I feel like things are really ramping up in this story. I hope you’ve enjoyed it so far. Please leave me a comment or criticism or suggestion. Remember this is unedited, so I’m sure there are some loose ends or continuity errors that I need to know about. Start chapter 1 here if you haven’t read the beginning. Enjoy!
Cleaning her apartment and picking up some groceries filled the rest of the morning before Erin headed to her dad’s place. She was looking forward to the family time. Her brother, Tyler, his wife, Liz, and their baby boy TJ (Tyler Jr.) would be there as well as her dad’s lady friend, Ellen. Erin wasn’t one of those daughters who never wanted her father to remarry, thinking it would sully the image of her mother, or that the new woman would try to take Erin’s mom’s place in her life. Ellen was a gift. She was sweet, smart, funny and a great match for her dad.
Gordy and Ellen had met at an economics summit in San Francisco two years ago where Gordy had been one of the session speakers and Ellen was in the audience. She approached him after his session to ask some follow up questions and they ended up in one of the hotel restaurants, talking and laughing the night away. The next day, Ellen was returning to San Diego, but they exchanged contact information and promised to stay in touch. It helped that she had grown kids in the Bay Area; one in nearby Silicon Valley and one a little further out in Sacramento. She tried to make the trip north at least once a month since flights were fairly inexpensive. Erin hadn’t asked her dad his intentions, but she was hoping there would be a wedding soon.
At a little after noon, Erin jumped in her Bug to make the short trip up the hill to her dad’s house. He still lived in the house she grew up in, along a sparsely populated stretch of Skyline Dr. that offered an amazing panoramic view from the Dumbarton Bridge on the south that spanned the Bay from Fremont to Menlo Park, and the iconic Golden Gate to the north. She never tired of that view. Her parents had bought the place soon after they married in 1986. Being an economist helped Gordy when it came to buying real estate in such a beautiful area. He played his cards right, and they were able to get the 3500 sq ft fixer upper for a steal and then slowly work on it themselves over the years, until now it was a showcase of warmth and beauty that Erin was loathe to leave.
If it hadn’t been for her great desire to be independent and not be in her dad’s way, she would have stayed forever. As she rounded the last curve before his driveway, Erin gave thanks for the closeness of her family, which in turn made her sad that Hazel didn’t seem to have anyone. She made a mental note not to forget to ask her dad all the questions that were running through her head after her morning adventure.
As she pulled into the driveway, Erin’s dad opened the garage door, having heard the distinctive Beetle engine. “Go ahead and pull in,” he called. “It will leave more room for the others.”
She obliged, pulling in next to his silver BMW, careful not to open her door too wide lest she bump his prize possession, and then jumped out to hug her dad. “Ellen’s not here yet?”
“No,” Gordy replied as he led the way into the kitchen from the garage, “she was stopping off at Italian Colors to pick up our order for lunch.”
“Oh, yum!” Erin exclaimed. “I love that place. When are Ty and Liz getting here?”
“Should be any minute,” Gordy answered, bringing plates, utensils, cups and napkins out onto the deck facing the Bay. It was a gorgeous day to be outside, and even though the dining room offered just as spectacular a view, Erin preferred to be outside. Inside, the dark wood dining table sat in the middle of the large dining room facing the Bay windows. At the moment, the French doors were thrown open to let the 70-degree day flow in. Erin stood at the rail of the deck, looking out over the sunlit Bay, remembering what it was like to live here.
The entry level of the house was all open concept with the kitchen, dining room and living room all flowing into each other with a breakfast bar with an island range separating the kitchen and dining room. Susan and Gordy had remodeled that kitchen just a couple of years before she had gotten sick. Erin was sad that her mom hadn’t gotten to enjoy it for very long. She was an amazing cook.
Also on the entry level were Gordy’s office, a full bathroom and a guest room. Upstairs, there were three more smaller bedrooms including the master bedroom with full bath and another separate bathroom. When she lived there with Sarah and Tyler, those were their rooms, and sharing the bathroom wasn’t very much fun, but they got it done.
Downstairs was a big open family/rec room with a pool table, wet bar and theater system. It opened up onto a beautiful brick paver patio that was screened from the neighbors by tall green hedges of juniper and boxwood. There was a fire pit as well as a hot tub. Her friends in junior high and high school thought they must be the richest people in the neighborhood, but Erin knew that her parents just knew how to find bargains and do a lot of work themselves. It was an idyllic childhood.
Right up to the point where her mom got sick. Erin was in high school, Ty had graduated from college and was working, living in an apartment in Berkeley with a couple of friends, and Sarah was on the cusp of being a teenager. It was a tough time for everyone. Mercifully, because pancreatic cancer is a quick killer, Susan hadn’t lingered. Within five months of the diagnosis, she was gone.
Erin shook off her reverie as she heard voices in the kitchen. Ty and Liz always came with laughter and a whole lot of love. Tall and slender, Ty towered over his five-foot- five-inch wife. His strawberry blonde hair exactly matching hers. He held up two bags brimming with fresh produce from his job at Berkeley Bowl, one of the premiere grocery shopping experiences in the East Bay. Erin loved that place. She joined them in the kitchen and began emptying the bag. Artichokes, asparagus, yellow spaghetti squash and short round acorn squash, apples and a beautiful baking pumpkin. Her mouth watered just thinking about what she could make with those.
“Arm wrestle you for ’em” she told her dad, laughing, then turned to take baby TJ out of Liz’s arms. He squealed in delight as he saw her. Nothing like a baby to melt an aunty’s heart.
Soon, Ellen arrived with copious amounts of food from their favorite Italian restaurant in the Village and Cory came soon behind, bearing two bottles of red wine. “I guessed Italian,” he laughed as he set the bottles down and gave Erin a quick kiss before TJ grabbed his hair.
Laughter prevailed as they quickly set out all the food containers and sat down at the table, TJ in a booster seat between his parents. He knew he had an audience, so he regaled everyone with his antics of throwing absolutely everything they gave him onto the deck. There was a lot of catching up to do, since the family hadn’t been together in several weeks. All they were missing was Sarah, and it was empty without her.
When TJ began rubbing his eyes, Ty went to set up the portable crib and Liz got TJ out of his chair to change his diaper. He would sleep for a couple of hours while the adults continued to converse.
“So,” Erin began when Ty and Liz came back to the table. “I have some interesting news about Hazel.”