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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Love Island

A time when things could be different but were not always that way. A puzzle of oddity that never seemed to quite complete itself. A period where it should be modern but a retained a true self of the old. A whole spectrum of actions that were not the same as any other time.

Yalise Barry found herself returning to a city that she had thought she would never see again. Her mother had taken her from there when she was nine as they left her father and his dreaming ways behind. Now, grown and on her own, she had returned alone to find that father and fill in some of the gaps in her life when it came to him. She knew she had that right and she intended to use it against anyone's objections, including her mother's.

The bus ride from the Northeast had been long but she did not have the money to fly. She had gambled a great deal to make this trip, considering that she had only an old address to go on of where her father might be and no phone number. She had saved for months; prepared to stay on her own if she had to until she found him. She arrived on the island in the early evening and within an hour after her arrival, she was in a taxi headed for the east side of the island to the address that she had.

When the cab pulled up in front of the square frame house, she told the driver to wait as she got out of the back seat. She stared at the house but decided to not knock on the front door but instead go to the house next door. She pulled out her out of state drivers license and knocked on the front door of the right neighboring house.

Yalise knocked several times but got no answer. She began to feel frustrated when she heard some noise coming from the back of the house. She went to the right side of the front porch and stared down the paved driveway.

She saw an older pickup truck sitting in view and beyond that a small garage. The noise was coming from the garage. She turned to the cab driver and signaled him to continue to wait. He shut off his engine and settled down to wait, but meanwhile, leaving the meter running.

She leaped off the porch and walked slowly down the driveway passing the pickup and then realizing there was another vehicle in front of the truck. She stopped short once she recognized what type of a car it was. An old Volkswagen Battle! She had not seen one in years and she was delighted. While she was admiring the car, she heard the noise come from the garage again. She returned to her business at hand but not before she noticed the Volkswagen "bug" had a for sale sign on it.

"Hello? Is anyone back there?" she called as she approached the garage.

The noise in the garage stopped and a man stepped out of the darkness of the building into the sunlight and stared at her. She was surprised to see that he was young and even from the distance, quite attractive. "That's nice." she thought to herself "But not what I am interested in at the moment."

"Can I help you?" he ask, his eyes slightly narrowed since he knew that he did not know her.

"Yes, I hope so." she answered.

"Do you know the people that live in that house?" she continued and then felt herself grow uneasy from the frowning look that crossed his face. He had immediately taken a cautionary attitude and that was really what she had expected him to do. Gathering her courage, she stated.

"If the man living there is who I think he is, he is my father. I am prepared to prove it if it is necessary."

"Okay, that sounds reasonable. Who do you think it is?" he returned.

"David Barry. My name is Yalise Barry." Yalise said quietly.

"Well, Ms. Barry, you are right then because that is exactly who lives there and I also know David has a daughter named Yalise. David and I are friends and he had told me about a daughter that lived somewhere else up north." the man remarked and then seemed to relax once Yalise had identified herself but he was still wary and she knew it.

"Northeast." she informed him and then remembering the cab and the running meter, she ask one more question. "Where is my father?"

"He is at work and won't be home for a few hours. Why?" the neighbor questioned.

"Because I want to be here when he comes and I have a cab with my luggage in it. I don't want to keep paying him to wait. May I sit here with you until my father comes home?" Yalise said.

The man frowned again and then offered. "I could call David if you want?"

"Please don't. I would rather see him when he gets home." Yalise informed him.

Her requested reluctant host was silent for awhile and then as if deciding that there seemed to be no harm in it, he nodded his head that it was okay for her to wait with him for David's return. Smiling brightly at him, Yalise went off to pay her fare and ask the driver to help put her things back in the driveway.

While she was tending to that, the man had second thoughts about the fact that he had agreed not to call his neighbor and warn him that his daughter was waiting for him. He really did not know that much about the relationship between the Barry’s but he did consider David his friend. Yet, the daughter seemed sincere and if she did cause trouble for her father, he could always send her packing again. "Besides," he thought, "I don't want to get mixed up in their business."

It was not long before Yalise and the taxi driver appeared beside the Volkswagen, both loaded with luggage.

"Where to put it?" the driver ask.

"Here in the garage will be fine." the neighbor answered.

The driver sat his share of the luggage down, retrieved his fare from Yalise, and without a goodbye or a nod, turned around and returned to his waiting cab. Yalise just looked after him, wondering to herself if all the islanders were as rude as he was or as suspicious as her father's friend was. She tried to tell herself that it was just human nature but it still made her feel odd.

Once Yalise’s entire luggage was neatly in one spot, she turned to the man and looked inquisitively at him. She hoped that he would know what she was asking without her having to say it. He met her stare, puzzled for just a moment, and then she saw it register in his eyes.

"Guess I should tell you my name, huh, since I know yours?" he half-said; half-ask.

"I would appreciate it." she answered.

"It is Perry Andrews." he said as he turned to go back to the chore of cleaning the garage that he had been halted in.

"Thank you for letting me wait for my father here, Mr. Andrews." Yalise said quietly and Perry just nodded his answer as he continued to work. It was not suddenly that Yalise felt uncomfortable with her predicament but she also felt that she had no alternative at the moment. She had to see her father before she could make any further decisions about what to do next. She sat silently on one of her suitcases, wanting to ask how long it would be before David returned home but felt she had been pushy enough with Perry. She wondered what she should do to entertain herself when her attention returned to the Volkswagen.

"Mr. Andrews, I noticed that you have a for sale sign on that car. Does it still run and if so, what are you asking for it?" she questioned.

Perry never turned back around to her but answered her anyway. "Yes, it runs and pretty well considering it is almost thirty years old. It isn't that pretty so I am asking a thousand dollars for it."

Yalise winced at the price, considering her savings but the car was so tempting. She knew that she would need transportation no matter what because she had read a great deal about the island and she knew its public transit system was not much more than taxis and some tourist shuttles. It was not a big island but big enough that a person would need a car to get from one spot to the other. She had saved enough to tide her only over for a couple of months if she lived cheaply and a thousand dollars would cut deeply into that. She had to consider the fact that perhaps her father would not let her stay with him and she would have to rent something to live in. It was still enough winter that the island's tourist trade was down until the end of May but then everything rent able on the island would go sky-high. Plus she still had to find a job. The car could serve many purposes, the least of which would be in getting back and forth to work.

Taking a deep breath, she questioned Perry once again. "May I hear it run? If it is okay, I might buy it from you."

Perry Andrews rose from his stooping position, turned around and stared in the young woman's face. As he looked closer, he could see enough of a resemblance to know that Yalise was related to David Barry. Yet, he could not miss the fact that she was attractive in her own way as well. He looked past the bit of a rumpled appearance of her clothes, the probable lack of sleep, and saw an appealing, if not very sincere human being looking at him.

"Would you like to test drive it?" Perry ask.

"Not right now, but could I hear it run?" she said.

"Sure thing, just let me finish this last bit of cleaning up in this corner and then I'll crank the car for you. After I am done, would you like something to drink maybe? It will be a couple of hours before David gets home and maybe longer." Perry explained.

"Hey, that would be great!" Yalise said with enthusiasm. "May I ask one more favor?"

"Depending on what it is?" he answered warily.

"Would you happen to have a current newspaper around? I really would like to look at the want-ads and see what of jobs are offered." she explained.

Perry was quiet for a moment, thinking to himself that the girl was really something. She had been in town for barely a few hours and she was already looking at buying a car and finding a job. He admired her gumption but he did not envy her when she met David. It was a scene he did not particularly want to witness.

"I have this morning's edition. I'll bring the want ads when I get you something to drink. Ice tea, okay?" he stated.

"Fine and thanks again!" Yalise returned and smiled, hoping he knew how sincere it was.

"No problem!" he answered and returned to his task and she returned to her silence.

***


Two hours later, David Barry returned home to find the surprise of his life, his daughter. Yalise had sat quietly waiting for him while Perry finished straightening his garage. He had started the Volkswagen for her and she liked the sound of the little air-cooled engine. The car seemed to be in very good shape to be as old as it was. She had made up her mind to buy it if it drove as nicely as it sounded but she made no affirmation of that fact to Perry. She looked through the want-ads for a job and found a couple of interesting ones but the list was not long as the island was a summer place and work was not as plentiful in the end of winter as it was in the spring and summer. One particular job really interested her but she knew it was best to wait until the next day to check on it when her immediate needs would be more settled.

When Perry heard David’s car pull into the driveway next door, he glanced up at Yalise and said quietly to himself. “Show time!” Then he turned to his “guest” and said, “Ms. Barry, your father is home.”

Yalise looked at him, her eyes growing wide with apprehension and taking something of a deep swallow, she gave him a whisper of a smile and replied,
“Thank you. Do you mind if I leave my things here while I go and talk to him?”

“No, that will be okay.” Perry answered.

Mustering up what courage she could, Yalise picked up her backpack, laid the want ads on top of her luggage, and pushed one foot in front of the other to walk the short distance down the driveway and across her father’s front lawn and up to the door. She rang the bell and prayed.

When David opened the door, there was a puzzled look on his face and a stunned look on Yalise’s face. She had seen a few pictures of her father, mostly when he was young, and also had a couple of vague childhood memories but the man she was staring at was her father but much older.
The ten years since she had seen him had changed him a great deal.

Trying to sound nonchalant, she said, “Hello, Dad.”

For a few moments, David could not speak, and then he finally uttered, “Yalise?”

The reply he got was sarcastic and injured, which surprised Yalise herself, because up to that moment, she had not really thought about the resentment she harbored against her father for all the years that he had not attempted to contact her. The words came out cold and distant. “Yep, it’s me. I’m Yalise.”

Then with little or no more expression, she ask. “May I come in?”

The request snapped David out of his stunned shock, and he silently stepped aside to allow his daughter entry into his house. His eyes watched her as soon as she began to move and followed her each step until she stepped past him into the living room and then turned to face him. She stared at him waiting and without saying another word; he shut the door and gestured towards the couch for her to sit down.

She turned and sat down on the black velour couch as she swung her backpack off and set it on the floor beside her. David was still standing in the same spot he had been and once again, she turned to stare at him and waited. This moment seemed to bring him into focus.

“Would you like something to drink or something to eat? Though about the food, I don’t know since I am not sure what I have in the house. I could send out for pizza if you want. I do have some soft drink or instant coffee? Would one of those be okay?” he rambled, trying to think of something to say.

“Coffee would be fine. I take a little sugar and milk if you have it? Otherwise, I can handle it black.” Yalise answered.

“Powdered dairy creamer?” he suggested.

“That’s okay.” she made small talk.

Nodding his understanding and grateful for the moment to have a chance to think, he went into the kitchen to fix her a cup of coffee. His mind was in awhirl of thoughts and he needed desperately to be able to think straight. Her unexpected appearance had caused everything to go off balance. He had never thought he would ever get a chance to see his child again because Beth, his ex-wife, had made that adamantly clear that she wanted Yalise to have nothing to do with him. The only thing she wanted from David was child-support, which he had paid, and nothing else. Now, Yalise was here and how could he explain to her about he had never been to see her or contacted her in ten years? His emotions were a mixture of fear, apprehension, and oddly somewhere under that, joy. Joy that his daughter had come to see him and all the others for what she must think of him!

He brought the coffee, offering her a cup and keeping one for himself. He took a seat in the black overstuffed chair next to the couch where she was sitting. He leaned back and crossed his legs, trying to look relaxed but meanwhile, studying her face as she looked since he had last seen her.

The resemblance to Beth was very strong but he noticed that Yalise had his eyes and the firm resolve about her lips that everyone had always told him that he had. That is except for his ex-wife. He decided that his daughter had turned out to be very pretty with a light shade of brown hair and greenish-brown eyes. His darker hair and brown eyes had overridden Beth’s blond, blue-eyed looks. He also could not fail to see that Yalise was studying him just as intently.

“Do you want to tell me why you are here, Yalise or should I just start asking questions?” David ask after the tense scrutiny moments. “I came to find you, Dad. I want to live on the island now. If I cannot stay with you, then I will find somewhere else but I do want to spend some time with you. Get to re-know you, I guess.” she answered him with a very straightforward attitude.

Something inside of David melted, something old, raw and full of pain. He felt a sudden flood of emotion, verging on tears. He had thought of Yalise so many times through the years but knew he was up against a battery of problems with Beth if he tried to see his daughter. The court had granted visitation rights but Beth had taken Yalise so far away that to see her took a great deal of money and time. His first year requests had been ignored and pushed aside to have his child visit him until enough time had passed that Beth threatened with abandonment in the later years and he believed that Yalise had been taught to hate him.

He could see the wary, wounded look in his daughter’s eyes but there was just the tiniest penlight of hope there also. He took a deep breath and said, he hoped with what did not sound too over enthusiastic, “You are welcome to stay here, Yalise. I have a spare bedroom. It is not much but you are welcome to it.”

It was interesting to see the visible sign of relief register across his daughter’s face as she said suddenly, “Now, I can buy the car!”

“The car? What car?” David questioned, confused.

“Perry’s car! The Volkswagen!” she answered.

“Perry’s car? How do you know Perry Andrews?” her father questioned again. With that question, Yalise began to explain all about her visit with David’s neighbor and from that she went on to explain of how she came to the island and what her plan had been. She said it all so fast that she left David’s mind in a muddled whirl.

***

Later in the evening after David had called and invited Perry over for pizza as a thank you for looking out for Yalise while she waited for him to come home from work. Perry and Yalise had carried all of the luggage back to David’s house and Perry had shown obvious relief that David was not angry with him for not warning him of Yalise’s visit before he got home. If Perry could have known, David could not have had a sweeter surprise in his life than to find his daughter waiting for him.

After dinner while David cleaned up, Perry and Yalise took the Volkswagen for a drive and Yalise fell immediately in love. They concluded the deal with a visit to the local notary of public and a thousand dollars in travelers checks signed over to Perry. The little green Beetle was Yalise’s and it was the very first car of her own.

Yalise often found herself through the evening thinking she should pinch herself because she was so comfortable and at ease with the two men. She had lived with her mother and her stepfather, Jonathan until she graduated from high school and then taking a job as intern counselor for “special” children, she had moved into the facility and took up her duties. She had been so involved with the kids and the facility that she had not had much of a desire to spend her salary so she was able to save for almost a year and a half for the trip to the island. At the facility, a home and also day camp set in rural area from where the city she had grown up in, she also discovered a love for another type of activity…horses!

The next morning when David got up and headed for work as his small print shop on the Strand, Yalise found herself with a whole day ahead of her. When she checked it seemed that Perry had also gone to work because his truck was gone from the driveway of his house. In less than three days, she had resigned her job from the facility, traveled well over 1200 miles on a bus, found her father, found a home and bought a car. The beginnings of a new life on the island she had been born on but she had almost no memory of. She had read as much as she could about the island but she was also not prepared to negotiate everywhere without some assistance. Plus there was that very appealing job ad in the paper of yesterday. Checking David’s paper she found the ad still listed and when the right hour had come, she called.

A gruff Texan voice, with that yet unfamiliar western twang to it, answered the phone.

“Beach Stables.”

“Hi!” Yalise began with enthusiasm and then continued, “I am calling about the ad in the paper for a stable guide? Is it still available?”

“Yep, sure is but there have been quite a few people here for the job since I ran it a couple of days ago. I haven’t made up my mind yet so you’re welcome to come and apply. Can you ride? Know anything about horses? Cause if you don’t, then there ain’t no need in you coming.” the man replied.

“Yes and yes. Where are you located?” Yalise answered and ask.

“Off Freeport Highway. Know where that is? If not, it’s on the west end of the island. Head straight down Seawall and then go to the right at the “Y”. Go two miles and you’ll see the sign on the left. Just a sandy road and if you are not careful, you’ll miss it. When you get here, ask for Jonah. If it ain’t me, then someone will show where I am. Be here in an hour cause I got to go to Houston this morning and that is the only time I can talk with you.” said the man, whom Yalise assumed was Jonah, and then hung up before Yalise could say anymore.

Yalise glanced down at the dead receiver of David’s home phone in surprise and thought how abrupt the man had been but the thought of working with the horses and getting paid for it again gave her plenty of reason to forgo any insult she might have felt. Then. she panicked.

“An hour?” She had yet to get dressed, which meant finding the right clothes, showering and still persuading her yet not well known little car through the island’s traffic and to her destination. She uttered a silent prayer that she would make it and also that she would get the job.

She found Seawall easy enough from David’s house. How could one miss the Gulf of Mexico lying straight in front of her once she backed the Volkswagen out and turned left at the next intersection. She reached the last stop sign and with only the wide boulevard of Seawall and beyond that the Gulf, she turned right and headed west just as Jonah had directed her.

She had worn her most comfortable jeans that still looked new, a pair of riding boots, even though she knew they were not western enough for the Texas island of Galveston. She had her letter of recommendation from her supervisor at the facility as well as one written by Zack, the stable manager at the facility, where she had passed all of his courses and was a confident teacher to the children on how to deal with and how to ride horses. She had known that she had always loved horses but it was not until she worked at the facility that she had been exposed to them and discovered she had a natural flair for them.

Galveston Island was not that long and after several lights, plus noticing a few brave souls on the still-winter beach, she found the “Y” in the road and went right, as Jonah had instructed. She almost did drive right past the small sign for the stable but she saw it ahead of time, downshifted the Beetle and turned left onto a narrow little white sand lane. She found a long lean-to at the end of the road and a pickup truck and a jeep parked along the back of the lean-to. A sign said “Customer Parking” at the driveway to where the truck and jeep were parked so she pulled her car in to park beside the jeep.

Checking her short, curly light brunette hair, and trying to calm her quivering nerves, she turned off the car and climbed out of the driver’s side.

The air was heavy with moisture and the smell of salt with a brisk breeze blowing off the Gulf. The day had dawned with a partially cloudy sky and though some had disappeared by this hour of ten in the morning, she still felt a less impact of warmth of sunshine. It was late February and the season for the island would not begin until mid-March but she also knew the island was popular and had year-round visitors. She straightened her shoulders and walked with what she hoped appeared to be self-confidence.

When she rounded the end of the lean-to, she found two men sitting in some camping chairs and both glanced up when they saw her. One was an older man, at least in his early sixties, tall, slender, and with a lightly lined, craggy face exposed under the brim of his hat. His long legs were stretched out in front of him and she felt his gaze sweep over her as if trying to decide for himself what she was made of. She could not help but wonder what he was thinking.

His companion was a younger man, late forties, and shorter with a bit of girth around his middle. His hat was pushed further back and she saw a friendlier face. His blue eyes to be filled with amusement and he smiled at her as if trying to make her feel more welcome. He seemed to be completely at ease with himself and his surroundings. The older man spoke first.

“Can I help you?” he ask.

“Yes, I am looking for Jonah. I have an appointment with him. My name is Yalise Barry.” she answered, trying to sound calm and relaxed.

“’Bout the guide job?” he questioned.

“Yes.” she replied.

“Well, I’m Jonah. Come in and take a seat.” he said pointing to an empty canvas camping chair and she did as he suggested.

Jonah and Yalise talked of her experience with horses first, and then he laid out the details to the job with a few comments added here and there by Ben, his stable manager. The job was very different than what she had done at the facility because all she really had to do now was guide guests along a two-mile stretch of beach and make sure that their horses stayed under control and they kept the animals to a walk. She knew she could be ask some questions about the island as well as the horses but she felt she was well versed on both. Jonah explained that the job paid on a commission basis when she was out with guests and eight dollars an hour when she wasn’t. She would be required to saddle the horses, water them and tend to them when she was at work. She would have to bring them from the actual stable across Freeport Highway and then at the end of the day bring them back. It entailed feeding, currying and basic groom duties. The riding stable was open seven days a week except for Thanksgiving and Christmas or if the weather was too bad for anyone to want to hire a horse for a ride. That decision was totally Jonah’s and she would have to call during bad weather to see if she had to work that day or not. She was given a day of her choice to have off as long as it was not a weekend and in the peak season, she may be required to work seven days a week. Jonah was quick to tell her that if she needed certain times off that to ask and he would do his best to oblige her. Then sizing her up once again, he ask “Do you can handle that?”

Her answer came without hesitation. “Yes.”

“Okay, next thing. Let’s see how well you can ride.” Jonah stated.
This was the part that Yalise had been waiting for. She had seen that there were four horses saddled and waiting in the lean-to. They were there for anyone who showed up wanting to ride for the rental fee of twenty dollars an hour. Yalise examined the horses one by one.

The closest one to her was a dark bay with the accompanying black mane and tail. His deep red color and black markings were only alleviated by one small patch of white on his forehead. He was a tall gelding, standing easy at sixteen hands, and from the look of the gear and simple reining, she knew he was Ben’s horse to ride on the guest tours. She was told his name was Star.

The next one was a pretty pinto mare with clearly defined black and white markings. She was small, mostly Quarter Horse, and had a beautiful head. Her wide brown eyes were intelligent and friendly. Jonah told Yalise that the mare’s name was Lacy and she was one of the most popular riding horses for the “green” riders, meaning someone who had never ridden before because of her good nature and her laid-back attitude.

Next to Lacy was another mare, a light colored palomino with the wispy usual cream-colored mane and tail. Two socks were on her back legs and a slender snip blaze on her face. She, like Lacy, had a seemingly gentle disposition and stared with interest at Yalise. Yalise was informed that her name was Goldie Hawn but everyone called her Goldie.

The next horse was an oddly patterned spotted horse. He was not Appaloosa or pinto or even dapple gray but his colors of brown and white ran together like spilled paint. He had “wall eyes”, with the white showing more than the brown of his pupils. He was short at barely fifteen hands, stocky with large hooves, and a straight Roman nose. He was standing in a relaxed pose, paying only attention to his empty feed trough, and giving everyone the air that he could care less what was going on around him. He was a gelding with a surly attitude. Ben said his name was Pitch and he was a “piebald”.

Jonah indicated the two mares and Pitch and told Yalise to pick one for her “interview” ride. He did not indicate which one but just to take her choice. Suspecting that this was a very important moment in securing the job, Yalise examined all three horses carefully and then chose Pitch. If the choice made any difference to either man, neither one indicated it. Jonah just nodded and told her to mount up. Ben, meanwhile, turned to get on Star and once both were mounted, he told Yalise to follow him. They did not even get twenty feet from the stable before Pitch balked and did a quick crow hop to the right side, something that would unseat any unsuspecting rider. Yalise had been prepared for it and went with him at he whirled to face back to the lean-to. She applied pressure to the right side of the saddle and a firm pull on the right side of his bit causing him to turn once again facing away from the lean-to. As he swung back around, she nudged him gently in the ribs to which he ducked his head and gave a short buck. She sat him out and when his head came up, she reapplied more pressure to her heels and was given a satisfactory response of the horse moving forward to join Star as he was told to do. As she came along side Ben where he was sitting on Star waiting for her, he chuckled lightly and said, “That is why his name is Pitch. He “pitches” most everybody off unless they know how to ride. I bet you got the job already. Everybody else that Jonah has interviewed has chosen the wrong horse because Pitch is the test horse. You are going to do just fine. Come on and let me show you our little riding beach. It isn’t that long but its pretty enough. After the ride, if Jonah does hire you like I think he will, you can have one of the easier horses to ride for work.”

“If I get the job, I think I’ll “keep” him. I like his spunk and he did get me the job. If that is okay?” Yalise stated.

“You want him, Yalise, you got him.” Ben replied, smiling broadly and thinking to himself that the girl had class and a good eye for horseflesh. Pitch was ornery and ugly but he was one of the best riding horses Ben had ever known. Strong and durable, he could do a whole eight-hour day even in Galveston’s humid heat and hardly break a sweat.

***

Yalise could hardly believe that she had gotten the job but there it was…she was hired. Jonah told her to report for work the next morning at eight in time to help Ben feed the horses and get the ones ready for that day’s rides and guests. Now, she was on her way home and it was still before noon.

She knew several things that she needed to get accomplished before David got home from work. She had not told her father that she was going to apply for a job that day, in case, it did not work out. David seemed to still be too stunned that she was there to have questions about how she would support herself. She had hinted that she had enough money to do her for awhile without leaning on him and then the subject had been dropped. When he had left in the morning, he had given her a spare key to the house and told her to enjoy her day. If her father had real plans of sharing some time with her now, he would have to do after her work hours were over. She felt stronger and more secure to once again have a job and the ability to take care of herself on her own.

There was one unpleasant task she had yet to do and that was to inform her mother of her whereabouts. Beth had objected when Yalise wanted to leave home right after graduation. Beth claimed that both she and Jonathan wanted Yalise to go to college but Yalise only wanted out of the house. She got along with Jonathan okay but she knew that he and her mother had never actually been alone because of her.

Jonathan was everything to Beth that David had never been. Jonathan was more ambitious, more materialistic, and more open to thoughts of travel that David had been. David had been born in Houston, spent most of his youth there and then had come to Galveston where he hired on as an apprentice in the print shop that he now owned. When his former employer, Mr. Murphy, had decided to retire, David had bought the shop. He was still young and had a wife and a small baby but he had bought it anyway. There had been a great deal of sacrifice over the years to keep the shop open until finally Beth had enough, took her daughter and moved into the Northwest to be near her own family. Now, for almost the last two years, it had been just Beth and Jonathan, who had a well-paid job as a plant manager. Yalise felt like an outsider with them. She wanted a family that wanted her and she hoped that she could find this with her father. Yet, to explain all of that to her mother was going to be anything but easy.

As she drove the Beetle down the right side of Seawall Boulevard, Yalise kept glancing at the Gulf rolling in and out on the shore. She had barely remembered it from when she was a child and her former home had been far inland so once again, the sea fascinated her. She wanted to stop the car and linger on the almost empty beach for awhile but she did not have the time. She decided to save it for another time when she could really savor the experience.

She needed some clothes to accommodate her new job and definitely, a new pair of western boots if she could afford them. The English riding boots that she had were totally inadequate for the western gear and she was well aware that she would need the proper clothing and gear to do a proper job. Troubled about the availability of boots but hopeful, Yalise decided to try a local modest priced department store she saw and she whipped the car into a u-turn and pulled into the parking lot.

Two hours later and three hundred dollars less in travelers checks, she emerged from the store with new jeans, new shirts and a stylish pair of black tooled-leather boots, pointed toe and all. The boots would kill her feet until she broke them in but they were still worth it. The wider, higher heel on them would grip the broad wood base of the stirrups better and give her a more secure seat on Pitch or whatever else horse she rode.

***

When David arrived home from work, he found himself in a very unfamiliar situation. As he let himself in the front door, after parking his car behind Yalise’s Beetle, he was greeted with the smell of food cooking, wonderful smells. He had never been much of a cook but had subsisted on breakfast, or frozen food dinners or take out. It had been a long time since his small house had been filled with the scents of dinner. He thought instantly of Beth and that brought thoughts of having to buy her half of the house and the struggle it had caused on him financially but he had kept his house and his shop but not his daughter. Now, it seemed for the time being, he had all three.

He laid his brief case on the coffee table and walked into the kitchen.
Yalise seemed to be at ease as she sat at the kitchen table reading a book and the electric crock pot was steamed and obviously cooking something that smelled delicious. He glanced hopefully at it and then back at her.

“I hope you like beef stew?” she remarked.

“Homemade?” he answered.

“Yes, almost. Used frozen veggies but it still will be good. It’s Mom’s recipe with a little variation. I sort of counted on the fact that you enjoyed her cooking?” Yalise continued.

“Well, that is one good memory I have of her but…” then his voice trailed off.

“But one of the very few, right?” Yalise finished his sentence for him or so she thought.

“No, Yalise, I have many good memories of your mother but I don’t think she does of me.” David remarked, his face showing signs of tenseness.

“Don’t worry about it, Dad. We don’t have to talk about Mom. Besides…” she spoke, “I have a ton of things to tell you about it and all of it is good news. The stew is done so if you are ready to eat, go wash up and I’ll set the table.” Yalise said.

“Great!” her father replied and went off to the bathroom to do as instructed, thinking to himself that happiness had been a long time in coming but none-the-less, it had come.

They talked over dinner and David was surprised at how much Yalise had accomplished in the short time she had been there. He warned her about the fluxuating tourist trade of the island. There could be days when there would be no one who wanted to rent a horse. Could Yalise make do on perhaps an unstable income. She explained about the work at the actual stable with Ben and that she felt that she could survive. David appeared to be doubtful but he did not pursue it as he did not want to crush her enthusiasm. If he was disappointed that he would have to see and spend time with his daughter around her work hours, he never let on to it. In his mind, his child had come home but that child was a grown adult with a mind and a life of her own. It was a strange transition from the nine year old he remembered to the nineteen year old who was used to making her own decisions.

Once dinner was over and they cleaned up the kitchen together, they sat down in the living room together and watched television to pass the evening. When David was ready to sleep after the late news, he found that his daughter was also as she now as he did had to get up early in the morning and go to work. Life was taking on a nice rhythm!

The days did fall into a pleasant rhythm as winter crept out and Spring tripped in. The island took on a different look with fully bloomed flowers and flushed-green trees. The traffic on Broadway and the Seawall became busier as locals and tourists alike flocked to Galveston’s beaches. The brown sand became warm to bare feet and the Gulf went from dark winter gray to blue-green or brown at times. At night, the water rolled tranquilly into shore, its temperature changing with the season and the birds returning once again. The tiny nondescript sandpiper chasing along the waves, plucking microscopic food from the water, and the white, gray-tipped wings of the air bandits, the seagulls, screeched and cried above her head when she walked the beach either alone or with her father. Though her muscles ached from the hard work at her job and she was weary at the end of the day, she could not remember a time when she had been happier in her life.

***

As the days grew longer and the nights grew shorter, Yalise began to invite Perry to dinner as often as he would come. His job as ferryboat pilot on Galveston Bay to the Bolivar Peninsula sometimes required different shifts since the ferries ran twenty-four hours a day. She had a taken the trip across the Bay with him at the wheel and then explored the fifty miles of the Peninsula before it fed into the main interstate heading east out of Texas. In the various towns along the old highway, she had found detours to public beaches and wonderful neighborhoods of homes on tall pilings. Homes or weekend getaways for people everywhere. The beaches were less populated and she could walk for miles without hardly seeing a soul. She knew it would change with the coming of summer but still it would less crowded than the island’s beaches. Her one day a week off was used to learn the island, the Peninsula, and one daring day, the long drive into Houston where she quickly turned around and headed back for the less crowded conditions of Galveston.

Perry told her endless stories of the island and its history. She was fascinated since it was her hometown. She soon began to feel that she had been there all of her life. That she really did have a home after all.

Beth was angry and upset with her and Yalise knew that her mother felt betrayed but she hoped with time that her mother would understand her decision to return to Galveston. She could see a visible change in her father as he smiled more and actually put on weight from her cooking. He would tell her that his little house seemed to be such a better place now with her there.

The job was wonderful as she guided tourists with their horses down the beach and answered endless questions about the horses and about Galveston. She had fallen in love with Pitch and he seemed to feel the same. She rode him the most often but gave him more days off than she had because he worked hard for her. She developed a strong fondness for Ben and Jonah and had an attachment for every horse in the stable. She had been contented at the facility but this job seemed to bring her truly to life.

Though almost ten years older than she was, Perry had become a close companion. She was amazed at how much she enjoyed his company. When he finally ask her for a date, she was not caught off guard at all. He would not tell her where they were going but she soon found herself in his truck headed for Houston to see the zoo there and to savor some of the exceptional food and sights that could be had in a city as large as Houston was. She felt less intimidated by the size of the city when she was with Perry. If David had any objections to Yalise seeing Perry on a more personal basis, he never showed it. The two men had really become her family.

From friendship to love, from being a stranger to the possibility of a life together, Yalise’s search for love had come full circle. She had found her father once again, she had found love in Perry, and she had found the magic of Galveston Island.

3 comments:

♥NICOLE said...

Um, Hi, I was thinking if I could copy paste your stories and paste it in my blog, Then I'll credit you at my links?

Mr Romantic said...

@Nicole,

We welcome you to do =]

♥NICOLE said...

Thanks so much!

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