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The Talon House

What's The Difference Between Me And You?


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What's the difference between me and you? Chapter 2

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Nick was up early the next day, and as he inched out of bed and toward the bedroom door he thought he could smell pancakes. The smell brought him downstairs and to the kitchen, where he found Linda cooking. She smiled when he rounded the corner and he walked over to her for a good morning hug and kiss.

"Good morning sweetheart," said Linda hugging him tightly.

"Morning Grandma," Nick replied sleepily.

Linda looked down at him and asked, "Did you sleep ok? You're up awful early." Nick yawned and stretched his arms out. It was much earlier than he was used to being up at plus there was a three hour time difference between California and Virginia that was starting to catch up to him.

"I'm awake. I slept really good, but I just feel sleepy still is all." Nick rubbed his eyes and asked what he could do to help. Linda told him to go wash his hands first then to come back and she would put him to work.

When Nick returned his grandmother lifted him up onto the counter and told him to help her with the grits. Nick remembered eating grits the last time he had visited with his grandparents. He wasn't sure he would like them very much but he ended up wanting them everyday. When they went to Disneyworld, Tom and Linda had to take him to the same restaurant everyday for almost two straight weeks so he could have grits for breakfast.

Nick's grandparents weren't very old in reality. Nick saw them as old because of the fact that they were his grandparents, but actually, they were both still in their mid 40's, and quite fit. Until yesterday, Nick hadn't given much thought to the fact that they were both still young. But the revelation that his grandmother was pregnant had been an eye opener for him.

Nick looked closely at his grandmother for a moment. She resembled his mother in so many ways. She looked just like the girl in the pictures that Nick saw throughout his life. Finally, he had to ask.

"Grandma," he started. "How much did my mom love me?"

Linda's eyes moistened. "More than I could ever tell you," she answered. "Your mom loved you more than anyone in this whole wide world."

Nick could see the hurt in his grandmother's eyes, and he felt sorry for asking. Searching for something to say, he finally blurted out, "I love you grandma."

He reached out and hugged her tightly and she returned the hug.

"I love you too sweetheart. I'm so glad you and your dad came to see us this year."

"So am I, Grandma," Nick said. Finally they let go and went back to cooking. Nick could hear water running upstairs, so he assumed that it was his dad he heard. He was right, about ten minutes later the water shut off and his dad appeared in the kitchen freshly showered, looking for coffee.

Jim walked into the kitchen and hugged and kissed Linda good morning.

"Are you helping Grandma with breakfast, buddy," Jim asked, kissing Nick on the cheek.

"Yes I am, and I even washed my hands," Nick answered excitedly.

"Well, in that case, I guess it's safe to eat breakfast this morning," Jim teased his son.

"Ha, ha," Nick replied sarcastically.

Soon Tom joined them in the kitchen and they all sat down for breakfast. Nick had forgotten how much he truly enjoyed eating grits, but when he took his first bite he was in heaven. He smiled and quickly ate all of his grits. He didn't bother touching his pancakes or his bacon. Instead, he fed his pancakes to his dad when he noticed that Jim had eaten all of his. Tom and Linda just looked on and smiled as Nick fed his dad bites of pancakes off his plate.

As they had planned to do that day, they all relaxed after breakfast in the family room. After a few minutes, the room got quiet and Linda turned off the TV. Nick was wondering if this was it. IS this was the moment in time when they would finally tell him what they were talking about last night? He soon got his answer when Tom walked over and sat down with him on the love seat.

"Hey kiddo. Will you do me a favor," Tom asked.

"Sure Grandpa," Nick answered eagerly.

Tom pointed to the bookshelf by the sliding glass door and said, "Go over there and grab me those two photo albums, will you?"

Nick jumped up and raced over to the bookshelf to grab the two red photo albums. When he returned, Tom told him to sit close. They opened the book and Nick saw a picture he had never seen before. It was a picture of his mom and Jim lying in a hospital bed together, and they were holding Nick. His mom's hair was trashed, and his dad had on a ripped shirt and was sweating. They both looked like they were crying. He looked at his dad in that picture and the realization of how young his dad really was when he was born hit him. His dad looked like a boy in the picture. He was skinny and seemed smaller. His hair was longer and even though it was messed up, he could tell that he styled it back.

Nick looked over at his dad and smiled. Jim moved over to the couch and looked at the picture himself. He put his hand on Nicks shoulder and kissed him on top of his head. The other pictures were of Nick being brought home from the hospital, from the moment they wheeled his mom out the doors to the car to the time he was brought home to his grandparents' house in Oakley, California.

Nick felt uncomfortable as everyone was starting to get emotional around him, so he turned the page. He saw some pictures of a baby shower and he asked, "Was I born yet when these were taken," to no one in particular.

Linda answered him. "No, sweetheart. Not yet, this was mom's baby shower that we all gave her."

Nick studied the pictures carefully. He had never seen them before and he wanted to get as many looks at these pictures as he could. He turned the page and what he saw next made him giggle. It was a picture of his mom and dad all by themselves. His dad had on a tuxedo and his mom was wearing a pink fluffy dress. They were holding hands and looking at each other. He thought that his dad's tuxedo looked especially silly.

Next, he turned the page and he saw a bunch of pictures of him and his mom alone, and she was looking at him like he was a treasure. She had so much love in her eyes as she held him. Nick felt so good when he looked at those pictures that he started to get a lump in his throat. Finally, he looked up at his dad and both of his grandparents and asked, "Why did my mom die?"

No one seemed to have an answer for him. Finally, Jim spoke up.

"Well, buddy, no one knows why any of us dies. We just do." Jim paused for a second then he looked at his son and continued. "We all loved your mom so much. We still do. That's never going away. But the thing is, in a way, she's still alive. I see her in you everyday."

Nick turned around and hugged his dad with all of his might. He was crying now, and the next question just seemed to pop out of him. "How did my mom die," he asked. His dad looked at Tom and Linda, who looked rather uncomfortable, but Jim continued.

"She died in a car accident. You know that though, don't you?"

Nick did know that, but he had so many questions about how it happened, so he tried again.

"That's not what I meant, dad. I mean, how did the wreck happen?"

A look of regret passed over Jims face as he had to answer the question in front of Tom and Linda, who already knew the details but now had to relive the night their only child had been killed.

"She was riding in the back of a truck, son, and they crashed with another car and she was thrown from the truck. That's why I make you wear a seatbelt, Nick, and that's why I get upset with you when you argue with me about putting it on."

Nick was upset about what he had heard. Knowing that his mom had died after being in a bad wreck had always made him nervous about riding in cars. He used to tell his friends in kindergarten that he was going to die just like his mom did in a car, and his dad and his teachers made him stop. But he still believed that in the back of his head. Whenever he thought about a car wreck, he just imagined that his mom was in some big car that might have tipped over or caught on fire. This was new to him, and he had a lot to think about.

"Were you and me with her, dad," Nick asked.

"No son. You were at home with Grandma and Grandpa, and I was somewhere else. We were going to go together to the concert that I was at, but she decided that she wanted to go to a party instead," Jim said sadly. He looked at his son in an almost apologetic way.

Nick was starting to understand some of what was happening, what his dad meant the night before when he was talking to his grandparents. What he said next came out the wrong way, and Nick was sorry as soon as he said it....

"Why didn't you make her go with you, dad," Nick said, causing a look of guilt to cross his dad's face. Jim looked like he wanted to cry.

"I don't know son. I'm so sorry that I didn't try harder to make her go."

Jim had tears running down his face, and Nick felt awful. He had never seen his dad cry before, and it made him uncomfortable to watch him now.

Linda and Tom moved in closer and they were both hugging Jim and rubbing his back. Tom spoke up. "Nick, there was nothing your dad could've done. He's been blaming himself for eight years for this, and none of it was his fault. If there's one thing I can tell you about your mother, it was that once she made up her mind, that was it. She did what she wanted, and that was that."

Tom looked at his wife, who looked devastated. She was still hugging Jim and holding on to her husband for support at the same time. She was falling apart behind all of the memories of that night. Nick felt horrible as he watched his dad cry. It was like it was something that he was holding inside of him for all of these years and finally it was coming out, and his dad couldn't stop. He was so used to seeing his dad as a strong person with nerves of steel, and now he was crying like a baby.

"Dad," Nick said. "I'm sorry I said it that way. I didn't mean to make you cry."

Jim reached over to hug his son, and as he did, he broke down again.

"Son, it's not your fault. I'm just remembering your mom is all. I still love her so much, and I miss her a lot. I haven't cried for her in a long, long time," he said.

"When was the last time dad," Nick asked.

Jim took a deep breath and thought about it for a minute. Finally, he took Nick in his lap and said, "Well, son, probably not since the first week after you came home from the hospital. You see, we almost lost you after we lost your mom. You stopped eating and you were losing a lot of weight. We had to put you in the hospital, and I didn't know what was going to happen. Finally, you started eating again, and I brought you home. But there's more..."

"What, dad," Nick asked.

"Well, when you got home from the hospital, there were a lot of people who wanted me to give you up for adoption. They tried to convince me that it would be best for you and for me to. I wasn't sure what I was gonna do, but while everyone else was telling me to do it, I want you to know that all of your grandparents, and that includes your Oma and your Papu, were begging me not to do it."

Nick smiled at his grandparents, and Jim continued." One night you wouldn't stop crying and I was so tired that I didn't know what to do. So I took you to bed with me and you fell asleep. While we were lying there, I put my head on your chest, and I could hear your little heart beating and all of your little insides working. It was like I fell in love with you all over again, and I knew that I couldn't ever give you up. But I was scared about how I was going to take care of you, and I cried a lot. I missed your mom and I didn't know how I was going to do it without her there."

Nick felt more emotional at that point than he ever did in his life. He felt so bad for his dad for going through all of that, but he also felt so good because he somehow understood how much his dad gave up for him. He just relaxed then and for the rest of the day he listened to stories about his mom and dad. There were so many funny stories and so many sweet stories about them. It was like he was introduced to a world that he always imagined but couldn't quite grasp until today.

This was what Nick considered to be the best day of his life.

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Nick opened his eyes and looked out the window. He had no idea where he was or how far they were from Virginia Beach, but he knew that his grandfather was driving fast, and it was raining hard outside as they sped down the freeway. His dad was sitting in the back seat this time with him and was carrying on a conversation with Tom and Linda. He wasn't sure what they were discussing, but it was something light hearted because all three of the adults were laughing and carrying on.

"How much longer, Grandpa," Nick asked.

"You're up, buddy," Tom replied. "We were starting to wonder about you. You've been sleeping a long time."

Nick smiled and Jim reached over and grabbed his left ankle and squeezed it, lifting his leg off the seat playfully. "Are you hungry son," Jim asked.

Nick was definitely ready for lunch.

"Yes sir," he answered happily. "Can we eat at Cracker Barrel?"

Nick remembered eating at Cracker Barrel in Florida, and they had just passed a large billboard that told him that there was indeed a Cracker Barrel coming up.

"Sure thing, pal", Tom answered.

Linda turned around to see her grandson, who was sitting directly behind her. "What do you think you're hungry for, sweetheart?"

Nick thought about it for a second then he smiled and asked, "Can I have grits again?"

"Of course you can, Nick," Linda said. "But don't you think you want something else to eat besides grits?"

Nick grinned and said proudly, "Nope. I love grits. Grits and bacon, please."

Jim looked over at him and gave him a stern look. "Son, I don't mind if you have grits, but I want you to try to eat a little bit of something else. You need to at least have some chicken strips or something like that."

Nick sighed, knowing that his dad meant business. "Ok, dad. But can I have a soda today?"

"We'll see, son," Jim said. "I'm not trying to be mean to you, but I want you to eat so you don't get sick."

"I know," Nick said, a little embarrassed that his dad lectured him in front of Tom and Linda.

As the four of them got out of the car and headed in to the restaurant, Tom told Linda and Jim to go ahead and reserve the table. The restaurant had a line out the door and he knew that there would be a wait.

"Wait up, kiddo," Tom said to Nick as he started to follow his dad and grandmother. Nick turned back toward the car and Tom sat down in the back seat and moved over so Nick would have room to sit next to him. When Nick got in and closed the door, Tom pulled out his wallet and took out a fifty-dollar bill. Nick couldn't believe it when Tom handed it to him. No one had ever given him that much money in his life. His dad gave him an allowance of five dollars a week, but he had never gotten fifty dollars from anyone.

"There you go, pal," Tom said handing him the money.

"Wow," Nick said, still in disbelief. "What's it for, Grandpa?"

Tom reached over and put his hand on Nick's shoulder and answered, "It's just because I love you, Nick. I wanted you to have it."

"I love you too, Grandpa," Nick answered. He reached over and gave his Grandpa a hard hug.

"I guess we should go inside and see if our table's ready," Tom said. "Do you want a ride?"

Tom got out and held out his arms for Nick. Nick crawled out on Tom's side and Tom turned him around and lifted Nick up onto his shoulders and carried him into the restaurant.

When they got inside, they found Jim and Linda walking around in the country store, waiting to be called for their table. Jim smiled warmly when he saw his son riding on Tom's shoulders.

"I guess Grandpa didn't make you stay behind for a spanking," he laughed.

Tom looked up at his grandson and said, "Heck no. I don't think I could bring myself to make this boy cry."

Jim started laughing and teasingly said, "Well, why don't I let him stay for about a week by himself and when I get back, we'll see if you still feel that way."

Finally, they were paged and Tom put Nick down. They made their way to their table and after a while, Nick had a small bowl of cheese grits and a plate of chicken strips and French fries sitting in front of him. He immediately attacked the grits and was finished with them in no time flat. He picked at his chicken strips at first, but he knew that his dad would have all four of them sit there until he ate at least half of his lunch, so he started working on them.

After a while, the conversation turned to how much Jim and Nick liked eating at the Cracker Barrel, and as the waitress was refilling their glasses, Nick got her attention. "Is this in California," Nick asked, hoping that when he and his father went home they would know how to find a Cracker Barrel. Unfortunately, the waitress misunderstood his question.

"Oh, no sweetie. We're in Virginia," she answered.

Nick giggled, but was careful not to sound disrespectful. "No, ma'am. What I meant was is this restaurant in California."

Still not grasping the question fully, the poor woman repeated herself. "No, it's in Virginia. California's a long way from here, honey."

Finally Linda spoke up. "What he meant was, is there a Cracker Barrel in California?"

The waitress held her right hand over her chest when she realized the mistake she made, and she laughed at herself. "I'm so sorry, baby," she said, still laughing.

Nick was laughing along with her, and out of respect, he apologized for confusing her. "No, ma'am. I should have said it differently," he said, still smiling widely.

After she finished filling the glasses at the table, she left them alone. Nick was still picking at his chicken and finally he looked at his dad who just motioned with his head that he was satisfied with the amount of chicken that Nick had eaten.

"Grandpa," Nick spoke up.

"Yes, Nick," Tom smiled.

"How far is it to Washington from here?" Nick was watching Tom think, hoping that he wouldn't say hundreds of miles.

"I'd say about 45 miles," he answered, much to Nick's relief. "Why?"

Nick looked at his dad, and thought carefully about what he was going to say. He wasn't quite sure how to say that he was sick of riding in the car in a polite way. So, instead, he thought of a reason that wouldn't get him scolded by Jim.

"I was just wondering what we would do when we get there is all," he finally answered.

After a while, they were finished and back in the car, headed to Washington DC. Nick was secretly excited about going to Washington DC. He wanted to look at the White House and see the Capitol building. His dad talked about politics all of the time when he was home. Jim's father was a Democrat, and Jim was a Republican to the core. Nick knew better than to say anything to get the two of them arguing about politics, but he felt safe about talking about it while he was in Virginia with his dad and his Papu was back in California.

Finally, they arrived in Washington and found the hotel where they had reservations. After they checked in, they went to their rooms and showered and changed. Nick lay on his bed while Jim was in the shower and closed his eyes for what seemed like a second. The next thing he knew, his dad was shaking him awake.

"Hey, buddy," Jim said, looking down at Nick. "Are you still sleepy?"

"No, I'm ok, dad," Nick answered as he opened his eyes.

"Ok, well, go get in the shower and wash good." Jim told him. "There're towels and washcloths on the counter for you. I put them out. Use the washcloth."

Nick knew from the way his dad said it that he meant business, so he made sure he scrubbed well while he was in the shower. When he got out he came back out to the room and Jim had his clothes laid out on his bed. Nick got dressed, then went over and sat in Jim's lap so he could do his hair. When Jim was finished, he told Nick to call his Grandparents' room and ask if they were ready. Finally they all met in Tom and Linda's room and left from there to explore Washington DC.

It was late when they got back to the hotel. Nick wasn't sure what time it was, but he knew that the sun had already gone down and they hadn't had any dinner yet. He knew his dad was hungry and that they would be eating soon. Jim got in the shower and told Nick to get ready to take one as well. After Jim was done, Nick got in and took a quick shower as his dad had instructed him to do.

Tom and Linda called and they met in Jim and Nick's room this time. There was a Steak and Ale right next door to the hotel so they all walked next door and ate.

As usual, Nick barely touched his food. Jim and Tom ate what was left on his plate and the three of them sat and talked while Nick colored on his menu. It was definitely late and Nick fell asleep at the restaurant. When he woke up, his head was on Jim's shoulder and they were leaving the restaurant headed back to the hotel. He smiled at his Grandparents, who were watching him and brightened up when he opened his eyes.

"Hi, Grandma," Nick said quietly to Linda and waved.

Linda reached up and ran her hand over Nick's face gently and smiled. "Hi sweetheart," she said. "Are you up now?"

Nick nodded but made no move to get down. He was still tired as they made their way to the hotel so Tom and Linda both kissed him goodnight and went into their room and Jim took Nick back to their room. When they got to the hotel room Jim took Nick inside, laid him on his bed and took out Nick's pajamas. He took Nick's shoes off for him while Nick watched from the bed. Soon he had Nick changed into his pajamas and was tucking him in. He leaned down and kissed his son goodnight.

"I love you, Nick," said Jim. "Sweet dreams, son."

"I love you too, dad," Nick said looking up. "Was I good today?"

"Yes you were," Jim answered.

Nick thought about how much he loved his dad and smiled. After a few minutes, he was asleep again.

The next day Jim was already up making coffee at the sink in the bathroom as Nick was waking up.

He got up and went to the bathroom then crawled into his dad's bed when he went back into the room. He watched cartoons for a while then Jim joined him and they sat and laughed at the episode of Spongebob Squarepants.

During a commercial Jim turned the TV down all the way. "Son, I want to have a talk with you," he said in a serious tone. Nick got a little nervous as he gave his dad his full attention.

"Do you like it here in Virginia with your Grandma and Grandpa," Jim asked.

Nick smiled and said, "Yes. I like it a lot."

"Well," Jim continued, clearing his throat. "How would you like to live in Virginia?"

Nick thought about what his dad said, then answered. "What about Papu and Oma?' Nick said, thinking about the family he always had around him in California. "Will they live here too?"

"No, son," Jim answered truthfully. "We would be here with your Grandma and Grandpa. Papu and Oma and Uncle Alex and Uncle Brandon would stay in California."

Nick started feeling anxious. He wanted to see his Grandma and Grandpa all the time, but he didn't want to leave behind all of the people he loved in California. He started to cry. Jim rubbed his back and scooted him closer so that they were sitting side by side.

"Buddy, it's ok," he said. "We haven't decided what we're gonna do yet. I was just thinking about it, that's all."

Nick calmed down a little and Jim continued. "Son, I just want what's best for you. I know how much you like it with Grandma and Grandpa, but I know how you're going to feel about moving away from Papu and Oma. But you know what?"

Nick looked up at his dad and answered, "What?"

"We won't do it unless I think you really want to, ok?" Jim said, still rubbing his son's back.

"Ok, dad," Nick said, trying to sound brave. Up until this very moment, Nick was hoping that somehow their vacation could last forever and that they would never have to go back. Now that the reality of what he was wishing for was staring him in the face, he didn't know if he liked the idea of never having to go back to his life in California.

Jim and Nick just laid on the bed together for the rest of the time that Spongebob was on and watched quietly. After the show was over, Jim told Nick that it was time to get showered and ready for the day.

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