PennyBassett Fanfiction

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Mr. Clever
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PennyBassett wrote:I think it will be made clear in the next chapter... maybe.
Ahh! The art of clickbait and cliffhanger. Genious.
“We all change. When you think about it, we’re all different people, all through our lives. And that’s okay, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all the people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this, not one day. I swear. I will always remember when the Doctor was me.” - Matt Smith
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Fudge Marble
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So... I guess I'm posting Chapter 9 now. It really doesn't give you many more answers... It actually just kind of raises new ones.
Chapter 9
“Hey, how are you?” I asked, leaning against the counter at Whit’s End. Jules blushed.
“I’m fine. Have you talked to your parents yet?”
“No… have you talked to Connie?”
“Well- not exactly. She’s been acting weird lately. Something’s up. And Jason’s been strange. I don’t want to add to her load.”
“All she has to do is say yes.”
“Why haven’t you asked Eugene and Katrina yet?”
“We’ve been distant. With everything going on- I think Katrina’s afraid to go back to school.”
“Aren’t you?”
“Yes. But I can at least try to blend in, you know?”
“Yeah. Maybe you could do something for her. Let her know you understand. Then ask about dating. I really don’t think she’d be too opposed to it.”
“Yeah. You’re probably right. As usual.”
“Mhm. Go talk to her.”
“All right. I will. I’ll call you later, okay?”
I turned to leave.
“It’s okay to be sad.”
Nodding in false understanding, I left in a hurry.

“Mom?” I loved calling her mom. Katrina was sitting on the couch watching TV, her knees pulled up to her chin. She didn’t look at me.
“Can we talk?”
She took a deep breath and turned off the television.
“I wanted to apologize,” I began. “I’ve been complaining a lot lately. I realize these changes are difficult for you with school and everything, and I’m not helping by being cynical about things.”
“Hey, we’re all adjusting in different ways. You try to logic your way out of things and get angry. Eugene tries to find the bright side- which has been hard. And I watch TV.”
“What about Liz?”
“I think she just throws more tantrums.”
We both laughed.
“Oh! Also, I bought you chocolate to say sorry,” I handed her the bag of MnMs. She looked at me with a suspicious eyebrow raised. Her eyes remaining locked to mine, she opened the bag and popped a candy into her mouth.
“Hm,” she shook her head, “These… are bribery Mnms.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. Feeling my forehead grow red, I admitted the truth.
“I- that’s is, Jules and I- we want to date.”
“I knew it!” She gasped. Standing up, she threw an MnM at me.
“Hey! That hurt!” I said, laughing at her reaction. “So, can we?”
“I’m fine with it! Ask your dad first.”
“Yes! Thank you!”
“Sure. Awe, my bear’s first girlfriend!” She smiled in realization. I rolled my eyes but grinned all the same.

“It’s just a lot to take in, you know?” I asked Penny, who was thoughtfully sipping her cup of tea.
“Yeah. I mean- it’s confusing. Are you sure you can’t tell me more?”
“I don’t want to scare you,” I muttered.
“You what?”
“I don’t want to scare you,” I forced out.
Swallowing hard, a deep fear cut through her eyes. My firm stare told her not to ask any more questions. She took a restrained breath and didn’t speak for a moment.
“You said this was your idea?”
I nodded, second guessing myself.
“Then it sounds like you’re being very brave in making this decision, and should follow through with it,” she assured me.
I nodded. She was right. Hm. Penny had become very wise since she’d gotten married.
“Thanks, Penny,” I got up and hugged her before leaving.

I typed more dialogue into my computer, then feeling satisfied, returned to the character art I’d spent the last three days on. Penny’s arms wrapped around my neck.
“What’re you working on?” She asked, kissing the top of my head.
“Doctor William Edek,” I explained. “He saved up money for fifty thousand years- he’s an alien with a super long life span. After he’d saved up billions of dollars, he sits in front of his cave of riches- guarding it.”
“Does he ever leave?”
“Nope. He just sits there and lets no one in.”
“How was your conversation with Connie?”
She took a deep breath.
“Well. It was okay. She and Jason are getting married.”
“For precautionary reasons she said.”
I just looked at her in confusion.
“I don’t understand either. She seems really stressed though.”
“We should start a club,” I snorted.
“Tell me about it. Have the sales gotten any better?”
“…no,” I said quickly, pushing down hurt.
“It’ll get better,” she said assuredly, “It has to.”
“Did you tell Connie?” I asked, wanting nothing more than to change the subject.
“No. The- the timing wasn’t right. And- I was too scared. Something’s really wrong.”

Aren’t wedding days supposed to be happy?

I didn’t think it would be like this.

I picked her up at her house. Dad came with us. I told him the night Connie went out with Jeff. He didn’t necessarily agree with the decision, but he supported us. We didn’t say much on the way there. What was there to say? It was just weird. Connie and I’d never been in love. We loved each other like siblings. There’d never been anything more. Besides, Connie was dating Jeff. I didn’t fit into that.

It would have felt more natural- but there was the nagging reality. If this payed off, we’d have to act like we were married. I would have to change my last name. We’d move in together. And Jeff wouldn’t fit into the equation because- it hurts to think about it now.

The “ceremony” was awkward and rushed. We wanted to be done with it. Few words were said. The justice of the peace felt as uncomfortable as we did- as well as confused. And it wasn’t happy. It was tragic. The only thing it ended up changing was our money situation.

That would be difficult to figure out. We handed our marriage certificate to Whit, who folded it and put it in his pocket. He gave us a fatherly look of disapproval. To which we bit back our arguments. We’d decided. For better or for worse, right?
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse
Jo March
Raspberry Ripple
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Yeah that was pretty confusing... But GREAT job nonetheless!!!!
Jo March
"There is no such thing as impossible. The word itself says I'm possible."-Audrey Hepburn
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” –C.S. Lewis
“No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.” P.T. Barnum
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Raspberry Ripple
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Jo March wrote:

Yeah that was pretty confusing... But GREAT job nonetheless!!!!
Ok... Wow I still don't get the marriage thing? But I second jo March awesome!
(And your posting so fast \:D/ )
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Fudge Marble
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Yeah, I've been writing a ton lately!
Alrighty, friends here's Chapter 10. You can get excited now. This thing was six pages on my computer with the font size at 11, so it's a big one. And does it answer any more questions? Will you be less confused? Slightly.

Chapter 10 (Part 1)
I swallowed. Took a breath in. Let it out. I sat up, and glancing at the time, I rubbed my head with my fingers. 5:00. Alright, Jesus. Help me get through today. It was the prayer I’d prayed every day before school ever since I started teaching. Most of the time I loved my job, but for the times I didn’t love it, I needed to show my students grace anyway. This was one of those days. Eugene stirred next to me. His movement startled me and made me realize how nervous I was. Telling my heart rate to calm down, I turned off the alarm I knew would go off in fifteen minutes. I didn’t want to get out of bed yet. I pulled the covers off my legs. Brushing aside nerve-racking thoughts, I looked down at my silk periwinkle blue pajamas. I felt so pretty in them. They were some of the few colorful clothes I owned anymore. Everyone quickly realized how pointless it was to wear colorful clothing when we’d have to go back to wearing beige, white, and brown when we went out in public. So then, it became that wearing anything of bright color was considered a privilege.
“Hi,” I half-smiled as our fingers intertwined. “I don’t wanna go,” I sniffed, slipping back into his embrace. My head against his chest, he whispered.
“I know. Buck is scared too.”
“Yeah. Yeah, I’ll talk to him.”

I tried to keep my eyes on the road instead of letting them slip to the side of my version to try to catch- just a glimpse- of my son, who had been silent since we’d left home.
“Did you hear me?”
“Yeah,” he said, hoarsely. “I’m indifferent. It hurts, but I’m used to hurting. If people don’t like me I don’t care. If they make fun of me I’m far past caring if my feelings being hurt. If people physically hurt me, I’ll enjoy the pain.”
“I’m sorry.” He still forgot so often that someone cared.
“Don’t do that.”
“Do what?”
“Treat me like I’m a child. You don’t have to protect me all the time.”
“I wasn’t trying to protect-”
“And you didn’t start teaching at the high school because of me.”
He got me there. I sighed.
“I worry about you.”
“And I wish you wouldn’t.”
“You just said you enjoyed pain!”
“You would too if you’d been through what I have.”
“That doesn’t mean it’s right.”
“I didn’t say it was but making me feel guilty won’t help that!”
“I’m sorry. I think we’re both stressed.”
“Did you talk to Jules this morning?”
“Yeah, she’s scared. I’ll find her before first period.”

My palms were damp when I sat down at my desk. It felt good to be back. Having organized my things, all there was to do was wait for the kids. The halls were crowded with kids laughing and cursing at each other, dropping books, throwing things. To be honest I hated working at the high school- compared to middle school. Everyone in the middle school was nicer. They weren’t always perfectly behaved, but they still cared. No one in this building cared. I took a deep breath. That was my job. I had to remind myself. To make them care. I had made a name for myself the year before. They knew I cared and that I wanted the best for them. I didn’t fall for the kids who come off as well-meaning but those who actually were. I stood up for the underdog of the class. I was needed at that school.
“Morning Mrs. Meltsner,” Dion smiled as he came in with calm order and took his seat at the front of the class.
“Good morning Dion. Are you excited to be back?”
“Well, I like to get away from home for a while every day. I’m not as big of a fan of the workload.”
“Yeah well, neither am I.”
More students were trickling in at this point. Trying not to stare as they came in and found their seats. I took comfort in the few students following the same dress code and mennat. They all sat at the back together, exchanging friendly half-smiles to cover the shame in their eyes. I felt it too.
“Alright, class. Good morning. For those of you who are new, my name is Mrs. Meltsner. I’ll be your Literature teacher for the duration of the school year. I should tell you right now that I do not favor you for your flattery or the number of friends you have, rather, I will reward those who excel academically and morally. Also, as one who is a mother, I am always available for emotional support. So, if you ever need to talk, I’m here to listen. To me, your mental wellbeing is as important as your physical.”
I took a deep breath and looked over my students. They didn’t care. I needed them to care. I needed them to trust me.

“It’s so stupid,” Jay said, dropping his fork onto his plate. “People shouldn’t have to be labeled like this.”
“It’s cruel,” Zoe added. “I mean- Buddy didn’t even come to school today. I texted him and he said he was too scared. He’s trying to get his parents to homeschool him.”
“I still don’t get it. If you don’t want everyone to know that you’re Christian, then don’t register,” I suggested.
“But it’s not as simple as that,” she explained, “Just as registering says you are a Christian, not registering is telling everyone you’re not.”
“So, you’re not?” I asked.
“You’re not registered. So, you’re not a Christian?”
“My parents aren’t Christians. They don’t know I am one. Actually, they would probably be pretty mad if they found out.”
“Then, maybe you should. You know. What if- Nah. That’s dumb.”
“No. What?”
“Well. What if we all went by the dress code. Just for a day. Let them know that even if we don’t agree we want to stand by them,” I said.
“…okay. That sounds like a good idea.” Zoe agreed.
“Wait but we have to register to wear the mennants- or whatever they’re called.”
“Mennats. And we wouldn’t have to register. We just wear the right colors. It’s like- the stories of people shaving their heads for a friend with cancer.”
“Dion. Not everyone will like this,” Jay swallowed. I knew he was thinking about Vance. I smiled.
“Then they’ll be the minority.”

Jules and I walked into school. It’d been a month since the first day. I wore khaki shorts and a white collared shirt. I’ve looked worse. Jules laughed when she saw me and said my mennat added to my outfit. Then we stopped by Jenkin’s store before school and bought a bracelet that had the same black color in it. I had begun to wear collared shirts more because I could wear my mennat underneath my collar.
Jules wore a white dress like she usually did. She always looked nice in white, no matter how much she complained that she was tired of it.
“Are you coming tonight?” She asked as we opened our side-by-side lockers.
“Of course. I’m excited. Do you know who's going?”
“A lot of people,” she smiled. “Connie and Jeff have a lot of friends so… I don’t know? At least a hundred people.”
“That’s awesome.”
“What are you wearing?”
“A blue suit.”
“With gold shoes and a tie.”
“You’re not serious!”
“I’m so serious.”
“That’s amazing.”
“I thought we should match.”
“Well, that’s sweet of you," she laughed, kissing my cheek.
“Hey, you lovebirds!” Jackie laughed, as I wrapped my hands around Jules’ waist. “Notice anything different?”
“Look around!”
We backed away from each other and looked around the hall. Everyone was wearing beige, brown, and white. A giant sign hung in the middle of the hall that read, ‘Support Christianity.’
“That’s dumb,” Jules snapped. I laughed.
“What does that even mean?”
“Everyone’s doing it. Everyone agrees that this dress code thing is weird. We want to stand with you in your bravery to register as Christians.”
“But that’s so ludicrous. That'd be like people who aren’t LGBT wearing rainbow clothing for a day,” Matthew added, walking up to us.
“To show their support!” Jackie finished excitedly.
“Okay bad example," Matthew admitted.
“From our perspective, it’s like the celebrity taking a drive through a poor neighborhood in a limousine and leaving saying he’s a supporter and his life has been changed even though he didn’t talk to or help anyone. It’s great that you feel better now that you’ve dressed like a Christian. But it really doesn’t do anything but make us look like victims,” I said, turning to put another book in my locker.
“If you want to stand with us, then devote your life to Jesus and join the family. If you aren’t going to do that then, just- don’t make a big deal out of it,” Jules requested.
“So, um, thanks, but no thanks,” Matthew concluded.
We walked away, leaving an ashamed Jackie and other onlookers to glance at each other.
Chapter 10 (Part 2)
After school, I went straight to Whit’s End, which was closed for the evening. Jeff let me in.
“Hey, future sister-in-law.”
“Ah- half-sister-in-law.”
“Oh. Right. Well then, greetings future-half-sister-in-law!”
“Greetings to you as well.”
“Jules. Connie and I. We’re getting married,” he said, smiling bigger than I’d ever seen him smile. I laughed.
Excited?! Jules, I have been waiting for this for fifteen years.”
“I wonder if Buck and I will have to wait fifteen years.”
“I seriously doubt it.”
“That’s encouraging. Have you picked a day for the wedding yet?"
“Yeah. January 26th. Oh! I almost forgot! I picked up your dress today! It’s upstairs!”
“Thank you so much. What time is it?”
“Almost four.”
“Okay I better go get ready. Thanks again! I owe you one!”
I ran into Connie on the way up the stairs.
“Hey, Jules. Okay, what do you think? Bows with two loops or four?”
“Two big ones,” I answered.

I stared at myself in the mirror.
“You look stunning,” Connie reassured me, squeezing my shoulders. I felt stunning. I wore a long rose gold dress, which had droopy half sleeves and gorgeous gold embroidery. My hair was braided at the top and flowed into large black curls. I gave Connie a hug and then suggested something.
“Can we pray before we go out to see everyone?”
She nodded. Holding hands, I began.
“Dear Jesus, let your will be done tonight. Thank you for Jeff and Connie and the amazing relationship they have with you at the center. Thank you for Buck and I’s relationship, and I pray that you would be first in our hearts tonight. Let our actions and conversations glorify you, and please give us the grace to forgive those around us.”
“Father, we love you. Helps us love others and show your light.”

“We wanted to thank all of you for coming tonight. It means more than you could know. Please continue to dance, enjoy the food over at the back of the room, but I first I’d like you to help me welcome up Wooton and Penny Bassett, who will be making a special announcement.”
Murmurs echoed throughout the audience as Wooton and I made our way up to the stage of The Little Theatre. Connie handed the microphone to Wooton, who began,
“Hey everybody! I hate to do this tonight since it’s really about Connie and Jeff. But you are all here, so we thought it might be a good time to let you know, he handed me the microphone.
“We’re pregnant.”

JULES: I had expected it, but it was still really exciting, I turned to Buck.
BUCK: I gave a whoop of excitement and turned to see Jules looking at me. I smiled at her and she smiled back.
WOOTON: My breath was taken away by the support our friends showed us, and I couldn’t thank them enough. Then it became real. I was going to be a father.
PENNY: I didn’t expect to cry so much. Of course, with how emotional I’d been lately, it shouldn’t have been so surprising.
CONNIE: Jeff, who was standing with me on stage, gave my hand a squeeze, and my stomach turned in the excitement of it all. Then I saw Jason.
JASON: Jeff and Connie looked so happy. Penny and Wooton looked happy. And I was proud. Just proud.
JEFF: Connie’s hand threaded into mine and my soul sang.
WHIT: No matter how many babies are born in my lifetime it never becomes less exhilarating. My mind drifted to when Jenny and I found out. About Jana. About Jason… about Jerry. I thanked God for my son and prayed Penny would never have to go through what Jenny did. Then my eyes met Eugene’s.
EUGENE: I gave a firm nod and a hard swallow, pushing down the weight. People stood up, so we were hidden. I looked at Katrina.
KATRINA: I didn’t mean to cry. I didn’t want to cry. I wanted to be happy. I just couldn’t. I stood up and walked outside.
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse
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Raspberry Ripple
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Wow just wow! :clap:
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Fudge Marble
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Joined: May 2016


Chapter 11
I didn’t realize Eugene had followed me out of the theatre until I turned around.
“I’m okay,” I sniffed, restraining tears. A few slipped. I pushed them away.
He sighed. “I want to be excited for them.”
I nodded.
“So, we pray?”
The next nine months were the hardest nine months we’d ever had to go through.
Penny was pregnant, and that brought the usual amount of pressure. Along with that, while my comic book sales took a surprising turn for the better, we were submerged in fear. Penny was the worrying type, and I worried about no one but Penny. Of course, we were still excited, and everyone was excited for us.
We were excited for them. We were. It was just hard to see our friends experience something so great that we would never get to. Wooton and Penny had been married for less than two years before they became pregnant. Katrina and I tried for five before we even found out it was hopeless. Those feelings were difficult to revisit, and we probably would have done worse. But we had bigger problems.
I stumbled into the entryway, my head pounding. My face felt like it was on fire. I struggled to see as I guided myself into the bedroom. I just wanted to sleep. Katrina gasped when she saw me.
“It’s not as bad as it looks.”
“You look half dead. Who did this?”
“Some students.”
“Some students,” she repeated, leading to the bathroom.
“They caught me off guard. Told me I was a murderer… I’m fine.”
She sat me down on the edge of the bathtub and made my eyes meet hers.
“Hey, you’re not fine. And that’s okay.”
I nodded, letting a few sobs escape my chest.
“I feel like an idiot. I- I shouldn’t have gone around back- I-,”
“No. This wasn’t your fault. Look at me. It wasn’t your fault.”
Once she’d sidestepped infection by cleaning the blood from my face, I lied down with an ice pack on my head. Katrina sat next to me and played with my hand. A tear fell down her cheek as she watched our fingers intertwine. She whispered,
“Are you going to be fired?”

Eliza didn’t understand why our dad was beaten up. She was worried about him. Always staring at him.
“Does it hurt?” She asked one night at dinner.
I nearly coughed up my mashed potatoes. Eugene gave a slight smile. Katrina glanced up from her plate.
“A little,” Eugene nodded, eying my mother.
Eliza stood up, walked over to her dad, and kissed his cheek.
“I’m sorry Daddy,” she said, “I love you.”
Katrina put her hand over her mouth to keep from smiling.
My sister was adorable but legitimately worried. So was I. Eugene had tried to speak with the Dean of the college about the incident, and he seemed indifferent. Eugene confirmed that if it had been another professor, who wasn’t a Christian, those students would have been expelled. A week later my dad came home without a job. We sat down for a family meeting.
“We’re moving,” Eugene announced, the bite of sorrow in his tone. I had expected it, but it still hurt to hear.
“To where?”

The first trimester of my pregnancy went great. We were uncontrollably excited, and I didn’t experience too much discomfort. Then came the second trimester. That’s when we had the gender reveal party.
“Okay, does everyone have a cupcake?” Wooton asked into the microphone of The Little Theatre. He received multiple positive responses, then told everyone to bite into their cupcakes.
“PINK!” Eliza shouted from the front of the seating area. Everyone laughed.
“What are you gonna name her?” Someone asked. I turned to Wooton.
“You wanna tell them?” He handed me the microphone.
“Her name will be Winona Elenore Bassett. Winnie for short,” I smiled. Everyone clapped, and we stepped off the stage to receive hugs and handshakes.
I hate thinking about that day, because of what we found out the day after.

We got in the car, and just sat there for a while, speechless. Wooton took my hand.
“This isn’t your fault.”
How did he always know what I was thinking? I nodded.
“I know.”

“Wooton! Wooton!” I woke up to Penny screaming. Her hand was latched onto my arm.
“Now,” she cried. I jumped out of bed and came around to her side.
“Alright. Penny. Listen, you have to get to the car.”
“I can’t,” she exhaled, before whining in pain through clenched teeth.
I took a deep breath and realized what that meant.
I ran downstairs and opened the door to the garage and our car’s passenger seat door. Tearing back towards the bedroom, I grabbed Penny’s robe and made it back to the bed.
“Alright sweetheart.”
She was breathing heavily at a break in the pain and was able to slip into the fleece, right before another contraction.
“Okay let’s get you to the hospital.”
I carried her out to the garage and helped her into the car. It took about five minutes to reach the hospital, and when we did, we received immediate help.

I took a deep breath and the musty smell of the old apartment filled my nostrils. Eliza sneezed.
“I know it’s small,” Eugene affirmed. “But we don’t need too much space. There’s only four of us.”
I nodded.
“It’s fine.”
“You don’t need to decide right now,” our realtor, who’d been trying not to stare directly at our mennats, said starchily. We’d seen ten-plus houses and apartments that day, and I we were all tired. My feet ached. I was hungry. I was emotionally drained. Eliza was too, based on how she was hanging on Katrina and whining. Eugene sighed.
“Let’s go get some food and review our options.”
I looked out the window of our car. I hated it. No matter what kind of house we looked at, it wouldn’t be ours. It could never be ours.

I opened my eyes.
His fingers were braided through mine.
“Hey there,” he smiled.
“Where is she?”
“In surgery. She should be out soon. I saw her, Penny, and she’s so beautiful,” he said, tears in his eyes.
“I just want to hold her.” Anxiety pushed against my throat.
“She’ll be here soon.”
I took a deep breath.
“What are we going to tell everyone?” I asked, searching for an answer in my husband’s eyes. He sighed.
“Our baby has Spina Bafida…. and she’ll never be able to walk.”

I grabbed my keys from the counter.
“Jules! I’m leaving!”
“Wait where are you going again?” She asked, coming into the kitchen in a sweatshirt and shorts.
“Coffee with Jason,” I replied, slipping on my coat, “I should be back by ten.”
“Okay,” she stood there awkwardly.
“Okay. Is there something else?” I asked, noticing her hesitancy.
“Actually yeah. There is,” she stuttered, “You’re marrying Jeff next month.”
“But you’re doing a lot with Jason.”
I drew in a short breath, resolving to explain.
“Jules, Jason and I are married.”
Her eyes narrowed in confusion.
“We got married about a year ago. Just legally. There’s nothing romantic between us. But he’s still my husband.”
“But why?”
I searched her eyes, knowing the potential fear it would put her in. The fear the truth had put me in.
“Maybe we should sit down.”
We found seats at the kitchen table, and I began hesitantly, trying to remember how Jason had explained it,
“During World War II, Americans were afraid of and angry at immigrants from Japan and people of Japanese ancestry. Did you know that?”
“Well… I’d never thought of it before, but it makes sense. I mean, we were fighting against Japan, right?”
“Right. But more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent lived in America. So, to keep the peace, all Japanese were placed in internment camps.”
“What? Like Jews in Germany?”
I shook my head.
“No. But close. The goal of these camps wasn’t to kill people, it was just to keep them separated. But people did die, and they didn’t live in pleasant conditions.”
“Okay. So, what does this have to do with you and Jason?”
“Well, based on the development of Christian separation lately… Jason thinks the same thing might happen to us.”
Terror filled her visage.
“When Jason worked for the NSA, he committed to becoming a guard if there was ever mass incarceration for some reason. With his PTSD, Jason can’t live alone. If he were positioned in a camp, his dad couldn’t live with him because he’d been incarcerated. But he could live with someone if they were married.”
Jules stared at me a moment. Some mix of shock and anger flickered across her brow.
“Does Jeff know?”
“Yes. He and Whit do but no one else.”
“Okay,” she thought a moment, then shook her head. “That’s a mistake.”
“Because you’d be leaving Jeff if you went to live with Jason.”
“He understands that.”
“That doesn’t mean it’s right.”
I looked at my watch, a lump immerging in my throat. I stood up and moved to the door.
“I’m gonna be late.”
Keeping my red eyes hidden, I left out the garage door.
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse
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Raspberry Ripple
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I get it now!!!!!! Wow so good!!!!!

Just wondering when might the next chapter be out?
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Fudge Marble
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Joined: May 2016


So life's been a little crazy since I just started school. I have a break this week so I'll try and get it up here soon.
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse
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PennyBassett wrote:So life's been a little crazy since I just started school. I have a break this week so I'll try and get it up here soon.
Ok take your time I was just wondering
Jo March
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Okay, so I just read the last three chapters that you posted and my heartrate is incredibly high. WELL DONE!!!! I am so excited to see where this goes...
Jo March
"There is no such thing as impossible. The word itself says I'm possible."-Audrey Hepburn
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” –C.S. Lewis
“No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.” P.T. Barnum
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Okay it's been a while, but here's
Chapter 12!

I took another sip of caramel induced dark liquid. Jason sat across from me. I tensed and waited for him to say something. He stared at his mug for a few seconds, stroking the stubble that surrounded his chin.
“Is she right?”
“Probably,” he scoffed, “I mean. She made a valid point.”
“But it doesn’t have to get in the way-”
“Connie if we continue this, you and Jeff will never be able to be legally married.”
I pressed my lips together, that realization had weighed heavily on me for the past week. I wished he hadn’t brought it up.
“He understands that.”
“I think Jules is afraid he’s hurt.”
“Or that it’s just not kind to him. Which, she might be right about.”
“Does he know we’ve been meeting?”
Jason shook his head.
“Bad idea.”
“I know.”
“Call him. Right now. We’re sorting through this."
My stomach turned. I sighed.
A whispered, “alright,” escaped my lips. I quickly found my fiancé’s contact and tapped the little green phone next to his name.
“Hey what’s up?” He answered immediately.
“Um. Are you busy right now?”
“Well… considering I’m on Pinterest right now, looking at wedding tuxes- wow some of these are really out there. Think starry night, on a monkey suit. Um no I’m not busy.”
“You wanna come down to Caribou for coffee? … Jason’s here.”
“…okay," a mix of suspicion and hurt caressed his voice.
“I know that sounds weird. We need to talk through things though.”
“Yeah. Yeah, you’re probably right,” he sighed, “I’ll be there in ten.”
“Okay. I love you.”
“Love you too.”

My hands tightened their grip on the steering wheel, as I strained to stay focused on the road in front of me. I didn’t want to admit it, but it disturbed me that Connie and Jason were meeting- ‘just for coffee,’ I told myself. The two had been friends before Connie and I started dating. I guess without realizing it, I’d expected she and Jason to stop doing things alone together. Was it unreasonable to request that? I made a mental note as I rounded the corner to turn into Caribou Coffee. I got strangely nervous as I stepped out of, then proceeded to lock my car. I caught a glimpse of Jason through the shop window. That’s when I realized it. I felt threatened by him.

Jeff walked in. He awkwardly adjusted his glasses, and those dark eyes lit up at the sight of Connie. She greeted him with a kiss. I took a drink of coffee. Connie welcomed him to our small table, and stared me down, expecting me to begin. I did my best.
“So. I guess we wanted you here, because Connie told Jules today, and she brought up some- uncomfortable points.”
“Are you okay with Jason and I’s relationship?”
“Um…” my wife’s fiancé took his time answering, straightening the table’s centerpiece, lowering his brow. An answer came eventually.
“I don’t like it,” he spoke honestly. “But I understand the purpose of all of this. I won’t stand in the way. Except to say-” he bit back the rest of his sentence.
“Expect to say…?”
“I don’t want you two meeting- not like this. Alone.”
“Okay,” I said immediately, though my mind was racing. All the times we’d done stuff as friends. That would all end.
“That makes sense,” Connie nodded, but I think she felt the same loss I did.
“What uh- what points was Jules bringing up?”
Connie sighed. “She felt like it wasn’t fair to you. That even if you understood the reasons behind Jason and I’s relationship, it wasn’t right, because you deserved better. And I agree. You do deserve better.”
“But this is my choice. Maybe it’s not preferable, but I asked you to marry me understanding what that meant. That was my decision. And you should stop feeling guilty about it.”
A weight was lifted from Connie’s eyes.
“Thank you,” she smiled.

“Dad! Do you want these in your room?!” I stumbled into our apartment, holding a box of vests.
“Just put them outside the door! Katrina doesn’t want anything else inside before she’s done decorating!” Eugene instructed from the attic.
“Okay!” I passed Eliza and dropped the surprisingly heavy box where I was told.
“Can you play with me?” Elizabeth asked, looking up with puppy-dog eyes. She was holding a Tigger stuffed animal in one hand and a teacup in the other.
“I was kinda gonna unpack my things… but you can help me,” I suggested. She sighed and stumbled after me into my new bedroom. Boxes were stacked on top of my naked bed. The desk I’d had in my old room, now stood next to the door of the windowless living space. I wasn’t complaining. I was still pretty used to sleeping in a small room, but it was a change. I took a deep breath and suggested we started with my clothes. Eliza agreed, and dropping her playthings in the middle of my floor, hopped up onto my bed, and opened a cardboard box marked BUCK’S CLOTHES.
“What’s in that one?”
“Hmm. Underwear,” she said holding up a pair of boxers.
“Ah. Okay,” I quickly took them from her and shoved them back into the box.
“How about you start with the shirts that are in this box,” I suggested, handing her an alternative.
“What do I do with them?”
“Just- lie them on top of each other. I’ll hang em up later.”
“Can I hang them?”
“I don’t think you can reach,” I laughed, beginning to fill my closet drawers.
“Okay,” she sighed with disappointment.
I was hanging up a pair of brown pants when Eliza asked from my desk,
“Is Mummy sad?”
“Um- I think a little bit. She really liked our old house. And I did too,” I admitted.
“I miss our basement.”
“What if there’s a tornado?”
“We’ll probably go into the bathroom.”
“Okay, do you want to start with my books?”
“No. I’m too depressed,” she said, slumping back in her chair. I retrained a chuckle.
“And you’ve got lots and lots of books.”
“That’s true. If you’re still looking for someone to play with you, I think Mom is done with her room.”
“No,” she said bluntly, then grabbing her toys, quickly left the room.

“Nope. It’s your turn,” Penny said, her face pressed into her pillow. Half asleep, I sat up and rubbed my eyes. Winnie was screaming from the other room- how had it only been a week of this? I turned the lamp on my nightstand on, then groggily got out of bed. I made it into Winona’s bedroom and picked her up out of her crib.
“Hey. Shh. You’re okay. You’re okay.” I kissed her head and let her calm down in my arms. Once she was asleep again, I brought her back to our bed and handed her to Penny. As I pulled the covers back over myself and closed my eyes, I couldn’t help but feel a sting. With this child, we knew what we were facing. It was going to be hard.

I walked into Whit’s End, the bell above the door announcing my presence. From behind the counter, Jules glanced up and half-smiled.
“Connie isn’t working today,” she said, opening the cash register for no reason.
“I know. I actually came here to talk to you.”
She shut the cash register and sighed.
“I think I know what this is about.”
“I’m okay Jules.”
“Well this didn’t take me by surprise. Hm- okay it sort of did- but I proposed to Connie knowing what our marriage would be. I love your sister so much that I am willing give her up if Jason needs her. By law, he comes first.”
“But weren’t you angry? That’s not exactly fair.”
“I figure I don’t deserve Connie anyway. It’s not fair because I shouldn’t even get to marry her.”
She nodded slightly. There was something more, but I didn’t push it. I figured she had enough on her shoulders. I’d be moving in soon, and she’d be third.
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse
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Raspberry Ripple
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O.o Wow.

(Not one word)
Jo March
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Oh. My. Gosh. Just. Wow. Wow wow wow wow wow.
Jo March
"There is no such thing as impossible. The word itself says I'm possible."-Audrey Hepburn
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” –C.S. Lewis
“No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.” P.T. Barnum
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Haha thanks, guys. :wacky: Okay. So I need to know what everyone thinks so far. Would you guys like to see Connie and Jeff's wedding, more on Winnie, and more on Buck and Jule's relationship, or skip a lot of that and jump ahead?
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse
Jo March
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All of the above, if possible. A peek at the wedding, and sliver of Winnie’s life, maybe a little(okay what the heck a lot) of Buck and Jules, and then jump ahead.... that would be my request.
Jo March
"There is no such thing as impossible. The word itself says I'm possible."-Audrey Hepburn
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” –C.S. Lewis
“No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.” P.T. Barnum
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Joined: May 2016


Okay! That's what I was leaning towards.
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse
Jo March
Raspberry Ripple
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Joined: July 2016
Location: Look in the Library


Yay! Great minds think alike, and so do ours, then! LOL
Jo March
"There is no such thing as impossible. The word itself says I'm possible."-Audrey Hepburn
“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” –C.S. Lewis
“No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.” P.T. Barnum
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Raspberry Ripple
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Joined: July 2017
Location: With my puppy


I agree. Winner seems sweet.
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Hi guys! It's been a while- again. And I'm really sorry. Please know that it's not because I haven't been working on this chapter... it's just really long. Like REALLY long. So hate me or love me. It's long. Like 5,741 words long. Like it took me a month and a half to write long. So long that- okay yeah you probably just wanna read the thing. I'm really not sure how good it actually is and editing was a nightmare, so as always, feedback would be very appreciated. Oh also, mild sexual content in this one. Pff idk, let's put a 12-13 and up warning on it.

Chapter 12
I opened my eyes and turned off my alarm. Everything was quiet. The window next to my bed outlined the familiar landscape of Trickle Lake and the hills behind it. A few houses kept me from seeing the beach of the water, but everything was still so beautiful. I turned onto my back. When my mom and I first moved into that house, I would always complain that my room looked over the side of our neighbor’s house, while hers had his beautiful view of serene water and mountains. That day I wished more than anything that I wasn’t in that room. I wished I was back in my old apartment. I wished that room was empty. Because my mom had left it about an hour ago to drive to my apartment and wake me up for my wedding day.
But that wasn’t the case. I was there instead, with no mother to share wedding jitters with. I pushed aside a few tears and sat up. A knock came to the door.
“You can come in Jules!”
“Sorry. No annoying little sisters this morning,” Katrina came in holding a breakfast tray. She sat the food onto my lap, then hopped up onto the bed.
“You made me croissants!” I smiled.
“Is… something wrong with them?” She asked after I hadn’t touched them, or the rest of my food.
“I’m too nervous to eat.”
“Oh. Well I’m not,” she said, spreading some Nutella on one of the pastries.
“Is it normal to be this sad on your wedding day?”
“Hm. You know,” she said, swallowing her first bite of bread, “I asked Eugene the same thing after we got married. My father had just died, and we were driving from the hospital to the airport.”
“What’d he say?”
“Given the statistical likelihood that one or both parents of the bride or groom is absent on their wedding day, it could be assumed that to many their marriage is less cheery than expected.”
“Yep,” she sighed, “Then he pulled over by Lake Michigan, and took me onto the beach. And that’s where we had our first dance.”
“Wow. I didn’t think Eugene was that romantic. What’s your point?”
“At times, you’re going to be sad today. But one of the most beautiful parts of getting married is that you’re not under your parents’ protection anymore. And I know you haven’t had someone to look out for you like that for a while, but today you’re going to gain it back.”
That’s when I realized it. I wouldn’t have to expect anything from my dad anymore. I wouldn’t belong to him anymore.
“Thanks, Katrina.”
“You’re welcome. Now eat! We need to be at the salon in an hour.”

Connie, Penny, Jules, and I went and got our nails done. Eugene and Whit were at the church getting things ready. Wooton was spending the morning with Jeff. Buck was at home with Eliza. My keys were in my purse. My phone was in my pocket. It vibrated unexpectedly. With freshly painted nails, I pulled it out of my back pocket and tapped answer.
“Buck! How are things going?”
“Really? What’s happening?”
“Well I turned off the TV, and now she hates me.”
“Did she watch for an hour?”
“Yeah. So, it’s my turn now, right?”
“Can you tell her that then, because she keeps grabbing the remote from me and stuff.”
I took a deep breath,
On the other end, I heard Buck bring over Eliza and hand her the phone.
“Mummy,” she sniffed.
“Hey, baby. Buck said you were disrupting him.”
“No… he’s being mean!”
“Did you watch for an hour?”
“No? Buck said you did.”
“Well- the show wasn’t over yet.”
“Yeah, but honey you know the rules. We have to make sacrifices since we only have one TV now.”
She let out a heavy breath.
“But there’s nothing to do!”
“Why don’t you play with your stuffed animals? I’m gonna be home really soon to pick you up.”
“When’s daddy coming back?”
“He’s not. We’ll see him at the wedding, okay?”
She sighed,
“Alright. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
I hung up and saw Penny staring at me.
“We’re both moms.”
I chuckled.
“They don’t get much easier, do they?”
“I’ve never had a baby, but I don’t think so.”
“Do you ever wish you would have done more before you adopted your kids?”
“You mean with my life?”
“Yeah! I mean, you’ll never get to climb Mount Everest!”
“I was never planning on climbing Mount Everest.”
“Maybe not. But there must be things you wish you could’ve done, right?”
“Hm. I guess there is one thing.”
“What’s that?”
“I wish I could’ve spent more time trusting God, instead of questioning why I couldn’t have my own children.”
“Why? Are there things you regret?”
“No. Trust me, I’m so happy to have a child. It’s just sinking in. Especially since Winnie will be in a wheelchair. It’ll make life- harder. And I know Wooton’s always had these big plans for our family, usually ones outdoors or- physical things. We’re realizing that some of those aren’t going to be possible.”
I nodded.
“I’m sorry.”
She let out a short sigh.
“It’s alright. I mean- it’s not completely alright, but we’ll be okay. We’re artists above anything else. Winnie will be able to draw and everything.”

Katrina nodded, then put her phone back in her pocket. I twisted my hands together to keep myself from calling Wellington, who was back at home watching over Winnie. I trusted Wellington a lot, but that was the first time we’d left her alone with someone else. It made me nervous.
“Hey, Penny, do you need a ride to the church?” Connie asked as we exited the small nail salon.
“No. I’m alright. I need to stop by and get snacks for the dressing room anyway.”
“Oh okay. Hey, are you doing alright?”
I nodded.
“I’m good. I don’t need to be with her all the time. I know she’s okay.”
“Hey, it’s alright if you need to bring her to the church.”
“Yeah. Olivia and Zoe can watch her. They’re already baby-sitting Eliza and Declan,” Jules added. I took a deep breath.
“Okay. Maybe I’ll bring her over then.”
“Alright. Well, we’ll see you in a bit.”
I smiled, feeling slightly better, then walked to my car.
I had a nice car. It was weird. Wooton and I had been married for about two years, and I still wasn’t used to being “rich.” Wooton wasn’t excessive in his money spending, but at the very least he wasn’t accustomed to buying things on sale or clearance. Early on I sometimes wondered if he even looked at the price of something before buying it. The car I drove then was my dream car. A vintage blue beetle. The car I’d wanted since I was thirteen.
I drummed my new nails on the steering wheel as I waited for the light ahead of me to turn green. I thought about the Meltsners. How strong Katrina was. I knew how much she worried about Buck, but she could still be away from him for a while. I couldn’t do that yet. All first moms felt that way. That’s what I had been told at least. It felt different though. I felt I needed to protect her. Like she was going to fall apart at any time. She felt so fragile when I held her. So small.
“Wellington!” I called from the entrance of our colorful house. He quickly came into the entryway, cradling Winona safely in his arms.
“She’s perfectly okay,” he reassured, placing her back into my embrace of safety.
“Thank you,” I sighed, finding a seat on the couch. “I thought I could do it.”
“It’s alright if you can’t yet.”
“That’s what everyone keeps saying… I’ll be okay. I’m going to bring her to the church when I leave again.”
“Well. Then um- may I leave? I told Wooton I’d meet him and Jeff to help with decorating.”
“Oh. Sure. Can I send you a check?”
“She’s my niece, Penny. You don’t have to pay me.”
“Oh. Okay. Well, thank you.”
“Anytime. I’ll see you later!”
I got up and locked the door behind him, then looked down at Winnie, who was fast asleep, wrapped in a yellow blanket. She looked so peaceful. So unaware. So beautiful. I flinched at the thought of her at eight. When she would have to be registered as a Christian. A tiny part of me hoped this insanity would end soon. But I knew it wouldn’t. Prejudice was a hard thing to overcome. I wanted to take my baby and move to another country where we weren’t targeted or feared. But God told us to stay here. We were needed here. I kissed Winnie’s head of light red hair, gathered my things, and drove back to the church.

I rubbed my fingers across the surface of the small metal cross hanging from my neck. I don’t know why I was so anxious. Maybe it was Eliza. She’d been irritable lately. I silently wondered if it was a PTSD thing, but never suggested it out loud. My shoe hit the carpet, again and again, keeping to the music through my earbuds. It was a Twenty-One Pilots song.
‘Surrounded and up against a wall, I’ll shred ‘em all and go with you. When choices end, you must defend, I’ll grab my bat, and go with you…”
That was Connie and Jeff’s wedding day. Like all the other groomsmen, I wore a blue and white tux. It felt so good to wear colors. Special occasions were one of the few times that Christians could wear something other than white or brown, so we took full advantage of those opportunities when they came up.
Katrina unlocked the door to our apartment and came in with purpose. I got in the way.
“Okay everybody, we have got going. Buck- aw.”
“You just look so handsome,” she smiled.
“Oh. Thanks.”
“Oh. But we could do something better with your hair. Why don’t you blow dry it like I showed you?” She asked, walking to the bathroom.
“I try! It’s just hard to hold the hair drier and the brush at the same time.”
“Well, you’d get the hang of it if you practiced.”
I followed her into the one sink bathroom.
“My hair’s already dry. So…”
“Well, I think we can fix it with some jell. Or whether you can.”
“I’m not doing your hair for you anymore. You’re seventeen. And Eliza’s still in her PJs. But I believe in your hair styling abilities,” she comforted, patting me on the shoulder before swiftly moving into the hallway towards Elizabeth’s room. I looked at myself in the mirror. It was going to be a long day.

Connie’s POV
“But don’t you think it’s weird that she never said anything?”
“I don’t know. Does Nancy even like tacos?”
“I really thought she did.”
Katrina and Penny spoke as they did their makeup in front of a wall-length mirror.
“There. How’s that?” Lucia asked, spinning me around to see myself in the mirror.
A dreamlike sense rushed to my cheeks in a blush as I stared at the curly braid that fell across my right shoulder.
Katrina gasped.
“Connie! You look gorgeous!”
A sob came to my throat as I nodded, my hands over my mouth. I’d never felt more beautiful. A whispered, ‘Thank you,’ escaped my lips.
“You’re welcome, dear. Now, stop this crying. You’ll ruin your makeup!” Lucia lightly scolded, handing me a kleenex.
I laugh-cried, dampening the tissue with a few stray tears. With a deep breath, my composure was regained.
“Alright,” Penny hopped up, smiling. “Let’s-”
“Connie,” Jules came into the little dressing room, shutting the door behind her. “Jason’s at the door.”

My heart pounded as Connie came out of the dressing room. She wore her normal jeans and t-shirt, but her hair and makeup were done.
“Hey. You look beautiful.”
She smiled.
“I feel beautiful. What’s that?”
I adjusted the referenced papers and cleared my throat.
“This is me- fixing things.”
“They’re divorce papers. I want you to sign them.”
She stepped back a second.
“N-no see- we- you need- you need reassurance and-”
“Connie. Connie, listen. If you aren’t legally married to Jeff, you’ll never have his last name- you’ll never-”
“I know,” she said quietly. There was a minute where no one said anything. She wanted to sign those papers. I could see it.
“I love you. It’ll be my fault if something happens…”
“No, it won’t. I’m taking responsibility. Because I love you. Consider it a wedding gift,” I shrugged. I outstretched a pen, and hesitantly, Connie took it from me.
“You’re sure about this?”
I nodded, uncertainty dragging across my stomach.
She signed the papers, then handed them back to me.
“I’ll um- I’ll go tell Jeff.”
I left quickly, oblivious to the intense consequences of what we had done.

“Really?” I asked, trying to hide my immense delight.
“Yep. We both signed them. It’s official. You should be able to get married today legally.”
“I don’t know what to say. Thank you.”
“Your welcome.”
There was a second of silence.
“So. Are you nervous?”
“You have no idea,” I laughed.
“Well- I wish I could give you some wise words.”
“You’ve married her already. I figured you’d have the best advice.”
He chuckled before a slight anger flickered beneath his brow.
“I love her. We’ve been through a lot together…” we locked eyes, “Jeff, if you hurt her in any way...”
“I won’t,” I cut him off. “I know you want to protect her, but maybe I could take on some of that responsibility?”
He sighed and nodded.
“Yeah. Yeah, I know. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” I smiled slightly, “It’s good she has someone who can defend her like you do.”
He twitched back a nod of loneliness and made a quick exit.
“Are- are you alright, Jeff?” I felt Wooton’s hand on my shoulder.
“Is it okay that he scares me?”
“In what way?”
“I don’t want Connie to love him more than she loves me.”

I sat in front of the dressing room mirror, Katrina behind me, braiding my hair. I turned my phone over in my hands. Katrina noticed the nervous twitch.
“Has he called yet?”
“How long will you give him?”
“I should give him ten minutes and be done with it. I mean- he’s disappointed us so many times- he’s not going to show up- right?”
“I wouldn’t know. Maybe-”
My phone lit up, playing a Fall Out Boy song. I answered immediately.
“Dad. Hi.”
“Hey, sweetheart. Look. I won’t be able to make it.”
I didn’t say anything. A numb hurt formed at my temples.
“…are you on a cruise or something?”
“No. Um… no, I just- have work…. This is important.”
“More important that Connie?”
“I’m- responsible for a lot- you know that.”
“I don’t care. You knew this was coming six months ago.” I choked on a sob.
“I’m sorry. I’ll talk to you later. I love you.”
"I'll talk to you later."
I took a breath and pushed down more tears.
“Sure. Bye.”
I hung up and sniffed back more tears.
“I can tell Connie if you want,” Katrina said, stroking my finished hair.
I nodded.
“Yeah. Um. Thanks.”
I stood up and walked out of the room in a daze.

I checked my watch. We had an hour before people would start showing up. Doing my best to follow Eugene’s instructions, I turned another corner and found the closet. I adjusted my earbuds and entered the small, walk-in space. ‘batteries… batteries.’ A hand appeared on my back. I turned around and saw Jules for a split second before she pulled me in. It took me a minute before I could catch up, but I returned the passion once I did. I was backed up into the far end of the closet before I could think again.
She kissed me again.
“Wait. What are you doing?” I pushed her off me and ripped out my earbuds, shoving them into my pocket.
“Sorry. I- sorry,” she strung her hands together.
“You’re fine,”
She took a breath, “My dad. He isn’t coming. And he’s not even that busy- he just has work.”
“So, are you angry?”
“I don’t know. I can’t- I can’t feel that he loves me.”
I was beginning to understand.
“And I- I missed you and I guess I got scared.”
I took a deep breath.
“I’m sorry.”
I thought for a moment.
“You can’t rely on me to fix your problems. I- I won’t be a painkiller.”
“I know. You’re more than that.”
“But I’ll be there for you when I can.”
She smiled slightly.
“Then can we talk about it?”
We hugged.

“Did- you hear what I said, Connie?”
“Yeah,” she said, in a detached tone. “Could someone call Whit?”
I nodded and retrieved my phone from the other side of the room. I called Whit and described the situation, then returned to Connie.
“He said he’d walk you down the aisle.”
“That’s good. He’s... He’s been more of a father to me anyway. I’m glad.”
“It’s okay to be disappointed though.”
“I know,” she spoke quietly.
Penny and I embraced her warmly.
“You ready to put on your dress?”
A genuine smile spread across the bride’s face.

I felt a tap on my shoulder, then turned around. Connie stood in front of me in the most beautiful dress I’d ever seen. She blushed when we met eyes. I opened my mouth to say something, but a sob was the only thing that came to my throat. I didn’t want to cry. After a few tears had fallen, I was enveloped in joy. Our hands thread together.
“What do you think?” She asked, biting her lip.
“Stunning,” I smiled, before kissing her through our uncontrollable giggles. I reluctantly let her go.
“We have to take pictures,” she said, wrinkling her nose.
“And Penny probably feels really uncomfortable with us making her wait for us like this.”
“Guys, I’m right here. But you two are adorable. Please continue.”
We all laughed.
“You need to give each other your presents! I put them under the bench.”
We sat down on the silk-covered love seat and found our presents. I held the familiar turquoise cube for a moment before giving it to my bride. She handed me a heart shaped gift, a ribbon tied at the top.
“You open yours first,” I nodded to it, seeing her excitement. She did quickly, and lifted, what was quickly identified as a snow globe.
“It’s from Alaska,” I explained, “One of the tribal leaders on our route makes these for a living. Those figures are hand-carved.”
Inside the sphere was a miniature reconstruction of the Alaskan terrain. See-through clouds covered the surface of the glass. A small model of my plane looked like it was flying among them. A layer of glass in the middle of the scene had our vows etched into it.
“That’s amazing.”
“Turn it on.”
She found the switch on the bottom and flipped it excitedly. Snow blew into the landscape and a bell-like melody played the chorus of Broken Vessels, her favorite worship song.
“In the dark, it looks like the northern lights.”
“It’s so beautiful. Thank you. Now when you’re away on mission trips, I can have this to remind me of you,” she smiled, but neither one of us liked the thought of being apart.
“Okay open yours now,” she smiled, carefully placing the globe back in its box.
I undid the bow on the top and removed the lid from the box. It was filled with letters.
“What are these?”
“These…” she began, lifting the top one from the container, “Are letters I wrote to my future husband, starting when I was sixteen. I wrote one every year since.”
“Except- this one.”
She’d opened the small envelope and taken out the paper inside.
“This is an excerpt from my diary the day you kissed me for the first time.”
“Wait- when we were seventeen?”
She nodded.
She began to read.
“Today I had my first kiss. It was with Jeff Lewis, who I guess is my boyfriend now.”
I laughed, “Hold on-”
“Shh! Don’t say anything until the end.”
“Okay- sorry,” I rested my chin in my hand and put a curled finger over my mouth.
“He took me on a picnic and at some point, looked at me with the most starstruck eyes and asked if he could kiss me. My face probably turned so red! But I managed to keep my composure until the half second of us touching ended when I smiled and blushed more.”
I snorted despite trying to conceal my joy.
“Why are you laughing?”
“That was my first kiss too.”
Her mouth dropped open.
I nodded, nearly in tears. “I was actually super scared.”
“Really? I was convinced you were some big expert on the subject.”
“Absolutely not.”
“But you were a charmer.”
“That’s true. And you were the nerdy religious kid who broke up with me for not going to church.”
“Well, obviously your tastes have changed since then since you’re marrying said religious kid.”
“Nah. I just became one myself.”
“Ah I see,” she laughed.
“This is making me want to read the rest of these.”
“Later!” Penny interrupted, checking her watch.
“We need to get pictures taken!”

I adjusted my tie, knowing Connie would be there soon. As I surveyed the large entryway of the newly renovated church, my thoughts drifted back to the last time I walked someone down the aisle. Jana’s wedding. I’d advised against their union, as her fiancé had already been divorced once, but Jenny really liked him, and that knowledge didn’t seem to affect her. So, our blessing was reluctantly given. Of course, six years later, when their marriage too fell apart, it put a space between Jana and me. Jenny and I were able to talk through things as we usually did, but Jana was never the same around me. To that day, tension seemed to trump love in every conversation that turned into an argument.
“Oh Connie,” I smiled. My beautiful daughter coming into my arms. She stepped back and dabbed her eyes, smiling all the same.
“You look incredible.”
“Yeah… I wish I had some sage advice to give you… don’t miss a minute of it. It goes by so fast.”
She nodded. “Can we pray?”
“Of course.”
I took her hands/
“Dear Jesus, thank you for being with us today. Two of your children are about to make a beautiful bond, and we ask now that you would take the wedding jitters from both bride and groom as they make this commitment. Please draw them close to you.”
“Thanks, Whit.”
Eliza handed her a bouquet of white roses, and Katrina guided her daughter toward the door, reminding her what to do. She nodded and went through the door quickly, ready to toss her petals across the aisle pathway, smiling the whole time.
She nodded, took my arm, and the doors were opened.

“Jeff. You can go ahead and kiss your bride,” Wilson beamed, knowing how anxious we were. I turned to Jeff, who brought me into the sweetest kiss I’d ever received. I had never felt so safe.
After Wilson introduced us with surpassing pride, we ran back down the aisle, so ready for what was to come next.
The sun was already setting as we cut our lemon flavored cake.
“This is what sunsets taste like,” Jeff whispered, making me laugh right before I tasted it. He was right. I giggled further.
Then, we had dinner.

Jules and I were put at a table with Jay, Dion, Zoe, and Matthew. It wasn’t until we were all placed at the same table that I realized we were some only teenagers there. I wasn’t complaining. They were really all great people. I felt slightly bad for Matthew and Zoe, as they were the only two at the table who weren’t dating. But I had to hand it to whoever assigned the seating. They put Zoe between Dion and Jules, and Matthew between Jay and me. It was foolproof. Despite being in a relationship, Jay still flirted with Zoe on occasion, causing her to get annoyed more than anything. So, the chances of that happening were greatly dimensioned. Though, the likelihood that Jay would flirt with someone else while his significant other was next to him, was slim- then again this was Jay… I was just happy to be having a meal with my girlfriend. Our talk had really opened things up, and a stronger bond could be felt between us.
After most people had finished eating, and the special dances had taken place, the dance floor opened up. Special dances? That was my second wedding. The point was, people started dancing, and I asked Jules to dance with me.

Buck and I danced long into the night, ignoring Eugene and Connie’s worried glances as we danced as close as the bride and groom. The room became more crowded around eight, and Buck began glancing in the direction of the door.
“You wanna step outside for a second?” He asked, his hand on my waist.
“We’re in the mountains. It’s gonna be cold.”
“Meh. Bring your coat.”
I shrugged.
We exited through the front doors and stepped out onto the chilled porch. Yellow lights gave the space a warm glow and illuminated two familiar faces as our eyes adjusted.
Dion flicked his wrist in our direction, holding a box of cigarettes. I turned him down before Buck could say yes. Jay took one from the box and lit it.
“Hey, you two sing, right?”
We nodded, surprised by the conversation starter.
“Any instruments?”
“I play the guitar.”
Jay turned to Dion with raised eyebrows.
“I play drums. Jay’s learning piano.”
“Cool. So- what you wanna start a band or something?”
“Yeah,” Dion answered seriously.
“Why us?”
“I don’t know. You’re hot both hot and talented. Do you need a better reason?”
Dion laughed, “Look- just think about it. You have my number, right?”
We nodded.
“Hey! Jules! Connie’s about to throw her bouquet!” Penny peaked her head out and gestured toward the inside of the building. It looked inviting. I gave a quick goodbye to the boys and followed her inside, the idea of a band sticking to the back of my mind.

“They look perfect together,” I sighed in Wooton’s direction.
“Sorry you’re alone.”
I chuckled. He snorted. We sat at a lone table, watching Connie and Jeff dance to a gentle hymn.
“Do you want to find someone?”
“I don’t know,” I shrugged. “I mean- it’s getting a little late. I’m reaching forty-three over here.”
“No, I’m sure someone’s out there for you.”
I took a deep breath.
“Yeah. You’re probably right.”
I had hoped that saying it out loud would make me feel better. It didn’t.
“I just want to do something. You know?”
“Oh yeah sure.” He took a breath. “No- actually- no. What are you talking about?”
“It’s the agency. The adventure bug gets everyone at some points. In the CIA we were trained to protect. I get anxious when no one needs me like that.”
“Maybe you should explain that to Jeff.”
I took a breath.
“Yeah. Maybe.”
“What are you gonna do?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll become a foster parent?”
“The Meltsners did it. Can’t be too hard. I don’t know.”
He shrugged.
“Maybe. Jason, why did you and Connie divorce?”
“I wanted to. She was getting married to someone else, and I don’t know.” I thought a moment. “I love my government. It would be deceiving it. Even Biblically, we are supposed to follow the law. God’s law comes first of course- but what we did didn’t really fit into that.”
“So what’ll happen now? If this camp thing happens-”
“Maybe it won’t.”
“But if it does?”
“…I don’t know.”

“I don’t know,” I answered bluntly, finding a seat on the bench outside. It was dark and cold, but it was better than the crowded church interior we’d come from.
“This is a turn of events. Usually, I’m the cagey one.”
“Sorry. You know how I get when I hit my people limit.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
We sat in silence for a minute. Taking in the fresh air, the mountains, the lake beneath.
“Why didn’t we move here?” I asked, half joking.
“Away from civilization? I need people.”
“I know. So does Eliza.”
He nodded.
“Hey guys,” Buck walked up.
“Hey! Where’s Jules?”
“Inside. They’re throwing the bouquet or something. Girl stuff. Hey- Mom could we- talk for a second?”
He stuffed his hands in his pockets and quickly glanced between me and Eugene. Eugene nodded in understanding and came up with a quick excuse to go back to the party.
“Wanna walk?” I asked once he was out of earshot.
He nodded. We started down the wrap around porch. It was a minute or so before he said anything.
“Jules kissed me today.”
“Like- she kissed me.”
“Right. So, putting emphasis on different words in a sentence doesn’t always make someone understand what you mean.”
“Sorry. I mean we kind of- made out.”
“I stopped it before it went too far- it wasn’t a big deal I guess.”
“Hold on. Back up a second. You ‘kind of’ made out?”
“Well she was upset and just decided to find me or something- I’m not really sure how all of that played out…” his voice trailed off.
“So, you ‘kind of’ made out and you stopped things before they went ‘too far.’ What is too far?”
“Well- before we’d been doing anything for too long.”
I let out a restrained laugh.
“Okay, you’re being so vague.”
“I know. I’m sorry. Nothing happened. You don’t need to worry.”
“Then why are we having this conversation?”
“Because- I- want things to go too far.”
“There it is! Congratulations Buck Meltsner you have just admitted your true feelings! What are you gonna do next?”
“Pff. Leave. If you’re not gonna take this seriously-”
“I am taking it seriously. So you want to have sex with your girlfriend. That’s nothing new buddy. Everyone does.”
“Well, you didn't-”
“Hey, my high school love life has nothing to do with this.”
He stopped walking.
“I’m not sure what you mean by that and I don’t think I want to know.”
“You really don’t.”
We laughed and continued walking until his laugh turned into a whine.
“What am I supposed to do?”
“Don’t. I mean- really don’t. Like- God wasn’t kidding when he said flee.”
“Other than that, I mean, if you two are going to keep dating, put up boundaries. You have people around you that can help you with that. It’s gonna be super hard, but worth it. You have to believe it’s worth it.”
He nodded.
“Hey, I’m really proud of you.”


It was a really fun wedding. Of course, I love people. And love. And celebrations. And lots of people celebrating love. So, that doesn’t really come as a surprise to a lot of people. Penny likes weddings too! Well, she does when she doesn’t have to worry. Or as long as she doesn’t feel uncomfortable or unsafe. The latter was the main issue for her- and really both of us that night. She was worried.
“She’s safe.”
I had to remind her, maybe twenty times throughout the evening. She’d always respond with a dispassionate “I know” or a slight nod before we could continue with whatever it was we were doing. The last time an encounter like this occurred, we were dancing. It was a slower dance. Whit was watching Winnie a few rooms down. There was nothing to fear.
“She’s safe,” I said again. Feeling her pulse against my chest.
“I know,” she said quietly, resituating her head on my shoulder.
Soon after we realized that we were tired- we had hardly slept the night before- so we left around the time Connie and Jeff did.
We pulled into our garage at about ten. Winona was put to bed immediately. By eleven we were showered and ready for sleep. I nearly collapsed onto the mattress that Penny was already comfortably curled up on, inhumed in a blanket. I lifted the covers and we were both warm in a matter of seconds. Her hand slipped into mine as I was dosing off.
“Wooton,” she whispered.
I opened my eyes to see that her expression matched her tone.
“I’m really scared.”
I took a deep breath.
“I know… but I’ve been thinking.”
“I mean- what an opportunity we have. Out of all the kids born with Spinal Bifida, she’s got the best parents on the planet.”
She giggled.
“That’s true. We’re gonna make it, aren’t we?”
“I think we just might.”
“It’s okay to cry though?”
She pushed back a tear and let me hold her as we were both overtaken by much-needed sleep.

I opened my eyes. Everything was quiet. I stared up at the designs in the ceiling above me. They were elaborate. Brown and gold sculptures carved into the overhead wall, complimenting the gold behind them. It reminded me of wealthy colonial houses. I smiled.
“Good morning.”
I turned onto my side and looked into those gorgeous blue eyes. I laughed.
“You’re so cute when you’re tired.”
“And you’re still stunning.”
He kissed me without restraint, his hand in my hair. At that moment I knew I would be okay. I had someone to protect me. To care for me. He was my knight in shining armor. I was his princess. The man who’d lay down his life for me, as I’d for him. Someone I knew I could depend on. He would always be there. Always be there to keep me safe.
"Let me get this straight. I bet all those non-friends of yours try to embarrass you about your love for that stuff, right? So, you almost feel like you have to hide your treasures away and can only take them out in secret on rainy days when your mom goes to the store to get more liver and nobody is around to berate your sensitive spirit. Is that what you’re saying?" -Jay Smouse
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