A place where i belong, p.1
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       A Place Where I Belong, p.1

           Mary Tribbey
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A Place Where I Belong

  A Place Where I Belong


  Mary Tribbey

  Copyright 2013 Mary Tribbey

  ISBN Number 9781301980826

  Table of Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Book Notes

  About the Author

  Other Books by Author


  Chapter 1

  Just another long day of driving, Mandy thought as she stretched to relieve the stiffness in her shoulders and arms, “After all the long and seemingly endless days of driving, it seems like my body would finally adjust to it.”

  As Mandy approached the county line, things began to seem more familiar. Although the countryside had changed drastically, the town and street names echoed in her memory. A lot of things looked different than when she had left the area twelve years before. Now she wondered what other changes she would discover as she approached her old hometown. “I wonder if it has changed as much as I have,” she said to herself.

  The sight of the beautiful apple, orange, lemon and walnut orchards that had bordered the old two lane road had disappeared. In their place rows and rows of tract homes, condos, and subdivision signs sprawled over the rolling hills in all directions. The patches of vivid orange poppies and deep purple and white lupines that once had filled in the valleys had been replaced by strip malls, gas stations, fast food restaurants and billboards. Instead of the fragrance of apple and orange blossoms, the scent of highway air pollution drifted into the car.

  “Progress!” Mandy spat out angrily. That’s what some people called these changes, but to Mandy it was a tragic loss of the sights and smells of some of God’s most beautiful farm and ranch land. “So far, I’m not impressed with the changes. I wonder if there is anything left of the good things I remember from the happy memories of my childhood and youth spent here. Maybe it is true that you can never go home again; you can return to the place, but it will never be the same. I have travelled the last three months through unfamiliar states and towns looking for a place to belong, a place to start over, and found only emptiness and lonely motel rooms. I hope I can at least find my roots and regain the feeling of safety and memories of once having been loved and protected. The life I lived since leaving here was terrible enough to demolish the memories of those happy times.”

  “Dear God,” Mandy prayed, “Lead me to where I need to go to find the peace I lost in my years in Montana. I know you loved me and protected me there, but help me find the place where you want me to live. Open my heart and mind so I can truly find what you have in store for me.”

  Even though her first impression was negative, Mandy was determined to search for her past and the love she had felt here as a child and young adult. So much had happened in her life since leaving her childhood home; it seemed like a lifetime ago instead of just twelve years.

  Driving since before sunrise, it was midmorning when she turned off the main highway onto Edgewood Drive and drove into her former hometown, Carmelita. Many of the buildings were unfamiliar to her, but she recognized several places that had been there before she had moved. She pulled into the parking lot of the old Lamplighter Café and parked her car. It still looked the about the same, only older and a little shabbier, needing a fresh coat of paint

  Mandy stretched lazily after getting out of her car before walking through the arched doorway. The waitress behind the counter said, “Sit anywhere you want.”

  Mandy chose a table by the front window and sat down. “All I want is a cup of coffee and a local telephone book, if you have one. May I look at it for a few minutes?” Mandy asked the waitress.

  A couple of minutes later, the waitress brought a steaming, hot cup of coffee, the local phonebook, and a copy of the town’s newspaper. Mandy thanked her. She added a dollop of cream and some sugar, then took a sip. She opened the phone book and began looking for familiar names from her past. Thumbing through the pages, she found several familiar sounding names. She took out her cell phone and dialed the name of one of her best friends from high school. The phone rang several times before a woman answered it. “Hello,’ the voice said.

  “I hope you can help me. I’m trying to locate an old friend from high school named Ginny Melton. Do you know her or how I can get in touch with her?” Mandy asked.

  “Well, I used to be called Ginny Melton before I got married. Now most people call me Virginia. Who’s calling?” she asked.

  “My name was Mandy Dalton when I was in Carmelita High School,” Mandy answered.

  “Mandy! I can’t believe it! Where are you?” Ginny asked.

  “I’m at the Lamplighter Café right now. I was hoping to see you while I’m in town.” Mandy explained.

  “That sounds great. I still live off Arnold Street. My house is at the corner of Linden and First. It’s the tan one with green trim. Come on over. I’d love to see you again,” Ginny enthused.

  “I’ll be over in a few minutes,” Mandy said. She finished her coffee, returned the phone book, and paid the bill. She got into her car and drove down Arnold Street. At Linden she turned left. Mandy had no trouble recognizing Ginny’s house, although the neighborhood looked older and a little rundown. The trees that lined the street were full size now instead of newly planted. Having found this area was basically unchanged, Mandy felt encouraged that maybe more of the place would be unchanged as well. She parked her car in front of the house and got out.

  The front door opened, and Ginny rushed out to meet her. She gave her a big hug of welcome. “Wow! You look great! What have you been doing since you left here? Come on in. We have a lot to catch up on,” Ginny enthused.

  “Ginny, you haven’t changed at all since I last saw you. You are still bubbly and as pretty as a picture. It’s so good to see you again,” Mandy said, giving her another quick hug. They walked arm in arm into the house. Ginny led her inside and escorted her to a chair in the living room.

  “Would you like something to eat or drink?” Ginny asked.

  “No thanks. I just finished some coffee at the Lamplighter. I see you still have that artistic talent. I like how you decorated your living room. It is so bright and cheerful and inviting. Are those your children in the pictures by the fireplace?” Mandy asked.

  “Yes, I have three kids—two girls and one boy. They are with their father this weekend. We are divorced now, but we have remained friends, mainly for the sake of the kids,” Ginny explained. “We divorced about three years ago. How about you? Are you married? Do you have any children?” Ginny asked.

  “No, I’ve never had any children of my own, but I did have two step children James and Jenny. They were killed in an auto accident about a year ago along with their father,” Mandy said.

  “That’s terrible, Mandy. I’m so sorry to hear about that,” Ginny said giving her a long hug.

  “Thanks. I’ve been travelling around the last few months getting my head together while looking for a place to settle down and start over again. I decided to return to my roots, so to speak, so I came back here to look around. I was happy here a long time ago before my dad died. That really changed everything. I think that was why I left here then, because everywhere I looked, I missed him so much. This area has grown and changed a lot since I left, but there are several things I
want to see again while I am here,” Mandy explained.

  “Why don’t you hang around here for a while? It would be so great having you nearby!” Ginny said.

  “I don’t know yet, but I’ll think about it. I’m looking for a place where I can feel safe and where I belong and fit in. I guess I will know that place when I find it,” Mandy sighed.

  “Who knows? Maybe this will be the place. A lot of the kids we went to school with still live here. Every other week, a group of us get together to play Canasta and visit. There are a lot of nice people who go there. We’re meeting today at the Edgewater Community Park Recreation center building at Lindsay Park, Come with me! You can just go and watch and visit or play cards if you feel like it. Sometimes there are other kids we went to school with there. You might meet some other people that you used to know,” Ginny encouraged.

  “I don’t really know how to play Canasta, although I think I played it some about twenty years ago,” Mandy hesitated.

  “That doesn’t matter. It is just a nice place to meet people. Please, come with me. I’m sure you’ll have fun,” Ginny begged. “What other plans do you have for today anyway?”

  “Nothing special. Okay, you talked me into it. I’ll go and check it out,” Mandy agreed.

  “We’ll take my car. Afterwards we can stop and get a late lunch or dinner then come back here. We still have a lot of catching up to do. Your car will be safe parked here while we are gone,” Ginny added.

  Ginny started driving across town toward Lindsay Park. It was about three miles from Ginny’s house. There was very little traffic, so it just took a few minutes to drive there. Once they parked in the large parking lot, they got out and walked toward the building. The park and building was much larger than Mandy had expected.

  After Ginny and Mandy got out of the car, Ginny turned to lock the car door. Suddenly she sneezed four times in quick succession. “Excuse me,” she said. “Some plant must be blooming that I’m allergic to,” she added.

  Mandy laughed. “I remember that string of sneezes. You still have allergies. I do, too. Some things lessen with age, like acne and pimples, but some things linger on. Mine don’t usually give me too much trouble, but other days my eyes water and I sneeze like crazy,” Mandy remarked as they walked toward the recreation building. Once inside the building, Mandy noticed several people were standing around in small groups. Other people were already seated at some of the small tables scattered about the room. Most tables had four or six chairs. Ginny walked over to a group standing by the fireplace. “Find a seat for us at one of the tables. I’ll sign in and join you in a few minutes,” Ginny directed.

  Mandy looked around the room. There were about 25 tables scattered around the large open room. Several of the tables were already full. She saw a table that had six chairs around it with only four people sitting in them. A large man was leaning against the back of one of the chairs talking to the group already seated there. Two men and two women were already seated. Mandy thought to herself, "If I take one of those empty seats, there will still be room for Ginny to sit there with me.”

  Mandy headed over to the table. The tall man glanced at her as she approached the group. He had broad shoulders and dark brown hair hanging slightly below his ears. He looked at her then looked down at the table. Mandy started to pull out one of the empty chairs so she could sit down.

  The large man looked at her and spoke loudly. “You can’t sit here. This table is full. You need to go somewhere else,” he barked.

  Mandy jumped back away from the chair as if she had been struck in the face. She was shocked by the loud tone and abruptness of his speech. Shocked and embarrassed, Mandy picked up her purse and rushed away. She glanced around, but didn’t see Ginny. Thoroughly embarrassed, Mandy felt like everyone had seen and heard what had happened.

  The loud voice echoed in her mind. She felt that terrible old feeling, “You don’t belong here.” She could almost hear Jerry’s parents yelling at her again. Mandy’s hands shook and her face flushed red. Wanting only to get away from the feeling of rejection and shame, she turned around, hurried out the door, and began walking away from the recreation center building. Mandy was no stranger to walking, so she decided to walk back to Ginny’s house, get her car, and move on to another place.

  “So much for finding a friendly welcome!” she muttered as she hurried down the sidewalk.

  Inside the building, Melanie Turner had observed the scene with horror. She had heard the brusque tone and abrupt words and had seen the hurt, shocked look on the woman’s face before she left. Through the front window she had watched Mandy hurry down the sidewalk. She walked over to the table and grabbed the big man’s arm. She drug him away from the table.

  Buddy looked down into his little sister’s angry face. “Why were you so rude to that young woman? You really hurt her feelings!” she scolded.

  Buddy flushed a bright red. “I didn’t mean for her to leave. I just wanted her to find a table that didn’t already have four players. I was just standing there visiting with Sam. What did I say that was rude?” he asked.

  “Well, I can guarantee she didn’t hear what you meant to say! Buddy, you make me so mad sometimes. You hurt her so badly that she practically ran out of here. I’ll bet she’s out there crying and feeling hurt and rejected. What you said was ‘You can’t sit here. This table is full. You need to go somewhere else!’ In other words, ‘Get lost. You aren’t welcome here!’”

  “Melanie, you know I didn’t mean that. I would never hurt anyone like that,” Buddy stammered.

  “Sure, Buddy, I know that. After all, you’re my brother. I know how kind you usually are, but sometimes you speak before your brain has time to think. Whenever you see a pretty girl, your brain seems to stop working!” Melanie said. “The problem is she doesn’t know what a nice guy you can be. All she knows is you told her to go away!”

  About this time, Ginny walked over to them. “Have you seen a pretty woman wearing a blue sweater and jeans? I brought her with me, but I can’t find her.. She is an old friend that I haven’t seen in about twelve years. She was came to town today, was visiting at my house, feeling alone and lonely. Her name is Mandy,” Ginny asked anxiously.

  “Yes,” Melanie explained. “She met Buddy in one of his ‘talk before thinking about what he was saying’ moments.” Melanie explained what had just happened.

  “Well, I’d better go find her,” Ginny said anxiously.

  Melanie said, “No, I’ll go find her. It was my brother who caused the problem; let me try to straighten it out. I’ll find her and bring her back.”

  Melanie hurried to her car and backed out of the parking area. She began driving down the streets around the park. She spread out from there and kept driving along the roads. In the distance, she spotted a woman in a blue sweater and jeans walking quickly towards Arnold Road. ”That makes sense. She must be heading for Ginny’s house.”

  Melanie drove up the street, pulled ahead of her and got out of her car. “Are you Mandy?” she called. “Ginny asked me to come and find you and bring you back to the recreation center.”

  “Yes, I’m Mandy, but I don’t want to go back to the card games. I don’t go or stay where I am not wanted,” she answered coldly.

  “Please, listen to me. There has been a horrible mistake. Buddy didn’t mean to sound so unwelcoming. He didn’t really mean what you heard. He gets flustered when he sees a beautiful woman. His brain turns to mush and things always come out sounding wrong. He was just trying to tell you that only four people play at each table. The table you started to sit at already had four players. He just didn’t want you to sit at a table that was already full.”

  Mandy listened quietly. Melanie continued. “Buddy was shocked when I told him you left. He is really a warm-hearted guy once you get to know him. I should know. He’s my brother, but he frequently puts his foot in his mouth
. Today, I think he put both feet inside his big mouth. He really feels terrible about you leaving,” Melanie explained patiently.

  “Thanks for coming to find me. I think I understand, but I just don’t want to go back there. It would just be too embarrassing, and I am not that eager to play cards anyway,” Mandy explained. “I just went because Ginny wanted to go.”

  “I’m not much of a card player either, but getting out with other young people is important to me. Would you like to go and have lunch with me instead? I hate eating out all alone. Eating without having to cut food for children is a pleasure I don’t get very often. I’m a single parent with three small children. Afterwards, I would be happy to drive you to Ginny’s house or to wherever you want to go,” Melanie begged.

  Mandy smiled at Melanie and said, “Okay, that sounds better than hiking across town to an empty house, but I’ll pay for my own meal.”

  Mandy climbed into Melanie’s well-worn car, buckled up and leaned back. Melanie turned the car around and headed east. She drove up to the Sunshine Café. “This place has good food at reasonable prices. It’s not fancy, but I like it.”

  It was a little after noon so the place was more than half full when they arrived. Melanie led the way to a corner booth near the back of the dining room. “Excuse me while I go wash my hands. I’ll be right back.” She walked hurriedly to the rest room. Once inside, she pulled out her cell phone and dialed Buddy’s number.

  “Buddy, I caught up with Mandy. You really did hurt her feelings. She won’t come back to the recreation center. I explained what you were trying to say to her. I tried to apologize for you, but it would mean a whole lot more if you came here and apologized in person. She’s really hurting. Her eyes reminded me of Thunder’s when he first came to the ranch. You know—hurt, lost, not able to trust anyone,” Melanie added sadly. “She is really a nice person, but I can tell she’s hurting, and I don’t think this is the only reason. I like her a lot. She told me ‘I don’t go or stay where I’m not wanted. I’ve done that, and it doesn’t work.”

  “Mel, I don’t know what I can say that you can’t say better, but I’ll do it. I don’t ever want anyone to feel hurt because of me. Stall her. I’ll be there as quick as I can,” Buddy promised.

  Melanie hurried back to the table where Mandy was still looking over the menu. When the waitress arrived, they both ordered cheeseburgers, fries, and iced tea. While waiting for their food, they talked like old friends about music and books they had enjoyed.

  About the time the waitress brought the food to the table, Buddy drove his old Chevy pickup into the parking lot. Out of the corner of her eye, Melanie saw Buddy enter the diner. Melanie noticed with surprise that he carried a small bouquet of flowers in his hand. He walked through the crowded room, nodding at some longtime friends, as he headed straight for their table. He walked up next to the table. It wasn’t until he spoke that Mandy noticed Buddy standing next to her. She instantly recognized him from the card game. Her mouth opened in surprise as she glanced up at his face. Nearly six feet tall with large muscular shoulders and wavy, dark brown hair, he was hard to miss. She could tell from the way he was standing that he was very nervous.

  Melanie hurriedly said, “Mandy, let me formally introduce you to my brother Buddy. I know you already met him at the recreation center, but he has something to say to you.”

  Mandy watched as Buddy reached up, removed his hat and pushed the hair out of his eyes. He shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other. His face reddened as he began to speak. “I –um—I want to apologize to you for the way I spoke to you at the card game. I tend to put my foot in my mouth a lot or get tongue tied when I meet new people. My words come rushing out before I have a chance to censor them. My mind really turns to oatmeal whenever I am around a beautiful woman, and you are probably the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.” He blushed again at that admission. “I didn’t want you to leave. I was trying to explain that only four people play at each table. There were already four players seated there. I was just standing there visiting with my best friend Sam. If you want to play cards, you needed to find a table with less than four people. Instead of saying that, “I blurted out ‘Don’t sit here! This table is full.' I didn’t realize how bad it sounded until Melanie and Ginny came over and chewed me out. I hope you can understand and forgive me,” Buddy said shyly looking down at the floor.

  Mandy put her hamburger down on the plate. She watched his discomfort and remained silent, making his squirm a little longer. Finally she spoke, “Thanks for coming here to apologize, but what you said struck a very sore spot in me. I understand now what you meant, but I’m not sure if I can really forget what you said,” Mandy said slowly.

  Buddy reddened again. “Please,” he begged dropping down on one knee to be down near her level, He offered her the bouquet of yellow roses. “I’m begging you to give me a chance to prove to you that I really am a nice guy.”

  Melanie and Mandy both noticed that the café had suddenly grown silent and that everyone seemed to be watching the scene that was unfolding in front of them. Buddy, red-faced, holding out a bouquet of roses, kneeling in front of Mandy, obviously asking her a question. They both seemed to understand what was happening at the same time. Melanie choked back her laughter.

  Mandy blushed, “Please get up. People are staring at us. I think they believe you are proposing to me,” Mandy sputtered.

  Instead of getting up, Buddy reached out, took her hand in his. He looked up at her blushing face. “If you say you forgive me and will give me a chance to prove I’m a nice guy, I’ll get up. If they think I am proposing to you, that’s their problem,” he added with a big smile.

  “All right! Yes, I agree. I forgive you. Now get up!” Mandy urged.

  Buddy kissed her hand gallantly then got up and slid into the booth beside her. Mandy flushed red again when some of the people clapped and cheered. Buddy and Melanie collapsed in laughter.

  “Does he always act this crazy and wild?’ Mandy asked Melanie.

  “No. I’ve never seen Buddy do anything like this before. He’s usually shy and reserved in public places,” Melanie added seriously.

  “Does this mean we are engaged now, or just forgiven, or both?” he asked playfully.

  Mandy shook her head and said, “Don’t press your luck, Buddy. You are just forgiven.”

  “You can’t blame a man for trying,” Buddy chuckled.

  Buddy ordered a cheeseburger, too. While they ate, they talked about many things. Melanie asked, “Where are you from?”

  Evasively, Mandy answered. “I grew up here, but I’ve been gone about 12 years. Since then I have moved around and seen many places.”

  “Where are you heading?” Melanie asked.

  “I don’t really know. I guess I’ll know it if and when I find it. It could be anywhere. I’m just looking for a safe, friendly place where I can belong. I decided to come back here to find my roots. I wanted to return to a place where I once felt happy and loved,” Mandy replied.

  “Where are you staying here in Carmelita?” Buddy asked.

  “I don’t know yet. I saw a few motels when I drove through town. I’ll find a place somewhere. I’ve been travelling about three months now. I realized weeks ago that one motel room is just about the same as all the others. It is just a sterile, boring room for sleeping,” Mandy replied with a sad laugh.

  Melanie said excitedly, “I have a great idea. I know a wonderful place in this town where you could stay. It isn’t fancy, but it certainly would not be a boring motel room. Does that sound good to you?”

  “Sure, that sounds very interesting,“ Mandy agreed.

  “Let me phone and make sure there’s a room available.” Melanie left the table and stepped outside, and made arrangements for Mandy to stay the night. Coming back inside, Melanie said happily, “Everything is all set. They have a nice room set aside for you. I
’m sure you’ll love it,” Melanie exclaimed.

  Melanie looked down at her watch. “I didn’t realize it was almost three o’clock. I’ve got to leave and get my kids at school before they tear it down. Buddy, I promised to take Mandy wherever she wanted to go and then drive her to get her car at Ginny’s house. Will you drive her around for me? Afterwards lead her over to the Turner Ranch. Her room will be ready in the main house,” she added with a meaningful wink.” Melanie grabbed her purse and keys and dashed out of the diner.

  Buddy shrugged and looked at Mandy, “Well,” he drawled, “I’m not as cute and bubbly as Melanie, but I am at you service, ma’am. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than chauffeur you around. I have all afternoon and evening. Afterward I’ll take you to your car and show the way to the Turner Ranch where you’ll be staying. Where do you want to go first? Driving you around is the least I can do after messing up so badly earlier,” Buddy added with a slow smile.

  “I really appreciate your offer, Buddy, but I doubt if you’ll want to go with me. The place I want to go to first is the Ivy Lawn Cemetery. It’s been so many years since I have been there to pay my respects. I’d like to put flowers on my parent’s and grandparent’s graves. I am hoping that by going back to my first roots, I’ll find myself and the peace I once had. You probably think that’s a stupid idea and a waste of time,” Mandy said quietly.

  “Not at all, Mandy. Family is what life is all about. I’d be honored and pleased to go with you. I know where the cemetery is, and, the last time I drove by, there was a flower stand near the entrance gate. Are you ready to go now?” Buddy asked.

  Buddy went up and paid for their lunches. He went back and escorted Mandy outside to his truck. He opened the door and helped her in. She slid across the bench seat while he climbed into the driver’s side.

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