Four Weeks To Move…
The next morning at work, Andy knew he had to give his resignation to Fiona, but he wasn’t sure of the timing. Should he wait until there were two weeks left, or give notice now and deal with the fallout? These were the questions for which he needed answers. His key turned in his office door, and a letter was waiting under it, one that had been delivered by courier. He picked it up and noted the postmark from Isla Paradiso.
He slipped the envelope into his briefcase to view later, preferably after he had spoken to Fiona. Aaron was the first to see him that morning.
“You look like you had a good weekend, Andy,” he greeted him. “What did you and the little missus do?”
Andy was dying to tell him, someone, anyone, about the weekend they had spent together. Instead, he fibbed. “Nothing really special. My son has been sick, so we took turns caring for him.”
“Aww, the poor little fella,” Aaron said. “That doesn’t sound like much fun at all.”
“I’m sure it wasn’t,” Andy replied and grimaced, realizing he’d screwed up. “For the baby, I mean.”
Aaron eyed his friend. “Are you sure that was your whole weekend?”
“Aaron, I have something to tell you, and you cannot say a word until I make my announcement.”
He smiled slyly at Andy. “What’s in this for me?” he joked.
“Nothing, but you’ll keep my secret anyway because I asked you to.” Andy grinned. “I got a phone call on Friday morning from the owner of the Isla Sharks. Aaron, he made me an offer I couldn’t pass up. So in 4 weeks, I’m moving with my family to the isle.”
Aaron’s face went from smiles to a scowl. “Well, that news is unexpected. Congratulations, I think. I’m going to miss you, buddy.”
“Thanks. If we need a new head coach, I will keep you in mind.”
“I just can’t believe you’re leaving with Danae’s history in the Shores. Almost a whole generation of Llamas loyalty with her dad playing here. What does she think?”
“Well, Darcey and her family are coming with us, so there’s one thing less to keep us. I doubt Devin will go, and in truth, I would never hire him anyway. Too much bad blood there. He doesn’t deserve a break.”
“With you going, it could possibly open Fiona to the option of signing Devin on the team again. I hope not, but I think it could happen. She never wanted to fire him to begin with.”
“Well, in that case, you actually might be more open to moving again, if I’m given the freedom to build my staff. Would you consider it, Aaron?”
“I’m a single guy. Probably. I hear there are some hot women on the isle.” Aaron chuckled.
“I never noticed. I always bring my own along.” Andy laughed. “I’d ask Trey to consider breaking his contract, but I know he’s looking at retirement soon. The only other player I’d try to weasel away is Wyatt. Without him, the Llamas are sunk.”
“Thanks. I see how you are.” Aaron was only half kidding. If Andy took the star players from the Llamas, the team was in trouble, and Aaron knew it. “You’re going to leave Fiona no choice but to rehire your brother-in-law, you know that.”
“Not my circus, not my clowns,” Andy smiled. “Seriously though. I’m going to miss you guys. Lionel gave me my first chance. That’s something I’ll never forget.”
“Oh yeah, I was supposed to tell you. Lionel’s in the hospital. He wasn’t doing well last I heard. Fiona has been running things from his hospital room, but I gotta tell you, Andy, I think he’s done.”
Andy sighed. Though he knew it was coming, he dreaded the day that Lionel O’Reilly met the Reaper. “I should take Danae to see him. She will be upset to hear this.”
“That’s a long trip for a hospital visit, Andy. They’re in Dragon Valley.”
“Oh. I don’t know why I assumed they were in town. That’s a shame. Poor Tarah.”
“Fi doesn’t think she’ll last long after Lionel is gone. They’re like two peas in a pod. Just remember them how they were when you last saw them. They’d probably want that anyway.”
“Good advice.” Now Andy had another problem. How was he going to face Fiona with her father on his deathbed? “This is very bad timing, Aaron.”
“Well, Andy, you have to do what’s good for you and your family. The O’Reillys can take care of themselves.”
“Thanks. Is the presser today? I don’t remember if it’s today or tomorrow.”
“You have a day to prep. It’s tomorrow,” Aaron said. “Which reminds me, I’ll catch you later. I have some paperwork to catch up on before then.”
“See ya, bud.” When Aaron had left his office, Andy opened his briefcase and retrieved the letter. The contract was just a few pages long and looked pretty standard. Nevertheless, he wanted his father’s attorney to glance at it and make sure everything was as they had agreed upon during their meeting. He typed out a quick cover letter and printed it, ready to fax it to the law office.
At lunch, he dialed Danae’s phone to check on the kids. Eamon still had a bit of a cough, and again she hadn’t slept much the night before. Her sleepy voice answered the phone.
“Hey, my sweet!” Andy’s happy voice greeted her. “How’s my favorite girl?”
“She’s tired, baby. But Eamon is going to take a nap whether he wants to or not. And soon, Mama will be taking a nap, too. Elyse is being a good girl, so I think she’ll be easy to put down. My mama always made this look so easy, but none of us were really ever sick, either. Eamon is a challenge.”
“Boys usually are love. That’s why there was only one of me. My mom didn’t want to risk having another Andy.” He laughed. “The world can only handle one of me.”
“Mmm, I know you’re all I can handle, babe. Two of you would have been one too many.”
“Alright, that’s enough,” he laughed harder. “I shouldn’t be late tonight. But I do have bad news, honey. Lionel is in the hospital, and it doesn’t look good. They’re in Dragon Valley, or I’d take you to see him and Tarah one last time.”
“Oh Andy, now I’m sad!” she pouted. “I don’t like to hear that. Please tell Fiona they have my condolences…” and then it hit her. “Andy! You can’t tell her you’re leaving, not now.”
“I will probably wait until after he’s gone, love. I don’t want Lionel to know about it. He would probably see it as a betrayal, and he doesn’t need that, not now.”
“You’re right. That’s a good call, babe. Listen, I need to get this little man to sleep, so I can nap. I will see you when you get home.”
“I love you, Nae. Get some rest, my sweet.”
“I love you, Andy.”
He hung up the phone, happy he’d called her.
The rest of his day went quickly, as he’d spent most of it arranging the press conference. Since Emmitt’s retirement and Andy’s promotion, he had been doing two jobs: his old one as a PR liaison and the management job. That was something he wouldn’t miss when he left Starlight Shores. But the presser was a go for the following afternoon, and he looked forward to his own when he announced his transfer to the Sharks.
Danae was awake making dinner when he got home. Elyse was playing with her xylophone in the dining room, and Eamon was playing in his swing when he opened the door.
“Daddy!” Elyse said very clearly. “Miss Daddy.” She ran to him as he knelt down, and threw her arms around his neck.
“There’s my little sweet pea,” he cooed at his daughter and hugged her close. “Were you good for Mama today?”
“Mama seep,” she said very plainly. “Leez seep, too!”
“What a good girl!” Andy praised her and kissed her on the cheek. Her giggles filled the bottom floor of the house, and Danae smiled.
“Where’s my sugar, Daddy?” she teased. She put the spatula down on the counter and walked to him, her arms open and waiting with a kiss for him.
“Your sugar is right here,” he cooed back, hugging her close to him and kissing her deeply. He noticed vanilla perfume on her skin, and it smelled intoxicating. “You smell good enough to eat, my darling.”
“Dessert,” she flirted. He raised his eyebrow at her, and she laughed. “Dinner will be ready soon, babe. You have time to change if you’d like.”
“Sounds good,” he said, knowing exactly what he would change into. He padded up the steps quietly and heard her singing to the kids. Sometimes, he felt guilty for asking Danae to give up a career she wanted, especially when she was so talented. Once they moved from the Shores, that dream would be just a memory for her, and sometimes he couldn’t help but wonder what she could have been if not for him.
Andy changed into his favorite flannel pajama pants and a muscle shirt, dabbed a little more of his musk cologne onto his skin and walked back downstairs. Danae was just taking dinner off the stove to serve it when he walked to the kitchen to pick up Elyse. “Are you hungry, honey?” he asked her as he placed her into her high chair.
“Chee!” she chirped, tugging at the bib Andy fastened around her neck. Danae set a bowl of macaroni and cheese in front of her, and she dug into it as though she hadn’t been fed in days.
“That girl loves to eat,” Danae laughed.
“It’s cute,” Andy said, smiling at Elyse. He sat Eamon into his high chair, and Danae sat with him to help him. “I’ll get ours, love,” he offered, serving up two bowls of the evening meal, Andy’s favorite: chili con carne.
“There’s cornbread on the counter if you want some, babe,” she said, playing planes and hangars with Eamon to coax him to eat.
“That’s even better. Would you like a piece, honey?”
“Sure.” She filled a fork with a few noodles. “Come on Eamon, open up for the plane!” She made a ‘vroom’ noise and watched his happy face. Andy was amazed watching her. Danae was a phenomenal mother.
“So, you didn’t say anything about my outfit,” he teased. “I was hoping to get at least a comment from you.”
“Oh, I noticed. But I have a little boy to feed,” she winked at him. “I’ll take care of you later.”
“So, Aaron is the only one who knows I’m leaving. I can’t bring myself to call Fi, not yet. The timing isn’t very good with this whole thing.”
“I’m getting antsy already. I can’t believe we have to wait four weeks.” Danae got another successful mouthful of mac and cheese into the boy’s mouth, and he babbled happily.
“I know. Part of me just wants to give notice now, and deal with the fallout. Chances are good that Fiona will not honor my two weeks or however long of a notice I give her and just terminate me on the spot. A big part of me wants to have a month off to be with you and the kids. We have plenty of savings to cover a month without pay.”
“Then why don’t you just do it, babe?”
“I’m thinking about it. Oh, and get this. Aaron seems to think with me out of the picture, Fiona would renegotiate a contract for Devin. I suppose it wouldn’t be unrealistic to think so. I get the feeling she isn’t as fond of me as her father was.” Andy stopped and looked at Danae. “Wow, it feels funny to speak of Lionel in past tense, as though he’s already gone.”
“I’m sorry, babe. I know how much he means to you.”
After dinner, Andy was giving the kids a bath when his phone rang. He sat back on his heels and answered it.
“Andy, it’s Tarah,” she greeted him, her voice shaky. “Lionel wanted me to call you personally to tell you he is gone…” her voice trailed off, and he heard a sob on the other end of the phone.
“Oh Tarah, I’m so sorry,” he sighed. “This tears me up.”
“Andy, he wanted me to tell you he always thought of you as a son. He wanted to tell you himself, but he was too weak to talk. He’s been very sick.”
He blinked back hot tears. “Well, I don’t think it’s a secret that I loved him, and you too Tarah. He gave me my first real job, and you have both been wonderful to me.”
“Papa!” Elyse chirped, a name he hadn’t heard her speak in nearly a year. “Papa! Papa!”
“Is that your little girl, Andy?” Tarah asked.
“It is. I don’t know where she got that from. My dad has been gone a while, long enough for her to forget him.”
“Little ones have a way of knowing things we can’t possibly understand. It could be, maybe she remembers more than you think.”
“Nothing would surprise me, Tarah. Not anymore.”
“Well, love, I wanted to let you know. We have the family here, and I need to get back to them. But he made me promise. It was his dying wish.”
That didn’t help, Tarah, Andy thought, choking on a sob. “I’m glad you called. I just wish the news had been happier. I love you both.”
“We love you too, Andy. Tell Danae we love her, and hug those sweet babies for me tonight.”
“I’ll tell her, and I will.” They said goodbye and hung up the phone. He hunched over the tub, resting his forearms over the side, and cried. Elyse walked to him and patted his shoulder.
“Doan cwy, Daddy.” She wrapped her wet little body around him and patted his back. “Doan cwy.”
He looked up at her, astonished that an almost-three-year-old toddler could be so in tune with him. “I won’t cry anymore, sweetheart.”
She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. And she took his face between her hands, looked him right in the eye, and said, “I wuv Daddy,” pressing her cheek to his. At that moment, he knew Tarah was right. His daughter knew more than he could begin to understand.
Three And A Half Weeks To Move…
Andy’s phone rang at work a few days later. “This is Murphy.”
“Andy, Bart McClellan. I received the contract you sent my office, and I’ve had a chance to review it. It’s a good, sound contract and I see no problem in signing it.”
“Hey, thanks, Bart. Just send the bill for your services to my home, and I’ll take care of it.”
“No charge on this one, Andy. Consider it a congratulatory gift. Your father would be so proud of you.”
“Thanks again. I’ve had mixed feelings about this, but since Lionel’s passing, I’m feeling less guilty and more ready. Fiona has been in rare form since his death. I’d hate to think it’s more than just grief, but I also know she doesn’t like me very much.”
“Don’t let anything like that stop you. Loyalties only go so far. In the end, you have to take care of the ones you’ve been entrusted to love. They are the ones that matter.”
“You are so right. Oh, while I have you on the phone, I do need your services for a house closing on the isle. Can you recommend someone who travels down that way? I know Dragon Valley is a long way from there.”
“I have an associate nearby who would love to take a job for you. You’re a big deal back home, you know.”
“I’ve heard. But since I’m parting ways with the Llamas, I don’t see myself going back there anymore. The town holds no intrigue for me.”
“Well, you have Travis’ daughter. If I had someone like her, I’d be pretty contented, too,” Bart teased him.
“Danae is the best part of me. I count myself lucky every day I wake up with her at my side.” Andy beamed.
“Well, I’ll be in touch. When is the closing on the house?”
“In about four weeks. We don’t have to worry about selling this house. The county will probably buy it from us and make it a historical landmark. It was the home of Destiny Hill and Travis Jones, and both were a pretty big deal in the Shores.”
“Oh right! I forgot about that. Well listen, Andy, I need to go. I’ll have my colleague call you.”
“Sounds good, Bart. See you later.”
Andy sat down and signed the contract, sealed it into a courier envelope and stuck it back into his briefcase. He grabbed his car keys and passed Aaron on his way out. “I’ll be right back. If Fi asks where I am, I had to run to the post to mail a document.” Aaron gave him a thumbs up and waved.
Now that Lionel had been gone a few days, and since Fiona was in town tying up some of his loose ends, Andy figured it would be a decent time to talk with her. So, he walked over to her office on the top floor of the stadium and knocked on the door. “Come in,” she snapped, sounding annoyed.
Andy peeked his head into the door. “Is this a bad time, Fi?”
She sighed heavily. “No. What can I do for you, Andy?”
There was no softening the blow, so he just came right out with it. “I have accepted a team manager position in another city, Fi.”
“I see,” she said, her body stiffened, and her voice got suddenly chilly. “Where?”
“That scumbag Kemp headhunted you, didn’t he?” Her stare penetrated him, as though her eyes were honed daggers.
Andy was taken aback. “Scumbag isn’t the word I would have used, but for your sake, we’ll go with it.”
Fiona was angry, and his snide comment didn’t help. “Kirby has been trying to take players from this team for years. I see you fell for his con, like an idiot. He doesn’t give a damn about you, and right now, neither do I. You’ve made your bed, Anduin. Now, go lay in it,” she spat. “Clean out your office and be gone in an hour. I don’t want to see your face again.”
“I’m sorry, Fiona. I didn’t want to leave here with bad blood between us.”
“It’s a little too late for that, Murphy. Time’s ticking. And if I hear you’re trying to steal our players, I’ll file an injunction with the league against the Sharks so quickly, it will make yours and Kirby’s head spin.”
“Well, you’ve made my guilt over this completely vanish. I wish you well, Fiona. Please give your mother my regards.”
“I will not, and that’s another thing. Stay away from her. Do not contact her. Do you understand?”
“Wow,” Andy muttered. “Just wow.” He turned to leave her office, and as he did so, she walked to the door and slammed it behind him.
Andy shook his head all the way back to his office. Aaron caught up with him in the corridor. “What’s troubling you?”
“Oh, I just talked to Fiona. I guess I caught her at a bad time. I told her I accepted another position, and when I told her where she flipped out. I have to be out of here in an hour. So, this is my last day.”
“Oh man, I’m sorry Andy.”
“I didn’t figure this would go well, so I’m not surprised, though her accusations were unexpected. If I do get to hire my own staff, you’re on the shortlist, but we’d need to keep it close. She is threatening legal action against the Sharks if I try to pull even one of you. I’m assuming she meant you, too.”
“She can’t do that. She’s all puff and no stuff. Bargaining and negotiations are a huge part of this sport, and she knows it. Fiona is grieving, and she is hurting, so she’s trying to inflict as much pain on as many people as she can. You’re not the only one she’s fought today. Word has it Wyatt is finished with her, and there isn’t a force in the world that would make him renegotiate his contract here in three months. Keep him in mind. And don’t forget your old buddy Aaron.” He winked at Andy.
Andy handed him a box. “Here, make yourself useful, old buddy.” Both men laughed as they cleaned out the office.
They were finishing up when Andy realized he was stranded. “I hate to ask you this, but I am sure I can’t drive the car home. Would you mind taking me back real quick? Or would it be better to just call a cab?” He typed out one last email to Fiona, informing her the car keys were in the office.
“I have nothing to lose, Andy. I’ll drive you.” He grabbed the few personal items he had in the car and stuffed them into the box he carried, and placed it into Aaron’s trunk.
“Thanks, bud. I owe you one.” Andy thanked him as they pulled up outside the house. Aaron got out of the car and opened the trunk, handing Andy the box. Though he had not counted on it, Aaron got emotional.
“I’m going to miss you. You’re the best friend I’ve had since I left Sunlit Tides. Thanks for everything.”
“Hey, this isn’t goodbye. I have your back. And let Wyatt know to watch for an email from me about his contract, very soon. Once he’s a free agent, I’m going to scoop him up and make him a Shark.” Andy gave his friend a hug and picked up the box. “I’ll be in touch, Aaron. Count on it.”
“You’d better!” He waved as Andy disappeared into his garage, and Aaron wiped a tear from his eyes.
Danae was surprised to see him home so early. “What happened, babe?”
“I have an extended vacation, my sweet. Get ready for three and a half weeks of me!”
“You must have talked to Fiona?”
“Yes, and boy was she angry. She called me an idiot and told me I got played like a fiddle, in not so many words. Did Kirby seem disingenuous to you, honey?”
“No, quite the opposite, actually. The things they proposed were simply impressive. Why? What did Fiona say about him?”
“Well, she guessed that he headhunted me, and promptly told me I fell for some con, whatever that was supposed to mean. That he’s been trying to steal players from the team for years, but I know that isn’t true, because I’d have known it. Dad would have mentioned it. Your father would have mentioned it. I imagine Travis Jones would have been the biggest score for the Sharks had they tried to pull that off.”
“Yeah, he never said anything about it, babe. I think he would have jumped at the chance, Emmitt or no Emmitt. Mama wanted to be there so badly, he would have loved to give that to her.”
“Well, right now, I’m more inclined to believe Kirby than Fiona, especially knowing how she feels about me. I’m sure forcing her to rescind that disciplinary action didn’t get Lionel in good with her, and I’m positive it didn’t help me.” Andy shrugged. “But now we have the time to spend together, making one last push to make memories here that we can take with us. The festival, going to the park with the kids, watching shows we won’t be able to see on the island. Plus, all the lovin’ you can handle, as an added bonus, naturally.” His naughty smile was infectious.
“You’re going to wear me out, babe,” she laughed. “I can’t wait.”
The next morning, Andy went to get the morning newspaper, expecting to see news about his departure from the Llamas, even though no news outlet had bothered to interview him or get his point of view. And as anticipated, there was a large article announcing the split. The other tidbit of news, though not unexpected, was still a shock to see, and hit Andy like a punch to the gut:
Llamas Owner Re-Signs Former Star Player Devin Jones To Roster
Well, Danae won’t want to see this, he thought. He was pouring a cup of coffee when she came down the steps with Elyse on her hip. “Good morning, babe,” she cooed at him.
“Hey my sweet,” he replied. “And how’s my little sweet pea this morning?” He walked to them, kissed Danae and tickled their daughter, resulting in scads of giggles resounding on the bottom floor of the house.
“She’s a little feverish, but she seems like she feels okay.” Danae kissed her forehead. “Yeah, she’s a tad warm.”
“Well, that’s not good. I thought the kids were over being sick for a while.”
“I’d hoped.” Danae spotted the newspaper, something she hadn’t seen regularly since Travis had passed away. “What’s in the news this morning? Anything about your sudden departure from the Llamas?”
“In fact, there is. Despite the lack of interviews from me, they got it almost right.” He picked the paper up and stuck it under his arm.
“Can I read it?” she asked, setting Elyse down in her high chair for breakfast.
“It’s really nothing.”
“Okay, something is wrong. What is it?”
“Are you sure you want to know, honey? You’re not going to like it.”
She held her hand out for the paper. “Let me decide what I like and don’t like.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” he teased.
He watched her read the headline, her lips moving as she read. In disgust, she threw the paper down on the counter. “Unbelievable.”
“Well, look at it this way, baby. He won’t follow us to the Isle and want a job.”
“Poor Aaron. He hates that kid.” Danae spoke of Devin as though he was not her own flesh and blood.
“Well, if Kirby lets me choose my staff, Aaron will be a Shark before long. He isn’t loyal to any one team, and he feels how I did about the Llamas. Fiona is going to run the team into the ground.”
Danae poured a sippy cup of orange juice for Elyse and set it in front of her. “So, is Devin the best player they have again?”
“Truth be told, Wyatt was always better, but Devin has the name. And if I have my way about things, Wyatt will join us in Isla Paradiso at the end of his contract in a few months.”
“They can have my brother. We’ll take the good players with us,” she laughed.
Two Weeks To Move…
Snow began to fall as the last of the leaves in the backyard lay on the ground. Andy had hoped to clean up the yard before the flurries began. They had gotten a generous offer for the house from the Starlight Shores Historical Society and were preparing to move from it. The only condition she had for the sale of the house was the tree in the yard be left to grow. It was the one thing Danae wished she could pack and bring with them to the island, but it gave her comfort to know that it would stand with a commemorative plaque stating its significance to the Jones family. The tree was a living memorial to her older brother or sister, lost in a miscarriage.
Danae was in the loft, pulling things from storage to separate trash from treasure, for not all of it needed to go with them. With four generations of accumulation inside the house, it was a big job, and she was happy to have Andy’s help. She had on an old, holey pair of Charlotte’s jeans and Travis’ ratty old tee-shirt, a pair of worn tennis shoes and a bandana wrapped in her hair. Andy had never seen her dressed down to this extent before.
“Nae? Are you upstairs?” he called to her from the second floor.
“Yes,” she replied. “I’m going through this pile of junk up here. Would you like to help?” Leslie, the babysitter, was watching the children on the first floor so Andy and Danae could sift through the memories.
“I’m on my way,” he yelled. Taking the steps two at a time, he ascended the steps easily. “Whoa, where’s my beautiful wife?” he laughed, noticing her dirt-covered clothing and dusty hair.
“Hello to you too!” she giggled and threw a shoe at him. “I’m looking for certain things in these boxes. Nana’s books, things that could have belonged to Nana Desi, jewelry, clothing. Things with sentimental value. Some of it will be donated to the museum they are opening here.”
Andy sat down with a large box in his lap. “What’s this?” he asked, holding a large bound notebook with a cardboard cover.
“Here, let me look,” she replied. He handed the book to her, and as she looked, her eyes widened. “Andy! This is a manuscript.” Danae flipped the pages and touched the paper. Destiny’s Art was the title. “Nana never published this, babe. I think it’s the biography she wrote.”
“Oh, that’s cool,” he remarked. “Set it aside and we’ll put it in a safe place to bring with us.”
“This is incredible,” she beamed, looking at the table of contents. “All about Nana Destiny and Papa Arthur.”
“I wonder why she didn’t publish it?”
“I’m not sure.” She knew she didn’t have the time to read through the pages, but set it into a box of things to keep.
They continued to sort through boxes. Holiday decorations. Baby clothes from years past. Toys, old games, keepsakes. Three or four boxes of love letters, cards, and pressed flowers. “I can’t decide what to keep! I want all of it.”
“Keep the love letters. Those are personal,” Andy suggested.
“Here’s one with a white lily pressed with it. Aww!” she beamed. “It was my Nana’s 20th-anniversary card from Pop-Pop.” She sighed deeply. “I can’t get rid of this stuff.” She packed the boxes into a larger box and moved on to the next pile.
At the end of the day, they had the entire loft sorted and packed up. Danae decided to donate Destiny’s wedding dress and some of her old costumes to the museum, plus the original banana pancake recipe card, which would be preserved in a frame just as it was, stains and all. Danae had long since copied it and placed it into her own recipe box. Boxes of shoes and other clothing were also staying behind.
In a small dresser in the loft, Danae found Travis’ first Llamas jersey, when he was first hired to play soccer for them. It was the ugliest shade of green, but it had his now-retired number on it. Andy watched her cry with it in her arms, trying to detect the slightest scent of him. He walked up behind her and rubbed her back while she gently folded it and placed it into a ‘keep’ box. Maybe someday, she could find the heart to part with it. But his death was still too fresh in her mind, and she still missed her father immensely.
She tried to get up from the floor, but Danae had sat too long and she needed Andy’s help. Reaching for her hands, he easily pulled her to her feet. “Whew, this has been an emotional day,” she finally said, dusting her jeans off and wiping sweat from her forehead. “But, it’s organized and ready to pack. I’d say this has been a good, productive day.”
“I agree, my sweet. Hey, why don’t we take the kids and go for dinner somewhere?” Andy suggested.
“I don’t know about taking them with us. Babies in a restaurant are not fun for anyone.” She shook her head. “Let’s see if Leslie can stay a little longer, and if not, we just order in.”
“Either way works, my love,” he said. They walked from the loft together down to the first floor. Leslie was reading to both children and had them totally captivated.
“Oh, hi guys,” she greeted them. “How did packing go?”
“Pretty okay. Much more emotional than I anticipated, but we accomplished quite a bit,” Danae replied. “Do you have anywhere to be tonight? Andy and I would love to get a bite to eat if you don’t mind watching them a bit longer.”
“I don’t mind at all,” Leslie smiled. “They’re such good kids.”
“We both need to get cleaned up before we go. Your time will be well compensated,” Andy assured her.
“I appreciate it, but it’s not a problem.”
They both went upstairs to shower, together of course. Afterward, they got dressed in casual clothing and prepared to visit the off-strip restaurant. Danae kissed Elyse on the cheek and snuggled her while Andy was finishing up in the bedroom. “You be a good girl for Leslie, Elyse,” she said.
“Leez good!” she chirped. “Aim good, too!” The rest of her babble was mostly unintelligible, but it made Danae smile.
“Yes sweetheart, Eamon is a good boy, too.” Danae kissed her again and set her down on the floor. She didn’t bother Eamon, as he was playing intently with blocks.
Andy walked down the stairs in a tank with a blazer, khaki pants and boots, his hair tucked behind his ear, and he smelled like musk. Danae nearly melted into the floor when she saw him. “There’s my handsome prince,” she gushed. He took the keys to Danae’s car from the hook and offered his arm for her. “Thank you for staying, Leslie. We shouldn’t be too long.”
“My pleasure,” she replied and waved as they left the house.
Andy drove them through the snow to the restaurant. Rather than valet, they just parked in the lot across the street and walked over, hand in hand. The host recognized them immediately. “Welcome back!” he greeted them. He took one menu from the host station and led them back to their usual table. “The same wine from the bar tonight, Andy?” he asked.
“That sounds wonderful,” Andy replied. Danae settled next to him and grasped his hand, forcing him to set the menu on the table. “Hmm, a whole new selection,” he mused. “They must have a new chef.”
“Could be. What looks good, babe?”
“I’m thinking a surf and turf kind of thing, what do you think?” He studied the menu, but nothing was catching his eye.
“You know, it doesn’t have to be fancy. Fried chicken can be just as tasty as the expensive stuff.”
Andy made a face. “Fried?”
“Yes, you health nut. Fried is okay once in a while.” She grinned at him, expecting a raspberry, but the waiter returned with the bottle of wine Andy had ordered.
“Just a few more minutes, please,” Andy asked, and the waiter nodded. “We get fried stuff once in a while. It’s usually calamari, but it counts.”
“There is some Italian stuff on the menu now. How is eggplant rollatini and maybe veal marsala?”
“Ooh, I haven’t had eggplant in ages,” Danae said. “I love it.”
“It’s settled then,” Andy confirmed. He took a sip of the wine and savored it. “This is a nice vintage,” he said. “Fruity but not too sweet.”
Danae sipped it and agreed. “I would like it just a tad sweeter, but you’re right. It is good.”
They ordered dinner and talked while they waited. “I’m happy we got the biggest job done today, babe,” she said. “Some of the furniture will stay, and I even thought of donating Destiny’s first SimFest award to the museum.”
“Are you sure, honey?”
“Yes, I think so. The new house isn’t that big. Besides, it will make a nice addition to the museum, along with that copy of her first CD I found a couple of days ago. It looks like it was made on her computer.”
“It probably was. You found stuff I bet your mama never knew was up there.”
“You’re most likely right. Some of that stuff hasn’t been touched in years. I might even give them more awards. She just seems so far removed from me, like I don’t have a connection with her, babe.”
“Oh, but you do! Your angelic voice is decidedly hers, honey.”
“Well, so they say. I don’t see it.”
“Can I ask you a question, baby?”
“Do you regret not keeping your career? When I met you, it was all you wanted. And you’re so talented. I mean, sometimes I feel guilty I asked you to raise our family.”
“I don’t regret a minute of being mama to those two babies, Andy. Yes, my life could have been different, but I don’t think it would have been better. You, Elyse, Eamon… you all make my life whole. I couldn’t ask for more than that.” She reached to caress his cheek. “Besides, it was my idea to stay at home with them. It was what I truly wanted.”
“I adore you, Danae. You make me whole and complete.”
After dinner, they left to go home and relieved Leslie. Andy made sure to tip her well. They would continue to need her while they sorted through the house. “Were they good for you?” he asked.
“Of course, Andy. They’re always good. See you tomorrow?” she asked.
“Yes, please. Same time, if you can.”
“You bet. Goodnight. Goodnight Danae!” Leslie yelled to her.
The house was closed up after Leslie left, and they both went to check on the kids. Elyse was almost asleep, and Eamon was sleeping soundly. Danae tiptoed in to tuck both of them in, and they retreated to their bedroom.
“How are you feeling, babe?” she asked.
“I’m feeling a little frisky,” he purred.
Danae laughed. “Of course you’re frisky! You’re my Andy.” She hugged him close to kiss him, and let him love her until they fell asleep.
One Week To Move…
Andy checked his email like he did every morning, watching for updates on the move. On this particular morning, an email from Kirby was tucked into the usual spam.
Andy and Danae,
I hope all is going well with your anticipated relocation to the Isle. I have taken the liberty of reserving a private jet, similar to the one you flew last time, to bring your family and your sister’s family to the isle. Any tickets you have already purchased, I will reimburse. I know you are traveling heavy with four children among you, and I know the challenges this will present. Please, allow Rae and me to provide your transportation and accommodation in the same suite, which will sleep four adults and four children with ease until your homes are settled and the movers arrive.
If you have any other questions or needs, please call. You have my number. We both look forward to seeing you again and meeting Darcey, Clint, and their boys.
“Danae!” Andy exclaimed. “You’re not going to believe this.”
“Kirby is arranging a private jet for all of us, all eight of us. He knows we will have the kids, and he wants to make our trip as easy as possible.”
“Wow, Andy! I can’t believe it. But I think Darcey and Clint already have their flight booked.”
“He is going to reimburse any tickets already purchased. I was going to get ours tomorrow.”
“I don’t believe a word of what Fiona told you, babe. She was just being Fi.”
“I think you’re right. Kirby hasn’t given me any reason at all to mistrust him.”
“Well, this certainly makes our lives easier. Please, when you write him back, tell him thank you from me and Darce, though I have a feeling this is Rae’s doing. It has her fingerprints all over it.”
“Could be. She rather likes you, Nae.” Andy beamed at his wife. “But then again, what’s not to love about you?”
“I could think of a few things,” she teased.
“Nonsense!” he laughed. “There is not one single unlovable thing about you.” He wrapped her in a hug.
Changing the subject, she asked about the house. “When do we close on the house, babe?”
“A few days after we arrive on the island. I couldn’t get it sooner. The seller needed to delay for some reason, though I don’t know why. But now we don’t have to worry about it. Kirby has us covered. When are Darcey and Clint closing on theirs?”
“I think the day after we arrive. They were looking at a resort, but the in-season rates were astonishing. I can’t wait to tell her.”
“I forwarded the email to both of them. Sorry, sweetie.”
“Oh, that’s even better!” She kissed him. “You’re always so on top of everything.”
He gave her a look and raised his eyebrow at her. “Interesting choice of words,” he teased.
“Yeah, well not now. I still have to sort through the junk in the garage today. And guess what? You’re nominated to help!”
“Oh, you think so?” He laughed and chased her around the dining room until he caught her, and covered her in kisses. “What makes you think I’ll help you?”
“I have my ways,” she flirted. “But we need to wait for Leslie. Once I’m out there, I’m not stopping until dinner.”
“Your powers of persuasion are strong, little miss. Where shall I take you for dinner tonight?”
“Doesn’t matter,” she replied. “I’ve chosen every night this week. It’s your turn.”
“Then why don’t we order in, and invite Leslie to eat with us?”
“That’s a beautiful gesture. I’ll ask her when she gets here.” Danae looked around at the house and sighed. “I’m going to miss this place.”
“I will, too. But, we have a beautiful home waiting for us with a huge yard. This house is enormous, but the yard is non-existent. Nowhere for the kids to play.”
“Very true. I’m also going to miss having you home with me. I’ve had so much fun with you over the past three weeks. Reality, even on the island, will still bite.”
“I shouldn’t have to travel as much there. Kirby lives on the island, so my commute for business meetings will be less than twenty minutes.”
“True again. When does the soccer season start?”
“In about two months. I have some time to settle into my new job before the bustle of the season. And it’s football on the island. That’s going to take some getting used to. My whole life, it’s been soccer.”
The call box rang, and Danae answered it. “Come on in Leslie.” She opened the front door for the babysitter. “The kids are playing in the spa room, so they should be content for a while. I need to finish the garage today. Time is short. If you need us, that’s where we are.”
“Sounds good, Danae. Don’t worry, your angels are in good hands.”
“Say, Leslie, we’re going to order dinner in tonight. Would you like to join us? We’d love to have you.”
“Sure! That would be fun.”
“Think about what you’d like. We’re ordering from that little restaurant behind the Hoi Polloi. Andy will go pick it up.” She placed a menu on the dining room table. “Anything you’d like. Just let me know!”
“Thanks, Danae. I’ll take a look and let you know.”
Andy and Danae sat by the fireplace, watching the gas flames in the hearth as they sipped their last bottle of wine. The children were tucked into bed, and snow was falling, though it wasn’t really technically winter yet. Spooky Day was coming, but there would be no trick or treating this year, not in this neighborhood. No, they would be spending their first holidays away from the city in an enormous lot that overlooked the water, and where palm trees grew natively.
Andy sat with Danae’s head in his lap. He stroked her hair and caressed her cheek. “A penny for your thoughts, Nae.”
“Devin. I’ve been thinking a lot about him since we sold the house. Should I call him? Let him know we’re leaving the county? Tell him to pound sand?”
“I wouldn’t give him the time of day if I were you, honey. Not after all the terrible things he has said about you. He got his job back, he can go back to his philandering ways now that he doesn’t have a cash flow problem anymore.”
“I feel bad, though. We used to be close, all three of us. What happened?”
“I wish I had an answer for you, my sweet. I can tell you what I know of him. He relied too much on your dad’s glory. He relied too much on his looks. It’s scary how much he looks like Travis. I think he was counting on riding the wave. Maybe to a point he still is. Other than that, he really has nothing going for him. His ego and over-inflated sense of self-worth will be his downfall, and it will be sad to watch.”
“I remember Mama saying once, that she wished we would love each other for all our lives. I don’t know why I remember that. I was just a little girl. But I never forgot about it. How we must have disappointed her.”
“Not you and Darcey. Just him. He’s the one who made himself hated. He’s brought everything he gets upon himself. And you know, honey, he might not get his comeuppance now, or even later in life. But he will die a lonely, bitter old man. He will have no one when he needs compassion.”
Danae sniffled. “I think that’s what breaks my heart about Devin the most. He doesn’t want a relationship, he wants friends with benefits. He doesn’t want kids. What a sad existence for him.”
“Try not to feel too sorry for him, sweetie. Someday, he will reap what he has sown, and he will be sorry.”
Four Days To Move…
“Babe, do you need help outside at the grill?” Danae was preparing vegetables inside at the kitchen counter. “Everyone will be here in a few minutes.”
“No, I’m okay so far.” He walked to her at the counter and wrapped his arms around her. “This was a great idea.”
“You think so?”
“Absolutely, my sweet. For one, it helps to clean out the fridge. We can’t take all that food with us. And second, we can all have photos done in this house together, one last time. Pictures we can hang in our new homes. Reminders of good times.”
Danae wiped a tear from her eye and turned around in his embrace. “I love your sentimental heart, babe.” He hugged her close and kissed her tenderly.
Darcey opened the front door, and at once two rambunctious boys burst through, squealing and giggling. “We’re here!” Clint announced, as though it wasn’t completely obvious.
Noel ran to his Aunt Danae and wrapped himself around her waist. “Hi love,” she greeted him and tousled his hair.
“Hi, Aunt Danae!” He hugged her tightly and ran to play with Elyse and Shan.
“That little boy loves you, Nae,” Darcey quipped.
“Hey Clint, come help with the grill,” Andy beckoned.
Danae rolled her eyes at him. “I literally asked him not five minutes ago if he needed help,” she laughed.
Darcey joined the laughter. “Men. Can’t live with them, surely can’t live without them.”
When dinner was ready, they all sat around the dinner table, sharing a meal together, along with memories, laughter, and some tears. But when the conversation turned to college, Andy felt out of place. He had gone to a different, exclusive, private college, while the others had gone to Sim State. Amid a memory and the laugh producing story that accompanied it, Danae noticed he was quieter than usual. She took his hand and squeezed it, and promptly changed the subject. His sweet, thankful smile was all she needed.
At 7:00 pm, Aaron came with his camera equipment to take photos of both families in the home that all of them had lived in at some point. Family photos came first because Danae knew Eamon’s attention span was growing short. But each family posed with their children, and together as couples.
“Aaron, you did a fabulous job on these pictures,” Andy complimented him. “I’ll add this to your list of skills when I consider you in Isla.”
“Gee, thanks, Murph. You’re all heart,” he joked. He checked the photos, then connected his camera to the large screen television, and showed off his handiwork. Everyone was very pleased. When the slideshow came to Danae and Andy’s couple’s photo, she squealed.
“Oh my goodness! That picture is awesome! I have to get that one printed.”
“For you, Miss Danae, anything,” Aaron quipped. “I’ll print and mail them as soon as I have an address. I’ll do a good job on them, I promise.”
After everyone had gone home, Danae and Andy cleaned the dishes together. “Did you have a good time, my sweet?”
“I did, babe. I’m glad this won’t be our last time together.”
“Me too. I wanted to thank you, honey. I felt awkward when you guys were reminiscing about school. In that regard, I feel like an outsider.”
“Well, you’re not.” Up to her elbows in soap suds, she turned around and hugged him.
Andy chuckled. “What did you do that for?”
“Because I felt like it.” Her grin was pure mischief.
Without warning, he kissed her deeply, taking her breath away. “You want to know why I did that, my sweet?”
“Because you felt like it?”
“That too.” He picked her up over his shoulder and carried her upstairs to their bedroom, locking the door behind them.
Two Days To Move…
Danae had finished tagging furniture that would go onto the shipping crates two days earlier. A truck from a local charity was scheduled to arrive to retrieve any furniture and items that weren’t being shipped to the isle or donated to the museum. Andy was outside finishing up the sale of Danae’s car to its new owner, and he walked back inside with cash in his hand.
“Baby, here’s your new car fund for the isle,” he said. She looked at the stack of cash and her jaw dropped open.
“Wow. You really got that much for my car?”
“Of course I did. It was your car. Don’t you know how valuable anything having to do with your father is? It’s especially so after his death.”
“Yes, but I’m not him.”
“But you’re his daughter. That makes anything you touch valuable.”
“Well, that’s silly.”
“Maybe to you. But to a Travis Jones fan, it’s everything. Baby, you’re as big a celebrity as I am, if not bigger. You have to know that.”
“I guess I know it in my heart. I just don’t feel it.” She folded the cash into an envelope to put it into the safe. “That safe in the bedroom closet is coming with us, yes?”
“It is, baby. But I would put valuables in your carry on bag for the airplane. Don’t trust the jewelry and cash to a mover.”
“We’re going to have so much to carry already. Besides, aren’t they insured? We just declare the value of the safe and its contents.”
“You have a point. Two babies, two car seats, luggage, Eamon’s diaper bag. Traveling with kids is a drag,” he joked.
“We’re going to survive. At least we don’t have to fly commercially, thanks to Kirby and Rae.”
“Very true, love,” Andy agreed.
The van arrived a short time later and loaded all donated items onto their truck. One of the movers looked around the house in awe. “I’ve always wanted to see the inside of this house. It’s not nearly as grand as I imagined it.”
“Well, it’s always served as a residence. I’m the fourth generation to own it. It will be restored, redecorated and opened to the public in about a year.” Danae wiped a tear from her eyes. “I will miss it.” She was stuck in her memories as she looked around the house.
The young man kicked at the floor. “I don’t mean to interrupt your thought, but do you need a receipt for taxes?”
“No, we don’t. Thanks again!”
“Thank you, and good luck!”
One Day To Move…
Danae finished throwing clothing they would need immediately into their suitcase and zipped it up. Two larger suitcases held the bulk of their clothing, along with baby supplies they didn’t need until they arrived on the island. Andy was on the first floor waiting for the movers to come, though they still weren’t due for another thirty minutes. Elyse and Eamon were in the spa room where he could keep an eye on them while Danae finished packing their overnight bag for the bed and breakfast, where they would spend their last night in Starlight Shores.
In her mind, she went over the checklist of everything she needed for the kids, and made sure every bit of it was easily accessible. Stopping at the safe, she removed a sizable sum of cash, closed and locked it. The money she stashed partially in Eamon’s diaper bag, partially in her carry on for the airplane, and partially in Andy’s wallet, which she had temporarily in her purse. Leslie was going to meet Danae at the bed and breakfast for her last day of watching the kids, except this day, she would have Shan and Noel as well. Over the past month, Leslie had gotten attached to Elyse and Eamon, and Danae was certain she would miss them.
Darcey and Clint were also staying for the evening at the bed and breakfast in an adjoining room, but they too were busy with movers at their house. The closing on theirs was in the morning, and the Murphy house was right after the Scroggins. Immediately after Danae and Andy’s closing, a limousine would arrive to bring the two families to the airport for a three o’clock flight to the Isle. Everything had to work perfectly, but neither family had reason to believe anything would go wrong. Darcey and Clint were selling their house to the county for fair market value.
Danae got Eamon from his car seat and brought them into the resort room, where Leslie was waiting for them with Noel and Shan. Elyse was happy to see her cousins, and the three of them entertained each other, leaving Eamon to have Leslie’s undivided attention. “We’ll be back when the movers are finished, Leslie. If you want or need anything, ask the host for it, and we’ll cover it. Anything you’d like.”
“Thank you Danae,” she said, feeling emotional. “We’ll see you soon.”
Andy and Danae put in eight long, backbreaking hours of work, helping the movers, directing them on where to put things, what to take, what would be left behind. When the truck was closed and they pulled away, both of them were exhausted. But hand in hand, they walked through the house one last time together. Andy held her as she wept. Never had she seen the house look so empty, but many things remained. Artwork. Sketches. Furniture. Six SimFest trophies, and Destiny’s music club trophy, her handmade holiday wreath, performance props and costumes, and the wedding dress. When they were ready, a limo was waiting to drive them to the resort.
Darcey and Clint were already at the resort and had cleaned up, helping Leslie watch and play with the kids when Andy and Danae dragged back into their room. Darcey saw her sister’s face, and knew immediately she’d had a rough day. “Oh honey, it’s going to be okay,” she told Danae as she hugged her.
“It was so empty.” Danae cried again, and Darcey comforted her. She sniffled back tears and dried her eyes. “Onward and upward, I guess,” she said somewhat confidently.
“Well,” Leslie finally said, “I guess this is it.” Andy watched as her eyes welled with tears. “I’m going to miss your children so much.” And he embraced her.
“Thank you for everything you’ve done to help us while we’ve gotten ready. It was a huge job, and we couldn’t have done it without you.” He took his wallet out and peeled off ten large bills, put them in her hands, and hugged her.
“Oh Andy, I can’t take this—” she tried to protest, but he would hear none of it.
“Please, Leslie. You deserve it.” She handed her camera to Danae and asked that she take a photo of her with each of the kids.
“I’ll never forget you,” she wept openly. “I wish you all the best in Isla Paradiso.”
“Thanks again, Leslie,” Danae cried as she hugged her. “Live your best life.”
“I will, I promise.” She hugged Darcey and Clint, and kissed all four children, and left the suite.
The suite was chaotic with four people needing bathed, fed and clothed before 9:00am. To save time, Danae got into the shower with Elyse and Eamon, something she had never done before but it worked well, and while Andy was showering she dressed the kids and ordered breakfast. By the time he was dressed, breakfast had arrived, and they all sat at the table in their room. Eamon was a bit small for the table, so Danae held him in her lap, feeding him bits of scrambled egg and bites of toast. Andy helped Elyse with hers for the sake of time, much to her great chagrin. And by some miracle, the family of four was ready for the limousine when it arrived to bring them downtown to the closing.
Darcey and Clint had gotten to the title company mere minutes before Andy and Danae, and the agreement was to watch each others’ children during the closings. Each of them went well with no problems, and as planned, the limousine returned to retrieve them promptly, destination Starlight Shores municipal airport. As they drove through town for their last time, Danae looked toward the western hills and waved at a life that was now their past, taking in the sights of the city one more time, for old times’ sake.
When the limo arrived at the airport and dropped everyone at the terminal, Clint pulled Andy aside.
“Andy, I never got the chance to thank you for this,” he said gratefully. “I’m looking forward to a new life in a small village.”
“I had little to do with it, my man. This was Danae’s doing. Rae Kemp had a feeling she wouldn’t leave the Shores without Darcey. She was probably right.”
“Yeah, but it’s your new job. Your opportunity. I feel like we’re riding your coattails, but I’m so thankful for the chance.” Clint shook his hand. “I just wanted to say thank you.”
“We’re so happy to have you along for the ride. So thanks for coming. It probably saved my new job.”
When they went through security, they met Kirby’s jet in the commuter terminal. It was already there, awaiting their arrival, and they were boarded immediately. A small cart with their luggage arrived five minutes later, and they were ready to depart. The kids were tired, and by the time they were taxiing out onto the runway, three of the four children were sound asleep. The sisters and their husbands cheered as the waiter popped open a bottle of champagne, and they all toasted to their new lives together as the aircraft ascended, and the city of Starlight Shores disappeared beneath the clouds.