The Self Leader Secret
Jake part 3
Later that afternoon Jake set up the checker board. He sat Nicky down in front of it and showed the boy the rules of the game.
“I know you’re a little young for this kid, but I taught all my children to play this game. They got pretty good at it, especially my little girl.”
“Where is your little girl?”
Jake sighed. “I don’t really know, she left home a long time ago and I haven’t heard from her since. Her brothers live over in California and I don’t get to see them very much either. So now I have you until they find your mother and I need a checkers opponent. King me!”
They played for a while and Jake ordered pizza for dinner. As they ate, Nicky told Jake about being with his daddy and Crystal. His father had taken Nicky for one of his regular visits and when the time was up he loaded everyone into the RV and hit the open road.
Jake’s heart went out to Nicky’s mother. He knew what it was like to lose a child and never know what happened.
** *** **
The next morning Jake took Nicky into town for breakfast. As they entered the diner, Margaret looked up from her breakfast and waived for them to join her at her table.
For the next two days Jake and Nicky enjoyed each other’s company. They fished, took hikes, played checkers and read stories. As the time passed, Jake developed a real soft spot for the boy and selfishly wished that Sheriff Bresler wouldn’t be able to find his mother.
Finally on the evening of the third day, the phone rang. Jake stared at if for a few rings before he lifted the receiver. He took a deep breath.
“Good news, Jake. We found Nicky’s mother. She will be here tomorrow morning about 9:30.
“Um, sure. I bring him in then. Thanks.” Jake hung up the phone and swallowed hard. He walked back to the fire where Nicky had stacked the checkers up into red and black towers. “Well, son. I got news. Sheriff Tom found your mom. She’ll be here in the morning. You’re going home.”
“Oh,” said Nicky. “Are you coming too?”
“No son, this is your home you are going to. I live here.”
“But I want you to come. You’ll like my mommy. She tells funny stories like you do and she bakes good cookies. Please come with me. Pleeeeaase.”
“Tell you what, I’ll ask your mom if I can keep in touch with you.”
“I’d like that. Maybe she will let you live with us too.”
“Well it’s getting late. Big day tomorrow. Go get ready for bed and I will read you a story.”
Jake had trouble sleeping that night. Memories of the past few days filled him with both joy and sadness. He would miss the boy. Childish laughter and shared adventures had brightened his weary spirit. Now it was all going to end; alone once again.
** *** **
Nicky sat at the breakfast table playing with his cereal. Jake sat with his hands cupped around his coffee mug; his gazed focused intently on the salt and pepper shakers in the middle of the table. The clock on the wall slowly climbed toward 9:00.
“Uh, Nicky we need to get going. Your mother will be at the sheriff’s office and we don’t want to keep her waiting.”
“Don’t forget to ask her if you can come and live with us, okay.”
“I told you that I can’t live with you, but I will ask her if I can come and see you from time to time. Now go get your stuff.”
Nicky didn’t know what to feel. He would be glad to see his mother again; on the other hand he would miss the kind old man who had taken him in. As they drove into town, he grew more determined to convince his mother to let him keep in touch with Jake.
** *** **
They pulled into the parking lot at the Sheriff’s Office. A lump rose in Jake’s throat as Nicky took his and squeezed it. Together the old man and the young boy walked through the double doors.
“Nicky!” The woman sobbed as the child rushed into her arms. She buried her face against the boy’s hair. “I have missed you so much.” She wiped her eyes. I’m so glad you’re alright.”
“Well here’s the man you have to thank for that.” Tom stepped forward. “Mrs. Alexander this is Jake Colver. He rescued your boy from the lake.”
Nicky’s mother stopped hugging her son and lifted her head. Jake looked at her and his mouth dropped open. Mrs. Alexander stood up and looked intently at the old man. Then tears welled up in her eyes.
“Dad?” she whispered.