Chapter 8 - More than words

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Joe should have been back at school, but he was sitting by his mother's bed. He had seen a decline in her since he had arrived a week ago. They had hospice nurses coming in, but Whitney cared for her anytime she was not working at the hospital. Joe was thankful that his old friend was so caring with his mother. Leah had been home for the weekend, but Joe had driven the almost three hours round trip to take her back to Amherst where she was attending UMass.

He was alone with his mother and she was awake. He had been waiting for some time alone with her so they could talk. Ironically she started the conversation by bringing up the same subject he had hoped to start with.

"You look so much like him..."

Joe knew she meant his father. "Ma, I know how much you loved him. You never stopped did you?" He saw a tear in her eye although she didn't respond. "Ma, I love Ella like that... I already talked to her father and I'm going to propose to her. Ma, she makes me so happy. Happier than I ever remember since I was six..."

His mother shook her head and said, "No Joey. You're going to marry Whitney."

"Ma, I told you Whitney and I don't love each other. I love Ella. She is amazing... She's kind and talented and beautiful. Ma, she's perfect..."

"Nobody's perfect and illusions don't make good marriages. You and Whitney are cut from the same cloth you understand each other."

"Sorry, but you of all people should know the difference between marriage for love and for reasons other than love."

"You have loved Whitney since you were in middle school."

"I only thought I did. I know what real love is, it is what I feel for Ella. She wants to come... I need her... I miss her. I want you to meet her. Please..."

"No."

"Ma!"

"Would you defy your dying mother?" she said in a voice with more strength than he knew she had left.

His mother was adamant that he was to marry Whitney, as she grew weaker, her wish got stronger. He didn't dare tell Ella about the mess he was in. He went to see Tommy and Gina hoping for some guidance. Gina fed him and doted on him and Tommy came home with him to talk to his mother. Unfortunately, she wouldn't listen to him, all those years with Garrett she had been convinced to hate Tommy. Joe knew it was because Tommy wasn't a crook. Then Tommy testified against Garrett. Joe had hoped that she would have softened, but he was wrong. He felt frustrated and sad.

Whitney came over to help and he pulled her aside. "She's crazy with all this marriage talk. Tell her you don't want to marry me. Tell her to stop so she can rest easy."

Joe didn't want a rift with his mother in her last days but felt one coming if she didn't change her mind.

"Joey, why would I tell her that? Of course, I want to marry you ... I've always wanted to marry you. You want me too, that's why you always came back to me. You'd say we weren't together but you couldn't keep your hands off of me."

"I can now. I'm in love with someone else. I plan to marry her."

"Oh, I know. I heard she is perfect. Joey, there is no such thing as perfect and if there was you and I don't deserve it."

Her words stung because he still questioned if the poor kid from the abusive home was good enough for Ella. He wanted to hit his head against the wall, but instead, he got up and found a bottle of Jack Daniels. He usually only drank beer and wine occasionally, but he needed something stronger. The first sip burned but subsequent ones felt better. He felt calmer as the warmth spread through his body.

"Hey Whit, can we please just pretend? She'll never know. We can get someone to fake it. She'll die happy and we can both go on with our lives."

"Who are you that you would deceive your mother on her deathbed?"

Who was he? He didn't know. He stepped outside to call Ella and brought the bottle with him.

"Joe, are you drinking?" she asked.

"El, it is so hard. I just needed a break from the stress. I miss you so much."

"Please let me come. If your mother doesn't want to see me, I can stay with Gina and Tommy, but at least we'll see each other."

"Wait until I figure some things out... Soon, okay?" He held the bottle to his lips and drank from it as he listened to her beautiful voice tell him about what was going on at school. He missed the kids and his job.

"Owen's worried too. He said you haven't called him."

"I've been so busy, I only call you." He didn't want to tell Owen about the shit that was going down. He would come and cause that rift that Joe feared. He lifted the bottle again.

"I got to go back inside. I love you, El."

"Me too... Do you love me more than words."

Laughing he said, "I love words, but I still love you more."

He hung up to the sound of her intoxicating laugh, which was ironic since he was well on his way to being intoxicated, but he didn't care.

When Joe woke up he had a pounding head, but he didn't care. He had had the most amazing, erotic dream. He felt as if it was real as he dreamed that he was kissing and holding Ella. It was so real he swore he had come. He had felt whole and at home inside of her. The only thing that bothered him as he thought about it was that he didn't smell vanilla.

He groaned and an arm embraced him. That was the minute he realized he was naked and he wasn't alone. Opening his eyes he confirmed that he was in his old room. He jumped out of bed as she sat up.

Turning to her, she smiled and said, "I knew you would change your mind. You always come back to me."

"No!"

Poor Joe! Can things get any worse for him. Bonus chapter on Wednesday this week.

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