Chapter 13B – The Beginning

ontario-family-court-system

The first month was the roughest. We had to arrange three funerals and get Chez Willowby ready for sale. And it was toughest on Kenny. Thank goodness for Mr. Langtree.

One day shortly after the last funeral Kenny came home from school with a slip of paper Peter and I to sign. It was your standard parental permission slip for a school trip. You know the kind. You probably brought dozens home. As Kenny’s godparents, we didn’t give the matter a second thought. We should have. The school recognized Trina’s letter to us and her signature. However, godparents are not legally recognized as parents or guardians. Godparents are simply a religious or spiritual concoction. Godparents have no legal standing at all. After meeting with my aunts’ lawyer, Mr. Langtree, he explained our options to Peter and me which were next to non-existent. Trina wanted us to raise her son. A godparent has no legal standing to do anything for the child. To sign a simple parental permission slip, we had to adopt Kenny. We wanted to adopt Kenny but first, we had to grapple with a daunting question – did he want us?

Trina helped a lot by naming us specifically, but a godparents role is largely ceremonial. We wanted to change that.

We met in Mr. Langtrees office. We didn’t dress formally. He asked us to dress casually and for Kenny to do the same. As we entered his legal office Kenny’s eyes went incredibly wide.

“Wow, he sure has a lot of books”. Kenny was right. There were hundreds of legal tomes on shelves which seemed to be everywhere. There were some computer terminals but Kenny was impressed with the books which seemed to stretch on forever. As Mr. Langtree came out of his office he saw the fascination and awe on Kennys face.

“And you must be Kenny. How many books do you think there are?”

Kenny looked at all the books studying each one. “A thousand?”

Mr. Langtree chuckled. “No, good guess though. Three times as many”

Kenny took that information and did what he could with it. “Wow, you have three thousand books?”

Mr. Langtree laughed, tussled Kennys hair then put his hands in his pockets. “Not quite. Would you believe me if I told you I have three thousand and ninety-seven books?”

His eyes just about popped out of his head. I gently pushed him towards the formal looking office. He looked at every inch of the office and saw more books. But the part he liked best was the leather chairs. He climbed into one and looked very comfortable. The bankers light on the desk somehow looked out of place. So did the rice paper wallpaper.

As Mr. Langtree sat down he pulled out a small file folder and a large yellow legal pad and put them on his desk. He made a few notes, tore the pages from the legal pad and placed them inside the file folder. He then tossed the legal pad beside his inbox. He looked right at Peter and me.

“Okay, let’s see if I’ve got this right. Trina Willowby, deceased, asked you both to raise her son. She asked you in a letter. But right now you’re not the legal guardians. So you’re looking at adoption. Have I got that part right?” Peter answered.

“I know we’re only godparents, but I think we should make it legal. We can’t do anything a parent-” Kenny suddenly gave Peter the eye. Peter put his hand up and told him to relax. “Relax Kenny. Nobodies trying to take the place of your mom or your grandparents”. He then continued talking to Mr. Langtree. “As I was saying we can’t do anything a parent or guardian can. Cassie and I would like to legally adopt Kenny. Its fine with us if he wants to keep his surname or he wants to take my name. We just want him to be safe and have a home. A home with two people who love him and can act as his guardians till he’s of age. His mother asked us to raise him. Not Children’s Aid. Us.”

Mr. Langtree made some more notes on his legal pad then looked up at us.

“Normally what you want to do would be very difficult. But Trina made things much easier. She put her wishes on paper and specifically named both of you. The court will rule it what it believes are the best wishes of the child. But right now I would like to talk to Kenny. Alone.”

As Peter and I shuffled out the office Mr. Langtree asked to see the letter from Trina outlining her wishes regarding Kenny. I reached into my purse and handed it to him.

“Is this the only copy?” he asked.

I nodded my head.

“I’ll have ten copies made that will be certified and notarized. You’ll need every copy until the court awards you full custody. It’s not a sure bet but the court rarely changes the wishes of the mother. But before it does grant you custody a home check made by the court. They just want to make sure its a safe and happy home.”

Mr. Langtree closed the door to his office. I had no idea adoption could be so involved. And a home visit. I don’t know why but idea terrified me.

***

A few weeks later a young woman knocked on the door of Casa Christopher. As soon as I answered she pulled out her identification.

“Hello, Mrs. Christopher. My name is Lucy Singh. The court has appointed me to make out a report concerning the home life for the minor named Kenny Willowby. Is he at home?”

“Kenny is still in school. He won’t be home for another half hour.”

“That’s just perfect. I’ll just look around and make some notes. This is the sort of place my husband and I are looking for. We don’t have any children yet but we want to change that.”

Miss Singh looked in cupboards and made notes. She looked at what I was wearing and made notes. She went over to Peters study where he was working on the latest batch of rewrites requests from Random House. She went right into his study without being invited. Then she started pestering him with questions.

“I understand you had throat cancer a year ago. Does that affect the way you and Kenny communicate?”.

“Not really. He knows my voice has good days and bad days. If he can’t understand what I’m saying he hands me the iPad. Typing out what I’m saying almost always takes longer than saying it but sometimes ordinary words can’t convey the emotion behind the sentence. And that’s where confusion can set in.” said Peter.

“How does Kenny react when this happens?”

“Kenny knows that not being able to say what I want to say is very frustrating for me. If he doesn’t understand what I’m saying verbally he usually hands me the iPad and I “dumb it down” for him using much more simplistic language. He’s become more patient with me and will do his best to make things easier for me. Right now if we go into a restaurant and the radio is blaring away he knows my voice can’t compete with that and speaks for me.”

“Where does the boy play?”

Peter took exception to Miss Singh referring to Kenny as “the boy”.

“I believe you meant to say “Kenny” or “your godson”. I know you’ve probably got dozens of these reports to fill out but how would you feel if somebody called you “the woman.”

“I understand your anger. If-”

“Miss Singh, I don’t think you do. Firstly, I’m not angry. What you’re hearing in my voice is simple frustration. It’s not anger. What you may not understand is that our relationship with Kenny didn’t begin until last Christmas. First, he drafted Cassie as his “hot looking” aunt. Then he realized that when Cassie and I married I would be his uncle. Then four months later when his mother and grandparents passed away and Cassie and I were on our honeymoon we discovered we were now his godparents. I went from friend to uncle to godparent in a dizzying number of months. So I’m a bit touchy about titles you give anyone.”

Miss Singh adjusted an armload of case folders, and Peter showed her the basement where all Kennys toys were. She was surprised by the size of the slot car set.

“I can remember my brother having one of these only it wasn’t so big! He never let me use it.” Peter saw her eyeing it and offered her the chance to fulfill a childhood dream.

“I really shouldn’t…”

“I won’t tell him if you don’t”

“Oh, what the heck. What do I do?”

At this point, I came down the stairs. Miss Singh was holding a hand controller. That’s when I spoke up.

“Peter and Kenny spend a lot of time down here. This game is great for sharpening eye-hand coordination. And they’re always changing the track configuration. Sometimes is easy and sometimes it’s not. And it’s never the same shape two weeks in a row.”

After a short race (which Peter let her win) she was off.

***

Three weeks passed between meeting Miss Singh and our next phone call from Mr. Langtree. We were close to chewing furniture we were so anxious. So when the call came I pounced on the phone in the kitchen and Peter answered from the study. More revisions. More detail. More clarifications.

“Hello” I bellowed into the phone by accident. I didn’t mean to be so loud. I was just nervous when I looked at the caller ID.

Because of the damage done by the cancer, Peter developed his own rather unique way of answering the phone. It was based on the advice Dr. Willowby gave Peter not long ago. “When you are using your phone try to use words of one or two syllables. You’ll put less stress on your vocal cords” Over time through a great deal of experimentation Peter settled on “‘ lo, yes?”.

“Great, got you both. I got news and a question. Which do you want first”

We hadn’t heard from him in some time so I barked the word “news”.

“Well, the news is that the judge was all set to rule in your favor. The home visit report was as good as it could be. Miss Singh was more than satisfied your place would provide a safe, happy, loving home for Kenny.”

“But…” uttered Peter from the study.

“Some fellow named James Wilson is challenging your petition to adopt Kenny. He claims he is Kennys biological father.”

“Oh shit!” I said. I thought I said it quietly but not as quietly as I hoped.

“That exactly what I first thought. Then I remembered Trina had him declared legally dead. Despite what the movies tell you it’s bloody hard to come back from the dead. Now before either one of you get your stomachs in an uproar I’ve finally located Kennys birth record. He was born in Lindsay Memorial as we suspected. And James Wilson is listed as the father. Can both of you be in court tomorrow?”

“What’s going to happen?” asked Peter a millisecond before I could.

“I’m going to take this nasty little troll apart. I’m going to expose him for the money-hungry bastard he is.”

“How do you know he’s money-hungry,” asked Peter. Mr. Langtree then put forth a litany of reasons he doesn’t care for James Wilson.

“When all three wills finish going through probate Kenny is going to be rather wealthy. James Wilson was barely making a living working on a steamer in France. But this character has more strikes against him than he knows. First, he abandoned his family. Then he didn’t pay a cent in child support. To make matters worse he left the country illegally. His record of bad decisions doesn’t stop there. He flew to France under a false passport. When he surfaced again he became employed under a false name. He was never legally employed in France. In the past ten years, he’s incurred some rather significant debts while in France. This guy must be a product of swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool. This guy hasn’t paid taxes in France and France wants their money. With interest!  And the Feds want tax money too. If he gets custody of Kenny he’ll be in charge of all Kenny’s money till Kenny comes of legal age.”

Not quite sure what I was hearing I stopped Mr. Langtree dead in his tracks.

“Maybe I’m missing something but why do you want Peter and me there?”

Mr. Langtree sounded winded. And a little frustrated with me.

“Cassie, I want you and Peter there for moral support. Plus if the judge can see your faces it could go a long way to gaining custody. Right now you’re nothing but faceless names. It’ll help a helluva lot if the judge can put a face to a name.”

***

The judge came into the courtroom and it was obvious she was not happy. The bailiff called the court to order.  The judge started speaking.

“Anyone seated in the visitor’s gallery will notice I’m not wearing a smile. I was all set to make my ruling and write my judgment when I got a surprise. And anybody that knows me will know I don’t care surprises of any kind. James Wilson, are you represented by counsel?”

A man in an ill-fitting suit stood up.

“No madam judge.”

The judge closed her eyes and started muttering. She turned and looked right at him.

“For future reference whenever you address me you will use the words, your honor. Is that understood?”

“Yes Ma’am”

The judge was clearly upset by this response and started shaking her head.

“I fear I already know the answer to this question but where is your lawyer?” asked the judge looking very drawn and tired.

Mr. Wilson picked up some papers and appeared to shuffle them. It looked like he was hoping for his lawyer to drop out the pages he picked up.

“I don’t have one ma’am”.

“These are adoption proceedings Mr. Wilson and not traffic court! You cannot represent yourself! You have a choice before you. You have one hour to get a lawyer or you can withdraw your petition to assume the guardianship of the minor Kenneth Willowby. Will you have a lawyer in one hour?” the judge demanded.

Mr. Langtree approached the bench and a slowly simmering judge. The two spoke in hushed tones. The judge raised her eyebrows then cradled her head with her hand. When they were through talking he rushed to where Peter and I were sitting.

“If it’s alright with you two I just volunteered to be Mr. Wilson’s lawyer. There won’t be a conflict of interest. I just ask him questions. Hopefully just enough to hang himself and get this matter settled today. I can do this but the judge wants me to get your permission first so it’s up to both of you. But before you decide I’d like one of you to get Kenny. He should be here. I want the judge to see him and him to see his biological father.” I held on to Peter’s hand so tightly there was sweat on his brow. Peter nodded and simply said “GO”. I was a little more eloquent. “Destroy the little twerp”.

The judge had a glass of water, composed herself, then addressed Mr. Wilson.

“Mr. Wilson, the lawyer for the Christopher family has graciously volunteered to be your lawyer. All he is going to do is ask you a few questions to see how if you are fit to be a parent. But before we proceed this court will adjourn for one hour.”

As soon as the judge went into her chambers Peter bolted. He went to get Kenny. He knew the school would object but when they found out he had been asked to appear in family court but they would have to let him go. Mr. Langtree even provided a summons for Kenny if needed. I cooled my heels in the hall of the courthouse. I was as nervous as I was the first time I knocked on Peters door. Mr. Langtree sat beside me and tried to calm me down.

“Relax Cassie. I’m just going to ask him a few questions”.

I turned and grabbed the lapels of his jacket. There were tears in my eyes and I started crying.

“I love him more than you can know. I just want this to be over and take him to home. Is that so much to ask?” He turned his head and started looking down the hall for Peter and Kenny.

“I’ll wait here. You go into the ladies room and compose yourself. When we go back in I want the judge to see what a close, loving family you are. As god is my witness I’m going to do my best to make sure Kenny is your son by dinner time.”

Peter and Kenny came running up the stairs. They went into the men’s room to make themselves presentable. Peter mopped the sweat from his brow then from Kenny’s forehead. Peter put on a new tie and Kenny put on a permanent press shirt and tie. When they emerged Mr. Langtree gave them both another inspection.

“OK, you’re to go”. Then the chimes outside the courtroom went off. Our hour was up.

***

We entered the courtroom and took our seats. We reminded Kenny not to say a word. Mr. Langtree came into the courtroom and placed his attaché case on the tabletop before him. Then the judge came back in. The bailiff swore us in. Mr. Wilson was nowhere to be seen. Then the judge spoke.

“Mr. Langtree, do you have any idea just where Mr. Wilson might be?”

Mr. Langtree rose from his seat, buttoned his jacket, and addressed the judge.

“No, your honor I don’t.”

“He is now testing the patience of this court. If he is not in this room in ten minutes a bench warrant will be issued for his immediate arrest and his petition for guardianship of the minor know as Kenneth Willowby tossed out.”

I started looking at Kenny and my watch. After five minutes had passed Mr. Wilson oozed in mildly intoxicated. Not a good thing to do at all. The judge addressed Mr. Wilson.

“Mr. Wilson. Are you intoxicated?”

“To the gills babe, to the gills”.

The judge was already simmering but Mr. Wilson’s answer brought her to a fast boil.

“That’s it!. You have reached the limits of my patience. I find you in contempt of this court and its proceedings. I’m fining you twenty-five thousand dollars and dismissing your petition for guardianship. You have the option of paying the fine now. If you cannot pay you’re looking at a jail term. Which is going to be?”

“Which way to the dungeon?”he sang melodically.

“One last thing Mr. Wilson. You are not to contact Mr. Christopher, Mrs. Christopher, or their son in any way, ever! Do you understand me?” she said slowly.

Mr. Wilson pulled a bottle from his pocket and took a drink.

“Keep your hair on. Don’t get your panties in a bunch. Don’t say anything to those folks over there. Gotcha. Mums the word.”

A bailiff walked over to Mr. Wilson and led him out of the room where he was handcuffed, fingerprinted, and photographed. A boy should never see his father handcuffed. The judge then spoke directly to us.

“On behalf of the Family Court of Ontario, I must apologize to you for what you have witnessed. I also welcome you to the family of parents. It gives me great pride to grant you full guardianship of Kenny. Kenny, have you decided what your last name will be?

“You bet. I’m a Christopher like my mom and dad!”

I started hugging my son and bawling my eyes out. Then the judge spoke at Peter and me.

“Mr. And Mrs. Christopher. As a parent I can tell you they grow up fast. So make the most of it.”

***

We had a celebratory dinner at Gelert Gardens. On the way back I was in the back seat. I noticed that Kenny smelled a bit ripe. No doubt it was from all the tension. I laid down my first parental edict. “You, master Kenneth, are going to have a bath when we get home. You smell”. Kenny tried protesting but it was to no avail. “Aw Gee Mom!” I’ve never heard words so sweet.

THE END

I’m going to recharge my batteries, bury my moms ashes, and take a rest. I’ll be back at the end of September or early October.

Advertisements

Chapter 13B – The Summons

cheer-hangover-945x385

I felt a bit better after I took the Tylenol. And the sunglasses helped a lot. I had the mother of all headaches. Bright light and loud sounds where my enemy. As soon as I stepped out of the cabin the onslaught began. Big George was walking along the same path.  Normally the sound of Flip-Flops wouldn’t have bothered me. But the flip-flopping sound crashed inside my head and sounded like a pair of wall studs being smashed together repeatedly. The sun was behind me and when Big George smiled the sun magnified his incredibly bright smile. The glare felt like a red hot nail being driven slowly into my forehead. Peter walked beside me not saying a word. He had a very good idea of how I felt. Every time either one of us had to say “good morning”  to any one we said it very slowly and deliberately. Some time ago, Peter discovered that you when said a greeting in just this manner people somehow figure out you were in pain or under the weather. As we walked into the lobby we passed a clerk sorting the mail. Soon after we sat at a small table and started to peruse the morning menu.

“I think I’ll have bacon and eggs. I’m hungry as a horse. What’s m’lady going to have this morning?”

I couldn’t believe what I just heard. He demolished enough lobster the previous evening to put a significant dent in the seafood industry. Against my better judgement I simply had to enquire why he had such a voracious appetite.

“I’m on the verge of death and you’re thinking about your stomach? How can you possibly think about eating anything at all?”

There was a pause while Peter looked at me. I could tell from his expression he was trying to compose his answer in his head before he said anything. He buttered some bread then put some jam on top of it. Just watching him eat made me queasy.

“I simply want to make m’lady happy. To do that I have to eat from time to time. I want to be able to perform anytime you ask me to.” He winked then there was a gleam in his eye. And there was something special in the way he said “perform”. Ohh…

Then a busboy appeared and handed me a telegram. He would have handed the telegram to Peter but he was busy buttering yet another slice of bread. Peter looked at me while I read the telegram.

“Well, what’s happening in the world?” He saw my eyes bulge out and the color in my face drain away. “Let me guess. There’s been a coup somewhere hasn’t there?”

I read it twice and simply couldn’t believe it. I was in a state of shock. All I knew was that as soon as Peter read the telegram he would be worried.

“Peter, I think you should read this right now.” I handed the telegram to him. He read it and went silent.

Urgent. Stop. Return at once. Stop. Willowby near death. Stop. Meet you at the airport. Stop. Urgent. Stop. Come now. Stop. Explain more when you arrive. Plane waiting in Nassau. Stop. Doctor Wilson. Stop End.

The bread that had been destined for his mouth was put on the side of his plate. When he stood up the enormity of the situation hit him. “Holy crap! We’re outa here. Got a plane to catch. Let’s hustle.” Peter walked over to the desk Captain George sat at and explained the situation as well as he could.

“I think I better call my grandfather and get his input” A quick telephone call and Big George appeared. His trademark smile came with him but he was more business-like. He asked to see the telegram. Peter handed it to Big George. After reading it he folded it up and handed it back to Peter. He then gave orders to Captain George. “I want you to give Mr. Christopher anything he wants. If you have tours planned cancel them. This gets top priority.” Big George then walked over to the booth where I was sitting. Peter sat down beside me and Big George sat opposite us. First he just looked at us. Then he started talking. “I can see you two are very much in love. And I know this honeymoon was very important to you. And it didn’t turn out the way you wanted. That’s why I’m going to do something I’ve never done before. I’m going to ask you to not check out. I’m going to erase all trace that you were here from our computers. You have a standing invitation to come back any time you please. That includes children too. Now fly back to the mainland.”

***

During the flight, Peter was pretty quiet. Not quite sure what to do I sat up front in the co-pilots seat. Captain George and I talked.

“If you don’t mind me asking Mrs. Christopher your husband seems pretty shaken up by whatever’s going on. Can I ask what is going on?”

I explained as best I could.

“One of Peters best friends is dying. He also saved Peters life when he had cancer.”

“Is that why Peter talks so softly and is hard to understand at times?”

I nodded my head.

“His doctor originally thought he had a mild case, but it wasn’t until after the radiation treatments that it was discovered the cancer did more damage than first thought. He has good days and bad days. Fortunately, the good now outnumber the bad.” Before I knew it the plane was landing in Nassau. Captain George turned towards me and said something very strange. “The tower has just informed me your return flight is a Lear Jet Lima Oscar Romeo Five Niner Five going to YYZ.” I wasn’t at all sure what he meant. I shook my head hoping some sort of translation would fall out of the sky.

“I haven’t a clue what you just said.”

Just then Peter came forward.

“Those are aeronautical terms about our next flight. It’s a Lear Jet with the markings LOR-595 going to Toronto.”

Captain George was impressed. “Not bad for an author. My grandfather has all your books. When’s your next one coming out?” Peter was caught off guard and started to stammer. I answered for him. “Our first book will be out this Christmas. Peter insisted the book have both our names on it. And it’ll be put out by Random House.”

Suddenly the radio squawked again “Upon landing kindly taxi beside Lear Jet Lima Oscar Romeo five niner five“. Captain George taxied till we were about five feet away from the Lear Jet. We tossed our bags through the hatch and were told to prepare for immediate take-off. I know the circumstances were kind of grim, but things were happening so fast I found it mildly exciting. And for the first time in my life, I didn’t have to sprint the length of an airport terminal to catch a connecting flight.

The flight was felt relatively speedy after we leveled off at thirty thousand feet. Peter took to pacing up and down the aisle. I wanted to say something but I didn’t know what to say and he was lost in thought. The reddish color of the seat covers was all there was to look at. That and a bedraggled copy of Time magazine. The pilot and the co-pilot didn’t say a word to us in conversation. Finally, after an hour, I couldn’t stand the silence any longer and spoke up.

“Will you please stop pacing and talk to me. Tell me what you’re thinking. I read that telegram and I don’t know what to think. Dr. Wilson must have been rushed. We know four people with the last name of Willowby. So we don’t know who is dying. Do you know something I don’t?”

Finally, Peter sat down in the seat across the aisles. His eyes were red and his skin was flushed. He had cried. But not because something happened to him. Because of what didn’t happen to me. “I wanted to give you the best, most fantastic honeymoon in the world. Not because I’m crazy in love with you, which I am, but because you deserve it. You’ve put up with me and my moods, and the cancer, and you really deserve a break.”

Peter caught me by surprise and I wasn’t sure how to respond.

“I know this lousy timing but we could become members of the mile-high club.”

Peter turned his head in the direction of the restroom then made a face. He looked at me. “Interesting idea but have you seen the size of that place? And if you’ll pardon the pun I don’t think I’m up to it right now. That telegram has me puzzled and you know I don’t care for mysteries.” I moved to the seat beside him, lifted the armrest, put my head in his lap and quickly fell asleep.

***

I woke with a start. The wheels of the jet had just touched the tarmac. The jet taxied to the area reserved for it. After clearing customs we entered the area meant for people arriving from the Caribbean. As the sliding doors opened we saw Dr. Wilson, the hospital administrator, waiting for us.

“Thank heavens you’re here. I know the telegram only served to create more questions than it answered and I apologize for that. The Willowby family has been hurt. Badly.” Dr. Wilson led us to his car and we all got in, not knowing what to expect.

My first thought was about Kenny. Was he injured or worse? The next thing Dr. Wilson did was to hand us an envelope.

“Before I say any more you’re supposed to read that letter. It’s from Trina to you both”. Peter took the letter from the envelope and placed in front of me so I could read it too.

Dear Cassie and Peter,

I should have done this years ago. Dads lawyer has been bugging me to do this for a long time. A couple of weeks ago Kennys father was declared legally dead. It’s not right for a boy to grow up without a father. And a boy should not be without a mother. That’s why I’d like both of you to be godparents to my boy. The odds of something happening to me, mom and dad are pretty slim but you never know. You both have a special connection to Kenny and him to you. If anybody should be parents you two should. Please, take care of my boy if I can’t.

       Trina Willowby

After reading the letter I had an uneasy feeling why the word urgent was peppered throughout the telegram Dr. Wilson had sent. Peter leaned back in the car seat looking shocked, surprised and winded. When we talked about adoption so long ago we never thought it would happen this way.

Peter put the letter back in the envelope. I asked Dr. Wilson what happened.

“Trina was driving her car through Coboconk. They were going from north to south. Her dad was in the front passenger seat and Wilma was in the back seat. Kenny had turned his ankle playing street hockey and was in my car which was three cars behind Trina. Do you recall a T-shaped intersection by the Patty house? Some drunk bastard came barreling out of that intersection and T boned Trina’s car. Trina was killed instantly. Dr. Willowby has deep cuts in his scalp as well as a broken hip. After he was extricated from the car the paramedics got to work on him. But he had a massive heart attack from the shock. That’s when the paramedics called in an air ambulance. The chopper was almost at the hospital when he suffered a second attack. He was gone two minutes later. Wilma got the worst of it. She has massive internal injuries and its only a matter of time. There’s only so much medical science can do.”

Then Dr. Wilson lost his temper. “God damn it. It’s just not right. Two generations of one family. If ever there was a reason to bring back hanging this is it! Bill Willowby was my best friend. I was his bloody best man. It’s just not right!” It wasn’t long before a siren could be heard. “Damn it all to hell! This the last thing we need. Cassie, you’re now three months along and you’re having premature labor pains. Leave the rest to me”. An OPP cop car appeared out of nowhere. Dr. Wilson drove his car onto the shoulder of Highway 35 and turned off his engine. A few seconds later the cop car parked a few feet behind Dr. Wilson. A cop wearing jodhpurs and sporting intimidating looking sunglasses walked towards the car. He held on to his belt buckle and had an OPP baseball cap. Dr. Wilson did a marvelous job of lying through his teeth.

“Officer, your arrival couldn’t have been more fortuitous. I’m Dr. Wilson of Lindsay Memorial. The woman in the back is three months pregnant and is having premature labor pains. It looks like an ectopic pregnancy. Can you be a good chap and clear the road for us? This a real emergency.”

Peter pinched my hand and I howled in pain.

“Oh, can do doc. Just follow me” said the cop who hurriedly returned to his car and gave us a high-speed escort.

We slowed down when we came to Fenlon Falls, but as soon as we passed through the town it was 80 MPH all the way. We got into Lindsay going like a bat out of hell and the cop gave us a police escort all the way to the parking lot. A gurney came out and I quickly got on but as soon as it was inside the hospital I slid off. All three of us ran for the elevators. Peter and I looked at Dr. Wilson. “4th floor” he barked. I wanted to get to Kenny. “How much does Kenny know?” I asked inside the slow moving elevator. “Not much. Delores, Dr. Willowby’s secretary, is with him. I decided to keep him in the dark but it wouldn’t surprise if the little scamp knows more than we do.” As we got to the fourth floor Dr. Wilson barked “turn right.” I ran down the hall till I could see Kenny. Then I fell to my knees and held him close. It felt nice holding him again and feeling his little hands on my back. Delores was seated nearby and I asked her how Wilma was. “Not good at all. I think she wants to see you and Peter.” Peter came out the room where Dr. Willowbys body was. He pale and his eyes were moist. “You all right Peter?” He pulled two handkerchiefs out of his pocket. “Just saying goodbye. We better get to Wilma’s room while she’s still here.” I told Peter she wanted to see us both. Before we entered her room Peter handed me a handkerchief. “Now I know why you hate hospitals” I said. As we entered Wilma started talking. “Is Kenny with you?” she asked. “I know I look like hell but could you go get him?” I wasn’t sure this was a good idea. Kenny was only ten. “We read the letter and we’ll do our best”. Wilma leaned back on the pillow. “Thank you. Now do a banged up grandmother a favor and get the boy”. Peter went and got him. But before Peter brought him back he gave Kenny a little pep talk. He pulled up his trousers and knelt in front of Kenny. “Your grandmother is not going going to look like the person you see at home. She’s been in a terrible car accident and there are all sorts of bandages and tubes.” Kenny looked at Peter and his tiny chin began to quiver. “Is Grandma going to die Uncle Peter?” Kenny had just put his uncle in the most uncomfortable position he had ever been in. “Yes, and there’s nothing we can do to stop that. But right now she wants to talk to both of us. She needs you to be really brave. Can you do that?”. Kenny tried to stop his chin from quivering. Peter was now standing and he looked down at his nephew. “If it makes you feel any better my chins quivering too”. Kenney put his hand in his uncles and they walked in. Kenny looked his grandmother and was afraid. “Kenny, come to the side of my bed and put your hand on the sheets” said Wilma. When Kenny put his hand on the sheets Wilma took his hand and placed it inside mine. Then she asked Peter to stand beside me. She took Peters hand and placed it on top of Kennys. “Cassie and Peter are going to take care of you now Kenny. Your grandfather and I can’t do it any more.” Wilma looked at me like she wanted to say something. Then I looked at Peter and motioned for him to take Kenny out.

Wilma looked incredibly tired. She slowly raised her head, looked at me and said “You are.” I had no idea what she meant. But she would never answer me. She slipped away quietly. Dr. Wilson, who was out in the hall, was doing his best to comfort Kenny. Peter was leaning against the wall crying. I started to break up and he embraced me. Without saying anything we started comforting Kenny had lost his mother, grandfather, and grandmother. One plus one normally adds up to two but in this case it became three. And we became a family.

…What happens next. Only Chapter 13C will tell you

Chapter 13A -Eleuthera

air-canada-png-7

Getting married was a breeze compared to flying my countries airline. I fly very rarely and have heard horror stories about Air Canada. When we checked in at the airport they had two very nasty surprises in store for Peter and me. First, they had oversold the flight. Which in plain English means they sold more tickets than they had seats. Not a good way to run an airline. First, they asked for people to voluntarily give up their seats. One brave soul stepped forward but they were still overbooked by seven seats. The stewards prowled up and down the aisles looking like hungry panthers. Slowly they walked, staring at people who all had the same thought “please don’t pick me”. When they got to the hatch one of them grabbed a copy of the passenger manifest. After reading the manifest they simply picked seven names at random. Seven people were picked and were politely asked to “deplane” which is an aeronautical term to simply leave the aircraft. They now had the right number of seats. But they still had a problem. There was a family of five scattered all over the aircraft and they wanted to be seated together. The father was a frequent flier of Air Canada and the stewards knew this. I thought I was safe flying with my new husband. Not so. I was asked to give up my seat beside Peter and to move to another seat five rows behind him. Peter protested as loudly as he could which wasn’t very loud at all. I tried saying that my husband was still getting over cancer and that I was his nurse. That didn’t work either. I have a new name for the airline – Air Catastrophe.

When we got to Nassau we quickly learned it was a tourist trap. Everything outside the hotel cost a ridiculous amount so we decided to stay in our room and…well, you know what newlyweds do.

***

The following morning we returned to the airport and checked in at Out Island Airways. The “desk” where we checked in wasn’t as big as the desk for Air Catastrophe, British Air, or American Airlines. It didn’t even look like it belonged in an airport. It was an old wooden school desk! There was a fellow in a striped tee-shirt behind it. He picked up the passenger manifest, pulled his sunglasses down his nose then looked at us. He lifted a page and scowled at something. He put the manifest down, put his sunglasses in his shirt pocket, and looked right at us.

“Alrighty, Mr & Mrs. Christopher. I see you just got married. Congratulations. My name is Captain George. My grandfather runs the Arawak Cove Club. Since you two are the only persons going to the island today why don’t we get started?”

Peter said “Fine with me” or something approximating that, and George picked up our bags and we began our short walk to a waiting Cessna 172S. As it was taxiing towards the runway we passed a Boeing 747 jumbo jet waiting its turn to take off. And I have never felt so small. The Cessna was smaller than the 747’s nose wheel.

Shortly after take-off, we were soon at cruising altitude. Captain George punched some numbers into a device that looked like a GPS then asked us some questions.

“Is this the first time you have been to the island?”

I debated in my mind how to handle this question. After playing with several possible answers I settled on an answer I could live with. “First time for both of us.”

“Mind if I give you both a piece of advice? You both have very fair skin. Don’t lie in the sun for more than fifteen minutes each day. You’re much closer to the equator here and you can get a sunburn pretty quick. This place is pretty special and you don’t want a bad burn or sunstroke to ruin the experience. Buy a big floppy hat your noses don’t get burnt. Those Rudolph jokes are only funny the first time you hear them. And you might want to wear a tee-shirt when you’re in the water, Mrs. Christopher. I’m pretty sure you don’t want your shoulders getting crispy.”

Flying in the Cessna was much more pleasant and it very easy to see the ocean below us. The turquoise color was gorgeous and looked so inviting. We passed over one of the famous “blue holes” that is a favorite dive spot for scuba divers and skin divers alike.

wps1

Blue holes were originally limestone caves during the last ice age. When the surface of the Earth started to warm up the ice melted and the cave system flooded forming “vertical caves”. I couldn’t wait till I could swim in one. Peter had his own thoughts on the subject. “I’ve waited 35 years and I’m in no hurry to swim in something I can’t see the bottom of.”

Before we got married Wilma Willowby said that a wife should not be afraid to give her husband a little grief. She went so far as to say it was my duty but I suspect she was exaggerating. Still, I felt like needling Peter a bit.

“Where’s your spirit of adventure?”

Peter simply looked at the water below.

“Don’t tell me I married the original chicken of the sea?”

Peter crossed his arms and produced an excellent humph.

“My spirit of adventure is comfortably ensconced in this seat. As for the character assassination, I’ll have you know I’ve seen every Jacques Cousteau special. Chicken of the sea indeed! I’ve never been so insulted.”

Just then Captain George spoke up.

“When we land you’re going to meet Elton. Elton is the customs officer for Eleuthera. Some people have said that he’s hard to understand. If this happens to you just look at me. I’ll translate.”

I leaned forward in my seat. I could see we were nearing the island and the reporter in me just had to ask.

“Why is Elton so hard to understand?” I asked.

Captain George cleared his throat then answered my question.

“When Elton was in high school some so-called “friends” threw a coconut at his face. Knocked most of his teeth out. He compensates and does a pretty good job. But it’s tiring. So he has good days and bad days. Next stop is Eleuthera.”

The plane ride was all of fifteen minutes. Far too short. As the small plane taxied I noticed a man standing at the side of the runway. He was the biggest man I have ever seen. His wasn’t tall and he certainly wasn’t fat. There simply was so much of him he would have put any professional football players to shame. And next to him was a rather tall fellow in a uniform. That had to be Elton. As soon as the propellers stopped the large man spoke.

“Welcome to the island. I’m Big George. I’m the owner and proprietor of the Arawak Cove Club. If there’s a problem tell a staff member and they’ll tell me. The man in charge of the bar is my son Lil George. And you’ve met my grandson, Captain George. I hope your flight was enjoyable. If you’d like to book a tour just pick up the phone and tell our operator you like to call Captain George. You can reserve flights and make emergency flights to the mainland. Mr. And Mrs. Christopher if you’ll follow me I’ll take you to Customs.”

Ten feet away stood Elton. He had only one question.

“Do you have any faa arms?”

What he said sounded familiar. Sort of. Peter offered him his iPad. “Can’t spell” was the only other thing Elton said that I could be certain of. Peter put the iPad back in his backpack. We then looked at Captain George.

Captain leaned over and whispered in my ear. “The mans asking if you have any firearms.”

I took a certain amount of offense to the question. I’m on my honeymoon and Elton wants to know if I have a gun with me?

“Of course not!” I replied with a certain amount of indignation in my voice. Peter replied using the iPad.

Elton heard me loud and clear. “Had ta ask.”

Big George bent over, grabbed our bags and trotted off in the direction of Casa Christopher South. Looking at him I figured he was in his seventies but he looked like he was in his early fifties. There wasn’t a wrinkle anywhere. And he was the blackest black man I’ve ever seen. Not the brownish-black you see in Canada or the United States. But welsh coal mine black. And he had the whitest teeth I have ever seen. When we got to our cabin and Big George put our bags down Peter started searching his pockets for a tip. Big George held up one massive hand and stopped Peter cold.

“No need sir. All gratuities will be on your bill when you check out.”

After he left Peter and I started putting our things away. I went up behind Peter and hugged him almost as hard as I could.

“I can’t believe it. We’re here! And we’re married! And we’re on our honeymoon! There’s only one thing missing. I want you to make wonderful, toe-curling love to me. Blue Cottage is well on its way to being re-built and now that we’re married we can start trying…if you still want to.”

“I most certainly do, m’lady” whispered Peter eagerly.

Peter turned around, put his arms around my waist and started pulling my blouse out of my shorts. Then he sat me on one of the two massive beds and started undoing my blouse. Each time he undid a button he would kiss me. He started at the top of my blouse.

“You’re sure?” -button, kiss.

Peter undid another button. Kiss.

Then he undid my bra. Another kiss and I could tell he was getting aroused. He buried his face between my breasts and sucked. Something inside me made me want more. Much more. His breathing became faster. I wanted him and he wanted me. I squirmed out of my shorts and panties. As soon as I tossed them on the floor I grabbed Peters and pulled them down. He got on top of me and the feeling was wonderful. He knew what I wanted and did his best to give it to me. I pulled him close. His breathing was almost frantic. My skin was pretty sweaty as was his and it wasn’t long before things got pretty wild and we had to hold on to each other pretty fiercely. He pushed himself towards me and gave me what I really wanted. For two glorious hours, we explored and pleasured each other as we never have before. I was in seventh heaven and Peter lay on his back with the biggest…grin I have ever seen.

***

That night I watched Peter chow down on lobster. It was like he had never had it before. The claws didn’t stand a chance. He went after every scrap of meat. He had so much I was really worried he was going to be sick. I had a drink called a Goom Bay Smash and some shrimp. I was looking forward to the following day. We signed up for scuba lessons in the morning and swimming in the blue holes in the afternoon. Later that night we were walking on the beach and I suddenly became very drunk. The innocent-looking Goom Bay Smash smashed me right between the eyes. We had been collecting shells when all of sudden I started to get very giddy. Peter said I was slurring my words and I suddenly sat on the beach. I don’t remember slurring my words but I do remember crashing fanny first and singing “What Shall We Do With The Drunken Sailor”. Peter also added that first verse sounded perfect but the second verse was pretty  raunchy. After that, it was like someone had put a burlap sack over my head then clubbed me with a baseball bat. In the morning Peter told me what happened.

“You collapsed on the beach and started singing. The first verse was spot on but the second verse was absolutely filthy. By the time you stopped singing you were totally legless and lay on the beach reciting some limericks. I picked you up and tossed on to my shoulder. That’s when you started getting frisky. You tried to pull my shorts over my head. You kept asking me to “slurp” you whatever that means. We were almost at the cabin when we passed Big George.”

When Peter told me that I was so embarrassed I buried my face in a pillow. “Have mercy. Take me out back and shoot.”

“You weren’t finished. Not by a long shot. Then you jammed a hand down the back of my shorts and clawed at my butt.” It took a bit of doing but I eventually asked Peter to take off his shorts and to turn around. When he did there were five bloody claw marks on his fanny that matched perfectly with the nails on my right hand.  It was then Peter handed me something Big George had handed him – Tylenol and really dark sunglasses.

“How did you know?”

“I didn’t but Big George did. I think it’s fair to say we now know why the drink is called a Goom Bay Smash. It sneaks on you and puts your lights out. You passed out after clawing my butt. I must make one confession though.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“After I undressed you and you were lying naked on the bed I thought about having my way with you but I didn’t. It was temping thought though.”

“What stopped you?”

“I want every time we make love to be memorable. And wouldn’t be fair to you because you were in no condition to remember anything. Does that sound weird?”

I leaned forward and tried to kiss Peter but he pushed me away. More than a little put off I demanded to know why.

“Hey, what’s the matter? You’ve never done that before.”

Then Peter walked to the bathroom and reached for the small bottle of mouthwash. After I rinsed my mouth things were much better. And I let him take advantage of me. Male fantasies can be such fun and so enjoyable.

…still more to come in Chapter 13B

Why You Need to Market your Book Before it’s Published

So, I thought it was high time I did another Monday Marketing post!

Now, no matter how much I say it, I’m still seeing new writers who claim they “don’t need to market” or that they will “Market after publishing.”

I get it, no one really likes marketing.  I’ve worked in Marketing Departments, and it can be uncomfortable and frustrating and since most writers are introverts and struggle to often talk about their work, pushing it a little can seem an impossible task.

But it’s not and it is important…and it really needs to be done before you publish.

So, I thought I’d share with you 7 reasons when you need to market your book before it’s published! 

DividerLine-Bold

Get your Foot in the Door

If you are a new writer chances are people won’t know you.  Yes, you may have told some people you’re a writer but the vast majority…

View original post 792 more words

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.

Chapter 12D Part 2 – Blue Cottage

wps1

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

wps1

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

Ontario-Marriage-Licence-Application-945x329

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.