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For The Strength of Youth

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Submitted by Steven ODell on 9 July 2007 - 12:57am.

Chapter 8

Denise called in to beg out of work the next day. She and Ron had worked the plan they had discussed and now were collecting the affidavits they had requested from their friends and associates. The responses had been swift and thorough, all notarized and dated, attesting to the personal character of Denise and Ron and the nature of the events that they had been through so recently. They now made copies for all those that they thought would need them in order to help-a list which had unfortunately grown larger.

The two had decided that the old football adage was true-the best defense is a good offense, so they took the packets and personally hand delivered them to the police, the local insurance representatives, the local courts, the Governor, the Attorney General and the state Insurance Commissioner. It was a long day, but they had accomplished it all and could think of no one else to include.

A sudden knock startled them and Ron jumped from his chair to answer it. A kindly looking older woman about Denise’s height was standing outside.

“Are you Ron?”

Taken somewhat by surprise, he could only stammer, “Ye…yes?”

“Welcome to the family, ‘son’.” She grinned mischievously. “Aren’t you going to invite me in?”

“Mrs. Payton! Oh, my…please do come in.”

Denise was just behind Ron and nearly knocked him over as she discovered who was at the door. “Mom! What a surprise!” She hugged her mother so tightly that the poor woman had to beg her to stop.

“Oh, Mom, I’m so sorry. Please come in and sit down. How did you get here? Oh, never mind. I’m just glad you are here.” Mrs. Payton never got the chance to respond, so excited was her daughter. “Let me look at you, Mom. It’s been a year and a half, at least.”

“Two years, almost exactly, but who is counting? And who is this?” She looked at Ron with interest.

“Oh…forgive me, Mom. This is my new husband, Ron.”

“Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Payton. Now I see where your daughter gets her beauty.” He took her hand in the same gentle caress that Denise had experienced the first day she had met him.

“Denise, this one is a keeper.” Turning back to Ron, she said, “I can see by the look in your eyes that you love one another, but I also see trouble. Tell me all about it. I thought newlyweds put everything else aside for awhile.”

Denise explained the recent happenings as best she could. “The truth is that we feel so trapped by all of this. We don’t really know for sure what to do. All we can do is wait for the other shoe to drop.”

Mrs. Payton appeared pensive and pursed her lips slightly. “Perhaps…” was all she said. She was looking off into the distance in such a manner that Ron almost turned to follow her gaze. It was so intense that he knew instinctively that she had an incisive mind to match.

Her gaze suddenly fixed on him and the voice was strong and commanding. “You just let me see if I can do something to help. No promises, mind you.” Her manner was assuring in some strange way. Ron liked her immediately. “Okay, enough of that for now. How are the two lovebirds, anyway? What are your plans for when things are right again?”

“Mom, we haven’t been able to see that far ahead yet. There have been too many distractions. It’s all happened so fast, you know?”

“Tell me about yourself, Ron. I want to know all about you.”

“Well, that’s a tall order, but I’ll talk until you signal for surrender, okay?” It brought a laugh and the conversational atmosphere relaxed appreciably. The evening slipped quickly by and only came to an end with a mother’s air of authority as Mrs. Payton stood and announced, “Well, I’d better be going and you two had better get to bed. Wouldn’t do to miss your beauty sleep now, would it, Denise?”

“Mom, where are you going? You can’t go home tonight. It’s too far.”

“I have a hotel room, dear. You need your privacy.”

“Nonsense! You are staying here tonight. Tell her, Ron.”

“Absolutely, Mrs. Payton. We have plenty of room for you.”

“Really? I suppose you’ll sleep on the couch?” Her sarcasm was evident.

“Mom, we have a guest room, okay?”

“But I’ve already reserved a room. I won’t lose my money for no reason, do you hear? My bags are there already, so I have to stay there.”

“But, Mom…”

“And I won’t lose an argument, either. Understand?” There was a sense of finality in her statement and they correctly determined that meant it was the end of the conversation. “Good, now call me a cab and then get some sleep. I’ll be fine.”

The call was made and with an accompanying shooing motion, Mrs. Payton sent the lovers off to bed and took her post at the window to wait for her cab.

“She really is a stubborn old goat at times,” Denise stated out of earshot range.

“I’m going to tell her you said that.”

“Hush up and get to bed, mister!” She grinned and acted as if she would elbow him again as he slipped quickly out of reach.

“Like mother, like daughter.” He smiled and complied as she wagged a warning finger at him and turned off the lights.

“Out of your clothes--now!” she commanded.

“I will, if you will.”

“Done!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Another day was played by ear, as there had been no concrete plans arranged the night before. As Ron drove his wife to work, Denise called the hotel and arranged to send Ron to pick up her mother around noon. “I’ll work until then and you can swing by and get me, too, okay?”

“Fine, honey.” He knew he would be alone to think. He needed to find a solution.

Before Ron could pick up Mrs. Payton, the news came to him that the insurance company had set a date to see the Jameson’s about the circumstances of the fire--one week away. One week until the axe falls.

Ron made small talk as he rode with Mrs. Payton, but she surprised him suddenly. “Relax, Ron.”

“Mrs. Payton?”

“Oh, I can see it in your face. I’m not that easy to fool, you know. I’ve seen that same look on my late husband’s face. You talk because you feel obligated to do so, but inside you want to be alone and silent, right?”

“Yes, That’s it exactly. I feel helpless to do anything constructive. I could fight against a man. How do you fight doubt, fear and unfair accusation?”

She studied him for a long moment as he drove. “You are a strong man, Ronald Jameson. You’ll survive the loss of all but my daughter.”

“I hope that’s not a prediction. I couldn’t bear that, I know.”

“No, no,” she laughed. “Only an expression of trust, that’s all.”

“I hope I can live up to it, then.”

“You will, Ron. You will.”

“Here we are.” He pulled into the parking area beside the building where Denise worked. As he put the gear lever in park, he turned to Mrs. Payton and said quietly, “Thanks for believing in me. It helps.”

“I’m not the only one, Ron. You have many friends, from what I have heard.” She smiled confidently and he gathered courage from her words and faith.

Ron entered the building to fetch Denise and be on their way, but not before thanking her employer for being so understanding and flexible during all the confusion that was taking place in their lives.

“She’s a valuable employee and a good friend. I welcome the chance to help. By the way, here’s my statement as to her character, her work record and the extraordinary circumstances of late. I hope it helps you.”

“I’m certain it won’t hurt. That is about all I can be certain of these days.”

“Thanks for all you do.” Denise hugged her boss sincerely and with a tear in her eye, separated to leave. There were still many good men left in the world and the one bad apple that she had so recently known would not spoil the rest of them for her.

“I’m impressed by him.”

“Yes, as both a boss and a friend, Mr. Jorgenson has been a real peach,” Denise replied, her eyes moist with gratitude.

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