don't know what i thought i would find
 

Chapter IX: Taking Me Home

February 12, 1957

Danny woke early, as he had every day during his visit to the small town. He looked around the stark room and then down at the blue spread. It took him a couple of seconds before he remembered that he was at his uncle's apartment. After his emotional outpouring, he had decided to stay instead of going back to the Belden household. He swung his legs out of the bed and headed to the bathroom.

After a quick shower and getting back into his clothes, he found his way to the kitchen. He opened the fridge and took out a carton of milk. One sniff, and he quickly closed the carton and stuck it back in the fridge. He rummaged around some more, pulling out a bowl of eggs and a piece of cheese.

He opened a few cabinets and found some coffee. He glanced around the counters and spotted a percolator. Once he had the coffee brewing, he pulled a bowl out of a cabinet above. He hesitated, glanced at the eggs and the cheese, and then pulled out two plates also. He found a frying pan near the stove.

Gingerly he cracked one egg on the side of a bowl, sniffed, and more confident that the eggs were still fresh, plopped the first egg in. He cracked open each of the remaining eggs, each time worried that one would be rotten, until he finally had enough eggs for himself and his uncle. He sprinkled some salt and pepper on them, scrambled them with a fork, and dumped them in the frying pan.

Opening the cheese, he took a knife to cut off all the molding edges. He wondered briefly how someone so neat and tidy could keep bad food in the refrigerator, then pictured Regan's messy office. With a glance out the window to the large estate, it dawned on him that a maid probably came and cleaned up the apartment on a regular basis. After looking through the drawers, he gave up on finding a cheese grater, so he used the knife to cut small chunks from the remaining good cheese and tossed them in to the eggs.

"You cook?" Regan asked from the doorway, his hair still tousled from sleep.

Danny glanced over at him. "Simple things. Nothing fancy." Learning to cook over an urban fire pit in an abonded warehouse didn't really lend itself to more than survival cooking.

"So I shouldn't expect any three course meals on weekends then?" Regan wandered over to the coffee pot. "Sleep okay?"

"Yeah, fine. You?" Danny scraped the eggs onto the two plates and turned the gas off on the stove.

Regan carried two steaming cups of coffee to the table. Danny followed him, balancing the two plates in one hand and grabbing a couple of forks in the other.

"Looks good," Regan said, as Danny set the plates down. "Thanks." He reached for a fork and shoveled some eggs on to it.

Danny sat down in the other chair and reached for his mug of coffee. He sipped gratefully at it, letting the liquid warm him.

"You're headed back to New York today?" Regan asked, looking up from his plate.

"Yeah, I am." Danny started in on his eggs. He ate quickly.

"No chance in me changing your mind?" Regan's tone was casual, almost teasing. Danny knew the question was serious all the same.

"Nope." Danny grinned at his uncle.

"Had to ask." Regan smiled back at him.

The two finished their breakfast in silent companion.

"Uncle Bill?" Danny got his uncle's attention.

"Hmm?" Regan had picked up the two empty plates and was carrying them to the sink. He stopped and turned, still holding the plates.

"When the Diamonds come, do you want to meet them?" Danny asked. He looked out the window beyond the Manor House where he could see Crabapple Farm.

Regan put the dishes in the sink and came back to the table. "Of course. Do you want me to come down to the Beldens' or do you want to bring them up here?" He grabbed his coffee cup. "Refill?" he asked Danny, reaching for his empty cup as well.

Danny nodded. "Either way works for me."

Regan took the cups to the coffee maker and refilled them. "It might be better to bring them up here. Especially if you're going to spend weekends with me."

Danny raised an eyebrow. He reached out for the fresh cup of coffee.

"Hey, are you even old enough to drink coffee?" Regan suddenly asked, as if it just dawned on him that Danny was only fourteen.

"Is there a minimum age for coffee?" Danny asked, shrugging his shoulders. "I've been drinking coffee for years."

"Hmm. Okay." Regan sat down finally.

Danny leaned back in his chair and peered at Regan over his cup of coffee.

"What?" Regan asked.

"You might want to clean out your fridge before they show up. I know Mrs. D will probably inspect this place." Danny winked. "Maybe you can get the maid to add that to her weekly chores."

Regan chuckled. "Helen, the maid that is, not Mrs. Belden, wouldn't open that fridge unless Mr. Wheeler paid her more. She cleans well, obviously, but I let something grow in there too long once and she will have nothing more to do with it. At least not for the next few months."

Danny raised an eyebrow curiously. "Why just for the next few months?"

"She's pregnant. She opened it a couple of weeks ago to clean it out as usual, and she said the smell of something in there had her rushing over to the sink to throw up."

"Nice." Danny grimaced.

 

It was only a little after ten in the morning when the Diamonds' blue Plymouth made its way up Glen Road. All the teens were in the midst of a snowball fight in the Beldens' front lawn. Bobby and Reddy were also out there with them. Reddy kept racing back and forth, trying to catch the balls of snow. When they all saw the car turning into the driveway, they ceased the onslaught of frozen missiles and ran to greet the Diamonds.

Mrs. Diamond stepped out of the car before Mr. Diamond had turned off the engine. "Neil, Harvey, Danny, my boys!" she cried, running over and hugging them each in turn. "You poor things. Have you eaten anything? You must be starving. Your father didn't tell me until he got home that there was no kosher food here."

"We're fine, Mameleh," Neil reassured her.

Harvey nodded. "At first I just ate mostly from the garden. That's okay, right? And I kashered one of the refrigerators at the other house and we got some kosher sandwiches. I've been managing, Mama."

Mrs. Diamond hugged Harvey again. "Thank goodness. Your father said you boys would manage. But I brought some blintzes with me, made fresh this morning, all the same. I should get them for you." She looked around at the other teens as if just realizing she wasn't alone with her sons. "And your friends? Aren't you going to introduce us?"

Neil grinned and quickly made the round of introductions. Meanwhile, Mr. Diamond had grabbed a foil-wrapped package from the car and come up behind his wife.

"Let's go inside and enjoy these while they're still just a little bit warm," Mrs. Diamond suggested, taking the dish from her husband. "I made plenty, so there's enough for everyone. Kieve, grab the tablecloth and silver, please."

Danny and the other teens followed Mr. and Mrs. Diamond into the house. Mrs. Diamond was introducing herself to Mr. and Mrs. Belden as she walked in the door. "Mrs. Belden, it is so good to meet you. I'm sorry I didn't call about the boys when I realized. And Mr. Belden," she nodded in his direction as well, as Mr. Belden stood there gesturing everyone to enter.

"It's very nice to meet you also, finally. And I understand. I wanted to call you," Mrs. Belden was saying. "But your husband told me to let the boys figure it out on their own."

Mrs. Diamond nodded. "I know. He told me the same thing. He felt they should come here all the same." Mrs. Diamond shook her head, causing her blonde hair to shake loose a bit from her up-do. "Now, let's get this tablecloth on the table and get these children of ours fed." She turned to Harvey and Neil. "When did you eat last and what?"

Harvey looked at Neil, daring him to answer. Neil ignored him, going to the kitchen to wash his hands. Then he went over to the dining room table and helped his father spread the tablecloth and set the places with the kosher utensils from the Diamond household.

Harvey shook his head sadly in his brother's direction before answering. "About an hour and a half ago, fleishik."

"Thank goodness. These are chicken blintzes. I was worried you weren't getting enough protein." Mrs. Diamond found her way to the dining room and set the pot full of the chicken-filled pancakes on the table.

"I thought blintzes were dairy, Mrs. D," Danny remarked.

"The blintz dough is pareve, neutral, lib," Mrs. Diamond answered. "They can be either meat or dairy depending on what they're filled with."

"Either way, they're sure to be good!" Neil exclaimed.

Mr. Belden smiled, his dark brown eyes twinkling merrily, as he managed to stay out of the way. "I can't wait to try them."

"Harvey, you and this nice girl should get the glasses from the car and the bottle of juice." She gestured to Harvey and Honey to go outside and bring in the requested items.

Trixie giggled as she stood near Danny. "Is she always like this?" she whispered to him.

Danny smiled at her. "Yes."

"She's great," Mart commented. "I like a woman with authority and food."

Danny rolled his eyes. "You like anyone with food."

"True. Very true." Mart admitted.

When Harvey and Honey returned, Regan stood shyly behind them at the entrance to the dining room.

Mrs. Diamond stopped giving orders and her mouth curved up into a friendly smile. Danny knew Mrs. Diamond would recognize him from the picture.

"Mrs. D, I'd like you to meet my uncle, Bill Regan." Danny pulled Regan forward.

Mr. Diamond looked up from the dining room and quickly joined them in the crowded hallway.

Mrs. Diamond smiled at the newcomer. "Bill Regan. It is very good to meet you. I wasn't at all sure if the boys would have been able to connect with you or not. Please, come have some blintzes with us."

"Mr. Regan." Mr. Diamond's mustache quivered, and he made a small grunting noise. Danny worried over exactly what his guardian was going to say, if anything.

Mrs. Diamond came to the rescue, giving her husband a rather pointed look. "I'm sure we have lots of things to discuss, after our snack."

Regan nodded mutely and followed them into the Beldens' dining room.

"Glad you could make it," Mrs. Belden said, her blue eyes gleaming with merriment.

"Me, too," Regan answered, a twinkle in his own green eyes.

 

"Well, those were delicious," Mr. Belden announced.

He was right; the blintzes had been good. They had been devoured mere minutes after the table had been set and blessings had been said all around.

"They certainly were, Rose. I wonder if I could get the recipe from you?" Mrs. Belden smiled warmly at her houseguest.

"Thank you," Mrs. Diamond answered. "The recipe is simple. I'll be sure to write it down for you before we leave."

Mrs. Belden stood up. "Alright, kids, I think you need to go busy yourselves outside so that the Diamonds and Regan can talk." She led the reluctant crowd back to the hall to don coats and gloves and scarves.

Meanwhile, Mr. Belden ushered Mr. and Mrs. Diamond, Danny, and his uncle to the comfort of the living room. The fire that had been blazing earlier had died down, and Mr. Belden threw another log on before excusing himself.

Mr. Diamond sat in Mr. Belden's armchair while Mrs. Diamond opted for the sofa. Regan stood uncomfortably for a minute before taking a seat in the other armchair. Danny stood at first, until Mrs. Diamond gestured for him to sit down on the sofa as well.

The four of them sat there quietly for a moment. Mr. Diamond scrutinized Regan and made more grumbling noises under his bushy mustache. Regan fidgeted slightly in his spot. Danny looked at Mrs. Diamond, pleading for her to break the awkward silence.

With a smile, she complied. "Regan, how are you doing? I imagine having your nephew show up unexpectedly was a bit of a shock?"

Regan nodded. "Quite a shock. When Danny told me who he was, I was thrilled. And then it dawned on me that that meant my sister had died. It was a real mix of emotions."

"So, you hadn't been in touch with your sister then for quite some time?" Mrs. Diamond resettled herself on the sofa, making herself comfortable. "I know Danny had mentioned that to us, that the two of you had lost touch."

"Yeah." Regan dropped his eyes. "I'm sure you know some of what happened in Saratoga. Not wanting to stick around, I ran off, and didn't start writing to my sister again until last year."

"What did happen in Saratoga?" Mr. Diamond asked brusquely. Danny, still sitting quietly on the couch, turned to look at him.

Regan swallowed. He was about to start speaking when Mrs. Diamond cut him off. "That's not important," she said. "Is it?" The last question was directed to Mr. Diamond.

"No, Rose, I suppose not." Mr. Diamond acquiesced. Smoothing down his mustache briefly, he tried again. "So, how did you get this job with the Wheelers?"

Regan looked from Mr. Diamond to Mrs. Diamond, and then back to Mr. Diamond. Danny smirked when Regan chose to ignore that question as well. "I wanted to thank you for taking care of Danny. If I had known, if I had had any inkling that he needed me, I would've been there."

Mrs. Diamond smiled at Regan, her light brown eyes holding nothing but sympathy. "I know." She looked over at Danny, who returned her gaze with a grateful smile.

Danny knew he could count on her to cut through some of Mr. Diamond's initial gruffness. Likewise, he knew that gruffness only came out of concern for himself.

Regan met Danny's gaze and then turned back to Mr. Diamond. "I asked Danny to stay here in Sleepyside. I have a two bedroom apartment at the Wheelers', and one of those rooms is now his." Regan looked over at Mrs. Diamond again. She had reached across the couch and grabbed Danny's hand, almost possessively. "Danny turned me down, of course. I can see why he wouldn't want to leave you."

Mrs. Diamond let out a small gasping sort of sigh.

"Of course." Mr. Diamond chuckled.

That startled Danny; it was not what he expected. He couldn't recall hearing Mr. Diamond actually chuckle before. Laugh yes, an outright deep-felt laugh. Not a chuckle.

Mr. Diamond spoke again. "You were right, Rosie. The boy does have a good head on his shoulders." He turned back to Regan. "We love Danny. I guess you can see that. We knew he might want to stay with you, with family, after meeting you." Mr. Diamond leaned forward in the armchair, resting his elbows on his knees and clasping his hands together. "What about you, Danny? You've been quiet in all this so far."

Danny pulled his hand out of Mrs. Diamond's and leaned forward himself. "Mr. D, I do plan on coming up here every weekend I can to visit Uncle Bill. I can come by train."

"I see." Mr. Diamond took in this information. "What about your job at the dry goods store?"

"Right now I work every other Sunday. I talked to Harvey and Neil, and they agreed we could each work every third Sunday, that that was more fair anyway, since Neil hasn't had to work on a weekend in a while now." Danny looked at his guardian hopefully, realizing he probably should have spoken to him about this first. "And the Sundays I work would be the same as the Fridays, so I'd be free two of every three weekends right after school."

"And you promise you will keep up with your school work, also?" Mrs. Diamond asked from beside him.

"Of course," Danny responded. "I can bring my homework with me to Sleepyside. I can probably finish it on the train ride up."

"Danny," Mr. Diamond's voice held a note of exasperation. "I realize you're very independent. But you are living in our house. You need to discuss these things with Rosie and me first, before you start making plans."

Danny nodded. He still wasn't quite used to asking anyone for permission for anything, but he knew Mr. Diamond was right.

Regan coughed quietly from his armchair, getting everyone's attention. "Those plans sound reasonable to me." He shrugged. "So, do you think we could work something out so that Danny can visit often?"

"Yes, of course." Mr. Diamond granted. "I didn't say his plans weren't sensible. I just wish that he would speak with us first."

Danny acknowledged Mr. Diamond's piercing look with a small nod. "I'm sorry, Mr. D. I didn't think you would object."

"I don't. I think it's a fine plan to visit your uncle as often as you're able to. And I'm pleased you're planning on staying home every third week to help at the store." Mr. Diamond leaned back in the armchair. "It shows you're turning into a responsible young man."

Danny blushed, uncomfortable with the praise.

Regan smiled at the Diamonds. "Is that all settled then?"

Mr. Diamond nodded. "It's settled."

Mrs. Diamond turned to hug Danny as well as she could at the awkward angle. "Do you have to leave us every free weekend, lib?"

Danny didn't answer. The long weekend had gone by so quickly. He had an uncle now, a connection to his past; and he had new friends, maybe even, if he dared to think about it, a girlfriend. He knew he would write a lot that night when he was back at home. He had come to this small New York City suburb with no idea what he might find here, and what he ended up finding was friendship, family, and love.


the end