girl stood transfixed by her grandmother’s words.
“My little brother has been reborn in this child’s face.” Jobeth’s voice trailed off as she wrapped her granddaughter into the folds of her arms.