Meant-to-Be Baby(9)

By: Lois Richer


“That wasn’t enough,” Ben guessed.

“The colonel I mentioned earlier? He knew someone who agreed to provide them with the names of troops they could write to. And thus began the sisters’ letter-writing ministry.”

“Amazing story. Bad turned to blessings.” Ben nodded. “A lot of men in my unit really look forward to the ladies’ letters, you know. I’m one of them. I’ve also heard how they often have veterans visiting here.”

“They often do, but there’s a lot more to my aunties than that.” Victoria grinned.

“Meaning?”

Of course she wouldn’t tell Ben the whole truth about herself, but she did want him to realize how important Tillie and Margaret were in so many lives.

“You met my sisters Adele and Olivia at dinner tonight though I doubt much sunk in. You were hurting pretty badly.”

“I’m sorry I had such poor manners,” Ben said, looking embarrassed.

“They understood. They’re used to hurting people showing up here. All of us are. We were some of them once.” She chuckled at his confused look. “Let me explain. When I was ten and my sisters a bit younger—by the way, we have a fourth foster sister, Gemma. Anyway, we four girls were troublemakers headed down a bad road. We all had the same caseworker and she wanted us away from the gang we were about to join. So she asked the aunts to fund trips to camp for all four of us.”

“You liked it there?” Ben asked.

“We four girls had never met before but being bad apples, we banded together and caused no end of problems in that camp.” How she regretted that.

“I find it hard to believe you were a troublemaker, Victoria.” He frowned.

“Believe it. The camp wanted us gone. In desperation, our caseworker contacted her friends Tillie and Margaret again and, ignoring their ages, asked them to take all four of us for three months. No one else would touch us for a week, so asking for three months was asking a lot.”

“You’re kidding.” Ben’s gaping stare made her smile.

“Not at all. We were all experienced foster brats. We’d all learned how to fool everyone. Except once we got to The Haven, we couldn’t fool Tillie and Margaret.” She chuckled at the memory of their pranks. “Short story—we four girls grew up here with abundant love demonstrated every day. The service men and women the aunts host here made a big impact on us. So did the aunts’ offers to accommodate countless local programs for various charity groups. We grew up seeing missionaries in action.”

“So Tom and Jerry’s Haven has truly become a haven for a lot of people.” Ben’s blue eyes stretched wide. “Quite a story.”

“It is.” Victoria sipped her cocoa thoughtfully. “But I don’t know how much longer that can continue.”

“What do you mean?” Ben’s forehead furrowed. “Are Tillie and Margaret broke?”

“Oh, no. Tom and Jerry invested very wisely.” Victoria exhaled. “It’s more to do with aging. We four girls moved out, pursued careers, got on with our lives. But the aunts are still here, much older and virtually alone, except for Jake, and he can’t run the place alone forever, though he’d argue otherwise.”

“So Tillie and Margaret have to leave The Haven?” Ben asked quietly.

“Not without a struggle.” Victoria grimaced. “Since I’m home for a while, I’m hoping to figure out a way for them to stay a little longer. If Aunt Maggie hasn’t already beaten me to it,” she added darkly.

“What does that mean?”

Victoria bit her lip.

“You don’t want to tell me?” he prodded.

“It’s not that. It’s—my aunts get a lot of ideas.” Sitting here in the twilight, talking with Ben—it wasn’t as bad as Victoria had expected. In fact, maybe he’d have some thoughts on how to keep the aunts in their home. “Some of their ideas are, well, let’s call them outlandish.”

“I see.” Ben’s intense stare made her nervous. And yet it was also somehow comforting to talk out her fears. She certainly couldn’t have done it with Derek. At least Ben didn’t try to make her feel silly or stupid.

“The thing is, even their most bizarre ideas often work. Eventually,” she mumbled, wishing her usual proficiency with fixing things hadn’t suddenly deserted her.

“You think your aunts have a plan for how they can stay here?” Ben asked.

“Something Aunt Margaret said before she went to bed makes me think the two of them have come up with a new scheme.” Victoria read his face and chuckled. “You think that’s good. It might be. It might also turn out to be totally, utterly impossible. In which case,” she explained, leaning forward so he’d understand, “my sisters and I will have to gently disabuse them of the notion.”

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