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Blanche Tickle Girl book cover

Blanche Tickle Girl
Book Two of the Full Sails series
Wes Boyd
©2012, ©2014

Chapter 15

Matt’s mother did not noticeably cut back on her rant on the long drive home, which took most of an hour in the heavy traffic. Finally, Matt just more or less tuned her out, trying to ignore her; what had to be said on both sides had been said, without making much impression either way. Eventually Mary just took Matt’s hand and sat there quietly; once or twice they caught each other’s eyes and just shook their heads. It was about all the discussion between the two of them that was needed.

As they were getting close to home, Matt’s father glanced at his watch, and said in a voice loud enough to get through to his wife, “Brittany, we’ve still got time for you to make your hairdresser appointment if I drop you off. Why don’t I just leave you off and you can give me a call when you want to be picked up?”

She glanced at her watch. “I don’t know that I should. I should be trying to talk some sense into Matthew, but if I don’t it’ll be a couple weeks before I can schedule Delores again.”

“Good, I’ll swing by there,” he said, as his wife started in on Matt again.

Adam swung around a corner in the suburban town, and then another one, and found a parking space in the middle of the block. He’d barely come to a stop when Matt’s mother popped open the door and said, “Matthew, don’t think this is going to be the end of this! We’re going to talk more about it later.” She got out and slammed the door.

“Sorry about that,” Adam said as his wife turned and walked toward the shop. “She actually promised that she was going to be reasonable, but you see how much good that did. Now maybe we can have a few minutes to talk.”

“Thank god she had that hairdresser appointment,” Matt smiled. “It looks to me like she could go on like that for hours.”

“Wouldn’t surprise me,” Adam said as he pulled the car away from the curb. “She ranted most of the way to the airport that she was going to miss it. That is, about as much as she ranted that she was going to give you a piece of her mind. Have the two of you had breakfast?”

“We ate a little on the plane, such as it was,” Matt said. “It wasn’t much.”

“Good, let’s stop off and grab a bite somewhere and get to know each other a little. I’d imagine that we won’t get to otherwise.”

“I hate to say it,” Matt agreed. “But I don’t intend to put up with that stuff out of her any more than I have to.”

“Can’t say as I blame you,” Adam nodded. “Now that I know about your boat, I suspect that it had about as much to do with your staying away as not putting up with your mother.”

“You’d suspect right. At least up there I got to be my own person, since she wasn’t trying to run my life all the time.”

“And I’m sorry about that, too, but there’s only so much I can do. Mary, I hope that little scene hasn’t scared you away from Matt completely.”

“’Twouldn’t do that, b’y,” Mary smiled, a little amused at the change of atmosphere in the car. “Matt warned me that things could be a mite touchy.”

“Well, I’d like to apologize, at least as much as I can,” Adam said as he pulled into the parking lot of a chain restaurant up the street. “But I’m afraid there isn’t going to be any controlling it. Matt’s mother, well, when she gets an idea in her head . . . ”

“I know,” Matt sighed as he opened the door. “Believe me, I know. I at least had hoped that she was going to be halfway reasonable. Or at least I was willing to give her the opportunity. But I can see she’s not, and there’s no reason Mary and I have to put up with it.”

There was a brief break in the conversation as they got out of the car and headed for the front door of the restaurant; it didn’t seem to be the time to have a conversation such as this. The place was busy, but they were able to get into a booth near the back. They were no more than seated when a waitress came scuttling over with menus and glasses of water. They each ordered coffee, and when she left, the conversation continued in low tones.

“Anyway,” Matt’s father said, “I take it you’re not planning on staying around here for the winter?”

“And have to face up to having Mom on my case all the time?” Matt shook his head. “Not a chance. Besides, there’s not much we want to do around here in the winter anyway.”

“Can’t say as I blame you,” his father shook his head. “There are times . . . well, what’s done is done, and let’s not get into that. How long are you going to be around?”

“A couple days at the most,” Matt replied. “It’s almost time for my quarterly blood test. If I can get over there this afternoon I can probably have the results back tomorrow.”

“Before you go, I’d appreciate it if you could go over and say hello to your grandfather,” Adam told him. “He appreciates those cards you’ve been sending him, and I’m sure he would like to visit with you. He’d probably enjoy meeting you, Mary, and hearing some of the stories about the summer the two of you have had.”

“We can do that,” Matt agreed. “I couldn’t have done this trip without his support, and I’d like to thank him for it. Maybe this afternoon or this evening, or maybe tomorrow morning. Then after I get the blood test results back, if there’s nothing wrong I guess we’ll run up and see Uncle Jake for a day or two, and then go on to Mary’s place for the winter.”

“Your place?” Adam looked at Mary, eyebrows raised.

“I own a house in Blanche Tickle, on the South Shore of Newfoundland,” she replied. “My cousin Albert left it to me when he died. ’Twas the house I grew up in. I rent it out now an’ again in the summer, but the woman who handles the rental for me tells me there’s no one in it now.”

“Newfoundland for the winter,” Adam shook his head. “That’s not exactly Palm Beach, is it?”

“Nay, it’s not,” she smiled. “But it’s a nice and cozy house, and there’s more room in it than on the boat. It’ll likely be warmer, too. Some nights it was gettin’ a mite chilly on the boat.”

“Matt, you’re going to take your car, aren’t you?”

“We’ll about have to have it. It’s still there, isn’t it?”

“Yes, despite your mother demanding that I sell it to get the eyesore out of the yard,” Adam sighed. “I thought about renting a storage building somewhere just to get her off my back on that. I’ve gone out about every month or so to start it up, just to make sure it will run. It seems like it’s all right.”

“Thanks Dad, I appreciate that,” Matt nodded. “We’re also going to get a little of my stuff out of the house. Winter clothes and the like, nothing much.”

“It might be best if we don’t take too long sitting here, then,” Adam replied. “It would probably be easiest if you have your things loaded before I have to go pick up your mother. You might even want to think about being gone before that happens.”

“Yeah, it’ll avoid that much of a scene,” Matt agreed. “Damn, Dad, it would be nice to be able to sit back, tell you a few stories and show you a few pictures, but it doesn’t look like we’ll have much time.”

“You’re right, we probably ought to eat and run,” Adam agreed. “I need to at least check in at the office today, but maybe after you have your blood test we could come back here or someplace to talk for a while. I really envy you this trip you took, despite what your mother said, and I wish to hell I had been able to do something like that when I was your age. But it didn’t work out that way and it probably wouldn’t have. I was pretty well damn stuck with having to go right to work for the company as soon as I was out of college, and then there was you and your mother to contend with too, so I never had the chance. At least you’ve been able to make your escape, so maybe you’d better make the best of it.”

“I always figured it was something like that,” Matt agreed. “Hell, when you took me over to Frenchtown Harbor and you saw the boat, I could just about see you aching to go with me.”

“Don’t think I wasn’t,” Adam nodded. “I had the goddamnedest temptation to just get on that boat and sail away with you, but shit, I’m trapped in my life and I can’t get away to do things like that. Now, work has become a habit and something I can’t get out of very easily. I keep telling myself that maybe someday I’ll throw everything up and enjoy myself, but I doubt it’ll ever happen.”

“And Mom wants to suck me right into that trap,” Matt said with a wry expression on his face. “You understand where I’m coming from, don’t you?”

“Better than you can possibly imagine,” Adam shook his head. “Like I said, you were lucky to make your escape. Smart, too, smarter than I was. But then, you have the leukemia hanging over your head, and I realize that, so I think you’re smart to get out and live your own life while you still can. Your mother is in total denial about the leukemia. To her, it’s like it never happened, or at most it’s a bad dream that will go away if she ignores it enough. I realize that it’s a sword hanging over your head, and I don’t blame you for grabbing what you want while you can.”

“She’s been like that for years,” Matt agreed. “And it’s only gotten worse. Just between us, I plan on still messing around for a few years and getting a few other things off of my list. If the leukemia doesn’t show any signs of coming back when I’ve accomplished a few things I want to do, I may well settle down and have a career. But don’t expect me to come and work for the company since I don’t need to have her breathing down my neck every step of the way.”

“And I think you’re wise on that, too,” his father agreed, as the waitress brought them their coffee. The discussion paused for a moment, and then he went on with his thought. “That was another place where I screwed up. I mean, the job was there with Dad’s company, and with the pressure I was under at the time with you just having been born, there wasn’t much I could do but take the job and do the best I could. But then, I can’t blame you for that, since I probably would have done about the same thing even if you and your mother hadn’t been involved. I mean, I just didn’t have the compulsion to get out and have a little fun in my life before I settled down, nothing like you have.”

“No surprise to me,” Matt said. “It was part of the reason I decided years ago that I had to do something different while I could, because if I don’t do it while I can, the odds are pretty good that if I wait the chance will go away. While the need to get out and do something while I was in remission was a driving force, I also realized that I might not have the time to have a little fun and adventure unless I went looking for it. The boat just sort of kept things in focus, but since I had it, why not make use of it?”

“Well, I’m glad you had a good time, and I’m especially glad you had someone with you,” his father replied. “Look, Matt, I’m going to have to walk a tightrope between you and your mother over this, not that I haven’t done that for years already. Now it’s just worse. I have to live with her, so I’m afraid that when she’s around I’m going to have to look like I’m backing her up, at least most of the way. I wish I could come right out and tell her she’s wrong and she needs to keep her mouth shut so you can live your life, but I have to live with her more than you do. That means I have to walk the line.”

“I figured that was the case,” Matt nodded, feeling a little sorry about the bind that he’d put his father in. While Uncle Jake was his birth father, Adam really was his father in most other ways, and sometimes things got awkward. This wasn’t the first time either; it had happened a lot over the years since Matt had gotten out of the hospital. Matt’s mother had never been very happy about him spending the time with his Uncle Jake that he did, but his father had thought it had been good for him, so had run interference. If he hadn’t– well, there was no chance that he’d have been able to do much of anything but follow in his father’s footsteps and work for the company until he died, young or old.

Adam turned to Mary. “I’m sorry you had to be around my wife when she gets in one of her moods,” he said to her. “But I’m afraid it would have been inevitable, today or anytime you showed up. Don’t think that Brittany has anything personal against you, but I have to say that she’d hold a grudge against any girl Matt brought home if she hadn’t set him up with her first.”

“Matt said somethin’ about that,” Mary said. “He also told me it was why he rarely brought a girl home from college.”

“I’m just sorry she has to be that way,” Adam sighed. “I don’t know where she got the idea that she was his personal gatekeeper, and I can understand why Matt would consider it oppressive. I’m just sorry that I’m probably not going to get to know you a little better.”

“Maybe someday we’ll be able to,” she smiled. “I realize ye may think it’s awkward for me, an’ I know it can’t be much less awkward for ye. I can live with it if ye can, b’y.”

“I’ll tell you what,” Adam shook his head. “It came as a hell of a shock to find out that Matt was attempting to cross the Atlantic in that little boat, and it didn’t come as much less of a shock to find out that he’d done it with a girlfriend we’d never heard of. How long did you know Matt before you took off on the boat with him?”

“About an hour, maybe a little less,” Mary grinned. “I asked him if could go along with him, and he said he’d take me, so I went. I’m used ta goin’ ta sea with people I don’t know well, an’ Matt seemed like a nice guy.”

“Matt,” his father smiled. “That was quick work.”

“Well, I thought she was teasing,” Matt grinned. “It was a little bit of a surprise to find out she wasn’t teasing after all, but it really worked out well since she’s a damn good sailor. I think I could have made it all right by myself, but it was a lot more fun to have her with me, and she really knows her stuff.”

“So, Mary,” Adam asked, changing the subject a little, “where did you go to school?”

“Just the local school in Blanche Tickle,” she replied, pretty sure of what Adam was fishing for. “After my cousin died, I wasn’t able ta go ta college, so I had to work ta keep goin’.”

“What kind of work?” Adam asked.

“What I could get,” she replied. “I’ve tried to work on fishin’ boats when I could, but I’ve been on oil rig service boats, workin’ in fish plants, and other things here and again. I even worked in a Tim Horton’s doughnut place for a while. I was workin’ on a fuel dock in St. John’s when I met Matt.”

“Interesting,” Matt’s father smiled. “At least you’re not afraid of working.”

“Nay, sometimes the jobs aren’t much, but I’ve been able to get along without goin’ to the government for help. I always knew I could, but I didn’t want to do it, and I’ve been able to manage.”

“So how did you like running around Europe with Matt?”

“I had a grand time,” she smiled. “Matt really is a nice young man, an’ he’s always been the perfect gentleman. We managed to see a lot of places I’d never have had the chance ta see otherwise, an’ we had a good time doin’ it.”

“So I take it you are going to do it again next year?”

“That’s the plan,” Matt replied. “Just exactly what or where is a little up in the air, but with the boat in Copenhagen we’re obviously going to be around Europe some more. Just in the last couple days the idea of cruising the European canal system has come up, and we’ve been kicking that around. But if we’re in Copenhagen the Baltic is almost out the back door, so there’s a good chance we might do that instead. That’s one of the things we have to make our minds up about this winter.”

“I better ask, just in case it comes up from your mother, Matt,” Adam said. “But do the two of you have any plans about getting married?”

“No,” Matt said. “To be honest, we haven’t talked about it one way or the other. My own feeling is that we might someday, or we might not. There’s no way of telling and I don’t think this is the time or place for Mary and I to discuss it.”

“Well, yeah, you’re probably right about that,” Adam shook his head. “But don’t think that the two of you being together is going to keep your mother from trying to shove someone like Stephanie down your throat again if she’s able.”

“I realize that,” Matt said. “It’s part of the reason we’re not going to stay around very long. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be perfectly willing to stay around for a while if she could be civil about it. You can guess what the chances of that happening are going to be.”

“Slim and none,” his father nodded ruefully. “Just like they were about slim and none that she was going to be at least a little civil this morning. Let’s drop the subject of your mother, since we’re not going to get anywhere with it now, and perhaps not for a long time. Matt, I need to ask you, how’s your money holding out?”

“Reasonably well,” Matt said. “The boat wasn’t expensive, and it doesn’t cost us much for a place to stay. We’ve spent a few nights on shore here and there, but mostly we stayed on the boat even though it gets a little snug in it at times. We have enough to keep going for a while, especially if we stay at Mary’s over the winter.”

“Where did you get that kind of money?”

“Here and there,” Matt said. “The boat and the fixing it up, and some of the other expenses came from the money Grandpa gave me after high school, and he gave me a nice check when I graduated from college last spring. Plus, I was able to save a lot of the money that I earned from working for Uncle Jake over the years. I’m not one to throw my money around, Dad. You know that.”

“Yeah, you must have been even more careful with it than I thought you’d been,” he shook his head. “God, you don’t know how many times your mother has ranted about that cheap clunker you drove, and said that you ought to use Dad’s money to buy yourself a decent car.”

“Well, I did buy a good ride out of it,” Matt smiled. “It gets real good gas mileage, too. I might have burned as much as a pint of diesel fuel to get across the Atlantic.”

“So you’re not hurting right at the moment, then?”

“No, not really. It would be possible to do the trip we’ve taken and spend a lot of money, but so far we’ve mostly only spent it on what we needed to. That’s just been food and odds and ends. It gets a little on the primitive side, but Mary and I can handle primitive. In fact, that’s part of the fun.”

“Good enough,” his father smiled. “I thought you were wise about that too, and that just proves it. Like I said, let’s get together this afternoon so you can tell me about your trip. That’ll give me the time to play with my accounts a little while I’m at the office. Your mother doesn’t keep an eye on them, so I should be able to find some funds for a little more play money for you.”

“Dad, that’s not needed,” Matt protested. “We’re good for a while.”

“Yeah, but who knows what’ll happen up the road?” his father replied. “I can slip you some money now and your mother will never know about it. It might not be possible in the future. If you don’t need it, stick it in some bank somewhere so it’ll be available if you do need it.”

“Well, when you put it that way, I guess I can’t turn it down,” Matt said. “Just don’t get into trouble with Mom over it.”

“I don’t intend to,” his father said. “Matt, I know this is hard for me to say and perhaps hard for you to understand, but most of the time your mother and I get along just fine. She mostly is the person I need in my life. But there are times when she can be a royal pain in the ass and this is one of them. I can ride it out. I’ve had to do it before, and I’ll have to do it again when she realizes you’ve taken off on her. But, Matt, don’t ever think that I don’t believe that you have to do what you have to do.”

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To be continued . . .

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