As we left off in our last chapter, Ron was explaining how a get together for Sergeant Major Sampson was not an event that could be cancel or reschedule.
The Ten of Them. Chapter 24 Composed by hard93
Ron continues, “The unit basically just got back on the first of December from overseas and have been off on leave, they knew he was retiring on December 31, but wasn’t due to leave the area until the third. They chose the second January, and then they have learned that I was going to be in the area too. They insist that I come along because Sergeant Major Sampson and I go back to when I was a Second Lieutenant, just green out of officer’s training. They found out JJ will be there too, they all loved your parents Sam. I tell them how happy you are; I even sent that video file your Mom has been showing.
Reese giggles as she remembers she tells us, “I remember when the first time you walked in to the office, Sergeant Major Sampson called it to attention and you snap to.”
Ron chuckles, “Sergeant Major Simpson kept a straight face, but the rest of you nearly lost it. What you do not realize I nearly lost it too, if it was not for the Sergeant major looking professional at me. It only took me a second to realize what I have done, and the look in Sergeant Major Simpson’s eyes said its okay just carry on. He has that way about him, he can make you feel like you screwed up when you did a great job, or you can do a great job when you screw up.”
Reese giggles again, “I just got to the unit myself. We actually met him on the very same day.”
Ron chuckles, “That’s the first time I noticed you. They lost your luggage and you were in civilian clothes. I was really hoping you were a Second Lieutenant just like me. Man was I disappointed to find that you wasn’t.”
Reese giggles, “It could’ve been worse, I may have been a Captain and then you would have to salute me every time you turned around.”
Ron gets a little reflective as he remembers, “That was the first day I met your Dad Sam. He was my boss, and I immediately liked him. He told me he done the same thing when he walked in on his first day.”
Reese says somberly, “Sam that was the first day I met your Mom. This was before she was even pregnant with you. She looked over my orders, and my previous performance reports. Your Mom was a tough but fair person. She saw in my performance reports where I was disrespectful to a general, and then she made me relate the story in my own words of the event. With a sad smile she told me, that was what she thought had happened. You see my old boss caved in and wrote me a poor report from pressure up the chain. That is when she told me that our commander had requested for me once I come up for transfer. I learned that she respected that I stood up for myself. It seems the commander too had a run in with that same general.”
Ron chuckles, “I was wondering why Nancy always looked out for you. She made you work harder than anyone else, but she made sure you got credit for that hard work.”
Reese says, “Nancy never let that one performance report destroy my career. She got a lot of heat for my next performance report, but she had more than enough evidence to back up the rating I got. Sam your Mom was my hero from then on.”
Reese looking at Ron wonders aloud, “Strange that Gen. retired shortly after all this blew up. Then that poor performance report of mine got cleared out of my records.”
Ron chuckles, “Not when you know what our commander did, she taped him threatening to have you one way or another. You see the General was not used to anyone turning him down. Of course, our Commander did not like him at all, and when she threatened to give that evidence to his wife. He caved faster than your former chain of command did.”
Ron looks into the face of his wife before he says, “When I first found out about this I was so mad I wanted to bring charges against the General. The Commander said, “She was only a Major and would retire as a Major, but the rest of us still have a career in front of us.” If we brought charges, Washington would sweep it under the rug along with the rest of us. This way Washington will disown him, he will live out the rest of his days on his retirement with nothing else. No cushy government job, no job with a government supplier, no chance it running for Congress too.”
Reese looks at her husband before she says, “You know you could’ve stayed if you wanted to, I would’ve waited for you.”
Ron looks into his wife’s face again this time he smiles before he says, “That wouldn’t be fair, and I deserve to have you all the time.”
When Reese slaps him on the shoulder Ron chuckles before he says, “Did I say I? I intended to say you. I did not say that right at all. I intended to say, that would not be fair to you, and you deserve me all the time. Wait a minute we deserved to be together.”
Reese giggles, “You just saying that because I’m a great shot, and you’re a little afraid of me.”
Ron chuckles, “I know how good of a shot you are. However, I also know you are on my side, and I hope you know how much I do love you. I could not stand to be without you. That is what I really wanted to say. That I love you and never want to be without you, not for a minute ever.”
Reese giggles, “Yes Sir.”
Ron pulling her into his arms chuckles before he says, “Don’t you Sir me. I work for a living now, if you can call what we do work.”
Sam clears her throat before she says, “Okay, there’s no way that you can get out of going Ron?”
Ron turning to Sam looks into her determined face and says, “No, and worse than that neither can your Daddy. The unit wants to recognize him as your father.”
Sam looking at Ron says, “That is another reason for me to go.”
I start to object but I immediately feel Kathryn has a different idea turning to her as she says, “Sam can go, if you promise not to get yourself hurt Sam. You’re not big enough to stop bullets my beautiful little Princess.” Through our bond, I feel Kathryn communicate that I had better make sure she does not get hurt.
Kathryn turning to Sam says, “Sam the only reason I’m letting you go is I know you won’t stay here even if I try to hold you down. But you better not get hurt, your Daddy or I would never forgive ourselves. Sam, you are more like your Daddy than you realize. Both of you will not stop protecting the other, your Dad will not stop protecting the people around him, first is love ones, then anyone around him. That’s just the way he is, the way you are.”
Sam wrapped her mother in a hug with tears running down her cheeks she finally says, “Mommy I won’t let Daddy get hurt, I won’t let anybody hurt us. If I cannot keep Daddy out of trouble I better help make sure he gets through it.”
I start to say something, I’m not willing to let Sam place herself in any danger, I’m not willing to allow Sam in a dangerous situation if I can prevent it, thinking we’ll just not go, will pick them up on the fourth or the fifth, I don’t care what it costs or how it looks. Sam is my daughter and I will not take any chance of losing her.
Sam let’s go her mother comes into my arms holding me close she whispers, “Daddy if we don’t go a lot of people are going to die, a lot of good people that you save. Daddy I can keep you from getting hurt, and I do not get hurt either. Angel Mommy told me in my dream. Daddy we have to go, you save those people and I save you. I don’t get hurt, you don’t get hurt, and you save a lot of people.”
Ron looks at me, “Don’t worry only a fool would try to rob a restaurant where military hangout, it’s as bad as holding up a cop bar.”
I unlike most people my age know life can be short, and that no one knows how much time they have. That makes me worry for Sam and the rest of them, my family I would do anything to protect. I guess I am truly am like most when it comes to that. In the hope to save the ones that I love, I would brave any fire, swim through any flood to save them. Does that make me a hero? No that makes me a father, a husband, an uncle, a brother and a son.
I am not in a jovial mood as I say to them, “The problem is all it takes is one fool who got a hold of a gun. Sam I know I just can’t risk you for anything.”
Sam’s argument is simple and elegant and her logic is undeniable, “Daddy, I got two Angels protecting me, and you got one protecting you. If we are together, they are three Angels with us. We have Ron; we have Grandpa Sampson and all the men there. Grandpa Sampson can have the men stand down and let you handle the robber. Ron can make sure the guy that accidentally shoots you keeps his gun in its holster.”
Ron smiles and says, “We can tell the men it’s a demonstration of your martial arts. If they think there is no threat, they will not pull a firearm.”
Sam says, “Besides that Daddy, I get to help you find something special.”
Looking into Sam’s face, I can see her determination and is going to be a trademark of her character. I say, “You promise to stay by Sergeant Major Sampson, that you let Ron stop the guy from firing, that you do not put yourself in danger no matter what my beautiful daughter.”
I cannot help thinking this is crazy. I am thinking about letting my four-year-old daughter into a situation where a thief attempts an armed robbery, and a Good Samaritan may accidentally shoot me. Sam has only been in my life six months but I do not see my life without her, Kathryn is my wife, Sam, and Crystal are my daughters, Cindy will be my niece forever, and they are my girls. I cannot take a chance; I would rather die myself then lose one of my girls.
Before I can change my mind Sam says, “Yes Daddy, I promise. I will stay right beside Sergeant Major Sampson; I will point out the person to Ron. I’ll tell you when the guy arrives to rob the restaurant.”
Kathryn looking at Sam asks, “Sam that way no one gets hurt?”
Giggling Sam says, “Only the idiot Daddy hits, but Daddy just knocks him out to the cops come.”
Kathryn looks at me and she says, “I know you really don’t want to take Sam along, or put her in any danger but this way nobody really gets hurt.” What could I do without a better solution to the situation we have?
The Coach says, “I’m coming too, I’ll keep Sam safe, even if she has to use me to throw at somebody.”
Sam hugs her grandpa. Helen has not said anything finally says, “I think you are all crazy. Just hire some security guards for outside the restaurant. That should scare the shit out of any would-be thief.”
I agree with Helen, and I will hire security guards to surround the restaurant. Sam will be safe, so I do not feel bad about taking her now. I know if I did not she would never forgive me, or it would break her spirit. One of many things I love about Sam. Sam does not see herself as weak or small. Sam sees that she has the potential to do anything.
The room is very silent, and Misty clears her throat almost everyone jumps. Misty says, “I can’t go with you Marshall, but you can go.”
Marshall has a surprised look on his face as he turns to his wife. Giggling she says, “I know you wouldn’t go unless I let you, but you would not be my Marshall if I made you stay.”
I pull Helen into a hug I whisper, “Thank you for your suggestion, and I’ll make sure at least a dozen security guards are around the restaurant.”
Helen pulls back looking into my face she says, “So everyone going to keep Sam and you save is for nothing.”
Finally smiling I very softly say, “No, it’s for love and that’s far from nothing.”
Giggling Helen says, “Good because you know I’m coming too.”
What could I do at that point? The only thing actually could do was to give Helen a hug, and say, “I think the aircraft is full with Marshall, Helen, Dad (the Coach), and Sam coming along.” The one I booked to fly out was quite a bit smaller than the one that was to return. The four extra passengers it would be pretty well full.
I can tell each of my brother-in-laws and sister-in-laws wanted to come too, but I convinced them to stay with Kathryn. Kathryn called her doctor who refuses to let her go. Since Misty and Reese went to the same Doctor, he also refuses to let them go as well.
Daniel and Kara both want to come as well, asking the second time I tell them, “How many people you think it’s going to take to keep Kathryn off that aircraft? If she cracks Kara, you are one of the few people she will listen to what you say. You won’t be able to stop her if you are on the airplane.”
Kara asks, “You really think she will listen to me?”
With a smile I say, “Of Kathryn’s four sisters, you’re the one she respects the most. You’re the one she always tried to be like, the one she wanted to be proud of her the most.”
Kara looks at me confused before I continue, “Don’t forget I can practically read her mind now. I know she loves all her sisters, but you’re the one she puts on the pedestal the highest.”
Daniel laughs at a memory that comes to his mind. Looking at Kara he says, “Remember back when I graduated from high school and a beautiful twelve-year-old girl comes up to me and gives me a kiss. What really shocked me wasn’t that you kissed me, it was the feeling I got.” He looks into his wife’s eyes, “You ran off before I could say anything. Your little sister’s stayed around for a moment or two more before she left she smiles at me and says I’m going to do just like Kara and marry an older guy.”
Kara has a shocked look on her face before Daniel continues as he chuckles at her expression. Hugging Kara he says, “You think I would forget our first kiss? What you did not know is that kiss had a greater effect on me than even I knew at the time. All through college, I could not look at another girl without her reminding me of you. I did not even really date because of that. I am just glad, that JJ fell in love with Kathryn. I would never be happy with anyone else, my Love.”
Daniel pulls Kara into a long kiss, when they do break it is to giggles from the children. Kathryn smiles at her sister before she says, “If you hadn’t ran off so fast after you kissed him for the first time I’m pretty sure he would kiss you just like that if Daniel had the chance.”
Daniel looking lovingly into Kara’s green eyes says, “I wanted to, but she confused me when she ran off. If I knew she was in love with me, I would have stood up to my brother-in-laws. They’re very protective of their little sisters, it’s a good thing JJ is a black belt or they might just have killed him.”
Eddie laughing slaps Daniel on the back and says, “Part of the reason I was so mad the first day I met JJ, was that Kathryn already had a crush on him. I figured he was going to hurt her so before he could I would just run him off.”
My other two brother-in-laws come over hearing what Eddie said, they both laugh and Michael Junior reaches into his wallet before he hands me his martial arts card. I notice, he has been training and now sports four belts of his own. Mark and Eddie do the same; they each have multiple black belts, in multiple disciplines. Michael Junior says, “When I left here and went to college, I just began training with you. At college I ran into a couple of people, they were watching me do my workouts. They invited me to the dojo they were a member of, I went to my first testing and was surprised when the Sensei handed me my first belt. When Mark join me, he joined my dojo too, and then Eddie. Eddie even surprised the Sensei at how good he is.”
Michael Junior continues, “I know why you trained us, other than the fact that we ask you to. You did teach us a lot of things, some things Dad been trying to preach into us for years, things like discipline and hard work.”
Eddie getting a smile for Michael Junior says, “When we first met you, we were so proud of ourselves with no good reason to be. In other words we were arrogant, self-centered and more than a bit of a bully. You have the skill to put the three of us on our ass, three times each, without hurting any of us, will just our pride mostly. I wonder why Dad and Mom let you do that, until one day I had to go to the local courthouse for a speeding ticket, there was a father setting in the courthouse waiting to see what was going to happen to his son. His son got into an altercation with another young man, as in most fights things happen that you never intend to at the beginning of the fight. He set there in tears waiting to hear the verdict from his son’s conviction. His son could get fifteen years to life. I realize we were heading down that same path till a young man thrown us on our asses and open our eyes.”
I look a little shocked, and Kathryn giggles beside me. The brothers give me a second before Mark continues, “You really opened my eyes, here you are a natural born athlete, and the biggest nerd I know. I mean that in the nicest way too. We did not find out for a while that you made your fortune from two Internet companies that you sold. Then you turn our little sister into this trading genius, who else you know makes a million bucks inside of a week. By the time I left for college, we figured out who was buying the cars for us, giving us full scholarships with no academic or athletic requirements.
You never asked us to accept you, but you assisted us as your family. You never tried to bully, buy or direct our affections or our friendship. You did not tell us what you are doing for us, you did not ask for praise or even acknowledgment. You have the strength and skill to bully anyone you want, but you treated everyone like they were your equal, your friend. It is no wonder people love you, it is impossible to hate someone like that. JJ the more I got to know you, the more I saw how good of a person you are. The more I saw how much you love my sister. It’s no wonder Mom and Dad let you marry her.”
Helen giggles and says, “Them two getting married was just legalizing what they are. They are the two most married people that I know of, I’m not looking forward to seeing JJ on the night of the second he’s going to be several states away from Kathryn.” She describes what happened on third of July when they separated us. “It was like ripping their souls out, leaving behind empty bodies. Kathryn and JJ didn’t come alive until they saw each other just before their second wedding.”
Realizing that is something that we had not thought of Kathryn and I both look at each other, being apart is hell on us. Were even closer now than we were before, what differences that makes? I hate leaving her every morning because it does not feel too good. I know Kathryn hates it too. I can tell every day when she starts coming to school. By the time she is in town, it is as if we are coming alive again.
It is not that we are totally nonfunctional without the other, but we definitely are not functioning at our best. I am sure we will probably make a dozen phone calls. That always seems to help just hearing each other’s voice has always made us feel better.
The rest of the evening is subdued, although I do get a few more hugs from my mother and the rest of my family. I asked Mom to take care of Kathryn while I am gone. She says there is one more seat on the aircraft that she can use, but I insist that Kathryn will need her. What I do not tell my mother is that if something goes wrong, Crystal and Cindy will need her because Kathryn will be unable to do anything in her grief.
Later that evening Crystal comes into my arms, she is remained near Sam while the adults were near us. I can tell tears ran down her cheeks from her sad eyes. Holding me tight and somewhat of a muffled voice crystal says, “Sam says everything’s going to be okay, but Daddy I’m still scared for you. I don’t want to cause you to die just like my other Daddy.” Crystal begins to cry very hard and I do my best to comfort her. Kathryn immediately comes to her side and she is doing her best to comfort Crystal as well.
Sam comes bringing both their teddy bears. She holds one up for Crystal to take. To me the teddy bears look identical, and I could not tell them apart even if all my money depended on it. Crystal takes the offered bear and holds a tightly by one arm and the other arm still around my neck. Her crying is not as hard as it was earlier. Sam trying to comfort Crystal says, “Crystal, Santa wouldn’t give you to us knowing Daddy would not be with us after a few days. Santa wouldn’t do that to you, he would not give you a teddy bear if you weren’t a good girl.”
I know Crystal sadness all too well, I felt myself responsible for my father. If I did not sneeze on him causing him to take the time to find a new shirt the day he died, he would have been at work and missed the accident. I was only three just like Crystal is; maybe that is why she is here. I may be the one person that will truly understand her pain.
I had a chance to speak with Ms. Clark. She shared a few more details of the accident that took Crystal’s parents, with me. They were at a red light, it just turned green and they were pulling out when a truck sped through the intersection and ripped the car in two when it crashed into their small sedan. Crystal was in a back half the car and it spun out of the intersection. The front half of the car with her parents inside collide with another truck and killed them instantly.
Not wanting Crystal to think she was responsible for that, any longer I say to her, “Crystal you didn’t cause the guy to speed and run the light hitting you and your Mommy and Daddy. I understand why you would think so, when I was your age I lost my Daddy too. I sneezed on him and got his shirt messy. He took the time to get a new shirt, and that made him late. On the interstate there was an accident, it only happened a few minutes before he got there. My Dad was the person that would never stand on the sidelines, so he immediately went to help. I always felt guilty at first, because what happened at home put him at the scene. It took me a while to realize I did not have any control over what happened. That the car that caused the second accident wasn’t my fault.”
Alyssa hearing what I am saying comes and says to Crystal, “That was the day your grandpa save my life, and the life of your Aunt Joan. Your grandfather died saving people, he did not know one of us but he still came to our rescue. Even the two firefighters he threw me to were rushing to our side. If he hadn’t tossed me into them we would’ve been in the accident that took your grandpa’s life.”
Mom comes over and gives Alyssa a hug and she looks into my face she says, “I never really blamed anyone for your father’s death JJ, especially you. Things like that happen, they’re just accidents no one wants them to happen they just do.”
Crystal still crying says, “If I had not been crying Daddy would have been watching the road better, but he was looking at me.”
Looking at Crystal I say, “It wasn’t your fault; it wasn’t your Dad’s fault. The driver that hit your Daddy was driving too fast. He did not even try to stop so it was his fault. You didn’t make that man drive fast or not stop, your Daddy did not make him either.”
Crystal looking into my face sees that I share her tears, as they fall from her beautiful brown eyes they also fall from mine. Crystal sees that I am not angry for her being sad; that I share her sadness allows herself to grief finally. She cries for a long time holding to me, she finally reaches for Kathryn she holds to her and cries too. All the family tries to comfort her, they say they love her and that will not change.
After a long and tearful time Crystal is a little afraid as she asks, “I’m sorry I couldn’t keep it in any longer, are you going to send me back now?”
Kathryn and I both give her a squeeze as we say simultaneously, “Of course not, you’re our daughter. We love you.”
Sam getting Crystal’s attention says, “Told you so, Daddy and Mommy are not like that. Once they love you they’re not going to stop.”
Helen says, “That’s one thing my granddaughter you need to learn, when you’re a member of this family and you are, you are loved.”
Crystal reaches for her grandma and Kathryn allows her to go into her arms, Crystal looking up into Helen’s face wipes a tear away and says, “I love you Grandma.”
Helen finally says, “I’m just beginning to love hearing that. I love you too Crystal.”
Kara holds Cindy whom also share her tears and I open my arms to her she reluctantly leaves Kara’s embrace for mine. Cindy does ask, “Is that true, you and Aunt Kathryn said you love me?”
Holding to Cindy I say, “Yes my beloved niece, you are a member of this family, and you are loved. I am always going to be your uncle.” Cindy smiles brightly at my statement, but it confused Kara and Daniel.
It is getting late everyone returns home, it is not surprising that three girls run to our bedroom as soon as they brush their teeth. Kathryn and I dressing in our pajamas cuddle with the three girls like the night before. Again, in the morning we wake up to Mom, Helen, and their giggles.
I did like before and waited to the girls went to the bathroom before going to the bathroom with Kathryn. Today she is unwilling to leave my side, and we shower together. I know my mother took our daughters downstairs. The girls’ grandmothers are getting them ready for the day.
Kathryn a little nervously asks, “JJ, are you sure everything is going to be all right?”
Not hesitating I reply, “Oh I will make sure of it, I got too much to live for. Do not forget I get to get you pregnant nine more times. I get to give Sam and Crystal twelve little sisters. I get to watch the fourteen of them grow up. I get to change diapers, I get to be their first crush, I get to have my heartbroken fourteen times as they find new loves, I get to help them through their broken hearts, then one day they find their true love and I’ll get to walked them down the aisle and give them away. Then I get to play with the grandkids and spoil them too. Through all of that, I get to be beside you, I get the love you and feel you love me back. There’s no way I’m giving that up.”
Kathryn giggles and says, “Since you put it that way, I got too much to live for too. I better see your butt back here on the evening of the third or you’re in trouble.”
With a chuckle I say, “Sam’s coming to keep me out of trouble remember. I think will find out she is very good at that.”
Kathryn looking into my eyes asks, “Do you really think we’re doing the right thing letting Sam go?”
I tell Kathryn, “Like you said it would be impossible for us to keep her from going, without breaking her spirit. She would not be our Sam anymore. I am going to get security guards to patrol the parking lot, the back door and anywhere a thief might come through. I will keep myself ready just in case, and Sam’s premonitions are pretty accurate. She’ll direct Ron, while your Mom and Dad and the Sergeant major protect Sam.”
Kathryn confesses, “I’m still scared, can’t you just not go.”
Looking into Kathryn’s eyes I say, “From Sam’s premonitions if I don’t go a lot of people will die. If I stop, the robber and I know I can. Sam has Ron stop the Good Samaritan from accidentally shooting me, and no one gets hurt. How could I not go? It is another one of those choices where you choose yourself or others, keep yourself safe and allow others to suffer. Like my father I can’t do that.”
Kathryn smiles gently she says, “Just like Sam, you share the same spirit. If you both stayed it would break that spirit.”
Kathryn and I kiss for a long time, and we have to hurry to the airport for our flight. Before we depart, Kathryn and I share another long kiss.
Kara comes to our side she gently tugs on to her sister and says, “Kathryn, JJ needs to go now. Sam is going to be fine with Mom and Dad. Ron would do whatever it takes to keep his friend safe. JJ just needs to know that you will be safe. That Amanda is safe.”
I smile at Kara before I tell Kathryn, “Your big sister is right. You cannot fly right now because it is too dangerous for Amanda. I know if that were not the case, you would be there in a heartbeat. I will see you tomorrow. I love you.” I lean in, caress her belly, and feel Amanda kick under my hand. I say at feeling her kick, “I love you too Amanda.” Amanda kicks one more time. Then I pull myself away and board the aircraft. Sam is between her grandparents and Marshall faces them. I take the seat beside Marshall as the plane begins to taxi.
Ron is across the aisle and he smiles nervously at me. He says, “After all the time I spent flying you think I wouldn’t be nervous about taking off.”
Chuckling I say, “Marshall has a death grip on his seat. Guess it’s normal to feel this way then.”
Sam rolls her eyes, which causes the rest of us to break out into nervous laughter. Just them the pilot accelerates the plane and we are in the air before we know it. The rest of the flight goes by fast, which is great for us. The pilot tells us we are not fighting the jet stream and should be in Texas a half hour early.
Through the course of the flight, I speak to Kathryn three times, once shortly after we took off and two more times before we crossed over the Mississippi. Sam is enjoying the flight, and I sat beside the window with her on my lap.
I give Kathryn a call shortly after we land, and Sergeant Major Sampson meets us at the airport. He even has a booster seat for Sam. Sam, Helen, Michael senior and I ride with the Sergeant Major as he takes us on a quick tour, Ron and Marshall head towards the hotel with our luggage. Fortunately, the hotel had a couple of adjoining penthouse suites, and I took both for our family.
The Sergeant Major takes us on to post, and shows us around a little, we have a few hours before we need to get ready for the event tonight. Sam amazes the Sergeant major as she points out landmarks she remembers.
The Sergeant major says, “Your wife talked to me earlier today JJ, she told me you were having trouble finding bicycles. Let’s go check the PX they may have some.”
Sam smiles at me and says, “Told you I get to help you pick out something special.”
Chuckling I say, “Yes you did my big girl.”
Once we arrive which only took a couple minutes, the Sergeant Major laughs as I put Sam on my shoulders. Finally he tells me, “If you were a few years older, I would swear you were her father, you act just like him.”
With a smile I say, “I guess Sam trained me well.”
As we walk in the Sergeant Major smiles saying, “I don’t think she could train you on how to love her, like you do. I know you love her as your daughter. A father knows these things. We see it when other people don’t.”
I smile remembering that first instance when I saw Sam. She looked quite different than she does today. Her hair dyed brown, and her eye color was not green. Sam today is blonde with green eyes that sparkle in the sun. The first instance I saw her, I could not help but feel for her, I guess I fell in love with her instantly. Not as a man falls in love with the woman, not like I fell in love with Kathryn. I fell in love with Sam just as if I was looking at my newborn. I knew she was going to be my child, my responsibility, my joy, my frustration, my elation and everything between.
Walking the way Sam is pointing I smile saying, “The first time I laid eyes on Sam I knew I was done for. I had just married Kathryn and could not wait to become a father. Sam drops into our lives, both Kathryn and I knew from the first second be held her she was going to be a part of our lives from then on. I’m very grateful that we actually manage to adopt her.”
The Coach says, “If you didn’t I would have.” Then he gives Sam a tickle on her knee.
Sam giggles, “That would make me Mommy’s sister.”
Helen shakes her head and says, “I think my granddaughter is exactly where she should be. Speaking of that you know he just started adopting another girl?”
As we walk through the store, I tell him the abridged version about the events from four nights ago. He does not interrupt me and allows me to continue once I finished he smiles asks Sam, “Sam what you think about having a little sister just less than a year younger than you.”
Smiling down from my shoulders Sam says, “I think it’s great, I’m really looking forward to Mommy having baby Amanda. Baby sleep a lot, they are not much fun until they get older. Crystal and I can play a lot together, and we both can help with baby Amanda.”
Sergeant major smiles saying, “I think your Mom and Dad would be very proud of you Sam. I know they wanted to give you a little sister or brother but they were taken from us before they could.”
I can feel Sam tense a little at him saying that. I look the Sergeant Major directly in his eyes as I say, “I know I am proud of Sam. I am sure her mother and father are too, Sam has a 4.0 grade average and completed the third grade so far. She is a natural when it comes to martial arts just after six months of training, she can do her Karta perfectly and she’s master several advanced techniques. If she continues on the way she is learning how to swim, she probably will have a gold medal for every event she enters. Our Olympic team will be lucky if she decides to compete. If that isn’t enough to make a man proud of his daughter he isn’t much of a man.”
The Sergeant major holds my gaze as he begins to smile he says, “Reese is right, you are exactly like the man her father was. You have chosen the responsibility of being her father, and you are doing it with all your heart. That truly makes you her father, and a proud one at that.” After giving me a sideways punch on the arm he asks, “You guys didn’t fake that video of Sam tossing you did you?”
Chuckling I shook my head no and Sam says, “Daddy taught me how to do that move so the other girls in the class would know that they can defend themselves against somebody bigger.”
The Coach adds, “This makes the fifth year JJ has taught self-defense at our high school. Although this year he had to take a job in our school’s physical education department to do it, and he probably lose money every day because of that.”
In a more serious voice I say, “If it keeps one of the girls safe it will be worth it. Kathryn is the real genius when it comes to trading, her doing the trading for me means I’ll probably end up making more money.”
Giggling Sam says, “You’re probably right Daddy, Mommy is really good at trading.”
It does not take us couple of seconds more to get to the back corner, it is completely full of bikes all sizes, and every style the girls could possibly want. Sam’s eyes are large as she takes the whole place in. Sam exclaims, “I see it.”
Walking over Sam points to a bike, she says, “This one is the perfect bike for Cindy” slightly smaller bike she points out saying, “Here’s Crystals.”
There is a yellow one just like Crystal’s and Sam leans forward looking at the bike and I say, “There is the perfect bike for my Sam too.” Sam gives a happy squeal as I lift her from my shoulders. The Coach has come back with a cart that holds six helmets, and six sets and kneepads and elbow pads.
Sam is very happy as she says, “Daddy it is just like the one in my dream.”
I smile and say, “It is my pleasure to make your dreams come true my Princess, but in your dream was not there more?”
Reminded of her cousins Sam says, “Yes Daddy. Anna, Allen and Rosy have bicycles too.” Sam helps us pick out the other three bikes. Two of the bikes are the same, and we find bike plates with names, fortunately, the children’s names are common enough that were able to find one for each bike. When given the choice between Sam and Samantha, I take the plate with Samantha and Sam sticks her tongue out at me before giggling.
The bikes are pre-assembled, we get a clerk to unchain them, and Sergeant Major Sampson and I go to pay for the bikes and safety gear. The coach pushing the safety gear says, “You pay for the bikes, I got this. It is my way of spoiling my grandchildren and niece and nephew.”
We put six bikes in the back his SUV before he looks at me and says, “There is something that we have to do today. Do you have the paperwork that I told you to bring?”
I look at him still unsure of why he needed all the identification paperwork for Kathryn and me, our marriage license, birth certificates, for Kathryn, Sam, and me along with the adoption paperwork. I look at the briefcase I have and say, “It’s all in my briefcase.” Even the small picture of Kathryn you asked for.
Stop by what looks like an office building and he takes us inside, he smiles at the clerk who is in uniform and I believe is a Sergeant. Smiling she jokingly asks, “You did retire, you know you don’t come to work anymore?”
Smiling back he says, “I need to get a couple ID cards made, one for Samantha Sheridan Meyer, and her adopted father John J Meyer.”
The Sergeant takes one look at Sam and she takes a deep breath and then says, “She looks so much like her mother.” Sergeant Major Sampson simply shakes his head yes.
The Sergeant looked me over says, “He looks awfully young to adopt Sam.”
Sergeant Major Sampson says, “He is only eighteen, but he’s a lot more mature than he looks. If I understand right, he graduated high school when he was ten, did some college before he turned thirteen completed three Associates degrees. He also started two Internet companies and sold them before he turned fourteen. He ended up moving east where he met the girl of his dreams, and went back to high school and graduated with a 4.0 average. They got married this July on the fourth. Apparently, the two of them made quite a bit of money while they were in high school. He and his wife have really impressed Reese. The most important thing Sam really loves them, and they adore her.”
The Sergeant makes a double take and shakes her head saying, “He looks like just a normal eighteen-year-old.”
Sergeant Major Sampson laughs before he says, “Maybe that’s why he can walk around without a couple dozen bodyguards.”
The Sergeant is quite confused as she asks, “Why, how much money they make?”
Sergeant Major Sampson shrugs his shoulders before he replies, “Reese said I should ask, but from the way she said it was a lot more than I would imagine.”
The Sergeant quietly asks, “You think they made in the tens of millions?”
Sergeant Major Sampson says, “I asked Reese that same question, she only giggled then repeated that I should ask.”
The Sergeant states, “Reese was always one to play it close to the vest, nobody knew about her and Captain Davis until he left the service and the next day they are married.”
Sergeant major Sampson smiles and says, “Reese couldn’t come to my retirement tonight, but she made her husband show up. Apparently, he already knocked her up, and her doctor is nervous about letting her fly. I will get to see her tomorrow. Mr. Meyer has a flight scheduled for us, probably first-class on some airline. We show up tomorrow at nine, we’ll get our boarding passes then.”
The Sergeant grins and says, “It must be nice.”
It only takes about ten minutes for us to have ID cards made. The Sergeant did shyly ask how much I was worth; of course, I could wave a feather at her to knock her over after I told her. Sam was the next to have her ID cards made and she whispered into her ear how much she was worth herself, I think she dropped her coffee cup at hearing what Sam said.
The Sergeant calls Sergeant Major Sampson back and tells him what we said he blinks a few times. He begins to laugh thinking the Sergeant is pulling his leg. The Sergeant finally says, “I don’t think he was pulling my leg, and Sam told me the same thing.”
Sergeant Major Sampson stops laughing seeing how serious the Sergeant is he says, “That would explain why Reese would not tell me over the phone. Who would believe it, that an eighteen-year-old could have money like that?”
After that we leave for the hotel and I can tell Sergeant Sampson is dying to ask the question so I say, “The Sergeant told you? No, I did not lie to her. Kathryn and I seem to make it faster than we can give it away or spend it.”
He just shakes his head in disbelief before he begins to chuckle. “Reese showed me her trading, I thought it was one of those trial accounts where you can put in as much money as you want to start with, but it was real wasn’t it?”
I ask him, “Did it have around seven million in it?”
When he shakes his head yes I continue, “You must’ve seen it when she came back to start her separation, that was after a really good week.”
The look on his face has us laughing. Before he gets the wrong idea I say, “When we get to the hotel I can show you, Ron is there, he can confirm that were not pulling your leg.”
It only takes a few minutes more to get to the hotel, and we go up to our suites, I find Ron, he begins to chuckle seeing the washed-out face of his friend. Ron says, “You must’ve found out what JJ is really doing for us. That he intends to do the same thing for you, is kind of like someone handing you the winning lottery ticket and only say you need to buy one with these numbers and hand it to a friend.”
Sergeant Major Sampson only numbly shakes his head yes. Chuckling at his battle-hardened friend Ron retrieves his laptop bringing open his account shows it to the Sergeant Major. Ron’s friend eyes go wide at seeing the total on his account. The Sergeant major stutters, “That, that, that’s more money than the unit has to spend all year.”
Chuckling Ron says, “That’s my account, and Reese’s account is slightly larger, and she loves to rub it in my face.”
Sergeant Major Sampson seems to come out of his shock at that. Laughing for a moment he says, “That sounds just like her.”
Ron continues, “What she doesn’t realize is I bought some land right next to the rest of us and our house will be just off MC’s property. I have already talked to her and she is going to allow the driveway to our home be extended from her driveway. The house will get started shortly after the weather improves. Probably about March or April, Daniel is going over floor plans with her. She is thinking it will be sometime next year before we have a house built. I’m really looking forward to surprising her.”
The two friends catch up, and I enjoy hearing some of the stories the Sergeant tells. Sam is setting in my lap and the events of the day have begun to wear on her, she falls asleep with her head against my chest and I allowed her to sleep. When Sam tries moving to make herself more comfortable, I simply lie back and allow her to stretch out on my chest. Ron and the Sergeant Major chuckle quietly at seeing Sam. Ron says, “She loves to sleep on her Daddy’s chest. JJ has spoiled her.”
The Sergeant Major chuckles, “Captain Sheridan, her first Dad would allow her do that too. JJ is just continuing what was already started.” I only smile not wanting to wake Sam from her nap. I gently massage her back to keep her asleep.
In a soft voice Ron says, “JJ is a damn good Dad, he seems to know exactly when Sam will wake up from a bad dream. On New Year’s Eve he got there just as she woke up, Kathryn was bragging on him. She has the security footage of the event saved. She was showing it to her father and brothers and Reese pulled me in to watch it.”
I had better have her stop doing that. I do not want my brother-in-laws to feel bad if they cannot do that too. I do not want Kathryn to be prideful on things I have no idea how they work, or why. Maybe Sam’s Angel Mommy or Daddy let me know. I am sure that is an idea that may not get a lot of credence, but makes more sense to me than anything else.
I did not even realize how tired I was, until Sam, shifting as she got up woke me. A couple hours had passed and I look around the large living room. Ron is nowhere in sight, and from the sounds coming from behind one of the doors I think the Coach and Helen are taking the opportunity to get closer.
Sam figures out where the bathroom is, and she disappears in a bedroom for a few minutes. I am setting up on the couch stretching as Sam returns. Seeing the darkening skies, I am near a panic because I have not gotten the security guards yet.
Sam giggles at seeing my face, setting back down in my lap she says, “Don’t worry about it Daddy, Uncle Marshall took care of the security guards. Uncle Ron told the Sergeant Major about what we are afraid of tonight. Right after you fell asleep, I woke up and listen to them make plans. Everything is going to be all right Daddy.”
The main door opens and Ron steps in, at seeing me awake he says, “I’ll have to remember that I can get away with that too.” He chuckles a moment before he continues, “You are out like a light almost as soon as Sam was asleep on your chest. You better call Kathryn back, I told her you had Sam I’m your chest and the both of you were asleep.”
Ron is right I can since her impatience and her need to speak to me. I can feel the distance between the two of us, but our bond is stronger now and we are still connected. Calling Kathryn, she picks up before the first ring and I smile as she says, “Hello sleepyhead.”
With a chuckle I say, “It was Sam’s fault, she knock me down in the comfortable couch, and then she held me down until I fell asleep.”
Sam still in my lap differs, “Daddy, that’s not true.”
Giggling Kathryn says, “JJ don’t blame your daughter for you falling asleep, I know you didn’t get much last night so you probably really needed it. Just so you don’t blame yourself Crystal did that for me too.”
I look around the room, and Ron has gone into the kitchen that is part of this large sweet. I tell Kathryn, “You know I still can feel you. I guess our bond has gotten stronger. I knew how bad you needed me to call you, and that you were impatient.”
Kathryn giggles, “I was just wondering how long you were going to sleep, Reese got me up half an hour ago to tell me about their precautions for tonight.”
Sam from my lap says, “I just told Daddy he doesn’t have anything to worry about Mommy.”
I move the phone closer to Sam and Kathryn says, “I know everything is going to go fine Sam, but you to stay on your toes just in case. Now what are your grandma and grandpa up to?”
Sam giggles and says, “They are in their bedroom, making funny noises.”
Kathryn giggles for a few moments finally she says, “I hope you found some bikes, because Reese said the Post Exchange usually keeps a large quantity on hand.”
Chuckling I say, “Sam and I have completed our secondary mission.”
I take pictures of the bike setting near the large window that shows a half-gray sky as clouds move in. I send the photographs to Kathryn’s phone. Kathryn has Cindy and Crystal with her as soon as the photos pop up the two girls squeal in happiness. I can feel Kathryn’s joy, and the pain from the high-pitched squeal the girls gave her.
Chuckling from our shared joy I say, “From their reaction I think Sam did pretty good, she picked out the bikes.”
Kathryn holds the phone to Crystal’s ear. Crystal is excited as she says, “I get the smaller blue one right? It is just like Sam’s yellow one, just like Sam told me. I do like blue, Daddy. Thank you Daddy, thank you Sam.”
That makes the trip worth it, the fact that my girls are so happy with their bikes. Having my girls being happy is what I live for. Kathryn passes the phone to Cindy, and she is just as excited as Crystal. In a very happy voice she says, “Aunt Kathryn said you were going to get us bikes in Texas because there wasn’t any around here. Thank you Uncle JJ. Kara said you would get them. Tell Sam thank you too.”
Sam says, “You’re welcome Cindy.”
I say, “I wish I could’ve gave it to you sooner. I didn’t want to disappoint you.”
Cindy giggles then says, “You didn’t disappoint me Uncle JJ. I knew it would take some time, and Aunt Kathryn explained about not having any here. Aunt Kathryn and you are the first two people in my life who ever worried about me. I love you Uncle JJ.”
Kathryn coming back on the phone says, “You have two very happy young girls that really want to give you hugs and kisses for their bikes. You better make sure you’re here tomorrow to get them.”
Smiling I say, “I’m really looking forward to getting home. Even though I still feel you with me, I would much rather be in your arms.”
Kathryn sighs then says, “I know my love, give me a call once everything is okay.”
“I promise I will.”
Sam from my lap says, “Mommy I’ll make sure Daddy does.”
Kathryn says, “I love you, talk to you later. Goodbye.”
Sam replies, “Love you Mommy, goodbye.”
Smiling I say, “Love you more, I’ll talk to you later goodbye.” I hang up, knowing Kathryn is doing the same. We have just a little while, and I asked Sam she has the dress her Mom wants her to wear.
Sam says brightly, “It’s in the same suit bag as your suit Daddy.”
Looking at my beautiful Princess I say, “Sam, go get ready, I’ll take a shower after you finish.”
I am very thankful and grateful that Kathryn and my Mother were looking out for me, I was so worried this morning I nearly forgot our luggage. The two keep me grounded, I have not been this nervous since our wedding and Kathryn knows it. This almost feels like the last time I went up for my certification on my last black belt. I nervously walk over to the kitchen, maybe talking with Ron and Marshall will help.
Ron hands me a brisket sandwich, “Eat this, they’ll be food there but probably not until an hour or so after the presentations. That would be a good three hours from now. We can get away with giving Sam a snack, but you on the other hand have to be tougher than that. You really do not understand what this concerns. Sam’s parents were Rangers, normally would something like this happens we tried to get the child placed with another Ranger family. There are more than a few Rangers that really wanted Sam. You really impressed Reese and I, the Sergeant Major seen that Sam belongs with you too. They may be a challenge or two tonight. You cannot back down from them. They got this stupid machine there that measures how hard you can punch, expect at least a couple guys challenging you to see who can hit it the hardest.”
Marshall chuckles remember how many two by fours that I can break. He says, “JJ I hope you’re not out of practice too much. But I do remember you can break what was it five two by fours.”
Looking at Marshall I say, “It was four, in that demonstration I put on. My sensei had me break six as part of my challenge for my last belt.”
Ron chuckles, “Oh, this is going to be good. That stupid machine list how hard you hit it, so far no one has maxed it out. It lists, everything from a touch to a killing blow, so far no one is got past knockout.”
Catching his point I say, “So if I hit that thing hard enough, I won’t have to have a fist fight.”
Chuckling Ron says, “If you hit hard enough, no one will bother you.”
Sam squeals, “Daddy help!” That sends me running, through the bedroom door and jump across the bed into the bathroom, my socks slide on the bathroom floor, and I catch myself on the sink. Sam is in the shower and she hollers again.
Opening the shower door, Sam completely covered in soapsuds from her shampoo. Sam complains, “I got soap in my eyes.” There are chuckles from the bathroom doorway; Ron and Marshall stand there having followed. I am at a loss at what to do.
Marshall asks Ron, “You think we will be anything like that.”
Ron answering, “You know we probably will, maybe not that fast.”
Helen coming to the door asks, “What’s the problem?”
Sam still complains, “I got soap in my eyes, Daddy is no help.”
Pushing her way in, Helen pushes me aside saying, “Men, you just are no help for little girls in the shower. Now go on and get out.”
The three of us retreat, taking lot little pride we have left. My father in law chuckles before he says, “Being the father of girls I know what this feels like. Don’t worry it usually passes.”
Ron asks, “You mean your daughters grew out of it?”
The Coach chuckles and says, “No, I just got accustomed to it.”
Two hours later finds us dressed standing at the reception line for Sergeant Major Sampson, I shake his hand and look at the Silver Star he just received for his last tour of duty. His dress uniform has an impressive amount of metals, and I believe he earned every single one.
I get a picture of him and Sam, a second with him and Ron, one with his family, and one with the commander and him. Kathryn had packed my camera with all my lenses and the better of the two flashes I have. The picture should be very good, and judging from my display, they are.
Sam gets our attention, and a heavy rain has started. She directs Ron to a man standing apart from everyone else. She tells me it is time the man comes in he will be wearing a raincoat. I will be able to see the shotgun from under it. I walk to the door, as Helen and the coach stay near Sergeant Major Sampson and Sam, Sam does just as she promised. Well three steps away from the door it opens, the man that comes in has trouble written all over him. You can see how tense he is; feel his anger even from this distance.
I do not hesitate; immediately I closed the distance an open palm strike to his rib cage forces the air out of his lungs. As he is moving backwards from the strike, I strike again this time to the nerve that runs down the arm, it does not do any lasting damage but his arm goes limp instantly. The shotgun falls a couple inches and I catch it, pulling it out from underneath the raincoat. My offhand strikes hitting him on the chin knocking him out for at least half an hour and he crumples to the ground.
I break the shotgun down and remove the two shells before moving to the bar and handing it to the bartender. She is shocked at what just occurred and how quickly it ended. Looking over my shoulder, I realized the room has gone silent. Until the Sergeant Major shouts, “Time to disarm .4 seconds.”
The bartender looks at me smiles and says, “We get a couple fools who try that. It’s usually takes a second before they stand down realizing their badly outgunned.”
Turning back towards the door, the bouncers already have restraints binding his hands and feet. The bartender says, “The police should be here in a minute or two.” One of the bouncers gently pulls a hand grenade from a pocket on his raincoat. He places it out of reach of the man. I realize how much damage something like that could do in this crowded restaurant.
The room breaks out into the normal volume of talking, bar orders shouted, as everything was five seconds before it started. I walk back to the Sergeant Major who now holds Sam; he says to me, “That was well done.”
I call to Kathryn, and I explain, “That everything went perfectly, no one is hurt and we should be coming home on time.” We exchanged our love, and goodbyes.
Ron was right it does not take a few minutes more before someone challenges me on the punch omanic. They let me go first; I got a feeling because they do not want to show their technique. There’s a square painted on the floor in front of the machine, and you are supposed to punch from within the square. I stand in the square facing the machine. The distance gives me enough room for about nine inch draw on my punch. I ready myself the same way I would do before breaking the two by fours. Putting that same energy into my punch, I release and pushed through the target. Many in the crowd had turned to watch in the noise level had dropped quite a bit. The police had just arrived and revived the armed robber. As I make contact with the machine it forces a padded arm that measures the impact backward, when my punch stops the machine through a loudspeaker announces, “Killing blow.”
The room goes completely silent for a few moments, and then Sam shouts, “Yeah Daddy.” There is wild thunder of laughter that fills the room, and I watch as Ron collects his winnings from several people.
Mitch turns out to be a really cool person. He and Marshall hit it right off and I can tell I have just added a friend to our circle. Mitch a bit uncertain about joining us before our meeting, but now seems at ease with it.
Two more times I received challenges, on my last challenge I let them go first. They come charging at the machine and launched their punch from within the square but they were already moving. The loudspeaker announces, knockout for each of the two challengers. Again, I stood in the square using a bill to measure six inches, taking a third off the distance I had to throw the punch. My two challengers shook their heads thinking I handicap myself.
One of them points out, “You did not use your fist on our unwanted guest, I bet you cannot hit as hard with an open hand.”
What he did not realize I practiced for years not with my fist but using an open hand for my attack, the one time I actually broke six two by fours was with an open hand. I usually do not hit as hard with my fist because I know I can break the smaller bones in my hand that way. I smile and ask, “What do you want to bet?”
What he says surprises me. It causes a cold chill to run down my spine. His reply is, “Sam.”
I look at him straight in the eye before I say, “I would bet you ever cent I have before I would bet you my daughter. Hell, I would bet my own life first.”
His friend look shocked too; looking at me, he asks, “What makes you good enough to raise Sam?”
The stupid machine has a timer on it, and it began counting down through the loudspeaker. As it begins at ten seconds, I say, “Because I have killed to protect her, I risked my life to do that, and if it requires me to give up my life to protect her I will.” With my open hand six inches from the machine I release my strike on the count of two, the machine announces killing blow instead of saying one.
Turning back to him I say, “I risked my life more than once, to keep Sam safe I would do it again. If you have to ask why it is simple, I love her; she is my green eyed Princess, my daughter.”
Sam comes running through the crowd jumping in mid-flight she shouts, “Daddy catch me.”
My arms open I catch Sam with a loud thud. There is more than one chuckle from around us. I ask, “What is the matter Sam?”
Sam quickly says, “Uncle Marshall is going to get me.”
Chuckling I say, “Did you take his cookie again? If you did you know he is just going to tickle you.”
Sam defends herself by saying, “Aunt Misty told me not to let him have too many.” There is more than a few laughs from around us as Marshall stopped him seeing me in my stance throws his hands up and spins around he retreats.
Putting Sam down I say to her, “You are going to have to apologize, and explain why you take his cookies.”
Sam looks down and gives pouting face that is just too cute for anyone to stay mad at her, even though I never was. Sam says, “Okay Daddy I will.” There is a few more chuckles from around us.
The man who question my ability to raise Sam gives me a smile before he says, “Hey Sam’s Dad.” He tosses me a unit coin; it bears the insignia of the US. Army on one side and his unit on the other. He says, “If anybody ever asks you that stupid question again just show them the coin.”
The next day we bring the bicycles early in their loaded in the plane. We meet them just before 9 o’clock at security with our flight information. A Stewart from our flight explained to security about it being a chartered flight and no boarding passes issued. When our group identified from a list, they are ushered through with minimal checks.
The first thing Sergeant Major Sampson says to us “Now that I’m retired I want you to call me Charles from now on.” Jokingly he explained, “I’ve had twenty-four years of my life where people referred to me by Sergeant, it’s going to be nice to be reminded my first name isn’t Sergeant.”
They are slightly confused, expecting boarding passes when we lead them to a gate with no flight number. Looking at the rather large aircraft at the gate Sam says, “That’s a really big airplane we’re taking home. It’s a lot bigger than the one we flew here on.”
I tell Sam, “We had to get a larger plane, because we have four more people and their household goods.”
Jane Sampson who looks a little shocked at first but recovers quickly smiling she says, “You mean I’m not going to have to wait weeks for my stuff to arrive.”
Ron shakes his head no. Marshall says, “Reese worried herself sick waiting for this big guy to show up. I think JJ was just as bad, that is why we planned this. No waiting for you. Charles doesn’t have to drive a truck for a day straight.”
Chuckling at their expressions Ron says, “You can think Reese when we arrive. JJ covered the plane out here, but Reese is paying for this one.”
Sam giggles, “Daddy wanted to pay for it, but Reese made Daddy take the money.”
Charles laughs, “Reese can be very persuasive when she wants something.”
Joining in the laughter Ron says, “You better believe it, I just learned to give her anything she wants. I figure if I keep her happy, I will be happy too.”
Jane looking at her husband says, “Told you he was smart, he’s been married less than six months and already figured it out.”
Marshall says, “He had a pretty good example in JJ.”
Everyone’s attention turns to me and I say, “I just followed along with what Dad was doing with Helen. I figured he was doing something right, she has eight kids, looks great and seems to be happy with him.”
Helen giggles and then says, “Most of the time I am, but he has to figure out how to know when I’m not.”
Sam giggling let my secret slip, “Daddy can feel Mommy’s emotions, and if he gets a worried look Mommy is not happy. All I got to do is make sure Mommy isn’t mad at me.”
Chuckling along with everyone else, I scooped Sam up. Looking her in the face I say, “You been doing really good at keeping Mommy happy my green eyed Princess. You follow the rules, and you are great at helping. You’re going to be a great example for your little sisters to follow.”
The flight attendant comes to the door in a bright voice she says, “Everything is ready you can board now.”
We are lucky it does not take very long before we taxi into position and liftoff. Ron, Marshall and Mitch are nervous, but Mitch is new to our group. Maybe I am getting a little more used to it, but Charles is cool as a cucumber. Sam and Jim on the other hand are excited. Jane holds to her husband’s hand, she seems to be a little nervous too.
We are going home, I could not feel more fortunate, and I find myself sharing Sam’s excitement. There is the same amount of phone calls today, but they feel more cheerful. The closer we get to home the easier it is for me to feel my wife’s happiness.
Kathryn and I share our last phone call from the airplane at just over an hour out. She giggles at Crystal as she dances around, because she is so happy. Crystal is singing, “Daddies coming home and he is bringing me a bike.”
Kathryn says, “Trust me she’s more excited about you coming home. The bicycle is just the cherry on top.”
Smiling as I realize it, “Crystal is just like you Kathryn, of course she’s happy about me coming home, but she knows I want to spoil her.”
Giggling Kathryn says, “In that case what are you bringing home for me?”
Chuckling I say, “A lot of love, a green eyed Princess, four new friends, six new bicycles and a surprise if you don’t read my mind.” I quickly picture the jewelry store in the airport to mislead her. What I got was a new quilt from the restaurant this morning, one perfect for Amanda and her to cuddle under together.
Kathryn laughs for a moment and says, “Nice try, but the quilt will be perfect. Mom picked up a rocking chair yesterday. We forgot to get underwear for Cindy and Crystal, so we went shopping again.”
Laughing I say, “Oh, I’m glad you didn’t go to Victoria’s Secret’s trying to pick up underwear for the girls. What we have works both ways Love.”
Kathryn says, “Like I would have any secrets from you anyway. Maybe that’s why we are like this, we want to share everything with each other.”
Realizing she is absolutely correct I say, “That’s true, the first thing I want to do when I get back is...”
Interrupting me Kathryn says, “Take me to bed, we both didn’t sleep any last night.” That was true; Kathryn and I did not sleep. Sam slept on my chest, but I could not. Maybe the only reason I slept that afternoon was that Kathryn slept with Crystal on her shoulder. Last night we felt the separation, just like the night before our wedding. The retirement party happened before the effects of our separation hit us the hardest at bedtime.
Maybe that is the thing, Kathryn and I need to sleep together. We can be a part during the day, like when I go to school in the morning. Kathryn normally joins me in the afternoon when she brings Sam. We share lunchtime and Sam stays to take part in the self-defense classes. We were apart much longer than normal, but we did not feel the effects until bedtime. We are addicted to sleeping with each other, and like with any addiction you do suffer withdrawals when you do not have it.
That last hour seems to pass the slowest. We actually get a very good look at the lake as we fly over. Sam points out our house to the Simpsons, the glass enclosed pool and patio shine in the sunlight. Ten minutes later we are on final approach, the pilot brings us in with only a mild bump as we touched down. Jane only gave her husband a quick squeeze on his hand as we landed. The pilot begins breaking hard due to the short runway, and Jane again squeezes Charles’ hand tightly. Charles is as cool as a cucumber, not phased at all.
Once the pilot had stopped the plane Charles looked at his wife and says, “That was a very good landing, although I think the pilot may have braked a little harder than he needed, but better safe than sorry.”
The pilot begins to move the aircraft again this time we are taxing up to the largest gate of our airport. The terminal here is not large, with only four gates, we normally only have two to four flights a week in here. Our airport has just opened the terminal, and we take flights in mostly on the weekends, some people preferring to fly and use a rental car locally. This is one of the largest aircraft to land at our airport, and I had to double check to verify we could land here.
Because this is a charter flight, the flight crew stored our carry-on for us, along with the bicycles they will bring them to the gate for us. We stopped at the gate, which extends to the aircraft. Our hatch is open Sam is the first off follow by me, just past the security gate Sam is wrapped by Kathryn who has tears of joy at her daughter’s return. I wrapped the two in a hug. Misty practically knocks Marshall over with her greeting. George and Alyssa giggle at them. Mom gets my attention and I give her a hug after giving Kathryn a long kiss. Poor Sam squeezed between us, when I moved I heard her breathing hard. Sam complaints, “Mommy, Daddy, you nearly suffocated me.”
Charles is laughing hard, as I introduced him to Kathryn. “If you haven’t guessed this is Kathryn my wife. Sam made the mistake of getting between us.”
Sam giggling says, “I don’t mind, but you got to let me come up for air. Daddy, remember I missed Mommy too.”
Daniel passes me Crystal who has been trying to get into my arms since seeing me. Crystal says, “Daddy I missed you. I’m glad you took care of the bad man.”
I begin giving Crystal kisses to her cheeks and she giggles at my affection. After about twenty or so I say, “I missed you my beautiful Princess.”
I turned to Cindy who is in Kara’s arms and I reach for her. She comes into my embrace and I hold her close. I give her a few kisses on her cheek not wanting to overdo it. I smile at her face and say, “How is my niece, because I missed you too.”
Cindy giggles, “I’m great Uncle JJ, and I missed you too.”
The flight attendants wheel off the bikes and Cindy can see hers over my shoulder. She lights up, “Uncle JJ I love you, and you really did bring me a bike all the way from Texas.” I set the girls down so they can look over their bikes. They run to them, thank the flight attendants. Their bikes surprise my other two nieces and my nephew. The kids push the bikes to us, with the biggest smiles on their young faces.
Jimmy, who is gotten a job at the airport, comes up to me he smiles and says, “JJ, your cargo can be delivered in about two hours. We need to move it to a flatbed after finishing offloading it.”
I returned a smile and say, “That will be great, Jimmy. Thank you.”
Jane says, “Young man no need to rush, just handle it with care.”
Jimmy always polite says, “Yes mam we will, just like it was my own mother’s household belongings.”
Jane smiles and says, “Think you Jimmy.”
I take Crystal back into my arms she squeezes me tight and slides up to give me a kiss. I cannot help but notice that Cindy is in Daniel’s arms, Kathryn and Sam holds each other, Misty and Marshall still have not stopped kissing. Ron and Reese still are each other’s arms too, but they now talk to Charles, Jane, Jim, and Mitch.
We began introductions after a few more moments. With the return of our carry-on luggage, we begin walking out the airport. It is not very long before we are heading home. It is only two in the afternoon nearly time for Sam and Crystal’s nap. We give the Sampsons and Mitch a quick tour of our house, inviting them to use the pool or any other facility they want. We walk them over to the 1924 home, and I hand Charles the keys.
Cindy asks if she could spend some time with Kara instead of taking a nap because she is too old for that. I smile and pull her into a long hug before telling her, “I really did miss you, but I understand how you feel about Kara and Daniel.”
I ask Kara, “You do not mind watching Cindy? Your baby sister and I really need a nap.” Kara somewhat confused but shakes her head no and opens her arms for Cindy. Kathryn and I take Sam and Crystal back to our room for a nap.