Dick cut the ignition and gave Lew a dubious look. The man was all eyes; anxiety was practically gushing from his pores, and he kept licking his lips. Dick had never seen him so nervous, not even before the Big Jump in ’44.
He leaned over and squeezed Lew’s knee. “Relax. They’re my parents, not the Wehrmacht.”
Lew stubbornly shook his head. “This is a mistake. I should’ve just stayed in Jersey.” He looked out the window at a white colonial farmhouse. “What’s this?”
Dick smiled and opened his door. “Where I was raised.”
The front yard was a carpet of grass where several large oaks stood in quiet audience. An old rope swing dangled from one. The house itself had seen better times, but it was tidy and well-kept. No peeling paint or missing shutters. A flower garden bloomed under the windows, cheery pansies and sunny marigolds. Everywhere was happiness and love. Here was a real home.
Lew shut his door and stuffed his hands in his pockets, squinting at the Winters residence with a prick of envy in his heart. He would have killed to grow up in a place like this.
“You were some lucky kid, Dick,” he mumbled. “I grew up being told to keep off the grass, stay outta the trees, go play in your room. I never had a childhood.”
Dick didn’t reply, but Lew felt his hand on his shoulder, as gentle and kind as the flowers in his mother’s garden.
He looked up when he heard a screen door slam and beheld a tall, slim woman in a blue dress and yellow apron. Her hair, perhaps once as red as the sunset, was fading to white and pulled back to reveal a plain but caring face.
She stood on the porch for a moment, staring at them. Then she smiled and called, “Richard! They’re here!” A second later she was joined by her husband, a stern, reliable-looking man, and they both descended the steps.
Lew swallowed dryly and wondered if the Winters ever got drunk and fought in front of guests like his own parents.
They met on the lawn, and Lew was shocked when Edith Winters threw her arms around him and kissed his cheek as if he were her own son. “It’s wonderful to finally meet you, Lewis,” she said. “Welcome to our home.”
Lew thought nothing could beat the cozy, comfy farmhouse, but he was wrong. Mrs Winters’ cooking was to die for.
He’d never eaten a real country meal in a real country setting before, and Lew would have cried if he’d known what he was missing: homemade biscuits, pot roast with potatoes and carrots swimming in gravy, sweet, crisp, home-grown corn on the cob . . . It was better than caviar and Steak Diane.
They talked about the war and told family stories, and by the end of dinner, Lew’s nervousness was nothing but a memory.
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