Jules and Duncan pulled into the hospital parking garage right at 1:00 in the afternoon. The drive there had been pleasant. It was late March in Texas, and the wild daisies and verbena were already popping up along the freeway. They were speckled with Indian paintbrushes and glimpses of waxy buttercups. Bluebonnets would be making their virgin appearance soon.
Jules slung her purse over her shoulder. She chatted cheerfully with Duncan while they walked towards Margaret's rooms. "Hey Grandad, could we drive to Burnet next month for the Bluebonnet Festival? Please?"
"I'm sure we can. I'll know better when we get closer to the dates."
"Yay! It'll be so fun."
"You could invite Greta to go with us."
"Ooh, yes. I'd like that. Here's Margaret's room. Hey Martin! How are things looking?"
"Hey Jules. Everything looks good. We should be able to leave right at 2:00. Could you grab the other end of this blanket? It's easier to fold it with an extra pair of hands. Thanks."
"No problem." Jules hugged the folded blanket against her chest. "How are you feeling, Margaret?"
"Ready to go home."
Jules smiled warmly at her. "I bet. Here, let me finish with that bag."
"Thank you, dear. It was so sweet of you to bring me my own clothes from home. How did you get in the house to get them?"
"I hope you don't mind, I remembered where you used to keep your spare key back at your old house. I snooped around a bit to find it. I figured you'd like to have some of your clothes."
"I don't mind at all. You're like family, dear."
"Martin and Margaret have some paperwork to sign. Should you and I load these few things in the car while they take care of it?"
"Okay Grandad." Jules turned to Martin with a smile. "We'll be back in a few."
"No worries. This shouldn't take long, but don't rush."
"We won't." Jules smiled, and turned to wheel the folded cot out the door. "I'll get the cot and Martin's bag, Grandad, if you could grab the pillow, blankets and Margaret's bag there that would be great."
"I've got it. Watch where you go with that cot."
"Grandad, I'm not-" Jules whipped her head around to face forwards.
"Miles! Imagine running into you here."
Miles grinned. "Almost literally. Hello Mr. Keith, how are you?" He extended his hand, smiling warmly and making honest eye contact.
"Well hello there, Miles! Where is Angus?"
"He's right down the hall." Miles pointed behind where Duncan was standing. "I was just going to go get him. We're about to leave. Would you like to come say hello?"
Duncan looked at Jules. "I would, yes. Jules, do you think you can manage without me?"
"Yes, I think I can. I can take the pillows and stuff."
"Are you sure?"
Jules slung the bag across her shoulder and bunched the bedding under her free arm. She shook her curly hair out of her eyes and away from her nose. "Yep! I've got it. Now you go see your friend. It was nice seeing you, Miles." Jules smiled and nodded towards him while she shifted her load around.
Miles hesitated, subconsciously reaching out to touch the cot. "Are you sure you wouldn't like an extra hand? I wouldn't mind walking out with you while our grandfathers talk."
"I'm sure," Jules smiled. "But thank you. Just keep Grandad out of trouble, if you could." She cracked a grin, and Miles laughed.
"Okay then, I will."
Back home, Jules and Duncan settled into the couch in the family room. Jules lounged on her end of the couch with her head hung back. She stared at the ceiling, contemplating the events of the last few days. Duncan broke the silent camaraderie with a straightforward question. "Why wouldn't you let Miles walk you out to the car?"
Jules chuckled. "Way to get to the point, Grandad. Well, for one thing, it would have been awkward to walk out to the parking garage with just Miles."
"What's the other thing?"
"I like being independent every once in a while." She kicked off her shoes and tucked her sock feet up next to her.
"At the cost of depriving a man of the opportunity to be a gentleman?"
"Ouch." Jules winced. "You got me there. But how is it that women aren't allowed to do chivalrous things? And, would allowing him to be chivalrous make it okay for me to walk into a parking garage alone with him?"
"Two tough questions. Let me answer the second one first. I would say that no, it wouldn't, just because you don't know him well. But you did find yourself alone in a parking garage with him recently, and he did not take advantage of you in any way. Correct?"
"Yes, that's right."
"So he's proven himself trustworthy already."
"I suppose he has. Now, my first question?"
Duncan sighed. "While the definition of chivalry is masculine, there is a time and a place for a woman to step up and do kind and selfless things for others. But look at it this way, Jules; how would you like it if at church the men always held all of the babies and never gave you a turn?"
"Because holding and taking care of babies is a form of pleasure as well as fulfillment for you?"
Jules cocked her head to one side, pensively studying the pattern on the rug. "Yes, I suppose it is. I suppose men find pleasure and fulfillment in providing and protecting, like I do when I'm caring or nurturing."
"Exactly. And that's the way God designed for it to be."
"Then how come sometimes I feel like I'm seen as weak when a guy offers to carry things for me?"
Duncan smiled with wisdom in his eyes. He patted Jules on the cheek. "We don't see you as weak, dear, we see you as someone to cherish. Men don't always know how to comfort or sooth, but they know how to carry burdens. It's our way of saying 'I think well of you, and I am here for you.'"
"That's beautiful, Grandad. I'll keep that in mind. I appreciate your patience with me."
"It's my pleasure, Chickadee."
They lapsed back into their quiet companionship, each settled into their respective corners of the couch. It was a pleasant silence. Jules had a thick book tucked into the folds of her blanket, and Duncan spread the local newspaper across his knees. Several minutes passed before their silence was interrupted by the doorbell. Jules sighed. "I'll get it, Grandad. I bet it's the UPS man."
"What would he be bringing?"
"Books!" Jules called over her shoulder. Duncan chuckled, and then froze apprehensively as he heard Jules gasp and drop the book she was holding. He walked up behind her and put his arm protectively around her shoulders.
Jules stared blankly in front of her. Her heartbeat was pulsing wildly in her ears and her face blanched to a sickly white. Her throat went dry, and she felt as if her tongue was glued to the roof of her mouth. Jules sensed her grandfathers nearness, but she still felt vulnerable and frightened. After what felt like a million years, Duncan broke the silence. "Kevin?" His voice held sternness as well as incredulity.
Kevin stared straight into Jules's wide brown eyes with his own icy blue eyes. He let out a small smile. "It's me. Have you no welcome for your father, Jules?" He started to reach out for her hand.
Jules felt life return to her body as she carefully tucked her hands behind her back. She swallowed the lump in her throat and blinked the dryness away from her eyes. "The only father I've ever had is the one standing right beside me. How could you just waltz in here like that? It's been nearly 21 years, and you act like it's only been a few days since you walked out of my life!"
"I-" Kevin looked ashamed. His long coat was flapping dramatically around his knees as the wind picked up. He pulled his collar closer around his ears and shivered in a disappointed manner. "I've been a cocky fool, and I'd like a chance to make it up to you, Jules. I won't even ask for the privilege of being called your father. Just let me be an indifferent acquaintance. Please, Jules."
"Grandad?" Her eyes were pleading.
Duncan smiled down at her gravely. "It's up to you, Love."
Jules looked impassive on the surface, but inside her heart and mind raged the age old battle between forgiveness and bitterness. Forgiveness won out as she opened the door a little wider and stepped back to let him in. "You can stay for dinner if you'd like. It's too cold to stand here with the door open all night."
Kevin didn't even try to hide the tears that were coursing down his face. "Thank you," he whispered, reaching longingly for her shoulders. "Thank you so much. I promise-"
Jules gave him a wary smile and stepped backwards, cutting off his words. "Please, don't promise anything right now. That way I have one less thing to hold against you later on. If you want to talk to me, you can sit in the kitchen while I make dinner. Do you like potato soup?"
"Yes, I do." Kevin followed her into the kitchen with Duncan right on his heals.
"It won't be ready until eight, so if you're hungry now I can get you a piece of toast or something like that."
"I had a late lunch, so I'll be fine waiting. Would you like for me to help you?"
"No, thank you."
Duncan raised an eyebrow at Jules, and she shook her head slightly. Duncan nodded quietly, respecting her need for a little bit of space. He turned to Kevin. "So, tell me, what brings you to Texas?"
He shifted in his seat uncomfortably. "You and Jules."
Duncan crossed his arms across his chest. "Twenty-two years ago I told you to stay away until you were ready to be a real father. You shouted into my face that you would never see me again, and you left."
Kevin draped his coat across the back of his chair and sat down, looking Duncan squarely in the eye. "Look, Dad, I know I was wrong. I was angry and confused. I couldn't stand to face the consequences of what I had done with Arabella, and I hated the thought of being a father. Especially under those circumstances." Kevin buried his face in his hands, slowly rubbing his eyes. "Five years ago I came to know the Lord, Dad."
Jules gasped from behind the counter, dropping her half peeled potato onto the tiled floor. "Sorry." She mumbled, reaching down to pick it up.
Kevin glanced towards Jules, throwing her a warm smile. "Anyways, I wanted to come here right away and ask you both for forgiveness, but I couldn't face you yet."
Duncan raised an eyebrow. "You mean it took you five years to decide to come here and face us?"
Kevin looked down at his hands, twisting his fingers together. "More like it took five years of searching and learning more about the grace of God before I could forgive myself." He looked up. "I'm here now, and I'd like to try and make things right if you would allow me."
"How can I know that you won't just walk out of my life again?" Jules stood in front of Kevin, potato peeler in hand. Her hair was pulled back, with a few small curls crowded around her wet eyes. There was a smudge of gray dirt on the edge of her cheek.
Kevin stood to face her. "God never gave up on me, even when I was mocking him. Besides that, my company is opening a branch in the Dallas Fort Worth area. I was hoping I could find a house here in the Hamilton area, and move down from my place in LA. I want to make things right, Jules."
Jules set the peeler down on the table with shaky hands and slowly opened her arms up wide. Kevin nearly knocked his chair over while rushing to hold her close, crying softly into her hair. "Please God I'll be faithful to you this time."
Duncan wiped his eyes and glanced up, whispering fervently. "Thank you, Father."