Monday, February 28, 2011

Crescent Bay

Chapter 5, part 4 - Molly

"Molly!" someone was calling my name but I couldn't seem to see them, only a blurry outline of a person. I closed my eyes again.

When I tried to open them again I felt like I was moving, or where ever I was was moving anyway. Everything was still blurry but I heard short, clipped voices around me. "Patient is 23 year old, Caucasian female..." the words started to blend together and I felt the darkness coming again.

"Pregnant..." I tried to say, though it was barely a whisper and I sounded so very hoarse. I closed my eyes again.

There was more movement, more rushing and more rapid talk all around me. I couldn't begin to process everything they were saying but I felt hands all over me. I think I tried to sit up but several hands pushed me back down and a plastic mask was placed over my face.

I closed my eyes again.

"Her family is all in America, I don't want her to be alone..." someone was saying the next time I felt semiconscious. I tried to turn to face the voices, but my body refused to cooperate and I felt like I'd been run over by a truck. I closed my eyes again.

I opened my eyes and was relieved to find that the blurry haze had disappeared finally. I was in a hospital room, that much was clear as I took in my sterile white surroundings. An IV was hooked up to one hand and the other was heavily bandaged. I furrowed by brow as I looked at the damaged hand. "What happened to my hand?" I croaked, though I'm not sure who I thought I was speaking to.

To my left, I heard movement as a chair squeaked under the weight of someone. "You dropped the vase and when you fainted, your hand landed in the glass shards." a very familiar voice explained.

I slowly turned my head to the left and tried to smile. "What are you doing here?" I could tell there was medication in my system as my voice was a little slurred.

"You still had me as your emergency contact with your apartment, so they called me when you were found." Colin said, coming closer to the bed and taking my wounded hand carefully in his.

"Oh." I said, "I fainted?" I asked trying to remember what had happened. I remembered saying goodbye to Tony and I remember the flowers but everything else was a blur.

"Yes, in front of your apartment door. A neighbor found you and called for help when they couldn't get a response. Your building manager called me and then the hospital called me but I was already on my way." he explained. "I arrived a couple hours ago."

"But why did I faint?" I cringed as everything I said made my throat feel even worse.

Colin got a little uncomfortable at my question. "I should leave that for the doctors to tell you." he said, reaching for the nurse call button.

I squeezed his hand. "Colin please...tell me." His hand stopped midair and he looked at me.

He sighed but gave me a reassuring smile, "You're fine Molly, everything is fine." he said gently.

I reached my hand down to my abdomen, touching the faint but familiar bump that housed the baby and was reassured, knowing somehow that he was right and everything, that everyone, was fine. I don't know if it was hormones or a reaction to the stress but I started crying, slowly at first and then all out sobbing.

"Shh Molly" Colin said leaning over the edge of the bed to stroke my hair. I still held fast to his other hand, terrified that he might leave, might remember why he left before. I felt the bed shift as Colin climbed in next to me and let me snuggle against him crying. "It's alright Molly, your baby is okay." he whispered softly, still stroking my hair. I laid my head on his chest and he held me close and let me cry.

After several minutes the tears stopped and I pulled back from him enough to look at his face. "I'm sorry Colin." I whispered.

"For what Molly?" Colin asked, gently stroking my hair.

"Everything." I said, I felt the tears sting my eyes again. He didn't stop holding me until the doctor came in awhile later.


"Morning Molly." Dr. Nan said as she walked in for her morning rounds. Colin was sleeping in the small chair next to my bed. I'd tried to convince him to go home after I'd spent the last day sobbing on his shirt, I told him I was fine but he refused to leave. "How are you feeling?"

"Awful." I said honestly. The day before she'd explained that my body had started to go into very premature labor. They managed to stop it but I also lost a lot of blood in the process and was now very weak and still at risk for premature labor.

"I know." she said sympathetically. Colin must have heard us because he stirred in the chair and woke up. "Can you give us a moment Mr. Beckham?" Dr. Nan addressed him.

"Of course." Colin said standing up and stretching. I think my face may have betrayed me because he came over and kissed my forehead. "I'll be right back - I'll just go get some coffee." he said, gently squeezing my hand. He nodded to the doctor and closed the door quietly behind him.

"He cares about you very much." Dr. Nan observed. When I didn't reply she went about checking me. "Have you told the father yet?" she asked after she was done.

I shook my head. I'd spent so much of the day before either crying or sleeping I hadn't even looked at my phone. In fact I wasn't even sure if my phone was here in the hospital or still sitting in the hall outside my apartment. I shifted in the bed and instantly regretted it; my whole body was sore and every bit of movement felt like I was being punched.

"Well I want to keep you here for a few more days to make sure that baby is staying put for awhile longer." Dr Nan said, making notes in my chart. "I think Mr. Beckham has already called your work place though."

"Yesterday." Colin said from the doorway, his coffee in hand. "They were quite understanding."

"Good." the doctor said. "I'll be back to check on you later Molly." she added and left.

"Thank you Colin, you didn't have to - I could have called them today." I said, though I knew it was probably better this way.

"It's not a problem Molly." he said. He pulled out his own cell phone and held it out to me. "But you should call Tony and let him know what happened."

I took the phone slowly and stared at him. He'd never asked who the father was, he'd never even asked who I'd cheated with - he just knew. "How did you know?" I whispered.

"Educated guess." Colin said. "I can step out if you want..."

"No, it's fine. Stay please." I dialed Tony's number slowly, my hand shaking as I did so. The phone went straight to voice mail and I frowned. "His phone is off." I didn't even know what to say so I hung up and decided I'd call him later.

We watched the TV in the room together and talked a bit, I felt incredibly tired and found myself dozing off constantly. I was somewhere between sleep and awake when I heard a light knock at the door. Colin got up to meet the person, probably yet another nurse coming to take my vitals. I could hear the door open, "Molly?" Colin said, leaning close to me to see if I was awake. "You have a visitor Molly." I opened my eyes and looked up at him.

His face was very carefully controlled but I detected a small frown and looked past him. Tony was standing in the doorway, looking at me anxiously.

"I'm going to go get some fresh air," Colin said. "I'll be back in awhile." He and Tony exchanged a look as he passed but neither said anything.

Slowly sitting up in the bed, I tried not to grimace from the ache of my body but Tony hurried to my side to help me. "What happened Molly? Are you okay?" He placed a hand on my belly as he spoke. "Is the baby okay?"

"I'm okay, the baby is okay too." I said. I explained what happened from the time I left him until now, as much as I remembered anyway, and when I was finished he still looked upset.

"I'm sorry Molly, I should have been here...if I'd been here..." Tony trailed off and ran his hand through his hair.

"Tony, there was nothing you could have done." I said. "Besides, we're all still here so it's okay." I smiled and put my hand on top of his. "Now tell your son it's not time for him to come out yet."

"My son?" Tony looked up at me in surprise.

"Well I'm just guessing." I said with a small laugh. I laid back on the bed and Tony continued to touch my belly gently and he may have even talked to the baby but I drifted off to sleep again.

I was in the hospital for almost a week by the time Doctor Nan felt confident enough to release me. Boris had sent flowers, though I don't even know how he knew I was in the hospital, maybe he'd heard from my family or Tony.


Doctor Nan signed off on my going back to work - on light duty. The first day back though, I almost wished she hadn't. After spending a week in the hospital, rumors were flying all over the office about me. Some had noticed the pregnancy belly and they put two and two together. "Why didn't you tell me?" Marisa asked with a scandalous smile. "Who's the father? You have some rather attractive men in your life..." she teased.

"Colin is still in town," I said changing the subject. "I don't know if that's a good thing..."

"Why, don't you want him close? Maybe the two of you can make up." she waggled her eyebrows at me and grinned.

"Oh I doubt it," I said sadly. "I have to get back to work Marisa, we'll talk later okay?"

"Sure sure, I was needed in make up twenty minutes ago." she said dismissively.

"Nice of you to be on time." I called after her as she left. I turned back to the work on my desk and saw a post-it note right on top reminding me to call Boris back; he'd called and emailed a couple times while I'd been in the hospital. Glancing at the time, I hoped Boris would still be awake and I pulled out my phone and checked my email while waiting for him to pick up.

"Molly? Are you alright?" was his greeting.

"Fine, more or less. Long story." I said pushing off what was sure to be an inevitable discussion. Tony and I couldn't exactly keep the baby a secret that long. We talked for several minutes, he had a few questions about the model in the profile my pictures had been used for.

"And you know this guy?" Boris asked.

"Mmhmm, he's a regular model here." I said. "Nice guy." I added. Once I'd satisfied all his questions about Caleb, he tried once more to get me to tell him about why I was in the hospital but he let it drop when I brushed it off again. I was on the phone with Boris when I felt the baby kick for the first time actually. "Oh wow."

"What?" Boris asked, when I didn't respond he tried again. "Molly, you there?"

Finally tuning back into the conversation, I had a goofy smile on my face I almost wished Boris could see. "Yeah I'm here - sorry got distracted by something at work. I have to let you go Boris."

"Sure sure, I'll talk to you later Molly." Boris said before we hung up. I spent the next hour with my hand across my belly hoping the baby would kick again.


Tony and I talked nearly every day. He couldn't stay in Paris indefinitely as he had work but he was worried about me and the baby. I assured him over and over that I was taking it easy and that everything was fine.

Dr. Nan, also concerned about the pregnancy, had started scheduling me for appointments every two weeks instead of monthly. Tony insisted on coming to every single appointment. She had an ultrasound machine in her office and would do a quick scan at each appointment. As a result, my baby was already getting quite the collection of pictures. "Get used to it kiddo." Colin said when I showed him the baby's latest picture. "Your momma takes her camera everywhere."

I laughed, "It's true, I think I need a very large baby album." In the weeks since the hospital, Colin had been around a lot. Although I was thrilled with this turn of events, I couldn't believe it would last long.

When I'd told Colin about Sean's gallery in Paris, he and I went over together. I was glad I got the opportunity to see Sean's work but even happier I'd reunited the two friends. Colin started staying in Paris constantly to visit with Sean, and maybe to get away from his mother a bit from what Sean said.

When my birthday came around, I didn't really have anyone else to spend it with so I invited the both of them over for dinner. "Happy birthday Mols" Sean said, kissing my cheek. Colin kissed my other cheek and the three of us sat down for dinner together. "Tell me Mols, why are we having pancakes for dinner?" Sean asked. I suspected a silent warning passed between Colin and Sean because he quickly added, "Not that I mind of course - just curious."

"Well, I'm the pregnant birthday girl and I had a craving." I replied with a smile.

"Fair enough." Sean conceded. "Pancakes it is."


Tony and I had agreed to find out the gender of the baby. While part of me wanted a little girl, mostly I wanted to know so that I could go shopping. Tony, though he'd be perfectly happy with either, wanted a little boy. His flight came in just an hour before my ultrasound appointment so we met at the hospital on the day of the ultrasound.

"What do you think it is?" Tony asked as we waited for the elevator. "Any mother's instinct?"

"Marisa says it's a girl but I think that's because she wants me to have a life size Barbie doll." I said with a laugh. "But I don't know, I'm kind of leaning toward boy - Little T." I looked down and rubbed my belly affectionately

"Little T?" Tony asked just as the elevator doors slid open.

"Little Tony." I explained with a grin. "Not that we have to name him...or her...Tony."

"Little T....I like it." he laid a hand on my belly as we walked into the office. We barely had a chance to sit down before being called back by the ultrasound tech.

After I was settled and everything was ready, the same tech who had confirmed the pregnancy looked over at us with a smile. "Before I get started, do you want to know the gender?" We nodded. "Okay then." he said and turned the monitor to face us. Tony's face was glowing through the whole scan but the tech saved the money shot for last. "What do you think?" he asked.

Tony looked at the screen uncertain but I'd spent the last few weeks looking at ultrasound images on the web. "Looks like a boy." I said. "Am I right?"

"Yes, you're having a baby boy." he said. He printed out a few images, one of which had "It's a boy!" typed on it and handed them to me. "Congratulations. Your baby looks good, he's got ten little fingers and ten little toes. Dr. Nan will go over everything at your next appointment no doubt but he looks good you two."

"Thank you." Tony said, shaking his hand as I used the towel to remove the gel once again. After he left, Tony turned to me with a huge smile. "We're having a boy!"

I chuckled. "Yes I heard."


"What about Anthony?" Tony suggested. "It's a good name." We'd been talking about names since we found out we were having a boy and had yet to settle on one. In fact I was pretty sure we were going in circles.

"Yeah but then he'd be a junior and I just...I don't know..." I couldn't really explain why I didn't like juniors but I did like the idea of having a name similar to Tony's.

"Only if we give him Stark as a last name." Tony countered. "He could be Anthony Gregory or Anthony Gregory-Stark..."

"I am not hyphening my baby's last name, imagine his first day in kindergarten!" I said with a laugh. "And my brothers will add plenty of Gregorys to the world - of course his last name will be Stark - it's your last name."

Tony was silent for a moment; to me it had seemed obvious what the baby's last name would be but maybe Tony hadn't realized this. "Okay well what about Michael for your dad....or Hank for mine."

I frowned, "maybe" was my noncommittal response. "Think some more about it Tony - I need to get some work done on this layout. Talk to you tomorrow?"

"Sure. Night Molly." he said and we each hung up. I took a seat at the drafting table to work on laying out my photographs for work.

"What about Edward?" Colin called from the kitchen where he was making dinner for the two of us. I'm glad I was in the other room and he couldn't see me crinkle my nose. When I didn't respond, I heard him chuckle softly. "Guess that's a no on Edward then?"


I got the e-vite to Ruby's triplet's birthday party in April and my first impulse was to laugh - Crescent Bay was a long way from Paris. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was about time we dropped the little bomb that we were having a baby. "What do you think?" I asked after explaining it all to Tony.

"Well we do need to tell everyone, and I guess better to tell them in person." he said. "Will you be okay to travel?"

"Yes, Dr. Nan isn't worried about it." I said, my mouse hovering over the RSVP button. "She says everything is looking wonderful and Little T seems to be staying put finally."

And so, in the last week of April, after a last minute appointment to verify that I really was okay to travel, I was sitting on a plane with Tony by my side. He'd flown into Paris so we could take the trip to Crescent Bay together.

I was in the process of ripping a paper napkin to shreds when the fasten seat belt sign came on and the plane began to land. Tony put his hand over mine and smiled at me. "It will be fine. They're our friends..."

"I'm a little more anxious about my parents..." I said. Tony's smile faded as he thought about that.

"Oh right...well I'm sure that will be fine too..." he didn't sound near as convincing as he had before.

No one in Crescent Bay knew we were coming, we'd decided to make it a surprise, so there was no one waiting for us at the airport when we landed. We drove to my parents' house first and as we approached the door, I turned back and into Tony. "We have to tell them sometime Molly." he said, all the nervousness from the plane had slipped away from him. He had a new resolve about him and I soaked it in.

"Right." I said, turning back around climbing the steps slowly. I thought about just walking in but opted for knocking instead. As we waited for someone to open the door, I started fidgeting again and Tony put a comforting hand on my back.

The knob turned and my dad opened the door, one look at my face and he turned back and called for my mom to tell her. When he looked back though he noticed the belly, "Molly! You're...."

"Pregnant!" my mom shrieked from over his shoulder. She pushed him aside and grabbed my hand, dragging me inside. I looked back to Tony and saw him nodding in greeting to my dad as he entered the house. "Where's Colin?" my mom asked as she practically pushed me onto the couch. Tony didn't sit down right away but I shot him a panicked glance and he was by my side, rarely taking his eyes too far from my dad.

"Um, well that' see, Tony is the baby's father." I said, smiling over at him. My dad, however, was not smiling. He was glaring at Tony. "Daddy," I said, he barely looked my way. "We're having a're going to have a grandson."

"Tony, can I see you outside? Now." my dad said sternly. It was voice I'd heard only a handful of times as a child and mostly directed at my brothers. He kissed me on the forehead just like he had when I was a child and I watched them walk out of the room together.

My mom looked at me confused. "What about Colin dear?" she asked. I shook my head and shrugged as I watched the front door for Tony and my dad to come back.


The triplets' birthday party was that weekend; I wasn't near as anxious about it as I had been about seeing my parents. Boris was the first to see us as we approached and the look of surprise on his face was almost priceless as he took in my figure. "Wow Molly!" Boris said finally just as Ruby turned around to face us with one of the triplets on her hip.

"Molly! You're here!" she said happily. "And you're pregnant! Oh my..." she put down the squirming toddler down and came over to us. "What? How?"

"Well I think you know how Ruby." Boris said with a laugh, trying to ease the mood a bit.

She playfully smacked him on the arm. "Well duh but..."

"Why didn't we tell you sooner?" I ventured, completing her question.

"We?" Boris and Ruby asked at the same time, their eyes grew even wider as they looked between Tony and I. "Ohh"

"Tony and I are going to be parents." I said after a moment of heavy silence.

"Ruby!" someone called from behind us, it sounded a lot like Axel, "The kids are eying the presents!"

"Oh right! Birthday party!" Ruby said, her stunned look was replaced with excitement and maybe a touch of anxiety. "Come on guys!"


Tony and I signed up for childbirth classes in early May. It was a little early in the pregnancy for them but Tony was eager to learn everything he could and I had a feeling there might not be time for them later with Tony's often busy traveling schedule. When we walked into the room the first time, mostly I noticed that everyone seemed to be even bigger than I was and considering I already felt like I was carrying a house - that was impressive. The next thing we realized was that everyone around us spoke French. Having been in France for almost four years, I had picked up a lot of the more common phrases but I still couldn't understand most of what natives said around me.

The instructor came in and started speaking in rapid French, all the couples around us started moving - I assume following instructions. "What did she say?" Tony whispered to me.

I shrugged. "I don't know." Tony and I started snickering together and then tried to decipher what we were supposed to be doing from watching the others and flipping through the pamphlets and books that were handed to us. They were all in French as well. After the class was over, I was giggling all the way back to the car. "As educational as you'd hoped for?"

"Oh yeah." Tony said sarcastically. "I think we got a lot out of that class. Perhaps we should look into another that isn't in French."


Colin had been spending more time in Paris lately; so much in fact, I wasn't sure he hadn't rented an apartment in town. I didn't ask why because I didn't want to break the spell. It felt like we were friends again and that maybe he'd forgiven me. Of course I hadn't even forgiven myself so I didn't see how he could have but I wasn't going to turn him away. "How is Little T today?" he asked by way of greeting.

"Active." I said with a laugh while we walked toward the fountain together. "And he seems to have nestled up under my ribs...which makes breathing and everything else painful." I added.

"Pick a name yet?" he asked. He tried not to mention Tony's name and made a point of not being around if he knew Tony was going to be there. I couldn't really blame him for that though.

"No." I chuckled. "I think he'll be Little T forever." My back was killing me today and I sat down on the edge of the fountain.

"You should pick a T name then, so he can keep the nickname." Colin said with a smile. "Although I'm not sure how much he'll appreciate being called Little T when he's sixteen."

I chuckled. "I suggested was vetoed."

"Ugh, I would have vetoed it too! Trent?" Colin looked marginally disgusted.

"What?! It's a good name...." I pouted. I felt light headed and reached out for Colin to steady myself even though I was already sitting down. The pain started in my back and radiated all around my abdomen, causing me to double over, my fingernails digging into Colin's arm. "Ow!"

"Molly?" Colin asked, concern spread his face. He reached out to steady me as the pain seemed to pass and I sat up again. "Molly? What's wrong?" After that the pain disappeared, although I still felt terribly dizzy. Colin insisted on driving me home and getting me safely into bed.

We were barely up the stairs when I felt another stab of pain - this one worse than the others. When I realized they weren't going away this time I nodded to Colin. "Call Tony..." I gasped as the world seemed to swim around me. Colin already had his phone out and was helping me up to take me to the hospital.


Once again I woke up in a sterile white hospital room, with Colin by my side and I had no doubt that Tony was already on a plane. "We stopped the contractions." Dr. Nan explained. "Right now, everything is fine but I'm concerned. I'd like you to stay here, on bedrest for a few days - if everything seems to be stable, then you can go home - still on bed rest. We'll talk about the details later though." she said and nodded to each of us.

Tony arrived a while later, having caught the first flight he could and stayed with me until Dr. Nan was ready to let me go home. For the first time, Colin willingly stayed in the same room with Tony for more than a few minutes. "In order for me to discharge you Molly, I need assurances that there is someone close to you - you'll be on bed rest and won't be able to do everything alone..." Dr. Nan said, looking from Colin to Tony and back to me. Even she could sense the conflict in the room as she nodded "I'll give you time to talk it over." she said finally and left the room.

"I can talk to Marisa." I suggested. "Or maybe one of my brothers..."

"Don't be silly, I can rent the empty apartment in your building." Colin said. "If it's alright of course."

I looked from him to Tony, there was no way Tony could be in Paris on a semi-permanent basis and we both realized that. "Sure." I said meekly. "I would appreciate that."


In the following week, I had to call the magazine and the university in regards to my internship. Being on bed rest, I couldn't go into work so I was released from the rest of the internship. Thankfully the department at the university accepted my portfolio as is by mail.

Colin started out checking in just a couple times a day and mostly by phone but as the first couple weeks of bed rest wore on, he came by more often and would stay for a few hours to watch a movie with me or just hang out. He brought me new books and magazines to read and everyday seemed to come back with more ideas to keep me occupied. He brought me a new video game system and I had to confess that I wasn't much of a gamer. "I'll show you." he said.

I spent the rest of the week playing the games he'd left me. "I'm not sure this is what they mean by bedrest." he said when he found me sitting up in bed.

"I'm in bed aren't I?" I replied. "And I'm resting..."

"Mmhmm." he replied. He picked up the other controller and took the spot next to me on the bed. We spent the whole afternoon sitting there together. I was very nearly pummelled in the game as I looked over at Colin in wonderment. Why was he here? Could he have actually forgiven me? We never really talked about it. "Molly! Head in game." Colin said, snapping my attention back to my wounded avatar.

"You know you don't have to stay and entertain me." I said. "What about work? The family business and all that?"

"I've turned most of my father's business matters over to other more business oriented minds." he said nonchalantly. "It was never something I wanted to do - only something I had to. They call when they need my signature."

I laughed. "Such a savvy business manager you are." I teased.

He smiled. "But if you'd like me to leave..." he trailed off. He didn't seem like he wanted to leave though.

"No!" I said quickly, with maybe a little too much enthusiasm. "I mean - I like the company."

"Good, because I brought a selection of movies and I wouldn't want you to watch all by your yourself." he said. "What do you want to watch first?"

I smiled at him, maybe bed rest wouldn't be so bad after all. "That one." I said pointing to the top movie on the stack. I didn't know what it was and I didn't really care.

End Molly

Chapter 5, Part 4 – Boris

The boys’ birthdays were coming up soon.  When I asked if Jing had begun making plans, she was all excited and laid out all the plans she had for Ning’s birthday; not the boys’, but Ning’s.  I didn’t bother to interrupt her or offer to help.  She wanted to do this her way, which meant there would be no one else could offer any suggestions or advice.  She was happily looking through catalogs and cookbooks, making notes for the party.

I knew why she wasn’t including Jacques; so it would be up to me to give him a birthday of his own.  Gah, I’m no good at these things.  I know nothing about what children like these days or even what’s available.  I’ll call Ruby and ask her for some advice.  If anyone knows, she will; she worked at a day care or preschool; some place that cares for children.  I really need to pay more attention to what my friends do with in their lives.

Wouldn’t you know I’d get voicemail?  “Hi Ruby, it’s Boris.  I was wondering if you could help me out.  You know the kids’ birthdays are coming up and, well, Jing is arranging a party for Ning.  Her plans do not in including Jacques.  God, she’s stubborn.  Oh, forget I said that,” I nervously chuckled.  “I know you work with small kids, or at least did…damn…I need to pay attention to your lives more.  I was wondering if you had some ide…”

“Damn, you can never leave a long enough message.  Either that or I just don’t know how to cut to the quick; most probably the latter.  Dad says I tend to over-think things.  Boris, you just need to pay more attention…and, now I’m talking to myself in a mirror…anyone hears me, they’ll be calling for the guys in the white coats.  Who’s the crazy one now, Kale?” 

Well, hopefully that message is enough to clue her in that I’m in need of help (she’ll probably think so; in more ways than one).  In the mean time, I’ll do what I do best; search the internet for ideas.

I walked back to the study, and just as I turned the computer on, my phone rang.

“Hey Boris, are we still on for today?”

Oh, crap!  I forgot all about meeting Kale for lunch.  “Yeah, I was almost ready to leave,” I lied.

“Liar, liar, liar!” he taunted, knowing full well I had forgotten.  “You forgot, didn’t you?”

“You got me again, Kale.  I can’t seem to get anything over on you.”  I really enjoyed Kale’s company [most of the time].  Sometimes he would go off on these tangents – God only knows what is going through his head then.  “I’ll get changed and meet you there.  Twenty minutes; sound good?”

“Okie dokie; see you then, Boris.”

On my way upstairs to change, I reminded Jing of the lunch date, but she was one step ahead of me as usual.

“Forgot your lunch date with Kale again?” she snickered.

“I swear you two must have a telepathic link.  I’m glad I have such doting people looking out for me,” I admitted, kissing her on the cheek.

I arrived at the restaurant just in time.  I seem to have a flair for it.  Kale waved me over to the table he had laid purchase to.  He wandered over to the counter to order our food; yes, I said wander.  Kale never takes a direct route anywhere.  He momentarily forgets where he is headed; but in the end, remembers where he needs to be.  As a grown man he has been known to have “accidents” on the way to the bathroom, although that has become less and less the case.  He would get taunted and teased, but it never fazed him.  I have nothing but admiration for him.

While he was off on his adventure, I checked my phone messages.  Nothing important; a couple calls from Otis, again, among others.  I looked around the place and had to chuckle to myself that Kale would choose such a place for lunch.  There was a colorful indoor playground for kids.  The entire décor was done in bright colors; reds, blues, and yellows.

Kale finally returned with our lunches.  Of course everything was cold.  I certainly don’t want to what path he took to get back here.  It was bad enough stomaching this cold, greasy food without knowing where it might have gone enroute to the table.

We chatted while we ate, most nonsensical ramblings from Kale, but he did mention he met a girl and said he really liked her.  Then he was off on another topic.  Perhaps I will find out who this lucky lady is in time.  Even though he’s not always firing on all thrusters, Kale is a gentle soul.  I hope one day he will have command of all of his faculties.  He offered to drive me home; I quickly declined.  I wanted to get home sooner rather than later; and in one piece.  God only knows who passed him on his driver’s exam.

That evening I was still fretting over Jacques’ birthday.   I can’t seem to focus on anything else.  Is that petty of me?

Just then my phone rang.  It was Molly.  I have been concerned about her since I found out she was in the hospital; actually since Thanksgiving.  After hearing about Stormy’s disappearance, I feared the same fate for Molly.

“I’m glad you’re alright,” I continued, trying to focus on the conversation, but failing miserably.

The conversation somehow turned to the model in her magazine layout.  For the next several minutes, I asked some questions, Molly answering each of them. 

I once again asked about the hospital and wished she would tell me more.  She changed the subject yet again; my mind was elsewhere and didn’t push it.  She suddenly exclaimed, and I thought I had lost her, but she assured me she was fine and had to get back to work.

What a dunderhead; I was so relieved to hear her voice, that I paid little attention to her answers, and didn’t write anything down.  I would feel like a real ass calling her and asking them again.  Hopefully I’ll remember something in a few days.

As I looked around the room, my eyes rested on one of the boys’ toys; reds, blues and yellows.  What was so interesting about this toy?  Something was familiar.

“That’s it!  The colors; I’ll take the boys to the same restaurant Kale and I had lunch at for Jacques’ birthday.  Why didn’t I think of that earlier?”  I’ll call and inquire about a party tomorrow.  Now, maybe I can get some sleep. 

I woke a few hours later feeling refreshed for not having gotten a lot of sleep.  I quietly made my way to the bathroom, hoping I wouldn’t disturb Jing.  She was snoring so loud, I doubt any noise I made would wake her.  She’s been lying on top of the covers, lately.  Being in her third trimester has turned her into a raging furnace.  I don’t begin to understand what’s going on in her body, and I know better than to ask, too.  I grabbed my pajama top, put it on and made my way to the kitchen and got some coffee brewing. 

Dad had gotten home from work (or whatever you call it that he does) an hour or so ago and joined me in the kitchen just as the coffee finished brewing.  We each grabbed a cup.  Dad ran his finger around the rim of the cup, as one might do when pondering how to say what’s on their mind. 

“Boris…” he paused, “maybe it’s none of my business, but why do you allow Jing to blatantly disregard Jacques as a member of your family?  I know he’s not her son, but he is yours.”

“Uh…” I stammered.  I was caught off guard by his query and really had no immediate answer.

“You don’t have to answer.  I was just curious.”  He patted my shoulder and walked over to get another cup.

“You know,” I began, finally collecting my thoughts, “I’m afraid if I push her too fast, I may lose her and I don’t think I could handle that again.  I don’t believe I was unfaithful when I was with Elissa, but something keeps gnawing away at the subconscious level.  You know what I mean?”

“Oh, yeah, that I do!  I sometimes wonder if your father is committed to our relationship as he once was.  We spend less and less time together as the days pass.  I know I’m just blowing smoke up my own ass, but I can’t help it!  I’m sure this time away from the business will prove me wrong.”

“Yeah, that’s exactly it.”

“We’ll just have to have faith that everything will work out in the end.  If you ever find yourself tossed out in the street, you’ll always be welcome with us.”

“That goes for you, too,” I chuckled, knowing full well, that if things went south between my Dads, Damon would be the one hitting the streets.

“Let’s forget we even had this chat,” he posed.

“Yes, let’s!  I have some birthday party arrangements to make.  Can I count on your to be there?”

“And miss my grandson’s birthday?  Not on your life.  Remember, next month, we have Ruby’s hellions’ big day to look forward to,” he said with a wink, jabbing me in the ribs with his elbow.

I think he likes being with Ruby and Axel’s kids more because they are rough and tumble and he doesn’t get to see them as often; kind of like the old saying, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”  In the end, he is a doting grandfather to all of his grandchildren; a big kid himself.

Later that morning, I called the restaurant and inquired about birthday party arrangements and was pleasantly surprised that I was able to book a date on such short notice.  The shift manager that I spoke with said they would take care of all the arrangements for the coming Saturday.

After the arrangements were made, I told Jing what I had planned.  I didn’t expect her to be there, but I wanted to make sure she knew it was happening in case she wanted to be a part of it.  At least Mao was willing to join us.

Saturday arrived all too quickly.  I only invited my Dads and Kale.  Uncle Hector was out of town for some big music show.  It is becoming all too apparent how little I am involved in my family’s lives.  I will have to make it a point to stay “in the know.”  As expected, Jing would not go; nor would she help get the boys ready.  Her hatred (for lack of a better word) is a bit extreme, and it saddens me. 

Oh, well, on to the party.  Dad helped get the kids buckled in and we were off.  Kale met us there; punctual as always.  He never ceases to amaze me how he can remember to be somewhere at a given time, but has trouble remembering how to navigate to the bathroom on his own.  The boys seemed to enjoy themselves and I guess that’s all that matters.

My Dads offered to take the kids to the park afterwards so I could have some time alone with Jing.  We had pushed back some of the garden to make way for a new hottub in the back yard, and decided to take advantage of their offer.

It was nice to be able to spend some time alone with Jing and relax.  This may be the last chance we get for quite some time, what with all the changes in our futures.  I can’t imagine life without her.


What have I done?  Did I cheat on Jing?  It sure felt like cheating.  But was it, really?  I can’t help but play the events of that day over and over in my mind…

I was coming up empty on my search for Caleb.  I took every chance I could to steal away and search the internet for clues to this mysterious look-a-like.  I kept coming up empty.  I found out very little.  I knew his name, he is a model, and he hails from Riverview.  I don’t recall ever seeing him around on my many visits; not that I took the time to greet everyone bustling around town.  Michel sure doesn’t fit with Riverview.  To my knowledge, there is no family there by that name.  It’s most probably a pseudonym. 

With the impending changes taking place in the household, I was finding it more and more difficult to concentrate on the search.  With little more than I already knew coming up in my searches, Jing suggested I take a break and get away.  She may have been right. 

Otis had left a message a day or so ago; something about a new club he thought I might like.  Since I’m not the clubbing type, I highly doubt I would.  But I guess it can’t hurt to check it out and it will give me something to take my mind off Caleb.

“Hey, Otis; sorry it took so long to return your call,” I lied, feeling my cheeks begin to flush. 

Truth be told, Otis was an odd sort that I would much rather communicate with online than in person.  I know quite a few geeks and nerds, but Otis is in a class by himself.  Not to mention the snort when he laughs.  I cringe each time I hear it.

“Hiya, Boris.  Not to worry, I hear you’re rather busy these days,” he countered matter-of-factly.

“Nothing gets past you, does it?”

“I may be alone on this rock, but I have eyes and ears the world over,” he began to chortle.  Again with the snort; I began to regret calling him.  I could almost feel the phone shake in my hand when he laughed.

I attempted to chuckle along.  “What is this about an enhancement to the program?” I queried.

“I’ve modified the programming, so it doesn’t need to be monitored from the control room.  Of course, I have also written in some safety protocols, so no one may be fatally injured while enjoying their experience.”

“That sounds like quite a feat,” I replied; my interest piqued.

“I’ve also created a few environments that can be chosen instead of relying on one’s random thoughts to generate one.  There’s one I’d especially like to show you when you have some time,” he prodded.

“Well, Jing is telling me to take a break from my research project, so I may just take you up on it.”

“I’ll expect you tomorrow morning,” he challenged.  “I won’t take no for an answer.  I’m dying to show someone.”

He immediately disconnected the call so I had no chance to counter.

Damn!  Do I really want to go?  I mean, as much as I like Otis and admire his work, I’m not too keen on his presence.  He’s a bit slovenly; disheveled hair; dirty clothes; lacking in hygiene; and that unnerving laugh!  It may not be too bad; perhaps I can distance myself from him in the program.

“What the hell!” I said to no one in particular.

“Who are you talking to, Boris?” Jing surprised me.

I chuckled, “Just talking to myself.  Isn’t that what crazy people do?”

“You’re not crazy.  I can vouch for that,” she purred.  “Would I keep coming back to a crazy person?” 

She kissed me on the cheek.  I wrapped my arms around her and drew her in close.  My lips met hers; sending bolts of electricity down my spine.  Some people say the spark fades soon after marriage, but I still feel the wonting whenever she is near.  I pressed closer; melding my body with hers. 

I jumped back suddenly, feeling a poke in my abdomen.  The baby was kicking.  I couldn’t help but take the chance to poke the baby back; rubbing my hand on her tummy, feeling the little feet push against my open palm.  I didn’t get to experience any of this with Ning and Jacques.  Although I did get Ning as a baby, I missed the first time he kicked.  I really shouldn’t complain, though; I was there for Ning’s first step, the potty training and the first word.  Jing missed out on all of those things.  This one we get to bring in to this world together.

“She’s going to be perfect.  You’re going to be Daddy’s little girl, aren’t you?” I cooed at Jing’s tummy.

“She?  You know we don’t know whether it’s a boy or a girl,” she said, almost scolding.

“I know, I know!  I’m just kind of hoping it’s a girl since we have Ning already.  Can’t I wish?” I looked up at her with puppy dog eyes.

She couldn’t help but titter at the look on my face.  “I love you,” she responded.  “I love you so much.”

“I love you, too,” I affirmed as I rose and pulled her in close.  I gently caressed her cheek and was about to kiss her when I felt a small tug on my pants leg.  “Hey, buddy!  I have to go see Otis, so you need to take care of Mommy while I’m gone.”

I know he doesn’t fully understand what I’m saying, but the smile on his face was all I needed.

I arrived at Otis’ place on the early ferry, putting my aground on the island around nine in the morning.  I made the climb up to cliff top and to the building.  Once inside, I was met with the opening of the elevator doors. 

…eyes and ears the world over, ” ran through my mind as I realized he was watching my approach and knew when to open the elevator doors.

“Hello Otis; I’m here!” I said, like he didn’t know I was here.  What a dumb thing to say; jackass!

“Hey Boris!” reaching his hand out to shake mine.  It looks like the weather was on your side this trip.

“Yes, that it was,” I had to agree.  “So, when do we get started?”

“We enter at any time.  I have the program set to go.”

We donned our visors and were instantly transported into an elevator.  The motion of the elevator indicated it was rising up the shaft.  A few seconds later, the doors opened into a dimly lit night club.  As we stepped from the elevator, I looked around only to notice that, besides a bartender, we were the only men in the club.

“What do think?” Otis inquired.

“Ummm…I’m not sure what to think.”  I’m sure he could hear the regret in voice, if that’s possible.

“Find yourself a lovely and mingle.  Who knows, it may lead to much more than talking,” he winked as he lightly nudged my ribs with his elbow.

“Otis, I’m not looking for someone to…,” I began to protest.

“Relax, Boris, it’s not real.  Let yourself go.  Have some fun.  Only you and I will know.  Oh, and just so you know, the blond there is mine,” he indicated as he pointed toward a buxom blond in a little black dress.

Not being much in the mood for socializing, I stepped up to the bar, ordered a drink, and quickly found a table away from everyone else.  I slowly sipped my drink, listening to the pianist play.  I was so enrapt in the music, that I didn’t notice the two women approach the table.

“You look lonesome.  Mind if we join you?” the beautiful redhead queried with a smile.

“If you don’t mind…”

“I’m Genevieve, and this is Freya,” the brunette said, cutting me off and taking a seat before I could get another word out.

The two beautiful women took seats on either side of me.  Freya ordered drinks for the three of us.  We chatted; well, they chatted; while we sipped our drinks.  There was something familiar about both of these women, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. 

After we finished the first drink, Genevieve excused herself and Freya offered to get me another drink.  Before I knew it, “Romantic Drink,” escaped my lips.  I couldn’t help but watch as she swayed with regal elegance over to the bar.  The soft fabric of her dress gently hugged every voluptuous curve of her figure. 

As she waited on the drinks, I walked over to the window and peered out just as the sun had fallen below the horizon; the soft mauve hue giving way to darkness. 

She returned with two stemmed glasses filled with a red sparkly liquid and handed one to me as she spoke.  “This should break down those barriers of yours,” she winked.

She stood against the darkness outside.   

The barriers, as she called them, had already begun to fall as I watched her walk across the room.  If I’m not careful…

My thoughts were interrupted as Genevieve returned after visiting the bar on her way back.  We found some sofas in a secluded corner and claimed them for ourselves.  We consumed several more drinks and chatted the hours away, both women chatting, smiling and giggling.  At least it seemed like hours. 

I felt a stirring inside my body, and as if she could perceive my needs, Genevieve took my hand and led me through a door.  I walked along obediently, as if in a trance.  The door opened to a lavish bath area all in marble.  We each stepped behind a curtain and changed into bath suits that had been conveniently provided.  How could I change into a virtual bathing suit?  Or was I only imagining I was wearing said suit?  My head was so clouded from the affects of the drink; I wasn’t sure what was real and what wasn’t!

I slipped into the waiting bath, letting the water envelope me.  The steam rose from the water, somewhat clearing the haziness in my head.  I lay back against the marble, my eyes closed, letting the hot water caress my body.  I opened my eyes to find Genevieve had slipped in next to me.  We looked in to each other’s eyes; our bodies moving closer; my arm encircling her shoulders; my lips seeking out hers. 

The velvety smoothness of her lips taunted and teased with each kiss.  The ecstasy taking control, we slipped beneath the surface of the water, our bodies entangled; moving as one. 

I never would have thought that I could imagine this much pleasure; it brings new meaning to “self gratification!” 

I have not felt this exhilarated in a while.  Not a word was spoken as we lay there reveling in the echoes of our passion.  I lay back and closed my eyes, only to open them and find Genevieve gone.  I had not felt the water move around me, making for a mystical departure on her part.  Was I too enrapt to notice?

I stepped out of the bath and my wet suit.  I grabbed a towel from one of the nearby benches and wrapped it around my waist.  I moved into the adjoining room and proceeded to pour myself a drink.  As I began sipping at the sweet nectar, Freya entered in a stunning two piece suit. 

The lovely gown that once draped her body belied her sensuality.  I once again felt the ecstasy building; the towel unable to mask my desires any longer.  She took my hands in hers and led me to the bath.

I couldn’t control myself; not that I really wanted to anyway.  The towel slipped from my waist.  I was so anxious; I stumbled getting into the water.  Had it not been for Freya’s grip on my hands, I surely would have cracked my head open on the marble.  I must have turned several shades of red at my clumsiness. 

No sooner had I righted myself, than we were moving towards each other.  The sweet scent of her hair made my head begin to whirl.  We moved closer, our eyes closing in unison, as if triggered by some mechanism.

The kiss was strong, yet passionate; forceful, yet sensual. 

In an instant, our bodies slipped below the surface, dancing their own ballet as we made love.  My heart was pounding to the beat of the water jets.

The vitality I felt was invigorating.  I can’t recall ever feeling this alive.  We lay in the water, our arms touching, fingers interlocked; the only sound the running of the water into the bath.  I was completely satisfied.  I was thinking, “Boris, you are one strange man, to reach this level of ecstasy in an imaginary world!”

I opened my eyes, and turned towards Freya.  Without so much as a moan, as if an encore were warranted, we slipped beneath the surface a second time; writhing and undulating with the jets of water from the bath massaging our bodies; heightening the charge coursing through my veins.  Coming up for air, gulping it in, and returning to my sensual partner; I thought my heart was going to explode.  I barely had enough energy left to lift my head above the water.

Sated, she rose from the bath and walked toward the exit.  Covered in a watery sheen, steamy droplets of water fell from her skin with each step.  She made no attempt to grab a towel as I watched, no ogled, after her.  After she had vanished through the doorway, I lay there exhausted; triumphant!

After what seemed like hours, I pulled myself from the water.  I couldn’t have been there too long as my skin had not yet begun to wrinkle.  I got dressed and sought out Otis.  He was still in the lounge trying to hit on his imaginary women.  I couldn’t help but laugh to myself, seeing that they didn’t even want him.  Perhaps it’s the snorting sounds he makes when he laughs.  Whatever the case,

It’s been a couple weeks and I cannot get Freya off my mind.  I really need to get my head back to reality.  I have a family and a wife I love very much.  Just as I shook off those thoughts, Dad walked in.  I really needed to find out what was going on with him, Damon and the organization.

“Hey Dad, I haven’t had a chance to talk with you since Uncle Dante was by.”

“Hey Boris!  We’ll have to sit down and talk in length, but we’ve talked it over and have decided to close down our operations here in Crescent Bay.  We’re riding on the crest of a wave right now, so we’re going to take advantage before things turn sour and we’re out of luck.”

“I can understand that!  What are your plans?”

“Once we have everything at the Warehouse moved or destroyed, the two of us are going to take a long overdue and extended vacation.  We’re going to leave the house to you.  It’s yours to do with as you please.  We’ll have everything we want placed in storage and what’s left is yours.”

“You sure have a lot to place in storage,” I mused, making a mental list of all of the statuary and gems scattered about the grounds.

“We’re wondering if we might have a vault constructed under your estate in Riverview to store most of it.  You would be welcome to use or display any pieces you wish.  You would have complete access, of course.  I would just like to get it out of Crescent Bay.”

“I can understand that.  Sure, I don’t have a problem with that at all.  As much as I like this house, I can’t see trying to maintain two.  I will probably sell it.”

“That’s fine with us.  I’m on my way to an appointment, so we’ll talk later in more detail.”

“Sounds great, Dad.  You know me, I’ll want details.”

I walked over to the hall table and checked the mail.  There was a card From Ruby addressed to Jing and me and the boys.  It’s an invitation to the triplet’s birthday party in April.   I gathered it up with the rest of our mail and took it to Jing in the living room. 

Jing called Ruby and accepted the invitation to the kids’ party.   Mid-month March, we celebrated Ning’s birthday.  Jing didn’t feel up to a big party, so she arranged a small family affair.  To my dismay, she didn’t even invite Axel or Ruby and the kids. 

In April, we headed to the park for Lothario birthdays.  I was surprised to see Molly and Tony there; and boy, did we see Molly.  She is almost as big as Jing and her due date is months later.  Isn’t that something, Molly and Tony having a child together?  I guess I should have seen that one coming.  The kids had a lot of fun; it was a good day for all.

Uncle Hector volunteered to coordinate the Crescent Bay premiere of Project Unity.  Knowing I was a huge fan, he acquired tickets for Jing and me.  I was giddy with excitement; childlike; as the day drew near. 

There was a matinee showing of the film at the downtown theater; a red carpet event.  The screening was followed by a reception at one of the new towers in that had cropped up.

The show was more than I imagined.  I’m so glad we got the chance to attend the premiere.  This will be a special night for me.  I only hope it isn’t too much for Jing.  She’s almost eight months pregnant, but insists she is fine at every turn.

We arrived a few minutes early, so, not wanting to be too early, we stopped at the lounge on the floor below to have a drink and listen to the live musicians.  We made our way to the elevator just as the reception was getting under way.

As we stepped from the elevator, Jing on my arm, there were three people gathered in the anteroom.  I recognized the woman in the center as the one who plays Security Chief Bonwick in Project: Unity.  The redhead is probably Anna Roberts, who plays Freya.  The guy, although I can’t see his face, must be a cast member also.

We entered the banquet room to find it teeming with people.  Some I recognized, but most I did not.  I began pointing people out to Jing, knowing she knew fewer than I did.  Uncle Hector was engaged in conversation with several men.  I would later find out that they had flown in from Barnacle Bay.  Kale was talking with a young lady and Uncle Dante was there with a fair skinned woman in a big hat. 

Had he finally found the woman of his dreams?”  I chuckled to myself.

We made our way to a small lounge area where Jing could be more comfortable.  This area looked into a large fish tank that was home to some hungry looking sharks.

Kale came over with a young lady.  She couldn’t be more than 18 years old.  He was as bubbly as she was; full of vigor.

“Boris, Jing, I want you to meet Ms Genevieve Bartlett.  She’s in a book!” he said a little too excitedly.  Kale has come a long way from the days he would stare endlessly at the “acquisitions” my father made those many years ago.  Uncle Hector brought Kale to come live with us after his wife died.  Kale, Axel and I grew up together, although Axel would have nothing to do with Kale.  Axel would say he “wasn’t all there.”

“I’m pleased to meet you.  Please, call me Gin or Ginny.”

“The pleasure is all ours.  What does Kale mean; you’re in a book?” I inquired.

“Oh, my Aunt wrote a book called School Days.  I doubt you’ve heard of it, though,” she said, seemingly disappointed.

“Are you kidding?  I loved it.  And you’re in it?  Wait, don’t tell me…”

“Yep, my Aunt Cameron based the character of Genevieve/Gin/Ginny on me,” finishing my sentence then rolling her eyes.

“I should have known that.  You look like the description of Gin in the book.  So, is there a real Erik, Tim, V (heaven forbid), Todd, or the others?” I teased. 

I could feel my eyes widening as I realized that the virtual Genevieve was the adult version of Gin from the book!  I’ll bet I looked like Marty Feldman!  Either I imagined the size of my eyes, no one noticed, or they didn’t comment out of courtesy.  The likeness of this young lady to the Genevieve I…well…you know…is uncanny.

“Not that I’m aware of,” she was saying with a giggle as I recovered from my realization.  “It was nice meeting you both.  Would you please excuse me, I should get back to my Aunt.”

“I’ll see you later, Gin,” Kale waved as she strode away.

“Boris, Jing, I want you to meet Billy Chang, Anna Roberts and Charlese Morgan, three of the cast members of Project Unity,” Uncle Hector triumphantly introduced the trio he had in tow.  “This is my nephew, Boris Michaels, and his lovely wife, Jing.”

“I feel honored to meet the cast of Project Unity,” I spat out, shaking Billy’s hand.  “The movie was spectacular.  I love the characters you portray.  Security Chief Bonwick; well let me just say that she is a woman you love to hate.  Bravo Ms. Morgan!”  I turned to Ms. Roberts and suddenly began to stumble on my words, recognizing the woman I had conjured in the club of Otis’s world, “Freya and Meng…together; who’d have thought?”

“Oh, Boris, you’re embarrassing yourself as usual,” Jing tittered.  Blushing, she continued, “The movie was wonderful.  I can’t say I’m as big a fan as Boris, though.”

“That’s quite all right, Mrs. Michaels,” Billy replied, flashing a big white, toothy grin.  “Not everyone is a fan.”

“Please, I’m Charlese; this is Billy and Anna!” Charlese protested.  “No need for formality after dear, sweet Hector has sung your praises.”

“I did no such thing,” Uncle Hector said with a wink, then turned his attention to Charlese and engaged her in conversation.  I think he may be smitten; she is a very pretty woman.

Billy took a seat on the sofa and chatted with Jing.  She seemed to be enjoying herself, thankfully.  She’s not much for movies or television and I was afraid she’d find this affair droll and boring.  To her credit, she loves to meet new people.

“It was very nice meeting you, Mrs. Michaels,” Anna interrupted momentarily, hooking her arm in mine.  “Might I borrow your husband to introduce him around?”

“Of course; I’m sure he would love that,” Jing allowed.  “Please, call me Jing.”

“Thank you, Jing.  Come Mr. Michaels, Let me be your escort,” Anna teased.

“I would love that,” I beamed, “and it’s Boris.”  She nodded as she led me off to the anteroom. 

We stopped near the elevator.  She took my hands in hers, Looked into my eyes and matter-of-factly cooed, "I just wanted to say I had a wonderful time the other day."

"I know who you are, Anna, but I don't think we've met before.  I would have remembered that encounter."

"But we have met; the club; the baths..." she trailed off.

"Oh, my God!  You were real?” I almost screamed.  “I mean; was it really you?"

“Yes that was me.  I had met Otis at a SciFi Convention a couple months ago.  Jonathan Talfey and I were there promoting Project Unity.  Otis told me of his invention; the ‘virtual reality experience,’ I believe he called it.  It was sheer coincidence that we were there on the same day, using his scenario.”

“I, I…don’t know what to say,” I stammered, clearly at a disadvantage.  I felt my face begin to flush and could just imagine the many shades of red it was turning.

“You don’t need to say anything.  I just wanted to tell you what a passionate man you are.”

“You are as gracious as you are beautiful; not to mention very passionate.  I will never forget that day.”

“A man after my own heart.  Jing is lucky to have you.”

“She might argue that point,” I chuckled, feeling more at ease.

"Hello, Jing, I’m sorry I didn’t chat with you earlier,” Hector apologized, “but hosting this reception has taken much of my time.”

“You needn’t concern yourself, Hector,” Jing eased his conscience.
“I’m glad you and Boris have gotten this opportunity to meet some of the prominent people here," Hector was saying as he pointed out a few celebrities to Jing. 

“I think this was good for Boris.  He was spirited away by Anna.  Boris loves that show she is in.  It’s the only one ever watches besides some crime drama.”

“Ah, Boris, there you are,” Uncle Dante motioned for me to join him.  “Hector has been monopolizing you all evening.”

“He’s like a kid in a candy store here,” I quipped, hoping I didn’t have lipstick smeared all over my face.  As I looked into the mirror on the wall, I saw that there were no traces of lipstick.  Freya winked as she walked past with her arm wrapped around Billy’s.

“That he is.  I’d like you to meet Monsieur Étienne Fortier, CEO of Fortier Imports,” Dante said indicating the gentleman to my right.  “Monsieur Fortier, may I introduce my nephew, Boris Michaels.

“It’s nice to meet you Monsieur,” I said, reaching out to shake his hand.

“And you, Monsieur Michaels.  May I introduce my companion for the evening, Mademoiselle Elissa Duvall,” he said as she stepped from behind him.

I gasped, although not audibly; at least I hope it wasn’t audible.  What are the chances of seeing her in Crescent Bay?  What do I do or say now?  Damn, I’m never prepared for these fortuitous situations.  I’ll just follow her lead.

“Hello, Boris.  It’s good to see you again,” she said with a kind smile.

“You are as beautiful as ever, Elissa.” I said not able to think of anything else.

“Oh, thank you, Boris, flattery will get you everywhere,” she blushed.  “Étienne knows all about you and Jacques.  He is very kind and understanding.  How is Jacques, by the way?”

“Jacques is just fine.  He’s growing like a weed,” I added, regretting using such a country cliché!  “Would you like to see a picture?”

“I would like that very much,” she said unconvincingly. 

I removed my phone from my pocket and began scrolling through the pictures I left stored on it.  “Here he is.”

“Oh, he is adorable.  Thank you, Boris.”

“I can arrange a place to meet, if you would like to see him in person.  I think it would be good for him to see his mother.”

“No, I don’t think that is possible.  Étienne and I are leaving on the morning flight back to Paris.”

“That’s too bad.  Well, I hope you have a safe flight home.”

“Thank you again, Boris.  It was good to see you.”

I almost offered to introduce them to Jing, but thought better of it.  Jing was still not comfortable with Jacques in the house.  This would probably send her over the edge.  That situation is fine as long as I am able to work from the house; but if I were ever to get a job, I shudder to think what would happen to Jacques.

I took Uncle Dante aside and made him aware of my concerns with Jing meeting Elissa.  He understood completely and agreed it was for the best.  I can’t help but be thankful for having such caring parents and uncles.  They may be hoodlums, politicians and celebrities, but they would bend Heaven and Earth for family.

Jing and I left early; we had finished our meal and she said she was tired.  This is sure to be one day, well one of two days, I will not forget fairly soon.  I know Jing could have seen the kiss from the other room, but she made no indication that she had.  I was not going to be the one to mention it, either. 

Would I kiss Anna again, if the opportunity presented itself?  I believe I would.

End Boris

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