As Jeremy loaded the SUV for his return trip back to the university he couldn’t help but feel sad about giving up the Honda. However, he was pleased that Molly would love it as much as he had. “Don’t forget this,” Nancy said as she placed a box of food in the SUV, interrupting his thoughts.
“Mom, that’s enough food to feed an army,” Jeremy halfheartedly protested.
“I’m sure you and your fiends will manage to put it to good use,” Nancy said as she hugged her son goodbye.
“Thank you for the car,” Molly said. “I know how much you love it, and I promise I’ll take good care of it too.”
“I know you will,” Jeremy admitted. “Look out for our little sister,” he said to Scott.
“She will be taken care of,” Scott said. “And don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine too. I promise I’ll continue seeing the shrink. But, I think the talk you and Annie gave me did more good than any doctor ever could.”
“Promise that you and Molly will both see that she is okay,” Jeremy said.
“Don’t worry about Annie,” Allen said. “We’ll all take good care of her.”
“She’ll be released from the hospital in two or three days and we’ll bring her here to stay until she is well enough to go back home,” Nancy said. “Dorothy said that she could take care of her, but there are more of us here to take care of her here.”
Jeremy pulled out of the driveway on to the highway when he suddenly realized how much had changed over the Christmas break. His family had grown because of a tragic event. Tragedy had taken Wade from him and tragedy had given him a brother and sister.
The apartment seemed cold and forlorn after spending time at home. Jeremy turned up the heat and began the task of unloading the SUV. As usual, his mom had sent back more food than he could consume before it spoiled. He decided to call Julie and Wes to come over and eat with him.
“Hey Julie,” Jeremy said when Julie answered the phone.
“Jeremy, I didn’t know you were back,” Julie said. “I didn’t see your car in the parking lot.”
“Long story,” Jeremy said. “As usual, Mom sent back a lot of food. Bring Wes over and help me get rid of it and I’ll tell you about the car.”
“We’ll be right there,” Julie said. “Could I bring anything?”
“You could bring the sodas over,” Jeremy said. “I haven’t been to the store yet to resupply.”
“Okay, now tell us about the car,” Julie said after they sat down to eat.
Jeremy began the long story about the car, how Scott and Molly came to live with them, how Annie and Dorothy got shot, and how Scott and Molly were to be adopted by his parents.
The trio chatted late into the night, catching up on events of the winter break from classes when Wes said, “I need to get to bed. I have an early class tomorrow.”
Jeremy quickly settled into a routine, and he called each evening to check on Annie. By Friday when his last class was over he was on the road to home. He was surprised when he pulled into the driveway and saw that the garage was gone. He turned to see Molly driving the Honda with Allen sitting in the passenger seat with a huge grin.
Molly parked the car and ran over and gave Jeremy a big hug. Upon her release he walked over and wiped pretend dust off of the car. “Now you know that car is spotless,” Molly protested.
“Is it ever,” Allen said. “I’m surprised she doesn’t make me take my shoes off just to ride in it.”
“Good idea,” Molly laughed.
“Don’t even think about it,” Allen said.
“What happened to the garage?” Jeremy asked.
“Since our family is growing, we decided to add a couple of bedrooms over the garage,” Allen explained. “The old garage was too small for decent size bedrooms and a new bathroom. We’ll be getting a three-car garage and the new bedrooms.”
“Why would you need more bedrooms?” Jeremy asked. “I’m away at college and Scott will be soon.”
“Scott has decided to live at home while he is at NSU,” Allen explained. “I suspect that Molly will be going to college at UC Davis.”
“Shut up, I will not,” Molly giggled. “Besides, Casey will be coming to NSU to the college of Optometry.”
“Since when?” Jeremy asked. “I talked to him just a couple of days ago and he didn’t mention it.”
“It’s a daily thing with Molly and Casey,” Allen teased.
“I’m going inside,” Molly blushed. “It’s cold out here.”
“Cody called,” Allen said once Molly was in the house.
“What in the hell did he want?”
“He wanted to know if it was okay if he called Molly and Scott.”
“What did you tell him?”
“I said it would be fine as long as he didn’t start preaching to them or trying to put a guilt trip on them. I told him that he would be welcome to come for a visit if they wanted to see him. Did you know that Mitch and Kay had changed their will and left everything to Cody?”
“No I didn’t, but I’m not surprised.”
“Nancy and I decided that it might be for the best.”
“How would it be for the best?”
“Cody was affected more by Mitch’s crazy ideas than Molly and Scott. We can afford to help them, but Cody is pretty much on his own.”
“I hadn’t thought of it that way, but you’re probably right. Annie told me that she was willing everything to Scott, Molly, and me. There is Scott now.”
“What are you two fools doing out here in the cold?” Scott asked as he hugged Jeremy.
“Waiting for you to carry my things in,” Jeremy joked.
“I guess I should since you’re too weak to do it,” Scott countered.
Jeremy was surprised at how strong Annie appeared in the short time since the shooting. “Annie, you’re looking strong,” he remarked.
“It’s all of the good food that your mother and sister have been feeding me,” Annie said.
“Besides, she is too mean to be kept down,” Scott teased.
“You had better watch it young man or I’ll turn you over my knee and paddle your skinny butt,” Annie laughed.
“Buns of steel,” Scott said as he patted his own butt.
“Get your buns over here and give me a hug, you too Jeremy,” Annie said. “Wishi,” she said as she patted Scott’s behind.
“What?” Scott asked.
“She’s saying that your buns are like the wishi mushroom,” Jeremy laughed.
“You know about the wishi?” Annie asked.
“Remember, you cooked it for me once?” Jeremy said. “I would be afraid to gather it myself. I would probably gather a poisonous mushroom.”
“That’s one of the many things I need to teach you,” Annie said. “The wishi is a delicacy to the Cherokee people. I also want to take you to a traditional Cherokee stomp dance, you too Scott and Molly.”
“Isn’t a stomp dance like a war dance?” Molly asked.
“No Honey, it is a religious ceremony,” Annie explained. “To some Cherokees it is their only religion, but some Christian Cherokees practice both. Still many Christian Cherokees think that they would go to hell if they went near the ceremonial stomp grounds.”
“We’ve had that preached to us,” Scott said. “Let’s go feed the horses, Jeremy.” He apparently wanted to change the subject.
“I was named to the all-district football team,” Scott said as they worked.
“You were? I’m proud of you. Now maybe you can come and play at OU.”
“You mean warm the bench at OU. We’ve gone through this before. I’m good enough to play for NSU, but there is no way I’d get playing time at OU. Besides, NSU has offered me a scholarship and OU hasn’t.”
“Mom, Dad, and Annie have already funded your college education.”
“They did yours too, and you got an academic scholarship. What are you doing with that money?”
“Okay, I get your point. I guess I’m just being selfish. It would be great to have you as a roommate thought.”
“I know, but you’ll be graduating and I’d be stuck down there by myself. You’ll be home this summer and we can spend time together.”
“I’ve decided to take summer classes so that I can graduate next year.”
“See what I mean? I would only be in Norman with you for one year.”
“I’m sorry, you’re right. I have no right to even ask you.”
“Sure you do, you’re my brother. That also gives me the right to tell you to fuck off.”
“Don’t make me take you down little brother.”
“Bring it on.”
Jeremy laughed, put his arm around Scott, and said, “Let’s go see what’s for dinner.”
As they were walking back to the house Scott suddenly stopped and asked, “What do you think about Cody?”
“I feel sorry for him.”
“Why do you feel sorry for him? He inherited everything while Molly and I got nothing.”
“Would you trade places with him?”
“Hell no I wouldn’t.”
“See what I mean? Besides Mom and Dad changed their will to give you, Molly and I equal parts. Annie is also willing each of us one third of her assets after a smaller portion to Cody and a scholarship fund she is establishing.”
“Why would she do that?”
“She has no living relatives and she sees us as her grandchildren.”
“I’ll be going back home tonight,” Annie announced during dinner.
“Are you sure you’re well enough?” Nancy asked with concern.
“Sure I am,” Annie assured her. “Besides, you need the space since Jeremy is home from school.
“I’ll be right next door to help her,” Dorothy added. “We often share meals anyway.”
“Let’s go horseback riding,” Jeremy said the next day.
“I can’t, I have a date,” Scott said.
“Oh you do, do you?” Jeremy laughed. “Who is the unlucky girl?”
“The lucky girl is Bailey,” Scott said. “We’re going to Tulsa shopping and then to a movie.”
“Is Bailey that cute girl that was flirting with you at the diner?” Jeremy asked.
“Yes, the one you told me that I should ask her out,” Scott said.
“I’ll go riding with you,” Molly volunteered.
“Well at least one of my siblings is willing to spend time with me,” Jeremy laughed.”
“That’s because her boyfriend is in California,” Scott teased.
“Shut up, Scott,” Molly blushed.
“I haven’t been riding in a long time,” Allen said. “I’ll go too.”
“I guess I should start looking for someone to take down Annie’s old house,” Jeremy said as they rode by.
“I forgot to mention, but Art Schneider with the fire department said they would burn it down for training purposes,” Allen said. “We would only have to haul away the noncombustible parts.”
“Tell him to burn away,” Jeremy said.
“I know it has to come down, but I hate to see Annie’s house gone,” Molly reflected. “What do you plan to do with this place?”
“After I graduate from college I want to build a house on the bluff overlooking the river valley,” Jeremy said.
“How much longer are we going to ride?” Molly asked as she shivered.
“Honey, are you cold?” Allen asked. “I think the cold front may have reached us.”
“I’m a little cold,” Molly admitted.
“You go on inside and get warm,” Allen said when they arrived back home. “Jeremy and I will unsaddle and feed the horses.”
“Son, you mentioned building a house,” Allen began as they cared for the horses. “Have you thought about starting it soon? Because the economy is bad a lot of contractors aren’t busy now and you could probably get a good deal.”
“I’ll have to graduate and get a job first. It takes money you know.”
“Your scholarships have paid for your education for the most part and you could use your college fund.”
“That wouldn’t be enough and I don’t want payments until I have a job.”
“You’re thinking smart, Son. But, I think you should at least start some planning.”
“We’re going to Dorothy’s for dinner,” Nancy announced when Jeremy and Allen returned to the house. “Jeremy, she said that she was making something special for you.”
“I hope it is a sweet potato pie,” Jeremy said as his thought about his favorite pie. It’s too bad Scott won’t be home in time to go too. He loves Dorothy’s sweet potato pie too.”
“He called and said that it was starting to snow in Tulsa and they decided to come back home early,” Nancy said. “He and Bailey will be joining us there. This will be my chance to meet her.”
“I’ve only met her one time,” Jeremy said. “She is gorgeous and seems like a nice girl.”
“I’ll drive my car,” Molly gladly offered as the family left for dinner at Dorothy’s.
“Alright Honey,” Allen agreed. “However, if it is snowing when we leave either Jeremy or I will drive back.”
“But Dad, I need the driving experience on snow,” Molly reasoned.
“Agreed, but after you have driving experience,” Allen firmly stated.
“Whew,” Jeremy said as he wiped pretend sweat from his brow and pretended to stagger after arriving at Dorothy’s.
“Shut up, I’m a good driver,” Molly laughed.
“Stop teasing her,” Nancy joined in on the laughter.
The wonderful aroma coming from Dorothy’s kitchen triggered Jeremy’s salivary glands to go into overdrive. “If dinner is half as good as it smells then we’re in for a real treat,” he said.
“Wash your hands and set the table for me and you’ll soon find out,” Dorothy said.
“What can I do to help?” Molly asked.
“Why don’t you set the table and Jeremy can take the pork roast out of the oven for me,” Dorothy said. “I thought we would serve dinner buffet style. We’ll eat as soon as Scott and his date get here.”
“I’ll call his cell and see where he is,” Allen volunteered.
Before Allen could place the call Scott entered with Bailey on his arm saying, “We’re here, let’s eat.”
“Scott, where are your manners?” Nancy laughed. “You need to introduce this pretty young lady to everybody.”
“Oops, I’m sorry,” Scott said. “Bailey, this is my mom Nancy, my dad Allen, my sister Molly, my honorary grandmas Dorothy and Annie. And, you’re met my ugly brother Jeremy.”
“I’m very pleased to meet you,” Bailey said with a slight curtsy.
“There’s plenty more,” Dorothy insisted after everyone had at least one large serving and some had two.
“None for me,” Jeremy said. “It was delicious, but I’m saving room for sweet potato pie.”
“Oh, you wanted sweet potato pie?” Dorothy asked. “I didn’t know you wanted sweet potato pie.”
“I just assumed you had sweet potato pie after mom said you were making something special for me,” Jeremy said in disappointment.
“You didn’t like my pork roast?” Dorothy asked.
“It was delicious,” Jeremy said. “But, nothing can compare to your sweet potato pie.”
“I’m just playing with you, Jeremy,” Dorothy laughed. “I even made one for you to take back to Norman with you.”
“Grandma Dorothy you’re the best,” Jeremy said with a wide grin.
“Ha, I thought I was the best,” Annie joined in on the fun.
“I’ll help you serve it,” Molly volunteered. “And, Jeremy gets the smallest piece.”
“That’s okay since I get a whole pie,” Jeremy countered.
“I’ll help serve,” Bailey offered.
After they had all enjoyed generous servings of pie, Annie said, “Jeremy, walk me over to my place. I’m getting a little tired.”
“Come in for a few minutes,” Annie said after Jeremy had unlocked the door for her. “I want to discuss something with you.”
“I should have known you didn’t really need me to walk you over here,” Jeremy laughed.
“Take a seat,” Annie said in a serious tone. “Allen said that he talked to you about starting plans on your house.”
“He did,” Jeremy said. “But, I can’t afford payments until I finish college.”
“I’m going to contact my lawyer and accountant Monday and arrange for you to receive part of your inheritance now,” Annie said.
“You don’t need to do that,” Jeremy argued.
“And why shouldn’t I? It would eventually be yours anyway.”
“You might need your money.”
“Jeremy, you don’t understand. My husband made some very wise investments when we were young. I’m a very wealthy woman.”
“But, you drove a beat-up old pickup and lived in an old…”
“Shack,” Annie finished for him. “I guess I was trying to relive some of my youth. I bought that old truck because it reminded me of the one my husband had when we got married. We hauled our meager possessions in that thing all the way to Houston. The house was a lot like the one my parents had when I was a little girl. Only we didn’t have indoor plumbing back then.”
“You never liked Houston?”
“Houston wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t home. These hills were always home to me. I loved my husband very much, but I was ready to come back home. I even was starting to pack one day.”
“What caused you to change your mind?”
“A good friend, a very wise good friend convinced me that I would be making a big mistake by leaving the man I loved because I was homesick. She was from Venezuela and met her husband when he was there with the oil company. She said that she willingly went with him when he was transferred back to Houston.”
“Anyway, I got off the subject,” Annie continued. “My husband was worth several million dollars when he passed away. I could never spend it all before I died if I wanted. You may as well use it now.”
“If you have so much money then why did you buy used cars for Cody and Scott?”
“I did that because I knew they would appreciate it when the time came for a new one. Besides, I wanted Mitch to have to pay for their insurance rather than give all of his money to that damn church.”
“Annie, I really don’t need a house right now.”
“Nonsense, your dad is right that this is the right time to have one built. Now what type of house did you have in mind?”
“Just a simple house is fine with me.”
“Jeremy, didn’t you hear what I said? You will access to a lot of money. I don’t want you to skimp on a house.”
“I always envisioned a log home on the bluff overlooking the river valley below.”
“Now you’re talking. We’ll discuss this when you come home next weekend. I really am beginning to get tired. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll go to bed now.”
“Do you need anything before I go?”
“Oh no, I’m fine. Good night, Jeremy.”
“Good night, Grandma Annie.”
Snow had started to fall when Jeremy stepped outside. After a token protest, Molly relented to letting Jeremy drive home. “I could have done as well,” Molly said when they arrived home.
“It’s a man thing,” Nancy teased.
“What time will you be back in Tahlequah Friday?” Annie called and asked Jeremy the next Wednesday.
“I don’t have any Friday afternoon classes,” Jeremy said. “I should be there by 2:00 p.m.”
“Come by my condo before you even go on home,” Annie said with authority.
“I will,” Jeremy promised.
“I wonder what she is up to.” Jeremy said to himself as he hung up the phone.