Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Crescent Bay

Chapter 3, Part 1


Chapter 3, Part 1 - Molly

The two months I spent at home in Crescent Bay went by too quickly. Too soon I was saying goodbye to Tony, too soon I was saying goodbye to my family and too soon I was saying goodbye to my friends. While with the others, Tony and I fell into old habits - we touched and flirted and we were mere seconds away from kissing at one point. It was as if nothing had changed between us. Unfortunately, that was true in another sense, our situations were still the same - I was still going back to France and he was still going back to his base and we would still be thousands of miles apart physically. We went out together alone one night and afterward I was was afraid we'd be thousands of miles apart emotionally as well as Tony's face fell when we talked about Colin. My heart ached to reach out to him and reassure him that he was the only one for me but I didn't know if that was true.

I spent Fourth of July weekend in Riverview with some of my friends and the rest of July in Crescent Bay with family. I convinced my family not to descend on the small Crescent Bay airport for my departure so we had a small family party and dinner the night before. As much as I would miss my family, I had chosen Stormy and Ruby to see me off as I needed girl talk time.

"You should give it a chance." Stormy said. "Follow your heart."

"That's the problem, half my heart seems to be here....or with Tony at any rate." I amended since Tony had left before I did.

"And part of your heart will always belong to Tony. But you two broke up right?" Stormy asked.

"Yes. We broke up, and it's not like anything has changed." I said still gazing out the window to the tarmac.

"But he's Tony..." Ruby chimed in. "Your first love, your high school sweetheart."

"When did you become such a romantic?" I teased with a grin.

"It's the babies, they do things to you. Making her all soft." Stormy added with a laugh.

"My point is!" Ruby interjected. "He's Tony. You two are...well you two. You're Tony and Molly."

"So you think I should spend the next three years just hoping that when we're both on the same continent that we'll still be 'Tony and Molly'?" I asked turning toward them.

"Well no..." Ruby trailed off. "I don't know Molly."

"Give Colin a chance." Stormy said getting up and giving me half a hug. "You're regret it if you don't at least try."

Ruby stood up as well and joined in the awkward hug.

"And just because you date him doesn't mean you're gonna marry the guy and have his babies." Stormy said. She grinned at Ruby. "Most people don't marry their high school sweetheart or even their college sweetheart."

I put my arms around them both. "Right." I said weakly, feeling no more sure about anything. My flight was called for boarding and sighed. "I'll miss you guys." I said as I stooped to pick up my carry-on luggage. I'd packed a change of clothes in it since I had a long layover before making a connecting flight.

We hugged once more and I heard Ruby sniffle. I smiled at her and then at Stormy and headed slowly for the doors. Just before walking through the doors, I turned back and saw Stormy with her arm around Ruby's shoulders. I waved at them once more as I felt warm tears sting my own eyes. 'I hate this part,' I thought to myself as I boarded my plane.

The first leg of my flight was almost eleven hours. Eleven hours to think about Tony and Colin and Colin and Tony and so on and so forth. I knew that Stormy was right. If I didn't at least try with Colin, I would probably always look back and wonder 'what if'. Besides - saying yes to dinner or whatever didn't mean I was marrying him or anything.

I landed at London Heathrow Airport and immediately went in search of place to freshen up after getting through customs. I passed by several restrooms in order to stretch my legs a bit after the long flight. I was amazed at all the amenities offered on this side of airport security. There were shops, salons, bars, restaurants, and cafes spaced throughout the terminals. After a change of clothes and a quick wash, I stared at my reflection in the mirror. I had almost five hours left before I had to catch my connection so I strolled along the terminal slowly. I passed by the hair salon again and paused in front of the doors. 'Why not?' I thought to myself and pushed my way inside. They weren't busy so I was seated at a station quickly.

"Whatcha wantin' today?" the hair dresser asked with a smile.

"Change." I said simply. I realized at that moment that I had no idea what kind of cut I wanted. I just wanted something different. "Sorry, this was an impulse." I said with a slight blush.

"No problem." she replied. "We get 'lot of that here - bein' in the airport and all."

I chuckled. "Something new, hip - maybe some dye. Do you do that here?" I turned to her questioningly.

"Sure sure. How long you have?" she asked. I told her and she nodded. "We can do it then." she said nodding.

"Then I put my hair in your hands." I said bravely. That could be a huge mistake but those I saw in here seemed to have cute, healthy hair so I was taking the risk. I could see her brighten at the prospect of a no restraints customer. A couple hours later I sat in the chair feeling fresh and staring at my new look.

She'd added a bit of red to my hair and the cut was perfect. I loved it! I tipped her heavily and was about to say I'd be back the next time I needed a cut when I realized that would be somewhat impractical. A shame - my new favorite hairstylist was in another country.

I paid for terminal internet access and spent the remaining hours playing around on the internet. It amazed me how easy it was to pass a few hours doing nothing at all. I also got a passerby to snap a picture of my new do with my cellphone and sent it to Tony, Stormy, Ruby and Boris with an attached text. "Chilling in London. Love from Molly."

Colin, Sean and Deidree met me at the airport in Paris and drove me back to our little town. Deidree gushed over my new hair and agreed with me that it was a shame I hadn't found the salon in France. Sean and Colin exchanged looks after we'd talked about it for the third time. As much as they appreciated the new look, they were over the discussion of all things girl. We filled the rest of the time telling about our summers.

I had a few things sent from Crescent Bay to put in the house Deidree and I had rented. They arrived a couple weeks after I did and Colin and Sean came over that night. "That him?" Colin asked as I was hanging a picture.

"Hmm?" I asked absently and then looked at the picture. It was a picture I'd taken of Tony when we'd come to France together the summer before our Senior year. "Yeah, that's Tony." I said.

"I know that point." he said. "It's near the house Sean and I leased."

"Really?" I asked turning to him. "It's got a good view."

Colin nodded and smiled at me. "Where'd you want these cases?" he motioned to a stack of empty suitcases I'd unpacked already.

"I'm not really sure. My closet is full." I said looking around hopelessly.

"There's room in the attic." he suggested and was already picking them up to move them as I nodded.

After everything was put away, the four of us relaxed in the small living room and I told them about the wardrobe malfunction, laughing as I detailed the stunned look on Tony's face.

"Lucky devil." Sean said from behind me with a deep chuckle.

"Mhmm." Colin giving me a lopsided grin.

"Colin!" I said feigning shock but smiling. I laughed as Deidree reached back and lightly smacked her brother in on the stomach, the only place she could reach as Sean danced away from her.

"I may be a gentleman but I'm still a man." Colin said quietly so only I could hear. He winked at me and I felt myself flush a bit.

Classes started up the following week and I was enjoying myself. I hadn't broached the subject of dating with Colin - I knew I just wasn't really ready but we went out for coffee or lunch several times. Deidree, now free from the constraints of dorm life, was happily dating half the village (and bringing them back to the house I shared with her) it seemed and Sean and Amelie had all but forced Colin out of the house he and Sean shared with their romance, so we found ourselves out a lot. We were mutually avoiding our own houses and the antics of our roommates.

Colin showed me several places around the village with beautiful views of the Paris skyline, the French architecture and the nature around us. He could go on for hours about the architecture and the history behind everything and I never found myself bored in his company. I was fascinated by it and filled up many memory cards for my camera on our jaunts around the countryside. He never once pushed me or even mentioned the brief kiss we'd shared. It was as if he was waiting for a cue from me.

I had a nature photography assignment for one of my classes and when I mentioned it, we all decided to make a weekend of it and go camping. Unfortunately when the weekend rolled around, Amelie was sick so Sean stayed behind to tend to her and Deidree had met somebody and was relishing the idea of a weekend long empty house. So it was just Colin and I laying under the stars that night.

As the moon rose higher in the sky, I felt a chill, despite my jacket. Colin started a fire in the pit and then returned to sit beside me. I was still cold, even with the fire and found myself snuggling close to Colin. It felt natural as my body curved against his. Without hesitation or question, he wrapped his arm around my shoulder and took my other hand into his. He could feel that my skin was cold to the touch so he held my hand tightly, rubbing my finger tips with his.

He leaned his head gently against mine and snuggled together, I warmed up quickly. That was when I knew Stormy had been right - I had to try. I loved Tony and always would but I had no idea what the future would hold - with him or anyone else - and I didn't want to spend years looking back and wondering.

Eventually we both took quick, cold showers in the small building at the campsite and went to bed. I could hear the birds when I opened my eyes the following morning. I looked over to where Colin had fallen asleep the night before and found his spot empty. I unzipped the tent and slipped out into the morning sun. Despite the fact that is was fall and the weather was cooling quickly, the sun warmed me enough that I didn't scramble for my jacket. Colin, wearing only a pair of gray pants and no shirt, was bent over the fire. I could smell food cooking. 'He cooks....on an open fire.' I though to myself with amusement. A small giggle escaped my lips and Colin turned. "Morning." he said smiling. "Breakfast is almost done, you have time for a quick shower if you like."

I looked down at myself and remembered I'd put on a thin spaghetti strap shirt and leggings as pajamas the night before. I ducked back into the tent and grabbed my small overnight bag with tooth brush, deodorant, hair brush. I didn't feel the need to shower or even change but I did do a little morning maintenance in the small bathhouse. When I walked back into the campsite, Colin greeted me with a plate of hot food. "It looks great!" I said taking it and sitting down on the ground.

"Better than cereal." he said with a laugh, referring to that night in the kitchen so many months ago now. He'd sat down beside me with his own plate. I looked at him and caught his eye. They were alive with amusement and admiration and passion. I put my plate the side, vaguely aware that some squirrel might run off with my breakfast at any moment. Colin, following my lead or perhaps reading my mind, put his down as well. I slipped one arm around him and pulled him closer to me, I curled my fingers into his with the other hand and closed my eyes as I leaned in for a kiss - the first kiss since that night back in May.

It was perfect. Absolutely perfect. I could have gone on kissing him all morning but eventually we became aware of not only squirrels but various other small wildlife eying our breakfast. I shooed away a particularly brave bird as I scooped up my plate. Colin and I ate in silence but we caught each others' eyes many times. I felt like his gaze was talking to me as we ate that morning.

We took it slowly, so slow that our relationship seemed almost the same as before the kiss. We spent time together, we went out, we talked and we kissed more - okay that was certainly different from before. It was so easy to simply be together. As much as I loved Deidree, I spent more time at Colin and Sean's. At least Sean and Amelie were a lasting couple so they did couple things like watching movies and cuddling that Deidree's series of boys usually never made it to.

"I promised you dinner." Colin whispered one night as we were cuddling on the sofa watching a movie.

"When?" I asked pulling away to look at him.

"Before you left, I said I wanted to make you dinner." he said smiling.

"Right." I said remembering that night. "You owe me dinner." I added as I leaned back into him.

"How about this weekend? Sean and Amelie are taking a road trip." he said.

"Sure." I said. "Sounds great."

I showed up at their house early on Friday afternoon. Colin was already busy with dinner preparation and I wondered how much he could cook. I stood by and watched as he chopped and seasoned and worked with the skill of a professional.

"Where'd you learn to cook like this?" I asked as I pulled out my camera and took a few artistic and action shots. It was like poetry in motion...but with food as each slice of vegetable was chopped with precision.

"My uncle." Colin said turning to me. He saw my camera out and gave me a cheesy smile, which I captured with a laugh. "He's a chef in London. My mum sent me round to visit him as a child, he taught me a lot - the rest I've learned through practice mostly."

I smiled at him and tucked my camera away. My phone rang and I glanced at the number - Stormy. I shrugged and silenced the phone. She would want details when we spoke anyway so it'd be better to call her back when I had some.

Colin finished dinner and placed a plate in front of me. The plate itself was a simple white, square plate - but the food on it was placed with art in mind. The colors of the vegetables with vibrant and the presentation was perfect with a trail of marinade around the meat. "It looks too pretty to eat!" I exclaimed, grabbing my camera again and taking a few pictures. I would have spent twenty minute photographing it from every angle but Colin was rolling with laughter. I started laughing with him and put my camera down. "Okay, I'll stop!" I said still giggling.

We'd both just finished eating when my phone rang again. I looked at it and again it said Stormy. Now I was concerned - she wouldn't have called like this unless she really needed to talk to me. The worry must of shown on my face because Colin looked at me questioningly. "Just answer" he said.

I nodded and clicked talk, standing as I did so. "Hey Stormy, what's wrong?" I asked immediately.

"Where have you been girl?!" Stormy asked loudly.

"Um...France." I said confused.

"Do you know how to check your email? Have you recently? Like in the last three days?" she asked.

I considered a moment. I'd been busy with mid-semester exams and projects...and Colin this week. I'd only been home to sleep most nights and couldn't remember actually checking my email. "I've been busy." I said defensively.

"Uh huh." Stormy said with amusement in her voice. She was the only one I'd given any real details about Colin and I to, although I'd sent a few pictures of the gang to everyone. "Just check your email and call me back." Click.

"Strange." I said looking at the phone. Colin looked at me questioningly from the sink where he was washing the dishes. "Stormy - told me to check my email. Here I though someone was in the hospital and she's ragging on me about my email." I explained to him.

Colin gave me a lopsided grin and pointed a soapy finger to the living room. "The computer's in there." he said knowing I'd want to find out what was going on.

I gave him a kiss on the cheek and narrowly avoided his soapy hands as I squirmed away from his playful touch. I booted up the computer and waited for my email to come up. After deleting a lot of spam, skimming through about five emails from Stormy mostly entitled "Well.....?", I found the root of Stormy's call. Tony had emailed the group like usual and was hoping to come to France in December.

I reread the email several times while considering how to reply. Of course I wanted to see Tony and I would love for all my friends to meet...well all my friends but I hadn't told Tony that Colin and I had started seeing each other. I hadn't even really told Ruby until she'd flat out asked me once how things were with Colin. I'd told Ruby she could tell Boris if she felt like it or it came up but I had no idea if it had. But Tony....I couldn't find the words to tell him without possibly hurting him. But if he came here it would be obvious and it would be better knowing in advance wouldn't it?

I must have taken sometime because I heard Colin come up behind me. He put his arms around me and leaned down, kissing my neck. "Trouble at home?" he asked between kisses.

"Mmmm" I moaned in response. I shook my head to clear away the fog his kisses were creating. "It's Tony, he's taking leave for the holidays and wants to visit France for a week." I said.

"So, tell him to come." Colin said still kissing my neck. "Unless you don't want him to." he said pausing and looking at me.

"No it's not that. It just might be awkward. Ex-boyfriend, new boyfriend." I said with a faint smile.

"Ahh. Well I'll behave. A perfect gentleman." he said. I smiled and gave him a kiss then sent him to get a movie ready while I replied.

"To: Stormy, Ruby, Tony and Boris

It's good to hear from you Tony! Congratulations on doing so well, I'm so proud of you. Of course I'd love to have you visit in France! Classes end the second week of December. We have the Winter Ball on on the 16th. Anytime in the last two weeks of the month would be a great time.

Ruby, I hope your family is well - I want new pictures of those babies! Boris - same goes for you! If you are lacking a camera, I can give you plenty of recommendations ;).

Stormy - I hope Sunny is well. I hope you are well of course too. I'm gonna go watch a movie now so I'll call you back later.

Much love! I miss you all!

As I pushed the send button, I made a mental note to either call Tony or email him privately. I still didn't know how to tell him exactly but he should know before he came out. Maybe Stormy would have some ideas. I pulled out my phone as the computer was shutting down and silenced it. Then I walked over to the couch and curled against Colin.

"All right?" he asked. I smiled in return and nodded. Then I kissed him. "Not that I'm complaining, but this is not watching the movie." he said.

I shrugged and tossed the remote on the coffee table and resumed kissing him.

Eventually we did start the movie but it was so late by then that we fell asleep in each others' arms on the sofa. When I woke up the next morning, I was laying in Colin's bed. I couldn't remember having come in here and scrunched up my face as I tried to remember the night before. I had a vague recollection of being carried in here by Colin. The bed was empty except for me though so where was Colin. I quietly opened to bedroom door and saw him curled up on the couch with a thin throw over him. This was the first time I'd stayed the whole night for any reason. 'Gentleman to the core' I though as I retrieved a better blanket for him and carefully drapped it over him. I retrieved my phone and went up to Sean's room. I knew Amelie had some clothes here and I hoped I could find at least a new shirt. Once I found one, I returned to Colin's room and freshened up and changed.

I was about to call Stormy back after calculating the time difference in my head when Colin popped his head in the door. "Morning beautiful." he said leaning against the door frame.

"You could have slept in the bed you know." I said smiling at him. He had a fine layer of morning stubble on his face which I instantly loved.

He shrugged. "It's a comfortable couch." he said as he stretched his back.

I laughed. "Yes you look like you slept well" I said sarcastically. "Come here." I said and he walked over to me. I turned him around and started rubbing the kinks out of his back and shoulders.

After a couple minutes, he turned back towards me and captured my mouth with his. I stepped back and found myself pressed against the bed. Unwilling to let go of him, we both tumbled onto his bed together, still kissing.

My phone, still silenced, lit up with an incoming call from Stormy but I didn't see it as I was busy.

She called three more times before I finally noticed and remember to turn my ringer back on. I waited until I'd left Colin's house and was back home before finally calling her back. "How do I tell Tony?" I asked as way of greeting.

"Tell Tony what?" she asked.

"About Colin and" I replied.

"You haven't told him?" she sounded surprised.

"No." I said with a sigh. "I don't want to hurt him."

"Well this is gonna sting, but I suspect he'd be more hurt that you didn't come to him as a friend if he's surprised by the news when he arrives." Stormy said. She was always so logical.

"I know that, so I repeat - how do I tell him?" I asked.

"I don't know Molly!" Stormy said. "So how was the movie?" she asked and I could hear amusement in her voice.

"No idea." I said. When she finished laughing because of her assumptions - whatever they were - I concluded. "We fell asleep. He carried me to his bed and then slept on the couch."

"Why'd he sleep on the couch?" she asked.

"He's a gentleman?" I suggested. "We haven't..." I trailed off.

"OOH" Stormy said understanding. "Okay girl, tell Tony! But it's about 4AM here and I have fishing to do." she said.

I laughed. "Okay, Have a good catch!" I said and clicked the phone shut. "Tell Tony...right." I said to myself.

I booted up my laptop and didn't see a reply from Tony or anyone else. Part of me thought this would be better coming as a phone call but if it was 4AM in Crescent Bay, it was too early to call Tony. I opened up a new email and addressed it to Tony only.

"Dear Tony," I typed. Then I stared at the computer willing the words to come to me.

"I hope this email doesn't affect your plans to visit. I would very much love to see you but before you come I want you to know that I recently started dating someone; Colin actually. I'm sorry if this pains you in any way - you must know I would never wish that...

I will always love you Tony, as my first love and as a best friend. So I hope you still want to come but if not I do understand. Please stay safe and be well!


I stared at the email for several minutes before finally clicking the send button. And it was gone. I really hoped he would be okay and would still come to visit.


It was great seeing all my friends again. I still have strong feelings for Molly, even though we have not been a couple in over a year; I never really wanted to let go.
So I called Molly to see if she wanted to meet me for a movie and then Dinner. “Sure that would be nice how about Saturday.” Molly responded.

On Friday I spent the day with Stormy, Boris, Ruby and Molly.
We all met at Ruby’s house again, I still could not get over how much Ruby had changed within the year; she was great as a Mother and wife. I could not help but picture Molly and I in place of her and Axel, every tender moment they shared how good they were with the kids, the looks they shared as though they had a deep conversation without saying a word.

We all sat around talking for a few hours, Boris got a chance to really open up on his adventures in China, a few time Boris would tear up, but he would soon tell a joke in the mist of his story and get us laughing. Stormy and Molly talked about Stormy’s visit to France, the name Colin came up more than once, I could not help but notice the look on Molly’s face when Colin’s name was mentioned but I just let it go for the moment.

Ruby and Axel were great hosts, I felt as though I was home. We played games ate a great dinner and played more games. Boris and I did not want to talk much about his trip to the base around the others; we though the less they knew about it the better, for everyone’s safety.

Before going home for the night I saw Stormy go out side for some air, I followed, “so do you think Molly and I have a chance?” I asked Stormy. Stormy looked at me placing one hand on my shoulder and said “Molly loves you very much Tony, I don’t know if you and Molly will get back together or if the two of you will find love with someone else. But one thing I do know, Molly is and will always be your first love, no one or nothing will ever change that.”

When Saturday arrived I was somewhat nervous about going out with Molly alone, we had been out many times before as a couple during high school, but never as just friends.
I picked Molly up at her house around six O’clock, she looked stunning, the way she walked, talked, the sparkle in her eyes, the tone of her voice I was captivated by her beauty.

We arrived at the movies a few minutes before the show started, I ask Molly if she wanted Popcorn or anything, “I’ll just share one with you” she said with a loving tone in her voice. I sat there with Molly sharing a box of popcorn with my arm around her shoulders, not sure if it was out of habit, or we were caught up in the moment. We sat there not saying a word, although I could not tell you what the movie was about, I had Molly on my mind the entire time.

After the movie we went to dinner,

I had lobster while Molly had some dish I could not pronounce, I had to find out about Colin so I asked Molly if she was dating, “No, I’m not dating anyone” Molly responded with that not so sure crack in her voice. I knew Molly would not lie to me but there was something not being said so I rephrased the question.
Tony: “Is or was there something going on with you and Colin?”
Molly: “Colin is a good friend, there is something special about him, but I told him I was not ready to date anyone.”

I knew there was more to that statement she made, as I became silent feeling as though someone hit me in the heart with a hammer. Molly picked up on my hurt reaction but there was nothing she could say to comfort me. She wanted to tell me there was nothing, she only loved me but Molly could not lie to me. Trying to recover from the awkward moment I changed the subject. “So can you believe Ruby has a family of her own?”
Molly relieved with the new conversation laughed “No, it’s hard to believe.”

I did not bring up Colin any more during my visit at home with my family and friends.
But I did talk to my dad about how I still had feelings for Molly. “I like Molly a lot and think she is good for you son but; if you truly love Molly let her go. If she is for you; she will come back to you, and if not; it was not meant to be, don’t forget you and Molly ended the relationship over a year ago for a very good reason nothing has changed, the reason is still there.” My father said in a stern voice, yet out of love he reminded me, not what I wanted to hear, But I knew he was right.

The remainder of my time was spent at the beach, visiting, and playing at the park with my friends, I did not see my father much as this was his business busy time of the year, but we got together when he could and cooked a few stakes out in the back yard.
There were still a few awkward moments between Molly and I however.

It’s now late July. The time came for me to depart back to base everyone came over to see me off. I was sad to leave my friends but each of us renewed the pack we made that we would try and get together once a year. My father honked his horn rolled down the window “Lets get a move on soldier or you will miss your plane.” he shouted with a smile. I hugged each one of my friends looked at them and said “I’ll do a better job keeping in touch this time I promise.”

Molly: “Please do; I worry and miss you so much when I don’t hear form you.”
Boris: “you’d better!”
Stormy: “I hope so, Love you Tony!”
Ruby: “Now that I have your email, I’ll send you pictures of the family.”

I smiled at them as I got into the car and waved as my father drove off, looking back out the window as we drove away, I can see in their eyes they all felt the sadness I felt.

Upon My return back to base I decided to tryout for the Special Forces, the tryouts would be tough and was held from September through November. During the Month of August I trained as hard as I could morning noon and night,

Ruby held true to her word and sent me pictures of her family; I showed them off as though they were my own Family.
I also did a better job keeping in touch sending emails when I could to everyone.
And more training.

Doc. Lian, had to do and evaluation on everyone that was trying out for the Special Forces, again with the personal questions. She asked me about family and friends again, she seems to pay special attention to Molly, of course I told her everything truthfully.

Later during the evaluation she asked me have I let go my relationship with Molly, I could not see how that was part of the evaluation so I asked “why?” She responded “I need to know how well you can use good judgment, most people over time should be able to let go and move on, you will see and experience thing that will require the ability.” She also added “You need to let go and move on, I’m sure she has.”

Tony: “Maybe she has, now you are starting to sound like my father, he also told me the same thing.” Lian smiled and said “Your father sounds like a very smart man; maybe I can help you get over her, that’s if you would like my help.”

Tony: “I don’t know what you have in mind however; I think I can manage it on my own when I’m ready.”

Well I assume I passed the evaluation seeing I was scheduled to tryout in November. I spent September and October training as hard as I could.
Dear, Boris, Stormy, Molly and last but not least Ruby.

It’s now late October; I will start my tryouts for the Special Forces next month. I know it will be hard but I will give it all I have. I will not have access to a computer until I’m done in late November as the tryouts last 3 weeks.

I just don’t want you to worry seeing you will not hear from me in a month, but as soon as I get back to base, I’ll contact you all. Wish me luck.

Love Tony

I smiled as I pushed the send button.

November Arrived, I thought I was prepared; it was the most difficult 3 weeks I’d ever spent. Six hundred men would tryout only three hundred would be selected to the next round that would start next year.
We were divided into teams of five men, there were many missions we had to accomplish some rescue.

However; the one I remember most was to carry our gear and jeep equipment weighing 600 pounds for fifty two miles we were given 28 hours to complete.

We were given two tires, some wood and string. We built a cart with what tools we had, the terrain was rough, and there were hills, swamps, and wooded areas we had to push through, after 10 hours straight of toting our equipment we had very little strength left. We pushed on till we got to the swamp. The cart weighing 600 plus pounds got stuck, the men were drained, and the mosquitoes were unbearable; what little strength we had left the mosquitoes sucked right out of us, sweat; pouring through our pores seem to attract them even more like vultures they surrounded us.

We struggled but we were able to lift the cart and carry it through the swamp. Stumbling and falling into the murky water infested with mosquitoes Brian collapsed out of exhaustion. “Leave me behind.” Brian said as though it was his last breath.

Jim: “Yeah, I give up, sorry guys I’m with Brian”
Tony: “We leave no one behind, one hour rest and we push on, we will make it in time!”

I really did not know how we would make it; we only went 20 miles no strength left in our bodies but we pushed on.

One mile left to go, 1 hour left and Brian passed out and Jim collapsed. I reconfigured the cart as fast as I could, with two men in the back and I in the front, we put Brian and Jim on top of the cart with most of the weight toward the front I could feel my feet blister; I looked deep inside me and found strength to push on. With every step I took a tear ran down my face from the pain, I could feel my socks soaked as the blisters on my feet opened from the weight.

We kept going and made it with two minutes to spare, yes there were other teams that made it before we did, and I think the team with the best time had 3 plus hours to spare. I did not stick around for the celebration of all the teams that made it on time. I went for medical attention.

The next day I limped over to look and see if my team had advanced to the next round that would take place next year. “Yes! We made it!” I felt a tear roll down my cheek, not from pain but that we did it! The next day we went back to base.

Lian: “I’m very impressed with your ability to make it through your training on your first try. Some try three or four times without success.” She stated with pride in her voice.

Tony: “It was not because of my training, nor was it because of my strength, but my friends that I mad it.” “Your friends, what did they have to do with it?” Lian asked with a puzzle look upon her face.

Tony: “I pictured each member of my team as one of my friends back home, I know they would never let me down, one of them you know and his name is Boris, he put his life in danger to help me out. I know in my heart each of them would bleed for me and I for them, I would not and could not let them down.” Tony explained.

Tony: “This is what drove me, not my duty for my country, nor my strength; but my love for my friends.”

Lian: “was one of them Molly?” she asked in hope I would say no.

Tony: “Yes, one of them was Molly; there were five members to a team.” “You need to forget about her, you really need to move on you know. Or do you still love her?” Lian asked out of jealousy.

Tony: “Although we have not been a couple in over a year; Molly will always be a part of my life, we, the five of us made a pack over a year ago, and I will honor that pack till death. I will be there for her no matter what, you play the hand you are dealt. If it’s not in the cards that Molly and I should be a couple so be it.”

Lian: “you avoided the question Anthony, do you love her.” Yes, I always will, if not as a lover than a friend. Nothing and no one will ever change that.” Tony answered, it was then that Tony realized that Molly will always be special to him, and he needed to be there for her.

I went back to my room, and wrote an email informing them I would be home in December.

Hiay Boris, Stormy, Ruby and Molly

Happy late birthday Stormy, Ruby and Boris, wish I could have been there.
Maybe we can still do something together.

I will be home in December for a few weeks maybe more depending. My plans are to spend a few weeks with you three and spend a week in France with Molly if she accepts. Yes; Molly I’m asking if it’s ok to come see you and your friends.
I will arrive home Dec. 1, and have to return to base on Jan 3. I’ll let you pick what week Molly if your answer is yes.

P.S. Love you all miss you much,
By-the-way I made it through the first round of tryouts!


The night before going home I sat at my laptop and checked my emails; there were emails from Boris, Stormy, Ruby, Molly and my dad. I read my dad’s first he would not be home had to go to China on business, “so what’s new?” I thought, but the email that hit me the hardest was the last one I read from Molly.
I read and reread her email how she was now dating and hoped I still come to visit.

“Yeah right, kill that noise! I ain’t going to no freaking France!” I said out loud. I looked at it again hoping I had misread it but nope; it still said the same thing. After looking at the email for another hour and a half I gently closed the lap top picked it up and threw it into the wall.

Later that night I could not sleep all I could see was Molly in Colin’s arms although I did not know what he looked like. I lay in bed for a few more hours looking up at the ceiling and though about how the doctor and my dad told me I need to let go and how much I love Molly. The next morning before I departed for home I stopped in the office. Got on the computer and wrote an email to Molly.


Hi Molly sweetheart,

Don’t be silly of course I still want to come and visit you and your friends.
That’s good news about you and Colin, I’m so happy for you!
I am and will always be your friend, thanks for informing me before I arrived that would have been a little awkward for
Seeing I don’t have a date for the Ball; I’ll come the last week of December..lmao

I should arrive around the 26th of December and leave for the Base on New Years Eve morning.
I’m really looking forwarded to meeting Colin and your friends.

Love you always,

End of Email:

I realized Molly will always be special to me, and I have to adjust to her dating; you see I need Molly in my life, if I can’t be her lover than I’ll be the best friend I could be. Not going to lie and say I’m not hurting inside, but I’ll never show it to Molly, my friends nor my family.


Being with my friends last week was wonderful. I look forward to next year. I rather enjoyed the idea that each of us planned a day. It was a lot of fun and full of surprises. When I'm with them nothing else matters. I would do anything for my friends. Anything.

We met again at Ruby and Axel's house that Friday. Can you believe Ruby and Axel slipping away upstairs yesterday, for some afternoon delight when guests were expected to arrive. I'm glad to see them so much in love, though. I wish them the best. They were the consummate hosts! They opened their home and made us feel more a part of the family. Axel and I have been close all our lives, but he and Ruby made the others feel like siblings as well.

I think Tony suggested meeting at Ruby's because he wanted to hold the babies again. He will make a fantastic father some day. I just hope he and Molly can work out whatever is going on between them. The look he gets in his eye when he looks at her, is the same look she gets when she mentions Colin. I can't help but wonder if Tony noticed.

And Stormy. She appears to be so strong on the outside, but I can sense there is more going on than she is willing to admit.

"Hey, Stormy, can I talk to you over here for a second?"

"Sure, Boris, what's up?

" I may be wrong, But I think you have a lot going on in your life right now. Perhaps too much. How would you like to bring Sunny out to my place in Riverview for a couple weeks in July? Just to chill."

Stormy took some time to think it over before responding. "You know, I'm going to take you up on that offer, Boris. I think it would be great for Sunny to experience new places. The country will be a new experience for her, and I could probably use some down time myself. I will have to ask dad to make sure it is ok to bring Sunny along, of course."

"Great, let's plan the first two weeks of July. Let me know if that doesn't work for you and we can arrange something else. I'll ask Molly is she'd like to come out for a small Independence Day celebration, if she's not busy."

"Thanks, Boris. This all sounds great. I hope Molly can make it. It would be fun to have her there."

We checked calendars and everything seemed to be working in our favor for a change.

I went to seek out Molly to extend my invitation.

"Hey, Molly, Stormy is coming to spend a couple weeks with me in Riverview. If you're not busy for the holiday, we'd love to have you come out for a quiet, casual celebration."

"Thanks for the invitation, Boris. It sounds like fun. I'll have to check my calendar. I'd better check with Mom and Dad, also. Make sure they didn't make plans I'm not aware of."

"No problem. The invitation is open. I'll send you the address and directions if you should decide to come out."

We had a good time that evening. Ruby has been more relaxed around groups of people. It could be that she just feels comfortable with us, or that the triplets have had an effect! In any case, it is great to see her enjoying herself more and more. Axel is still a kid at heart and will probably never grow up. He has a penchant for games, and Ruby falls right in with him. And I thought I was the geek! Guess I'm just a nerd, after all. I still prefer my books and computers over their heady games.

Tony and Molly made plans for a date on Saturday. I'm still waiting to hear how that turned out. Their relationship seems to be drifting. But in the end, I know we will all remain strong and be there for each other.

I began making plans for my excursion to Riverview with Mao and Ning. The house is ready, so all that is left is the packing. I'll have to have baby furniture delivered to the house. Mao has been a Godsend during these last few weeks. I would not have made it without his strength and assistance. Every time I look at Ning, I see Jing in his eyes. The sting of losing her has begun to lessen, but remains nonetheless. I must keep myself occupied.

Mao had taken it upon himself to pack the car and obtain a suitable car seat for Ning. I think I would be lost without him. He thinks of the smallest little details, that one could easily overlook, especially if their mind is elsewhere. I dread the day he decides to return to China. We arrived in Riverview a day before Stormy was expected to arrive. This would give us a chance to open up the house and get the bedding changed and the rest of the house ready for guests. Stormy had told us that Sunny loves to paint, so I left the art studio the way Martin had left it. One of Martin's paintings still rests on one of the easels. I will have to get that hung one of these days.

Stormy arrived the following morning with Sunny. I'm sure she didn't have too much trouble convincing her father to let Sunny come along. "I'm so glad you made it. And Sunny too."

"Thanks again for inviting us, Boris," Stormy says as they embrace.

"Hi Boris!" Sunny waves with a big grin that stretches from ear to ear.

"We're glad to have you and Sunny. Let Mao and I help you with your bags. We'll show you to your room and allow you some time to get settled. Mao and I will be in the garden. It's a bit overgrown since the caretaker was last here."

"Great, Boris. We'll come out to the garden when we're finished unpacking. This is a lovely home. How did you ever come across it?" Stormy asked with genuine interest.

"Believe it or not, I found it in an online listing. It was as if it were placed there specifically for me."

A short while later, Stormy and Sunny found their way to the garden. Stormy was carrying a squirming little bundle. "I hope you don't mind my bringing Ning out here, but I heard some whimpering and found him awake in his bed. He is the cutest thing, Boris!"

I laughed. "I'm sure Ning appreciates a woman's attention, after ending up in a house full of men." We walked back into the house and as we ascended the stair to lay Ning back in his bed, we noticed Sunny at the easel in the back yard. We stepped out on to the second floor balcony and watched as she happily sloshed paint onto the canvas.

"She seems to have made herself at home already, Boris."

"I'm glad. I was worried that she would not find anything enjoyable to do here. There are a couple game consoles in the game room, as well as a VR headset. I hope she likes the selection of games."

"I'm sure she will. Besides we brought a few of her toys and some coloring books."

Stormy lovingly placed Ning back in his bed. I couldn't help but notice that she was a natural with children. She will be a loving and caring mother. I imagine Sunny is grateful for a sister like Stormy. All the cooing that was done over Ruby and her new found skills as a mother kind of overshadowed Stormy and Molly. Now I see Stormy will be every bit the doting mother Ruby is. I'm not too keen on all the details of their mother's situation, but I do know that she is in an institution. I am not one to pry. I'm sure Stormy will tell me if and when she's ready. And to think this is the same person who I met at summer camp all those years ago. Then digging in our trash cans. I had to stifle a chuckle inward. Stormy gave me an inquiring look as I failed to stifle the chuckle and laughed aloud.

What's so funny?"

As I explained about the trash cans, we both burst into laughter over how ridiculous she had looked, digging through the them. I've never told anyone, but I used to sit in wait for Stormy. when I would see her sneaking up towards the garage, I would sneak around the corner and put some nice things in the trash can for her. My family never missed them.

The next day, I volunteered to play tour guide to show Stormy and Sunny around Riverview. We went through town and did a little shopping. I picked out a couple video games that Sunny seemed to think she'd like. We visited the park, the library, the quaint art gallery, and found our way back to the fish hatchery. I could see Stormy's eyes light up and a grin stretch across her face when she realized the vast varieties of fish available here. I had obtained a permit for her to fish there if she so wishes.

The whole while Sunny was keeping us entertained as she talk about this and that.

I had even pointed out the prime locations for catching deathfish and robot fish. It is kind of eerie knowing the best (and only) spot for deathfish is right off the point at the cemetery. Makes you wonder what's in the water there. By the same token, robot fish can be found just off the shore at the science lab.

I invited Stormy and Sunny to the Bistro for dinner. We instead returned home after the tour. Sunny was tired from the day's activities. Personally, I think she wanted to get into the games I had purchased for her. Mao volunteered to look after Sunny and get her something to eat. He encouraged us to go to dinner at the local bistro as previously planned.

We arrived before the dinner crowd, which, these days, consisted more of tourists than townsfolk. There has been a marked increase in tourist activity here in the last few months. In the end, the town officials are happy with the revenue generated. As we were about to enter the bistro to order our meals, we were hailed by a couple of men who had just rounded the corner of the building. It was the Chief of Police, George Dean, and his son Beau.

I introduced everyone and Stormy boldly asked them join us. "I'm pleased to meet you. Won't you join us for dinner?" she asked of George.

"Thank you, no, we don't mean to intrude," George said in reply. Beau remained silent, nodding in agreement.

"Nonsense," I interjected. "We would be pleased to have the two of you join us. This is Stormy's first time to Riverview. You wouldn't be very good hosts, if you didn't welcome her properly," I winked towards Beau. Stormy saw this and gave me a playful jab in the ribs with her elbow. I could tell from her quick stern look towards me that I would hear about it later.

"In that case," Beau said, finally speaking. "We would be honored to join you. Please let me treat you to dinner as a form of apology."

"No need Beau," I countered, "everything has been taken care of. Order whatever you wish." We placed our orders and found a table. It was a very pleasant dinner. Stormy seemed very comfortable around George and Beau. In fact, she hit it off very nicely with Beau.

Stormy and I made our way home after dinner, as George and Beau made their apologies and excused themselves. It was a wonderful dinner and I was stuffed. I planned to curl up with a good book. Or maybe a not so good book. A book, nonetheless. Stormy had collapsed on the sofa in the living room next to Sunny, who was intently playing her games. Mao had excused himself to go check on Ning, while I headed to the library to search for a book to pass the time. Just as I was about to pull "Not Expecting Much" off the shelf, the doorbell rang.

I opened the door to find Beau standing there. "Is there something wrong, Beau?"

"Oh, no, Boris. I was just passing by on my rounds and thought I would check in on you."

I had seen this scene played out many times in old movies. I suppressed a chuckle and invited him in. "Would you like something to drink?"

"No, thank you. I was wondering... Do you think... Perhaps I could..." Here it comes, I thought to myself.

"If you'd like to speak with Stormy, she's in the living room," I smiled and nodded toward the door as I turned toward the library and my book. Beau is a good sort. A bit on the daring side, but a nice guy all the same. Perhaps he and Stormy will hit it off and become friends, if nothing else. I did not notice when he had left, but a short while later, Stormy came into the Library.

"You're going to pay for that little "wink" at the Bistro, Boris. Don't think I didn't notice," she said as a crease began to form between her eyes.

"I have no idea what you're talking about!" I feigned my innocence. "I don't know what you thought you saw."

"You know damned well what I'm talking about. Don't play the fool with me. I don't need a matchmaker, thank you very much," Stormy quipped, as a small, almost unnoticeable smile betrayed her anger.

"Oh, you're sadly mistaken if you think I would attempt to set YOU up with anyone. I'll leave the matchmaking to Molly and Ruby," I retorted, grinning from ear to ear.

"Well, I'll decide who I will see, and when I'm ready to see them. Just keep your matchmaking skills to yourselves," Stormy chuckled. "It's been a long day, I'm going to check on Sunny, then turn in. See you in the morning, Boris."

That weekend Molly drove up to spend Independence day with us. Although we had room in the house, she insisted on staying at a local Bed and Breakfast. One of the older couples had turned their farm into a Bed and Breakfast as they were no longer able to farm, and had no children to pass the farm down to.

I had some outstanding Nectar in the cellar that Dad had given me as a house-warming gift. Mao suggested serving it for the occasion. Who better to share it with than my friends. If I didn't know any better, I'd say Molly has had her share of nectar, the way she drank it without so much as pursing her lips. I suppose living in France affords her ample opportunity to sample the sweet draught.

Uncle Hector helped Mao acquire some fireworks from China. Uncle Hector has become good friends with the special merchant, Bao Louie, and it seems they've been assisting each other with market certain products. I daren't ask what. Mao was delegated as the pyrotechnic engineer, as he has had experience with fireworks in the past. He would light the fuse and run back and cover his ears. It was really quite amusing. Every rocket went off without a hitch.

We were fortunate enough to have a clear sky as a backdrop for the beautiful displays of color. The spent rockets would come tumbling back towards the earth, only to be swallowed by the river.

Sunny was captivated by the exploding rockets, splashing their colors across the night sky, just as she does on canvas.

It couldn't have been more perfect.

Only later did I find out that the entire town watched from the park as they held their annual Independence Day celebration. Mao and I were approached by civic leaders and asked to provide the fireworks in the years to come. As we were not permanent residents of Riverview, we could make no promises.

"That's a beautiful painting, Sunny," I praised as I walked toward the easel she was busily splashing with color.

"Thanks you, Boris!" she responded with a giggle. Sunny began talking my ear off. Boy can she talk. She is so full of energy and life, I can see why Stormy loves her so much.

"I hope you enjoyed your stay here. Mao and I really loved having you and Stormy visit."

"I love it here. I want to thank you for putting an easel out here by the pond. It's so pretty here by the river."

"You and Stormy will be leaving tomorrow."

"Yes, I know," Sunny says with a small pout. "I don't really want to go, but my mom needs me. My sister says I make her smile, but I don't see her smile much," she pauses momentarily in thought, then resumes painting, uncharacteristically quiet.

"I can understand that. We enjoyed having you and Stormy visit us. You can always come to visit again."

"Yay! I hope we can very soon!"

The next morning Stormy and Sunny packed up their belongings and headed back to Crescent Bay. Mao and I took one more day to close up the house properly. It was a fun two weeks. I'm glad Stormy, Sunny and Molly were able to make it.

Shortly after returning home, it was time to say our good-byes to Tony and Molly. We all met at Tony's house to wish him well. It's a good thing Tony lives at the end of a road into the hills, as we probably looked silly standing in the street entangled in a group hug. When Tony's father told him to get a move on, Tony "snapped to," without a hesitation. The action was so precise and looked really sharp! Shortly after Tony's departure, Molly returned back to France.

The rest of the summer was uneventful, except for one week that I accompanied Mao back to China to tie up a couple loose ends on Jing's estate. We have planned a funeral service in January, and will be returning to China then. Dad (Achilles) and Uncle Hector are planning on accompanying us. I will have to find someone to care for Ning while we're gone. I don't dare leave him with "Demon Dad" (Damon), as he'd have poor Ning drinking nectar from his bottle, his diapers secured with duct tape, or maybe something worse.

In September, classes started up again. I am extremely grateful to Mao for deciding to stay around and help raise Ning. In late October, we got an email from Tony. I quickly shot off a response, copying the ladies, hoping he would get it before he left for his Special Forces tryouts.

Hey Tony,

Good luck on the tryouts. We'll be with you every step of the way, buddy. You can count on that.

Look forward to hearing how it all went, although we already know you made it.

Love, Boris

Ruby, Stormy and myself all have birthdays during the first few days in November. This year we decided to celebrate together. A new Botanical Garden opened the beginning of November. We've decided to make a day trip of the garden, followed by dinner and a movie.

We arrived just as the gates were opened. The morning air was crisp. The sky clear. We entered and went directly to the information center.

"Good morning. My name is Lloyd. I am the garden director. How may I help you?"

"Can you tell us about the garden? What will we find here?" I asked.

"This garden is an attempt, in a small way, to bring the world to Crescent Bay," he began. "Of course the size of the park poses limits on what can be exhibited. We have some of the finest species of plants, fishes and insects.

"Here's a guide for the garden," he continued as he handed each of us a guide. "In it you will find information on each region's display, including plants, insects and fishes. Inside the back cover is a map for your convenience. If you begin down the path behind you there, you will enter the African region. If you follow the walk around the outer edge, it will take you to the European region. then on to the Asian region and lastly to the native region in the corner behind me."

"Thank you, Lloyd. You've been most helpful. Which way shall we head first ladies?" I asked turning to Stormy and Ruby.

"Let's just start with the African region," Ruby offered.

"Sure, let's just start there and make our way around," Stormy agreed. She loved this garden most of the three of us. She is so "at home" in the outdoors. "I want to take it all in."

We began our trek in the African Region. As we took turns reading from the guide as we walked along, one of us would point out this tree or that fish. Ruby and Stormy were both laughing at my excitement over viewing the exhibits, but I didn't mind at all. I hoped they were enjoying it as much as I was. As we walked along the outer path, we made our way into the European Region. The guide stated that there was a good chance that we might see the wondrous Glowyfly butterfly from France. Now it was Ruby's turn to get excited. She was stalking about the flora like some big game hunter on a safari. She was so cute; she reminded me of the teenage girl I had met at summer camp! At times she could be so bubbly and full of life!

As we neared the end of the European Region, it was getting close to lunch time. Stormy was the first to say something, "Is anyone else hungry? Man, I could eat one of those crocs back there!"

"Yeah, I'm getting there, too" Ruby added. "Eww, Stormy! I don't know about eating a croc, though!"

I couldn't help but laugh at them. "I saw a grill and a table back in the African region. I brought a lunch. We can sit there and eat it."

We found a bridge that lead to an island in the central pond. Crossing we noticed brightly colored koi from China swimming next to the bridge. It was an exquisite display. The guide stated that the waters in the pond were regulated by computer. The water temperature varied throughout, to better suit the fish of each region. I was more interested in the computerized control of the environment within the park than the actual exhibits. I was going to have to ask more about it on our return to the Information Center.

As we reached the island, we stopped to take in the fountain in the water. Ruby took the moment to call home to check on the triplets! I think she was more concerned for Axel, than the babies, to be honest. Of course they were fine, but she need the reassurance for her peace of mind.

There was a nice cool breeze coming across the water to the island. It felt refreshing. Although it was November, it was quite warm. We had dressed in jackets and long sleeves as the morning was quite chilly.

Crossing another bridge on the other side, we noticed the floating candles in the water. A very nice touch. Lloyd had told us that the garden would constantly be going through changes and upgrades as time and funding allowed. I thought the park was very well laid out.

We made our way back to the African Region and found the table and grill. I proceeded to grill our lunch while Stormy and Ruby talked about what they had seen so far; pointing out their favorites in each region. The conversation eventually turned to their summer activities. I heard Ruby telling Stormy about how much the trips have grown. Stormy related her visit to Riverview in July. I didn't have anything to add, so I just tended to the grill.

Then, as if prompted, they both commented on how good the food smelled and, in unison, for me to hurry it up and get it on the table.

The grilled onions made my eyes tear up. I hoped Ruby and Stormy didn't see it! How embarrassing that would have been. Ruby is the emotional one, not me! To add to it, the smoke was stinging my eyes, thus adding to the teariness. I may be a good cook, but grilling is just not for me. What was I thinking? Next time I will bring a cold lunch, or someone else gets the grill.

The grilled cheese steaks turned out perfectly. After lunch we made our way around to the Asian Region. I wanted to see the bamboo jungle most of all. We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of an Assassin Beetle. We had to end out visit at that point as it was getting late and we had reservations for dinner. We got one of the tourist to take a group in front of the bamboo forest.

We made our way out of the garden and headed home. I dropped them both off at their houses and proceeded on home to change clothes for dinner. After dinner we headed out to a spaghetti western at the theater.

Later in the month, I received messages from Tony and Molly. I sat down and answered them straight away:

Tony, Molly, Ruby and Stormy,

Thanks for the birthday wishes, Tony! We'll have to find some time when you're home in December. Let us know when you arrive.

Great news, getting through the first round. I had no doubt you'd make. You know we're with you all the way. We'll carry you to the end, buddy. Albert Einstein once said, "Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile." I believe there is a lot of truth to those words between the five of us.

Ever the cheery one, eh, Molly? Please fill me in on the cameras. I'm not much with one, yet, but I have purchased some books that are very helpful. any advice you can give would be appreciated.

Ruby and Stormy, I'll call and maybe we can get together for lunch.

PS. I've enclosed a picture of Ning and Stormy. Told you I wasn't very good with a camera (no code to hack)! :P


Chapter Three, Part One – Ruby

Having the gang over last month was so fun. I loved being able to open up my home to them. I could tell they had just as much fun as I did.

It was so great to see how much Molly and Stormy loved holding the babies. I can see they will make such great mothers.

I got a phone call from Mom about our plans for the Fourth of July. She wanted Axel and I to come over if we weren't busy. "Oh, come on Mom." I said whining. "You know I hate gatherings. I don't think I could find a sitter anyway."

"Oh, you're bringing them here. So you don't need a sitter. Now you are out of excuses. You're coming. Enough said." Mom stated matter of factly.

"Alright, but I am inviting Axel's family too. It's only proper that we include them too." I felt bad that they had gotten on the wrong foot.

"Why do you want to associate yourself with that riff-raff?" She asked smugly.

"Mom! They are my family too. Please be nice to them." I hated when she got all self-righteous on me.

"Alright, you can invite them. but I am only doing it for you. Any other time...absolutely not!" she was adamant.

Seeing as how this was our first, “official” family event, I wanted it to be somewhat fun. Damon had “acquired” some fireworks from “somewhere” and said he would have no trouble providing them for the night. I thought it best not to ask too many questions and just say “thanks”. I spent a good portion of that afternoon making finger foods and getting the babies cleaned and ready. Axel was working later tonight, but said he wouldn’t be able to stay long. “Awww…can’t you at least stay for the fireworks? It’s our first “family” night, plus your bosses are here...Surely they won’t mind you being a bit tardy.” I gave him my best pouty look that usually wins him over. “Alright honey, I’ll ask Dad if I can go in later. Man, you women and your dirty tricks.” He said with a flirty wink. I just gave him a playful smack on the butt and said. “Thanks Honey!”

I called Mom and told her we were on our way. Its tough getting three babies and all their gear into one little car, we really need to think about upgrading. Bigger kids mean more stuff to lug around.

We pulled into the driveway, and I could see Mom rushing out to meet us.

She ran right past Axel and I and grabbed Celia. “Nice to see you too, Mom” I said as I rolled my eyes. “Oh, you...It’s not every day I get to see my precious grandbabies.”

She proceeded to cover Celia in kisses. Dad came out and gave me a hug. “It’s good to see Ruby.” He said as he kissed my cheek. “You look great. I see motherhood agrees with you.” He turned to Axel, “You taking care of my baby girl?” They shook hands as Axel said, “I am trying, Frank. It’s good to see you. You look well.” “Thanks, my boy. I joined the Crescent Bay Gym a few weeks back. Vanessa thought I was spending too much time working and stressing. She thought it would be a good way to relieve some of it. And you know what?” he whispered low, “She was right. But don’t tell her that. It’ll go straight to her head.” They both broke out laughing. I looked over at Axel and just smiled. “Here let me help you carry some of that stuff inside. Mom will be of no help until she sets the baby down.” Dad said as he playfully winked at Mom.

Well, we finally got everything inside; the babies were sleeping in my old room upstairs, when the doorbell rang. “You’re parents are here Axel.” I called to the boys outside. I went to the front door to greet them. Achilles stepped through and greeted me with a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “How are Ruby? You look great!” Returning the hug, “I’m great, Dad! It’s nice to see you again!” Achilles went inside and started chatting with my father about who knows what. “Damon and how are you? I haven’t seen you since the wedding. You look smashing as always.” I love Axels’ parents. They are nice to me. I still don’t know why Mom has such an issue with them. I hope she behaves herself tonight.

We all gathered in the backyard, to relax and enjoy the day. I grilled up some salmon for dinner. And then Mom and I sat and watched the boys play some Foosball. They can be so competitive.

Suddenly it was time. The sky grew dark. Damon brought out his fireworks and lit the first one. It was a beautiful Yellow circle with a green star in the middle. Simply, amazing! Next, he allowed Axel and Achilles to light one each. It was too funny watching these grown men run and cover their ears, like little kids and their toys.

We spent the rest of the night around the fire pit. Mom wanted to talk all about her grandbabies and how big they were getting. She was already making so many plans for them and they weren’t even out of diapers yet. I just smiled and nodded. “Yes, Mom.” “Of course, Mom.”

Well, the kids started to get fussy so, I knew it was time to go. Axel and Achilles had to leave for work, so Dad and Damon helped me load up all the kids’ stuff, while Mom helped me with the babies.

“Now Mom, Axel and I are going on a vacation in October, can you watch the babies? We will be gone for two weeks. Will you be okay?” I wasn’t sure if she wanted to watch them for the full two weeks. The triplets can be a handful, but she was overjoyed at the opportunity. “Of course I’ll watch them! I haven’t had any babies around since your sisters. I’ll have them help me, I am sure they will love it. You just let me know all the details later, honey.” “Okay, Mom. Thanks for a great night. I love you.”

August was rather uneventful. Axel worked. His father sent him on a few “errands” to various cities. He doesn’t tell me much about them. I think it’s probably best. He worries about the babies and I. Frankly; I don’t want to know too much. I hate to think of him coming to harm. I guess in the same way a wife worries about her fireman or police husband.

I set my mind to our vacation plans. We were going to Egypt to celebrate our anniversary. I figured October would be a good time. It shouldn’t be as hot, but what do I know about it, really. I was so excited to be able to get away for a few weeks. I love my kids, but they are a handful. And Axel is already talking about having more. Men are incredible…they don’t have to carry these things for nine months and yet they always have the desire for more.

Anyway, we had decided to travel to Egypt this time. It was a nice change from Crescent Bay. My favorite part of the trip was exploring a tomb with Axel. He knew a bit about Egypt and was more than happy to share with me some knowledge of their culture.

Here are some pictures we took of our trip. I hope to send some to the gang. I am sure they’d get a kick out of it.

We enjoyed some time just relaxing at home. You almost need a vacation from your vacation. The next couple weeks were nice. I had my husband all to myself with no distractions from work. Until, one night, the phone rang. He answered it, but took the call in the other room. Out of curiosity or nosiness, I stood outside the door to listen.

“Yes, I understand. Where are we moving it to? Okay, it won’t be a problem. Alright…I’ll see you then. GoodBye.”

I quickly ran back to the living room, before he saw me. “Who was that honey?” I asked innocently. “Dad needs me to do a job tomorrow. It shouldn’t be too bad. So, it’s nothing for you to worry about.” He gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. “You know I worry about you when you go out. I do hope you’ll be careful. If anything were to happen to you… I... I don’t what we would do.” I stood up and pulled him into an embrace. He pushed a strand of hair behind my ear, “I’ll be fine Ruby and don’t worry so much.” He kissed me tenderly on the lips and sat back down. I wondered, but realizing worrying wouldn’t do me any good I joined him on the sofa and cuddled up next to him. We spent the remainder of the night watching old black and white comedies on cable. It helped to ease my mind, for a while anyway.

The following day, I walked Axel to the car. I was carrying Leliana. He kissed her on the forehead, “Bye-Bye Angel. Daddy’s going on a trip. You be good for mommy while I’m gone okay? I love you.” He looked me in the eyes and wiped a tear from my cheek. “Ruby, I love you. You are an amazing woman. Please don’t worry so. I’ll be fine.” He gave me a final kiss on the lips and rode out of the driveway. I waved to him as he made his way down the street and was gone.

Axel arrived at an old factory near the docks. The truck he was waiting for was there as was the driver. Axel got out of his car and walked over to the gentleman.

“Hey, how’s it going?” Axe extended his hand in a friendly gesture. The man took it and shook it with moderate force. “I am good. Are you Mr. Michaels man?”He asked “I am. Is that the truck?” Axel pointed in the direction of the delivery truck. It was disguised as a Repo Service, but what was inside was of vast importance. Axel went to the back of the truck and opened the doors. He looked inside and marveled at what he saw.

“Are we good?” the man asked. “Yeah. We’re good.” Axel said, patting the man on the back. “We will have your payment in the coming days. I’ll contact Mr. Michaels about your good work here.” The man was happy to be rid of his shipment, he had a stinking feeling that they were being watched, but he shrugged it off as nerves. The man got into his vehicle and drove away.

Axel parked his car into an empty garage near the factory and proceeded to get the truck ready for its trip. He didn’t have far to go, but he’d still have to be careful not to make himself too noticeable. He put on the uniform that was in the driver’s seat and started the truck. It started quickly and he was on his way. He kept the truck going at an easy 42 miles an hour. He wasn’t in any particular hurry to reach his destination. Plus, it wouldn’t do to get pulled over for speeding. He turned the radio on and looked for a classic rock station. Finding some Led Zeppelin, he rolled the window down and enjoyed the cool air on his face and skin.

His contact was to meet him outside the local Antique Store. He pulled up. Dimmed his lights and looked for the young man. He saw a figure come out from the shadows. The young man looked around suspiciously and motioned for Axel to drive around the back.

Axel got out of the truck and walked towards the young man. “Hey man.” he said as they shook hands. “Help me unload this stuff.” They got to work unloading the many boxes as quickly as they could. “Do you know what’s in these boxes?” The young man asked, Axel.

“I don’t know and I don’t care. We are here to do our part and get out. No questions asked.” When Axel was working he was all business, no time for mindless chit chat. With the boxes secured in the stockroom, he bid farewell to the young man and proceeded back to the truck. He waved goodbye to the young man and was down the street.

“That wasn’t so bad at all,” Axel thought to himself. He was actually applauding his good fortune when the police lights flashed in his rearview mirror. “Oh hell no!” He said out loud. Axel knew what would happen to him if he got caught, not only from the local flatfoots, but more importantly from Achilles and Damon. He knew he had to make it to the safe house. He floored the truck hoping it could handle itself at a high speed. For such a bulky truck it handled itself fairly well. He engaged the cops on a chase throughout the city.

He was nearing the safe house, but couldn’t let on as to where it was so he passed it. He made a quick call to Damon, “I am being chased by the local cops. I don’t know how they knew about the drop off, but they did. I need a place to lay low.” Axel was calm but anxious. He’d hoped it didn’t show in his voice. “We’ll have a small plane waiting for you at the one of the lesser known airports if you can make it there alright.” Damon replied sternly. “Don’t screw this up boy!” With that the phone was disconnected.

“Great!” Axel said with sarcasm. Now he just had to lose these pests. He had a buddy nearby with a garage. If he could make it there he could ditch the truck. He called his buddy and quickly explained he was coming by and to have a car ready for him. “Don’t screw this up, man. ‘We’ would be disappointed.” He explained in no uncertain terms.

He turned a corner quickly and almost lost control, but the truck righted itself and he sped off again. He could see the garage at the end of the street. He made a beeline for the garage which closed right behind him. He jumped out of the car and grabbed a motorcycle nearby. His friend jumped in the truck and backed out. The cops immediately pursued the truck leaving Axel alone to make his way to the airfield.

Breathing a sigh of relief he made his way unassumingly to the airport. He had hoped his friend would be alright, but hey, sometimes you got to break some eggs, right?

He saw the little plane waiting for him, with the pilot inside. “Where are we heading? Do you know?” Axel asked the little man. “Damon said to take you to France. That’s all he told me.”

Axel was exhausted from his “errand” and kept wondering what Ruby would say. He knew she would be worried sick and then angry. He’d have to contact her soon and ease her mind. For the time begin he settled in the seat and slept.

He awoke a few hours later and noticed they were flying atop a gorgeous scene of clouds and mountains. “How long was I out?” Axel asked the man. “Oh, ‘bout six hours, I guess you were tired. We are almost there." He smiled and looked back towards the window.

“Say, what’s your name, old timer?” Axel asked him. “The names Leon, been flying for the Michaels for 15 years now. They treat me good and I get to travel. Can’t complain, huh?” I nodded, “No I guess not.”

They arrived at small airport in Beziers. “Thanks for the ride, Leon. You are a good man.” They shook hands and Leon was off again. Axel waved at the small plane and then proceeded to find a cab.

“Where’s a good place to stay?” He asked the driver. “My English. Not so good. I sorry. I take you to Hotel des Poetes. No?” The cab driver looked at Axel from the rearview mirror with raised eyebrows. “Sounds good. I’m starved.”

They arrived at a nice hotel in the center of the city. Axel paid the driver handsomely and entered the hotel. He was greeted by a striking man in a suit. “Welcome to Beziers. I hope your trip here was well. What can we do for you today?” Axel shook the man’s hand. “I need a room for a few days, and dinner. I am famished.” The man laughed, “But of course. My staff and I look forward to serving you. Follow me to the counter and we’ll get you all set up. You are American, no?” “Yes...taking a much needed vacation.” Axel answered. Axel signed the ledger as Mr. Jack Burton. “Well, Mr. Burton, everything seems to be in order. I’ll have our boy show you up to your room. Here are you keys; I do hope you enjoy your stay.”

Axel followed the young man to his room. It was a spacious room. The furnishings were very rich and inviting. He immediately paid the young man and thanked him. He sat on the bed and decided to order room service before calling Ruby. It wouldn’t do to call on an empty stomach. He ordered the Grilled Seafood Nicoise and a white wine. He sat back and watched some TV while waiting for his dinner. Travel thousands of miles and they have nothing on the tube. Some things don’t change. He switched it off and gazed out the window. He missed Ruby and his kids. He hoped he could get back to them soon.

There was a knock at the door. He looked out the peephole to see a young lady with his tray of dinner. “Wow! It looks great! Thanks, I am starving. Here you go, my dear.” He tipped her as she took the table and left the room.
He set up the small table in the room and ate. It was delicious and really hit the spot. He then took out his phone and called Achilles. “I’m here. The Hotel des Poetes. Yes, the staff has been very accommodating. I need to call home. I am sure she is worried sick. Yes, I’ll be careful. Thanks for everything. Uh huh. Bye.” He hung up and called his house. He took a deep breath as he heard a worried Ruby answer the phone.


It had been almost a week and I still hadn’t heard anything from Axel. I had no idea where he was, if he was hurt. I hated the not knowing. That’s the worst feeling ever. It was almost 10pm and I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t know who to call. I couldn’t call Mom or Dad, so I called Stormy. She’d know what to say and even if she didn’t it would be good to talk to someone.

I quickly dialed her number and crossed my fingers that she would answer. “Hello?” she sounded like she had been sleeping. “I’m sorry Stormy, did I wake you?”

“No, I was just resting on the sofa. What’s wrong, you sound upset.”

“Axel went on a job five days ago. I haven’t heard anything from him. He would call me by now, at least to tell me not to worry.” I was nearly frantic. I wanted to believe everything was fine and the job was just taking longer than normal. “Aaagh, Stormy why couldn’t he have a normal job like everyone else?”

“Because then he would be like everyone else. And the whole reason you fell in love with him was because he wasn’t. I know it’s tough, sitting around hoping everything is alright, but you have to have faith in him. He has been taught well. He will make it home to you. Be strong Ruby, you have to be for your little ones.”

I was relieved and so blessed to have such great friends. “Thanks Stormy. I appreciate just talking to you. I can’t go to my family about it, knowing how they feel about Axel and his job. Nice to have someone I can go to, to rant!”

“You can call me anytime, Ruby. You know that.”

“Yeah, I know...And thanks again. Love you, Stormy.”

“Love you too Ruby. Keep me informed. I worry about you guys too. Goodnight.”

I went to bed. I spent the night tossing and turning. I kept having terrible dreams about Axel in some prison being tortured for information. I would wake up in a drenched bed from my sweat. When I did get back to sleep, I was out like a light. I woke up to the phone ringing. I quickly grabbed it, knocking a glass of water to the floor in the process.

“Hello!” I answered it hoping upon hope it was Axel.

“Ruby. It’s me, honey.”

“Oh my God, where have you been? I have been worried sick for days. I had no idea if you were lying in a hospital dead somewhere! And I’ve had the most horrific dreams. Please tell me you are alright.” I nearly screamed into the phone, but I was so overjoyed to hear his voice again. Nothing really mattered.

“I love you honey. I’ve missed you so much. I am alright. I can’t tell you much. But I have to stay here for a little while longer. I’ll let you know when I can come home.”

“What do you mean you can’t come home? Where are you? What’s happened?” I was getting angry.

“Ruby I know you are upset, but believe me. I’ll explain everything that I can later. For now you must trust me. Achilles and Damon have everything under control. I have to go now. I love you honey. Kiss the kids for me. I’ll be home soon.”

The phone went silent. I sat their holding it for a few minutes more. Stunned and angry about what had just happened. Something had to have gone wrong, or else why he would he be hiding somewhere.

I decided to wait ‘til morning and call Damon. See if there was anything he would tell me. I know he is not the most social person, but it is his son. Surely he must know something.

The next morning the sun was shining in my window. I squinted as its rays hurt my eyes. It felt like it would be a good day. I had hoped it would last. I went about my daily “chores”. The babies were bathed and fed. I ate my own breakfast and worked on some compositions on my guitar. After a few hours I decided to call Damon. It was now or never.

I dialed the number and waited, it seemed to ring forever, and finally a gruff voice answered, “Hello?”

“Damon, it’s me Ruby. I’m sorry to bother you, but you see Axel has been gone for almost a week now. I know he went on one of his “jobs”. He called me last night, but he wouldn’t tell me anything.” I asked hoping he would give me more detail.

“Ruby, the only thing I can tell you is not to worry. We have everything under control. Axel is fine and he can go home to you shortly. Take care of your kids, they need you.” Damon isn’t really one to mince words. “Goodbye, Ruby.”
And with that he hung up. Well, that was very helpful, I thought. The kids took that moment to cry all at once. “Fantastic!” I said as I climbed the steps to their rooms. “I’m coming, babies Mommy’s coming.”


Our birthdays are coming up! Boris, Stormy and I had planned to celebrate together. Boris took us to the new Botanical Gardens, Stormy took us to a new 50s diner that had opened up and I took us all to see a western movie; It was great to be away from all my worries for a few hours. I was worried still about the kids, but I knew Mom would be okay with them.

I got home and felt the need to check my e-mails. Crap, crap, crap. I deleted all of the junk and saw a letter from Tony. It looked like he would be home for Christmas! That is wonderful. I wanted us all to get together for a Christmas Eve celebration. So I sent a letter back:

Dear Tony,

It’s so great to hear you will be out for Christmas. I was kind of hoping you all could come over her on Christmas Eve.

It would be nice for us all to be together for the holiday.

I miss you and hope you are doing well. You are doing well, right?

We send our love.

Oh, I have attached some pictures from our trip to Egypt. 1 year ftw! Yay!

Love, Ruby

I signed off and went to bed. I had Thanksgiving issues to deal with next…but that was a headache I was not ready to deal with.


"Oooooh! Look at all the horses way out there!" Sunny said enthusiastically, pointing out the window and kicking her legs up and down.

I turned for a brief moment taking in the scene of various horses grazing out in the field. Before I turned my attention back on the road ahead of me, I glanced over at Sunny, restrained by her seatbelt from getting any closer to the window, to take one last glimpse of the horses before they were out of sight.

This will be her first time leaving Crescent Bay to experience a new place. I was happy to give her this opportunity, thanks to Boris. Our parents has never taken us too far out of town and our vacation would normally consist of a day at the park, beach and or camping here and there. Mostly because dad was cheap.

About a half hour later, I passed the sign, "Welcome to Riverview", grabbed my cell phone off the console to call Boris so he could guide me the rest of the way to his house.

"Sunny, we're here!" I said, grinning, as I waited for Boris to answer his phone.

She quickly sat up in her seat from doodling in her notebook and looked out of whatever window she could while pointing out things that caught her interest and asking a bunch of questions.

There was green everywhere, sprinkled with fully blossomed trees, and a rushing river way ahead of us. And since I love just about everything outdoorsy, it was heavenly. " Everything here, is so beautiful." I said more to myself than to Sunny, just as Boris answered his phone.

Eventually, I pulled into the driveway of his generously landscaped home a few minutes after getting the final bit of directions from him, and Boris telling me I should consider investing in one of those "nifty" little GPS navigation devices....

"Yeah, yeah.." was my nonchalant reply. I quickly felt bad because I could have kept him from doing some last minute things.

Boris invited Sunny and I to stay two weeks at his vacation home in Riverview to relax. He supposedly felt I needed a break from the many responsibilities in my life. And he is right. Honestly, I did not mind helping dad with Sunny, but mom, she's a different story. It really breaks my heart that she is at the clinic for the mentally unstable. I wonder sometimes…. if dad was a little more attentive to her emotional, mental and spiritual needs, would she have been better today? Stable enough to hold a job and to be more attentive to Sunny and I? Of course there’s that possibility she wouldn't be completely healed but still better off. I don't know. But, she does respond positively well to Sunny’s energy, laugh and smile.

Sunny and I piled out of the car. The flowers around his house smelled soo good. All we had back home were weeds. We greeted Boris at the door, and I apologized for being insensitive to his time. We were introduced to Mao, and shown to our rooms where we relaxed and freshened up from the two hour long drive.

Sunny heard the baby crying first, and ran from the room to go find where Ning was. I laughed and followed her. He was tucked away in his crib in Boris' room. I had no choice but to pick up the precious bundle.

"Can I hold him, Stormy!" asked Sunny, jumping up and down. "I wanna
see him!"

"No, Sunny, let's bring him to Boris. Maybe he wants to eat or be changed."

We brought the baby to Boris even though he was doing some work outside, and together he and I went back in the house to make sure Ning was clean, fed and tucked away again while Sunny ran to go paint on the easel that was available for her use outside. As Ning was falling asleep I whispered, "He's such a blessing." I heard a soft sigh come from Boris as he walked out of the room.

Deep down inside, I truly believe Boris also needed some time away for his own personal reasons. Perhaps to do some thinking, or just to escape whatever is going on in his life for a short while. And still, have a very good friend around as a source of some sort of support.

Our stay here was peaceful. I felt very much at home here and Sunny seemed to really enjoy herself too. Like at home, I left the house before the light of day to go fish in the river. I’d keep five of the fish for grilling by the poolside as we lounged or went for a dip in the refreshing pool, and threw any extra fish caught, back in the water. It was kinda nice to see other people about, doing their early morning catch, but they were far enough away from me as to where I could still enjoy my “alone time”.

On one occasion, I swung by the fish hatchery that Boris showed us once before while we were on our way into town, to spend a few hours on catching a load of siamese catfish I’m sure Sanders would love to of sold in the market. I researched what fish was available here online before I arrived, but Mr. and Mrs. Porter, the owners of the hatchery, explained the Siamese catfish were still immature and not ready to be caught yet and to come back in about two months, as they will be mature enough for catching.

The Porter's kindly told me to freely fish for anything else here. I politely declined because the other varieties of fish here could easily be caught at home. So of course I was a little bummed out and not sure if I'll be able to come back in September, since Sunny starts school that month.

A few times during our stay, we'd order out, or enjoyed a nice meal in town. Usually after we ate, we'd stroll the Boulevard to peek in a shop or two. At times, it would be Boris, Sunny and I and other times, just me and my sister. Mao preferred to stay home and care for Ning.

Boris purchased a couple of video games for Sunny when we journeyed into a game store. She was so excited and very thankful. I love her so much. Sometimes, she would ramble on and on about anything and everything, and I wondered if Boris and Mao wanted her to hush, but I didn't worry too much about it. Especially after one particular evening when Boris and I dined at the Bistro with his friends, Chief George Dean and his son Beau. He winked at Beau as if trying to secretly tell him I was single and available.

After enjoying such a wonderful dinner with them, I showered when we got back to the house, then sat in the living room to watch Sunny play one of her video games before bedtime, when I heard the doorbell ring.

"Hello Stormy." greeted a familiar voice, a few minutes later.

I turned to see the handsome Beau in his police uniform.

"May I speak to you for a moment?" he asked, seeming a bit nervous.

I was in my pajamas, and tired, not that I cared about that, but Boris could of at least asked if I wanted to see the guy. I visibly sighed, got up off the couch to see what he wanted. When I as about two feet in front of him, I noticed how good he smelled, though I pretended not to notice. I was still annoyed that “someone” didn't ask me if I wanted company at the moment. I even looked out into the foyer past Beau to see if Boris was around. Nope.

"What's up Beau, what can I do for you?" His eyes were the color of the sea. I could get lost in those babies forever. Hell, I did earlier when we had dinner this evening. He was so easy to talk to. He even made me laugh a few times.

When I think about it, he seems well mannered, sweet, but thankfully not overly sweet...that is such a turn off. Even his father seems like a good man as well, highly respected-

"Stormy....Is that okay with you?" asked Beau, interrupting my thoughts.

I blinked a few times, clearing my mind to focus on Beau better. I apologized and asked him to repeat himself. He frowned, probably thinking I'm weird, but what else is new.

"Would you like to exchange phone numbers?" he asked, smiling.

I thought about it for a minute, slightly shrugged my shoulders and
said, "I'm pretty busy these days and not sure if I'll have time to
talk much.

"I tell you what. I'll give you my number, and you may call me
whenever you have the time." he said with a wink, as he pulled out his
notepad and pen scrawling stuff on it. I am beginning to wonder what’s with all the winking business.

"It was a pleasure meeting you
this evening." he went on.

"Same here, Beau. But, you are bit too forward for my taste." I said, as I put my hand on my hip, one eyebrow raised. Me being tired wasn't helping me be a little less...grouchy.

"I'm very sorry. Please forgive me. I didn't mean to be so forward. I won't be a bother any longer and just be on my way. But if you find yourself in town and want to have lunch, I would consider it an honor if you'd let me join you. Dutch treat, if you wish."

He ripped the piece of paper off its pad and handed to me. It had his name and phone number on it. I put a smile on my face before he wonders what kind of freaks does Boris keep for company. I politely thanked him, but also repeated how busy I've been lately. As I folded the piece of paper, Beau said he had to get back to work. I walked him to the door and said good bye to him after asking if he wanted to talk to Boris before heading out. He didn't, said his good bye, eyes sparkling in the night, turned, and walked to his police car.

"Have a good night and be careful out there!" I yelled before he ducked into
his car.

"Thank you Stormy! Good night! Again, I'm sorry to have bothered you." he waved, then eventually drove away. I found Boris in the library to playfully ream him for what he did back at the Bistro and for not asking if I wanted to chat with Beau this evening. We both had a good laugh in the end.

One afternoon during our stay, I found Mao on the couch in the living room cuddling Ning, softly singing what seemed to be a lullaby in his native language. I sat next to him asking if he needed a break but he said no. We then started talking about the baby, which led him to speak little about Ning's mother Jing and then about China. We conversed a good two hours before he went to lay the baby down and I went out into the garden to take a look at what veggies and things Boris was growing out there and for some fresh air.

A few minutes later, Mao came into the garden and began to quietly harvest the vegetables and pull weeds. I knelt beside him and asked a few questions about his gardening skills. I was somehow fascinated. He was happy to show me the best way to pull weeds and how to harvest several of the veggies there, without harming the plant. I really liked it, but it’s way too time consuming, and I just don’t have the time to tend to plants right now. But I may want to tackle those weeds back home….or not. Just then, I could hear Sunny humming in the distance, which means she was painting again. I’m so happy she was still having a good time.

Molly joined us for the Fourth of July, enjoyed some fine wine Boris acquired, chowed on some delicious BBQ and enjoyed an awesome display of fireworks, then she went home to spend the remainder of the summer with family.

When it was finally time for us to head home, Sunny and I thanked Boris and Mao for such a wonderful, relaxing, fun two weeks and kissed Ning goodbye on his little cheek.

Later on this month we all got together with Tony one last time before he went back to base and then Ruby and I accompanied Molly to the airport, so she could fly back to France, and we gave her some advice regarding Tony and Colin.

My daily routine resumed the following two months. Which was visiting mom, fishing as a means of
fun and income, and checking my emails to see how my friends were doing. Sunny came with me in the early mornings fishing on the days dad had to go to work. She doesn’t like doing that, mostly because it’s really cold and I think because she’s getting older too. There are other things she’d rather be doing.

Towards the end of October, when the weather was chilly throughout the days and nights, dad would have the fire going in the fireplace. Tonight I laid on the couch watching the fire play as dad poked at the logs. Sunny was already upstairs sleeping away and I was dozing on and off when dad spoke up.

"In the morning, I have to go over to the police station and fix their fluorescent ceiling fixtures. Apparently it's been flickering on and off for weeks." dad casually mentioned.

An image of Beau came to mind. I recalled dinner with him and his father and when he came to visit me at Boris' vacation home. A smile spread over my face as I remembered his sea blue eyes, the way he looked in his police uniform and how easy it was to talk to him as we ate. Hmm, I wondered how he was doing and if I still had his number. Maybe I'll call him for the heck of it since Molly has been busy with school and Colin. Boris is back in school, busy with his son and perhaps other things, while Tony is busy with military business and last, Ruby has her family to tend to.

In the next moment or so, Ruby called me, worrying about her husband. I gave my dear friend a few encouraging words and set off to go find Beau’s number. I couldn’t find it after going through my things for an hour and hightailed my butt to bed and forgot about it.

Ruby, Boris, and I celebrated our birthday's the first week of November, with Boris treating Ruby and I to the new Botanical Gardens here in town, followed by dinner at one of those fun fifties diners, my treat. Then we finished the evening off with a western film, a gift from Ruby.

The following day as I went through my email, Tony sent one wishing us all Happy Birthday, some tidbits about what he's been up to lately and that he’ll come home next month for the holidays, then off to France to visit Molly. In response, I thanked him for the birthday wishes and that I couldn't wait to see him in December. I also congratulated him on making it through his tryouts.

l also emailed and called Molly several times to see if she has responded to Tony's email regarding him wanting to visit her in France. Especially since I knew she's been seeing Colin a lot these days. Molly finally got back to me saying she will handle the situation. I hope everything will work out okay.

Shortly afterwards, I emailed Boris asking how he and the baby were doing and if he could get Beau’s phone number for me. Then I emailed Ruby to see if she has heard any news about her husband.

When I was done with the emails, I looked up at the painting of mom Sunny did, which reminded me that soon, on Christmas day, mom is coming home…. for a while…..

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