Continued from the "Shawl" freewrite ...
Selene Slocum-Lofton was good at what she did as a poised, queenly woman, but not good enough to fool a colonel from Special Forces. Her grandson, now in civilian life serving on Big Loft police force as Captain Lee, knew something enormous had happened internally to his grandmother that night.
Quietly, without being obvious, he had checked her vitals upon his return… they had settled down to what would be excellently normal for a woman of 83. No possibility of a stroke or heart attack, no muscular weakness or fever.
But half her shawl was limp – she had been crying, and the slight redness of her eyes pointed that out as well, although she had done very well in darkening her eye shadow just a little to camouflage it. But for his specialized training, he would have missed it.
This was the thing about civilian life, with women, who tried hard to maintain their mystery … not letting them know their bodies and clothing gave their emotions completely away to him, and using the skills he had spent years and years using to exploit the weaknesses of others to inflict pain, injury, and death to now provide care and comfort on the non-verbal level of his knowledge of the body.
Captain Lee enjoyed thinking of using his specialized knowledge of the human body for his future wife's enjoyment … but there were those daily ways even with Maggie Thornton before their marriage, when he used his knowledge of human physiology to help calm her with his physical presence. So too with his grandmother, who, since she was not physically ill, had likely had some sort of flashback – a cascade of bad memories, so chilling that she had wrapped her shawl around her, seeking warmth and shelter and protection.
That was why he had put his suit coat around her, full of his physical warmth and pleasantly manly scent, to calm her, while he went out into the cold in his dress shirt. Warmth, shelter, protection, and a man sacrificing for those things for her – he knew the 48 years of her widowhood had been long and cold.
Captain Lee knew of his cousins, her nephews … a collection of old mama's boys who had accomplished nothing with any opportunity that had not been mashed up and hand-fed to them like baby food by their Aunt Selene's hand. That was always the tragedy of the domineering woman: in the end, she had no man fit to help her in her time of need, for she had destroyed all the ones who were dumb enough to stay near her.
At about this time, the knowledge of her ulterior motive came to Captain Lee's mind. His grandmother had doted on his elder sister, Sarah, but, Sarah and her husband Ben were into travel and were not planning to settle down in the States no matter how big the fortune they were left. Thus, Selene Slocum-Lofton did not have her choice of heir there – and so that left only one alternative, an alternative she had destroyed, 27 years earlier.
Captain Lee was glad for a red light, for it was his turn to shiver. She wanted him to be her heir … and perhaps she had realized it had been impossible … until it wasn't.
Not that Captain Lee needed the money. He had signed his trust fund over to Victor Morton, his brother-in-law, but his brother-in-law had by this time repaid him in full, with interest, and then had made some other startling investments on Captain Lee's behalf. Were it not that Captain Lee was constitutionally unable to just go lay up somewhere, he could retire from everything and not work again for the rest of his life.
On the other hand: Mrs. Slocum-Lofton had invested in a ton of things Captain Lee would have to divest from – that would be a year or two of work, all by itself.
But then, Captain Lee put it from his mind and drove on. He could divest himself from everything if he wanted to and disappear into the mountain life to which he had been brought when Selene Slocum-Lofton and her family had decided they had no use for him, and Horace Fitzhugh Lee had come to get him. In his heart, Captain Lee would always be a Lee-of-the-mountains, and homeward he would someday go and leave the moneyed world behind. He knew this. Even with a second marriage in mind, he knew this. No inheritance would shake that. He didn't need any of it, and didn't have to take on any of it.
Captain Lee refocused his mind. Through all human motives and plans, God was at work. If his grandmother saw in him a potential heir, and wanted to spend time with him to see if that would work out, fine … he had an ulterior motive too, and that was for her to become an heir of eternal life, in Christ. Perhaps if she could grasp the magnitude of the wickedness she had done to him, and what she had nearly cost herself, that would be a good step into her understanding what her wickedness was about to cost her in eternity, while also seeing what the love of God looked like through the forgiveness and love of her grandson.
Peace flooded Captain Lee's soul; he was on the right track.
“How are you feeling, Grandmother?” he said, without taking his eyes off the road.
“I'm fine, Henry.”
She was still so proud … that was a problem the Spirit of God was going to have to deal with her on, and, perhaps, the work was well-begun.
“Thank you for asking, Henry. I appreciate your providing me this wonderful evening, and looking after me.”
“My pleasure, Grandmother. That was fun. I hope you are not overly tired.”
“Oh, no, I'm fine. The nice thing about that was that we ate and walked it off at the same time. I have to look in for a little while on that party my roommate is holding, but after that I'll go up and sleep well.”
“Seen any businesses you want to invest in?”
“Oh, out of the ten plans I picked up, I'll probably narrow it down to three.”
She paused for a moment.
“What about you, Henry? See anything you'd invest in?”
“There were a couple of things of interest.”
On came the feminine wiles …
“You know, there is a big tea party happening on the avenue [Jonathan Lofton Avenue, one of the swankiest in Big Loft, VA] Saturday … I'd love to have you as my guest, and if you come, we'll have time to compare investment notes.”
“I will check my social calendar and get back to you, Grandmother.”
Captain Lee had invented his social calendar at that instant – he visited family and friends, but if not visiting loved ones, he preferred to be alone, out in nature, hiking and privately worshiping the Lord as he went. The point was: he was not a man available to be dominated. He had established the fact in 1991 with his marriage, again in 1991 with the court defeat he and his Lee grandfather had handed her, and finally in 1992 with his response to her opinion on the loss of his marriage. But it had been 27 years … so she just needed a gentle reminder.
“Just as you like, Aaron – I mean, Henry. You are so like him.”
Captain Lee smiled.
“I hear from just the local history than you and he made a very powerful and happy pair – a power couple.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Captain Lee saw his grandmother grinning, showing all her still-pretty teeth.
“The local history is correct, for once,” she said. “Still, we cannot live on the history, when there is so much still to do with the present.”
“Agreed, Grandmother. Still, we must deal with the history so the present has a good chance of getting us to a future we want to live in.”
The smile vanished, and a look of deep sorrow and apprehension came over her face.
“I know, Henry,” she said softly. “I know.”
Captain Lee did not force the issue that evening. He did not intend to force it at all. He didn't need the closure – he had gotten what he needed from the Lord, and the wounds were closed. She needed the closure, the healing. His forgiveness of her was real, but would be like putting a shawl on her to send her out to face a night that was heading toward the first hard freeze of the season. It was a start, but not enough.
Still, people had to be given time to completely sense their need for forgiveness, whether human or divine, and so Captain Lee said no more and made sure to walk his grandmother to and through her door before bidding her good night and departing, slowly enough to hear her say to Charles, “I surely wish I didn't have to deal with Mildred's party … I am so tired of high-society life!”
“Get really tired of it, Grandmother,” Captain Lee said as he walked. “Get so restless you have no choice but to come to God in Christ and get to life on the highway to Heaven. Lord, please do it for her – snatch the taste of this world out of her mouth and give her a hunger for the true life found only in You!”
And at that moment, he knew: he was going to have to go to that tea party, and be bored, and tired … but, if it would help his grandmother keep moving in the right direction, he would just have to be bored and tired …
Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash