“Tired already?” Preston asked with a mocking grin as Tabitha sat down on the park bench.
“Well I have been on my feet all day. Give me a few and then we’ll do the whole walk around thing, look at the moon and the stars and be glad we’re alive to see them.”
“You sure you’re not really Pollyanna in disguise?”
She laughed. “No, that was my sister.”
“Somehow I believe that.” He dropped down on the bench, glad that it wasn’t under one of the lights the way most of the others were. Resting his elbows on his knees, cupping his chin in his hands, he returned to watching the children as they raced back and forth to avoid being tagged as ‘it’.
As one little boy tore past he suddenly stopped to look at Preston. His eyes widened and Preston’s first thought was, ‘Oh boy, now he’s going to run screaming about that monster.’ He was shocked when the boy came over to stand in front of him.
“Were you in the war too?” the child asked, not taking his eyes from Preston’s face.
“Umm humm. My brother was till he got hit by scrapple.”
The boy nodded. “He looks like you cause it got all in his face and here.” He drew one hand across his chest. “I wish… He never comes out to play with me anymore. He just stays in the house and is real sad. He won’t talk to no one even his girlfriend.” He stared at Preston saying with childlike certainty, “He’s not brave like you.”
“Hey now, he fought in the war so he must be very brave. Don’t ever forget that. He’s just scared about how people will look at him. He needs someone,” Preston glanced at Tabitha and smiled, “He needs someone like my friend here to help him face his fears. She dragged me out here kicking and screaming.”
The boy looked at Tabitha. “He really screamed?”
“No,” she told him with a laugh, “that’s just a saying. I just talked him into it. Maybe if you try real hard you can talk your brother into coming out with you.”
“You can tell him you met me,” Preston added.
The boy’s face lit up. “Yeah. I could tell him if he comes here with me he can meet you too. Right?”
Tabitha leaned over to whisper to Preston, “I think he’s got you. Now you’ll have to come back.”
He looked at the boy and nodded. “I’ll be around here. Not always,” he warned, “but sometimes. I promise. So if you can convince him to come with you maybe I can meet him.”
“I will, I will.” The boy was grinning ear to ear. Then he realized that he was missing out on the game and sped away after one of his friends.
“I wonder if he really will be able to get his brother out of the house now,” Preston said pensively.
“With you as the example it’s possible,” Tabitha replied with a smile as she got up. “Ready to get moving?”
“Yes boss. Once around the park and then home.”