A Charmed Life
Chapter 16: Friends
Copyright© 2016 by The Outsider
22 December 1988 - East Street, Greenwich, Massachusetts
Jeff walked up to a Colonial farm house in Greenwich the next week. He shifted the items he carried in his hands, taking a deep breath before using the brass knocker on the front door. He heard footsteps approaching the door after a few moments of silence.
The door opened to reveal an attractive and familiar looking older woman. Jeff realized this must be Mrs. Cavanaugh, Colonel Donnelly’s mother. Despite the scowl she had on her face, it was easy to see where both younger women got their looks.
“You must be Mr. Knox, the wayward, young paratrooper my daughter and granddaughter have been speaking about,” Mrs. Cavanaugh said with a tone of disapproval.
“Not very impressive, for a paratrooper to have to have women come to your rescue.”
“Well, I’ve heard many women find vulnerability in men attractive, ma’am. Therefore, one must allow one’s self to be rescued by the damsels rather than the other way around once in a while mustn’t one, Mrs. Cavanaugh?”
Alice Cavanaugh couldn’t maintain the façade any longer, nor could she help but laugh at the response. This young man didn’t take himself too seriously; she could tell by the good clothes he wore that he did take meeting her family seriously. “I can see we’re going to get along just fine, Jeff,” Alice Cavanaugh laughed as she stepped aside, opening the door wider. “Please, come in!” Jeff stepped into the entryway, wiping his feet on the provided mat.
“This is for you, Mrs. Cavanaugh,” Jeff said, holding out the poinsettia he had been carrying.
“Thank you, Jeff!” Alice said. “Please, call me ‘Alice.’” This young man has been doing his homework, she thought. Heather must have told him I liked poinsettias, and I’ll just bet that bag he’s holding has a bottle of scotch for Tom. She turned to place the plant on a side table before taking Jeff’s coat. “You go on into Tom’s den, there,” Alice indicated a door on the other side of the family room. “I suppose he wants to talk to you before dinner.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he muttered. He’d expected Heather’s grandfather would want to talk to him, but he wasn’t sure he was looking forward to it. He knew Heather told her grandparents all about him, but she hadn’t told him much about them in return. He tried not to walk like a condemned man as he made his way into Mr. Cavanaugh’s den. He wasn’t sure he was all that successful.
Stepping into Tom Cavanaugh’s den felt like stepping into his company commander’s office; there were twice as many items on the “I LOVE ME!” walls, though. Behind the oak desk were an American flag, a U.S. Army flag, and a dark blue Army regimental flag. Moving as close as he dared, Jeff saw “504th Infantry Regiment” on the regimental flag.
“Holy shit...” Jeff muttered. Looking around, Jeff learned Tom Cavanaugh was once Colonel Thomas Cavanaugh. He’d been the final full regimental commander of the 504th Parachute Infantry. A quick tour around the rest of the room told him more about Tom Cavanaugh’s career: he’d started as an enlisted man, received a battlefield commission, been awarded the Combat Infantryman’s Badge (three times - World War II, Korea, Vietnam), a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars with a “V,” made a combat jump, and was wounded three times.
“All that crap just means I got lucky, son,” came a quiet voice from behind him. Jeff spun around and snapped to attention.
“AIRBORNE ALL THE WAY, SIR!“ he barked to the older man in his best parade ground voice.
Tom Cavanaugh couldn’t help but smile at the young man standing before him. Heather was clearly quite taken with him; Jane seemed to be keen on this kid, too. Alice gave him “The Look” when he told her he would be talking to their guest. He’d decided he should take a softer approach with this visitor than the boys Jane or Heather dated when they were younger.
“All the way, son,” Tom answered, walking over with his hand out. Jeff shook hands and returned to the position of attention. “Relax, son, relax. Come, have a seat.” Tom noticed the brown paper bag in his hand as Jeff relaxed and took a seat. “What do you have there?” Tom asked.
“I brought this for you, sir.” Jeff held the bag out to Tom. Tom’s eyebrows rose when he saw what it held.
“Jameson Black Barrel? Son, this is too much.”
“Just a token, sir. Your granddaughter already means a lot to me, sir, regardless of where our relationship may or may not go. I want to assure you that I am not looking for a quick score with Heather.”
Tom looked at the young man he’d just met. He was a good judge of character; his sense of Jeff was that he was being honest with him. Alice already made her decision about the boy, as had Jane; Jeff wouldn’t even be in the house if either of them felt otherwise.
“I believe you, Jeff. What’s your sense of where this relationship is headed?”
“I’ve only talked to your granddaughter for a few hours, but I can feel that I’ve grown very close to her. She’s an amazing young woman: smart as a whip, has a great sense of humor and is absolutely beautiful. We only have ten days before both her semester break and my leave end. Our future goals don’t exactly line up at this point, but I’m hoping we both can relax and at least develop a lasting friendship in that time.”
Tom nodded as he listened to Jeff. This kid gets it, Tom thought. He’s well-spoken and has been taught good manners. Too bad he’s probably right about them being together long-term. I hope he sticks around, though, I like him already.
“Boys! Dinner!” came the call from the other room.
“Come on, Jeff,” Tom said, rising from his seat. “Let’s not keep Alice waiting; she won’t let us have dessert if we’re late to the table.”
Jeff was a regular visitor to the Cavanaugh household over the next week and a half. Heather made similar visits to his house, where she was welcomed in return; the majority of his second week on leave was spent in Greenwich getting to know her family. It was nearing the time when Heather would return to Amherst, and Jeff would be headed back to Fort Bragg.
He and Heather were trying a new “brew pub” in Amherst center on December thirtieth. It wasn’t crowded when they got there; it was early enough in the evening that the crowds hadn’t turned out yet. Tomorrow night however, on New Year’s Eve, the place would be an absolute madhouse. The food was very good, the pub’s beers were great, but the knucklehead behind him kept bumping into him. Jeff tried to ignore him.
“How’s the calamari?” Heather asked.
“Excellent. Your sliders?”
“The same.” Heather watched the man behind Jeff lean back in his chair, bump Jeff and not say anything. Again.
Heather looked over at him; “really?” her look asked. Jeff closed his eyes and shook his head. He was picking up his beer to take a sip when he overheard the jerk’s conversation.
“Oh, I played that naïve little bitch but good. She thought we were boyfriend and girlfriend.”
Jeff’s beer paused halfway to his mouth while the man’s friend asked something; he couldn’t make it out.
“I’ve been doing her for the past two months. I got what I wanted from her, alright. I dumped her ass today.” Another question. “Yeah, the little blonde bimbo from MIT. Her name? Alice? No, Allison. Allison Newbury, that was it. Yeah, from New Salem.” Allison was one of his best friends; this asshole used her, then dumped her without a second thought.
Jeff saw red. He slammed his beer down; it sloshed over the edge of the glass. He stood up so fast his chair shot away from him. He wheeled around. The jerk was in mid-lean when Jeff’s hand grabbed the front of his shirt. He shoved the jerk back hard. The man’s eyes bulged as he lost his balance. Jeff slammed him into the floor. His eyes also bulged because Jeff twisted his collar so tight it cut off his air supply. Only Jeff’s grip on his shirt kept the jerk’s head from bouncing off the floor.
Jeff knelt down, putting his nose in the jerk’s face. “Wrong place, wrong time, asshole,” he growled. “Allison Newbury is one of my best friends.” Jeff saw movement out of the corner of his eye. “Sit your asses back down!” he barked to the jerk’s friends. “Karma’s paying your friend a little visit. You want some? There’ll be plenty to go around after I snap his neck.” He turned his attention back to the jerk; his face was turning blue from the restricted airflow.
“That ‘blonde bimbo’ has more brains in her pinky than you have in your whole body. She earned her way into MIT; she worked her butt off to get there and earn her scholarship. Did Daddy buy your way into Harvard? Be advised, dipshit, that if you ever come near her again, I will put my foot so far up your ass you’ll be able to smell my boot polish. I will then cut your dick off and make you choke on it. Then I’ll get angry.”
“When you’re the assistant night manager at some Quicky Mart somewhere, and you’re begging the armed robber not to shoot you in your pathetic, shit-filled head, that girl will literally be figuring out the secrets of the universe. Fat lot of good your Harvard ‘education’ will do you then; you’re not smart enough to learn anything.”
Jeff slapped the man on the side of the head. There was a wet stain on the front of the man’s pants; a different, fouler odor made its presence known as well. He let go of the man’s collar and stood. The manager and bartender of the pub were standing next to a startled Heather. “I apologize for the disturbance, gentlemen. I’ll put some money on the table and we’ll leave.”
“It’s fine, just go,” the manager replied.
“I’m paying for our drinks, our food, and making sure Sandra gets the tip she deserves,” Jeff insisted before he dropped fifty dollars on the table. “Everything was excellent. Again, I apologize to you, your staff and your patrons. Heather?” The pub was silent while they left. Heather said nothing during the walk back to his truck. Jeff unlocked it for her, holding the passenger’s door open. She hesitated.
“Heather, if you’re uncomfortable being with me now, I’ll pay for a cab to take you back to Greenwich.”
She ignored his offer of a cab. “What happened back there?” she asked.
“That jerk was bragging about a conquest of his at college. That ‘conquest’ is one of my best friends. I’ve known her since her family moved here in 1985; we dated during our senior year at Thompkins. I’m sorry, Heather, but I need to go check on her tonight.”
“Where does she live?”
“May I come with you?” Jeff looked a question at her. “What? I was startled, that’s all.”
It was just after seven in the evening when Jeff and Heather arrived at the Newburys’ house. He escorted Heather to the door and knocked. Don Newbury answered.
“Hi, Jeff,” the man said in a tired voice.
“Don, we just heard what happened and came to see Allison.”
“She’s up in her room. Dottie’s trying to help her calm down. You two come on in out of the cold.” Jeff let Heather enter first. He introduced her to Don.
“Jeff, you bring your girlfriend to check on your ex-girlfriend?”
Jeff and Heather shared a glance and smile. “I don’t know if Heather and I consider ourselves boyfriend and girlfriend; we are friends, though. As I explained to Heather on the way here, Don, the operative word is ‘friend.’ Allison was my friend long before we started dating, and continues to be even though our relationship is over. I don’t forget my friends.” Don Newbury nodded at his words.
“Mr. Newbury, would it be okay if I stayed here while Jeff goes up to see Allison?”
“That’ll be fine, Heather. It’ll give me a chance to learn about the intriguing young lady Jeff brought to my doorstep tonight. The one who would go to another woman’s house, her date’s former girlfriend, while on a date with him.”
Heather smiled at Jeff. “Go check on Allison, Jeff. I’ll be fine.” She kissed him on the cheek. “Go.” Don Newbury nodded. Jeff climbed the stairs, trying to keep himself from running. There was no sense scaring the poor girl upstairs.
Jeff heard sniffling when he approached the half-open door to Allison’s room. He poked his head in slowly. Dottie Newbury sat on Allison’s bed rubbing her daughter’s back. Dottie caught the movement of a head peeking into the room and gently rose. She padded to the door, passing through it while she looked at her daughter. She shut the door, then turned. Dottie gasped when she saw who was standing in her hall.
“How’s she doing, Dottie?”
“Jeff? Oh, Jeff!” She wrapped him in a hug. “Jeff, he hurt my little girl! He broke her heart! How could anyone be that cruel?”
“He won’t be doing that again, Dottie. I had a little talk with him tonight.”
“What? How? How did you hear already? We haven’t left the house or spoken to anyone since Allison came home and told us!”
“Heather and I were at the Amherst Alehouse and the jerk was right behind me, bragging about what he’d done. Or he was, until I got in his face and threatened to snap his neck if he ever comes near her again.”
“Jeff! You didn’t!”