Home Again by Mariah Stewart
The Chesapeake Diaries #2
July 27, 2010
ISBN-10: 0345520351
ISBN-13: 978-0345520357

HOME AGAIN

Chapter Two

Dallas sat in the leather seat of the private jet and pulled off the dark wig that had kept her signature platinum hair under wraps. She tossed her dark glasses onto the seat across the aisle and looked to the cabin where her friend, Jessie Krane, stood conversing with the pilot and Cody. Moments later, Jessie strolled down the narrow aisle. A former child star, now in her fifties, Jessie was still one of the industry’s most recognizable faces. Dallas often said she could only hope that her career and her popularity would last as long as Jessie’s had.

“They’ll take you to BMI,” Jessie told Dallas. “From there, you’ll have to find your way home on your own.”

“I know the way.” Dallas tried to smile, but her bottom lip was trembling. “Jess, I don’t know how I can thank you enough for what you’re doing for me. Loaning me your plane...”

“I’m not going anywhere for a while, so at least the pilots are getting a day out of it. For which you’re paying their premium rates plus the fuel, I might remind you.”

“Still, not everyone would offer.”

“Everyone doesn’t know what you’re going through like I do,” Jessie said. “And everyone doesn’t love you like I do.”

“You’re a great friend,” Dallas told her.

“I’m merely repaying a very small part of what I owe.” Jessie sat on the edge of a seat facing Dallas. “Last year, when Peter left me for that trashy little bimbo and she started giving interviews right and left, talking about how my drinking caused my daughter to turn to drugs...”

“Jess, no one who knows you believed any of that. Even Courtney doesn’t blame you for her problems.”

“There were a lot of people who don’t know me who did believe it, who did blame me. And there were plenty of others who reveled in the sideshow.” Jessie swallowed hard. “You were the only one who spoke out, the only one who went on the talk shows and spoke with reporters about what a lie that was...”

“I wasn’t the only one.”

“You were the first, the most visible. The most vocal. My custody of Courtney could have been reversed. I have my daughter because of you.”

“Not because of me. Because you’re a good mother.” Dallas added, “A great mother.”

“I know what I know. And I know that your testimony influenced the judge. I only wish I could do more for you right now.”

“Are you kidding? You’re giving us a way out of LA that lets us leave anonymously. The thought of having to walk Cody through the airport and stand in those lines where anyone could say anything that he could overhear, where reporters could harass us...” Dallas shivered. “I couldn’t face it, Jess. I couldn’t bear to have Cody walk that gauntlet. Thanks to you, we didn’t have to.”

“Sweetie, I know what it’s like to be harassed, to have my kids harassed. I know how tough these last few days have been for you.”

“Tougher for Cody. He’s too young to have to deal with this kind of nonsense.”

“I’m sure some time away will be good for him. For both of you.” Jessie looked critically at Dallas. “Any thoughts on how long you might be gone?”

Dallas shook her head. “I’m not thinking that far ahead. We’ll have to see how things go and how long it takes for this thing to die a natural death. I have no work lined up until late fall, and Cody’s school doesn’t resume until the second week in September, so we have time.”

“What will you do with yourself until then?”

“Relax. Spend time with Cody and my great-aunt.” Dallas smiled wryly. “Maybe even work on that screenplay I’ve been thinking about writing for the past three years, if we stay long enough.”

“Well, from what you’ve told me, there won’t be much else to do in that little town of yours.”

Dallas laughed. “Berry says it’s changed a lot in just the few years since I last visited, so we’ll see.”

Jessie leaned over and tilted Dallas’s face into the sunlight.

“When was the last time you slept?” she asked. “You could hide a family of four in the bags under your eyes.”

“Oh, thanks for that.”

“Merely observing.”

“Another reason to be grateful for the private plane.”

“So how long has it been since you slept?” Jess repeated.

“I’ve had a lot of details to attend to these past few days. A lot of packing to do...”

“With any luck, you’ll sleep from coast to coast.” Jessie stood. “I see the copilot has arrived. That’s all we’ve been waiting for. They’ll be taking off now.”

She leaned over and kissed Dallas on the forehead.

“You’ll let me know what else I can do for you, and you’ll call me when you’re ready to come back and I’ll send them” she nodded in the direction of the cabin, “back for you. Easy out, easy back in.”

“You’re the best, Jess.” Dallas rose and hugged her friend.

“Don’t I know it?” Jessie smiled and called to Cody who was lingering in the cabin doorway talking to the pilot. “Come give your Aunt Jess a hug, Cody. You’ll be taking off any minute now, so you need to find a seat.”

“Aren’t you coming too?” Cody made his way down the aisle and hugged the woman around the waist.

“Goodness, no. I have things to do.” Jessie steered him to a seat and helped him strap in.

“What kind of things?” Cody asked.

“All kinds of very important things. Meetings. Lunch. Take the dogs to the groomers. Get my nails done.” She ruffled his hair, then went to the front of the plane and tapped on the open door. “Your passengers are ready whenever you are. I’m getting ready to leave, so come lock up after me.”

The copilot followed her to the door, where Jessie turned and blew a kiss.

“Keep in touch. Eat lots of those Chesapeake blues for me,” she added before disappearing down the steps.

“What are ‘Chesapeake blues’?” Cody asked his mother.

“Crabs that come from the Chesapeake Bay,” she told him. “They’re very famous, because they’re very delicious.”

“Will Aunt Berry have some of those?”

“I’m certain of it. Especially this time of the year. The crabs are big and especially sweet by the middle of the summer. Maybe we’ll even catch our own. Remember I told you how the river runs right past the back of Aunt Berry’s property?”

Cody nodded thoughtfully. “I don’t really remember being there, though. I only remember the pictures.”

“You were only three the last time we visited, and we didn’t stay very long that time. Maybe some things will come back to you when we get to St. Dennis.”

“How do things come back to you?” he leaned his chair back and rested his head. To Dallas, he looked so small, and so sleepy, and so uncertain.

“Well, sometimes you remember things that you don’t even realize you remember.” Dallas leaned her chair back, too, and nodded to the pilot who appeared in the doorway to see if they were ready to take off. He disappeared back into the cabin, closing the door behind him. “Sometimes your mind will connect one thing to something else that you know.” She thought for a moment. “Remember when we went to see the ice skating show last winter? The skaters all skated to music. Then a few weeks ago, in the car...”

“...we heard that song and I said, ‘hey, they were playing this song when the guy who was dressed like a pirate skated at the show’!” Cody sat up, excited at the memory. “You mean, like that?”

“That’s exactly what I mean.” Dallas smiled. “You heard the song, and you remembered the pirate skater. We say, the song came back to you.”

“The song came back to me,” he repeated softly, as if trying on the phrase for size.

The engines on, the plane began to taxi slowly to take its place in line on the runway.

“Mommy, what will we do at Aunt Berry’s besides catch crabs and eat them?” he asked a moment later.

“Well, we’ll probably go out onto the Bay in boats and maybe swim in the river.” Dallas paused, wondering if the recent efforts to clean up the New River had been successful. There had been a time, in her youth, when the water in both the Bay and the river had been too polluted for swimming. “And we’ll go to the park, and we’ll see whatever there is to see in St. Dennis since the last time we were there. Aunt Berry tells me there are lots of new shops and several new restaurants, even a new park. Oh, and she said there’s an ice cream place down near the docks now.”

“I like ice cream.” Cody’s eyes began to close.

“So do I.” Dallas looked out the window and held her breath as the plane began to move, then picked up speed. From past experience, she knew she wouldn’t exhale until the plane made it off the runway. When they lifted up, she sighed and closed her eyes, too, thinking it would be wonderful if they both slept for a few hours. She had a feeling Cody hadn’t slept much these past few nights, either.

“Will there be kids at Aunt Berry’s?” he asked.

“No kids at Berry’s house, but there are kids in St. Dennis.”

“Will I go to camp?”

“I imagine that any camps there in town might have started by now, but we’ll see.”

“Can I have a dog?”

“A dog? Why a dog?”

“Because you said when we weren’t living in the white house anymore, I could have a dog.”

The white house was their rented temporary home, so named because most of the furniture, carpet and walls were white.

“But we’ll be going back, Cody. What would you do with the dog then?” She glanced out the window, and with equal parts of relief and regret, watched the city below grow smaller and smaller. “We couldn’t just leave it.”

“Maybe Aunt Berry would want it,” he said hopefully.

“I don’t recall that Berry ever had a dog, even when I was little.”

“Then we’d take it home with us and we’ll go live someplace that isn’t white. I saw a thing on TV. They let dogs on airplanes. Besides, Jessie wouldn’t care if we took our dog on her plane.”

“I don’t think Berry would be happy if we brought a dog into her home, Cody.”

“Why?”

“Well, because they shed and sometimes they make a mess. I don’t know that Berry’s housekeeper is looking to add to her work load.”

“We could get a good one, one who doesn’t make a mess or shed.”

“We’ll have to discuss this with Berry, sweetie. After all it is her house, and we’re going to be guests there.”

Cody reflected on that for a moment. Probably, she thought, trying to come up with a way to get around Berry.

“How long are we going to stay there?” he asked.

“I haven’t decided yet. We’ll have to see.”

“Will I go to school there?”

“I haven’t thought about that.”

“Is there a private school there like the one I went to at home?” His voice was starting to fade.

“I don’t know. We’ll find out when we get there.”

A moment later, a shadow crossed his face and he asked, “Do you think the kids there will be mean to me? You know, about Daddy, like the kids at camp were?”

“I doubt the kids in St. Dennis have ever heard of your dad, Cody.”

“Really?” He opened his eyes and stared at her. Obviously this was a concept he’d not considered.

“I don’t imagine people in St. Dennis spend much time worrying about what people in LA are doing.” She could only hope. “They don’t make films the way people at home do. They do other things to make a living.”

“Like what?”

“Like, they catch crabs and oysters and fish to sell to restaurants all over the country. Some people build boats, and...”

“Does Aunt Berry have a boat?”

“She used to. I don’t know if she still does.”

“That would be fun, to have a boat.” He closed his eyes again.

Dallas watched her son settle back and begin to drift off to sleep. She looked down through the darkness on the city she’d called home for so long and found its lights fading far below. There was a knot in the pit of her stomach that throbbed painfully at the thought of all she was leaving behind. She’d come to LA as a twenty-one year old, fresh out of college, with dreams of becoming not only a star, but a serious actress. No casting couches for her. Uh-uh. She’d make it on her talent or she wouldn’t make it at all. She was well aware that it had been her looks that had gotten her an agent who’d been able to help her land those first small roles. It wasn’t long before the platinum blond with the lavender eyes and the long legs was noticed. Even as a fledgling, she’d been gutsy enough to turn down parts she’d considered frivolous, choosing to wait for those that had some substance, and she’d made a promise to herself to never take her clothes off on-screen. For her, that was the line that she wouldn’t cross, and she never had.

When she finally got what she considered her big chance, she made certain that she knew every line perfectly, that she was always early to the set, that she never made anyone wait for her for any reason. She was the very definition of professionalism. When the director from that film found his current project stalled and over-budget due to the antics of one of his stars, he remembered Dallas, and offered her the role. She soon earned a reputation of being as dependable as she was beautiful, and oh, yes, this young woman could act. All through her career she kept to her standards, never causing a studio to lose money or to have any regrets in having hired her. She never engaged in the sort of hi-jinks that so many young stars seemed to be involved in or caused a distraction on the set. Through hard and consistently good work, she earned the right to be regarded as a serious actor. Over the years, her name was always at or very near the top of the best or favorite or most beautiful lists. She’d won prestigious awards as well as the respect of her colleagues. Now, her thirty-eighth birthday closing in, she was at the very top of her game.

She couldn’t deny, even to herself, that it hurt to leave her life behind, even for a little while. But it was hurting Cody too much to stay in the eye of the shit-storm that had taken on a life of its own over the past few days and showed no sign of going away any time soon. She could always go back, but he wouldn’t always be six and needing her the way he needed her right now. She loved her work, but loved her son more than anything in the world. In the end, the decision to leave town had been an easy one.

Poor Cody. He’d been so unhappy and anxious, and true to his word, had cried bitterly at the suggestion that he return to his day camp. That was when Dallas decided it was time for a little get-away, just her and Cody. Berry’s had always been her go-to place when she needed to heal whatever was broken. When she’d called Berry to propose a visit, her aunt had readily agreed.

“Anita comes tomorrow,” Berry had said, speaking of the woman who’d been her part-time housekeeper for over thirty years. “I’ll have her open your rooms and change the sheets.”

Dallas’s eyes grew heavy, and she felt herself begin to drift off. Just before she fell asleep, she thought she heard Cody whisper, “Maybe it won’t be too bad there...”



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