It had only been half a day since the rescue. Still, Matt was having trouble focusing on work. Tom entered the engineering booth to find a very frustrated Matt. He smiled.
“Your aunt has agreed to meet with you and take temporary custody of the girls.” Tom’s voice drew Matt out of his thoughts. “She only wants a day to meet and a location.”
Matt looked at his friend and mentor. “Ask if she knows where Cal’s Diner is here in the Bronx.”
Tom turned away and spoke into the phone. Seconds later, he turned back to Matt. “She says yes.”
Matt nodded. “OK. I will meet her there on Wednesday of next week. That should give me a little time to pack whatever they have as far as clothes.”
Tom left again to relay what Matt had said. A few minutes later, he returned. He looked at his young friend. “She agreed to meet at the time you suggested. I just hope your mother doesn’t change her mind. You know how she can be.”
Matt smiled sadly. “All too well. But I doubt she will. It is almost as if she is trying to kill herself.”
Tom bowed his head. “She has been trying to do that ever since Trent’s death. She didn’t lose total control until after she found that she couldn’t have me. Then, it became a matter of time and method.”
Matt shook his head. “Why? Why is she so bent on killing herself? She has so much to live for.”
Tom smiled. “I hope you never have to lose someone you love so much as she loved Trent. It is strange what grief will do to you, even if happiness is sitting right in front of you.
“Your mother loved Trent with her all. He brought her away from the edge where she had been after you were conceived. What she had to endure at the hands of the man who gave life to you, and even the shame that came after, was enough to destroy most and she was close to collapse when she met Trent. He waited patiently for her to trust him not to hurt her. He gave her strength enough to overcome what had happened to her.
“For two or three years, they were happy. When he was called into the service, she was pregnant.” Matt’s eyes told Tom that he had not known that. “You’re Shocked? Ah, but you didn’t know about your little sister. The one your mama lost when she learned of Trent’s death.
“I was the one who found your mama hunched over holding her stomach. I was the one who noticed that she was bleeding badly. And I rushed her to the hospital.
“My wife took care of you from that moment until your mama was released from the hospital. I knew, when I went and picked your mama up, that she would never be the same, strong woman I had befriended when Trent was still alive.
” She had lost something. That little spark.” He bowed his head. “Don’t think for a minute that I was never tempted, Matt. I was tempted many a time to have an affair with your mother. But I loved my wife too much to hurt her. Hell. I loved your mother too much to use her that way. The way the others did.”
Matt stared at his mentor. “You were in love with mama?”
Tom had to nod. “Yes, in my own way. But I have always kept it to myself. I have never acted on it. I could never act upon it.”
Matt smiled. “What about now?”
Tom shook his head. “I do not love her that way now, Matt. She is more like a daughter to me. Just as you are like a son.
“When I found her that day, the day she had the miscarriage, she was almost dead. I thought we had both lost her then. In a way, we did. Just not physically.”
Matt understood. “So when did she start falling deeper? When did her mental distance, her decision to do what she is doing now, begin to become apparent?”
Tom looked into the empty studio from the sound booth. “Selma. I knew then. Not completely, mind you, but I knew.
“She had started to grow more distant. I took her with me so that she could meet another man, possibly a good one. She had her eyes on me, but I did not want her to destroy her life by getting involved with a married man. I didn’t want to hurt my wife, either. Or myself.
“I knew a young man down in Selma who was looking for a good woman. At that time, your mother was. He wasn’t concerned when I told him she had a baby. In fact, he seemed pleased with the idea of having a son already ready to be an heir.
“Arthur Marcuson was his name. A black man, but I didn’t feel that mattered. After all, it was just a color. And Arthur is a good man. A successful man.”
Matt looked at him. “And mama rejected him because of his color.”
Tom shook his head. “No. She rejected him because he was not me. I did not take her to the hippie compound with me after I left Selma. She just followed me. But not right away.”
Matt looked at him. “When?”
Tom looked at his friend. “When Martin Luther King brought his crew north to Chicago. She had stayed in the south with her cousins Danni and Marty. But when they came back north, she headed west. She slowly made her way to the commune where I was writing my next big story.
“I tried to get her to see that the commune wasn’t any place for a woman with a child, but she refused my advice. From there, she became everyone’s favorite tramp, so to speak. She would let any man in the commune use her and abuse her.
“I never understood why. Perhaps had I lived a day in her life before Trent, I might have. Hell. I still don’t understand.”
Matt looked away. “Neither do I. I never have. I do know, however, that she used to be a damn good mother. But that was before all this. and maybe, she still is. Somewhere inside that shell of self-pity.” He got up. “I need to go get the girls packed for Wednesday. I also need to talk to mama. Let her know what I am doing and why.”
Tom nodded and watched silently as Matt turned and walked out of the studio. They wouldn’t be recording today, not that it mattered. Matt had too much on his mind. He had too much to do, and none of it pleasant. Tom only hoped that his remarks would not make Matt mad. He put his head in his hands.