The rental van passed two stoplights, then came to a stop at a third. The silence at the front of the vehicle had stretched too long for Ven’s comfort, so Ven asked where the other Richardson children were this day.
“Penny and Truman are with the Perry’s.” Chris Perry’s face was a field of freckles; she was five, near the same age as the two younger Richardson children. “Quentin knew they wouldn’t be able to help much with the move, so he thought it best to keep them away.”
“I see.” The traffic light turned green, and the van lurched forward. “Tell them I said hi.”
“Of course.” Bonnie-B glanced out the side window, then back at Ven. “You could come over, after we’re done. Have dinner with us.”
Ven kept his eyes focused on the traffic ahead of him. The yellow sedan in front of him flicked its signal to turn right; they were travelling on a state route, two lanes in either direction with a center lane for left turns. Ven glanced at the side mirror, and saw no approaching vehicle; after a quick glance at the blind spot, he then maneuvered around the sedan, and continued travelling south.
“How does that sound?”
Upon hearing Bonnie-B’s question, Ven nearly apologized, but then his memory recalled her offer. He shook his head. “Sorry, I really want to get settled in to my new place tonight. Maybe some other time.”
“I understand.” They drove past a few more stoplights in silence, and Ven wondered if his refusal had offended Bonnie-B into silence. But to his relief, she then asked how his new job was working out.
“Fine. There’s a lot to learn, but the company’s got a good program for new employees. I’m pretty excited, actually.”
“Praise the Lord.” Ven opened his mouth, but Bonnie-B continued before he could reply. “Ven, I’m glad to see you chase this new opportunity, but I pray this doesn’t also mean you’ll be running away from us. We’ve only known you a few years, Ven, but you’re already like family to us. The children look up to you like the uncle they’ve never had. And I’ve seen how glad you’ve been around them. Even… ” She cleared her throat, and then continued softly. “Even these past few weeks.”
When she finished, Ven realized he was clenching his teeth. The van approached the street for his new apartment, and Ven flipped the turn signal, ca-click ca-click, the van stopping for a line of oncoming traffic. Ven bit his lower lip — “Hannah used to call Aidan her uncle, as well.”
The line of traffic passed, and the van then carried its silent passengers down to Ven’s new apartment building.