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illiam it’s so good to see you. How’ve you been keeping? Oh, my gosh, I haven’t seen you in at least twelve years. Welcome back to Allen Manor. Are your folks with you? Oh probably not, you’re a little old now to be taking vacations with your parents,” Kate said, wiping her hands on her apron, opening the screen door, motioning for him to enter the kitchen. “Are you staying at the Inn? I hope you’ll consider staying here. How long are you going to be in New Grove Shores?” “It sure is great to see you Kate,” William smiled. “I’m just passing through town, and wanted to stop and say hi. I’m really glad to see you’re here. I wasn’t sure… it’s been a long time.” “Oh, I moved away for a few years but you know, there’s no place like home. What do you mean—just passing through? Can you at least stay for dinner? We have a lot to catch up on.” “I’d like that. How are your parents?” he asked, while glancing around at familiar items. The crystal sugar and butter dishes on the kitchen table. The jar of cinnamon sticks on the counter, beside the vase overflowing with lavender. He peeked into the dining room. The crystal teardrops chandelier still hung over the mahogany table that could seat 12 people with no one feeling cramped in. The deep red velvet drapes tied back at the windows—hints of the lace sheers peeking out along the edges. The silver tea service, proudly displayed on the mahogany side-board. Directly above, hanging from a red velvet ribbon, in an oval frame, was the hand painted photograph, of Kate’s parents on their wedding day. As a young boy, when he sat in this dining room with his parents, William would stare at the picture and try to make sense of it, he though Mr. and Mrs. Allen looked unhappy in the portrait. They stood rigid, beside each other, without a hint of a smile on their faces. But then he would look at Kate’s mother, sitting beside him, she appeared to be happy enough, although she rarely spoke. “My parents passed a few years ago,” Kate said. My father took ill first. My mother died a few months later—I truly believe it was from a broken heart.” “I’m sorry Kate. Your parents were always welcoming, every time my folks and I came to visit. You must miss them terribly.” “Yes I do, but I’ve been pretty busy running this Manor, she extended her arms as if to embrace the kitchen. When they died I couldn’t bear to sell it, but I couldn’t afford to keep it up as a family home, so I changed it to Allen Summer Rentals. I was amazed at how quickly it filled with guests.” “Mommy I’m thirsty,” Veronica said, entering the kitchen, rubbing sleep from her eyes, her blue blanket trailing behind her. “Allow me to introduce my daughter Veronica, who just woke up from her nap.” Kate ruffled her daughter’s blond curls so much like her own. “Well hello Veronica, my name is William. How are you?” “I’m three,” she said, peeking from behind her mother’s skirt.

“Ah, Veronica is pretty sure every question asked of her the answer is her age,” Kate said. “So will I get to meet your husband—Mrs. Kate?” “Oh gosh no, we separated before Veronica was born. I’d say that marrying him had been the biggest mistake of my life, but I got Veronica out of the deal.” Kate cupped her hands over her daughter’s ears before continuing. “He never wanted children, said he was too much of a child himself to have any. He left me when I told him I was going to have a baby, regardless of what he wanted. Two months later, I had Veronica and a few months after that she and I moved here.” Veronica wiggled free from Kate’s hands covering her ears. “Mommy, I’m thirsty.” “Sorry Honey, mommy was busy talking to William.” “The divorce was final about a year ago,” Kate continued, after Veronica left the room with a cup of juice, and her blue blanket trailing behind her. “So I am Miss Kate Allen again—no longer Mrs. Kate Kramer.” “Let me get this straight, you’re raising your daughter and running Allen Summer Rentals on your own. How do you keep up?” “It hasn’t been easy, but I manage. If there is something that needs to be fixed—I can hire a handyman, and in the summer there are always kids around looking to make some pocket money, they mow the lawn or maybe trim a hedge, that kind of thing. But getting ready for guests in the spring, maintenance and clean-up after they leave are the most difficult times. I need to find a fulltime caretaker, someone who’ll get to know Allen Manor as well as I do, so I don’t have to point out what needs to be done all the time.” “Miss Kate—I’d be interested in the job! I already know Allen Manor pretty well and I’m handy with tools. Heck I could even take Veronica to the pier for ice cream.” “That would be perfect William, but you said you were just passing through—don’t you have other plans.” “No Miss Kate, I don’t.” Getting settled at Allen Manor took but a few minutes. He carried everything in one trip to the carriage house, which had been converted to a guest-house long before Kate turned Allen Manor in to Allen Summer Rentals. As she turned the key in the lock, she explained to him that occasionally her guests preferred staying here, rather than in the main house. But more often than not it was empty and she hoped he would be happy to call it home as the official care-taker of Allen Summer Rentals. The carriage house was exactly what William wanted. A large open area, a comfy couch facing a field-stone surrounded fireplace, with a mantel of rough honed wood—the perfect spot for his dad’s golf trophies. A reclining chair positioned to face the console TV tucked in a corner. The kitchen section, small, but enough for him, especially when he would have most of meals in the main house with Kate, Veronica, and the guests. William headed for the bedroom, dropped his duffle bag on the bed, and set the boxes on the floor beside. He grabbed his tool-belt from one of them, and headed for the shed he spotted out back when he arrived. Giving the door an extra shove when it groaned in protest on the first try—he knew what his first task would be. Hunting around the dim and dusty work area he found an almost empty bottle of oil and sprayed the hinges. Next he set to work: sorting the contents of each shelf above, and every drawer below the work-bench. Jars of rusty nails, hardened paint brushes, oil soaked rags and broken garden shears dumped in to the waste can. Now that the work area was less cluttered, using the pencil stub he found in a drawer, he made a list of everything he would need. Grabbing his cap from the perfectly located hook just inside the door, William put it on his head and left the shed. “Still got more to get from your car?” Kate asked, from the side porch, Veronica balanced

on her hip. “No ma’am, I’m gonna make a run to the hardware store.” “You don’t have to call me ma’am you know.” “Sorry ma’am… I mean, Miss Kate,” he chuckled. Kate shook her head, heading back into the house with Veronica still clinging to her waist, while mumbling under her breath, “what the heck does he need at the hardware store already?” The next morning, before her usual time to get up, Kate was woken by the sound of hammering coming from the shed. She pulled on her robe, fished her slippers out from under the bed, and ran her hands through her blond curls. She checked on her sleeping daughter, then tramped across the dew covered lawn. “Oh my gosh,” Kate exclaimed, entering the shed. What had been a neglected space, full of clutter and broken tools, was now a gleaming work shop with everything in place. “William, did you get any sleep last night? This is amazing.” William stuck his chest out, proudly beaming at her. “I was hoping you’d like it. I really need a good base to work from.” “What’s that?” Kate pointed at a tool she had never seen before, hanging from one of the pegs he had installed along the side wall. “I’m not sure,” he admitted, scratching his head. “But it was on sale at the hardware store and I just couldn’t pass it up.” “Well… it’s your shed now, whatever you bring in here is up to you. Ready for some coffee and breakfast?” Kate motioned William to follow her to the house. He offered to get the coffee going when they entered the kitchen. Veronica was awake now and needed Kate’s attention. Sitting at the kitchen table, sipping their coffee after breakfast, while Veronica played with toys on the scatter mat next to the sink, he declared how happy he was to be living and working at Allen Manor. “But are you sure? I mean it is great for me… and Veronica, but what about what you were doing before you came here?” “What I was doing was totally wrong for me. I tried to make it work… but I was miserable. I got out while the getting was good. This is exactly where I should be,” he pointed at the table. Kate and William, settled into a routine of working side-by-side. A comfortable brother and sister, running the family business relationship. Veronica flourished in their care and as she got older, didn’t question why her dad wasn’t around—it was just the way it was. Kate and William, talked about what Kate would tell Veronica if she asked, or perhaps, she should bring up the subject. But how do you tell your child—your other parent didn’t want you.

Family by Choice4  

Getting settled at Allen Manor took but a few minutes. He carried everything in one trip to the carriage house, which had been converted to...