Chapter 12: Homesick

 

Author Note: This chapter is a departure from the normal format, the text is the lyrics of the song linked just below. I hope it is not too confusing.

 Fair warning: Graphic Content!!

——————–

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Everything around me seems so much different than where I’m from
And at this rate I think my fate’s been sealed
This life’s so unpredictable

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We’ll go continue to live a life that no one knows
Where’s this gonna go?

———————————-

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Right here, right now
This is the beginning of the end
And I won’t sing one single thing until we can get this right
I’m moving on
I’m moving on

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Hey mom, I wrote you some soft songs
And tell dad I’m just fine
We had to choose
We made our moves
And now we got to go, go

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Everything about me seemed so much different when I was young
I couldn’t wait to take my place
The years have passed
Good God have I been gone?

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So why, I’ve never felt so alone in my whole life
Time’s not on my side

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Right here, right now
This is the beginning of the end
And I won’t sing one single thing until we can get this right
I’m moving on
I’m moving on

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Hey mom, I wrote you some soft songs
And tell dad I’m just fine
We had to choose
We made our moves
And now we got to go

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And why’s this make me so nervous?
Why does everything go wrong?
Why’s this make me so nervous?
Why does everything go wrong?

5

I’m holding onto a fairytale

6

We’re moving forward but we’re not there yet

8

I’m holding on to a fairytale
We’re moving forward
we’re moving forward

2

3

I’m holding onto a fairytale
We’re moving forward but we’re not there yet

4

I’m holding on to a fairytale
We’re moving forward, we’re moving forward

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Hey mom, I wrote you some soft songs
And tell dad I’m just fine
We had to choose
We made our moves
And now we got to go

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And why’s this make me so nervous?
(You make me so, you make me so)
Why does everything go wrong?

——————————-

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Why’s this make me so nervous?
(You make me so, you make me so)
Why does everything go wrong?

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Chapter 11: Splinter

Monday:

a

RIIIIIIING
The sound of my phone startles me from sleep. I check the time.
2:15 AM
RIIIIIIIING

b

I pick up my phone, checking who on earth is calling me. It’s my mother.
“Hello.” I greet nervously.
“Hugh, honey,  Oh thank God you answered.” Her voice is thick with emotion. “Something terrible has happened.”
————-

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
1

I’m awakened by an urgent knocking. I sit up confused, wondering who it could be at… 5:45 in the morning.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK

2

I jump out of bed and head for the door. As I pass the window I catch sight of Hugh…
What’s he doing here?

3

…I pause- and Robert and Helen.
I can tell by the looks on their faces it is something serious. My stomach churns as I reach for the doorknob.

4

A shiver runs through me when I touch the metal.
I don’t want to know
For a moment I consider pretending I’m not here. It is irrational, they know I’m here…but I don’t want to be.
and I was so close…

5

I hear Helen’s voice as I turn the knob, “Nessie, please, open the door.”
I catch her eyes first, and the look she’s giving me, I know this is bad and I know it is about my parents.
I step back slowly as Hugh moves toward me.

6

“Hugh…”, his name comes out like a plea.

He clasps my shoulders, “Nessie, you should sit.”
Panic rises in my throat, he won’t look at me. “Hugh, what happened?”, I beg as he guides  me to the foyer chair; I sit. “Where are they?”

7

His eyes dart briefly to mine as he kneels in front of me. I feel Helen’s hand on my shoulder, Robert is holding her other hand, a grave look on his face.
I get it…
I start to feel light-headed.

8

“Your parents…Nessie…they were in an accident. The plane, it went down…they didn’t survive.”
The room starts to spin.
“They’re gone.”

9

Gone.

———————

10

I finally muster the courage to look at her face. Her eyes are glazed over, her breathing becoming ragged. I have no idea what to do.

11

My mother reaches out to stroke her hair.

“I’m so sorry, sweetheart” She whispers. “I’m so sorry.”

12

Nessie’s face begins to contort, her eyes clear, tears spilling over so heavily they just drop straight into her lap. The sight sparks a fury inside me. I would do anything to stop this, anything to protect her from pain, but I am helpless.

13o

A tortured sob escapes from her throat and she leans forward to slide onto the floor. I catch her in an embrace and she clutches to me as if for dear life. She bawls into my shoulder, catching intermittent breaths, her body heaving, and I can’t….I tried to be strong but tears escape from my eyes, running down the bridge of my nose and peppering the back of her shirt.

13a

A few minutes pass, dead silence except for the sound of sniffling and the occasional whimper. I notice now that my parents are no longer in the room and I am thankful for the privacy.

14

I gently lift her head so I can look at her, with some effort she lifts her eyes to mine and the suffering I see in them constricts my breath. Her lip quivers as fresh tears retrace the lines on her face. I kiss both her cheeks; the sensation is wet, sticky, and salty.

15

“I love you, Nessie. I love you, I love you” I kiss the corner of her down turned mouth. I want to tell her everything will be ok, but how can I? Her world has just been shattered. The need to reassure her overwhelms me though, I need her to know she is safe.
“You are not alone. Ok? You’re not alone.”

16

Her eyes scrunch up as a she takes a shaky breath. She looks as if she wants to say something, but instead she purses her lips and shakes her head.

My mother enters the room, “Nessie, how about we move you to your bed?”, she asks gently.

Nessie shifts her eyes toward mom’s direction, then to me, keeping her head low. Like a small child she wipes the back of her hand across her nose, sniffling. Almost imperceptibly, she nods her head.

17

I stand and help her to her feet as my mom enters the bedroom to prepare the bed. After a couple wary steps Nessie halts, her mouth opens and closes as she tries to speak. Her breathing accelerates as she forces words to form.

18

“N-n-o…no…no…no” She coughs the word between gasping breaths, her body tense, knees buckling. I try to hold her up, panicking. “Nessie…” I hiss, trying to get her attention.

19

Suddenly, my dad is by my side. “Son, lower her down gently. ” He says in a controlled voice. “Hold her head.” He directs. I do what he says.

20

“Nessie, listen to me.” He states loudly, placing one hand on her stomach and using the other to push her hair from her forehead. “Concentrate, slow down. Hear me?”

“Nessie, breathe!” I insist.

21

She doesn’t respond, just continues to take shallow rasping breaths, one hand gripping my arm. Her eyes roll backward and I hear my dad still speaking.

He shakes his head slightly, “She’s going to…”

22

She goes limp.

“…pass out.”

He sighs heavily.”Well, at least she can breathe now.”, he says tenderly, caressing her smooth forehead and I notice his hand shaking. I hear my mom crying.

23

I cradle Nessie’s head in my lap, her face could almost pass for serene if not for the tear stains.

“Dad” I look at him helplessly, “I don’t know how to make this better.”

24

His mouth is pressed in a grim line as he places his hand on my shoulder, giving an encouraging squeeze. “She is going to be fine, everything will be fine. Just be there for her. That is all we can do.

Come on, let’s move her.”

——————————

Black fades to gray and my nose picks up his familiar and comforting scent.

25

Light breaks through the gray haze and I feel the warmth of his arms around me. I open my eyes. They feel dry and my lids scrape like sandpaper as I blink, looking around the room.

26

Hugh feels me move and rouses. “Hey.” He whispers, giving a ghost of a smile.

“Hey.” I respond, pushing my brows together as I remember why he is here.

27

I lay my head on his chest, feeling slight relief at the tears stinging my parched eyes. “It’s real, isn’t it.”

“Yeah” He confirms quietly, drawing circles on my back with his fingers.

“Tell me.” I want to know what happened to them, where they are, and who else has been affected. They died in a plane crash; I assume there were a lot of casualties.

28

“Um, well…it was a small plane. Four seater. Just your parents and another couple, the Merrins, they owned the plane.”

The Merrins, I had heard about them. They would take my parents out to many of the really remote areas, or help transport supplies. As far as I know, mom and dad had flown dozens of times with them.

Hugh continued, “All we know is that they were heading toward the airport at Shang Simla to catch their international flight, but something went wrong. Their…they were recovered…and your parents will be returned home.”

29

His choice of words struck me….will be returned home….

I sit up, “I have to go to the restroom.”

I shove myself off the bed and make my way from the room.

They aren’t coming home, they are being returned.

31

My pace quickens as I hear the bed creak behind me and Hugh’s voice, “Nes, wait.”

32

Rushing into the bathroom, I lock the door and crumple into the corner.

Oh, the cruel irony that is my life. Arin and Nellie Lochlan housed orphans, creating an orphan in the process. I guess I should be grateful, really; they treated me just like they treated the kids, visiting on occasion, making sure things were in order. I suppose, in reality, I have hundreds of brothers and sisters.

I chuckle morosely at the absurdity of that thought.

Then I remember my mother being welcomed by the children at the orphanage and I realize the full scope of it. I’ve stolen them. I asked for more, pulled them away from the work they loved, and now…now it all ends. We’ve all lost our parents.

34

I thrust my hands into my hair and ball them up, pulling at the roots. Why did I have to be so selfish?

“Nessie…”, Hugh says quietly from other side of the door. “Please come out.”

35

I almost had everything I wanted. And him, he says he loves me and I believe he means it, but how can I know that won’t change? How can I know- when so far everything I reach for crumbles away just before I can touch it?

36

I get up and head to the sink to run cool water on my fingers, dabbing my eyes to tame the redness. I stop once I glance in the mirror.

37

What’s the fucking point?

What’s the point when the tears are still streaming, when I am a hopeless case.

38

He just doesn’t realize it yet, but he will. And when he does I will have lost everything, just for wanting it.

Chapter 10: Anticipation

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“I love you, too.” I reply, unable to stop the smile that spread across my lips.
We have been trying to say goodbye for the last hour, but this time I really need to go. I’ve got homework to do!

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We disconnect and I sit down at my computer to do my required reading. Tomorrow is Friday and my first assignment is due, and I haven’t really been focusing much this week.

The words I’m reading just bounce off my eyes as my mind wanders. My lips tingle at the memory of his touch. My skin grows warm remembering his hands on me, and the feel of his body against mine.

As much as I want him, I’m not ready for that level of intimacy. Or at least I don’t think I am, my body seems to tell me a different story.
But isn’t it too soon? It’s only been a few days. I suppose it is fortunate he is not in town so I don’t really have to worry about it.

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I force myself to focus on the screen. Just as I’m finally absorbing some information my phone buzzes.
A text from Hugh:
“;)”

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I giggle at the simple message and realize that I’m probably going to fail this class.

Despite my lack of productivity, my week alone has been a nice reprieve. I’ve gotten a lot of time to think and unwind from the craziness that was last week. I’ve also had some time to do a little planning in preparation for the arrival of my parents, which brings it’s own kind of stress.
I did tell them that Hugh and I are together, which they were pleased to learn. My mother mentioned she thought he might have a thing for me.

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I’d never thought her to be so observant regarding my life.

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I have really been trying to push those kinds of thoughts away. This is our new start, I have to give up my hold on the past feelings, the resentment. It is hard though, to resist the urge to ice over when talk gets too personal. But that is what this visit is all about, the rekindling of our relationship.

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My work forgotten, I lean back in my chair and gaze out the windows. How many times I have retreated to that lawn chair and watched dragonflies buzz over the glassy water of the lake, wondering if those I thought about were thinking about me.

The memories stir old feelings, and tears prick my eyes as the feelings swirl inside me along with my new-found hope. Their collision ebbing away at my cautious optimism, placing me somewhere in between and I realize that I am nervous as hell.

A new relationship, starting school, my parents….so many opportunities and so many chances to screw up. Nothing has truly changed yet. What if they get here and we have nothing to talk about? I have made some plans but they will be here for a month, that is a lot of free time.

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I get up from my chair and start pacing.

What if I lose my temper and make a mess of it all, and they want to leave early? Despite their assurances that things will be different, my anger and frustration is still simmering just beneath the surface and I don’t know how to deal with it. I want to stop being angry, but I can’t just will it away.

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I inhale sharply, trying to beat back the tears with my fluttering eyelids, but fail as I exhale into a sob. Maybe it is the anxiety, or relief, guilt, hormones….or a combination of those things but I can’t hold it all in.

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Throwing myself onto the couch, I glance toward my phone wanting to call Enya. She always knows what to do, but then what do I even have to say right now? I would be calling to complain about how everything is finally going right for me? No.

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A reluctant smile emerges as I remember her outburst when I told her about me and Hugh.
“Only you of all people, Nessie, could fall asleep while the man of your dreams is right there.”

Heh, Man of my dreams, how apt.

I could call Hugh, but this is all stuff we have talked about already. The poor guy won’t want to hear my emotional rambling. No, I don’t want to talk. I want him here so he can hold me.

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I hug myself, feeling pathetic for managing to still feel lonely even after getting what I want.

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A few minutes pass and I sit up, staring out at the water through the window.

Snap out of it!

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Annoyed with myself I head to the restroom to splash the dried tears from my face. I’m letting old memories get the best of me. It’s just stress and being alone in the house all week, but come Monday everything will be different. I know it will, I can feel it.

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“So stop having your little pity party, and do your homework.” I command to my reflection.

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My optimism and I return to the computer. No more distractions!
With uncanny timing- just as I am getting into my reading- my phone buzzes.
Hugh again:
“<3 ^.^”

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Warmth spreads through my chest as I silently chide myself for my brief break down.

Nessie, you will never be alone as long as you have him.

—————————

Note: Sorry this is so short, the next chapter will be longer! 🙂

Chapter 9: Intentions, Part 2

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Throughout the evening, my eyes keep finding her. I participate absentmindedly in the idle chatter at the table, but I’m not really listening. I just want to watch her.

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I want to know what she is thinking as she scans the room and sips champagne.

People start to fill the dance floor. She laughs while watching them, and blushes when Enya tries unsuccessfully to coax her to dance.

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Soon she is alone and I’m on my feet.
————————————–
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Just as I’m taking a sip of champagne I glance to where Hugh has been sitting all evening, and am shocked to see him half way to my table. I swallow painfully, because despite the drink my mouth has gone completely dry.

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“Hi Nessie.” He greets as he leans over the table.
My voice nearly fails me but I manage to answer, “Hi”
“You look really beautiful.” His eyes scan me quickly as he speaks.

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I look down at the table and I know my face must be ten shades of red by now, I put the glass of champagne to my lips.
Hugh gives me a lopsided smile and mischief twinkles in his eyes, “Do you remember that one time…” He says wistfully,”That you called me while you were drunk?”
Such a punk.

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I  set the glass on the table and raise my chin defiantly, “Actually…I don’t” I state truthfully.
He laughs. “Well, I do. And you seemed to think that if I had been there that night I would have asked you to dance.”

My heart jump-starts and I can feel my pulse in my neck, my breath is shallow…he’s not…is he?

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He extends his hand, “I’m here now.”
He is.

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As if in a trance I put my hand in his and he leads me to a spot on the dance floor.
“I’m gonna step on your foot, you know that right?” I giggle nervously as I place my hand on his shoulder.
He shrugs, “I’m sure I can handle it.” I feel his other hand on my lower back and he applies slight pressure to pull me a little closer. Unable to look at him, I direct my eyes to the floor beside us.

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I close my eyes as we move on the dance floor, the only parts of my body I can feel are the places he is touching. I can feel the heat of his body, like warm sand on a sunny day. I inhale, and  his scent takes me to the coast where the wind blows through my hair and the sound of waves crashing drowns out my busy thoughts, and I’m calm.

His voice pulls me from my reverie. “You’ve been a hard girl to get a hold of this week”, he said, smiling.

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“Yeah, I know. I don’t ever want to be that busy again.” I replied, looking around the reception hall. “But it was worth it, I guess, the place looks great.”

He didn’t take his eyes off me. Starting to feel nervous, I searched desperately for something to say. There is something, I guess now is as good of a time as any.

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“Listen, um, I never really thanked you properly…for what you did for me.”
His brow knit as he questioned, “What do you mean?”
“The trip, and my parents and all that. You pushed me to go and now things are getting better. I mean, I think we could have worked things out eventually…but it wouldn’t have been for a long time. And ever since I came home, as silly as it sounds, I’ve felt…braver. I feel like I can do something, I don’t really know what yet, but something.”
His smile interrupted my thoughts and I realized I was starting to ramble.
“I guess I just want to say that…I’m grateful. And thanks for being there for me.”
He took a moment to answer,”I just want to see you happy.”

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“Well, I am feeling pretty happy.”I said cheerily. “And you should know that you had a big hand in that.”
“Are you sure that’s not just the wine?”

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“You!”Giggling and rolling my eyes I pushed at his chest. He responded by tightening his grip on my waist, pulling me a little closer than before.
“And where do you think you’re going?”
“Apparently nowhere, but seeing as the song is changing might I suggest we sit? This song is a little…energetic…for my taste.”
He scrunched up his face as the song changed, “Yeah okay”

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We sat and talked for the rest of the evening, settling into the familiar ease of our conversation despite all the nerves I’d worked up all week.
Around the time Dermot and Enya made their exit, I was feeling pretty tired. I had to stay a bit to do some clean up, but it didn’t take long.
Hugh gave me a ride home, and walked me inside.

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“I’m so tired.”I said through a yawn.
“You’ve been really busy this week.”

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“Not to mention the champagne.”
“Sit down and I’ll get you some water”

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I shuffled into the living room and stretched out on the couch.
—————————————–
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I watched the water fill the cup and exhaled.
This is it. You got this. Just man the fuck up and say it.
Giving myself an encouraging nod, I turned and headed for the living room.

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The sight that greeted me deflated the confidence I’d just built, though I couldn’t help but laugh at my luck. She’s asleep. Of course, why wouldn’t she be?

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I set down the glass and fell onto the end of the couch, hoping slightly that it would wake her up. She didn’t stir.
“Oooh Nessie”, I groaned, leaning my head back on the couch. “Fuck it, I’ll say it anyway. I suppose if I say it once maybe it will be easier the next time, whenever that will be.”
I absentmindedly fiddled with the heel of her shoe.
“I wish that I didn’t have to leave tomorrow, but then I suppose if I hadn’t choked earlier in the week we wouldn’t be in this predicament, huh?
—————————————–

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We glide across the dance floor, and I’m lost in his eyes. I’m vaguely aware of people around us but they fade away as we turn around and around, spinning our own universe, and we are the only two inhabitants.

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“Nessie…” He whispers.
I can’t speak, but I beg him with my eyes to continue.
“…I really fucked it up.”

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My eyes pop open.
What?

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“I mean, why is it so hard for me to tell you I love you?”
My stomach clenched. What??
“First it’s me being an idiot, then it’s like all the forces of the universe have converged to prevent me. But, God, Nessie…”
This is still a dream, it must be. I bit the inside of my lip to test it.

“I love you.”
This isn’t a dream.
“But since you are asleep, I guess I’ll try again later…or tomorrow…or something.” He sighed and I felt him start to get up.

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“Wait!” I cried, sitting up suddenly.
He stared at me as he settled back into the cushion,”How long were you awake?”

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I shook my head dismissively, “…do you mean it? Really?” I was on my knees on the couch now, facing him.
He looked me straight in the eyes, “Yes.”
My head swam, tears stinging my eyes, I try to blink them back. I had been so nervous all week long and all the tension and emotion welled up inside me. A thousand questions tore through my mind, spiraling out of control. What happens now? How long have you felt this way? Do your parents know? Do I move in with you? Do we get married? What will our kids look like?

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“Are you gonna say something?”He asked, a bit anxiously.
I snap back to the present. The tears escape and I nod my head, “I love you too, Hugh”

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Without thinking I leaned in and placed my lips on his, but I quickly pulled my head back realizing I have no idea what I’m doing.

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He smiled and grabbed my waist, pulling me onto his lap. “I think you owe me for tricking me into thinking you were asleep.”
“I was asleep!”I replied, laughing.”Your dirty sailor mouth is what woke me up”

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He leaned forward. “You might come to appreciate this ‘dirty sailor’ mouth”
He kissed me softly and felt my body melting, then I was electrified when he sucked on my bottom lip.

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I laced my hand into his hair as he deepened the kiss, exploring my mouth with his tongue. I did my best to mimic his actions when he receded his tongue, inviting me to reciprocate.

We came up for air and he shifted his body so that he was laying next to me, almost on top of me. He trailed kisses along my chin as his free hand glided down from my shoulder to my waist to my hips, causing a stirring deep inside my belly. As his hand curved around my butt, I pushed myself up against him.

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“Wait, Hugh” I stopped him, pushing lightly at his chest.
This is too fast…too fast
He just looked at me, waiting.
“Uh…umm..I..I’m not ready…for this.”
He understood what I meant and nodded, “Of course.”

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He laced his fingers with mine, pulling my hand up to his mouth. “We won’t do anything you don’t want to do.” He kissed my fingers.

“I’m sorry” I murmured.”For avoiding you this week. I was…I was afraid that I wouldn’t like what you were going to tell me.”

He embraced me, “I was kind of afraid of that too. But no, if I hadn’t acted the way I did you wouldn’t have felt like you needed to avoid me. So I should be the one apologizing.”

“If you insist.” I replied playfully.

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The corner of his mouth tugged into a half smile as he drew me into a kiss. I tightened my grip on his shoulders, pulling my self tightly against him reveling in the warmth of his body. Our lips separated and he nuzzled my neck. He planted kisses slowly on my neck, working his way up until he reached just under my ear. I felt a chill run down my body as goosebumps raised on my skin. I laughed, “Hugh stop, that tickles.”

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“Oh really?” His lips touched under my ear again.

It dawned on me what he was thinking. “No!” I squealed, throwing my hand up in an attempt to block access.

He restrained my free hand, burying his face in my neck. I laughed uncontrollable trying to squirm out of his grip.

“Hugh!!” I screamed, breathless. “No!!”

I did the only thing I could, pushing with my legs I tried to slide off the couch to the floor.

“Oh no you don’t!” He caught me, but was off balance so I pushed again with my legs against the couch causing him to concede and roll onto the floor.

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I quickly pinned him, breathing heavily. “I….said….no…”

He laughed, “You are stronger than you look.”

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My triumphant expression turned to surprise as he easily rolled me over, reversing our positions. I was ready to protest but I saw the look in his eyes had softened, and he caressed the side of my face with the back of his fingers. He drew his face closer to mine and I closed my eyes in anticipation.

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“I love you.” He breathed against my lips just before making contact.

Chapter 8: Intentions, Part 1

She spoke quickly, “I can’t today, I’m going to pick up my dress and..”

1

“I thought you did that Tuesday?”, I interrupted.

“No, I had the final fitting Tuesday. The seamstress had to adjust one last thing before the dress was ready for pickup.”

2

“Okay, so after that..”

“After that, me and Enya are meeting her mom for lunch and going to the venue to set up the rest of the decorations. The rehearsal dinner is tonight and tomorrow is just going to be crazy. Hair, makeup, pictures…”

“I’ll just catch up with you later then.”, I sighed. “Have a good time.”

“Ok, bye.”

3

This is fucking absurd!

I have been trying all week to get some time with her so I can make things right. Whatever that was that happened Sunday evening has been haunting me and I can’t even get a moment with her to talk about it…or apologize…or something. I don’t even really know what to say because I’m not even sure what happened.
One moment I was in control, ready to tell her how I feel. The next moment I was lost in the curves of her lips, wanting nothing more than to just… just grabbing her and kissing her wasn’t exactly how I planned for that to go…is that why I hesitated?

You fucking idiot.

That is a terrible reason if it’s true.

4

I headed out to the shore and cast my line, hoping that one of my favorite past-times would help clear my head.

The opposite happened as the events of the week flashed before me. I did get a chance to see her Wednesday afternoon. I went over under the pretense of working on her lawn, and it concerns me that I even needed that for her to agree to see me. Is she avoiding me?

5

“Thanks for doing that, it looks much better”

“Yeah, no problem. Hey listen..”

6

“Oh speaking of problems, you will not believe some of the stuff we have been dealing with this week. Like just yesterday Enya realized that the caterer had the time wrong! Can you imagine how horrible that would be if they showed up an hour late for the reception?”

All I could do was stare. It’s as if some sort of wedding demon has possessed her. It’s not even her wedding. And how the hell can there be so much to do in one week when you’ve had all summer to plan?

“…and I still have not written my speech. I really have no idea what to say. I plan to do that this evening. I think if I don’t do it tonight I might not get another chance.”

Tell me about it…

7

“I’m sure whatever you say will be fine. Nessie, I really want to..”
Interrupted again, this time it’s her phone.

“Hold on a second, sorry.”

8

“Oh my God, I told her there wouldn’t be enough! I told her they would run out of supplies for the favors but she insisted it would be fine. Now she wants me to go get more and drop them off.”

9

“And you have to do it right this second?”

10

“Well yeah, they are working on them right now and I can’t just bail on her.”

11

I can’t really be mad at her since she is just doing what she is supposed to do, I guess, being the maid of honor and all. I did this to myself.

Why is it so hard to just tell her?
The question burned in my mind. I’ve asked out girls before. What is the big deal?

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I thought about Ava. It was easy to ask her out, she hardly gave me a choice. She practically threw herself at me, not that I minded at all. But we both knew what it was, we knew it wouldn’t last and that was fine.

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Morida. It was instant attraction, hot and heavy. She wanted me to propose. I thought about it, but I just couldn’t see it happening. As time went on and no proposal came, she became increasingly upset. I remember the night I knew it was over. I had been checking in with Nessie and when I visited Morida afterwards she was having a fit over it.

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“She is not your responsibility. You need to let go and move on with your life. You keep making excuses and I know they are because of her.” She said ‘her’ with such contempt.”You haven’t even gone to college yet…why? You can only take so many ‘gap’ years. It’s clear that you are stalling.”

She was right, I had been making excuses. After our breakup I enrolled in college. Nessie was able to take care of herself pretty well by then and it was time for me to make some progress in my life, but she was always in the back of my mind.
So what am I afraid of? It is obvious I can’t imagine life without her.

18

My phone buzzed, breaking me from my thoughts.
It’s Kilian. He lives in Riverview and was in the graduate program when I started and we had become good friends over the years.

19

“Hey”, I answered.

“So tell me, is it gonna be a double wedding tomorrow or what?”

“Definitely not.” I chuckled. “I haven’t even said anything yet.”

20

“What the…fuck, man!!”, He erupted. “It’s all you could fucking talk about and then you couldn’t even do it? I had to listen to your pining for months and just when I think you would end my suffering you puss out.”

21

I couldn’t help a laugh, “I wasn’t pining.”
I had only really talked about her a few times, Kilian has a flair for the dramatic.

“You were pining.”, he insisted. “Like a lovesick preteen girl. I feel like I already know this chick, you wouldn’t shut up about her.

So what happened?”

22

“I don’t know man, I kinda…freaked out and now everything is all weird. I mean, I had her right there and I just froze. I just- ” all the excuses I’d made swirled in my head and ultimately the truth revealed itself. “I couldn’t stand the thought of her saying no. She had been acting kinda strange anyway and it threw me off a little. I mean, if she says no then that’s it. It’s over. There is no way we could even be friends after something like that.”

23

Kilian sighed, “Man, you are thinking too much. I mean, what? Are you going to just be her friend forever then? I can tell you that she is sure as hell not gonna stay single forever. So then you are going to be this creepy pseudo-father figure who stares at her ass when nobody is looking.”

24

“Fuck you, Kilian!”, I joked.
He burst out laughing and I joined him. But he’s right, dammit.

It’s all or nothing.
——————————————-

25

That thought prevailed in my head as I took my seat next to my parents. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, tonight is the night.

26

I glanced around and started understand why the girls had been so busy this week, the place is transformed. And I’m pretty sure Enya invited the whole town.

27

I was reading a program absently when the music started up. Her mother, his father and step-mother, his mother and step-father; they all walked and took their seats.

28

I started feeling impatient. I appreciate the tradition of a wedding ceremony, but they can get really boring. Mostly, it’s just that this ceremony is- and has been all week- delaying me from what I want to do.

29

The music changed slightly and my breath caught in my chest as I caught sight of her midnight blue hair, pulled up to expose her neck.

30

The cut of the dress revealing her shoulders and back, the fabric clinging to her curves as she walked. I like her other dress, but I daresay I like this one better.

31

As she reached the front and turned to face the crowd, her eyes searched the floor and then the ceiling refusing to  acknowledge all the people watching her. I couldn’t look away. Finally her eyes scanned the audience and stopped on me, then immediately she averted her gaze while her cheeks flushed.

32

Like a magnet, her eyes met mine again. This time she didn’t look away. I smiled at her, she started to smile back.

32a

Then someone stood up in front of me.

Mom tapped my shoulder, gesturing for me to stand. Enya was walking down the aisle with her father.

33

I stifled a laugh thinking about how I had completely forgotten about the bride. I glanced at Nessie and she saw my amusement and smiled, giving me an inquiring look.

34

I shook my head and she eyed me shrewdly.

35

As the wedding continued, my mind was occupied with how I would handle the evening. I’m not sure what I will say or how to begin, I’m just hoping the right words will come to me in the moment.

36

All I know is I have to tell her and there is no room for doubt, I have to commit to tonight being the night that our relationship is changed forever. For better or worse.

Chapter 7: Confusion

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I keep checking the front window to see if he is here. God, I’m so nervous. It was never a big deal when he came over before but lately he is all I can think about and I’m just psyching myself out.

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Stop this craziness, Nessie, I tell myself. Exhaling and walking away from the window I decide to immerse myself in some reading to take my mind off things.

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Just as I sit down with a book I hear that knock I know so well. Damn, I was hoping to hear the car approach and have some warning. I try to control my breathing as I walk to the door. The thought crosses my mind to peek out the window once more, but then..no, he might see me and that would look weird. I don’t want to look weird.

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Reaching the door I inhale as I open it. “Hi”

“Hey” He stepped inside. “I should have brought my edger to clean up your lawn…”,  he mentioned as he closed the door.

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He stopped mid-sentence, eyes making a quick scan of me top to bottom. I felt my cheeks flush and placed a hand over one shoulder self consciously.
He smiled. “I like the new look.” was all he said.

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“Thanks.” and I finally really look at him. “You have a new look too- and your hair even.”

He looks good. His hair is swept over his cheekbones, framing his emerald eyes.

“Oh…yeah” he said running a hand through his hair. “I’m too old to be dressing like a goddamn hippie, besides I’m nearly done with school I figured I should clean up a little.”

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“I like it.” I started toward the living room. “I guess we’ve both changed.”
————————
“Yeah, I guess so…”

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As she is walking away, I can’t help but be mesmerized by the smooth bare skin of her shoulders,

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the way the skirt swings as her hips move,

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those slender legs…

She usually hides beneath layers of clothing, but this is something new.

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I followed her to the living room and she sat on the couch stiffly, looking nervous.
I sat at the other end. “So what’s goin’ on?” I asked casually.

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Her eyes darted to me, “Wh- What do you mean?”

“uhhhh…I don’t know? What do you mean?” I’m starting to get confused now. She is acting strange.

After a moment, she giggled as she replied, “uh, nothing. It’s nothing.”

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I gave her a skeptical look. “OH kay” I said dramatically. It’s never nothing.

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Anyway, are you glad to be on a break finally? You’ve been at school non-stop.” She asked, changing the subject.

“Oh yeah, but you know the summertime courses are mostly lab work so that’s no big deal. Last weekend me and the guys went to Sunset Valley for scuba diving, again. But the regular school year is pretty grueling, especially now that I’m in the high level courses.”

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She questioned me about all about school and seemed to loosen up a little as we talked. Soon she was smiling and laughing like usual. I had been nervous for a bit that today might be a repeat of last time I’d been here. I hated seeing her sad like that.
When she called to tell me how the trip went, I was so relieved that her parents finally realized the pain they had caused. That night she broke down, I had wanted so badly to tell her how I feel. Tell her she’s not alone and that I would be there for her, tell her that I love her.

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As the conversation turned to her summer activities, she jumped up excitedly. “You have to see the pictures they sent me! Come!”

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As she showed off the pictures I felt confident I had done the right thing not confessing my feelings that night. If I had, I think there would have been little hope of her going on the trip. I would hate to be a part of the wedge that had been driven between her and them. And to be honest, I was a little apprehensive about taking advantage of her emotional state. I didn’t want her to take a step in desperation that she might later regret. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t regret it…the thought of that is pretty depressing…but I have to consider the possibility. Given the nature of our relationship, I can’t assume she will return my feelings.

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But this time…as I watch her speak animatedly about her parents I know that she is in a better place.

“…and this one”, Nessie said gesturing to a picture of a little girl. “I made that toy especially for her. I even engraved her name on it.”

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“You’re pretty amazing.” I reply, smiling at her.
She took my statement as a joke, rolling her eyes and laughing. “Yes well, I do what I can.”

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She turned to leave the room, but I stopped her placing my hand on her arm.
“Nes..”

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The air in the room changed, I could feel her tense up. Not sure how to read that, my thoughts race. Does she sense where this is going? Is she anticipating or dreading? Surely she must feel the electricity I feel when we touch.

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She looked at my hand and then up at me, her eyes wide and questioning. Her lips slightly part as she inhales.
“uh..” My mind has gone blank, overwhelmed with the urge to kiss her. But inexplicably, I hesitate.

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“Hugh, what is it?” Her voice brings me out of my trance.

I drop my hand from her arm.

“Umm…”The moment is lost. “My mother wanted me to invite you for dinner tonight, it’s getting to be that time..”

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“Oh” She looked away. “Of course I’ll go, just…give me a minute to wash up.” She quickly left the room.

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I sighed and leaned on the dresser, my head in my hands “What the hell, man?”
———–
What the hell was that?

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I leaned on the inside of the bathroom door, placing my hand over my racing heart.
My stomach in a tight knot, my face feeling as if it’s on fire.
The way he had looked at me…
but then he invited me to dinner, or really Helen did.
What was he going to tell me? It’s obviously something important. Maybe he met someone and it’s serious. Or he got a career opportunity that will take him far away.

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Ugh, this is so frustrating! I was a bundle of nerves when he arrived and then finally I calmed down and realized I was nervous over nothing. Our conversation had flowed so easily and we had spent hours talking. Then suddenly he screws it all up and I can barely stand to be in the same room with him!
I splashed water on my neck to cool myself down a bit then headed out to face him.

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He was already outside, his eyes closed breathing the warm summer air. I admired him for a moment,  he has broad strong shoulders from swimming. A breeze rustled his hair and my heart skipped a beat, but the sudden emotion makes me want to smack him upside the head. What is he hiding? As I closed the front door he turned and looked at me. “Ready?”
I don’t meet his gaze, “yeah” I reply briskly as I walk straight to the passenger side of the car.

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The car ride was pretty silent, but I noticed him shooting me curious looks. I was relieved he didn’t ask what was the matter, because I didn’t really know what to say.
I’m mad because I’m nervous around you and I don’t want to be. But I can’t help it, I want more…
No way I could say that, talk about awkward. I could never look him in the eye if he didn’t say he felt the same.

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Dinner was great, I love being with Robert and Helen. I’ve seen them a few times this summer but not enough. I have really come to appreciate everything they did for me over the years.

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After dinner, we all chatted in the living room for a while.

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I caught Hugh looking at me a few times like he was trying to figure something out. Of course it was always while I was in the middle of talking so I just tried to ignore it. By the end of the night I was annoyed, tired of being uncomfortable, and ready to go home.

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When the car came to a stop in front of my house I wasted no time opening the door, “Goodnight Hugh.”

“What? Goodni-”

I shut the door before he finished speaking, he sounded surprised. I half expected him to jump out of the car and stop me, but he didn’t.

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Once inside, I waited at the door until I heard him drive away. I pulled out my phone to call Enya, but realized it’s way too late to call her. Good thing I’m seeing her tomorrow, we have a lot to talk about.

Chapter 6: Uncertainty

1

My eyes peel open, letting the oppressive light from the window in.
I don’t remember spending the night at Enya’s house. I sit up, my head feels like it’s full of lead.

2

Sitting on the edge of the bed I try to remember last night. I remember sitting at the table, I remember watching people dancing…
I look at my phone to check the time, using my other hand to try and rub away the headache. Instead of my home screen, my dialer is open…and Hugh’s number is typed in.

3

Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit
I quickly check the call history…yep, I called him. Oh shit.

What do I do? Call him back? Wait for him to call? I have to know what I said.

4

Enya! She will know. I fly off the bed and throw open the door, nearly knocking her over as I rush out of the room.

“Woah! What the hell? I was just coming to see if you were awake! Why are you..”

“Enya” I interrupt, panicked. “I called Hugh last night a-a-and I don’t remember. What did I say, did you hear? Did I talk to him? Did I leave a voicemail?”

5

Her shock turned to amusement as a big smile spread across her face. “Oooooh my God you drunk dialed Hugh!” She laughed.

“It’s not funny! What could I possibly have had to say to him?”

6

“I can think of a couple things.” She put her hand up to her ear and spoke in a mocking seductive voice. ‘Hi Hugh, it’s Nessie. I just wanted to tell you how sexy you are..'”

“You are NOT helping.” I squeezed my head with my hands. “What am I gonna do??”

“Just wait for him to call you. That’s what I would do. Whether you talked with him or left a voicemail I’m sure he will follow up with you.”, she answered nonchalantly.

As if on cue the phone rang. We both stood frozen for a second. I reluctantly check the caller ID. It’s him. I look at Enya in shock as I turn the phone so she could see who it is.

7

She didn’t even miss a beat and stuck her finger out, pressing the button to answer.

8

I cry out “What the HELL!” Then quickly turn the phone to my ear while shooting her a death stare. “Hello?” I answer, my voice strained.

“Hey” I can tell he is smiling.

9

I had to get straight to the point, it’s eating me up. “Uh, about the call…last night. Wh-what did I say? I don’t really remember..”

“You don’t remember?”He asked, clearly amused.

“No..”, I felt dread creeping into my mind. God, what did I say?!

“Well, that is a shame. We had a really nice chat.” he replied cordially.

10

“Oh no…”

“Oh yes, we talked about all kinds of things. Tell me again what it was like making out with Kearney?”

11

“WHAT?!” I screamed with such a high pitch I hurt my own ears. Enya winced and gave me an inquiring look. I’m gonna be sick.

Hugh was laughing hysterically.

“Nessie, I’m just kidding” He said, still cracking up.

12

Relief washed through me, “Oh my God…” I should have known it was a trick. He would never bring up something like that so lightly. Enya would have certainly said something too. I felt my cheeks burning with embarrassment that I was so gullible.

Hugh continued, “You left me some barely intelligible voicemail about how you wanted to dance or something. You mentioned Kearney was there, and I know how much you looove him.”

12a

“You- You are such a jerk Hugh!” How could he do that to me? “You almost gave me a heart attack!”

“Oh c’mon you set yourself up. If you are going to be drunk dialing people, you gotta be prepared for the repercussions.”He countered, playfully defensive.

13

“I don’t need this- you are just- ugh-I am hanging up now. Good day!!”

I heard him still laughing as I ended the call.

Enya was eyeing me suggestively.”So….?”

I sighed heavily, shaking my head in exasperation. After a moment I remarked “I’m starving.”
Enya burst out laughing.

14

“You’ve got to start coming out with me more often.” She giggled as she threw her arm around me and we headed for the kitchen. “Just don’t make me carry you home every time.”

“You had just better savor this moment, because it is never happening again.”
———————————–
Since that day I’ve managed to avoid getting drunk off my ass. I was annoyed at Hugh for teasing me like that, but I guess I deserved it. It is kinda funny, now that I think about it. Besides I was just relieved I hadn’t said anything…important.

15

The summer has kept me fairly busy. I’ve slowed down on toy production since I have given the orphanages a decent supply. I’ve also gotten to talk to my parents a couple of times but contact has been limited now that they are in a more rural area.

16

17

I was really moved when I received a package in the mail full of drawings and thank you notes from the kids. They even included some pictures!

17a

This one is my favorite.

18

Enya and Dermot’s wedding is coming up in about two weeks. I have been helping her with planning, and that has been a lot of fun. They are heading straight to school in Moonlight Falls the week following the wedding. Enya says they will go on a honeymoon later, with school and the wedding money is understandably a little tight.

Ugh, I still need to write my maid of honor speech.

19

Once they leave I will have a week to myself and then my parents arrive home! It works out perfectly because that will give me some time to get started on the online classes I signed up for. I’m not sure what direction I’ll go with a degree- maybe some sort of engineering- but these are just a couple prerequisite classes. Once I decide on a degree path I will probably have to transfer to a University. Moonlight Falls would be awesome to visit, but Riverview- where Hugh attends- does have a better engineering program.

20

I asked Hugh about it when he called a couple weeks ago, he thinks I would like it there. The town is pretty low key.

To be honest, ever since that phone call I’ve been able to think of little else. He is planning to be back for the wedding, arriving in town the Sunday before. The thought of seeing him caused my stomach to flutter.

21

Over this summer I had been becoming increasingly aware of my feelings for him. I always thought he was attractive, but up until that night before the trip I didn’t seriously consider my attraction turning into something real.
I remember the way he looked at me that night. Was there a spark of something there? Obviously he cares for me, but like a sister? Or something more? All questions and no answers, and all questions I am too afraid to ask. I would be mortified to confess to him, only to find out he’s not interested.

22

I will just have to wait and see.

Chapter 5: Courage

1

Turning around in front of the mirror, I inspected the back of the dress. Looks pretty good.

2

“Oooh Nessie, I really like that one”, Enya exclaimed as she came out to show off her own outfit.
We decided to do a little extra shopping after picking out my maid of honor dress. Enya thought it was about time I updated my style.

3

“You don’t think it is too bare? My shoulders feel naked.”

4

“That’s cuz they are. Trust me, girl, bare shoulders are hardly scandalous.” She laughed, giving me a pointed look.

5

“I guess..” I gave the front another once over then turned my attention to Enya’s outfit. “Yours looks really good, that is all you for sure.”

6

“Yeah I love this! I think I will wear it out tonight.” She gushed, giving a flourish.”You gonna come out too?”

7

“I don’t know, I’ll just be the third wheel.”

“Actually Dermot invited Kearney…”

“Oh God, well in that case I’m there.” I said sarcastically, rolling my eyes.

8

Enya nudged my shoulder playfully. “Oh cmon, he’s not that bad. Besides it’s not like you have to hang out with him…you just won’t technically be the third wheel.”, she said brightly.

9

“That makes me feel soooo much better.”, I replied as I headed back to the dressing room to change.

“You’d better take that dress!”, Enya called after me.

10

Smoothing out the fabric, I took one last look before changing. Maybe I really should buy it. I feel like I’ve sort of turned a new leaf, and what better way to broadcast that than a new look?
Since coming home from China I have completely supplied the new orphanage with all sorts of toys and I’m making more for the other locations. Enya helped me ask for donations from people around town and I have found that though most don’t think I’m so crazy anymore they still feel the need to taunt me…

toys

Very funny, guys…

12

I smiled with satisfaction that I probably got more donations because of that.

13

I exited the dressing room and headed for the register. Enya was already paying. She grinned as I walked up.

“Yay! Im excited you are getting the dress!”

“Me too!”

14

“Ok seriously, you have to come out tonight. You can’t buy a new dress and then not go out.”

Giving her an exasperated look, I consented,”Fiiiiine.”

She squealed and bounced excitedly and then proceeded to look at some items nearby while I paid.

15

I wonder what Hugh would think of this dress. My insides twisted and I started feeling really nervous. Good thing he is not in town. I will have time to get used to it before I see him again.

16

Back at home I changed into the new dress. Enya and Dermot are going to pick me up at seven. I fiddled with my hair, but decided to just leave it as usual. I really have no idea what to do with it anyway.

I just finished getting ready when the car pulled up.

17

I took a deep breath and one last glance in the mirror before heading out the door. This is the first time I will be going to a bar and the way Enya describes it, it doesn’t really sound like my scene but I’ve decided that this summer is going to be about getting out of my comfort zone.

18

Everything I’ve tried so far has worked out pretty well, I just have to be open minded.

19

Arriving at the bar, the first thing I noticed is that I am way out of touch with popular music. The place is pretty packed and the noise level is astronomical. Enya said something, but I didn’t understand until she pointed to a table in the corner.

20

We made our way over and sat down.
It is slightly quieter here, I can hear my thoughts just enough to know I’m not brain dead yet.

21

“What’ll ya have?”, the waitress yelled over the noise.

22

Having no idea where to even start, I just shrugged and looked at Enya.

“We’ll both have Tropic Twister and this guy will have a Buckwheat Blast.”

Dermot just smiled and nodded happily. He does whatever Enya says and loves it, which is perfect for her since she will always get her way anyway.

23

Seeing them so perfectly together always makes me think about my future. More specifically, who I will end up with. I mean, I certainly have my preference…but who is to say he feels the same…

24

A body slumped into the seat next to me, jarring me from my thoughts. It was Kearney, the insufferable fool.

25

“Hey.” He said, trying to sound cool. He thinks he is so suave.

I rolled my eyes and glanced at Enya, but she was still in her own world with Dermot.

“Sooo they talked you into being my date? Can I get you a drink?”

26

“They did NOT talk me into being your date, Kearney. And I already have a drink coming.”

“Well, dibs on the next one. Care to dance?”

27

The look I gave him caused him to throw his hands up. “Hey, Woah, I see you aren’t in the mood just yet. I’ll be back when you’ve had your drink.

28

Dermot, you’re on wingman duty. Let’s roll!”

Dermot looked at Enya and she nodded her consent. The boys headed off in the direction of some cute girls and I sighed with relief.
Me and Enya exchanged looks and laughed. The drinks arrived.

29

“Just in time! I love to sit and watch the boys walk around trying to get Kearney a date. Every now and again he is lucky, but usually it is awkward as hell!”

Enya had mentioned to me before how Dermot would play wingman for Kearney, I was actually quite eager to watch the train wreck.

30

I tentatively took a sip of my drink. My eyes watered as it burned my throat on the way down. Aside from that the flavor was pretty nice, not too sweet.

31

Kearney had better luck than we expected, so I ended up having to buy my second drink. Pretty soon Dermot came by to ask Enya to dance. She hesitated, but I assured her I was just fine watching from the table. It was definitely preferable to making some attempt at dancing.

32

The alcohol started to take effect after I finished the second drink. I felt almost giddy, like a kid again. The waitress came by “Another?” she asked, to which I nodded enthusiastically. The more the better! The music, while still not something I would choose, sounded more tolerable now and I found myself bouncing to the beat.

33

I watched the crowd. Everyone’s smiling, laughing, just moving with the music and not thinking about anything but right now.

I see Kearney watching his new friend lustfully and Enya giggling as Dermot paws at her playfully.

34

Feeling brave, I throw back the rest of my drink- then regret it slightly as the burning causes me to cough- but I have a great idea. No, a brilliant idea!

36

Pulling out my phone, I dial a familiar number.

37

It rings.

And again.

Cmon, pick up.

I hear his voice, “Hello”

38

“Hi!” I exclaim a little too excitedly, “It’s me! So this is crazy but..”

39

“You have reached Hugh Grey, leave me a message and Ill get back to you.”, the voice mail greeting continued in his genial voice.

*beeep*

40

Embarrassed, I snorted a laugh. “I just thought your voice mail was you! You should be here right now, we could make fun of Kearney together cuz he is being a real tool. I’ve never wanted to dance before, but now I kind of want to and nobody has asked me. I know you would- or maybe you wouldn’t want to dance but at least I would have someone to talk to.” I rambled.
“So anyway you probably cant even hear me since the music is so loud but…”

*beeeep*”If you are finished with this message, please hang up…”,The automated voice began.

41

“Fucking rude!” I yelled and ended the call. Tossing the phone on the table, I got to my feet defiantly.

42

I don’t need anyone to ask me to dance, I’ll do it myself…once this table stops moving….

43

“Nessie! Sit. Before you fall on your face.” I heard Enya’s voice and felt her pushing me back onto the seat. “How are you so drunk?”

“She is just a lightweight.” Dermot stated.

“I don’t wanna sit!”I whined.”I wanna dance!”

“You cant even stand, Nessie.” Enya giggled.

44

I let out a frustrated groan, “God it’s hot in here.” I started pulling up the skirt of my dress to let some air in.

“OOHHH kay…I think its time to leave.”, she exclaimed while slapping my skirt back down.

45

“Dermot, grab her arm and let’s get her out of here before her clothes fall off.”

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Both lots used for this chapter were created by elle0808

Ella Ray’s Salon

The Three Broomsticks

Chapter 4: Reparation

1

I’ve been working feverishly on these toys all week. I’ve had a couple failures, but once I got some good designs I’ve made as many copies as I can.

2

So far the kids are liking them, which feels good.

3

While I am very happy to be putting smiles on the children’s faces, I am feeling pretty stressed. For starters, I’m really getting homesick. I long for the comfort of my bed and the smell of my sheets. I miss the sound of the lake and the bugs that chirp incessantly in the evenings. There is none of that here and I’ve been losing sleep. The other thing is…

4

I stopped working and sighed. I don’t know what I expected coming here. We haven’t spent any real time together since the plane ride. You know, I get it, they have things to do, but seriously I’m only here for a week and am leaving tomorrow. Both of them are just go go go all the time.

5

I started up hammering again. I’ve had a lot of time to think while working on these toys, and I realized that even when I did travel with them it was like this.

6

My hammering got harder. They are so caught up in their work and they just expect me to be fine on my own.

Why don’t they see that I’m not fine! The final hit of the hammer produced a crack from the mass of scrap and cloth.

7

“Shit.” I murmured. I’ve ruined this one.

8

Sweeping it aside I got out some fresh materials.
I heard my mom come in the room, probably to gather some ingredients for dinner. Breakfast, Dinner and when she came to inspect my creations were the only times I had been seeing her during the day. She was always running around tending to washing, helping get meals ready, and teaching lessons to the kids. My father stays holed up in his office working on paper work or inspecting rooms making sure everything was up to code. The fact that they were doing pressing tasks is what held me back from just….exploding.

9

“You know” she started. “I am so glad you found something you could do here. I knew if you just came along you would see where you fit in.” She smiled at me in a way that I thought I would surely be sick.

10

I placed my hands on the table, feeling my temper rising. “I didn’t need to come here to find out I could make toys, I have a work table at home if you hadn’t noticed.”, I stated through clenched teeth.

“I did notice since it takes up most of the living room. It took you coming here to get your inspiration though, wouldn’t you say?”

11

“I don’t know Mom, I guess.” I relented.
“Nessie, dear, what’s wrong?” She asked, reaching for my shoulder.

12

I stepped away quickly. “No, don’t…touch me. Don’t pretend you care about how I feel.”, I spat, my voice quivering with fury.
Her eyes were wide with confusion and hurt, which made me even more upset. She doesn’t even realize why I’m mad, she is completely oblivious.

12a

I unloaded on her. “You are unbelievable. You left me to fend for myself while you took care of children who aren’t even yours! You don’t know anything about your only biological child! If you knew me, you could have asked me to help years ago. I could have made these toys, Mom, if you would have seen my potential instead of just writing me off.”

She struggled for words as I stared her down. “Nessie, I…I don’t…I didn’t…”

13

I stormed past her, not in any mood to listen to her stammering some excuse about how she didn’t know.

14

Once in my room, I collapsed on the bed letting my tears fall freely on the pillow. I just want to go home.

After some time passed I heard my father’s voice. “Nessie, can I come in?”, he asked tapping the door.

“No!” I replied.

The door creaked open.

Throwing up my hands in defeat I moved to give him room to sit down. “Come on in.” I said with a snarky tone.

15

He looked down for a moment and took a breath before beginning.
“Nessie, I love you. You are my daughter and I want you to be happy. Your mother…”

I huffed, turning my head away, causing him to pause.

“Your mother”, he continued,”wants the same thing. I feared this, you know. I was apprehensive about letting you stay behind because I didn’t want you to feel neglected.

“Then why didn’t you do something when I started to feel that way?”I asked incredulously

“I didn’t know Nessie. Really.”

16

There it is, he didn’t know. How is it that they can see the needs of every forgotten and broken child except the one right under their noses.

He continued, “You have always been quiet and reserved and when we visited home you never made any indications…”

17

“I shouldn’t have to ask my parents for their time!” I screamed at him as I stood up.” I shouldn’t have to say that I’m feeling neglected. You should have seen it. You should have known. But you don’t know me well enough to see it.”

18

The pain etched in my father’s face made me regret saying that last part, as much as I meant it. I turned away from him and cried bitterly, distressed that I had hurt them both like that just from finally voicing my feelings.

19

My fathers arms wrapped around me, “I’m sorry Nessie, I’m so sorry.” He stroked my hair softly.
“Hurting you is the last thing we ever wanted to do. You were so independent as a child, always quiet and keeping to yourself. I thought that things were how you wanted when we left you at home.”

“They were.”, I sighed.”For a while…I never had a choice on being independent, Dad, even when I traveled with you I was alone. Don’t you realize that? Didn’t you miss me?”

“Of course I did..” he started, but I cut him off, turning to face him.

20

“Didn’t you ever want to stop leaving me?”

21

His eyes were full of anguish. He turned and walked to the bed, slumping down on it and letting his face fall into his hands. “God, how could I have been so blind. I failed you, Nessie. I don’t even know how to express how sorry I am.
I never desired to leave you, but I thought that was what you wanted so I let it go. Our work really took off and left so little down time…
When we visited you practically avoided us, I just chalked it up to your independence. You never said…you needed me.” His voice cracked with those last words.

22

I looked at him with pity as he rambled, imploring me to understand his side of things. I reflected on the times when they would visit home. Once I started feeling overlooked I hadn’t given them much chance to make it right. I thought about all the times they asked how I was doing, and I gave a curt ‘fine’, pretending I was okay. How I started ignoring their phone calls and retreated within myself when they were home or when they tried to take me out to spend time together. For the first time I considered how things look from their point of view. Maybe they should have pried at me some more, but I had closed myself off a long time ago. I had let angst turn to an anger that fed into a deep seated resentment, and that resentment had clouded my mind until it was all I could see.

23

“I’m sorry too, Daddy.” I said quickly as I sat down throwing myself into his embrace.

He held me tighter, “No, none of this is your fault.”, He stressed.

24

My mother had crept into the room, her eyes red from crying.
Seeing her in such a forlorn state brought fresh tears to my eyes.

25

“Mom I’m sorry for the awful things I said.” I cried as I pulled her into a hug.

26

“No you were right” she said, taking measured breaths to keep her emotions under control, “I’m a complete failure as a mother, I couldn’t even see my own daughter felt abandoned. I’m sorry, Nessie. I love you and all I want is to fix this.  You don’t have to leave tomorrow, you can stay and we will get a hotel in Shang Simla and just spend time together in the city away from distractions.”

27

Just the offer, the fact that they would drop everything for me, was more meaningful than I could have imagined. As tempting as it was, I would feel guilty. “You guys are needed here though, I don’t want to completely throw off your work.” I said looking at both of them.
“How about this”, My dad spoke up,” You don’t leave until the afternoon so we will drive you into town early and we will spend the morning together. Then when we are finished with our current project toward the end of the summer, we will come home and stay with you.”  My eyes widened at him.

28

“For a month?” he said gesturing toward my mom. “I think we could do that.”

29

I looked at my mother and she nodded in agreement.”Yeah we can do that”

30

I hugged them both, feeling lighter than air. “Thank you so much, I love you!”

31

That night as I laid down to go to sleep, I felt at peace. I am going home tomorrow, things are on the mend with my parents, and I have an entire month with them to look forward to. As I dozed, my thoughts turned to him and I smiled. This is all his fault.

Chapter 3: Cultivation

Damn that man

1

I cursed to myself as we settled into our seats on the plane. Here I am sitting in the one place I never thought I would sit again, and it is all his fault.

2

A small smile played on my lips as I thought about our conversation the other night. He’d just given me a look and I went against years of resentment and agreed to do the one thing I had resolved not to do.

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Before we left I called him to tell him off.

He found it all very amusing, “Everything will be fine Nessie, just relax and have fun.”

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Have fun? Unbelievable!!

3

“Watcha thinking about?”, mom interrupted my thoughts.

“Nothing really, just thinking.”

4

“Are you nervous? It has been a long time since you have been back, a lot has changed. I think you will  have a better time than before.” She smiled warmly at me.

5

I can tell she is really excited I came along. We are headed to China where my parents are overseeing the opening of a new orphanage they’ve been planning. They have opened three other orphanages in different areas of China and spend much of their time checking in with them and bringing supplies. China is not the only country they do work in, but it has been a sort of pet project for quite a few years now. As I contemplated all the things they do, I felt a hint of pride. They are good people.

6

I realized she was still waiting for a response,”Oh..yeah. It will be interesting..”

“I wanted to wait until we got there to surprise you, but I can’t. Here.”

7

Reaching into her bag, she pulled out a brand new Multitab and handed it to me.

“Wow, thanks mom.” I had seen these but never really considered getting one. They do look pretty handy.

8

“We got it all set up already, so you can get right to using it.” My dad chimed in. He had been reading a Dragon Valley newspaper, catching up on things going on around town.

They both looked at me expectantly.

“Thank you.” I smiled at them. “It wont be much fun to watch me read so you can stop staring at me now”

9

They both laughed and sat back in their seats. I noticed we were already in the air. I am not afraid of flying, in fact I enjoy it. It is the one thing I would look forward to when I traveled. Being in the air is such a calming and quiet experience. I’ve taken off and landed so many times I hardly notice it, even after all these years.

10

I played around with the Multitab for a while. Since they weren’t planning on giving it to me until we landed there wasn’t much on there and I couldn’t access the internet while in the air so I ran out of things to do pretty soon.  I placed it in my bag and got out the magazine Hugh gave me. I had tried to hold off reading the entire thing so I would actually have something left to read while flying.

11

“What is that?” My mother had noticed my change of reading material.

“Just a magazine. Hugh bought me a subscription as a grad gift.” I replied as I turned the page.

12

“That was nice of him.” She gave me a strange smile before pulling out some reading of her own.

13

I looked back down at my magazine, finding it difficult to focus on the words. I know what she is implying with that smile, but there isn’t anything between me and Hugh besides friendship. I’m basically his sister. Besides you don’t buy magazine subscriptions for girls you have a romantic interest in, right?

14

Giving up on reading I leaned back in the seat.

It’s not like I have never thought about him that way, I have. Who wouldn’t though? He is hot.

That doesn’t really mean anything, and I don’t see why he would have any interest in me. He has dated a couple of girls in the past and they are nothing like me.

15

The first one was Ava. She had white blonde hair and creamy skin, very glamorous.

I didn’t like her much, too clingy.

16

Then he dated a girl named Morida. Red hair and green eyes. She was really beautiful. I know he really liked her and they dated longer. She broke it off with him eventually, I’m not really sure why.

I am glad though, I never thought they fit together. I don’t know if he has dated anyone since leaving for college. He probably has girls falling all over him at University…

17

I can’t think about that anymore.

18

I tossed the magazine back in my bag and leaned my chair back to take a nap. Sleep stayed far away and my mind wandered to the week ahead. That is how long I committed to this trip though my parents bought me an open ticket so I can stay longer if I wish.

Heh, doubtful.

They will be staying for at least a month and then they will be going to a more remote area with another couple to survey the conditions there and see what services are needed.

Being in this plane and anticipating the experience ahead brought back memories I hadn’t revisited for a long time.

Screenshot-206_zps34a0b0fe

I remember seeing poor people and handing out clothing and shoes. I remember sleeping in sleeping bags spread across decaying floors in the small houses of the families that hosted us. My parents were just starting their work on the orphanages then.

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I would spend most days with the host families while my parents went out to network. My favorite time was when we all sat around the table at dinner and then my dad would read me a bedtime story…

24

“Nessie, wake up. We just landed.” Mom was nudging my arm. I hadn’t even realized I’d fallen asleep.

Gathering our bags, we made our way off the plane and out of the airport to meet our ride.

25

Dayna, the lead volunteer in charge of the orphanage, drove us out. It took us a few hours to get up into the mountains where the village is nestled.

26

As we ascended the last hill, the building came into view.

“Here we are.” Dayna said brightly.

27

We exited the cramped vehicle and carried our bags inside. The building is not palatial by any means, but it is quite beautiful and will serve its purpose well for the children already making it their home.

28

Dayna led me to a small room. “Here is where you’ll stay, Ms. Nessie.”

29

That sounded weird.

“You can just call me Nessie.” I insisted.

“Oh, sorry.” She said with a laugh. “The children will be calling you Ms. Nessie. I usually end up using the same names they do for reinforcement.”

“In that case, you can call me that. I didn’t think of that.”

“Alright, please make yourself comfortable.” She smiled and left the room, no doubt to attend to what I assume is a very daunting to-do list.

30

Tiny. It is better than a sleeping bag on the floor though, I’ll admit. I closed me eyes and exhaled, I really have to try to be open to all this again.

31

I ventured out to find my parents. I came upon them talking with Dayna about how things were running so far. I heard her say they had just moved in a couple days before and were still getting things set up.

33

My mom noticed me and left my dad to handle the details. “So what do you think?” She was beaming.

34

“It’s great mom.” I meant it too. I still traveled with them around the time the first orphanage was completed and it was nowhere near as nice.

She smiled, “Come, let’s meet the children. I know some of them but there are many new kids I have yet to see.”

35

She led me to a playroom where the children were entertaining themselves.

36

A couple of the older ones ran to my mom, embracing her. I felt ridiculous as a pang of jealousy shot through me.

37

Watching her greet them, I felt ashamed for being jealous. These kids have no one else.

38

39

Some of them their families couldn’t afford to raise, some lost their parents to starvation or disease.

40

Some were simply the wrong gender.

Looking at their innocent faces, I acknowledged that the sacrifice of my parents time was not in vain. It won’t heal my wounds from feeling neglected and unworthy, but I can make a conscious effort to accept that these children have needs greater than mine.

41

“Gather around, children!” My mom announced. “I want you to meet my daughter Ms. Nessie. She came to visit you!”

Some of them said hello, others just looked at me like they were waiting for something.

“Erm..hi, I’m Nes..Ms. Nessie” I stammered. One girl giggled. I realized they already know my name.

My mom stepped in, “How about you kids tell her your names?”

They went around saying their names, which I am going to have to hear a few times to remember. The older kids pointed out the toddler’s names and I was drawn to the little one in the corner, I believe they had called her Jia Li.

42

I approached her and sat down.

“Hi Jia Li.”

43

She looked at me with her big eyes, still toying with the loose threads on her teddy bear.

“It’s nice to meet you. Does your bear have a name?”

44

Sheepishly she looked at the bear and then back at me. She held it out to me. Not sure what to do I took the ragged toy from her tiny hands.

45

“I wish I had brought you a new bear, Jia.” I looked around the room noticing a distinct lack of toys, and the ones strewn about were in similar shape to this one.

46

I met her deep brown eyes again. “I think I can help.” I said, talking to myself as much as her.

I offered the bear back to her and got to my feet to talk to my mother.

47

“Mom, how come there are so few toys for the kids to play with? And the ones that are here aren’t in good shape.”

48

My mom sighed as she looked over all the kids. “We just can’t afford it. We rely on donations for toys and we have been spread pretty thin lately with the addition of this building. All the money we have goes to necessities like food and utilities, we’ve had to prioritize.”

49

“Well maybe I could make toys, mom. I’ve made other things at that worktable I have at home, how hard could it be to make some toys?”

51

“Nessie, that would be wonderful!” My mom’s eyes lit up. Dayna had just entered the room and heard our conversation.

52

“It would be incredible if you could do that for us. It just so happens that the construction volunteers left a worktable in the storage room. Maybe you could try making some while you are here!”

“How fortunate!”My mom exclaimed.

“I could give it a shot.”I replied.

53

Handing off the baby, I think her name is Mei, my mom pulled me into a hug. “I’m so glad you came.”, she said softly.

54

I nodded, giving a small smile. My mind was already working to come up with some toy designs. Excusing myself I headed back to my room.

55

As I sat on the bed with my notebook in hand, I imagined how I had felt I could sock Hugh in his smug face when he suggested coming here. I have to admit, although I miss being home, it isn’t as bad as I expected.

56

Putting my pencil to the paper, I began sketching.