The Verbecks of Idaho: Susan Verbeck Returns
A wet tear skated down Susan’s weather-beaten cheek. She skimmed her fingertips over Joel’s headstone beside her husband’s. This wasn’t how she’d seen her life when she’d married the love of her life all those many years ago. She didn’t know why she’d held on to the smallest of hope that one day she could come home and start over. The weight of her enduring sadness forced her to sag to her knees. She read the date upon Samuel’s headstone. Four years after she’d left, the man that held her heart was gone, and she wasn’t there to be with him. A broken-hearted sob racked her chest.
Lost in the turmoil, soft snow flakes began to fall around her.
As sorrow poured out of her, she gazed up at the gray clouds and knew in no time at all the ground would be a winter wonderland. She wiped her nose with a handkerchief and took in the ranch house she’d helped build with yearning. The lights were ablaze on this New Year’s Eve. She couldn’t stop herself from thinking about Cole, Peter and Emma. What did they look like? Did they have families? Did the ranch even belong to the Verbecks? Pulling in a breath she turned back to the two headstones and let the thoughts diminish.
“I’m sorry it took me a long time to find my way home. I hope it’s not too late to find a place in the hearts of our family.”
She climbed to her feet with tear filled eyes. Time had done little to heal her heart from grief.
Country music road the backs of the snowflakes falling. An image of their last time together before Joel’s death fastened in her mind’s eye. Cole, Peter, Joel, and Emma danced crazily around the house to a new Tim McGraw song. It had filled her with such joy to see her children so happy. Tears fell faster.
Carefully she walked through the east pasture. The snow accumulated quickly as she made her way closer to the house, unable to resist a peek inside.
Creeping onto the porch, Susan made sure to remain unseen. When she peered through a window she caught sight of her Cole swinging a lovely delicate flower around the living room. His smile brightened the room. She smiled despite her tears. She couldn’t believe the house still remained in the family. Youngsters twirled, and danced around the couple, while three teens sat on the stairs leading to the second floor talking enthusiastically with each other. She could see the distinct Verbeck look in each of the children and her heart swelled with pride. Cole had a family, and a beautiful one at that. Then from the kitchen a couple danced their way into the room. Susan gasped. The long black curls told her all she needed to know. Her Emma was all grown up.
A truck crept down the road, coming toward the house, she slipped into the shadows, not ready to leave. She knew it would be best for everyone if she left right then, but she needed a few more moments with her family.
A truck pulled into the driveway, after a minute or so, out stepped Peter, followed by two, brown haired,twin girls that rushed the porch, and flung open the door to the house. Susan pressed against the side of the house and prayed she wouldn’t be spotted. The girls looked to be no older than five or six.
From the passenger seat came Daisy Lewin. Her jaw dropped as Peter walked around to kiss her on the cheek.
They all looked so happy and they remained a family even after all they had been through. She closed her eyes and thanked the Lord she hadn’t ruined them. A soft sob escaped her lips. Peter’s sharp amber eyes flicked in her direction and she stumbled back. No. She didn’t want to ruin their happy time together.
Peter helped his wife up the stairs, then without a word he rushed in her direction. She shrieked and tried to make a break for it, but at her age, she didn’t make it far before a strong hand gripped her bicep.
“What are you doing?” Peter said, yanking her around to face him.
When their eyes met he released her. Eyes opened wide, his face twisted with shock, anger, and something she hadn’t seen in a lifetime, love.
“Mom . . .”
When she looked back toward the house the windows were full of curious faces. Four of those faces held no recollection of her. However, when her gaze locked on two of those four faces, the Millers, Logan and Harold she saw recollection and concern. Logan stood beside Emma, his hand on her shoulder. He straightened and Emma squinted as if trying to remember a dream.
Cole and Emma hurried out after a moment.
“Momma? What’re you doing here?” Emma asked, standing next to Peter, Cole blocking them both. Still as protective as ever.
“I . . . I . . .” She turned and pointed toward the towering willow that protected the graves. “I wanted to see Joel.” Her head dropped. “And your father.”
“And what of us? Are we not worth seeing?” Cole said, fire igniting in his amber eyes. “Have you come to see us?”
“Of course I wanted to see you.” She gazed at all of her children, blessed to have this moment with them even if it didn’t turn out so well. “I’ve wanted to see you all for a very long time.”
“Then why didn’t you?” asked Peter, walking out from behind Cole, touching her shoulder tenderly. She placed her hand over, his appreciating the support. He was always so sweet as a boy, at least that hadn’t changed.
“It took me a long time to grieve for Joel and to come to terms with my decision to leave you all behind. I didn’t think you would want to see me again. What I did was unforgiveable. I don’t expect any kindness from you. I just wanted a glimpse into your lives for a moment. If possible. I didn’t mean to disturb your celebration.”
“You should’ve come back a long time ago,” Peter said, pulling her into an unexpected embrace. “We’ve been waiting for you.”
Emma was beside her next, kissing her cheek. “There’s so much to tell you.”
One tear after another emerged, and then fell so quickly she couldn’t contain them. She took Emma, her baby girl, into her arms and held her tight. “You’re so lovely, but I knew you would be. Took after your father you did. All of you.”
Susan saw the look on Cole’s face and she knew there would be no forgiveness from him, and she was fine with that. He had every right to hate her as much as she hated herself for abandoning her family when they needed her most.
Peter released his hold to allow Emma to try and guide her forward toward the house. Susan didn’t budge.
“I will not go inside if Cole doesn’t wish it. I owe him that. My leaving placed a great burden upon his young shoulders.”
Emma stared at her and then back at Cole, who remained silent.
“Say something Cole.”
“Go inside, Peter and Emma,” he said low and commanding.
“Cole!” Emma grumbled.
“Please do as he says.”
“Aww . . . always bossing me, almost thirty and I am still treated like a little kid.”
Peter followed Emma, but not without stopping to squeeze his brother’s shoulder. She was filled with warmth to see her boys getting along. There had been a time, when they were young, she thought they would kill each other.
Alone together Susan studied her oldest son. His expression was blank, empty as it had been the day she left. All that was good in him was buried with his brother. She had worried about him the most over the years, afraid he would lock everyone out that loved him.
“I see the Miller boy is here along with Harold,” She pointed at the window where Logan wrapped an arm around Emma. Emma rest her head on his chest as she stood watching them.
“Have you found peace with the past?”
His eyes darkened.
She walk up to Cole and placed a hand on his cheek, “It’s okay Cole. I’ll leave. You don’t have to say anything.”
She hurried passed, desperate to make an escape before she completely fell apart in front of her family. When she was at the edge of the driveway a hand halted her. Her heart felt as if it would burst. Roughly tugged around, two large arms encircled her. Cole’s embrace was tight. She gasped, shaken, she hugged him back just as tight.
“I’m so sorry,” she sobbed against his shoulder.
“So am I. If I hadn’t pushed Joel to be like me maybe he would still be here.”
She leaned back and forced him to look at her. His eyes were clouded with emotion. “No. Cole. No. You didn’t do anything wrong. It was an accident.”
He let out a strangled breath, a tear ran down his cheek, “Please stay. Come and meet your grandkids.”
“Really, are you sure?”
Wet and crying, they walked to the porch and he opened the door to a future Susan couldn’t have dreamed of.