It was like a movie playing in Eveline’s head. She and Clara sat and listened to his story patiently and quietly.
“I met Carol when I was 16 in high school. She attended the same history course as me and we started dating two weeks before I dropped out. I left high school to become a Merchant Marine; I was underage but somehow I slipped through the system. Another young boy jumped the same freight train as me to get to the ship and we became fast friends.
During one of the first weeks on the ship a Navy tug was helping a carrier dock when suddenly the propellers ripped open the tug. That tug swung into ours which was a pioneer steam tug from the 1890s. I stopped a crewman from tying the sinking tug to ours because if he had, we would have both gone down. The boy I met on the train went down trying to save a trapped crewman.
Before I was 18 I experienced WWII in Pacific and Atlantic waters. I had returned home for a brief time when I was 17 and found a note on the table that my parents had gone to Alaska to work until the war was over. I spent that summer falling in love with Carol and I asked her to marry me before returning to the ship and sailing to Panama.
Upon my return home I sat on the train reading the letter Carol had sent me. My mother had died from cancer and my father disappeared. Carol was all I had to return to…
After becoming an 18-year-old veteran and returning home, I had found work going door-to-door selling fuller brushes. When that grew old I decided to go back to sea, this time as a fisherman. I worked my way to captain in less than two years and was in charge of my own ship for almost six years.
When my sea legs grew tired, I started my own business selling travel trailers. Carol and I were well on our feet so we bought a sailboat and lived on it for a year in Bora Bora.
We had talked about having children for quite some time so we returned to Washington to settle down and begin a family. After three failed pregnancy’s Carol could not bear the heartbreak again.
My father reappeared after many years and tried to steal from us and take advantage of us. A friend from the ship who became a lawyer helped us in court and my father ended up going to prison after trying to burn down our house.
The reason I am selling my home to you is because there is no one left to take it. I am going to die soon and I do not want the city to take my house.”
It was silent for a while as they finished their beverages and while Eveline tried to find the words to say. She expected his story to be a good one, but this… this was way more than she expected. She had grown to adore Mr. Cook but he still didn’t seem to trust her.
She set a goal for herself and for the transaction that was taking place. She was going to make sure Mr. Cook was taken care of and walked through every step of the way. Despite his reluctance to accept help she was going to earn his trust one way or another; even if she had to bend over backwards and help him against his will.
After finally understanding why he is used to being alone and doing things on his own she knew she needed to be careful. She didn’t want Mr. Cook to think she was only helping him because he was old.
The phone rang cutting the silence like a knife.
He was back to his grumpy self. Eveline looked at her watch and realized they had been there for over an hour. She helped Mr. Cook clean up and then put her hand on his shoulder as she said good-bye. She was lost in thought for the rest of the evening; she was almost in shock and tried to let it all sink in. She sobbed into her pillow before finally falling asleep.