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remoteimage - Woman Western

A second later another pair of arms went around me from behind and I heard Colleen's voice whisper in my ear. "And I love you too Bobby, we all love you."
After several moments Colleen stood up, kissed me on the top of my head and said, "Girls, would you mind going into the house for a littlebit? I need to talk to Uncle Bobby."
A quick squeeze from the girls then they hopped, skipped and jumped into the house as Colleen replaced Meghan on the glider next to me. She hooked her arm through mine and pulled me closer until we were leaning against each other. She took the papers out of my hands, looked them over then set them aside. We sat quietly before she spoke.
"When Bill died, I wanted to die too. I couldn't see any reason for going on. And then Dad died.The only thing that kept me here was the girls...and you. I must have sat holding the girlsfor hours; I couldn't bear to have them away from me. And you, you called me what...three...four times a day? You have no idea what that meant to me. I know what it means to lose someone you love. I think loosing someone to death is probably easier to deal with than what you've lost because I knowthat Bill loved me. Do you remember what you said to me...oh, must have been a couple of months after Dad died?"
"No, I don't."
"You said, 'Colleen, you will always love Bill andDad and it hurts to lose someone. You must remember everything about them, the good andthe bad, but we love you and it is time to let go...' Bobby, it's time for you to let go."
For the first time since that day at the hospital with Barbara, I cried. It was as though a giant festering emotional wound had erupted and mysoul was pushing all of the poison out. Colleen sat holding me saying nothing. She waited patiently until the sobbing of a grown man stopped and I was able to pull my self together.
"You're right, I know it's time to let go. I just loved her so much. I don't want her back; I just want to understand why she did it. I know in mymind that I did nothing wrong, but emotionally I feel like I failed as a person somehow...that Ifailed Barbara...that I failed myself. But you'reright, I will not let what Barbara did to me ruin the rest of my life. I've been using you and the girls as an emotional crutch for too long...I need to stop free loading off of you, I'll start looking for a place of my own."
"You will not. You'll just sit there alone in some apartment feeling sorry for yourself and the girls would be devastated if you moved out." Then she ruffled my hair, "besides, it's nice living with you again without having the twins around to tease the hell out of us. When you're ready, come inside and help me fix lunch."
John Gordon was right. It was at that moment that life began to get better.
After lunch I took everyone to an afternoon matinee of the new Disney movie and against Colleen's wishes, treated the girls to buckets ofpopcorn, candy and sodas. During the movie Colleen kissed the back of my hand and held it in the dark until the credits began to roll. For the first time in a very long time, I was having fun.
That night after the girls were in bed, Colleen and I talked late into the night, mostly me taking, Colleen listening as I purged my soul of more emotional poison. We have always been close, but now I was able to understand how much our family loved each other. That simple act of listening meant more to me than anything anyone has ever done. Only now did I realize the importance what I had done for Colleen after Bill died, and now she was returning that act of love to me.
After I had gotten into bed and was lying on myback staring at the ceiling, I heard the door open and watched as Colleen came into the room walking to the bed. She lay down next to me on top of the covers and pulled me close to her. When I started to say something she just stroked my face and said quietly, "Sh-sh-sh, just let it go baby." When I awoke in the morning, she was gone.
Slowly but steadily my life got back on track. Myharrowing nightmare existence began to fade, the dreams and mental pictures came less frequently at night. I began to interact with thepeople in the office in a more personal way. One day I had Colleen come to the office whereI introduced her around before taking her to lunch. Later that evening after the girls were in bed, she had a half smile on her face when she asked why I hadn't mentioned to anyone that she was my sister.
"I don't know, it never crossed my mind. I guess that I'd better correct that tomorrow."
"No, that's ok. It'll be good for the rumor mill to think that Bobby O'Conner has a girlfriend. Besides, I haven't been the object of gossip fora long time."
I thought about it for a while and realized Colleen had introduced me to her friends as justplain Robert. I pointed out to Colleen that she had not mentioned that I was her brother to the neighborhood, that she done the same thing I had done. We started laughing at what ascandal we must be in the neighborhood, that nice widow woman with the live-in boyfriend. We were laughing so much at what we both hadinadvertently done that we had tears coming down. Laughter felt good once again.
When we caught our breaths, Colleen gave me ahug and whispered in my ear, "Well, I have to admit, I could do a lot worse for a boyfriend." Then she turned, went to her bedroom, stoppingto smile and blow me a kiss saying, "good nightsweetie" before closing the door.
Life was getting better for me and the memories of my time in Chicago began to fade. Colleen and I spent a lot of evenings talking late into the night. Conversations that started with "Do you remember when..." and "What ever happened to..." but always ended with sharing everything that was important to us. Colleen told me of how much she missed Bill and Dad, but was now at peace with the idea ofthat chapter in her life being closed. My thoughts no longer dwelled on Barbara and I tried to express to Colleen how important Meghan and Molly had become to me.
I was surprised when Colleen insisted that I accompany her to the parent-teacher conferences for the girls. I applauded enthusiastically after Meghan and Molly sang their solos at the first, and second grade concert. Gradually I began to accept Colleen's invitations to participate in her neighborhood activities. Our hugs at the front door in the morning were lasting longer each day.
It may seem odd, but one of the things that I came to enjoy the most was grocery shopping with Colleen. We would walk, or more accurately, stroll down the aisles pushing the cart, talking about everything and nothing. If the girls were with us, they would have to remind us that we had put nothing in the cart and they were getting hungry. Many times in public and when we were at home alone I would glance up to find Colleen looking at me with her half smile. She would hold me in her gaze for several moments and then return her attention to what ever she had been doing.
But she wasn't the only one. Unconsciously I would find my attention drawn to Colleen at unexpected moments, watching her play with the girls or working in her studio. My relationship with her was shifting from little brother and big sister to friends that genuinely care for each other. Smiling came much easier me and I found that I had a tendency to whistle as I walked to the car after work.
One Friday in late March I came home from work to find Colleen and the girls loading sleeping bags and duffel bags into the trunk ofColleen's car.
"What's going on? Is someone running away from home?"
"No Uncle Bobby, we're going to our Gymboree. Come with Mommy to take us, please, please, please."
The girls had been talking about this for weeks.The Camp Fire Girls had a weekend campout that was going to take place in the gym of the local high school. The campout would last from Friday evening until 10 AM Sunday morning. We arrived at six o'clock along with 70 other girls between the ages of six and twelve and assorted parents and grandparents. Inside the gym was an entire village of tents and sleeping bags scattered around. To call the scene bedlam would not do it justice. We got the girls signed in and found their assigned place with the rest of their troop. A quick kiss, a few hugs,a rapid "see you on Sunday" and Colleen I beat a hasty retreat, barely escaping with our lives. We agreed that the adults who actually plannedthis event and stuck around to supervise the weekend deserved the Congressional Medal of Honor.
As we pulled out of the parking lot Colleen said that we needed to stop at the supermarket and pick up something for dinner. I looked at her for a few minutes and said, "Listen, this is the first time since I got here that we've been able to have an evening alone. How about I take youout to dinner, someplace where the food doesn't come in a paper bag with the picture ofa clown on it?"
Colleen had a faint smile on her lips as she spoke. "Why Robert O'Conner, are you asking me out on a date?"
"Well...yes...I guess I am...that is if you're not busy and it's ok with you're parents, I'd really like to take you on a date...if you don't already have a boyfriend."
"I don't know, I sort of promised Cindy that we might go to the malt shop together, but sure, I guess we could go out if you're sure you want to...with me that is. I know it's ok with my parents."
"Gosh Colleen, you're just swell."
We had instantly reverted to that gut wrenchinginsane insecurity everyone has in junior high and we continued joking in this manner as we decided where to eat. We finally settled on the Shanghai Garden, a small neighborhood Chineserestaurant at the edge of downtown. After parking the car at the curb, I walked around, opened the door and held out my hand to help Colleen out of the car. When she was out of thecar I held on to her hand and asked, "Would it be alright if I hold your hand for a while?"
She gave my hand a squeeze and said, "Sure. Just remember, I don't kiss on the first date." Ididn't reply, but gave her a quick peck on the cheek then we walked down the block to the restaurant.
It was much warmer than usual for March. Colleen was wearing a thin jersey knit black top. It was sleeveless with a scoop neck, low enough to show the smallest possible view of her cleavage and emphasized the full roundness of her breasts. She wore a khaki colored skirt that stopped inches above her knees; modest but still short enough to show the beautiful shape of her thighs. It was snug enough around her hips to be flattering withoutmaking her look like a streetwalker. Her legs were bare and she had on a pair of sandals thatconsisted of a sole and a couple of thin straps.
It was early in the evening so we were the first patrons for dinner. The waiter was showing us to our table, Colleen following the waiter and me following behind, watching Colleen, when I had a heart stopping ...

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