To Seal Our Happiness (Part 1)
A Whateley Academy Tale
To Seal Our Happiness
Parents' Day 2007
E. E. Nalley
So go ahead and ask her
For happy ever after
'Cause nobody knows what's coming
So why not take a chance on loving?
Chris Rice, Lemonade
October 26th, 2007
The Nalley Residence, 2170 Kellogg Creek Rd, Kennesaw, GA
“Hurry, baby, you know how bad the traffic is on a Friday!”
Gene Nalley grunted an answer to his wife as he rummaged through his side of the closet for his go bag. The old and well-worn flyer's kit bag his father had used in Vietnam, his 'AWOL' bag as he referred to it, as it was just the right size for everything one would need for an overnight or even weekend get away; with or without leave as the saying went. Several bad experiences had taught him to always take a carry on bag with all of his toiletries and several changes of clothes when traveling and the AWOL bag was just the right size for it. His wife had reorganized the closet, again, it wasn't where he'd left it. He pushed his small collection of suits out of the way and he found it stuffed into a back corner, covering his favorite pair of work boots that had also gone missing a couple of months ago.
Muttering about how it was better to have a wife who cleaned too much rather than too little, he pulled the bag out and with it came an envelope that had been in the boot. Frowning, he reached down and picked it up, finding Daddy, written on it in his daughters pinched, precise handwriting. It was not sealed, and inside was a slip of folded paper he removed and opened, finding it dated August, 24th, the day Elaine had left to go back to school.
He put the kit bag beside him on the bed and opened the note to read. As he did so, in the imperfections in her handwriting he saw his daughter crouched over a table, frantically trying to write as fast as she was thinking, then slamming to a stop, trying to find the best word for what she was trying to say, hesitating and then opening a flood gate on a new torrent of words. It was as if his daughter was right beside him, speaking to him with her unique accent and manner of speech.
First, Ah'm sorry Ah didn't have the courage to tell you this to your face. So much has happened to me, this year, last year Ah don't begin to know or understand that Ah am actually dizzy when Ah think about it. Ah hope you won't be mad at me for telling you this in a letter; it is selfish of me, and Ah am so sorry for that.
Ah want you to know Ah tried, all summer long, to find some way to tell you, so we can have the conversation Ah know you're going to want to have with me, Ah...Ah'm sorry, Ah just couldn't find a way to face it. Ah never realized how hard it is to talk to your parents about some things.
First and foremost Ah want you to know how much Ah love you and Mom, how Ah recognize and appreciate everything you both have done without and for me and Steve. It must have been hard, all those days Ah watched you get up and go to work, knowing you being the boss, you could have slept in, or called in sick without consequence. Ah saw you go to work, even when you didn't want to and that made me want to be someone you could be proud of and respect. You always said Ah got mah brain from mom, and that might be true, but Ah got mah work ethic from you, Daddy.
No matter what happens, Ah want you to know Ah will do whatever Ah can to be someone you can be proud of.
Ah feel like such a heel, making you read this, and Ah'm sorry, daddy, Ah just know that if Ah had told you Ah would have cried and Ah know how much you hate to see me cry. Geez, Ah hope that doesn't read anywhere near as bad as it sounds!
Ah'm sorry, Ah don't mean to drag this out, mah brain is just everywhere with worry and doubt and Ah'm making it worse for you. So, let me just say this and then Ah can try to explain things.
Daddy, Ah am bisexual.
God, that was so hard to write! Ah...Ah..boy, where do Ah go from here?
Ah am not ashamed of that anymore, because you are mah hero, Daddy. Ever since mah seventh birthday when you rescued that boy, because you are a good, decent man. Ah was never ashamed because Ah thought you wouldn't love me, Ah KNOW you will always love me. Ah was ashamed because Ah was scared that bad people would use me to hurt you and Mom. That's why Ah didn't tell you and Ah am sorry for that.
Ah was not ashamed of you, and Ah could never BE ashamed because of you. Ah was ashamed of mahself.
So, what does this mean?
Let me say Wyatt and Ah ARE in love and we ARE going to get married. But Ah need to be honest with you and admit that Ah have had...relationships...with other girls. Ah do not say this to hurt you, or make you worried! Ah want kids probably as much as you and mom want grand kids.
But you taught me the truth is the foundation of any relationship that will last, and Ah have been lying to you and mom by not being honest about who Ah found out Ah am. Ah love you so much, daddy, and Ah am so thankful to be your daughter and that is why Ah am, belatedly Ah admit, being honest now. Everything good Ah have in mah life, comes from you and Mom.
Ah want you to be proud of me.
Ah want to be someone you can be proud of. Ah hope, by amending and apologizing for mah not telling you about this part of me Ah have made the first step to being that person. Ah have always looked up to you and Mom, and Ah worried so much that if Ah told you Ah would hurt you, or make you think you had made some mistake with me.
Ah had some long talks with Rev. Harris over the summer, and with our school chaplain, Rev Englund and with their help Ah can now see this is just how God made me. That there is nothing wrong with me and that in a way Ah was like Ruth and Naomi from the Bible in that mah ability to love was not restricted by gender. Ah don't know why, but Ah guess finding the answer to why is the real meaning of life, isn't it?
What Ah want you to take away from this, Daddy, is that Ah love you and Ah know that you love me. Ah hope Ah have not placed too great a burden on our relationship, but Ah promise you Ah will do everything Ah can to make it easier for you and mom.
Ah'm sorry Ah wasn't brave enough to tell you. Please forgive me.
No matter what, Ah will always be your little girl. Ah love you, Daddy!
His mouth inordinately dry, it took two tries for him to find his voice. “Jo...Jody? Come here baby. You...you need to see this.”
O, that our fathers would applause our loves, To seal our happiness with their consents!
William Shakespeare, Two Gentlemen of Verona (Act 1 Scene 3)
October 27th, 2007
Dunwich Train Depot, Dunwich New Hampshire
The sound of the air horn in the distance caused Marty to cough and wretch a few times once more as she stood over the toilet in the girls room of the train station. She had never been so nervous in her entire life as she wiped her lips and spat once more, flushing the bile down the drain and improving the odor in the room instantly.
The Dunwich Depot was 'historic' in the sense that it was as ancient as the rest of the town it served along track operated by the Berlin-Mills Railway, primarily a 'scenic' line run and owned by amateurs who liked to play with very large trains. They leased access on the track to AMTRAK for it's single daily service up through to Canada and the retired rich men got a thrill of being 'real' rail roaders. Except for the weekend scenic trains usually pulled by a steam engine, it was all the traffic this route dealt with most days.
This made it easy for the Trust to charter special service trains for the students coming and going during start and end of terms, holidays and this special train, the Parents Express. While the most well-to-do parents flew into Berlin Regional Airport, most of the parents coming to Parent's Day flew into Boston where they caught this special train that brought them direct to this Depot.
It was what AMTRAK called an 'existent station' built around the turn of the last century, mostly of local stone and timber and consisted of a single large waiting room, with a pair of restrooms on one wall and a desk for the short hours the station was actually manned. Marty was here with about twenty other student volunteers and Mrs Shugendo, the Dean of Students to meet the family train and escort them to the school.
Her stomach was in knots because in mere minutes she would be introduced to her boyfriends parents and she had never been more worried in her entire life. She exited the stall and looked at herself in the mirror, smoothing her uniform blouse as she did so. The shapeless black beret that was a part of the uniform was mostly still in place on her blonde hair and was quickly set to rights. Fortunately, the makeup she had applied under Tansy's instruction was unspoilt and she didn't look anywhere near as sick as she felt.
“It will be fine,” she told her reflection. “They are just people!” With a sigh, she tried to fix a smile to her face and headed out to the platform.
The Parent's Express was just rounding the bend, a half-mile down the track and slowing to enter the station. AMTRAK must have been scolded by the Trust as this year one of the new Acela engines was pulling its matching rolling stock for the train and that likely had meant a pleasant trip for the parents. “Show time, ladies and gentlemen!” Mrs Shugendo called as she walked down the platform. “Let's put our best foot forward!”
The boys, all in black slacks and gold Whateley Academy polo shirts were clustered around a collection of freight floats to handle the luggage of the approaching visitors while the girls were in little clumps about one train car apart to greet the likely disoriented parents and guide them to the small bus fleet waiting on them in the parking lot. While a number of the girls were grousing that the boys got to wear Polo shirts while they were in full uniform, vigorously inspected by Mrs Shugendo for correctness, Marty had pointed out they were also doing all the heavy lifting with bags and such so that seemed like a fair trade to her.
In point of fact, she had thought to herself, she looked extremely cute in this uniform in what she desperately hoped was a wholesome, parent approving way.
Everything was wet from one of those infamous New England overnight rains, and the sky was overcast, which wasn't helping Marty's mood. Even though it was rather cool and damp, she felt like she was sweating. To calm her nerves, she popped a peppermint in her mouth and sucked on it so its flavor filled her palate.
The huge train pulled to a stop against the platform and its doors opened, disgorging conductors and baggage men. Marty stood with Rosalyn Dekkard and Zoe Nesmith of her cottage, holding the other half of a banner with the name of the cottage with Rosalyn that Zoe was standing behind. Then there was no more time to be nervous as the parents began to spill from the train.
In short order, the platform was a riot of a mixed crowd of people dressed in everything from expensive looking suits to jeans and T shirts and everything in between. Almost instantly you couldn't hear yourself think as the din of several hundred conversations began to overlap each other.
“Hey, pipsqueak, how you doin'?” Marty let out the breath she didn't realize she was holding in as her own mother and father had managed to work their way over to her. Her father was wearing Dockers and an NYPD polo shirt and she knew from the way he favored his right hip ever so slightly, his Glock.
“Hey mom!” she greeted, hugging her mother one armed then, to her surprise, an awkward embrace from her father.
“Ya look good, kiddo,” he told her and for once, Marty was sure he meant it, which brought a smile to her face that was not forced. Marty's mother, a trim, fit woman about half a decade younger than her husband was a court reporter and wearing a conservative blouse and slack combo that was not a pants suit.
“Thanks, Daddy,” she said, with a wave at her fellow Posies. “You remember Roz and Zoe, right?”
“Mr Penn,” the girls greeted in stereo to the officer's wagging finger.
“It's just 'Mike', girls!” he said with a grin. “Hey, where is Steve?” Marty pointed down the siding to where he and the other boys were making short work of loading the baggage onto carts with the Baggage Handlers.
“He's over there,” Marty declared, some part of her a bit excited that it sounded like approval in his tone when he had asked. The Sergeant made a dismissive gesture.
“He's busy, I'll say hello once we're at the school.” He snapped his fingers. “Which reminds me! You know Steve's sister, don't ya? The young lady that invented Kevra, right?”
“Lanie?” she blinked. “Sure, I know her. She's a Resident Assistant in Poe, this year.”
“Really? Well, bob's your uncle, that makes things easy! Cupcake, can you introduce me?” He blushed a bit and became contemplative. “I, uh, well, the guys at the precinct found out she goes to your school and...”
“Stop trying to soft sell it!” Mrs Penn scolded him. “Now, you can't spoil the surprise, sweetheart, but...”
“May I have your attention please?” Mrs. Shugendo's voice, amplified by a bull horn, easily cut over the hubbub of hundreds of conversations and the noise of the locomotive idling. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to Dunwich, home of Whateley Academy! My name is Michiko Shugendo, and I have the honor of being Dean of Students for the school. If you are here to attend the Academy Parent's Day Open House, please note the banners held by our lovely young ladies have the names of our residence cottages. Please gather at the cottage your child resides in and we will be departing to the buses momentarily. Your bags are being gathered, as we speak and will be transported for you. Thank you for your cooperation!”
The crowd was mostly already in such groups with parents looking for their children among the volunteers. There was some conversations with those lucky enough to see their children, but most just looked about, the newest parents easy to distinguish by their nervousness. Marty didn't see anyone who might match her mind's eye of what her lover's parent's would look like. Steve actually came over and greeted her parents and for some reason her dad's warm welcome and hearty handshake made her heart flutter.
As usual, the Melville crowd left the platform first, being gently herded by their greeters who went to the first bus and displayed the sign again for stragglers. Marty walked along with Roz and strung out the banner again by the Poe bus, at the back of the convoy and while she craned her neck to and fro when she wasn't smiling and welcoming parents she had met last year, she didn't see Steve with anyone until he and Mechano Man had finished loading the bags into the Twain bus and boarded it.
Marty climbed up the steps and settled in next to her mother and wondered if anyone else was as worried about today as she was. With a pop of air breaks being released, the doors closed and the bus joined the line pulling away and headed for the school.
October 27th, 2007
Rm 502, Dickenson Cottage, Whateley Academy
Tansy smoothed out the black polo shirt with the school's crest in gold on her left breast, and stared at her reflection in the mirror. Her mind's eye saw her ten year old self for a moment, pudgy stomach bulging out the polo, the jeans grotesquely tight, designer brands, custom made brown leather knee boots with inappropriate stiletto heels and the tight lipped disapproval of fashion divas who wanted her money but couldn't bear the thought of their name on her fat, disgusting body.
She stared into the little girls eyes in the mirror and declared to herself, you are free. You escaped and you won't ever be in that prison again.
Tansy blinked and sighed as her eighteen year old self once more looked out at her. Never again, she swore to herself. The knock on her door was almost welcome. “Come in,” she called, turning from the mirror in time to see her mother coming through the door.
Marissa Dawson had come a long way in twenty-seven days. She had thrown herself into a diet and exercise regimen that already saw her fifteen pounds lighter taking her figure from 'let herself go' back to 'over ripe.' This was doubtlessly helped by her sense of style and choices in flattering clothing, like the lovely retro 40s black and white dress she was wearing that had a false jacket with a flaring detail about her waist that was covering a multitude of imperfect sins and a flowing skirt to just below her knees. The dress was set off with lovely pumps that brought out the best of her legs; she was looking lovely and Tansy told her so as mother and daughter hugged.
“You're sweet,” Marissa replied and gave her daughters somewhat drab choice of clothing a gimlet eye.
“Senior uniform,” Tansy answered her unasked question. “Mrs Carson wants all the seniors visible so if someone is lost we can help them.”
“Reasonable, I suppose,” her mother replied, her eyes falling on Tansy's little table beside her mirror upon which sat a dangerous looking pistol on top of an odd looking holster. While it was obvious there had been almost no cosmetic thought to the design of the weapon, the exactness of the machining, the dull pewter maker's medallion in the grip and the gleam of the anodized powder coat of deep tungsten blue gave it a menacing beauty. Making no move towards it she demanded, “Sweetheart, what is that?”
Tansy followed her mother's gaze, then reached over and picked up the pistol, removing the battery pack from it's grip just like the magazine would have been on a firearm. “It's just a force pistol, mom. Lots of girls carry them now.” She flipped the weapon around in her hand and presented it, grip first.
After a long moment, Marissa took it, mindful of both not accidentally touching one of the controls as well as keeping the muzzle in a safe direction. “I carried a pistol when I was an ADA, but I didn't like it.” Tansy shrugged.
“What's to like or dislike?” she asked philosophically. “The world sucks, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose not to. I choose not to.”
Marissa carefully returned the pistol to her daughter after looking down the sights of it. “What about your Exemplar abilities?”
“When I talked to Mr. Siegel about defending myself, he said it was actually easier for him to defend me if I used a gun than if I used my hands,” she said as she returned the battery to the weapon, holstered it, and raised her shirt to attach the holster to the bra she was wearing. When the shirt was tucked back in the pistol had vanished in her decolletage. “He said it was harder to convince a jury I would have been in fear of my safety if I beat the crap out of my attacker.”
“Siegel? Of Siegel, Kane and Lee?” Dawson asked, seeing her daughter nod. “That old shyster would know,” she growled. “It would figure your father would retain the most infamous of New York's mob defense lawyers. I hated dealing with his shenanigans in court! And are you wearing that gun in your bra?”
“It's made for that...”
“Tansy, how would you draw it without flashing...?”
Tansy grinned and gave her mom a hug. “That's the idea, mom! It's called a Flashbang holster...”
Marissa rolled her eyes and led her daughter over to the door. “Well, don't let your grandparents find out about it, or I'll never hear the end of...”
“Grandma and grandpa are coming?” Tansy demanded excitedly and squealed with delight as her mother nodded.
“They should be arriving any minute.”
October 27th, 2007
Schuster Hall front steps, Whateley Academy
“Do you know, a thought just occurred to me,” Fredrick observed as he straightened the six-centimeter diamond cuff link on the shirt under his suit jacket. He was standing with the Headmistress and a small clutch of administration employees under the balcony at the front of Schuster Hall.
Mrs Carson spared him a glance from watching the line of buses filled with parents approaching down the main drive of the school. “Oh?” she drawled somewhat sardonically, but for the most part she approved of Amelia's fiancee. No one could deny that Fredrick Coveanu had made his mark upon the world. She had certainly done worse herself in the husband department. “Dare I ask what?”
“Indeed,” Lord Paramount returned as he needlessly straightened a nine hundred dollar silk tie. “If I were half the villain I am made out to be, I could easily abuse my position as a trustee of this school.”
Elizabeth felt her eyebrow ascend her forehead. “Really?” she demanded. “To what end, Fredrick?”
“Well,” he said reasonably, flashing his oh so charming smile. “If I were such a villain, as a Trustee, that makes me your boss. I could finally compel you to admit my term paper on Ethan Frome was in fact worthy of an 'A' and force you to change my grade.”
“Your entire argument centered on the fact you incorrectly believed the narrator to be a woman! There were no female electrical engineers or construction contractors in 1911 and that was merely when the tale was published! Ms. Wharton does not tell us when the story actually takes place, but it was before electricity was universal! It was sexist in the extreme!”
“Why can't a woman be an electrical engineer?” Fredrick demanded testily. “My belief that the narrator was a woman shows exactly the opposite, that I was not sexist...”
Mrs Carson's eyes narrowed as the two rehashed an old argument. “You declared no man would give a tinker's damn about the, and I quote, 'mind numbingly dull and completely uninteresting history of the village idiot and his failed love affair,' unquote.”
“No man would...!”
“That's why it was sexist!” Mrs Carson snapped. “Your 'C' stands! Fire me, I dare you!”
Fredrick chuckled at his former teacher's entirely put on venom and held up his hands in defeat. “This is exactly why I am not a villain! Who has the courage to face down you?” Mrs Carson applied her 'official issue' smile to her face as she turned to greet the parents that were in the process of disgorging from the buses.
“Flattery will get you nowhere,” she shot at Fredrick as she descended the steps, arms out in a gesture of welcome. “Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention, please? I am Dr Elizabeth Carson, Headmistress and behind me are my staff and some of the trustees of the school. On behalf of them, the entire staff and faculty I would like to welcome you all to Whateley Academy. For those of you who are here for your first Parent's Day, our Dean of Students has a brief presentation about the school and our regulations and precautions for your safety. While all are welcome to attend, we must insist that our first year guests attend the presentation. Merely follow the velvet ropes to Lecture Hall One. If anyone requires them, restrooms are just inside the doors, left and right.”
With a soft hubbub of noise, the crowd thinned a bit as the parents of the freshmen filed into Schuster Hall and when that was done, Mrs. Carson smiled once more. “Alright ladies and gentlemen, you're free to head to the cottages of your children, where you will find them waiting. We'll be serving refreshments in the Courtyard and the Crystal Hall all day and we look forward to both lunch and dinner with you. If you need any assistance, our Seniors are all wearing black and gold polo shirts with the school crest, ask any of them and they'll be delighted to help. Enjoy your stay!”
October 27th, 2007
Call Me Coffee, Melville Cottage, Whateley Academy
Maria Contessa Elyssa Gomez y Ricardo sat in the coffee shop that had been one of her favorite places when she had been a student and not a teacher and day dreamed. Later on that afternoon, she would have to go 'show the flag' with the other teachers and shake too many hands and answer the same questions half a million times. That wasn't what had her down. She took a sip of her caramel macchiato and tried not to feel jealous as she looked out the windows of the little coffee shop at the happy reunions of children with parents. Reunions that twisted the knife in her heart over what her own mother had both done to her and allowed her to endure.
The last she had heard, her mother had fled to Columbia, fearful of retribution from her mutant daughter. Maria hoped she would never lay eyes on her mother again; she wasn't sure she could trust herself to not do something permanent she'd regret. She sighed and took another sip as she looked at the pair of little leather den chairs that had been her favorite when she was a student.
When Lanie had sat in the other one next to her.
Maria wasn't sure what had attracted her to the redheaded freshman years ago. Normally she was attracted to more mannish dykes, but her flings had always been brief. A short courtship, a couple of encounters to scratch the itch, then the masculine mannerisms of the bulls she had been with would start reminding her too much of her step father.
Of his abuse of her.
Then Maria would always lash out, pick a fight with little pokes of her power at her soon to be ex-girlfriend and then another explosive breakup would be the gossip of choice around the campus for a bit. Even Mrs Horton had hauled her into her apartment over one, shaking her finger and firmly ordering her to tone things down, to not make trouble for her cottage mates.
And then Elaine Nalley had dumped a glass of sweet tea down the front of Freya's blouse.
There was something charming about the wide eyed awestruck look of fresh things their first weeks on the campus, as they tried to take in everything at once. Elaine had had that, of course, but then a problem got put in front of her and the fear that she had just embarrassed the Alpha Queen vanished and all she cared about was solving the problem of Don Sebastiano's fake ring. She was so...innocent...and those huge green eyes...
“This seat taken, roomie?”
Maria was snapped out of her reverie by the arrival of her roommate, Donna Fiedler. She was wearing a pair of dark slacks with a top reminiscent of a sun dress that left her arms and back bare and tied around her neck in front. She sat a cup of black coffee on the table and slid into the chair without waiting for an answer. “Mi casa es tu casa,” Maria mumbled as she stared at the empty chairs and took another gulp of warm caramel comfort.
“Things getting to you already?” asked Donna softly.
Maria and Donna had become quite friendly in their time together. In a way they were like a number of the famous comedy duos from the 40s that Donna had introduced Maria to, united by their differences. Maria had told Donna her own history of abuse at the hands of her parents and how she was not looking forward to today, but Donna had smiled and promised to help her through it. “It's not so bad,” Maria lied softly. “Just thinking about an old girlfriend.”
“Good memories, I hope?”
Maria smiled. “You remind me of her sometimes. I was her first girlfriend and she got embarrassed very easily too.” Donna looked about furtively.
“Should we talk about...”
“Donna, I am a lesbian,” Maria shot back in her normal tone, perhaps even a bit louder. “And I don't give a flying fuck who knows it.” No one in the shop reacted and Donna breathed a sigh of relief.
“No need to cuss like a sailor,” Donna replied with a sly grin as she took a sip of her coffee. “This girl you're remembering, is she the girl you told me about? That still goes here?” Maria looked a bit more nervous now, but she still nodded, ever so slightly. “Well, why don't you...?”
“It's against the law, Donna,” Maria tiredly told her. In the back of her mind she was a little amazed that her friend, the child of the forties saw nothing wrong with a teacher getting into a relationship with a student so long as she was 'old enough.' Of course, old enough was a nebulous term that Donna was hesitant to define.
“Then it's a stupid law! I'm sure Liz would...”
“Crucify me,” Maria interrupted, her eyes narrow. “And what's more I would want her to! It's not a stupid law, Donna, and this isn't the forties! There are some real creeps out there and...I...I just have to get over it.”
The conversation took a noticeable down turn. “I know that feeling,” Fiedler admitted.
Maria muttered, “Sorry,” and turned her thoughts inward again. She thought about that last time she had been with Elaine, in her New York studio apartment. She was amazed how much her shy little tomboy had blossomed into a beautiful young woman. Maria had never thought she would be attracted to a girl as, well, feminine as she was, but Elaine's beauty and her gentle, tender affection had been the love, the real caring she had searched her entire life for. And now, the one human being that finally helped her see what love was about was the one human being absolutely off limits to her.
But that wasn't the worst of it.
The worst of it, like a toothache that wouldn't stop hurting, was that her place with that wonderful, amazing human being had been taken by that ladder climbing whore Tansy Walcutt. The ice queen, the homophobes' homophobe; it made a kind of twisted sense that somebody with that much denial something had to be fishy, but never, even in her wildest dreams would Maria think, after their explosive breakup, over a boy(!) that Elaine Nalley would take another girl into her bed. And it hurt that she had picked Tansy.
Why? The dusky skinned young woman asked herself. You know she's always liked bad girls.
Ah don't want to remember anything with you!
Maria winced as her mind tormented her. Elaine had apologized for it, and meant that apology; she had cried real tears once she realized that she had hurt Maria so badly. She had been selfish, not cruel and it wasn't fair to keep remembering it... She was distracted by the warm skin of Donna's hand on her arm. “Hey, you ok?”
Ricardo licked her lips. “I...” She looked into the eyes of her friend and while everything in her mind screamed that the last thing she needed was a rebound affair. What kind of friend would she be to Donna? And hadn't both gone through enough? But Donna's eyes were kind and in them, Maria saw her own hurt, her own loneliness and desperate desire to find someone, even if only for a little while. “Say...you, ah, you want to get out of here?”
Donna looked at her askance. “And do what?”
“Lunch,” she said, scrambling for something, anything to come to mind. “Let me buy you lunch.”
“It's a little early for...” Donna's eyes blinked. “Are...are you asking me on a date?”
“What if I am?”
“Well, I might just go!” Donna told her. Suddenly, both girls were staring at each other, holding their breath with the wonder of trying to figure out if they knew what they were doing. “And where would that lead?”
“You wanna find out?” Maria asked coyly, her mind firmly in control of her power so there was not so much of a wiff that anything untoward might sway Donna's decision. The seconds stretched out and her heart thundered if perhaps she had threatened their friendship. Then, after a small eternity, her roommate sighed and screwed her courage to the sticking place.
“Yeah...” Donna said softly finally. “I...I think I do want to find out. Let's go.”
October 27th, 2007
The Crystal Hall
Harvey Calloway sat alone at a small table in one of the most unwanted sections of the Crystal Hall. Before him was a schematic of the logic flow chart for the CPU of his newest robot. The Olivia would be one of his greatest creations, above and beyond the wildest dreams of the ants who dared to call themselves his equal...
He swallowed hard and removed a pill container from his butt pouch to reassure himself he had taken his meds for today. Today would be a hard day. Today would be a lonely day, underscoring the fact he already knew and had embraced; he was truly alone in the world. It didn't bother him. He had neither equal nor rival and no need of either. He knew his parents were not coming to Parents Day and he was completely unfazed by it.
Emotions were for the weak. Love was a weakness. His was a high and lonely destiny.
He took a sip of his coffee and made a slight adjustment to the flow chart. Soon he would have everything he needed.
October 27th, 2007
Parking lot outside Dickinson Cottage
Tansy's heart was pounding in her chest as she watched the gleaming black Lincoln Town Car pull off the main drive and into the parking lot in front of the cottage. It was a sedan, not a limousine, tasteful and understated which Tansy would quickly find to be the perfect descriptor of her grandparents. A driver, wearing a simple 'Men In Black' type suit got out and opened the rear door and the nerd living inside Tansy had an odd flash. The couple who got out of the car reminded her strongly of old school Hollywood movie stars, back when they stayed married and aged gracefully and came across as real, albeit wealthy, people.
The couple physically reminded her of Honore Prendergast and Don Ameche, she was still a svelte, honey gold blonde who had taken care of herself and even through her dignified, somewhat conservative dress it was obvious she had been a rare beauty in her day. Her face was still quite lovely with an open, inviting smile and the icy blue eyes Tansy recognized from her own reflection. He was a tall and dapper fellow with dark, oiled hair that was going gray and the fatherly handsome face of a former matinee idol who still had the swagger to sport a pencil thin mustache. He was wearing a tan, linen suit that was cut to his still dashing figure and managed to be humble despite probably costing as much as the car.
“Mother! Father!” Tansy let her mother greet her parents first, seeing the joy of their reunion as they hugged and there was not a dry eye for several moments. Tansy knew there was a silly smile on her face and she didn't care, there were far too many daydreams coming true for her to give two shits about what anyone thought.
After a long moment, Marissa stepped back and held out her hand in introduction of her daughter. “Mom, Dad, this is Tansy. Sweetheart, these are my parents, Penelope and Daniel Dawson.” Tansy held out her hand and opened her mouth, only to be taken off guard as her grandmother and namesake swept her hand aside and embraced her.
“We've missed you, little Tansy! Look how you've grown!” Penelope declared after a kiss of her cheek and releasing her from the hug. “What a lovely young lady you've become!” Her grandfather's hug was a bit more restrained and Tansy couldn't help but see in his mind his desperate confusion about how to thank her for saving Marissa somehow without bringing up the unpleasant memory.
“I would have worn my version of your team jersey,” he declared after kissing her forehead. “But Penny seemed to think a grown man wearing a girl's finishing school jersey wouldn't be dignified!”
Tansy giggled and realized she instantly liked these people and within her began a slow boil of anger against her father; a massive cauldron of emotional oil boiling over a fire of the justified anger of those wronged that had been building for almost a year now. “I...I'm sure you could have pulled it off, Mr. Dawson...”
His large hand held up a strong finger. “None of that!” he scolded her. “Penny and I are Grandma and Grandpa! Or even gramps! Kids today don't want to be formal, after all. You're a little old, but I had this made when you first made the polo team for Liliuokalani Academy.” From behind his back he produced a little stuffed horse that bore the subtle hallmarks of having been hand made by a master craftsman. It took her a moment to realize it, but as he placed it in her hands it occurred to her that the stuffed horse's marking and color were an exact match for her horse.
“Tango?” she breathed, cradling the little stuffed horse in her hands. “How...?”
An ever so slightly smug smile pulled at the corner of his mouth. “Your...father...isn't the only member of TOBA,” he remarked with satisfaction, referencing the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association. “And distinguishing photographs are required for the registration of a mare both in the Sire's Stud Book and her own entry. And being a registered breeder allows me to make copies...”
Tansy hugged her grandfather again. “I will treasure it, Grandpa! Thank you so much!”
“So, do we get a tour?” Mrs Dawson asked with a smile. “What do they teach a young lady at this school?”
For a moment, Tansy tried to hold in her snicker, then decided against it. “Grandma, are you in for a surprise!”
October 27th, 2007
Room 803, Melville Cottage
There are not many who would believe Wyatt Cody could be studious, and most would have been shocked to find the young man sitting at his desk on a Saturday, studying, but that was in fact what he was doing. Wyatt was not only intrigued by the subject of magic that he was studying, but it was in fact quite challenging. As he had no desire to be reminded his own parents were thousands of miles away, nor to be put to work as a greeter, he had ensconced himself in his room and was diligently studying magic.
Just two weeks ago he had participated in a ritual with Circe, Ms Grimes and Mrs Carson they called 'Drawing Down the Moon.' Which was odd considering it was a new moon, but with that they had preformed an 'investiture' which had lit his well. It had been a very odd feeling, as though the entire world had shifted around him and he had gotten a peek at the levers of creation. His mind had expanded as he began to truly understand how the world worked, the very rules that governed Creation and by that understanding, how to change it.
“Which,” Circe had remarked at the time, “is exactly what magic is: understanding the rules of the universe so that you can change it.”
Even now as he read through a text that would have been incomprehensible just a short while ago he was aware of a new kind of power within him, different from the exemplar strength and even from the presence of his spirit. It was a limitless kind of power, held back only by his own discipline and force of Will in the sense that he was now the only person holding him back.
It was a heady kind of feeling, and a sobering one.
The three teachers had prepared a Sorcerers' Contract that he had had to read and sign in his own blood and to swear an oath upon it that, come what may, he would only ever use the knowledge and power he was about to be granted for the betterment of all around him, harming only those who intended him or others harm and to invite the wrath of those who kept the Contract of Solomon should he use what he would learn for evil intent.
He realized that he was above nearly all human restraint now in a very practical sense. Oh, policemen would still claim that laws applied to him, that they could arrest him, and in the strictly theoretical sense they were correct. But practically was another matter altogether. Wyatt was not a fool, and he realized there were few who could tell him no and have it stick without his consent, or keep him somewhere he did not want to be. It was an ultimate kind of power. Though it came with an ultimate kind of sobriety, for there were others who had this knowledge, some of them would always be better than he was, and some of them had not sworn Solomon's Oath to take on the burden of the magical forbearance to 'do no harm.'
In his soul, he heard the voice of his spirit laughing at him. You finally realize, son, you can't know how happy that makes me.
“I can be taught,” he muttered to himself as he read, his exemplar mind processing complex concepts a baseline would have struggled with for weeks.
Well, it's trite, but it has the ring of truth; with great power comes great responsibility.
“Excelsior, true believer,” he chuckled and shook his head. “Jesus, Kodiak, I...I never got...”
The spirit laughed and mentally placed his heavy paw on Wyatt's shoulder. Don't sell yourself short, son. I think you got what was being discussed a while back, and that's why you resisted it so hard. I don't blame you, I truly wish life could be as simple as eating, sleeping and...well...procreating shall we say? Unfortunately, that isn't the way of the world. You didn't ask for this burden, but you have picked it up and grown into being a man I respect.
Before Wyatt could answer there came a knock at his door. Muttering about lost parents, he shook his head and stood, pulling the door open to be struck dumb in surprise. Standing outside the door was Catherine Cody. “Mom!” he stammered.
She stepped in and hugged her son, who returned it as gently as he could. “Hello, Wyatt,” she said with a smile, craning her neck up to look into his face.
“What are you doing here?” he babbled, his mind still trying to make sense of that which made no sense.
“It's Parent's Day, isn't it?” she demanded with a grin.
“Yeah, but we talked about it in August and...”
Catherine squeezed her son's arm. “Things change, Wyatt.” Her smile seemed a little forced. “Among other things, I have learned I am about to have a daughter. I thought I'd like to meet her! Unless I have already last year...?”
“Oh, no, that was Maria. She's a...well, she's a friend.”
There was something off about Catherine's demeanor, but Wyatt couldn't put his finger on what. “Well, she is a good friend, but evidently you have found someone better. I'd like to meet her.”
“Sure!” he agreed, his brain finally popping into gear. “Sure, uh we'll head over to her cottage. Right this way, Mom.”
October 27th, 2007
Front Courtyard, Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
The changes brought on by the rebuilding of Poe Cottage still had plenty of folks getting used to it. One of the nicest was that the new capital-H shape of the building meant a lovely patio out back with little tables and benches to socialize on, and this formal Forecourt that was protected by the two wings of the building. It held a double clutch of bike racks and several stone planters, but had been purposefully left mostly open. That helped for days like today which used the space to have registration tables for people signing in and out, finding out where their child's room was and a little refreshment table that Marty was currently helping at with two of the freshman girls, Beth Anders and Amanda Conner.
The two girls were having an animated conversation about what clubs they intended to join that brought a smile to Marty's face until her eyes happened to drift towards the path to the main campus. There was something about Steve's walk and gait that made him stand out at just about any distance. Well, that and his physique, which certainly got her juices flowing and brought a smile to her face until she realized he was walking with two adults she didn't recognize which could only mean they were his parents.
An icy, cold dread grabbed her by the guts and she felt a sudden, irrational desire to flee. Instead, she exhaled into her palm to sniff it and turned frantically to the other two girls. “How do I look?” she demanded, fearfully.
Bethany looked up slightly at her, a curious expression on her face. “Are you alright, Marty?” she asked.
“I'm fine!” Marty hissed in a panic. “I'm about to be introduced to my boyfriends' parents! Tell me do I look alright?”
“Would you rather not meet them?” drawled Jinx with a lopsided grin on her face. “I can fix that for you...?”
“Aaargh...! Freshmen!” she growled and stepped away from the table, pinning what she hoped was a winning smile on her face.
“What's her problem?” she heard Bethany ask Amanda in a confused tone of voice.
“Hormones,” Amanda replied snarkily. Marty put them both out of her mind and stopped at the edge of the forecourt where it met the path to one side and quickly checked that her uniform was still on straight.
Steve grinned when he caught sight of her and waved that Marty did her best to return as casually as possible. All of that work was undone when he hugged her in front of them and even kissed her cheek! Marty thought she would die of embarrassment right there. “Mom, dad, I'd like you to meet Martine Penn, she uh, she goes by Marty.''
“Hello,” she managed, mortified. Steve's mother was a lovely woman, in her late thirties or very early forties to Marty's eye with, surprisingly, black hair. She had an oval face and clear green eyes and a somewhat florid complexion. She was wearing a linen jacket that bore the crest of Wheeler High School, over a floral blouse and jeans with comfortable looking walking shoes. Next to her was her husband, a tall, thin man who was strong in a wiry sense, with the red hair he had given his children that was now pulled back in a pony tail accentuating a high forehead that was giving way to male pattern baldness. He had the same oval face he had given his son, though with more cares and worries and he sported a red goatee that was beginning to be shot through with gray.
“Stephen,” his mother commanded in a tone that was clear she got her way quite often. “Why don't you show your father to your sister's room? I think I would like to chat for a moment with Marty. You can join us at...is there somewhere we can sit and be comfortable, my dear?”
Marty swallowed and made a weak gesture at the cottage. “Back...ahem...The back patio has tables and chairs.”
“Wonderful,” Mrs. Nalley declared, collecting Marty's elbow and guiding her towards the cottage's front door. “We'll meet you there.”
“Yes, ma'am,” Steve replied.
Marty walked as if she was on her way to a gallows. The noisy passage through the cottage didn't really register until they were back outside and Mrs Nalley sat her down into one of the fortunately dry now wire chairs at an empty table. “Breathe, Miss Penn,” she told Marty. “I don't bite.”
“I'm sorry...!” Marty started, but Mrs Nalley smiled and shook her head.
“Relax, you don't have anything to apologize for! But I have to wonder what my son has said about us to have you wound up tight as a drum!”
Her tongue slipped its leash and she started to babble. “It wasn't Steve, Mrs Nalley! I'm just a big klutz and he's so important to me and I'd just die if I didn't make a good impression on you and I'm a New York Yankee and...” She clapped her hands over her mouth, mortified as the older woman looked at her somewhat askance and actually chuckled.
“The war has been over for sometime, dear,” she told Marty who felt her cheeks burn with embarrassment. “And even if it weren't, no one is perfect.” She smiled again as she reached across the table to squeeze Marty's hand. “You seem like a very charming girl, and I can see why Stephen is taken with you. So, take your foot out of your mouth and calm down. So, how did you and Stephen meet?”
“Oh we got into a fight together,” Marty declared before she could censor the words. The expression on Mrs Nalley's face did her asking for her, but Marty took a moment to inhale a deep, cleansing breath. “I'm sorry, Mrs. Nalley I can't imagine what you think of me. I'm just so worried about making a good impression. Steve and I met because of an altercation with some other students. He was protecting three of our junior high girls against another student who suffers from being a mild rager. He needed help and so I flew over and helped him.”
“You can fly?” she asked as if asking if someone can speak a foreign language.
“Yes ma'am. We are both psycho-kenetics or what is referred to as a PK Superman, from the comic hero because we have similar power sets.”
“And, this rager boy has been expelled?”
Marty shook her head. “No ma'am, he didn't mean it. He's actually a nice guy and we're both friends with him. He just got set off is all.”
Mrs Nalley smiled and patted her hand. “Marty, you don't need to be so worried. Stephen couldn't say enough good things about you when he called over the summer. What a grand time he was having in his internship and it was very quickly obvious he was certainly very sweet on you.”
Marty blushed and lowered her eyes, but she was smiling that Stephen seemed just as fixed on her as she was on him. “We had a great summer, Mrs Nalley and I can't thank you enough for letting him stay with the Guard.” The older woman made a dismissive gesture.
“It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know his mind is fixed on being a hero.” She chuckled. “Ironic considering some of the history of this family. I understand your father is a policeman?”
“Yes, ma'am, and my mother is a court reporter, but only part time.”
“Well, thank you for helping him feel at home,” she replied. “I'm certainly glad I don't have to deal with things like that boy you spoke of at my school!” the older woman declared with a rueful shake of her head. “I teach Art and Latin at Wheeler High School in Georgia,” she added.
“Oh, you might want to have a chat with Ms. Imp, she teaches Art here.”
“Ms. Imp?” Mrs Nalley asked. “What an unusual name...”
October 27th, 2007
Room 210, Poe Cottage, Whateley Academy
Lanie rubbed her lips together to evenly coat them with the lipstick she had just applied and checked the results in the mirror. She had been deliberately trying for a fresh, lighter style and was quite taken with the end product of Tansy's recommendations. Next to her, in the mirror, Grizzly was making sure her fangs were clean, even though she was not manifested in the room. “What do you think?” Elaine asked her spirit who gazed at her with a critical eye.
The image of the half bear woman should have been terrifying, but to Elaine the powerful, aggressively female spirit was somewhere between 'cool young aunt' and really close friend. The Spirit just didn't trip any of her fear triggers. I have to admit, Tansy knows what she is doing,the Spirit replied in her gravely mental tone. You are beautiful, my love. Radiant.
“Aw, go on,” Lanie replied with a blush that had not been applied with a brush. “Ah clean up alright, but Tansy is the supermodel. You have to admit she's beautiful, Griz. Statuesque even.”
Tansy is a very beautiful young woman, but she fell in love with you, Grizzly reminded her host.
Elaine looked at her spirit cross eyed. “Has she finally won you over?”
You will always come first, the spirit swore. But I admit I am no longer suspicious of her and her motives. And you three seem very happy together and that I very much approve of. Elaine went to hug her spirit and was surprised to feel her soft, warm fur in her arms before being enveloped in return by her powerful arms. I will do all I can to see things turn out well.
“Grizzly, you are the best!” The love fest between spirit and host was interrupted by a knock at her door. “That's got to be mom and dad,” Elaine told the spirit in her mirror as she double checked her look for a final time. The blouse had been a gift from Tansy, three-quarter sleeve, cold shoulder style with a scalloped neckline that hugged her skin and put all of her charms on display. It's rose color set off her peaches and cream complexion well. Satisfied, she left the bathroom and opened her bedroom door.
But her parents were not on the other side.
Instead, she found her fiance whose mouth fell open along with other tells of his appreciation of her look. Which would have been fine if he were alone. Or with Tansy. But he wasn't alone, or with Tansy and that meant there could only be one other identity of the early forties woman with him. And, with his ring feeling like a millstone on her hand, Elaine realized she was meeting her future mother-in-law wearing a skin tight, low cut top and her skin flushed a crimson scarlet to match her hair.
The woman blinked in astonishment. “My word! Are you alright?”
Elaine's eyes fell to the floor. “Ah will be if by some miracle you are not Mrs Cody...” she stammered.
The woman laughed and gathered the abashed young girl into her arms. “Don't feel bad,” she consoled Lanie. “I met my mother in law wearing a T Shirt with the Playboy logo on it!”
“Dad sprung grandma on you like that?” Wyatt asked.
“It must run in the family,” Catherine replied with long suffering. “I almost castrated him over it!” Coming out of the hug she smiled at the young woman who had caught her son's fancy. “Cathy Cody,” she introduced herself.
“Elaine Nalley,” the redhead replied, much chagrined. “Call me Lanie.”
“Lanie, it's a pleasure to meet you.”
“Wyatt said you weren't coming...” Lanie declared in her defense, glaring at her intended and was a bit relieved when his mother punched him in the arm.
“I wasn't, but things change,” she declared.
“Ow!” complained Wyatt. “What was that for?”
“Pick something I didn't catch you doing,” his mother shot back as Lanie finally remembered her manners and invited them into her room, thanking the Loving God she worshiped it was clean and neat. Mrs Cody took Elaine's left hand and admired the ring she was wearing. “Well, my son can do things right, who would have known? It's almost as lovely as you are.” She sighed and squeezed Elaine's hand between both of hers. “So! Lanie, I feel like I almost know you, Wyatt could talk about nothing else when he got back from Georgia last summer! Based on your reaction I can't imagine what he's told you about me...?”
Lanie sank onto the bed beside the older woman and brought up her other hand to hold both of Catherine's. “Oh, no ma'am! Wyatt hasn't said anything but the best about you and how you and he bonded on your trip through the states that summer.”
Mrs Cody smiled. “His father is a charming liar too, so fair warning.”
“Actually, ma'am,” Lanie replied. “Ah don't know very many men with the morals and integrity of my fiancee. Mah daddy, maybe, but Ah do know you raised a young man, in a world swimming with boys playing at being men. You should be very proud.”
“You,” Cody replied with a wide smile on her weathered face. “Are a keeper, young lady. I officially approve.” Turning to her son, her voice became stern, but still had a hint of humor to it. “Wyatt, don't you dare let this girl get away from you!”
Wyatt grinned and leaned against the wall. “I knew you two would get along.” A knock at the door drew his attention and he ambled over to it. “Mr. Nalley, good to see you again!”
“Wyatt, how are you, son? Is Lanie...”
“Daddy!” cried Elaine as she stood, pausing just a moment to excuse herself from Catherine before she rushed over and hugged her father.
“God save me,” he declared as he took her in. “Every time I think you can't get anymore beautiful you go and prove me wrong!”
Lanie's blush was threatening to become permanent. Pulling her father inside, she raised an arm in introduction as Wyatt's mother rose from where she had been sitting on Elaine's bed. “Daddy, may Ah introduce Dr Catherine Cody, Wyatt's mother. Mrs. Cody, this is mah father, Gene Nalley.”
“Doctor, it's a pleasure to meet you.”
“Mr Nalley, I am giving you fair warning, I intend to kidnap and adopt your daughter.”
The mechanic's cheek twitched. “I think they call that marriage, ma'am. And we're both already on the hook for it.” He uncharacteristically shuffled his feet as if uncertain and ducked his head. “My wife and our boy are out back waiting on us, if you'd show your mom the way and join us, Wyatt. I'd like to have a quick word with Lanie, if that's alright?”
“Certainly,” Cathy declared.
“Right this way, Mom. Baby, I'll see you down there.” Mr Nalley walked them out and closed the door as Elaine sank back onto her bed. Still nervous, Gene fished into his pocket and punched a piece of something out of a blister pack and put it in his mouth.
“Daddy?” she asked, softly.
Gene chuckled as he chewed and held up the pack. “Nicorette,” he said as he came back to the bed, pulling her desk chair with him as he sank down into it. “Day fifteen since I quit...”
“Congratulations, daddy!” she told him, then sighed. “Do Ah already know what this is about?”
From the sport coat he was wearing he produced an envelope she recognized and held it up. “I, uh, I only found this yesterday,” he told her quietly. “Your mother rearranged the closets just before you left. Bought a new pair of Red Wings 'cause I couldn't find my old pair.”
“Oh,” she said softly. “Ah...Ah wondered. After it never came up Ah guess Ah decided you...didn't want to talk about it.” He laid the envelope down on the bed beside her and sighed deeply.
“Princess,” he told her quietly. “I was proud of you when the doctor first held you up and said,'It's a girl!' And when you started talking at six months I knew you were special.” He looked up and over her shoulder, his eyes wet and far away. “I thought I would never be prouder of you when I read that note from Ms Young, your first grade teacher, absolutely gob smacked that you were reading The Odyssey and understanding it. Well, I could sit here from now until Judgment bragging on all the times you made me proud and still not be done. Don't ever think I'm not proud of you, Elaine, or that you have to change who you are.”
Elaine reached out and took his hands. They were course, and rough, the hands of a man who had worked hard his entire life, but they were and always had been gentle to her and her mother. “Ah love you, daddy.”
He sniffed and wiped his hand over his goatee. “As much as I think Wyatt is a fine young man, I want you to know you don't have to marry him just because you think I expect you to, or your maw and I want grand kids.”
“Daddy, Ah do love Wyatt and we're going to get married because we love each other and want to spend our lives together. Ah wrote that because Ah did want to be honest with you about who Ah am.”
He stared at her for a long moment, his gaze direct and piercing. “You're carrying on with that Miss Walcutt, aren't you?” Her face flushed and she found she could not meet his gaze. She nodded and the chair creaked as he sat back. “Princess, you are playing with fire,” he said finally. “And that young man deserves better from you.”
Lanie sucked on her lip and tried desperately to think how to explain things that were so intimate. “Daddy, Ah'm not stepping out on Wyatt,” she said quietly. “B...but Ah won't be his only wife.”
Gene blinked in astonishment for a moment before he found his voice again. “Th...the three of you?” he demanded softly and it took all of Elaine's willpower to nod. The silence drug out for a moment, then the last sound Elaine expected broke the silence.
Her father laughed.
She looked up, confused to find a strange look on his face. “Well,” he declared once he mastered himself. “Folks said they wanted the biblical definition of marriage, it doesn't get much more biblical than that.” His humor spread and father and daughter shared a laugh for a moment, then he sobered. “You know the law will be against you?”
“Well, you wouldn't be your great grand pappy's daughter if you weren't a little rebellious. God help your husband, I can barely keep the peace in my house with one wife, I don't envy him two!” He sighed again and rubbed his hands on the slacks he wasn't used to wearing. “Is it what you really want, Princess? Not him pushing...?”
“Daddy, Tansy and Ah...well, we just kind of...happened...and Ah was being good and...it was kind of her idea, if Ah didn't mind sharing Wyatt as they had been together before me. And, well, we sprung it on Wyatt. Are you mad at me, Daddy?”
“Mad?” he asked, confused. “No, princess, I'm not mad. If you're happy and that is the family you want, that is between the three of you. I'm no biblical scholar, but David had a fair sight more wives than two, and he was a man after God's Own Heart.”
“Ah love you, Daddy.”
He nodded again and his gaze became direct once more. “I want you to look me in the eye, Princess, and tell me you are not being pushed, or coerced, or blackmailed into this. That it is what you want. That goes for Miss Walcutt too.”
“Daddy, Wyatt Cody is a man of honor, just like you. That's why Ah love him. Ah think that might be why Tansy loves him too. Ah love Tansy for, well a lot of reasons, and she loves me for who Ah am, and a little because of who you and mom are. She's told me several times how much she envied me having you and mom as mah parents. Ah know it's not traditional, and that we'll have a rough time of it, but we all chose it together.”
“Alright then,” he declared. “Well. Your maw is waiting on us. Does Dr Cody know...?” Lanie shook her head.
“Ah don't think Wyatt has told her yet, but Tansy's mom knows about us and she likes me. Ah'd like to introduce you and mom to her.” She paused and chewed on her lip. “When Ah work up the courage to tell mom about Wyatt and Tansy and me.”
Gene chortled. “Oh, she doesn't know? Good! Now I can lord something over her!”
“Evidently your mother knew about you from some time ago, from her trip up here when you merged with Grizzly...” He trailed off when the spirit manifested herself into the room for a moment.
“Hello, Mr Nalley,” she greeted.
“Hello again, Grizzly,” he replied, used to such crazy happenings. “And I told you it's just 'dad'.”
The bear woman, towering over him, even though he was a tall man, chuckled and kissed the top of his head. “Ok, dad,” she acquiesced as she faded away.
“Anyway,” he continued. “She knew about your...preferences...but not about Miss Walcutt. So now I'm not the last to know. And don't be in any rush to tell her.”
“Daddy, you're bad!”
“To the bone, princess,” he said with a cocky swagger to his step. “Bad to the bone...!”
To Be Continued