Across the yard Ray nearly choked on the soda he had been drinking. When his cousins looked at him in alarm he waved off their concern, and instead watched the as Phillip Spaulding made the biggest move of his life, “Is that who I think it is? Well I never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. And they say miracles don’t happen.”
Danny looked to see where Ray was watching with such interest and then turned back toward his cousins, “And they say the Santos family has skeletons in their closet. The Spaulding family could give us a real run for our money.”
“I don’t know Danny. Ole Alan sure was a snake but Carmen and Maria were both rotten to the core.”
Danny nodded at Tony’s assessment of their matriarchs. Carmen and Maria sure did a number on them, hell it was a minor miracle they both didn’t spend a small fortune on therapy over the havoc caused by those two. Danny noted that the noise level in the yard had dropped considerably, probably due to the arrival of the unexpected “guest”. He nudged Tony’s arm with his elbow, “Let’s go grab a seat. This is bound to get interesting and I don’t want to miss it.”
Phillip opened his mouth but couldn’t make the words come out. Phillip had heard all about the nefarious actions his brother had done while everyone believed he was dead, still it was time to let go of the past. Alan was gone and it was time for them to finally bury the hatchet. “Alan-Michael. You look good.” And he did. Even with the wariness in his demeanor, even the veiled suspicion in his eyes, there was still an air of happiness about him.
Alan-Michael lifted an eyebrow mockingly, “For an outcast you mean? The true prodigal son returns.” He looked around and saw all the people who were pretending they weren’t staring at the reunion taking place, “I can see some things never change. The good people of Springfield probably can’t wait to run me out-of-town.”
“No. I mean for my brother.” Phillip knew this wasn’t going to be easy, a lifetime of resentment was not going to be wiped away in only one day. But damn if he wasn’t determined to succeed. “Glad you could make it.”
“Got to admit, I was surprised to hear from you. Last I heard you were dead. But I would be the last to hear anything in this family.”
Phillip smiled, or at least tried to paste on something that would pass for something close to it. “Guess we have something in common after all. We have both been lost, and we have both been found.” Phillip turned towards the woman standing silently beside his brother to welcome her to the Spaulding fold and was once again rendered mute. Now that truly was a surprise! Not only the woman herself but the ring gracing her finger told him that he found the true reason his brother had returned. If anyone could get Alan-Michael to open his heart to his family it was this woman. “It’s good to see you again Lucy. I see now why brother seems so happy. I am glad you found your way back to each other.” And he meant that. Alan-Michael and Lucy were one of those couples that just belonged.
“It’s nice to see you too Phillip. ” Lucy leaned in to her husband who placed his arm across her shoulder in an automatic gesture of solidarity, “Sometimes you get lost and you’re lucky enough to find your way back.” She paused as if overcome with the enormity of being reunited with the other half of yourself. Phillip could understand that. He sometimes found himself pausing to just look at Beth as if to reassure himself that it was real, that they had found their own way back.
Alan-Michael rubbed his wife’s arm as if to soothe away any residual pain of the past. Calmed by his touch Lucy looked down to her right and Phillip was shocked to see a curly-haired little boy standing shyly against his mother’s leg. He couldn’t be more than two but he looked so much like the rare pictures of Alan-Michael at that age.
“This is our son Michael. Michael Henry Spaulding.” She reached into her purse and pulled out an envelope that she quickly passed along to her husband, “I see dad over there.” She boosted little Michael on her hip before quickly kissing her husband, “I am going to go introduce him to little Michael here. And let you and Phillip talk.”
“Lucy you don’t have to do that. No matter what has happened in the past we’re family.”
“No Phillip, We won’t be family until you two can finally make peace.”
Rick stood looking around the others, trying his best to catch a better look at the scene that had everyone so enthralled. He finally sighed and gave up, “Do you think I should go over there?”
Michelle and Marah both gasped out a horrified, “No!”, with Michelle pulling her brother down to sit beside her at the picnic table. She looked her brother in the eye leaving no doubt she meant business, “This has been going on too long. They are grown men and they both have a lot to get off their chest. You going over there would just make things worse. Let them work it out for themselves.”
Rick almost look affronted by the implication, “He’s my best friend Michelle.”
“And he’s our cousin. Our family. And I for one will never forget him reaching out to me after my Mom’s funeral.” She rubbed his shoulder to soothe the sting of her words. Rick always tried to solve Phillip’s problems but this was a family matter and didn’t need his input, “Let’s just watch it play out.”
“The last time I left town Alan made it look like I was siphoning funds from Spaulding into my private account.” Alan-Michael shook his head before looking at his brother, “I was a complete ass. I had already lost Lucy. I was working with Alan to gain control of Spaulding. And in the process I lost my soul. After I was forced out-of-town I had nowhere to go, I had burned so many bridges. My first stop was to see my mother. I had neglected her for so long and for the first time in years I was able to be a real son to her. And then there was Lucy. ” Alan-Michael paused and smiled at Phillip as if sharing a secret, “It didn’t take long before I realized that I could live in exile as long as I had her by my side. The biggest mistake in my life was walking away from our marriage instead of fighting. And it took some serious groveling and work on my part before she would even give me the time of day. But enough about me. Here.” He handed over the envelope that Lucy had passed him moments earlier, “This is a letter from our attorney and necessary documents showing my innocence and that the money has been sitting dormant since Alan transferred the funds.”
Phillip didn’t even glance at the contents. What was done was done. It was time for a new era, and that meant moving forward. “I appreciate this Alan-Michael. Now let me tell you why I asked you to come today.”
“You mean it wasn’t for my stunning personality?”
Phillip laughed, “Sadly no. I actually wanted to make you a business proposition.” He looked at all the people who were pretending to not be watching them with avid curiosity and shrugged, “Sure this probably isn’t the best place but you deserve to be here. Your mother is a Bauer after all.”
Alan-Michael crossed his arms across his chest, “Well by now the good folks of Springfield know who I am and haven’t already gotten out their pitchforks. So I guess I am safe. At least for now.”