When Natalia went to work for the first time – her position in the local hospital due to Tony’s numerous contacts – Tony invited Rhoda to the new house.
“It’s been weird since I gave my position over to you”, she said. “You were always my best man, I don’t doubt your skills. But I was so used to have the final say in everything.”
“Without you having orchestrated the whole thing it wouldn’t be the way it is”, Tony said. He wasn’t sure he knew what she was trying to tell him.
“I might have pulled the strings, but you were writing the notes for a long time. I don’t regret my decision. I am feeling my age, and I can’t keep up with the world. It changes so fast.”
Tony did not know what to answer her, so he kept quiet. It was one of the moments where he thought how different would his life be now if Rhoda agreed to be with him back then. Back then, when he was thirty, the age difference didn’t seem so important, but now, when he was well in his fourties, Rhoda was approaching sixty, and the years hadn’t been kind to her. She always lived close to the limits, and it started to show. A recent injury suffered in line of work left her needing a cane – a broken hip didn’t heal that quickly when you were older.
“Let me check on little Sean”, she said to break the silence.
“He has to take his afternoon nap soon”, Tony said. “He looks rather tired.”
After Sean was in his crib, fast asleep, they sat on the couch. The TV was on, and Rhoda made a point of looking in its direction. She looked sad, and a little bit lost, and Tony thought about the countless times she sat on his couch looking lost. He did not know what kind of guidance he could offer her. So many things had changed over the years.
Tony was a rational person, rarely pushed to act by his emotions, but this was one of those rare moments. He could not make her problems disappear. He could not turn the hands of time. He could not make her boss of the Company again. He could not love her as he once did. But he could offer her a home.
“Rhoda”, he said. “Would you come live with us? With Natalia back to work, and my schedule being rather tight, I am afraid Sean would be lonely. We wouldn’t be around as much as we used to.”
“Well, you’re in lead now”, Rhoda said. “Now you know the workload I used to have all this time.” There was a silence between them for a few moments, and when it started to grow uncomfortable, Rhoda found her voice again. “You’ve been my best worker since the beginning, and my best friend for years. If you want me to, I will. I always respected you, you know. Maybe even envied you. You managed to create a family. You have a wonderful kid. A woman who loves you. I just lived for the Company.”
“You don’t have to, anymore”, Tony said, but he knew it was too late. To late for her to have a family of her own. “Let us be your family, Rhoda.”
It was weird at first, seing Natalia at the same table as Rhoda, but they seemed to have cultivated an yet reluctant and careful friendship.
But seeing things work out finally gave Tony peace of mind. Sean was never alone, and splitting the responsibilities gave everybody more time for their favourite activities.
And the house now had plenty of space for the renewed neighbourhood gatherings.
Years passed quickly, as it usually is with small children. They grow up so fast and we don’t even notice. For us, they always will remain small and helpless, and we have to refrain ourselves from wanting to help them when they don’t need our help anymore.