Saturday, April 10, 2010

68.) Trust in Love

Soundtrack Song - Butterfly Boucher, Life Is Short

There were a lot of people at Suzanne’s when we arrived. We were at the cemetery longer than just “a few minutes more,” but even then I still hadn’t been able to figure out what was going through Kris’s head. It was frustrating; I knew that today was going to be hard on him, but I couldn’t do a thing to help if he didn’t make it clear what I needed to do or what he wanted.

He took my jacket and purse from me, taking the stairs two at a time in order to stow our things away in one of the bedrooms. While I was left in the living room, alone, I scanned the room for one of two things: someone I’d actually recognize or a rock to crawl under. Every pair of eyes I met looked back at me questioningly and judgmentally, obviously wondering who the hell I was and what the fuck I was doing there. I didn’t belong. I shouldn’t have come.

I made my way into the kitchen and found Suzanne. She was setting out plates of premade sandwiches and opening containers of food for a picnic-style buffet. “Mrs. Boucher, is there anything I can do?”

She smiled warmly at me. “No, sweetie. Everything’s pretty much under control.”

Looking around, I said, “I’d like to do something, so you can spend your time with your guests and not working. I’d really like to help.”

Nodding at me, I could tell she understood my need to feel useful. “Well, if you insist, you can finish the deviled eggs.” She handed me a tub of the yolk mixture and then pulled out a tray of bisected hard boiled eggs from the fridge.

It was a simple, mindless task, but I was more than happy to do it. Suzanne headed into the living room to tell her guests that they could help themselves to the food as I began to scoop the yellow goop into the little white egg cups. I tried to concentrate fully on this simple chore so I wouldn’t have to think about how close Kris had been to being completely honest and open with me.... So close, but no cigar.

I thought that maybe I was just beginning to figure it all out. He apparently had this love-hate relationship with the game he played for a living. The game had opened a lot of doors up for him: it was a way for him to make sure his mother would be taken care of, because he could support her. Not that she wanted his financial support, because she was the parent and wanted to take care of her son, but he had the means to make sure that she would always be okay. I could tell from the pictures on the mantel in her home that things had not always been easy for them; I didn’t know more about the circumstances because Kris didn’t open up about that aspect of his past.

And plus, how Luc was intertwined with how hockey was a part of his life. They were one in the same. Kris had met Luc at a hockey camp, and then they had played together as teens. It seemed either really weird or incredibly coincidental that they had both been drafted into the same junior team. They were best friends, around each other constantly, and playing hockey became synonymous with hanging out with Luc. There was no escaping one or the other.

Until they had been drafted into the big leagues and separated, and Kris had ended up on a Stanley Cup contending team, playing well into the summer while Luc was finished for the season and back here in his home town. That wasn’t anybody’s fault; that’s just how things ended up happening. Any one tiny little change in the course of events could have made a monumental difference in the ultimate outcome. What if a team had drafted Luc before the Canucks? What if the Hurricanes, the only other team to draft before the Canucks and also to take a defenseman, had taken Bourdon instead of Jack Johnson? The same ’Canes who had won the Cup during the 2005-06 season? Things could have been mighty different.

Or, would they have been different at all? What if death really was like that movie Final Destination? Maybe I was using too many movies as points or frames of reference, but what if it wouldn’t have mattered? That was something I thought about a lot, too, because of my own experiences. It was a twisted, mind-fuck game that I always tried not to play, because it sucked you into a bunch of what ifs and would drive you fucking mad if you let it. And I didn’t want that for Kris.

The worst part was how Kris continued to play all his games for Luc, because Luc couldn’t. That in itself wasn’t bad—it was the way he was torn between the right reasons for playing and the bad reasons for hating the significance of it. Luc had passed away during the most important and most ambitious part of the postseason, which was enough stress for any player. Add in the self-loathing that came along with being able to enjoy it while his best friend never would be able to.... That was not a good combination, and the longer Kris kept that bottled up, the worse it was going to be for him to deal with season after season—especially if the Pens continued to play well and made it deep into the playoffs on a continual basis.

Suddenly, I felt a body behind me as a hand grabbed an egg in front of me. “How did you get wrangled into kitchen duty?” Kris asked, popping the egg in his mouth and then kissing my cheek.

I wiped the kiss away with the back of my hand, pretty sure that he left a yolky, mayonnaise-y residue behind. “I offered.”

“You? Offer to help in the kitchen? Pssh, I don’t believe it.”

Rolling my eyes, I ignored that comment. I remembered when Kris seemingly didn’t have a sense of humor, and I missed that—especially when I wanted to be cranky, moody, and sullen over the way it seemed that we had totally switched roles. Now, I wanted to help Kris with his grief and he wouldn’t let me in so I could try. Ain’t life a bitch?

He patted my hip as he moved away from me at the counter and moved toward the table, where all the food had been set out. “You want me to grab you something to eat?”

“No. I’ll eat later. Right now, I want to help out so everyone else can sit together and talk. It doesn’t seem fair that the people who are missing Luc the most are the ones who are working.”

“That’s very thoughtful of you. I’m sure they appreciate it.”

I shrugged and mumbled, “Yeah, it would feel nice to be appreciated.”

“Hmm?” He raised his eyebrows, questioning me with his mouth full of the chicken salad-stuffed croissant he had snatched from the table.

“Nothing,” I sighed, not wanting him to hear me vent my frustration. Today was not the day to do this. It could wait, because Kris had other, more important matters on his mind now.

“I didn’t hear you,” he pressed, subtly trying to tell me that he was interested in what I said and not ignoring me.

“Don’t worry about it. Notta big deal. Why don’t you go eat with the others?”

“Are you trying to get rid of me?” he teased.

“I just want you to share this day with the other people that knew him. That’s why you’re here. I mean, you didn’t decide to take me on a road trip to New Brunswick for the hell of it.”

“Well, no, I didn’t.” He fidgeted in his spot by the table, setting the sandwich down on his plate, chewing, and swallowing the bite in his mouth before he continued, “But I also didn’t bring you here to leave you alone with a bunch of people you don’t know. I wanted you here, and that doesn’t mean just coming along. It means being with you today, too.”

“You see me every day. You should be with the people out there,” I told him, pointing toward the living room.

“Actually, the kitchen is a pretty nice place to be right now,” Charlene casually mentioned, breezing into the room and grabbing a paper plate. She looked at Kris knowingly. “Big Luc, Maryse, and Eve just got here.”

I felt out of the loop, but what else had I expected? This was Kris’s world that didn’t involve me. My job today was to be here if he needed me, which was a taskless job.

Charlene continued, “And you know Suz, trying to play nice because it’s what Luc would have wanted. But they don’t get along.”

“They miss him, too, though,” Kris replied. “And I’m sure more people would have been offended if they hadn’t’ve shown up, so, damned if ya do, damned if ya don’t, I guess.”

She sighed, “I guess. And like, Big Luc and Eve I don’t have a problem with. But Maryse is like the quintessential evil step-mother, and I’d rather just avoid that scene altogether.” I finished with the eggs and moved to put them on the buffet table. “Oh, hey Jo.” The conversation changed. “How are you?”

“Doin’ all right,” I told her, brushing my hands against my jeans to wipe them off. I should have been more concerned about her than myself. “How ’bout you?”

Charlene shrugged. “Good.”

Kris’s phone rang just then, and he checked the caller ID before nervously saying, “It’s Kent. Gotta take this.”

Charlene nodded as he left the kitchen and headed out the back door to answer the call in the privacy of the yard, but I knitted my brow in confusion. “Who’s Kent?”

“Kent Hughes, his agent.” I couldn’t believe I didn’t know that, but Charlene did. She further explained, “He was Luc’s agent, too.”

“Oh,” I answered, unsure of what to say. It’s not that I didn't feel comfortable around her, because I did; she had such an easy-going personality. But today was one of the worst days of the year for her, and I knew all too well how much it sucked when people offered clichéd and mindless, staple words of comfort. I didn’t want to do that to her. Plus, I didn’t know Luc, except what Kris had told him about me. As I thought of that, I said to her, “Charlene, I hope you don’t think I’m crashing this or anything. It must seem really weird, since I’m the only one here who didn’t know Luc. I just wanted to—”

“Say no more, Jo,” she instructed with a smile, holding up her hand to stop me. “You’re here to support Kris. That’s reason enough to be here, so I’d say you fit right in.”

“Thanks,” I breathed, feeling a little relieved. This whole day was awkward.

“So, you and Kris,” she casually segued as she got some food from the table for lunch. “You two are really cute together. I’m so glad to see him with someone who makes him this happy. He deserves that.”

I looked out the window and into the yard, where Kris was talking on the phone. It was hard not to be bitter; yeah, Kris deserved to be happy, but I begged to differ that I was responsible for that. Or maybe I made him happy in that he had someone to look out for—but if it weren’t me, it would be somebody else.

“Did I hit a nerve?” she asked tentatively when I didn’t respond.

“Uh, no, I mean, I guess not,” I mumbled. Then I sighed.

“Something happen at the cemetery?” she pressed, bringing her full plate over to the counter, setting it down, and then sitting up on the marble surface.

I joined her. “No. And that’s just it. I’m waiting for something to happen, and it’s not. I’m waiting for him to rely on me, need me the way I’ve come to need him, and it’s not going to happen. We had this moment, and I thought I’d broken through to him, but... he’s a brick wall. He’s still hurting and obsessing over Luc’s death, like it’s his fault or like he could have done something, but he won’t come right out and admit it or let me convince him otherwise.”

“Really? He is?” Charlene looked out the window at the calm way Kris was talking to his agent. “He seems so... together. Strong. He always was from the start.”

“Yeah, I know. I think he tries really hard to keep up that appearance, but he’d rather suffer in silence than just fucking say something.”

“Well, that’s Kris. He’s been that way since I’ve known him, ya know? Strong, silent, stoic. The unnoticeable guy in the background, observing and making sure everyone else is okay first. That’s just who he is.”

“But he doesn’t always have to be. He doesn’t have to be strong all the time. I want to be able to help him, but he won’t let me,” I choked out, feeling myself getting emotional and hating it, even though I couldn’t stop. This wasn’t supposed to be about me today. It was Luc’s day.

“Don’t cry,” she soothed, placing her hand on my arm. “It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not,” I replied, wiping away the tear threatening to fall from my eye. “He insists on taking care of everyone around him, and he neglects himself. From the get-go, he’s been amazing to me, really doing so much for me. Well, almost from the beginning, because it took me a while to trust him,” I rememberd aloud. “But I finally felt like he was going to share his burden with me and let me do the same for him, and then he clams back up again. I wanna make his life easier, Charlene, and all I’ve done up until this point is make it harder for him.”

She paused for a moment, collecting her thoughts and formulating her plan of attack. “I don't think it has a thing to do with having to share the load that he willingly wants to take on for himself. That's something you'll never be able to change about Kris. You can't lighten his load. But you can make it easier for him to deal with it.

“Look, Jo,” Charlene continued, sitting up and leaning toward me. “Kris was always a serious guy. That all has to do with the way he was brought up and his background and everything he went through as a kid. He's going to want to assume your worries and ambitions and dreams. It's how he shows he cares about someone, by taking that type of interest in them.

“But honestly, the way he’s dealing with it is totally different. I haven’t seen him smile or joke around like this since before Luc died. You can’t lighten his load, but you lighten his mood, so he’s not so serious all the time. Like he’s compartmentalizing, ya know? He still wants to carry this weight, but he gets to set it down sometimes and relax before he picks it up again. You follow me?” I nodded, trying to accept what she was saying. “It’s so good to see him like this, Jo, and that’s all your doing. You have helped him, even if you can’t see it like the rest of us can. And it might not be the way you wanted to help, but it’s helping all the same.”

Was that true? And even if it were, was that good enough for me? “I don’t know....”

“Well, I do. He’s not the same guy anymore. He’s a better person. He was a little judgmental before,” she stated, and I looked at her and raised my eyebrows. “Okay, maybe really judgmental. He’s not anymore, and that was definitely your doing. When he first told me about you, you were this troubled soul, but there was more to you than that, so I think he learned his lesson. And he’s less preachy, too. When he had an opinion, you were going to hear about it. Ugh, so pushy,” she groaned. I nodded, remembering just how much I hated him at first. He was hot and I had been incredibly attracted to him, but he was such a jerk. Hell, I’d kicked him out of my house. “Did you know that I used to hate when he’d tag along with me and Luc?”

I burst out into laughter. “No.”

She shook her head and giggled with me. “I did. I totally did. He was just so annoying and... awkward. Luc insisted that he was a good guy, he just had it rough growing up and that he needed a little help loosening up and having fun.”

“Yeah, I can see that,” I replied, only imagining the way Kris was that many years ago. I still didn’t know, because I didn’t know much about his past. He never shared that with me.

Charlene continued. “I mean, I didn’t really get it ’til Luc told me about how it was just Kris and his mom, which I think is kind of why he and Luc got on so well. Only son to a single mother. I mean, with Luc, it was tough on him when his dad remarried and he had this whole other family, but that was because things just didn’t work out between Suzanne and Big Luc. It wasn’t like that for Kris. And you know how Kris hates talking about it.” I nodded, knowing that Kris didn’t like to talk about it but not really knowing what it was. So I just nodded and waited to see what Charlene would say.

She kept going, apparently assuming that I knew all about it. “I mean, I wouldn’t even have had an inkling about his past except for the fact that Luc told me, kind of by accident. And Kris would freak if he even knew that I knew this, because he doesn’t like when people know. But Luc just felt bad for him and wanted him to be able to not worry about it so much, because it’s not like he could have changed anything anyway. That’s why he brought Kris out with us, so he’d learn to have fun once in a while. Kris always needed encouragement to have a good time.

“Can’t really say I blame him, though, considering. It was just so much worse for Kris, because of his dad. I mean, Marlene never bad-mouths his dad, but he knows. He can’t not know his dad was an alcoholic asshole who used to beat his mom. And she just took it, until the one time he was about to turn that anger on Kris. This protective, maternal instinct kicked in, and then she fucking left his sorry ass. Like, Marlene didn’t care about what he did to her, but as soon as it was directed at her son, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was hard for her to start over with this young kid, but she did it. They did it, together.

“And that’s really why he is the way he is. He became the man of the house. And it’s not even like his mother put that responsibility on him, either. You met her—she coddles him and thinks that he can do no wrong. Like he shits rainbows and puppies.” I laughed again, covering my mouth to try to stop the loud cacophony erupting from me. She giggled with me. “But that’s why him and his mom are so close, because they went through so much together, and it’s been just the two of them for so long now. He wanted to take on the responsibility of taking care of her because that’s what he could do for her, that was something he could control. And he wants to. It’s how he learned to love people. That’s why he does that for you, Jo.”

I nodded, holding back my shock and sadness. I had my ideas about what Kris’s life had been like, but hearing Charlene explain it sucked the breath out of my lungs. A lot more started to make sense now, but I wished that Kris would have felt comfortable enough with me that he could have felt like he could tell me. “And Kris doesn’t know that you know this?” I questioned.

“No, he doesn’t. I think Luc is the only person he ever fully opened up to, because they did kinda have similar experiences and backgrounds. Please please don’t tell him that I know, because he would be so embarrassed and probably ashamed about it. But I think Luc just needed to share it. I mean, it’s a lot for one person to handle. I don’t even know how Kris deals with it by himself. But that’s what he has you for now, I guess,” she added with a luminous smile. “That’s really good for him.”

“Yeah. And don’t worry, I won’t tell him,” I promised with a sigh. How could I tell him? This was information I wasn’t supposed to know, either. If I told Charlene that I didn’t know and that she just shared it with me, I knew it would have embarrassed her, too. But like she said, that’s a lot of information for one person to have on their shoulders, even though it wasn’t her past. This was heavy, heavy stuff.

Kris was still outside and on the phone, and I watched him walk around back and forth. Not quite pacing, but just keeping his feet busy to keep warm. He wasn’t even talking; he was just listening. Glancing up, he saw me looking at him through the window. He held his hand up and opened and closed it as he smiled and crossed his eyes, signaling that his agent was just blabbing away and it was driving him crazy. I smiled back at him and shrugged as if to say, What can you do?

Charlene and I had been quiet for a few moments, so I said, “I’m glad that I could talk to you about all this, Charlene, and you understand. You know Kris better than most. No one else would really get it.”

“Kris is a complicated guy that not everyone can understand. A lot of it has to do with Luc, because he was like a buffer between Kris and the world. It takes a lot of time and effort to get to know Kris. I’ve had a head start on it, because I’ve been friends with him for years now.” She turned to look at me. “Which is why you should believe me when I say that you have helped him, even if it’s not how you thought he needed help. It’s like you weeded out the worst parts of him. You say how much he’s helped you, but I can see you’ve done the same for him, too. You say how much you need him, but he needs you, too. Believe it, Jo.”

“Okay,” I began to reason. I had a lot more knowledge of his background to say this, “Even if that’s true, he still won’t trust me. That’s the big issue here. We’re different people now than we were when we met, and I’ll agree that it was all for the best. But he won’t open up and talk to me like I think he needs to.”

“He’s trying to be right for you, Jo. ‘Right’ in that he wants to point you in the right direction. Correct. And if he looks like he’s wrong, or that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, then, well, how can you be expected to trust him?”

“But—”

“Hey, I agree with you. I think Kris should be a bit more vocal and open, considering everything he’s been through. I’m just saying that that’s how his mind works. But you also have to remember that you guys have been together just a couple of months. You’re still learning to love and trust each other. Give him some more time.”

“How much time will it take before he can fully trust me, when I give him every reason to?”

“How much time will it take before you finally tell him you love him, when it’s obvious to us all that you do but you just won’t say the words out loud?”

My mouth dropped open and then snapped shut, and my face must have turned a thousand different shades of red. “He told you...?”

“People tell me things, Jo. I guess it’s something about my personality that people open to me when I don’t even give them a reason to.”

I felt ashamed of myself. “Like me? I shouldn’t even be having this conversation with you! I should be the one here to listen if you needed someone to talk to.”

Charlene shrugged and smiled. “Actually, you know, it’s nice to kind of treat today like a normal day where I’m not expected to be miserably sad. I miss him every day, not just today, ya know? It’s nice to be able to talk about someone else’s boyfriend,” she sighed. Speaking again quietly, she admitted, “I still miss him so much. It’s lonely without him.”

I grabbed her hand and squeezed it in between both of mine. There wasn’t anything for me to say, and I think she appreciated it more that I was quiet rather than chirping out trite words.

Eventually, she continued. “I know Luc wouldn’t want me to be alone, but how am I supposed to date someone, when he and I both would know that he’s always going to rank second? No guy wants me, when he knows I’m just biding my time until Luc and I can be together again.”

That choked me up. I felt so bad for Charlene; she had the perfect love, and it was ripped away from her brutally. Now she had the rest of her life to remember everything that could have been. It broke my heart for her. I hadn’t even known her that long, but I could see the good person she was. Fucking hell, life sucks. It’s so unfair.

She squeezed my hand. “You should tell him, Jo. You love Kris, and you know it. He knows it, too, but he deserves to hear you tell him. Don’t wait to do it.” I could tell that she was telling me to do it, not just for Kris’s sake and mine, but because it had a little something to do with Luc. If she had the chance to tell Luc one more time that she loved him, there would be no hesitation on her part. She was telling me to take advantage of the fact that I had Kris.

My mouth was dry, but my eyes were wet. “But... do I? He says he loves me, but he still won’t trust me. I trust him completely, I need him, but does that mean I love him? Apparently, the two things are mutually exclusive.”

Charlene smiled widely. “You two are idiots, do you know that? The both of you, you think about this stuff way too much. It’s simple: he needs to love you before he can trust you. You needed to trust him before you could love him. I don’t even know what you’re waiting for. Go fucking tell him you love him, ’kay?”

That sounded just like something James would say—it was sage advice while also being a kick in the ass. I could feel a tidal wave of emotion hit me, slamming into me. It was transcendent, a true epiphany. I tightened my hand around hers once more before I let go and slid off the counter, heading for the back door.

14 comments:

  1. oh, charlene!
    oh, kris!
    i know you updated yesterday AND today, but please update again soon... that's the thing, life's too short and you'd think both kris and jo would have realized that by now. ugh... as someone who had a completely messed up childhood, let me just say you captured the feelings perfectly :) great writing, keep it up.

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  2. I completely agree with Anonymous above... go Charlene! Go tell him Jo!

    Also one question Jay - is that real about Tanger's alcoholic father or is it your creative licence?

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  3. Wow. It's very rare that a story makes me tear up but this one did. Great job writing the emotional parts for both women. I hope that Jo realizes that what Charlene is saying is true and that she needs to let Kris know how much she loves him because you never know when the time will come when you can't do it anymore.

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  4. i really hope that you update soon because i want to hear/read jo finally telling kris that she loves him.

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  5. Great writing. It's so frustrating to be able to hear both POV's and not be able to kick the butts of those people to straighten things out, so thanks to Charlene for being the voice of reason. Charlene's line about waiting for Luc was a little spooky though.

    It's nice the way that you subvert things so we now have to feel sympathy for Mme. Letang. Lots of sides to every story right?

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  6. FINALLY!!! I love Charlene. Kris is going to be so happy when she tells him she's in love with him. I'm so excited for them! :)

    I love this story. I get so excited when I see that you have updated and then I get really sad when the chapter comes to an end. God your amazing lol

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  7. "No guy wants me, when he knows I’m just biding my time until Luc and I can be together again.”

    "Now she had the rest of her life to remember everything that could have been. It broke my heart for her."

    Soooo sad. Tragic.

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  8. All caught up. OH MAN! The last few have been really heated, and you know what I totally feel for Jo. It would be desperatly hard feeling like you were so desperate for someone like she is for Kris because of all the help he has provided her and then to feel like he didn't need you back. It would be almost like he could just leave her and she would be wrecked and he would be fine, even though obivously since we can see into his head we know that isn't true.

    The background information was soo good and I fucking love Charlene and I love how the comments from Charlene that convinced her to go to the backyard reminded Jo of James.

    I, however, am not convinced that she will tell him when she goes out there. Kris will be freaking out about something with his agent or something or they will bicker about something and it won't happen. I have to admit, I desperately don't want her to tell him out there. I think he needs to hear it and she needs to tell him, but the whole idea would be marred by the possible assumption that she is only telling him because she reflects on the fact that she could lose him like Charlene lost Luc or on a day when other stuff is the focus.

    I want her to tell him, soon, but I just don't want it to lead to more conflict because he misunderstands the motivation or she tells him and he freaks out because of the situation or the day or ah, I just want them to live happil ever after okay?

    End rant.

    Fucking unbelievable writing as always, I am excited to see how they overcome this and to see what happens for the rest of the birthday. Possibly some Big Luc drama?

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  9. Wow. I know I never leave long comments, but it doesn't mean I love this less than those that do. I just wanted to confess that I'm in tears. This is amazing!

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  10. yay charlene!!
    i hope kris doesn't flip a bitch on jo for some unknown reason

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  11. Wow, just wow, and thank you for writing Charlene's character in such an amazing way...she is awesome.

    Beautiful!

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  12. I'm sorry, this should be as perfect and eloquent and amazing as this post but I can't even function right now... ughhhhhhh!
    This was just like... frigging amazing and like... I just don't even know how to react to it.

    I'm still crying even harder... I want to pick things out but it all just keeps coming back to this:

    “I know Luc wouldn’t want me to be alone, but how am I supposed to date someone, when he and I both would know that he’s always going to rank second? No guy wants me, when he knows I’m just biding my time until Luc and I can be together again.”
    ^^ That's all I can comprehend right now. It's just... /sigh I'm just gonna try to get my emotions under control before I continue... hopefully then I can write a useful comment.

    God this was good.

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  13. Okay so I've been reading this story for a while now and never posted anything cause I felt a little weird about it since you posted it so long ago but after this chapter I felt like I had to. So, wow. Just wow. This chapter was so amazing that I can't even explain it. You're writing is just so marvelous. Every aspect of it-The way you can write each chapter and make it make sense, especially considering the story is so long. May writers forget about important details that could be unpacked more, but not you. I absolutely love the metaphors and such that you stick into your writing. They make me giggle, ponder and smile. They way you mold words is just so artistic. You write with such understand of the world that I find hard to put into my own writing. I just, ugh...I just love love love this story!!! (And paper perfect, which I read a while ago but never commented in either) I'm greatly looking forward to the rest of this story! Thank you so much for writing it and please continue to write!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for all your lovely compliments! Please don't feel weird about commenting after a story is finished--any writer loves feedback! And there's nothing that makes me feel better than knowing that even now, long after I've moved on past Jo and Kris, that someone out there is still getting enjoyment from my story.

      Even though I haven't posted anything new here on Blogger in quite some time, that doesn't mean I've stopped writing. Keep your eyes peeled for a very special announcement in the next couple of days about the projects I've been working on!

      Thanks again, and I hope that you enjoy the rest of the story!

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