The Road Home


Two years later

Anne turned the radio dial in the old red pickup and found the oldies station.  She turned it up and sat back, her long hair blowing wildly around her face from the wind streaming in through the open windows.  She gathered it all in her fist and sang along to the radio.  Matt stared at her, and wondered at the way his life had turned out.
“Are you really okay to be working today?” Matt asked as he got out of the old Ford and ran around the front to open the door for her. She lumbered out of the pickup and stretched her back, her belly sticking out in front of her like she had a basketball tucked under her shirt.
“So far, so good.  I promise, you’ll be the first to know,” she said, as she walked toward the restaurant.
One of the first things they’d done after their wedding on the island was open up the restaurant she’d always dreamed of in Old Derby. People came from hours away just to eat at “Chadwicks.” Aside from the restaurant, people also showed up for the weekly light show at the Chadwick cemetery on the island.  Okay… so the light show wasn’t real.  Matt had rigged up lights and timers, but the tourists loved it, and Libby got to tell the stories of the people buried there once a week.  She inserted her ribald humor and good storytelling skills, and people loved it.
Anne walked into the restaurant, and everyone stopped to look at her. She took a shallow breath, all she was capable of this late in her pregnancy, and let it out slowly. “Good,” she said, smiling softly. “Everything looks great.”
“And they did it all without your supervision,” Matt said. “Now find a seat and put your feet up.”
She arched a brow at him. “It’s not everyday your grandmother gets married. It all has to be perfect.” She pointed to the helium tank resting against the wall. “Why don’t you get busy filling up balloons? Then you can stop hovering.”
“Yes, dear,” Matt said with a grin. He went to the tank and started filling balloons, using his red Swiss army knife to cut the ties on the white ribbons. Take care of it, and it’ll take care of you, Uncle Dan had once told him. It was something he never planned to lose, just like Anne. Take care of it, and it’ll take care of you. Take care of Anne, and she’ll take care of you. He’d put that statement, or a similar one, in his wedding vows. He hated comparing her to a Swiss army knife, but she, just like the steel blade and the legacy his uncle had left for him, was something he wanted to take care of for the rest of his life.  He’d walked away from her once, but never again. He’d found his way back to her, to Old Derby, to Chadwick Island. His legacy and his future were here.  There was no life without her.
He’d found his way home.
He filled balloons and kept watch over Anne the rest of the afternoon. “You’re like a gnat,” she complained, as she swatted his arm.
“He’s like a father to be,” Libby said to Anne. “They’re supposed to act like this.”
“Okay. That excuse actually works,” Anne said with a smile.
After the vows were exchanged, leaving not too many dry eyes, everyone ate dinner together at long tables set with white tablecloths and vases of purple hydrangeas nestled next to crisp white linen napkins. The room looked like hope and joy and a clean, fresh future for them all. Or that’s how Anne had told him it was supposed to look. He had to agree. That was his job as a husband. She’d told him that, too.
“You ready to go home?” he asked Anne as he nuzzled her cheek with the tip of his nose. She leaned into him and whispered back, “I’m about to fall asleep where I sit. Can you carry both of us to the truck?”
He pulled back to look down his nose at her. “I can carry both of you as far as you like.”
“Good to know,” she said, yawning. “I want to visit Uncle Dan tomorrow. Okay?”
“Always okay. But only if you’re feeling up to it. I don’t want you to go into this thing exhausted.”
“And by ‘this thing’ you mean the labor and delivery of our son?”
“That’s what I mean. No putting on a brave face and faking it.”
“Matthew Chadwick? Do you think I’ve ever faked it?” She laughed up into his face, pulling him into her joy, the way she always did.
“Well. No,” he said, grinning. “Let’s get out of here and put it to the test.”
“Dreamer,” she said.
They left the reception and made it to the truck before her water broke. There was something of a traffic jam in the hospital parking lot since everyone at Libby and Sam’s wedding had to accompany them. That was life in a small town for you. He loved it. Who knew that he’d love it like that?
Uncle Dan, for one.
They didn’t make it to the island to visit Uncle Dan’s grave the next day. The next day they welcomed Daniel Matthew Chadwick to the population of Old Derby, Maine. He was welcomed warmly, and loudly, by one and all.
No, they didn’t make it to the island that day, and so they didn’t see the tiny white light that hovered for a few minutes above Uncle Dan’s gravestone. It shimmered, it sparkled, and it twinkled for pure joy. And then, slowly, it rose and rose in the still night sky until it was lost to sight.

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