Two days later, he sat in a booth with Rain and Star at Cal’s Diner. Shasta had promised to meet him. She wanted to see him. Most of all, he needed her to agree to taking the girls, at least for a little while.
He rose as she entered. “Aunt Shasta?”
She smiled. “You have grown quite a bit since the last time I saw you, Matthew.” She hugged him, then sat down. “Sorry I’m late. I went to the hospital to see your mother.”
He looked at her with trepidation in his eyes. “You didn’t tell her, did you?”
She shook her head. “No. I doubt it would have made much difference, though. She was pretty out of it when I visited her.”
He nodded. “I know. I am worried that they might be getting her addicted to opiates. I know that she is in pain, but I also know that she doesn’t need to be that high.”
Shasta looked over at Star and Rainbow. “These must be the girls. They are just darling!”
Matt smiled. “Yes. Rain is the eldest.”
She returned her attention to Matt. “What kind of an agreement are you thinking about? A permanent relocation? Or a temporary one?”
Matt smiled sadly. “I was hoping that we could set it up to where I can take them once I turn eighteen. I can’t just abandon them.”
She smiled. “I understand, and that is very noble of you. But what if you decide, later, that you don’t want to take them on?”
He looked at her darkly. “That will never happen.”
She smiled. “Good. Just as long as we understand one another.” She looked over at the girls. “I will take them until you are able to get a place of your own and have lived on your own for at least a year. That should give you ample time to arrange everything so that you are stable enough financially to take care of them…and however many more your mother may end up giving birth to.
“Do not get me wrong, I would care for them until they were of age if you were unable to, but I wanted you to prove to me that your plan was really the one you are willing to follow.”
He looked at her. “And have I?”
She smiled. “Matthew, You have always followed the plans you have made for yourself. When you reacted the way you did, you told me that this plan was no different. It is almost as if you feel that your sisters are your responsibility. Not many thirteen year olds would see things that way. But, then, you have always had to clean up her messes. This shouldn’t have been much of a surprise to me either.”
He smiled. She had been the first to ever compliment him on his way of living. Many thought it was strange. He seemed far older, mentally, than he really was. But, then, he had been in the music business since he was five. Or had he been four? No matter. He was just an old pro.
They spent a few hours catching up on things. Her family. His career. What had taken place since Selma. His schooling.
She seemed very surprised at how well he was doing in his schooling. But, then, she allowed how brilliance ran in the Morrow family. She had, herself, graduated both high school and college valedictorian. Matt smiled when he learned that he was not alone in his brilliance.
Shasta told him that his mother probably would have been a valedictorian in school as well had she not ran away after she had been raped. She had been just as smart as her sister, if not smarter. But one man had ruined it all for her. He had destroyed her future. At least in her mind, if not in reality.
Cal began to get ready to close up for the evening and gave Matt a sign that he wanted the reunion to move elsewhere. Matt rose, as did Shasta. “Shall we go and transfer what belongings they have to your car?” He hugged her as he spoke.
She nodded. “Yes.”
He smiled reassuringly. “I will send extra when I can to help with their expenses. I have seen to their needs from time to time anyway.”
She took the girls’ hands. “Alright. Just as long as it doesn’t cause you any problems. at least this way, they will get to have the chance to meet and get to know their grandparents…my mother and father.”
He nodded. “I understood what you meant. I know that my father and his parents were both killed shortly after mom left Des Moines.”
Shasta seemed surprised. “You really don’t know, do you?”
Matt blinked. “Know what?”
She took his hand, letting go of Star momentarily. “Your father’s mother is still alive. She escaped from the French family shortly after your mother ran. Hell. She had turned State’s evidence against Toffer.”
He shook his head in disbelief. “No way.”
She looked into his disbelieving eyes. “Yes. She lives in Burbank now. Doesn’t have a thing to worry about. Found a man who loves her, flaws and all. I have talked to her from time to time and she asks about you. How you are and where you are.
“She apologized for causing your mom to run away instead of face what had happened to her. Your mom misunderstood the meaning behind what she told her. But all that is past now, and all that matters is here and now.”
He smiled sadly. “I wouldn’t mind meeting her some day.”
Shasta hugged him again. “Maybe I can talk her into coming east soon. Would you like that?”
He nodded. They both grew quiet as they left the diner.Tom opened the car door and stepped out. Matt waited until his friend had unlocked the trunk, then began unloading the suitcases. He knew this would be the last time he would see either girl for a while, but it was for the best. He only hoped they would understand what he was doing.
Rainbow looked up at him. “Matoo?”
He knelt beside her. “Yes, Munchkin?”
She looked up into his eyes. “Where we goin’?”
He smiled at her. “You’re going to go stay with Aunt Shasta for a while.”
She gave him a pouty face. “But I don’ wanna.”
He hugged her, his heart crying with grief. “But you have to. Just for a little while. I will call for you when I can take you in myself. OK?”
Tears formed in her eyes, but she nodded. “I Wuv you, Matoo.”
Matt felt a lump grow in his throat. “I love you too, Rain. And little Star too.”
He watched as Shasta loaded both girls into her car, then drive off. Once she was out of sight, he closed his eyes and began to cry. He had to keep reminding himself that it was for the best. They would be safe with their aunt.