Vacant Chapter 17 Family
The last five years have been unbelievable in more ways than one. It’s been a long, difficult road, no doubt about it. There’s fighting…and making up, money problems and tears, but we always make it through, and we make it through together. We are, however, about to experience three of the biggest changes in our lives thus far.
Margie is retiring and a new manager will take her place. I’m pretty sure I know a candidate who is a shoe-in. Ethan has taken his duties as assistant manager very seriously. Margie confided to me that it would be a proud moment to see Ethan take her place. The salary increase was nothing to joke about either, and this promotion was enabling us to finally buy our own home. It wouldn’t be fancy or lavish, but it would be ours.
Margie has been an enormous support system for both Ethan and me. She’s stepped in as the mother figure we both needed as we transitioned to new parts of our lives. One could say that I should have been bitter about a “stand-in” mother, but I never saw it that way. She has been my savior more than once, but when I first met Margie, I wasn’t sure what to think.
“Can I help you?”
“Well, I was looking for Ethan.” The woman was small, but spoke with assurance. “Does he still live here?” I hadn’t known what to tell her. It flashed through my mind when I answered the door that perhaps this was the landlord and someone had reported us. Ethan wasn’t supposed to have anyone living with him. I shouldn’t have cared if he got in trouble after the way he up and left me after I spilled my guts to him, but I just couldn’t be angry with him – no matter how hard I tried.
“I’m Margie, Ethan’s boss.”
I stalled in answering her, debating whether I should invite her in.
“Oh, sorry – I’m uh…” I didn’t know whether to give my real name. My gut told me that this woman was harmless.
“It’s Emily.” My mother taught me to never give more information than necessary.
“Well, Emily, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
That day, Margie invited herself into the duplex and into my life. She was there to comfort me as I cried my eyes out and told her the events leading up to Ethan leaving. She hugged me and gave soothing words of encouragement; above all else, she assured me Ethan would return and that I just had to be patient.
She spoke about Ethan that afternoon as if he were her own son. There was never a disapproving word, only compliments and work anecdotes from the years she’d known him.
She was also there to support me through school. She insisted, along with Ethan, that I take full advantage of the scholarship I was given. She also wanted me to develop my interests and not just major in something so I could get a job. She told me to pursue what I loved; something I was passionate about.
“I think I know what I want to major in,” I told Margie, the excitement of my revelation radiating in my tone.
“That’s great, sweetie. Tell me.”
“This lady came in today with a little boy with autism, and it was so fascinating to watch her interact with him. I think I want to learn more about children and disabilities.” I was nervous about Margie’s answer. Maybe she thought I was a little too ambitious or crazy even in regards to my career path. “What do you think?”
“I think we are lucky to have you, one of God’s angels here on earth. You warm an old woman’s heart, Emily. I can’t think of a better career choice.”
I finished school three years later with a degree in Early Childhood Special Education. Margie was there with Ethan on graduation day, and I think she was the loudest cheerleader in the auditorium.
“So, you really want to do this?”
I used to be the one that was so unsure of everything and looked to Ethan to be the decision maker. Now, it seems, the tables have turned. He’s always looking to me for reassurance.
“I do. I know there will be a lot of work to be done on it, but I have the summer off. There is a lot I can do during that time.” I’d yet to tell him he’d be doing all the painting, but I think – all things considered – he’ll be just fine with the tradeoff. “This house is in a better neighborhood and is a bit bigger. There is room for us to have a home office and a couple spare bedrooms.”
The realtor was anxious to make a deal. The house had been on the market for several months due to the “as is” sale. She’s hovering, not wanting this potential sale to slip away. “Do you have any questions, Mr. and Mrs. Parker?”
Despite hearing Mrs. Parker every day, hearing it still brings a smile to my face. I grabbed Ethan’s hand and led him back down the hallway. “I think we’ll take another look around and meet you back out front.” I answer, desperate to get a few moments alone with my husband and away from the hovering realtor.
“Will you marry me?”
Those were the first words out of Ethan’s mouth. Not, “Good morning, Emily. How did you sleep?” Stunned didn’t even begin to capture what I was feeling. My brain wasn’t fully awake, and I hadn’t registered the small diamond on my left hand. Ethan had placed it there in my sleep and had yet to bring it to my attention.
The two years before Ethan’s proposal had been perfect. Our new apartment was a dream come true, and we’d even made friends with our neighbors Garth and Kim. The guys loved to barbecue, and Kim loved to talk about kids and literature, two of my favorite things.
“Emily? Come on! You’re killing me here!” His desperation made me giggle a bit, as if I’d ever tell him no.
“Thank God! I was so nervous.”
Three weeks later found us at Powell Gardens in the Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel. We had the ceremony on Friday evening, then a picnic in the nearby fountain courtyard. It was small, just Margie and her husband, Garth and Kim, and me and Ethan. We didn’t have a honeymoon, but that was okay. Someday, we’d get there.
“So what are you thinking we can do with this room?” Easy, Emily, don’t rush it. Make it perfect, I tell myself.
“I’m sure you’ll want a place to set up shop at home to work on your lesson plans and stuff.” Ethan walks into the room and steps to the large bow window. “This window will give you a lot of natural light to work by,” he finishes.
“Yeah, but I think the smaller room down the hall will be good for an office space.” Deep breath, this is it. “I think this room would be perfect as a nursery since it’s right next to the master and has its own quarter bath.”
Wait for it….
It takes longer than I think it should for it to sink in. I’ve counted to thirty before he turns around and stares at me blankly.
I move my hand down to rest on my still flat stomach. His eyes widen and his mouth falls open.
After a long pause, I give him a nod of confirmation and my eyes flutter closed for a couple seconds.
I simply nod again.
“Seriously.” I don’t even think my reply is completely out of my mouth before he’s crossed the room and picks me up. He swings me around, hugging me tight. He’s mumbling, “Oh my God, oh my God!” over and over into my breasts. I half expect him to sneak a motorboat in there while he’s at it. I just grip his head tighter, relishing the moment.
He finally sets me down and kisses me. This is the happiest I’ve ever seen this man…the man I love and worship and would do anything for.
“Thank you, Emily. Thank you for giving me everything I’ve always wanted, a family.”