How could her mother bring up Paul O’Brien? He’d been the meanest bully, her childhood tormentor, and black sheep of Helen’s boys. Kate tried not to let her irritation show. She hadn’t been home in five years and didn’t want to spoil her visit for her mother.
“Oh course I remember Paul O’Brien, Mama. He tortured me for years. He was the meanest bully in the neighborhood.” Kate kissed her mother’s cheek as she sat her suitcase on the floor of her old bedroom.
“Ay, Katie! You never told me that. Maybe it was because Paul felt he never measured up to his older brothers.”
“I never told you, Mama, because Paul always threatened me. And Mike and Sam were sweethearts. They treated me like a kid sister. I always thought Jenny and Mike would get married someday.”
“Well, your sister got her a good husband and two beautiful daughters. They remind me of you and Jenny when you were growing up. Anyway, I find it hard to believe that about Paul. Such a comfort to his dear mother, Helen, God rest her soul. Came to visit her every day and took care of her until the end.”
“Oh, Mama, I’m sorry about Helen. I know what good friends you were, especially after Dad died.”
Alice, Kate’s mother, sniffled and wiped her eyes. “Yes, I miss her. She was as proud of you as I am – Katie, my famous author daughter. She would’ve been tickled, you coming home to do book signing and speak to the high school students.”
“Mama, I’m not really famous. I write children’s books and I’ve done okay – enough to support myself, especially after my divorce.”
“Tsk! I knew that Howard wasn’t good for you. A womanizer! You’ll get married again someday. Paul, he’s always asking about you, praying for you. Seems real excited you were coming home. He stops in frequently to check on me. I think he’s stopping by today.”
Kate stopped unpacking her suitcase, turned slowly to face her mother, her mouth agape. “Mama, no! Tell me you didn’t. Let me guess, Paul’s not married.”
“Married? Paul? Well, no, he’s not, but why are you asking?” Alice’s hands fluttered as she smoothed her hair.
“Listen, I’m not the least bit interested in seeing Paul, so forget whatever you have in mind. Do you know I wrote a kids’ series about bullying from my memories of what Paul did to me? It wasn’t just that he tormented me, but he was awful in high school – drinking, ditching school, partying, vandalizing. And what he put his mother through – poor Helen, a single mom with three sons.”
“Miracles happen, Katie. People change. Paul changed. You’ll see. Maybe he wants to stop by to ask your forgiveness. Now, let’s have a cup of coffee before your sister and nieces get here.”
“Okay, Mama. That sounds good. Just promise me you’re not trying to set me up with Paul.” Kate said, hugging her mother and heading towards the kitchen.
Kate saw the puzzled look on her mother’s face as she followed her, mumbling, “Set you up with Paul. Why would I ever do that?”
For the next two hours Kate and her mother laughed as they shared memories of days gone by. Kate dismissed Paul from her mind as her mother updated her on all the people and happenings in town. Although she was definitely a big city girl, Kate realized how much she missed the closeness of a small town.
She had just poured another cup of coffee when her nieces, Amber and Chloe, burst through the front door, squealing, “Aunt Katie!”
The next thirty minutes was filled with hugs, kisses, picture taking, and Kate presenting her nieces with gifts and some of her books she’d brought for them. Kate managed to pull her sister, Jenny, aside and whisper, “Please tell me Mama doesn’t have plans to set me up with that rascal, Paul O’Brien.”
Jenny’s mouth dropped open, and she uttered in a shocked voice, “What? You’re not serious, are you? Do you even know about Paul?”
Jenny barely got the words out, when Kate heard her nieces’ excited voices holler, “Grandma, Father O’Brien is here.”
Now it was Kate whose mouth dropped open as her nieces flew to the door to hug the handsome man standing in her mother’s doorway – the man with a clerical collar on. “Little Katie, can you ever forgive me for how I tormented you,” he grinned, offering his hand.
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