“Hey Jones,” Trey greeted Travis. “First day, new season. Are you stoked?”
“You know what, Smitty, I feel like I’ve never been in better shape. I’m on top of my game. I’m energized. Let’s see if I can translate that into a win for the season opener.” Travis felt good, and he was excited to play.
“I have confidence in you, Captain. Let’s go give ‘em hell, buddy.” Smitty clapped him on the shoulder as he finished lacing his shoes. “You know, these new uniforms are sharp.”
“Yeah, they are. So much nicer than the lime green and yellow. I love Armand, but his taste in color was pretty bad.” Travis chuckled. The new uniforms were royal blue, trimmed in white, and they were very handsome. “Is Emmitt around for the season opener? I haven’t seen him yet.”
“I think he’s in the press booth with the big man.” Smitty stretched and reached for his water bottle. “You know, I think I’m nervous!”
“No reason to be nervous, Trey. Just play off me like we always do. We know the plays. I feel better prepared for this game than I have for the past 10 years under Neil, and I’m 10 years older. We’ve got this.”
The team gathered together for one last pep talk, and Aaron led them onto the field for their season opener. Travis played like a man 20 years his junior, and easily led his team to their first victory with Aaron as coach. After the game, Travis sat by his locker, a towel wrapped around his waist, when Aaron walked to him.
“Great game today, Travis. I’m impressed. You have a natural talent for the game. I can see why Mr. O’Reilly wanted to keep you on the roster.”
“You know, Aaron,” Travis replied, “I have been so energized with this whole transition. Emmitt, the O’Reillys, you. I never realized how stale I had gotten with Neil as the head coach. Sometimes, change is the best move someone can make.”
“Wise words, Travis. But you know, the honor is all mine. I can’t believe I get to coach a legend. I have to admit, I’m a little starstruck.” Travis blushed a deep, hot red. “Keep up the good work. See you tomorrow!”
Travis got dressed in his PR outfit, and on his way out to the field for publicity photos and fan meet and greet, he heard Charlotte’s name. Looking toward the guys, he backed up, his temper flared up burning hot.
A team veteran, Craig Guzman, joked with a rookie. “…and Jones, dang, his wife is totally doable. Man, that Charlotte is hot stuff. I’d like to just —”
“Say that to my face, Guzman.” Travis walked and stood at the end of the lockers, his fists clenched and rage in his eyes. “Tell me how ‘doable’ you think my wife is, and we’ll see if you spend the night in the ER with her fixing your broken face.” Aaron immediately heard Travis yelling, and ran toward the voices.
“Travis, what’s going on here?” Aaron asked.
“It seems Guzman here thinks my wife is ‘hot stuff,’ and ‘totally doable.’ See, Neil, he encouraged this from the players. So, I was just asking Mr. Guzman here to tell me to my face how ‘doable’ my wife is.”
“Is this true, Craig? Did you say this to someone?” The rookie backed away, not wanting to catch a beat down for laughing at it.
“It’s a joke, man. Everyone jokes about her because it gets under his skin. We don’t mean nothin’ by it. Neil was right, Jones. You’re way too uptight.”
“You’re sitting the next game out, Guzman,” Aaron spat. “I am not Neil, and I don’t tolerate this nonsense, from any of you. Wives, kids, pets, whatever. Off-limits, effective now. I can’t believe I have to even address this with you. Grow up.” He turned to Travis and noticed his temples throbbing as he clenched his teeth. “Come on, man. He’s not worth it.” He took Travis by the elbow and coaxed him away.
“I’m sorry, Aaron, but there are two things I will not tolerate from anyone, here or anywhere. One is picking on my kids. Two is disrespecting my wife. That woman is my life, and I won’t have these chuckleheads talking about her like that. I told Armand I’d flatten the first one I caught. Guzman is lucky he doesn’t still own the Llamas, or he’d be on his way to the ER right now.”
“You shouldn’t have to put up with that. I will address it with the team in a meeting tomorrow before practice. Going forward, there is a zero-tolerance policy.”
“Thanks for having my back, Aaron. I like you already.” Travis smiled and picked up his duffel. “I think I’m going to skip the publicity tonight and head home. I miss my sweet Charlotte.”
“Anytime, Travis. I have to look out for my star, you know.” He smiled and walked Travis to his car.
The twins were graduating from college just a week before Snowflake Day, and Charlotte was looking forward to their arrival back home. The Dean at the university invited Travis to be the commencement speaker, and he was thrilled to have the opportunity. And as long as Travis was going, Charlotte thought Devin might like to see the campus and decide if that was something he wanted. Because Chris and Greg were so fond of Darcey, they wanted to go, too. It was a family trip, and though it would be quick, Charlotte couldn’t wait.
The family of five took up most of the first-class section of the airplane. Chris sat by himself, already plugged into his music player, the two cousins sat together talking about games and sports, and Charlotte and Travis snuggled together in a back row seat. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been to campus, honey,” he said casually. “It will be weird going back.”
“It will.” She missed the twins, and she couldn’t wait to see them. “I hope there is enough room for everyone. Darcey made it sound like the house is pretty small.”
“I’m sure the kids won’t mind sleeping on the floor. One night won’t kill them. They’re young and flexible.” Travis laughed. “I remember spending most of my teenage years on the floor in my bedroom. Man, it was cold in that house. I was always sick.”
“That’s terrible, sweetie.” She touched his cheek, and he kissed her hand as it passed by his lips. “But look how far you’ve come from there. Your story has inspired hundreds of thousands of people.” She smiled at him, so very proud of all his accomplishments.
As expected, Travis and Charlotte met Clint and instantly loved him. She had to admit that Clint’s love looked very good on her daughter. Suddenly, she realized she was the mother of two college graduates, and she felt old. The kids all set up in the living room for the night, and Danae offered for them to take her bedroom. As guilty as she felt, Travis had a game the evening before and had gotten a slight injury and was sore, so Charlotte didn’t argue it with her. What they hadn’t planned on, however, was Clint living at the house and sleeping with Darcey in her bed. Travis expected a fight from her when he told her that was going to end that night, but she yielded with no argument, as long as Clint was able to keep the bedroom.
Travis joined Charlotte in Danae’s bedroom, where she was dressing for bed. “They’ve been sleeping together, baby. She says it’s been innocent, but I know better.” He shook his head. “That poor man. He must be miserable.”
“Did you stop it? Did she keep her promise? I don’t even want to think about it.”
“She says they did. Did you know he has a ring, too?” He was still in shock.
“She mentioned it when she first started dating him.” Charlotte shook her head. “I don’t like that, honeybear. I’m glad you put a stop to it for tonight, but what’s done is done.”
“I like Clint, but I’m disappointed in Darcey. She should have known better.” Travis pulled his pajama pants on and tied his robe around his waist. “Remember when we stayed in my dorm? I took a cold shower every morning.”
Charlotte snickered. “It looks like you could use one now, honeybear.”
“Do we dare? In a house full of kids?” Travis winked at her.
“Why not? We can be quiet,” she purred.
Travis laughed. “That’s not our MO. Remember, our daughter’s boyfriend is in the next room. The girls might be used to it, but he won’t be, I can guarantee it.”
“Ooh, you’re right,” Charlotte pouted in mock frustration. “I guess we can wait until we get home.” Nevertheless, she kissed him passionately, just to tease him.
“Woman, you’re killing me. That cold shower is looking better all the time.” Travis smiled impishly.
They climbed into bed together snuggled up, because it was chilly in the room.
Travis was in the bedroom, trying to get dressed in his PR uniform. Although he was excited about the commencement address, he had to admit, he was nervous. But, the girls had no idea, and he couldn’t wait to surprise them. “Charlotte!” he called, summoning her. “I can’t tie this thing. I swear I have it, and I try to make it neater, and then I don’t have it.”
She giggled. “Someday, my love,” she sang, effortlessly tying it, completing the look. “The girls are going to be so surprised.” Charlotte was bursting, trying to hide it.
“I can’t wait,” he said calmly. “It’s a day they’ll never forget.”
The twins were shocked to see their father take the stage for the commencement address, and were so very proud to be his daughters. He sat on the stage and watched with pride as they received their degrees. When the last graduate was called, the stage disappeared in a flurry of caps. As they had arranged beforehand, the family met outside before Charlotte, Travis, Chris, Greg, and Devin left for home.
“We’ll see you tomorrow,” Travis said, looking at his watch. “We’re cutting this close. Our flight leaves in 90 minutes.” He and Charlotte hugged the twins one last time, and everyone piled into the car, waving at the three of them as they drove away.
The twins and Clint had been home from school for a couple of days, and the house was gearing up for the holiday. Travis was just finishing a workout in the spa room when Clint approached him. “Sir, can I talk to you right quick?”
“Clint, you can call me Travis, or dad, whatever you’d like. But please don’t call me ‘sir.’ It’s much too formal.” He smiled at the young man. “What’s on your mind?”
“Travis, I think you know I love your daughter. I want to marry her. I have my mother’s ring to give her. It’s a family heirloom that she gave to me before I left Bridgeport, figuring I’d never go back.” He opened the ring box to show Travis. “I don’t want to ask her, though, if you don’t approve of our relationship… if you don’t approve of me. I guess,” he stared at the floor, suddenly nervous, “I’m asking for your permission to marry Darcey. I love her so much, I can’t imagine being without her.”
Travis wasn’t surprised to hear Clint’s question or his confession. Based upon the week he had been sleeping in the loft, and being with the family, Travis knew this was coming. He and Charlotte had spoken about it at length since the graduation trip, and they both agreed he would be welcomed into the family. “Clint, we would be honored and pleased to have you as a son-in-law. You have my blessing, and I speak for Charlotte as well. Welcome to the family, son!” Travis gave him a quick hug. “When are you planning on asking her? She is going to flip out.”
“Snowflake Day,” he answered. “I have been planning what I’m going to say since we met. I think I have it memorized by now.” He pushed his glasses up onto his nose and brushed a lock of hair from his face. “I was going to have the stone set into a different setting, but there’s just no money for that now. Someday, though, I’ll take care of it.”
“Well, I understand that,” Travis said. “When I bought Charlotte’s ring, I paid less for it than I did my textbooks at a pawn shop. Darcey is just like her mother. She will love and cherish that ring as it is, because you gave it to her. Trust me on this one.”
“Thank you, Travis. Your approval means the world to me. The last thing I wanted to do was break her heart, and walking away from her would have hurt both of us beyond comprehension.”
“You’re a good man, Clint. I couldn’t ask for a better match for her.” Travis glanced at his watch. “I’d love to stick around and chat, but I have practice for a game on Snowflake Eve.” Clint thanked him again and went upstairs to find Darcey.
Rather than shower before practice, Travis decided to just get dressed and head to the stadium as he was. He discovered his new car wasn’t cut out for running in the snow, so he took Charlotte’s little old orange car and kept his in the garage. Grabbing his duffel from the trunk of the car, he sprinted toward the home team locker entrance and walked inside.
“There’s the star of the show,” Aaron greeted Travis. “You’re just in time for the team meeting.” The coach referenced some notes on his clipboard and brought the meeting to order. “Okay gentlemen, I know we talked about this two weeks ago, but I heard some of you talking about things that don’t concern you, so I’m going to repeat this one last time. Wives, husbands, children, pets, any family member who does NOT play on this team is off-limits for discussion in this locker room. I understand that my predecessor encouraged this type of talk, but in MY locker room, this is forbidden, and it will be punished. Mr. Guzman has already sat out one game, and a rookie has received a verbal warning to this effect. The second offense is a five-game penalty, and third offense, you’ll be looking for a new contract with a different team. This comes from Mr. O’Reilly himself. Zero tolerance means zero tolerance. Any questions gentlemen?” Aaron looked around at the pale white faces and smiled to himself. “Since no one has questions, I’m expecting full compliance with this.”
Travis stood and spoke. “Today is the last practice for the final game this calendar year. Even though we don’t have another game until next year, I need you to be here at every practice between tomorrow’s game and the next game. As always, we have the holiday off, but I expect you all to be back the day after, with your mind clear and on the game, unless you have a pre-approved vacation planned. We’re doing a great job so far this season, and we’re on target to make the playoffs. Let’s make the most of today’s practice, and win our game tomorrow.” Travis yielded the floor, and Aaron dismissed the guys for practice.
Charlotte was awakened by the sensation of kisses on her skin, and she opened her eyes sleepily, gazing into the eyes of the man she loved. “Happy Snowflake Day, baby,” he whispered, brushing a lock of hair from her face. “Our children are home, it’s snowing, and you’re here in my arms. What more could a man ask for?” He kissed her tenderly.
“Mmm, good morning, honeybear,” she purred. “Happy Snowflake Day.”
“Devin has been up for a couple of hours already, sitting on the step on the staircase. He will always be excited for this holiday.” Charlotte smiled at Travis and stroked his cheek. “I think the boys are downstairs playing games together and bonding.”
“I’m going to hop into the shower while the boys are playing, and then I’ll make breakfast for everyone before Chris and Greg get here. Could you start the coffee pot for me, baby?” Charlotte took the tie from her ponytail and brushed her long, brown hair, trying not to notice the increasing number of grey hairs peeking through.
“I’ll do one better, my love. I’ll bring a cup to you.” Travis kissed her neck and watched her react to his touch.
“Not necessary, but I would love that.” She kissed his nose. “Let Devin know I’ll be downstairs shortly to start breakfast. I’m going to make pancakes.”
“You got it, honey.” Travis pulled his pajamas on, tied the robe around his waist, and walked to the steps as Charlotte ran the water for her shower.
Travis appeared in the stairwell, smiling at his son and his future son-in-law bonding over a console game on the large screen television. “Good morning gentlemen,” he beamed. “Happy Snowflake Day.”
“Dad, when is Mama getting up? I’ve been waiting since five.” Devin was getting anxious.
“She’ll be down in a few minutes to make breakfast. She’s in the shower, son.”
“Can I wake the girls?” he pleaded. “It’s time for them to get up, too!”
“Okay, but be gentle. They were up late last night giggling.” Travis smiled. He sure missed his girls.
Devin ran up the stairs and nearly knocked Charlotte over in the hallway. “Careful, honey,” she warned him.
“Darcey! Danae!” Devin shouted. “GET UP!” He burst into laughter and continued to make noise, exactly the opposite of what Travis told him. “Come on! It’s Snowflake Day!”
Travis laughed at Devin’s noisy outburst. He knew the boy had no intention of being quiet and waking his sisters peacefully. Since the girls had come home, Devin was much happier and much more outgoing, more like himself, and both Travis and Charlotte were thrilled to see the change in him. Darcey was the first to walk down the steps, eager to see Clint. Travis smiled as she walked to him and kissed him tenderly, sharing a sweet exchange. Devin slid down the railing and jumped off the banister at the newel post. “Danae is coming!”
Charlotte made breakfast for everyone and waited for Christopher and Greg to come before they tore into gifts, as it was Chris’ birthday. Travis already had the tree lit up, and it was so pretty with multi-colored lights, garland, and tinsel. Charlotte and Devin had decorated it for the second year in a row, as that had been the twins’ job before they left for college. Holiday music was on the stereo, and the girls had already started making dinner for the family together in the kitchen. The mood was festive, and the family was together. Charlotte was a happy mama.
Chris and Greg arrived shortly after breakfast after he picked Greg up from Cade’s house. Even though they were divorced, she was still entitled to see their son on the holidays. But Greg chose to spend the bulk of it with his dad, Aunt Charlotte, and her family, instead of his mother and stepfather. Clint brought Darcey another cup of coffee and sat down with a fresh cup for himself, his mother’s heirloom ring in his robe pocket, and excitement clearly on his face.
Travis could tell Devin was chomping at the bit to tear into the gift pile, so he gathered the family around the tree, and they started handing out gifts to each other. Clint seemed to feel out of place as he looked around uncomfortably. Charlotte felt terrible that he really only had one gift under the tree, and it was something she had to talk Darcey into buying for him. Only three of them knew Clint’s plans for the morning, and they all sat with great anticipation, waiting for him to surprise Darcey. But as everyone finished with gifts, and the mess was mostly cleared, Clint still sat, looking as though he was in awe of the whole holiday experience.
“I almost forgot,” Clint said out of the blue, pretending to find a square ‘lump’ in his robe pocket. “I have something special for you, my love.” He took Darcey’s hand and spoke the words he had rehearsed hundreds of times in his head. “Darcey, from the moment we met at that party, I have loved you. Love at first sight was never my thing, but when I met you, all of that went out the window. Kitten, the past two years with you have been nothing short of amazing, and I hope we can spend the rest of our lives together.” He reached into his pocket and brought out a black silk box. “Darcey, honey, will you marry me?” He opened the box, revealing the diamond engagement ring.
Darcey couldn’t speak, her eyes welled with tears. All she could do was nod, and she did so emphatically. “Yes! Oh my goodness, yes!” she finally squeaked out, threw her arms around him, and kissed him.
Clint smiled as he brushed a lock of hair from his face, adjusting his glasses and trying to look casual. “I was hoping you’d say that.” He took the ring from its box and slipped it onto her finger. From the corner of his eye, he saw Charlotte as she wiped the tears from her own eyes, and hugged Travis.
Danae looked as though she was caught off guard, but beamed at her twin. “See, Clint? I told you you’d make a great brother-in-law.” She hopped up and hugged them both, and then went to sit beside Devin. Travis stood and shook his hand, and Charlotte hugged both of them.
“Who would have thought my sweet little niece would be engaged before my son,” Chris said, taking a dig at Greg lightheartedly. “Darcey, I’m so proud of you, sweetie.” He shook Clint’s hand, and said, “If you hurt this little girl, we’re going to have a problem,” and then winked. “But I know you won’t.” He remembered when he looked at Cade that way, and for a brief moment, he felt sad.
“Thanks, Chris,” Clint replied. “This woman is my life. I will never hurt her.” He hugged Darcey close, and they kissed tenderly.
After the festivities of the day were well over, and the kids were in bed for the night, Travis and Charlotte were left sitting by the hearth, watching the flames dance as they burned the log he had placed on the fire. She poured the last two glasses of wine from the bottle and snuggled up next to him. “Today was perfect,” she finally said as she twirled the wine inside the glass. “The twins outdid themselves on dinner. Darcey is now engaged to be married, and we have another son.” She took a sip of the wine, and savored the semi-sweet drink.
“My goodness, Charlotte,” Travis said, as he gazed at her. “You are so beautiful.” He had never seen her so happy and content. “And you’re right. Today was perfect.” He traced the lines of her face with his fingertips and caressed her cheek. “I love you so much, baby. Happy Snowflake Day, honey.”
He was right. Charlotte had never felt so at peace, so content and happy than she did that day. “Travis, I love you too.” She smiled as she kissed him. “Happy Snowflake Day, baby.”
Charlotte put on a fresh, clean lab coat, attached her hospital credentials, and with her stethoscope around her neck, she welcomed Darcey to her first day as a resident. The younger doctor had already been made aware of policy, procedure and county law, and had studied diligently through her weekend. While they did the rounds in the ER that morning, Charlotte constantly questioned and tested Darcey’s instincts and skills, and each time she rose to the occasion, correctly identifying the proper course of action. It seemed like just yesterday that Charlotte stood in her shoes, with Rog teaching her, guiding her, molding her to be the skilled doctor she was, at the top of her career and flourishing. Sometimes she wished that Rog could see her now, filling the role he once did, mentoring her own daughter as he had with her.
At lunch, the two women sat together, discussing patients, college and work. “Are you finding everything okay, honey?” Charlotte asked her. “You know where the lockers and break rooms are, right?”
“Yes, Dee was very helpful last week. I still feel like there is much to learn about technical stuff, policies, laws. I know I absolutely cannot treat anything major without express consent.” Darcey remembered all too well the day Charlotte was taken from the house in handcuffs.
“Well, you’re a long way from your surgical residency yet, honey. You shouldn’t have to worry about that for a while. I’m surprised you remembered that, Darce. That was so long ago.”
“Are you kidding, Mama? I will never forget it as long as I live. I was petrified.”
“You’re not the only one, kiddo.” Charlotte smiled at her daughter, so proud of the young woman she had become. “Are you done with lunch? Patients wait for no one.”
“Yep, I’m ready.” Darcey took both of their trays and disposed of their trash, and joined her mother back on the floor.
When the day was done, both women carpooled back home together. Darcey was tired, having been on her feet for most of the nine-hour shift. Clint was not home from his first day of work at the police station. Though he had an interview with the game developer, he hadn’t heard back yet, so he took the other job, as it was a sure thing, the money was good and had decent benefits.
Darcey flopped down on the sofa in the living room by the fireplace and opened her medical journal. Immediately, she began studying from it, taking notes and quizzing herself on the material within. Charlotte had a journal to research as well, but dinner wouldn’t make itself. Travis was at practice at the stadium, and Devin and Danae were playing on the console together, each one talking smack about the other. “Nae, can you come help with dinner please?” Charlotte asked her. “Please set the table and keep an eye on this sauce so it doesn’t burn? I need to get changed.” Charlotte walked upstairs, leaving Danae to tend to the kitchen.
“Sure Mama,” she said, half of her attention on the game, and the other half on her life, and its lack of direction. Danae knew she needed to work, but four days past the holiday, and there was still no prospects on the horizon for work or a boyfriend. Though she was happy for Darcey, she was insanely jealous that everything was working out in her sister’s favor while she had to struggle with her life. It isn’t fair, she thought. I deserve to be happy, too.
Suddenly, Danae smelled something burning and looked at the stove. The sauce had been boiling and spattered all over the stove, making a huge, burned-on mess. She rolled her eyes, and walked toward the kitchen, holding her nose. Taking the spoon from its rest, she stirred the sauce, hitting a solid black layer of burned sauce on the bottom. “Aww man!” came the distressed cry from the kitchen, just in time for Charlotte to hit the bottom step.
“Nae, were you watching that sauce like I asked you?” Charlotte rolled her eyes. She already knew the answer. “You know, young lady, you have been home all day. Your bed is still not made, and you couldn’t get off your butt long enough to do me a quick favor. I want you in a job by the end of this week, or we will have to discuss other arrangements for you.”
Danae got angry. “Why do I even bother? Nothing I ever do is good enough for you!” She yelled at Charlotte. “You know what? Maybe I WILL move out! Maybe you love Darcey better anyway, and you wouldn’t miss me!” Danae stomped up the steps, pounded her way across the floor, and slammed the door.
“Give me patience with that one,” Charlotte said out loud, to no one in particular. She sighed deeply, throwing away the pasta sauce she had been cooking. It was nearly dinnertime, and Travis would be home soon. But thanks to Danae, she had nothing ready. “Darcey, honey, your daddy and I are going to go out for dinner. Will you and Clint be okay fending for yourselves?”
“Of course, Mama. I’ll make something for the four of us.”
“You’re such a good kid, Darce,” Charlotte said, setting the burnt pan in the sink to soak. “I know I need to talk to her, but I might kill her first.” She sat down in the dining room chair and slumped in defeat.
“Are you okay, Mama?” came Darcey’s concerned question.
“I will be, sweetie. I’m just frustrated with your sister.”
Travis came through the door thirty-five minutes later and smelled the remains of dinner hanging in the air. “Well, that doesn’t smell like your cooking, love. What happened?”
“Ask Nae,” came the simple, two-worded answer. “I’m done with her, Travis. I don’t know what I’ve done to her, but she is not liking me today.”
“I’ll go talk to her. I’m guessing you made reservations?”
“I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Travis climbed the steps to the second floor and knocked softly on Danae’s bedroom door. “Nae?”
“Hold on, Daddy,” came the sniffly reply. He heard the lock open, and he turned the doorknob to see Danae walking back toward her bed, tears in her eyes.
“Danae, sweetie, what is wrong? I don’t like hearing that you’re fighting with your mama. What’s going on?”
“Mama says she will kick me out if I don’t have a job by the end of the week, Daddy.” She sniffled and blew her nose.
“Now, why did she say that, Nae? She doesn’t ask much of you.” He sat and patiently waited for her to explain herself. But all she did was look at him as her eyes welled with tears.
Danae started bawling as though her heart was simply broken into a million shards. “Why does Darcey get everything, and I have to fight for everything? Why? It’s not fair, Daddy!” He held her as she sobbed.
“What do you mean she gets everything? She studied hard for that job, and she deserves it.”
“But everything comes so easily for her. She has the perfect fiancé, the perfect job, the perfect life. And what do I have? A worthless degree, no job, no man…” her voice trailed off.
“Honey, you’re still so young to be this troubled. The job market will pick up, and as soon as people hear your voice, sweetheart, you’re going to be as big as your great-grandma.” Travis didn’t know much about stuff that wasn’t sports, but he did know Danae like the back of his hand. He had already sensed she was jealous of Darcey, though he wasn’t sure why.
“But I have to be working by the end of the week, or Mama says I’m out.” Danae cried all over again, clinging to Travis as she cried.
“Oh honey, I’m sure she didn’t say that. But I do know she was frustrated because you didn’t do something she asked you to do. How about I talk to her at dinner, and we can talk again later, okay?” He kissed the top of her head and squeezed her shoulders. “Just stop crying, and lay down for a while honey.” He got up from her bed to leave and turned around. “Are you okay, Punkin?”
“I will be, Daddy. I just … I want to find someone like Clint for my own.”
“I know, sweetie. Your time will come, I promise you.” Travis walked back to her and hugged her. “When you least expect it, you will find your prince.”
Travis made his way back down the stairs, deciding to wear his PR outfit to dinner. Charlotte had on a pair of old faded blue jeans and a tee-shirt, so he figured she wasn’t planning on The Tower that night, not that they could have gotten in anyway. His uniform would be perfect, without the forsaken tie.
He drove them to the restaurant off the strip and had the valet park his fancy car. They walked in together, and Travis seated her first, and then sat down beside her. She looked tired and worn, at her wits end. Danae had always been a handful, but he had never seen her this distraught.
“So, what happened tonight, baby?” He asked her, taking her hand. “Danae says you want to kick her out if she doesn’t have a job by Friday. I know you have a good reason for it.”
“I asked her to do one thing, and she couldn’t even do that for me. She was so wrapped up in that stupid video game to pay attention to what I had asked her. Then her bed was unmade, again. What does she do around the house all day that she can’t at least make her bed, Travis? Am I being so unreasonable by asking that?” Her frustration was apparent.
“No, I get it, baby,” Travis said, agreeing with her. “She should be doing stuff to help you, especially since she isn’t working right now. But she is incredibly jealous of Darcey, and I think that is where this stems from.”
“Because of Clint?”
“I think it’s the whole package. Danae feels like Darcey had everything she’s worked for just handed to her. The job, the man, the life. I tried to tell her how hard Darce worked for what she has, but it didn’t seem to make much difference.”
“But she has no right to be jealous, baby. Darcey worked so hard to get where she is.”
“I know that. You know that. But in her little Danae head, it’s killing her. She and Darcey have never been competitive, but one of them has never pulled ahead of the other, either. Darcey held back in school for Danae, and I know she doesn’t realize that. And poor Darcey, she had given up so much to stay with her in school. She could have been graduated from college four years ago had we given her the go-ahead to, and if she had wanted to. She is exceptionally bright, so much like her mama.”
“You flatter me, Mr. Jones,” she flirted.
“I’m serious, honey. Danae never had to experience what we knew would happen eventually. They are not equally yoked when it comes to smarts. Danae is more creative and spontaneous, while Darcey is analytical and regimented. But Danae has never been in a position where that difference is so blatantly obvious.” Travis kissed Charlotte’s fingers. “She doesn’t like it.”
“Okay, I’ll give her that. But why the attitude? Why is she taking it out on me?”
“She doesn’t feel like you understand. Darcey is a genius, like you, so you gravitate more towards her. You always have, honey. It’s not your fault any more than it’s my fault Danae is attached to me.” Travis gazed into her beautiful blue eyes. “I suspect that Danae has feelings for Clint. She hasn’t said so, but watching her, I get the feeling she does. She has to know how bad it will end for her if she tries to make a move on him.”
“Oh honey, that would not be good. Do you think she would?” Charlotte hadn’t noticed anything with Danae and Clint, but she would definitely pay more attention.
“I hope not if she still wants any kind of good relationship with her sister. Darcey will not walk away from him, even for Danae. And she shouldn’t.” Travis sighed. “I’ll talk to her when we get home.”
Travis paced the floor nervously, trying to think of a delicate way to speak with Danae about her sister and Clint. There’s no easy way to do it, he thought. Taking a deep breath and exhaling loudly, he knocked gently on the twins’ door. “Nae?”
“Come in, Daddy,” she answered. She was still sniffling, and her sadness broke Travis’ heart.
“Sweetheart, we need to talk.” He still had no idea how to approach her with his question.
“Clint.” There was just no way around it.
“What about Clint, Daddy?”
“Honey, do you have feelings for him? I get the impression you would like more from him than you can have.”
“Well, I used to feel that way about him. And then I talked to Darcey about it. She was angry at first, but then she wasn’t. I don’t know, Daddy. Sometimes, I wish he had seen me first, instead of Darcey. Maybe… maybe I’d have the perfect life, and she would be jealous of me.” She choked back a sob. “I know that’s awful for me to think that about my own sister.” Danae looked at Travis, desperate for him to understand. “I guess I never really got over my crush on him after all.”
“Nae, you know you can’t have him. First, he wouldn’t leave your sister for you, and second, if you want to stay close with Darcey, you can’t approach him inappropriately. I know you love Darcey more than that.”
“I do, which is why I can’t deal with him being here. I want more than he can give me.” Danae looked extraordinarily sad. “I’m a terrible person.”
Travis hugged his daughter. “You’re not a terrible person, Danae. You’re just lonely. I understand, Punkin.” He looked her in the eye. “I mean it, Nae. You will find your prince when you least expect it. Maybe he will be someone in your career. Maybe an old classmate? Just remember to keep yourself for your husband, whenever he comes.”
“Thanks, Daddy. I guess I owe Mama an apology, huh?” Danae wiped tears from her eyes. “I’ll upload my resume to the city job board tonight. Maybe I’ll have something soon.”
“That’s the spirit,” he encouraged her. “You’re going to be okay, Nae. I promise you.”
Charlotte was cleaning up the dishes from dinner that never got made, when Danae came down, looking remorseful. “Mama, I’m sorry I snapped at you earlier. You were right. I’ve been so distracted, and so sad. But I’m going to have a job by the end of the week, whether it’s in my field of study or not.”
Charlotte walked to her daughter and embraced her. “Sweetie, it’s okay. Things will look up soon. You’re too talented for someone not to notice. And when you finally find your niche, you’ll blossom.”
“Thanks, Mama. I love you and Daddy. Please give me a little longer before I have to move out. I have nowhere to go.”
“You don’t have to worry about leaving, Danae. But please, if I ask you for a favor, help me out a bit?”
“Of course I will. I’m so sorry I ruined dinner. Darcey is a good cook, but nothing like you.”
Charlotte smiled at her younger daughter. “You’re a good kid, Danae. You have a kind, generous heart, and you think of others before yourself. Never change, okay?”
“I’ll try not to.” Danae hugged Charlotte, and turned to go. “I’m tired.”
“Sweet dreams, Nae,” Charlotte said to her, as she climbed the stairs to her room.
Travis was relaxing in bed, watching the late-night news when Charlotte finally came up the stairs. “There you are,” he said, smiling. “I was wondering if you had fallen asleep downstairs.”
“No, I was just talking with Danae. She apologized to me, but she never really went into what’s bothering her. I wish that girl would open up to me.”
“Well, I got her to admit that she has feelings for Clint. She’s not dealing with it well, either, but I reminded her how much Darcey means to her, too. I hope she doesn’t throw that away for something that will never materialize.” Travis untied the belt on his robe and sat up, taking his robe off and throwing it on the chair.”
“I hope not, honeybear.” Charlotte brushed her hair and put it back in a messy bun. “I’m worried about her.”
“I think she’ll be okay, baby. Once she lands a job or signs with the talent agency, things will look up for her.” Travis cuddled next to Charlotte, and nuzzled her neck.
“You’re insatiable,” she giggled.
“Well, you made me this way,” he flirted.
She smiled and wrapped herself around him, and let him love her.
Up Next: Chapter Twenty One, Generation Four