A Week Before Snowflake Day…
He tapped the keys on his computer, searching for a diving experience that would blow Danae’s mind. Andy knew that she wanted to scuba dive since she was a little girl, and he wanted to surprise her with a day trip to one of the most sought-after dive sites in Isla Paradiso.
It was a popular spot called Davy Jones’ Locker, the site of an old shipwreck from at least a hundred years ago. The bulk of the wreckage had long been picked over, but what was left had grown coral around it, and colorful, native fish now lived in the artificial reef.
Andy would spare nothing when it came to Danae. So, as a surprise for Snowflake Day, he booked a diving trip, bought the best fins money could buy and wrapped them to place under the tree. He couldn’t have been more excited. Snowflake Day, since they had moved to the island, had not been very festive. Without the snowflakes, Snowflake Day was just another day.
Danae was putting the finishing touches on the house, decorating it completely. The children were excited for Father Winter to come, and she wanted to make the experience as wonderful as she remembered it when she was little. Theirs was a life of luxury and abundance, and they spared nothing for their children on the holiday.
Aaron came to the house and took some pictures of the family by their holiday setup, and Danae was pleased with them. The best poses made into holiday cards, she sat at the table and finished up her card list, a stack of envelopes about fifty pieces high. While Eamon and Elyse were in school, she packed Emmitt into his car seat and together they visited the mail service.
“Mrs. Murphy! It’s always a pleasure. And who is this handsome little man?” The clerk behind the counter cooed at Emmitt, and he giggled.
“This is my baby, Emmitt, though he isn’t a baby anymore. He’ll be three next month. I can’t believe it.” Danae handed the stack of cards to the clerk. “Just meter those, and put them on our account, if you would.”
“Absolutely! I think I have something for you from Starlight Shores. A package from a Greg St John.”
“Oh?” Danae was surprised. It had been a long time since she had talked to Greg, never mind exchanged gifts. “I’ll have to call him. It’s been too long.”
“A family member?” the clerk asked jovially.
“Yes, my cousin. The only surviving family member in Starlight Shores, actually. I’ve been trying for years to get him here to visit. But he’s always too busy working.” Danae seemed lost in thought. Emmitt’s coos and giggles brought her back to reality. “Well, we should be going. Say ‘bye-bye’ Emmitt.”
The young boy squealed, “Bye-bye!” Danae and the clerk both laughed as she waved. Together, she and her son left the building.
When they returned home, Danae opened the box from Greg. Inside was a small wrapped gift addressed to her alone, and a letter. Curious, but willing to wait, she slipped the box beneath the tree with some other small things. She got Emmitt a sippy cup of water and sat at the dining room table with the letter.
I know you’ve been after me to come visit, and I hope the invitation is still open. I have some time around the holiday, and I was thinking of escaping to the tropics, away from the snow and the big city.
I hope you and Andy are well. I heard you had another baby. Congratulations! Oh, how I miss you and Darcey. It’s lonely here in the Shores with no family.
Call me. My phone number hasn’t changed. Hope to hear from you soon.
Excited, she texted a message to Darcey and then called Greg back.
“Hello?” he answered his phone.
“Greg! It’s Danae. How are you?”
“Oh Nae, it’s so good to hear your sweet voice. I’m doing okay. Did you get my letter?”
“Yes! Are you really coming? Darcey will be so excited.”
“I am really coming. Do you have room for me, or do I need to make reservations somewhere?”
“We have a suite that has your name on it. Oh, Greg, I’m so happy you’re getting away from there, even for a little while.”
“Me too. I’ll email my itinerary when I have it together. Is it a problem to pick me up at the airport?”
“I’d love to! Oh, sweetie, I’m so happy. You just made my whole holiday!” She couldn’t deny she was tickled.
“Look for my email, and I’ll call you before I get on the plane. Love you Nae.”
“Love you too Greg. We’ll see you soon!”
They hung up the phone and Danae was energized. Maybe she could talk him into moving to the island, too.
Andy came home from work, tired and frustrated. Though they had known for months that the Llamas would face the Sharks on Snowflake Eve, he was dreading having to spend his night at the stadium. He dropped his briefcase in his office and flopped in the chair by the television.
“Bad day, babe?” she asked.
“Just frustrating. I can’t wait for this game to be done. I don’t want Devin to be anywhere near our family. It’s not exactly a secret where our house is located.”
I do have some good news, babe.” She sat beside him and took his hand. “My cousin Greg is coming for Snowflake Day. He’ll be here for a few days.”
A smile crossed Andy’s face. “Really? When did he call you?”
“He actually sent a package. I got it today when I brought the cards to mail at the post.”
“I know how long you’ve been asking him to come here, baby. I’m happy for you and Darce.”
“I guess I need to plan to have family over on Snowflake Eve, too. Darcey and Clint will want to spend as much time with Gregory as they can. He doesn’t get much time off from work.”
“I feel better about this home game having Greg in the house with you. He’s a big guy, and Devin won’t mess with you if he’s around.” He got up. “I need to change from this outfit. Maybe I’ll go for a swim. Lysie, do you want to go swimming, sweet pea?”
“Ooh! Yes please!” she squealed. She got up and ran to her bedroom to change into her bathing suit.
“Eamon, get into your trunks, honey. Daddy’s going swimming.”
With the kids occupied, Danae continued making dinner, all the while planning Greg’s stay in her head. What would she cook? What would they do while he was in town? She was excited beyond words, and she sang while she cooked.
After dinner, Danae and Andy sat by the pool with their glass of white wine to discuss the day. The air was unseasonably warm and humid. The sound of crickets and frogs filled the night air as they chatted. Fireflies lit up the pampas grass on the far side of the pool.
“How are we going to protect the kids from their uncle? If he was brazen enough to attack me in public in broad daylight, I shudder to think of what he might try when he realizes where we live, where no one is watching.” Andy sipped on his wine, savoring the blend. It was his favorite, and Danae made sure she always had a bottle on hand for him.
“Do we really have to worry? I mean, the team usually leaves after the game, right?”
“But it will be Snowflake eve. No flights out until after the holiday. He will be here until the day after.”
“Isn’t our security around the house good enough? We have the best available, don’t we?”
“I think so, and yes. Hopefully, the miserable wretch will find something honorable to do with himself on Snowflake Day. We just have to be on our guard, baby. That’s all I’m saying.”
“You have me a little worried about it now. If he wasn’t a psychopath, and things were better among us, I’d have no problem inviting him in. But with three little ones, and his overdeveloped sense of vengeance, I don’t dare. I know he’s after you in a big way. I am not taking any chances.” She sniffed the wine in her glass and made a face. “Do you want the rest of this, babe? I think I’m done.”
“Nah, I’m good with this glass. I need to be up in the morning. But I’ll join you inside for a little fun.”
“I’ll never pass that up, babe.” He took her hand and led her to their bedroom.
Danae watched the clock and checked Greg’s flight. Still on time. “Babe, I need to get Greg from the airport. Can you take care of the kids for me until I get home?”
“Of course, my sweet. I was going to read that book to Emmitt, so I’ll have the other two sit and listen, too.”
“Great! They all love that story. I shouldn’t be more than two hours, counting travel time. I love you, Andy.”
“I love you, Danae. Drive carefully.”
At the airport, she stood at the gate waiting for Greg’s flaming red hair to appear atop the others. But she was surprised when he appeared beside her, bald, looking thin and gaunt. She would not have recognized him in a hundred years.
“Danae!” He tapped her shoulder, his arms opened for a hug.
“Greg! Wow, you look so different. I was expecting your red hair. But I like it! Bald is all the style now.”
“Yeah, it was falling out anyway, so I embraced it,” he chuckled. “It’s so good to see you.” His firm hug felt good around her.
“I’m so happy you came, Greg. It made our holiday.” She neglected to tell him her other family would be in town. He took her hand and they walked to baggage claim, and then to her car.
“Wow, nice wheels, Nae. You guys must be killing it here on the isle.” He admired her beautiful new red car.
“Andy has a fantastic job. It affords us some luxuries most others don’t have. I haven’t worked since I found out we were expecting Elyse. He’s a wonderful father to those kids.” She beamed when she spoke of Andy.
“I can’t wait to get to know him better. He seems like a really down to earth guy.”
She nodded. “He’s the real deal. Always working, though. He has a game tomorrow afternoon. He wants me to stay home from it, though.”
“Aren’t the Llamas going to be here? That should be an interesting game. Didn’t the Sharks humiliate the Llamas last season?”
Danae laughed. “Yeah, they did. Devin had no idea how to handle it. It was beautiful.”
Greg grimaced. The name ‘Devin’ hadn’t left his lips in quite some time. The man was reviled in Starlight Shores, a millstone around the Llamas’ neck. “Ugh. Will he be in town?”
“Unfortunately. Andy fears for the family while he is here. With three little ones, he worries. Plus, he is still recovering from a knee procedure, courtesy of Devin. Andy can’t afford another encounter with him.”
“When we were in the Shores last year, Devin assaulted him in the Clips Center parking lot. He tore his knee up pretty bad. He had some fluid drained and scar tissue removed just a few months ago.”
“Well, Andy doesn’t need to worry about your family while I’m here. I will protect you and those babies with my life.” Greg looked around at the peaceful surroundings, the tropical landscape, and felt at ease.
“Ten more minutes, and we’ll be home.” Danae followed the turns and curves of the road that led back to the main island. The only bridge onto the island led to the airport, and they had just crossed it.
She pulled up to the house and opened the gate. Carefully, she parked in the garage, and they got out of the car. “Don’t worry about your luggage, Greg. Andy can come get it.”
“Nonsense. I have it.” He reached into the back seat and grabbed his carry on and small bag. “This place is amazing, Danae. The property is huge.”
“The house was much smaller when we bought it. We had to add some room when we found out we were expecting Emmitt. But the lot was the reason we bought here. Out of sight, hopefully out of mind.” Together they walked toward the house and Danae opened the door, letting Greg enter first.
“Greg!” Andy greeted him happily. “You look great! I love the hairdo.”
Greg laughed. “Yeah, I thought I’d embrace the pattern hair loss. You look fabulous. Danae is good for you.”
“Thank you.” Andy smiled. “I crazy love that woman.”
Danae showed Greg the house and got him settled upstairs in the suite. “If you need anything at all, let me know. We probably have it tucked away somewhere. Our home is your home. Feel free to make yourself comfortable.”
“Thanks, Danae. I know what an imposition holiday company is, and I appreciate your hospitality.”
“Come on, Greg. You’re family, not company.” She hugged him. “Come down when you’re ready. We usually sit outside in the evening and sip wine by the pool. You’ll meet the kids in the morning. They’re on leave from school until the first of the year.”
“I might just join you. It’s been a long time since I’ve had wine.” Greg unpacked his few things into the empty dresser in the suite, slipped into a pair of slippers and joined Danae and Andy on the patio.
Andy was up early for a team meeting the next morning. The game was scheduled for 4:00 that afternoon, and he would have no time at home between the meeting and the game. Greg was upstairs, asleep, and Andy was happy he would be at the house while the game was in process. But he regretted that he would miss the kids and their excitement, waiting for Father Winter to arrive.
He kissed Danae gently before he left the house. “Mmm, good morning, my handsome prince,” she said sleepily.
“Good morning beautiful,” he answered. “I am leaving for the day, baby. I just wanted a little sugar before I had to go.” He sat on the bed next to her, and she sat up to kiss him.
“I’m glad you woke me. I’m going to miss you today. The kids will all be in bed when you get home, but Darcey and Clint are coming tonight and tomorrow for dinner.”
“I’m so glad Greg is here with you. I feel better about being gone today.” He brushed her hair out of her face. “Oh honey, I love you. Don’t have too much fun without me today.” He kissed her again.
“I love you too, babe. We’ll be here when you come home. Hurry back.” He stood to leave and took her hand, kissed it, their grasp broke as he walked away from her.
The bedside clock read 7:30. The kids were home, and she planned to sleep until Emmitt wanted breakfast. But half an hour later, Greg found his way to the kitchen, hoping to find some coffee and his family. Danae heard him looking through cabinets, and chuckled. I guess I’m up, she thought.
“Good morning, Greg,” she chirped. “I see you need some morning brew. I’ll get it.”
“Yeah, I don’t feel human without it.” He sat at the dining room table. “You two really have a beautiful life here, don’t you?”
“We do. Andy is a good provider, but days like today are hard. He’s going to miss so much tonight because of his work.” She sat beside Greg and sighed. “I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but I feel bad for him. He’s always gone.”
“I was married to my job for so many years. Working my fingers to the bone, never home, never had time for me. I was with Layla for many years, but she left me when I couldn’t give her enough of myself. And then…” his voice trailed off.
“And then what, honey?”
“I was tired all the time, everything hurt. So I went to the doctor for a check-up and my blood work came back abnormal. Long story short, Nae, I have cancer.”
Tears stung her eyes. “You what?”
“I don’t have much time left. The doctor told me to get my affairs in order. That’s why I sent you the rings. I was afraid I wouldn’t get here to give them to you in person, but I knew I had to come.”
The present. His dad’s wedding ring and his mother’s anniversary band. “When? When did you find this out?” Danae dabbed tears with her shirt. “I can’t believe this.”
“About six months ago. I’ve been in treatment for the past five months, but it hasn’t helped. I wanted to take this trip because I always felt bad I never came when you asked me to.” He looked down at his hands. “I only have about another six weeks, by the doctor’s best estimate. This is as good as I’ve felt in a month, so I’m glad I made it. I got to see paradise.”
Danae couldn’t speak. She only hugged her cousin and let tears stain her face. “Well, sweetie, I’m happy you get to spend your last Snowflake Day here with us.” She kissed his forehead.
“Thanks. It means everything to me that Darcey and her family are coming tonight, too. I can’t wait to see her.” Danae brought him a cup of coffee. “I’m not supposed to have this either, but at this point, it makes no difference. I’m a dead man either way. I might as well enjoy what’s left.”
She only smiled weakly at him, her heart, broken.
Dinner was at six, and Danae got the meal started before noon. Emmitt was napping, and the two older children were playing with Greg. “Do you need help, Nae?” Greg asked. “I don’t want to freeload.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” she chuckled. “Play with the kids. Tell them stories. Show them pictures. Bond with them. This is their only chance.”
Greg nodded and began telling stories about their mother and Aunt Darcey when they were little and they listened with great interest. Their giggles filled the house with every funny and embarrassing story he told. Oh, how she wished things were different.
Her cell phone rang just before 3:30, Andy’s cell phone number on the Caller ID. “Hey honey,” he greeted her. “I just wanted to check in, see how things are going.”
“They’re going. It smells good in here. I have dinner planned for six, but I’ll keep yours warm. Lysie and Eamon are having a grand time with Greg.” She walked toward their bedroom and closed the door behind her. “I have some news when you get home tonight.”
“Oh?” he half-smiled, hoping it would be a preview of the holiday festivities.
“I will tell you later,” she said, her voice shaky, on the verge of cracking. Her breath hitched, and she choked on a sob as she exhaled.
“Is something wrong, honey?”
“Yes, but I don’t want to say it on the phone. It’s not good.”
“Is it Devin? I will kill him if he comes near the —”
“No, babe, it’s not Devin. Please don’t try to pull it out of me. I will tell you later.” She wiped a tear from her eyes and sniffled.
“Okay, honey. I will wait. Hey, I love you.”
“I love you too. Wish everyone a happy holiday for me?”
“You bet I will, baby. I’ll see you around nine tonight.”
“It’s a date.” She blew a kiss on the phone and hung up.
“Are you okay, Nae?” Greg asked as she walked from the bedroom.
“Yeah, it was Andy. I didn’t want the kids to hear. He had some private information about Father Winter.”
Elyse heard her and her ears perked up. “What did Daddy say?” she asked.
“Daddy told me that he knows for certain you and Eamon and Emmitt are on the Good List this year.”
Elyse looked at Eamon and they both smiled and squealed. Greg laughed. “See? I told you!” Since they got up that morning, Greg had both kids hanging off him, playing with him. That’s it, guys. Make memories with him, Danae thought, dreading a time when memories were all that was left of him.
Darcey, Clint and their two boys walked through the door about half an hour later, a beautiful pie in her hands. She set it down on the counter and walked to Greg. “You are a sight for sore eyes, mister,” she said and wrapped him in a hug. “How are you?” She looked him over. He does not look good.
“I’m doing okay, Darce. Man oh man, it is so good to see you.” He turned to Clint and shook his hand. “Clint! How are you? Are you taking care of my cousin?”
“You know it. Good to see you, Greg!”
“Come on Greg!” Elyse whined. “Come play with us!” Noel and Shan joined their cousins, and soon all five of them were keeping busy with games, tickle fights and stories. Darcey helped Danae in the kitchen, while Clint helped Greg with kid duty. Danae was surprised to see how Noel had grown in the past six months. He was almost as tall as Clint, and he was only eight years old
“It doesn’t seem right without Andy here. He’s always the life of the party,” Darcey remarked.
“I meant to put the game on for background noise, but it would just remind me that Devin is in town, and Andy isn’t home.” She finished chopping up potatoes from the garden and set the pot on the stove to rest.
“Oh, I forgot he’s in town. Is Andy freaking out?” Darcey stole a strip of pepper Danae had cut up and munched on it.
“You could say that. I think Greg being here is comforting to him, though.”
“I meant to ask you, Nae, is Gregory okay? He looks different, slender.”
“It’s not my place to say, Darce. He will tell you in his own timing.”
Darcey plopped down on a stool. “Well, I didn’t want to hear that. That means something is wrong.”
“I’ve already said too much.” Danae shook her head. “Please, don’t try to coax it out of me. It’s Greg’s news to tell, not mine.” She wiped a tear from her eyes, hoping Darcey didn’t notice.
When dinner was ready, Danae and Darcey called the family to sit. The girls had prepared a turkey with all the fixings, and the meal smelled heavenly. The only person noticeably missing was Andy.
Greg stood and offered a toast. “To my wonderful family and friends. To a lifetime of love. Happy Snowflake Day.”
“Cheers!” Everyone said in unison. Clint carved the turkey, and dinnertime chatter reverberated off the walls of the dining area. In the living room, the game played, cheers from the home crowd rang as the Sharks scored goal after goal.
“Danae, you are a fantastic cook,” Greg sat back in his chair and patted his belly. “I am stuffed.”
“Thank you, Greg,” she beamed. Danae took pride in her cooking ability. Everything she learned came from her mother, Charlotte.
“How did the game end up? It’s quiet in the living room.” Clint stood to bring dishes to the kitchen and checked the final score on the way back. “Holy cow, 14-0 Sharks!” he exclaimed.
Danae smiled. There was always a celebration when they won an important game. “Andy will be in a good mood when he comes home,” she beamed. And she couldn’t wait.
The mood at the stadium was jubilant. Andy had a great time watching Devin and his team run in circles trying to figure out which plays to make. Aaron had a knack of keeping five steps ahead of every team they played. It was almost unfair.
After the game, Andy met with the guys in the locker room briefly. “Gentlemen, congratulations on another game well played. Go home and be with your families tonight, relax and enjoy the holiday. You have well earned it. And on behalf of myself, my wife Danae and our three children, I’d like to wish you all a blessed holiday. We’ll see you after Snowflake Day!”
Aaron caught up with him before he went to the media room for the after game presser. “Hey, Murphy. Are we still on for tomorrow? What do you need me to bring?”
“We are most definitely still on. And just bring yourself, whatever you want to drink, and a hearty appetite. You know Danae has something spectacular planned for dinner tomorrow. Oh, and your suit if you want to swim.”
Aaron straightened out his tie in the green room. “You got it. It will be weird this year without Wyatt. Silly fool got himself a woman. Now he has to spend it with her family.”
Andy chuckled. “You mean he gets to spend it with her family. He loves her. I’m sure he doesn’t mind.”
“Yeah, I’ve never seen him like this. I’m happy for them.” Aaron smiled. “How do I look?”
“You look like a champion, Aaron. As always.” They patted each other on the back and walked to the media room together.
At the house, the children were getting ready for bed, but waited in front of the television to see their father. Elyse swooned when Andy’s face appeared on the large screen television, and Eamon smiled. Emmitt toddled to the screen and babbled, smiling and squealing in his three-year-old voice. The presser only lasted a few minutes, and the game coverage ended.
“Okay kiddos, off to bed! You know Father Winter won’t come if you are still awake.” Danae scooted them off to their bedrooms, and picked Emmitt up, making the rounds for kisses and hugs. Noel and Shan cuddled up in the boys’ room on the floor until Darcey and Clint were ready to leave.
The adults cleaned the kitchen and mess, and Danae made a plate for Andy and kept it warm in the oven. To keep the noise at a minimum, they retreated to the patio. Clint lit a fire in the pit, and they all sat around laughing and telling stories.
Andy opened the front door shortly before nine o’clock, and was surprised to see the house was quiet. But the glow of the fire outside lured him. With his dinner plate in hand, he joined his family. Danae hopped up to greet him with a kiss, and he winked at her.
Andy was ravenous and savored every bite. He hadn’t eaten since breakfast more than twelve hours earlier. Everyone was enjoying the evening with a glass of wine, the chatter mostly about the game. And Devin came up in the discussion.
“What is that little ray of sunshine up to, Andy?” Greg asked.
“Hopefully, he’s staying far away from here tomorrow. Their team has activity scheduled, so he won’t have much free time.” He stood and brought his plate to the kitchen.
Greg looked around the pit at the faces of his family. He hated to break news like this just before the holiday, but he had come to learn that tomorrow was never a guarantee. No better time than now, he thought. When Andy rejoined them, dressed casually in his flannel pants and a muscle shirt, Greg got everyone’s attention.
“I have some news I want to share with you.” Danae blinked back hot tears. “You all know Danae has been after me since you relocated here to come visit. Had I known what a beautiful place this is, I might have followed you here.” The group laughed.
“The truth is, I’ve always been married to my job. I never took time for myself, for Layla. We separated about six months ago after a routine checkup uncovered an illness.” Greg paused to take a breath. It was harder to say with an audience than it had been with just Danae, and he wasn’t sure he’d make it without choking up.
“I’ve been in chemotherapy for the past five months, but the treatments have been unsuccessful.” Darcey gasped, and tears welled in her eyes. “The doctors say I have anywhere from four to six weeks to live, give or take a few. He told me to get my affairs in order, so here I am. I wanted to spend my last holiday with my family.” Gasps and sobs were heard around the fire pit.
Darcey sniffled. “I knew something wasn’t right, but I never expected this, Greg. This is unbelievable.”
“Well, it was a shock for me, too. And with no family back in the Shores, I couldn’t tolerate spending the holiday alone. Coming here was a no-brainer. I knew I had to come. To see all of you. To say goodbye.”
That was it for Danae. The tears came, and they came hard. Andy rubbed her back and whispered to her. “Was this your news, baby?” She nodded, grasping at him to hold her.
Andy spoke. “You don’t deserve this, Greg. You’re my age. We’re only thirty-three! My goodness, we’re too young for this mess.” He wiped a tear from his eyes. “I’m so sorry, man.”
Clint was stunned. Though he didn’t know Greg well, Clint knew what he meant to Darcey. “Me too. I’m sorry. But, at least you’re here. These girls will make it count.” He smiled at his wife and her sister. Together, they had a way of making everything good.
“I’ve spent most of my day playing with your children, Andy. They are just like their Mama. Sweet, tender-hearted, loving. They didn’t know me from anyone, but they were all over me from the time they got up until we sat for dinner. It was almost as though Lysie had some kind of intuition. She never left my side all day.”
Andy smiled. He sure was proud of his girl. “That’s my baby,” he gloated. “A daddy’s girl if I’ve ever seen one.” Then, something tickled his memory. Andy remembered the night Lionel had passed away when Elyse had called him ‘Papa.’ And he remembered Tarah’s words: Little ones have a way of knowing things we can’t possibly understand. Suddenly, her words had a whole new meaning.
After the news began to sink in a bit, and the topic eventually changed to something more cheerful, Andy stood. “Baby, I’m exhausted, and I’m sure those munchkins will have us up before dawn. I hate to do this, but I’m off to bed.” He walked to Danae and kissed her. Into her ear, he whispered, “Wake me when you come to bed, honey. I’m sure you will need me.” She nodded and kissed him goodnight.
“Oh, babe. Is Aaron coming tomorrow?” she almost forgot to ask him.
“Yes, he’s very excited, too,” he replied. Andy said goodnight once more and walked through the French doors that led to the bedroom.
Greg piped up. “Aaron is the coach, right?”
Danae nodded. “He’s a brilliant coach, too. His plays are genius. No team can figure out what he will do next. It’s especially fun to watch, and I really don’t like football that much.”
Greg cocked his head. “Football?”
Danae laughed. “Yep. That’s what it’s called here. It’s the official pastime on the island, too. But don’t dare call it ‘soccer’. They will bite your head off!”
He laughed. “Got it.”
Clint looked at his watch. “Kitten, it’s after eleven. We should get the boys home. Shan will have us up early in the morning.”
“You’re right, Boo,” Darcey answered. She stood and hugged Danae. “Thank you for cooking such a fantastic meal. You outdid yourself.”
“My pleasure! Tomorrow, my life of the party will be here with me. He can’t wait!” Danae hugged both of them before they went to wake the boys. Clint ended up carrying Shan over his shoulder. “We’ll see you tomorrow! Happy Snowflake Day guys!”
Darcey blew kisses as they walked to their car, and Danae watched as they safely got in and drove away.
Greg walked to Danae and hugged her. “Thank you again for having me. This means everything—”
Danae put her finger over his lips. “We love having you here. You should get some rest. We have a long, exciting day ahead of us.” She kissed his cheek. “I love you, Greg.”
“I love you too, Nae.” He smiled at her and walked to his suite, tired but happy.
Danae tiptoed into their bedroom, and Andy was sound asleep. She undressed and slipped into bed with him, snuggling into his arms. Though he wanted her to wake him, she was content to fall asleep wrapped up with him. And she did just that.
Snowflake Day Morning…
Eamon tiptoed out of his bedroom and saw the lights sparkling on the tree, mountains of presents under it. His eyes lit up, filled with the wonder of childhood and expectation. He had never seen so many presents under the tree, not that he could remember in his five years. Excitedly, he ran to Elyse’s bedroom, but she was still asleep. So he did what any good five-year-old boy would do: he snuck into Danae and Andy’s bedroom, climbed on the bed with them and gave it a good jump or two.
“Mama! Daddy!” he squealed. “Father Winter came! Wake up! Wake up!”
Andy snorted quietly when he felt the bed bouncing. He and Danae were naked, wrapped up in one another, and he truly had no idea where the boy found room to jump. But there he was in the pajamas Danae had bought for him, ones that matched the pajamas she bought for the family to wear.
Eamon saw his jumpy petition was getting him nowhere, so he walked to where Andy pretended to sleep and wiggled his fingers with ticklish intentions. Andy was quick and snatched the boy’s hands, making him squeal with delight.
“What are you gonna do now, son?” he laughed as he grabbed the boy down on top of him. The ruckus woke Danae, along with a swift kick in the bladder, courtesy of Eamon’s little feet.
“Thanks, babe,” she said sarcastically. “You made him kick me.”
He belly laughed. “I’m sorry, honey.” He turned to Eamon. “Go wake Lysie and tell her Father Winter has been here. Mama and Daddy will be out in a few minutes, okay?”
“Yeah!” he squealed again, jumped down from the bed and they laughed as his little feet pattered to Elyse’s bedroom.
Danae got up and ran for the bathroom. “Curse you, Andy. I almost didn’t make it!” she huffed, laughing. All things considered, it was a great way to wake up.
“I’m sorry, love.” He got up to get dressed, but stood in the doorway to the bathroom before he did and struck a pose. “This is what you gave up last night by not waking me,” he teased.
She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, well, you were exhausted. You need your beauty rest.” She gave it right back, and he chased her. When he caught her, she turned around in his embrace and kissed him. “Get dressed. We have excited children waiting for us.”
You have an excited husband right now, he thought. “Dang it,” he said with feigned exasperation. “You, me, later. No exceptions this time!”
“Deal,” she smiled.
Danae walked to get Emmitt from his crib while Andy made coffee. The clock on the stove read 6:32 am. They let us sleep longer than I thought they would. Heavy footsteps descended the stairs, and a weak greeting left Greg’s lips. Danae could tell he wasn’t having a very good morning.
“Coffee, Greg?” she asked. “Andy is making a fresh pot as we speak.”
He groaned. “I’ll try.” A bottle of medication rattled in his pocket. “This first. It should help with the nausea. I forgot a glass of water when I went upstairs last night.”
“I’m going to get breakfast for the baby, and we can let the kids tear into stuff.” She turned to Greg. “I’ll make sure they leave a spot for you on the sofa.” He nodded, holding the wall on the step.
The family gathered around the tree, the excitement nearing peak capacity. Andy smiled at his two oldest. “Are you kids excited or what?”
“Please, Daddy!” Elyse begged.
“Wait until Greg gets settled in,” he said.
“They don’t have to wait for me,” Greg countered, smiling. “Let them open their gifts, for goodness sakes. Don’t you see they’re chomping at the bit?”
“Are you sure, hon?” Danae asked.
“Yeah, let them be kids.” He stood on the steps, trying to get his bearings.
Andy made the kids sit down for a minute or two, their eyes closed tightly, while he went into their bedroom closet and pulled out the two big gifts: brand new bicycles. He stood them up, their eyes still closed, and made them wait. Danae was wrapped in his arms, waiting for their reaction.
“Open your eyes,” Andy said, beaming with excitement.
“A bicycle!!” Elyse squealed. “Thank you, Mama and Daddy!”
“Oh yeah!” Eamon shouted. “Now you gotta teach me to ride it, Daddy!”
Danae walked to the kitchen to get coffee and a glass of water for Greg. “Thanks, Nae. I should be feeling better shortly,” he nodded as he swallowed two huge, bitter pills.
It didn’t take long for the kids to plow through the gifts, but one had Danae’s name on it. She and Andy had stopped exchanging gifts a couple of years ago, but he surprised her. She picked it up and shook it, trying to guess.
“Give it up, baby. You’ll never guess.” Greg stirred as he lounged on the sofa, Emmitt sleeping curled up in his arms.
“What is it?” she asked.
Andy belly laughed. “I guess you’ll have to open it to find out!”
She gave him a dirty look and chuckled. “Alright, alright. You win.” Carefully, she opened the paper wrapper, taking her time. She knew Andy was excited, and she took great joy in prolonging the anticipation.
“Oh come on, woman!” he joked. “Open it already!”
She smiled playfully at him. The paper covered a generic-looking brown box. The suspense was killing him. She peeked inside the box and dug through wads of tissue. And then she saw them.
“Diving fins?” she was shocked. “Does this mean—”
“Davy Jones Locker, baby. Just like you’ve always wanted.”
She jumped to her feet and pulled him up with superhuman strength, and hugged him. “I can’t believe this! Oh, Andy, you’ve outdone yourself yet again.” She kissed him tenderly. “Thank you!”
“You’re welcome, honey. Happy Snowflake Day.”
Danae gave him a knowing smile, and he winked at her.
Andy got the paper mess cleaned up while Danae worked on starting dinner. She was making a rib roast with everything. Most of the vegetables were from their extensive garden and were fresh picked. Everyone was due to arrive around noon, so there was plenty of time to cook and play with the kids before their company came.
Greg stood and stumbled. “I’m going to go back and rest awhile before Darcey and Clint come. Please don’t let me miss them.”
“Do you need help up the stairs?” she asked.
“I think I’m okay. But thank you.” He walked slowly to the steps and climbed them gingerly. Danae heard the door open and close quietly.
“Andy, we can’t let him go back home to die alone. Darcey and I are all he has.” She wiped a tear from her eyes.
He thought for a moment and nodded in agreement. “You’re right, Nae. If he has no insurance here, we’ll cover him. We have more than enough. Besides, Darcey can look in on him, too. There’s no reason for him to be alone, not now.”
She walked over to where he stood and embraced him. “I love you, Andy.”
“Oh baby, you have such a kind, generous heart. It’s one of your best features.” He kissed her tenderly. “I love you, too.”
“Should we tell him together now, or wait for Darce and Clint to come? I mean, if we’re volunteering her for this, she might want a say in it.”
“I think she would be hurt if we didn’t include her, baby. She adores him, too.” Andy was right. He usually was.
“It’s settled,” she nodded. “Before we wake him, we’ll talk to Darcey and Clint. He can stay here with us, since I’m always home. We might have to switch bedrooms with him, though, once he…” her voice trailed off into silence. She couldn’t bring herself to think it, never mind say it.
“I already thought of that. If we do, we do. No harm done.”
Danae smiled at him. “It’s my last gift to my Uncle Chris. He would be peaceful knowing Greg was surrounded by family.”
Andy gently rubbed her back. “This will be difficult. I know you know that, though.”
“I know. But I want to do this.” For the first time since he had told her the news, she felt peaceful, knowing she was doing exactly the right thing.
Shortly before noon, Aaron plowed through the front door, bearing a cooler with chilled wine and a bag of gifts, mostly for the children, but two were special. “Happy Snowflake Day!” he called in the foyer.
“Aaron! My brother,” Andy chirped. “Happy Snowflake Day, man.” Quietly, he whispered, “I see you have the goods.” Aaron nodded. “Just leave it under the tree and join us in the kitchen.”
Danae walked to Aaron and kissed his cheek. “Happy Snowflake Day, sweetie,” she greeted him.
“Miss Danae, the same to you.” He returned a hug and a peck on the cheek.
Andy was about to open a bottle of wine when Darcey called in the door. “We’re here!” she yelled.
“We’re in the kitchen, Darce. The kids are in the playroom upstairs, and Emmitt is taking a nap. He was a tired little munchkin this morning.” Shan and Noel scaled the steps in seconds, headed for the playroom.
“How’s Greg this morning, Nae?” she asked, looking around for him.
“He looked terrible this morning, so I hope a nap will refresh him a little.” Danae finished scooping coffee into the machine and started a fresh pot. “Andy and I want to talk to you about Greg, Darce.”
The four of them sat at the dining room table while Aaron changed into swim trunks. “What’s up?”
“I was thinking, with him not being well this morning Darce, I can’t let him go back to Starlight Shores to die alone. He has no one there. Layla left him, and Devin is worthless. Andy and I want him to stay here with us, until…”
Darcey understood. “I think that’s a fantastic idea, Danae.”
“In light of that, I have a huge favor to ask of you.”
Darcey nodded. “I know what you’re going to ask, and I’d love to.” She sighed. “I hate this for him, but I want to honor Mama and Uncle Chris. I will do anything you need for him, Nae.”
Danae hugged her sister. “It’s settled then. We’ll tell him in a bit.”
Danae padded up the steps to wake Greg for visiting. She knocked gently on the door, but he was napping, dressed in the pajamas she had given him. They matched the ones the family wore that morning. Aaron had promised he would take family photos with Greg in them. They were sure to be cherished for many years to come.
She walked into the suite and touched his shoulder gently. He startled awake, looking wide-eyed and frightened. “Gregory, it’s just me,” she said softly.
He shook his head and sat up. “I’m sorry, Nae. I must have really been asleep.”
“Are you feeling better?” she asked.
“A little. I have to accept that those pills won’t work forever.” He sighed. “I’m not looking forward to going back to snow. This place soothes my soul.”
Danae smiled. “Everyone is here. You can stay in your jammies. We’re all wearing them downstairs.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Together, as they walked down the steps, she steadied him.
“It smells great down here, Nae. Whatever you’re making, I can’t wait to try it.” Greg’s mouth was actually watering. He hadn’t eaten this well in months.
“Standing rib roast,” she boasted. Another of Charlotte’s recipes, though this one wasn’t prepared as often as the others.
Greg sat on the sofa, and they all gathered around him. Andy spoke. “Greg, Danae and I have a proposition for you, and I hope you will seriously consider it.”
“I’m listening,” he replied.
Danae spoke first. “I know you’re not getting better, Greg. And it breaks my heart to know that when you leave here, you’re going home to die alone. I’m not okay with that.”
“Well, I’m not okay with dying either, but I have no choice in the matter—”
“Let me put it this way. I’m not okay with you going home to be alone. You should have your family with you.”
“Yeah, but you guys are planted here. I can’t ask you to come back with me.”
“What if we asked you to stay here with us? Greg, let me and Darcey take care of you. Please don’t go back.”
“Wow. There’s so much to consider. Treatment plans, medication. My doctors know my case back home. I don’t know…”
“I can have your records sent here, Gregory,” Darcey assured him. “I can take care of everything you need easily. I make free house calls.” She grinned.
“But you have small children, Danae. I can’t impose on your time with them.”
“The two oldest go to private school during the day, and Emmitt naps most of the morning. I have nothing but time.” Her eyes pleaded with him.
Every objection he had was met with sound rebuttal, and he had no reason to say no. But he really didn’t want to object, and he was grateful for the offer. “Okay,” he nodded. “I’ll stay.”
The girls hugged him at the same time, making a Greg sandwich with twin bread. “The first order of business will be to switch bedrooms. Andy and I will take the upstairs suite, and you will have the master suite to yourself.”
“I don’t want to put you out of your bedroom, Nae.”
“It’s nothing. I don’t want to worry about you on the stairs. I’ll swap everything out tomorrow morning. I need to launder the bedding anyway.”
“I feel bad about this, Danae,” Greg protested.
“Don’t,” Andy countered. “We want to do this. Please let us.”
Greg’s eyes filled with tears. For the first time since he got sick, he felt at peace.
The family sat around the tree for the second time that morning, the kids thundered down the steps. With Emmitt snuggled up in Greg’s arms, Aaron sat on the floor, ready to hand out gifts to the kids. But he also handed one to Darcey and one to Clint.
“What is this?” Darcey asked. “I thought we agreed to get stuff for the kids only.”
“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Andy said. Oh, he knew alright. And they were going to love it.
Darcey gave him a stink eye. “I’m watching you, Murphy.” He stuck his tongue out at her.
Aaron watched Andy’s face as he tried to keep it straight. And he snorted at his best friend. Darcey and Clint opened the gifts together, and they were both surprised. “Oh my goodness! Andy!” Darcey almost cried as she inspected the gift: a home team manager’s jersey like the one he had purchased for Danae a year earlier. Each shirt had their name on the back. Darcey’s shirt read Dr. Darcey, and Clint’s had his first name.
“You guys are too much,” Clint remarked. “These are extraordinary.”
Danae beamed. “When you come to a game with us now, you’ll be dressed in style!”
“You knew about these, didn’t you Nae?” she asked, and Danae nodded. “This is so unexpected. Thank you both.”
“What, am I chopped liver?” Aaron teased.
Andy nodded his head. “I think that’s going to stick. Liver lips.”
Aaron laughed. “Bite me, Murphy.”
Dinner was cooked, served, eaten and cleaned up. The gifts were exchanged. Everyone had gone home. The children were tucked into bed, and Greg had retired for the evening. Danae and Andy had the house to themselves. So they curled up together on the sofa, thinking about the day. The holiday had gone much differently than he had planned when he booked Danae’s diving trip. He would need to reschedule the trip a little further out.
“A penny for your thoughts,” he said quietly as he ran his fingers through her hair.
“I’m just thinking of Greg. I think he had a good time with the kids today. I bet the pool felt good for him.”
“I bet so. Are you sure you’re up to caring for him, Nae? It’s going to be a big job for just two people.”
“Of course. He’s family, and I can’t turn my back on him now when he needs us the most. If he had a wife or a child, it would be different. I never guessed Layla would flake on him like that. They were almost good as married at one point. They’d been dating since high school.”
“Illness, especially terminal illness, can be rough on a relationship with no commitments. In a way, I see her point. She is young, too. I’m sure she wants kids someday soon. Greg couldn’t give her what she wanted.” Andy traced her arm and watched goosebumps form on her skin.
“Keep that up, mister, and I’ll ravage you right here on the couch,” she flirted.
“Promises,” he laughed.
She got up and took his hand, pulling him. “Come on.”
“What happened to the couch?”
“Just never mind and come on.” She led him to their bedroom and locked the door.
Two weeks after the holiday, Andy was getting ready for an away game in Bridgeport, and he would be away overnight. Greg was still feeling decent, even though his health was steadily declining. Darcey was over every day after work to care for him and assess his needs. Overall, she was happy that he seemed to be holding steady.
“Are you sure you’ll be okay home alone with Greg, honey?” He straightened his tie, running a bit late for his limo pickup.
“Of course. He’s doing okay, and Darcey is here. She’ll be over after work to check on him.” She walked to him and wrapped her arms around his waist. “I will miss you.”
“Oh honey, I always miss you when I’m gone. Sometimes, I hate my job, but it’s too much fun to truly hate it.” He kissed her tenderly. “Call me if something happens.”
She sighed. “Oh, believe me, I will. But he’s still doing okay. I don’t anticipate it, thankfully.” She pushed his hair behind his ear. “That looks better.”
Andy smiled. “The limo is outside, and I need to go.” He kissed her again, grabbed his bags and walked into the living room. “Come here, kids, I need to go. I need hugs and kisses!”
Elyse and Eamon ran to him and hugged him. “I’m gonna watch the game, Daddy,” Elyse said. She covered his face in kisses. “I’m gonna miss you.”
“I’ll miss you too, sweet pea,” he said. He hugged her tightly.
Eamon gave him a high five. “Good luck, Daddy!”
“Thanks, Champ. I’ll be home tomorrow night.” Danae held Emmitt, and he held his arms open for Andy’s attention. “Be a good boy for Mama, Emm.” He kissed the boy’s cheek, and the limo driver called the box. “I have to go. I love you, honey.” Andy kissed Danae one last time, picked up his bags and blew kisses to the kids as he walked from the house.
Greg had been watching the family from his wheelchair and he smiled. “Those kids love their father.”
Danae sat with Emmitt in her arms. “Yeah, they do. He adores them, too. It’s funny, Andy’s dad told me he didn’t want children until he met me. He also told us we make beautiful babies.”
“Andy’s dad sounded like a wise man.” Emmitt reached for Greg. “And I love this little boy. He’s become my snuggle buddy.”
Danae smiled at her cousin. “He knows where to get the good cuddles.” She looked around at the mess in the house and sighed. “Lysie, Eamon. Pick up your toys please,” she called to them. “I’m going to order in tonight. I do not feel like cooking.”
“That sounds like a good plan, Nae.” Greg relaxed in his chair, Emmitt snuggled into his arms.
Darcey knocked on the door lightly before she opened it and called for her sister. “Nae. I’m here!”
“Come on in,” she called back. “Greg’s in the living room with the baby.”
Darcey walked in and saw them, and her heart melted. “Isn’t that sweet?” she whispered.
Danae nodded. “Yeah, Emmitt loves him.”
Darcey laughed. “Emmitt loves everyone. That kid doesn’t know any strangers.”
“Don’t think that doesn’t terrify me, either! He’s fearless.” She walked to Emmitt and picked him up, kissed his cheek and set him down. “Sorry little man. Aunt Darcey needs to see Greg.”
When she was through checking him, she drew a few vials of blood and prepared to bring them back to work for testing. “You’re a good patient, Greg,” Darcey complimented him. “I’ve seen my share of combative people. You’re an angel.”
“I don’t figure I have much choice anymore, Darce. I’ve resigned myself to being poked and prodded for the rest of my life, however long it is. But I can tell you now, this is so much better than waiting to die in a hospital room. Thank you.”
Danae wiped a tear from her eyes. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Two weeks later…
A medical supply company brought in a hospital bed and placed it into Danae and Andy’s downstairs bedroom. Greg’s condition had deteriorated rapidly, and Darcey believed his time was short. She tried her best to keep the bedroom looking like a bedroom, and not a modified hospital room. She took personal time from work to help Danae, and be there to keep Greg comfortable.
Danae knew the end would be difficult, but with Andy and Darcey there to support her, she was doing okay. On this day, Greg had put in a long, painful day, and she wanted to sleep by his side, just in case. Darcey came in to check him briefly before going to bed.
“How are you feeling, Gregory?” she asked. “Your color is good.” In truth, it wasn’t. Dark circles formed under his eyes, and veins showed through his skin.
“I’ve been much better,” he joked weakly. “I have to admit, I love seeing pictures of the family. I’m so happy you have so many of them, Danae. It’s really great to see Dad again.”
“I knew you would love the photos,” she said. “I’m staying in here tonight, Greg. We can talk as long as you’re feeling up to it.”
He groaned in pain. “I don’t know how long, but I’d love that.” He motioned to Darcey. “When can I have something for pain, hon?”
“Anytime you want it,” she replied. “Now?”
He nodded and closed his eyes.
Darcey prepared an injection for him and administered it through his IV. A smile of relief crossed his face. “Thank you.”
“Any time, Gregory. That’s what I’m here for.” She leaned forward to kiss his forehead. His skin was cold and clammy.
Danae stood. “I’m going to say goodnight to Andy, and I’ll be right back.”
Andy just put Emmitt to bed, and Elyse and Eamon were already asleep when Danae caught him at the bottom of the stairs. “I’m going to stay with Greg tonight, babe.” She hugged him close. “I’ll come get you if…” she couldn’t say it.
Andy nodded. “I hope tonight isn’t the night, but I’m here for you if it is. I love you, Nae. Sweet dreams.”
“I love you, Andy. Sweet dreams.” She kissed him, and he turned to go upstairs.
Darcey was in with Greg when Danae walked back into the room. “The pain meds knocked him out, so he should sleep for a few hours in comfort. You know, you don’t have to stay with him, Nae.”
“I know, but I’m going to anyway.” She hugged her sister, pulled up a chair and rested her head on the bed, holding Greg’s hand.
A few hours later, Danae awakened. Greg was awake, stroking her hair gently. “Hi Nae,” he said quietly. “Would you get Darcey for me? I need pain medicine.”
“Of course,” she said, squeezing his hand. She stood and groaned. Her back was sore from sleeping bent over. Darcey was sound asleep on the sofa in the living room.
“Darce, wake up,” she gently nudged her. “Greg needs you.”
Darcey nodded and grabbed a pair of gloves from the bag that sat beside her. “I might as well check him over while I’m giving him meds.”
Greg smiled when he saw her, but Darcey turned pale when she saw him. He didn’t look good. “Oh honey, how are you feeling?”
“I’m dying, Darce. I need my family with me.” Danae turned and ran up the stairs, tears streaming down her face.
“Andy,” she nudged him. “Babe, I need you.”
“What’s wrong, honey?”
“Greg.” Sobs ripped through her body. “Please come with me.” He got dressed quickly and walked downstairs with her.
Darcey was sitting on the bed examining him when Danae and Andy got back. Greg smiled weakly at them as they entered the room. She sat in the chair that she had slept in, which was now against the wall. Andy knelt down next to her, comforting her.
Elyse woke, hearing the commotion and walked to the bedroom. Everyone was there, and though Danae wanted her to be able to say goodbye, she didn’t want either Elyse or Eamon in the room when he died. It would be too much for them to handle. “Lysie, get Eamon, sweetheart.”
They heard the pattering of her feet to Eamon’s room and they both returned quickly. “What’s wrong, Mama?” Eamon asked.
“Sweetheart, Greg is going to die soon, honey, and he wants to see you and Lysie.” Danae had talked with them at length about him, what was happening and why. Death wasn’t an unfamiliar concept for them.
Elyse only wanted to sit in Danae’s lap, while Eamon knelt beside Greg’s bedside, weeping. Darcey knelt on the other side of his bed, praying to whoever would listen that he would pass peacefully and painlessly.
Greg looked at Eamon and touched his face. “Hi, sweet boy,” he said weakly. “Can you do me a big favor?” Eamon nodded sadly. “I want you to take good care of your mama and Aunt Darcey for me. Can you do that?”
Danae choked on a sob. “Yes, I promise, Greg,” Eamon cried softly.
“That’s my good boy.” He motioned to Elyse, but she shook her head. “That’s okay, sweetheart,” he reassured her. “You stay with your mama. Make me the same promise? That you’ll take care of your mama and Aunt Darcey for me?” She nodded her head, and Danae hugged her. Hearing the exchange between Greg and his children grieved him, and Andy stood and leaned against the wall, hiding his emotions from him.
Danae kissed Elyse’s cheek and put her on the floor. “Come on, kids. I’ll tuck you back into bed.” She walked from the room, her babies both crying.
“Mama, what will happen when he dies?” Elyse asked.
“Well, his body will stop working, and he won’t be able to walk, or eat, or play with you anymore. You won’t be able to see him anymore. And sweet pea, it’s okay to miss him, and it’s okay to cry.” She kissed her daughter’s forehead and tucked her in. “Try to sleep, honey. You won’t have to go to school in the morning. I’ll excuse you.” She turned out the light. “I love you, Lysie.”
“I love you, Mama.”
Danae walked back to the room, and Darcey was kneeling by the bed, Greg was not awake. “It won’t be much longer,” she wept.
Andy was still leaning against the wall, weeping quietly. Danae hugged him and walked to Greg’s beside. Leaning over, she kissed his forehead. “Darce, he’s cold.”
Darcey took her stethoscope and listened. “His heartbeat is faint.” Danae knelt down on the side of the bed, and Andy sat in the chair behind her, his face in his hands.
“I don’t deal well with death,” Andy cried. “I’m sorry, Nae.”
“We will need each other tonight, babe.”
Greg awakened and opened his eyes. “I feel it coming for me. I don’t want to leave without telling you…” he coughed, “thank you, and I love you all…”
A chill ran down their spines, and the odor of death permeated the room quickly. The Reaper appeared in a cloud of thick, black fog and looked around. Danae looked it in the eye, and it seemed to remember her, nodding its head to her.
“Fly away, Greg,” she said. “Go to a place where there is no more pain. We will miss you.” Andy walked to her and gently touched her shoulder. The only sound in the room was weeping.
The Reaper swooped his scythe and Greg was gone. The apparition left as it appeared, in a cloud of thick, black fog.
And in a heartbeat, nothing was left of Gregory St John but a golden urn and his broken-hearted family.