Author’s Note: This chapter is a bit shorter than normal. Originally, when I wrote it, there were over 3300 words. Yikes, right? So, there was only one natural place to break it in half which left this first part on the shorter side. I hope you enjoy it.
Dear Diary, even though it was only eight twenty in the evening, it was already growing dark when my cab crossed Freedom Bluff Bridge which led back to Fortress Rock where I lived. Soon, it would be winter and it would start getting dark as soon as five in the evening.
While I was looking forward to crawling back into my own bed tonight, I missed some things about Winchester Farming Community. My grandparents, of course, and the way their house always seemed to smell like baking bread, pies or other goodies. Believe it or not, I missed the chores, too. It was hard work that kept me in shape and limber. I also missed the smell of the ocean.
Most of all, I realized almost as soon as I left that I missed Ellie Duberry.
As the cab pulled up to the brownstone, I paid the driver and thanked him, then stepped out of the car, standing outside the front gate. Staring up at my lonely attic window where my bedroom was, I sighed, thinking that Ellie would never see where I lived, would not share in my life.
When we said our goodbyes, I felt a certain reluctance but I wasn’t sure why. I think perhaps grandma’s words, her attempts at matchmaking, had gotten into my head. The solution then was to shake it free and not let that influence me. There was no reason to believe Ellie felt anything for me other than friendship and I don’t think I’d encouraged that in any way.
I would only be a summer friend to her that had gone home and wouldn’t be heard from again. She promised she’d write – I promised, too. But I didn’t want to be a penpal because it would never be the same as being there.
So, what did I want?
Peace and calm. I immersed myself in the Winchester culture and all the stress, mistrust and strain had melted away leaving me with a true sense of calm I’d never experienced. I’d also discovered a friendship free from conditions which opened my eyes to new possibilities. I was finally feeling grounded.
And it was all because of Ellie. Shaking my head again, I thought what a strange thing that was to think. All because of Ellie?
Where had that stray thought come from?
I don’t know how long I stood there before I realized the house was full of life. The lights were on and there was music floating out. Strange music. Like, little kid music. Oh wow. Was that Chris singing with it?
What was going on?
“Holden! My long lost twin! I’m so happy you are home!” Rosetta exclaimed as I finally entered.
Chris hit the volume on the stereo and then stood by Julie’s side.
“Welcome home!” they both said, nearly in unison.
I laughed a little. “What’s happening?”
Julie and Chris shared a knowing look then, grinning, Chris said, “We’re getting married!”
Laughing, Julie added, “And look who’s here!”
I hadn’t seen the little girl standing behind them. It took a moment before I realized who she was.
“Yes! I got her back just before her birthday! Isn’t that wonderful?”
Grinning from ear to ear, I nodded. “Hi, Paisley. Do you remember me?”
Paisley shook her head without saying a word.
“Honey, this is your Uncle Holden,” Julie told her. Turning back toward me, she added, “She’s still getting used to things.”
“Of course, I understand.” I winked at the little girl to try to show her I wasn’t a big meanie or something.
She smiled very slightly.
After a while, Julie took Paisley upstairs to bathe her and get her to bed.
“So, are they living here?” I asked.
“You should have seen her apartment,” Chris said. “It was an absolute pit.”
“The worst,” Rosetta agreed.
Christopher opened his mouth to tell me about it when Rosetta kind of butted in.
“It was all my idea. They’re engaged and this house is huge! There are rooms I haven’t even explored yet. Anyway, she was destitute. It is the least we can do for Christopher’s fiancee.”
“Well, however it came about, I couldn’t be happier. Jules deserves some happiness and to have her daughter back. What’s going on with her divorce?”
This time, Chris was able to jump in first. “In three months, the divorce will be finalized and then we’ll set a date after that.”
“Sounds good,” I said. “And, hey, buddy, congratulations.”
“So, how did you survive in that wretched place? I still can’t believe you went there, let alone stayed for three months. Thinking of you living there like that makes my skin crawl.”
I couldn’t help but frown. “On the contrary, I’m very fond of Winchester. I wouldn’t want to live there but it was a really nice break from the city.”
“Tell us about it,” Chris said.
“Well, life is really slow there. They aren’t too concerned about what the clock says. They get up early and go to bed early, too. They work hard – harder than you can imagine. There’s no road signs or house numbers, everyone knows everyone else and where they live. People are friendly and they take time to visit each other to play horseshoes or to just sit on the porch and chat.”
“It does sound pretty nice.”
Rosetta wrinkled her nose, “Pretty nice if you like outhouses and living without running water or electricity.”
As Chris glared at Rosetta for her negative attitude, I did my usual thing and ignored it. “I think you should visit and get to know our grandparents.”
“No. Way. Eww. They can come here. Father could even send a private jet to get them.”
“They are not going to leave and I’m being serious. They’re really old. And, they’re not going to live forever … But there’s something about them. Something they have that I want. They are so loving toward one another. Grandma calls Grandpa ‘old man,’ but he dares not say it back to her!”
This made all three of us laugh, Rosetta included in spite of herself.
“Wait, wait, wait,” Rosetta said, “what is this thing you want? You want to fall in love?”
I thought for a moment, taking my time even though she was staring at me. “No, I don’t want to fall in love. That sounds almost stupid when you say it like that.”
“I want what our grandparents have… Someone who looks at me the way Grandma looks at Grandpa. Or the way he looks at her when he thinks no one is watching. It’s true and pure. It’s more than a mere feeling. It’s like they fell for each other but then the love they shared grew bigger and bigger over the years. I’m sure they’ve had bad times like anyone else, but with them, I get the feeling they decided to continue loving each other no matter what and to be true. I’ve never seen anything like it. But, I want it.”
“I think I’ll have that with Julie.”
Smiling at Chris, I said, “I think you will, too.”
Thank you for reading,