Cultivating Love - Scene from Chap. 5 - Ed's POV
Ed pressed his lips together and
stared at a photo in the album. His dad’s happy, suntanned face beamed from the
two-dimensional rectangle. He could almost imagine the laughter that might have
accompanied the casual scene. While Ed’s dad had been the focus of this photo,
others were present, with elbows and knees making it into the frame of the
A party, perhaps? The image was
in a cruise ship’s album, taken poolside on deck. Had his dad—Fred—and the man
he’d been arm-in-arm with on the album’s first page gone as part of a larger
group of friends, or had they made friends onboard? If the other albums Joe had
described were anything to go by, Fred hadn’t been lacking in friends. Ed’s
shoulders shook. Why had this cheerful, friendly man abandoned him so
He stiffened and fought off
threatening tears. The last thing he wanted to do was to cry in front of Joe.
Joe had been a champ so far dealing with Ed’s mixed emotions, but there was no
need to push to see how much Joe could take before—
Ed’s whole body shuddered and he
pushed the thought aside. He started at the page and swallowed, struggling to
keep his breath steady.
Joe rocked on his feet, no doubt
uncomfortable with Ed’s lack of control. Ed took a couple deeper breaths to
calm his nerves, then Joe’s hand landed on his shoulder. Was he trying to…? Ed
shook his head, and a tremor ran through his shoulders. What must Joe think?
But Joe didn’t stop at a mere
shoulder pat. He curled that hand around Ed’s biceps and pulled him up. Up and
into the warm circle of Joe’s arms. Ed took an erratic lungful of air and wound
his arms around Joe’s waist.
Maybe that was a mistake, but Joe
seemed to be offering it. Both comfort and a shoulder, which Ed laid his head
on. And why should Joe’s consolation be unexpected anyway?
When Joe petted his hair, Ed
closed his eyes and tightened his hug. Joe probably felt as fish-out-of-water
in this unfamiliar role as he did, so it seemed like a good idea to offer a bit
of reassurance that the soothing actions were appreciated.
Ed sniffed. “Why, Joe? Fuck. Why
did he leave me all alone in the world? I was so fucking alone before you.”
Joe tightened his arms in turn
and gently rocked them. “We’ve got each other now. That’s all that matters.”
Ed nodded against Joe’s neck. Another
rap sounded at the front door, and Ed jumped back. Back to reality. His face
heated as he scrubbed it and stared at the floor.
“Ed, you can stay here. I’ll get
rid of ’em.”
Their front porch was turning into
Grand Central Station. Ed pulled his shoulders back, wiped his face on a
napkin, and blew his nose. After a few cleansing breaths, he peeked out through
the living room to see who was at the door.
A man Ed hadn’t met before, but
whom he recognized as the man who’d gone on that cruise with Fred, moved back a
few paces as Joe opened the door and stepped outside. “Hello, What can I do for
Ed straightened and craned his
neck to hear. This was the man whom Joe had recognized as the one who’d taken
care of the farm before they could get there. Fred’s best friend and apparent
lover, and Ed’s best bet for getting a few answers.
The man’s face was stony. “I
heard you got back to town today. Thought I’d stop by and pick up something
that belongs to me. It was in Fred’s possession, but it belonged to both of us,
and I’d like to have it.”
Yeah, it had to be him. The same
man who’d been so rude to Joe when they’d come out to see the place before making
the decision to move here.
“You must be on a weak branch of
the Mayfield grapevine.” Joe wasn’t making any effort to be friendly, either,
but at least his tone wasn’t outright cold. “I’ve been here every day since you
first saw me. Ed just rolled back in today, though. He’s been closing up
our place back in Omaha.”
The man’s brows came together,
and he appeared genuinely surprised. “Thought you were him.”
“My name’s Joe. Joe Durham. What’s
yours, and what is it you’re looking for?”
Ed puffed out a soft snort.
Probably that cruise line photo album.
“Bill Golden.” He looked away
and took a breath, as if working up the nerve to say what he wanted. “It’s
personal…” He waffled. “I know where it is and would prefer to just remove it
Yep, the photo album.
Joe paused a few moments before
replying. “Well, it’s been moved.”
Bill narrowed his eyes, but didn’t
“Look.” Joe’s tone softened. “You
certainly don’t have anything to worry about from me and Ed. Here’s the thing.
Ed’s never seen a photo of his father before today, and he’s having an emotional
time of it. There are a couple of family albums in there, too, so I imagine he’ll
be willing to part with the one you’re after.”
Bill’s tension seemed to ease a
bit, but the angle of his eyebrows still broadcasted his confusion. “I’d
“I know Ed would really like to
talk to you about his father, He has a lot of questions. This isn’t a good
Bill whole body stiffened, and
his face pinched. “Too bad he never thought to ask Fred himself when he was
alive. Woulda meant the world to him to hear from the boy.”
Ed’s jaw dropped. What the hell
was Bill talking about? Ed’s legs moved before he had the chance to second
guess the action. He’d crossed the living room in seconds and shoved open the
“What kind of bullshit comment is that?” The heat
that had rushed to Ed’s face in the kitchen now spread down his neck. “The only
word you got right is ‘boy.’ That’s all I was when my mother died, and I could
have used a father, desperately. Where the hell was he my whole life?”