Josh started backing away, slowly. The woman, his mother, held out her hands and said, "Josh...it's ok. We just came to say hello."
He was shaking his head and going towards the door. The woman stepped closer and Josh rushed out the door. She stopped in the doorway and sighed. "Maybe this was a bad idea, Rick."
The man, Rick, was silent. He looked terrible in physical appearance. His face was covered in wrinkles and his eyes looked blood-shot. He was about the same height as Josh but had a beer belly. The clothes he wore were very old and faded and when he finally spoke, his voice came out raspy.
"Nonsense, Jamie, give him time...we haven't been in his life for over 10 years." Jamie nodded and looked down at the ground. She was scrawny...almost nothing but bones. She had long, stringy blonde hair and bright blue eyes.
Both of them must've just noticed me, because they smiled and said, "Hi...are you Josh's girlfriend?"
I nodded and said, "I'm Nicole."
Jamie stepped forward and shook my hand. "I'm Jamie, Josh's mom." She, then, pointed over to her husband and said, "And this is Rick, Josh's father."
I politely said hi to Rick and continued standing near the door. I wasn't sure whether I should go after Josh or not, so I stayed put.
We heard the pitter-patter of Shadow coming down the stairs and Jenny stepping with him. "Mamaw, can we go outside?"
Jamie exchanged a look with Rick and then knelt down in front of Jenny. "Jenny? Is that really you?"
Jenny turned her head in the direction of her mother's voice and asked, "Who are you?"
Rick looked down at Jamie and gave her a confused expression. Jamie continued, "Don't you recognize me, Jenny?"
Ellen stepped in and responded, "Uh...Jamie...Jenny went blind when she was 5."
Jamie stood up and gasped. Rick shook his head in disbelief. "Why didn't you let us know?!" She said in a hush-tone.
Ellen shrugged her shoulders. "You really didn't have a right, Jamie. You weren't in her life, remember?"
"How dare you talk to me like that, Ellen! This is my daughter and I can take her back whenever I want!" Jamie turned her head and looked at Rick.
He cleared his throat and said, "Mom, she's right. If we wanted to take Jenny and Josh, we could."
Ellen laughed and said, "Ha! Josh is eighteen. It's his choice, son."
I began feeling very awkward and decided to step outside. Josh was sitting on the front steps with his head in his hands.
"Are you ok?" I asked behind him.
He shrugged his shoulders and turned his head towards me. "I don't know...will you sit with me?"
I sat down beside him and put my hand on his back. "I know it's hard to see them, but your grandma needs you in there. They're talking about taking Jenny back with them."
Josh looked at me with hurt and anger in his eyes. "Over my dead body."
Before I knew it, Josh stood up and went back inside.
Jamie saw him before anyone else did. "Josh. I'm glad you came back." Josh stood facing his mom and flatly said, "You're not taking Jenny from us."
She looked taken aback. "Josh...I'm not wanting to steal her or anything, but she is my daughter and I have a right to her."
Jenny started shaking and looked like she was about to cry. "Mamaw? Josh? What's going on?"
Josh's tense body relaxed at Jenny's little voice. "It's ok, babygirl, why don't you let Nicole take you back up to your room."
He looked over at me and signaled for me to do what he said. I nodded and rested my hand on her shoulder, "C'mon, Jenny. Show me what you did to my room."
Rick heard what I said and asked, "You're letting your girlfriend live with you, Son? Is she pregnant or something?"
Josh whipped his eyes over to his dad. "No. Her mom, the only member of her family left, passed away. She had nowhere to go."
He could tell that that hit Rick hard and was pleased. Then, he looked back at Jamie. "You have no right to Jenny! You've never been in her life, why should you be able to now?!"
Jamie started shaking her head. "What has happened to you?" She, then, looked at Ellen and stated, "You're the reason he's like this, aren't you?"
Harold had been sitting in his chair, listening, during the argument. He stood up and looked at Rick. "Son, you need to get your wife and get out of our house."
Rick looked over at his dad and was going to retort something, but ended up nodding. "Jamie," he softly said, "let's go."
Jamie looked at her husband like he just slapped her. "I'm not leaving without my daughter."
Josh yelled, "Get out! She's not going with you!"
"Son, stop yelling at your mom like that! Jenny will be with us...we'll see you in court," Rick retaliated. With that, Jamie and Rick walked out the door.
Ellen sat down in a nearby kitchen chair and started weeping. "What if we lose Jenny?"
Josh knelt down in front of his grandma and said, "Don't say that, Grandma. We won't lose Jenny...I promise."
While Jenny showed me all her toys and pictures she'd colored, I stood at the door, waiting for Josh to come up. "And this is my favorite dolll, Tootsie."
I turned and saw a little doll with brown hair and wearing a little purple dress. It looked like an ordinary doll, only sunglasses had been colored on. I looked at it funny and asked, "Jenny, what's on her eyes?"
Jenny felt for her doll's face and replied, "I colored sunglasses on her so she can be blind like me."
I smiled and said, "Well she looks just like you, Jenny. You did a great job!"
This seemed to satisfy her, because she smiled and went back to coloring. I looked up at the door and saw Josh leaning against the frame, watching his little sister.
"How long have you been standing there?" I asked quitely.
He motioned for me to come in the hallway and I nodded. "Jenny, I'll be right back. Ok?"
She nodded and said, "Take your time. I got Shadow with me."
I stood up and walked out into the hallway. Josh had his fists clenched and his whole body was tense. "What happened down there?"
He shook his head and replied, "...Jamie and Rick are planning on taking my grandma to court over the custody of Jenny."
I couldn't believe it! "Can they do that?!" I asked. Josh turned towards me and I noticed the tears welling up in his eyes.
"They can't take her, Button...they can't take my little sister from me!" He started crying, loud. I tiptoed over to Jenny's door and softly closed it.
I, then, walked to Josh and wrapped my arms around his neck. "Maybe they're bluffing, Josh."
"No...you didn't see Jamie's face. My grandma pissed them off...accidently." He wiped his eyes and rested his head on my shoulder.
Seeing Josh cry, made me cry too. "You need to stay strong, my love. Don't give up just yet...have faith."
He raised up and smiled. "That's what I said to you back at the cave. 'Have faith.''
I smiled back, "That's right. You need to take your own advice." I kissed him softly on the lips and opened Jenny's door back.
Suddenly, Josh asked, "When's your mom's funeral?"
I had forgotten all about it. "Um...it's tomorrow...I forgot about it."
Josh looked at me and raised his eyebrows. "Do you still want me to go with you?"
"Of course," I exclaimed, "I need you there with me." He smirked and said, "I knew you would say that, baby, I just wanted to hear it."
I hugged him and started walking downstairs. "Where are you going," he asked.
"To call my dad and Luke."
I decided to call Luke first, since it would be less awkward. He picked up on the second ring and sounded happy to hear from me.
"Hey Nicole! It's good to hear from you again."
I smiled. "Hey Luke. I was wondering if all the funeral plans for mom were ready and complete?"
The thought of mom and going to her funeral made me choke up. He replied, "Uh...yeah...yeah they're ready. Are you going to be able to come?"
Before I could answer, he continued, "I know that was a stupid question...sorry."
"No, Luke, you're fine, I said. "yes, Josh is bringing me first thing in the morning."
I heard him clear his throat. "How are you doing, Nicole?"
Thinking about when I first met Luke, I remembered he had always been concerned about me. "It's hard, you know, but it's getting better. As long as Josh is here with me...I'll make it."
"Good...I'm glad. Well, Nicole, I gotta get off here...my break's over. Can you call me before you leave tomorrow?"
I heard Josh coming down the stairs, so I quickly replied, "Yeah. I will...goodbye, Luke."
Luke had to hang up, before he had a chance to say goodbye. Josh came down right as I shut my phone. "Did you get a hold of him?"
I nodded and remembered I still needed to call my dad. I got my phone back out of my pocket and also got the card he had given me.
It was a business number so when I called it, a woman answered. "Mr. Joseph Bishop's office. This is Melody speaking."
I really didn't want to talk to someone else, but I responded,
"Melody, this is Nicole Bishop, Joseph's daughter. Can you put me
through to him?"
She was typing on a computer while talking to me, so I heard the clicking when she replied, "Hold on. He was in a meeting last time we spoke to each other."
The phone clicked and elevator music started playing through the speaker. After, what seemed forever, Melody came back on the line. "Miss Bishop? You're father is in a meeting...do you want him to call you back or something?"
"No...I'll just try again later."
I hung up the phone and rolled my eyes. "He's in a damn meeting! LIke always whenever I try to get through to him."
Josh smirked and stuck his fingers through my beltloops. He tugged on them and pulled me close to him. "Take my advice, Love. Have faith."