The Reasons Why
*The Reasons Why is a missing scene from the aired episode, Walking Point. A small portion of the conversation between A.J. and Hollis was taken directly from the episode.
*The sequel to this story, Miami Bound, can be found under Novels From A.J.’s Bookshelf.
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A.J. Simon rolled over in his sleep, bumping into the warm body that was sharing his queen size bed. That movement on his part brought the blond man awake.
A.J. propped himself up on one elbow, and looked down at his sleepy companion with concern.
"I'm sorry. Are you all right?"
The woman smiled at A.J.
"I'm fine. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't have even known you’d rolled into me, if you hadn't just woken me up to ask if I was okay."
The sheepish A.J. apologized once again. "Sorry."
Hollis Marshall gave a small laugh. A.J.’s discomfort over the entire situation was obvious.
"It's like I told you earlier, A.J., I'm not made of glass. Just because my legs don't work, doesn't mean the rest of me shatters easily."
"I know. I understand that...it's just that...well that...well..."
"It's just that you've never had a crippled woman spend the night in your bed before, is that it?"
"Hollis!" A.J. exclaimed. "No, that's not what I--"
"A.J.," Hollis scolded. "The truth now."
A.J. felt his face flush with embarrassment. He knew he'd been caught in a lie by one of the finest lawyers in San Diego. He was glad the darkness of the room kept that lawyer from seeing the telltale blush.
"All right. No. I've never been with...had a relationship with, a handicapped woman before. There, I've confessed. Are you satisfied?"
"It just seems like where I'm concerned, Mr. Simon, you are constantly inserting your foot right into your mouth," Hollis chuckled.
Thinking back to their first encounter over a handicapped parking spot, A.J. blushed even more.
"It certainly is beginning to feel that way," the chagrined detective admitted.
Hollis reached up and wrapped her arms around A.J.'s neck, pressing her lips to his. She allowed a hand to drop, caressing the prominent muscles of his upper arms and shoulders.
She thought back to their lovemaking of several hours earlier. He had been so gentle, so careful. Again, treating her as if she would break if he made the slightest wrong move. It was a pleasure to be with a man who was so considerate and thoughtful. Even if some of that consideration was unnecessary.
Hollis became the aggressor in their lovemaking for this round, continuing to kiss and caress the handsome man. "You just lie back and let me do all the work this time," she ordered. "I'll show you what a tiger I can be when I take up the notion."
A.J. laughed as he willing submitted to the woman's demands. "I already know what a tiger you can be, counselor."
Anything else A.J. might have had to say on the subject, suddenly seemed unimportant, as he succumbed to the pleasures that came next.
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An hour later Hollis laid curled up against A.J., fast asleep once more. A.J., on the other hand, found himself
wide-awake, though comfortably relaxed. With one arm tucked around Hollis's shoulders, and the other one tucked up under his own head, A.J. stared up at the bedroom ceiling, his mind lazily wandering from one thing to another.
He thought back to much earlier in the evening, to the romantic dinner he and Hollis had shared. The two had danced together afterwards, A.J. making small adjustments to accommodate his date's handicap. Later, they had relaxed together on the couch in front of the mantle, both enjoying the crackling comfort of the warm fire. It was then that the conversation had turned to the choice of their respective careers, each telling the other how they had come to choose their line of work.
"I never thought of myself as handicapped," Hollis had told A.J. "God just doesn't make mistakes, ya' know? If it hadn't been for my special needs, I never would have been a lawyer. I never would have opened the center."
Thoughtfully, A.J. had said, "I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I'd gone down that road. I took my boards. I had the application in order, but...I envy you. I guess that's why I was so hard on you."
Hollis smiled. "I know."
A.J. smiled back as he leaned down to kiss the woman. "You think you're so smart, don't you?"
"I don't think it, I know it," came the answer, accompanied by a smug laugh.
A.J. was brought back to the present as Hollis struggled to shift in her sleep, her useless legs making the task a difficult one for her. The blond man gently eased his arm out from under her, allowing her to roll over and face the wall. He glanced at the digital clock radio to see the green luminous numbers change from 1:41 to 1:42. A.J. brought both hands up and pillowed his head in them, sighing when he was still unable to fall asleep.
His conversation with Hollis from earlier in the evening kept replaying over and over in his head.
I took my boards. I had the application in order, but....
But what? A.J. now asked himself. And is it true? Do I really envy Hollis...or rather, envy her choice of career?
A.J. couldn't do less than admit to himself that, yes, right at the moment he did envy Hollis Marshall. Just as there were times when he envied a well-respected, knowledgeable lawyer in the courtroom that he and Rick might happen to encounter through the course of their work. There was nothing A.J. enjoyed more than watching a lawyer defend his or her client with theatrical flair. Or a prosecuting attorney nail the accused to the cross with a surprise witness, or stunning piece of evidence that no one was expecting. It was at times like that when A.J. would find himself wondering 'what might have been,’ had he chosen to walk a different path.
A.J.'s mind traveled farther back in time. He recalled the reasons he had given his mother thirteen years earlier as to why he had decided not to pursue a career in law.
A hint of a smile played with the corners of A.J.'s mouth.
I don't think Mom's ever been as angry with me as she was that night.
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Twenty four year old A.J. Simon, parked his white Mustang
convertible in his mother's driveway just after four a.m. on a Thursday morning in late October.
The agile young man hopped out over the top of the driver's side door, deciding to forgo opening and closing it at this early hour for fear of disturbing the sleeping neighbors.
A.J. used his key to gain entrance to his mother's home, silently shutting the big door behind him. He took off his shoes in the foyer, then padded over the parquet flooring in his stocking feet. A.J. didn't even bother to turn on a light as he followed the familiar path to the stairway that led up to the bedrooms.
A voice coming out of the darkness startled the young man. He jumped backwards off the first step.
"A.J., I'd like to talk to you for a few minutes, please."
A.J. swiveled to face the owner of that voice just as a living room lamp was switched onto its lowest setting. Dim light filled the room.
"Mom! What's the big idea? You scared the heck out of me! Why are you sitting down here in the dark?"
Cecilia Simon sat in an overstuffed easy chair in the far corner of the room, dressed in her nightgown and robe. "I want to talk to you," she repeated simply.
"At four-fifteen in the morning? Can't it wait?"
"No, A.J., it can't."
"What happened? Did you hear from Rick? Has something happened to Rick?" Came the frantic inquiry. A.J. could imagine no other reason as to why his mother would want to speak to him at this early hour of the morning, other than to convey bad news of some type.
"No, son, nothing's happened to Rick. At least not that I'm aware of. I haven't heard from your brother in several months now, as you well know." Cecilia beckoned her youngest to sit on the loveseat next to the easy chair. “Please, A.J. Sit down.”
A confused A.J. did as his mother requested. When the light from the lamp caught enough of A.J.'s features for Cecilia to see him clearly, she reached up exclaiming, "What happened to you?"
Upon his mother's encouragement, A.J. leaned forward. He allowed Cecilia to gently grasp his jaw and turn his face to the right, and then to the left. The blond man grimaced as his mother's probing fingers encountered several particularly painful bruises on his right cheek, and surrounding his swollen right eye.
"Andrew, what happened?"
"It's no big deal. Just a bit of an...altercation I got into with a guy when I was serving a subpoena on him yesterday afternoon." A hint of amusement filled A.J.'s voice as he finished with a smile of irony. "He didn't want to be served."
"It certainly looks that way," Cecilia agreed, though not finding the slightest bit of humor in the situation. "And I thought you said you'd be home by eight o'clock last night when you called me at lunch time yesterday."
"I was planning to be. Neil and I thought we were done staking out that office building, but then we discovered we didn't have enough evidence to get the case to court, so I took the night shift, too. Sorry. I guess I should have called you to let you know my plans had changed. It took me longer to serve that subpoena than I had planned on, then I had to run some documents to the courthouse, then I agreed to take the stake out so had to grab a bite to eat, then I stopped by Marla's to cancel our date, then..."
"Apology accepted, dear," Cecilia interrupted. "But please, try to remember to call me the next time. Even though you're twenty-four years old, I still worry."
The only thing Cecilia Simon asked of the adult son who still shared her home with her, was that he let her know approximately what time she could expect to see him in the evening. If he chose to tell her he might not be coming home at all, she never asked any questions, but at least she knew not to worry. Therefore a contrite A.J. leaned over to kiss his mother's cheek.
"I know. I'm sorry. It won't happen again."
A tired A.J. rose, thinking the important talk his mother wanted to have with him had now come to an end.
"A.J., sit down please."
A.J. turned. "I thought we were done."
"No. Please, sit down again."
"Mom, I'm really wiped out. Can't we put this on hold until later?"
"No, A.J., we can't. I hardly ever get the opportunity to talk to you anymore. Between your job, and Marla, and that touch football league you're playing on..." Cecilia let her sentence trail off there.
A.J. reseated himself in deference to his mother's wishes, and the truth to her words. "Yeah, I know I’ve been pretty busy lately. I didn't mean to neglect you."
That brought a smile to Cecilia's face. "A.J., I'm your mother, not your wife. And you're an adult now, with your own life to live. You haven't been neglecting me."
"But still, I know there might be some things around here that need doing that I haven't had the time for lately. I should be free on Saturday. Well, on second thought, I might have to work. Neil took on a new case today and we're really busy, but anyway, I'll be free on Sunday. You just make a list of things you want done, and I'll do them."
Cecilia smiled again. "I'll see if I can think of anything and let you know, but in the meantime that's not what I wanted to talk to you about either."
Throwing his mother his most charming smile, A.J. surrendered.
"Okay. I give up. I'm out of ideas. If nothing's happened to Rick, and you're not mad because I forgot to call you last night and let you know my plans had changed, and if you're not going to lecture me because I haven't been pulling my fair share of the load around here, then I don't have the foggiest idea as to what you want to discuss with me at this early hour of the morning."
Cecilia pulled a packet of folded papers out of the pocket of her bathrobe.
"A.J., why haven't you mailed these in yet?"
Without taking the papers from his mother's hand, or seeing them unfolded, the blond man knew what they were. "Where'd you get those from?" He asked, his tone full of accusation.
"You left them laying on your dresser. I saw them when I was putting laundry away. I wouldn't purposefully snoop."
“I’m sorry.” The blond man cast his eyes downward, ashamed at his thoughts. "I know. I didn't mean to imply that you would."
"You told me two weeks ago that you were going to mail this application, and your test results, into the state office. How come you haven't done it yet?"
A.J. looked back over at his mother. "I...meant to. It's just that I've been...busy."
"Too busy to take five minutes to address an envelope, put a stamp on it, and put it in our mailbox?"
A.J. had no answer for his mother.
"A.J., what's the problem here? You graduated from law school in May. You passed the bar exam with flying colors in June. I thought the first thing you'd do when you got these test results was run them right down to the post office and mail them in."
A.J. lifted one shoulder in a noncommittal shrug. "I'm having second thoughts," he confessed quietly.
"What?" Came Cecilia's shocked exclamation. "After all those years of schooling? After all the money spent? All the studying you did?"
"Yes. I guess."
Cecilia's voice rose an octave. "You guess? What do you mean, you guess? A.J., law as a career has been all you've talked about since you were fourteen years old. Michael Wells has offered you a place in his firm. If you work hard for him, you'll be a full-fledged partner by the time you're thirty. Do you really want to throw an opportunity like that away?"
A.J. leaned back, resting his head wearily against the top of the loveseat. "I'm not sure I want that opportunity anymore."
"I don't understand how you can say that. What's changed so much in your life since June that would cause you to feel this way?"
"Nothing, Mom. Nothing's changed. I've been feeling this way for a while now. For the last year or so. But I was so close to being done with law school that I decided to stick it out and finish. Even if I don't pursue law as a career, my education will still come in handy."
"Come in handy! I did not send you to a prestigious law school in order for your education to come in handy! I sent you there so you could become a lawyer!"
His mother's angry shouts brought A.J. bolt upright on the love seat.
"Well, maybe I don't want to be a damn lawyer! Maybe I've changed my mind! I'm entitled to, you know!"
Cecilia quickly calmed herself, knowing that shouting would get them nowhere.
"Then can you at least tell me why you've changed your mind? Please?"
It took A.J. a moment to respond.
"I...over the past few years, while I've been working for Neil, I've sat in on a lot of court cases, as you know."
"And. . .and I've become somewhat disillusioned by it all, is the only way I can put it. There's so much dishonesty in the courtroom, Mom. So many...games played at the expense of some very good and decent people. It's all about money. Almost every lawyer I've encountered in the last few years is more concerned about what kind of car he drives, or how expensive his suits are, or which country club he belongs to."
"But that doesn't mean you have to be that way," Cecilia gently reminded. "Just one person can make a difference.
That one person could be you."
A.J. gave a cynical laugh. "Mom, I'm far too old to be a naive idealist anymore. I've seen too much of life since I got out of high school. Generally, if one person tries to make a difference, he gets shot. Look at Bobby Kennedy, or Martin Luther King, Jr. "
"I think you're being a bit unrealistic here."
"No, Mom, I'm not. Right after I took the bar, before I got my results back, I was in a courtroom everyday for two weeks regarding a case where a ten-year-old girl had been raped by a very well-heeled, well-thought of man in this community. Neil and I had been instrumental in gathering evidence against the guy. He was guilty, Mom. I know without a doubt, that he was guilty. So did his attorney. He should have been hung for what he did to that little girl, and then even that would have been too good for the bastard. But because he has more money than you and I will ever see in our lifetimes, and because he could afford to hire a team of the best defense lawyers the state of California possesses, he got off scot-free. He walked out of that courtroom smiling and laughing, acting as if nothing had ever happened."
"But it isn't always that way."
"More often than not it is," the downtrodden A.J. stated.
Mother and son fell into an uncomfortable silence. The quiet that enveloped the room was finally broken when Cecilia asked, "So, what are your plans now?"
"I...I could keep working for Neil as a private investigator," A.J. said with trepidation, knowing how his mother was going to react to that suggestion. "He's got enough business now that he's ready for more than just a college kid who works for him during the summers. He's offered to let me continue on as a full-time investigator."
"No. Absolutely not. I will not hear of it. I didn't mind when you started working for him when you were nineteen, and it was just a summer job. It was okay when you did nothing more than research at the library or courthouse for him, but in the past two years it's taken on a different dimension, A.J. You come home bruised and battered more than you don't, just like this morning. Half the time you don't come home at all, because you're working some stakeout or another. Again, just like this morning. What kind of life will that be for your future wife and children? No woman will put up with those kinds of hours on the part of her husband for long. For heaven's sake, you haven't been home in three days because you've practically been working around the clock on cases for Neil. Is that really the kind of job you want? And I'd also like to know what this is all about."
With that last sentence, Cecilia pulled a snub nosed .38 revolver out of the pocket of her robe.
Gee, that robe holds lots of surprises, A.J. couldn't help but think with a bit of amusement.
The blond man reached out and took the gun from his mother.
"I know I didn't leave this laying on the dresser."
"No, you didn't. But you did leave it in the pocket of the jacket that you tore scaling that fence last week. When I took the jacket off the hanger to mend it, I thought it seemed rather heavy. I found that in the pocket. What's it all about, A.J.?" Cecilia asked sternly.
"It's just part of the job, Mom. Don't worry about it."
"Don't worry about it! I find a gun in my son's jacket pocket and he tells me not to worry about it! And why is that all of a sudden a part of the job? It's never been a part of the job before."
"No, it hasn't. But I'm working full-time for Neil now, putting in a lot more hours. It's...necessary."
"I don't like the thought of one of my sons working a job where a firearm is necessary. Do you even know how to use that thing?"
"Mother! Yes! Of course I do! Neil taught me."
"Neil taught you. And just what qualifies Neil to teach you how to use a gun?"
"Mom! For God's sake! He's an ex-cop. You know that! He knows what he's doing. And besides, I go to the firing range. I know how to use it if I have to."
"And that's what scares me," Cecilia stated angrily. "A.J., I don't want my son working a job that may someday cause his death in a back alley somewhere. Do you understand me?"
"Mom...yes, I understand your concerns. But that's not going to happen."
"Can you promise me that?" Cecilia challenged.
"Wasn't it a private investigator who was found shot to death in his car last year, while he was in the middle of working some dangerous case?"
"There are no buts about it, A.J. I won't have you doing a job like this."
"Mom, please try to understand. It's not just a summer job any longer, as a way to earn money for the upcoming school year. It's become so much more than that. I really like the work. I find it very fulfilling. It's exciting, interesting--"
A.J. nodded his head, admitting quietly, "Yes, sometimes it's that, too. But that's part of the job. I enjoy putting pieces of a puzzle together, and coming up with the right answers. I like solving mysteries. I like helping people, Mom."
"You could be a lawyer and still help people," Cecilia pointed out.
"It's not the same."
A.J. shrugged. "It just isn't."
"Okay. Fine. Now what are your plans? To work for Neil for the rest of your life? Getting stuck with all the late hours and 'round the clock stakeouts he doesn't want? Getting beat up by all the thugs he avoids?"
“No.” A.J. shook his head. "Eventually I'd like to open my own investigation business. Until that time, I've been thinking about. . ."
When A.J. didn't finish his sentence Cecilia prompted, "Thinking about what?"
"About going to Florida."
"Because Rick's there," Cecilia stated flatly.
"That's...part of it. Neil knows a guy there, a crackerjack investigator by the name of Myron Fowler. He runs a big outfit in Miami called Peerless Detectives. Neil's pretty sure he can get me a job there if I decide to go that route. Working with a guy like Fowler would be a great opportunity. Neil says he's temperamental, and not the easiest man to get along with, but he also says Fowler's the best investigator there is, bar none. I'd really like to give working for Fowler a try if I can get him to hire me. It might just be the stepping stone I need on my way to opening my own business."
"But the bottom line is, Rick is living just thirty miles south of Miami. Isn't that right?"
"It makes the opportunity more appealing," was all A.J. would admit to.
"I want you to think about what you're doing, Andrew. I don't want you throwing your life away because of Rick."
"Mom!" A.J. exclaimed, shocked.
"I'm sorry, A.J., but I have to be honest about how I feel. Rick has chosen to keep in only the most minimum of contact with either you or me. He's not working. He’s just barely making a living doing odd jobs for people. He doesn't seem to care about his family--"
"Mom, that's not true! Rick could never stop caring about us!"
"Grow up, A.J.! Grow up and face the real world. If your brother cares so much about you and me how come we haven't heard from him in four months? How come he never answers my letters, or yours? How come every time I call him he says he's too busy to talk?"
"I don't know! But that's what I intend to go to Florida and find out."
Cecilia leaned forward in her chair, hands tightly gripping its arms.
"Don't go, son. Please don't go. You'll only be hurt if you do. Rick has changed, and we both have to face that fact. Don't you think I lie awake nights wondering where I went wrong with your brother? Wondering what I've done to cause him to turn away from his family? Wondering why he's nothing more than an aimless drifter and a bum?"
"Do you think I want another son who follows that same path? That's exactly what will happen if you go down to Florida and fall under your brother's influence, A.J.! You'll be nothing more than a bum!"
A.J. was shocked. Shocked at his mother's anger and shouts, but even more so, shocked at what she was saying about Rick. He rose, heading for the front door.
"I can't believe you! I can't believe you would say those things about Rick! About your own son!"
The door slammed behind the departing A.J. Cecilia heard Mustang’s engine roar to life, then the squeal of tires as A.J. carelessly backed out into the street. The woman remained seated in her chair, covering her face with her hands as sobs of despair wracked her tiny frame.
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It was shortly after five o'clock that evening, when Cecilia heard a key turn in the lock of the front door.
A subdued A.J. quietly shut the door behind himself. As usual, his mother had left his mail on the small plant stand in the foyer. A.J. quickly glanced through it, hoping for a letter from Rick. With despair, he laid the mail back down on the table. All that was there were two bills.
Something's wrong, big brother. I can feel it. Please let me know what's going on in your life.
A.J. was startled out of his thoughts by the sudden presence of his mother.
Cecilia's demeanor was subdued as well. Quietly she said, "I didn't expect you home so early. No stakeout tonight?"
"Uh...no. Neil sent me home. He's taking the shift tonight. He said I didn't look like I felt very good."
In a noncommittal tone Cecilia agreed. "You don't. Did you get any sleep after you left the house this morning?"
"Some. I...I drove around for a while, then went to Marla's apartment. She was just leaving for work when I got there, so I crashed on her couch for a few hours before going into the office."
"I see," was all Cecilia said to that. "Did you have anything to eat today?"
"Just some coffee this morning before I left Marla's place."
"Then I think we'd better find something here for supper. Come into the kitchen with me while I get a meal ready for us."
A.J. didn't argue with his mother. He followed her into the homey kitchen that had always been one of his favorite rooms in the house.
Cecilia bustled around doing this and that, not asking anything of her son in the way of help, but seemingly satisfied to just have him leaning against the countertop next to her.
She glanced up into A.J.’s tired, drawn face. "Before you go to bed tonight you'd better let me put some iodine on those cuts. They look nasty. And I'll make you an ice pack to put on that eye. It's almost swollen shut. Can you see all right out of it?"
"Yeah, it's okay."
"You're sure? Do you need to have a doctor look at it?"
"No. It's fine. Really. Please don't worry."
"I'm your mother, A.J. It's my job to worry."
A.J. couldn't help but smile slightly. "I know. But please don't. I'm fine."
Cecilia accepted her son's assurances, while handing him the plates and silverware.
Thirty minutes later the pair was ready to sit down to a simple meal of hamburgers, salad, and soup.
Cecilia kept the conversation light during dinner, mentioning nothing about the argument between the two that had occurred early that morning. A.J. visibly relaxed as the meal progressed. The tautness in his arm and shoulder muscles ebbed, as his mother chattered on about her day in general, and asked him innocent questions about his.
The blond man helped his mother clear the table, rinse the dishes, and stack them in the dishwasher. When that was done he readily accepted her offer of coffee and a piece of apple pie.
The two reseated themselves at the table, enjoying their dessert in companionable silence. When the last morsel of pie had disappeared off the two plates, A.J. stood and retrieved the coffee pot, refilling both their cups.
Cecilia took a sip of the hot liquid, then placed the cup on the saucer. She idly fingered the tablecloth a moment, before looking over at her son.
"A.J., I want to apologize for the things I said this morning."
"No, Mom, you don't have to apologize, I--"
"Yes, I do," Cecilia interrupted. "I've been replaying our argu...conversation, in my head all day. First of all, I had no right to tell you what to choose as a career. It's just that for so long you had your heart set on law, and I guess your enthusiasm caused me to have my heart set on that for you as well. But if you really don't think becoming a lawyer is right for you, then I have no say-so in the matter."
A.J.'s blue eyes gazed into his mother's. "Mom, yes you do. You have every right to express your opinion to me concerning this matter."
"Express my opinion, yes. Yell at you about it, no. You're twenty-four years old, A.J. You have to choose what's right for you, as opposed to being concerned with what I want for you. I'd be lying to you if I didn't say the last thing I want you to do is become a private investigator. Frankly, son, the job scares me. I don't like some of the people you come in contact with through that job. I don't like the fact that you sometimes come home beaten up. And I like the whole idea even less now that you're carrying a gun."
"Mom, I'm sor..."
Cecilia raised her hand in a gesture of silence.
"But, you said yourself that you really like the work. That you find it exciting and fulfilling. That's all I ever wanted for you, A.J. That your chosen career, whatever it might be, would bring you happiness. And I'm proud of the fact that you want to help people. That's very commendable. It also pleases me to know that you have so much ambition that you're already thinking ahead to opening your own business, even though, to be honest with you, I wish it was as anything but a private investigator."
"I know that, Mom. And for your sake, I wish I could change that fact. I really do. But I can't. I love the work, and I can't explain why. I wish I could."
Cecilia smiled fondly.
"You don't have to explain it to me. I see it in your face every time you talk to me about the latest case you're on. I hear it in your voice when you tell me you and Neil successfully completed some case or another. I see it in your eyes when you've helped locate someone's long-lost relative, or solved some other mystery all hope had been given up on. I understand, son. Better than you think."
A.J. smiled warmly. "Thanks, Mom."
"Now, what are your plans?"
A.J. hesitated a moment before answering his mother. "I had Neil call Myron Fowler today."
"And I can start down there right after the new year. I'm supposed to report to work January seventh. I'll have to start my apprenticeship over. Because I'm going out of state, the work I've done for Neil as an apprentice the past four months doesn't transfer."
"So that means what?"
"Two years of working as a full-time investigator for Fowler before I can get my license. Then hopefully someday, opening my own business."
"Where will you live? With Rick?"
A.J. studied his mother as they began to tread the touchy subject of the eldest Simon brother.
"Maybe just for a few weeks. Just until I get on me feet. If he'll have me. He may not want me there."
Thinking back over the past four months, and what little contact Rick had made with his family, Cecilia said, "I'm glad you're going into this with your eyes wide open. You're right. He may not want you there."
"I know. If he doesn't, I'll find a room to rent until I can get something permanent. Do you remember Scott Klen?"
"The boy you played baseball with in high school? Dark curly haired kid?"
"Yeah, that's him. His grandfather owns a big marina in Miami. He also sells houseboats. Scott's been working for him ever since we graduated. Eventually the business will be his. Anyway, I contacted him last week. Scott will make me a good deal on a houseboat if I decide I want to go that route. I think I'd rather do that than rent an apartment. I've got enough money for a down payment, so I might as well have a place I can call my own."
"That sounds like wise thinking on your part, son,"
Cecilia agreed. "A.J. - about Rick."
"What about him?"
"I know I said some things about your brother this morning that upset you...shocked you."
It took A.J. a moment to admit, "Yes...yes you did."
"A.J., I love Rick with all my heart. With all the love that a mother can possibly have for her child. I don't want you to think I don't. No matter what Rick does, or how much he might hurt me, I could never turn away from him, or deny that love. But that doesn't mean Rick hasn't disappointed me. I don't understand why he doesn't contact us. I don't understand why we seem to have ceased to exist in his eyes. I just wish I had some answers to those questions."
"And it's those answers I'm going to Pirate's Key to look for."
Cecilia nodded. "I thought as much."
"Mom...something's wrong. I feel it. I know it. And I don't mean just because Rick hasn't kept in contact with us. There's a reason why he hasn't. There's a reason why he can't - why he won't let himself, and I intend to find out that reason. I intend to try to help him...heal, in any way I can. To try to make him understand that he can't go through the hard times without his family. He might try to kick my butt all the way back here when I show up on his doorstep in January, but no matter how hard he kicks, I'm staying until I get some answers for both you and me."
"I'll hold you to that vow, son."
"And I'll come through on it, Mom. That's a promise." A.J. paused a moment in thought. "There's much more to this than Rick being an aimless drifter."
Cecilia realized then, how much that remark in regards to his brother had upset A.J.
"I know that. I shouldn't have said that. But you have to understand that Rick has disappointed me by his shiftlessness. I can't lie to you about that fact. Rick's got so much potential. He's very intelligent. He always has been. Yet he never uses that potential and intelligence to their full degree. You don't know how difficult that is for a parent to come to terms with. I just don't understand why he's satisfied to drift from job to job. He's been that way since he got out of high school. But then, when he joined the Marines, I really thought he'd make the military his career. I really thought when he wrote us about the opportunity he had to go to Officers’ Training School, that he was finally on the path to bringing some stability into his life. Then all of a sudden, he wrote us back saying he'd decided not to go. I knew then, that he wasn't going to choose the Marine Corps. for his life's work. When he got out of the service I had hopes that he'd at least settle down and get a job, any kind of a job. But after Rick’s brief stay here with you and me, he hit the road on that damn motorcycle of his and never looked back. It's been nothing but drifting from one thing to another for the two years since that time."
"But he seems to want to stay in Florida," A.J. reminded his mother. "He seems to like his little place on the Key."
Cecilia shrugged, "We'll see how long that lasts."
"I am going to get us those answers, Mom," A.J. reminded.
"I hope you do, son. Rick’s changed so much since he came back from Vietnam. I can't help but feel that's the cause of the behavior we're experiencing today. Remember when he was here - the nightmares? The mood swings? The sullen, brooding silences, that were so unlike Rick? Just once, what I wouldn't give to pick up the phone and hear his voice on the other end say, "Hi, Mom." Then he'd tell me the latest joke he's heard, and tease me, and relate some funny incident he's been involved in, and tell me not to worry as I voice my concerns over one of his outlandish schemes to get rich quick. Then he'd ask me how his kid brother is, and what the twerp's been up to lately. Then..."
Cecilia stopped there, because her tears were interfering with her ability to speak.
A.J. reached over and took her hand in his, squeezing it tightly.
"Don't cry, Mom. Please don't cry. All of that will happen again someday. I promise it will."
"I pray it will, A.J. I pray every night that it will."
"Mom, I'm going to Florida for two reasons. One is to help my brother, and the other is to learn everything I can about being a private investigator, from a man who they say is the best in the business. When the day comes that I've accomplished both those things, I'll come back to San Diego to open my own business...and I'll be bringing Rick with me."
Cecilia couldn't help but give her son a gentle smile.
"And when that day comes, your mother's heart will surely be filled with joy."
A.J. rose and walked around the table. He gave his mother a hug and kissed her cheek.
"It will happen, Mom. I'm going to make it happen for you."
Cecilia reached up, laying a tender hand on the side of A.J.'s face.
you will, A.J. I believe you
S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S S&S
A.J.' s thoughts came back from that evening of long ago as Hollis shifted in her sleep again. He smiled down at her, no longer nearly as envious as he had been earlier.
Maybe I just needed to remember all the reasons why, the blond thought. All the very good reasons as to why I chose the path to walk I did.
I kept my promise to you, didn't I, Mom? I came back to San Diego, opened my own business, and most importantly, I brought Rick with me. The years since haven't all been easy ones. Sometimes I question why I keep plugging away at a job that will never make me rich, and comes with a brother who sometimes drives me nuts, but it's been well-worth the ride. The road's been rocky at times, and surely will be again, but the ride's been worthwhile. Very worthwhile, big brother.
With that final thought, the contented A.J. rolled over on his side, falling instantly to sleep.
When she woke up the next morning, Hollis was amused at the smile that curved the corners of the slumbering A.J.'s mouth. When she asked him about it later, he smiled again while saying, "I remembered all the reasons why. And they were good ones."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~