In our last chapter, JJ and Kathryn found Crystal a missing piece to their family, they immediately began the process of adopting her. Although unable to adopt Cindy, JJ and Kathryn will take care of her by acting as her foster parents
The Ten of Them Chapter 23 Composed by hard93
In the morning Crystal is the first to stir, and she awakes Sam asking, “Where’s the bathroom?”
Her movement awakes Kathryn and I, Kathryn stays with me as the girls go to the bathroom. Kathryn kisses me and says, “I never thought my life could be so great. I have a great husband, two great kids. I’m expecting a beautiful baby girl, all before I turn fifteen.”
With a smile I say, “The day I met you, was one of the best days in my life. Your Dad even told me you were getting a crush on me. I think my heart skipped a beat. At first I thought it was because I was afraid I might hurt you, I already knew I did not ever want to do that. I now know it was because I was already falling in love with you. The premonition was our hearts way of telling us where they wanted to go, that we should be together.”
Kathryn and I kiss lovingly when we break it is to giggles from the girls. Sam beside crystal says, “Mommy and Daddy are very much in love. Sister if you hear them making funny noises its best just to leave them alone. They’re really not hurting each other.” Sam laughs at her statement.
Laughing along with Sam, I help Kathryn to her feet and we go to the bathroom as the girls talk. I ask over my shoulder, “Would you like pancakes for breakfast?”
Crystal only shrugs her shoulders, but Sam shouts, “Yes! Bunny pancakes for breakfast.”
Giggling Crystal asks, “What are Bunny pancakes?”
Sam is explaining to Crystal in great detail what Bunny pancakes are, and how they look. Kathryn pulls me into the bathroom because I stopped in the doorway to watch the two sisters. Inside she says, “JJ my love you’re going to spoil our daughters.”
With a chuckle I say, “I’m going to show them, that I love them.”
Kathryn says, “That’s exactly what I’m saying. You love those girls, I can feel it in your heart and you have not known Crystal twenty-four hours yet. Don’t forget you’re not the only one, I get to spoil them too.”
With a smile I reply, “Of course my Love.”
After relieving ourselves, I am shaving and Kathryn sets on the wide countertop watching me. There are giggles from the doorway from our two daughters. Sam has done this before, but it is good to see that Crystal shares Sam’s viewpoint. The three of them watch as I finish shaving and as soon as I finish Sam begins tugging on me as she says, “Hurry up Daddy I’m getting very hungry for my bunny.”
I scoop Sam and Crystal up into my arms and get a reward of two beautiful young girls kissing my cheeks. Kathryn leads as we go downstairs to make breakfast. On my way down I ask, “Crystal do you like cooked apples?”
Crystal says, “I like apples, but I never had them cooked before, unless you count pie.”
Giggling Sam says, “You’ll love them. Daddy is my fourth favorite cook, but he does a really great job on breakfast.”
Kathryn giggles at Sam’s remark; she knows that Sam loves her and her Aunt Alyssa’s cooking over mine, and I chuckle along with her. Although I am uncertain who is first, second and third in line Sam’s estimate of our chef skills. I know the competition I am up against in Sam’s eyes, and me being forth is not a very bad rating considering that.
I do Crystal and Sam’s pancake at the same time and have them ready just as the apples are ready. Bring the two plates to the table and setting them in front of the girls Sam does not hesitate before adding syrup and cutting in to her pancake. Crystal is looking at the pancake before she says to me, “Daddy it’s almost too pretty to eat.”
That brings a smile to my face and I tell Crystal, “Thank you Princess, but it’s made to be eaten.”
Sam passes the syrup to Crystal who copies Sam adding a lavish amount of syrup to her pancake. I would love to watch the two eat, but Kathryn clearing her throat reminds me I have not fed her yet. I turn back to the stove and begin making two more bunny pancakes for Kathryn. As I set the plate with the two bunny pancakes before Kathryn who has an expression that says it is about time, I cannot help but chuckle. My stomach growls bringing giggles from my girls, now reminded to feed myself I return to cooking.
After finishing my short stack of pancakes, I come to the table surprised that I will be the only one still there. Crystal comes to my lap cuddles into me, with a very happy and contented smile she looks into my face. Crystal says, “Daddy so far you’re my favorite cook.”
Kathryn comes and lifts Crystal from my lap saying, “We need to go and find you some clothes to wear so we can go shopping.”
Crystal brightens saying, “I like shopping.”
I cannot help but chuckle remembering Sam has said the same thing. Getting a look from the two I explain, “Crystal your Mommy loves to shop, and Sam likes to shop too.”
I am just finishing my breakfast as the doorbell rings, answering I find Miss Clark there with Cindy. Ms. Clark begins by saying, “I got my supervisor’s approval this morning, and here is that shopping list of the needed items for the children.”
I offer my hand to Cindy who seems a little afraid, so I kneel down until I am at eye-level with her. I tried to give a reassuring smile to her. I simply say, “Welcome Cindy, you’re just in time we’re going to go shopping after breakfast. Have you eaten already?”
A little hesitantly, Cindy shakes her head yes in answer to my question. I ask Cindy, “You know where Sam’s bedroom is? She’s there with her Mommy and Crystal they are changing to go shopping.”
Cindy asks, “Do I get to go?”
Still smiling I answer, “We certainly hope you want to come. I’m sure we’ll find something for you too today.”
Cindy has a shocked expression for a few moments. I could not go shopping with Sam and Crystal and not purchase Cindy something as well. When Ms. Clark passes me, her suitcase is far lighter than I imagined it should be. I realize why Cindy was not expecting this. She is in the same pair of blue jeans she wore yesterday, there’s a small stain from the tacos on them.
Ms. Clark seeing my expression explains, “Cindy’s last foster parents were removed from the system for lack of support they gave their charges.”
My smile fades as I face Ms. Clark in a hard voice I say, “That’s not going to happen with me. This young lady’s going to get everything she deserves and more.”
Cindy unsure of my reaction practically hides behind Ms. Clark, realizing I lost my temper and frightened her I quickly bring myself back under control. Again kneeling down with a smile I tell Cindy, “It’s not your fault and I’m not mad at you, I am angry at how you were treated. I promise I will treat you far better, I will explain all the rules about the house. I will never punish you for something you did not know. I will always explain about any punishment you receive. I don’t believe in spanking, the punishments you’ll get will be you do not get to do something for an hour, or a day, at most a week.”
Cindy’s eyes go wide before she asks, “What will my punishments be?”
I say, “If you do something really bad, you may not get to go out to play in the little house for a week, or go swimming in our pool.”
Cindy in a small voice answers, “I promise I’ll be good.”
Smiling at her I say, “I don’t see any bad in you, so if you just be yourself we will get along.” That seems to break the ice between the two of us and she comes around Miss Clark she jumps into my arms and holds onto me tight. I just gently hold her caressing her back as she begins to cry.
After a few minutes Cindy says, “Sam says you are a great Daddy, but I still got one.”
Still holding the little girl I think I may know a solution, many of the children here will call close family friend uncle even though there is not any relationship. Therefore, I tell Cindy, “Since you already have a Daddy and Mommy, I can be your uncle. You can call me Uncle JJ.”
She leans back to look at my face seeing me smile at her. Cindy brightens before she says, “I like that Uncle JJ.”
Ms. Clark smiles and says, “You have a way with children. It really is something special.” I can feel myself blush at the compliment.
I ask Cindy, “Would you like to ride on my shoulders?”
Giggling Cindy shakes her head yes. I take a step back I lift Cindy up, and then give her a quick spin then set her on my shoulders. She wraps her arms around my head and her chin is just above my ear she whispers, “I think I’m going to have a lot of fun here Uncle JJ.”
Miss Clark must have overheard Cindy’s comment because she begins to giggle. Cindy turning to Ms. Clark who explains, “Sam loves it here, everyone that knows her can see how much she is loved. Sam is the happiest child that I know. Yes you’re going to have a lot of fun here.”
Chuckling I say, “That’s the first rule of the house, you got a have fun every day. If not you need to tell me what you need so you can have fun. I’ll make sure you work too, but it will always be balanced.”
Cindy says, “You mean like a bicycle?”
I ask, “Is that something you love to do Cindy?”
I can hear her heart beat faster as she says, “I’ve wanted a bicycle forever, and will you teach me how to ride?” She then adds, “Pretty please Uncle JJ.”
Chuckling because I knew this was coming I say, “I guess it’s time to buy my favorite niece a bicycle, along with my daughters.”
Cindy squeezes me very tightly. Sam hearing what I said gives a squeal. She says, “Mommy another one of my dreams is coming true. Daddy is going to teach us how to ride bicycles!”
I do get a concerned look from Ms. Clark before I say, “I’ll be sure to make them wear all the proper safety equipment before they even get on a bicycle. They are three beautiful girls that don’t need scarred knees.”
Ms. Clark giggles at me then says, “They certainly are. Just be sure they’re supervised as they ride.”
Sam gives Cindy a hug as soon as I set her on the ground. As soon as Sam steps back, Crystal steps in and gives Cindy a hug too. Kathryn smiles as she looks over Cindy, I know she sees the stain on the blue jeans from the night before. Walking to Sam’s bed, I open Cindy’s suitcase, and it is even more discouraging than I thought it could be. Looking through the contents everything seems very old, worn and faded. Either old hand-me-downs or what you would find in a thrift store partially fill the small suitcase. There is not even a second pair of jeans in the suitcase. That explains why Cindy is wearing the jeans she is, it is a cool day and nothing in the case is warmer than what she has on.
Ms. Clark gives a sigh as she looks from the suitcase’s contents to me she says, “Her foster parents were receiving four hundred and seventy-five dollars a month, you would think they could buy her new clothing. Now that Cindy is turned six you’ll receive five hundred and eighty-one dollars a month for her care.”
Kathryn’s expression does not show her anger but I feel it in her. Cindy should been treated far better than what she was. We both have discarded clothing far better than what is in Cindy’s suitcase, for anyone to treat a child in their care like that especially with the means to do better is unforgivable, Cindy was used by the people meant to care for as a simple source of money. Their greed is what fires our anger.
Any of my friends would tell you, that I would give my shirt off my back to help them or anyone. Greed is never been an issue with me. As long as I can put food on the table for my family, warm clothing on their backs and have them warm and safe would be enough for me. I could live without the extra things that money brings.
I can understand being poor and the need for money even the need to buy secondhand clothing. Surely, with the income from fostering several children, they should be able to do better for the children. I do not know the full circumstances, but the facts I know I feel Cindy’s caregivers were neglectful.
I come to a decision in that instant and I feel it echo from Kathryn, we will place the money in an account for Cindy. We will try our hand at penny stocks, hopefully by the time Cindy leaves our care she will have more than enough money to see to her needs no matter what else happens. I may have to get a special power of attorney from her mother. However, once we explain what we intend to do I hope she will be agreeable. We fully intend to help her once we are able to in a manner that will assure Cindy’s well-being.
Ms. Clark may not know what we now intend to do, Cindy’s mother definitely does not have any idea, for that matter no one other than Kathryn and I realize we intend to make Cindy’s life much easier for her. We know that sometimes that is not just throwing money at someone; there is always a chance they could misuse it and harm themselves. We will do what is best for Cindy.
I turned to Ms. Clark asking, “Does the Department of Social Services restrict how I use the money for Cindy?”
Ms. Clark says flatly, “As long as Cindy’s basic needs are met there isn’t much that DSS will say on how you use the allotment. Social Service Agents will visit to ensure you are meeting Cindy’s basic needs. I’m sure that they will be more than met under your care.”
Kathryn finally finds her voice; I know she was so angry before she held her tongue she says, “Cindy starting today, you’re getting a new wardrobe. I know will not be able to get everything today for you and Crystal. I promise you’re going to have enough clothing so that you wear clean clothing every day and can dress for the weather.”
Cindy throws her arms around Kathryn’s legs, a moment later Cindy moves to look into Kathryn’s face and asks, “I really get new clothes?”
Caressing Cindy’s face Kathryn says, “Yes Cindy you do.” Cindy breaks into a large smile, and at that moment, I know she owns a part of Kathryn’s heart as she does mine.
Ms. Clark excuses herself saying, “I would love to go shopping with you, but my supervisor only allowed me so much time to drop Cindy off. I’m afraid I’m pushing the limit now.”
I asked Cindy, “Are you going to be okay with just us? Ms. Clark has to leave.”
Cindy looking at me brightly replies, “Yes Uncle JJ.”
Of course, that did not get past Kathryn who immediately understands the reason. Looking back into Cindy’s face Kathryn says, “You can call me Aunt Kathryn.”
Cindy holding a bright smile looking into Kathryn’s face she says, “I got the best uncle and aunt any kid ever had.”
Sam giggling says, “They are great at being my Mommy and Daddy. They’re going to be great at being an uncle and aunt too.”
Crystal asks, “Why you are my Mommy and Daddy and not Cindy’s too.”
I try to answer truthfully and in the non-hurtful manner to Cindy. I say, “Cindy’s Mommy had to go away for a long time, but she’ll be coming back soon. We’ll take care of Cindy until her Mommy can.”
Crystal simply replies, “Oh.” I’m not sure if that fully satisfied, her curiosity but giving that Cindy stiffened as I said that, I hope Crystal understood that Cindy did not want to talk about it. I am glad that Cindy did not begin to cry, and Crystal did not allow her curiosity to upset Cindy anymore.
Before we even can leave I realize there is a problem, we need a booster seat for Crystal. Crystal requires one by law due to her age and size, Cindy for being six years old is rather small, but she is large enough to ride safely without one.
Telling Kathryn why I need to run into town, I leave to purchase one and quickly return. I am walking out with Ms. Clark when she asks, “JJ why did you ask if the allotment is regulated?”
Not wanting to mislead Ms. Clark I say truthfully, “I’m planning on putting it in a trust for Cindy. I will work out the full details with my lawyers. Probably end up adding quite a bit of money from myself to the trust, knowing my family they will too.”
Ms. Clark takes a deep breath before she says, “I’m not sure if we’ve had anyone ever do that before. I’ll ask my supervisor if there’s any reason why you can’t do that.”
I return within a half hour to find my house is full of my in-laws, will be making the trip together and picking up all the items for Ms. Clark. Sam and Crystal passed among their aunts and uncles both wear bright smiles, but Cindy is a little more reserved in staying near Kathryn.
I laugh as I say, “I think I should just break down and buy a bus.”
Uncle George laughs along with me, “You know that’s not a bad idea, there’s going to be a lot of kids around here shortly.”
Alyssa holding Allen at her hip with one hand and Anna holds her other hand as they walk into the room. When she reaches George, Allen moves to his new Dad. Smiling Marshall moves to his father’s side once Allen is stable in their Dad’s arms Marshall gives Allen a tickle to get their attention. With a chuckle Marshall says, “Hay little Bro.”
Giggling from the tickling Allen reaches for Marshall going to his new big brother Allen hugs Marshall while Alyssa, Misty, Joan, Johnny and Anna giggle at the two. Allen says, “Marshall you’re a fun big brother.”
Chuckling Marshall replies, “Allen you’re a fun little brother, and I’m going to teach you a lot of things that are fun to do.” Allen hugs Marshall tightly wearing a wide smile.
The Coach has just gotten to hold Crystal for the first time he is kissing her on the cheeks causing her to giggle. He pulls back to look into the beautiful face of this young girl who’s brown eyes sparkle with joy. He says, “Your Mommy and Daddy promise to give me another granddaughter but I thought I was going to have to wait another three months.”
Crystal’s voice is almost musical as she says, “Grandpa.” She hugs her new Grandfather tightly.
The look on Cindy’s face tugs at my heart; it gives away how lonely she feels because she knows that soon she will be going back to her mother. Because of this, she believes none of the family will want to continue having a relationship with her. In her experience her treatment was less than kindly, most likely told she did not deserve anything good. I know Ms. Clark had not treated her that way and I never would, but her previous foster parents were neglectful, and probably told her such things to justify their neglect.
It is time for that to stop, I open my arms for Cindy and she practically flies into my embrace. I whisper into her ear, “Cindy I will always be here for you. No matter what the future brings, or how many children I am father to I will always love you.”
Kathryn holding Cindy between us whispers, “Me too Cindy, I will always be here for you as well. I love you.”
Through her tears Cindy says, “I love you Uncle JJ. I love you Aunt Kathryn.”
The room has gone silent as my in-laws recognized Cindy’s distress. Crystal whispers into her new grandpa’s ear and it carries through the silence, “Some of the older kids always made fun of Cindy because of her clothing.”
The coach’s voice is tight and filled with emotion as he says, “We’ll fix that today.”
It only takes us a few more minutes to get ready just before we are leaving Ms. Clark comes by on her way to MC’s house.
I was wondering why MC was not there since she promised to help shop for the orphans. We walk over to MC’s house ringing the bell MC answers holding the young girl from the night before. Smiling MC says, “You are just-in-time to meet my new daughter. Rosy this is your new family. Here’s your Uncle JJ.”
MC passes Rosy to me, and I get my first good look at her. The younger only weighs about thirty pounds and probably is around four years old. She has green eyes, and a ginger complexion with red hair. She smiles into my face before she asks, “Mama says you have a pool and will teach me how to swim, will you Uncle JJ?”
Smiling in return I say, “Only if you bring your Mama along, she needs to learn to swim too.”
MC sticks her tongue out at me like a little girl, which causes Rosy and me to giggle. Then she says, “I guess I can learn how to swim for Rosy.”
I say, “Good, you need to get out a little more. You spent all day writing; I know that is your job. But now you have another that’s even more important, being a mother.”
MC giggles, “Always wise beyond your years JJ. Rosy if you ever need advice, you can always ask your Uncle JJ or me.”
Kathryn coming up to me, looking into Rosy’s face she says, “I’m your Aunt Kathryn, and your Mama is right your Uncle JJ is wise beyond his years.”
We set about doing introductions and Ms. Clark waits patiently. Ms. Clark reveals, “My supervisor is going to permit me to go shopping with you. We had a few volunteers come by to help with the children today that freed me up for the shopping trip.”
It is a good thing Ms. Clark had a booster seat for Rosy or I would be another twenty-five or thirty minutes making a trip into town before we can leave. We pick one up along with other things on our trip. Which took most of the day, and I treated Ms. Clark to lunch along with the family. We must have hit every kid’s store in the mall along with The Mother Daughter shop. When Kathryn bought matching outfits for Cindy, Sam and Crystal to go along with hers, both Cindy and Crystal cried tears of joy.
The girls’ uncles and I took turns writing the young girls on our shoulders; Alan rides either Marshall or Johnny’s shoulders most of the day. Rosy would only allow us to get so far away from her new Mama before she would demand for us to take her back to her. Cindy was the same when it came to Kathryn and I, although Sam and Crystal were happiest when they are together with us, they had a little more trust of their uncles and grandpa. Once they disappeared for about fifteen minutes to reappear with crumbs from the cookies they ate on their shirts.
Chuckling I say, “Grandpa’s spoiling you already.” Sam and Crystal blush, as the coach chuckles with me.
Sam finally holds out the bag she was holding behind her back. She says, “We got you cookies, Grandpa wants to spoil Cindy and Rosy too.”
Cindy, Rosy and I sit down and enjoy our cookies, only to have Kathryn bust us a few moments later. Kathryn only giggles at my expression and gives Cindy a caress telling her, “Your uncle better be careful because he didn’t get me any.”
Marshall chuckles as he holds up two full bags one to his wife and the other to Kathryn. He says, “Wasn’t JJ’s fault, you get to blame your Dad Kathryn.”
Marshall gets a kiss from his wife and one from Kathryn on his cheek. Which brings a response from the Coach saying, “Hey I paid for those, where’s my reward?”
The Coach stands there with Sam on his shoulders as the two women waddle up to him. On their tiptoes they both give him a kiss on the cheek, and Kathryn says, “Thanks Daddy.”
The Coach chuckles and says, “You’re welcome.”
We shop at another half dozen stores before the list is finished, and all the children are so tired their falling asleep as they ride on our shoulders. I finally take Crystal down and carry her like an infant worried that she might fall otherwise. She does not even protest but when she gets comfortable in my arms she simply falls asleep with her head against me, she wears a smile as she listens to my heart.
The kids wake up after the ride in the car, when we arrived at a restaurant for dinner. Ms. Clark is heading back towards the orphanage, to give out the new clothing to the children, even though I offered to buy dinner for her as well. Our purchases from today barely fit in her car, the trunk and backseat were both completely full, and some even have to go into the passenger seat.
Cindy has a wide smile as I help her out of the car she says to me, “Uncle JJ you really must love me you treat me better than anyone has.”
I hold Crystal to my hip, and allow Cindy to take my other hand. Sam held by her mother on her hip. We join the rest of the family inside the restaurant. The restaurant owner’s eyes go wide seeing the large crowd that is our family. Thinking were not together he asked how many, and I had to take a moment to count in my head before I reply, “twenty-four.” Thinking to myself, twenty-six except Daniel and Kara are in their house acting like newlyweds.
Letting out a sigh the owner says, “We don’t have a table that large, but we could put you in a single section. With a party this large you do realize the tip will be included in the bill.”
Smiling I say, “Bring it to me when it’s ready.”
Shown to our tables in a private section of the restaurant the family gathered as best we could. Kathryn and I along with the Coach, Helen, Mom, Cindy, Sam, and Crystal shared a table with Crystal on my lap. As we look over the menus, I noticed Cindy is having trouble with hers. I gently ask, “Cindy can you read?”
It is not something that is totally uncommon for a six-year-old not to be able to read. I have had friends struggling to read in their early teens. Not given the opportunity to learn early in life some people find it difficult to read. The longer you wait to teach a child the harder it is for them. Most of our neurons form within the first five years of life, it goes to show we learned more between ages one and five then we do during the rest of our life. I wish the educational system took that into account, school should really start at age three.
Cindy looks up into my face before she says, “The words are really small, and that’s what’s making them hard to read.”
Looking at the menu, they did use rather small typeface probably a size eleven or twelve font. Cindy squints trying to read the words, and I know she will need glasses just one other thing I am sure I will get for her. She looks up into my face again and asks, “Uncle JJ do I get to order anything I want?”
With a smile I reply, “Certainly, you can have anything on the menu you want.”
A little hesitantly, Cindy asks, “Even if I want a steak?”
Smiling I say, “If that’s what you want, but you better order it will-done your Aunt Kathryn can’t stand to see the juices.”
Crinkling her nose and giggling Cindy says, “Me too.”
Cindy orders chicken strips for her dinner, Sam and Crystal follows suit ordering the same only with different sides. Kathryn orders chicken and dumplings, and I order a roast beef dinner. The portions are so large the girls barely manage to eat most of their meals, and I know they will sleep rest of the way home. The power nap in the car on the way here was just enough to keep them awake through dinner. Crystal is the first to snuggle in to my lap after she finishes eating. Sam smiles at her new sister who is already asleep with her head on my chest.
Kathryn giggles and says to Sam, “I’m glad you’re not jealous, you’re going to have a lot of little sister’s trying to get into daddy’s lap.”
Sam giggles before her response, “If I really need to get into Daddy’s lap I’m sure my sisters will understand. Crystal really needs Daddy now.”
Cindy with sad smile of recognition on her face says, “Crystal is really hurting right now, she doesn’t feel comfortable enough to grieve for her parents yet. She scared if she does; you will call Ms. Clark to take her away again.”
I realize Cindy is right. Cindy is also wise beyond her years as well in her understanding. I realize I will have to wait until Crystal is ready. When she is certain that Kathryn and I love her, that that will not change no matter whatever happens, then she will grieve. Sam seems to known that right away, perhaps Crystal will come to understand that very shortly. She will be able to move on, heal and grow into a normal beautiful girl. That is what I want for my girls, to be healthy and happy.
In her sleep Crystal says, “Love you daddy.” I realize that is exactly what I am. I may not have provided the genetic material for this young beautiful girl, but I have chosen to be her father, her daddy. It is not a choice or decision I made lightly, it is one that I will follow with my whole heart, for Sam, for Crystal and even for Cindy. The law allows me full custody of Sam and Crystal because we have adopted Sam and we are adopting Crystal. Cindy situation is slightly different because I am her foster father. I will make the most of the six months I have with her. At least I can show her what a father should be during our time together.
Today time got away from us and it is now after seven o’clock as we leave the restaurant. Because it is December 31 the sporting goods store I was hoping to go to closed a few minutes ago. The Coach carries Cindy because she is asleep. Sam drapes across Kathryn, and I carry Crystal in the same state. Alan and Anna carried by their new parents as well. MC carries Rosy as she snuggles to her new Mama.
There are no other customers at the restaurant and the owner ways goodbye to us silently, as our server runs up to him holding the five hundred dollars I left for her tip. She was the only server for our group, and she did an excellent job for us. I knew the bill incorporated the tip, but I felt it was a little insufficient that is why I added the cash tip.
When she turns to me with an expression like she fully intends to return the tip. I shake my head no then mouth, “You did a great job. Thank you.” The owner catches her shoulder as she takes a step forward, he must be better at lip reading then she is because he whispers what I mouthed to her. I turn to carry Crystal to her seat, leaving the owner and the server at the front door.
A few more steps away I hear him say, “That is JJ Meyer. I believe one of the richest men in the state if not the richest.”
I hear her say, “He looks like someone just like me. To think I was worried that he would not have enough money for the bill, he certainly doesn’t act like most rich people do.” I hear the owner chuckle as the two go back into the restaurant.
On the drive home, I am constantly thinking of how and when I can fulfill my promise to Cindy, or how I will explain it to her. I really do not want to disappoint her. I do feel guilty that I did not get her bicycle today. The one thing I cannot do is make more time. I received the same amount of time as everyone else, the indeterminate amount given to us by the universe. I will live it the same, just like everyone else trying to do the best I can with every second.
I am fortunate, that my time is so full of the people I love and enjoy. I do love my job at the high school, except for the separation from Kathryn it causes. Most of my students are only a few years younger; a few are my same age. Some are family, many are friends, and I do enjoy Sam coming to take classes with me.
We called several places only to find that they did not have a single bicycle other than those for adults. The two big department stores in our hometown have both sold out of children’s bicycles. Kathryn is checking the Internet from a laptop, she constantly shakes her head and I can feel her frustrations grow. She finally turns to me and says, “Why is it I can’t find a single bicycle, let alone three for the girls. At this rate they will have to wait until spring before anyone has a bicycle available.”
With a sad smile I say, “Every now and then no matter who you are, how much money you have, you’ll receive a disappointment in life. I guess this is one of those times.”
Kathryn and I both filled defeated by this event. We cannot get a hold of one if any does not exist, no matter how much money we have. We cannot be mad at retailers for selling something. I hope that it went to a child who appreciates their gift. My regret is truly disappointing Cindy, it seems to be the one thing I will not be able to avoid.
Arriving home Sam, Crystal and even Cindy remain asleep. Sam usually awakes as soon as the engine stops and I simply assumed Crystal and Cindy would do the same. Fortunately for us, they stay asleep and Kathryn carries Cindy as I carry Crystal and Sam. Kathryn leads straight to our bedroom, turns down the covers and begins removing their shoes allowing them to drop on the soft carpet. The three girls remain asleep as we dress them in their pajamas. Laying them in the bed, they cuddle close to one another in their sleep.
Kathryn and I remove all the clothing we purchased today, and Kathryn ready several loads of laundry preferring to wash it before allowing the girls to wear the clothing. She starts a couple of loads as we watch the fireworks first from Sydney Australia, which is recorded several hours ago, to Rome, London, and two more hours it will be New York and Washington DC. We do laundry as the time ticks on down Kathryn and I will stay up until midnight share a long kiss like the one we share every New Year since we began dating.
It does not take us long, and we have most of the clothing washed and ready. We fill the drawers, and closets. We use the two empty bedrooms closest to Mom’s wing of the house for the girls. With each of the girls having her own bedroom walk-in closet, it is surprising how full Cindy and Crystal’s closets are after only one shopping trip. Placing Cindy’s suitcase in the bottom of her closet, we can ask her tomorrow if there is anything she wants to keep, as far as I am concerned there is nothing in there that is deserving of her.
Most likely, on the day after I return from my trip to Texas, we will be buying new furniture for Cindy and Crystal. This is just one more way Kathryn can spoil the girls. Kathryn did this was Sam, and I think it helped Sam realize this is her home. Maybe this will help Crystal to realize that as well. Cindy too, I want her to realize that she is found a place in our hearts and we will always have a home for her.
It is about eleven thirty, when I turned to Kathryn and say, “Sam’s going to wake up in a minute and we need to be there.”
Kathryn raises an eyebrow and I can tell she is a little skeptical but does not question me all that much at least aloud, as we walk upstairs I can hear Sam is having a bad dream. I just managed to get to the bed as she sets up and I take her into my arms before she begins to panic. It takes a minute or two to calm her down, but she is awoken Cindy and Crystal.
I look at the clock it is only a little less than ten minutes before midnight, and I ask, “Would you like to see the fireworks because it’s New Year’s.”
Sam clings to me, Kathryn takes Crystal and Cindy massages Sam’s back as she walks beside me. Cindy says, “It’s okay Sam, it was just a bad dream. Nothing bad is going to happen.”
Sam looking up into my face says, “Daddy, promise me when you go to Texas you won’t go to any bars.”
Giving how scared Sam is it does not take me long to promise by saying, “Sam I won’t go to any bars. Even though I’m just going to be there one night I’ll make sure I don’t.”
Sam seems relax a little after I say that finally she gives me a smile and says, “Maybe I should go with you to keep you out of trouble.”
Kathryn giggles before she says, “Sam who’s going to protect Crystal, Cindy and me. Without your daddy here we need you.”
Sam looks at me hard before she again asks, “Daddy, you promise not to go to any bars?”
Looking Sam in the eyes, I noticed they are blue, and I would do anything to turn them green again. “I promise Sam I will not go to any bars ever.” Sam throws her arms back around me, and I melt into her hug. Kathryn, Cindy and Crystal giggle at me. They know I would do anything to make them happy.
As the TV begins to boom from the fireworks, Sam and I release, and I marvel at how quickly her eye color changes to green. As we set on the sofa, Sam in my lap scoots over enough for Crystal to join her. Cindy is against my right side and Kathryn against my left as we watch the fireworks together. I turned to Kathryn and we share a kiss, breaking to giggles from the girls.
I kiss the girls cheeks, wish them happy New Year, and steal another kiss from Kathryn at our first chance. The girls giggle again catching us, Kathryn and I break our kiss with smiles on our faces. The fireworks go on for another few minutes by the end of the fireworks the girls are beginning to fall back asleep. However, we wake them up long enough to show Cindy her bedroom and her closet.
Cindy remarks with wide eyes, “I’ve never had so many clothes before and my whole life.”
Giving Cindy a hug Kathryn says, “That’s just your winter clothing. We still have to go shopping for your spring wardrobe.”
Despite her excitement, Cindy gives a sleepy yon. I ask, “Cindy do you want to sleep here in your room?”
Cindy looking at me newly awake from the question she asks, “This is my room, really?”
Smiling I say, “Long as you want it to be.” Cindy gives a squeal, and spins around like a ballerina she so happy. When she stops, Sam gives her a hug.
Crystal could not stay awake and has already fallen asleep in my arms. Cindy and Sam giggle, until they both yon. Kathryn and I lead them back to our bedroom. After Kathryn and I change into our pajamas, the girls shift in their sleep and before I know it, all three somehow have gotten themselves onto my chest. Kathryn throws her arm across the three girls who were spooning. It does not take long for the five of us to be asleep.
Kathryn and I awake to find Helen and Mom giggling at the side of our bed. The three girls still spoon on my chest with Kathryn’s arm across them. As large, as the bed is we may be only using a quarter of it. Mom laughs saying, “You know you can save some money by just buying a full-size bed.”
Crystal is the first of the girls to move as soon as she does the other two follow her to the bathroom leaving Kathryn and me to speak to Mom and Helen. I begin by saying, “I think it’s a great way to start the year, I get the wake up with not just one beautiful female, but four.”
Kathryn giggles then punches me on my arm. “You better be glad two of those girls are our daughters, and the other is our niece.”
Chuckling I say, “You know you’re the only woman I feel that way about.”
Kathryn with a sly look says, “I know, you allowed me into your heart fully and I know what it feels.”
Mom and Helen giggle. Then Helen says, “That isn’t a secret, from the first day JJ kissed you I knew he was totally in love with you.”
Mom says, “He sure was, and so was she. The two of them couldn’t get any closer.”
Helen says, “Nothing could tempt JJ from Kathryn side. Then I learned nothing would cause him to abandon her. When everyone else was afraid, the only fear he had was in losing her. He would rather lose his own life than see that happen.”
Smiling up at my mother-in-law I say, “Without Kathryn I have no life.”
Kathryn pulls me into her arms and tight against her, we kiss passionately even though Amanda kicks hard and I can feel it. There are giggles from the girls and our mothers when we finally do separate. I help Kathryn up, and tell our mothers will be down for breakfast in a few minutes. My Mom takes Sam and Crystal, and Helen takes Cindy and they go to the kitchen.
When we finally do get down to the kitchen we find Alyssa, Joan, Misty, Mom and Helen had started breakfast. Scooping Crystal up I tell her, “Now you’re going to see why I’m Sam’s forth favorite cook.”
Crystal says, “Sam and I still love your pancakes.”
I say, “Thank you my beautiful Princess, but I love these ladies’ cooking too.”
They all turn on cue and say simultaneously, “Thank you JJ.”
We all cook breakfast like we do on most Saturdays, of course that meant me making pancakes, and it is the first time for having bunny pancakes for Cindy, Anna, Allen, and Rosy. Just as we were setting the table, Kara and Daniel finally come out of their house to join the family again.
I took a momentary break from pancakes to introduce my new daughter and niece to the one aunt and uncle she has not met yet. Cindy was surprised when she met Kara for the first time. The two seem to share a connection that I seem to recognize. I held that impression to myself not knowing how it will finally play out.
Daniel looked at me before he says, “We stay away for a week and you have a new daughter, a foster daughter that you call your niece, what would happen if we were gone for an entire month?”
Joking with him I say, “We probably have a high-rise standing here. The way it’s going we will need the room.”
Kara cannot really help it, she is holding Cindy on her lap and the two talk a lot like MC and Rosy where the other night. Still having Daniels attention I ask him, “Have you met Anna, Allen and Rosy yet?”
With a shocked look on his face he asks, “I’m afraid to really ask, but more?”
I go into the story and explain to him what happened. How a simple text started things happening, by doing a tradition that brings families together and how it really did just that. How a simple act of kindness at such a big reward. Just as I finish my story, Crystal runs up to me with Rosy at her side, Crystal takes my hand and says, “Daddy show us the pool. Please Daddy.”
Rosy taking my other hand says, “Please uncle JJ, we have a little time before breakfast.”
Chuckling I reply, “How can I turned down two beautiful little Princesses like you?” I scooped them up into my arms to Daniels chuckles.
Daniel following along as the two chatter and I do the best to keep up with the conversation they are having with me. Crystal for being such a quiet girl just a day before has done a complete turnaround and is talking a mile a minute. Rosy seems to have no trouble keeping up with Crystal’s conversation.
I finally clear my throat and begin to explain the rules about the pool and the patio area. Having the girls’ attention, I tell them, “You only come in here with an adult. You only get to swim with an adult here once you know how to swim. You never swim alone. Rosy until your Mama knows how to swim well you can come here with her but unless your Aunt Kathryn or your Aunt Kara or one of your other aunts or uncles are here you two stay out of the pool. Your Grandpa is a good swim coach once you know the basics.”
Daniel chuckles in the background, obviously Kara has told him how he educated his children how to swim. Ignoring Daniel I continue, “It will take a couple days to teach you how to swim. The first thing we are going to learn is how to float. Sam is going to help me teach Cindy and you how to swim. Even though Sam swims very well I want an adult here with you and her.”
Crystal asks, “Can Sam swim really good?”
Daniel chuckles before he says, “Better than I, and I used to be on the swim team for my college.”
Sam from behind us asks, “Really Uncle Daniel. Am I that good?”
Turning he says to Sam, “Like you are part mermaid.”
Sam giggles, “I still got a breathe air.”
Laughing Daniel says, “That’s why you’re only part.”
Sam says, “Breakfast is ready.” Then begins laughing along with her Uncle Daniel. She takes his hand and pulls him along as I follow.
At the breakfast table, Kara sets Daniel beside me and Cindy in his lap. Sam sits in my lap, and Crystal in Kathryn’s lap. Across the table from us George has Anna in his lap, Alyssa’s other side is Marshall with Allen in his lap. Misty leans onto Marshall’s shoulder as she caresses her belly.
Daniel looks it all his in-laws before he leans over to me and whispers, “I guess I better get used to having a child on my lap. Kara wants a lot of kids.”
With a chuckle I say, “Must run in the family.” Daniel chuckles as he straightens up.
Cindy turns and smiles at Daniel, as Daniel looks into her face a smile slowly spread across his face. He finally says, “Hi I’m Daniel.”
Cindy response, “Hi I’m Cindy.”
Alyssa does, as she always likes to do; she serves everyone at the table filling their plates with food before passing them out. She ensures everyone with a child on his or her lap gets a larger portion like the one she has done with Sam and me so often.
Breakfast is really fun, and we do our best to catch up Daniel and Kara on the week’s events.
We begin cleaning up and still everyone is focus on sharing with each other. Once everything cleared away and the dishes washed and dried, Alyssa pulls out the ingredients for tamales, the ones we made the other night all went to the orphanage. As we mixed the ingredients, Anna and Joan are beside their mother. Alyssa smiles at Anna and says, “I never thought I’d get so much out of making tamales.”
Chuckling I say, “Your tamales are one of the reasons I love your cooking. You put so much love in your food, it’s no wonder Sam likes your cooking so well too.”
Crystal from my lap says, “Daddy that’s why I love your bunny pancakes. Grandpa can’t get the ears right like you do, but they still taste good.”
The Coach chuckles, “That’s because three special little princesses made the batter.”
Kara, Kathryn, Cindy, and Sam are working on the stuffing. Kathryn begins adding spices as Alyssa watches, once Kathryn is done Alyssa smiles before she says, “You did that perfectly.”
Kathryn smiles and says, “Thanks Alyssa for showing me.”
Kara says, “I did miss a lot this week, but I don’t regret the time I spent with Daniel.” The rest of the women in the room break out into giggles, after a second or so Sam begins to giggle too.
Kara is blushing but she asks, “Sam why are you giggling?”
Sam walks over to Kara then whispers in her ear, Kara blushes even deeper at whatever Sam whispered. Giggles turn to full laughter at Kara’s reaction. Still looking into Kara’s face smiling with green eyes of her own Sam says, “It’s good that your eyes are really green showing you’re really happy because Mommy was going to kick Uncle Daniel’s ass if you weren’t happy.”
Kara turning sharply to Kathryn her anger is turn to confusion by seeing her sister laughing so hard. When Kathryn brings herself under control, she just gives Kara a hug and says, “You are louder than what you think you are. Poor Daniel’s going to need earplugs or hearing aids.”
Kara questions, “What does Sam mean by my eyes being green? They are Hazel.”
Kathryn says, “You really haven’t paid any attention to yourself, go look in the mirror.”
Kara’s expression gives away her confusion as the room giggles, most of the family is fully aware now having seen hers and Sam’s green eyes after hearing Mom tell the story.
I noticed how Alyssa looked into Sam’s eyes once she was certain, a broad smile crossed her face, and I heard her say our beautiful little green-eyed Princess. Like in most families news travels fast, it was not five minutes before Joan did the same. The first thing Misty did this morning was to pick up Sam so she can get a good look at her face too.
Ron and Reese are just walking in together, Reese come straight to Sam she looks her in the face before she exclaims, “Wow, they really are green!”
Ron is equally amazed as he says, “I thought I saw them change shades before, but I thought it was due to the lighting.”
Sam giggles, “No, they’re just like Mommy’s and Aunt Kara’s they give away that I’m happy.”
Reese turns to Kara as she looks closely in to her face, “Sam you’re right. Kara’s eyes are as green as yours.”
Kara finally gets up and goes to the mirror in the bathroom upon seeing her own reflection she remarks, “Oh my God they are green!”
Running from the bathroom she looks into Sam’s face, then into Kathryn’s eyes closely, she hugs Kathryn tightly and asks, “Are my eyes as green as yours?”
Giggling because she so happy, Kathryn says, “I believe they are.”
Helen says, “Two down, six to go.”
Kathryn and Kara turn to her with confused looks before Helen explains, “I got two of my children happy and married. Will your eyes be green every day, probably not? Will they be green more than they are hazel, blue, or even brown? I truly believe they will be. Now I have six more children hopefully to find the same happiness.” Kathryn and Kara wrapped their mother in a hug as the three shed tears of joy.
I know for sure that whatever Helen did in the past she did out of love, she like most mothers do the best they can to ensure her children are happy and healthy. Sometimes I wondered about that, but I realize she gave Kathryn her freedom, choosing not to interfere with our relationship. It would be very easy for her to demand for us to have ended our relationship due to the four years difference in age. However, Kathryn was in the same school year as I was, and most of the same classes. To tell you the truth Kathryn was more serious than I was most of the time. I truly did not pay any attention to the difference in our age, because if there ever were a fact I would forget it is that.
I guess that was probably the hardest thing in the world to do, if you think your child is making a mistake to set back and not interfere. In Kathryn’s case if Helen had interfered it would not allow us to grow together as we did. Maybe she learned that lesson by the time Kathryn and I were falling in love. One day we will have to have a long talk with her. By the time Sam is Kathryn’s age now I wonder who will be chasing her or she is chasing, and how I will react. I only hope it turns out as well as it did for Kathryn and me.
The Coach comes and gets me, he says, “Let these ladies gossip, the game is on.”
Mom and Helen giggle, before Alyssa says, “Go on JJ spent some time with the boys.”
Kathryn playfully comes over and puts a big long kiss on my lips before she says, “Go on my love, but know I will miss you.”
The coach chuckles as he rolls his eyes saying, “He’s just going to be downstairs for heaven sake.” With his hand on my shoulder, he practically pushes me to the elevator.
The women laugh at the two of us, as I turn and wave to Kathryn. The Coach finally tugs on me one more time before pushing me into the elevator.
As the door opens in the basement and we step out, all the male in-laws are in the family room waiting on us. I ask my father-in-law, “What’s going on? I thought we were watching a game.”
The coach says, “Games not on yet, but you let Kathryn tell that bear story for the last two and a half years. We want to hear it from you. Don’t leave out anything.”
Just then, Ron shows up. He asks, “He didn’t start it yet?”
The Coach turns to him, “You’re in time; he’s just about to start. Okay JJ everybody is here now, tell us the story.” When Michael senior gets like this, I know I will not get out of telling the story.
The bond Kathryn and I share seems to grow stronger every day, when she realizes that there is no game on. I can feel Kathryn moving to me. I can almost feel her pick up Sam and Crystal as she heads towards the stairs.
With everyone’s attention on me, they do not notice Kathryn caring Sam and Crystal come down the stairs. They stop where she can look at me and easily watch, Kara brings Cindy with her and sits beside her sister. Now that my wife is present too I begin, “It was a couple days after I asked Kathryn to marry me. I went up to visit her at grandma’s house up in the mountains. It took longer to drive there than I thought it would, and I lost track of time when I was with Kathryn. Because it was late, Grandma insisted that I stay overnight. I spent the night with the boys in the attic. I usually get up for a run in the morning so I was up before everyone else, but I only beat Grandma by ten minutes. We talked on her back porch, and she asked my life story so I gave her the abridged version. Like what you are getting right now, I can remember the conversation like yesterday if you really want to know it. However, because the game will be on shortly let me continue. After our conversation, Grandma gets Kathryn up because she asked me to pick her some berries.
She got Kathryn up the show me where the patch was at.” I take a deep breath remembering how beautiful Kathryn looked to me.
“Grandma must have just drag Kathryn out of bed only allowing her enough time to put on a pair of jeans and she still wore the T-shirt that she had worn to bed. Kathryn standing there in a pair of old blue jeans and a white T-shirt was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. Grandma giggled for five minutes at the way I reacted when I saw Kathryn. She finally handed us a couple buckets and pointed us up the hill.”
“When we finally reached the berry patch, picking berries was the last thing on my mind. Kathryn had a sly smile as we pulled each other into a long kiss. We did manage to pick a few berries before my four sisters showed up. Of course they started teasing us a little bit and we try to pick berries rather quickly to make up for the time we spent in each other’s arms.”
We must’ve pick berries for nearly half an hour or so before, our sisters teasing us had her so mad that I pulled her into another kiss before she started kicking their asses.”
The coach chuckles, “That sounds true, the way Kathryn tells it you would never know her big sisters would teaser so much.”
After the room finished chuckling, I continue, “About what would be halfway through our kiss the girl start screaming. That is when we saw the bear higher on the hill; before I could tell them not to run. They all start running down the hill. The bear then seen them as prey and charged after, even running downhill a human being is not faster than a bear. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Michelle trip and fall. I told Kathryn to stand behind me; fear had her not willing to leave me.
I did the only thing I could, I raised my hands up and shouted as loudly as I possibly could and step between Michelle and the bear. I must have blocked the bear’s view of Michelle, and confused it. The bear come to a sliding halt, and I hoped that it would turn and leave. When it stood up on its hind legs, the only thing I could think was that is, one big, bear.
When it started growling, I knew I could not back down Kathryn was still a few feet behind me, Michelle still on the ground most likely. I could not see, but from the sound of it, she was struggling to get her feet under her again. So there I stood shouting at the bear, hoping it would back down. It seemed like it was going to be forever that I was going to be standing there shouting at that bear. My lungs were burning and I was afraid if I took a breath the bear would take that as a sign an attack.
So I step forward still shouting in the bear begin to lumber forward. I knew if I did not do something, Michelle, Kathryn and I most likely would be dead. I could not wait to see if the bear would, back down any longer it was nearly in range to hit me with a claw.
I put everything I had in that kick, aimed it at the weakest spot I could think of. I was hoping just hit hard enough to keep it from breathing for a moment or two, but man was I scared. If I did not make the bear back down, I hope I would give Kathryn and Michelle enough time to get away.
When the kick landed, I did not realize just how hard I kicked the bear until it went flying backwards, and I heard that sickening pop I knew I broke its neck. I stood there over the bear’s corpse, the air went out of its lungs and it did not make a single sound after that.
That first instance that I knew the bear was dead I wanted to shout for joy. Then the realization that I just killed a majestic creature hit me. I had not even killed a fly before that. The bear was just being a bear, but there is no way I was going to let it hurt my family.
The coach stands up pulls me into a bear hug and slaps me on the back as he says loudly, “That’s why I let him marry my baby.”
Kathryn laughs from the stairwell, Sam and Crystal set there with big eyes. Kara is beside her sister with Cindy on her lap; Cindy has the same large eyed expression as my daughters. This was the very first time that I told the story since it happened. Kathryn says, “JJ you got everything right except that I was frozen with fear.”
With a chuckle after I work my way out of the bear hug my father-in-law had me in I say, “That was before I could tell what you were thinking or feeling. I had to guess, sorry Love.”
My in-laws begin chuckling and my father in law says, “He’s a wise man for sure, he’s brave enough to stand up to a seven and half foot tall black bear, but knows it is best to back down to his wife.”
Looking at my father-in-law I tell him, “You better believe it. She is tougher than that bear now. When it comes to martial arts she is probably as good as I am. I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of any punch Kathryn throws.” For the first time in months, I have actually surprised Kathryn with something I said. Everyone in the room is laughing mostly at Kathryn’s expression as I walked to her. I put her in a bear hug of my own.
Looking up into my face Kathryn asks, “Do you really mean it, am I as good as you?”
Smiling I just kiss her, open myself fully to her and she knows that I truly mean it. She knows I do not fear her, or for her. That I would willingly stand beside her no matter the circumstance, no matter the enemy that stood before us, and that I have the same confidence in her that I have in myself.
When she pulls back, she smiles and says, “Just so you know the next time you tell the story the only reason I stood there, was because I trusted you.”
Smiling I say, “Okay, I stand corrected and will always tell the story that way from now on.”
We spent the next couple of hours talking about several things that happen during the year. The Coach did not believe that Sam actually through me fifteen feet during one of my classes until Kathryn showed him the video she made on her cell phone of it.
Ron chuckles, “I nearly fell over when I saw her do that.”
Sam finally told us, she is going with us to Texas saying, “Mommy doesn’t need a body guard, she’s just as tough as you are Daddy, but I got to keep you out of trouble. If I don’t go to Texas with you you’re going to get in trouble again.”
Chuckling Ron says, “I was going to take him out to a restaurant and were going to meet some of the guys from my old unit. Trust me, stateside; with half of my old company around us you couldn’t be safer.”
Sam says, “Is the restaurant more like a bar? Because if it is, somebody tries to rob it and Daddy stops them, but somebody accidentally shoots Daddy.”
I ask Sam, “Is this what your dream was about last night?” Sam merely shakes her head yes as she looks into my eyes, I can see her eyes had turned blue.
I explained to Ron about Sam’s nightmares when it came to Lance, how they were so very accurate. I tell him, “I don’t understand how it works, but Sam seems to have an idea of what’s going to happen before it does. Maybe it would be best if we schedule the get together with your friends for another time.”
Ron pointing out, “When do you think we will ever get back to Texas, especially when they are there? Besides that, it is the going away party for Sergeant Major Sampson. There’s really no way of getting out of it.”