G2 Chapter Two – Dashed Dreams, Deception, and Doormat Destiny

This chapter contains adult situations and language. Reader discretion is advised.


Two Weeks Later

I’d sacrificed and saved enough money to buy a new outfit for performances, one that I’d planned to wear at the park. Though I’d gone back several times, Grant never again said hello. I guess I creeped him out. That was okay, though. I creeped myself out that day, too. 

My morning was free, so I got dolled up in my new dress to try my hand at the park. I took my time primping, taking special care to do my hair and makeup. My new dress, which I wore with a pair of lace leggings, was just above my knee. It was a black, sleek, long-sleeved sweater dress, perfect for the upcoming cold season.

I noticed the nip in the air as I took the elevator to the parking garage. The weather was turning, along with the leaves on the trees that lined the park’s border. My breath puffed from my mouth in a plume of steam. Yep, it’s officially fall. 

I parked my car at the coffeehouse, took my guitar from the trunk, and walked the hundred yards to the stage. The regulars weren’t out front. Yes! My guitar case was open and at my feet. I didn’t want to sing Daddy’s favorite song, but I had others that were just as good! I tuned my guitar and put the strap around my neck. 

Three songs in, an older woman approached me, dressed in a leotard and ballet slippers. She was one of the regulars; a mediocre acrobat whose routine I’d seen a few times. Trust me, I’d seen much better than her act. She was snapping a wad of foul-smelling gum, which she breathed into my face.

“Who are YOU?” she demanded, a long, bony finger poked into my chest. “You don’t belong out here.” 

I stopped what I was doing and extended my hand as a kind gesture. “Destiny Farmer. I’m new to town, and—” 

“You gotta earn the right to perform here, little girl.” She ran her hand through a mop of black, over-processed hair. I’m surprised a bunch of it didn’t break off in her fingers. “Newbies get the side stage, or up by the johns.” She pointed behind her to the public restroom outbuilding. 

I stood tall and took a deep breath. “You know, this is a public park. I believe I may stand wherever I want.” I crossed my arms in front of my body for effect. 

“You wanna play that game? Fine. You’ll find out the hard way how we play in the Shores.” 

“What does THAT mean?” I was probably too indignant for my own good.

“Keep encroaching on our turf up front, little baby,” she snarled. “You’ll find out real quick what it means.” She turned on her heel and left.

Now, I’d be lying if I said she didn’t rattle me. I recalled Grant’s words. “Be careful, Destiny. They’re ruthless.” I closed my eyes to fight the tears, the doubts, when I saw Daddy’s face, clear as day. “The world is yours for the taking. Grab it by the horns, baby girl, and give ‘em hell.” I could still see him saying that to me, as though it was yesterday. 

Even more determined, I grabbed my guitar and strummed the first note of another song. From the corner of my eye, I saw my antagonist chatting with a group of people, then pointing my way. I did a quick headcount of the group; they were fifteen strong against a nineteen-year-old, one-hundred-ten pound girl. I swallowed a mouthful of bile that crept into my throat as they approached. Aw, hell no!

Three young guys approached first. All of them wore scowls on their faces, ready to pick a fight. But instead of engaging me, they started booing and heckling me. I tuned them out and played louder, trying to sing over the commotion they were intent on creating.

Three more people walked over. There were five guys and a young girl causing trouble. One more woman strolled over to where they stood, but I recognized her; my neighbor across the hall. She took two gigantic steps toward me, grabbed the neck of my guitar, and whispered into my ear. 

“If I see your boyfriend again, I will steal him from you. And I’ll show him everything he’s missing, being with your sorry ass. Are you pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down?” Her left hand still held the guitar’s neck, her right hand flicked the tip of my nose. I swallowed another mouthful of bile. I was in way over my head.

“You know what?” I said. “This spot is all yours.” I took the guitar strap from around my neck, placed it into the case, and closed it up. “But if any of you touch me, I will press charges.” 

“If we touch you, you won’t know what hit you.” The tallest, heaviest guy stood with his fists clenched. “Leave here. You won’t come back if you’re smart. Next time, this will be you.” He ripped my guitar case from my hands and threw it at someone else. I watched, helpless, as they took my beloved guitar from its case and smashed it, taking turns at destroying it. I sank to my knees, retching from fear. 

Scraps of wood and wire were all that remained of my beautiful acoustic guitar when they threw it into the pond, spit on me, and left me shaken to my core. I ran to my car, got in, and spun the tires as I left.

Jeff would be in class, but I didn’t care. The mob at the park scared the hell out of me, and I needed him. The phone rang until it went to voicemail. My shaky, heavy drawl mixed with tears left a message that would be sure to panic him:

Jeff, call me. I was assaulted at the park, and I need you.

Though I knew my neighbor was at the park downtown, I backed into the elevator. I pressed the button for the nineteenth floor, praying it went straight up to the penthouse. I was lucky; the elevator seldom made that trip in one shot.

With shaky hands, I slipped my key into the lock on the front door, turned it, and stepped inside. Finally safe in my sanctuary, I fell against the door and slid down, heaving uncontrolled sobs.

*****

The light in the apartment was dim and purple, signifying the sun setting in the western sky. Jeff never called me back, which was odd considering the message I’d left for him. I faded in and out of sleep for hours, never truly resting. Each time my eyes closed, I saw them smashing my beloved guitar to bits. My arms wrapped around Angaloo, trying to self-soothe. It wasn’t working.

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I didn’t hear the front door open, the quiet footsteps in the living room, nor did I hear the latch clicking on the bedroom door. My back was turned away from it, and I was fighting sleep.

“Oh, sweetheart,” Jeff whispered as he laid down next to me, his arms encircled me and held me tight. “I’m here. You’re safe.” 

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I didn’t ask why he was there; I already knew. The tears I was weary of crying came fast. My body shook in his arms while he held me. His sweet kisses and comforting words whispered into my ear helped to calm my frazzled nerves more than anything else could have.

We laid together in bed until the room was in pitch darkness. Jeff never loosened his grip on me. I took a deep breath and sighed. One last sob echoed in the room. “I didn’t expect you to come running here to save me, but I’m happy you did,” I whispered.

“Have you been here all day, babyluv?”

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I nodded and sniffled. “Yeah. This is where I’m keeping Daddy’s pistol. I was praying I wouldn’t need it.”

He pulled back and looked at me. “You have a gun?”

“Mmhmm. Daddy taught me to shoot it. We did target practice together.”

“Do you have your permit yet?”

“Not yet, no. I shouldn’t have the gun out, but I dug it out of his lockbox this morning when I got home and set it on the nightstand.”

He nodded his head, then kissed me. “What happened at the park, Des? I want to hear everything.”

I explained the morning’s events in excruciating detail, the way they’d replayed in my head all day. His body stiffened, and his muscles tensed up when I told him about my guitar. It was the first guitar I’d ever owned, and now it sat in ruins at the bottom of the pond at Verde Park. 

“We’re going back there tomorrow. And you will point out the brutes that threatened a nineteen-year-old girl. If I have to fight each one of them, they’re going to learn to leave you alone.” 

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I shook my head. “No! I won’t go back to the park. I can’t…” I couldn’t take a chance my neighbor meant what she’d said about Jeff, nor did I want him fighting them. They were all bigger than both of us, and I feared they’d kill him.

He took my hands and kissed them. “Please come back to campus with me for a few days, Des? You’ll calm down a bit, and I’ll figure out how to protect you.”

“I can’t just take time from my job, Jeff. I’m a new hire there.” 

“How much do you make? I’ll pay your salary while you’re with me.” 

“That’s not really the point. I need to make my own way here.”

“Please, sweetheart? I’ll feel better knowing you’re safe until I figure this out.”

I considered his proffer. Even if it meant sleeping on the floor in his dorm, I loved the idea of being with him again. “I’ll pack light, I promise.”

Jeff laughed. He knew how difficult keeping that promise would be for me. “I’ll hold you to that!”


Two Months Later

After the incident at the park, I resigned myself to waiting tables at the coffeehouse until after our wedding. With my guitar gone, performing around town for tips was out of the question; a replacement would cost money that I just didn’t have. Sing-A-Gram was out of reach until my next birthday. There was only one talent agency in town, and they weren’t seeking additional clients. It wasn’t my year.

I’d worked a double shift at the coffeehouse, on my feet for fourteen hours, and I was tired. I didn’t feel like decorating the penthouse for Snowflake Day. My birthday was days away, and the holiday right behind it. How I longed for the family I missed, and my soon-to-be family in Sunset Valley. The trip up north wasn’t in my budget this year; I wasn’t looking forward to spending my birthday or the holidays alone.

Jeff had been out on winter break for two weeks already. His last holiday as a single man would be with his family and friends. He explained he was saving money for a spectacular honeymoon; bringing me there at his expense was not workable, and I understood. We were planning a fall wedding in Sunset Valley, outdoors, at his family’s mansion. I was scheduled to fly there in January to find my wedding gown, courtesy of Jeff’s mother Audrey. Despite my desire to have a small, intimate ceremony, it was turning into the social event of the year.

A co-worker had given me a basket of bath items during the Snowflake Day party at the coffeehouse, a gift I was planning on taking full advantage of when I got home. A soak in lavender-scented bath beads was just what I needed to unwind and relax. I trudged through the front door, locking it behind me, and set my keys and purse on the counter. 

I walked to the master bathroom and plugged the bathtub, ran the water a little warmer than I found comfortable, and threw a handful of beads into the cascading water. My towel and robe were in the bedroom; I grabbed both and walked back to the tub to turn off the faucet. The first step into the tub made me shiver, though the ambient air temperature wasn’t chilly. The water was hot enough to sting my skin as I sank into the bubbles; a sigh of relief hissed from my mouth.

I’d been humming some holiday songs to myself when I thought I heard a bang inside the penthouse. I sat straight up in the tub, my ears perked up. “Hello?” I called out. “Hello? Is someone there?” It occurred to me how stupid I must have sounded. If a burglar was in the penthouse, he wouldn’t likely answer me, anyway.

I got up and reached for my robe, wrapped it around me, and walked to my nightstand, where I kept Daddy’s old pistol. No one should be in the building without a code or call; that made me feel no better. “Hello?” I called out again. I stood behind my closed bedroom door, the gun in my hand. A deep breath and a step forward, I opened the door and lunged through it. 

“Well, hello Annie Oakley,” Jeff said with a grin, his arms open wide and ready to hold me. Boy, was he a sight for sore eyes!

“Jeff?!” I set the gun on the side table next to the loveseat and ran to him. “What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to surprise you for the holiday and your birthday, sweetheart. That was quite the welcome!”

“I wasn’t expecting you. You startled me!” I stepped into his embrace and kissed him. His fingers caught my robe and pulled it open. 

He chuckled and then licked his lips. “Well, my view just improved!” His hands slipped inside, resting on my skin, caressing me as he held me close. “This is an invitation I can’t resist.”

“Well, not now,” I laughed. “I was in the bathtub, and I’d kinda like to finish up. I had a long day at work.”

“Mmm, that’s why you’re so warm and smell so pretty.” He kissed me again. “I still need to grab my suitcase from my rental car, and I’ll be back upstairs. Don’t point a gun at me this time, okay?” he said, laughing.

“You’re just no fun!” I teased him. “You know where I’ll be.” 

The water was a more comfortable temperature when I slid back into the bath. I let what remained of the bubbles surround me; it felt good, so I closed my eyes and let my body float in the tub. 

A few minutes later, the bathroom door flung open; Jeff stood there with an odd look on his face. “Who is the really pushy chick with jet black hair and brown eyes?” He’d just described my very annoying neighbor. 

“Ah yes, you’ve met Tiffany. She’s the one who threatened at the park to take you from me.”

He wiped a pale shade of lipstick off his mouth. “Yeah, we’ve met. Is she always that rude and obnoxious?”

“She told me you’d fall in love with her, and that I should be cognizant of that fact. I think she’s a few bricks shy of a load, to be truthful.” His horrified expression, and the remainders of lipstick on his skin, said all I needed to know. “Did she really kiss you?!”

“Oh my gosh, Des. I’ve never met anyone like her before. She’s crazy, that one.” He sat on the toilet, lid down, and reached for a towel. “You don’t have to worry about me, baby. I only have eyes for you.” He was thorough, rubbing every trace of her lip stain off his skin.

I smiled at him. “I knew that already, Jeff. She got under my skin the first time, but I realized she’s nuts.”

“Would you care for some company in the shower when you’re done soaking?” He winked at me. That would be a first; we’d been together just once. “I could get all the spots you can’t reach.”

“You know how to make me stretch my boundaries,” I said with a snicker. “Sure.”

*****

Jeff had brought groceries to make supper for us that night. Though the penthouse was roomy, the kitchen lacked space. He worked it like a professional chef, using every inch of counter to its fullest potential. When everything was in the oven, we joined forces to clean up.

“How did you plan on decorating? Do we need a tree? I think we should get a fresh one.” He uncorked a bottle of White Zinfandel and poured some into Mama’s vintage wine glasses. Handing me one, he raised his for a toast. “To us, Des. Our last holiday as an unmarried couple.”

“Cheers!” I said and sipped. This stuff was tasty and sweet, so much better than the usual dry, cottony-mouthed stuff he bought. “I was thinking of a fresh tree.” He sat on the loveseat and held his arms open for me to cuddle with him. “Mama and Daddy’s ornaments are in the crawlspace above the second bedroom. I was going to bring them down tomorrow. It’s my only day off this week.” 

“Do you work on your birthday? I was hoping to take you out somewhere fancy.”

I nodded. “Yeah, I told Jared I’d work the early shift. We should be okay by suppertime, though.” I took another sip of wine; it was delightful! “What did you have in mind?”

He nuzzled his face into my neck and kissed it. “I’m not telling you! That would ruin the surprise, silly.” 

“At least give me a hint?”

“You’ll need your gown.” Well, that narrowed it down to almost every restaurant in town.

“Not helpful!”

“Sorry, sweetheart, that’s all I got.” His fingers traced the muscles in my right arm, down to my waist. “Damn, you’re still so beautiful.” 

“You must feel frisky tonight.” When wasn’t he, really?

“You don’t miss a trick, do you?”

“Not usually.” I snuggled backward into his arms and then turned my head toward him for a kiss. “Yes.”

“Yes, what?”

“Yes, I’ll go to bed with you tonight.” I kissed him again with much more passion.

“I didn’t ask—” he groaned.

“You don’t have to.”


We spent my birthday together, just the two of us. He took me to an exclusive restaurant in town, one of the oldest on the Los Sueños Strip. It was the first time I’d been inside such a swanky, posh, five-star restaurant like that one. The one in Bridgeport was elegant and refined, but this one looked like a million dollars. 

On Snowflake Day morning, Jeff woke up first. I didn’t feel him slip from the bedroom, but I smelled fresh coffee wafting in from the kitchen, and the aroma of bacon sizzling on the stove. The air was chilly, and I was wearing no clothes when I put my feet on the floor.

Jeff heard me awake and walked to the bedroom with a cup of coffee for me, prepared just how I loved it. “Good morning, sugarplum,” he said with a wink. “Did you sleep well?” 

“Mmhmm. Thank you for the coffee.” I put on my robe. In reality, it didn’t matter what I wore or didn’t wear. No one could see into our penthouse on the nineteenth floor.

“You’re welcome.” He leaned in for a kiss and then lingered there. “Are you hungry, Des?”

“I could eat,” I said. Breakfast smelled delicious. 

“The bacon is almost done. I’ll make eggs for you however you’d like, and your favorite whole grain toast.” He took my hands and led me out to the living room. The pile of gifts under the tree shocked me. I felt like a little girl!

“Jeff!” I set my coffee down on the counter and covered my face with my hands. “What did you do?”

“Wouldn’t you love to know?” He taunted me. “It’s been so hard keeping this secret.”

“Where did it all come from? You came in with nothing but your bag.”

“That’s true. I got busy while you were working.” His blue eyes sparkled. 

“I…” My eyes welled with tears. I had nothing for him. His visit was unplanned, and money was tight. “You caught me off guard, Jeff. I have nothing—”

He took my hands, his expression so full of love that I couldn’t comprehend why he adored me so much. “Don’t worry about it, Des. I have everything I need and want.”

“I worry about it, Jeff. You give me so much, and I seldom reciprocate. I should shower you with gifts and all—”

He placed his finger on my lips with a gentle ‘shh’. “Des, since we’ve been together, you’ve had one trial after another. You take everything in stride and you never miss a beat. I know you’re struggling here, that your bills are high. There is no reason for you to be facing difficulty when you’re under my roof. You’re my responsibility, babyluv. And I won’t let you neglect things you want because your needs are a burden.” He kissed me, a tender caress on my cheek. “Let me spoil you, because I love you.”

He wiped away my tears of joy as he explained the gifts. I still felt guilty, but when I was able, I’d make it up to him tenfold. “Thank you.” 

One last sweet kiss and he stood. “Breakfast is ready.” 

We worked in the kitchen together to finish up cooking eggs and toast, then sat at the small dinette table he’d bought for the space I had. Keeping Daddy’s tradition of praying for our meal, Jeff whispered a short blessing over us and our day together. He wasn’t a believer like me, which made his gesture more special.

The dishes sat in the sink while we relaxed on the loveseat, staring at the pile of gifts under the tree. Each one of them had my name on it. Without realizing it, Jeff had triggered fantastic childhood memories for me; I dabbed my eyes and sniffled.

“Are you alright?” 

“Yeah. It makes me nostalgic to see this. I haven’t had gifts like this since I was a girl.”

“There’s one or two I brought from home from Mom and Dad. The rest are from me, sweetheart. Happy Snowflake Day.” 

I wrapped my arms around him, holding him close. “Happy Snowflake Day, my sweet love,” I whispered into his ear.

Jeff sat on the floor in front of the tree, picking out presents for me to open. One by one, I opened his generous gifts; he saved one in particular, it seemed, for last. He held it behind his back and acted innocent. My interest was piqued, but I expected none of what he’d done. It could wait if that’s what he wanted. 

I pretended he didn’t have something hidden behind him. “I’m getting more coffee. Would you like a refill?” I asked.

He nodded. “Yeah, as long as you’re getting it, I’ll have one.” Jeff stood and stretched. “Nature calls. I’ll be right back.” I nodded and kept preparing the cups of coffee.

He was back in the living room faster than I could finish. I carried the mugs to him, retaking my place on the loveseat. The gift he’d been hiding now sat on the coffee table; a coy grin pulled across his face.

“Thank you for everything,” I said, taking a sip of my coffee. 

“I saved the special one for last, babyluv.” He placed the gift he’d held back onto the table. “This one is from me.”

Funny, he’d say it like that. The gifts were all from him, but I humored him. “Okay.” He watched me tear the paper, open the box, and my countenance fell. A guitar strap, a new capo, and nylon strings?! Was this his idea of a joke? “I-I don’t understand…” I couldn’t decide if I was bitter or sad. My guitar was long gone. 

“You will need those things, Des.”

“Maybe eventually. I haven’t been able to replace it yet, Jeff. And I don’t see how this is—” As I spoke my increasingly biting words, he leaned back to retrieve one last gift from inside the guest room. My hands trembled with emotion as he handed the box to me.

“I love you, Destiny,” he whispered. “Open it, babyluv. I can’t wait to see your face.” 

I knew what the box held; its unmistakable shape gave away the contents. I didn’t know the specifics, but I couldn’t wait to find out. I tore the paper from the box, clamping my jaws together so I wouldn’t cry. Jeff fidgeted, watching me reveal the one gift he knew I’d treasure for the rest of my life. My fingers removed the tape on the box and then slid it open. 

“Oh, my…” I set the box down on my lap and wept. My shoulders heaved as I cried. Jeff moved to the seat next to me and held me. It wasn’t any old acoustic guitar, but an Ovation guitar. This was not a cheap instrument; I’d had my eye on one of those at the music store downtown. It would have taken me over a year to afford one, maybe longer.

“Do you like it, babyluv?”

I couldn’t speak. All I could do was nod. My fingers plucked at the strings. The tone was vibrant and full—even with the standard strings—like no guitar I’d ever played before. He saw how emotional I was, how much I loved and appreciated this beautiful gift. He pulled my hair away from my shoulders and gathered it in his hands. 

“That was the big one,” he whispered into my ear. “I have had that picked out since the assault. It was specially ordered and shipped to the store here for you. This guitar is meant for stage performance, Des. It will be the perfect accompaniment to your angelic voice.” 

His sweet words, his tender love, rendered me speechless. I set the guitar back into the box and wrapped myself around him. “Oh, how I love you, Jeff.” I sniffled in his ear. “Thank you.”

“You just made my holiday, Destiny. You’re all I’ve ever wanted.”


Three Weeks Later

I’d only been to Sunset Valley once, and never without Jeff. It would be an interesting week. My music player was loaded with Katie Price songs, plugged into my ears as I settled into my first-class seat. The flight attendant took my drink order before we even taxied to the runway. 

Twenty minutes later, the plane was headed due north to Sunset Valley for an almost two-hour flight. I had a lot of inspiration for songs, so I sat with my notebook in my hand and a pen tucked into my ponytail. Before I got off this silver bullet, I hoped to have a couple of decent songs written. Jeff promised me we’d make a demo together during his spring break.

The attendant surprised me what seemed like five minutes later, asking for my drink cup and trash items. “We’re twenty minutes from the airport,” she informed me. I looked at the blank page in my notebook. So much for creativity.

“Thank you,” I said in return. I took one last mouthful of ice and threw my drink cup into the open bag she held. I returned my notebook to my backpack and slipped it under my seat. The landscape below us was a beautiful, wintry white. Snow fell at a decent clip, the flakes melting on contact with the airplane and patterning down the windows as water droplets. 

I watched outside for the rest of the flight. We landed as though we floated down on a cloud, despite the blustery weather. I supposed it snowed so often up here that the pilots and ground crews were used to the inclement conditions. The jet taxied to the gate, where I hoped Jeff’s mother, Audrey, waited for my arrival.

My eyes scanned the terminal as I walked down the jetway. I could see no familiar faces as I made my way off the airplane. I had no desire to drive in the snow in an unfamiliar city. Please be downstairs at baggage claim, I thought to myself. 

Audrey stood close to the bottom of the stairwell that led from the terminal into the baggage claim area. She held a sign that said, “Destiny,” on it; the sweet gesture made me smile. I picked up my pace and walked to where she stood.

“Welcome home, Destiny Grace!” she beamed. I laughed; she insisted Grace was my middle name. Nothing would convince her otherwise.

“Hi Audrey!” I hugged her. It was great that we got along well. It would make the week much less awkward for me. 

“How was your flight, dear?” She pulled away from the hug and planted a smooch on my right cheek. “You look stunning! I see the city agrees with you!”

If she only knew. “Thank you! I won’t lie. Things have been tough in Starlight Shores. It’s not as easy as I imagined it would be.” 

She patted my shoulder. “Maybe you should consider going with Jeff to Bridgeport, dear. His band is coming together!”

Bridgeport? “As far as I know, he’s thinking about the Shores with me after he graduates.”

Audrey shook her head. “Oh, no dear. Jeffery wants to perform in Bridgeport. His band is very popular at Sim State, and his prospects in the city look better than average.”

Why was I hearing about Jeff’s band from his mother? “Hmm. I thought it was only Jeff and Vic?” 

“It was, dear. But Jeffery met two talented musicians up there. They have an incredible sound.” Audrey spoke with obvious pride. But her information left me with more questions than answers.

“I see.”

“Destiny? You act as though you’re hearing this for the first time. Didn’t Jeffery tell you about his band, dear?” 

I shook my head. “No. He’s never told me.”

“Well, I’m sorry. I feel like I’ve let out a secret.”

“It’s okay, Audrey. You don’t need to apologize to me.” Jeff might, though, I thought.

The baggage carousel started up, bringing luggage from our flight into the claim area. Mine was one of the first ones off. I collected it, and together we walked to her expensive luxury car.

Audrey pulled up outside a new, bigger mansion. “I hope you don’t mind our remodeling dust, Destiny. Jeff bought this at the start of his winter break. We just finished moving into it. Julian and Jeff are going to refurbish and sell it. Then when Julian retires next January, we’re going to move to Barnacle Bay. The cold is too much here.” 

I nodded. “I understand.” She opened the trunk of her car; I took my bag and pulled it to the entryway of the mansion.

This house had a different character. Instead of fine linens and fancy furniture, it had a craftsman feel to it. Rustic, wooden paneling covered the walls on the entire bottom floor with exposed beams on the ceilings. The floors were worn with shoddy-looking carpet. It was ten steps backward for a family used to luxury.

“Your room is upstairs, Destiny. Jeff wanted you to be comfortable here, so he decorated it for you himself.” She led me up a narrow staircase, hidden in a hallway off the kitchen. The stairs opened to a vast living area with a fireplace, average-looking furniture, and a clunky old television set. “The house will be finished well before your wedding in October.” 

I gawked at the house’s interior. Everything was different from the older mansion; it was more relaxed and comfortable than the posh home they left behind. She stopped at the door to my room and opened it. “Here it is. Please make yourself at home.”

I stepped inside to find a four-poster bed with a silk scarf wrapped around a wooden canopy. A coordinating down comforter adorned what I assumed would be a top-of-the-line mattress and sateen linens. On a solid wood dresser, a bouquet of fresh red roses awaited me. I’d come to expect Jeff’s loving attention to detail. 

“This is beautiful!” I said. “Thank you.”

“We’re meeting Ana at the dress shop in the morning. Though there are several shops in town, Ana’s place can get any dress you desire. We’ll be shopping at her store first.” 

“That sounds good. I liked Ana.” Her style was eclectic, but I supposed with Dragon Valley to the north, it wasn’t uncommon for this area.

“Why don’t you get unpacked and come join me in the kitchen when you’re finished? We can talk over a glass of Chardonnay.” 

“Sure.” I didn’t care for Chardonnay, but it was okay. I knew I’d need to develop a tolerance for things, and people, I found distasteful.

*****

After supper, I was alone in my bedroom when I heard a knock. “Who is it?”

“It’s Barb.” Barbie was Jeff’s snooty twin sister. We’d gotten off on the wrong foot the last time I was here. Time to mend fences, I supposed.

“Come in.” I sat up on my bed and set my notebook down as Barb walked into the room. The last time I saw her, she had almost platinum blonde hair. Now, it was colored a cerulean blue, shaved to her scalp on the bottom, and longer on top. It looked ridiculous on her. “How are you?” I asked. I tried to sound sincere, but Barb was the last person I needed to see.

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“Look, I’m not interested in pleasantries,” she snapped. “I want to make sure you don’t interfere with Jeff’s plans after graduation. What are your intentions with him?” 

I swallowed a bit harder than I wanted to. “I don’t see where that’s any of your business.” Yikes. Did those words escape my mouth?

“Well, when it’s MY brother you’re going to be hitched to, you bet it’s my business. I won’t allow you to hold him back. He has such great potential, and you… well, you don’t.” 

“Excuse me!” That ticked me off. I stood from the bed and held my position. “You don’t know a thing about me, Barb. How do you know I don’t have potential?”

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“I didn’t until you just admitted it, hillbilly.”

Ooh! “That’s not what I said. You’re twisting my words!” 

“If you ruin his shot, I will be your worst nightmare.” Her icy blue-gray eyes pierced through me, as though she could see into my soul. It was disturbing.

“What makes you think I want to ruin anything for Jeff? I love him.”

“Well, I know you’ve got him wrapped around your finger, and I know he will do anything for you, including wasting his untapped potential in Starlight Shores. You know he needs to be in Bridgeport, and yet you’d lure him away.” Barb stood her ground, her hands on her hips and an angry snarl on her face. Her scrawny lips exaggerated her expression; she resembled a bulldog with a snaggletooth. It was all I could do to keep from laughing at her.

“You realize Jeff is a grown man with his own free will, don’t you?” I twirled a length of hair around my finger. “If he wants to come to Starlight Shores, that’s his choice.” 

“You’re asking too much of him! Since we were toddlers, he’s wanted this. I’ll be damned if I let some two-bit rube take his dreams away!”

“It’s not your decision—” I said until Barb cut me off with a backhand across my cheek.

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The impact caught me by surprise and knocked me off my feet. I sat on the floor, stunned; a hot, crimson handprint burned my face. 

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She looked horrified at what she’d done. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“Please leave me alone,” I croaked out. She stood there, watching to see what I would do. I needed her to leave before I lost my cool and cried in front of her. The last thing I needed was to show weakness. “Get out!” I stood and pointed toward the door.

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“I’m going.” She turned on her heel to leave. “Please, don’t tell Jeff? He will beat me into a pulp.”

“I won’t,” I lied. He was the first person I was calling. I couldn’t believe she came into my room and assaulted me, first with words, and then with a physical attack. Barbara said nothing more before she left my bedroom.

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Jeff would be back in his dorm unless he had a gathering with his band. I dialed his familiar number, expecting the answering machine. His cheerful voice surprised me.

“Hey, babyluv,” he said. “How’s things up north?” 

“I wish I could say they’re good.”

“What’s wrong? Is Mom treating you well?” 

I sighed. “Your mom is wonderful. Your sister is another story.”

Jeff huffed on the other end, as though he expected my words. “What did she do this time?”

“Well, for one, she came into my room and picked a fight. And then she backhanded me.” 

The line was silent; I thought the call had dropped. “She’s a dead woman,” Jeff said with obvious anger in his voice. “My sister has no right to touch you.”

“She surprised me, that’s for sure. I promised her I wouldn’t tell you. I lied to her.”

“Good! Oh Des, I’m sorry you’re having problems with her. I’ll fix it.” 

“I can fight my own battles. She just caught me off-guard.”

“Consider it handled, babyluv. I’ll call her tonight.”

“Thank you, but you don’t need to. I can take care of myself.” 

“She’s my sister, sweetheart. We have a history.”

“If you insist.” I wrestled with bringing up what Audrey had mentioned about his band. Should I open a potential can of worms? Mama’s words repeated in my head. “Desi, once you say something, you can’t take it back.” Wise advice, Mama. 

“Is everything else okay?”

I bit my tongue. “Yeah, I’m just tired.”

“You’re sure, Des? I want you to be comfortable in my home.” 

“I’m sure. Listen, don’t worry about Barb. I’ll just be the bigger person and forget it happened.”

I could tell he wasn’t okay with my decision, because he huffed again. “Call me if she gets out of hand, Des. I’ll talk her straight.”

“Okay, that’s a deal. I love you.” 

“I love you more. Goodnight, my sweet princess.” 

“Goodnight.” I pressed End on my phone, feeling better about my exchange with Barb. It was late, so I changed into my pajamas and whispered a prayer before I got into bed, wishing for Jeff’s company. I fell asleep with him on my mind.


The next morning, we left the house early to make our nine o’clock appointment with Ana. I dressed in a warm peach sweater, blue jeans and my old, trusty cowboy boots, my hair in a ponytail. Though it wasn’t snowing that morning, the temperatures were below zero. The wind went right through my jacket and chilled me to the bone. I couldn’t wait to get inside somewhere. 

Audrey escorted me into the shop and to the front desk. “This is only the first bunch of plans we need to cement before you leave here next week, Destiny Grace. We need to pick out invitations, flowers, bridesmaid dresses, food and entertainment, and the decorations for the mansion.”

I took a deep breath. “Well, let’s concentrate on the dress today. I’m pretty overwhelmed with all this planning stuff.” 

Her expression eased, and she gave a warm smile. “Just enjoy yourself, Destiny. This is the fun part.” She rang the bell on the desk, calling Ana’s name.

Ana peeked her head out from behind the backroom door. “I’ll be right there, Audrey,” she said. “I’m gathering the gowns you wanted to see.” 

Audrey looked pleased. She walked to the mirrored platform and gestured for me to follow her. We sat together, waiting for Ana’s appearance. 

“Hi Destiny!” Ana greeted me, struggling with an armful of white tulle and satin. “Let me set these down… here.” She opened the dressing room door and set the dresses on the rack within. “It’s good to see you again! Do you still have that adorable southern accent?” 

Ugh. It’s not southern! I thought to myself. “Yes, I do. It’s not a real big selling point in Starlight Shores for my singing career.”

Ana waved her hand. “Psh! Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do. It’s up to you to sell yourself.” She gave me a quick hug. “Promote yourself in a city that size. You can do it! I have all the faith in you.”

“Based on… what exactly?” Now I was intrigued.

“Jeff tells me you have the voice of an angel. That won’t go unnoticed for long, Destiny. There isn’t much true talent anywhere. You need to find your niche, and go for gold.” Ana sized me up. “Still a size three?” 

“One,” I said. “I’ve lost a few pesky pounds.” Ana rolled her eyes. I could tell what she was thinking.

“So you weigh ninety pounds soaking wet now?” She gave me a mischievous grin.

“No, still one-ten. Not wet.” I winked back at her.

“Lucky girl!” She walked to the dressing room and pulled out a white satin gown. It was beautiful. “Let’s try this one first. I think it will look gorgeous on you. It’s a three, but this style runs a bit on the smaller side.”

“Okay!” Together, we walked to the dressing room. She unzipped the back of the gown, which hid a zipper behind tiny, white buttons in mother-of-pearl. The bodice was done with lace and tulle; the skirt was constructed of satin with lace appliques throughout. It reminded me of a fairy tale wedding dress, and I loved it right from the start. “This one is stunning,” I said.

“I agree! Let’s get this contraption on your beautiful self and show Miss Audrey.” I pulled my sweater over my head to Ana’s laughter. “We’re going to need a whole new set of sexy lingerie! That part is my specialty!”

I blushed a deep red, though I should have been used to her quirks. The dress slipped over my head, a perfect fit despite it being a size three. My hands smoothed the fabric over my body as she zipped the back. The gown had no train attached, but it didn’t matter to me. She helped me gather the ample skirt as we walked to the platform. Audrey sat forward in her chair, studying the fit and form of the dress. 

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“That looks lovely on you, Destiny,” Audrey said. “What do you think, Ana?” 

Ana fussed with the dress in back. “I think it’s perfect!” 

“What do you think, Destiny? You’ll knock his socks off in that dress.” Audrey continued her penetrating stare.

“I love it.” I turned around to see myself in this beautiful gown. The fit and the style were perfect. Where is Mama when I need her opinion? “I know I shouldn’t take the first one I try on, though.” 

“That’s true,” Ana said in agreement. “I have quite a few here for you to try, and you’re my only client scheduled until late afternoon. We have all day.”

“Let’s see the next one,” Audrey said. “We’ll keep that one on the short list.” 

Ana nodded and gathered the skirt. Together, we walked back to the dressing room. She helped me out of the gown, and I stood there in my unmentionables while she unwrapped the next dress. This one looked to be form-fitting. Not my style, but I’d try it for Audrey’s sake. Ana slipped it over my head; she fastened a series of hooks to close the back. 

The gown was a stark, winter white made from a fabric I’d never seen before, let alone wore. The lace detail was intricate, and I’ll admit the dress was pretty. Had it been crafted from a softer material, it would have been slinky, hugging every curve of my body. The skirt flared at the bottom, starting at the knee. We walked to the platform; Audrey stood and walked to me.

“Destiny, this looks gorgeous on you! It’s elegant and understated. It makes you look like a movie star.” She hugged me and stood right behind me. “I’m favoring this one.” 

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I looked at every angle in the mirror, checking out the fit. It wasn’t what I liked, but it was beautiful just the same. “You think so?” I asked. 

“Oh, absolutely, dear!” Audrey turned to Ana. “Do you have this one in an off-white?” 

“Off-white?” I said.

“You’d have to be dead to resist Jeffery for so long, Destiny. I know you’re not a ‘good girl’. Sure, we like to keep up appearances, but let’s be honest—” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. How could she possibly know that?!

Ana looked at my face, twisted in utter humiliation, and clicked her tongue. “Every bride deserves to wear white at her wedding, Audrey. No matter what.” She leaned forward and hugged me. “I have your back,” she whispered. I wanted to crawl under the rug and stay there.

*****

When we returned home from the train wreck dress appointment, I excused myself to my room. I was fuming about Audrey’s accusations, but more so about the wording she used. I’m not a ‘good girl’?! What the heck did THAT mean? Well, I knew what it meant. And I believed Audrey liked me. I think Jeff was the only one in his family who did.

The supper hour came, and the house smelled good. I almost declined having supper with the family. But to salvage the day, I joined them. The thought of Jeff’s dad, Julian, being my sole ally in the family, when it was he who didn’t care for me to start, amused me. However, I wasn’t counting on my assumption being true.

Audrey cooked a beautiful meal, likely big enough to feed three times as many people. We all sat together with no prayer spoken before supper. I needed to accept that Jeff came from a family of non-believers. 

Barb sat across from me; Audrey and Julian opposite one another at the table’s head. Barb was quiet and reserved until the discussion turned to the dress disaster.

“Barbie, we need you to come with us to the next dress fitting. Destiny could use your fashion sense.” Audrey gazed at me with a crooked smile. Was she kidding? Barb’s sense of style was no style at all. Whatever she wore never coordinated. I thought Audrey was losing her marbles.

“Why would I want to help her? She’s going to ruin Jeff.” Barb swiveled her head toward her father. “Why are you letting this wedding take place, Pa?” 

Julian looked over his glasses at me. “She’s suitable.”

“She isn’t a ‘good girl’, Julian,” Audrey stated, her slender fingers forming air quotes.  

“Well, that’s surprising.” He looked right into my eyes. “Aren’t your parents believers? You must be a disappointment to them.”

I am a pretty tolerant person, and I’ve always been taught to turn the other cheek. Mama, despite being red-headed, was always even-tempered, and I could never remember her and Daddy disagreeing, never mind fighting. And most times, I was like Mama. 

But Daddy had a wild streak and a case of wanderlust until his retirement. He’d uttered more than a few salty words, though they were never directed at Mama. Daddy could trade barbs with the best of them, and his temper often got him into trouble.

Today, I was my daddy’s daughter—a red-headed spitfire raised to stand up for myself. “Doormat Destiny” ceased to exist at that moment. The Dean family awakened a hornet’s nest, and I was hot and ready to sting.

“What did you just say to me?” I spat back at Julian. 

“Your parents must be so disappointed—”

Did he really just repeat that? Doesn’t he know what rhetorical means? “Let’s get one thing straight, Mr. Dean. My parents adored me, and I, them. They were very proud of me, and they would be to this day, especially with everything I’ve endured since they passed away two years ago. So don’t you ever, EVER, tell me my parents would be disappointed in me!”

Audrey gave me a surprised look. “Where is all this coming from?” 

“Don’t. You. DARE!” I snarled. “You started this!”

“Isn’t what I say true?” Audrey doubled down. 

“What Jeffery and I do in our private time is NONE of your business! Do you understand me?”

“Chill out, hillbilly,” Barb stood and raised her voice. “We don’t disrespect our elders in this family! You’re such an ungrateful little bitch after Mom invited you into our home! You should be ashamed of yourself.”

That was the end of my civility. Barb’s words struck the match that lit my fuse. My daddy’s temper took over as salty words poured from my mouth. What I had said was a mystery; I was too angry to care. When I got up from the table, I kicked my chair so hard that it almost fell over. I was shaking like a leaf while I walked up to my bedroom. My first phone call was to the local cab company. I needed a ride to the airport.

No one appeared to smooth things over. I had my case packed in record time. I walked down the front stairway with my pride intact and the future of my engagement with Jeff hanging in the balance. The cab was there minutes after I called for them. I didn’t say goodbye when I walked from Jeff’s mansion.

“Airport, please,” I said as the cab driver placed my bag in the trunk. My hands still shook opening the back seat of the car. I dialed Jeff’s number after I climbed inside.

“Hi babyluv!” His cheery voice greeted me. But when I heard him, my voice quivered. My breath caught in my throat, and a sob choked me. “Des? What’s wrong?”

“I’m on my way back to the Shores. Things got ugly, and I lost my temper.”

“What? Why, Des? What happened?”

“We were having supper together, and your mom suggested to Barb that she come with us on our next dress shopping trip. Barb was her usual miserable self, but your parents said some pretty awful things to me. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I guess they don’t like me after all, Jeff.”

“That doesn’t seem right, Des. Mom adores you! She was looking forward to spending time with you.”

“Does she know we were intimate, Jeff? Did you tell her?”

Silence. I thought the call had disconnected. “No. My personal life isn’t their business. They don’t care what I do, anyway.”

“Well, my virginity, or lack thereof, was up for discussion at supper. Your dad implied my parents would be ashamed of me…” Just repeating the words angered me again. How DARE he?

More silence, and then a distraught sigh. “Oh, babyluv, I’m so sorry. I promise to make it up to you.”

Talking to Jeff, I wept in the back seat of the cab. “I can’t go back there. That bridge burned down to the nubs.”

“Let me talk to Mom, and we’ll get this all straightened out. I promise. Don’t fly out angry, sweetheart. Just sit tight, okay?” 

“I’m sorry. I need to get back home.” Though he couldn’t see me, I shook my head. “I can’t face them again.”

“I can’t talk you into staying there?” 

“Why, Jeff? So they can insult me some more? I can’t let them talk to me this way. I’m no fool.”

“Oh Des, I understand,” he said. Finally.

“Do you mind if I use some of the renovation funds to change my flight? I’ll replace it when I can.”

“Use whatever you need, sweetheart. Don’t worry about replacing it. I’ll just replenish it in the morning.”

His gentle tone was just what I needed to ease my anxiety. “I wish you were here. Jeff, I need you.”

“I was going to fly home this weekend to surprise you. Maybe I’ll change my destination and come to the Shores instead.”

“I would love that.” 

“I know you would.” That made me laugh.

“We’re pulling up at the airport terminal, Jeff. I’ll call you when I’m home safe.”

“Okay, Des. Remember, I love you.”

“I love you, too.”


— Jeff — 

Destiny’s phone call that night was a shocker. Mom never gave me any sign that she didn’t like my sweet fiancée. So when she hung up the phone, Mom’s number back at the house was the first one I dialed.

“Jeffy!” 

“What did you do, Mom?”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Why did Destiny call me all upset? What did you do to her?”

“Oh.” Mom didn’t answer me right away. What was she waiting for? Her delay was just making me angrier. “Well, you know, Jeffery, that girl… she’s not right for you.”

“It doesn’t matter what you say, Mom. We’re getting married, with or without your blessing.”

“Do what you want, Jeffery. It’s your life, but think long and hard about it. She has a hot temper, and she is very disrespectful!”

Well, that didn’t sound right. Destiny wouldn’t insult anyone, not even the ones who bullied her at the park. “I don’t believe she’s capable of disrespect.”

“Until it’s YOU she’s fighting with, Jeff. I don’t trust a girl with red hair. They’re flighty and devious.”

Mom was making me angry. “Hair color has nothing to do with temperament. Des is sweet as they come!”

“How does she get along with her folks? I can’t imagine they’re very proud of her now.”

“You realize her parents died, right? Both of them, within 24 hours of each other. You can’t imagine how close she was to them, and how much she misses them.”

“Well, that’s not healthy, either, Jeffy. A girl shouldn’t be so close to her mother. It’s not right.”

Mom was just talking in circles. “Are you quite done?”

“I’m telling you, Jeff. She’s not the person you think. When she’s with you, maybe she’s different. When she’s by herself, she’s a monster.”

“I’m sure you did nothing to provoke her…” Could she hear the sarcasm in my voice? I hoped so, because I knew differently.

“Why would I do that, Jeff? You’re my son. Why would I lie to you? She has plenty of reasons to lie, like saving face or making your family look bad.” I heard Dad chattering with her in the background; I couldn’t make out their conversation in its entirety, but what I heard seemed to mesh with Mom’s account. Why would Destiny lie to me?

“Maybe she’s after your money. She wouldn’t be the first little minx to target you, Jeff.”

Impossible! It couldn’t be true. “No. Destiny doesn’t care about the money.”

“Isn’t she from a poor family?”

“She is. What’s your point?”

“When you shower her with gifts and spoil her, don’t you think she will come to expect that? Try withholding money and see how she reacts. I bet you’ll see her for what she really is, Jeff. Please, be careful.”

“I trust her.” 

“Maybe you shouldn’t. That’s all I’m saying.” 

I huffed in frustration. “Look, Mom. I need to go. I have to get up early.” It was a lie. I needed some time to process my feelings and everything Mom had thrown at me. It was overwhelming.

“OK, Jeffery. We love you, son.” 

“Yeah.” I hung up the phone, cursing under my breath. My brain was working overtime, trying to figure out what had gone on, who was telling me the truth. I took Mom’s advice and tested Destiny. A quick phone call later, the credit card she used for emergencies was frozen. According to the bank, she hadn’t attempted using her bank card yet. I knew she would try when she got to the airport. Her reaction would tell me who was telling the truth—Destiny or Mom.

As expected, the phone rang twenty minutes later. I acted cool when I answered her call.

“Hi, babyluv!” I said.

“Is there something wrong, Jeff? The airline declined my card!”

“It should be okay,” I lied. “What did they tell you?” 

“They didn’t give me a reason, just that the card was declined.” I heard her put her hand over the phone, and she mumbled to someone. “They won’t give the card back! What’s going on, Jeff? How am I going to get home?!” 

Her reaction was just what Mom had predicted. “Don’t you have your money from the house?” I tried to be smooth and helpful, but she was growing more agitated. 

“I have no access to that now! It’s all tied up in investments. You know that!” she huffed and cursed, something I’d never heard her do before. “What am I going to do? I don’t really want to sleep in the airport!”

Thanks to me, she was in a tight spot. I wasn’t expecting her reaction. I thought she would have handled it like she did every other crisis she’d been given. “Let me call the bank and see what’s up. Can I call you back?” 

“I guess.” Her voice cracked. “Please hurry? I’ve had a rough day.” 

I heard the emotion in her quivering voice. Now I felt terrible for testing her, but Mom was right. “I’ll put you on hold, Des. Just a sec.” One more phone call to the bank, and her privileges were restored. As a precaution, I called the airport in Sunset Valley, determined who had kept her card, and told them it was a misunderstanding. The agent assured me he would return the card to Destiny. Sure, it would cost me a few hundred dollars, but she would get home safe and sound. The experiment revealed what I needed to know, and it was depressing as hell. 

Mom had done the unthinkable; she planted the first seed of doubt into my head about Destiny. 

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Up Next: Chapter Three, Generation Two


Pose Credits:

MyPalSims
Phone Poses

Poses By Bee
Couple Fight – Updated
Cuddle Bed Pack 1
Cuddle Sad Pack
Family Fighting – Updated
Punching Poses
That’s My Girl!

The Sims Resource
Sit In by Shokobiene

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Simetria Sims — Romantic couple pose pack by Lexy 

Zhippidy Poses
Anger 10 Poses

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Custom Content:

Around The Sims 3
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Notebook
Pen

Mod The Sims
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Glock Handgun by XanKriegor
New Leggings by Alopex
Roses – Wedded Bliss Sims 2 to 3 Conversions by PurplePaws
Small Round Glasses by Esmeralda

Severinka
Samsung Right-Hand Phone Accessory

The Farmer Legacy
Destiny & Jeff’s Engagement Photos (Requires Master Suite Stuff)

The Sims Resource
Adult Female Hair 09 by Nightcrawler
Open Knit Mini Dress by Ekinege
Wings TZ1120 Hair by WingsSims

The Sims 3 Exchange
Sweet Pea Flowers by Skyeseeker

Custom content and poses are not my property and are used in compliance with the TOUs.


G2 Chapter One – Destiny Moves To The City

I looked out the airplane window as we descended on our final approach into Starlight Shores. I took a deep breath and rested my head against the window. If moving to the big city was my heart’s desire, why did it feel so wrong? The overhead speaker crackled the flight attendant’s request to return trays and seats to their closed and upright positions. 

I took one last sip of my pop and, with it, a mouthful of ice to suck on. If I’d learned one thing about flying, it was that the air was especially dry in the cabin. I’d also learned that Jeff, my fiancé, spoiled me with first-class accommodations when we traveled together; I wasn’t as fortunate on this flight.

My mind was a thousand miles away in a northern city called Sunset Valley. My sweetheart lived there in a mansion nestled into the foothills. In a week, he’d be returning to Sim State University for his senior year. What would happen with our relationship after his graduation was still a mystery. 

I turned my attention back toward the world outside the aircraft’s window. The bright lights of Starlight Shores twinkled below, making it appear as the sky on the darkest night back home. Located a hundred miles from the nearest big city, the rural township of Appaloosa Plains was about as backwoods as one could get. Those of us who lived there loved the sense of community that came from knowing our neighbors. We all went to the same school, shopped at the same market, attended the same chapel. We all spoke with the same country accent. There was comfort in our small town camaraderie. 

Our home on Pomona Promenade was a modest farmhouse which sat across the street from the festival grounds. The carnival ran for just a few weeks each season, with shows scheduled year-round in the town’s newer concert stage. Absent the lights from the fair, an occasional concert, or the full moon, the sky was black as coal and dotted with a billion stars. When I gazed upon the city below me, this was what I thought about. The resemblance was striking.

I sensed the pressure change in the cabin; my ears plugged up as they did every time I flew. I sound like a world traveler, but trust me, I’m not. I’ve only visited two other places besides home; Sunset Valley, where Jeff lived, and Sim State University. I recently graduated from college, before I sold Mama’s farmhouse estate and moved to the city. My heart, however, remained in Sunset Valley with the man I loved.

Moments later, the jet’s tires touched down on the runway. The reverse thrust of the engines was deafening. I reached under my seat and retrieved my backpack. I owed Jeff a text message when we landed. My fingers fumbled inside my bag, searching, without the benefit of sight, for my cell phone. Judging by what my hands found, I had nine wallets in there. The phone, however, was nowhere to be found. Great.

The plane taxied to the gate and stopped. When I stood, I spotted the cell tucked inside the seatback pocket. Had I not seen it sitting there, it would have been a costly mistake. I picked it up and switched off ‘Airplane Mode’. A few moments later, I had the signal I needed to type a quick, efficient message to Jeff:

Hi, Jeff. I just landed in the Shores after a smooth flight. Will call you once I’m settled. I love you. 

With my phone tucked into my shorts pocket and my backpack slung over my shoulder, I was ready to get off this silver bullet and stretch out on a bed. 

I woke up this morning as a homeowner, the sole heir of my mama and daddy’s estate. His sister, my Aunt Jenny, stood by my side through every step of selling the family home. Was it heartbreaking? Absolutely. But as much as it saddened me to sell the house that had been in Mama’s family for three generations, the idea of existing there, tending the farm and scraping by year after year pained me more. 

When I left Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul, I knew I’d never see them again. They promised to take a vacation in memory of my parents; it would be the honeymoon Mama and Daddy could never afford. Daddy served in the Army for over thirty years and retired after his final deployment. Mama stayed home and carried on her family tradition, working hard and living off the land. It was a life I couldn’t envision for myself. I inherited Daddy’s wanderlust, much to Mama’s distaste.

I rented a luggage trolley and headed to baggage claim. There were two cases to retrieve; a larger one contained most of my wardrobe, and it was stuffed. The other contained sentimental items I wanted with me. Angaloo—the worn, stuffed kangaroo Daddy gave to me for my second birthday—was in the smaller case. I couldn’t be without my little buddy when I would need nostalgic reminders of home.

Both suitcases were on the luggage carousel; I grabbed them and placed them on the cart. Outside, a throng of taxis waited for fares. One driver approached me and asked where I was going.

“Starlight Shores,” I said. 

“I’ll take you.” He took the larger case and dropped it into the trunk of a newer car. I put the smaller case into the back seat with me. 

It was about twenty minutes from the airport before we saw signs that welcomed us to the city. I dozed in the back seat; the driver hit a pothole and woke me. “Welcome To Starlight Shores—The City That Never Sleeps!” was emblazoned in bold, charcoal black letters. I was tickled to see Katie Price smiling on the billboard. 

The driver chattered while I contemplated the advertisement. Katie’s familiar face brought back fond memories of home. It was she who gave me a chance to sing on stage back home. She was my favorite singer.

Another twenty minutes later, we pulled up in front of a seedy-looking motel. There was no WAY this was the motel I booked when I bought my airline ticket. I checked the reservation on my phone. Drat! I rolled my eyes in disgust. 

“Is this it?” I asked, just in case.

“Yes’m.” He turned around and huffed a mouthful of stale, rancid coffee breath in my face. The stench turned my stomach in an instant. Oof…

“Is there a place a little less… dirty?” I hoped I was up to date on my shots. It looked like a disease-ridden rathole.

“There’s a bed-and-breakfast on the beach, but they’re full up this time of year, Miss. Last weekend of summer and all.” He turned forward and gripped the steering wheel. “Are you gettin’ out here?”

I sighed. “Yeah, I reckon so.” I cringed as the words left my mouth. Could you sound any more like a hick? I thought. The driver hopped out of the car; he had the trunk opened and the suitcase on the sidewalk before I unbuckled my seatbelt. He stood with his hand out, waiting for his fare. I paid him and included a modest tip, thanked him, and hauled my bags into the lobby of this… whatever it was.

A bell on the door signaled my arrival; a head popped up from behind the counter. He looked to be my age, perhaps older. “Can I help you?” He asked, snapping a wad of gum. 

“Yes. I have a room reserved. Farmer.” I thought I saw him smirk before he looked away from me. He muttered something under his breath. I barely heard him say, “That figures.” I already didn’t like him. “Pardon?” I asked, knowing full well what he’d said. Would he own it? I doubted it. 

He turned around with a stupid, almost snarky grin on his face. “Uhm, nothing, Miss.” He handed me a registration card to complete; I had my driver’s license and bank card on the counter. It wasn’t until the form asked for an address that I realized I was homeless. I jotted down Jeff’s address in Sunset Valley. His palatial mansion was the closest thing I had to home.

The young man picked up the registration form and my driver’s license. He cocked his head at me with an obvious question pending. “Aren’t you a bit young to be alone in a city like this…” he glanced at the license and then at the card, “… uhm, Destiny?” It never occurred to me that the difference in addresses would raise a red flag. “Where are your parents? Did you run away from home?” He snapped his gum and chawed it like a cow chews on her cud, speaking to me with condescension. 

Perhaps his questions were valid, but his tone irked me. I searched his uniform for a name tag; one hung catawampus on the corner of his lapel. His name was scribbled on it with an indelible marker: Brendan. “My folks have both passed away. And I’ll have you know, Brendan, that I’m a recent graduate from Sim State! I’m not too young to be here alone!” If Jeff had accompanied me into the city, he’d have never gotten this much grief from the clerk. Then again, if Jeff was here, I wouldn’t be in a ratty motel. “Look. I’m tired, and I’ve had a long, stressful day. Can I get my key so I can sleep? Please?”

He gave me a sheepish, almost embarrassed smile. “Yes, of course. I’m sorry. You don’t look old enough to be a college graduate. And where are you from, anyway? I’ve never heard a drawl as thick as yours?”

“Appaloosa Plains. I spent the first seventeen years of my life there.” That lump of emotion rose in my throat again. It had been there so often, I thought about charging it rent.

“Where is that?” 

I grew weary of his continued unnecessary interrogation. “Key? Please don’t make me ask you again.” I held out my hand in expectation. 

“Of course. Enjoy your stay in Starlight Shores, Destiny.” He placed the key on the counter with a crooked smile. I growled under my breath. Brendan was getting on my very last nerve.

“My stay? This is my new home. I’m gonna make it big!” I flashed my most confident smile. “Everyone will know my name soon. You can count on it.”

Brendan laughed at me and shook his head. “Not with that accent, you won’t. Unless you’re an exotic dancer. Then your voice doesn’t matter.” 

“Ooh!” I wasn’t sure what he meant, but I was positive it was not complimentary. I snatched the key from the counter, took my bags, and stormed from the lobby. His chortling echoed in my ears as I stomped away.

There weren’t that many rooms in the motel, so finding the one that matched my key number was easy. The opened door greeted me with a most unpleasant miasma of stale smoke, alcohol, and mildew. I swung my head back outside, took one more breath of fresh air, then walked into the room. I fumbled for the light switch I figured would be on the wall near the door, but I found none.

Once my eyes adjusted to the room’s dim light, I walked to the nightstand and switched on the lamp. The bulb lit, revealing the furnishings and environment inside. Despite the stench, everything looked clean. Overall, it was acceptable, but a far cry from the beautiful hotel where Jeff and I spent the night last winter break.

I slipped my phone from my pocket and dialed Jeff’s number. On the second ring, he answered it.

“Hi babyluv. You’re settled? How was your day?” 

“Hi Jeff! No problems with the closing. Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul are going to take the vacation I asked them to take. The flight was pleasant, but nothing like first class. You’ve spoiled me, you realize that? I’m used to luxury now.” 

“Guilty as charged!” He laughed. “Where are you staying now? How is it?” 

“This motel is just… dumpy. I think it has rates by the hour, and it reeks. Everything looks clean. I’m hoping it really is. I can’t stay here while I find a house, though. What a rathole!”

“Let me see what I can do, sweetheart. I don’t have connections in the Shores, but I might come up with something.” He paused for a moment. “I miss you, Des. I’m going crazy here without you.” 

My voice caught in my throat. “I’m tired of crying, Jeff. Are you sure you wanted me to come here? I can live with you on campus until you graduate. I’m sure I can wait tables there as well as I can here.” 

“Yes, Des. Stay in the Shores, at least for a few months. There’s more opportunity for you. And who knows? Maybe I’ll join you there after I graduate. My band is falling apart. Jerry won’t wait for me. Bob is… well, he isn’t going back this semester. I guess he flunked.” 

Those two guys were half of Jeff’s band prospects. “Ouch. Well, what about Vic?” 

“So far, so good there. But half of my band is gone. I’m keeping feelers out, but if we don’t find someone by grad, I’ll look when I get to the Shores with you.”

“You’re certain about coming here?”

“Well, it’s not set in stone, but I’ll do what I have to do. Now that we’re apart, I’m finding out how much I miss you.”

That was an understatement. “I can’t believe how much I miss you.” My diamond engagement ring sparkled, even in the room’s low light. It never failed to dazzle me. “When’s the first chance you’ll have to visit?” 

“After midterms. I have a full schedule for this term. But I have a surprise for you.” 

I sat up on the bed. I loved his surprises. “What is it?” 

“Wouldn’t you love to know?” His voice was mischievous. He lived to tease me, and he excelled at it, too.

“I would! But I’m guessing the answer is no.” 

“You would be correct!” he said, taunting me. “Trust me, Des. You’re going to love it.”

“I know I will.” I yawned into the phone. “Ugh. I have a lot to do tomorrow.”

“What’s going on tomorrow?”

“Well, I need to find a car. It can’t be an expensive one, but I’ll need it sooner than later. And I need to find a better place to camp out while I’m looking for a house.”

“Give me a day or two on the housing, Des. I might work something out for you. I can’t have you living in a rathole when I can help.”

Jeff was still intent on spoiling me, I supposed. There was never any talking him out of it. “Okay. I won’t argue it out with you.”

I heard the smile in his voice. “You’d better not! I love spoiling you, more so when I can’t be with you.” There was the sound of shuffling papers in the background. “You ended up at that motel in Starlight Shores that you booked when you bought your plane tickets, right?” 

“Mmhmm. Why?” 

“You’ll see. Listen, sweetheart, I have to go, and I’m sure you’re exhausted. Call me tomorrow. I’ll try to have something worked out for you by then.” 

“Thanks, Jeff. We’ll talk tomorrow.” I blew a kiss over a thousand miles. “I love you.” 

“And I love you, babyluv. Sweet dreams.” 

“Sweet dreams.” I reluctantly pressed the End button on my cell.


A loud knock on my door awakened me the next morning. I glanced at the clock on the nightstand. “Eight o’clock?!” I said out loud. I got out of bed and stumbled to the door. A man holding a package and a clipboard stood there, awaiting me. 

“Can I help you?” 

“Are you Destiny Farmer?” He checked his clipboard and then looked back at me. 

“I am…” I said with hesitation. What could he possibly want with me? 

“Please sign here.” He handed me the clipboard and pointed toward an arrow. My name was printed with a blank spot for my signature. I scribbled my name on it and handed it back; he gave me the package he held in his hand. “Have a good day, Miss.” 

“Thank you,” I said and closed the door. The return address was from a business in town. I didn’t recognize the name or the type of establishment. I walked back to the bed with the parcel in my hands. There was nothing to slice open the tape, but I reached for the room key. Maybe, with its jagged teeth, it would work. I hoped so.

Inside the box was a smaller box and an envelope with my name on it. The envelope was marked with the words, “Read this first!” I slid my finger under the flap and opened it, removed the hand-written letter, and read it:

My babyluv,

I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to help with your day-to-day tasks and getting settled. I hope this will take some of the burden from you. Open the box now. I love you, honey. 

Jeff

I sat on the bed a little harder than I wanted, picked up the box, and eased it open. The two halves fell apart in my hands to reveal a car key. He didn’t… Oh, but he did. A note was tied to the key:

In the parking lot, a shiny red convertible is yours. I love you more than anything, Des.

Love, Jeff.

P.S. This isn’t my surprise!

It didn’t matter to me I’d likely wake him with my phone call; I was calling him anyway. My anxious heart was aching for him as the phone rang. I was trying to choke back tears when I heard his cheerful voice on the other end of the line.

“Good morning, princess.” 

I attempted to speak, but emotion took my words from me. My sniffles, however, came across loud and clear. “Good morning, Jeff,” I finally squeaked out. “I can’t believe you did that.” 

He chuckled in the background, obvious joy in his voice. “Consider it a housewarming gift.” 

“Housewarming? Babe, I don’t even have a house!” It was the first time I could remember calling him something other than ‘Jeff’. 

“Babe, huh?” His merry laughter brightened my spirits. “I think I like that! But it took you long enough to come up with it.” 

“I don’t know how to thank you. I don’t deserve everything you do for me.” 

“How do you like it?” With his question, I realized I hadn’t even looked out the door to find it. I hopped up and ran to the door. The car was a brand I didn’t recognize; cherry red with a black cloth top. It was the only car like it in the parking lot; that had to be it. “Des?” His voice brought me back down from the cloud I occupied. How I loved that man. 

“Jeff, I’m speechless. It’s beautiful.” I wiped my eyes on the corner of my shirt. “Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome, babyluv. It makes me feel better knowing you have reliable transportation. I’ll feel even better when you’re out of that rathole, too. I’m working on it. Check out of there, and I’ll have something better by sundown. I promise.” 

A single sob escaped my throat, though I’d been containing the rest. Jeff’s generosity and love never ceased to amaze me. “Okay. I trust you.” 

“Good! I have some things to do today, but call me later, maybe around lunchtime? By then, I should have an answer for you.

I smiled. “I will. And Jeff?” 

“Yes, babyluv?” 

“I love you so much.” 

“I love you, too, Destiny. We’ll talk later.” He blew a kiss and hung up the phone. 

First things first. Check out time was ten o’clock, which left me about ninety minutes to get my act together and get out. At least I had a car to leave my bags in while I investigated Sing-A-Gram and scouted out some properties. I knew nothing of Starlight Shores. During breakfast, I’d do some research. 

A quick shower later, I was dressed and had everything packed up. I carried the two bags to the car and opened the trunk. Porsche? What kind of car was that? It didn’t matter. It was cute, and I couldn’t wait to drive it. Both bags fit into the trunk with room to spare. 

My ‘friend’ from the previous evening, Brendan, was not there when I checked out. An older lady, maybe Maya’s age, worked behind the counter. She was bleach blonde, thin as a rail, and had almost artificially blue eyes; her name tag read ‘Pilar’.

“Good morning,” she said. “Checking out?” 

I nodded my head. “Mmhmm. Farmer, room 11.” 

She looked through the file folder and located my ticket. “You’re all set.” Pilar took the room key from me. I knew for certain I hadn’t paid for the room ahead of time; I never signed a card slip. “Is something wrong?” she asked, noticing my confused expression.

“I haven’t paid—”

“Someone called in this morning and paid your balance due. You’re a lucky woman. Not everyone in this town has a secret benefactor.” 

A smile pulled across my face. “That would be my fiancé. He couldn’t be with me, so this is his way of taking care of me.” 

“Like I said, you’re a lucky woman. Have a pleasant day.” I supposed that was my cue to leave, so I thanked her again and left the lobby.

I opened the door to this beautiful, shiny red vehicle and got in. The scent of the new car reminded me of Jeff’s Camaro at college. There were so many knobs and lights on the dashboard, I didn’t know what half of them were. The key slid into the ignition, and the engine fired on the first try. I couldn’t feel the motor idling, nor could I hear it. I checked my phone for a diner or restaurant nearby and found one near the city center. That was my first stop. 

The diner actually ended up being a coffee shop with a small stage outside, I surmised, for live entertainment. I wondered if they were interested in an aspiring singer/songwriter just starting out. I walked inside and ordered a coffee with a blueberry muffin. After I got my order, I found a seat at a corner booth, sat down, and dug my laptop from my backpack. 

I’d lost track of time sitting there, doing research on properties in the area, when a young man approached me. He had two cups of coffee in his hand and stood there, waiting for me to look up. He cleared his throat. “Is anyone sitting here?” I recognized the voice immediately. But how?

“Jeff?” I hopped up and hugged him. “What are you doing here?!”

“Hi honey,” he said. “I couldn’t resist a trip down here to see how you’re doing.” He sat next to me with a perfect cup of coffee, my name written on the cup. That sly dog.  

“How did you know where I am?” I couldn’t remember telling him, or anyone for that matter, where I’d gone.

“I have my ways,” he said with a smirk. “What are you up to? How can I help?” 

I turned my laptop around, which showed a map of the city with all available properties on it. “I’m researching this house,” I said, pointing at an older home near the park. Its location was ideal, but it needed some work. “They want more than I’m willing to pay for it, because I’ll have to replace the appliances and rip up the carpet.”

He looked at the house, studied the room layout, and considered everything it needed. “Go about fifteen thousand off their list price, or ask for a carpet and appliance allowance that will make up the bulk of what you’d save.”

“So a hundred thirty thousand?” 

“Oh yeah, no more than that for sure.” 

“You sound like you’ve done this before, Jeff.” 

He smiled, then looked away. “A few times. That’s how I’ve made my money, Des—real estate. Pop gave me a broken down property for my eighteenth birthday. We fixed it up, and I sold it for ten times what I paid for it. I was addicted. That hobby helped me finance my college career and everything we’ve done together, including that rock you’re wearing on your finger. At almost twenty-two, I’m worth a few million dollars.”

“If you’re that successful in real estate, then why go to college?” I thought it a valid question. Jeff had a good head on his shoulders.

“Music is my lifelong dream, just like you. I would never be content buying and selling real estate my whole life. It’s just a hobby.” How could I argue with him on that point? I understood chasing dreams with passion. “I have a house now in Twinbrook that, if it sells, I stand to profit close to a million. The market there is booming. We took a shack and renovated it. But the trick is location. The house is in a prime spot. Excellent schools, magnificent view, convenient location, and it’s on the river. Waterfront property is hot.”

I couldn’t even imagine a million dollars. The concept was so foreign to me. The whole topic made me uncomfortable, so I changed the subject. “Why are you here, besides seeing me? I know that can’t be the only reason.”

Jeff gave his trademark grin. “You know me so well. I found an apartment, well, it’s a penthouse, really, in the downtown area. You can move into it while you’re looking for a house, and when you don’t need it anymore, I’ll flip it.” He kissed my hands and rubbed my fingers between his.

“I don’t know what to say.” It wasn’t the first time Jeff had left me speechless, and I was sure it wouldn’t be the last.

“I have a couple of days here. We’ll get you settled. Any furniture I buy, I’ll just sell with the apartment. It won’t be a problem.”

“Jeff, your generosity amazes me. Thank you.” Amazed wasn’t the word. Dumbfounded was more like it.

“I sign the papers in the morning, and you can move in afterward. For tonight, I have a room in a nice place right outside of Starlight Shores. It’s nicer than the roach motel you stayed in last night.”

I still didn’t know how I deserved such luxuries, but I decided I wouldn’t question it anymore. “Stretching out sounds good. I’ve been sitting here for hours.”

“Pack up your laptop and let’s get out of here, then.” He stood and held his hand for me, wiggling his fingers. That made me laugh. I stuffed my papers and laptop back into my bag and stood. We walked together to my brand new car.

Jeff drove us to a beautiful resort five miles from the city limits on the opposite side of town. The hotel was nestled into the foothills of the mountain range, which ran from just south of the city to Sunset Valley to the north. The grounds were beautiful; two pools, an onsite spa, and a five-star restaurant sat adjacent. This was even nicer than the hotel inside the airport in Sunset Valley, and I was impressed.

He opened the door and allowed me entry first. The suite was a contemporary design with clean lines and bright colors. A single king bed, a sofa and living chair, a desk and dresser, walk-in closet and full bathroom were inside this enormous suite. On the desk sat a vase of beautiful, long-stemmed red roses. I swore he owned stock in flower companies, too.

“What do you think, honey?” he said, wrapping his arms around my waist. “Isn’t this beautiful?”

I nodded. “It really is, Jeff. So different from the hotel at the airport. This one is more casual.” The room looked lived in, which surprised me. “You didn’t fly in this morning, did you?”

He chuckled. “No, sweetheart, I took the private jet here last night after you called. I couldn’t bear you being here alone.”

“I can handle myself—”

“Admit it, Des. You missed me, and you’re so happy I’m here. That doesn’t change the irrefutable fact that you’re going to be okay here alone. I know you’re a strong, independent woman. But you love being kept, don’t you?”

How could I tell him no? Yes, I loved being spoiled. I loved that he was here, too. I blushed when I told him, “Yes.”

“Since you said you needed to stretch out, you rest. I’ll grab your bags for you and bring them in. Do you have your gown with you, or is it on the truck?”

I didn’t know what he was up to, but if it was anything fancy, we were out of luck. “On the truck. I have nothing but comfortable clothes, except for one interview dress.”

“That’s okay, babyluv. We can order room service tonight and spend the night in. Or, if you’d like, we can hit the town and paint it red. See the sights together, dance at the club, sing karaoke?”

I hadn’t sung karaoke since I left for college. Mama and Daddy saved and sacrificed to buy a karaoke machine for me when I was much younger. It didn’t have many songs on it, but I mastered all of them. With Jeff, it could be fun, though I doubted a lounge would allow me in. I was, after all, still underage at nineteen.

“Let’s just stay in tonight. I need some ‘us’ time.”

Jeff winked at me and smiled. “I could use some of your snuggles and kisses. What a fantastic idea.”


The penthouse that Jeff bought was a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment. It was suitable for the short-term and just what I needed. Jeff helped the movers the day they delivered the contents of the farmhouse. By the end of the day, we had the second bedroom full of boxes and furniture. What didn’t fit there spilled over into the living room. We piled boxes under the windows and ordered take out that night. 

Jeff stopped at the store on the way home and bought a bottle of champagne, two glasses, and a couple of candles. I dug an older blanket out of a box and spread it out on the floor. I didn’t bring the dining room table and chairs with me from Appaloosa Plains. The set was just too big for what I needed. I was ready when Jeff walked back into the penthouse. 

“It looks cozy in here,” he said, setting his parcels down on the kitchen counter. 

“Thanks. I couldn’t find much. There aren’t any plates or flatware yet. I can’t find where I packed them.” 

He chuckled a bit. “It’s okay. Sandwiches don’t need plates or forks.” He brought the glasses over and set them on a box, along with the chilled bottle of champagne. “I bought us a celebratory bottle of Dom. I hope you’ll like it. This stuff is a bit on the dry side.” 

I shrugged. “It’s okay. I don’t think I’ll drink much of it, though.”

Jeff walked toward the bedroom, where we’d been sleeping on the floor. “I’m going to get comfy. These jeans are cutting me in two.” He slipped off his pants and into his pajamas. I walked in behind him and followed suit. We’d gotten dressed and undressed in front of each other so often, it was no longer a big deal. He hugged me close to him and kissed me. “I love these PJs, Des. They’re so cute on you.” 

I blushed. Even though he complimented me every time I wore them, he still flustered me. “Thank you.” 

We walked back into the living room; I made my way to the window and peered through the glass out onto the city. From the penthouse apartment, there wasn’t a spot in Starlight Shores we couldn’t see. The view was breathtaking. Jeff walked up behind me and wrapped his arms around my waist. 

Screenshot-188

“This is an even better view than I could have imagined. I’ll be able to flip this for a pretty penny.” 

“It’s incredible to see everything from up here. Though I’ll love staying here, I’ll miss you when you leave.” 

“I still have three days left. I’ll leave for school right from here. Mom will understand.” He kissed the back of my neck; my legs went weak. He knew just where to kiss me and did it often. We sat on the blanket together. Jeff popped the stopper from the champagne bottle and poured two bubbly glasses of the light amber liquid. We sat together, our glasses held for a toast. 

Screenshot-170

“To us, Des. Our first real home together.” 

“Cheers!” I concurred, though it was more his home than ours. He’s the one who laid out the money for a top-floor apartment, after all. I didn’t put a dime into it.  

We sat together on the floor, laughing, kissing, sharing dinner together. The candles had burned almost to nubs; he picked up the bottle and stopped it, extinguishing the flame inside. The only light in the room entered from the windows. It was perfectly romantic. 

He leaned forward to kiss me, laying me back a bit. My hungry mouth met his in a passionate kiss. Since the incident back at school, he hadn’t pressed the issue with me, just as he promised. But that night, I was feeling amorous. Before we pulled away from the kiss, I sucked his bottom lip into my mouth. Jeff looked at me with a shocked expression, and then we laughed. 

“What are you up to, Des?” 

“I’m feeling a little frisky,” I said. “The night has been perfect, don’t you think?” 

He nodded. “Why are you bringing this up now? I thought we agreed—”

“Jeff, when we said goodbye in Appaloosa Plains, the regret almost ate me alive.”

“Regret? About what?” 

“Denying you. We’re getting married. That should be good enough, right?” 

“It’s a big step, babyluv. And once we cross a certain point, I won’t be able to stop. Think about it.” 

“Jeff, I already have. I’m so ready.”

“You’re positive, Des? What about your promise?” 

“Your promise to me overrides that one.” I looked at the diamond ring I wore on my hand. My lips pressed to his one last time. If I couldn’t convince him with this, I’d sleep on the floor out here. I moved closer to his ear and whispered, “Please, make love with me?” 

Screenshot-176

Jeff picked me up and carried me into the bedroom, not uttering a single word, and closed the door behind him.


I decided to live in the penthouse, much to Jeff’s delight, until our wedding, to avoid unnecessary real estate transactions. Though it was more than I needed, I worked to make it comfortable and homey. He left a renovation fund so I could paint and do repairs as I saw fit. It was, after all, my home until after the wedding. The money I had from the house was placed, with Jeff’s help, into short-term investments earning a decent rate of return. I had everything all figured out. 

My next step was securing employment. From all I understood, the Sing-A-Gram was the place for aspiring singers to begin their grind to the top. I had my resume polished and ready to go. This was my one shot at getting my name out to the masses, a chance to show off my natural talent. I had a callback interview within two days of submitting my resume. 

The weather the morning of my interview couldn’t have been nastier. Rainy and raw, dark and depressing. It didn’t matter; I was a sure thing at the Sing-A-Gram with my stellar resumé. Starlight Shores would never know what hit it. 

Dressed to impress with my hair and makeup done, I walked into the Sing-A-Gram office for my interview, exuding confidence. The interviewer, named Russ, greeted me in his office.

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“Please, Miss Farmer, have a seat.” He pulled a chair out for me, then walked to his seat on the other side of the desk. “So tell me, Destiny, why you want to work for Sing-A-Gram.” 

“I’m new to Starlight Shores, and I understand that this is where aspiring singers come to start a career on stage.” 

He gave me an uneasy smile. “It says here on your identification that you’re nineteen years old. I’m afraid that’s a problem.”

I shook my head. What?? “Why is that?” 

“County ordinance prohibits employment of a minor to a job of this… uhm… nature. You know, where there is the potential for adult situations.”

“Adult… what now?” This was news to me. 

“Some of our clients request jobs of a more risque nature. You would need to be twenty-one for such a position.” 

This was disappointing, and not what I wanted to hear. “Is there any other place in town like this, someone that will hire a nineteen-year-old?” 

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Russ shook his head. “No, I’m sorry. You can always sign with a talent agent, or choose to go it alone. But agents can be pricey, and going it alone is ill-advised. Come back when you’re of legal age, Miss Farmer. We’d love to bring you on staff here.” 

I wasn’t sure I’d still be in Starlight Shores when I was twenty-one. I just nodded and thanked him. On my way to the car, I pulled my cell phone from my purse. Jeff answered the call, even though I knew he’d be in class. 

“What’s up, babyluv?” I could hear concern in his voice.

“Hi Jeff. I was just going to leave a voice message. It’s not that important right now.”

“It must be important if you’d call midday. Something’s wrong; I hear it in your voice.” 

He could read me like a book. “They can’t hire me at the Sing-A-Gram. They told me I’m too young to do the type of work they do.”

My news likely took him by surprise. “What type of work is it, Des? I thought it was on the up-and-up?”

“He told me there was a possibility the work would be of an adult nature, and they couldn’t hire a minor for it, something about county ordinance.” I shrugged. 

“Well, that’s BS, Des. I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have to put up with that sort of thing for a job!” 

“I’ll just get a job here waiting tables. It’s all I know how to do besides working as a stagehand. None of the venues are looking for that sort of help.” 

“Baby, I’m sorry. I need to get back to class. I’ll call you later, okay?” 

“That’s fine. I love you, Jeff.” 

“Love you too. I’ll talk to you later.” 

After I hung up the phone, I drove myself to the coffee shop on the main drive, the one near the park. I wanted a treat, and I needed a place to sit and regroup. It wasn’t as easy as I’d imagined it would be here. I needed Daddy’s sage advice. He always had the right answer. Unfortunately for me, he wasn’t around. 

The sign on the front window in the coffee shop said, “Now Hiring.” Maybe it wouldn’t be so terrible to wait tables at the coffeehouse. I asked for an application when I got my drink, and I sat down to fill it out. 

A half-hour later, an older man approached my table. “Excuse me? Are you the young lady who requested an application?” He could see I was still working on it, but I answered him anyway.

“Yes.” 

“Do you mind if I sit? I’m the owner here, and we’re so desperate for help that I’d like to do an interview now. Is that okay?” 

Shocked didn’t quite describe my feeling. “That’s perfect.” 

“My name is Jared.”

I held my hand for him to shake. “Destiny.”

“So Destiny, do you have experience with waiting tables? It’s okay if you don’t. I can train you.” 

“I worked at the diner back home in Appaloosa Plains for a year.” 

“Good. How about a barista position? Have you ever done that type of work? How are you with learning recipes and menus?” 

I sat back with a smile. “Though I’ve never worked in an environment like this one, I’m a quick study. I have an eidetic memory.” 

Jared sat back and stared at me. “You’ll do. When can you start?”

“I’m available. I have no other work lined up, and I have bills to pay.” It wasn’t entirely true, but I still needed to work. Every little step would push me forward in my quest to find success in the city. 

“Let’s do your new hire paperwork now, and I’ll start you on my morning shift tomorrow. I’ll train you myself.” 

I nodded. “Sounds good.”

*****

I stopped at the grocery store on my way home. My phone rang in my purse with my arms full. I knew it was Jeff; it was his ringtone. I hurried into the penthouse and set my bags down on the counter. My frantic voice answered the phone.

“Hello?”

“Are you okay, honey? You sound frazzled.” I could hear even more concern in his tone.

“Yes, I was trying to reach the phone before it went to voicemail. I had my arms full.”

I heard him sigh with relief. “Oh good. How did the rest of your day go?”

“It went well! I landed a job at the coffeehouse by the big park.” 

“Well, that’s unexpected. But I guess it will help you while you choose a talent agent, right?” 

I let it slide. I couldn’t afford to hire an agent. He should have known that. “Yeah. The job will put food in the fridge and pay for the utilities. I never thought I’d work as a barista. Surprises abound here in Starlight Shores.” 

“Well, that job is only temporary. You’re way too talented to struggle there. Your big break is around the corner, Des. I feel it in my bones.” 

“Yeah, so I’ve been told.” It was too bad I didn’t feel it in my bones. I was starting to think that moving to the city was a mistake. “Are you certain you don’t want me to move back to campus with you?” 

“Yes, I’m sure. Are you having doubts, Des?” 

“It’s been a disappointing day. Talent agents are too expensive, Jeff. I’ll need to make a name for myself on my own.” I sighed. “Pull myself up by the bootstraps and dig in.”

“It sounds like you need a break. Why don’t you go to the spa for a day? Get a massage, do a makeover, have your hair done all pretty.” 

It sounded amazing, but I didn’t have disposable income to do that type of thing. “I can’t, Jeff. You know that—”

“Have them bill me. I don’t care how much money you spend, Des. Treat yourself. Or take it from the renovation account. You can sign on it just like I can. It’s a joint account.” 

“I appreciate the thought. There are more important things than pampering myself. I’ll be fine.”

He huffed his displeasure into the phone. “If you say so. I want you to be happy.” 

“I am happy. Today was just a frustrating day. It’s bound to happen in a city where every other young girl wants a piece of the pie. It’s just not my day to have a slice, that’s all.”

“I wish I could come this weekend. I can’t get away, and it kills me to know you’re doubting yourself. You’re so much better than that.” 

I let that slide, too. It didn’t seem talent or ability mattered, just a willingness to sell one’s soul. It frightened me to consider what I’d do to get noticed. “I need to go, Jeff. I need to put the groceries away. They won’t walk into the pantry by themselves.” 

He snickered on the other end. “Okay, sweetheart. Call me when you need a boost. I’ll call you tomorrow night after class.”

“Sounds good. I love you.” 

“I love you, too, Des. Talk to you tomorrow.” I heard the click of the call disconnecting and then silence.


My alarm went off at four o’clock the next morning. My shift started at five-thirty, but I was a quick jaunt from the coffee shop. I showered to wake myself up a bit, and dressed in a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. Jared would give me an apron to wear on my shift when I arrived. 

The shoes I used to wear at the diner were packed away into a box of unknown location. Drat! My boots were all I had. And though Daddy wore his everywhere, mine just weren’t that comfortable. I made a mental note to search for the shoes when I got off work that day.

I walked back to the bathroom to give my teeth a quick brush, then pulled my hair back into a ponytail. If it was anything like the diner, Jared wouldn’t allow my hair to be worn down around my shoulders. I gave myself thirty minutes to drive the five minutes to the coffeehouse from the penthouse. 

The neighbor met me in the elevator on the way downstairs to the parking garage. She gave me the once-over and then a half-smile. “You the new girl?” she asked. 

“Mmhmm,” I nodded. “Destiny.” 

“Hey,” she said back. “Who’s that dude hanging around you? Is he single? He’s totally adorable. I wouldn’t mind gettin’ with him, if you know what I mean.” She winked at me and nudged my arm.

“That’s Jeff, my fiancé.” If she was trying to be friendly, she was on the wrong foot.

“Hmm, okay. Well, that’s too bad. When’s your wedding? I might have to invite myself.” 

Are people always this forward here? I wondered. “We’re getting married out of state. Sorry.”

“If.” 

“Pardon?” 

If you get married. When he meets me, you might have a problem keeping him.”

Now I was getting ticked. “No, I won’t have a problem. Jeff is in love with me.” 

“I heard you two goin’ at it a few nights ago.” I gave her a dirty, incredulous look. “Yeah, the walls are paper thin. I’m tellin’ ya, if he was my guy, he’d have been a lot louder, ‘cuz I know how to please my man.” The elevator reached the bottom floor. It was a good thing, too. I was furious!

“Whatever,” I muttered under my breath and hurried to my car. The door swung open with my hard tug and nailed my shin. I squealed in pain, angry that I let her get under my skin. That was going to leave a mark; it hurt like hell.

I fumed all the way to the coffeehouse; Jared was already inside preparing for the morning rush when he saw me waving at the door. He let me in and smiled.

“Well, you showed up this morning. I guess that’s half the battle! Good to see you, Destiny.” 

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“Thanks,” I said and reached to rub my shin. A good-sized lump was forming under the skin. If I didn’t get ice on it soon, it would look like an eggplant. “Do you have a bag I can stick some ice in? I clobbered my leg on the car door this morning, and I feel it swelling up.” 

“Ooh, I sure do.” He walked to get a sealable bag, scooped two shovels of ice into it, and ran his fingers along the top to secure it. “Here. Sit for a few minutes. We’ll go over the coffee recipes while you put ice on that leg.” 

He showed me the menu, and the instructions on it to make each coffee drink. I didn’t need to take notes. I repeated each recipe in my head twice, then handed the card back to Jared. “All set.” 

“Just like that?” he asked. I nodded my head and smiled. “Well, let me test you. I’m a customer, and I want a caramel macchiato. How would you make it?” 

“What size?” I asked, without skipping a beat.  

Jared gave me a sly grin. “Large.” 

It was a trick. “We don’t offer the macchiato in the large size. How about a small or medium?” 

“Medium, then.”

“Prepare two shots of espresso and set them aside. Pour a shot of vanilla syrup into the cup. Froth two cups of milk and pour that over the syrup. The espresso shots go into the cup on top of the milk, and then a bit of foam. Drizzle everything with caramel syrup.” I smiled. Not bad for only seeing the recipe twice. 

“Is it stirred?” 

“No, sir. But, if you would like it stirred, I’d be happy to do that for you.” 

“Well, Destiny, I’m impressed.” 

I gave him a confident grin. “It doesn’t hurt that it’s my favorite coffee drink.” 

“I think you’ll do just fine without me this morning. We’re still short a waitress, so I might pull you to wait tables if you’re needed there. Just work that southern charm you have; you’ll be fine.” 

“Thanks.” Ugh. There’s my accent again. It’s not southern, it’s country! I thought. Appaloosa Plains got plenty of snow in the wintertime.

About halfway through the morning rush, Jared pulled me into the dining room to wait tables. It was my chance to shine; I loved interacting with the customers. As a barista, my contact was limited to taking an order and making it. By the end of my shift, I had almost two hundred dollars in tips, which wasn’t terrible for my first day. 

I went into the break room to hang up my smock; Jared followed me in. “Destiny, I’ve never seen a waitress hustle like you did today. I’ve also never seen a waitress pull in two hundred in tips before, either. You earned every dime of that.” 

I blushed. “Thank you. Hey, while I have you here…” I swallowed hard. This was going to be a tough question to ask, but I needed to know. “Who hires entertainment for the stage outside?” 

“Oh,” he huffed. “The proprietor does all the hiring for the coffeehouse. He works solely with talent from Sing-A-Gram, and Ernie’s agency. If you aren’t signed with one of those two places, no prop in town will even look at you.” He sat down and patted the spot next to him at the table. “Is there a reason you ask?” 

“Yeah, I’m trying to break into the business. I’m not having as easy a time as I expected I would. Sing-A-Gram won’t hire me, and I can’t afford an agent yet.” I knew it was a long shot. I shouldn’t have opened my mouth.

“Why won’t Sing-A-Gram hire you? Is it your accent? Some folks around here don’t care for the drawl.” 

I shook my head. “No, they said the job was adult in nature, and I’m prohibited from working there as a minor.” 

Jared cocked his head at me. “Honey, you’re the age of majority here in the Shores at eighteen. The only thing you can’t legally do is drink alcohol.” He looked at his hands, grimy with coffee grounds and silt. “I don’t know why they would tell you that.” 

I took a deep breath and sighed. “Oh, I think I know.” 

He nodded. “Well, their loss is my gain. At the end of sixty days, I’ll bump your base wage up a few dollars an hour, so you don’t go wandering anywhere else!” 

“Thanks, Jared.” As much as I appreciated the gesture, I didn’t move to Starlight Shores to wait tables in a coffee shop. Though I’d had a good first day, I was left wondering the true reason Sing-A-Gram wouldn’t hire me.

I walked across the street to the bank where Jeff and I had our joint account and deposited everything but fifty dollars into it. That was mine to do with as I pleased. I would need a new dress for auditions and working the crowds at Verde Park, but I’d need to save money to buy it. 

Since the coffeehouse was in proximity to the park, I wandered down into the fairgrounds, where workers were preparing for the annual Spooky Day festival. The fair ran for the last three weeks in October. A few concerts were scheduled, but no one I’d heard of before. 

A few other freelance entertainers roamed the area in front of the performance stage; most of them were magicians or acrobats, but one singer stood off to the left side of the stage. He had no stage presence at all. Timid, soft-spoken and in need of a confidence boost, he stood out of view from most park attendees.

I walked to where he sang and listened for a few moments. He wasn’t that bad a singer. I dropped a few dollars into his tip jar and smiled. He stopped what he was doing and walked to me. 

“Hi,” he said. “I’m Grant.” 

“Destiny,” I said. “You’re quite good. You should be out front with the wand wavers and the bendy people.” I tried to make a joke, but it fell flat.

“I haven’t been here long enough to earn my spot up front. It’s only been a few weeks. But I have to find steady work soon. I haven’t eaten in a week.” 

My heart broke in two listening to him. He wasn’t much older than I was, just trying to make ends meet. It could be me if I didn’t have Jeff watching out for my best interests here. “Come with me, Grant,” I said. “I work at the coffeehouse. Let me buy lunch for you.” 

He backed away as though I was possessed. “Oh, I couldn’t let you do that, Destiny. But thank you.” 

“Are you hungry?” 

He nodded with great enthusiasm. “I’m starving.” 

“Please let me bless you? I’m a singer, too. But I’m lucky. My fiancé takes care of me.”

His brown eyes got wide as saucers. “You have a guy? Oh, I can’t…” 

I snickered. He was kinda cute, but not my type. “I’m not asking you out, Grant. But I’d really like to buy you lunch. Please let me?”

“You’re sure?” 

I nodded. “Yes. It’s okay.” 

“He won’t come beat me up, will he?”

“No, of course not. He’s not even in town right now. He’s up at Sim State.”

That seemed to convince him. “Okay.” 

We walked together to the coffee shop. Jared was still behind the counter when I approached it. “Order anything you’d like,” I told him. “I’ll have my favorite, Jared.”

Grant ordered a deli sandwich with chips and a coffee. I sat with him while he ate, making small talk of little consequence. One thing I had to know—what was the atmosphere like at the park? How easy or difficult it would be to scrounge for work?

“You said you haven’t been in the park long enough to be out in front. What did you mean?” 

“The long timers will put you in your place if you step out of line at the park.” He lowered his eyes from mine, almost as though he was ashamed. “It’s how I got banished to the side stage area.” He shrugged and sipped his coffee. “I shouldn’t complain. It’s better than restroom duty.” 

“The last I checked, Grant, it’s a public area. Be assertive and stand up for yourself. They won’t try that with me. I’ve wanted this since I was seven, and no one will stop me from pursuing my dreams.” 

“Maybe so,” he said, taking the last bite of his sandwich. “They might make life a living hell for you if you cross them, though. Be careful, Destiny. They’re ruthless.” 

His words were not a hindrance for me. I was determined to make my name known in the city, and perhaps the world. “What if I’m more ruthless?” 

Grant chuckled at me. “You’re too sweet to be like them, and you seem pretty grounded.” He took my hand and patted it, looking deeply into my eyes; the gesture was eerily familiar. “Never forget where you’re from.” His voice echoed, as though it was otherworldly.

Was that… Daddy’s voice? A chill ran down my spine; the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I felt nauseated and flushed at the same time. Daddy used to tell me that all the time. But it couldn’t be, could it? “Wha… what did you just say?”

“I said you’re too sweet to be like them,” he repeated. 

“No, after that.”

Grant looked at me with a confused expression. “You seem pretty grounded?”

“After you said that. You said something else.”

He shook his head. “That’s all I said.”

He must have thought I was a lunatic. But I saw his lips move, and I heard the words escape his mouth. I was sure of it. “No, you told me not to forget where I’m from.”

He laughed nervously and backed away from me. I’d made things uncomfortable for him, as evidenced by his body language and facial expression. “I swear I didn’t.” He glanced at his watch and stood. “I need to get back to the park. Thank you for your generosity. I won’t forget it.” He didn’t stick around for my reply; in a moment, he was gone.

“Yeah… you’re welcome.” I sat there lost in myself, that too-familiar emotion in the pit of my gut. After he left, I still sat there trembling. With tears rolling down my cheeks, I acknowledged the advice I’d been seeking all along. “Thank you, Daddy,” I whispered.

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Up Next: Chapter Two, Generation Two


Pose Credits:

Poses By Bee
Couple Date – Seduction
Couple Poses – Part Two
Cuddle Bed Set 1
Meeting At The Cafe
Meeting For Tea – Bad News

Mod The Sims
Pomp & Circumstance by Heaven
Kiss Me Like A Movie Star by Vagen

Tumblr
Conversation Pose Pack by SimSayWhat

*****

Custom Content:

Around The Sims 3
Cafe Sims 4 to 3
Champagne Bottle
Drinkable Champagne Glass
Eco Cafe
Guitar Case – Standing
Handbag
Moving In/Moving Out
Picnic Basket
Picnic Blanket
Wine Bottle Candle

The Sims Resource
Destiny’s Hair by WingsSims
Jeff’s Hair by Cazy

Custom content and poses are not my property and are used in compliance with the TOUs.


G2 Prologue – Meet Destiny Farmer, Part Two

Author’s Note: This chapter contains scenes with adult situations. Reader discretion is advised. 

iii.

The funerals were held on the same day, a combined celebration of Mama and Daddy’s lives together. The entire town showed up, and much to my surprise, so did the Bradfords. Aunt Sunny and Uncle Caleb hadn’t changed a bit—older and grayer, but the same nonetheless—and it was good to see them. 

Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul took Sweetie onto their farm and promised me she would live the rest of her days being spoiled and pampered. Jenny helped me close up the house and vowed that she would take care of it until I came back from school that summer. Two weeks after I’d flown home, I was on my way back to Sim State.

I carried one suitcase full of photos, more clothes, and some small personal items back to school. Jeff waited for my flight at the airport. I was relieved to see him there. I walked toward his open arms, which enveloped me. He kissed the top of my head and held me, saying nothing. We stood like that for a few moments as other passengers brushed past us. 

He finally took my suitcase, and we left the airport. That night, we spent time together. He let me cry on his shoulder, both literally and figuratively. I fell into bed exhausted, but at peace. I was back in familiar surroundings with an established routine.

Catching up on missed schoolwork was difficult, though every professor showed me grace and allowed late assignments with no penalty. By the time midterms came around, I’d caught up. I was on track to make the Dean’s list again. 

Jeff and I became inseparable after my return to school. He wanted to keep my mind occupied and my heart focused on anything but my grief. We did fun things together on the weekends, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t fall in love with him. 

Jeff never asked me out on official dates. We did things together as naturally as Mama and Daddy used to do. We were bowling one Saturday night after grabbing supper at the all-night burger joint. I’d bowled a turkey, which is three strikes in a row. Jeff walked up behind me and slipped his arms around my waist. He planted his chin on my shoulder, a kiss in my favorite spot.

“That was quite the feat. Congratulations!” he whispered into my ear. 

“Thank you, kind sir!” I said. I turned around in his arms and smiled. 

“Damn, Destiny, you’re so beautiful.” He kissed me and pulled me close. “I think… I’m falling in love with you.” 

I pulled back and peered into his eyes. “Did I just hear you correctly?” 

He laughed at my proper speech. “You did, Miss Grammar Wonk.”

I gave his shoulder a gentle smack. Should I? I wrestled with my inner self. “I have a secret,” I teased. 

“Do you?” 

“Mmhmm,” I said. “Come closer and I’ll whisper to you.” 

He pulled me closer to him, kissing my neck. “Is this close enough?” 

“Mmhmm. Wanna hear my secret?” 

More kisses and a whimper. “Of course, beautiful.” 

I leaned into his personal space, my lips next to his ear. “I already know I’ve fallen in love with you.” 

He looked at me with a sly grin. “I knew it.” 

“So much for not wanting a relationship,” I chuckled. 

“Yeah,” he said. “Let’s get out of here.” 

“Back home?” 

He nodded his head. “Oh, yeah.” 

Jeff took my hand, paid for the games, and we left the bowling alley together.

Now, I know what you are thinking; we never brought our relationship to the physical realm that night. Jeff knew ahead of time what my feelings were on that subject, and he respected me enough to honor it. What happened was a night of romance; cuddling, kissing, sparkling cider and fresh fruit we bought on the way back to the dorm. It couldn’t have been better. Austin? Austin who?


Spring term ended with finals and graduation ceremonies, but not for us. We each had two years remaining. I locked my room when the dorms closed for the term. We stood in the common area on the first floor. I paced, dreading my return to an empty house. There was so much to do. Would I be able to get it done in just three months?

Jeff’s watch chimed with the alarm, telling us it was time to go. I packed very little for the trip home; most of my clothing was still at the farmhouse. He took my hand, with my suitcase in his other one. “Are you ready, honey?” 

I nodded. “Not really, but I have to face it.” 

“Are you sure you don’t need help? I can change my ticket and come stay with you for the summer. It’s not a problem.” 

“I appreciate the offer. And maybe, if I didn’t have so much sentimental stuff, I’d welcome it. But the pain is still too fresh…” I felt that familiar lump rising in my throat. “I don’t want you to see me like this.” 

“Like what? Human?”

“Vulnerable,” I said. “My entire world back home is different. I don’t know which end is up, Jeff. I need to figure that out before I invite anyone else into it.” 

He looked at me with a hurt expression. “I thought I was already in it?” 

I smiled. “Of course you are, Jeff.” 

“I sense some hesitation there…?” 

“No,” I said. “I just have a lot to do. I want to take my time sorting stuff. There are three generations’ worth of memories in that house.” 

“Okay. You know where I am if you need me, though. I can be there within a day. Just say the word.” He opened my car door and helped me in. The trunk popped open, and he put my case and his backpack into it. The car shook when he slammed it closed; he walked to the driver’s side and got in. “What time is your flight?” 

“Five something. I don’t remember the minutes. We have plenty of time.” 

“Mine leaves at six something. I’ll walk you to your gate and then catch mine.” 

“I’d like that, Jeff.” 

He gave me a wry smile. “I know you would.” He started the car and began the half-hour drive to the airport.

*****

Aunt Jenny picked me up at the airport and brought me to their ranch for the night. I appreciated it more than they realized. I didn’t look forward to being home without Mama and Daddy. We all expected Daddy’s passing; Mama was a total shock I was not ready to face. I still wasn’t, and I wished Jeff had come back with me. Why was I so stubborn, anyway?

Once I was settled down, I put on my boots and wandered outside. Sweetie grazed about thirty feet from me, and when I whistled for her, she perked up and whinnied. I didn’t share Daddy’s bond with Sweetie, but I knew she had to be lonely. “Come on, girl!” I called her. Sweetie pranced around, making happy nickers and whinnies. I couldn’t imagine what she thought or felt. She didn’t understand. She only knew that things were different. It was a reunion I hadn’t counted on, but I loved it just the same.

After I was finished with Sweetie, Aunt Jenny sat down with me in their rustic, homey living room. I had my shoes off my feet, my legs tucked up under my bottom. She had a cup of chamomile tea, which she offered to me, but I declined. The evening air was crisp; a fire flickered in the hearth. 

“So, Destiny, tell me about school. Are you adjusting up there okay?” 

I nodded, unsure how much I should disclose. “I’ve made a few friends. My dorm room is enormous, and I have it all to myself.” 

“Oh, so that went through for you! I’m so glad!” 

Now I was confused. “What’s that, Aunt Jenny?” 

“Uncle Paul pulled some strings for you to get a single. I hope you don’t mind the interference. Your daddy asked him if he could. You know that’s Paul’s alma mater, right?” 

“Yeah, I knew that. Daddy set that up?” 

“He did.” Aunt Jenny beamed with joy. “He wanted to ensure you had the best room in the best dorm, so you’d have the privacy and quiet to practice your songs. You have to know how much they both adored you, Destiny.” 

“I know I was their miracle baby.”

“Oh, Desi, you were so much more than just their miracle. Everything they did, every decision they made, was ultimately for your benefit. They went without, providing what you wanted and needed. I know your Mama worked on the farm much longer than she had planned because she so desired to see you succeed. They wanted you to have the opportunity your mama didn’t, more so after your daddy got sick.”

I didn’t know any of this had gone on. The guilt was overwhelming. “They did all of that for me?” 

Aunt Jenny nodded. She must have noticed my expression, because she came and sat next to me. “Oh, sweetheart, I didn’t tell you that to make you cry. They did it because they loved you. You are their legacy, and they both live inside you. Desi, as long as you remember them, they’ll never be gone.” 

There was that nickname again, the one I disliked when I was younger. It was amazing how much I longed to hear ‘Desi’ one more time from them. “They will never be forgotten as long as I draw a breath, Aunt Jenny. Thank you for letting me stay here tonight. I wasn’t looking forward to being in their home without them.” 

“It’s your home now, Destiny. I know you’re intending to sell it. However I can be helpful, I’m there for you.” 

“I’m relieved you understand why I can’t stay here. I’d be disappointing them now if I did.” 

Aunt Jenny nodded and sipped her tea. “Your daddy wanted you to see the world, to live your life to the fullest, and be what you’ve dreamed of becoming since you were a little girl. You have that opportunity. There’s no shame in that.” 

My cell phone signaled a text message, and I recognized its tone: Jeff. I peeked at its three simple words and smiled. 

“I know that look,” she said with a grin. So much for my poker face. “You have a guy at school, don’t you?” 

“Mmhmm,” I said, returning my own lovesick grin. “He’s been there for me in ways I never expected or asked. Jeff made loving him so easy.” 

“Do you have a photo? I’d love to see one.” 

I nodded and showed her my favorite one, taken right outside my dorm room door. “That’s us.”

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“Ooh! He’s handsome! You two make a beautiful couple.” She handed my phone back with a Cheshire cat grin. 

I blushed. “Thank you. I don’t know where it’s going, but I’m having fun with him in the meantime.” 

“No judgments here, Desi,” she said with a snicker and a wink. “I’m not your mama.” 

“Not that kind of fun, Aunt Jenny.” Now I was really blushing. “But he’s very romantic. He always considers me first when we do things.”

“As well he should!” She yawned and stretched. “I’ll help you at the house in the morning if you need it. I’m going to bed. Do you need anything, sweet pea?” 

“No, but thank you. I’m heading to bed myself.” We hugged for a moment before she walked up the steps to their master suite. The room where I slept was Joshua’s old room. Seeing all of his computer equipment and tech books made me miss Polly, and I wondered what she was doing these days. Rather than let her invade my thoughts, I opened the text app on my phone. 

Hi Jeff, I’m here and settled in for the night. Heading to the house in the morning. I love you, too.

I changed into my pajamas, whispered a prayer in the evening’s stillness, and turned out my bedside lamp.


In the months that followed my arrival back at the farmhouse, I got the barn cleaned out, the greenhouse refurbished, the garden plot plowed, and the remaining manure incorporated into the soil. Jeff helped me do some of the heavy work. He arrived after I called him for help. He was all too happy to oblige.

Two weeks before I needed to be back at school for the fall semester, Aunt Jenny and I held a garage sale. I didn’t want to clutter a new home in Starlight Shores with a bunch of trinkets or knick knacks. There were things I couldn’t part with; those we packed into boxes and placed in the sitting room. 

The sale did well, and with proceeds from it, I financed my books and supplies for the school year. Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul helped me to cover furniture to keep it clean while I was gone. This year, I would spend the Snowflake Day holiday with Jeff. I wouldn’t see Appaloosa Plains again until next spring. 

The morning of my flight back to school, Aunt Jenny and I stood on the house’s front porch. I handed her my key for Daddy’s pickup truck. She looked at me with an odd, but surprised, expression. 

“What’s this for?” she said, the truck key dangling off her finger. 

“I can’t take it with me to school, and I don’t want to drive it to the city. I’m afraid it wouldn’t make it. Maybe Uncle Paul can fix it up and use it?” 

“But it was your daddy’s truck. Are you sure, Destiny?” 

I nodded. “I know it has some life left. If he can fix it, maybe give it to a needy family? Mama would have wanted that.” 

Aunt Jenny smiled. “You’re a good kid, Destiny. Never change.” 

“I’m going to try.” I looked at my watch. “My flight leaves in two hours. I need to get going.” 

“Do you have everything you need, sweet pea?” 

“Mmhmm. Thank you again, Aunt Jenny, for everything. I love you.” 

She wrapped her arms around me and squeezed tight. “I love you too, kiddo. Let’s go.”

*****

I opened the door to the residence hall to see Jeff standing in the common area, waiting for my arrival. We’d only seen each other a few weeks before, but it surprised me how much I missed him. By this time, his pet names for me had grown in number and intimacy. “Babyluv” was now my favorite. 

“Hi babyluv,” he said with a kiss. “How was your flight?” 

“Uneventful,” I said with a return kiss. “How did you know I was coming?” 

He laughed and gave me a sly grin. “I have my ways, and I bet you’d love to know them!” 

“Yeah, I would, actually!” I hugged him again and kissed him. It was so good to be together.

“It’s quite scientific.” He took my luggage in one hand and led me upstairs, talking all the while. “You see… are you sure you really want to know my secrets?” 

I rolled my eyes and giggled at him. He excelled at the tease. “Yes! Please tell me?” 

We arrived at the top step on the third floor. He took my hand, spun me around into a dip kiss, and stared into my eyes. He said it with a straight face, but I could tell he was having a tough time stifling his laughter. “You told me your flight number.” 

“You’re such a brat!”

“But you love me, anyway!” He held his hand open for my key, which I gave to him. “Miss… your room,” he said with the flick of a wrist. Even though it was late August, the temperatures were brisk. The fireplace would get used tonight. 

“So, what’s up your sleeve for tonight, sir?” 

“You can read me like a book,” Jeff teased. “I thought we’d go off campus and have a quiet dinner together.” 

I looked at him, my head cocked. “We missed the dinner hour already.” To me, dinner was what most folks call ‘lunch’.

“Well, what do you call it, Miss Country Bumpkin?” I had to laugh at his choice of words. I’d never been called that before. 

“The evening meal is ‘supper,’ where I come from.” I walked to my closet to pick out an outfit he would like. “What should I wear?” 

He walked up beside me and wrapped his arms around my waist. “How about this one?” He chose my favorite casual dress; a denim jumper I usually wore with lacy leggings. “I bet you look sexy in that one.” 

My cheeks flushed red. “I never noticed, to be honest. I don’t choose clothing with that quality in mind.” 

“You’re so beautiful when your cheeks match your hair,” he said, pulled me into a passionate kiss, and left me breathless. “Are you sure you want to wait, babyluv? I need you.” 

He always made it difficult to say no to him. But I’d promised my mama that I would keep myself pure for the man I’d eventually marry. “Jeff, you know how I feel about this—”

I knew he was frustrated. He huffed and pulled away from me. “Well, I need a little extra time to get ready for our supper date.” He winked at me. “Let’s meet downstairs at six?” 

I needed to freshen up a bit, too. “Sounds good.” We kissed once more, then he walked toward his room. I heard the door open and close; a frustrated growl emanated from his room. I felt like I’d made a mistake in telling him no.


With the fall semester in full swing, Jeff’s attention was sporadic. I had assumed it was because our schedules were full. My course load was extensive, but I was committed to graduating in three years instead of four. We seldom passed in the hall, and by the first month into the semester, I worried about us. I walked across the hallway and knocked on the door.

Jacob, the unfriendly roommate, answered it. “Oh, you must want Jeff.” 

I nodded. I certainly wasn’t looking for him. “Yes. Is he here?” 

Jacob hemmed and hawed. Something was wrong. I could feel it in the pit of my stomach. “He’s… um… out.” 

“Where is he?” 

“I dunno.” 

“Is he around?” 

“I dunno.” 

“Is he in class?” I thought I’d ask, even though it seemed unlikely at 9:00 PM.

“I dunno.” 

I was getting irritated. “Jacob, just tell me!” 

“He’s on a date.” Jacob could have punched me in the gut and it would have hurt less.

“He’s… what?!”

“Sorry.” 

I stumbled backward into a chair and fell into it. Tears stung my eyes. Jeff was cheating on me, and I was too stupid to notice? Jacob watched me, then closed the door, emotionless. When I collected myself, I trudged to my room and slammed the door. 

Two hours later, a soft knock sounded on the door. I couldn’t have looked worse; puffy, swollen eyes, tear stains on my cheeks. A headache that would make a Marine cry. I heard Jeff’s voice calling my name outside. 

“Go away, Jeff!” I yelled. 

“Des?” He sounded confused, and at that point, so was I. I walked to the door and opened it. I must have looked horrible. His face wore a look of pure shock. “What’s wrong, babyluv?” 

I wanted so badly to hug him, to have him tell me everything was okay, that my insecurity was unfounded, and he still loved me. “I went looking for you. Jacob told me something unbelievable, Jeff.” 

He sat down on my bed and patted the spot next to him. “What did he tell you?” 

“Jacob told me you were on a date. Is this true?” 

His reaction was anger; not at me, but Jacob. “Understand something about Jake, Destiny. He hates that we are so close, he hates that we’re happy because he’s such a miserable person.” He put his arm around my shoulder and hugged me. “I love you, Destiny. Sometimes I wish things were different for us, but I’m willing to wait for you, if that’s what it takes.” 

That made me feel better. “I love you, too. And thank you for understanding my sitch. I made a promise…” Grief choked out my words. I could still hear Mama’s voice in my head. “And I’m sorry I doubted you. My last boyfriend lied to me, not just once, and not insignificant lies, either. He broke up a longtime friendship with my best friend. I still can’t forgive him for that.” 

“Oh, honey,” he said. “I’m so sorry you’ve had so much to deal with. I never want to cause you pain. Goodness knows you’ve had more than your share of it.” Jeff always had the right words. That’s how I knew our relationship was strong.

“So we’re good?” 

He kissed my forehead and held me close. “Of course, we’re good.” 

“So, where were you tonight, anyway?” 

“I had a study date with some classmates.” 

We had some of the same classes; our majors were the same. “Oh? Who with?” 

“You know Jerry, right?” Jerry was an upperclassman who wanted Jeff to form a band with him. 

“Mmhmm.” 

“And Vic, and Bob. Jerry wrote some new music, and he wanted a four-piece band to try it out. I’d have asked you to come, but I don’t know your schedule, babyluv. We’ve hardly seen each other this semester.” 

“Why didn’t you just ask me, anyway? I’d have told you.”

“Next time I will, especially if it includes some fun. I know you could stand to have a little fun.” 

Oh, he had no idea. I was on the verge of burnout. “Let’s go bowling again on Saturday?” I said.

“It’s a deal.” He hugged me again and gave me one of his signature passionate kisses that made me question everything I believed. “I can’t wait, Des.” 

“Me too.”


iv.

Finals and winter break arrived, as though the semester was weeks long instead of three months. Jeff and I had plans to stay with his family for the Snowflake Day holiday, and my birthday would fall during that time, too. The week before break, I got a message from the admissions office. On my way back from the lecture hall, I stopped in to respond. 

I sat in the corridor in an uncomfortable folding seat. I’d never been in that building. It felt like forbidden territory for us students, but others were there, too. Seeing them made me feel more at ease. I couldn’t imagine why they needed to see me. 

I’d been waiting for about ten minutes when an older woman appeared in the doorway and called my name. She led me back to her office, held the door for me, and allowed me to enter first. 

“Please, Destiny, have a seat.” She sat behind her desk and opened a file folder with my name on it. “I have some good news for you.” I sat and listened with great interest. Good news was welcomed after the year I’d had. “The course load you’ve taken over the past three semesters here has put you on track to graduate in the spring; that is, if you continue with your planned schedule for spring term.” 

I nodded my head with a huge grin. “Yes, I was planning on doing the full credit load, plus sixteen work credits.” What she had told me hadn’t sunk in… yet.

“Assuming you pass all the courses with at least a three point GPA, you’ll be eligible to walk with the senior class this spring.” 

My mouth fell open. Flabbergasted didn’t describe the surprise I felt. “You’re serious? I only have one semester left?” She nodded and smiled. “This is incredible news. Thank you!” 

“Congratulations, Destiny. It’s very unusual for a student to excel under the strain of a heavy load like you’ve taken.” 

I blushed. “I don’t know what to say.” 

“Well done,” she said. “Enjoy your winter break with your family. We’ll see you back in January.” 

Hello lump, my old friend. Why are you in my throat again? I thought and then chuckled through the tears I tried to swallow. They sounded like words to a song. “See you in January,” I said, choosing to forgo the story of how my family was gone. But I had Jeff to share my news with. I hoped he would be as happy as I was.

*****

Jeff and I met to study that night. I toyed with how to tell him my good news. If all went well, I’d graduate at nineteen with a bright future in Starlight Shores. Because my room was bigger and more private, we studied in my dorm. I laid on the bed, and Jeff sat at my desk. 

We were quizzing each other, but it was obvious my mind was somewhere else when I incorrectly answered three questions in a row. He stopped and looked at me; I was lost in thought. I don’t know how many times he said my name before I finally heard him.

“Des!” 

“I’m sorry, Jeff…” I twirled some hair around my index finger. “I got some news today from the admissions office, and I’m trying to figure out when I should tell you.” 

He winced. “Is it good news?” 

“Mmhmm.” 

His expression was pure mischief. “When are you going to tell me?” 

“I guess right now!” I patted the spot on the bed next to me, and he took two giant steps to me, plopped down, and faced me. “Ready?” 

“Yes, and you’re killing me.” 

“I’m graduating in the spring!” His cheerful smile turned to a confused frown almost instantly. 

“Wait, what?” 

“I’ll have enough credits in the spring to graduate, Jeff. Isn’t this exciting?!” 

He looked more than a little hurt. “What about us?” 

“I’ll wait for you.” 

“Des, I was planning on moving to Bridgeport after grad. The nightclub scene is hot there, and it’s where aspiring musicians go to pay their dues.” 

I hated myself for what would come out of my mouth next. “Well, then I’ll wait here for you to graduate, and we’ll go to Bridgeport together.”

“That still solves nothing, Des.” 

“How so? I thought it was perfect—” 

“You’re not giving up your dreams for me. I’m not worthy of that.” He took my hands and held them. “I love you too much to let you do that.” 

“We don’t have to decide now, do we? I mean, graduation isn’t until May…” 

“No, you’re right, Des.” He stood and knelt in front of me, his head on my lap. I ran my fingers through his hair. “I’m getting ahead of myself.” 

“Hey,” I said, and stroked his cheek. “I love you.” 

“I love you, too, Destiny, more than you know.”

“Do you still need to study?” I already knew the answer. 

“Oh, hell no.” He got up and pulled me to my feet, laid me down on my bed, and we kissed all night long, snuggled up together like we were one person. We stayed that way until we fell asleep.


“Are you sure you have everything, Des?” Jeff helped me zip my luggage. “I mean, you have your whole wardrobe in that bag.” I detected his sarcasm and returned it with a stuck-out tongue. The suitcase was jam-packed full of warm clothing. Sunset Valley was frigid this time of year, its name deceptively cruel. 

“I have everything I need, and a few things I don’t.” He took my case and set it with his. I turned to Angaloo, who would sit sentry on my bed while we were gone. “You supervise everything here, Anga. I’ll be back before you know it.” I hugged the kangaroo to my chest, then set him back down. Jeff walked to Anga and booped his nose. 

“Take good care of the place, Anga,” he said. I was impressed. Either he loved me that much, or he was as crazy as I was. I smiled at him and the warm gesture. “Are we ready, honey?” 

“We are,” I said. He carried his backpack over his shoulder, and my case in his other hand, while we walked down the steps. 

Our flight was quiet, but long. He paid for my ticket in first class, which I probably shouldn’t have let him, but his family was wealthy and he said he wanted to spoil me for our first proper holiday together. I knew he couldn’t wait for me to meet his folks. 

It was after 1:00 AM when the flight landed. He woke me with a kiss and a gentle caress. “We’re here, babyluv.” 

I stretched and yawned. My hair was messy, sleep heavy in my eyes, but Jeff looked at me like I was the most beautiful creature on earth. “That’s good. I need to stretch out in an actual bed.” 

“We’ll stay at the hotel inside the airport, and then drive into town in the morning,” he said. “I already have our room booked.” 

“Mmm, awesome,” I said with a dopey grin. As I awakened, I fantasized about a life with Jeff. Would it be so terrible to be his wife? I could get used to being spoiled. 

He took my hand, and we left the plane together. Our luggage would make it to our room within the hour, so we walked down the concourse toward the hotel, whose lobby sat just outside of security. He checked us in. “Dean,” he said.

“Yes, Mr. Dean. Your suite is on the ninth floor. Take the elevators ahead, your room is on the right. Enjoy your stay.” She handed him two cards that looked like a driver’s license with no photo on it. 

“Thank you,” he said, and took my hand again. “This way, my princess.”

The hotel was fancy and expensive, and I was overwhelmed. “Jeff, this is…” 

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” 

“Extravagant. I don’t know how you can afford this.” 

“Don’t worry about that, Des. This vacation is on me. Just enjoy it, okay?” 

How could I argue with that?

Jeff picked me up and carried me across the door’s threshold. Suddenly, I felt like a young bride without the wedding, and I sincerely hoped Jeff didn’t expect me to fulfill the duties of said young bride. I loved him with everything I had, but I wasn’t ready for that next step. We weren’t even engaged. 

He set me down on the floor near the bed. The lights were on inside; the decor was elegant and refined. There were two beds, both of them bigger than Mama and Daddy’s bed at the farmhouse, a dark wooden desk and dresser, a small table with four chairs, and a sink outside a bathroom. The bathroom had a shower, a tub, a toilet, and something resembling a toilet. I found out later it was a bidet. I couldn’t guess what it was used for. The room cost more than my entire house. I was sure of it.

“What do you think?” he asked. I know he saw my wide eyes taking everything in. I felt like a fool, a backwoods hick in the city for the first time. Because in reality, that’s exactly what I was. 

I walked to the bed and touched the fabric on the spread. It felt smooth, like silk. That’s when I spotted the single red rose on the pillow, along with a foil-wrapped chocolate candy. “This is…” I sat down on the bed; the mattress felt like a cloud. “So much… Jeff, I’m not used to such luxuries. The most expensive thing I own is my senior prom dress, and I’ll never wear it again.”

He sat beside me on the bed and snuggled up with me. “This will be your life should you choose me, Destiny. All the fine things you’d want; you’d never need to clean if you don’t want to. Just stay home and raise our babies.” He kissed me again; I melted into his arms, so in love with him. 

“Stay home and raise… How many children do you want, Jeff?” 

“As many as we can make, sweetheart. You’d have all the help, too! Just say the word, and everything is yours, babyluv.” He unbuttoned my sweater and slipped his hand inside it, over the shirt I wore underneath it. 

“Jeff,” I tried to wiggle out of his grasp. “Please don’t.”

“Don’t you love me, Destiny?” He reached to undo the buttons on the shirt; my hands caught his and stopped him. His anguished look surprised me. 

“Of course I love you, Jeff. But we agreed—”

“Shh,” he put his finger over my lips, then kissed my neck. “Make me the happiest man in the world tonight, babyluv.” 

You’re making this hard, Jeff, I thought. I heard Mama’s voice in my head, that first talk about sex: 

Destiny, that gift is something sacred. Only give it to the man who promises you his life and follows through. Once you give it away, it’s gone forever. 

My will was faltering, despite Mama’s voice on a constant loop. I closed my eyes as I felt his hand touch my skin in places where he’d never seen, let alone touched. I jumped; he held me tighter. My mind’s eye saw Daddy’s face, staring at me with disappointment in his eyes. I only saw it once; it was enough. I pulled away from Jeff’s grip and stood up. 

“Destiny, come lay down with me.”

I choked up; so much emotion, so much confusion muddling my thoughts. “I need some time to think, Jeff. I can’t do this right now.” 

He was frustrated. I knew he was close to that point of no return. I hoped he hadn’t crossed it yet. He sat up and sighed. “You’re right, babyluv. When we met, you stated your case, and I agreed with you. But you’re so damned beautiful, it’s easy to get carried away.” He held his arms open for me, and I walked back to him. Jeff embraced me; he kissed my belly, then laid his head on it. “I respect you. So I will pull back.” 

I ran my fingers through his thick, black hair. “I love you, Jeff. Thank you for understanding.” 

“I owe you an apology, Des. I’m sorry I’ve been so pushy. You make it difficult to wait for you.” 

I understood that. “You’ve made it pretty tough to say no, too. But I…” I fell short of telling him my thoughts, my promise. He’d already heard that ad nauseam. “I’m just not ready yet.” 

“I know. Good things come to those who wait. And I’m willing to wait for the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” He kissed me again. “That would be you.”

The love I felt for him swelled inside me. Maybe with him, I’d found the relationship I desired. That unbreakable bond. I sure hoped I had—I already had names picked out for our first two kids. Premature? Probably, but I didn’t care. 

“I love you, Destiny, more than anything or anyone else in my life.” 

“And I love you, Jeff. You’ve been just what I’ve needed, when I’ve needed it. You’re my soulmate.” 

He sighed. “If you’ll excuse me, there’s an icy cold shower with my name on it.” He chuckled, but then grimaced. “I’ve had more than my share of those since I met you.”

I giggled, but I didn’t know what he was talking about. He opened his suitcase, removed a pair of long pajama pants, and walked toward the bathroom. After I heard the water running, I did a quick search on my phone. I needed to understand; it was an eye-opener, but I found it flattering that he got so disturbed by me, he’d need an ice-cold shower. 

I took advantage of the chance to get undressed, so I slipped into a warm, fuzzy pair of pants and a shirt that I wore to bed at school. I was at the sink, washing up, when he opened the bathroom door, already in his pajamas. He filled them out rather nicely. 

“I hope I make it through the night without needing another one of those,” he said and laughed. “The water is freezing cold up here in the winter.” 

I blushed. “I hope so too, for your sake.” 

“Since we’ve already been there tonight, we’ll take separate beds. I can’t guarantee your desired results if we share a bed, Des.”

“Do I turn you on that much?” 

He looked at me as though I’d uttered the most ridiculous statement in the history of ridiculous statements. “Tell me you’re kidding.” 

“No, I’m not.” 

“Destiny, you’re every man’s dream woman. Beautiful and sexy, but unaware of how beautiful and sexy you are. Smart and funny, with a charming, child-like naïveté. Not to mention, that accent of yours drives me out of my mind. You’re the total package, Des. I’m so lucky that you’re mine.”

My accent? I found that amusing. Most people poked fun at it, or made me the butt of their jokes. But Jeff found it alluring. Interesting. “Well, I’m pretty lucky myself.”

“How lucky is that?” he teased. 

I giggled and kissed him. “Pretty darn lucky.” I admired his shirtless body. He wasn’t muscular, but what he had was well defined. There wasn’t much fat on his body at all. For a fleeting moment, I wondered what he’d be like in bed. I shook my head and tried to forget what I’d just entertained. 

“Well, morning comes early, and it’s approaching fast. Let’s get some sleep.” He took my hand and led me to the bed opposite his. “Goodnight, my sweet babyluv.” He wrapped himself around me one last time for the night and kissed me.

“Goodnight, my handsome prince.”


Jeff’s parents were friendly and so kind to me, opening their home to a complete stranger. Jeff gushed all over me when he made the introductions, telling them how much I meant to him. His mother embraced me and planted a peck of a kiss on my right cheek.

“Welcome to our home,” she said. “I’ll let Jeff give you the nickel tour.” 

The entryway was grand. An enormous chandelier hung in the foyer from the second floor ceiling. The floors were polished hardwood—rustic and beautiful—with rich-looking wallpaper on the walls. Crown moulding and fancy baseboards finished the look, and that was just the entrance. The living room was decorated with expensive furniture and an ornate fireplace. A tall, slender tree adorned with heirloom ornaments sat in the magnificent picture window. Plush rugs, oak accents, and house plants dotted the room. The living room was larger than the entire ground floor of the farmhouse. 

Jeff looked at me and smiled. He saw how overwhelmed I was because he took my hand and kissed it. “This is your home for the next four weeks, my babyluv. I hope you’ll be as comfortable here as you made me in your home.” 

I felt inadequate for him. My parents were hard workers, but they were always struggling to make ends meet. We had what we needed, but never any excess. Jeff’s life had always been abundant. How could I measure up? I was dumbfounded, but I followed him around, taking everything in. Every room he showed me made me crawl further into myself. 

He opened the door to a beautiful bedroom. The bed was much larger than the ones at the hotel and sat in a four-poster frame. The linens were beautiful and soft; the sheets had to be satin. I’d never felt anything so luxurious in my life. There was a dresser, a desk, and a walk-in closet bigger than Mama and Daddy’s bedroom. He pulled me to him and kissed me. 

“Do you like this room, babyluv?” I nodded, still looking around and admiring everything. He kissed me again, then whispered into my ear. “It’s your room. Make yourself comfortable.” 

“Really?” 

“Really. You can unpack your clothes into the dresser or closet. Your laptop on the desk. I have a guitar you can use while you’re here. Maybe you’d like to sing for us? I know my pop would love that.” 

I turned around in his arms and kissed him. “Where’s your room?” 

“Right next door,” he said. “That’s my next stop.” 

He took my hand and led me to the room adjacent. When he opened the door, I gasped. The room was twice the size of the one he’d shown me, and full of instruments; a keyboard, drum set, guitar, bass, a violin, and cello. “You play these, Jeff?” 

“Not all of them. I’m best at the drums, but I can play bass and keyboard, too. Everything else is for my jam sessions with my buddies. There’s a studio in the basement where I can make demos.” His face lit up. “Des! You should record a demo of that one song you love so much while we’re home! I can call my buddies to play, and I’ll play drums for you. It would be so much fun!”

A demo? I still remembered what Katie had told me about that song in particular. I trusted Jeff, but I didn’t know his friends from Adam. “Maybe,” I said with a coy grin. 

“Well, I know this is overwhelming for you, babyluv. Why don’t you get settled and unpacked? I will check on you soon. How’s that?” 

I nodded. A little quiet would do me well.

Most of my clothes hung on satin-covered hangers in the closet, except for my pajamas and other unmentionables. In my case, I had a small, wrapped gift I bought Jeff for Snowflake Day, though it seemed so insignificant now in comparison. It was a necklace with a Celtic snake pendant; masculine but not overstated. I could see it around his neck. I knew he’d love it.

A knock on the door startled me as I lay on the bed, daydreaming. “Come in?” 

Jeff peeked his head inside the door. “There’s my babyluv.” He wore a wide grin on his face. I couldn’t remember seeing him this happy. “My mom loves you, Des. I knew she would. My pop, though…” he paused for a moment. “Don’t be surprised if he’s a little rough around the edges. He can take a while with someone new.”

Somehow, that made me nervous. “Will he be okay with me staying here, Jeff? What if he doesn’t like me?” I wrapped a long piece of hair around my finger and twirled it. He grabbed my hand and looked into my eyes.

“There is nothing about you to dislike, Des. You’re perfect.” He stroked my face with the backs of his fingers. “Damn, you’re so beautiful.” 

I blushed a deep red. “I’m far from perfect.” 

“You are to me.” His eyes danced with mischief. “I can’t wait until your birthday!” 

“What’s going on then?” I asked, being flirtatious. 

“I bet you’d love to know.” He kissed my cheek and darted away from me. “I know, I’m being a brat. You’ll find out in good time.” 

I loved surprises, but I was especially good at reading people, and sometimes I could predict what was coming. However, Jeff had me stumped. For this, I was thankful. “I can’t wait!” 

“We can hang out by the fireplace. I’ll make some cocoa and we can snuggle.” 

He knew the way to my heart. “That sounds so romantic. I’m game.” 

The house backed up to a wooded area, rife with woodland creatures, from deer to small bears. The family room, where a second fireplace stood, was rustic and charming, much like Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul’s ranch house back home. An overstuffed sectional sofa made a partial “U” shape around a large coffee table. The seating looked toward the fireplace.

Jeff’s mother, who I learned was named Audrey, made two piping hot mugs of cocoa and brought them to us as we settled onto the long section of sofa. He laid on his back; I snuggled up with him on his right side. I felt so cozy and loved. My head on his chest, I closed my eyes. 

I must have dozed off, because I awakened to Jeff talking with a young female with blonde hair. His fingers traced the curve of my body; it tickled, and I stifled a laugh, not wanting to disturb them. Instead, I wrapped my arms around him tighter, and snuggled much closer.

“You’re awake, babyluv,” he whispered. “Barb, this is my girlfriend, Destiny. Des, this is my twin sister, Barbara.” 

I knew Jeff had a sister, but I didn’t know they were twins. “So you’re the one who’s enchanted my brother? Nice to meet you.” 

Enchanted, huh? “Nice to meet you, too,” I said. 

“She’s an heiress, aren’t you, babyluv?” He rubbed my back, and I closed my eyes again. All this attention was amazing. 

“Heiress? Of what? A horse farm?” Barb looked down her nose at me and gave me a condescending smile. 

“That’s what my family home is. A horse farm, a field of award-winning fruits and vegetables…” I didn’t want to choke up and get emotional in front of Jeff’s snooty sister. My voice quivered, and a tear dropped onto Jeff’s shirt. “This is my first holiday without them…” A single sob shook our bodies, and then a deep sigh. “I’m sorry.” 

Jeff looked into my eyes and caressed my cheek. “You have no reason to be sorry.” Then he lowered his voice and side-glanced at his sister. “Just ignore her. She takes after my pop.”

Barb got up from the sofa. “Enjoy your hillbilly girlfriend, Jeffy.” She walked out of the room.

That didn’t make me feel better. “I’m going to turn in, Jeff. I don’t feel well.” It was a small lie. I felt fine, but I couldn’t take any more. I had been thinking about Mama and Daddy. Being bullied by his sister was the last straw. 

“Are you sure, babyluv? Mom is making a big dinner… I mean, supper.” 

I wiped tears from my eyes. “I’m just tired, I think.” Though I was relaxed, I needed to be alone. “Goodnight, Jeff.”

“At least let me walk you there?” I got up and stood on shaky legs. He didn’t miss a beat, lifting me into his arms and carrying me back to the bedroom. He set me down on the bed, then curled up next to me. “I won’t leave you until you fall asleep, or tell me to leave.” 

He always knew just what I needed. “Thank you.” I laid my head on the softest down pillow with a satin pillowcase. Jeff’s body spooned next to mine, his warm breath in my hair. I was tired, so it wasn’t long before I felt the gentle tug of slumber calling me back to its realm. Before he left me, I felt him cover me with a blanket, a tender kiss on my cheek, and his whispered confession of love in my ear. 

I’m not sure how much later it was when shouting woke me from sleep. The male voice was Jeff’s, but I didn’t know the female with whom he argued. Though I knew I shouldn’t, I laid quietly, eavesdropping on a very personal, very heated discussion. 

“… she shouldn’t be here, Jeff! What about Pamela? What is she going to say?” the female voice shouted. My heart leaped into my throat. Who was Pamela??

“What about her, Barb?” Oh… well, that made sense. I kept listening. “Pam and I are done, over! She’s the one who ended it, not me! So ask me again ‘what about Pam?’ Barb! I don’t care!” I heard angry footsteps, and then a door slam.

“Don’t you walk away from me, you overconfident ass!” Barb screamed at him. Jeff never answered the jab. Instead, I heard heavy footsteps approaching my door, and then walking past it; the door next to mine slammed shut.

Guilt overwhelmed me. I assumed their spat was my fault. I mean, who wouldn’t make that same assumption with what I’d overheard? But I had nowhere to go. I was stuck in a house where a brother and sister fought like cats and dogs, and I was their subject of disagreement. I pulled the blanket over my head and wept, desperately missing home and the family I loved.

*****

The next morning, I felt like death warmed over. My eyes and face were puffy from hours of tears. My head pounded. I felt like I hadn’t slept a wink all night. Jeff’s quiet knock on the door came moments later. 

“Des?” 

I pulled the blankets up over my body and settled back down into bed. “Come in, Jeff.” 

He couldn’t have mistaken my puffy face and tired eyes. “Are you okay, babyluv?” 

There was no sense lying about it. He’d find out, eventually. “I… I heard you and Barb arguing last night. Jeff, I shouldn’t be here—”

“Oh honey,” he said and sat on the bed next to me. “I’m sorry you heard that. My sister and I don’t see eye to eye on most things.” 

“Who is Pamela?” I couldn’t help it. I had trust issues. Thanks, Austin.

He took a deep breath and exhaled. “Pam is my ex-fiancée. We were engaged for all of five minutes before she had enough of me. In her defense, we were too young to be engaged. I was stupid, and I thought I loved her. But it wasn’t meant to be. Barb is her best friend, so that should tell you something.” 

“How young were you when you asked her?” I knew he was barely twenty-one.

“It was prom night, senior year. We dated through most of high school, from freshman year until, well, graduation. I went to Sim State with a broken heart. I had no intention of falling in love again.” He kissed me and stroked my cheek. “That was, until I met you. Des, you made it so easy to love you, I couldn’t help myself.” 

“Barb is right, Jeff. I shouldn’t be here; I’m interfering with your life—”

“No, honey,” he put his finger to my lips with a serious look. “You’re not interfering with my life at all. You are my life.” His words brought tears, though I wasn’t sure why. Happiness? Guilt? Relief? It didn’t matter. He kissed each one of them away, then hugged me close. “Do you realize, Des, how much you mean to me?” 

I gave him a teary half-smile. “I think I’m getting the hint.” 

“Good. Babyluv, please don’t believe you don’t belong here. As long as we’re together, you belong here, too.” He eyed my choice of pajamas and snickered. “Is that your ‘Jeff-repellent’ outfit? If so, it won’t work.” 

That made me laugh. “Good! I don’t want it to work, because I need you in my life.” 

His radiant smile made me happy, too. I couldn’t believe how much I adored that man. “Let’s go for breakfast.” He picked me up off the bed amid my squeals of protest and carried me to the kitchen.


My nineteenth birthday was three days before Snowflake Day. Jeff had plans for us, but he was being tight-lipped about it. His mom, who I adored, took me into town to shop for a dress. “Jeff’s treat,” she said, but divulged nothing else. I was so curious about everything. He was a master of the tease. 

We stopped at a boutique that carried evening gowns and cocktail dresses. He’d given her specifics about what he wanted. Her job was to make sure that I was properly outfitted, according to what he desired. 

A jingle bell on the boutique’s door rang as she pulled it open. “Hi, Mrs. Dean!” the shop owner said. “And who is this lovely young lady?” 

“Hi, Ana,” Audrey said. “This is Jeffery’s girlfriend, Destiny.” She covered her mouth with her hand, as though she was telling a secret. “They met at college! Isn’t she just the cutest thing? And wait until you hear her talk!” 

There’s that accent thing again. I never even knew I had an accent until I left home for school. Now, it’s as though no one’s ever heard a country drawl before. I was a little self-conscious about it. But Ana walked to me and held her hand out for me to shake. “Pleasure to meet you, Destiny.” 

I smiled at her. “The pleasure is mine,” I said, and then cringed. Destiny, you sound like a hick from Hicksville, I thought. 

Ana giggled and nodded at Audrey. “You’re right! She’s just adorable.” They whispered, and though I couldn’t discern what they were saying, I surmised it was about the dress we were there to buy. Ana looked me up and down. “I’m guessing she’s about a size… three?” 

I couldn’t believe it. “Yes,” I said and nodded. “That’s right.” 

“Let me see what we have that fits Jeff’s requirements. You stay right there, beautiful!” Ana said; she turned on her heel and excused herself to the stockroom.

Audrey walked up to me and put her arm around my shoulder. “You seem a bit out of place, dear. Just relax and enjoy yourself.” She gave me a quick hug and then whispered in my ear, “I’ve never seen Jeffy this happy before. You’re very good for him.” 

“I adore him,” I said with a smile. “He’s made it very easy to love him.” 

Ana had brown hair and a smile that reminded me of Polly back home in the Plains. Her eclectic clothing style was almost medieval with a corset that cinched her waist, a bulky necklace with a huge pendant, and distressed black jeans. Adorable ankle-length boots finished her odd, but somehow coordinating, look. 

Ana came back with a handful of beautiful evening gowns, all of them with no visible price tags. Drat! She held a baby blue gown up to me with a smattering of sequins around the skirt, and nodded. “Let’s try this one first!” She ushered me into a dressing room, and she stood there with me, ready to offer help. Well, this was awkward. No one had ever seen me undressed before except Dr. Jordan, when I had a physical for school. And Mama, of course. But Ana nodded at me in expectation. I sighed. Here goes nothing…

My sweater came off over my head, and Ana clicked her tongue at my bra. “We’ve gotta fix that!” she said with a chuckle. “You can’t wear something this elegant with that brassiere!” I couldn’t wait to slip off my jeans. Maybe she’d suggest I wear a thong. I rolled my eyes.

The gown was simply beautiful. Had it been up to me, I’d have stopped looking with this one. But Ana looked at my image in the mirror and consulted with Audrey. They twirled me around until I was dizzy, inspecting every fold and tuck in the dress. On my last turn, I stumbled toward the chair sitting nearby. Enough with the spinning already. 

“What do you think, Destiny?” Audrey asked. “It’s perfect for what Jeff wanted. There are others, though. Ana?” 

“It wouldn’t hurt to try another couple of dresses, sure!” Ana concurred.

Oh, goody. 

Next up was a purple, strapless number. Right off the bat, I hated it. Purple is not my color. I have blazing red hair. Let’s be real about this. But, to satisfy Audrey and Ana, I stepped into it and let her zip the back. Not my favorite, and Audrey seemed to agree. Two down, fifty gazillion to go. 

Ana held the next one up, and my heart skipped a beat. This is the one! I thought. Now, if Jeff approved, albeit through his mom, I was golden. It was a beautiful, creamy off-white with lace cap sleeves and a plunging back. I’d need a plan for a new bra with this number. The fabric was silky, and as Ana slipped it over my head and let the fabric fall around my body, I fell in love with this gorgeous gown. I imagined myself attending elegant dinner parties on Jeff’s arm, feeling like royalty, with flowers woven into my braided hair and wearing this dress.

Audrey’s mouth dropped open when I stepped onto the platform in front of the mirrors. She bobbed her head, and I thought I saw her wipe a tear away. If Mama could see me now, I thought. My eyes welled with tears.

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“Destiny, you’re a picture of grace and beauty in that gown. I think we have a winner,” Audrey said. “Ana, wrap this one.” 

Ana looked at me, inspected the gown; she noted everywhere it touched my body, how it accentuated every curve. “This doesn’t need a stitch. I seldom see gowns like this fit right off the rack.” She spun me around once, inspecting how the skirt flowed, and whirled with me. “The length is perfect, the fit is phenomenal. I’m blown away.” She stood next to me and hugged my shoulders. “You’ve made my job easy. Now, for the fun part! Let’s get you what you need!”

She took the time to measure me. She came out with a set that almost perfectly matched the gown’s color. The bra had clear straps and no back. I’d never seen such a contraption before. I was surprised at how comfortable it was. The panties were, as I suspected, skimpy but soft, and a garter belt held up real silk stockings. A pair of high-heeled shoes looked a lot better than my bare feet under the dress. I didn’t want to know the price tag on that shopping excursion. I bet it was more than Daddy paid for his truck.

Ana winked at Audrey. “Shall I have this delivered?” 

“Yes, please.” She handed Ana a card, signed a slip of paper, and took a shopping bag with my unmentionables inside. “Thank you, dear, for your help. I’m sure we’ll be back.”


On the morning of my birthday, I awakened to a dozen long stemmed red roses on my nightstand, and a card. I sat up in bed and sniffed one flower; for a rose, it was surprisingly fragrant. The card was enclosed in a scented envelope. My fingers slid under the flap, removed the card, and opened it. 

Destiny, I wanted to give you all my love for your birthday, but there’s no box big enough to hold it. Besides, it’s already yours. Happy birthday, my babyluv. – Jeff

I wept, and I didn’t feel bad about it. How lucky was I that I had someone who loved me so much? I was already feeling melancholy. A year ago, Mama and Daddy were celebrating my eighteenth birthday with me. They’d already been gone almost a year; it didn’t seem possible.

I was trying to collect myself when a knock sounded at the bedroom door. “Come in?” 

Jeff peeked his head in and waved. “Happy birthday, babyluv.” he said. 

“Thank you, Jeff, for the beautiful roses.” 

“And…?” 

I was confused. “And… what? Oh, the card. I loved it! Thank you.” 

Jeff smiled and walked to my bedside and the vase of roses. Hanging on a prong inside the bouquet was a gold necklace. The chain had a gold heart pendant with diamonds, and it was exquisite. 

“This, babyluv. You didn’t see it, did you?” He took the necklace from the flowers and placed it in my hands. “It’s not as beautiful as you, but it’s close.” 

The necklace took my breath away. “Oh, Jeff…” I didn’t know what to say. 

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“Let me put it on you, babyluv.” He took the delicate chain from my hands and placed it around my neck, secured the clasp, and spun me around. “Its beauty only enhances yours.” He drew close to me and embraced me. “I can’t wait for tonight. It will be unforgettable.”

I rested my head on his shoulder, completely overwhelmed. “I love you,” I whispered. 

“Des, I will love you forever. Believe me when I say it.”

“I do,” I said.

“Mom is making breakfast for you. Get your robe and slippers, and let’s get some coffee.” 

I nodded my head, still in a complete daze. “Okay.” Jeff held the robe for me, then I slipped my fuzzy socks on my tootsies. We walked to the kitchen together.

Audrey had cooked an impressive spread—pancakes, sausage, bacon, omelettes, toast, bagels, and French toast. Was she feeding all of Sunset Valley? I wondered. “This smells amazing, Audrey,” I said. 

“Happy Birthday, Destiny Grace,” she said and gave me a hug. As many times as I told her my middle name was Penelope, she told me ‘Grace’ fit me better. Who am I to argue with someone who can cook like that?

“Thank you,” I said, blushing. 

“Help yourself. Jeff, don’t let her be shy.” 

He loaded plates for both of us while I sat at the dining room table, our coffee waiting for us. I sat stirring my cup when he returned. He had a stack of pancakes, eggs, and bacon on his plate. On mine, he had placed a ham, swiss and asparagus omelette, wheat toast, and a wedge of honeydew melon. I’d never seen asparagus before—I had to ask him what it was!—but I discovered I liked it. 

We ate together, not saying much. When I’d taken my last bite of omelette, I was stuffed. Audrey brought some bacon and sausage into the dining room and placed a couple links onto my plate, despite my protests. Jeff looked at me, struggling to put one more morsel into my mouth, and he chuckled. 

“You don’t have to eat that, Des. Mom is a feeder.” 

“Whew,” I said. “I can’t fit another bite in there.” I sipped the last of my coffee; Jeff stole the sausage from my plate with a mischievous smile. “I’m good until supper.” 

“Well, save your appetite, babyluv. You will want to eat where I’m taking you tonight.” 

I studied his face, trying to read him. What did he have planned? He was a master at hiding his emotions. I couldn’t glean one clue from him. “Any hints?” 

He clicked his tongue at me. “Nuh uh uh! No hints! In fact,” he began, and then reneged. “Nope! No more tricks either, you cheeky girl! You almost got one out of me!”

I stuck my tongue out at him and giggled. “You can’t blame a girl for trying, can you?” 

Jeff kissed my cheek, leaving a wet print on my skin. “Nope.” 

After breakfast, he strongly encouraged me to shower, which I did. At noon, he took me downtown for what he called ‘extreme primping.’ The car he kept at the mansion in Sunset Valley was much nicer than the Camaro he had at school, and I was pretty impressed with that one. He had a Mercedes Benz, whatever that was. It was jet black and shiny, and it felt like driving on a cloud. 

My appointment was at a local day spa, where they would do my hair, nails, and makeup to complement the gown he’d bought me for our special date. He showed them a photo of the dress, and the stylist showed a couple of basic styles by twisting my hair into shape. We decided on a classic updo, neutral shades of makeup, and skin care they said would make my face glow. Jeff kissed my cheek, left his phone number, and said he’d be back to get me when they were finished making their masterpiece. 

My hair stylist, a young man not much older than Jeff, was fascinated with my accent. Wayne—as I learned he was called—washed, dried, and styled my hair into a beautiful setting. When he was finished tucking every stray lock of hair, he handed me the mirror and spun the chair around. “What do you think, love?” he said.

I gawked at the elegant style, overwhelmed by how much Jeff was willing to do for my birthday. The gown, shoes, the unmentionables, the necklace, and now a full makeover? How was I worthy of it all? 

“It’s stunning, Wayne. I love it.” 

He fiddled with stray locks of hair and then froze my style in place with at least half a can of hairspray. When he finished, it was clear I was stuck with that hairdo for a few days. 

“I’m done with you here. Over to Kat for your nails, and then Tammy for a facial and makeup!” He gave me a quick hug. “You are drop dead gorgeous, girl. Knock him dead.” 

“Thanks Wayne,” I said, blushing. 

Kat welcomed me, and we sat down at her table. Mesmerized, I watched her manicure my fingernails, then apply acrylic nails over my natural ones. She painted them a blazing shade of red and affixed tiny rhinestones into the polish. When she finished, I gawked at them. I’d never be able to type on my laptop or play guitar with these things on my fingers. But if Jeff wanted them there, I’d work with it.

“Over to Tammy now,” Kat said. “It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Miss Destiny. Enjoy your evening.”  

“Thank you,” I replied. Tammy was ready for me, so I walked to her station, which was set up like a professional makeup studio, probably because it was. Tammy applied cleansers, moisturizers, and a base foundation to cover up what she called minor imperfections. So minor, in fact, that she almost didn’t bother with concealer. 

She asked me what color blush and eyeshadow I preferred. I only owned one color of each, so that’s what I wore. But Tammy explained each color she chose and what it would do to complement my natural complexion. I almost didn’t recognize myself when she was finished. 

“What do you think?” she asked. 

I chuckled and said, “Who am I?”

“You’re beautiful. That’s who you are. Mr. Jeff is going to love this.” 

“You know Jeff?” 

Tammy nodded. “We went to school together. I don’t think you realize what a catch you have in him, Miss Destiny. He’s the most eligible bachelor in the Tri-City area.” 

“Tri-City?” 

“Sunset Valley, Dragon Valley, and Midnight Hollow.” She snickered at me. “I guess you’re not familiar with the area, judging by your accent.” 

I was growing to despise my country drawl. “Not at all.” 

“Well, you hang onto him. Every woman in this town wants him.” 

If how he treated me was any sign, I had little to worry about. “I think we’re good.” 

“He’s worth millions. If you marry him, you’ll never need to worry about anything.” 

I shrugged. “I’m not interested in the money.” 

“Honey, you’d be the first one who isn’t. Maybe that’s why he adores you so much.” Tammy nudged me. “Here he is now.” The door opened and Jeff walked through it. 

“Where’s my gorgeous babyluv?” he said with a broad grin. “Hi Tammy. I hope you dolled her up all pretty for me.” 

“She needed very little. She’s a knockout.” Jeff signed a slip of paper, took my arm and kissed my cheek. 

“That’s true. She’s beautiful right out of bed.” I blushed a deep red and elbowed him. “Oof, Des,” he whispered. “You’ve got quite a kick.” 

“Please don’t imply we’ve been intimate. I’m not comfortable with that,” I whispered back. 

He kissed me again and stroked my cheek. “You’re right, and I’m sorry.” He walked to Tammy and whispered into her ear. I saw her nod, then wink at me. “Ready to go, sweetheart?” 

Yes! Please get me out of here! “Yes, Jeff.” He took my hand, and we left the spa.

When we got back home, he hugged me and gave me a long, passionate kiss. “I need to get ready for tonight. Be out here by five. You have an hour to dress and finish primping. Please wear this necklace? I bought it to go with your gown.” He fiddled with the heart necklace he gave to me that morning. 

“Of course. I’ll see you in an hour, right here.” 

“On the dot. We can’t be late.” 

“I’ll be here, Jeff.” We walked hand in hand back to our rooms.

The gown had arrived the day after our visit to the dress shop, packaged and draped on a satin hanger. I removed it from the plastic bag and laid it on my bed. The bag of lingerie still sat on the dresser where I’d placed it when we came home that day. I carried it to the bed and began dressing. 

Underneath, I wore a matching bra and skimpy panty set, a coordinating garter belt, and silk stockings. I observed myself in the mirror, and what I saw shocked me. I was a woman; little girls don’t wear this kind of clothing.

The gown was more elegant than I remembered it, silky to the touch and perfect in fit and style. I walked to the full-length mirror in the bedroom. The flood of emotion that came with it was unexpected. If only my parents could see me.

With fifteen minutes to go, a soft knock sounded at my bedroom door. “Who is it?” I called out. 

“It’s Audrey, dear.” 

I walked to the door and opened it. She walked right inside and inspected my dress, my hair, my makeup. She had a small box in her hands, wrapped in gold paper. “This is for you, Destiny.” She sat on my bed and patted the spot next to her, so I joined her. I took the box from her hands and unwrapped it. A long, beautiful scarf-like object was inside. 

“Thank you, Audrey. This is… gorgeous.” What do I do with it?

“It’s a pashmina,” she said. “You wear it over your shoulders.” She took the item from me and draped it over my body. I fell in love with the luxurious fabric on my skin. “This will be all you need to keep warm tonight.” 

I couldn’t think straight. Why was I deserving of so much pampering and spoiling? I’d never want to return to Appaloosa Plains, not even to sell the house, if he didn’t stop spoiling me. “This is… I’m speechless, Audrey.” 

“My son loves you, Destiny. He wants tonight to be perfect.” She kissed my forehead and stood. “He will adore this. Have a lovely time tonight.” 

“Thank you, for everything.” What else could I say? At every turn, Jeff’s family treated me as their own. 

“You’re welcome,” said Audrey. “He’s waiting in the breezeway.” 

I took my small satin purse, wearing my elegant gown and pashmina, and I walked to the foyer where Jeff waited for me. He wore a black tuxedo with a vest underneath that matched the color of my dress. A single red rose was pinned to his lapel. His mouth dropped open as I approached him. 

“You…” he said. It was almost as though he couldn’t speak. “You look elegant tonight.” 

I felt so shy and intimidated. “You look handsome in your tux,” I finally squeaked out. He held his hand to me. 

“Shall we?” 

I nodded. He led me outside, where a stretch limo awaited us. He whispered to the driver, who held the door for me, then slipped a tip into his fingers. The driver nodded as Jeff climbed into the limo after me. 

“Where are we going?” I asked. 

“Oh, babyluv, you’re going to love this.” He took my hands and kissed them. “Everything will be revealed soon.” 

Twenty minutes later, we pulled up outside a gate at what looked like the airport. The driver showed credentials, and the guard allowed us to pass. The limo pulled up beside an airplane. 

“What’s this?” I asked, more nervous.

“This will take us to our dinner reservation tonight, Des. We’re going to Bridgeport to dine at their most exclusive restaurant. The flight will be about an hour. Our reservation is for seven.” 

I couldn’t handle it anymore. My emotions overtook me, and I wept. I didn’t want to ruin my makeup, so I dabbed my eyes to keep the damage to a minimum. “Jeff, this is way too much—”

“Nonsense,” he whispered. “This is just the beginning.” 

Almost ninety minutes later, we were on the ground at Bridgeport’s municipal airport. You’d think with a city as large as Bridgeport, it would have an international airport. And maybe it did. Another limousine took us from the plane into the city. 

If I thought Sunset Valley was a big city, then Bridgeport was a metropolis to me; a far cry from my hometown of Appaloosa Plains. Wide-eyed, I looked out the limousine’s window. I couldn’t imagine what Jeff thought with me gawking. All these things came naturally to him. I felt like a misplaced hillbilly.

The car stopped outside a venue with crowds of people lined up. The driver opened the passenger side door. Jeff stood with a hand to help me out. The temperature must have been cold, but I don’t remember feeling a chill in the air. A dusting of recently fallen snow blew around on the sidewalks. I put my hand in Jeff’s and stood. With a confident stride, he led me past the throng of waiting would-be patrons and inside the establishment. 

“Dean,” he told the host. “Party of two.” 

The gentleman looked down at his book, found the name, and nodded. “Right this way, Master Dean.” Jeff looked at me, took my arm, and we walked together about five paces behind the host. 

“Your table, sir.” He led us to a corner table away from the main dining room; just a few tables surrounded ours. A vase with another dozen long-stemmed roses sat on the table. What he’d spent in flowers alone must have been astronomical. Jeff held my chair until I sat, then took a seat to my right. 

The dining room was elegant. Dark wood paneling adorned the walls, which made the crisp, white linens on the tables pop. Each table was set with golden flatware and two glasses. One for water, I assumed, and one for wine. Nearby was a fireplace burning with gas logs. It radiated an impressive amount of heat, too. I could see why Audrey was certain the pashmina would be suitable. 

Jeff looked at me with pure love on his face. He took my hand and kissed it. “What do you think, Des?” 

I shook my head, but smiled. “How am I worth all of this fuss, Jeff? A year ago I was with my daddy, watching him die day by day…” I swallowed that old familiar lump. I couldn’t cry now. I had nothing to touch up makeup if I did.

“You’re worth it because I love you.” 

They were words he’d said a thousand times, but hearing them in that place made my heart flutter and butterflies swarm in my stomach. “I love you, too. You have outdone yourself.” 

“Never,” he whispered. “For you, nothing is too good or too expensive. Destiny, you are my queen.” 

The waiter came by in the middle of our exchange. Jeff ordered a bottle of champagne; the waiter didn’t ask if I was old enough to drink. He simply nodded and walked away, then returned with two chilled flutes and a bottle of champagne. He popped the stopper from the bottle and poured two bubbly glasses, then placed the bottle into a bucket with ice. 

Jeff picked up his glass and raised it. “To you, my sweetheart. Happy birthday.” 

“Cheers.” I said. “And thank you.” 

In the middle of the dining room sat a grand piano with a pianist playing romantic songs. I recognized quite a few of them from music appreciation classes. Jeff stood and reached for my hand. “I’d love to dance with you.” He pulled me up and into his arms with just a gentle tug. 

“I can’t dance very well,” I said. “I’m sure line dancing and two-stepping isn’t quite appropriate in this setting.” He must have seen me blush, because he pulled me close to him. 

“Just follow my lead,” he whispered. “You’ll be fine.”

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Jeff led me to the dance floor; he held me in his arms, and at first we swayed to the music together. As we danced, I wondered how different my life would be if I married him, if he ever asked. Could I give up my dreams and ambitions to be a kept woman? I knew I wanted children eventually. Would it be enough for me to sit at home while Jeff lived my dream? I couldn’t answer that question. 

We danced together for three songs; when we walked back to the table, he stopped two feet from my chair, took my hands, and stared into my eyes. 

“Destiny, I never thought I’d meet someone like you, so perfect for me in every way. And I can’t imagine a moment of my life without you in it.” I saw him reach into his jacket pocket. I watched as he knelt before me, one knee down. He opened a clamshell box and inside was the biggest diamond ring I’d ever seen. My entire body trembled. 

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“Destiny Farmer, would you do me the honor of being my wife?” By now, everyone in the restaurant was staring at us. He stayed there on one knee, tears in his eyes. I was fighting my own; my head bobbed. I shocked myself when I spoke. 

“Yes!” 

Jeff placed the box on the table, stood, and picked me up into the air. He let me back down, my arms found their way around his shoulders, and he kissed me. “You’ve made me the happiest man in the world, Destiny. I love you.” He took the ring from the box and slid it onto my left hand. Immediately, the ring sparkled and dazzled me. I hadn’t even noticed the applause and commotion our moment had caused. 

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“I love you, Jeff.”

He took my hand and led me back to my seat, held the chair for me while I sat, and took his place next to me again. My thoughts, my head, were muddled. Though it should have been a joyous occasion, I wanted to cry. “Order without me,” I whispered into his ear, choking on the emotion I bore. I excused myself and went into the ladies’ room.

How I hadn’t ruined my makeup was a mystery to me. I sat on a loveseat for a few moments to collect my thoughts and my composure. Jeff blindsided me with a marriage proposal; all my doubts about my future went out the window. I was going to be his wife. A huge part of me was excited, but the dreamer in me believed I was disappointing my parents by giving up on my plans and ambitions. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, I reasoned to myself. Maybe I could join his band and sing with him. That was the answer my restless soul needed. Yes! That was my plan. 

A few minutes later, I walked from the ladies’ room and rejoined my fiancé in the dining room. Boy, did that feel weird. I had a fiancé. 

“Are you okay, babyluv?” he asked. 

“Yes, I am now. I just needed some time to compose myself.”

“I’m surprised you said yes.” His confession stunned me.

“Why?” 

“I know you feel out of place, with all this extravagance and luxury. I promise you, it gets better.” 

“There’s plenty to discuss, but not tonight.” He kissed my hand while I spoke. “We can do that some other night.” 

“What do you want to do tonight, my love?” 

I smiled at him. “I want to enjoy everything.”

He cocked his head at me. “Everything?” 

“Well, not that.” His disappointed look made me laugh. “Just because you gave me a ring, it doesn’t mean I forget my promise.”

“Damn,” he said, feigning sadness. “I was hoping for the mile-high club.” 

I didn’t want to know what that was.

*****

It was past 3:00 AM when our limo pulled back into the mansion’s driveway. I slept most of the way back, curled up in Jeff’s arms. He woke me with a soft kiss and a gentle caress. 

“We’re home, babyluv,” he whispered. He got out of the limo and lifted me. With ease, he carried me in his arms through the front door, down the hallway, and into my bedroom. 

“Mmm…” I muttered. “I’m not ready for the night to end.” I heard Jeff laugh.

“Des, you’ve been ready since we left the restaurant. I guess the champagne went right to your head.” 

“Well, I’m underage. I’m not supposed to drink.” I felt him unzip the zipper on my dress. 

“Do you need some help to get ready for bed?” 

I forgot what I was wearing under my gown, nor did it occur to me it might cause an issue. I nodded my head. “Yes, please.” 

He slid the gown off my shoulders, and it fell to the floor quicker than I could process it. I stood in front of him in the sexiest lingerie I’ve ever owned. I must have still been tipsy, because I didn’t seem to mind it. 

“Oh, Des,” he mumbled. “Are you sure you want help? I’m not sure I can keep my hands off of you.” 

“Mmhmm,” I remember saying. “My pants are in my drawer…” 

I can’t imagine how difficult it was for him to take the lingerie from my body. I have to give him credit; he got my clothes changed and me into bed. I felt him curl up behind me, and he kissed my neck and shoulders before I fell asleep.

*****

The next morning I woke up with Jeff beside me, and a sinking feeling in the pit of my gut. What happened that I didn’t remember? I gazed at my left hand, where the enormous diamond engagement ring sat. Yeah, I remembered him proposing, and me saying ‘yes’. Everything after that was a blur. 

I wiggled away from him and noticed I was in my pajamas. How did I get undressed and into my jammies? I needed to remember; I made a mental note to stay away from champagne. He must have seen me—on my birthday, ironically—in my birthday suit. A part of me wanted to vomit. 

I stumbled into the bathroom attached to my bedroom. The good news? My panties were still on my body. While I was busy in the bathroom, I heard Jeff calling my name. “Just a sec,” I yelled to him. That wasn’t a good idea. My first lesson in overindulgence: alcohol causes headaches. 

“Des?” He was there in seconds. “Are you okay? You were pretty tipsy last night.” 

“Yeah, I’ll be right out.” I splashed some water on my face and patted it dry. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what happened.

The door swung open to him sitting on the bed where we’d slept together. I hoped that was all we did. “There’s my beautiful fiancée. Come here babyluv.” He held his arms open for me and wrapped me in a hug. “Are you sure you’re okay?” 

“I have a headache, but I’m alright. Please tell me we only slept in that bed, Jeff.”

“We only slept, Des. You were too tipsy, and I want you to remember our first time, honey.” 

A tremendous wave of relief washed over me. “I don’t want to sound like a prude—”

“Shh, Des.” He put his finger over my lips. “You’re not. It’s refreshing to have a woman like you. You’re not after me solely for sex or my fortune.” 

I shrugged. “I don’t care about the money. And the other part? It’s a thing back home. It’s very unheard of to see teenage pregnancy or premarital sex. I want to honor my parents, Jeff. It’s what they expected of me.”

He kissed the top of my head and snuggled me closer. “And I respect that, Destiny. Your innocence is precious to me. I’ll never jeopardize that. You have my word.” 

That… that was exactly what I needed to hear. Our next kiss was tender and passionate. “I love you so much, Jeff,” I whispered into his ear. 

He brushed my hair out of my eyes and smiled. “I love you, too.”

v.

For Snowflake Day, I met his whole family; cousins, aunts, uncles, his brother that lived in another city. I didn’t even know about him. Our engagement was the topic of interest. Everyone congratulated us and told me I had snagged the most eligible bachelor in the city. Somehow, though I’m not sure why, that made me uncomfortable. 

Jeff loved the necklace I bought for him, but it seemed like such a token, a mere trinket compared to what he had done for me. But I reminded myself, too, that I’m not rich. Not yet, anyway. Someday, I’ll wear a wedding band in front of my diamond ring, and I’ll fit that description. 

Audrey and Barb made a huge supper, and the best pecan pie I’d ever had. Gathering around the fireplace in the family room, we sang together all the holiday classics. Jeff stayed with me the whole day, doting on me with a display of true love and affection. 

At 7:30 that night, I was tired, and I needed to call Aunt Jenny back home. Though I loved them, I didn’t look forward to the call because it would only serve to remind me that Mama and Daddy were really gone. I said goodnight and excused myself to my room. 

Aunt Jenny answered the call right away, her sing-song voice on the other end greeted me. “Hey Desi! Happy Snowflake Day, sweet pea!” 

Hearing Mama and Daddy’s nickname for me ripped my heart in two. “Hi Aunt Jenny. Happy Snowflake Day!” I hoped my happy greeting covered the emotion I felt. 

“How’s it going up there in Sunset Valley? Are you having a good time with Jeff’s family?” 

Where did I start? “You could say that. Jeff and I are engaged.” 

“What?!” she shrieked with joy. “Oh Destiny, that is wonderful news! When? How?” 

I smiled, remembering the night. “On my birthday, he flew me to Bridgeport to this fancy, exclusive restaurant. It was amazing and SO romantic!” 

She didn’t speak for a moment. “A private jet, Desi?” 

“Yes! His family is very wealthy, judging by the mansion I’m staying in. The formal living room is bigger than the whole farmhouse.”

“Your mama and daddy would be very proud of you!” she said. “Did Jeff like the necklace?” 

I nodded, even though she couldn’t see me. I had a bad habit of doing that. “He loved it! Though, after he gave me the ring, the necklace seemed so trivial.” 

“Psh,” Aunt Jenny said. “Anything you give him, Desi, he’ll cherish. I’m so happy for you! Are you moving to Starlight Shores after you get married? Where do you think you’ll get married? Goodness, I’m so excited for you!” 

“That’s the thing, Aunt Jenny. We’re not moving to the Shores. Jeff wants to go to Bridgeport and promote his band. He says all aspiring musicians live there and pay their dues in Bridgeport.” I bit my lip. 

“Well, that’s surprising, Desi. I never thought you’d give up Starlight Shores for anyone.” 

I didn’t think so, either. “Well, there’s a chance I can sing with him in his band, so I won’t be giving up much.” 

“A chance?” 

“We haven’t discussed it yet, and we’ve made no concrete plans. But a wedding is over a year away, after graduation.” Nice segue.

“Well, keep me up to date on everything, sweetheart. Are you still graduating in the spring?” 

“As long as I keep up the course load I’ve been doing, yes. I’ll have a year to spend in the Plains getting the house ready to sell.” 

“Isn’t Jeff graduating in the spring, too?” 

“No, he’s a junior this year. He has one more year left.”

“I’m surprised you’re not staying on campus with him, Desi. Can you bear to be apart from him?”

I sighed. “That doesn’t matter. I have work to finish back home. Maybe if the house sells quickly, I can go back sooner. But I want to at least visit Starlight Shores before I surrender my dream.” 

“You sound a little sad about that, Destiny. Be sure you want to abandon everything you’ve longed for and worked for.” Her smile came through the phone. “I love you, kiddo.”

“I love you, too, Aunt Jenny. When we’re back on campus, I’ll call you. Happy new year!” 

“You too, Desi. Be safe, and have fun!”

The emotions I’d hid all day came when I disconnected the call. The pain of missing Mama and Daddy, missing the familiarity of home and family, overcame me. Only a year ago, we were still together. I wept into my pillow until I fell asleep.


Jeff partially moved into my dorm room with me once we were back on campus for the spring semester. I made a spot for him in my closet, despite him still living with Jacob. We spent all our free time together, studying and planning for our future. 

That February, Love Day was upon us. Jeff told me to keep the date open, that he had something special planned. He was secretive about it, but I didn’t question him. He loved to surprise me, and I found I loved when he did. 

His big surprise was an elegant restaurant about twenty miles off-campus. It wasn’t as exclusive as the one in Bridgeport, but it was cozy and romantic. I wore the gown he bought for my birthday, and he dressed in a tailored suit. We drove in his fancy sports car to the restaurant, parked in the lot, and he escorted me inside as though I was royalty. 

The hostess sat us by the window, overlooking a lake with a waterfall. Snow still blanketed the ground outside; the scene was idyllic. He held my chair as I sat, then took the seat to my right. “No champagne for you tonight, I’m afraid. They will card you here. My family has influence in Bridgeport, which is why they didn’t ask you.” He took my hand and kissed it. “I’m sure you won’t mind, though.” 

I laughed. “Nope! I might never drink again.”

Jeff looked at me with love in his eyes. “Damn, Des, you are so beautiful. You make me ache for you.” 

I blushed. “You always have a way of rendering me speechless,” I whispered. 

“What would you like for supper tonight?” he asked. I was impressed that he called it ‘supper,’ too. He was proving to be trainable.

“You choose for me, Jeff. It doesn’t matter. You haven’t disappointed me yet.”

The waiter came to get our order. Jeff ordered a glass of wine for himself, and a sparkling cider for me. Our meal orders were a secret. After the waiter left, he stood and pulled me to my feet.

“Care to dance, beautiful lady?” 

“Of course, my handsome love.” He led me to the dance floor; we swayed together for a few songs and then returned to our seats. 

We chatted about nothing of consequence, which to me was odd. Plans needed to be discussed, and yet we were talking about mundane things. I took his hand and held it. “What will we do after graduation, Jeff?” I asked him. “We have to plan our wedding, and pick a date for it. Not in that order, of course.” 

“I’m not sure,” he said. His demeanor had changed from sweet to standoffish. Something was wrong. “I mean, you’re out of here in May, and I’m stuck for another year.”

“Is that an issue?” 

He shook his head, but his face told a different story. “Not at all.” 

“What’s wrong, Jeff?” 

“Nothing, Des.” His answer didn’t sit well with me.

“Are you sure—”

“Drop it!” he snapped at me. 

I wasn’t sure why, but he was preoccupied. Was he angry with me? I couldn’t tell, but if he was, I didn’t know what I’d done. Though I wanted to excuse myself to the ladies’ room, I stayed. “I’m sorry,” I whispered. “Whatever I did, I’m sorry.” 

His expression softened. “It’s not you. I don’t mean to take it out on you, either.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” 

He shook his head. “No. It’s okay. I’ll just figure it out when we get back.” 

So it was me, and he didn’t want to say it. 

The rest of the evening was lackluster. The meal came, and we ate together, but it wasn’t the occasion I’d expected when we began. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d done something he didn’t like. 

Turns out, it was something I didn’t do.

On the drive back to campus, he was back to his loving, sweet self, and I just assumed everything would be normal. He parked his Camaro in the lot behind the dorm, opened my door, and helped me out. We walked hand in hand up the steps to my dorm room; I turned the key in the door and opened it for us. 

His friend came and placed a bottle of wine with two glasses, roses, and strawberries. That was a shock, a welcomed one, especially after the uncomfortable evening we’d had. “Surprised, babyluv?” he asked. 

A smile crossed my face. “This is lovely,” I said. I had qualms about the wine, but I let it go. We would be the only ones drinking it, and I committed to just one glass. He uncorked the wine and poured two glasses. 

“A toast. To the love of my life.” 

“Cheers!” I said, and took my first sip. The wine was dry, almost undrinkable. I took another sip. Yep, hated it.

“Babyluv, I’m sorry I’ve been distant. I didn’t mean to be a grump through dinner. I’m just so…” He didn’t finish his sentence. 

“So, what…?” 

I looked at him, trying so hard to figure out what was bothering him. “It’s nothing. You’re perfect, Des.” He took a deep sip of his wine; almost half of the glass was gone in one gulp. He went back to fill it, and drank half of that glass, too. Surely, he couldn’t like this stuff. It was terrible. “I could kiss you forever,” he said.  

“Then why don’t you?” I winked at him, patting the spot next to me on the bed. That might have been my first mistake. 

He took another gulp of wine, emptying the glass, then set it down and joined me on the bed. I felt like he was undressing me with his eyes. His kisses were forceful but passionate… different. “Damn, you’re gorgeous,” he whispered into my ear. He laid me back on the bed, something we’d done many, many times before. But something felt unusual. 

He sat up and straddled my hips, trapping me under his body. Jeff took my hands in his and pinned them down to the bed. “Jeff…” I started, but he kissed me hard. It happened so fast, I didn’t have time to react.

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“We’re doing this tonight. I need you so bad, I can’t see straight. Please, baby, let me make love to you.” 

I tried to sit up, but I couldn’t. “Jeff, no…” 

“Yes, Des. It’s time, and I’ve been more than patient with you.” 

“We’re not married—”

“We’re good as married! Dammit, Destiny, you owe me this!”

I don’t remember what came next, but before I knew it, I was standing, and my hand stung. On Jeff’s left cheek was a bright red handprint, courtesy of my right hand. His face wore a look of hurt and betrayal. “Jeff, I’m so sorry—”

“I need some space,” he said, gathered his coat, and left my room. I collapsed, weeping on my bed. 

An hour later, I decided Jeff was right. I was being unreasonable, and selfish, and prudish. I dressed in the lingerie he’d purchased and then slipped the gown over my head. My hair looked okay, a quick fix on the makeup, and I looked presentable. I swallowed my worry and gathered a healthy dose of courage, straightened myself up, and walked across the hallway to his room. I knocked before I turned the doorknob; it was open, so I peeked my head in.   

“Are you busy, Jeff?” 

He didn’t look up from his homework. “No.” 

I walked in and sat on his bed. “I’m sorry. For everything. I don’t need to be so uptight and prudish—”

“Shh. Des, what happened wasn’t your fault. You were absolutely right to stop me. I’m not being respectful of you and your promise when I act that way. So in every way, I’m the one who owes you an apology.” He walked to the bed and sat with me. “Baby, I’m so sorry. I promise you one thing from this day on. I won’t put you in a position like that ever again.” He kissed my fingers. “I don’t want to push you away, and I’m afraid if I keep pressing this issue with you, I’ll end up doing that.” 

Trying to dispel the emotion I felt, I shook my head. “I’m ready, Jeff. I came here to tell you—”

His gentle, charming smile put me at ease. “I’m not, babyluv. If you say yes now, it’s because I’ve pressured you. That’s not how love should work.” 

I couldn’t believe what he was telling me. The evening’s emotions overtook me; I broke down in his arms. He rocked me as he held me, whispering words of love and comfort to me. When I collected myself, I kissed him. “I love you, Jeff.” 

“I love you more than anything else in my life, Des. Let’s finish our date. What do you say?” 

I nodded. “I would love that.”


Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul couldn’t make it to Sim State for my graduation. Without them, I almost considered skipping the ceremony and having my degree forwarded to the farmhouse back home. But I dressed up anyway in the nicest dress I owned. The off-white gown was overkill for graduation, so I chose one I’d brought from home.  

My BA degree was in fine arts with a concentration on vocal performance. The university honored me for my proficiency in writing, art, and instrumental performance. The dean, who presented the special honor, explained that no other student in the school’s history had accomplished what I had done. It should have been a proud moment; I only thought of Mama and Daddy. How I wished they were there.

After the graduation ceremony, I packed up what I was taking home with me, and labeled other items to ship them. Jeff helped me carry boxes and bags full of stuff to the common room downstairs. Jacob stood there watching us with his usual condescending look. In the two years I attended Sim State, he never took a step to befriend me. I supposed what Jeff had said of him was true: Jacob Salaman was indeed a miserable person.

Jeff drove me to the post office to mail three boxes back home, and then we left for the airport. He had offered to come help me clean and get the house ready to sell, and I accepted every opportunity to be with him as our college days together came to an end. We were no closer to figuring out our future, either. 

We waited together at the gate where we would board the plane, talking and laughing. He bought us both a coffee while we waited. He handed mine to me and plopped down beside me. 

“There you go, babyluv,” he said. “Just how you like it.” 

I took a sip and smiled. Was there anything he didn’t know about me? “Thank you, Jeff. It’s perfect.” 

“Like you.” 

I snickered. “Hardly.” 

“Psh. You’re your own worst enemy, Des. You’re more than perfect. You’re mine.” 

I couldn’t argue with him on that point. 

Not long after, the attendant called our flight to board. Jeff paid for my first-class ticket again; we walked on board, our fingers clasped together. He took my carry-on bag for me and stowed it. And being a gentleman, Jeff gave me his window seat. 

I slept most of the way home with Jeff wrapped around me. He later told me he loved watching me sleep, that he could see my happiness even in my slumber. It would be our last summer together, but I was looking forward to having him there.

Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul loved Jeff and were so impressed with how he treated me when we were all together. We spent our first night back in Appaloosa Plains at their home; they welcomed Jeff into the family like he’d always been part of it. Aunt Jenny drew me aside to say what an excellent match he was, and that Mama and Daddy would have approved. That made me weepy, but in the best possible way. I realized how much I loved them, and how important they’d been in my life. 

Jeff and Uncle Paul worked to landscape the front yard and the pastureland we had on the property, and Aunt Jenny and I painted the whole inside in three days. The house was ready to show within a month; I accepted an offer at the end of the first week. With a contract and a closing date, I had my timeframe to move.

*****

Jeff left for home a week before closing on the house. He needed to prepare for his upcoming senior year at Sim State. I drove him to the airport in Mama’s little old car, the one Daddy bought for her when I was born. We said little, despite my growing need for clarity and resolution. 

We walked into the airport together. The elevator took us to the terminal level; we made it through the security checkpoint together. He took my hand as we walked toward his gate.

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“You doing okay, Des?” 

I shook my head. “Not really. Jeff, I don’t know when I’ll see you again. That’s not okay with me.” 

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We sat together at the gate. “I’m sorry we haven’t talked about our future together. I’m struggling with being away from you. Now that I have you, I fear losing you.” He brushed hair out of my face and stared into my eyes. 

“I’m afraid of that, too. How will we make this work? I’m leaving for the Shores in a week. What happens if we can’t make it back together?” 

“Babyluv, we’ll figure it out. I love you too much to let you go.” He played with the diamond ring I wore on my left hand. “This ring means something, Destiny. It means that you’re mine, and we’re going to be married someday. It will happen, I promise you.” 

I believed his heartfelt words, but inside, I still had doubts. I hated the unknown and the uncertainty of two people who refused to budge on their dreams. To me, our relationship had ‘failure’ written all over it. “I will trust you, Jeff.” What choice did I have?

“That’s my girl.”

Ten minutes later, they began calling passengers to board. Jeff, being in first class, was among the first. We stood together; that familiar but detested lump in my throat grew to the size of a grapefruit. He saw the tears welling in my eyes and embraced me. We shared a tender but passionate kiss. 

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“We’re going to survive, Des. I won’t let this go any other way.”

He’d already promised, so begging would accomplish nothing. Nodding, I stared into his blue eyes. “I believe you.” 

Jeff took his suitcase and walked toward the gate. This was the moment I dreaded. I needed one last kiss, one last touch. I grasped for his hand. “Don’t go…” 

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He embraced me one last time. “You know I have to go, Des. I need to finish my degree. But I’ll call you tonight, I promise.” 

I stepped back from him and nodded. “Okay.” 

The attendant at the doorway took his ticket, then he walked through. He didn’t turn around or look back as I watched him walk down the jetway to his airplane until he disappeared from my sight. My heart broke into pieces as he left. 

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I couldn’t drive, not when I was this emotional, so I sat at the gate trying to collect myself, feeling like a fool. I despised being emotional in public. His plane sat at the gate for a while; I stared out the window at it, wishing he’d come running back down the jetway and into my arms. It was a fool’s errand wishing for it. Jeff was going home, whether or not I liked it.

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The plane pushed back from the gate after the jetway door closed. I stood at the window, my face nearly pressed against the glass, watching… wanting. All the times I had denied him were now heavy, endless regrets. Why am I so stupid? I stood there until the plane taxied away from the gate, my heart heavy with sorrow. I wept all the way home.


Four months from when I graduated, I sat at the title office in downtown Appaloosa Plains with Aunt Jenny by my side. We closed on the house, and I handed over the keys to its new owner. The sale, of course, was bittersweet. Mama was born in that house, and her mama before her. Three generations of Hutchins women lived in that home, myself not included. For the first time since its construction, the farmhouse belonged to someone besides a family member. 

Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul both brought me to the airport. I knew it would be the last time I’d ever see them. I hadn’t planned on returning to the Plains except on tour someday in the future. Aunt Jenny wept when we hugged, planting a kiss on my cheek.

“Remember, Desi, what you’re going to Starlight Shores to accomplish. Work hard, do good, and remember where you’re from. That’s all your daddy and mama wanted for you. Do them proud, baby girl.” Aunt Jenny wiped tears from her eyes. Uncle Paul said nothing, but hugged me close to him and patted my back a little harder than he probably intended. 

Inside my backpack, I had a surprise for both of them. I reached in and removed an envelope addressed to them. “I asked the title company to cut a check for you, as a thank you for all the help and hard work you’ve done on the farm.” Aunt Jenny took the envelope from me. “I couldn’t have done everything we did without your help. Please, do me a favor and go on a vacation somewhere warm and tropical, for Mama and Daddy?” 

Aunt Jenny hugged me and rocked me in her arms. “We’d be so honored to take that trip in their memory, sweetheart. Thank you.” It was time for one last hug. I had to walk away, because if I didn’t, I’d never leave. Taking the handle of my suitcase, I turned to go. A few steps away, I turned around. They stood, weeping and waving the same way Mama and Daddy were when I left them standing at the mailbox. 

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“Thank you again! I love you!” I shouted at them. It was so hard to leave them, but I needed to go. I walked the jetway to the airplane that would take me to Starlight Shores, the first step toward fulfilling a lifelong dream. Look out, world, I thought. Here comes Destiny Farmer.

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Up Next: Chapter One, Generation Two


Pose Credits

Forever Hailey
Aperille’s Couple Poses

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Lover’s Poses

Kiddo’s Dreams
Wedding Ceremony Part 2

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Audrey Pose Pack by k2m1too
The Morning After by Spladoum

Poses By Bee
Couch Cuddle Set 1
Cuddle Sad
Engagement Portrait Poses
Family Fighting – Updated
Wedding Guests – Sitting
Wedding Guests – Standing

SexySims
104 Degree Fever by Spladoum

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Save The Last Dance by Lenina90

*****

Custom Content

Around The Sims 3
Bottle of Wine
Christmas ‘09 Gifts
Church Items
Coffee Mug
Five-Star Restaurant Set
Glass of Wine
Wedding Shop

Butterfly Sims (Site defunct)
Female Adult Hair #085

ModTheSims
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The Sims 3 Exchange
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St. Georges Airport by jamwithmates123

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Jeff’s Hair by Cazy
Tablecloth 1×1 Square by LilyOfTheValley 

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G2 Prologue – Meet Destiny Farmer, Part One

In the small, rural town of Appaloosa Plains, Destiny Penelope Farmer loved to play in the yard in the summer atop a heap of fill dirt left over from restructuring the half-acre farm plot. She’d play on the dusty hill from morning until dusk, when the fireflies lit the evening skies in the lot behind the little farmhouse. The dirt pile, dubbed “Destiny’s Hill” by her mother, Fran, was her favorite spot on the entire property. 

While her father, Charlie, was on deployment and her mother tended their farm, Destiny would play on the hill, riding her favorite dolls on toy horses, pretending to be the queen of her own kingdom. It was this mound of dirt that inspired her eventual stage name: Destiny Hill. It was the name that would become known in every corner of the world; the red-headed girl with the small-town drawl and the big voice.


i.

My name is Destiny Farmer. My parents called me Desi, mostly because I couldn’t say my name when I was three, and I guess they thought it was cute. This is my story—all the who’s, the where’s, the why’s, and the how’s. Maybe I should start at the beginning? Yes. The beginning. 

I’ve always lived in Appaloosa Plains on Pomona Promenade. Across the road were the festival grounds, the place that would set my life on its current trajectory. Each year, the summer festival was my favorite, because that’s when the rides came into town. I loved the carousel, because Daddy would stand next to me, and steady me on the horses. Though I loved my parents the same, Daddy and I had a special bond. Mama called me a ‘daddy’s girl’.

When I was a little girl, he was deployed overseas to fight in the big war. He didn’t come home with the rest of his unit. I remember my mama being sad, and I remember seeing a big box, which I found out later was his coffin. But he wasn’t inside the big box that day. He came home much later, in his own time, on his own terms. Since that day, when I was old enough to understand what he’d endured, I made sure he knew I loved him. We were very close. I could always count on Daddy to have my back. 

Next door to us lived the Bradfords; Caleb, Sunny, Junior, Kristen, Tommy, and Maya. They were Mama and Daddy’s best friends. Maya lived with us when I was little, while Daddy was stationed on his last deployment. She attended veterinary school, and now lives in Hidden Springs with her husband, Clay. We saw her occasionally during the summer festivals, but since their first baby came, they stay closer to home. Of the four Bradford kids, Maya was the only one I knew.

My favorite subject in school was, of course, music class. Sara Thompson, the elementary school music teacher, taught me to play every instrument I could get my hands on. She was also the children’s choir director at the chapel, where we attended services every Sunday morning. It was she who fostered in me my love of singing and vocal performance. 

I’ve always been a creative spirit, writing my own songs and lyrics, sometimes as I sang them. I had journals full of songs I’d written over the years. From the time I learned to read and write, I wrote songs; love songs, ballads, tunes with a pop flavor, even though my main genre was country music. That was all we listened to on the radio, in the car, or while Mama and Daddy worked on our half-acre farm.

When I was ten, the county built the stage at the fairgrounds. The first year, the festival featured a talent show, and I remember wanting to sing. But that was the year I broke my wrist in the park. It was also the year the Bradfords sold their ranch and moved away. I learned that family isn’t always blood-related; Mama cried the day Aunt Sunny and Uncle Caleb left Appaloosa Plains for good. She told me that Aunt Sunny was the sister she never had.

After the Bradfords sold their ranch and moved away, another family moved into their house. Their only daughter, Polly, was just a few months older than me, and from the moment we met, we were pretty near inseparable. She was beautiful; thin with brown hair and eyes to match, and black plastic-framed glasses. Polly wanted to be a programmer when she graduated college; she loved computers and gaming. We giggled about everything. We had each other’s backs in high school. She was definitely my BFF. This was us at the farmhouse, back when things were good, and we were still friends. I miss those days.

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The summer before our junior year, when I was fifteen, and she was sixteen, we both got our first jobs. Hers was at the spa downtown working as a receptionist, but I worked backstage at the festival on the setup and breakdown crew. The job was hard and tiring, but I learned how to run a soundboard and the stage lighting. I also had access to every visiting singer that performed in our little park, including my favorite singer, Katie Price.

Katie opened the festival the first year the fairgrounds had the stage, back when she was still only playing at carnivals and small venues, back before she caught her big break. But she loved playing at county fairs and festivals, which is why she returned to Appaloosa Plains every year, even after her star burned bright and everyone knew her name. 

The summer before my senior year in high school was the best of my life to that point. The best, because I finally had the chance to sing on the big stage; Katie asked me to open her concert on the festival’s first day. 

The night of my debut, I was so excited, and I wanted Daddy backstage with me. Katie let me borrow a dress from her wardrobe, some of her stage props, and even had her cosmetologist do my makeup. When I walked onto the stage, Daddy was having the time of his life. I saw him mouth the words, “I love you, Desi,” as I took the stage. I played his favorite song first, because he requested it, and because he loved it. After every song, I looked over my left shoulder, watching him enjoying the concert.

Just before my last song in the set, I saw him teetering, grasping at the air, and then collapsing onto the floor. I screamed, and Mama ran right up onto the stage. The crowd, who’d been chanting my name just seconds before, watched as paramedics loaded him onto a stretcher and took him to the hospital. That was when I first learned about his illness. You see, my daddy had cancer; lymphoma, to be exact.

Learning about Daddy’s cancer changed my life, and it almost changed the direction of my career. I didn’t want to go to Sim State. But Mama sat me down and explained what the lymphoma meant to Daddy; to us as a family. There was a chance he could beat it. We prayed every day, hoping those prayers would be answered. 

When school started that year, Daddy’s cancer was in remission. I’d already been accepted to Sim State. The work I’d done at the festivals as a stagehand transferred to college as credits earned. I didn’t have to spend a year on prerequisites, which meant getting into my major quicker. Polly and I walked into school that first day of senior year when I felt him tap my shoulder. Who, you might ask? That would be Austin Linde. My first love, my first boyfriend. 

Let me tell you about my sweetheart. Austin moved from Sunlit Tides with his dad, who was in the Army like mine was years ago. He transferred to Appaloosa Plains, and Austin left his childhood friends behind. Austin saw my debut at the fair that July. He couldn’t resist telling me how much he enjoyed the show. 

Austin was my height, but he had muscles on top of muscles! He played any sports he could, and he started for the varsity football team that year. He was on the swim team, played baseball, and volleyball. You name it, and he played it. 

His hair was the color of the beach’s sand, and his eyes as blue as oceans I’ve only seen in pictures. Not to mention his freckles, which were adorable. We hit it off immediately, and he asked me out on our first day of school.

Polly and Austin got along okay, but sometimes I think she resented the closeness I had with him. He intruded on our friendship, though that was more my fault than his. You see, my mama and daddy loved each other with an intensity I took for granted. I believed every married couple was like them. I decided that, when I got married, I wanted a relationship just like theirs; loving, devoted, an unbreakable bond. 

Until I met Austin, I saw the world through rose-colored lenses. I believed every relationship survived, that every love was true and everlasting. I’d never met someone my age whose parents had separated, never mind divorced. But Austin’s had, and it turned my personal truth into an enormous lie. It made me realize nothing is perfect. Eventually, Austin would teach me that firsthand. 

Austin and I had our first date at the burger place in downtown Appaloosa Plains. He picked me up in his car and drove us there. Much to my great surprise, Mama and Daddy let me out of their sight long enough to date this incredible boy, one I couldn’t believe was interested in me. He held my hand as he drove, rubbing my fingers between his, much the way I’d seen my daddy do with Mama’s. 

Austin parked outside the burger place, jumped out of the driver’s seat, and ran to my side. He opened the car door for me, held his hand out for me, and helped me up. He was always the perfect gentleman, and I’d never met a boy as charming as Austin Linde. 

We walked inside, hand in hand; he guided me to a corner table with a strange-looking box sitting on it. He told me it was a jukebox. I had never heard of it before. So he asked me what song I’d want to hear. Naturally, I chose a Katie Price song! He dropped the coin into the slot, pressed some numbers, and I waited. And waited. He watched my face as I sat in expectation.

“Where is my song?” I asked.

“It’s in queue,” he said. “It will play eventually, depending on how many songs are ahead of it.” 

I must have worn a puzzled look, even after his perfect explanation. “How many jukeboxes are in here?”

“Look around, Destiny.” He pointed to each table that had the same peculiar box; it was every single one. “They’re all over.” 

I blushed a deep red. “I guess I’ve never seen a jukebox before now.” 

“That’s okay,” he said. “I think you’re beautiful.” Thankfully, he changed the subject. 

Feeling bashful, I looked away. “Thank you, Austin.” 

After the date was over, he brought me back home. He walked me to the front door, where I saw Mama waiting for me. I was much earlier than my ten o’clock curfew. “Can I take you out again? It was fun getting to know you.” 

I nodded my head. “I’d like that. Thank you, for supper, and for the song.” 

He stared into my eyes and brushed a lock of hair from my face. “I’ll see you in school tomorrow?” I only nodded. He kissed my forehead and stroked my cheek with the back of his fingers. “Goodnight, Destiny.” 

I couldn’t think straight. My head felt light, and butterflies swarmed in my stomach. I might have fallen over if not for his arm around me, steadying me. “Goodnight Austin,” I squeaked out. I reached for the doorknob and turned it—the door swung open with my gentle push. I turned around as I walked inside and blew him a kiss. 

“How was your date, sweet pea?” Mama asked me. 

My answer came in a three-word sentence. “Best night ever.”


Everyday through Snowflake Day that year, Austin and I spent time together. We grew close, much to Polly’s chagrin. But I convinced myself that she understood, that she just needed to find a boyfriend so we could double date. 

On Snowflake Day eve, Austin and I exchanged gifts. I couldn’t give him material things that he would need or want. What I gave him was much better. I sat down and wrote a love song for him, complete with musical accompaniment. Then on Snowflake Day eve, I played and sang it for him. Now, Austin isn’t the sentimental type, but the song made him a little misty-eyed. Then a broad smile crept across his face. It was time for him to reveal what he’d gotten for me. 

He seemed antsy as I reached for the box and tore the paper from it. The box was small, and I couldn’t guess what was inside. It held a smaller item, a clamshell-type box. The suspense must have been killing him, because he looked at me, exasperated. 

“Are you going to open it, or make me suffer?” he teased. 

I giggled at him. “I should go slower, just to make you wait.” 

“Oh, give it to me!” He grabbed the clamshell from my hands. “Close your eyes.” 

“Why?” 

“Just do it, Des. Please?” 

I huffed. “Okay.”

I heard a faint creak, and him shifting positions. “Open your eyes.” My eyes popped open, and so did my mouth. He was on his knees, sitting back on his feet. The opened box in his hand, a smile on his face, he presented this precious gift to me. 

“It’s our birthstones, Des. Green for mine, and blue for yours. I know we can’t get married, or even engaged because we’re too young, and our careers might take us down different paths. But this ring signifies a promise to you, Destiny. Someday, I want us to be together forever. I love you.” It was the first time he’d ever uttered those three words to me.

I wiped tears from my eyes. “I love you, too! Thank you, so very much!” 

A silver ring with two stones cut into the shape of hearts sat inside. It was the most beautiful ring I’d ever seen. He reached to kiss me. My heart fluttered, and so did the rainbow of butterflies that lived in my stomach. Then he took the ring from its box and slipped it onto my left ring finger. The dim lighting in the room reflected in the facets of the stones, making them sparkle. 

“I never thought I’d find someone like you. Someday, I’ll replace it with a big diamond ring, and a much bigger promise. But this ring shows everyone that you’re taken.” He kissed me again, much longer and with more passion. I melted into his embrace, so in love with the boy from Sunlit Tides.

*****

The next morning was Snowflake Day. I wore my new ring on my finger against my better judgment. Though Mama and Daddy liked Austin, I wasn’t sure how they would feel about the ring, and more importantly, the promise behind it. 

I was the first one up, so I lit the tree, illuminating the evergreen with shimmering light. Next, I walked to the kitchen and turned on the coffee pot. Last, I started a fire, so it would be toasty when Mama and Daddy came downstairs. The radio played holiday music; I turned the volume up a little and sang along. 

The fire had just begun to flicker when I heard Mama’s soft footsteps in the stairwell. She saw me sitting cross-legged in front of the fireplace and greeted me. 

“Good morning, Destiny. Happy Snowflake Day!” 

I turned around to see her. She was wearing her favorite white robe and matching fluffy slippers, and in the lighting from the tree, I saw my first glimpses of gray hair in her thick, red, curly mane. “Good morning, Mama,” I said. “Happy Snowflake Day. How is Daddy today?” 

“He’s still asleep, sweet pea. He had a rough night last night.” 

“What’s wrong?” 

Mama sighed and sat in Daddy’s recliner. “He had a bad nosebleed. It didn’t stop for hours.” 

I hated when he wasn’t well. “Let him sleep, then. Gifts can wait.” 

“But coffee can’t,” she said with a chuckle. “Thank you for starting it.” 

“No problem,” I returned. “I haven’t been out to feed Sweetie yet this morning.”

“That’s okay, Desi. She should be alright until later.” Mama joined me by the fire with her first cup of coffee in her hands. “Would it bother you if we don’t make a big supper today, honey? I don’t think Daddy will eat much, and I don’t feel like fussing.” 

“Of course not, Mama. Snowflake Day is more than supper and presents.” I sat at her feet, snuggled up to her legs. “You and Daddy are the most important people to me.” 

I saw her eyeing my ring. “Austin and Polly, too.” She reached for my left hand and studied my ring. “Did Austin give this to you, sweet pea? It’s lovely.” 

I nodded. “Yesterday. He said it was a promise ring.” 

“Remember how we talked about relationships and keeping yourself for your future husband, Desi?” 

Oh my goodness, is she really going to give me ‘the talk’ on Snowflake Day morning? I thought to myself. “Yes?” 

“Now that you and Austin are in a committed relationship, it doesn’t give you license to pursue a physical relationship with him. You’re much too young for that, Destiny.”

I tried not to act flustered. “I know, Mama. That doesn’t interest me yet. You don’t have to worry about me.” 

“Good.” We sat in awkward silence until she got up. “I’m going to wake your daddy.” 

“You don’t have to, Mama. Let him sleep.” I stood and walked toward the steps. “I’ll get dressed and feed Sweetie.” ‘No’ was not an acceptable answer, either.


As the school year went on, Polly drifted away, and I didn’t notice it. Austin and I were connected at the hip, so to speak, and I spent all my waking time with him. During my diner shifts, he’d come in and keep me company, and since he drove everywhere, I relied on him to carry me around town. 

I knew Polly was on the prom committee. One day, she asked me for some help with ideas for our senior prom. Though I was joking, my jest was poorly received when I said, “I’ll play the prom for free!” Her snarky comment took me by surprise.

“I’m shocked you offered that, Destiny. Do you think Austin would let you away from him long enough to sing?” 

Her comment stung, but I couldn’t see the pain in her expression. “Ouch, Polly. Where did that come from?” 

“If you have to ask, Des, then I’m done.” 

“You want to go there?” I asked. 

“You already did.” She pushed her glasses up onto the bridge of her nose. “I hope Austin makes you happy, but I pray someday you can see who he really is.” 

“What does THAT mean?” 

“He’s a snake, Destiny. He doesn’t love you.” 

“You’re just jealous!” I snarled at her. 

“Yeah, I used to be until I saw the truth. Gosh, Des, I hope you see it before he ruins you.” She wiped a tear from her eyes. “As long as you’re with him, I can’t…” 

“You can’t what?” I spat.

“I can’t be friends with you anymore.” She turned from me and walked away. “I hope he’s worth it.” 

“Polly?” I called out, stunned to the core. She never turned around or looked back. 

*****

“Austin, can I ask you a question?” I took the damp rag from the sink and wiped down the counter where he sat. 

“You know you can. What’s on your mind, Des?” 

“Why did you give me this ring?” I wiggled my finger. “What does it mean to you?” 

He looked shocked. “It’s a symbol of my love for you. I thought you knew that when I gave it to you?” 

I nodded. “That’s what I thought. But Polly…” I took a deep breath. “She called you a snake, and she told me you don’t love me.” Tears filled my eyes. “What did she mean, Austin?” 

“Why would she say that?” He took my hands and squeezed them in his firm grasp. “I don’t know what she’s talking about.” 

“You don’t know what she meant?” 

“No, of course not! She’s probably just jealous of me, Des.” 

I shrugged. “She says she used to be.” 

“Have I ever done anything to make you question my love?” 

“No, Austin, you haven’t.” 

“Well,” he said. “Consider the source.” 

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” I walked to him and stole a kiss. “I’m sorry.” 

“You’re forgiven. Why were you talking to Polly, anyway?” 

“She asked my opinion on entertainment for the prom. I joked and said I would sing for free. I didn’t get the reaction I expected. She hurt my feelings.” 

“You don’t need her, Des. All you need is us. And that reminds me…” Austin stood and dropped to one knee. My heart raced; all I could think was ‘No!!’ “Would you do me the honor of accompanying me to our senior prom?”

I breathed a sigh of relief, hopefully unnoticed. “Of course I will, though I just assumed we’d go together.”

“Nope! I couldn’t wait to ask you.” He laughed. “You should have seen your expression when I got on one knee!”

I stood with my hands on my hips, feigning insult. “That wasn’t funny!” He laughed harder, and I gave him a sheepish smile. “Okay, I guess it was a little funny.”

“I know this isn’t the time for proposals, Des. But I’m not going anywhere.” His sweet smile always had a way of making me feel at ease. “I love you.” 

“I love you, too.”


I worked long hours at the diner, and at the festival when they needed me, to afford the gown I wanted for our senior prom. It was a gorgeous, red, floor-length gown with a crushed velvet ribbon tied in the back; strapless and sleeveless. It was the most beautiful thing I ever owned. Mama drove me to the boutique downtown when I went to pick it up.

I held the door open for her, and she walked inside. “We won’t be long, will we, Desi? Your daddy hasn’t been feeling well since Snowflake Day, but he is too stubborn to see Dr. Bennett.” 

“I have to pay for the dress and we can leave. I can’t wait to show you, Mama.” 

We walked to the counter, and I told the clerk my name. She nodded and left. When she returned, she had the gown in her hands. Mama must have seen how my face lit up when I saw it. “That dress is beautiful, honey,” she said. “How much was it?” 

I didn’t want to admit it was a month’s wages at the diner. But it was my senior prom, and Austin already had the prom bid. “Probably more than I should have spent on it.” My voice sounded weak and unsure. I thought for certain she’d give me a hard time about it. Instead, she reached to touch the fabric. 

“I have never seen its equal, Destiny. I bet you will look like a movie star in it.” 

My complexion matched the color of the dress. I was sure of it. “Thank you, Mama.” I paid the balance owed and carried the dress and shoes to the car.

“So?” she asked as we got into the car. “When is the prom?” 

“A week before graduation, after the exams are finished. They said the timing was unconventional. But, the class president wanted prom to be our congratulatory ‘party’. The principal was outvoted by a wide margin.”

“What will Austin do after he graduates, sweetheart? I haven’t heard you mention it?” 

“He’s accepted to Sim State…” I paused. Though he had his acceptance letter, he hadn’t responded to it. “Come to think of it, I’m not sure what he’s doing.”

“Hasn’t the deadline already passed?” 

“Mmhmm.” 

Mama said nothing more.

*****

I stood in front of the full-length mirror in my bedroom wearing my new gown and shoes. “Mama!” I called. “I need your opinion.”

She walked in from the sitting room off their bedroom. When she saw me, she stopped in her tracks. “Oh, Desi, sweetheart.” I heard sniffles from over my right shoulder. “You look so statuesque in that gown.” 

“That’s what I needed to know,” I laughed. “So you like it?” 

Mama nodded. “It’s so elegant. You did a good job picking it out. Austin will love it.” 

“Thank you,” I said. “Mama, can I ask you a question?” 

She sat down on my bed and patted the spot next to her. “What’s on your mind, sweet pea?” 

“When you and Daddy got together, was there any doubt about him?”

Mama shook her head. “No, not at all. Why, Desi? What’s wrong?”

“It was something Polly said a few weeks ago.”

“Polly? I haven’t heard you talk about her in a long time. How is she?” 

“I don’t know. She ended our friendship. I think she’s jealous of Austin, and trying to break us up. But she’s gotten inside my head, and I can’t shake this feeling that she might be right.” 

Mama took my hand in hers. “What did Polly say, sweetheart?” 

“She said that Austin is a snake, and that he doesn’t love me.” 

I’ll never forget the look of surprise on Mama’s face. “That doesn’t seem like him.”

“I know. And she said she hopes I see what he is before he ruins me.” 

“Did you ask him about this?” 

I nodded. “Yeah, but he didn’t know what she was talking about.” 

“I see.” She put her arm around my shoulder and gave me a quick hug. “What does your gut say, Desi?” 

“It says I should trust Austin, and not Polly.” 

“You have a good head on your shoulders, sweet pea. Trust your instincts.” 

If only she knew how terrible that advice was…


Austin was supposed to pick me up for the prom at six o’clock sharp. Though supper would be served at 8:00 PM, we’d vote for prom queen and king and have photographs taken beforehand. He hadn’t seen my gown before that night. I wanted to surprise him, but I gave him a swatch of fabric so the tux shop could match the color. 

Mama took me to the salon to have my hair trimmed and put up, and my makeup done. When we got home, Daddy was sitting and resting in his recliner. He acted like I was a movie star. 

“You look beautiful, Princess,” he said. 

I walked to where he sat and kissed his forehead. He didn’t look good. “Thank you, Daddy. Are you okay?” 

He coughed and heaved a heavy sigh. “Of course I am. I’m just tired.” 

Mama took my arm and pulled me into the sitting room. “He sees Dr. Bennett next week after your graduation. He didn’t want me to tell you, but I vowed to you and myself I wouldn’t keep things from you anymore.” 

I felt a glob of bile rise into my throat. “Thank you,” I whispered. I wish she would have waited until after my prom to tell me. I thought of little else that night.

Two hours later, I walked down the staircase, ready for Austin’s limo to pick me up. Mama insisted she take photographs inside before we leave, and I know Daddy wanted that, too. 

Five minutes before six o’clock, a sharp knock sounded at the door. Austin stood there in a black tuxedo with a red vest under it, one that matched my gown. In his hand, he held a beautiful corsage with a red rose and greenery that slipped onto my wrist. Mama answered the door and invited him in. 

“Hi Austin!” she said and gave him a quick hug. “You look sharp!” 

I stepped out from inside the sitting room, and I thought he would drop the corsage he held. “Wow. Destiny, you are gorgeous.” 

“Thank you,” I whispered.

Screenshot-141

Mama posed us in front of the fireplace, the usual spot for family pictures. I can’t recall one photo that was taken anywhere else but there. We did a formal portrait pose, and one candid shot. Daddy got teary-eyed when Austin took my hand and led me from the house. He didn’t think I noticed, but I watched every move he made. I wanted to remember him, and that night, forever.  

Screenshot-142

The limo dropped us off at the school gymnasium; together, we walked inside. Much to my surprise, Polly was there by herself. I guessed she was there to make sure everything went as planned. She gave Austin a dirty look, then turned to hide her face. It didn’t occur to me that seeing me there with him was difficult for her, and that she missed my friendship. I was too focused on Daddy to notice much of anything.

We had our official prom picture taken, facing each other and looking cute. Afterward, we voted for prom queen and king, each voting for the other and not figuring either of us had a shot. The music and dancing started early, but Austin didn’t want to dance.

After supper, they announced the prom queen and king. Austin won prom king hands down. But the queen was Polly. She tried to get away from the crowd, tears running down her cheeks, but they formed a circle around her and forced her into my boyfriend’s arms to dance. When their dance ended, she glanced at me with the most pained, hurt look on her face; I excused myself to the restroom.

I don’t know how long I was in the ladies’ room when Polly came looking for me. “Des! There you are. I have something to tell you.” 

“What’s—”

“Your boyfriend has another girl.” She spat it out so fast. “During our dance, Des. He told me he’s not interested in you anymore, and he’s going to break up with you after graduation.” 

“Huh?” My head swam, and I didn’t want to believe her. Would Polly really lie to break us up? “No,” I said. “You’re not telling me the truth. He’d never do that to me!” 

“You don’t sound like you believe your own words, Des. I’d never lie to you.” 

This wasn’t helping the doubts I had about him since our last exchange together. “How do I know you don’t want him for yourself, Pol?”

“Because I hate him!” she screamed at me. “Don’t you see what he’s done to us? Des, you haven’t been able to think straight since he came into your life. Wake up!” Tears free-flowed down her face, ruining her perfect makeup. “I can’t stand him, but I’d never lie to you just to break you up. Go look for yourself if you don’t believe me.” 

I tried to stand up on jelly legs and wobbled myself to the door. I cracked it open to find Polly had been telling the truth all along. Austin was wrapped around someone else’s date, lip-locked with her, and it looked like he was having a grand time without me. I collapsed on the floor, sobbing. “No…”

Polly looked into my eyes. “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, Des.” 

Ten minutes later, Austin’s voice came through the ladies’ room door. “Des? You’ve been in there a while. Are you okay?”

Polly, to her credit, stayed with me. “She’s not coming out,” she yelled to him. 

“Why not? I’m her ride home, and prom is nearly over.” 

“Why don’t you tell her, Austin, what you were doing, and what you told me?” 

“Des, please come out? I want to talk to you. I haven’t seen you since they announced the prom king.” He kicked the door. “Please?” 

I stood up and straightened out my red gown, now wrinkled and dirty from sitting on the floor. I checked my makeup—ruined—and walked back to the door. With a deep breath, I opened it. He stood there with his arms open. I walked past him and back to our table, Polly by my side. 

He followed me to where we sat and plopped himself next to me. “Can I talk to her alone, Polly? I won’t bite her, I promise.” That got a weak smile from me, but I was still heartbroken. When she walked away, he wiped tears from my face with his handkerchief and kissed me. “What happened?” 

“You tell me.” 

“What does that mean?” 

I took a deep breath, held it a moment, and forced the air from my lungs in one long huff. “I saw you kissing that girl, Austin.” 

“There’s an explanation for that.” 

“Don’t tell me. She was choking.” Sarcasm dripped from my words. 

“Hilarious. No, Des. She kissed me. I couldn’t get away from her.” 

“You’re telling me I peeked out the restroom door at exactly the right time? I don’t believe you.” 

“Remember what I told you when I gave you the ring, Des?” 

“Which part?” 

“I love you.” 

“Do you still?” 

His expression softened. “Yes. Destiny, you’re my life. And someday, I want to marry you.” 

“I want to believe you.” 

“Why don’t you?” 

My gaze shifted to where Polly sat. I didn’t know who to believe anymore. “Polly told me you have another girl, Austin. Do you?” 

“Des, I know you and Polly are best friends—”

“Were.” 

“Okay, you were best friends. I really don’t like Polly, Des. She’s spent the last three months trying to drive a wedge between us. I see it’s working.” He touched my face and kissed me. “Destiny, I love you. Please don’t give up on me.”

I was so confused. Someone was lying to me, and I couldn’t decide who it was. But I recalled my conversation with Mama, and I went with my gut—the same awful, terrible decision I’d made earlier. “I won’t. I love you, too.”


Graduation day. The end of one chapter, and the beginning of a new one. I gather that’s the reason they call it ‘commencement.’ I knew ahead of time that I would be valedictorian, and I had my speech already prepared. It should have been a happy day. So much weighed on me. So much was unknown. It drove me almost crazy. 

Mama and Daddy were waiting downstairs for me. Though it wasn’t confirmed, Mama and I both suspected Daddy’s cancer was back. He couldn’t stand longer than five minutes, and walking for him was impossible. Their bedroom was now on the ground floor in the sitting room. But I knew he wanted to see me graduate, to hear my valedictory address. He wanted to see his little girl take her first steps into adulthood. 

I stood in front of the fireplace alone while Mama snapped a picture of me in my cap and gown. She was having a hard time keeping it together, and I had a tough time pasting a smile on my face. It was anything but sincere.

“I’m so proud of you, sweetheart,” Mama whispered into my ear when she hugged me. Even she felt thin; I wondered if she was caring for herself as much as she cared for Daddy. 

“Thank you, Mama. We should probably get going.” 

Uncle Paul installed a temporary ramp over one portion of the front steps for Daddy’s wheelchair. But Mama needed help with it because of its steep grade. I steered the chair down backwards while she steadied the chair from the front. Step by step, we descended this ramp, my sheer force and determination holding his chair back from running away. 

Ten minutes later, we were on the way to the graduation ceremony. Our graduating class had twenty-two seniors. Did I mention Appaloosa Plains was a pretty small town? I was informed that ours was one of the largest graduating classes in almost fifteen years. 

Once Daddy was out of the car and Mama had him at the entrance, I needed to join my classmates. We agreed to meet out front after the ceremony, and they walked in ahead of me. Polly stood alone, looking just as sad and dejected as I felt.

“Hi Polly,” I said, approaching her. “Are you ready?” 

She didn’t say a word to me and turned her back. I guess taking Austin’s side at prom sealed our fate as friends. I sighed and walked past her. 

Austin found me and greeted me with a single rose and a kiss. “Hi, beautiful,” he said. 

I blushed. He looked so handsome in his cap and gown. He took my hand, and we walked to the staging area. The principal told us where to stand and sit. I scanned the room for the chair with “Valedictorian” on it, and nodded. That was my seat. 

Austin must have noticed I was out of sorts, so he put his arms around me and held me. “Are you okay, my love?” 

I nodded, but I had a lump in my throat. “I’m okay. Daddy…” I was trying so hard not to cry. “He isn’t well today. Austin, I’m scared.” 

He held me tighter, doing his best to comfort me. “Shh,” he said. “Look at it this way. He’s here, right? That’s a good thing!”

He could make things perfect with a sweet word or a kiss. “You’re right.” I opened the curtain and spotted Mama’s white hair in the audience. “See? There they are.” My smile returned as I pointed to them. 

His hand on my shoulder pulled me back to him. “I know how close you are to him. And I’m sorry he isn’t well.” Austin kissed my forehead and hugged me again. “I’m right here when you need me.”

“Thank you,” I said and took his hand. 

My valedictory address was brief and to the point. I acknowledged Daddy and Mama because of all they sacrificed for me and my future. And of course, I didn’t make it through my speech without emotion. One by one, the principal called us to receive our diplomas, and when the last graduate walked, we all threw our caps into the air. 

Austin and I had plans to meet for supper that night after the ceremony. He said he had some big news. I couldn’t decide if I was nervous or excited about our date. After the spectacular mess at prom, I didn’t know which end was up. I was hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.

He found me before I walked outside, and we cemented our plans for supper that night. The restaurant was fancy, so I decided I’d wear my prom gown. We kissed, and he left; I went in search of Mama and Daddy. 

Daddy was on his feet, waiting for a hug. I hurried to his side so he wouldn’t have to stand for long, and I wrapped his skinny body in a hug. 

“I’m so proud of you, Desi,” he whispered in a raspy voice. “It was a brilliant speech.” I helped him back to his chair. 

“Thank you, Daddy. I’m surprised I didn’t cry more!” Mama and I both giggled. She walked to his chair to push him, but I shook my head. “No, Mama. I’ll push him.” 

Once we got home, I made getting up the ramp a game for him. Usually, it took both Mama and me to clear the ramp in one shot. But this time, I got a running start with him. His eyes widened like we were on a roller coaster, and we made it up the ramp together, laughing like fools. 

“You’re a pretty strong little girl!” he said. “I had no idea.” 

“That’s what I get for working as a stagehand, Daddy. It’s hard to keep weight on because I’m so active.” I know he didn’t realize it, but I had a nice six-pack forming. 

“I wish I had that problem, sweetheart,” he said, looking sad. “Weight’s falling off me, but for a different reason.” 

“I know, Daddy.” I hugged him and kissed his cheek. “You’ve sacrificed and suffered so much. You deserve better than this.” 

He took my hands and stared into my eyes. “Even with this outcome, I wouldn’t change anything. Your mama and you have made my life complete, Destiny.”

It was one of the most humbling moments of my life.

*****

Austin knocked on the front door at five-thirty. We had a six o’clock reservation at the restaurant. Mama let him in while I finished getting ready upstairs. My hair was down, and I had on a lip tint with blush. I walked down the steps, and his face lit up. My uneasiness was abating. We were going to enjoy a beautiful evening. I could feel it in my soul. 

He took my hands when I reached the bottom step and kissed my cheek. “You look beautiful,” he whispered. “I’ll have her home by ten, Mrs. Farmer,” he told Mama, and she nodded. 

“Have a good time, kids.” She stood at the front door waving while we walked, hand in hand, to his car. 

Ever the perfect gentleman, he opened his car door for me and helped me in. After he got into the driver’s seat, he turned to me, took my hands and kissed me. “Destiny, you’re gorgeous in that dress. I’m sorry the last time you wore it was so miserable. I want to make it up to you tonight.” 

“That would be lovely,” I whispered, and bit my lip.

We drove to the fancy restaurant just a few miles outside of Appaloosa Plains, one I’d only been to once before. He parked his car and helped me out. My arm tucked under his, we walked into the restaurant and to the hostess station. 

“Linde, six o’clock,” he announced. The hostess nodded and motioned us to follow. She led us to a table set with a dozen long-stemmed roses. He held my chair while I sat, and he took his place next to me. 

Austin ordered for both of us. I felt so spoiled. The roses, the restaurant, the atmosphere were more than I expected. How could I have ever doubted him? The night was perfect. 

“You know, Des, I have some big news.” 

I nodded. A spark of excitement stirred within me. I couldn’t imagine what he had in mind, or what he was planning. “I can’t wait to hear it.” 

He moved his chair closer to mine and turned to face me. With my hands in his, he looked into my eyes. Whatever he had to say, it had to be big. “Des…” 

I closed my eyes, preparing myself for his big announcement. Maybe it was that diamond ring he promised me. That had to be it! I knew I would say yes, too. “Yes?” 

“I… I, um…” he stuttered. “I joined the Army.” 

What? I felt the blood drain from my face. “You… did what now?” 

“My dad talked me into enlisting. It’s why I never returned my paperwork for Sim State. I was waiting for the perfect time to tell you.

I wasn’t sure I could endure what Mama had with Daddy’s deployments. I was not cut out for military life. “What about us?” 

He took my hands and smiled. “Other couples make long-distance relationships work. There’s no reason we can’t, too.” 

“You’ll be away for months, maybe years at a time, Austin. Will you wait for me?” 

He peered into my eyes with the sincerest look. “As long as it takes. You know, you can come live with me on the base after I graduate basic.”

“What about my career? You know how long I’ve been dreaming of singing. I can’t give up my ambitions.” 

“Not even for me, Des?” 

My heart sank. “You don’t know what you’re asking of me.” 

“I don’t believe what I’m hearing from you right now, Destiny. I thought you loved me.” 

Why must it always be guilt? “Of course I love you, Austin. But you’re being selfish.” 

“I’m being selfish? You’re going to cause our breakup, and I’m selfish. Oh, that’s rich, Des.” He pulled away from me and crossed his arms in front of him. 

“Break up? No, I don’t want that!” I hated myself for what would come out of my mouth next. “I won’t go to Sim State, and I’ll go with you, if that’s what you want.” It wasn’t what I wanted, but I loved that boy. Nothing seemed too outrageous when he asked it.

“Then it’s settled. I’ll send for you when I graduate. Meantime, just work for your mom and dad on the farm.” He gave me a half-smile. “That is your last name, after all.” 

I was not amused. “Like I’ve never heard that, Austin.” Did he hear the sarcasm in my words?

He chuckled and took my hands in his again. “I just love you so much, Des. I’m not ready to let you go.” 

Ah yes, Mr. Charming was back. “I love you, too.”

*****

Mama was waiting for me when I arrived back home. But she sensed something wasn’t right. She was always so astute. 

“How was your date with Austin, sweet pea?” 

I couldn’t lie to her, because she would have seen right through me. I just had to pad the blow the best I could. “It was okay, I guess. Austin had some big news for me.” 

She gazed at my left hand, probably searching for a new ring. “What was his news?” 

I sat in Daddy’s recliner and slipped my shoes off my feet. “He joined the Army. He wants me to come live with him on base after he graduates basic training.” 

I watched Mama’s smile fade away as a frown took its place. “That means…”

“Yeah,” I said. “It means I don’t go to Sim State, and I don’t move to the city.” 

“Did you tell him yes already, Desi?”

I nodded. “I did, Mama.” 

“Is that what you want, honey? To spend your life loving a man who is never home, one who doesn’t mind taking you away from your heart’s desire? Someone who is content to make you sacrifice your dreams? Think about this long and hard, Destiny.”

My shoulders slumped, and I sighed. “I don’t know what I want anymore.” 

Mama sat back in her chair. “I’m going to say a sentence about you, Desi, and I’m going to stop. When I do, say the first thing that comes to your mind. OK?”

“Yeah, but why, Mama?” 

“You’ll see.” She closed her eyes. “Close your eyes, and say the first thing that pops into your head. I’m Destiny Farmer. I am a…”

“Singer.” It came out so naturally, I didn’t even think about it. 

“Do you want to abandon your dreams for a boy?”

“No. I don’t want to give it up for anyone or anything. I want it so much.” 

Mama smiled. “I think you have your answer, Destiny.” She stood and kissed my forehead. “I’ll see you in the morning. Goodnight.” She walked into the sitting room where Daddy was already asleep. I took my shoes and padded up the stairs to my bedroom. How was I going to tell Austin I had changed my mind? I didn’t sleep that night.


The week after my graduation, Daddy got the news that his lymphoma had returned, and it had worsened. The doctor believed that she could force it back into remission with a rigorous chemotherapy regimen, which he started with right away. At first, the treatments were rough on him. Many nights, I heard him getting sick in the bathroom.

The summer concert series kicked off two weeks after graduation with Katie’s concert. She didn’t ask me to open her show that year. I guess the fiasco the year before decided it for her. I was a liability, and I accepted it. 

Austin left for basic training the morning after Katie’s concert. We went on one last date before he left, so I could tell him I’d changed my mind about the plans we’d made. He wasn’t happy, but he acted like he understood. Austin walked me to the front door when he brought me home. He kissed me and begged me to wait for him. We promised to keep in touch, to call when we each had the time. And he walked away, our last confessions of love hanging over us. I wept when he left, but I felt more at peace with my decision. 

Chad kept me busy at the festival for the summer. But when August rolled around, I had to leave for school. He called me into his office on my last day of work. When I opened the office door, he asked me to sit, which I did.

“Destiny, I make it my policy to not get attached to my employees. But when they’re as hardworking as you are, well, it’s difficult. I hired you based on your application, in which you had many impressive claims. To your credit, each one of them was truthful.” 

“Thank you, Chad, for believing in me. I’ve had so much fun working for you these past years. I’ve learned a lot about the backstage process, and I think it will be useful for me in the future.” 

Chad sat back and smiled. “You’ve worked hard in the face of difficulty and adversity. Your parents must be so proud of you.”

I blushed. “They are.” 

“I’m going to miss having you around, Destiny. To show my deep appreciation, I’m including a bonus for almost two years of hard work and dedication. You’ve earned it.” 

He handed the last paycheck to me, larger than I expected. My mouth dropped open. “Are you certain this isn’t a mistake? You have a few too many numbers on this…” I felt myself getting emotional. 

“There’s no error. Thank you for everything. Go off to school and have fun. Take advantage of every opportunity. And maybe someday, the next time I see you, it will be your name in flashy lights instead of Katie’s.” He stood and motioned for me to stand up; he wrapped me up in a hug. “I’m proud of you. Now, go get ‘em.” 

I was overwhelmed, not only by his generosity, but by his kindness as well. “Thank you, Chad. I will definitely come home to sing someday. You have my word.” 

“I look forward to it. Give my best to your dad and mom, okay?” 

“Will do!” He walked me to his office door, one last pat on my shoulder, and I left the fairgrounds, unemployed for the first time since I was fifteen years old.

Mama and Daddy took me for supper the night before I left for school. His treatments were working, and he felt better. He said nothing would have kept him home. I believed him. 

At the restaurant, Mama presented me with a gift I wasn’t expecting. It was small but heavy, the size of a block of wood. When I unwrapped it, I saw the book she read every night before she slept, with its worn, faded leather cover, a cross bonded in gold on the front. I wept when I saw it. She was never without her prayer book. 

“Mama, I can’t take your prayer book from you.” 

“Desi, that is my prayer book,” Daddy said. “I took it on every deployment, and it always came home with me. I want you to have it, sweetheart.” 

That didn’t help my emotions one bit. I opened the cover to see he had written a message inside:

Destiny, take this with you. Read it often and let its wisdom guide you. Never forget where you’re from, and to whom you belong. Remember whose daughter you are. I love you more than words can tell you. Love, Daddy.

I closed the book, tears flowing down my face, and I walked to him. He stood up and embraced me, weeping onto my shoulder. “I love you, Daddy,” I whispered to him. “Thank you.” 

“I love you to the moon and back, Destiny. Never forget it.” 

“Never.”


The next morning, I woke up earlier than I needed to, and looked outside my bedroom window for the last time. Sweetie was grazing in the pasture. She’d gotten older and was slowing down at almost twenty years old. Mama didn’t figure she had much more time with them. 

I got dressed to spend some time with Sweetie. On my way outside, I stopped at the sugar bowl Mama kept on the dining room table and grabbed three cubes for her. I whistled for her, and she trotted to where I called her. “Good girl,” I said and patted her neck. My hand produced one cube of sugar, which she took from my palm. She pranced around me and whinnied, as though she had just won an important race. Belly laughing, I gave her the other two cubes of sugar. She nudged me pretty hard, looking for another, but I just wrapped my arms around her neck and hugged her. 

My flight to the university was at 2:14 PM. I had some time to kill. I strolled down the street to the old Bradford ranch. Polly was outside tending to her horse, so I called to her. She tried to ignore me, but I kept talking to her. Finally, she broke down and walked to the fence. 

“What, Des?” She looked more than a little annoyed. 

“I wanted to say I’m sorry. I didn’t want to leave for college without at least letting you know.” 

She pushed her glasses onto the bridge of her nose. “You really hurt me.” 

“I know, and I’m sorry. Polly, losing you was the hardest thing I’ve ever faced.” 

“Why did you let him blind you? You must know he’s moving to Sunlit Tides to be with his old girlfriend and their baby.” 

I looked at her, stunned. “He told me he enlisted in the Army.”

“Why am I not surprised he lied to you again?” 

I was tired of being lied to. But who was lying to me? Polly or Austin? “Do you have anything to back up your claims, Pol?”

“Why don’t you trust me? Des, we’ve been friends for years, but you take his word over mine? Have I ever lied to you?” 

“No.” I wrapped hair around my finger and twirled it. “He’s so smooth, and he makes me feel so amazing…” 

“But at what cost, Des?”

I had to change the subject. “Where are you going to college?” 

“I’m not. I’m staying here to work on the farm. Someday, I’ll take it over.” 

“I’m sorry,” I said. I couldn’t imagine a worse fate.

“Why? It’s what I want.”

This wasn’t the Polly I knew. She was a go-getter with higher ambitions than to settle for ranching. “What happened to your dreams about being in IT?” 

“I can still do computer stuff. But Mom and Dad need me on the ranch.” 

I sighed. “Do you mind if I call you while I’m in school?” 

“I’d rather you didn’t, Des. Sometimes, it’s just too late to say you’re sorry. And I can’t forgive you for staying with Austin when you knew what a snake he is.” 

Tears stung my eyes. “You don’t really feel that way. Please, Polly… say you don’t.” 

“I’m sorry. I meant it when I said I couldn’t be friends with you if you’re involved with him. He’s a liar and a cheat. It’s too bad you don’t see it. He will cost you everything if you stay with him.”

“Well,” I said, trying to swallow the lump in my throat. “I guess this is it, then?” 

“Yeah,” she replied. “I need to get back inside. Have a good life, Destiny. You won’t if you stay with Austin. It will just be filled with heartache and pain. I’m just saying…” 

“You too,” I choked out, ignoring her last comment. “See you around.” 

“No, Des, you won’t.” She turned around and walked inside. I never saw Polly again.

Austin’s house was just down the street from ours, so I walked toward the house where I’d spent so much of my time over the past year. His father, Pete, was outside washing the car. When he noticed me, he waved me over. 

“Hi sweetheart,” he said. “Austin will be back soon. He ran an errand for me before he leaves.” 

I played dumb. Austin was supposed to be at basic training. At least, that’s what he told me. “Well, I’ll wait for him. I’m leaving for school in a little while. I’d like to see him before I go.” 

“How odd!” Pete said. “He’s going back to Sunlit Tides today. But I’m surprised you’re here. He told me you two broke up.” 

“I still want to see him before I leave.” I was getting ticked off. Polly was right. “When will he be back?”

“He shouldn’t be long. He went to buy a gift for the baby.”

“That’s nice,” I said. “Whose baby?” 

Pete looked at me with an odd expression on his face. “Didn’t he tell you, Destiny? He has a baby son back home. It’s why he’s moving. He wants to be closer.”

I played dumber. “Of course, he told me. I just forgot.” Inside, my blood boiled with certain rage. He lied to me! 

Ten minutes later, Austin’s car pulled into the driveway. I watched from a place out of his view. He got out of the car and Pete greeted him. I sauntered out from behind the garage. 

“Hi Austin,” I said. 

“Des! What are you doing here?” The look on his face was priceless. 

“Funny, I was about to ask you the same question.” 

The position I had him in was most enjoyable. He couldn’t lie to me with his father there, nor could he lie to his dad. Watching Austin squirm was the best revenge I could have had… except for my heart, which was shattering into tiny shards. He lied to me. That bastard…

“Why don’t we take a walk?” he said, but I shook my head. 

“No, let’s talk right here in front of your dad. Why don’t you tell me why you’re home from the Army, Austin?”

Pete looked at his son. “Is that what you told her? That you joined the Army?”

“Well, yeah, but I didn’t want to hurt her by telling her about Jules.” 

Pete saw the tears welling in my eyes and took pity on me. “How did that work out for you, son?”

He had both of us staring at him, wanting answers. I saw his shoulders slump, and he took a deep breath. “Okay, Des. This is the truth. I found out four months into the school year that my ex-girlfriend was pregnant. She was almost eight months along when she told me, but I’d already fallen in love with you.” 

I almost fell for his line of BS. But no more lies, and no more believing them. I was finished. “You never loved me, Austin. If you had, you’d have never lied to me like this.” I was spitting mad. 

“No, that’s where you’re wrong, Des. I really loved you. A part of me still does. But I have to return to Jules. I have to take responsibility for my mistakes. That’s why I’m marrying her.” 

His confession took my breath away. That was MY ring! He was MY love! He was MY future, and she stole him from me. “Were you going to tell me the truth?” I read his face, and the awful realization hit me. “You weren’t, were you?”

He hung his head in shame. “I hoped that when you went to college, you’d find someone who would sweep you off your feet, and you’d forget about me and the promise I made to you.” He walked to where I stood and tried to hold my hands, but I recoiled away from him. “I meant to keep it when I made it. But that baby needs his dad, Des.”

“Polly was right all along.” I wept bitter tears, our last goodbye still fresh in my mind. “I should have believed her.” 

“Well, go make amends,” Austin said. “I’m leaving today. I know you are too. It’s not too late.” 

I shook my head. “No… you’ve done a fine job of destroying our friendship, Austin. Now I don’t have her OR you. I’m such a fool.” 

“I’m sorry…?” 

“Are you asking me or telling me?” I growled. His apathy was unappreciated.

“I guess I’m telling you. Goodbye, Destiny. I hope I’ll see your name in lights some day.” 

“I hope you rot in hell,” I spat back. I took the ring from my finger and threw it at him, turned on my heel, and walked away. The score was 0-2. Time to go home and lick my wounds.

*****

Mama had breakfast cooked, and they were finishing up when I dragged back through the front door, tear stains on my face. My emotions were worn to shreds, and my body ached with fatigue, but I had a long day ahead of me. My feet felt like lead trudging through the house to the kitchen. Daddy watched every step I took while Mama stood there watching me, her hands on her hips. I poured a cup of coffee and sat down. 

“Where were you? We’ve been worried sick, Desi!” 

I sighed and breathed in the vapors of a stale cup of coffee; it smelled revolting. “Out. I only meant to give Sweetie a treat, but I went for a walk. I should have stayed home.” My shoulders heaved in sorrow as I fought the inevitable tears. 

Mama plopped next to me in a chair and took my hands. She noticed my tear-stained face and puffy, swollen eyes. “You’re a mess. What happened?”

“I walked to Polly’s house, hoping to tell her goodbye before I left for school. She told me that as long as I was with Austin, she’s not interested in my friendship. She said she couldn’t forgive me for choosing him. I don’t blame her, either. I’ve been a terrible friend.” 

“Oh sweet pea, I’m sorry,” she said. “You two were so close.” 

“That’s not all. I walked a little further down the street, and Austin’s dad was outside washing his car.” I had to take a breather and sip my coffee. “Remember how Austin left for boot camp?” Mama nodded, and I saw Daddy smile. “Well, he didn’t. Everything Polly said about him was true, Mama. He has a girlfriend and a baby back in Sunlit Tides. He’s moving back to marry her…” The tears came fast. “Austin lied to me.” 

A few years ago, Daddy would have gone to defend my honor. But he was in no condition to stand, much less fight. He reached for my hand and squeezed it. “I’m sorry, Princess. I know how much you loved him.” 

“No more. I’m done with boys.” Wet, sloppy teardrops splattered on the tablecloth and soaked in. “I’m just going to mind my business and do my schoolwork.” I got up from the table and took my coffee cup. “My suitcase won’t pack itself.” 

“Do you need help?” Mama asked. 

“No. I’m just finishing packing my clothes and a few things into boxes that I’ll check on the plane. I almost finished it last night before I fell asleep.” 

“Well, holler if you do, sweet pea.” I nodded, gave Daddy a kiss on the cheek, and made my way up the steps. 

My clothes were scattered on my dresser, and I had a basket full of clean, folded clothes to pack away. I had two weeks’ worth of outfits; only a few were my favorites. By the time I finished packing, the suitcase was overstuffed. I couldn’t fit a sneeze in there if I wanted to. 

“Mama!” I called down the stairs. “I need some help!” 

I heard a conversation stop, and her footsteps on the stairs. When she got to my door, I was sitting on the suitcase, trying to zip it closed, to no avail. I must have looked like an idiot sitting there, because she belly laughed when she saw me. 

“Do you have your entire bedroom in that suitcase, Destiny?”

“Probably,” I snickered. “Could you give me a zip?” 

“Yeah,” Mama said. She grabbed the zipper pull with frail fingers and yanked with all her might. “This isn’t budging.” 

“Wanna trade places?” 

She snorted—that was a first—and I giggled. “I don’t think I could climb up there, sweet pea.” 

“Well, just help me put some pressure on the corners. That’s where I need the help.” I shifted my weight and swung my leg over the short side of the case. Mama pushed down on it with all her strength, and I pulled the zipper around the tight corner. 

“Other side?” she said.

I nodded. “The first one was easy!” We repeated it on the other side. Me shifting my weight, her pushing down on that bag with everything she had, and my nimble fingers zipping the corner of the most stubborn suitcase on Earth. “All done,” I announced. “I couldn’t have done it without you, Mama.” I slid off the suitcase and onto the floor. Mama grabbed me as if to save me from a nasty fall, and she clung to me. 

“This can’t be happening, Desi. You’re still my baby.” I felt hot tears dampening my shirt. “How did you become so grown up? Yesterday, I was teaching you how to say ‘Daddy.’ Today, you’re a high school graduate, and tomorrow, a college student.” 

I returned her hug and held her to me. “I don’t know, Mama.” 

She pulled away from me and looked into my eyes. “Always remember how much we love you. Remember everything we taught you. And never forget where you’re from. No matter where life takes you, always remember these three things, Destiny. Promise me.”

I looked at her, tears in her eyes and mine watered, too. “I promise. But you know, I’ll be home for Snowflake Day, Mama. This isn’t goodbye.” 

“I know. But your daddy and I aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. I just wanted to say my peace before you spread your wings and fly away from us, little bird.”

She had to go there. I was already struggling with the thought of leaving them. “I will call you every night after I get back to my dorm. After supper. Okay, Mama?” I felt her trembling in my arms. 

“Every night,” she repeated, her tears soaking into my shirt. 

Time was getting short, and I had to get my bags downstairs. Mama walked down ahead of me, and I lugged my suitcase, a carry on and my guitar case down on the first trip. I eyed Daddy watching me.

“You really are a strong little girl, Destiny,” he said. “But be careful on those stairs.”

I walked to where he sat and kissed his forehead. “I’m always careful.” One more trip and I was moved out of my room. Except, of course, for the furniture I couldn’t take with me. 

We sat in the living room together in silence, watching the hands on the clock taking their sweet time. Half an hour before Aunt Jenny came to take me to the airport. Each time I checked my wristwatch, only two minutes had passed. I couldn’t stand it anymore. 

“Are you sure you will be okay without me, Mama? It’s not too late…” 

“We will be fine, sweetheart,” she said. And more silence.

The deep, steady ticktock of the grandfather clock in the dining room echoed through the house. I’d never realized how loud it was in total quiet. The house phone’s ring broke the silence and startled all three of us. Mama jumped up to answer it. Daddy and I heard one half of the conversation, but I figured it was Aunt Jenny. Mama wiped tears from her eyes, then placed the handset back.

“She’s on her way.” 

I stood and carried what I could onto the porch and walked back inside. Daddy stood by his chair, comforting Mama. I couldn’t imagine what they were thinking, or the pain they were feeling. I know how I felt, and it was awful.

Daddy broke his embrace with her and walked to me. With tears in his eyes, he embraced me, held me so tight I almost couldn’t breathe. “You’re doing the right thing, Destiny. Get out of here and don’t look back.” He kissed my cheek and brushed a lock of hair from my face. “The world is yours for the taking. Grab it by the horns, baby girl, and give ‘em hell.”

“I will Daddy. I love you.” Although I’d be home for the holidays, it felt like ‘goodbye.’ It was driving me out of my mind. I hugged him as tight as I knew he could tolerate. I couldn’t let him go.

A few minutes later, Aunt Jenny let herself in the front door. “Hey kiddo,” she said. “It’s almost time.” She pulled her camera from her purse and gathered the three of us in front of—you guessed it—the fireplace. “Family photo time!” 

Mama and Daddy made a Destiny sandwich, both of them holding onto me, all three of us giving our best plastered-on smiles for Aunt Jenny’s camera. She grinned when she looked at the photo, and then declared she needed ‘just one more!’ Of course, we all faked smiles and cheerful faces until it was time to leave. That’s when Mama fell apart. 

“Remember what we talked about, Destiny,” she said. “I love you.” 

Daddy joined in the chorus. “Give ‘em hell, baby girl.” One last smooch on my forehead from him. My emotions were hanging by a thread. 

Aunt Jenny recognized the magnitude of the moment. “I’ll come by later,” she told Mama. “You’re looking good, Charlie,” she said to Daddy and hugged him. 

She helped me carry my bags to the car. Mama and Daddy walked to the mailbox together; I worried how he would climb the front steps after I left. They put on a strong front. I know they were hurting inside. 

I gave Mama one last hug. “Don’t worry. You raised me well, and I’m ready for this. I’ll call you tonight when I get in.” 

Aunt Jenny got into the driver’s seat, and I opened the door. My heart broke watching Mama cry and Daddy holding her. I got in; I couldn’t endure it for another second, and I was afraid I’d chicken out. My window rolled down, I waved and shouted “I love you,” as we drove away from the little farmhouse on Pomona Promenade.

The airport was only a thirty-minute drive from the house. We shared some small talk during the trip, and when she pulled up at the terminal, she helped me to check my bags. All I had left was my backpack. 

“Well, this is it,” she said. She wrapped me in a tight hug. “Have fun, Destiny. You’re going to do well there.” 

Only one thing was on my mind; I had to ask her. “Aunt Jenny, please watch over Mama and Daddy for me? Let me know if anything changes. It’s the only way I can bear this.”

She pulled back and stared into my eyes. “I will take good care of them for you. Don’t forget, your daddy is my big brother, and I love him, too. It’s hard on all of us, sweetheart. But I’ll keep in touch.” She checked her watch. “You should go. You still need to walk to your gate.” 

The enormous lump in my throat prevented any speaking. I just waved and nodded as I walked away. I think she understood. 

As I walked away, I was no longer a child, but an adult. I cried all the way to my gate, feeling like I was making a huge mistake.


ii.

The journey to Sim State was uneventful. I had no idea the culture shock I was about to endure. The cab driver dropped me in front of my dorm, where a welcoming committee greeted me. I thanked the cabby and set my largest bag on the sidewalk. I walked to the table labeled, “A-F,” seeing as my last name was Farmer. The young man assigned there acknowledged me. 

“What’s your name, love?” he asked. His accent was odd, or so I thought. Strangely enough, I had the weird accent.

“Farmer. Destiny Farmer.” 

He searched through a pile of paperwork until he found mine. “Oh yes, Destiny.” He fiddled around inside a lockbox and came out with a key. “You’re in room 301, top floor. It’s a single. You’re a lucky girl to get a single as a freshman!” I reached for the key he held to me and attached it to the lanyard I wore around my neck. “Just sign here for your key and this welcome kit, and you’re all set.” 

I scratched my name onto the sign-in sheet and picked up the folder of papers he handed to me. His name tag read, ‘Josh.’ “I have a cousin named Joshua,” I said. I expected a comment or at least awareness that I’d said something. What I got was an annoyed look and a gesture to move. 

Great. Welcome to college.

I moved the boxes inside the dorm into a common area and piled them up. They had knick knacks, sheets, blankets, towels, and my new coffee maker, along with Angaloo. I couldn’t leave my buddy behind after all he’d been through with me. Maybe I’d seem like a baby with a stuffed kangaroo on my bed. I didn’t care; Daddy gave him to me.

With my suitcase in my hand, I started up three flights of steps. I hit the second landing and stopped for a breather. A guy stood there watching me struggle with the bag. He looked years older than I was, so I figured he was an upperclassman. I could have used help with the bag. I cleared my throat, hoping to catch his attention.  

He chuckled when he saw me wrestling with the heavy case on the last flight of stairs. I wasn’t in Appaloosa Plains anymore. And even though I hated his guts, I missed Austin. He’d have rather died than watch me struggle like this. I’ll give him credit for that much. 

Out of breath and sweating, I reached the door to my room. I inhaled and held it as I slipped the key into the lock. The portal swung open, and I stepped inside. There was a double bed, fireplace, desk, and a closet. The room was huge, and it was all mine. The fireplace had one prefab log sitting in it, I guessed, as a courtesy or a welcome gift. 

Two more trips up the stairs—the same guy watching me—and I finished moving in. First things first, though. I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and dialed the house number. It rang once before Mama’s gentle voice was on the other end. 

“Hi sweetheart,” she said. “How was your trip? Are you settled in yet?” 

“Hi, Mama. The trip was okay. I just got my last box upstairs. My dorm room is enormous, but I have it all to myself.”

I heard a muffled conversation, and then she returned. “That’s great, sweet pea. I’m glad you got there safe and sound.” 

“Me too, and thanks.” Should I tell her how afraid I was that I’d made a mistake coming here? Should I just suck it up and act like I’m fine? “I miss you already.” That would have to do. 

“Oh Desi, we miss you so much.” I heard sniffles on the other end. “Well, sweet pea, I won’t keep you. I know you need to unpack.”

“OK, Mama. I’ll call you soon. I don’t know what’s going on tomorrow, but you’ll hear from me, anyway.” 

Her breath caught in her throat. “That’s good. Want to talk to your daddy?” 

If I do, I’ll be on the next flight home, I thought. “No, not right now. But I will when I call tomorrow.” 

“OK, Desi. We love you.” 

“I love you too, Mama. Give Daddy a hug and a smooch for me?” 

“Mmhmm. Talk to you soon, sweetheart.” 

I pressed the ‘End’ button on the phone and just stared at it. One warm, salty tear splattered on the screen, and I wiped it away on my jeans. Breathe Destiny, I thought. You can do this.

I spent the next hour unpacking my boxes and suitcase, arranging all of my treasures in the room, and setting up my guitar on its stand. I made the bed with fresh sheets and put the towels in the closet. It wasn’t much like home, but Angaloo’s sewed-on smile comforted me. It’s amazing how one little thing can make a room feel like home.

Suppertime had long passed when I realized I was hungry. I went on a fact-finding mission and explored the dorm outside my four walls. I kept my dorm key on the lanyard around my neck. This wouldn’t come off, even in the shower. If nothing else, I’d have the cleanest dorm key on campus. I locked my door behind me and ventured out into the common area. 

The guy who watched me struggle earlier was downstairs, playing pool with a bunch of others. He saw me and smirked. I tried not to roll my eyes at him, gave him a half-smile, and walked toward the kitchen. The cook was off-duty; the fridge was full of wrapped sandwiches for everyone. I grabbed a tuna salad sandwich and a can of pop from the fridge. 

A young girl sat down next to me and introduced herself. “Hi,” she said. “I’m Ashley.” 

“Destiny,” I said between bites. She gave me a weird look. “Nice to meet you.” 

“You talk funny.” Her blonde, almost yellow-ish hair mesmerized me. Certainly, it couldn’t have been natural. “Where you from?” she muttered.

“Appaloosa Plains. How about you?” 

“I’ve heard of that place. Never met anyone from there. I’m from Isla Paradiso.” Her hair was short; the haircut looked like a toddler with safety scissors had done it. She was very tan, but I couldn’t decide if that was natural, either. She wore heavy eye makeup and smelled like gardenias.

“Well,” I said. “You have now.” I smiled at her, but she just got up and walked away. After I finished my sandwich, I cleaned my mess. I’d never make friends here if everyone was this friendly. That was okay with me, though. I was there to learn, not party. 

I walked back to my dorm room and unlocked it. If nothing else, I had my guitar. I grabbed it by the neck, took a chair from the hallway, and sat. I remembered Katie’s advice about keeping my songs close, so I just played. In minutes, a group gathered around me, listening and talking. I learned my first lesson in college life. Music will bring people together, no matter where they’re from. 

I played for about an hour, and when I’d finished, a young man approached me. He looked a little older than me, but I was only seventeen. Almost everyone was older than I was. He held out his hand and introduced himself. 

“I’m Jeff,” he said. “You know your way around that guitar. How long have you been playing?” 

“Destiny,” I said, returning his firm handshake. “I’ve been playing since I was in grade school.” 

“No wonder. You’re fantastic.” 

I blushed. “Thank you.” 

He motioned toward my room. “Is that single room all yours?” 

“Mmhmm.” 

“You’re a lucky girl.” He turned and pointed to a shared apartment—the door wide open—furnished with two beds. “That’s my room. I live with him.” He pointed to the guy who watched me struggle with my bags. Oh, the irony. “Jacob.” 

“What year are you?” 

“Sophomore. I know you’re a freshman. You look young.” 

I blushed. “I’m seventeen.” 

“When’s your birthday?” He didn’t seem fazed by my accent at all. “Maybe I’ll take you for a birthday dinner.” 

“Close to Snowflake Day. We’ll be out for winter break by then, I’m afraid.” 

“Well, maybe we won’t have to wait for your birthday, then.” He winked at me. 

I needed to nip this in the bud before we got started. “Look, Jeff. I just ended a terrible relationship, and I’m not interested in—”

“I’m not looking for a relationship, Destiny. But you’re fascinating, and I like you. Can’t we just be friends?” 

“Sure.” I breathed a sigh of relief. “I need to be up early, Jeff. I’m sorry to be rude.” 

“You’re not,” he said with a serene smile. “I look forward to running into you again.” 

“Likewise. Goodnight, Jeff.” 

He nodded. “Goodnight Destiny.” 

I walked backward into my room and closed the door behind me. That was awkward. I waited a few minutes, then walked into the bathroom. That Ashley girl was there with someone else. I saw her nudge her friend, point at me, and they both giggled. 

Oh super. I’m already the punchline in a joke. 

After I washed up, I returned to my room, locked the door, and flopped onto my bed. I changed into a nightshirt and a pair of soft shorts, climbed into bed, and hugged Angaloo to my chest. I wept into his worn, plush fur, missing my family and my home.


The next morning, I was up early for a meet and greet at the Student Union hall. It was mandatory for all incoming freshmen, so I had to go. I made my bed and set Angaloo on it, got dressed, and headed downstairs for breakfast. The chef had pancakes on the hot bar with sausage, bacon, and other breakfast staples. I took two pancakes with some syrup and butter. They were nowhere near as delicious as the ones Mama made, but they were filling.

The campus was huge, and from my dorm, everything was at least a half-hour walk. I needed a better plan than hoofing it around. The walk to the Student Union was longer than I planned, and I was a few minutes late. The event was more of a gathering. My student ID card joined my dorm key on the lanyard and was easy to access. I scanned it into the kiosk and walked inside.

A school mascot dressed like a llama walked around the room, greeting people and answering questions. There were tables with free stuff on them: a kicky bag, or at least that’s what they called it, flying discs, candy bars and cans of pop, maps of the campus, and a place to write class schedules. I checked to see where the bookstore and the concert hall were located; it was where most of my music classes would be held. They were close to the Student Union, so I planned on visiting them on my way back. 

The fraternity on campus was throwing a party that night, open to everyone. For a moment, I considered it. But classes started in two days. I still had preparations to make. On my walk back to the dorm, a yellow Camaro pulled up next to me. Jeff. He honked the horn and rolled down his window.

“Where are you headed?” 

“Back home.” 

“Hop in,” he said. “I’m going back home, too. I’ll give you a lift.” 

Either I’m too trusting, or naïve, but I hopped into the car with this man. I never once considered the danger I potentially put myself in. Lucky for me, he meant no harm. 

“How was the mixer?” he asked. 

“It was okay. I picked up a few helpful things.” 

“The kick bags always go fast. Did you score one of those?” 

I shook my head. “What’s it for?” 

“You just kick it around, see how many times you can kick it without letting it drop.” 

Well, that just sounded stupid. “Oh. I’m not really into sports.” 

“Seriously?” He sized me up. “I figured with that body, you were into ladies’ sports.” 

I blushed the same color as my hair. “No.” I wanted to crawl under the seat.

“I’m sorry.” He saw my obvious discomfort. “I forget you’re not of age yet. Please forgive me?” 

Maybe Jeff had some redeeming qualities. “Of course, I forgive you.” 

“So, you must work out, though.” He couldn’t let it go. 

“I worked at the fairgrounds back home. Stage setup and break down. It was pretty physical work.” I didn’t dare show him my six-pack. 

“Wow.” 

“What?” 

“That’s pretty hard work for a young lady.” His winning smile returned. 

“I’m going to be a singer someday. The concert stage back home provided some useful life experience.” 

He nodded his head. “Now it makes sense.” 

“What does, Jeff?” 

“The guitar. You. You’re a songbird.” 

I smiled. Daddy called me a songbird all the time. “Yeah, you could say that.” 

He pulled into the dorm parking lot, walked around, and opened my door. “By the way,” he said, pointing to a rack full of bicycles. “There should be one with your name on it. The college provides them to students for free while you’re here. But if you decide to take it home with you, they’ll tack a five hundred dollar charge onto your room and board bill.”

“That’s a pricey bike,” I said. That solved my transportation problem, though. “Thanks for letting me know.” 

“I could drive you anywhere you need to go, you know. Just ask me.” 

“Thanks, Jeff. But the bike will be fine.” 

“The offer stands. Anytime, anywhere.” He took my hand and kissed it. If he was just wanting to be friends, he was on the wrong foot.

“I’ll remember that. Thanks for the lift.” I had a phone call to make. I walked upstairs to my room and locked the door.


As I settled into a routine, Jeff became less and less available. I guess he was busy with classes. I had a full course load, too; three two-hour long classes a day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tuesday was lecture hall day, and Thursday was ‘lab day,’ so to speak. Most days, homework was abundant, and I got little sleep. It wasn’t difficult, but time-consuming. I always made time, though, for my phone call home every night.

The first term flew by. Before I knew it, I was on a plane back to Appaloosa Plains for winter break. I had a month off before I had to return; a chance to spend some quality time with both Mama and Daddy. Aunt Jenny picked me up at the airport and took me home. Being back home was more emotional than I expected, but comforting. I needed to be here for them. 

Mama was waiting at the door for me when I walked up the steps, toting my suitcase behind me. Her arms opened for me, and I walked right into them; her warm, familiar hug felt so good. But my first words to her were, “How’s Daddy?” 

Her eyes filled with tears. “Destiny, I need to talk with you.” Fear rose inside me. I was on the verge of tears myself. I peeked into the sitting room, where their bedroom was situated, when I left. Daddy laid in the bed and he looked terrible. I gasped at the sight of him and lost my composure. 

“He…” I couldn’t say what my mind told me to. 

“The treatments aren’t working anymore, sweetheart. He stopped them a month ago. The cancer is spreading, Desi. He doesn’t have much time.” 

“How much time are we talking, Mama?” 

“Months, sweetheart.” Her hands shook. “I’m not ready…” her words faded to quiet sobs. I couldn’t imagine what she was going through. 

“Mama, I’m not going back. I can’t…” We held onto each other and cried. 

After a few minutes, I gathered myself and stood up. “I need to say hi.” I walked into his room and touched his hand. It was cold, and it startled me. “Daddy?” I wasn’t expecting a response.

His eyes opened, and he looked right at me. “Hi sweet pea,” he croaked out. “You’re home.” 

I sat at his bedside and laid my head next to his hand. “Daddy, I’m not leaving you. I’m staying here.” 

His long, bony fingers stroked my hair, and I let him. “How is school? Are you fitting in okay up there?” 

Tears ran down my face and soaked into the bedsheets. “Yeah, Daddy. I’m doing okay. I made the Dean’s list this semester.” 

“You did?” He patted my shoulder. “I knew you were a smart cookie, Desi.” 

I needed to pull myself together. He couldn’t see me crying like this. “It’s so good to be home.” 

“Your mama and I couldn’t wait…” he closed his eyes and groaned. “Frannie… when can I have pain medicine, darling?” 

Even though it didn’t sound like him, there was comfort in hearing him calling Mama ‘darling.’ That’s when I knew he was still my daddy. She entered the room with water and a small pill. “Now, my love. Sit up, so you can drink the water.” 

I stood and got behind him. My arms around his shoulders, I helped him to sit forward, and I held him there until he took the medicine Mama gave him. His body had wasted to almost nothing, eaten away slowly by the monster within him. Carefully, I let him settle back against the bed. His smile was still the same.

“Thank you, Destiny.” 

“You’re welcome, Daddy.”

*****

Every morning while I was home, I spent time with Daddy while he couldn’t sleep. We talked for hours, reminiscing about time when I was little. He remembered every detail of his journeys, and he talked about how he made his way home. Everything he wanted me to know, he told me during those mornings together. 

My birthday came just days before Snowflake Day. Mama tried to make everything special for me and Daddy, but none of us felt like celebrating. She made a cake with eighteen candles on it. Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul came to see me; as a gift, they paid for a revolving plane ticket for me. We spent the day as a family in Daddy’s makeshift hospital room. I wanted him to be in every memory of my last birthday with him. 

We agreed to not exchange gifts for Snowflake Day, but I put the tree up for Daddy. I lit a fire in the hearth that morning and got him into his wheelchair. The three of us sat by the fire all morning, singing songs and talking. When he got tired, I took him back to his bed and got him comfortable. He was surprised that I could lift him without help. I was surprised he allowed me to do it.

It was just Mama and me for supper that night. We folded our hands in prayer while I spoke a blessing over us. It wasn’t a fancy meal, but it was home-cooked and what I needed to feel normal. 

“Mama, I want to stay home. I don’t want to return to school,” I said while we cleaned up the dishes from supper. “I can’t leave you, not now.” 

She stopped drying the pot she held and looked at me. “Destiny, sweetheart, you have to go back. Don’t let us stop your future.” 

“How can I go?” My shoulders heaved in sorrow. “He isn’t well.” 

“If you go in and ask him, Destiny, he will tell you what I’m telling you. He never wanted to be the reason you didn’t chase your dreams.” She looked into my eyes, her hands on my shoulders. “Do it for him, sweetheart. It’s what he wants.” 

I shook my head. “I can’t leave here knowing it’s the last time I’ll ever see him, Mama. It’s too painful.” 

She took my hand and led me to the dining room table, where we both sat. “Sweetheart, none of us lives forever. Someday, Destiny, we won’t be here. But death is not the end, baby girl. You’ll see us again in the next life. That’s what our faith is about.” She wiped my tears away. “Daddy and I want you to go live your life. You’re young, and you have so much potential—”

I interrupted her. “But you need help! You can’t keep doing this alone, Mama. I see how sickly you’ve become! You’re not taking care of yourself…” Tears stole the rest of my words away. 

“Desi, we are okay here together. We have nurses here all week. Aunt Jenny comes to help me take care of your daddy. Uncle Paul sits with him while she and I go to shop. I have help, honey.” 

That made me feel a teensy bit better, and I had the plane ticket home when I needed it. “Okay.” My agreement was reluctant. I still didn’t want to go. 

I had another week home after Snowflake Day, to celebrate the new year. We sat awake until midnight on New Year’s Eve, enjoying sparkling wine together. Daddy even had a glass with us. It was one of his best days in a long time, according to Mama. The next morning, I had to say goodbye all over again. I dreaded my alarm clock.


Jeff was waiting by my dorm door when I returned to school. I’d spent my entire trip crying, and it was obvious by the tears staining my face. He looked concerned and followed me into my room. 

“Welcome back. I take it your holiday didn’t go so well?” He hugged my shoulders and sat on my bed. If he saw Angaloo sitting there with his silly, sewn-on smile, he said nothing about him. 

“It was hard leaving home,” I whispered. And then I wrestled with how much information I should tell him. I didn’t want pity. “My daddy is dying, Jeff. He doesn’t have much time, so it was painful to leave him.” 

Jeff wore a look of shock, and then sadness. “I’m sorry, Destiny. Are you close?” 

Tears rolled down my face, and I nodded. “Very. I’m close with both my parents. I was their miracle…” I couldn’t hold it anymore. Deep, ragged sobs echoed through my room. Then Jeff stood and embraced me, allowing me to cry on his shoulder. 

He rocked me in his arms, whispering words of comfort into my ears. When I stopped crying and could breathe again, he pulled away and looked into my puffy eyes. “I’m just across the hall when you need to talk, honey.” Honey? I was going to get offended, but I realized… I liked it. 

“Thank you. And you can call me honey anytime you want.” I sniffled and wiped my eyes with my hands. 

He put his cheek to mine and held me close. “I know you weren’t looking for a relationship, Destiny, but I’m…” He stopped, as though he needed to choose his words. “You’re someone special, and I like you.” 

“I like you, too.” He turned his face toward me and pressed his lips to mine in a sweet kiss. My heart melted, and my arms wrapped around him tighter. “Thank you for being here.” 

“I’ll always be here for you.”


Two weeks later, my phone rang in the middle of the night, startling me awake from a sound sleep. Mama always told me an early phone call never brought good news. I fumbled for the phone and answered it before it stopped ringing. 

“Mama?” 

“Desi, find a way to make it home, sweetheart. He’s fading…” 

I sat up straight in bed. “I’ll be on the next plane out.” There was one problem; the airport was thirty minutes away, and I had no car.

I walked across the hallway and knocked on Jeff’s door. Jacob, his roommate, answered it. “Jeff,” he said. “Jeff, your girlfriend is here.” 

It didn’t occur to me to be shocked by Jacob’s declaration. Jeff rushed to the door. “What’s the matter, honey?” 

“I need a ride to the airport,” I said, with tears in my eyes. “I need to get home.” 

“Hang tight,” Jeff said. “I’ll take you.” 

I didn’t bother packing a bag; my clothes were still at the farmhouse. I just grabbed my purse, my keys and the plane ticket Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul gave to me. In five minutes, we were on our way to the airport. 

Jeff and I stood at the terminal while the ticket attendant booked me on the last standby spot, leaving for Appaloosa Plains in two hours. He didn’t leave my side, holding me and comforting me. When the coffee counters opened, he bought us each a cappuccino and sat with me. The flight started boarding; he hugged me tight and kissed me.

“Call me, Des,” he whispered. “Let me know how I can help.” 

Weeping in his arms, I nodded. “I won’t make it home in time,” I cried. I prayed Daddy would hang on long enough for me to say goodbye.

*****

I stood outside the airport, my purse and phone in my hand. The cab I had called pulled up in front of where I was standing. The driver opened the passenger window. “Going into the Plains, Miss?” he asked. I nodded and gave him the address. On the way, I dialed the house phone. 

“Mama, please tell me I’m not too late…” my breath escaping my lungs in ragged, panicked gasps. 

“He’s still hanging on, Desi. We believe he’s waiting for you.” 

“I’ll be there soon. Tell him I’m coming, Mama.” 

The cab driver looked into the rear-view mirror and saw me crying. “Your father?” he asked.

“Mmhmm. I flew in from Sim State. My mama called me… I hope I make it.” 

“I’ll make sure you do.” The driver picked up his speed, navigating the streets and roads that led into the neighborhood. When he pulled up out front, he looked at me. “Bless you, sweetheart,” he said. “Don’t worry about the charge, just go see your father.” 

“Thank you!” I yelled and waved. Mama was standing in the doorway waiting for me. Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul were there, too. 

A nurse sat by him, monitoring him. Mama took my arm and brought me into the sitting room. “This is our daughter,” she said. “Charlie, love, Desi is here.” 

He was on oxygen, barely able to take a breath. But when he saw me, his eyes lit up. “There’s my… baby… girl…” he whispered. 

I sat beside him, trying so hard to be strong. This was it… the moment Mama and I had dreaded since his diagnosis. How would I live without him? “Hi Daddy,” I said and planted a kiss on his forehead. I took his hand and held it; my heart pounding in my chest, aching with every beat. “I love you so much.” 

His weak smile must have taken so much effort. He squeezed my fingers. “And I love you… sweet pea.” 

It was obvious he was struggling to breathe. Struggling one last time to be the strong father I had grown up with and respected. The one I still needed. I leaned in to kiss his cheek and I whispered in his ear. “If you need to go, it’s okay, Daddy. I’m going to be alright.”  

When I pulled away from him, he smiled. I heard Mama’s sniffles behind me. Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul huddled around her. But they had already said their goodbyes. These last few moments of Daddy’s life were mine to cherish. Mine to remember. I kissed his fingers and held his hand to my face. Low and soft, tears filling my eyes, I began to sing his favorite song to him, and he closed his eyes. He took a ragged breath, then exhaled. I kept waiting for his next one, but it never came. 

Screenshot-5

“Daddy?” The voice in my head screamed ‘No!’ “Daddy?” I repeated, my hand still clutching his. “I’ll always love you, Daddy, and I’ll always remember you.” His nurse stepped in, placing her stethoscope on his chest. She listened for a moment, then laid her hand on my shoulder. 

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “He’s gone.” She turned and hugged Mama, who looked as broken as I felt. “I’m so sorry, Miss Fran.” 

Mama looked as though she might pass out, weak and wobbly on her feet. Aunt Jenny caught her before she fell to the floor, weeping uncontrollably. The nurse stepped out of the room to give us some privacy. 

I couldn’t let him go, my head resting on his chest. Tears like molten lava ran down my face and dripped onto his skin. Never in my life had I hurt like this or felt this kind of grief. I know it had to be a hundred times worse for Mama; he was all she’d ever known, and now he was gone. This time, there was no mistaking it. Daddy was gone.

*****

Dr. Jordan came out that evening to see Mama. She’d been crying since Daddy passed, listless and despondent. He prescribed a sedative for her to take, and Aunt Jenny made sure she took it. Uncle Paul carried Mama to the sitting room and gently laid her down on the bed. I volunteered to get her ready to sleep. A part of me needed to stay in her bed that night, cuddled up next to her like I used to do when we thought he had died years ago. 

After I got Mama settled, I walked back to where Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul sat waiting for me. The room felt so empty without him in it, without his laughter and warmth. I missed him already, and it had only been hours since the funeral director took his body from the house.  

“How are you holding up, kiddo?” Aunt Jenny asked. 

“Not much better than Mama. I can’t believe he’s gone.” 

“I know, sweet pea.” She wrapped her arms around me for the umpteenth time that day. “We’ll be here tomorrow to help you with anything you need. Your mama needs to make arrangements for him downtown. You should go with her.” 

I nodded. “I will. Thank you both for everything today. I love you.” 

“We love you both, Desi.” She kissed my forehead and let me out of her embrace. “We’ll see you tomorrow. Call if you need us, okay?” 

“Mmhmm,” I mumbled. “Goodnight.” They both waved and left. I locked the door behind them—the latch sounded colder and more final than usual—then sighed. My belly growled at me and I realized I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, but I wasn’t starving either. I pulled my phone out of my back pocket and dialed Jeff’s number, remembering I’d promised to let him know what was going on. 

“Hi, Des,” he said, his voice filled with concern. “Are you okay?” 

“No, but I’m trying to be,” I said. “Daddy passed about twenty minutes after I got here this morning. It’s been a long, rough day. Mama is sleeping and I think I’m going to sleep in the chair by her bed. I’m worried about her. She’s older now. It will be harder for her this time.”

“This time?” Jeff said.

“Remind me to tell you about it someday. It’s too long of a story for tonight, I’m afraid.” 

“Oh, okay. I wish—I wish I was there with you, Destiny.” 

I nodded my head, as though he could see me. “Yeah, me too. We have a busy day tomorrow, but I’ll call you tomorrow night. I’m so tired.” 

“Get some sleep, Des. I’ll be thinking about you tonight.” 

“Thanks, Jeff. Talk to you tomorrow.” I hated to be so short with him when he’d been nothing but supportive and sweet to me. But I knew he understood. 

I walked to Mama’s bedroom and collapsed into the chair on Daddy’s side of the bed. The room felt so empty without him; his presence, his memories invading my every thought. I finally drifted off to sleep, exhausted, with Daddy on my mind.

*****

The sunshine pouring through the bedroom window awakened me the next morning. Mama was still sleeping, her position not much different from how I’d tucked her in a few hours before. I rose from the chair, stiff as could be from sleeping there all night. I stretched and stifled a yawn, not wanting to awaken Mama any earlier than I needed to, then walked to the bathroom. A little water splashed on my face, and I gave my teeth a quick brush, trying to feel a little more… what? Human? Normal? After yesterday, I’m not sure what normal will be anymore.

It would be a busy day. I wanted to feed Sweetie and let her know Daddy had passed. Daddy was always Sweetie’s favorite, and he seemed to reciprocate that feeling. I walked to check on Mama to let her know I would make banana pancakes for breakfast. She looked so peaceful, but she still hadn’t shifted position and I sensed something wasn’t right. I sat down on the bed next to her.

“Mama?” Normally, she would sense me sitting on the bed, and it would wake her. My hands trembled, as if they perceived more than I did. “Mama?!” I asked again. I grasped her hand; it was cold to the touch. I reached out to brush a lock of her snowy white hair from her face and touched her forehead; it, too, was cool, and Mama never moved, never flinched. I saw her chest still, the rhythmic rise and fall that indicates life gone from her body. “MAMA!” Sliding off the bed and onto my knees, new tears welled in my eyes and ran down my cheeks. I kissed her hand, holding it in mine, then stood and kissed her forehead. I didn’t call for an ambulance; the time for that had passed. 

Mama was gone, too, but reunited with Daddy. Their bond no longer broken, their love once again whole. I was both happy and sad.

An odd calm came over me. Maybe it was more of a numbness? It was how I felt when I called the funeral home. Then I dialed Aunt Jenny’s phone number. Her greeting wasn’t as cheerful as usual. My daddy’s passing affected her as much as it did Mama and me. “Aunt Jenny,” I said to her, far more calmly than I would have expected. “It’s Mama,” I said, the solemnity clear in my voice. “I need you.” 

“We’re on our way, Destiny!” I heard her say. 

When the doorbell rang a few minutes later, it was Joseph Palmer, the funeral director. There was some great irony because I had called him to talk about Daddy’s arrangements, and he was here, having to verify Mama’s passing and discuss her arrangements as well. I met him at the door with the pretense of a smile. I’m sure, in his line of business, he knew my smile was less than sincere. “She’s in here, Mr. Palmer.” Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul burst through the unlocked door a few moments later.

“Desi! What happened?” Aunt Jenny said. She was out of breath and frightened.

“It’s Mama…” I couldn’t talk, my mouth dry, my mind unable to process what was going on. Aunt Jenny peeked through the curtain into the sitting room. It felt like someone had punched me in the gut for the second time. I heard her gasp, or thought I did. The scene was heartbreakingly tragic.

Mr. Palmer confirmed the awful truth I already knew; Mama had passed away in her sleep sometime during the night. I never had time to tell her goodbye. I never got to tell her I loved her one last time. My heart shattered into a million tiny pieces. How could they BOTH be gone? Devastation couldn’t possibly describe how I felt. 

I never recognized that Mama hadn’t been well for months, either. She was so wrapped up in her tireless devotion to Daddy that she never told me or him about her own declining health. The weight she’d lost, the pain she suffered, but never complained about. I learned later that the same Beast that claimed Daddy took Mama’s life, too. She was never given the chance to fight it. Mama selflessly sacrificed her own well-being for Daddy, her last act of love for him. 

Instead of planning one funeral, I now had two…

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Up Next: Meet Destiny Farmer, Part Two


Pose Credits

Mod The Sims
Wheelchair Poses by Spladoum (Wheelchair CC Included)
Camera Pose Pack by Traelia (Camera Accessory Included)

Poses By Bee
Don’t Die – Updated
Family Fighting – Updated
Just Standing – Males
Meeting For Tea – Bad News
Vintage Portrait
Wedding Poses – Updated

Tumblr
Twin Poses (Female) by Dovah

*****

Custom Content

Around The Sims 3
Sims 4to3 Hospital Set

Butterfly Sims (Site Defunct)
Female Teen Hair #085

The Farmer Legacy
Hospital Patient Whiteboard

Mod The Sims
Hospital Set by Hekate999
Take A Bow Dress by sweetdevil

Poses By Bee
Hospital Bed 

The Sims Resource
Polly’s Hairstyle by Leah Lillith
Teen Cardigan by Lutetia
Garden Rose Living Chair by Severinka
Modern Rug 19 by Ung999
Austin’s Hair by WingsSims
Destiny’s Hair by WingsSims 

Custom content and poses are not my property and are used in compliance with the TOUs.


Can I Be Real For A Moment…?

Hi everyone. 

This isn’t something I normally have to talk about on this blog, because it isn’t usually an issue. But I’ve made some promises I haven’t kept regarding the Generation Two rewrites. It’s time I come clean and tell you the real reason I can’t keep to timelines and deadlines I’ve set for myself. 

In the simplest terms, I’m a chronic pain warrior. I have suffered and struggled with Fibromyalgia for 22 of my 52 years. Some days are better than others. This past week has been my worst symptom flare up of the year, maybe of the last two years. These are things I can’t control, and when it flares up, I’m out of commission despite my attempts to remain ‘normal.’ 

This is why I appreciate your patience when I miss deadlines, or when I’m a year behind where I wanted to be with rewrites. When I started my Generation One rewrites last January, I never intended them to last nearly two years. I thought a couple of months, then revisit Generation Two, and I’d be back with Danae and Andy in Generation Five by May of last year. But that didn’t happen. 

It’s important to me to come clean on this stuff, because it impacts the blog progress. It impacts you, and me, too. I am grateful for every bit of grace you’ve all extended by way of your patience, hanging with me when it seems the stories are taking forever. I’m asking you to extend that grace one more time when it comes to Generation Two. It’s coming. It’s long. But it’s awesome. Destiny Farmer has a story to tell, and believe me, she will. Hers is a story of patience, determination, disappointment, heartbreak, love, and triumph. I promise, it’s worth the wait. 

As the great Paul Harvey once said… “And now, you know the rest of the story.” Thank you, for sticking with me, and for understanding. I appreciate it more than you know. As always, I’m open for comments and whatever else you’d like to throw my way. My email box is open. Feedback is always welcomed!

We will see you soon!

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