For mom

My mother, Margaret Armstrong Kyle Austin, passed away yesterday. She was 91.

Regular posts will return next week (I hope).  I helped my brother Allan write her obituary.         

Margaret A. Austin

(née Kyle)

March 20, 1928 – July 17, 2019

We are deeply saddened to announce that Marg died peacefully, with her family by her side, at Belmont House long term care, on Wednesday, July 17.

Beloved wife of Allan McNiece Austin (Mac, 2018) for 66 years, adored mother of Allan (Lyn), Jim (Sue) and Tom (Rosaria), devoted and loving grandmother of Maggie (Jeremy Packard), Gren (Kimberley Dossett), Graham (Mallory Lazarus) and Michael (Felicia Birmingham ).

Marg was the only child of William Armstrong Kyle and Euphemia Marguerite Hunter. She is survived by her cousins Bill Kyle in Pointe Claire, QC and Fergus Kyle in Burlington, ON.

Marg was born in Toronto and attended Parkdale Collegiate Institute and Branksome Hall, before going on to Victoria College at the University of Toronto, where she earned a BA in sociology.

After completing university she worked for the Bell Telephone Company in customer service.

Marg married Mac Austin in 1951 and soon began managing their busy family life, which centred on their three sons, and included their home in Toronto, their cottage on Shadow Lake, and “that male chauvinist pig of a dog.”

Marg worked for many years for the Volunteer Centre of Toronto, which recognized her contributions with an award.

She enjoyed sports, including golf, curling and skiing. She also loved travelling, to the South and to Europe, particularly the south of France.

She was a dedicated and long-time member of Eglinton-St George’s United Church.

Mac and Marg moved into the retirement side of Belmont House in June, 2013. From then until Mac’s death she worked valiantly to support and care for him as his life was taken over by Alzheimer’s Disease.

We are profoundly thankful for the care she received from the whole team at Belmont House, and her personal caregiver Yeshi Choedon.

Please consider a donation in her name to Belmont House Foundation, 55 Belmont Street, Toronto, ON M5R 1R1.

Arrangements in care of Humphrey Funeral Home, 1403 Bayview Avenue, Toronto M4G 3A8.

A celebration of Marg’s life is planned for late summer.

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Chapter 12D Part 2 – Blue Cottage

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The wedding arrangements were finally finalized. Buddha agreed to give me away. Trina said that I could borrow Kenny for the role of the ringer bearer. She also volunteered to do my hair and makeup. Wilma agreed to loan me her wedding dress and started teaching Kenny what to do. Dr. Willowby agreed to be Peters best man. I would stay at Chez Willowby the night before the wedding. And Dr. Willowby, would stay at Casa Christopher to make sure Peter behaved himself and didn’t fall back into any of his bachelor habits.

The following day I moved my rolling rattletrap of a car onto Peters driveway. The Valentine Company, the company who originally built the cottage for my late Aunt Heather, wanted to put a dumpster in my driveway to hold the debris from Blue cottage when it was gutted. Jason Valentine was the foreman on this project while his brother PJ had taken over the family business from his father. And Jason was also a sexist pig with the brain of a gnat.

Peter was standing on my left, I was in the center, and Jason was on my right in the living room area. Together we were trying to figure out which part of the interior to demolish first. I wanted to demo the kitchen. Peter and Jason couldn’t decide where to start so the kitchen became the first part of Aunt Heather’s cottage to go. Two of the  sledgehammers had twenty-five-pound heads. Jason handed me a really small sledgehammer with a ten-pound head and a girly pink handle. I smiled. Sort of. But inwardly I was screaming foul.

“Can I have a heavier sledgehammer, Jason? I want to do some real damage. I have a real grudge against that kitchen” I asked.

Jason didn’t care for a woman on the job site and there weren’t any on his crew. He just wanted to get the job done then move on to the next.

“Something tells me you really dislike this kitchen. What do you have against it?” said Jason chuckling.

“This was never my kitchen. This was my aunt Heather’s idea of the ideal kitchen. And, in a way, I suppose it was. For her. And maybe it was when your father first designed it. But times change and so do tastes. So can I please have a heavier sledgehammer? I want to see wall studs and it’ll take forever working with a puny little ten-pound sledgehammer. I could get more done if I hit it with a Q-tip. “

Jason thought about my request when Peter started chuckling. I was beginning to wonder if this was going to be a battle of the sexes.

Peter turned towards Jason and in a slow gravelly voice told him what he thought of my request.

“She’s got a point, Jason. The kitchen will be her domain and she should have the right to smash the old kitchen to bits if she wishes. I’m all for the idea. Plus I’m curious to see what she can do.” At least Peter was on my side.

Jason thought about the request some more. Plus he was reminded of something his father once said to him.

“Ok. But I’ve got some misgivings about this but like my daddy said “Always , always make sure the customer can handle what they want to do.” The next sledgehammer weighs as much as ours. Do think you think you can handle it, Cassie?”

“Oh ya, sure. Bring it on.” Bravado and RedBull. Great combo.

Jason held the sledgehammer by the head and handed the handle to me. As soon as he let go of the head it plummeted to the ground with a resounding thud. Not exactly what I had in mind. Then I looked at the way Peter was holding his. His left hand was on the handle directly below the head and his right hand was at the far end of the handle with his head was directly above the center of the handle. I reeled it in slowly and positioned my hands the same way. That felt better but my arms felt like we’re going to pop out of their sockets. But there was no way on gods green earth I was going to let Jason know that.

“Very impressive. I didn’t think you could hold it. But the hard put will be swinging it. Let’s start on the shelving and work our way down to the counter-tops. But before anybody goes all HGTV on me let’s all swing at the same time and at the same target. I don’t want to get hurt. Peter, you go to the far end and I’ll help Mrs. Christopher out.” When Jason fouled up my name that was the only time I liked him.

I almost walked out of the kitchen but there was no way I was going to let this clown think I couldn’t play in his sandbox.

Peter turned the sledgehammer around and started poking at the shelving with the handle. Most of it came down relatively easily. But one part was being stubborn. And I was not going to let some forty-year-old shelving get in the way of me destroying an old kitchen. So I raised the sledgehammer as high as I could to really take a wack at it. The shelving came down in pieces but I couldn’t stop the hammer. Inertia and gravity conspired to bring the hammerhead crashing down onto the cheesy Formica countertop. A piece broke off and hit Peter in the face. He was dazed by the Formica and began to stumble about. I dropped my hammer on the floor and dragged him into the bathroom. I sat him down, put a cold towel on his neck and proceeded to clean the area where the Formica had hit him. There was no broken skin and no blood but Peter was going to have a helluva of a black eye. Just then Jason grabbed me by the arm, yelled “yer outta here” like a frustrated baseball umpire and pulled me towards the door. Peter he was sitting on the edge of the bathroom tub shaking like a leaf. I must have screamed or something because Peter ran past me, grabbed Jason by the front of his throat, and threw Jason through the front screen door. “Consider yourself fired. Get your things and get off the property.” I soon discovered that neither of us liked Jason. Peter decided to phone PJ Valentine before Jason had a chance to make up some story that was totally erroneous. PJ apologized for his brothers’ condescending attitude and from now on he would handle matters personally.

The next day PJ appeared on-site and on-time – something his brother didn’t do. When we asked what his given name was he simply said he was Peter Junior. Hence the name PJ. We picked up where we left off the previous day only I stayed with the ten-pound sledgehammer. We made short work of the remaining shelving. Peter and PJ took simultaneous swings at the undersides of the counter-tops which popped up like toast. PJ asked me if I had any significant frustrations. My answer was yes and he directed me to take out my frustrations on the wood paneling. The ten-pound sledgehammer fit perfectly between the wall studs and I made more holes in the paneling than a termite on drugs. I discovered I could also kick it down. The kitchen was soon a shadow of its former self. Dragging out the debris was far from luxurious but it felt good to have made some progress on Casa Christopher Version 2.

I parked my girly pink sledgehammer against the wall and asked PJ what else I could do.

“Well, you could rip that paneling off the front of the living area. But if you really want a challenge you could clobber the daylights out the old electrical panel. Just let me check the electricity is off first.” PJ checked then gave me the OK to proceed. “No juice is flowing into any part of Blue Cottage. Have at it and don’t hold back.” Knocking the old panel off the wall was way too easy. The paneling at the front of the living area was more of a challenge. I had to poke through the paneling but not the exterior of the house. Once I did that I discovered why Aunt Heather had so many problems with leaks. Some of the shorter studs had collapsed and would have to be replaced. Others weren’t nailed in properly. After I had removed most of the paneling on the interior of the cottage PJ directed Peter and me to put our sledgehammers down.

“I think both of you have put in a lot of sweat equity today. Cassie, if you weren’t already gainfully employed I’d be tempted to offer you a job. Tomorrow, if you feeling up to it, I’d really appreciate it if you could take down the paneling in the master bedroom, the guest bedroom, and the paneling in the hall. If you do all that I think we’ll be a week ahead of schedule.”

“Now I like the sound of that. I’ll see m’lady is in tip-top shape tomorrow. What time do you want us here PJ?” said Peter.

“How’s seven in the morning sound?” said PJ in a nonchalant, relaxed manner while struggling to take off his work gloves. When he looked up he started to laugh so hard I was concerned he might break something.

When PJ looked at our faces he said our jaws were slack and our eyes had bugged out. I couldn’t even imagine getting up before the sun rose. Peter muttered some mild obscenity to let PJ know he was not a morning person.

“Sorry about that. I couldn’t resist. Since you’re both non-union why don’t you show up when you feel like it. I’m sure I can find something for both of you. But my father wanted me to relate something to you, Cassie. When my father was building Blue Cottage for your aunt she frequently met him and his crew with coffee and snacks. I think your aunt was something of an early riser. She frequently met him in the drive. He thought you might want to know that. Now, both of you get out. Now! skedaddle.”

Peter and I ran back to Casa Christopher. When I got into the bathroom I took off what I was wearing and put it all in the hamper. Then I jumped into the shower and felt the water beat the beads of sweat off me. Peter was just a few seconds behind me. He still had yet to fully recover from cancer and his strength was not what he wanted to be. When he finally joined me in the shower he started shampooing my head. When he finished with that he started soaping up my tummy and came up with a wonderfully well-timed case of WHD – wandering hand disease. After our shower (which was much longer than your average shower) we simply put on robes, sat at the breakfast room table and wrote our vows.

***

That weekend we finally tied the knot. I actually became Mrs. Peter James Christopher. Getting married is wonderful, but at the same time, it can really be emotionally draining. So I’m really glad I had a small simple wedding. I was so nervous I didn’t catch a lot of details so here are what I would call “the highlights.”

1. As I was walking down the aisle I became more nervous with every step. And I noticed my bouquet, was a great yellow blur. I wasn’t about to pass out – I was shaking like a leaf! Peter tried to steady my hand but it just didn’t work.

1. Peter stood at attention for some reason but if you looked at him at just a certain angle you’d swear he had something stuck up his behind.

2. When Buddha gave me away he did it so loudly it shook the rafters. “I represent her parents and THEY DO.”

Peter was just as nervous as I was. When Peter was supposed to take my ring from Kenny he froze. Mr. Lemay tried clearing his throat and that didn’t work. Kenny tried tugging on Peters sleeve and that didn’t work. Soon Kenny was frustrated and didn’t know what to do. Peter didn’t snap out of it until Kenny said: “She isn’t waiting for a bus so do you want her or not?”. That’s when Peter snapped out of his haze and recited his vows…

Cassie, I want to be with you always just as you are. I choose you above all others to share my life in marriage. I love you for yourself, and I want you to become all that you can be. I promise to honor this pledge as long as I live. I ask everyone present to witness that I take you as my partner in marriage.

At the reception, Peter gave me the best present of all, well sort of. He got in touch with my parents and he gave me a letter from them to me. All that was in it were the words “Can we start over?” and a phone number. Any children that come out of this marriage should at least get a chance to know their grandparents. I don’t know how he did it but he gave me my parents back.

And just in case you’re wondering how the honeymoon went well that’s another chapter altogether.

…is there more? You bet!        

   Check next week!

Chapter 12D Part 1 – Blue Cottage

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Wilma didn’t know what to think. And our phone call only served to make matters a lot worse.

She stood by the large picture window in their living room waiting for us to arrive. Sometimes she strained to see the MG rocketing towards Chez Willowby. And when she wasn’t perfectly stationary she paced. She paced the exact width of the window. She wasn’t going to miss anything.

Dr. Willowby had learned over the years that when his wife was like this any meaningful conversation was all but impossible. He retired to a chair in the living room and read that days newspaper. From time to time he looked over the top of the newspaper to look at his wife. Wilma occasionally mumbled which only served to add an small element of humor to the proceedings.

“Cassie said there were three questions. The first one was a when question. The second and third questions dealt with “where”questions.

She turned and looked at her husband.

“Bill, do you think the when question referred to a baby?”

Dr. Willowby rolled his eyes then quietly muttered something in Latin. He lowered the paper to just below his eyes and glowered at his wife.

“You know perfectly well that I can’t answer your question. Doctor-patient yadda, yadda, yadda.”

Wilma tried to get an answer another way.

“Well, you didn’t say she wasn’t pregnant.”

Dr. Willowby let the paper fall to the floor and shook his hands at the ceiling. “Oh, for heaven’s sake. You know perfectly well I can’t stand it when you get like this. I’m going to go for a walk. With any luck, I’ll start worshiping trees or get abducted by gypsies.” Wilma heard the frustration in her husband’s voice.

“OK, I’ll stop.”

Dr. Willowby moved towards the coat cupboard and searched for his heavy down-filled winter jacket. He had had all he could stand. He turned and faced Wilma.

“That’s the problem. You don’t. You’re like a dog with a bone. You won’t let the questions go until you’ve got something resembling an answer. It doesn’t have to be logical and they’re rarely correct. I can’t stand idly by and watch you do this to yourself. I’m going out.”

After finishing putting his jacket on he stomped out the front door and slammed it.

***

“I think we made that travel agents day. This is going to be a helluva honeymoon. First Toronto and we stay at the airport Hilton. From Pearson International its first class all the way to Nassau. We stay overnight then we take Out Island Airways to Eleuthera. A whole week of wined and dined and generally spoiled rotten. Warm water, calm seas, and a beach where I can be warm and toasty all day. I thought I’d never stay at the Hilton.”

As Peter drove he smiled as he thought of Cassie lying in a chair roasting and boasting while slathered in suntan lotion and holding an ice cold drink called a Goom-Bay Smash. “Just be careful. A lot of sun in a short period of time can give you a really nasty sunburn. And I’m pretty sure you don’t want that.”

“I think you’ll like the Arawak Cove Club M’lady.” Cassie started hugging Peters arm tightly.

“Oh, I already do. I’m looking forward to learning how to Scuba dive during the day and more nocturnal pleasures at night.”

“I part I’m looking forward to the most is calling you my wife.” Cassie held up the water bottle. They had done a lot of talking at the travel agents and Peters’ voice was getting pretty raspy. “I know. I’m looking forward to hearing you call me that too.”

As the car went toward Lightening Point they passed Dr. Willowby walking in the opposite direction and suddenly all talking inside the car ceased. Peter looked at Cassie and Cassie looked at Peter.

“Was that who I think it was?” asked Cassie.

“I think it was. Sure picked lousy weather to go for a stroll. I’m reversing till we catch up. I have a bad feeling about this.”

Peter came to a full stop, slammed the MG into reverse and soon caught up to Dr. Willowby standing at the side of the road. When he did catch up to him he gave Dr. Willowby a tongue lashing.

“I don’t mean to sound nasty but what the hell are you doing?”. Dr. Willowby explained that he and Wilma had a fight and that he was trying to cool off. “In this weather, you’ll cool off fast. Cassie wants to know if you’re trying to give yourself pneumonia?. Get on the back and hang on to the luggage rack. Don’t worry, I’ll drive slowly.” Just then Cassie tugged on Peters jacket. “Cassie wants to add that you should know better and considered yourself told.”

As the MG moved slowly towards Chez Willowby Dr. Willowby tried to figure out just what it was he trying to accomplish. He wasn’t wearing a hat and sleet was coming down. He looked like a drowned rat. And if it was possible a foolish one at that. Cassie was right. He did know better. Why didn’t retreat into his study? One thing was certain. When Wilma saw him she’d chew his head off.

Slow but surely the MG got to Chez Willowby. Wilma was standing on the porch all bundled up. “Evening Wilma. I think we found something of yours” said Peter. As Dr. Willowby climbed the stairs Wilma let him have it.

“William Barnabas Willowby! What in thunder do you think you were trying to do?. You gave me a fright. I’d expect this sort of behavior from Kenny but you’re a grown man. And a doctor at that. Get into that bedroom, strip, have a warm shower, and change this very instant.” A soon as Dr. Willowby entered the bedroom Wilma started foraging in the closet for large fluffy towels. After she found them she made her way towards the bedroom door. She knocked on it. “Bill, I’m coming in.” After she entered Peter started wondering aloud.

“I wonder what it means if she’s in there for more than ten minutes?”

I crossed my arms and scowled at Peter.

“I think it’s safe to say they aren’t playing cards.”

I walked into Dr. Willowbys study. Then I motioned for Peter to follow me. When Peter was close enough I started speaking softly.

“I’m going to say two words. And I’d like to suggest you think about them before you say another word. So rev up that brain of yours. They are. Now, for my own edification, I’d like to ask a question. What was all that guff in the car? You didn’t let me say anything!”

***

When Dr. And Mrs. Willowby surfaced they were both in tracksuits. His was blue with white stripes. Hers was Vanilla-yellow with brown stripes. Dr. Willowby wanted to shift the topic from him and his wife to the conversation he had with Peter and Cassie. But first, he wanted to get comfortable on the couch. Wilma sat in a chair and faced the younger couple. Dr. Willowby leaned forward and addressed Peter. “Peter, did I hear you correctly on the phone. Did you ask me to be your best man?” asked Dr. Willowby. Peter went into the study to get a yellow legal pad.

“Cassie and I are getting married a week this weekend. After that, we’re going to have a small reception. After the reception, Cassie and I will be at the Airport Hilton in Toronto. The day after the wedding we fly out of Toronto and fly first class to Nassau. We stay overnight in Nassau then fly from there to Eleuthera. Eleuthera is an out island south-east of Andros Island. We’ll be the Arawak Cove Club for one week. After that we fly back to Toronto. I’ll give you a more complete itinerary in a few days.” Peter wrote out the details in long hand on the legal pad and handed them to Dr. Willowby and Wilma. Peters’ voice started to get raspy. He nodded at me and that’s when I took over.

“We’d like your permission for something.”

Now Wilma became curious wondering what this request entailed.

“Peter and I were wondering if Kenny could be our ring bearer and you, Wilma, would you consent to being my matron of honor?”

Wilma was flushed by surprise at the request. “You really caught me by surprise. I’m honored you feel comfortable asking me but I’m old enough to be your mother! Wouldn’t you feel more comfortable with someone closer to your own age like Trina?” Wilma didn’t exactly decline but she tried to deflect the request. Now it was time for Cassie to say why she asked Wilma and not Trina.

“The reason I asked you is that I feel closer to you. Trina has a lot on her plate right now with university and trying to raise a small boy. Plus I don’t feel like we’ve really bonded, become friends the way you and I have. If this situation was normal I’d ask my own mother. But relations between us are as close to nonexistent as you can get.”

Wilma was listening intently. “How come I think there is a “but” coming?”

I continued. But first, I ran my fingers through my hair totally unprepared with what I was going to say next.

“Right now I feel closer to you and Dr. Willowby than I do my own parents. I feel like I could talk to either one of you about absolutely anything.” I could feel my face getting warmer and started to mutter. I cleared my throat and really concentrated. “The truth is I’ve sort of adopted the both of you as surrogate parents.”

Wilma started to get all misty-eyed. She stood up and walked over to me. I was sitting when she put her hands on my shoulders, and raised me up from the couch. Then she started hugging me. That’s when the dam burst. Tears flowed and smiles beamed. Wilma looked right at me. “Of course I’ll be your matron of honor. What kind of mother would I be if I declined.” I couldn’t take it any longer. I broke down and returned the hug. Just then Trina and Kenny arrived. Trina opened the front door and saw her mom and me  hugging each other and crying. Then she looked at her father and Peter and saw them trying valiantly not to cry. But their dams were starting to breach too. Not quite sure what was going on she asked the first question that popped into her head. “Who died?”

***

Talk of the wedding continued into dinner. When Kenny learned Peter and I were going to be married he roared a gigantic “Yay” and showered us with peas that had been destined for his mouth. Then Trina got up from the table and gave her son a motherly stare that said a million different things. After glowering at Kenny she went to her mothers chair and whispered in her mother’s ear.

“Excellent idea. Why don’t you ask her” said Wilma

Trina sat down at the dinner table opposite me.

“Do you have a wedding dress picked out yet?”

I put my fork down . “No. Not yet. This entire wedding idea just sort of happened in the last few days.”

Trina looked at her mother and winked. “Mom has this really gorgeous wedding dress she wore and we were wondering if you’d be interested in taking a look at it.”.

“Try and stop me!”.

Just after I got up I heard Peters chair squeak.

“You stay seated buster! It’s bad luck for the groom to see the wedding dress before the wedding day.”

Peters’ looked frustrated. “I don’t think I’ve heard this much…” Trina had a pretty good idea what Peter was going to say and gently kicked him underneath the table. Then she nodded towards Kenny who was totally oblivious to his mothers actions.  “…fertilizer in all my life.” Then Dr. Willowby put his hand on Peters’ arm.

“Down lad. You don’t want to ruin a perfectly good ritual. It may be totally illogical and absolutely without merit but I have to admit there is something to be said for not seeing the dress. It make that second you do see it just a little more special ” Then Peter responded with a perfectly valid question. “She gets to see what I’m wearing so why can’t I take a look at what she’s going to wear? This ritual is sexist!”

Then Trina got into the act. “You and mom take a look. I’ll sit in Peters lap to way sure he stays put.”

Peters now looked like he was sulking. He leaned his head against Tina’s back and pretended to cry.

“Cry all you want. This sweater needs a good washing. I’m not getting up till Cassie gets back.” After about twenty minutes I returned to the table.

“Well, got my dress! I’ll tell you more at home” I said to Peter.

That’s when Trina asked who was giving me away. “Who is going to give you away. Both my parents have other jobs?”

“I’m thinking of asking my ex-boss. But he may be on his honeymoon right now-” That’s when Dr. Willowby interrupted me. “That’s what step-fathers are for. There’s no time like the present. Let’s ask him right now.” He placed his phone on the dining room table and dialed Buddha’s phone. A woman with a Texas twang answered.

“Stone Residence.”

“Bill Willowby here. Is Buddha around or is he still at the office?”

“Just minute Dr. Willowby, he’s just finishing the dishes. He’ll be with you in a second.”

When I heard that I almost fainted. That was a image that would have been unheard of just one year ago. My former boss, the meanest son of a bitch in the valley, elbow deep in water with white suds all around him. It was an image I simply couldn’t deal with. Buddha Stone had been domesticated.

Dr. Willowby pointed at me then the phone. The stage was set. Now I had to make my entrance.

“Ah, Mr. Stone, I have a little favor to ask. I’m getting married a week from this weekend and I was wondering if you would give me away.”

There was a pause and some talk that was muffled. I had no idea getting married was going to be so difficult.

….The vows are exchanged in Chapter 12D Part 2…or are they?  Find out next week!

Chapter 12C–Blue Cottage

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After Mr. Lemay spoke I was beside myself. I simply couldn’t believe what I had heard.

“You mean that’s it?” I asked. I didn’t plan on it but I was loud.

Mr. Lemay stopped talking. Peter stopped talking. And that’s when I noticed that everybody in the restaurant had stopped talking and were staring at me. Everybody was staring at me like I’d grown a second head. Uncomfortable with the stares I asked Peter what was going on. He deferred to Mr. Lemay.

“Normally, when someone asks me what you and Peter did it usually comes with the understanding that the law is pretty dry, boring stuff. I know being engaged can be a rather exciting time for some people but I assure you the paperwork involved can be extremely tedious and boring. When you take all the emotion and romance out of getting married it is usually a pretty quick ceremony. Sometimes the ceremony can be very lengthy. And when the officiate, and in this case that’s me, notices people looking at their watches he or she knows the ceremony has gone on for far too long. Most wedding ceremonies are about forty to forty-five minutes long. What kind of wedding are you two hoping on having?”

After taking a drink of water I answered Mr. Lemay.

“Peter and I have talked about this at length about this and we both want a small wedding. I’m not one of those women who simply must have a fairy tale type wedding. A girlfriend of mine from my university days had a fairy tale type wedding and the marriage didn’t last five years. Another girlfriend had a small wedding and that marriage is still going strong. I’m not superstitious but I’m going with what I’ve seen work. We want a small ceremony with just a few guests.”

Mr. Lemay realized he had asked a loaded question and was politely holding his breath. When the color of his skin started to go red he let out his breath.

“Phew. For a second there I thought you were going to say you wanted one of those big ornate affairs. Between you and me the big lengthy weddings are hard on the back and knees. The bride and groom are already nervous enough but with a religious ceremony, the knees can take a real pounding. I’ll let you in on a trade secret. After a long ceremony but before the reception the bride or groom invariably makes a smart remark about that it might have been easier if they had eloped. As you already know in the province of Ontario the law requires that you apply for a marriage license before one can be issued. Once you are issued a marriage license it must be used with ninety days. Since we’re altogether right now why don’t we get some of the nitty-gritty details out the way.” Mr. Lemay pulled a small writing pad out of his pocket. “Alrighty, if you could give me your full names with your dates of birth we can start the paperwork. Let’s start with you, Cassie.”

I knew this moment would come. And it’s my own damn fault. Secrets are a real pain.

“OK, fine. Here goes.” I held Peters hand because I knew he was going to be surprised.

“Cassandra Euphemia Carter. Date of birth January 28, 1986.”

When Peter heard the name Euphemia he turned his head towards me and mouthed the name. I knew he was going to do this and mouthed the word “home”. Something told me I had some explaining to do. Mr. Lemay looked up from the pad. “You’re a Challenger baby” referring to the space shuttle that exploded 73 seconds after lift-off. Next, it was Peters turn. I didn’t expect any surprises. I knew my man.

“Peter James Christopher, date of birth May 15, 1984.”

Mr. Lemay proceeded to lay down the law.

“I’ll be in my office around eleven tomorrow morning. I’d like to see both of you there at that time. Let’s get the paperwork out of the way. Peter, you must produce a document you were sent that says you were legally divorced, and there are no impediments to getting remarried.” When I heard that I realized I had completely forgotten about this. Then Peter said something that totally surprised me. “Don’t have to worry about that. I checked on it yesterday. It’s in my safe.”

I didn’t know he had a safe. He never told me of its existence. I took a sip of water then put the glass down. I was angry that Peter had never told me of the safe. And I needed to let Peter know I was angry without it being obvious. I grabbed his hand then apologized to Mr. Lemay.

“Excuse me, Mr. Lemay. I don’t mean to be rude by interrupting you but I suddenly realized that I really need to talk with Peter. Privately.”

I held Peters’ hand and led him into an adjacent room. Once we were alone I let him know how I felt.

“When the hell were you going to tell me about this safe. I didn’t know about it. We’re engaged to be married. That means no damn secrets.” Peter apologized and told me he had the safe installed in his study.

“I got the safe after the she-devil made tracks. She doesn’t even know of its existence. We were already going through divorce proceedings. She had a nasty habit of going through mail meant for me and me alone. She was hoping to find something that would make me look really bad in the eyes of the court. When her lawyer found out what she was doing he threatened to drop the case and sue her.” Peter took a sip of water and did his best to clear his throat.

“I don’t know if this will make any difference but the combination is the same as your measurements. You know that really old Oxford dictionary?”

I nodded my head.

“That’s it. Looks like an old book, feels like an old book even smells like one. Only it isn’t.”

I couldn’t believe it. I’d dusted it and held it at least a dozen times. And it felt just like a dusty old book. Now I felt foolish for making a big production out of nothing. Without warning, I asked Peter what the combination was. He rattled off a sequence of three two-digit numbers. Those were my measurements alright. As we walked back to the table I asked him if there were any more secrets. “Nope.”

***

When Peter and I got home we went straight to the safe. I wanted to try opening it. We stood in front of it. I just couldn’t believe I didn’t recognize it for what it was. In front of me was a 1935 edition of an Oxford dictionary. At least it looked like that.

“It looks like an old book,  feels like a book, even smells like an old book. I just can’t believe it. I even held it and still didn’t catch on. Right now I feel really dumb.” I said.

Peter did his best to sooth a bruised ego but it didn’t work. I still felt dumb.

“Don’t feel dumb. I fell for the charade lock, stock, and barrel. When I went into the store I thought all safes were cube-shaped and clunky. It never occurred to me that a safe could be anything else. Why don’t you try opening it?”

That sounded like a challenge to me. By my reckoning there were at least twenty-seven numerical combinations of three different numbers. Where would he start? After pondering the question some more I asked myself a more specific question. Where would Peter start? Would he start with my bust size or somewhere else? After analyzing the question some more, and giving myself a headache in the process, I threw caution to the wind. I went from the top to the bottom. After inputting the numbers a mechanical voice startled me.

Hello, Cassie.” Not quite sure what was going on I looked at Peter for an explanation.

“Relax M’lady. You and I are now the only people on the Earth it will open for. It senses who is touching it and takes an air sample. It now knows your pheromones.”

I looked at Peter wondering if I was about to marry a mad scientist.

“Why does it need to know my pheromones?”

“It’s a safety measure the designer put in. In order for anyone to open it the person holding it must have the correct pheromones and enter the correct numerical sequence.”

I was like a kid in a candy store. There was something about the safe I just couldn’t get enough of. I held the safe in my left hand and input the combination with my right. I felt the surface of my left hand being sucked in a little closer as it took a little “sniff”. When I finished inputting all the numbers I could feel it unlock and was greeted by an entirely different greeting. “Hello, again Cassie.” When I peered inside I saw photographs! I love looking at pictures. And they were of Peter. But not my Peter. A teenage Peter with heavy looking glasses and a face full of pimples. As I held the pictures with one hand I turned to Peter.

“Is this you?” I asked timidly while pointing at the pictures. “Lordy, you look like a geek. All you need is the pocket protector -.” I looked at another photo. There it was! Suddenly Peter put his hand over them, took them from my hand, and put them back in the safe.

“They’re from a time I’d rather forget. The only reason I have them is to remind myself how far I’ve come. School, for me, wasn’t the best of experiences. It was there I learned other kids could be really nasty and cruel. But I do need my divorce decree and my passport. And that has an entirely different photo of me.”

Oh goody. Another photo. And since it’s a government photo it’s guaranteed to be extremely unflattering. Then Peter showed me his passport photo. This was taken shortly after the new security regulations came into effect. That meant no glasses and no smiling. Another 9/11 security feature that really didn’t do anything.

“Oh my god! You look like you’ve just been arrested for murder! You look like you could kill. What happened to your glasses? And who gave you that dopey haircut? It looks like someone stuck a bowl on your head and went to town.” I asked not really expecting much of an answer.

“Without my glasses, I was blind as a bat. Glass lenses were really heavy. And plastic lenses were almost as bad. They scratched far too easily. So when I could afford it I went under the knife and had Lasik Eye Surgery. That explains the lack of glasses. My expression is all she-devils fault. I was not in the best of moods that day and she certainly didn’t help matters. She insisted we get to the passport office early. She had this theory that if we went after 12 PM she’d catch a cold. So we got there as soon as the office opened which meant eight in the bloody morning and you already know I’m not a morning person. As for that hair cut the she-devil gave it to me. She said she graduated first in her class at hairdressing school. And before you say anything I know I had to agree to the cut. So punishment has been served.”

Peter was very spooky at times. How did he know I was going to say something about his hair cut?

Peter put his divorce decree and his passport in his briefcase. I told him my passport was in my old apartment in the city. But I put my health-card (it had a photo) and my birth certificate (it didn’t) in the briefcase and closed it. Then we went to bed.

***

The next morning I wanted to check Peters briefcase. Everything we needed was still in it.

Peter snuck up on me, closed the lid, and put a hand on the briefcase. The he turned and faced me.

“I think we should ask for a meeting with Dr. Willowby, Wilma, Kenny, and Trina. What are your thoughts on the matter” asked Peter. He looked like he really wanted to get this over with. He didn’t look very enthusiastic about the question at hand.

“Why do you look like you’re going to the gallows. You know I love you” I asked hoping to hear a few words of reassurance.

“I know you do. I just wish we could get married and be done with it. I want our life together to begin as soon as possible. You’re probably tempted to say “but we are together” but I want things to more permanent and legal. I want to be able to call you my wife. Right now “wife” is just a word. Since you came into my life you’ve made a really miserable time a lot more bearable and at times enjoyable. Collaborating on this book has really jump started my creative juices and I want to do something to something to say thank you. You once said you thought I was gun shy when it came to marriage. I think am to a small degree. I thought my first marriage would be my last. But right now I want to be your husband so bad I can taste it.”

Considering what I just heard I suggested Peter call Dr. Willowby. I wasn’t too thrilled when I heard “I just wish we could get married and be done with it” but I understood where it was coming from. Peter was scared this marriage would crash and burn just like his first marriage did. It wasn’t butterflies. It more like fear. There wasn’t much I could do.

“Let’s give them a call. I need a maid of honor and you need a best man. Plus you need his permission to leave the country.”

Suddenly there was a resolve in Peters’ eyes that I hadn’t seen in a really long time and it felt really good to see it again. So we adjourned to the breakfast room table. He sat on one side of the table while I sat opposite him. Peter put his phone on the table and I pressed the speed dial button for Dr. Willowby. After a few seconds, there was a click and their phone began to ring. Dr. Willowby answered.

“Hello”

“We’re getting married”

There was a pause. Then a hand went over the mic and there was some muffled talking in the background.

“Ah, I hate to burst your bubble but that’s old news, Cassie. You already told me.”

Aware that I had indeed said that, I told him the truth. All of it.

“I know I did, but this time I really mean it.” Peter interrupted me.

“Dr. Willowby will you please be my best man?”

Someone put their hand over the Willowby phone. More muffled chatter. A woman’s voice said, “I think they really mean it”.

“You can bet the ranch on that Wilma. Is Trina there?”I asked.

Dr. Willowby took over.

“No she-no she’s not. Why don’t you two come over tonight and you can tell us everything. If you don’t I think Wilma will die from a severe overdose of curiosity.” Just then there was the distinct sound of someone getting slapped.

I took over.

“Hey you two, play nice. Wilma, there are three main questions to consider. One is when. The second is where, and the third is where as well. Make sure his Lordship is there too. Same wine?”

“Are you trying to kill me?” laughed Wilma.

Dr. Willowby spoke again.

“Hang on…the chef is thinking.” Another slap was heard. That’s when Peter took over.

“Dr. Willowby. From a soon to be married man to a married man who should know a lot better, “Never, never, never forget that she’s the boss.”

Between giggles Wilma replied excitedly.

“Well said, Peter. Don’t you dare let him go, Cassie! Same wine…like Christmas….7 PM….Stop that!”.

…to be continued in Chapter 12D!

Chapter 12B – Blue Cottage

                                      Back To wps1

After beating the stuffing out of punching bag I felt a whole lot better. A little sweaty too, but a shower quickly remedied that. I had a hour before I had to be back at the hospital to pick Cassie up. I had the whole evening planned. I drove back to the cottage for Cassie’s Gelert dress. Murray the dragon is certainly going to get a workout. Then I put the dress in a garment bag. I grabbed some appropriate shoes and put them inside the outside pocket. I dashed back to the car and drove like a fiend. After parking and paying the attendant I made it back with five minutes to spare. The elevator was on the fritz so I had to dash down two flights of stairs. Just as I got to the last step Cassie saw me.

“Peter, what on earth are you doing here?” asked Cassie.

“Normally I’d be your taxi home. But today I’m taking you to dinner. Remember? You said you wanted Chinese. I even got your Chinese food dress. You know…the one with Murray The Dragon. The one that’s supposed safeguard…..something.”

I unzipped the garment bag. It was only then she remembered the dress. The memories, the restaurant yes. The dress not so much.

“You mean you drove back to the cottage, got the dress, then drove all the way back here?” she asked a little surprised I would do something like that.

“Well, if we’re going to Gelert Gardens I thought it only right we get spruced up. I only get dolled up for M’lady and super special occasions. I even wore a tie.”

The memories all came flooding back. She started to blush when she did remember. She looked around then looked at me in a panic.

“Where am I going to change?”

“Why not the ladies room?”

We started to garner some rather strange looks. Trixie, the senior nurse out of treatment room five was leaving for the day and eyed the dress.

“Looks like someone is going to dinner. How come you never offered to take me to dinner Peter?” She proceeded to tussle my hair. “Paws off Trixie. He’s spoken for” said Cassie. She came closer and inspected the garment bag. “Everything looks right. Even got the right kind of shoes. I’ll be back in a jiffy.” She inspected the garment bag and darted into the the Ladies Room.

Twenty minutes later I was sitting on the last step of the staircase staring at the ladies room door that never seemed to open. Finally, she emerged from the ladies room and she looked fantastic. “That was a jiffy?” I asked sarcastically.

“Well, it was the Carter version of a jiffy. A jiffy is just a little longer than a tic.” Then she started looking down the front of the dress and smoothed out any wrinkles. “Either there’s more of me or less of this dress. It’s a little snugger than I remember. But I’ll live.”

“Well, I’m glad about that. Because I have a very important question to ask you. By the way, you still look great in it.” Cassie noticed my comment. “Smooth recovery scribe.”

We got in the car and drove to Gelert Gardens. During the drive, Cassie was uncharacteristically quiet. My peripheral vision is pretty good and I noticed her looking at me wondering what I wanted to ask her. She started teasing me with half-assed questions hoping I’d crack. It didn’t work.

“Oh pooh. This no fun. How did your appointment with Dr. Willowby go? Did the good doctor scope you? Please tell me something because I really want to know. This morning you were in such a foul mood.”

After a deliberate pause and few more moments I started talking.

“I really must apologize for the mood. I was just so damn frustrated. I’m sick of being sick all the time. It feels like I’ve been sick forever.” Cassie used that particular moment to inject some personal comments.

“Egad! The sphinx actually speaks”. Passenger seat satire.

“Do want me to answer your questions or not?” I said. Cassie stopped making any snarky comments. But had one left in her arsenal.

“You don’t have to be such an old poop about it.”

“I am not an old poop. I’m a relatively young poop. Now do you want to hear the answers or not?”

Cassie sat facing the windshield and didn’t say a word. That was my cue to spill the beans.

Before I continued on I had some water from my water bottle.

“How do feel about your man crying because I really lost it in there today. Blubbering, sniffing, the whole nine yards.”

At first, Cassie was silent. I think she was astonished I’d admit something like that. It felt so easy telling her something so personal.

“I’ve heard you cry in the shower. The first time just tore me to pieces. I wanted to jump in that shower and hug the stuffing out of you. To let you know you weren’t alone. And since we’re being honest the reason I didn’t is I wasn’t sure how I’d behave or you’d react. Personally, I’m glad you do cry. I want my man to be a human being and not one of those crazy macho men who think to be a man you shouldn’t ever cry. Why did you cry today?”

I breathed in and prepared for a small speech.

“First I had to get the radiation treatments which seemed to take forever and now I’m having a bloody slow recovery. Then there was that damn scope and stupid student doctors. But the part that really scared the living stuffing out of me is that I was scared of losing you. That you might not want to marry someone who is afraid to use the phone because people won’t understand him, or sounds like the monster from the Black Lagoon.”

Cassie’s jaw opened in complete surprise and stared at me with extreme intensity and surprise.

“Hold the frigging phone buster. Pull this car over right now.”

When I did and put the car in Park she really let me have it.

“I don’t know where all this is coming from but I fell in love with you. All of you. And that goes for your throat too. At first, all I wanted to do was meet you. I was honoring a request from my late Aunt Heather. After you told me about the she-devil I wanted to help you through this. I realized how hard it was for you to ask for help from a woman after being so messed up by one and that was a gigantic leap of faith on your part. But then I fell in love with you. I realized there was something very, very special about you and I wanted you in my life. I wanted to learn as much as I could about Peter James Christopher and I wanted to spend my whole life doing it. And that includes having children together. But if you think I’m going to make tracks just because your voice is all screwed up you’re sadly mistaken and you deserve a pretty sizeable slap for even thinking that thought. The only thing that’s saving you from getting a slap is that you’ve already gone through enough grief today. If you were any other guy I’d slap him so hard he wouldn’t be able to see straight for a week. Now, what the hell did you want to ask me?”

My master plan had gone to hell in a handbasket. So I forged straight ahead with my question.

“All right. I wanted to ask you to marry me.”

Cassie looked at me suspiciously like I had something up my sleeve. I tried to assure her I had nothing nefarious or sneaky in mind.

“I already said yes. I remember every detail. If you’re toying with me prepare to feel my wrath. My knees are in great shape.” I couldn’t help noticing her flex her thigh muscles. In that dress it was almost impossible.

“No, I mean really marry me”.

Cassie started eyeing me like I wasn’t right in the head. Then I remembered the gold bands in my pocket. I took one out of my pocket and placed it over her engagement ring. “That kind of marry.” Her eyes just about bulged out of her head and she started stuttering nervously.

“You-you weren’t-you weren’t kidding. You really do want to get married. But there’s so much to do. Invitations, cake, venue. I haven’t even got a dress. What about your mom and dad?”

“They’re out my life. The she-devil saw to that. They didn’t like her, they thought she was nuts and refused to pay for their half of the wedding. They insisted I not marry her. When I did marry her they disowned me. You’ve never mentioned yours. What’s the story there?” Cassie sat back in the seat and crossed her arms. Something told me this was still a sore subject.

“Mom and dad didn’t want me to become a reporter. Said it wasn’t and I quote “a proper profession for a lady”. Pardon the air quotes but that quote calls for them. When I insisted and paid for university myself they cut their ties with me. Things got mighty ugly and pretty frosty for a while. Then I got the job at CKMT. That was the last straw for them. They cut me out of the will too. That’s when I really realized our relationship was really over. I haven’t seen them for years. I think they might be…”

What came next was a torrent of tears, wailing, and a few curses that surprised even me. I held her close and massaged her back. After a few dozen Kleenex’s and a handkerchief, she started putting herself back together. When she pulled the rear-view mirror towards her she discovered the waterproof mascara she had paid dearly for simply didn’t work. “Damn and double damn. I look like a blasted raccoon.” When she saw the teary mess she said I may sound like the monster from the black lagoon but she was “the bride of the monster”. After she got herself back together we continued on our way. The drive to Gelert can be horrific during the summer, but during the winter there was hardly anyone on the highway. Cassie started thinking out loud. “Sorry if this hurts but I honestly didn’t think you had it in you. I thought the she-devil had screwed with you so well that you were gun shy.”

I returned with a compliment as well as I could. I talked as I drove. “Well, you got me all unscrewed-up Cassie Carter and for that, I shall be eternally grateful. Now if I can put a wedding ring on your finger I’ll be a happy camper. The words may not be romantic but I assure you the feeling most certainly is.”

Once we got to the restaurant and were seated Cassie made a comment about my resolve. “You really want to marry me don’t you?” I replied as succinctly as I could. “You bet your boots I do. I want to get married properly this time. Plus get our honeymoon off to a great start. And if you really don’t mind I’d really like to go back to Eleuthera. The Arawak Cove Club has probably changed a lot since I was last there. I know we talked about going to Andros but I’d really like to try Eleuthera again. Mostly because my last visit there wasn’t very pleasant. The she-devil monopolized it. She never consulted me on any of the arrangements there. She never consulted with me about anything. The last time I checked a honeymoon involved two people enjoying each others company. And much like a marriage, they talked to each other, much like we’re doing right now. I’m telling you my ideas but none are carved in stone because I’m looking for input from you.”

Cassie paused and didn’t say a word. She just stared at me.

“You really want to go back don’t you,” said Cassie a little surprised I’d given the matter so much thought. “I certainly do. I think you’ll love it.” I replied. Cassie was quiet for a while then gave me her reply. “OK, but on two conditions. I want to enjoy my honeymoon, but I want you to enjoy it too. And if we wind up doing something you did or going somewhere you went with the she-devil don’t tell me. I want the memories to concern only you and me. I don’t want the she-devil on our honeymoon” To show she meant business she pointed to the table top and lightly tapped on it lightly with her fingernail when she named her two conditions. “Now, what else is going on in that head of yours?”

I breathed in and took a sip of my mineral water.

“OK, here goes. You admitted to Wilma that you wanted a small wedding. I told you I wanted the same thing after I went to the wedding of an old school chum. The engagement period is to give the couple to learn about each before committing to a lifetime with each other. We’ve lived together for almost a year. You know enough about me to want to commit to a lifetime with me. I know enough about you to know I want you in every second of the remainder of my life. Neither one of us is religious so there are no considerations there. I was thinking we have all the people we’d want at our wedding in our lives right now. Dr. Willowby could be my best man. Wilma or Trina could be your maid or matron of honor. Buddha could give you away. And Kenny could be our ring bearer.”

Cassie was looking at me intently. Her eyes were becoming moist and she was slowing licking her lips periodically which was really distracting. It took a lot of effort just to ask her four words. “What do you think?”

“Phew. I’m sure glad you stopped. Just how long have you been thinking about this? Because I think it sounds perfect. I’d like to make a slight alteration. Buddha may have already popped the question to his lady love. It’s a woman named Gwen. She’s the station owners daughter. Aside from that, you haven’t addressed a very important matter. When were you thinking of us getting hitched?”

“At first I thought of us getting married this weekend. Then I thought would simply be rushing things. Then I changed that to a week from this weekend. What do you think? Too much?”

Cassie looked me strangely.

“I think you’ve forgotten another important factor. Since we both don’t want a religious wedding that leaves only two options. A justice of the peace or a judge. And I don’t know any at all.”

My eyes rolled and I buried my face in my hands. How could I possibly forget something so important?

“I’ve got bupkis too. Zero on JP’s and judges.”

Cassie picked up her fork and prepared to attack her Chow Mein.

“Well, it was a truly wonderful fantasy. I suppose we could always live in sin for the rest of our lives,” she said before she took a sip of sake.

I rapped my knuckles on the table top to get Cassie’s attention.

“No damn way. You’re going to be Mrs. Peter James Christopher legally if it kills me. Besides, the legal beagles would have a field day with this one when I died, left a sizeable estate, and didn’t have anyone to legally leave my estate to.”

Cassie picked up her serviette and dabbed the corners of her mouth while studying me with an intensity I’d never seen before.

“Why is it so important to you that we’re legally married?. Why is it so important to you that want me to be your lawfully wedded wife?”

“Because when I do die I want you and any of our children to be provided for legally. I don’t my life’s work to go to blood-sucking legal leech who doesn’t need the money. I want it to go the woman I’m madly in love with. And that’s you.”

Cassie looked like she might tear up again then she stopped herself. She got a grip on herself and forced herself not to cry. But she started sniffling.

“Lordy, I love it when you start talking like that. I almost feel like we’re already married. Hey, what are you looking at scribe?”

Cassie noticed my gaze had suddenly shifted from her to someplace behind her. Then my gaze returned to her. I asked her a very easy question.

“Who is the towns gossip and the man who seems to know everything about everyone in Norland?”

“Why, you’re talking about Mr. Lemay! We should ask him tomorrow who the local justice of the peace is.”

“We may not have to wait till tomorrow. He’s standing at the bar not twenty feet behind you. Maybe he knows who the Justice Of The Peace is for Norland is. I’ll ask him to join us.”

I got out of my chair and walked over to the bar. Mr. Lemay saw me coming towards him. “Peter, I didn’t know you frequented this establishment. How are you feeling boy?” I asked him to join Cassie and me. “Cassie and I have a question we’d really like the answer to and when I saw you waiting at the bar we thought you just might know the answer.”

When we got to the table I asked Cassie to take over as my voice was on the verge of vanishing. 

“Mr. Lemay, Peter and I want to get married and we’d like a small wedding. We know who we want to invite. Neither of us is religious so we won’t be having a church wedding. We’re looking at a civil ceremony. What I’m leading up to is this. We need to who the justice of the peace is for Norland.”

Mr. Lemay, who’d been nursing a small gin and tonic, just about burst his seams when he heard the intensity in Cassie’s question.

“Let me see if I understand you. You two want to get married and you want to get married in Norland. And you’re wondering who the local JP is.” Cassie’s answer was perfect.

“Crystal.”

Mr. Lemay started chuckling then had a good old fashioned belly laugh.

“You may find this hard to believe but it’s me!”

…yes, there’s still more to come in chapter 12C coming next week…

Chapter 12A – Blue Cottage

wps1

It was the end of March and Cassie and I were driving to the hospital in Lindsay. Again.  It’s was only the end of March but it seems this year has been dragging on forever. I’ll be really glad when I don’t have to come here anymore. Hospitals give me the creeps. I escorted Cassie to treatment room five even though she knows the way. We didn’t talk much during the ride in. I really didn’t feel like talking. I was in a foul mood. I left Cassie outside the treatment room. I kissed her goodbye then walked back to the elevator. Next stop was the second floor, Dr. Willowbys office and his damn guard dog Delores.

Morning Peter. How are you?” asked Delores.

I wanted to reply but when I opened my briefcase I discovered I didn’t have my iPad with me. Damn! Must have left it in the car. So all I could do was grunt at her then I sat down. It hurt too damn much to say anything. Didn’t have my water bottle either. Looking for something to do I pulled the list of revisions that Random House wanted from my pocket. Looking at it the requests it all seemed pretty petty. I’ll get to work on those when I get home. They want more “specifics.” What the hell is the difference between details and specifics? Maybe Cassie has something in that journal of hers I can use.

“Okay, Peter. Your turn. You know the way. Go right in” said Delores.

I started going into the examination room. God, I sure won’t miss this place. If he puts that damn scope down my throat again I think I’ll spit! Those student doctors are the worst. They have absolutely no bedside manner. They treat you more like a hunk of meat in a butchers shop. I’m a person but they always call me by a number, a god damn number! Here he comes and I see part of that infernal scope sticking out of his lab coat pocket.

“Morning Peter. Normally I’d say “Good Morning” but from what my spy’s tell me you’re in a bad mood. So I’m going to ask you what’s the matter?”

I wrote a small note.

“I forgot my iPad” Dr. Willowby wore an expression of frustration. He rubbed he face, looked at the ceiling and muttered.

“Look, I don’t want the abridged version. And I certainly don’t want the super polite, sanitized, version either. I thought we were friends. I want to tell me what’s going on?”

He caught me by surprise.

“What makes you think I’m in a bad mood” I croaked. God, what a horrible sound.

“Cassie phoned Delores before you arrived. And Delores let me know via IOM. That’s inter-office messaging to you. Anyone in the hospital can send me a message about you. The message is then displayed on a small display board that’s on my desk. So cut the crap and tell me what’s going on.”

I was about to start croaking away when a chime came from the direction of the desk.

“Hold on a second. Here’s another message about you. It’s from Cassie. Why don’t you reply? All you have to do is type on my keyboard. Just type the word reply first.”

I went behind Dr. Willowbys desk, found the keyboard amid a lot of clutter, and typed “Dr. Willowby is letting me use this crazy thing. Let’s talk tonight when I take you to dinner. PJC.”

Dr. Willowby stood beside me shaking his head and holding the bridge of his nose. “Nice going Mr. Technology. You forgot to type the word “reply”. Now everybody in the hospital is expecting you to take them to dinner.”

Oh crap. Dr. Willowby pushed me aside and started typing on his infernal contraption.

Forks down everyone. Message sent was meant for one person. She got it.”

Just then Cassie chimed in. Again.

“She got it alright. And she wants Chinese! CC”.

Dr. Willowby looked at me shaking his head at the same time.

“Now that we know she wants Chinese what the heck is the matter? You know something? When you clam up you’re just like Kenny. Worse actually because you know better.”

I thought about what he said and even though he was right I didn’t give a good god damn.

“I’m glad you’re a doctor because as a diplomat you are really bad. What do you think is bugging me? My damn throats killing me and I hate the sound of my voice. Every time I say something I’m reminded of what I’ve lost. I’m afraid of using the phone because half of the people I have to talk to can’t understand me. And what’s really got me pissed is that Cassie can’t understand me when she’s standing only four feet away! I want to marry her. I want to have children with her. But she’s not going to want to marry someone who sounds like me much less have children with the monster from the Black Lagoon!”

Dr. Willowby sat back in his chair, sighed and digested what I said. All of it. After a short while, he leaned forward. He rubbed his eyes. I had the feeling he had heard this all before.

“Peter, I’m going to talk to you as your friend and as your doctor. But first I’m going to get comfy so you can hear every single word and maybe something will sink into that thick skull of yours.”

He got up from his desk and walked to the front of it. Then he leaned against against its front. For added emphasis, he crossed his arms. Then he let me have it. He didn’t hold back.

“You, my friend, have an incredible talent for selling yourself short. Cassie knows what you’ve gone through, and are about to go through. I keep her updated on what’s to come because at least she wants to know. And you should thank your lucky stars she’s still with you, wants to marry you, and wants to have your children. I was lucky. Lucky I had Wilma to pull me through. She put up with more grief than you could muster in a lifetime. So don’t you dare forget for one second I went through the same crud as you twenty years ago. The only reason I haven’t slapped you silly is that I know what you’re going through. My bout with throat cancer is just beginning to become an unpleasant memory for me.”

He looked down at the floor, put his fingers by the bridge of his nose and cursed. I’ve never heard him do that before. Then he raised his head and looked right at me. He took in a deep breathe  then started talking at me again.

“In all the time I’ve known you when you came in for an exam you didn’t swear once. You were polite and pleasant as could be. God knows you’ve had plenty of reason and opportunity to swear but you didn’t say a word. Now you’re swearing like a sailor who has just realized he’s not being given shore leave” He took in another deep breath. And he looked tired. “Your throat is hurting because it’s growing new non-cancerous tissue. Plus you’re giving your muscles a hell of a workout. I told you could start to talking but I also told you to take it slowly. And when it starts to hurt to start writing notes or to use the iPad. Listen to yourself crow! You sound like some kind of berserk bison. If you’re not going to listen to your doctors orders it’s only natural your throat is going to hurt like hell, and right now you’ve only got yourself to blame for that. It’s far too early for speech modification. You won’t become a candidate for most speech pathologists until you’re at least two years of being cancer-free and that’s at least a year from now. Now, what else is bothering you? I think I know you a little too well for a sore throat to be the only cause of your anger. Come on, out with it man! Damn it, Peter, you obviously came here with more on your mind. Out with it!”

I felt like an idiot. I was sitting in a chair in front of his desk and he was standing right in front of me. I hadn’t felt this foolish since I was in grade school and wearing short pants.

“I hate that damn scope of yours,” I said rather meekly. Dr. Willowby moved beside my chair. “That’s more like it. Keep going. I know there’s more in there. Spit it out!”

“And the student doctors here treat you like a bloody piece of meat. I’m a human being not a bloody number!” That’s when I lost it. I started blubbering like a baby. Dr. Willowby moved closer and started patting my back as I cried into his lab coat. When I was finished he went behind his desk and sat down.

“Sorry about that. Got that from the Marquis de Sade school of medicine. Something tells me you’ve been bottling up your emotions. When was the last time you cried in front of Cassie?”

I breathed in deeply then let the answer out.

“Never. I was taught men don’t cry” I replied.

He lowered his head till his forehead touched his desk. Then started banging his forehead very gently on the cheap looking veneer. After a few taps on the desk, he raised his head. And he looked very, very tired.

“Damn it, Peter. You’ve got to air those emotions out every once in a while. I don’t where that cock and bull idea got started but men do cry. When Trina was born I cried. Then when that louse of a husband married her I cried. And when Kenny was born the floodgates opened again. Men cry all the time. I bet if Cassie saw you cry she just might love you a little bit more. But if you continue to bottle them up I can guarantee you you’ll do at least one of the following three things. You’ll either do something monumentally stupid, you’ll get you very own ulcer, or you’ll have a nervous breakdown. And I assure you-you really don’t want that last one.”

Just then Dr. Willowby leaned to the side and spoke into his intercom.

“Delores. I was wondering if you could join Peter and me in my office. I need a woman’s perspective. Could please step in here for a moment.”

Delores entered the office a few seconds later. When she did Dr. Willowby rose, put his hands in the pockets of his lab coat, and rocked back and forth on his feet. Delores’s eyes darted back and forth between Dr. Willowby and me.

“Delores, I was wondering if you tell us how you feel about men crying?” asked Dr. Willowby who was still looking at the floor.

“Well, my husband cries every time the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team loses a game. Personally, I think seeing a man crying is somewhat sexy. He knows what sets me off on a teary binge. I think it’s brought us closer together.” With that, she turned around and left the office. She looked rather uncomfortable in here.

“Well, there you have it. A woman’s opinion. You won’t know about how Cassie feels until you ask her and I suggest you do. Because one of these days you’re going to fall apart in front of her. Now, I’m not going to scope you. Your throats probably as red as an apple. And your vocal cords are probably swollen far beyond their normal size. So you can relax. But I will take a look in June. And I won’t give a flying fig how you’re feeling emotionally. If I have to I’ll sedate you.”

Thank bloody god. I hate it when he pokes around in there.

“Don’t look too relieved. I belong to a health club here in the city. It’s where I go when I get madder than hell. And I want you to go there and beat the daylights out of a punching bag. But use boxing gloves. I’m going to phone the owner and tell him you ‘re coming. As a long-standing member of the health club, I’m allowed “a guest” every now and then. If I find out you didn’t go there and you’re not beating the tar out of the punching bag you and I are going to have a lot to talk about. But for now just imagine the picture of a scope on the bag and beat that bag senseless. Do the same for the student doctors. Pick one, maybe that weaselly Dr. Gupta and go to town. If you choose Dr. Gupta toss in a few punches for me. He’d make a great mortician but a lousy doctor.  And if you duck the health club I’m going to tell Cassie and she’ll box your ears. I’m going to prescribe a mild relaxant for you. I want you to take it whenever you feel as stressed as you were today. And don’t be surprised if you see me in there later this afternoon. If my other patients are just as stubborn as you were today…”

I let him off the hook. Plus I don’t want Cassie finding out I went to pieces in Dr. Willowbys office.

“OK, I’ll go. And by the time I’m through Dr. Gupta won’t look his annoyingly chipper self. The little twerp won’t feel so good either.”

“Great. Just don’t go overboard. Don’t get fancy. Cassie will have my hide if you injure a wrist then finds out the whole thing was my idea. Then when I get home Wilma will ask me about my day and she’ll have my head. So quit when you feel tired. And just between you and me, I gave Dr. Gupta a failing grade because he disrespected every patient he saw, exactly like you said.”

… yes, there’s more to the story in

chapter 12B coming next week.

Chapter 11C – Blue Cottage

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The dock had snapped in two like a twig. The deck at Blue Cottage had all of its usefulness crushed out of it. The memories associated with both were all that remained. I held Kennys hand while Peter inspected the damage. He climbed atop broken ice and rocks. And he didn’t need me telling him to be careful. Today the place looked like a disaster area. In a few months time, the remains would be buried under more ice and more snow. Peter tried not to show it but this relatively simple act of nature had hurt him.

“I had been on the dock when I decided to propose, and when I decided to get the ring. It was where I went when I needed to think. To mull things over. I’m going to miss it and the deck. When the spring comes I’ll clean up what I can but I won’t rebuild. I’ll let the new owners do that. They may want something completely different from what I have in mind. Part of Casa Christopher is gone but it will be back. Just not here.”

I didn’t know it at the time but Peter had already started thinking of a replacement dock/deck for Blue Cottage. He was not a man to moan about what Mother Nature had taken from him. He wanted to create. He tried to change the gloomy mood. and tossed a fluffy snowball at me. Actually, I’m not one hundred percent sure if the snowball was meant for me or Kenny. Peter was an awful shot.

“Who wants to get the mail with me,” he asked trying to put a brave face on.  I reminded Peter the road had not been plowed since Christmas and wouldn’t plowed until after New Years. “We can’t go by car. We’re snowed in.” I added.

“Then we’ll have to hoof it.” Peter reached into the wood bin where he kept wood safe from the elements and pulled out his snowshoes. He reached in a second time and pulled out mine. It was then I remembered about Kenny and I pointed at him.

“What about me? what about me?” he repeated excitedly.

“You, Master Willowby, get something very special,” said Peter.

Peter opened the wood bin again and tugged on a small package that had frozen to the wood. I could hear the sound of wrapping paper tear. All of sudden a very strange looking package I knew nothing about appeared.

“This is your new years present from us to you. We can’t be with you on New Years Day so you get your New Years present today. You get your very own pair of snowshoes.” he told Kenny.

They were certainly something a ten-year-old boy would wear. The snowshoes were blue with plastic straps in the most revolting shade of green. But the feature that would appeal to Kenny the most was the tread. It was designed to leave the imprint of a bears paw complete with claws. Peter gave the package to Kenny then bowed. 

“From Princess Jasmine and the grumpy old bear to his Lordship Kenneth Willowby.”

Kenny tore the wrapping paper and the plastic bag beneath it to shreds in seconds. He pushed his boots into the plastic straps and all was right with the world. He could now walk on top of the snow drifts instead of sinking into them. And his footprint really did look like that of a bear. And a big one at that too.

“Alright! You two are the best! Thank you” Kenny exclaimed loudly.

Kenny started hugging my legs so ferociously I almost fell on top of him. While I struggled to keep my balance by hanging on to the door frame Kenny lunged at Peter.

“Thank you old man.” He tackled Peter and pushed him into a snow drift.

Kenny caught Peter right in the mid-section which winded him and knocked him into a snowdrift which buried him. Snow found its way up the back of Peters jacket. When he stood up he took his jacket off and shook like a dog which made Kenny laugh. Snow flew in all directions. It was difficult for Peter to get angry at Kenny but he found a way of making his displeasure known. Just how effective it would remain to be seen.

“Do that again young cub and I’ll tuck you under my arm. And you’ll go to the mailbox that way. Don’t forget I’m a grouchy old bear.”

***

Walking on top of the snow was a new experience for Kenny. One he quickly got used to. He really seemed to enjoy making tracks in the snow. I’m not quite sure how he did it but he figured out just what he had to do by watching Peter and me. This particular day was one of the happiest for me. I knew Peter and I weren’t married yet, and I knew we didn’t have a son, yet I couldn’t help but feel like we were a family. It was a warm feeling. And I wanted it to become reality very, very badly.

The old man was quickly outpaced by the young cub. When we got to the mailbox Kenny thought it looked strange. It did look strange and the story of it was just as strange.

“This doesn’t look like any mail box I’ve ever seen. I’ve pictures of mailboxes from all over the world and it doesn’t look like any of them. In England, people put letters inside a mailbox that looks like a pipe!”

Peter took over the “educational” portion of our walk.

Superbox

“Before you Kenny is a Canada Post Superbox. Truly a marvel of engineering. It lets the rain in, it lets the snow in, and occasionally it allows humans to get into those smaller areas. The dents on its skin show Canada Post just how much punishment it can take. During winter the locks on the smaller areas freeze and we have to beat it to truly show our feelings for it or Canada Post.” When he ended Kenny looked at me.

“Was Uncle Peter trying to be funny Aunt Cassie?” Asked Kenny.

“Yes, he was” was all I could say.

“Was that what grandpa calls sarcasm?”

“Yes, sweetie. That’s what you heard.”

After Peter got the mail Kenny started stomping on the snow. Peter looked a little dejected at his poorly received performance. He quietly said, “I thought some of it was funny.” He looked at me for confirmation. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings so I simply shook my head. “Really? That bad?”. I looked into his eyes.”It wasn’t all that bad. Just don’t give up your day job.”

***

When we returned to the cottage Peter asked Kenny if he’d like to help him in a little research. This was pre-planned and would give Kenny something to do till he had to go home. I suggested to Peter that Kenny assist in the honeymoon plans. It was something I would normally do. Peter unlocked the door to his study. Then he looked at Kenny and whispered at him.

“This is the room where I do most of my work. Most of the time I’m writing, but sometimes when I have to pay a bill I do it in my study. I want to start a very special project today. A project so special you mustn’t tell your Aunt Cassie. Let’s call it Project Sord”

“Why can’t Cassie know about it?” asked Kenny anxious to know the answer.

“When a man loves a woman and the woman loves the man sometimes they get married. That is a very special ceremony called a wedding. And after the wedding, the man and the woman go on a holiday together and that’s called a honeymoon. Cassie and I have talked about where we would like to go on our honeymoon. We both like some islands in the Bahamas. I’d like to do is some research on an island called Andros. It might be a lot of work for just one person and I was wondering if you’d be interested in helping me because I’d like this to be a surprise.”

Kenny looked at Peter with some skepticism. Then he scratched his head. After that he put his hands on his hips and looked sternly at Peter.

“Let me get this straight. You’re saying you love my Aunt Cassie?” he asked wondering about Peter.

“More than you’ll ever know” replied Peter. Peter told me later he felt he was asking for Kennys permission to marry me.

“And you want to go on a holiday with her after you two get married,” he asked with narrow eyes.

“Yes, I do. And I hope on this very special holiday she’ll be very happy.” Sweat had started to form on Peters brow. This was proving to be more difficult than he thought. Kenny crossed his arms, scowled and tilted his head back a bit while looking at Peter. With the scowl, Peter thought Kenny looked like some sort of big named TV lawyer. Finally, he gave Peter his answer.

“Is she still going to be my aunt after the honeymoon?” asked Kenny.

“Of course she is. And I’m still going to be your uncle.”

Kenny started squinting at Peter. “Well, I suppose so. You just take care of her or you’ll have me to answer to. Well, let’s get going. Times a wasting.” Kenny sauntered into the study like he owned the place. Peter was sure Kenny was repeating something he had heard his grandfather say.

Peter put a large atlas on his gunmetal gray desk. Kenny was short for his age and the top of his head was barely above the surface of the desk. Peter lifted Kenny up and put him on top of the desk. He soon sat down on the desk and looked at the large atlas.

“What ocean is Andros island in Kenny?”

“Atlantic Ocean Uncle Peter”

“Can you tell me the names of the major islands?”

“Well, according to this really big book they’re called North Andros, South Andros, and Mangrove Cay. I think the word is pronounced cay like the letter K.” Peter got up from the computer and looked at the map.

“Not bad. That word would have stumped even me.” Peter smiled at Kenny and tussled his hair. Those two were getting along really well. Kenny really felt like he was doing something important. They didn’t even notice me in the doorway. This was another reason that made the day so special. Peter had become part of Kennys world with the slot cars and Kenny had become part of Peters world by helping with the honeymoon preparations.

***

Kenny insisted on wearing his snowshoes home. Peter said he had some more research to do and had to stay in Casa Christopher. It was two in the afternoon when Kenny was bundled into his snowsuit. Once he was in the car and buckled in we were off. Kenny spent most the time in the MG admiring his bear paw snowshoes. It wasn’t snowing so the trip was a lot more enjoyable. As we neared Chez Willowby Kenny suggested I park far away from the house so he could show off his new snowshoes. It was a sneaky idea and I really liked it. As we came up the drive I noticed Wilma standing in the doorway. I parked far away from the house so Kenny could do his thing. As soon as the car came to a stop he opened the car door and showed his grandmother the bottoms of his feet. I could well imagine what went through Wilma’s head.

Oh my lord. What have they done to my boy?.”

As we neared the porch Kenny explained that we gave him the snowshoes as a New Years present. Then I confessed to Wilma. “Would it surprise you if I told you I wanted to keep that adorable little boy.”

Wilma was flattered. “No, it wouldn’t. It’s what I call the Kenny effect. When Bill and I started taking care of him I felt the very same thing. I think it’s something only a woman can feel. What did Peter have to say about that request?”

“He did his best to talk me out of it. He thought I should experience everything that goes with motherhood. The good and the not so good. But bringing him back today was really hard. Much harder than I thought it would feel.”

“How did Peter do in the Uncle department?” she asked.

“He did wonderfully. He surprised even me. I think Kenny is going to have a fantastic uncle. It’s like Peter had it in him all the time. He’s very protective of Kenny and Kennys perfectly comfortable in his arms. And you were right about getting a small visitor in bed too.” I showed her the photo of both of them asleep. “When Kenny first entered our bedroom Peter was snoring and he said Peter sounded like a “grumpy old bear”.

Wilma started to blush a bit.

“Oh, the little devil. How did Peter react to that particular name?” she asked.

“No need to worry. Peter calls him “Young cub”. Seeing those together is…well it’s like they meant to be uncle and nephew. I think Peter hopes we have a son just like Kenny. Can I tell you something in confidence?. From woman to woman?”

“Shoot”

“That little boy is the cure for insomnia. You don’t have to count pills with him around. Peter and I are really going to sleep tonight.” Wilma started laughing and snorting. She covered her mouth. “Sounds like he gave you two a real workout. Can I please tell Bill what you said? It was just priceless.”

“Sure thing. I don’t suppose that’s a secret. I can’t speak for Peter but I can hardly wait till we get Kenny again. I think Peter wanted to keep him too but don’t quote me on that. But I think it’s safe to say he wants him back very soon.”

Wilma was quiet for a while like she was trying to decide whether or not to say something.

“I’ve got a feeling you’ll soon have your own little one that you won’t have to bring back. The only drawback with that is that we lose great babysitters.”

Now it was my turn to be quiet. “I hope you’re right Wilma. I really do.”

….more to come

Chapter 11B – Blue Cottage

Dock slowly being destroyed

After the dinner of mac and cheese, Peter and Kenny both sat on the couch in the living room. And both were rolling their eyes in astonishment at what they had done.

“I’m so full. I didn’t I eat that much” said Peter looking tired.

Kenny looked at his uncle and more or less said what his uncle had already said.

“Man, I’m stuffed!”

In an effort to outdo his uncle he also produced an incredibly large belch. I could only guess that was a ten-year-old’s way of saying he had had enough to eat. I asked if they wanted to go back to their slot cars. Kenny collapsed backwards on the couch and his head slid to his uncle’s shoulder. Peters answer was somewhat different.

“I’m so full. I don’t think I could go downstairs if I was paid. For the life of me, I am really, really tired and I don’t why. Can we watch a DVD or something, one that doesn’t tax the noggin?”

Peter rarely watched cable television, and just as rarely said anything remotely complimentary to say of the shows or the “talking heads”. He liked cartoons. So I went over to the DVD shelf and picked out something that was entertaining and didn’t ask you to think. After perusing the titles available and considering the condition of the audience I picked out “Aladdin”.

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I picked out the DVD and showed the cover to Peter.

“Perfect mind candy. Kenny may object to the romantic aspects but it’s our TV. He can watch it or hit the hay now. I know that’s where I’m headed after the film. I’m just so bushed.”

I walked over to the DVD player. After searching for the “on” button for a while  I finally found it. The disc drawer came out and I inserted the disc. After I sat back on the couch I looked at Kenny when the film started to play but there was no reaction. He was still out cold. But as soon as his brain heard the voice of Robin Williams Kenny returned to the land of the living. But when the character of Jasmine came on the scream Kenny made his feelings known.

“Uh oh. Here comes the mushy stuff.”

When Kenny said that Peter pointed at me and growled “Your Aunt Cassie is my Princess Jasmine. And one of these days you’re going to find your own Princess Jasmine.” When I heard that I snuggled up to Peter. However, Kenny could not be swayed. There was no way to convince him that he might soon find his own Princess Jasmine.

“No way old man. Girls have cooties.”

I started to laugh and so did Peter. So little had changed since we were his age.

“You just might be surprised sport” was Peters last comment on the subject. He wanted to watch Aladdin. Kenny lasted about forty-five minutes before he conked out. His eyelids got lower, and lower till they stayed shut. His neck went slack and his head fell back against his uncle’s shoulder. I was enjoying snuggling up to Peter so it wasn’t until he said something that I noticed.

“I think our diminutive critic has flaked out again” he gurgled. I got up as gently and quietly as I could, took out the DVD and turned off the DVD machine. Peter moved very slowly and got Kenny in his arms. He then carried him into the guest bedroom. “When this kid is out he sure weighs a lot,” remarked Peter quietly. We debated who should change him into his pajamas and quickly found out that it was a two person job when dealing with a comatose little boy. Kenny stirred a bit but not enough to be helpful. I opened his overnight bag and pulled out his Spiderman pajamas. After we got those on him Peter slid him under the sheets. I remembered about Mr. Spanx and tucked him under Kenny’s arm.

“What the heck is that thing? Sure is an ugly little brute” asked Peter.

“I haven’t a clue but Wilma told he sleeps with it every night” I replied.

“Whatever happened to teddy bears?” Peter commented.

Then I told Peter to get him a glass of water.

“How do you know he’s thirsty?”

“Let me guess. You never babysat a kid.” Peter just stared at me. “I’m a guy”

“Every kid I ever babysat has wanted a glass of water. You can get it now or wait till four in the morning when he announces very loudly he’s thirsty.”

Peter grumbled as he slowly walked towards the kitchen. When he returned he placed the water on the nightstand. He then asked me if we’re were going to be doing the same thing with our kids. “You bet Mr. C”. I shook my head slightly and asked myself how someone so smart could be so clueless when came to kids.

After turning on the night light we both kissed him on the forehead and quietly crept out of the bedroom. We didn’t close the door all the way. Then we turned on the nightlight in the bathroom. That’s when Peter said it.

“I think the kid may be on to something. I’m hitting the sack.” I had forgotten to tell Peter that Kenny may visit in the middle of the night. Peter headed for our bedroom, stood for a few seconds and stared at the bed. His smile disappeared quickly. I saw him reach for something then approach me. He was holding his pj’s.

“PJ’s for us too?. You know I hate PJ’s. Please tell me you’re joking.”  I just stared at him and tried to smile. “I don’t hear anything.”

“Wilma told me Kenny likes to sleep with her and Dr. Willowby. And to expect a visit from his lordship” I pointed towards Kenny’s room. “Do you really want him to see me in my birthday suit?”

Peter sat on the edge of the bed as he got changed. He muttered something but nothing intelligible.

“But I love touching and feeling your skin next to mine.”

I had expected him to say something like this but I was getting sick and tired of having this argument. I was really too tired and I really wanted to go to sleep.

“Oh for Pete’s sake Peter its for one lousy night. Plus when we have our own children we can’t sleep in our birthday suits. It just isn’t practical. So get used to it and get in bed” I tried to say quietly.

“Alright, but I draw the line at having Mr. Spanx in the bed. I don’t why but that thing creeps me out.”

Peter didn’t say one word about my sexy purple satin pajamas. But he sure groused about his pj’s. His were blue, red, and white. “I look like toothpaste with feet!”.

“Oh, get in the damn bed and stop grousing,” I said. One kid was more than enough but Peter was behaving like a spoiled brat.

As I reached for the light switch I glanced at the time. It was eleven at night. Peters’ head was already on the pillow and he was out cold. At four in the morning, I was just exiting the bathroom when I heard a clicking sound from the door handle of the guest bedroom. A bleary-eyed Kenny emerged from behind the door. “Can I sleep with you and Uncle Peter?” I knelt down and looked at his eyes. “Let’s go and  see what the old man says.” I took him by the hand and led him into the master bedroom. Peter was snoring but not very much. But it was more than enough to startle Kenny.

“Gosh, he sounds like a grouchy old bear.”

I put my mouth down by Kenny’s ear and whispered.

“Before we wake the grouchy old bear can you leave Mr. Spanx in your room. The old bear doesn’t like Mr. Spanx.”

Kenny looked at me and scratched his head.

“Why doesn’t the grouchy old bear like Mr. Spanx Aunt Cassie?”

The little sneak caught me by surprise. I had to think fast.

“I don’t think the old bear had a toy like Mr. Spanx when he was a little boy. That’s probably why he’s a grouchy old bear.”

Just then the snoring stopped and the old bear came to life.

“Are you two gonna stand at the foot of the bed all night debating the meaning of life or are you going to get into bed? I’m lonely.”

I scooted over to my side of the bed while Kenny got in the far side of the bed. I snuggled against Peter. He put one arm around me and pulled me towards his chest. I put my head on his chest. His heartbeat was very soothing. Just before I drifted off I heard Kenny. “Good night you old bear.” Peter pretended to growl. I started to get misty eyed. I could get used to this very easily.

I don’t know how long I had been asleep but it felt like a million years. But then I heard creaking, cracking, and snapping. Convinced I really did hear something I woke up Peter concerned about our little charge.

“Peter, wake up. I hear something.”

Peter mumbled something about mice in boots. I wasn’t amused. “Get up and find out what that was,” He raised his head from the pillow. He heard it too. “If that’s what I think it is I’m going need a new dock.” Gingerly, Peter crawled out of bed taking care not to wake Kenny, walked through the living room and proceeded to put on his snow pants, boots and parka. Once was outside he moved slowly towards the water and with the aid of light from a flashlight discovered the dock he worked so hard to install was now a collection of splintered wood. He shone the light over to the deck belonging to Blue Cottage. It was now simply kindling. When he came back in he gave me a full report. “The waters risen at least ten inches. The ice is now four to six inches thick. It’s snapped my dock in half. The half closest to shore is slowly being crushed and snapped. The deck at Blue Cottage has been completely destroyed. I suspect that’s what you heard. A lot of people  will wake to find a helluva mess. I wouldn’t be surprised if some folks who had their cottages close to the water’s edge got flooded out.”

After the alarm rang I got up first. I peeked outside the bedroom window and saw a mess. Then I looked at Peter and Kenny. Somehow they had both slept through the alarm. They looked so peaceful amid the destruction outside. Peter had an arm around Kenny’s waist and was holding him close. Kenny had an arm across Peters’ chest.  I started to get misty-eyed again. After pulling myself together I walked into the kitchen to make pancakes. To make things fair I gave Peter and Kenny a little warning. But first I walked back into the bedroom and took a picture of their slumbering sleepy faces. After I took the photo I put a hand on Peters’ face and a hand on Kenny’s face.

“Hey you two, pancakes in fifteen minutes, and they won’t be coming to you. So you can both forget about breakfast in bed” I said softly. As soon as Kenny heard the word “pancakes” he shot out the bedroom and beat Peter to the bathroom. Peter knocked on the door and tried diplomacy.

“C’ mon Kenny. We’re both guys. Unlock the door.” It didn’t help when I suggested he use the bathroom downstairs. “It’s too damn cold down there.” From behind the bathroom door, a tiny voice was heard. “I heard that Uncle Peter!”

Eventually, Kenny did open the bathroom door. He tore out the bathroom and into his bedroom. And locked the door.

“Attention all civilians. Speed Racer is in the house” Peter croaked.

“Stop pretending you’re a PA system and have your orange juice,” I said from the confines of the kitchen. Still no comment about my sexy pj’s.

“How well did you sleep?” I asked not expecting much of an answer.

Peter finished his orange juice and placed the glass on the counter. “I slept like a log. I must have been so tired I was too tired to dream. What about you Milady?”

I thought about my response. “If I said “Can we keep him” would that answer your question?”

“Okay-y. Something tells you really want one of your own. Would I be right in that assumption?”

“Oh, you would be so right” I just about jumped into his arms. “Can we start trying soon?” Peter did a few rough calculations in his head. “Well, first I think we should be married, but I can’t see any reason why we couldn’t start trying as soon as Blue Cottage is gutted.”

“Alright!” I screamed. Peter gripped my behind, lifted me up and got a handful of sexy silky pj’s. He smiled and made approving sounds. “If this is what I can look forward to I almost want to get started right now.”

“Hey! What do you mean “almost”. Are you trying to weasel out of our arrangement” I teased.

All of a sudden there was a high pitched male voice in the room. “If this is about to get mushy I can always watch Spongebob”.

Hearing that Peter instantly put me down. He knelt till he was eye level with Kenny. “Your aunt Cassie and I were just talking about something. Can I ask you about something?. Why were you calling me a grouchy old bear last night?”

Kenny looked up at me then looked right at Peter. “I met Aunt Cassie when I got up in the middle of the night. When I asked if I could sleep with you guys she said: “let’s see what the old man says.”

Kenny was standing right beside me. As he said the words “the old man” I cringed. Then I looked down at him and quietly muttered “traitor”.

Peter tried to make sense of last night. “OK, I get it. She called me the old man but where did the bear comment come from.” Kenny looked as he was trying to recall the events of last night. “When we entered the bedroom you were snoring really loudly and I thought you sounded like a grouchy old bear.”

Nothing like a little innocent embellishing the truth never hurt anyone. After a healthy supply of pancakes, we all went outside to inspect the damage. Kenny and I walked along the shore. The ice was so thick! And the devastation so widespread. We couldn’t clean up the mess till spring. Old man winter was not through was not through with us. Not by a long shot.

Chapter 11A – Blue Cottage

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Winter and I were well acquainted, too well. Winter always seemed to have something special and miserable in mind just for me. And I hated it. Growing up in Canada you simply can’t avoid it – and there were some years I really, really wanted to avoid it.

Winter in the city and winter in the country are totally different. In the city, a snows drift almost always exceeded your height (or lack of it) and were filthy. Snow drifts in the country were almost always white, majestic and regal. Mother Nature sculpted the most gorgeous ones with the wind. Add a coating of thin ice to act as a preservative and some of the gorgeous drifts lasted almost all winter. Some of them lasted so long they became old friends, and when they melted away it made you sad. But they were always reborn into something new and beautiful.

Peter wanted to introduce me to snowshoeing. Going to get the mail in the summer was taxing and frustrating at the best of times – which meant battling almost every airborne menace known to humankind. In the winter you had only one enemy and that was the cold. I really disliked getting ready to go out for a jaunt to a mailbox that was only five minutes away in the summer. But let me tell you right now when you live up north you’ll be glad for every layer you have on, every goose feather in your down filled jacket, and for every really ugly sweater you ever got at Christmas. You may end up looking like the Michelin Man but at least you’ll be warm because when the wind howls from the north the cold can be mind-numbing.

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We were out snowshoeing, enjoying ourselves despite the cold. Peter had his phone in his Fanny pack and heard its familiar chirp. It was a text message from Dr. Willowby. He was taking advantage of our Christmas gift to him. We gave him and Wilma a gift certificate for “one day (24 hours)” of babysitting anytime he and Wilma needed a break.

“Taking advantage of the gift certificate. Need break. Can you pick him up or do you want me to drop him off?”

When I read the message I was mildly terrified and happy at the same time. Trina sent her own message. “Take good care of Kenny. I want a full report in the new year.”

Dr. Willowby wanted us to take care of Kenny on the 3oth of December. We texted back that I would pick him up in the MG. After I got back to the cottage I texted Dr. Willowby a message.

“Does Kenny have a car seat?”

Almost immediately he texted me back. 

“Transport Canada says he should have one. He says he doesn’t need one. Guess who wins? I’ll help with the setup for your car.”

True to fashion he forgot one vital piece of information. The pick-up time. After a flurry of text messages, we settled on two in the afternoon.

***

Neither of us slept well the night of the 29th-30th. I hadn’t babysat for ages and Peter had never babysat at all. But this would be a good test for both of us. I roared down the road leading to Lightning Point and Chez Willowby. When I arrived in the MG I honked the horn to announce my arrival and parked beside a small Kenny-size snowman.

When the car came to a stop I rolled down the window. Kenny and Wilma were waiting just behind the screen door. “She’s here” a small voice yelled from behind the screen door.

I got out of the car and began a slow trek to Chez Willowby. As I waded through the snow Kenny burst out the house in a dark blue snowsuit, jumped off the porch, and immediately started hugging my leg. He looked around for Peter.

“Where’s uncle Peter?” the hyper munchkin asked.

I put my hands at the top of my knees and I bent over to answer him. He had such an angelic face. But behind that angelic face was a demon just waiting to be unleashed.

“Peter’s back at the cottage making sure it’s nice and warm for you. He has already brought in extra wood to make sure you’ll be warm tonight.”

Wilma waded slowly through the deep snow towards us.

“Bill can’t figure out how to get the car seat out of our car so you’ll have to take him as is. Here is the bag containing Kenny’s pajamas. There’s also a complete change of clothes along with Mr. Spanx. I think you should know he likes to sleep with me and Bill. So don’t be surprised if you get a small visitor tonight.” Wilma handed me the overnight bag.

The winter winds howled and the sky looked ominous. More snow was supposed to be on its way. Kenny had a short crew cut and Wilma came over and put his hat on. He protested loudly.

“For Pete’s sake watch the ears, Grandma.” This verbal gem was new.

Wilma covered Kenny’s ears. “Another contribution to his  vocabulary from his grandfather,” I asked if there were any special orders.

“Try to have him back at 3PM sharp tomorrow. Trina is taking Bill, me, and his Lordship out to dinner” said Wilma before she was drowned out by the scraping sound of a snow plow. Kenny got into the passenger seat of the MG. I buckled him in and went to say hello to Dr. Willowby. Just as I reached the porch Kenny leaned on the horn. His Lordship beckoned. As I made my way back to the car I passed Wilma.

“Tell Dr. Willowby I wanted to say hello but his Lordship requested my presence.”

Wilma started to laugh. Before I returned to the car I double checked the return time with Wilma. After that, I walked back to the car. The snow was really coming down so I brushed off the windshield.

***

After I got in I asked Kenny about Mr. Spanx.

“So who’s Mr. Spanx Kenny?”

Kenny was surprised I knew about Mr. Spanx. He turned his head and looked at me.

“How do you know about Mr. Spanx?”

I told him his grandmother told me about him.

“He’s just a dumb old toy I play with sometimes.”

His gaze returned to the countryside and the snow outside. Well, so much for that line of questioning. I decided to concentrate on driving while he looked out the window. Kenny appeared to be having a great time in the car. The belt buckle wasn’t too restricting.  While Kenny was looking outside the window he started asking me questions.

“Aunt Cassie, how old is uncle Peter?”

I watched the highway as it was slowly swallowed by the snow.

“He’s thirty-five years old Kenny. Why do you ask?”

“Wow. That’s old. Where there any dinosaurs around when he was my age?”

I laughed and tried to imagine Peter playing with a dinosaur. “No, I’m pretty sure he didn’t have any dinosaurs to play with.”

“And how old are you?” he asked.

The little sneak caught me by surprise.”I’m only thirty-one years old. Just one year older than your mom.”

“Did you have any dinosaurs to play with?”

I snickered again. “Nope. No dinosaurs for me either sweetie.” I tried to pinch his cheek. His arm went up defensively. I made a mental note not to do that again, and to tell Peter too.

“Why do you want to know our ages, Kenny?”. I tightened my grip on the steering wheel. Precious cargo on board.

“I just wanted to know just in case I have to dial 911 or something. You never know when something might happen. Grandpa says to always be prepared.”

***

We came to Norland, crossed the noisy Bailey Bridge and onto Highway 45. Kenny was flabbergasted at the size of the boulders we passed. The road got rougher when we pulled onto Buller road and I slowed down. When we got to the road that led to the cottage the poor kid was bouncing around like a loose loaf of bread. But he said he was having a ball. I began to toy with the idea of getting a car seat installed. Kenny was fascinated by the size of the snowdrifts. I noticed Peter standing in the middle of the road and I pointed him out to Kenny.

“Whose that over there Kenny?” Kenny looked over the dashboard.

“It’s uncle Peter! What’s he holding?”

Peter was standing by the side of the driveway waiting for us and holding a huge sign.

“Welcome Kenny” was all it said. Kenny beamed the biggest smile I have ever seen.

“Hey, that’s me!”

“That’s right. I think your uncle likes you a lot.”

“A whole bunch Aunt Cassie?”

“A whole bunch too.” That kid was so cute I wished I could keep him. I wondered if the boy Peter and I would have would be like Kenny.

After I parked the car Peter opened the car door. “How ya doin’ sport? Did your aunt Cassie behave herself?” Peter proceeded to unbuckle Kenny. To my surprise, he lifted him up into his arms. He took his overnight bag from me and ushered us both inside. After closing the door he put Kenny down and started taking off his snowsuit. “I’m gonna get you out this suit so you can stand by the fireplace and warm up.” He got Kenny out his snowsuit in record time. He hung up the snowsuit in the furnace room to dry. Then he helped me out my jacket. I took my boots and snow pants off.

“There, now I feel human again. I know there’s a very good reason for all those layers but every time I put the jacket on I feel fat. Do you like your snowsuit Kenny?”

Kenny was standing by the fire getting warm. His lack of response spoke volumes.

“WOW,” he said loudly “This fireplace is big!. It’s almost bigger than me.” Kenny leaned against the fireplace and could feel the warm granite stone. He looked up and saw the cathedral ceiling. And his mouth opened. “This place is huge!”

Peter started chuckling pleased Casa Christopher passed inspection. “There are two floors. This is the floor is where we eat and sleep. Downstairs we keep things we use outside during the summer and the slot car set.”

When Kenny heard the words “slot car set” his ears perked up.

“You mean that place is real?”

“Very real. It’s just down those stairs behind me” croaked Peter and his thumb pointed behind him.

“Could I take a look?” asked Kenny excitedly.

“Sure thing. After all, you’re the owner” croaked Peter who walked into the kitchen to refill his new water bottle. A little surprised by Kenny’s reluctance to look for himself Peter hiked up his pants and knelt. He motioned for Kenny to join him. Peter balanced on the balls of his feet and steadied himself by holding onto Kenny’s shoulders.

“Do remember Christmas night when I showed you that photo of a really large slot car set?”

“Yes sir,” said Kenny. Peter was slowly losing his balance so he chose to sit on the floor.

“I’d really appreciate it if you could call me Peter. Do you think you can do that for me?” Kenny nodded. “And before you forget what the slot car set looks like I’ll show you the photo again.” Peter got his phone and showed him the photo of what he owned downstairs. Kennys eyes got wider and wider. “You mean it’s all mine?”

Peter nodded.

“And it’s downstairs right now?”. You could see the excitement rapidly grow in him. But also looked hesitant. Too much was happening too fast.

“I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you and I take a look together,” said Peter.

Kenny nodded. Peter picked Kenny up in his arms. Peters’ cheeks puffed out when he picked up Kenny.

Kenny put his arms around Peters neck and the two of them went downstairs. They almost looked like father and son. When Peter flicked on the lights Kenny squealed with delight.

“It’s all yours. And it’ll be here every time you come here”.

It wasn’t long before I heard the sound of the slot cars zipping around the track. I quietly went part way down the stairs and observed a grown man being trounced by a ten-year-old boy. The car Peter controlled soon skidded off the track and fell to the floor. Peter took his time retrieving the errant automobile. Kenny then said something he heard his grandfather say.

“C’mon old man. Times a wasting” was quickly followed by an excited chuckle.

The look on Peters’ face was one of total surprise. Nobody had ever spoken to him in that particular manner before. He looked at me in a state of shock. “Did you hear what he just called me?”he whispered. I nodded my head excitedly almost laughing. “I think that means he likes you, Peter.”

“No mocking the infirm Kenny. I’ve been practicing. Prepare to be pummeled!”

It was obvious Kenny didn’t know what pummeled meant. So Peter re-worded what he said.

“I’m going to beat your pants off Sport” The race ended and Peter prepared the track for another race.

While Peter was preparing the track Kenny ran over to me and put his mouth close to my ear. “Aunt Cassie. Whatzit mean when uncle Peter calls me Sport?” I had to think fast.

“It’s a term of endearment.” Kenny’s expression told me all I need to know.

“Huh?”

I put my mouth close to his ear and my hands on his shoulders. “It means he really likes you,” I whispered.

I patted him lightly on the behind. “Now get back over there and show that old man who owns this track”.

They stayed downstairs till dinner. I was preparing dinner and listening to the banter between uncle and nephew. I really don’t know who was having a better time, them or me. When everything was ready I went to the top of the stairs.

“Will all racers please report to the track kitchen! It’s mac and cheese tonight.”

They both came up the stairs reluctantly. They were both laughing and giggling. Kenny appeared first while Peter made sure everything was disconnected and the lights were off. While they were eating Peter made a small request of Kenny. “I really like you. I just wanted you to know that Kenny. And I was thinking it might be a good idea if I was the only person you called Old man. Does that sound alright to you?”

The answer was as cute as hell. After clearing his plate in record time Kenny crawled into his uncle’s lap and started munching on Peters salad. “Sounds OK to me” was his only reply. He then proceeded to munch on the cucumber on his uncle’s plate. Peter had his arms around Kenny’s waist. Then Kenny paid Peter the ultimate compliment. “I like you uncle Peter. You’re a little kid just like me only way bigger.” Peter held my hand and hugged Kenny. I think we passed the uncle and aunt test.

…yes, still more to come

Chapter 10C – Blue Cottage

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Peter had this devious look on his face. He knew exactly what he was going to do. He also knew exactly what he wanted, and where to find it. We jumped in the car. Without a word to me, Peter drove the MG like a man possessed. Our first stop was a 7-11 store –  a stone’s throw away from the hospital. He bought a 1.5-liter water bottle and a Coca-Cola. When I asked him where we were going he started tapping on the iPad in his lap.

Christmas present for Kenny. Next stop is Robs Emporium of Motorsports.”

I found this side of Peter strangely appealing, not to mention a bit arousing too. For the first time in a really long time, he knew what he wanted, what to do, and where to find it. He drove along the main street slowly as if he was looking for something.

“Do you know where the store is?” I asked.

“Last time I saw it was a few years ago. I’m pretty sure we’re close.”

He sucked the contents of the Coke container dry. All of a sudden he let out the most disgusting, hair raising belch I’ve ever heard. The sound surprised me so much I grabbed the cool dark dashboard.

“God that felt good” was all he said.

This was totally out of character for him, and a little unsettling. I asked him if he was feeling alright.

“Sorry about that m’lady. A lot of air gets trapped inside and I learned long ago that’s the only way to get it out. Sorry if it upset you or grossed you out. A nurse in the Radiation Clinic told me about this trick. She said that when I start feeling bloated from talking to try drinking carbonated drinks. They will force the excess air from my diaphragm.”

I was more than surprised and a little grossed out.

“Well, if it works and you don’t get hurt I’m all for it. Don’t be surprised if I join you sometimes. It just caught me by surprise. I’ve never heard you burp before. But if we have company…just don’t do it.”

“Your wish is my command.” His voice started to sound rough again. Rats. He started to whisper sentences. As the car slowly prowled along the road Peter started looking left and right.

“I think we’re close by. Things are starting to look familiar.”  

Then he started speaking in hushed tones like he was about to reveal something sacred. In a special way he was.

“When I was a kid I had to take a very specific route to school. On that route was a toy store. I would pass it twice each day. They had all sorts of things. I couldn’t afford any of them so I made a little promise to myself that when I was older and could afford them I’d get some of the toys I still wanted. One of the things I wanted was a slot car set. I eventually got it but the she-devil from hell made me get rid of it. She made me think we could save our marriage if I got rid of it. Now I want to get it for Kenny.”

“For you and Kenny and you-you mean….”

“Well, if it works out that way I’m fine with it.”

“What happens if he wants to take the thing home with him?”

“If that happens you may see your man reduced to a gibbering idiot who cries like a baby. But that’s not going to happen. I have a plan and it involves logic.”

“But what if Kenny has a plan too and it involves ownership?”

“Then I’ll probably get a severe case of the sniffles.”

***

Peter finally found the store. He parked the car, fed the parking meter, and we went inside. It was huge and catered to boys and girls. The gentleman behind the counter let us browse for a few minutes. He was studying Peter. Something about him looked familiar. With little warning, he spoke up.

“Aren’t you the guy who brought a Silano set to me?” he said in a distinctive Bronx accent. He had dark hair, oily skin and wore a red and black flannel shirt.

Peter started using the iPad.

“I rememba ya now. Yer the guy with the bum voice.”

If Peters’ voice had been any better he might have said something snarky. Instead, all he did was raise a thumb. He placed the iPad on the counter and started typing.

Guilty as charged. Do you still have the Silano Set?”

The manager thought for a few seconds.

“Do I still have it? You gotta be kidding me. All the kids want is them remote-controlled drones. Them and Hot Wheel slots. Silano sets just don’t sell the way they should. Them Hot Wheels slots are all junk. Everything is too small and fragile to last very long. Now a Silano set will set you up for life. If my memory ain’t playing tricks on me you had everything. Trees, railings everything!”

Peters face got more and more excited the more the manager described it. He was a little boy again. It was a wonder to see the little boy in my man come out. I don’t think Peter knew it but his grin got bigger and bigger the more the manager described it.

“You wouldn’t be interested in taking it off my hands would ya?” Peter and I were the only persons in the store that Christmas Eve afternoon and the manager wanted make another sale before closing up early.

That all depends. Have you still got the box I brought it in?” he wrote on the iPad.

I slapped my forehead in disbelief. “Oy. Who taught this guy to bargain?”

“Yup. I should charge ya rent, but since its Christmas and all I’ll sell it back to ya for three hundred clams. People love to look and drool at it but drool don’t pay the bills if ya get my meaning.”

Peters smile soon turned to a scowl. But he wanted the Silano car set.

“Look sport, I gotta make a buck too ya know.” The scowl stayed. Peters scowl slowly changed to an expression of disinterest.

“Ah, jeez. I shouldn’t do this but you look like you already love it. How about a hundred and fifty clams?”

“Sold,” said Peter in a croaky voice and extended his hand.

“Will that be cash, Mastercard or Visa?”

Peter pulled out his Visa card and smiled.

“Yer voice don’t sound any better”

“My fiancé had throat cancer and he’s a slow healer,” I said suddenly.

“Oh Jeez, Hope ya feel better.”

It’s one day at a time. Wish I could speed it up but it’s slow going.” he typed on the iPad.

“Hope ya don’t mind me asking but why are ya buying back?”

To give it to my nephew. He just turned ten and he’ll just love it.”

Then the manager started talking at me. He caught me by surprise. I was daydreaming and looking at a dollhouse. A three-story Victorian dollhouse.

“Can I help ya with anything lady?” I kept staring at the dollhouse. I didn’t hear him at all. I was too busy thinking.

“Hey, Lady! You feeling OK? You looked sorta “out there” if ya know what I mean.” the manager yelled bringing me back from the world of fantasy to reality. Peter turned his head and started laughing.

I think my fiancé is reliving her childhood…or maybe she’s just thinking“. I just stood there transfixed by the dollhouse.

After we paid for the box Peter checked to see that everything was still there. The track, cars, fences, trees, hand controllers and a heavy transformer were all in the box. After we left the store Peter put the box in the trunk carefully and tenderly. If you had seen him you would have thought he was holding his firstborn for the very first time. Going home was a different matter altogether. He drove like a maniac. I don’t think Buller Road had ever been abused or misused quite like this before. But I was enjoying myself. Here was a 35-year-old man behaving just like a ten-year-old. When we got home he took the box downstairs and put it on a piece of plywood almost ten foot square by one inch thick. He lovingly took out the pieces of black plastic track and assembled the track completely from memory. Each piece of track had two plastic tongues at one end and at the other end were two slots. The tongues slipped into the slots with a distinctive plastic sounding click. He forgot all about me or being frisky. For the first time in years, he was doing what he wanted to do. He wasn’t doing something he because he had to, or it was prescribed. He was doing it because he wanted to do it. After hearing about a thousand “clicks” I went downstairs. I didn’t want to disturb him so I sat on the stairs turned my head and watched him. I was fascinated. I couldn’t help but wonder if our little boy would be like this. I hoped he would. And he’d probably have the same silly grin on his face.

***

That night we were supposed to have mac and cheese for dinner. Only it didn’t work out that way. Peter was so absorbed with the slot cars he missed dinner. After calling him for dinner three times and getting no response I gave up and chowed down. Peter was having more fun than he’s had in a long, long time. And considering what he’d gone through he deserved this. Every now and then I’d go down the stairs quietly to snoop on his progress. He was just like a little boy! He had the good sense to come to bed early because Christmas day is always tiring. During the night I looked at him. And as God is my witness I swear he was still smiling. But at seven in the morning, he was downstairs again! Only this time he had the cars zipping around the track. I quickly discovered that Kenny would have a ball with the slot cars –  providing his uncle would give him a controller. After I got up I prepared breakfast and decided to go with the flow.

“Calling all racers. Breakfast!” I yelled. There was a pause. The sound of the cars zipping around or going off the track completely stopped. Peter slowly came up the stairs. I almost expected to hear him protest “Aw mom!” but that didn’t happen. My man came up the stairs and looked at me rather sheepishly. He trudged on every step and walked slowly like he was walking the last mile.

“Sorry about that. Guess I kind of overdid it a bit.” He looked at me like he knew he had been a bad boy.

“Well, considering what you’ve been through this year you’re were entitled to let off some steam. But at least you had the good sense to wear a parka downstairs. It was cold early this morning and I missed my blanket.”

“Sorry about that chief” was all I could understand.

Then I started to wag my finger at him.

“But don’t you dare make a habit of this. And if Kenny is here and you wake him up to play slot cars with you I’ll kill you. Then I’ll tell Trina and she’ll give you a real ear bashing that you’ll royally deserve.” That part went down well. What I wanted to happen next sort of backfired on me.

Did you say Play?” he gurgled.

He started leering at me like some crazed ravenous beast. And he grinned a mischievous “I’m going to be a bad boy” smile at me. And he started licking his chops. Only I was Red Riding Hood and he was the big (and was he!) bad (he was that too) wolf. He lunged at me and I had a pretty good idea he wasn’t after the marmalade. He bought a small round two-person table for the kitchen which I thought was really sweet only I never counted on being on the menu! He chased me around the table a couple of times. Then I ran into the bedroom. Big Mistake! No exit. I was no shape to continue this steeplechase so I gave in to his desires. I had completely forgotten it was Christmas Day until Peter said “Come get your present m’lady.” That Christmas was the best ever. I spent it with Peter. All of him.

…Christmas dinner at Chez Willowby in Chapter 10D of Blue Cottage