Family Non-Fiction posted July 2, 2023 Chapters:  ...18 19 -20- 21... 

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Mary makes it back to Texas with her baby and swears off men

A chapter in the book Angels Unaware

Trailways and Crossroads

by forestport12

Tom suffered PTSD from early childhood, then was discharged from the A/F over his mental health. Later he returns to his first love in Texas after her failed marriage

Mary and baby made it on the Trailways bus for home. The young mother, wearing sunglasses to hide her swollen eye, didn't care to look back. She wanted to forget she ever stepped foot in Illinois.

As the hum of the tires put the baby to sleep, Mary hoped to get through the journey without conversation. To be sure she understood everyone on the bus had a story to tell. It was 1983 and a Trailways bus was where the melting pot of America mingled. There were different shades of skin and a rainbow of colors. The common denominator was that they were all poor. No one rode a Trailways bus for days and stopped in every town on both sides of the Mississippi if they had money for a plane ticket.

Life moved like a tapestry of scenes from a movie about the Heartland. The view of cornfields, cow pastures, and bold rivers were all included with the price of a ticket. Mary and Malissa snacked and sipped water along the way. Malissa's smile and sweet face would lighten the mood on the bus. But Mary wanted Texas. She couldn't wait to feel the grass and dirt of home between her toes.

When time on the bus crawled on wheels, she'd close her eyes and sleep so she wouldn't have to count the hours. A depth of relief flooded her senses when she spotted a sign for Texas. Everything was big in Texas, including her love for Tom. He said he would call her when she got settled back home in Cibolo. She thought of him, as the bus turned south on I35 from Dallas.

When Mary crossed the threshold of her parent's house, she knew her life was at a crossroads. Despite assurances that her father promised Tom from school in Arlington would call her, she put up a good front. She said, "I don't want to date again. I don't want a man in my life. Don't need a man."

Mary's younger siblings doted over little Malissa. In some ways it was like they were making up for all the love and care Mary gave them when they were younger. It gave Mary the chance to zone out in her old room. It may have been a trailer once, but her father was a carpenter and managed to make extra rooms for everyone, including Mary. She closed her door, refused to eat more than a few bites of food, and mostly put everyone on notice for them to not hold their breath if Tom doesn't call. Her family worried over her, and they figured she couldn't have weighed more than a hundred pounds soaking wet.

Her father told me I should give her some time. She'd been through so much. I distracted myself with the end of semester class work. But Thanksgiving was fast approaching. Some of my student friends were already making plans to head home out of state.

With Thanksgiving days away, I made the phone call to Mary. Her mother answered the phone and didn't seem surprised I was on the other end. She yelled loud enough for everyone in the house to hear it. They never needed intercoms. "Mary Ella! Thomas is on the phone. Hurry up and get your butt out here." It was like I stirred the whole house with a call. "Somebody tell Mary to get her fanny out here."

Then it seemed there was a hush around the phone when Mary answered. "Hello."

My heart skipped a beat, just to hear her voice after all those years. "Are you okay? You're Dad told me what happened. He told me your situation, how you needed to get out of Illinois. He told me you have a little girl now."

I had trouble holding back the tears. It just seemed like a flood of emotions that were dammed up in my eyes wanted to let go and tried to drown my ability to talk. I hoped she felt the same.

"She's going to be two-years old on December 3rd. "

"I'd love to see you both, someday."

"Well," she said, and seemed hesitant. "You know where to find me. It ain't like you would need a map."

I heard her mother in the background yell. "Tell Tommy boy to come down for Thanksgiving. I bet he ain't had a good home meal in ages."

I wondered if Mary's heart was beating as fast as mine. She had always put her heart out there for me, and every time she did, I broke it. No, I crushed it!

"You must be busy with school."

"Not around Thanksgiving."

"You should come for Thanksgiving. Everyone wants to see you. Jennifer won't stop pinching my arm. She's so dang mean. I'm about to swat her one. Stop it!"

"I will come down. But my car won't make it. I'll have to fly."

"You sure you know what you might be getting yourself into? Wouldn't want you to climb out on a limb."

"I'm all in on that limb, as long as your there with me."

When the day arrived, and I was supposed to fly to San Antonio, doubts dug into my head and burrowed into my heart. Alone in an empty dorm and here comes a war between my head and heart again. I was on the second floor overlooking the atrium and concrete below. I stood there, alone, talking to myself, telling myself I'm not ready to go out on this limb of love. "What if I fall?"

A few hours later, before a friend would take me to the airport, I did an incredibly foolish thing. I called the Blakely house. I told Mary, "I can't make it. I don't think I can come."

The other side of the phone was deathly quiet. She must have thought, oh no. After all these years, I'm losing him all over again. "What do you mean? You can't come; or you won't come?"

"I'm just not sure I should..." I didn't have an excuse.

Mary's sister, who by now was eighteen, grabbed the phone. "Tom, you listen to me, and you listen carefully. If you don't get on that flight tonight, I'm going to personally drive Mary up there to the dorm, and we will find you, and when we do, you'll be sorry. That's no way to treat a young lady who has spent the last few hours getting ready to meet you at the airport. Do I make myself clear?"

"Abundantly so, and I'm Sorry."

"No siree! Sorry won't cut it. Sorry happened two years ago. You need to stop talking yourself out of this and keep your promises. Now can we count on you to keep your word?"

"Yes, I...I promise I will be on that plane tonight."

Sissy handed the phone back to Mary. She always knew when to step up for her big sister. I could hear Mary's anxious breath over the phone. "You okay?"

"Yes. I'm sorry, I'm such a fool. Your family is like the family I never had. I really do want to see you and your little girl. I want to prove to you I care."

I took my ride to the airport, hopped on the plane with minutes to spare. I watched the bright lights of Dallas fill the window and breathed a sigh that all the wrestling inside myself was over. It felt good to give in and let goâ?"to be vulnerable--to be willing to risk my whole heart and not just one piece of it.

It wasn't long before San Antonio came into view with all of it's colorful lights at night. As we touched down memories filled me of how I helped rebuild a church, was in the air force, and met Mary when she was only sixteen. As I walked from the gate through the airport I tried to imagine her look now and how she would have matured.

As I rounded the corner near baggage claim and the exits, my heart pounded like a hammer. Mary and her sister stood below the ramp in their church dresses looking up toward me, eyes wide. They both had more than enough makeup to spare. But I knew the real Mary was there, my down to earth southern girl who didn't need much to improve on God's creation. She was incredibly thin but gorgeous. Despite the dress, I could tell she'd been flirting dangerously with an eating disorder.

I walked down the ramp to give the pair a hug. Two years evaporated between us. I hugged Mary and kissed her on the cheek. The feeling sent shockwaves through me. My senses were on high alert: from the smell of her soft blonde hair to the touch of her soft, velvet skin. I was taken back in time when she first grabbed my bicep and told me she loved me, then asked, "Now what are you going to do about it?"

They could have put a dog collar around me and led me on a leash into the car all the way to their house and I wouldn't have bucked.

The picture I found is a rare photo of Mary and child days before I came down for Thanksgiving visit.

I changed my name at first, not sure why. I've changed some names, but I don't think anyone needs a name changed to protect them.
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