Ben picked up Sofia at her apartment the next morning. He was ridiculously excited about spending the day with two of his favorite people, Sofia and Cole. She had Cole eating out of her hand in the first five minutes of the 45 minute drive to the nursing home in San Myshuno.
On the way, they stopped by the park to see the new sign. It meant so much to Ben that Sofia instinctively knew how healing this would be for everyone. He asked her to take a picture for Lillie May.
When they arrived at the nursing home, Cole readily let his new friend carry him inside, jabbering about Gran and cookies.
Ben couldn’t help the little grin that appeared on his face watching the two of them. “Lillie May always has some treat for him when he comes,” explained Ben. “We have been coming here every two weeks since he was born, so he gets excited when we come. He loves his Gran.”
Ben knocked on Lillie May’s door and the trio walked into her room. She was already out of bed, settled in her wheelchair and ready with hugs for her great-grandson. Cole wiggled out of Sofia’s arms and ran into the waiting arms of smiling old woman. “Gran!” he squealed.
“Cole, sweetie. Give your Gran a kiss.” The two year old climbed into her lap and obliged with a slobbery kiss.
“Hi Miss Lillie,” said Ben and kissed her dry cheek. “How are you feeling?”
“Better now that you are here,” she said. “And who is your lovely companion?”
Sofia stood up and extended her hand. “Hi. I’m Sofia Hamlin. I’ve heard lots of great things about you. It’s truly a pleasure to meet you. I work with Ben at Chapman Construction.”
Lillie May gave Cole a toy car and he scooted off her lap and onto the floor to play. Sofia and Ben took the chairs across from her. “Hamlin?” ask Lillie May, “Isn’t that the handsome young man that stood up for you at your wedding Ben?”
When Sofia answered for him, Ben laughed to himself and sat back to enjoy the show. “Oh yes!” said Sofia enthusiastically, “That was Nick. He’s my older brother. I think he’s cute too, but please don’t tell him I said that. He still lives in San Myshuno. He only has a year left in college. Ohh, Ben, maybe we can call him and he can go fishing with us while we are here.” Sofia immediately directed her attention back to Lille May with out missing a beat. “Ben and I are going to take Cole fishing after we leave here. Aren’t we kiddo?”
“Fishing!” parroted Cole.
“That’s nice,” said Lillie May with a twinkle in her eye, “Have you and Ben known each other long?”
“Yes, forever!” answered Sofia and Ben had to stifle a laugh. “We used to hang out a lot when we lived in Twinbrook. Before Ben and Nick left for college. We went fishing all the time. We were fishing buddies. Now that I am working with Ben, well, I guess we are working buddies now. Oh….work! Ben has something to tell you!” Suddenly Sofia looked mortified. “And I’m talking way too much.”
Lillie May laughed. “You are a joy. I can see why Ben and Cole like you so much. So, Ben, what is it you needed to tell me?”
“You know that we are building a huge community park in Newcrest. Sofia here decided we should name it and actually came up with a really nice suggestion….” Ben got emotional and couldn’t continue.
Sofia put her hand on Ben’s arm and looked at him affectionately letting him know with her eyes that it was okay and she would tell her the rest. Ben sat back and tried to pull himself together as Sofia spoke. “Mrs. Coleman, we want to dedicate the park to Grace’s memory. We want to name it after her, Grace Ramsay Recreation Center. Ben, why don’t you show her the picture we took.”
Lillie May’s smile lit up her face even as silent tears wet her cheeks when she looked at the picture on his phone. “You have no idea how much that means to this old lady. Thank you. And Sofia, it’s Lillie May or Miss Lillie, as Ben likes to call me, or even Gran.”
“Miss Lillie,” said Ben, now that he had control of his emotions, “when we finish the park there will be an official dedication and party. We would love for you to be there.”
“A field trip! I wouldn’t miss it,” said Lillie May, “Thank you again.”
“Field Twip. Fishing!” said Cole, eliciting laughter from everyone in the room.
“I think someone is ready for their fishing trip. How about a cookie before you go little man?” asked Lillie May.
“Cookies!” said Cole and clapped his hands.
“Sofia, the cookies are on the counter in the kitchenette. Would you mind?”
As soon as Sofia and Cole were out of earshot, Lillie May rolled her chair closer to Ben. “She’s delightful Ben. I’m so happy for you. She cares a great deal for you and that little boy. It’s time for you to be happy again.”
Ben was speechless and stood there with his mouth open looking for words.
“Close your mouth Benjamin. It’s okay. You have my blessing.”
He shook his head. “There is nothing…”
“Pffft. Yes there is. I may be old but I’m not blind. Any fool can see how you look at each other. She looks at you just like Grace did, with eyes full of love. Maybe you just don’t want to admit it to each other yet, but it’s there. And besides, I really like her. You have my blessing Ben, if that’s what you are worried about.”
“No…you don’t understand…”
“That’s all. Now, go get a cookie for an old lady, would you?”
Ben just sat there trying to figure out why she said what she did. There wasn’t anything but a deep friendship between them. And besides, Sofia was in a committed relationship of more than three years. The only reason she was in Willow Creek was to be near Jesse.
“Go…now. I’m hungry for one of those cookies. Shoo.”
Ben jumped up and ran into the kitchenette where he saw Sofia helping Cole with his cookie. He stopped short, watching them. It wasn’t hard to imagine the three of them together as a family. He wished that Lillie May hadn’t planted that seed in his head though, because it could never be. She’s just a really good friend, like Emma or Nick, he thought.
He took a deep breath and shook it off . He walked in to grab a cookie for his grandmother-in-law.
Before they left for their fishing trip, Ben did his best to get a picture of Lillie May with the squirmy toddler and promised to get it printed so she could hang it on her wall.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *