G2 Chapter Five – Surprises, Stickiness, and Sea Scallops

Six Months Later

It had been fifteen months since Jeff and I broke up. Though I still thought of him and remembered with fondness the times we shared, I noticed the wound on my heart had healed. The vacancy his absence created in my life was slowly filling up with new interests, new friends, and different pursuits.

While unpacking what seemed a myriad of boxes settling into my new home, I discovered treasures I’d long forgotten. Mama’s recipe box—index cards covered with handwritten recipes, and the accompanying stains—was among my favorite finds. I spent weeks recreating some of the food she made ‌I loved. As I did, I made slight changes to some of the recipes, adding a new seasoning I’d discovered, or using a new technique I’d learned. I kept Mama’s original handwritten ones, but I bought new cards and added my creations to the box, too. One day, I pondered, my daughter or son may well be doing the same thing I’m doing with Mama’s recipes now. The thought of it made me smile. 

As I grew in my renewed faith, I started really reading through Daddy’s prayer book. Having something of his that was so deeply personal brought me back to his memory when I held it. I’d discovered little notes, and even doodles Daddy had made in the margins. Most times, they were idle thoughts and scribbles pertaining to his specific prayers, or his words of wisdom about faith, family and friendship. The worn leather cover smelled like the aftershave I remember him splashing on in the morning; the spicy, woodsy scent kept him closer to me in heart and mind. Little did I know that cover had another gift to give me. I just hadn’t discovered it yet.

Though an outsider would have thought me crazy—some days I would think their observations correct—I spoke with Daddy every night before I slept. I talked about my day, how my life was going, and, most importantly, I renewed the promises I made to him and Mama. When I’d told him everything I wanted to say, I ended my conversation with the same words; “I love you, I miss you, I’ll see you again someday.”

After Aunt Jenny’s letter saved my life, we reconnected via letters and phone calls. I was always so excited to see a letter from her in my mailbox; she had a knack of saying exactly what I needed to hear, and when I needed it most. In return, I’d send song lyrics and poems I’d written, some recipes I’d found that had been Grandma Farmer’s, or a snip or two of wisdom from Daddy’s prayer book. Her feedback on song lyrics helped me to polish them into much better versions, and while chatting on the phone, she’d hum the tune she envisioned to accompany the words. That was when I discovered my singing talent likely came from the Farmer side; Aunt Jenny had a beautiful voice. Mama couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. That isn’t to say she didn’t try, God bless her.

Jared was thrilled to have me back at the coffeehouse, so much so that he promoted me to assistant manager within my first week back. He was horrified to learn about the shady operation at Sing-A-Gram, but relieved that I left it in my past. My promotion brought a steady and decent income, plus the tips I earned on each shift. Yes, the position had longer hours and more responsibility, but I was honored to work with some of my best friends. I truly loved the atmosphere and closeness we had there at the Flying V.

I discovered, quite by accident, a chapel in the western hills of Starlight Shores and started attending. Walking into church that first Sunday felt like being home again. The pastor, Tim Cross, had the same vision as I did growing up in that little chapel back home. He was very approachable, as was the entire congregation; everyone I met was friendly, welcoming, and forgiving. Given the lifestyle I had just left, their unconditional acceptance amazed me. There was no judgment, only grace and warmth. 

I never realized how many believers lived in Starlight Shores until I found the chapel. Many of them were younger and, like me, career-minded and driven. A few of them had tried, without success, to break into the music business. When talented singers and musicians like them could fail, I realized how stacked the odds were against me. It didn’t matter, because my desire for fame, fortune, and everything that went with it faded away. What remained was a kinder, more compassionate version of me. I learned to love myself in a healthy way. I was someone everyone wanted to be with instead of the horrible person Jeff accurately described during our last fight.

It wasn’t long before I joined the choir at church and sang with them. There were only eight of us who would put in the time that the obligation required. Though everyone was friendly, I developed a strong, close friendship with a man my age named Stephen. He was one of many talented singers denied their opportunity for a music career. It was his failure that cemented my decision to abandon the dream that had brought me to the city almost three years before. We found closeness in our shared interests, though there was no romantic spark between us. I considered Stephen a male version of Polly.

The worship leader, Tanya, encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and lead worship. This would be my first time performing for anyone, with the spotlight on me, since I quit my job at Sing-A-Gram. Given my background at the chapel back home, I should have been comfortable with it. In reality, I was scared half to death. I wasn’t worthy to stand center stage after what I’d done. Stephen, however, had such faith in me, I agreed to it. In every way, he was a stunningly handsome man; blond hair, killer brown eyes that hid behind his dorky nerd glasses, a perpetual five o’clock shadow, with a tall, slender build. His wit was sharp and sometimes dry, but he always made me laugh. 

Stephen’s face lit up when he saw me walk through the door. He greeted me with a hug and a quick peck on the cheek. “There you are! I’m happy to see you didn’t chicken out!”

I chuckled at his wording; I might have been nervous, but I was no chicken. “Good morning, Stephen!” I wrapped my arms around him and returned the kiss. “You’re the one who should lead this morning. I’m not nearly as talented as you.”

Stephen huffed at me. “Nonsense! You’re a fine singer. I wish you would recognize that, Destiny.”

Well, I did. But after making terrible decisions for so long, my overall confidence took a tremendous hit. “Thank you.” We walked together into the green room; the room itself served multiple purposes, equipped with a full kitchen, sofa, makeup tables, and a coffee machine. I walked to the mirror to check my hair and makeup. “I can’t believe how nervous I am,” I said and held out my shaking hands. “This is unreal.” 

“Once you’re up there, it will all come back to you,” Stephen said. “I’ve seen you in ‘the zone’. It’s a sight to behold.”

“Oh, come on. I’m no better than everyone else here.” I shrugged and heaved a deep sigh. “I’ve been in some shady places in my past, Stephen. I don’t deserve to be on stage, much less leading worship.”

“I beg to differ.” He hugged my shoulders and placed a tender kiss on my forehead. “It doesn’t matter where you’ve been. It only matters where you’re going; I see you going places, Destiny.”

“I gave up that dream already.”

“But you shouldn’t have. Maybe you’ll find your dream when you aren’t seeking it. That’s how it usually goes.”

How did he get to be so wise at twenty-two? “You’re probably right. But I’m not counting on it.”

“Never count on anything, but be prepared to embrace your destiny.” He gave me a slight smile. “Why did your parents name you Destiny, anyway?”

I knew we didn’t have the time for the full story. The cliff-notes version would have to do. “I was their miracle baby, their legacy. My mama’s destiny.” As I spoke, Tanya flickered the lights; our time was short before the start of service. “The next time we catch supper together, I’ll tell you the long version.”

“It’s a date!” he said with a smile. “Are you ready? You’re going to crush this today.”

“I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.” He took my hand and squeezed it, kissed my cheek again, then led me to the door.

“Break a leg, Destiny.”

“Thank you.” I swallowed what remained of my confidence.

We walked into the sanctuary together. I took the lead spot, up front and center stage, with Stephen behind me on my left side, and Tanya, who was also a lead vocalist, behind me to my right. The others filled in around us. The band was poised and ready to play, and it was time to go. My mouth was dry, and I prayed that my first notes wouldn’t be raspy. I bit my tongue and made my mouth water a bit. There wasn’t much, but it was just enough to swallow before I sang the first words of a song I knew by heart.

My hand wrapped around the microphone, holding onto it for dear life. My heart was pounding in my chest. One last deep breath to soothe my anxious soul. The band played, and with the first words, I discovered ‌Stephen was right all along. I was ready for this, and I was at ease for the first time in years. What I had feared all at once felt natural. I could almost sense Daddy and Mama smiling down at me. The nervousness faded, and I was unstoppable, singing my heart out in worship.

When services were over, Stephen was the first person to approach me. He wore an ear-to-ear grin, his arms held open wide. 

“You did a fantastic job, Destiny!” he said. “I knew you’d hit a grand slam home run this morning.”

A what? I didn’t know what that even meant, but I was too embarrassed to ask him. “Thank you! It happened just like you said, Stephen. As soon as I started singing, I was home.” 

“I hate to be the one to say I told you so, but I told you so!” I nudged his arm with my shoulder and laughed along with him. Such a lovable brat. 

“I know, I know,” I giggled. “I’m glad you were right.” 

“Me too.” He glanced at his wristwatch. “Do you have plans this afternoon?” 

I shook my head and wrinkled my nose. “Nope. What do you have in mind?” 

“Let’s go for lunch. My treat. You know, to celebrate your victory today.” 

“Psh,” I said. 

“Don’t doubt me, Destiny. You’re going to get noticed one of these days. Talent like yours is begging to be seen.”

I tried not to roll my eyes. “You’re being much too kind.”

“Oh, stop!” Stephen scolded me playfully. “Just shush and let me take you for lunch. You can tell me the story of your name.” 

“Okay, you win.” He held his arm for me, and I entwined mine with his. Together, we left the chapel, headed for the diner on the strip.


The next morning, Jared was already at the coffeehouse when I turned my key in the door. He wasn’t scheduled until that afternoon, so his presence there was unexpected. He waved at me as I locked the door behind me.

“Good morning, Des,” he said. 

“Good morning, Jare. Aren’t you a bit early for your shift?” 

He nodded while he finished preparing his coffee. “Yeah, Evie is sick today. I’m covering her shift, and mine, too. I wish I could clone you.” 

I giggled at the suggestion. If only Daddy could have heard that. He and Mama always said they were glad I wasn’t a twin; they thought the world couldn’t handle two of me. “Well, if you need me to stay past my shift, let me know.” 

Jared started making another coffee drink. He already had his coffee, so I assumed he was making one for me. “I will, thanks. I need to find someone to fill your old spot. No one wants to wait tables at a coffeehouse, I guess.”

Though I could relate, I also couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. The coffeehouse wasn’t a career, but it paid the bills and allowed me to save a little every check. “Some struggling star will come in someday looking for work, just like I did.”

“I sure hope you’re right, Des. I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted to clone you.” He handed the paper cup to me; the beverage contained within was hot and foamy perfection! “I made your favorite.”

“Thank you, but you didn’t have to.” 

“I know, but I wanted to.”

My first sip of coffee was smooth and sweet. “Are you busy this weekend, Jare?” 

He paused for a moment while stirring his coffee. “I don’t think so. What’s up?” 

“I have my last bunch of drywall coming to finish the living room, and I was wondering if you’d come help?” 

“For you, Des, I’d do anything.” His smile, though familiar, seemed different as the words left his mouth. “I know Sunday is good for you, right?” 

I nodded. “Mmhmm. After church, of course. Maybe about noon? With the two of us, it shouldn’t take but a few hours. I’ll treat you to supper afterward, too.”

“It’s a date,” he said. A customer knocked on the door and pointed at his watch, drawing Jared’s attention. “Oh, shoot!” He jumped up and ran for the door. That was the end of our casual conversation. 

Right after the lunch rush, I was cleaning tables in the dining room. I volunteered to stay on and help Jared after my regular shift. It was a long day, but as the assistant manager, Jared expected me to put in extra hours when he needed me. We didn’t normally have much foot traffic in the early afternoon, but a group of people walked in, laughing and chattering. 

“Have a seat wherever you’d like,” I said when I greeted them. “I’ll be with you in just a moment.” 

A big concert was scheduled at the Hoi Polloi that evening, a classic rock and roll band on a reunion tour. I overheard the conversation at the table; the group was attending the concert and staying in town for a few days. Tourism was good for Starlight Shores. It helped bring revenue into shops that catered to working class folks like me, and not the snooty, ritzy restaurants and nightclubs that littered the Los Sueños Strip.

I nodded at Jared, letting him know I’d take the table of concert-goers. He continued to wipe down the counters and clean the coffee presses. I grabbed my pad from my apron pocket, but I wasn’t sure why. I didn’t need to write the orders. While I waited for the group to decide, I glanced at their faces. All six of them were men, maybe Aunt Jenny’s age, some a bit younger. 

Each of them ordered a coffee drink and a pastry from the case. As I was jotting their orders onto my notepad, I noticed one man staring at me. Suddenly, I regretted my decision to take this table; his relentless glower made me very uncomfortable.

“I’ll have your orders in a few moments,” I said and walked away. Jared must have noticed my troubled expression, because he was right there to question me.

“Are you having problems with that six-top?” 

I shook my head and turned my attention away from them. “Not a problem, but one of them is just staring at me. It’s a little awkward.” Jared cast his gaze in their direction, noticed the guy still fixated on me, and nodded once.

“Hmm, I see that. I’ll watch them,” he said while I prepared their coffee. I nodded in appreciation.

Jared retrieved the food items, and we carried the order to the table together. I knew why he insisted on helping me; he didn’t want a situation in his coffeehouse involving his friend.

I placed the orders on the table in front of them, one at a time. The table was long, and I couldn’t reach everyone from where I stood, so I walked to the other side, away from Jared. I leaned in front of the man who’d been watching my every move. His eyes moved from the table up to my name tag as I placed his espresso down in front of him. Jared walked to where I stood, anticipating trouble.

“Well, I’ll be…” the man finally said. “I can’t believe my eyes.” His voice quivered a bit. “If you aren’t just the spitting image of your mother.”

The hair on my neck stood on end. How did he know Mama? “I beg your pardon?” 

“You have to be her,” he said, his eyes not shifting despite Jared standing right there. “The hair, the eyes, the accent. Your name.”

My name? Okay, this is just creepy! I looked at his face, searching for something, anything, that would give me a clue about this mystery man—nothing. “I’m sorry. I don’t know who you are.”

In my peripheral vision, I saw Jared standing at the ready to protect me if I needed it. The man smiled at me and winked. “I used to call you ‘munchkin’. Maybe that will help?”

I squinted my eyes and looked closer. It couldn’t be… “Jason?” 

“You do remember!” he said with a cheerful smile. “Destiny, you look so much like your mother, it’s astonishing!” He stood and hugged me; I couldn’t believe it. Mama’s one-time boyfriend… Jason Matthews. 

I blushed. Being told I looked like Mama was a tremendous compliment. “Thank you. How have you been—” 

“Who is this pretty little lady?” One of his friends interrupted me, eyed me, and licked his lips. Jason shot a scowl at his leering friend, shaking his head.

“Remember me telling you about Fran, Will?” The friend nodded while Jason spoke. “This is her daughter, Destiny. She would have been my step-daughter in much different circumstances.”

“Oh, is she that red-headed hot mama you was talkin’ about…? Damn, Jason, how many years ago was that now?”

Red-headed hot mama? Is he kidding me? Jason saw my angry expression and interceded. “Cool it, Will. That’s her mother you’re talking about.” He turned to me. “How is she, by the way? How’s your dad?” 

With his question, my heart sank, though I should have expected it. I took a deep breath. “They’re both… gone.” 

Jason embraced me again and held me to his chest. “Oh, Destiny, I’m so sorry. What happened?” 

“Daddy had lymphoma. Mama died of cancer, too. I just don’t know what kind hers was. She passed away ‌suddenly…” I blinked back tears and swallowed the growing lump in my throat. “I still miss them so much.” 

Jason’s arms squeezed me tighter. “Well, of course you do.” He released me from his grip and looked into my eyes. “We’re in town for a few days after tonight’s concert. Please let me take you for dinner, so we can catch up?” 

Nodding, I smiled. “I’d really love that.”

That was about the time Jared spoke up. “Is everything okay here, Des?”

“It’s fine, Jare. This is my mama’s ex-boyfriend, Jason. And Jason, my boss, Jared.”

They didn’t do more than exchange a passing glance, each suspicious of the other. Jared finally decided to be the bigger man and extended his hand for a shake. “Nice to meet you, Jason.” 

“The honor is mine. You should know this little princess is important to me, even if I didn’t marry her mother.” His gentle hand on my shoulders was comforting, like a piece of ancient history reborn. “I never forgot you, munchkin. What are you doing in the city, anyway? I didn’t think you’d ever leave Appaloosa Plains.” 

“It’s a long story. I’ll tell you at supper.” 

Jason smiled and hugged my shoulders before sitting down again. “I can’t wait, Destiny.”

“Me, too.”


Two Nights Later

I gave Jason my address before he left the coffeehouse that day. He showed up at my front door dressed in a custom-tailored tuxedo, holding a bouquet of beautiful pink roses. 

“Hello, Princess!” he said. Pink roses were Mama’s favorite. His sweet gesture wasn’t lost on me. 

“Come in!” I greeted him and swung the door open. He handed the bouquet to me once he was inside. He shivered as the house’s warmth enveloped him. “It isn’t much, but it’s home.” Though it wasn’t perfect, the house looked miles better than it did when I moved in last year. With the last batch of materials, and Jared’s help to install everything this coming weekend, the house would be finished. Only the floors and painting would remain. 

Jason looked around and gawked at the furniture. I know he had to recognize some of it; the loveseat and end tables were ones he and Mama had purchased together. “What a lovely home you have, Destiny. Your folks would be so proud of you!”

I was in the kitchen fussing with the flowers. “Thank you! I’ve come a long way since they passed away. Sometimes I can’t believe all I’ve been through.” I placed the last rose in the vase, took the baby’s breath that remained in the paper, and arranged it so it looked pretty. “Where are you living now?”

“I’m back in Twinbrook. I bought a house and fixed it up, and I’m living there with my Aussie shepherd, Kota. It’s just me and him, two guys playing bachelor.” He held his arm for me. “Shall we?”

I nodded with a smile. “Of course!”

Despite my determination to not wear the gown Jeff had given me, I decided to that night. In reality, I had nothing else that was appropriate to wear. Fancy dresses and gowns weren’t exactly a priority for a girl working in a coffeehouse.

A ritzy new restaurant on the Los Sueños strip had opened up a few months before; that was where Jason decided we should spend some time getting reacquainted. It wasn’t exclusive, but it was more than I could afford, except for special occasions.

Jason guided me down the icy sidewalk to his rental car. I almost stopped in my tracks when I saw it; a shiny black Camaro, just like the yellow one Jeff had at school. He held the door for me and helped me in without incident, and then walked to the driver’s side. 

Ten minutes later, Jason pulled up in front of the restaurant—a bistro called The Tower—and allowed the valet to park the car. He led me inside the front door with a proud expression on his face. “I’ve heard only good things about this place,” he said as we stood at the host podium. “Matthews, six o’clock.” 

“Ah, yes Mr. Matthews. This way, please.” The host ushered us into the dining room and sat us near the window overlooking the park. “Your server, Kimberly, will be with you in just a moment.” The host spoke with an accent I didn’t recognize. It certainly was not from the mainland.

“Thank you,” Jason said, then turned his attention to me. He pulled the chair from under the table and held it for me while I sat. “Do you indulge in adult beverages from time to time, Destiny?”

“I haven’t in a while, but I wouldn’t mind a glass of semi-sweet wine.” 

Jason walked to the chair to my left and sat. “That sounds good. So, tell me how you came to live in the biggest little city in the north?”

“You remember the Bradfords, right?”

“Funny you should mention them. I haven’t seen them in a long time, but Sunny and Caleb still live in Twinbrook with Junior and Lisa. Sunny still makes award-winning pies and cakes for the fair. I always see them covered in ribbons and awards. She and Caleb have always been very kind to me.” 

“The last time I saw them was at Mama and Daddy’s funeral. They traveled all the way back home to pay their respects. I’d sure love to see them again, before they’re gone, too.” 

“Maybe someday you can drive over the pass to visit. I’d love that.” The server stopped at the table and introduced herself; Jason ordered a bottle of red moscato. “So, you were saying about the Bradfords?”

“Oh, yes! Well, Maya sang to me when she took care of me. She and Sunny encouraged me to sing, and I found out I was rather good at it. A long story short, I wanted to move here and become a singer. It’s a dream I’ve had since I was a little girl, and now, a dream abandoned. I have my degree in fine arts, though there isn’t much here I can do with it. Maybe I’ll take courses at the local college, because I don’t intend to work at the coffeehouse forever.”

“A singer? Really?” Jason smiled at me. “I bet you’re a fantastic singer, too.” 

I blushed. “If my success here is a sign, then no.”

“So, do you have a boyfriend? What about that dude from the coffee shop? He looks like he’s sweet for you.”

“Jared?” I laughed. “No, he’s my boss. I was engaged to the frontman of The Rock J Experience for a couple of years. We met in college, but it didn’t work out.”

“Bah,” he sneered. “That group is trash, anyway. What on Earth did you see in a grunge singer?”

“He swept me off my feet,” I said. “He was there after Mama and Daddy passed away, and he took care of me. At one point, I didn’t think I could live without him. I’ve found, though, I’m thriving on my own.” Kimberly returned to the table with the chilled wine, opened it, and poured two glasses; the half-full bottle of wine went into an ice bucket, then she walked away.

Jason picked up his glass of wine and swirled it. “This is a wonderful vintage. Flowery with notes of berry. Sweet, but not cloying.” We clinked our glasses together for a toast. “To you, Destiny. What a lovely young lady you’ve grown up to be, and I’m proud of you.”

I blushed again. “Cheers!”

“There’s no one you’re dating? I find that hard to believe.” 

“Nope. I have a few close friends here, but no boyfriends. It’s okay, though. I’d been attached to someone since I was sixteen. It feels good to be single for a while. A little lonely sometimes, but I’m busy with work and worship team practice.” I took a sip of wine. Jason was right; it was slightly sweet and refreshing, and I liked it. “What about you? Where did you go after you left the Plains? Do you have a special someone?” 

Jason sipped his glass of wine. “Well, you likely don’t remember the circumstances of how or why I left. You were so little. But when I left, I traveled around for a bit, like a drifter. I didn’t stay in one place too long, but I ended up in Twinbrook a year or so later. I found a good deal there on a small bachelor pad and fixed it up.” 

He took the last sip of his glass and set it down on the table. His expression and tone of voice were suddenly downcast. “Fran had a choice to make, and I ultimately drew the short stick. Your dad’s return home, while good for you and your mother, ruined my life.” Jason looked away, I guessed, to compose himself. A tear welled in his eyes; his pain was still palpable after all these years. “I never dated anyone after your mother, Destiny. She was my one true love, and it hurt like hell to have her slip through my fingers. Now, she’s gone forever.”

His voice quivered when he spoke of Mama. Jason was not a topic of discussion between Mama and Daddy, so I never learned the truth of his sudden departure. I didn’t realize Jason had been so hurt, and I felt bad for him. “I’m sorry. I can’t imagine.”

He took a deep breath and exhaled with a soft sigh. “Oh, it’s okay. Pain lessens over time, and gradually I accepted the reality of her choice. I have survived for seventeen years without her. You’re still here, though. I’m so glad we’ve reconnected, Destiny.”

“I am, too.”

Jason ordered meals for both of us; blackened Mahi for himself, and steak tips for me. We ate while we sat and reminisced. I had so much to tell him. Just one night of visiting would never be enough. But we talked, laughed, and yes, cried a little together. I had so much fun with him, I hated for the night to ‌end. 

It was almost midnight when he pulled up in front of the house. “I really loved spending time with you again, Destiny,” Jason said, and placed a soft kiss on my forehead. “This isn’t the last time we’ll see each other, I hope. I’m only two hours away if you ever need anything.”

I leaned toward him to give him a hug. “It would be so much fun driving to Twinbrook to see you and the Bradfords.”

“Anytime, munchkin,” he said with affection. “I love you, Destiny.” 

It was no surprise to discover I still loved him, too. He could have been my stepdad, after all. “I love you, too, Jason. Let’s not be strangers.”

“You bet.” He got out of the car and helped me out, walked me up the icy sidewalk, and got me inside the house. “Remember, just call me if you need anything at all. I’ll be here.” 

“I will.” I kissed his cheek and hugged him again. “Thank you for supper, and for all the fun times. I missed you.” 

He nodded. “I missed you, too. I’ll see you soon.” Jason turned to walk to his car. I stood in the front door and waved while I watched him get in, start the midnight black Camaro, and drive away.


That Saturday, the hardware store in town delivered the last batch of materials I’d need to finish the living room; it was the only room in the house that still needed major repairs. Electrical work had all been done, and the insulation was placed; all it needed was the drywall, crown molding, primer, and paint. All the supplies I’d ordered were placed into the garage for me. This was a job I would be happy to see finished, and I was fairly proud of myself for coming in under budget by doing most of the work myself, only hiring contractors for the tasks I couldn’t do or that required licensed work.

The next afternoon after church, I was in the garage inventorying supplies when I heard Jared knock loudly on the door, and yell “anyone home?” 

“I’m out in the garage, Jare! Come on in!” I shouted.

Jared’s footsteps made their way into the kitchen, where I heard the refrigerator door open and close, and then the sound of a heavy bucket on the concrete floor. “Hey, Des, I put some wine in the fridge for later and I brought the tools we need.”

“Oh, thanks, Jare.” I said as I opened the door between the garage and the kitchen and placed a paint can in front of it as a doorstop. “All the other stuff we need is out in the garage. Would you mind giving me a hand carrying in the drywall?”

“Your wish is my command,” he replied and flourished as we walked back out into the garage. Jared positioned himself on one end of a drywall sheet and had me at the other end. “Now, lift it with both hands from the bottom edge, Des,” he gently instructed, “and we can carry it in easier.” With Jared walking backwards, we carried the sheet into the living room with ease. The other ones were just as quick to tote into our work area.

The two of us labored side-by-side, Jared giving me pointers on the fine art of hanging drywall. He showed me how to match up the seams and put the screws in the right places while he finished with the seam tape, corner guards and mud; his steady, experienced hands, and his cool temperament, did a much better job than I ever could have. By the time we had the last piece in place, the sun was setting in the western sky.

Jared collected the tools he had brought as I swept the floor, drywall dust swirling in the long, orange sunbeams coming through the windows. We looked at one another and laughed; we were both ghosts, sweaty and—except for where our goggles and face masks had been—covered with that self-same white dust. 

“I never knew putting up walls was such dusty work,” I said, pulling my hair out of the ponytail I had worn all day and shaking more residue out of it. Jared seemed mesmerized, staring at me as the hair fell down around my shoulders. I poked him in the shoulder, waking him from his trance. “Earth to Jared, Earth to Jared…”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, sorry ‘bout that, Des. Yeah, yeah, it’s dusty work, but it’ll be even worse when I start sanding.”

“Oh, joy.” I replied, my eyes rolling back in my head. “You, uh, okay, Jare? You were kind of zoning out there…”

“Yeah, yeah. I’m, uh, fine. I was just thinking about— you know, never mind…” his voice faded to silence. As we walked into the kitchen, he ran his fingers through his hair, knocking out the excess dust. “Hey, do you mind if I use the extra shower upstairs? I’d love to clean up before we eat.”

“Um, yeah. You know where the towels are. Help yourself.” I grabbed my laptop and plopped on a nearby chair. “What are you in the mood for, Jare? Where should I order from?”

“Let me get dinner, Des. My treat.”

“But I promised—”

“I know what you promised. Just let me, okay?”

I huffed, feigning indignation. “Okay. If you insist.” I put my laptop on the kitchen counter and started walking toward the stairs. “I’m going to hop in the shower, too. Meet you back down here?” Jared nodded, his gaze meeting mine.

“It’s a date,” he grinned as we started up the steps.

About forty-five minutes later, I walked downstairs; it was mostly dark save for the light in the kitchen and a soft, orange glow coming from the living room. “Jare? Jared?” I called out, thinking he may still have been upstairs. I walked into the living room to find a thick blanket spread on the floor in front of the fireplace, now filled with a nice, roaring fire. A bucket from the garage sat on the floor, filled with snow and a wine bottle, wine glasses and a set of candles burning nearby completed the scene. How cozy, I thought to myself. Almost… oh no—romantic? The thought struck me and I felt a sudden knot form in my stomach. But… this… this was Jared, my friend, my boss. Surely, he wasn’t interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with me, especially with his strict ethics policy. It must be in my head. Right?

Right?!

“Well, you certainly look less dusty than you did an hour ago,” Jared said with a smile, stepping into the living room from the kitchen. 

“I’m sure I do. Man, that dust goes everywhere, doesn’t it?” I answered with a bright, cheerful grin, trying to fight back the growing nervousness I was feeling. We had both changed into clean, casual clothing; I had on a pair of loose yoga pants and a tank with my cozy slippers. I felt underdressed, and suddenly wished I had thrown on a sweater or cover up, but I didn’t think being around Jared in only a tank top would feel so… awkward. Jared was wearing some dressy sweats, an “A” shirt, and a zippered hoodie. His feet were bare, a brave undertaking considering the floor was concrete and the temperature outside was freezing.

“I feel so much better,” I said to Jared, attempting to ignore anything in the scenario that could be considered ‘romantic,’ yet my heart was racing like crazy. Act cool, Destiny. Breathe. All in my imagination…

“Dinner’s in the oven,” Jared said, seemingly oblivious to my inner turmoil. “I made something at home last night and snuck it into the fridge when I got here.” He smiled sheepishly. “It’ll be a little while. I just put it in a few minutes ago.” 

“Ooooo!! Bachelor cooking!! What did you make?” 

“Lasagna. It’s my Nana’s recipe. One of the first things I learned to cook, being a bachelor and all. My Mom always called it ‘Love Me Lasagna’ because it’s so good, it makes people fall in love.” He winked and smiled. The knot from my stomach made its way up to my throat. I gulped, hard, and hoped he didn’t notice. “We have some time to kill; would you like a glass of wine?” He gestured towards the blanket and the fireplace. 

“Sure, Jare, that sounds… great.” I tried to sound as enthusiastic as I could. “This is such a cozy little setup,” I continued as we walked toward the blanket. “You shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble.”

“No trouble at all, Des. I thought we just might have a little pre-housewarming housewarming.” He smiled and sat down on the blanket, patting a spot near the fireplace across from him. “Come sit.” Was he being truthful about the “housewarming” comment, I wondered, or had he seen that the scenario made me nervous as hell and was now just backpedaling? 

I took a seat on the blanket and inhaled a deep breath, trying to pretend I wasn’t flustered. Any romantic overtones—real or imagined—aside, the flicker and warmth of the fire generated sweet memories of home, making me forget the surroundings and the feelings that accompanied. Jared noticed my dreamy expression and returned his own charming smile.

“Hope you don’t frown on screw cap wine,” he grinned as he opened the bottle.

“No worries, Jare. I don’t even have a corkscrew yet!” I joked back. He picked up one glass and tipped the bottle; I could tell it was a red wine from the darkness as he poured it. He handed the glass to me. I swirled it gently, letting my mind drift as I watched the firelight play off the spinning liquid. 

“A penny for your thoughts,” he said, picking up his own glass and taking a sip. 

“Oh. The fire reminds me of home. It’s the first time this fireplace has been used since I’ve lived here. I haven’t really had one since I left Appaloosa Plains.”

“Tell me about Appaloosa Plains, Des. What was it like?” 

“It’s about as small a town as you can imagine. Only about five hundred lived there, so we all knew each other. It’s mostly agricultural, but there were some other industries as well, mostly to serve the Army base where Daddy was stationed all his life. We lived on a farm with a half-acre garden plot. It’s amazing how much produce Mama and Daddy grew in such a limited space, and how it sustained us through some pretty harsh times.”

“So you were born and raised there, right? And your parents, I imagine, lived there all their lives, too? Married for forty years, I believe you told me one time. So where does that Jason guy from the shop come into the picture?”

“Jason… yeah, that’s a little complicated. Daddy served in the big war; he deployed when I was maybe a couple of years old. The Army declared him dead after his plane went down during a botched mission and they couldn’t find him, or a body, during recon. He survived, though, and wound up living in a little village not too far from the crash site. Shows you how hard the Army looked for him, yes? It’s a much longer story than I’m telling, but in short, during the time Mama thought he was dead—about eighteen months—she met and dated Jason. The two of them hit it off and fell in love. Then, Daddy came home.” 

My thoughts drifted back to the conversation I’d had with Jason and how much he’d been hurt. “Mama had to choose between her soulmate, and the man who loved and supported her when her life was crumbling; she loved them both. It was an impossible decision, because she knew the one she rejected would be devastated. Mama didn’t enjoy wounding people she loved.”

Jared sat his wineglass on the floor behind him and leaned back on his hands. “I would’ve loved talking to your dad about his travels. I’m a bit of a history buff, particularly military history, but I sure don’t recall reading about that story.” 

“I don’t think it was the kind of story the military wanted in the history books,” I smiled, then took another sip of the wine. It differed from anything I’d had; slightly dry, but not cottony, and I found I enjoyed it. It had just enough kick to give me a warm feeling inside. “Daddy had much to talk about, that’s for sure. Not everything was good, but he still found something uplifting in every tale he told. He was a man of incredible faith.” Jared studied my face intensely as I talked about home, his attention riveted by my words.

“This is the first time we’ve really talked about your hometown, Des. I’m so intrigued. Appaloosa Plains sounds like it was a great place to grow up. Me? I was born and raised here in ‘fabulous’ Starlight Shores. It might seem like an exciting place to the outside world, but nothing exciting has ever happened to me here.” 

“Nothing? Really? Nothing? Come on, something fun must have happened in your life. I bet you played football or basketball or something in school and drove the girls crazy, didn’t you? Don’t be shy, tell me about your girlfriends. After all, you know all about Jeff.”

Jared blushed and broke eye contact with me, but not before I saw—something—dance across his face. “Me? A high school jock? Nope, not at all. The only extracurricular stuff I was involved in was the Chess Club. Didn’t do much dating in high school.” He paused for a moment. “As a matter of fact, I don’t think I did ANY dating in high school. I didn’t really have my first ‘girlfriend’ until the summer after graduation, and that was ten years ago. I’m not really a ‘ladies’ man’, Des, and certainly not what most women call attractive.”

“Oh, I don’t think that’s true, Jare. You’re a cutie pie! I know I would’ve dated you—” Did I just say that out loud? It was the worst thing I could have uttered.

Despite the darkness in the room, save for the firelight, I saw Jared blush a deep shade of red. “Well, thank you, Des. I think, outside of my aunts, that’s the first time anyone’s ever called me ‘cute’.”

My mind raced for an appropriate reply. I didn’t want to lead him on. “You’re welcome,” was all I could stutter. We sat in silence and stared at each other for what felt like an eternity. I took a long sip of wine, hoping a slight buzz would break the awkwardness. 

“I-I’m gonna go check on the lasagna,” Jared said, getting up from the blanket, definitely ending the tension. He stood, straightened his pants, then walked into the kitchen. I sat on the blanket, my face buried in my hands. What the heck was I doing? What did I want? The line between friend, boyfriend, and boss seemed to get blurrier by the moment. I took another hit of the wine, a gulp this time as opposed to a sip. I got up off the blanket and padded towards the kitchen. 

“It sure smells good,” I called to him. No answer. Beads of sweat formed on my forehead; I was unsure if it was the fireplace, the wine, or the situation that made me feel warm. “Jare…?”

He popped in front of me as I entered the kitchen, his face still ‌red. Had I embarrassed him that much? “Sorry, I had my head in the oven. Had to get the tin foil off so it could finish heating. I hope it tastes as good as it smells.” His answers conveyed no apparent discomfort.

“Jare…” I said with hesitation.

“Des…?” My name on his lips came quickly, with anticipation and maybe a bit of longing. Or was I hearing only what I wanted to hear? 

“I’m sorry if I made things awkward. I didn’t me—”

“Look, don’t worry. I’m not used to compliments, and I never know what to think. It isn’t you.” 

I bit my lip. “I just don’t want things to be weird between us, seeing as we work together. You know?” 

Jared nodded. “That’s one of the biggest disadvantages of owning that shop. Anyone I meet ‌I might have feelings for, I won’t pursue. I’ve let a few special ladies slip through my fingers, not that I ever had a chance with you, anyway.” 

My heart fluttered. Did I hear him right? “What?” 

“Huh?” he said. 

“What did you just say?” 

“Which part?” I wasn’t sure if he didn’t realize what he’d said, or if he was playing dumb.

“The part about letting women slip through your fingers.” 

“Oh, that. Yeah, I never had a chance with them, anyway. I don’t know why I even get my hopes up anymore. It isn’t as though I ever find, or deserve, something good.” His statements were self-deprecating, something I recognized in him as insecurity. “Why, Des? What did you think I said?” 

I shook my head. Perhaps I misunderstood him. “Nothing. It was nothing.” 

“You know, I cherish what we have together.”

“What is it we have, Jare?” I hung on his every word, not sure what I wanted to hear.

He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. So much hung on his reply. “We’re friends. Close friends, Destiny, and nothing more.” There was melancholy in his expression, in his voice. He meant me, after all.

I reached for his hand; his fingers closed around mine as he squeezed his eyes shut. It was as though he knew my next words already, and he was bracing for them. “You can count on my friendship, Jared. I’ll always be here for you.”

There was a brief wince of pain on his face. “Thanks, Des.” He poured another glass of wine from the bottle and offered to fill mine, too. “Our friendship means much more to me than a night of passion. I want nothing to change with us… you know?”

“I do.” I took another sip of wine. “What would I do without you, Jare? You have been the one constant in my life since I’ve lived in the Shores. Please don’t underestimate how much I need you.”

“I need you, too. You’re the best friend I’ve ever had.”

Now I was the one blushing.

An hour later, supper was ready. Jared made himself right at home in my kitchen, and I was glad he did, too. He was at the house so often, it felt right to see him here. Everything smelled good. I couldn’t wait to try it.

We both sat on the blanket by the fire; in my lap, I had a plate of the best lasagna I’ve ever tasted. Jared took my hand in his. “Do you want to pray, Des? I don’t mind.” 

It was the first time he’d ever suggested it; I was touched beyond measure. “I’d love it, Jare.” He bowed his head with me as I whispered a short, simple blessing over us. 

When it was time for him to leave, Jared left the lasagna for me to enjoy. He’d been there all day, and we both had to work at the coffeehouse the next morning. I walked him to the door. Though supper was friendly, there was still awkward tension between us. 

“Thank you for all your help today,” I said. “I couldn’t have done it without you.” 

“As always, it was my pleasure.” He took my hands in his and looked into my eyes. “Thank you for your company, Des.” He leaned forward and kissed my forehead. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning.” 

My eyes closed, relishing the tenderness of the moment. I almost hated to see him go. “Yes, you will.”

“Goodnight.” Jared stood at the door, hesitating. Please go? I thought. Please go before I do something stupid… Finally, he twisted the knob. The door swung open; with it came an icy blast, and a sense of profound relief.

“Goodnight, Jare.” He gave a half-wave; I stood in the doorway, watching him walk down the sidewalk to his car.

I hated when my emotions played with me, when they made me believe I wanted something I really didn’t. The door closed, and I leaned against it, so confused. I growled a frustrated groan which echoed through the entire house. Two and a half years in Starlight Shores, and I was still alone. 

The fireplace had long since burned out. I turned the lights out in the kitchen, plodded up the steps to my bedroom, and collapsed on the bed. I was so lonely it made me ache, but I was sure I didn’t want a boyfriend. At least, not yet. I kicked my slippers off my feet, pulled the covers up over my head, and wept until I fell asleep.


A few nights later, I dragged myself into the house after a double shift at the coffeehouse. I was dog tired, and all I wanted was to sleep. My shoes came off at the door, then I trudged up the steps to my bedroom. On the way, I turned on the television, which hung on the only free wall upstairs. 

The entertainment news from Bridgeport blared from the set while I undressed for bed. It was just noise until I heard the name Jeffery Dean; that caught my undivided attention. I sprinted from my bedroom and collapsed in Daddy’s old recliner, dumbstruck by the image on the screen, and the news anchor’s report:

Breaking news. Jeffery Dean, frontman for the popular grunge band, The Rock J Experience, is engaged to his longtime girlfriend and Experience bassist, Valerie Jennings. The couple, shown here in Bridgeport last weekend, finished their year-long nationwide tour with Acidic Tides last November. A June wedding is planned in Dean’s hometown of Sunset Valley…

I turned the television off, slumped over in the chair. Longtime girlfriend? Valerie?! Was she the real reason behind our break up? No… it couldn’t be! I felt the ache in my chest, the sensation of suffocating, when I realized I wasn’t breathing. A sharp inhalation broke the stark silence the television had created. Tears streamed down my face, but I wasn’t sure why. Jeff and I had separated well over a year ago. I shouldn’t still hurt like this, should I? All this pain certainly wasn’t helping the loneliness.

My phone rang and startled me; Stephen’s number was on the Caller ID. Drat! I was supposed to meet him for supper. I took a deep breath and answered the phone. 

“Hello?” Despite trying to hide my trembling voice, it came through with my greeting.

“Hi, Destiny! Are we still on for—” His normally friendly and peppy greeting was replaced with concern and care. “What’s the matter, sweetheart? Have you been crying?”

Stephen was always so shrewd. “Guilty. Have you seen the news from Bridgeport?”

“No, I haven’t. What’s wrong?”

“It’s Jeff…” Even though it was Stephen, I still couldn’t tell him without tears. “He’s getting married. I just saw it on television.”

“I’m so sorry, Destiny. What can I do to help?” 

I sniffled into the phone. “Can I take a raincheck for supper tonight, Stephen? I’m sorry.” 

“Maybe you shouldn’t be alone tonight, sweetheart. Let me come pick you up, and we’ll go for dinner as we planned. Please?”

“Are you sure? I don’t want to ruin your evening, too.” 

“Of course, I’m sure, Destiny. That’s what friends are for.”

“Give me about twenty minutes? I need to get cleaned up a bit.” As much as I didn’t feel like being social, maybe Stephen was right.

“I’ll just let myself in,” he said. I gave him a key to the house after I locked myself out one nightmarish evening. It was an event I didn’t care to repeat.

“Sounds good,” I replied and hung up the phone.

Forty minutes later, I walked down my stairs to Stephen’s bright, friendly smile. “You’re late,” he teased. “But the wait was worth it. You look beautiful.” 

I blushed. “Thank you.” He took my hand and led me from the house to his car.

He drove us to a small, informal restaurant off the Los Sueños strip near the Hoi Polloi. We had been there many times before; it was one of the few places in town where folks could relax without celebrities hanging around. 

The restaurant was a quaint Italian pizzeria decorated in rustic tones, red checkered tablecloths, sheer white window linens, and terrazzo tiles on the floor. There was a separate lounge with a karaoke stage, and a bar stocked with liquor and beer on tap. In the middle of the dining room, a small dance floor sat. Though there were few customers there that night, during the weekend, the lines to get in stretched around the building. It was a very trendy hangout among the working-class residents of Starlight Shores. 

The host sat us at a small table near the window overlooking the Hoi Polloi. The waiter, a young man who introduced himself as Cyrus, took our drink order—sweet tea for me, and a pop for Stephen—and left us to peruse the menu. He smiled at me and took my hand. 

“So, tell me, what had you so upset? I know it involved that self-important sea scallop.”

That self-important sea scallop? I giggled a little more than I should have, much to Stephen’s delight. His refusal to address Jeff by his name often brought unique, humorous, and sometimes colorful descriptions of him. “Well, you know the history I have with Jeff. It isn’t like I wanted him to be alone forever; I should be happy he’s found someone new. But he said he’d never be involved with another woman after what I did to him.”

“What YOU did to HIM? Oh please. Sweetheart, if anyone suffered in that relationship, it was you. He seems like he’s doing just fine.”

“That’s what he told me. Looking back, I think it was more a guilt trip than anything else.” Stephen nodded in agreement. “So, I should backtrack a bit to the part where he had a female band member, but he neglected to tell me about her. I learned about her on his graduation day. I was so angry.” 

“Rightfully so, in my honest opinion. Why didn’t he mention her, do you think?” 

I sighed. “Well, seeing how they’re engaged to be married now, I think it’s pretty obvious he was playing me long before we broke up. I see now how our marriage would have ended, and it wouldn’t have been pretty. Almost everything he accused me of doing, he was doing to me.”

“Ah yes, projection. Destiny, the scallop sounds like a grade A narcissist—” The waiter interrupted him. Cyrus placed our drinks on the table and waited for our food order, but neither of us had peeked at the menu, much less decided. “Can we have a few more minutes?” Stephen asked.

“Take your time, sir. I’ll be back to check on you shortly.” Cyrus bowed and walked away.

Stephen turned his attention back to me. “I know it hurts you to realize that idiot is moving on. But maybe it’s better this way.” 

A light bulb lit in my head with his utterance of those words. “Maybe it’s better this way…” I repeated, deep in thought. 

Stephen recognized the look on my face. “I just gave you an idea, didn’t I?” 

“You did. I need to write this down before it’s gone.” I pulled my journal from my purse—I always had one with me for such an occasion—but I couldn’t find my pen, of course. Drat! I feverishly looked through my bag for a pen and discovered one hiding in the depths of the black abyss. “Found it!” I declared, holding the slender, silver trophy in my hand.

I spent the next ten minutes writing the words to a song. They poured out of my soul and into my notebook with so little effort. When I was finished, I could barely read the chicken scratch—I’d apparently inherited Daddy’s atrocious penmanship—but my thoughts were there, saved until I could get home. Stephen read the words as I wrote them, nodding his approval. 

“Where did THAT come from?” he asked, wearing a grin. “That is sheer brilliance!” 

“That was your inspiration,” I said. “Thank you.”

*****

The next morning, the temperature was freezing outside. My breath puffed from my mouth in steamy plumes as I opened the coffee shop to begin my shift. That was when I noticed her; a skinny, dirty little cat meowed and caught my attention. She walked to me and rubbed against my ankles. I reached down to pet her; for a stray cat, she was friendly but obviously neglected and starving.

“Hello there,” I said to her. “You look like you could stand to eat, little one.” I reached down to pick her up. She didn’t fight me at all. “You poor little thing.” She purred as I carried her into the employee break room. Jared came in two minutes later. 

“I see you’ve met Poppy,” he said. “She’s been hanging around the shop for the last couple of days. I’ve been giving her some of the food that doesn’t sell. She seems to like the orange poppyseed muffins, which is why I started calling her Poppy. I can’t bring her home because my landlord won’t allow a pet. It breaks my heart.” 

“You’ve named her, Jare?” I brought a saucer down from the cabinet and filled it with some cream. I knew dairy wasn’t the best food for her, but it sure beat a poppyseed muffin. “It sounds like you’re already attached.”

He reached to scratch the cat’s head. “Well, I hate to see her in such terrible shape. Sometimes, I really dislike people. Who does that to an animal?”

The cat lapped at the milk I set down for her, purring all the while. I never got attached to the barn cats we had on the farm back home, but this cat was different. She had obviously been someone’s pet—a cat used to being cared for and loved—not a feral barn mouser. That she’d been neglected for this long tugged at my heartstrings. “She needs a suitable home, someone to love and care for her. Maybe I’ll bring her home with me today, since you can’t take her. I could sure use some company, too.”

Jared smiled. “I agree, and I think it’s a great idea.” 

Mama told me frequently about a barn cat she had as a child, one that used to sleep on her bed in the winter. Snugglebugg, as Mama named her, was more a pet than a barn cat, one that she spoke of often with fondness. I always wondered why she never took in a pet from the tamer barn cats. Perhaps she had too much to worry about with keeping the farm out of the red. At least in the barn, the cats had their fill of small vermin, and never went hungry. 

Poppy was on my mind as I worked my shift that morning. We let her out back into the fenced yard behind the coffeehouse, since the county ordinance prohibited her being inside. I had an old beach blanket in my car’s trunk. I lined a box with it and set it by the door for her as a temporary shelter. When my shift was over, Poppy was outside the door, pawing at it and yowling. Seeing her like that confirmed I was making the right decision. I hung my apron up in the break room and collected my purse. 

“Are you bringing Poppy home, Des?” Jared sat sipping a cup of coffee, keeping an eye out for Evangeline. She and a new hire would work the afternoon-to-close shift.

I nodded. “Mmhmm. First, a stop at the vet, and then the pet store. I need some things for her before I bring her home.” She rubbed against my ankles again, mewing. “You poor little thing,” I said as I scooped her up into my arms. She snuggled close to me, curled up inside my winter jacket. “Let’s go home.” 

The vet determined ‌Poppy was twelve to thirteen years old, about two pounds underweight with an upper respiratory infection. Dr. Hughes said that although she was ‌scrawny, her condition wasn’t dire. He gave her a shot of antibiotics, some subcutaneous fluid, and worm medication, just to be on the safe side. I’d bring her back at a later time for a normal exam and shots. At the pet store, I bought a new litter box, two different kinds of food, toys, and a warm, fluffy bed. She slept tucked inside my jacket while I walked around the store, shopping for the things I needed. 

How this poor cat survived outside in the harsh winter weather was beyond me, but she wouldn’t have to brave sub-zero temperatures and be hungry anymore. I talked to her while I opened a can of food, and she returned the conversation in meows and trills. She finally got to eat an appropriate meal instead of scraps that Jared fed her from the coffeehouse. Poppy devoured everything I gave her and drank a long time from the bowl I filled with fresh water. 

It took no time at all to fall in love with this sweet, affectionate little cat. Someone’s loss was definitely my gain. The living room was chilly, so I lit a fire in the hearth, and then sat in Daddy’s old recliner. Poppy took her place in my lap, settling down to bathe herself. She walked onto my chest and curled up there. We dozed off together in the early evening, curled up like old friends.


By spring, Poppy had filled out; her coat looked shiny and healthy, and her ribs weren’t visible anymore. She had energy like a young cat and was extremely friendly. And though she’d spent a good amount of time outside, she seemed to prefer the indoors. In every way, Poppy was content, and frankly, so was I.

Having Poppy to care for filled a need I didn’t realize I had; her constant companionship. And though I wasn’t ready for another romantic relationship, I was lonely. Friends couldn’t fill the void that Poppy did. She slept on my bed every night, greeted me at the door when I came home from work, and listened to my troubles without judgment. I needed Poppy, and she needed me.

I sat on the floor in the living room, enjoying the cool breeze from an open window. Poppy played with a toy nearby while I strummed my guitar. A knock sounded at the door; I was expecting Stephen to stop by.

“Come in!” I called out. Stephen stepped inside, greeted by my furry welcoming committee.

“Hi Poppy,” he said, reaching down to scratch her head. “Are you taking good care of our girl?” 

I smiled. “She is.” Her musical trills always warmed my heart; she was too darned cute. I set my guitar on its stand and stood up for a hug. “You’re just in time! I’m almost done with this song.” 

“Is this the one you started writing at the pizza place?” 

I nodded with a smile. “I think it could be a hit for someone.” 

“What about you? Why don’t you record it, Destiny?”

“I can’t afford studio time on a barista’s salary, Stephen. But believe me, I’d love to.” 

“What if I could make that happen? I know a few people in high places.” 

I felt uneasy, and I started making excuses. “I… I don’t have a band, or anything like that.”

“Why not do an acoustic demo? That’s all the rage these days. Everyone is remaking their big hits as acoustics.”

While what he said was true, those artists actually had established careers. No one outside the coffeehouse knew my name. “I-I don’t know…”

He put his hands on my shoulders and looked straight into my eyes. “What are you waiting for? Destiny, the world needs to hear you. You’re much more talented than you give yourself credit for, and that’s the biggest waste.”

I shook my head and stepped away from him. “I will not record it, Stephen, but I’d still like for you to hear it. The musical arrangement is almost finished, and I’d like your opinion.”

“Of course.” He came in and sat on the loveseat; Poppy jumped into his lap and settled down, demanding his attention. Stephen was all too happy to oblige her. I pulled up a chair, took my guitar, and settled down to play.

“This is still a work in progress, but the lyrics are finished. The name is Maybe It’s Better This Way.” A smile crossed Stephen’s face.

He stroked Poppy’s fur while I plucked the strings on the guitar, playing the opening of my new song. I got through the first verse and the chorus and stopped. In my peripheral vision, I noticed ‌Stephen had his eyes closed, his jaw clenched, and I detected the slightest sniffle as he choked back tears. 

“What do you think?” 

His eyes opened; the tears he’d been trying to hold dripped down his cheek. He wiped them away and tried to collect himself. Apparently, the song had hit a raw nerve, but it was just the reaction I’d hoped for. Finally, he shook his head and took a breath. 

“That song is so moving, Destiny. If you were trying to convey heartache and despair, you killed it.” 

A smile pulled across my face. “That’s exactly what I was trying to say.”

“Mission accomplished.”

“This song came from a deeply personal place. In a way, it’s helped to bring some needed closure.”

“Are you certain you don’t want to record that song, Destiny? It could be your first big hit.” 

I shrugged my shoulders. “It will be a hit for someone. I doubt it will be me, though. I gave up that dream, remember?”

“I’m telling you Destiny, you are going to be discovered. I don’t know when, and I don’t know where. But someday, the stars will align, and you’ll become one of them.” 

For months, I told myself I’d be content being a songwriter, making other people famous with my lyrics and allowing other vocalists to live my dream. But Stephen’s encouragement was reigniting a passion I thought had died—the longing I’d moved to the city to satiate.

That night, as I knelt beside my bed, I talked to Daddy like I did almost every night. This time, it felt different. I needed a sign, something that would tell me what to do. 

Daddy, I know you’ve heard my new song. I wish so much that you were here to tell me what you think, which direction I should go. I’m not content working at the coffeehouse, even though it’s a reliable income. Daddy, I want more. I want to pursue my childhood dreams. But it’s so hard here, I don’t know what to do. Please send me a sign that you hear me. You were always so wise, and I’d love your advice. I’ll wait for your timing, because I know you’ll send the answer I need. I will love you and Mama forever. Please tell her I said hi.

As I set his prayer book on my nightstand, an old, tattered piece of paper fell from its pages. I don’t know where it came from; I thought I’d been through that book cover to cover. The paper looked like it had been torn from a book, perhaps part of a journal. Maybe this was the missing page from his travel journal Mama always wondered about? With trembling hands, I reached for the paper and unfolded it. 

I don’t know how long I’ve been living in the village, about two to three months, by my best guess. My leg is still painful to bear weight, but I suppose it’s as good as it’s going to get. And as much I love it here, I’m desperate for home. I hunger for your arms around me, darling Frannie. I long to hear our daughter’s voice say, “Daddy,” one more time. Every day, I wrestle with making the journey home, because I know it will be on foot should I ever attempt it. I don’t look forward to it; the physical pain would be excruciating. Not having you and Destiny in my life, however, would be more than my aching heart could bear.

I have written most of this journal to you, sweetheart. Allow me, for a moment, to talk to our precious baby girl?

My breath caught in my throat, and goosebumps rose ‌on my skin. My hands went from a slight tremble to a full shake. I swallowed hard and continued to read.

Destiny, my sweet princess, how I miss your little voice and giggles. I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again, or watch you grow into the beautiful young woman I know you’ll become. So, if I never make it home, there are a few things I want to tell you.

If you’re like your mama, you’ll have a tender heart, sacrificing yourself for those you love and cherish. You’ll be a hard worker, and you’ll succeed in anything you do. Your family, friends, and everyone around you will gravitate toward you, much like they do with your mama. Her never-say-die attitude will be yours. You’ll be loved so deeply, you will never fail. I would be happy to see this come to pass for you.

But if you’re anything like your old man, you’ll want to do big things with your life. You won’t be content to stay in one place for long, and your dreams will be larger than life. I want to encourage you, Destiny, to do the things you dream of, because you know you’ll never be happy with anything less. Reach for the stars, my baby girl, and become one of them. 

A lone, salty tear dripped from my eyes and splattered on the note I held in my hand. How could he have known all those years ago what my ambitions would be? Wasn’t this the exact thing Stephen had told me? An eerie chill swept across my body; I wiped the droplet from the page and continued to read his words.

Finally, stay true to your faith, because if your mama raises you well, you will be a woman of great faith, just like her. Pray often, and love deeply. Follow the narrow path set before you, and He will never let you down. Put your trust in Him, and He will guide you. It is because of His grace and mercy that I still live. 

If my circumstances keep me from returning home, I hope you’ll forgive me. Know, Destiny, that I will never forget you. You and your mama will be forever in my heart, and always on my mind. Be well and do good in your life. I will see you again someday. If not while we live, then in heaven. I will love you and your mama forever. 

Hugs and kisses,

Daddy.

This was not the first time I’d gotten confirmation that I needed from Daddy, but it was the first time it had happened so quickly. So quickly, in fact, that I sat in stunned disbelief for a moment. His words were the warm hug I yearned for, and the gentle encouragement I sought. Peaceful tranquility washed over me; I knew exactly what path I should take. I wiped tears from my eyes, looked toward the heavens, and whispered to him, “thank you, Daddy.

I climbed into bed and pulled the blanket up to my chin. Poppy, who had been waiting for me to settle down, jumped onto the bed and rubbed her face on mine—her nightly ritual—before she bedded down on my pillow each night. I reached to scratch her head; she returned a trill and a content mew. 

“Sleep well, my sweet Poppy,” I whispered in the night’s stillness. “I love you.”

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Up Next: Chapter Six, Generation Two


Poppy’s story—her rescue from the cold, wintry streets of Starlight Shores—was inspired by Twiggy’s rescue story from “Balam Says” on Instagram. Twiggy, in her short time with her adoptive family, stole the hearts (mine and Chris’ included!) of thousands of followers. She crossed the Rainbow Bridge on March 9th after she suffered complications from Feline Leukemia Virus. Her legacy is one of love and hope, and it’s in her honor that we have the opportunity to help the Balam Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit. The Balam Foundation works to help impoverished communities with cat and dog sterilization programs, rehabilitation of wild cats, and other animal causes. If you don’t already follow Balam Says on IG, please check out Balam and Co., and the witty, wonderful, and compassionate Phaedra Barratt, cat mom and caretaker. If you are interested in supporting the Balam Foundation, you may do so here: The Balam Foundation.

Thank you for considering your donation!


Pose Credits (Cover Photo)

Poses By Bee
Adult Worship

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Live Guitar/Singing Poses by Toys of Dukeness

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I’m Still Here!

Hello everyone!

I just wanted to let you all know that I’m still here, alive and kicking, and working on editing my latest chapter of the Legacy to publish. Hopefully, I’ll finish this soon, and get back on track.

Our year of challenges has continued, though not as badly as we started out. My hubby continues to have health struggles, but I think we’re on the right path to healing now. He’s had surgery on his foot, and he’s required much more of my time and attention. As it should, family comes first, and the blog… well, it loses out in situations like this. I’ve been struggling with increased pain issues since recovering from COVID, too. We’re quite the pair!

There are some exciting plans for the next five to six chapters in the works, so I hope you’ll stay tuned as we develop new storylines and revisit old ones from the original Gen Two text. I’m going to admit something I seldom do as a writer; I’ve had a terrible writer’s block since February, since Chapter Four was published. Five has been slow going, so Chris is dedicating some time to help me polish it into the story I want it to be. We’ll see some of Destiny’s character being developed in her narration, and a surprise I don’t want to give away until the chapter is released; I’m very excited about it! 

Now, I realize the Chapter Five teaser has been out for a while. I know I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I’m pretty picky about what I’m writing, and how it looks before it’s published. Content won’t go live until I’m at least 95% happy with it (there is always room for improvement!) so my chapters are slower than I’d like. Please bear with me just a little while longer? The wait will be worth it.

Summer brings warm weather, fun activities, and weddings! Oh, but who? (You already know!) Stay tuned!

G2 Chapter Four – The Aftermath

Author’s Note: This chapter contains adult situations and language. Reader discretion is advised.


Three Days Later

I curled into the fetal position, laying on the bed in the swanky hotel penthouse Jeff reserved for our special weekend together. Since Saturday—the day that my life fell to pieces—I wallowed in my self-inflicted misery. The scene played in my memory when I closed my eyes to sleep; each repetition ripped the bandage off the gaping, but not quite fatal, wound.

Our last moments together before the fateful phone call were so loving and tender. We had hopes that our first child was conceived from the love we made; now, that possibility invaded my thoughts. What if he had succeeded? A baby now, without its father, would be the end of my non-existent singing career. Every outcome of that scenario ended badly for me and a child. How would I raise it alone? And more importantly, how would I afford it? I could barely survive on my own. I couldn’t let myself think about it.

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My phone laid next to me on the bed, blaring the alarm I had set to remind me I had a flight to catch. Without blinking, I reached for it and turned it off. My arms wrapped around my chest to help ease the ache; it wasn’t working. When I squeezed my eyes shut, I could still see Jeff’s angry expression. I could still hear the heartbreak in his resentful words. Another tear rolled down my cheek and soaked into the already damp duvet. Is it possible to cry too much?

I dragged myself with a painful groan off the bed and into the shower. The water was as hot as I could tolerate, and I cried again in the steam. I needed to pull myself together. The last bit of soap rinsed from my hair, I turned the water off and stood there, dripping more than just the droplets from my shower. I reached for the towel and wrapped it around my long, red hair.

There wasn’t much to pack. One small carry-on suitcase only had my pajamas removed from it. The outfit I’d worn on the airplane still laid on the bed in a crumpled heap. Since changing clothes on Saturday night, I hadn’t been dressed again.

My taxi would arrive at 10:30 AM to bring me to the airport in Bridgeport. I had twenty minutes to finish packing and collect myself. My phone illuminated with the reminder; Jeff’s happy face smiled in the background. Seeing him felt like a sucker punch in the gut. With just minutes to spare, I left the suite with my suitcase and backpack. The garment bag containing the gown still hung where Jeff left it. I couldn’t bear to bring it home, and I knew the hotel would return it to him.

Jeff texted with information about my return flight before he left for his tour on Sunday evening. My fare home, which he had prepaid, waited at the ticket counter for me to pick up. I hoped he hadn’t rescinded that, too. I approached the ticket agent with my identification in my hand.

“Farmer,” I said. “There’s a ticket waiting for me.” I placed my ID on the counter and slid it toward her.

She typed my information into the computer, cocked her head, and smiled. “Destiny, right?”

“Mmhmm.”

“I have your ticket here.” She paused and shook her head with a confused expression. I felt my body tense. What had Jeff done now? “I’ve never seen this type of code on a fare before. Excuse me for a moment?”

What choice did I really have? “Sure.” With my answer, she stepped away from her computer terminal. I wondered if I could reach my investment contact at an odd time, and if he would release funds, should I need them. It would be just like Jeff to cancel my ticket.

I had waited about five minutes when she returned with a smile. “I’m sorry about the delay. You’re all set.”

“What was the problem?”

“The ticket was downgraded from first class to coach. I had never seen that code before. We usually see upgrades, not downgrades.” She handed the paper ticket to me with a friendly, but apprehensive, smile.

“Thank you.” I wasn’t about to complain. Jeff could have made my day even more difficult. I was thankful he didn’t. I checked my case and slung my backpack over my shoulder.

The walk to the gate seemed long. It could have been because I was anxious about my return home. Trying to contain my emotion was sapping my strength. I just wanted to curl up in bed and cry. Instead, I was walking through an airport, returning to the only home in the Shores I’d known. The first, and only home Jeff and I shared. The home I’d need to vacate within the month. Not to mention, I had to make a phone call I dreaded. Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul planned to attend the wedding. The news of our breakup would be excruciating to tell her.

The airline called my row for boarding after first class. My seat was in the back of the plane near the lavatory, and in front of the engine. Thanks, Jeff, I thought to myself. This would be a noisy ride home. Passengers filed into the seats in front of mine; I prayed no one would claim the seat next to me. I wanted nothing more than to be alone.

It seemed my prayer would be answered, but at the last moment, a chubby, older man hurried down the aisle, checking his ticket. Oh no, I thought. Not here! Sure enough, he stopped at my row, pushed his glasses up onto his nose, and plopped himself down next to me. He smiled and extended a hand. I wasn’t really interested in pleasantries, but I took his hand, anyway.

“I’m Gus.”

“Destiny,” I said with a feeble shake. I turned my attention back outside the window.

“Where are you headed?” he asked. Perhaps the question was innocent, just small talk. I wasn’t in the mood.

“Starlight Shores.”

“Me too!” Oh goody.

“Look,” I said, “I would like to be left alone. It’s not you…” There was that miserable glob of emotion in my throat again. “Please…” He watched a tear fall from my eyes and soak into my sweater.

“No offense taken, Destiny.” He turned away from me; I immediately felt guilty.

“I’m sorry, Gus. It’s just that—”

“You don’t need to explain. We’re just strangers on an airplane. It’s okay.”

Whew! “Thanks for understanding.” He shrugged and nodded my way, busying himself with a newspaper. I plugged my earbuds into my music player and tuned out of the world, if only for a couple of hours.

*****

The flight felt as though we’d been in the air for a day instead of two hours. Gus said nothing more to me during the flight and left without incident. I gathered my backpack and stood, waiting my turn to exit the plane.

I needed a cab back into the city; a part of me wished that I’d run into Arthur again. My bag was the last off the plane, of course. I grabbed it and walked toward the throng of waiting cabs outside baggage claim. A young man approached me. “Where are you going, Miss?”

“Starlight Shores,” I said.

“I’ll take you.” He grabbed my case and stowed it in the trunk, opened the door for me, and held it while I got in.

He drove thirty minutes back into the city and stopped outside the highrise building where I lived. Things were so different than they were when I left on Saturday morning. I was so lost in thought, I didn’t hear the driver when he told me the fare.

“Miss?”

“Oh,” I said with a sheepish grin. “I’m sorry. How much do I owe you?” 

“Twenty-five.” I peeled off two twenties and placed them into his hand.

“Keep the change as a tip.”

“Are you sure, Miss?”

I nodded. “Mmhmm. Before you go, can I ask you a question?”

He nodded with hesitation. “Yeah…”

“Do you know an Arthur…” My mind skipped. I forgot his last name! “I mean, is there an Arthur that drives for your company?”

He shook his head. “Not to my knowledge, no.” Drat!

“Okay, thank you.” It was worth a try. I took my case and pulled it inside the door.

On the nineteenth floor, Tiffany stood waiting for the elevator. She was the last person I needed to encounter. She must have noticed I was out of sorts, because she couldn’t help herself.

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“What’s eatin’ you, Ginger Snap?”

“Leave me alone,” I grumbled. I no sooner had my key in the lock when her hand was on the door, holding it shut.

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“What does that man see in you? You’re always so nasty.”

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“Last warning, Tiffany. Leave me alone.”

“Ooh!” she taunted me. “What are you gonna do? Cry? Call the cops?”

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I turned around and advanced toward her, pinning her against her apartment door. “I told you to leave me alone!” I growled through my teeth at her. My fist was clenched, and I was hot. I might have been shorter and weaker, but one more jab from her would have lit my fuse.

“Alright, alright. Geez, you’re a bitch, Destiny.” She pushed me away and walked toward the elevator. I took the opportunity to go inside and locked the door behind me.

The first thing I saw staring back at me from the living room wall was the huge portrait Jeff and I had taken for our engagement announcements. We looked so happy and so in love, I wouldn’t have thought anything could destroy it. But I did. The grief hit me like a sledgehammer; I ran to my bedroom, collapsed onto my bed, and bawled until I fell asleep.


I allowed myself an extra day off work to recover from the disaster. Jared understood when I told him there was a family emergency. Sitting in the penthouse’s living room, on the loveseat I brought from home, I held my phone in my grip. Aunt Jenny’s phone number was dialed in. All I had to do was press Send. Why couldn’t I do it? Why was life so difficult for me? And then I remembered… It’s my own damn fault.

I took a breath as my finger hovered over the call button. Whether it was a muscle tic, or I actually meant to press it, was a mystery. The phone rang twice before Aunt Jenny’s musical voice answered.

“Hi Desi!” she said. “Are you getting excited about next Saturday?”

“Hi Aunt Jenny,” my voice trembled. There was so much turmoil in my soul, from the old nickname to my awful news. I wanted to crawl into bed and sleep until my birthday. “I have something to tell you.”

There was silence on the other end of the phone for a moment. “Is everything okay, Destiny?”

My heart pounded in my chest; I sniffled back tears that wanted to escape. “No.”

I heard the concern in her voice. “What’s wrong? Is Jeff okay?”

“I don’t know.” That was the truth. I assumed he wasn’t, though. “The wedding is off. Jeff and I broke up…” My voice faded to ragged sobs. Through the tears, I heard Aunt Jenny’s quivering voice.

“What happened? You two were perfect for each other.”

“It’s my fault. He had life-changing news, and I ruined it.”

“I don’t understand, Destiny. What was his news? How did you ruin things?”

Her questions sought only to find answers. To me, they ripped open the wounds that had only superficially closed. I couldn’t hold the emotion back any longer. I sobbed on the phone with the only aunt I knew, the only family I had that remained. While I wept, her soft whispers of comfort came through the phone over hundreds of miles; it felt as though she was right there with me, ready to hug me as I cried. I heard a question in the background, and a ‘shh’ sound in reply, along with the words, ‘The wedding is off.’ That didn’t help.

What seemed an eternity later, I collected myself enough to speak. “Jeff brought me to Bridgeport this weekend to tell me his news. We were going to have dinner together at a fancy restaurant. He wanted me to know his band landed a recording contract. But before we got to dinner, his agent called.” I took a deep breath and held it. “They’re on tour with Acidic Tides, as of Monday.”

Aunt Jenny was very aware of my troubles in Starlight Shores, so she understood the impact his news had on me. Or so I thought. “Well, that sounds like a good thing…? Isn’t it, Desi?”

“It is…” For Jeff, I thought. I couldn’t believe the jealousy that still invaded my thoughts. I resented him, and I had no right to do so. “He told me we needed to postpone the wedding indefinitely. At the moment, Daddy’s temper took over what Mama’s tender heart meant to say. I was jealous of his instant success after I’ve spent the last year struggling.”

“That doesn’t sound like you, Destiny. Jealousy and anger are grave transgressions.”

I sniffled into the phone. “I know. It gets worse.”

“I’m listening.”

I took a deep breath and exhaled every bit of air from my lungs. What was I waiting for? “Jeff didn’t understand why I was so angry. Looking back, I’m not sure, either. But then I…” The emotion welled up in my eyes again; a tear rolled down my cheek and splattered onto my leg. “I screamed at him, Aunt Jenny.”

“What did you say?”

“I told him…” Breathe, Destiny. “I said I hated him.”

Aunt Jenny’s shocked gasp on the other end of the phone brought more tears. With her reaction, I was reminded how badly I’d screwed up my life. I wasn’t prepared for her next words.

“How disappointing, Desi. You were not raised to hate.”

I wanted to hang up the phone and throw it against the wall. But her words pricked at my heart; I knew she was right. “Mama and Daddy would be so disappointed in me, wouldn’t they?”

She hesitated, stumbling over her words. I don’t think she wanted to saddle me with more guilt or pain. “Oh, sweet pea, I don’t think you could ever disappoint your mama and daddy.”

You’re letting me off the hook? I thought. “You really think so?”

“I’m certain of it.” She switched back into comfort mode. “You must be heartbroken.”

To say I was heartbroken didn’t quite cut it. “I am devastated, Aunt Jenny. He was my soulmate.”

“Did he give you the chance to explain how you felt?”

I shook my head, as though she could see me. “No. I tried to apologize, but he wouldn’t hear it.”

“I can understand why he was hurt, but he didn’t give you the opportunity to make amends? That isn’t right, either. Couples fight, but in the end, they try to work out differences. It sounds to me, Desi, that Jeff wasn’t ready for the long-term commitment of marriage, especially with his career taking off.”

I hadn’t stopped to consider the possibility Aunt Jenny had presented. Maybe Jeff was looking for a way out, and I presented him with the perfect opening. “Maybe you’re right.”

“I think I am, Desi. There were other reasons behind his quick departure. If he loved you as much as he claimed, he’d have given you the chance to explain yourself.”

For the first time since Saturday, I felt better. “Thank you, Aunt Jenny. You make sense.”

“You’re welcome, kiddo. I’m always here if you need me, okay?”

“Okay. I love you and Uncle Paul so much. I’m sorry I won’t get to see you, though.”

“Maybe we’ll get a chance to come visit you soon. I’d love to see your new home.”

“I’d really like that.”

“I would too, Desi. We will talk soon, sweetheart.”

Again, I nodded my head as though she could see me. I really needed to stop doing that. “That sounds good.” We said our goodbyes and hung up the phone.


Two Days Later

The house I first considered when I moved to Starlight Shores over a year ago was still on the market. Its price had been reduced, and the listing changed to “as-is.” This was my chance to get a great deal on the home I wanted, one that was close to everything I needed.

I walked up to the door and knocked. Though the frame was bent and the door wasn’t plumb, the outside looked kept up with fresh paint and younger plants. However, that’s where the curbside appeal ended.

The real estate agent, a lady named Rochelle Watson, greeted me at the front door. A heavy aroma of decay and neglect assaulted my nose the moment I stepped inside. It took my breath away. The walls desperately needed new sheetrock, primer and paint, and I thought it couldn’t have hurt for someone to brush the cobwebs out of the corners. The floors were dirty and worn throughout the first level. In the kitchen were older, worn wooden cabinets, ancient appliances and countertops soiled with heavy dirt. I almost turned around and left, but I already loved the floor plan. Everything else could be fixed.

“You must be Destiny!” she said, her hand extended for a shake. “I’m Rochelle.”

“I am, and it’s nice to meet you, Rochelle.” I continued to look around at the house’s interior. Whoever lived here last did nothing to maintain it; its condition was revolting. “This is in really rough shape.”

“The owner had some problems come up and couldn’t spare the money on improvements. The price reflects its ‘as-is’ condition.” Rochelle ushered me into the kitchen. “They’re willing to give two thousand toward the appliances.”

I said nothing, taking mental notes on everything it needed, and how much it would cost to bring it up to my standards. Two things were certain; the appliance allowance wouldn’t pay for one new appliance, much less all of them, and the owners wanted WAY too much for this junk heap.

She led me on a tour of the house, covering every room on both floors. Though the second floor wasn’t nearly as bad, overall, it needed extensive repairs. “What do you think of it, Miss Farmer?” she asked.

The house was perfect for my needs, even if it was run down and musty. The location was ideal, close to work and the park. Once I got back on my feet, I could really sink some TLC into this fixer-upper. “It’s all the home I need. It’s just me for now.” I tapped my fingers on the kitchen counter. “I like it.”

Rochelle nodded, then continued her sales pitch as though the house was in perfect shape. “You can’t go wrong with this one, Miss Farmer. The central location will make it very convenient for you. You’re close to the park, the coffeehouse, and the Sing-A-Gram HQ is not far away.”

“What’s the list price again?”

The agent looked at her paperwork. “One hundred thirty thousand.”

This was where Jeff’s sage wisdom would come in handy. “I’ll offer one hundred even.”

“But Miss Farmer, homes are selling much higher than this everywhere else, and I can guarantee you that this property will—”

“Please don’t patronize me. I’ve researched this property extensively. I know it’s been on the market for over a year. It obviously needs work, which I’m willing to do myself. I’ve offered a generous price for it, considering all it requires.” I ran my hands over the hardwood carved fireplace. “Just because I sound like backwoods, it doesn’t mean I’m ignorant.”

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“Are you certain you’re only twenty years old?” Rochelle asked me. The look on her face was priceless.

I nodded. “I was valedictorian of my graduating class.”

“Oh, nice!” she said. “High School?”

I nodded again. “College, too.”

“Um, did you say ‘college too’?”

“Yes ma’am,” I said. “I graduated last spring with my BA in fine arts. Top of my class.”

“At nineteen?” Rochelle looked a little more than incredulous.

“Yes. At nineteen. I will be twenty-one in a few weeks.”

“You’ll be a force to contend with in this town, Destiny.”

“I haven’t found that to be true yet, but things can change!” I wanted to switch the subject back to the task at hand. “So, one hundred even is my offer. I’ll be ready with a counteroffer if I need it. I suspect I won’t.”

Rochelle jotted numbers down on a preprinted form. “Who is your lender, so I can send the paperwork?”

“I won’t be using a lender. This is a cash purchase.”

“Pardon me for being so forward, but where does an almost twenty-one-year-old woman get that kind of money?”

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I sat down on the ratty old loveseat in the living room. “Ms. Watson, my folks passed away almost three years ago and left the family estate to me. It had little acreage, but there was a sizable barn on the property with two stalls for horses and a greenhouse. Being in a rural town, a property like theirs was a turnkey investment for a young family just starting out, if they wanted to put in the time and effort to run a farm like Mama and Daddy did, that is. Me? Well, I never felt the call of being a farmer, despite my last name. My desires run bigger. Their farm sold for an acceptable price, which affords me my choice of starter homes here in the Shores. They saved and sacrificed my entire life to give me this chance. It’s a sacrifice I won’t take for granted, and I’m going to, as my daddy told me, ‘grab the world by the horns and give it hell’.”

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“Your parents must have been extraordinary, and so are you.” When I stood, she held her hand to me. “Let’s get this offer ready to submit to the seller. It would surprise me if they turned it down. Let’s face it, we’re trying to put lipstick on a pig here.” The comment made me belly laugh. She wasn’t kidding, either. “They’re motivated to offload this house.”

“That sounds like a great idea.”

*****

Two weeks later, Rochelle and I sat in the title company’s office and signed the papers to close on my new home. I couldn’t have been happier to get the purchase completed. It left me with just a week to move from the penthouse. Jared, Evangeline and her boyfriend, Trevor, helped me move in one evening. I discovered how little I had brought with me from Appaloosa Plains when we placed everything in the new house. What overcrowded the penthouse got lost in the square footage of my new home.

I spent a couple of nights cleaning the penthouse after I moved out. I was elbow deep in cleaning chemicals when I heard the front door open. “Tiffany, you’re not welcomed here!” I shouted out. My voice echoed through the empty apartment.

“Hello, Destiny,” a familiar, seemingly disembodied voice said. I spun around, and my heart fell through the floor.

Jeff.

“I… um…” I didn’t know what to say to him. I had the apartment for another couple of days. “I thought I’d clean it. You know…”

“I’m actually glad I caught you here—”

“I’ll go.” I turned to take my cleaning supplies when he grabbed my wrist.

“Des—”

“Don’t, Jeff. Let’s not say things we’ll regret later. OK?”

“I didn’t come to pick a fight with you. You left something in Bridgeport. I was hoping to return it in person.”

My heart pounded. I wasn’t sure I could handle seeing the item he intended to return. “Not the gown—”

“What am I going to do with it, Des? It’s fitted to you.”

“Please, no…” I felt the emotion returning. Seeing Jeff was difficult enough. Knowing he had the gown with him was more than I could take. “I will never wear it again.”

“If you do, fine. And if you don’t, fine; I don’t care. But I don’t need it anymore, and I’m not bringing it back home with me.”

“What did you hope to accomplish, Jeff? You made it clear that we’re done.”

“We are. But this is yours.” He handed me the dress, still in the garment bag. “I have no need for it.”

“Give it to your next girlfriend,” I said. I tried not to sound cold, but that’s not how it came out of my mouth. His hurt scowl triggered more emotional agony. “I’m sorry.”

“I don’t have a girlfriend. That will never happen again. Thanks to you, I’ll spend my life alone.”

“How’s the tour going?” I had to change the subject. It was killing me inside.

“The Experience is wildly popular. Everyone loves us.”

“I’m happy for you.” I hoped it sounded genuine. 

“Stop lying to me, Des. I know my success is eating you alive.”

“No, it’s not—” My emotions were getting the better of me.

“I see it on your face. I don’t even know why you asked. You really don’t care.”

That’s where you’re wrong! “I do care, Jeff. And I still love you.”

“I wish you hadn’t said that. I can’t reciprocate it. I won’t. I’m sorry.”

“I know it does nothing to say I’m sorry—”

“You’re right.” He stepped back and left the dress hanging on the door. “I need to go. I didn’t come to fight with you. My attorney will be here to walk through in a couple of days.” Before he left, he turned around and looked into my eyes. “Goodbye, Destiny.”

All the healing from the past month without him was undone by his last words. I sank to my knees in the empty living room and wept.


Four days after my twenty-first birthday, which I spent alone, I reapplied at the Sing-A-Gram company on the western Los Sueños strip. Based on my resume alone, they agreed to see me in the office the following day. The same man, Russ, did my interview. He greeted me in the lobby and showed me back to his office. Everything looked the same.

“Miss Farmer, I remember you,” he said, extending his hand for a shake. “You’ve decided to try your hand with Sing-A-Gram. You’ve made a wise move for your career.”

“Thank you for seeing me,” I said. “I’ve had a rough time by myself, so I’m hoping this will help me get my name into the city.”

“We will do everything we can to help you on your way.” He fiddled with my application, I supposed, perusing my work history since my arrival in the Shores. “You’re still working at the Flying V?”

I nodded. “Yes.”

“You’ll need to resign from that position before we can assign you to jobs within the city. That represents a conflict of interest with the proprietor.”

“Fair enough,” I said. “I will turn in my resignation tomorrow.”

Russ nodded his head. “There are two different costumes you’ll be required to wear. For most jobs, the standard singing telegram outfit will suffice. Some customers, however, will request a more risque performance. You’ll have a separate costume more suited for those types of jobs.”

“What will I be required to do?” I was almost afraid to know the answer.

“Do you know how to pole dance, Destiny?”

Pole dance? “Um, no.”

“Don’t worry. It’s an easy skill to attain. We have a three-day class you’ll take, and you should be ready by the end. Tawny is a skilled teacher.”

What was I getting myself into? I wondered. “Anything else I should know?”

“How comfortable are you with partial nudity?” Russ asked. I sat and stared at him like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming car. He must have read my face, because he chuckled. “I’m guessing you’ve never done a striptease before. We’ll train you on that, too.”

“Are you certain this is necessary to get noticed, Russ? I mean, this seems a little over the top—”

“Miss Farmer, every singer in Starlight Shores pays their dues. The Sing-A-Gram is the fastest way to get yourself into the public eye. As I told you two years ago, you could choose to sign with an agent, but they can be expensive for someone who is just starting out. Or you can go it alone. That route is never recommended.”

I sighed. Everything about this gig seemed dicey, but I was a desperate woman. Eighteen months in the Shores, and I was no closer to being on stage than I was when I first arrived. “Okay,” I said. “Sign me up.”

“You’ve made a smart choice, Miss Farmer. I would recommend just using your first name. The name ‘Destiny’ is tailormade for a job like this one.”

If you say so, I thought. “Okay.”

*****

I was horrified to discover what pole dancing really entailed. No wonder it was an easy skill to attain. But I’d already resigned at the coffeehouse, much to Jared’s dismay. I was committed to making this job work to my benefit.

I worked extra hard to learn and master the dance moves I’d need for the night jobs. For the first three weeks at Sing-A-Gram, I was assigned to daytime work. Each time I sang for a client, I left my card with them, hoping for return business.

The first evening job I had was for a wealthy executive in town. I dressed in my costume, pulled my hair up into a ponytail, and gazed at my reflection in the mirror. I almost didn’t recognize myself. Who was I? I wondered.

Since the job site was poorly lit, I applied my makeup a little heavier than usual. My lipstick was a dark, blood red, which matched the satin material of my bodysuit. It had a deep, plunging neckline and it hugged every curve, leaving nothing to imagination. It almost looked like something I’d have worn in the bedroom for Jeff. Instead, I was leaving my house wearing it. I must have been out of my mind.

The job was on the twenty-sixth floor of a high-rise office building in downtown Starlight Shores. The temperature was frigid that night, so I stood in the building’s entryway for a few moments to warm up before taking the elevator. There was no one around; every business in the building was closed for the evening.

After taking a deep breath, I pressed the button for the elevator. I was confident in my ability to do the job I was hired to do, or so I thought. I wasn’t prepared for what awaited me in that office building.

The elevator opened up right inside the office. An older man, who looked to be in his late fifties, sat at the desk. He stood when I approached. “You must be Destiny,” he said. The man wasted no time, taking my hand in his and placing a delicate kiss on it. “You are stunningly beautiful. Just what I needed on a lonely, snowy night like this.”

I blushed and took one step backward. “Thank you.” My mind raced with everything I’d learned. Would I mess up the dance moves? Would I remember my script? I was worried about all the wrong things. “So, what is your pleasure tonight?” I asked, keeping to my script.

The man leered at me, licked his lips, and took a step toward me. “You are, honey.” Before I realized what was going on, he’d embraced me close to him and kissed me. I was certain THAT was not on the list of approved services. He released me, then took my hand in his. “Come with me.”

Every warning bell sounded in my head. “No, thank you,” I said, walking backward.

“I won’t hurt you, Destiny. Please? I hear you have a beautiful voice.”

“What is it you want, Mister…?”

“Fournier. Leonard Fournier.”

“Okay. What do you want, Mister Fournier?”

He took my hand again and tugged at me. “Come back to my office with me.”

My duty was to please my customer. But there were limits to what I would do, job or no job. “I’d rather not.”

“I promise I will not hurt you. Destiny, you’re my employee tonight. You’re compelled to obey me.”

Against my better judgment, I followed Leonard Fournier into his office. It was then I recognized the logo on the wall. Binder Clips Center?! “Wait…”

He wore an amused look on his face. “Yes, Destiny. I own the stadium. I understand you are the most talented young lady on staff at Sing-A-Gram.”

I blushed again, but his statement made me feel no better. “Again, Mister Fournier, what is it you want from me?” I knew I was in a precarious position. I couldn’t say no to him and keep my job. On the other hand, I had personal limits. How far was I willing to go? The very thought of it scared me silly.

He patted the seat next to him on the leather sofa where he sat. “My wife is out of town, Destiny, and I’m a lonely man in need of companionship tonight.” He put his arm around my shoulder. “I wanted the best singer in town, you know, to cheer me up.”

I stayed on script and in character, though I was no actress. I hoped my nerves would stay in check. The perspiration beaded on my forehead. My mouth was dry as sawdust. “What song would you like to hear?”

“What is your favorite song, Destiny? I want you to sing it for me, a cappella.” He leaned back on the sofa and stared at me.

“It Hurts Both Ways,” I blurted out. It was the name I gave to Daddy’s favorite song, the one I promised myself I wouldn’t sing anywhere until I recorded it.

“Who sings that one, Destiny? I have never heard of it.” Leonard ran his finger down the side of my face. This man was old enough to be my daddy. I was determined I’d never let him take advantage of me.

“It’s an original.” I winced and bit my tongue a little harder than I intended.

“I’d rather hear you sing something popular. Let me gauge your talent for myself.”

Though I was relieved he didn’t want to hear my original composition, I felt no better. “How about Katie Price’s big hit?”

I saw him wrinkle his nose. “If you must…”

I slowed my breathing and concentrated on the words to my favorite song. I hummed the first note in my head, then began to sing. The tune was spot-on; the lyrics came easy. I sang the whole first verse of the song when I noticed his unrelenting stare.

“Dance, Destiny. Show off your moves.” I knew what he meant, but I didn’t want to do it.

“Please, Mister Fournier…” Maybe by appealing to his human side, instead of the lustful man that sat in front of me, I could eke some grace out of him.

“Dance, Destiny. Dance like your job depends on it, because it does.”

The funny thing about exotic dancing I learned that night. Doing it in front of co-workers wasn’t difficult. But performing for the owner of the biggest show venue in town is a whole other thing. I walked to him, moved my body, and performed the dance moves I’d been taught. I closed my eyes, wanting to be anywhere else but in that room with him. He pulled me closer and kissed me again. “Strip for me, Destiny. Let me see that gorgeous, twenty-one-year-old body.”

I felt fear rise in my throat. It was something I’d rehearsed dozens of times without the striptease, though I knew the dance moves by heart. My skirt came off first, revealing my blood red bodysuit. My hips gyrated to music I heard only in my head. Mr. Fournier reached for the clasp on the back of my suit and, with the flick of his finger, he had it undone. One more move would cause the costume to slide down my body, exposing me.

Instinctively, my arms crossed over my chest, hiding from him anything he could have seen. “I’m sorry,” I cried, “I can’t do this.” I grabbed my coat and ran from the office and into the waiting area. His heavy footsteps were behind me. This can’t be happening! I thought. In a panic, I ran for the elevator door and pressed the ‘Down’ button. The door opened, and I stepped inside. I stood inside the lift, pressing the button for the first floor repeatedly until the door closed. He missed it by a second.

Safely in the building’s lobby, I ran to my car just outside the door. My hands shook with fear and shame fumbling with the lock. When I finally got it open, I flopped into the seat and locked my door. That was the moment I vowed to never take another night job. I wish I’d stuck to the promise I made that night. I would have saved myself considerable pain.


Six Months Later

Summer festivities were bustling in the Shores with the start of concert season. A multi-band event would play at the Binder Clips Center mid-summer. The tickets sold out in minutes; every band that would headline was well-known and very popular. Even if I wanted tickets to a rock concert, I couldn’t have gotten them.

Russ called me into the office the night of the concert. He wanted to discuss a job opportunity, one he said I would be wise to accept.

“Destiny, I have a rather large client performing at the Clips Center, and they want my best talent for a birthday party tonight after the show. You’re it. If you agree, I can assure you a bonus and a raise, assuming my client is pleased with your performance.”

I was excited. Maybe this would be my ticket to the big time. “I’d be honored.”

“They’ve requested an exotic dancer/singer for a birthday party. I don’t know who the guest of honor is, as they have kept everything on the down-low. Just remember your script, and for goodness’ sake, please don’t disappoint this client. They are my biggest account. I’m counting on you, Destiny.”

“I won’t let you down, Russ. You have my word.” He gave me a winning smile as I turned to leave his office. I would prepare for the party at the Sing-A-Gram headquarters, then drive to the Clips Center from there. My costume—a skin-tight, baby pink satin bodysuit with a fluffy bunny tail, and a set of rabbit ears I’d wear in my hair—was freshly dry cleaned and in my wardrobe. I applied a sheer base of scented powder on my skin. It helped to put my costume on with little struggle.

I gawked at my reflection in the mirror, dressed and made up. You really need to find a new job! I told myself. But the night contracts paid more than daytime jobs, so I tolerated it. I dabbed a glob of gloss onto my lips and straightened the costume before I walked to my car.

The lights emanating from the Clips Center were brilliant, almost as though the sun appeared overhead. Outside, I could hear the band onstage playing their set of rock music. It really wasn’t my cup of tea, but a job is a job. I parked my little car in the lot and walked to the side entrance.

A man dressed in a security uniform answered the door. “Can I help you?” 

He caught me putting the headband into my hair; I gave him a sheepish smile. “I’m with Sing-A-Gram. I’m working the birthday party tonight.”

He pulled a penlight from his pocket, grabbed the paper tacked to a clipboard, and checked. “Destiny, right?”

“Yes, sir.”

He pointed down the hall backstage. “Go down this hallway to the second right. Take the elevator to the second floor, then it’s the first door on your left.”

I smiled at him. “Thank you!”

His eyes scanned my costume; a crooked smile crossed his lips. “Break a leg, sweet thing.”

I ignored his comment and hurried down the hallway, following his directions. Second right, up to the second floor, and first door on the left. Inside the room, I could hear sounds of laughter and talking. I gave myself a quick pep talk, then knocked. The door opened a crack, and someone peeked out.

“You must be the entertainment,” she said. “The birthday boy doesn’t know you’re coming, but we’re going to walk him out blindfolded. When he sits down, we yell ‘Surprise!’, then you start your routine. Okay?”

I nodded. “I usually begin turned away from the crowd. Will that be a problem?”

She giggled with glee. “Oh, that will be perfect! He’s going to love this.” She tucked her head back inside the room, awaiting the ‘okay’ from the crowd. There was an uproar, and then a thumbs up. It was ‘go time’.

She guided me into the room, and everyone got quiet. It was a little odd, but I thought nothing of it. I took my place on the stage they had set up, ready to sing my opening line on her command. A commotion started behind me; I could almost feel the excitement in the room. I knew it would be a night to remember.

Boy, was that an understatement.

They situated the guest of honor, still wearing a blindfold, in a seat that was front and center in the room. I heard the go signal, took the mic, and spoke in the most sultry voice I could muster. After the first verse of the song, I turned around. My client sat spellbound by my voice, still blindfolded, until my first note of the chorus. When our eyes met, I froze, and I heard his audible gasp.

Jeff? What the…?!

I couldn’t stop the performance I had been paid handsomely to do, so I swallowed every bit of emotion that welled up within me. I closed my eyes and pretended, if only for a moment, that it was just Jeff and me back at the penthouse, and I was doing my level best to lure him into my bed. But when I opened them again, the only expression I saw was one of disgust and disappointment.

A young brunette woman bounded out from the back room, all smiles and giggles. She ran to Jeff and sat in his lap, confused by the look on his face. She whispered to him, and he shrugged in return. I tried not to think about it as I continued my act.

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I danced up to Jeff, winked at the young woman with him, and she giggled, left his side and went to sit with the group. Part of my paid routine was a lap dance, something I had only done once before. That it was Jeff should have made me more comfortable with it. Instead, I was nervous and felt more than a little dirty.

When I finished, he took my wrist and yanked my body down close to him. “I need to talk to you,” he said. His words were forceful and harsh. Suddenly, I was cotton-mouthed and I couldn’t sing the rest of my number. None of that seemed to matter to the crowd, who were cheering my name in a drunken clamor. Jeff’s hands on mine were firm as he pulled me from the crowd to a quiet backroom.

Though he’d never been rough with me before, he pushed me into a chair. His actions had every hallmark of a jealous boyfriend, without the boyfriend part. Jeff paced the floor without saying a word, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little frightened.

As he had done during our last fight in Bridgeport, his face displayed every emotion he felt. Anger was the one he expressed, and he did so right in my face. His breath reeked of stale beer and spirits. I suspected he might have been drunk.

“What the HELL was that, Des?! I mean, you tell me you hate me, and then you come on to me like a cat in heat?! Is this what you’re doing now?”

“I don’t see how my life is your business! You ended our relationship almost a year ago!” I spat back. “The last I remembered, I was on my own here!”

He knelt in front of me, took my hands, and wiped tears from his eyes. “Are you so jealous of me, Des, that you’re willing to sell yourself to find success?” Ouch.

“I-I…” I didn’t have an answer for him; the tears in his eyes confused me. Does he still have feelings for me? I wondered. “I don’t know—” He stood as I spoke, interrupting me.

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“How can you NOT know?” Jeff looked down his nose at me, wearing an angry scowl on his face. “I don’t even know who you are anymore! I’m so happy I dodged a bullet by breaking our engagement. You’re disgusting.”

His words ripped open old wounds, ones I thought had healed long ago. I sat in the chair, breathless and stunned by his hateful words. This must have been what I sounded like to him the day of our fight. Tears flooded my eyes and ran down my face. “I’m not jealous…” I whispered under my breath.

“Then what is it?”

I shrugged. “I’m tired of struggling, Jeff. You walked into fame and money so easily, and here I am, two years later, still trying to make my way…” It was then the awful realization hit me. I WAS jealous of him, and bitterly so.

“Be glad your folks aren’t alive to see you now, Des. I bet they wouldn’t be so proud to see you selling your body, and your soul, to the lowest bidder—”

My hand connected hard with his cheek. With shock and horror, my hands covered my face. My mouth opened to verbalize an apology; only an unintelligible squeak left my lips. Jeff said nothing. He only turned around and left me in the room, weeping bitter tears.


The Next Morning

An overnight letter arrived at the house with a familiar return address on it. I was excited to see it; the envelope bore Aunt Jenny’s beautiful penmanship. I signed for the letter and ran back inside and to my bedroom to read it. I opened the inside envelope, which bore her handwriting. It only said, “To Destiny” on the outside. My finger slipped under the flap and opened it.

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Dear Desi,

There are some things I need to tell you, but I never could say them in person. I hope you will understand and take these things to heart, with the love and affection they are meant to convey.

I got the strangest phone call tonight from Jeff. I couldn’t imagine what he wanted, knowing how he left you almost a year ago. But he had some things to tell me, things he was concerned about. It’s clear he still has feelings for you, and those feelings led him to call me tonight after his birthday party.

Is it really true, Destiny, that you’re working as an exotic dancer? You’re walking down a dark road, sweetheart. It is a life you will have a difficult time escaping if you continue down this path. I know you don’t see it now, because you’re so rooted in it. I pray that you see where you’re headed before it’s too late.

Desi, I never wanted to burden you with more pain than you already have, but I can’t leave my words unspoken. Sweet pea, you’ve lost your way. You’ve forgotten where you’ve come from, and where you’re going.

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I fell backward onto the bed, the letter still gripped in my fingers. I couldn’t believe what I was reading…

The truth is, Destiny, your mama and daddy would have loved you no matter what. But I believe, if they could see what you’re doing, they wouldn’t like it. You’ve gone somewhere they never wanted you to go, and you’ve become a woman you weren’t created to be. And yes, I believe they would be disappointed in the path you’ve chosen to take.

There IS good news, though. You don’t have to stay on the path that leads to destruction. Return to your roots, seek the wisdom that’s written in the prayer book your father gave you, and get back to attending services. You know in your heart that the answers you seek lie there, Destiny.

I wish your Daddy and Mama could be there to see you realize your life’s dream. Know that they will be watching over you and cheering you on. Always remember that you are so loved. Remember the promises you made to your mama and daddy. Never forget where you’re from, and how you got where you are. Be true to yourself and your family, Destiny, and you will never fail.

All my love,

Aunt Jenny

I crumpled the letter and threw it at the wall, crying bitter tears. Who was she to tell me which path was right and wrong? But her words repeated in my mind, convicting me letter by letter. The prayer book Daddy had given me was tucked into the nightstand next to the pistol I kept there. I opened the drawer and removed the book I hadn’t touched—much less read—in the years since his death.

Screenshot-532

Its brown leather cover was worn from use; the pages inside bore Daddy’s notes and insights. Inside the front cover, his words were written with his own hand:

Destiny, take this with you. Read it often and let its wisdom guide you. Never forget where you’re from, and to whom you belong. Remember whose daughter you are. I love you more than words can tell you. Love, Daddy.

My fingers traced the letters he’d written on the page; a single, salty teardrop splattered on the thin paper. I knelt by my bed, my hands clasped together, and I talked to Daddy for the first time in a long time.

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I’m sorry for how I’ve acted, for what I’ve become. And I know, Daddy, I have disappointed you and Mama. I’ve lost my way, and I’ve forgotten my promise. But I swear to you now, from this day forward, I will do nothing if it doesn’t bring honor to our family name. I will work harder than ever to make you proud of me, Daddy. And if I never accomplish what I’ve set out to achieve, then let it be said that I took my last breath bringing glory to you and Mama. I will love you until the end of time.

I climbed up into bed with Daddy’s book still in my hands. I let the book fall open to a non-specific page and read the first thing that I saw.

“You will always harvest exactly what you plant. Bitter seeds will produce anguish and pain, while good seeds make an abundant harvest.”

It was almost as though Daddy was right there with me, speaking the words I read in his book. A chill ran down the length of my spine; my skin rose in goosebumps. I took a deep breath and exhaled. A peaceful calm washed over me, a serenity I hadn’t felt in a long time. My eyes welled with tears. “Thank you, Daddy. I hear you, loud and clear.”

*****

That afternoon, I walked into Russ’ office at the Sing-A-Gram headquarters. I didn’t even knock.  He sat behind his desk looking none too pleased with my performance the evening before. He looked as though he was ready to speak, but I put my hand up to stop him.

“Russ, I know what you’re going to say. I can’t continue my employment here. I’m so sorry—”

He never looked up from his desk. “Our client called me this morning about your subpar performance last night. It took some sweet talking, but I managed to keep the account.”

“That’s good,” I said. Did he even hear me?

“All of this said, Destiny, you are still the most talented young lady I have on staff. I can overlook your performance… this time. But you’re on probation for six months, and you’ll need to take more dance classes—”

Well, he answered that question. “Russ, I can’t do this anymore.”

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He finally lifted his eyes to meet mine. “I’m not accepting a resignation. I need you on staff.”

“Then I won’t resign,” I said. “I quit, effective now.”

“What about your singing career? You’ll be finished before you begin if you leave now.”

“That’s a chance I’m willing to take. I can’t continue to sell my soul for a quick buck and a little notoriety. I’m sorry.”

“You will be,” Russ said, almost as a warning. “You’ll go nowhere without us.”

“Then so be it.” I turned on my heel and walked away.

“Destiny, wait!” Russ called out. I kept going and never looked back.

My next stop was the Flying V coffeehouse. On my way inside, I grabbed the “Help Wanted” sign that hung in the window and brought it with me. Jared’s wide grin greeted me as I walked through the door. “It’s so good to see you!” he said.

“Hi Jared. I am hoping you still need someone to fill this position.” The sign I held in my fingers waved as I held it out. “I just quit my job at the Sing-A-Gram.”

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“I could hug you!” he said. “I haven’t been able to fill your position with someone trustworthy and hardworking.”

A smile crossed my face. “I’d love to come back, if you’ll have me.”

“When can you start? I could use you now.”

“Now is good.”

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Next Up: Chapter Five, Generation Two


Pose Credits:

Blogspot
Anger – 10 Poses by Zhippidy at Zhippidy Poses
Everyday TS3 by IMHO at Sims3IMHO
With Love by Lenina90 at Simaitseems

Mod The Sims
Bully by Spladoum
Dirty by Spladoum
Pomp and Circumstance by Heaven
Reading Pose Pack by Kurineko
Wake Up Pose Pack by JuBa_0oº

Poses By Bee
Casual Sitting Poses
Conversation Poses Set 1
Conversation/Emotion Poses Set 2
Don’t Die – Updated
Emotions/Body Language 2
Travel Poses 2

Tumblr
Romantic Couple Pose Pack by Lexi at Simetria Sims
Sitting Poses by EchoSims

*****

Custom Content:

Around The Sims 3
Bible (Destiny’s Prayer Book)
Decrepitude
Eco Cafe Set
Medicine Bottle
Modern Art Cafe
Museum & Exhibition Shop (Russ’ Nameplate)
Notebook
Pen
Phone Decor Item

Blogspot
Sunny’s Love Letters & Envelopes by ShakespearesSunshyne at Secrets Of The Six Killers

Lover’s Lab
Destiny’s Bunny Costume by JoshQ

Mod The Sims 3
Beer Bottles by Spladoum (Included with pose pack)
Book by Kurineko (Included with pose pack)

Poses By Bee
Suitcase (Hosted by Bee)

The Sims Resource
Destiny’s Ponytail Hairstyle by SkySims
Jeff’s Tux (Cover Photo) by Lady Dane
Living Grace Rug by Ung999
Pointe Shoes by Shushilda
Rover Office Set by NynaeveDesigns

Tumblr
Bunny Ears by Trae-lia
Smoking Ashtray by the77Sim3

Content not listed here is documented on the Custom Content page. Custom content and poses are not my property and are used in compliance with the TOUs.

 

G2 Chapter Three – Destiny’s Big Mistake

Two Months Later

I’d been unsettled since the debacle in Sunset Valley with Jeff’s family. My hurried departure created more problems than I’d cleared up. I thought of talking Jeff into eloping in Starlight Shores. That would solve a lot of problems.

A phone call early on a Monday morning, my only day off in three weeks, woke me. The exchange was local, but I couldn’t imagine who was calling me. My list of friends in the Shores was short; Jared, my boss, and Evangeline, a co-worker. I rolled over and answered the call on the third ring.

“Hello?” 

“Is this Destiny Farmer?” 

“It is…” I said with hesitation. 

“Miss Farmer, this is Marta at the Bridal Boutique on the Los Sueños strip. We have a package waiting for you. From the invoice, it appears to be a wedding gown. If you require adjustments, our on-staff seamstress will be delighted to alter it for you.” 

Well, if this wasn’t the oddest phone call ever. “I’ll be down later to settle it. Are you in the shop across from the Flying V?” 

“That’s us!” Marta said with a smile in her voice. “We’re open until four this afternoon.” 

“Thank you.” I pressed End on the phone and flopped back into bed. I guess that settles my wedding gown problem.

After a shower and a quick breakfast, I hopped into the car and drove the short distance to the boutique. A bell on the door rang when I swung it open. An auburn-haired lady stood to greet me. 

“You must be Destiny! The gentleman on the phone said to lookout for a gorgeous redhead.”

“I am,” I said and blushed. 

“I’m Marta. We spoke on the phone this morning. I’ll get the gown for you!” 

I nodded. “Thank you.” 

She returned a few minutes later with a package, boxed up and ready to open. “Here it is! There’s no indication of the contents. We’ll find out together!” Marta removed the dress to reveal the form-fitting gown Audrey preferred, in the off-white shade I despised. 

I stood staring at the gown, marked with a ‘Paid’ tag, in utter disbelief. “Oh, it’s that one…” I muttered. 

“Is there something wrong?” 

I gave a deep sigh. “I guess this happens when I leave my decisions to someone else.” 

Marta cocked her head. “I’m sure I don’t understand.”

“My future mother-in-law liked this dress when I was up there a couple of months ago. However, this dress wasn’t the one I liked. She sent it in off-white to assert herself.” An assertion I didn’t much appreciate, either. “I can’t imagine Audrey would have paid for it. Do you know who did?” 

She shook her head. “The invoice only says, ‘J Dean’.”

“That’s what I figured.” Jeff’s generosity knew no boundaries. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall for that discussion with his mother.

“Since you’re here, let’s see how it fits and check for needed adjustments.” She didn’t give me a choice; Marta ushered me back to the fitting room.

Getting undressed in front of strangers was becoming a habit, it seemed. Marta looked unfazed as I stepped out of my blue jeans and pulled my sweater up over my head. She had me step into the gown and shimmied it up around my hips. It fit the same as it did in Sunset Valley. The flare of the skirt around the knees was missing, however. 

“It’s very plain,” I said. “I’m not fond of this in off-white.” 

Marta fussed with the skirt, the waistline and the bodice. “It just needs a crinoline, or I can install a bit of tulle to make it flare. It’s not a problem.”

I pulled my necklace from under the dress and set it on the fabric. Not even diamonds and gold could dress this thing up. I hoped the bridesmaids’ dresses Audrey chose were more colorful. Then I had a crazy, devious idea. “Is it possible to change this for the winter white tone I saw in Sunset Valley?” 

“It’s likely I could, yes. Why did she send it in off-white, do you think?”

I rolled my eyes. “Because I’m not a ‘good girl’, according to my future mother-in-law. She seems to think I should be punished. Joke’s on her, though, if I show up at the wedding in white.”

“Psh, people don’t wait for marriage anymore. That’s so archaic!” Marta said, and though I disagreed with her, I let it slide. “If you desire to wear white at your wedding, my dear, then we will make sure you have a white gown.” 

“The white is more striking, but nothing could save this gown. It’s dreadfully plain.” My hands smoothed the fabric over my body. I wrinkled my nose and shook my head. “I wish this would have been the satin gown instead. It was much prettier.” The satin dress was about as close as I could have gotten to my dream gown. I couldn’t have afforded that one, either.

Marta moved in closer to me, placed her lips next to my ear, and whispered to me, “This gown is gorgeous on the right person. You’re the right person.” She backed away and straightened my posture. “I’ll call you at the same number when the white one comes in. Deal?”

Screenshot-420

“Mmhmm. But hang onto this one, just in case the white isn’t available.” I’m not sure why I told her that. It sounded like something Audrey would do. I’d learned to not underestimate a vengeful woman with boatloads of money at her disposal. She’d win hands down every time.

“I can do that!” She slipped the gown back down over my hips, and I stepped out of it. “By the way, who is ‘J Dean’?”

“That’s my fiancé, Jeff. I haven’t seen him for a couple of weeks. We were supposed to meet in Sunset Valley for his spring break. The spat with his family stopped all of that.”

Marta hung the gown back on its hanger and fixed it. “Far be it from me to stick my nose where it doesn’t belong…” she said. Very tricky! Fishing for an answer. I chuckled under my breath.

“It’s that whole ‘good girl’ thing. They humiliated me at the supper table when I was there. I said some unfortunate things, and I can’t face them again. Not yet, anyway.” 

“Well, I doubt they’ll be angry for long, Destiny. You’re much too personable to dislike.” 

“My future mother-in-law might disagree with you.” 

“Well, then it’s her loss! Besides, you’re marrying her son, not her!” Marta smiled and flung open the curtain as I slipped my sweater over my head. 

I ignored her comment. With Audrey’s attempts to control me from a thousand miles away, it was apparent I’d be marrying Jeff’s whole family. “So, a week for the white gown?” 

“Yep! I have your number handy, so I’ll just jot it into your customer file. Someone will call you when we have it.” 

“Thank you,” I said. I left the shop wearing a Cheshire cat grin. Destiny-1, Audrey-0.


Ten Days Later

I woke up in a cold sweat, nauseated beyond measure. On unsteady feet, I ran to the bathroom; I just made it before I vomited into the toilet. It was my third morning in a row of feeling terrible. 

Though I wasn’t ready to stand, I made my way to the sink to splash some cool water on my face. I still felt queasy. My reflection in the mirror was almost unrecognizable. I grabbed my towel to pat my face dry when the nausea hit without warning, causing me to get sick on the floor. Just what I needed was a lengthy, disgusting cleanup when I was already ill. 

An hour later, I crawled back to bed feeling weak and exhausted. This would be my third consecutive day calling out sick. Jared would not be pleased, and neither would my meager bank account. I dialed his cell phone, hoping to reach him before he left for the coffeehouse. 

“This is Jared,” he said. The background noise suggested that he was en route to the coffeehouse. Drat!

“Jared,” I croaked out. “This is Destiny…” I begged myself to not hurl. It was a battle I was losing fast.

“Well, you don’t sound good. I already know why you’re calling. Take the day and rest.” 

“I think I have food poisoning or something.” Though Jared couldn’t see me, I shrugged anyway. “I’m sorry.” 

“Don’t be. Just get better, okay?” 

As I was apt to do, I nodded, assuming he could see me. “Thanks. I’ll try to make it tomorrow.” 

“If you’re sick, you can’t work with food. It’s okay, I promise. You’ll have a job when you’re well.” 

A half-smile crossed my face, along with another wave of nausea. “I gotta go!” I said, hung up the phone, and ran for the bathroom. Puking was getting old. 

After a shower a couple of hours later, I was feeling better. I was resting on the loveseat in the living room when my phone rang. It was Jeff’s cell number.

“Hi Jeff,” I croaked out. Was that really my voice? I sounded like I’d eaten ten pounds of gravel.

“Hi babyluv. Are you still sick?”

I groaned in pain. Every muscle hurt from my head to my toes. “Yes. I’m tired of barfing.” 

Jeff muttered something under his breath, but I couldn’t make out what he’d said. “Des, is there any chance at all you could be—” He stopped short.

“Be what?” 

“Pregnant.”

My heart stopped for a moment. Pregnant?! “Uh…” Please no!

“Oh my gosh, Des! Can you get a test? A lot would change if you’re pregnant.”

“What would it change? We’re still getting married, aren’t we?” 

“It might change the when and where. I mean, I still need to graduate, but I’ll be coming to the Shores after grad if you’re pregnant, and we’ll buy a bigger house together.” 

I remembered with clarity the burning handprint Barb left on my face. “No. I mean, I don’t think I’m pregnant. And you will not move here. Barb made it very clear—”

“Oh, screw Barb, honey. If you’re pregnant, you and the baby will need me. Are you getting a test, Des?” 

I chuckled at his hopefulness. “I guess I’ll have to go get one now, huh?” 

“You think?”

“Okay, okay,” I said, laughing. “I hope I don’t barf in my car.”

“In my nightstand, there are a few candies, Des. I keep peppermints near the bed for when I have a dry mouth. Take them and suck on them. Maybe that will dull the queasiness so you can grab a pregnancy test.”

He sure was persistent. “Okay, Jeff. You win. I just need to slip my boots on, and I’m out the door.”

“Be careful in the snow, babyluv.”

“I will. I’ll call you when I’m back home. We’ll do this together.”

“It’s a date! Talk to you soon.” 

“Yes, you will. I love you, Jeff.” He sounded so excited, I almost hoped I was pregnant. For a moment, at least. A baby now would be disastrous for my non-existent singing career. 

“I love you, too. Our lives could change today. I can’t wait!”

We ended the phone call so I could drive to the corner store, which was a short five-minute trip from the penthouse. The snow that had fallen just days before had already melted. The trek wouldn’t be as treacherous as I thought.

While I was at the store, I grabbed another bag of mints for Jeff to replace the ones I’d taken from his nightstand. With just a pregnancy test, a bag of mints, and a sports drink, the cashier eyed me, smiled, and winked at me. 

“Congratulations,” he said.

“Oh, I’m not pregnant. I’m just doing the test to satisfy my fiancé.” I didn’t feel pregnant, so I decided I wasn’t. The clerk nodded, likely thankful I wasn’t his girlfriend. We completed the sale; I thanked him and walked back to the car. The drive home was quick and uneventful. I parked the car in the garage and pressed the button for the elevator. 

Tiffany, the annoying neighbor across the hall, entered the elevator on the first floor. She eyed me, grabbed the sack I held, and removed the contents. She held the pregnancy test over her head, out of my reach. The amusement she wore on her face was obvious. I was in no mood for her games.

“So, that hottie boyfriend of yours got you in trouble, eh? I hope he sticks around, but he won’t. I wonder what your kid’s gonna look like?” She kept babbling while she fiddled with the box, which I snatched from her while it was within my grasp. 

“My life is none of your business. I’d appreciate it if you kept your nose out.” She could keep the mints if she wanted them. But that test was mine. 

“Well, well! Aren’t we being bitchy today?” She sneered at me. “You’re preggers, hillbilly. That, or you’re naturally bitchy.” She shoved me back against the elevator wall and got in my face. “Let’s get one thing straight, you redneck hick. I don’t want to hear your pathetic urchin bawling at two in the morning. So find a way to muzzle it, or I’ll file noise complaints!” She threw the bag at me, which still had Jeff’s mints inside, and hit me in the forehead. I bent to retrieve it from the floor when the elevator stopped with a jerk. The sudden motion nauseated me. Without warning, I vomited on her coat and shoes.

“I’m sorry!” I held back another wave and scrambled towards the door. She stood in the elevator, looking exasperated and covered in peppermint-scented puke. I locked the door behind me and ran to the bathroom to vomit again.

Ten minutes later, I felt a little better. I opened a mint and laid on the loveseat, waiting for my stomach to settle. My cell phone rang with a familiar tone. 

“Hi, Jeff,” I said, and then snickered. “Don’t be surprised if the super calls you about the elevator needing to be cleaned.” 

“That doesn’t sound good. What happened, Des?” 

“Tiffany got into the elevator and started picking on me. Long story short, I barfed on her. I couldn’t help it, though.” Jeff howled on the other end of the line, and I giggled, too. 

“I hope you ruined her day,” he said, gasping for breath.

“Oh, I’m sure I did. I won’t say she had it coming, but she took the bag with the test in it. After she finished threatening me about the baby, she threw the bag at me. I bent to pick it up, and the elevator stopped short. It made me sick. Jeff, I couldn’t help it.”

“I’ll happily pay that fine!” He continued to laugh. “How did she threaten you? She won’t do that when I’m around you.” 

“She doesn’t want to hear a baby crying at two in the morning.” I wished Jeff could hear my eyes rolling.

“We won’t have to worry about that, honey. Before the baby comes, we’ll have a house in the western hills.” 

“What’s so great about the western hills?” It wasn’t the first time he’d talked about relocating there.

“Again, prime location. That neighborhood sits in the mountain foothills, making it desirable for the well-to-do crowd. There are some properties along the shore that are nice. One is on the market now. I have my eye out, just in case.”

“You’re on the ball,” I said. The paper sack crinkled in my hands as I reached for another peppermint. “I replaced your candies, by the way. That’s what I was picking up when I got sick.”

“You have the test then?”

Once again, I nodded. “Mmhmm. Do you want me to go take it now, or should I wait?”

“What do you think, Des?”

“I’m going.” I stood and walked to the bathroom next to my bedroom, listening to Jeff chatter about a baby. He was so excited. My feelings were more mixed. I was too young to start a family.

Jeff stayed on the phone with me, listening to everything I was doing. He’d heard worse, but I was shy about peeing while I talked to him. He must have sensed it, because he excused himself for a moment, giving me the break I needed to do the test. I had it finished and capped before he returned. 

“Did you get it done, babyluv?”

“Yes. Now we just wait five minutes.” 

“How late are you? Your period, I mean.” 

I hadn’t thought about it. My period came when it came. I never paid that close attention to it. “I don’t know if I am.”

“Really? I thought all women kept religious track of that thing and shared it with their girlfriends!”

“Not this one.” I guess I needed to find more female friends. Polly and I came of age together, and we never spoke of it once. I didn’t realize menstrual cycles were a common topic of discussion among mature women. Interesting. While he chattered on the other end, I read the box’s instructions. I was looking for a single blue line, but hoping for two, for Jeff’s sake. He seemed genuinely thrilled.

Much like I had in the hours before Jeff’s proposal, I fantasized about our first child together. Would I be a mama before I was a wife? I was trying to remember why I had an issue with it when I heard Jeff’s voice calling my name.

“Des!” 

“Huh?” His voice roused me from my daydream. “I’m sorry. I was lost in thought.”

“It’s been six minutes. Why am I still waiting?!” His voice teased with excitement and anticipation. 

I laughed at his impatience. “Okay, okay!” I picked up the test and took the cover between my fingers. “Are you ready?”

“I was ready an hour ago, Des. You’re killing me here.” 

Nodding—as though he could see me—I snickered again. “Here goes nothing!” My hands gave the cover a gentle tug. Please be two lines…

My eyes popped open, ready for whatever news the test would reveal. It took moments for my eyes to focus and my brain to accept the reality.

One blue line. Oh no… 

My breath hitched in my throat, and tears of bitter disappointment stung my eyes. Jeff heard my emotion and misinterpreted it. “Des,” he said, “we’re going to be okay. We’ll elope in the Shores when I graduate, and everything will work out—”

A single sob wracked my body. If I was praying for a negative test, why did it hurt so badly? “Jeff,” I said with a trembling voice, “I’m not pregnant.”

He sighed in disappointment, and then I heard his soft, loving words in my ear. “I’m so sorry, babyluv.”

“I’m sorry, too, Jeff.”

“Someday, this will seem like a blip on the radar. I can’t wait to see that first positive test with you, sweetheart.”

“Me too.” Tears were coming fast. “I wish you were here right now.”

“Me too, Des. I miss you so much, it hurts.” 

“One day closer to our forever and always,” I squeaked out. Damned tears.

“One day closer,” he said in agreement. “I love you.”

Those words brought more emotion. “I love you back. Jeff, I gotta go. I feel sick again.” That was a lie, unless being heartsick counted. I only wanted to cry.

“Feel better, sweetheart. I’ll talk to you soon.” 

“Yeah.” We disconnected the call. I got up from the loveseat, walked into my bedroom, and flopped onto the bed, heartbroken.

*****

Three days later, I was still nauseated. My doctor did a blood test to check for an earlier pregnancy than the at-home test would detect. While we waited for the results, I sat at home sipping ginger ale and sucking on Jeff’s peppermints. I’d need to replace the bag if the nausea didn’t abate soon.

On the fourth day, I returned to work at the coffeehouse. All the time I’d taken was unpaid sick time. I couldn’t afford to sit out one more day, despite Jeff’s assurance that I wouldn’t starve to death. He said I was his responsibility. I wrinkled my nose at his inference that I couldn’t care for myself. In this case, however, I wouldn’t fight him.

I was still weak, so I took breaks more often than I should have. On one break, my phone alerted me to two new voice messages. I recognized the numbers; one was the bridal shop across the street from work, the other, my doctor’s office. I dialed my voicemail and listened.

Miss Farmer, this is Paula at Doctor White’s office. She wanted me to inform you the pregnancy test was negative. If you are still having nausea and vomiting, please call our office for an appointment. Thank you.

Great. It felt like insult on top of injury. I hoped the call from the bridal shop brought better news.

Destiny, this is Marta at the Bridal Boutique. I’m sorry to tell you I couldn’t get the dress you wanted in winter white. I checked every supplier I have, and each time I got the same answer. Let’s schedule you so I can get the off-white one fitted to you. I’ll see you soon.

Why was I not surprised? I hadn’t seen Audrey since January, and she was still getting on my last nerve. She was the only thing about Jeff that gave me pause about marrying into his family. I was finding out how petty and vindictive she really was.

Jared’s soft tap on my shoulder brought me back to reality. “Are you okay, Destiny?” 

I wiped tears from my eyes. “Yeah. I’m just disappointed. The gown I was hoping for wasn’t available in white.” I left out the news regarding the pregnancy test. Jared didn’t need the details.

He pulled a chair out, sat down, and patted the one next to him. “Your wedding dress?” 

“Yeah. Jeff’s mother is manipulating it, I’m afraid. It’s a popular gown. Why isn’t it available in white? I don’t get it.”

Jared laughed. “It isn’t scarlet red, is it?”

“No,” I said and snickered. “I suppose I should be happy it’s only off white.” 

“It can always be worse,” he said with a smile.


Graduation Week

I stared at my closet, searching for a suitable dress for Jeff’s graduation ceremony. He would be honored for his musical achievements with his grunge band, The Rock J Experience. Though he was a musician first, he somehow became the frontman of his band. Their music wasn’t my style, but Jeff was a talented musician and vocalist. 

The rest of my bag was packed and ready to go. I was stuck on this one item I needed. I had a dress in mind, but I couldn’t find it. In the back of my head, I could hear Jeff’s teasing about packing my entire wardrobe. Today, he’d be close to correct, too.

The intercom rang from downstairs; it was my ride to the airport. I spoke into the voice panel, letting him know I’d be right down. What I’d already packed would have to do. I grabbed my backpack, the one suitcase, and locked the door behind me as I left. 

I was excited about returning to campus. After Jeff’s graduation, I’d have no reason to return. The driver, who waited patiently for me at the sidewalk, put my suitcase into the trunk. 

“Airport, please.”

“Yes, Ma’am. Which terminal?”

I checked my ticket. “Terminal A, please.”

“I’ll get you there safe and sound!” the driver said, a smile in his voice as he took obvious pride in his vocation. “I’ve given rides to lots of folks, ma’am, but I’ve not heard an accent like yours before. Mind if I ask where you’re from?” He started the cab’s engine and shifted into drive, the cab lurching forward onto the Los Sueños strip.

“Appaloosa Plains. I’ve only been in the city for a year.” 

“It’s a unique accent; it makes you stand out from everyone else around here.”

I was pretty sure he was flirting with me, and I felt my cheeks flush. “Thank you. Few people like it,” I replied.

He glanced at me in the rear-view mirror with a wink and a brief smile. “That’s their problem, isn’t it?”

“Well said. You’re awfully wise for a cabbie, Mister…?” I left my question hanging, wondering if he’d tell me his name.

“Atwood. Arthur Atwood at your service!” he announced. “And whom do I have the pleasure of driving today?” He peered back up at me via the mirror. His eyes were a penetrating blue, and his hair color nearly matched his skin tone. His accent was not local, either.

“Destiny. Destiny Farmer,” I said.

“Nice to meet you, Destiny Farmer. What brings you to our fair city? Or, perhaps, more correctly, why are you leaving it?” The cab stopped at a light next to the Hoi Polloi Center, a stadium and concert venue close to the city limits.

“Well, I’ve wanted to be a singer since I was a little girl. Living in the Shores is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. As for leaving it, well, I’m going to meet my fiancé. He’s graduating from Sim State University on Thursday. I’m so proud of him.”

“Ahh! That explains the rock on your finger, then!” Arthur chuckled. “All the good ones are taken! So—are you any good?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Singing. You said you wished to be a singer. Are you any good?”

I shrugged. “If my success in the city is any indication of my talent, I’d say no.”

“Why not belt out a note or two? Show off a little! Let me judge for myself…”

Oh, I don’t think so! I thought to myself. “Here?”

“Why not, ragazza?”

Ra-whatta? “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”

Arthur chuckled. “It’s my native language. It means, ‘girl.’ I’m from Monte Vista.”

“Where is that?” 

“A small town in coastal Italy. I remember little about it, but my papà spoke only Italian in our home. My sister and I are bilingual.” 

I didn’t know what to say. I noticed the diamond and gold band he wore, and wondered why a married man was flirting with me. Or perhaps I was just imagining that.

“You got quiet, ragazza,” he said, breaking an awkward silence. “Was it something I did? Do you not appreciate de Italian man?” he joked, speaking in an Italian caricature. 

That got a chuckle out of me. 

“Oh, I appreciate the Italian man,” I joked back, trying to replicate his accent, “but I don’t know if the Italian man’s wife would appreciate what a flirt he is…”

That comment garnered a huge laugh from Arthur, far louder than I expected, but very infectious as it made me giggle, too. 

“Oh, bella ragazza giovane, all Italian men flirt! It’s just a part of who we are! As for my wife, e, sì, lei non approverebbe, but she and I don’t see eye-to-eye these days. I’m an aspiring musician, like you with your singing, but she thinks I’ve played around long enough, and it’s time to get a ‘real’ job.” He slapped the cab’s steering wheel with the heel of his hand.

I had no idea what to say to him as a follow up—I understood little of what he’d uttered—so I just fiddled with my hair, a nervous tic I picked up from Mama. I turned the conversation back to music. “How come you’re not in Bridgeport? I hear musicians go there to start their careers.” 

“Papà had business in Starlight Shores, so we immigrated here when I was a boy. I’d give anything to make a name for myself without his influence or help. Not to brag, but I’m a bit of a prodigy. I mastered Papà’s violin at four years old. I know I’m meant for more than existing here and working mediocre jobs. What will success look like? I don’t know.”

I knew his pain intimately. “This resonates more than you realize.”

“And what are you doing that is not your dream, Destiny Farmer?”

“I’m a barista at the Flying V Coffeehouse on the strip. There were some problems at the park—” I stopped short on purpose. I didn’t know Arthur from anyone.

“Ah, yes, the park. Every starving artist gets bullied there at least once. It’s almost a rite of passage into stardom.” Arthur mentioned it casually. To me, it was a much more traumatic memory.

“The mob attacked and threatened me; they took my guitar and destroyed it. They made it abundantly clear that I would be next if I went back.” I shuddered at the memory, which felt like yesterday. “As far as I know, it’s still in the pond broken into bits.”

Now Arthur was silent. “I’m sorry. I know not what to say, Destiny. The people at the park have never been aggressive towards me. That must have been horrifying.”

“It was. I’ve given up pursuing my career until after our wedding in October. I’ll be almost twenty-one then, and I can sign with Sing-A-Gram.”

We were at a stoplight on the outskirts of town; he turned and looked straight at me. “You’re only twenty years old? Wow! You carry yourself as a much older person,” he said, his voice filled with genuine amazement. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if he complimented or insulted me. 

“Thank you…?” 

He gave a hearty chuckle. “It was a compliment, ragazza. Many, MANY girls—women—your age are immature and flighty, but you’re grounded and definitely know what you want.”

“I’ve been through a lot more than most women my age, Arthur. Both my parents passed away when I was only eighteen years old. I’ve been on my own since, but I’ve learned a lot.”

“I’m sorry to hear. My papà is getting older; I’m blessed he is still with me. My mamma stayed in Italy with my oldest brother. Since we left, I haven’t seen them. I don’t remember her.”

I couldn’t imagine growing up without a mother. “That must have been tough.”

Arthur shrugged his shoulders. “Papà always had someone around to care for me and my sister. He was what they call a playboy, living the life of a musician. He was always on the road, a new lady on his arm every week.”

“Is that—the life you desire?” I couldn’t help myself. Maybe this was what Jeff desired, but couldn’t reveal.

“Oh, no, not at all. Fame and the money would be nice; I don’t wish to be a playboy. Papà can have that.”

The cab veered off the highway onto the exit ramp. We were minutes away from the airport. It was the fastest ride I’d ever taken. I grabbed my backpack so I could fish out my plane ticket. “We’re here already?”

“Sì,” he said. “I enjoyed talking with you, Destiny Farmer.” 

“And I with you, Arthur Atwood.”

He pulled up to the terminal and exited the cab, opened my door, and held his hand to me. This was new and rather unconventional. “Allow me.” I blushed and placed my hand into his. 

“Thank you.” 

“It was my pleasure, ma’am.” He flourished, placing a small kiss on the back of my hand. He then retrieved my case from the trunk and placed it on the sidewalk. “Would you mind if I—” he said, and then stopped. “No, never mind.”

“What, Arthur?”

“I was going to ask you for your phone number. It would be nice to talk to someone else from time to time who isn’t living their dream…”

I shook my head. “That’s not a great idea, Arthur, I’m sorry. My fiancé is protective of me, and I don’t want to cause problems.”

“I understand,” he said. He bowed to me as I stepped up onto the sidewalk that led into the airport. “I wish you luck on your marriage and your dreams. Perhaps the fates will be kind enough to allow our paths to cross again someday.” 

“I hope so,” I lied. No, I don’t, I thought to myself. He was charming and very handsome. But Arthur, the cab driver, was not my type.

*****

At the airport near campus, Jeff greeted me at my gate with a rose and a kiss. I wrapped my arms around him and kissed him back. How I missed him! 

“Hi Jeff,” I said. “It’s so good to see you!”

“We aren’t going back to the dorm, Des. I moved out early so we could have some privacy before Mom and Dad arrive on Wednesday night.”

“Privacy is always good.” I kissed him again and took his hand.

“You’ve gotten more beautiful since I saw you last.” 

That was usually his tell. I laughed when I nodded at him. He gave me a sly wink as we walked toward baggage claim. 

The hotel he booked was a few miles from the airport, and forty minutes off-campus. It wasn’t extravagant, but comfortable and homey. Painted in pastels—which honestly looked out of place in a northern town—the room had contemporary furniture in light stains, brass fixtures, and Damask bed linens. Instead of having wall-to-wall carpeting, the floor was finished with wood laminate. 

“I thought of you when I chose this one, Des. I wanted you to feel at home.” 

“Thank you, Jeff. You didn’t have to cater to me, you know.”

“I never have to do anything.” He was undressing me with his eyes.

I walked to where he stood and gave him a passionate kiss. “Let’s not wait another moment.”


The next day, I met Jeff’s band members, all of them graduating with Jeff on Thursday. That was my first surprise on this trip. The bass player was a beautiful blonde girl named Valerie. Why didn’t he tell me about her? I swallowed hard when I shook her hand. 

“So you’re Jeff’s girl!” she said. “Pleasure to meet you!”

I felt insecure. “Nice to meet you, too.” 

“He talks about you ALL the time!” She acted as though we’d known each other all our lives. “I can’t wait to get to know you better.” Valerie had an annoying, twittery laugh reminiscent of a girl almost half her age. I suddenly understood what Arthur meant.

“Funny, he has said nothing about you.” I wasn’t happy that he waited until now to spring this on me. How did he expect I’d feel? 

“Well, don’t worry about Jeff. He adores you. You’re so lucky!”

“Excuse me a moment,” I said and walked to the ladies’ room. Inside, I paced back and forth, angry that he said nothing about Valerie. I heard the others gathering outside while I stewed. What was I so worried about, anyway? I was confident that Jeff loved only me.

I fixed my hair and splashed some water on my face, patted it dry, and walked from the restroom. Jeff stood there with a smile brighter than the sun. “There’s my babyluv!” he said, beaming. I walked into his arms and held him close, ashamed of myself that I’d gotten bitter. “Are you okay?” he whispered into my ear.

Nodding, I answered him. “Yeah, I was just a little surprised by Valerie. You never mentioned you had a female bassist.” 

“I didn’t?” When I shook my head, he held me closer. “Oh, honey, I’m sorry. I thought I had.” 

“It’s okay.”

“No, it isn’t, Des. I want you to trust me and I never want to give you a reason to doubt—”

“Break it up!” Vic said as he walked into the studio. “You need to get a room, Jeff.” 

“Got one. What’s your point?” he said back. “Come, babyluv. Sing with us.”

It was the first time Jeff had invited me to sing with him and his band, and I was excited. “What are we playing?”

“I have a surprise for you, Des.” His face softened as he directed the band members to play. Imagine my shock when it was Daddy’s favorite song, the one I’d written years before. How did he know it? He took my hand and pulled me to the microphone. “Sing with me, sweetheart.”

His arrangement of the song was beautiful, the first time I’d ever heard it with full musical accompaniment. He’d rewritten the vocals as a duet; it was better than my original song. Jeff handed the sheet music to me and sang his part first.

Our voices blended together; his voice sang in harmony with mine, and it sounded so perfect, so melodic. Every part of the song was flawless. By the time the band finished, I was a mess, weeping with joy. What a beautiful gift Jeff and his band had given me!

Jeff leaned close and whispered into my ear. “I hope you don’t mind that I arranged this. I have the full song written with this arrangement, but you don’t have to use my lyrics. Yours are miles better than mine, anyway.” 

“No, you did a fantastic job on that song, Jeff. It’s…” My voice caught in my throat again. “I love it.” 

“Good. I was going to wait until our wedding, but I couldn’t.”

“I’m happy you didn’t. Are you going to record it? You should.” 

Jeff shook his head and scowled. “We’re not stealing your daddy’s favorite song, Des. I arranged it for you to take back to the Shores with you. I want you to have your first break. We all think this song is your ticket to the big time.” 

Jeff had rendered me speechless many times before, but never had he given me a gift of this magnitude. Granted, it was my song, but his adjustments made it so much better. “I think we should record this together, Jeff, when you get to the Shores next month.” 

He pulled away from me, his eyes shifted away from mine. “That’s the thing, Des. I’m not going to the Shores with you. Not yet, anyway.” And there it was: surprise number two.

My eyes filled with tears. “You’re… what?”

“I’m sorry, Des. I didn’t know how else to tell you. The band is starting out in Bridgeport.”

“What about us?”

“I’ll fly as often as I can to see you, I promise. Des, we will make this work. You have my word.”

First Valerie, and now Bridgeport. I was almost afraid to see Audrey and Julian on Wednesday night. “I believe you,” was what I told him. In my heart, it felt like déjà vu.


Five Months Later

“Des, what are you doing this weekend?” Jeff’s voice was louder and happier than usual. 

“I have Saturday off, then I work nine straight days at the coffeehouse. My final gown fitting is Tuesday.” The wedding was two weeks away.

“So, you need to be back in the Shores by Tuesday?”

I laughed. “That’s what you got from what I said?” 

“I can’t help it. I have some exciting news, and I want to do it up right, Des. You’re coming to Bridgeport to meet me.”

“You’re going to get me fired, Jeff.” 

“Nonsense, babyluv. Besides, you’re almost my wife. You won’t have to work at the coffee shop much longer.”

“You have a point, I guess. I like my job, though.” It wasn’t helping me further on the road to stardom, but it paid the bills. Barely.

“I’ll send the private jet for you on Saturday morning. I’ll have a hotel room, and you’ll come right here.” He ignored what I’d said about my job. “Then on Saturday night, we’re going to the most exclusive restaurant in Bridgeport.”

“What kind of news do you have, Jeff?”

“Oh Des, it’s life-changing! I can’t wait to tell you!”

“I guess I’ll let Jared know I’ll be back to work on Wednesday.” He would not be happy with me. I presumed he allowed me so much leniency because I was his star employee, though, more time off wouldn’t please him.

“I promise you, babyluv, it will all be worth it.”

“I can’t wait to see you.” For that reason alone, the trip would be more than worth it.

“We’ll meet on Saturday morning. I love you, Destiny.” 

“I love you, too.”

*****

Saturday Morning

Jeff’s private jet met me at the Shores’ municipal airport early on Saturday morning. I had one bag and a garment bag which held the ivory gown he bought for me in Sunset Valley. I half expected Jeff to be on the jet waiting for me, but I would make this trip alone. 

“Good morning, Miss Destiny,” his personal assistant, Brooke, greeted me. “Mister Jeff is looking forward to seeing you. The flight will depart shortly; our airtime is almost two hours.”

“Thank you, Brooke.” I sat back in the posh leather seat and buckled myself into it. My backpack was in the seat next to mine. I reached into it and grabbed my notebook. The music to the song I wrote for our wedding was almost finished; I planned to sing it to Jeff during the reception. There were a few more parts to compose, and I’d mail the finished arrangement to his band members. We had just one rehearsal before the wedding. I hoped everything would go off without a hitch.

Two hours passed in what felt like the blink of an eye, but the time was productive. In my hands, I held the completed music score and lyrics for my song, and I was excited. It was a gift that Jeff would never forget, and one he’d cherish. Brooke let me know we were close to landing, so I stashed the notebook back into my backpack.

The jet taxied to a black stretch limousine waiting for my arrival. I walked down the steps to the tarmac to see Jeff’s smiling face waiting for me. I picked up my pace; by the time I reached the bottom step, I was running to meet him. 

“Hi babyluv!” he said, picking me up and kissing me. “I’ve missed you.” 

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“I missed you, too,” I said back, enjoying the feel of his arms around me. It had been too long since I’d seen him. 

“Oh, Des, you’re going to love tonight. I promise.” His blue eyes sparkled with mischief, something at which he excelled. “But no hints, so don’t try to pull anything from me!”

“Now, would I do that?” I glanced at him, a smile on my face.

Jeff kissed my nose. “You would, and I’ve seen you do it!”

The limousine brought us to a hotel with an elegant penthouse on top of the highest skyscraper in Bridgeport. The view was incredible. From the rooftop platform, we could see the city in its entirety. He wrapped his arms around me, pointing out all the landmarks and interesting facts about each of them. It was clear he was thriving in Bridgeport. Who was I to ask him to leave it?

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“What do you think, babyluv? Isn’t this exquisite?” 

“Jeff, it’s gorgeous.”

He pointed toward the bridge that went to the hills. “All the affluent people live there, Des. We’ll have a home up there someday.”

I was much less impressed with money than he was. We could live in a one-bedroom house and it wouldn’t matter, as long as we were together. “Are you going to let me in on your big secret?”

“In good time, sweetheart. What did you bring to wear tonight?” 

“I only have one gown, silly.” I kissed him and stuck my hands in his back pockets. His surprised expression was priceless. 

“You shouldn’t have done that,” he teased playfully. 

“And why not?” 

“Because now I need you.” He looked with longing, leaned in, and whispered. “Let’s go make a baby, Des.”

I bit my bottom lip. “He’s going to look like you.”

A few hours later, we were wrapped up in each other, engaged in sweet pillow talk, when his phone rang. He picked up his cell and looked at it. “I have to take this, Des. It’s my agent.” He got up and walked out into the suite’s main living area. I took my time getting dressed, a fresh, sweet memory in the back of my mind. I sure loved that man.

Twenty minutes later, he walked back into the bedroom, dressed and looking conflicted. He grabbed hold of me and held me to his chest; his grip was almost too tight. “What’s wrong, Jeff?”

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He loosened his grasp and pulled away. “I’m not sure how to break this to you, sweetheart.” 

“I don’t know what you mean.” 

“You’re here because I have life-changing news for you, and I wanted to tell you tonight at dinner. But I’m afraid that won’t happen, babyluv. I have this room until Wednesday. You can stay here until you need to return to the Shores.” He pulled his suitcase from the closet and plopped it on the bed. “I’m sorry.”

A sense of dread settled into the pit of my stomach. “Why are you leaving before supper, Jeff? What’s going on?” 

He sat me on the bed and kneeled in front of me. With my hands in his, he looked into my eyes. “Des, we have to postpone the wedding indefinitely.”

“What?! Why?”

“That’s what I was going to tell you at dinner, babyluv.” He kissed my fingers, reached up, then brushed a lock of hair from my face. “Destiny, the Experience has a record contract, and now a nationwide tour beginning next week. We’re opening for Acidic Tides. This is huge, babyluv.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. A record deal? A nationwide tour? “How long have you known about this?” I tried so hard not to sound bitter, but venom dripped from my words. “I can’t believe you said yes to a tour. You have plans! What about me? Where do I fit into your schedule, Jeff? I have felt like an afterthought since January! First it was Valerie, then telling me you’re coming here instead of to the Shores with me. Now you’ve gotten your big break, and you’re going on tour without me?”

“You’re acting like I planned this, Des! I didn’t know about the tour until the phone call! I can’t turn down this kind of opportunity. This is great news for us! Isn’t this everything we wanted?”

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“It’s everything YOU wanted!” I screamed at him. “Meanwhile, I’m still struggling to find my feet in the Shores.” I knew he didn’t realize how bad things were for me in Starlight Shores. He was about to find out. “I can barely afford to live there, Jeff. I’ve lost weight because I can’t afford food! Jared is generous and gives me what doesn’t sell at the end of my shifts. I don’t remember the last time I bought anything just for me. Me! Where is MY chance, Jeff? Where is MY good luck?” I pushed him away. “When is it MY turn to feel what it’s like to catch a freaking break?!”

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Jeff stood with me, tears in his eyes. I was so furious, I couldn’t see the pain he wore, the complete shock of hearing me rant about HIS good fortune, which would have been ours. “I don’t understand why you’re so angry,” he said, almost whispering. Then, I doubled down on stupid and screamed the one thing I wish I’d never uttered, the three words that changed my life forever:

“I HATE YOU!” I spat.

By the time it had escaped my mouth, the wrecking ball had already ravaged his heart, and it was much too late to stuff the toothpaste back into the tube. I didn’t even mean the words that left my mouth. I sputtered them in a moment of total jealous insanity. Jeff’s face displayed a thousand different emotions as I watched in silent agony; pain, hurt, heartbreak, devastation, disbelief, and finally anger. His rage was more than warranted. I sank to my knees to beg his forgiveness; just as I opened my mouth to speak, he tore into me like a hound dog on an old bone.

“Jeff, I—”

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“Shut it, Destiny. You know something? I didn’t need your selfish diatribe when I was out of my mind with worry about having to tell you about postponing OUR special day. You and me. But it was never ‘us’ with you, was it? Our life together has always been about you, hasn’t it? You expected ME to move to the Shores to be with you. You never ONCE offered to come here! Why is that, Des? Because you’re a narcissistic, entitled, self-centered little bitch, that’s why!”

“No! No, Jeff, that’s not it—” He pulled me to my feet and looked into my eyes. With all his strength, he pinned me against the wall.

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“Oh, I’m not even close to finished with you yet. My family welcomed you into their home, not once, but twice, and you spat in their faces the last time you were there. My sister told me what an ungrateful little shrew you are, but I didn’t want to believe her. Mom was convinced all you wanted was my money. But it’s worse than that, isn’t it, Destiny? You suck the life out of everyone around you. Is that why that guy you were with in Appaloosa Plains left you, and why your best friend ditched you? Maybe it wasn’t his fault after all! Maybe you ripped his heart to ribbons like you just did to mine!” 

“No! I didn’t mean it, Jeff, I swear! I don’t hate you, babe! I love you so much—”

“No, you don’t. You never did. I was such a fool. You’re a monster, Des. My mother was right about you all along. I was too blinded by love to see what you really are.” He started throwing his clothing into the suitcase he plopped onto the bed. I’d never seen him so angry. He was justified, too. 

“No, I’m not a monster!! Oh, please, Jeff. Please don’t leave me… I’ll die without you.” 

“You should have thought of that before you started your jealous tirade! We’re done.” He held his hand out. “My ring. I’m going to need that back.”

My fist clenched around the diamond ring I’d grown accustomed to feeling on my finger, the one I didn’t want to return. Returning the ring was an admission that we were finished, and I couldn’t let myself accept it. “No! Please, Jeff, I’m begging you—”

“Don’t make me pry it from your fingers. I’m not leaving without it, and I am leaving you. I’ll be generous and give you a month to be out of my penthouse. My attorney will ensure that you leave without incident. I don’t care where you go, but you’re done freeloading off of me. Leave your car keys on the counter when you move out.” 

He finished packing his clothing into his case and almost flung it from the bed while I watched in stunned disbelief. “Stay here until Tuesday if you want, but don’t you dare come back. Forget my phone number. I promise you, I will forget yours.” He chose every word he spoke for its maximum impact, each one intended to inflict the most pain possible. 

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“Please, don’t go. Let’s work this out, Jeff. I’m so sorry!” My words were increasingly desperate. Jeff took me by the wrist and drove me to my knees. He caught my left hand and forced the ring from it, stripping from me any hope I had that we could fix what I had so recklessly destroyed. Then he ripped from his neck the chain I’d given him for Snowflake Day and threw it at me. I knew what was coming next. His fingers wrapped around my gold and diamond necklace. With a sharp pull, it broke away; the chain slithered across my skin like a golden snake. He slipped both into his pocket.

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“Saying you’re sorry isn’t going to cut it, not this time. What you’ve done is unforgivable, Destiny.” He dialed his phone—I assumed he was calling for his limo—then looked back at me with that haunting pain on his face. “I loved you. I treated you like my queen, and this is how you repaid me? I won’t allow another woman to do what you’ve done to me. Have a good life, Destiny. Goodbye.” He flung the door open almost off its hinges and slammed it with the same intensity, his last farewell still ringing in my ears. Before his angry footsteps left the suite, I heard his cries of anguish and devastation. What had I done?

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I hadn’t been in Bridgeport long enough to unpack my suitcase, but my vacation weekend was already over. I sat on the floor in emotional agony, weeping uncontrolled sobs. Everything I had known in the past three years was suddenly gone, including the love of my life. It wasn’t until Jeff told me goodbye that I realized how deeply I loved him, and how much, unfortunately, I took him and his love for granted. I assumed he would wait for my boat to dock, and for my career to take flight, and that he would be content riding my coattails. I never considered that he was more talented than I, and that he would walk into success more easily than I ever dreamed possible. Even then, crying in the suite’s bedroom, I wallowed in jealousy and envy, and I loathed myself for it. 

In two seconds, with the utterance of three simple, careless words, I’d upended my future and ruined Jeff’s spectacular surprise. I threw away everything I loved and burned my life down to the ground. Never again would I hear his voice calling me ‘babyluv’. Never again would we make love on a whim, then hold each other until we fell asleep. I would never again look into his blue eyes and hear from his lips, “I love you, Destiny.” 

I was shattered to my core.

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Up Next: Chapter Four, Generation Two


Pose Credits:

Bangsain
Lover’s Poses

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On Display (modeling poses) by k2m1too
Bully by Spladoum

Poses By Bee
Adult Argument
Attack! Pose Pack
Couple Poses #2
Family Photo 1-14 and 19-21

Severinka Sims 3
Broken Heart by Addie

Sims 3 Modeli
Don’t Let Me Down by Sea

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Request 12 by Blams

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Custom Content:

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Severinka Sims 3
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The Sims Cars
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The Sims Resource
Wedding Dress by BEO Creations
Jeff’s Hair by Cazy
Destiny’s Hair by WingsSims

The Sims 3 Exchange
St Georges Airport

Content not listed here is documented on the Custom Content page. Custom content and poses are not my property and are used in compliance with the TOUs.


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

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


Two Weeks Later

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

“Have you been here all day, babyluv?”

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

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

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

“Do you have your permit yet?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Two Months Later

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

“At least give me a hint?”

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

“Not helpful!”

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

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

“You don’t miss a trick, do you?”

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

“Yes, what?”

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

“I didn’t ask—” he groaned.

“You don’t have to.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you alright?” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You will need those things, Des.”

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

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

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

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

“Do you like it, babyluv?”

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

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

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

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


Three Weeks Later

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I see.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I wish I could say they’re good.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is everything else okay?”

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

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

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

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

“Okay, that’s a deal. I love you.” 

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Off-white?” I said.

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Your parents must be so disappointed—”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What? Why, Des? What happened?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I would love that.” 

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

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

“Okay, Des. Remember, I love you.”

“I love you, too.”


— Jeff — 

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

“Jeffy!” 

“What did you do, Mom?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Isn’t she from a poor family?”

“She is. What’s your point?”

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

“I trust her.” 

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

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

“OK, Jeffery. We love you, son.” 

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

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

“Hi, babyluv!” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Up Next: Chapter Three, Generation Two


Pose Credits:

MyPalSims
Phone Poses

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

The Sims Resource
Sit In by Shokobiene

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Simetria Sims — Romantic couple pose pack by Lexy 

Zhippidy Poses
Anger 10 Poses

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Around The Sims 3
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Notebook
Pen

Mod The Sims
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Severinka
Samsung Right-Hand Phone Accessory

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

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

The Sims 3 Exchange
Sweet Pea Flowers by Skyeseeker

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


G2 Chapter One – Destiny Moves To The City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Starlight Shores,” I said. 

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

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

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

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

“Is this it?” I asked, just in case.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where is that?” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re certain about coming here?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What’s going on tomorrow?”

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

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

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

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

“Mmhmm. Why?” 

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

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

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

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


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

“Can I help you?” 

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

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

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

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

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

My babyluv,

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

Jeff

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

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

Love, Jeff.

P.S. This isn’t my surprise!

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

“Good morning, princess.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I smiled. “I will. And Jeff?” 

“Yes, babyluv?” 

“I love you so much.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I haven’t paid—”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So a hundred thirty thousand?” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I can handle myself—”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What are you up to, Des?” 

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

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

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

“Regret? About what?” 

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

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

“Jeff, I already have. I’m so ready.”

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s fine. I love you, Jeff.” 

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

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

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

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

“Yes.” 

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

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

“My name is Jared.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nodded. “Sounds good.”

*****

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

“Hello?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sounds good. I love you.” 

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


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

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

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

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

“Mmhmm,” I nodded. “Destiny.” 

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

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

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

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

“If.” 

“Pardon?” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jared gave me a sly grin. “Large.” 

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

“Medium, then.”

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

“Is it stirred?” 

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

“Well, Destiny, I’m impressed.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hi,” he said. “I’m Grant.” 

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

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

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

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

“Are you hungry?” 

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

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

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

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

“You’re sure?” 

I nodded. “Yes. It’s okay.” 

“He won’t come beat me up, will he?”

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

That seemed to convince him. “Okay.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, after that.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Up Next: Chapter Two, Generation Two


Pose Credits:

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

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

Tumblr
Conversation Pose Pack by SimSayWhat

*****

Custom Content:

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

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

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


G2 Prologue – Meet Destiny Farmer, Part Two

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

iii.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do you?” 

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

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

“Mmhmm. Wanna hear my secret?” 

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

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

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

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

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

“Back home?” 

He nodded his head. “Oh, yeah.” 

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

“Like what? Human?”

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

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

I smiled. “Of course you are, Jeff.” 

“I sense some hesitation there…?” 

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

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

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

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

“I’d like that, Jeff.” 

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I know I was their miracle baby.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screenshot-478 (4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You’re such a brat!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

“Where is he?” 

“I dunno.” 

“Is he around?” 

“I dunno.” 

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

“I dunno.” 

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

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

“He’s… what?!”

“Sorry.” 

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

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

“Go away, Jeff!” I yelled. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So we’re good?” 

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

“So, where were you tonight, anyway?” 

“I had a study date with some classmates.” 

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

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

“Mmhmm.” 

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

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

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

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

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

“Me too.”


iv.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

“Des!” 

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

He winced. “Is it good news?” 

“Mmhmm.” 

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

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

“Yes, and you’re killing me.” 

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

“Wait, what?” 

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

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

“I’ll wait for you.” 

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

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

“That still solves nothing, Des.” 

“How so? I thought it was perfect—” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” 

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

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

How could I argue with that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Destiny, come lay down with me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do I turn you on that much?” 

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

“No, I’m not.” 

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

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

“How lucky is that?” he teased. 

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

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

“Goodnight, my handsome prince.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Really?” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nodded. A little quiet would do me well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I bet you’d love to know.” He kissed my cheek and darted away from me. “I know, I’m being a brat. You’ll find out in good time.” 

I loved surprises, but I was especially good at reading people, and sometimes I could predict what was coming. However, Jeff had me stumped. For this, I was thankful. “I can’t wait!” 

“We can hang out by the fireplace. I’ll make some cocoa and we can snuggle.” 

He knew the way to my heart. “That sounds so romantic. I’m game.” 

The house backed up to a wooded area, rife with woodland creatures, from deer to small bears. The family room, where a second fireplace stood, was rustic and charming, much like Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul’s ranch house back home. An overstuffed sectional sofa made a partial “U” shape around a large coffee table. The seating looked toward the fireplace.

Jeff’s mother, who I learned was named Audrey, made two piping hot mugs of cocoa and brought them to us as we settled onto the long section of sofa. He laid on his back; I snuggled up with him on his right side. I felt so cozy and loved. My head on his chest, I closed my eyes. 

I must have dozed off, because I awakened to Jeff talking with a young female with blonde hair. His fingers traced the curve of my body; it tickled, and I stifled a laugh, not wanting to disturb them. Instead, I wrapped my arms around him tighter, and snuggled much closer.

“You’re awake, babyluv,” he whispered. “Barb, this is my girlfriend, Destiny. Des, this is my twin sister, Barbara.” 

I knew Jeff had a sister, but I didn’t know they were twins. “So you’re the one who’s enchanted my brother? Nice to meet you.” 

Enchanted, huh? “Nice to meet you, too,” I said. 

“She’s an heiress, aren’t you, babyluv?” He rubbed my back, and I closed my eyes again. All this attention was amazing. 

“Heiress? Of what? A horse farm?” Barb looked down her nose at me and gave me a condescending smile. 

“That’s what my family home is. A horse farm, a field of award-winning fruits and vegetables…” I didn’t want to choke up and get emotional in front of Jeff’s snooty sister. My voice quivered, and a tear dropped onto Jeff’s shirt. “This is my first holiday without them…” A single sob shook our bodies, and then a deep sigh. “I’m sorry.” 

Jeff looked into my eyes and caressed my cheek. “You have no reason to be sorry.” Then he lowered his voice and side-glanced at his sister. “Just ignore her. She takes after my pop.”

Barb got up from the sofa. “Enjoy your hillbilly girlfriend, Jeffy.” She walked out of the room.

That didn’t make me feel better. “I’m going to turn in, Jeff. I don’t feel well.” It was a small lie. I felt fine, but I couldn’t take any more. I had been thinking about Mama and Daddy. Being bullied by his sister was the last straw. 

“Are you sure, babyluv? Mom is making a big dinner… I mean, supper.” 

I wiped tears from my eyes. “I’m just tired, I think.” Though I was relaxed, I needed to be alone. “Goodnight, Jeff.”

“At least let me walk you there?” I got up and stood on shaky legs. He didn’t miss a beat, lifting me into his arms and carrying me back to the bedroom. He set me down on the bed, then curled up next to me. “I won’t leave you until you fall asleep, or tell me to leave.” 

He always knew just what I needed. “Thank you.” I laid my head on the softest down pillow with a satin pillowcase. Jeff’s body spooned next to mine, his warm breath in my hair. I was tired, so it wasn’t long before I felt the gentle tug of slumber calling me back to its realm. Before he left me, I felt him cover me with a blanket, a tender kiss on my cheek, and his whispered confession of love in my ear. 

I’m not sure how much later it was when shouting woke me from sleep. The male voice was Jeff’s, but I didn’t know the female with whom he argued. Though I knew I shouldn’t, I laid quietly, eavesdropping on a very personal, very heated discussion. 

“… she shouldn’t be here, Jeff! What about Pamela? What is she going to say?” the female voice shouted. My heart leaped into my throat. Who was Pamela??

“What about her, Barb?” Oh… well, that made sense. I kept listening. “Pam and I are done, over! She’s the one who ended it, not me! So ask me again ‘what about Pam?’ Barb! I don’t care!” I heard angry footsteps, and then a door slam.

“Don’t you walk away from me, you overconfident ass!” Barb screamed at him. Jeff never answered the jab. Instead, I heard heavy footsteps approaching my door, and then walking past it; the door next to mine slammed shut.

Guilt overwhelmed me. I assumed their spat was my fault. I mean, who wouldn’t make that same assumption with what I’d overheard? But I had nowhere to go. I was stuck in a house where a brother and sister fought like cats and dogs, and I was their subject of disagreement. I pulled the blanket over my head and wept, desperately missing home and the family I loved.

*****

The next morning, I felt like death warmed over. My eyes and face were puffy from hours of tears. My head pounded. I felt like I hadn’t slept a wink all night. Jeff’s quiet knock on the door came moments later. 

“Des?” 

I pulled the blankets up over my body and settled back down into bed. “Come in, Jeff.” 

He couldn’t have mistaken my puffy face and tired eyes. “Are you okay, babyluv?” 

There was no sense lying about it. He’d find out, eventually. “I… I heard you and Barb arguing last night. Jeff, I shouldn’t be here—”

“Oh honey,” he said and sat on the bed next to me. “I’m sorry you heard that. My sister and I don’t see eye to eye on most things.” 

“Who is Pamela?” I couldn’t help it. I had trust issues. Thanks, Austin.

He took a deep breath and exhaled. “Pam is my ex-fiancée. We were engaged for all of five minutes before she had enough of me. In her defense, we were too young to be engaged. I was stupid, and I thought I loved her. But it wasn’t meant to be. Barb is her best friend, so that should tell you something.” 

“How young were you when you asked her?” I knew he was barely twenty-one.

“It was prom night, senior year. We dated through most of high school, from freshman year until, well, graduation. I went to Sim State with a broken heart. I had no intention of falling in love again.” He kissed me and stroked my cheek. “That was, until I met you. Des, you made it so easy to love you, I couldn’t help myself.” 

“Barb is right, Jeff. I shouldn’t be here; I’m interfering with your life—”

“No, honey,” he put his finger to my lips with a serious look. “You’re not interfering with my life at all. You are my life.” His words brought tears, though I wasn’t sure why. Happiness? Guilt? Relief? It didn’t matter. He kissed each one of them away, then hugged me close. “Do you realize, Des, how much you mean to me?” 

I gave him a teary half-smile. “I think I’m getting the hint.” 

“Good. Babyluv, please don’t believe you don’t belong here. As long as we’re together, you belong here, too.” He eyed my choice of pajamas and snickered. “Is that your ‘Jeff-repellent’ outfit? If so, it won’t work.” 

That made me laugh. “Good! I don’t want it to work, because I need you in my life.” 

His radiant smile made me happy, too. I couldn’t believe how much I adored that man. “Let’s go for breakfast.” He picked me up off the bed amid my squeals of protest and carried me to the kitchen.


My nineteenth birthday was three days before Snowflake Day. Jeff had plans for us, but he was being tight-lipped about it. His mom, who I adored, took me into town to shop for a dress. “Jeff’s treat,” she said, but divulged nothing else. I was so curious about everything. He was a master of the tease. 

We stopped at a boutique that carried evening gowns and cocktail dresses. He’d given her specifics about what he wanted. Her job was to make sure that I was properly outfitted, according to what he desired. 

A jingle bell on the boutique’s door rang as she pulled it open. “Hi, Mrs. Dean!” the shop owner said. “And who is this lovely young lady?” 

“Hi, Ana,” Audrey said. “This is Jeffery’s girlfriend, Destiny.” She covered her mouth with her hand, as though she was telling a secret. “They met at college! Isn’t she just the cutest thing? And wait until you hear her talk!” 

There’s that accent thing again. I never even knew I had an accent until I left home for school. Now, it’s as though no one’s ever heard a country drawl before. I was a little self-conscious about it. But Ana walked to me and held her hand out for me to shake. “Pleasure to meet you, Destiny.” 

I smiled at her. “The pleasure is mine,” I said, and then cringed. Destiny, you sound like a hick from Hicksville, I thought. 

Ana giggled and nodded at Audrey. “You’re right! She’s just adorable.” They whispered, and though I couldn’t discern what they were saying, I surmised it was about the dress we were there to buy. Ana looked me up and down. “I’m guessing she’s about a size… three?” 

I couldn’t believe it. “Yes,” I said and nodded. “That’s right.” 

“Let me see what we have that fits Jeff’s requirements. You stay right there, beautiful!” Ana said; she turned on her heel and excused herself to the stockroom.

Audrey walked up to me and put her arm around my shoulder. “You seem a bit out of place, dear. Just relax and enjoy yourself.” She gave me a quick hug and then whispered in my ear, “I’ve never seen Jeffy this happy before. You’re very good for him.” 

“I adore him,” I said with a smile. “He’s made it very easy to love him.” 

Ana had brown hair and a smile that reminded me of Polly back home in the Plains. Her eclectic clothing style was almost medieval with a corset that cinched her waist, a bulky necklace with a huge pendant, and distressed black jeans. Adorable ankle-length boots finished her odd, but somehow coordinating, look. 

Ana came back with a handful of beautiful evening gowns, all of them with no visible price tags. Drat! She held a baby blue gown up to me with a smattering of sequins around the skirt, and nodded. “Let’s try this one first!” She ushered me into a dressing room, and she stood there with me, ready to offer help. Well, this was awkward. No one had ever seen me undressed before except Dr. Jordan, when I had a physical for school. And Mama, of course. But Ana nodded at me in expectation. I sighed. Here goes nothing…

My sweater came off over my head, and Ana clicked her tongue at my bra. “We’ve gotta fix that!” she said with a chuckle. “You can’t wear something this elegant with that brassiere!” I couldn’t wait to slip off my jeans. Maybe she’d suggest I wear a thong. I rolled my eyes.

The gown was simply beautiful. Had it been up to me, I’d have stopped looking with this one. But Ana looked at my image in the mirror and consulted with Audrey. They twirled me around until I was dizzy, inspecting every fold and tuck in the dress. On my last turn, I stumbled toward the chair sitting nearby. Enough with the spinning already. 

“What do you think, Destiny?” Audrey asked. “It’s perfect for what Jeff wanted. There are others, though. Ana?” 

“It wouldn’t hurt to try another couple of dresses, sure!” Ana concurred.

Oh, goody. 

Next up was a purple, strapless number. Right off the bat, I hated it. Purple is not my color. I have blazing red hair. Let’s be real about this. But, to satisfy Audrey and Ana, I stepped into it and let her zip the back. Not my favorite, and Audrey seemed to agree. Two down, fifty gazillion to go. 

Ana held the next one up, and my heart skipped a beat. This is the one! I thought. Now, if Jeff approved, albeit through his mom, I was golden. It was a beautiful, creamy off-white with lace cap sleeves and a plunging back. I’d need a plan for a new bra with this number. The fabric was silky, and as Ana slipped it over my head and let the fabric fall around my body, I fell in love with this gorgeous gown. I imagined myself attending elegant dinner parties on Jeff’s arm, feeling like royalty, with flowers woven into my braided hair and wearing this dress.

Audrey’s mouth dropped open when I stepped onto the platform in front of the mirrors. She bobbed her head, and I thought I saw her wipe a tear away. If Mama could see me now, I thought. My eyes welled with tears.

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“Destiny, you’re a picture of grace and beauty in that gown. I think we have a winner,” Audrey said. “Ana, wrap this one.” 

Ana looked at me, inspected the gown; she noted everywhere it touched my body, how it accentuated every curve. “This doesn’t need a stitch. I seldom see gowns like this fit right off the rack.” She spun me around once, inspecting how the skirt flowed, and whirled with me. “The length is perfect, the fit is phenomenal. I’m blown away.” She stood next to me and hugged my shoulders. “You’ve made my job easy. Now, for the fun part! Let’s get you what you need!”

She took the time to measure me. She came out with a set that almost perfectly matched the gown’s color. The bra had clear straps and no back. I’d never seen such a contraption before. I was surprised at how comfortable it was. The panties were, as I suspected, skimpy but soft, and a garter belt held up real silk stockings. A pair of high-heeled shoes looked a lot better than my bare feet under the dress. I didn’t want to know the price tag on that shopping excursion. I bet it was more than Daddy paid for his truck.

Ana winked at Audrey. “Shall I have this delivered?” 

“Yes, please.” She handed Ana a card, signed a slip of paper, and took a shopping bag with my unmentionables inside. “Thank you, dear, for your help. I’m sure we’ll be back.”


On the morning of my birthday, I awakened to a dozen long stemmed red roses on my nightstand, and a card. I sat up in bed and sniffed one flower; for a rose, it was surprisingly fragrant. The card was enclosed in a scented envelope. My fingers slid under the flap, removed the card, and opened it. 

Destiny, I wanted to give you all my love for your birthday, but there’s no box big enough to hold it. Besides, it’s already yours. Happy birthday, my babyluv. – Jeff

I wept, and I didn’t feel bad about it. How lucky was I that I had someone who loved me so much? I was already feeling melancholy. A year ago, Mama and Daddy were celebrating my eighteenth birthday with me. They’d already been gone almost a year; it didn’t seem possible.

I was trying to collect myself when a knock sounded at the bedroom door. “Come in?” 

Jeff peeked his head in and waved. “Happy birthday, babyluv.” he said. 

“Thank you, Jeff, for the beautiful roses.” 

“And…?” 

I was confused. “And… what? Oh, the card. I loved it! Thank you.” 

Jeff smiled and walked to my bedside and the vase of roses. Hanging on a prong inside the bouquet was a gold necklace. The chain had a gold heart pendant with diamonds, and it was exquisite. 

“This, babyluv. You didn’t see it, did you?” He took the necklace from the flowers and placed it in my hands. “It’s not as beautiful as you, but it’s close.” 

The necklace took my breath away. “Oh, Jeff…” I didn’t know what to say. 

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“Let me put it on you, babyluv.” He took the delicate chain from my hands and placed it around my neck, secured the clasp, and spun me around. “Its beauty only enhances yours.” He drew close to me and embraced me. “I can’t wait for tonight. It will be unforgettable.”

I rested my head on his shoulder, completely overwhelmed. “I love you,” I whispered. 

“Des, I will love you forever. Believe me when I say it.”

“I do,” I said.

“Mom is making breakfast for you. Get your robe and slippers, and let’s get some coffee.” 

I nodded my head, still in a complete daze. “Okay.” Jeff held the robe for me, then I slipped my fuzzy socks on my tootsies. We walked to the kitchen together.

Audrey had cooked an impressive spread—pancakes, sausage, bacon, omelettes, toast, bagels, and French toast. Was she feeding all of Sunset Valley? I wondered. “This smells amazing, Audrey,” I said. 

“Happy Birthday, Destiny Grace,” she said and gave me a hug. As many times as I told her my middle name was Penelope, she told me ‘Grace’ fit me better. Who am I to argue with someone who can cook like that?

“Thank you,” I said, blushing. 

“Help yourself. Jeff, don’t let her be shy.” 

He loaded plates for both of us while I sat at the dining room table, our coffee waiting for us. I sat stirring my cup when he returned. He had a stack of pancakes, eggs, and bacon on his plate. On mine, he had placed a ham, swiss and asparagus omelette, wheat toast, and a wedge of honeydew melon. I’d never seen asparagus before—I had to ask him what it was!—but I discovered I liked it. 

We ate together, not saying much. When I’d taken my last bite of omelette, I was stuffed. Audrey brought some bacon and sausage into the dining room and placed a couple links onto my plate, despite my protests. Jeff looked at me, struggling to put one more morsel into my mouth, and he chuckled. 

“You don’t have to eat that, Des. Mom is a feeder.” 

“Whew,” I said. “I can’t fit another bite in there.” I sipped the last of my coffee; Jeff stole the sausage from my plate with a mischievous smile. “I’m good until supper.” 

“Well, save your appetite, babyluv. You will want to eat where I’m taking you tonight.” 

I studied his face, trying to read him. What did he have planned? He was a master at hiding his emotions. I couldn’t glean one clue from him. “Any hints?” 

He clicked his tongue at me. “Nuh uh uh! No hints! In fact,” he began, and then reneged. “Nope! No more tricks either, you cheeky girl! You almost got one out of me!”

I stuck my tongue out at him and giggled. “You can’t blame a girl for trying, can you?” 

Jeff kissed my cheek, leaving a wet print on my skin. “Nope.” 

After breakfast, he strongly encouraged me to shower, which I did. At noon, he took me downtown for what he called ‘extreme primping.’ The car he kept at the mansion in Sunset Valley was much nicer than the Camaro he had at school, and I was pretty impressed with that one. He had a Mercedes Benz, whatever that was. It was jet black and shiny, and it felt like driving on a cloud. 

My appointment was at a local day spa, where they would do my hair, nails, and makeup to complement the gown he’d bought me for our special date. He showed them a photo of the dress, and the stylist showed a couple of basic styles by twisting my hair into shape. We decided on a classic updo, neutral shades of makeup, and skin care they said would make my face glow. Jeff kissed my cheek, left his phone number, and said he’d be back to get me when they were finished making their masterpiece. 

My hair stylist, a young man not much older than Jeff, was fascinated with my accent. Wayne—as I learned he was called—washed, dried, and styled my hair into a beautiful setting. When he was finished tucking every stray lock of hair, he handed me the mirror and spun the chair around. “What do you think, love?” he said.

I gawked at the elegant style, overwhelmed by how much Jeff was willing to do for my birthday. The gown, shoes, the unmentionables, the necklace, and now a full makeover? How was I worthy of it all? 

“It’s stunning, Wayne. I love it.” 

He fiddled with stray locks of hair and then froze my style in place with at least half a can of hairspray. When he finished, it was clear I was stuck with that hairdo for a few days. 

“I’m done with you here. Over to Kat for your nails, and then Tammy for a facial and makeup!” He gave me a quick hug. “You are drop dead gorgeous, girl. Knock him dead.” 

“Thanks Wayne,” I said, blushing. 

Kat welcomed me, and we sat down at her table. Mesmerized, I watched her manicure my fingernails, then apply acrylic nails over my natural ones. She painted them a blazing shade of red and affixed tiny rhinestones into the polish. When she finished, I gawked at them. I’d never be able to type on my laptop or play guitar with these things on my fingers. But if Jeff wanted them there, I’d work with it.

“Over to Tammy now,” Kat said. “It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Miss Destiny. Enjoy your evening.”  

“Thank you,” I replied. Tammy was ready for me, so I walked to her station, which was set up like a professional makeup studio, probably because it was. Tammy applied cleansers, moisturizers, and a base foundation to cover up what she called minor imperfections. So minor, in fact, that she almost didn’t bother with concealer. 

She asked me what color blush and eyeshadow I preferred. I only owned one color of each, so that’s what I wore. But Tammy explained each color she chose and what it would do to complement my natural complexion. I almost didn’t recognize myself when she was finished. 

“What do you think?” she asked. 

I chuckled and said, “Who am I?”

“You’re beautiful. That’s who you are. Mr. Jeff is going to love this.” 

“You know Jeff?” 

Tammy nodded. “We went to school together. I don’t think you realize what a catch you have in him, Miss Destiny. He’s the most eligible bachelor in the Tri-City area.” 

“Tri-City?” 

“Sunset Valley, Dragon Valley, and Midnight Hollow.” She snickered at me. “I guess you’re not familiar with the area, judging by your accent.” 

I was growing to despise my country drawl. “Not at all.” 

“Well, you hang onto him. Every woman in this town wants him.” 

If how he treated me was any sign, I had little to worry about. “I think we’re good.” 

“He’s worth millions. If you marry him, you’ll never need to worry about anything.” 

I shrugged. “I’m not interested in the money.” 

“Honey, you’d be the first one who isn’t. Maybe that’s why he adores you so much.” Tammy nudged me. “Here he is now.” The door opened and Jeff walked through it. 

“Where’s my gorgeous babyluv?” he said with a broad grin. “Hi Tammy. I hope you dolled her up all pretty for me.” 

“She needed very little. She’s a knockout.” Jeff signed a slip of paper, took my arm and kissed my cheek. 

“That’s true. She’s beautiful right out of bed.” I blushed a deep red and elbowed him. “Oof, Des,” he whispered. “You’ve got quite a kick.” 

“Please don’t imply we’ve been intimate. I’m not comfortable with that,” I whispered back. 

He kissed me again and stroked my cheek. “You’re right, and I’m sorry.” He walked to Tammy and whispered into her ear. I saw her nod, then wink at me. “Ready to go, sweetheart?” 

Yes! Please get me out of here! “Yes, Jeff.” He took my hand, and we left the spa.

When we got back home, he hugged me and gave me a long, passionate kiss. “I need to get ready for tonight. Be out here by five. You have an hour to dress and finish primping. Please wear this necklace? I bought it to go with your gown.” He fiddled with the heart necklace he gave to me that morning. 

“Of course. I’ll see you in an hour, right here.” 

“On the dot. We can’t be late.” 

“I’ll be here, Jeff.” We walked hand in hand back to our rooms.

The gown had arrived the day after our visit to the dress shop, packaged and draped on a satin hanger. I removed it from the plastic bag and laid it on my bed. The bag of lingerie still sat on the dresser where I’d placed it when we came home that day. I carried it to the bed and began dressing. 

Underneath, I wore a matching bra and skimpy panty set, a coordinating garter belt, and silk stockings. I observed myself in the mirror, and what I saw shocked me. I was a woman; little girls don’t wear this kind of clothing.

The gown was more elegant than I remembered it, silky to the touch and perfect in fit and style. I walked to the full-length mirror in the bedroom. The flood of emotion that came with it was unexpected. If only my parents could see me.

With fifteen minutes to go, a soft knock sounded at my bedroom door. “Who is it?” I called out. 

“It’s Audrey, dear.” 

I walked to the door and opened it. She walked right inside and inspected my dress, my hair, my makeup. She had a small box in her hands, wrapped in gold paper. “This is for you, Destiny.” She sat on my bed and patted the spot next to her, so I joined her. I took the box from her hands and unwrapped it. A long, beautiful scarf-like object was inside. 

“Thank you, Audrey. This is… gorgeous.” What do I do with it?

“It’s a pashmina,” she said. “You wear it over your shoulders.” She took the item from me and draped it over my body. I fell in love with the luxurious fabric on my skin. “This will be all you need to keep warm tonight.” 

I couldn’t think straight. Why was I deserving of so much pampering and spoiling? I’d never want to return to Appaloosa Plains, not even to sell the house, if he didn’t stop spoiling me. “This is… I’m speechless, Audrey.” 

“My son loves you, Destiny. He wants tonight to be perfect.” She kissed my forehead and stood. “He will adore this. Have a lovely time tonight.” 

“Thank you, for everything.” What else could I say? At every turn, Jeff’s family treated me as their own. 

“You’re welcome,” said Audrey. “He’s waiting in the breezeway.” 

I took my small satin purse, wearing my elegant gown and pashmina, and I walked to the foyer where Jeff waited for me. He wore a black tuxedo with a vest underneath that matched the color of my dress. A single red rose was pinned to his lapel. His mouth dropped open as I approached him. 

“You…” he said. It was almost as though he couldn’t speak. “You look elegant tonight.” 

I felt so shy and intimidated. “You look handsome in your tux,” I finally squeaked out. He held his hand to me. 

“Shall we?” 

I nodded. He led me outside, where a stretch limo awaited us. He whispered to the driver, who held the door for me, then slipped a tip into his fingers. The driver nodded as Jeff climbed into the limo after me. 

“Where are we going?” I asked. 

“Oh, babyluv, you’re going to love this.” He took my hands and kissed them. “Everything will be revealed soon.” 

Twenty minutes later, we pulled up outside a gate at what looked like the airport. The driver showed credentials, and the guard allowed us to pass. The limo pulled up beside an airplane. 

“What’s this?” I asked, more nervous.

“This will take us to our dinner reservation tonight, Des. We’re going to Bridgeport to dine at their most exclusive restaurant. The flight will be about an hour. Our reservation is for seven.” 

I couldn’t handle it anymore. My emotions overtook me, and I wept. I didn’t want to ruin my makeup, so I dabbed my eyes to keep the damage to a minimum. “Jeff, this is way too much—”

“Nonsense,” he whispered. “This is just the beginning.” 

Almost ninety minutes later, we were on the ground at Bridgeport’s municipal airport. You’d think with a city as large as Bridgeport, it would have an international airport. And maybe it did. Another limousine took us from the plane into the city. 

If I thought Sunset Valley was a big city, then Bridgeport was a metropolis to me; a far cry from my hometown of Appaloosa Plains. Wide-eyed, I looked out the limousine’s window. I couldn’t imagine what Jeff thought with me gawking. All these things came naturally to him. I felt like a misplaced hillbilly.

The car stopped outside a venue with crowds of people lined up. The driver opened the passenger side door. Jeff stood with a hand to help me out. The temperature must have been cold, but I don’t remember feeling a chill in the air. A dusting of recently fallen snow blew around on the sidewalks. I put my hand in Jeff’s and stood. With a confident stride, he led me past the throng of waiting would-be patrons and inside the establishment. 

“Dean,” he told the host. “Party of two.” 

The gentleman looked down at his book, found the name, and nodded. “Right this way, Master Dean.” Jeff looked at me, took my arm, and we walked together about five paces behind the host. 

“Your table, sir.” He led us to a corner table away from the main dining room; just a few tables surrounded ours. A vase with another dozen long-stemmed roses sat on the table. What he’d spent in flowers alone must have been astronomical. Jeff held my chair until I sat, then took a seat to my right. 

The dining room was elegant. Dark wood paneling adorned the walls, which made the crisp, white linens on the tables pop. Each table was set with golden flatware and two glasses. One for water, I assumed, and one for wine. Nearby was a fireplace burning with gas logs. It radiated an impressive amount of heat, too. I could see why Audrey was certain the pashmina would be suitable. 

Jeff looked at me with pure love on his face. He took my hand and kissed it. “What do you think, Des?” 

I shook my head, but smiled. “How am I worth all of this fuss, Jeff? A year ago I was with my daddy, watching him die day by day…” I swallowed that old familiar lump. I couldn’t cry now. I had nothing to touch up makeup if I did.

“You’re worth it because I love you.” 

They were words he’d said a thousand times, but hearing them in that place made my heart flutter and butterflies swarm in my stomach. “I love you, too. You have outdone yourself.” 

“Never,” he whispered. “For you, nothing is too good or too expensive. Destiny, you are my queen.” 

The waiter came by in the middle of our exchange. Jeff ordered a bottle of champagne; the waiter didn’t ask if I was old enough to drink. He simply nodded and walked away, then returned with two chilled flutes and a bottle of champagne. He popped the stopper from the bottle and poured two bubbly glasses, then placed the bottle into a bucket with ice. 

Jeff picked up his glass and raised it. “To you, my sweetheart. Happy birthday.” 

“Cheers.” I said. “And thank you.” 

In the middle of the dining room sat a grand piano with a pianist playing romantic songs. I recognized quite a few of them from music appreciation classes. Jeff stood and reached for my hand. “I’d love to dance with you.” He pulled me up and into his arms with just a gentle tug. 

“I can’t dance very well,” I said. “I’m sure line dancing and two-stepping isn’t quite appropriate in this setting.” He must have seen me blush, because he pulled me close to him. 

“Just follow my lead,” he whispered. “You’ll be fine.”

Screenshot-105 

Jeff led me to the dance floor; he held me in his arms, and at first we swayed to the music together. As we danced, I wondered how different my life would be if I married him, if he ever asked. Could I give up my dreams and ambitions to be a kept woman? I knew I wanted children eventually. Would it be enough for me to sit at home while Jeff lived my dream? I couldn’t answer that question. 

We danced together for three songs; when we walked back to the table, he stopped two feet from my chair, took my hands, and stared into my eyes. 

“Destiny, I never thought I’d meet someone like you, so perfect for me in every way. And I can’t imagine a moment of my life without you in it.” I saw him reach into his jacket pocket. I watched as he knelt before me, one knee down. He opened a clamshell box and inside was the biggest diamond ring I’d ever seen. My entire body trembled. 

Screenshot-97

“Destiny Farmer, would you do me the honor of being my wife?” By now, everyone in the restaurant was staring at us. He stayed there on one knee, tears in his eyes. I was fighting my own; my head bobbed. I shocked myself when I spoke. 

“Yes!” 

Jeff placed the box on the table, stood, and picked me up into the air. He let me back down, my arms found their way around his shoulders, and he kissed me. “You’ve made me the happiest man in the world, Destiny. I love you.” He took the ring from the box and slid it onto my left hand. Immediately, the ring sparkled and dazzled me. I hadn’t even noticed the applause and commotion our moment had caused. 

Screenshot-100

“I love you, Jeff.”

He took my hand and led me back to my seat, held the chair for me while I sat, and took his place next to me again. My thoughts, my head, were muddled. Though it should have been a joyous occasion, I wanted to cry. “Order without me,” I whispered into his ear, choking on the emotion I bore. I excused myself and went into the ladies’ room.

How I hadn’t ruined my makeup was a mystery to me. I sat on a loveseat for a few moments to collect my thoughts and my composure. Jeff blindsided me with a marriage proposal; all my doubts about my future went out the window. I was going to be his wife. A huge part of me was excited, but the dreamer in me believed I was disappointing my parents by giving up on my plans and ambitions. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, I reasoned to myself. Maybe I could join his band and sing with him. That was the answer my restless soul needed. Yes! That was my plan. 

A few minutes later, I walked from the ladies’ room and rejoined my fiancé in the dining room. Boy, did that feel weird. I had a fiancé. 

“Are you okay, babyluv?” he asked. 

“Yes, I am now. I just needed some time to compose myself.”

“I’m surprised you said yes.” His confession stunned me.

“Why?” 

“I know you feel out of place, with all this extravagance and luxury. I promise you, it gets better.” 

“There’s plenty to discuss, but not tonight.” He kissed my hand while I spoke. “We can do that some other night.” 

“What do you want to do tonight, my love?” 

I smiled at him. “I want to enjoy everything.”

He cocked his head at me. “Everything?” 

“Well, not that.” His disappointed look made me laugh. “Just because you gave me a ring, it doesn’t mean I forget my promise.”

“Damn,” he said, feigning sadness. “I was hoping for the mile-high club.” 

I didn’t want to know what that was.

*****

It was past 3:00 AM when our limo pulled back into the mansion’s driveway. I slept most of the way back, curled up in Jeff’s arms. He woke me with a soft kiss and a gentle caress. 

“We’re home, babyluv,” he whispered. He got out of the limo and lifted me. With ease, he carried me in his arms through the front door, down the hallway, and into my bedroom. 

“Mmm…” I muttered. “I’m not ready for the night to end.” I heard Jeff laugh.

“Des, you’ve been ready since we left the restaurant. I guess the champagne went right to your head.” 

“Well, I’m underage. I’m not supposed to drink.” I felt him unzip the zipper on my dress. 

“Do you need some help to get ready for bed?” 

I forgot what I was wearing under my gown, nor did it occur to me it might cause an issue. I nodded my head. “Yes, please.” 

He slid the gown off my shoulders, and it fell to the floor quicker than I could process it. I stood in front of him in the sexiest lingerie I’ve ever owned. I must have still been tipsy, because I didn’t seem to mind it. 

“Oh, Des,” he mumbled. “Are you sure you want help? I’m not sure I can keep my hands off of you.” 

“Mmhmm,” I remember saying. “My pants are in my drawer…” 

I can’t imagine how difficult it was for him to take the lingerie from my body. I have to give him credit; he got my clothes changed and me into bed. I felt him curl up behind me, and he kissed my neck and shoulders before I fell asleep.

*****

The next morning I woke up with Jeff beside me, and a sinking feeling in the pit of my gut. What happened that I didn’t remember? I gazed at my left hand, where the enormous diamond engagement ring sat. Yeah, I remembered him proposing, and me saying ‘yes’. Everything after that was a blur. 

I wiggled away from him and noticed I was in my pajamas. How did I get undressed and into my jammies? I needed to remember; I made a mental note to stay away from champagne. He must have seen me—on my birthday, ironically—in my birthday suit. A part of me wanted to vomit. 

I stumbled into the bathroom attached to my bedroom. The good news? My panties were still on my body. While I was busy in the bathroom, I heard Jeff calling my name. “Just a sec,” I yelled to him. That wasn’t a good idea. My first lesson in overindulgence: alcohol causes headaches. 

“Des?” He was there in seconds. “Are you okay? You were pretty tipsy last night.” 

“Yeah, I’ll be right out.” I splashed some water on my face and patted it dry. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what happened.

The door swung open to him sitting on the bed where we’d slept together. I hoped that was all we did. “There’s my beautiful fiancée. Come here babyluv.” He held his arms open for me and wrapped me in a hug. “Are you sure you’re okay?” 

“I have a headache, but I’m alright. Please tell me we only slept in that bed, Jeff.”

“We only slept, Des. You were too tipsy, and I want you to remember our first time, honey.” 

A tremendous wave of relief washed over me. “I don’t want to sound like a prude—”

“Shh, Des.” He put his finger over my lips. “You’re not. It’s refreshing to have a woman like you. You’re not after me solely for sex or my fortune.” 

I shrugged. “I don’t care about the money. And the other part? It’s a thing back home. It’s very unheard of to see teenage pregnancy or premarital sex. I want to honor my parents, Jeff. It’s what they expected of me.”

He kissed the top of my head and snuggled me closer. “And I respect that, Destiny. Your innocence is precious to me. I’ll never jeopardize that. You have my word.” 

That… that was exactly what I needed to hear. Our next kiss was tender and passionate. “I love you so much, Jeff,” I whispered into his ear. 

He brushed my hair out of my eyes and smiled. “I love you, too.”

v.

For Snowflake Day, I met his whole family; cousins, aunts, uncles, his brother that lived in another city. I didn’t even know about him. Our engagement was the topic of interest. Everyone congratulated us and told me I had snagged the most eligible bachelor in the city. Somehow, though I’m not sure why, that made me uncomfortable. 

Jeff loved the necklace I bought for him, but it seemed like such a token, a mere trinket compared to what he had done for me. But I reminded myself, too, that I’m not rich. Not yet, anyway. Someday, I’ll wear a wedding band in front of my diamond ring, and I’ll fit that description. 

Audrey and Barb made a huge supper, and the best pecan pie I’d ever had. Gathering around the fireplace in the family room, we sang together all the holiday classics. Jeff stayed with me the whole day, doting on me with a display of true love and affection. 

At 7:30 that night, I was tired, and I needed to call Aunt Jenny back home. Though I loved them, I didn’t look forward to the call because it would only serve to remind me that Mama and Daddy were really gone. I said goodnight and excused myself to my room. 

Aunt Jenny answered the call right away, her sing-song voice on the other end greeted me. “Hey Desi! Happy Snowflake Day, sweet pea!” 

Hearing Mama and Daddy’s nickname for me ripped my heart in two. “Hi Aunt Jenny. Happy Snowflake Day!” I hoped my happy greeting covered the emotion I felt. 

“How’s it going up there in Sunset Valley? Are you having a good time with Jeff’s family?” 

Where did I start? “You could say that. Jeff and I are engaged.” 

“What?!” she shrieked with joy. “Oh Destiny, that is wonderful news! When? How?” 

I smiled, remembering the night. “On my birthday, he flew me to Bridgeport to this fancy, exclusive restaurant. It was amazing and SO romantic!” 

She didn’t speak for a moment. “A private jet, Desi?” 

“Yes! His family is very wealthy, judging by the mansion I’m staying in. The formal living room is bigger than the whole farmhouse.”

“Your mama and daddy would be very proud of you!” she said. “Did Jeff like the necklace?” 

I nodded, even though she couldn’t see me. I had a bad habit of doing that. “He loved it! Though, after he gave me the ring, the necklace seemed so trivial.” 

“Psh,” Aunt Jenny said. “Anything you give him, Desi, he’ll cherish. I’m so happy for you! Are you moving to Starlight Shores after you get married? Where do you think you’ll get married? Goodness, I’m so excited for you!” 

“That’s the thing, Aunt Jenny. We’re not moving to the Shores. Jeff wants to go to Bridgeport and promote his band. He says all aspiring musicians live there and pay their dues in Bridgeport.” I bit my lip. 

“Well, that’s surprising, Desi. I never thought you’d give up Starlight Shores for anyone.” 

I didn’t think so, either. “Well, there’s a chance I can sing with him in his band, so I won’t be giving up much.” 

“A chance?” 

“We haven’t discussed it yet, and we’ve made no concrete plans. But a wedding is over a year away, after graduation.” Nice segue.

“Well, keep me up to date on everything, sweetheart. Are you still graduating in the spring?” 

“As long as I keep up the course load I’ve been doing, yes. I’ll have a year to spend in the Plains getting the house ready to sell.” 

“Isn’t Jeff graduating in the spring, too?” 

“No, he’s a junior this year. He has one more year left.”

“I’m surprised you’re not staying on campus with him, Desi. Can you bear to be apart from him?”

I sighed. “That doesn’t matter. I have work to finish back home. Maybe if the house sells quickly, I can go back sooner. But I want to at least visit Starlight Shores before I surrender my dream.” 

“You sound a little sad about that, Destiny. Be sure you want to abandon everything you’ve longed for and worked for.” Her smile came through the phone. “I love you, kiddo.”

“I love you, too, Aunt Jenny. When we’re back on campus, I’ll call you. Happy new year!” 

“You too, Desi. Be safe, and have fun!”

The emotions I’d hid all day came when I disconnected the call. The pain of missing Mama and Daddy, missing the familiarity of home and family, overcame me. Only a year ago, we were still together. I wept into my pillow until I fell asleep.


Jeff partially moved into my dorm room with me once we were back on campus for the spring semester. I made a spot for him in my closet, despite him still living with Jacob. We spent all our free time together, studying and planning for our future. 

That February, Love Day was upon us. Jeff told me to keep the date open, that he had something special planned. He was secretive about it, but I didn’t question him. He loved to surprise me, and I found I loved when he did. 

His big surprise was an elegant restaurant about twenty miles off-campus. It wasn’t as exclusive as the one in Bridgeport, but it was cozy and romantic. I wore the gown he bought for my birthday, and he dressed in a tailored suit. We drove in his fancy sports car to the restaurant, parked in the lot, and he escorted me inside as though I was royalty. 

The hostess sat us by the window, overlooking a lake with a waterfall. Snow still blanketed the ground outside; the scene was idyllic. He held my chair as I sat, then took the seat to my right. “No champagne for you tonight, I’m afraid. They will card you here. My family has influence in Bridgeport, which is why they didn’t ask you.” He took my hand and kissed it. “I’m sure you won’t mind, though.” 

I laughed. “Nope! I might never drink again.”

Jeff looked at me with love in his eyes. “Damn, Des, you are so beautiful. You make me ache for you.” 

I blushed. “You always have a way of rendering me speechless,” I whispered. 

“What would you like for supper tonight?” he asked. I was impressed that he called it ‘supper,’ too. He was proving to be trainable.

“You choose for me, Jeff. It doesn’t matter. You haven’t disappointed me yet.”

The waiter came to get our order. Jeff ordered a glass of wine for himself, and a sparkling cider for me. Our meal orders were a secret. After the waiter left, he stood and pulled me to my feet.

“Care to dance, beautiful lady?” 

“Of course, my handsome love.” He led me to the dance floor; we swayed together for a few songs and then returned to our seats. 

We chatted about nothing of consequence, which to me was odd. Plans needed to be discussed, and yet we were talking about mundane things. I took his hand and held it. “What will we do after graduation, Jeff?” I asked him. “We have to plan our wedding, and pick a date for it. Not in that order, of course.” 

“I’m not sure,” he said. His demeanor had changed from sweet to standoffish. Something was wrong. “I mean, you’re out of here in May, and I’m stuck for another year.”

“Is that an issue?” 

He shook his head, but his face told a different story. “Not at all.” 

“What’s wrong, Jeff?” 

“Nothing, Des.” His answer didn’t sit well with me.

“Are you sure—”

“Drop it!” he snapped at me. 

I wasn’t sure why, but he was preoccupied. Was he angry with me? I couldn’t tell, but if he was, I didn’t know what I’d done. Though I wanted to excuse myself to the ladies’ room, I stayed. “I’m sorry,” I whispered. “Whatever I did, I’m sorry.” 

His expression softened. “It’s not you. I don’t mean to take it out on you, either.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” 

He shook his head. “No. It’s okay. I’ll just figure it out when we get back.” 

So it was me, and he didn’t want to say it. 

The rest of the evening was lackluster. The meal came, and we ate together, but it wasn’t the occasion I’d expected when we began. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d done something he didn’t like. 

Turns out, it was something I didn’t do.

On the drive back to campus, he was back to his loving, sweet self, and I just assumed everything would be normal. He parked his Camaro in the lot behind the dorm, opened my door, and helped me out. We walked hand in hand up the steps to my dorm room; I turned the key in the door and opened it for us. 

His friend came and placed a bottle of wine with two glasses, roses, and strawberries. That was a shock, a welcomed one, especially after the uncomfortable evening we’d had. “Surprised, babyluv?” he asked. 

A smile crossed my face. “This is lovely,” I said. I had qualms about the wine, but I let it go. We would be the only ones drinking it, and I committed to just one glass. He uncorked the wine and poured two glasses. 

“A toast. To the love of my life.” 

“Cheers!” I said, and took my first sip. The wine was dry, almost undrinkable. I took another sip. Yep, hated it.

“Babyluv, I’m sorry I’ve been distant. I didn’t mean to be a grump through dinner. I’m just so…” He didn’t finish his sentence. 

“So, what…?” 

I looked at him, trying so hard to figure out what was bothering him. “It’s nothing. You’re perfect, Des.” He took a deep sip of his wine; almost half of the glass was gone in one gulp. He went back to fill it, and drank half of that glass, too. Surely, he couldn’t like this stuff. It was terrible. “I could kiss you forever,” he said.  

“Then why don’t you?” I winked at him, patting the spot next to me on the bed. That might have been my first mistake. 

He took another gulp of wine, emptying the glass, then set it down and joined me on the bed. I felt like he was undressing me with his eyes. His kisses were forceful but passionate… different. “Damn, you’re gorgeous,” he whispered into my ear. He laid me back on the bed, something we’d done many, many times before. But something felt unusual. 

He sat up and straddled my hips, trapping me under his body. Jeff took my hands in his and pinned them down to the bed. “Jeff…” I started, but he kissed me hard. It happened so fast, I didn’t have time to react.

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“We’re doing this tonight. I need you so bad, I can’t see straight. Please, baby, let me make love to you.” 

I tried to sit up, but I couldn’t. “Jeff, no…” 

“Yes, Des. It’s time, and I’ve been more than patient with you.” 

“We’re not married—”

“We’re good as married! Dammit, Destiny, you owe me this!”

I don’t remember what came next, but before I knew it, I was standing, and my hand stung. On Jeff’s left cheek was a bright red handprint, courtesy of my right hand. His face wore a look of hurt and betrayal. “Jeff, I’m so sorry—”

“I need some space,” he said, gathered his coat, and left my room. I collapsed, weeping on my bed. 

An hour later, I decided Jeff was right. I was being unreasonable, and selfish, and prudish. I dressed in the lingerie he’d purchased and then slipped the gown over my head. My hair looked okay, a quick fix on the makeup, and I looked presentable. I swallowed my worry and gathered a healthy dose of courage, straightened myself up, and walked across the hallway to his room. I knocked before I turned the doorknob; it was open, so I peeked my head in.   

“Are you busy, Jeff?” 

He didn’t look up from his homework. “No.” 

I walked in and sat on his bed. “I’m sorry. For everything. I don’t need to be so uptight and prudish—”

“Shh. Des, what happened wasn’t your fault. You were absolutely right to stop me. I’m not being respectful of you and your promise when I act that way. So in every way, I’m the one who owes you an apology.” He walked to the bed and sat with me. “Baby, I’m so sorry. I promise you one thing from this day on. I won’t put you in a position like that ever again.” He kissed my fingers. “I don’t want to push you away, and I’m afraid if I keep pressing this issue with you, I’ll end up doing that.” 

Trying to dispel the emotion I felt, I shook my head. “I’m ready, Jeff. I came here to tell you—”

His gentle, charming smile put me at ease. “I’m not, babyluv. If you say yes now, it’s because I’ve pressured you. That’s not how love should work.” 

I couldn’t believe what he was telling me. The evening’s emotions overtook me; I broke down in his arms. He rocked me as he held me, whispering words of love and comfort to me. When I collected myself, I kissed him. “I love you, Jeff.” 

“I love you more than anything else in my life, Des. Let’s finish our date. What do you say?” 

I nodded. “I would love that.”


Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul couldn’t make it to Sim State for my graduation. Without them, I almost considered skipping the ceremony and having my degree forwarded to the farmhouse back home. But I dressed up anyway in the nicest dress I owned. The off-white gown was overkill for graduation, so I chose one I’d brought from home.  

My BA degree was in fine arts with a concentration on vocal performance. The university honored me for my proficiency in writing, art, and instrumental performance. The dean, who presented the special honor, explained that no other student in the school’s history had accomplished what I had done. It should have been a proud moment; I only thought of Mama and Daddy. How I wished they were there.

After the graduation ceremony, I packed up what I was taking home with me, and labeled other items to ship them. Jeff helped me carry boxes and bags full of stuff to the common room downstairs. Jacob stood there watching us with his usual condescending look. In the two years I attended Sim State, he never took a step to befriend me. I supposed what Jeff had said of him was true: Jacob Salaman was indeed a miserable person.

Jeff drove me to the post office to mail three boxes back home, and then we left for the airport. He had offered to come help me clean and get the house ready to sell, and I accepted every opportunity to be with him as our college days together came to an end. We were no closer to figuring out our future, either. 

We waited together at the gate where we would board the plane, talking and laughing. He bought us both a coffee while we waited. He handed mine to me and plopped down beside me. 

“There you go, babyluv,” he said. “Just how you like it.” 

I took a sip and smiled. Was there anything he didn’t know about me? “Thank you, Jeff. It’s perfect.” 

“Like you.” 

I snickered. “Hardly.” 

“Psh. You’re your own worst enemy, Des. You’re more than perfect. You’re mine.” 

I couldn’t argue with him on that point. 

Not long after, the attendant called our flight to board. Jeff paid for my first-class ticket again; we walked on board, our fingers clasped together. He took my carry-on bag for me and stowed it. And being a gentleman, Jeff gave me his window seat. 

I slept most of the way home with Jeff wrapped around me. He later told me he loved watching me sleep, that he could see my happiness even in my slumber. It would be our last summer together, but I was looking forward to having him there.

Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul loved Jeff and were so impressed with how he treated me when we were all together. We spent our first night back in Appaloosa Plains at their home; they welcomed Jeff into the family like he’d always been part of it. Aunt Jenny drew me aside to say what an excellent match he was, and that Mama and Daddy would have approved. That made me weepy, but in the best possible way. I realized how much I loved them, and how important they’d been in my life. 

Jeff and Uncle Paul worked to landscape the front yard and the pastureland we had on the property, and Aunt Jenny and I painted the whole inside in three days. The house was ready to show within a month; I accepted an offer at the end of the first week. With a contract and a closing date, I had my timeframe to move.

*****

Jeff left for home a week before closing on the house. He needed to prepare for his upcoming senior year at Sim State. I drove him to the airport in Mama’s little old car, the one Daddy bought for her when I was born. We said little, despite my growing need for clarity and resolution. 

We walked into the airport together. The elevator took us to the terminal level; we made it through the security checkpoint together. He took my hand as we walked toward his gate.

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“You doing okay, Des?” 

I shook my head. “Not really. Jeff, I don’t know when I’ll see you again. That’s not okay with me.” 

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We sat together at the gate. “I’m sorry we haven’t talked about our future together. I’m struggling with being away from you. Now that I have you, I fear losing you.” He brushed hair out of my face and stared into my eyes. 

“I’m afraid of that, too. How will we make this work? I’m leaving for the Shores in a week. What happens if we can’t make it back together?” 

“Babyluv, we’ll figure it out. I love you too much to let you go.” He played with the diamond ring I wore on my left hand. “This ring means something, Destiny. It means that you’re mine, and we’re going to be married someday. It will happen, I promise you.” 

I believed his heartfelt words, but inside, I still had doubts. I hated the unknown and the uncertainty of two people who refused to budge on their dreams. To me, our relationship had ‘failure’ written all over it. “I will trust you, Jeff.” What choice did I have?

“That’s my girl.”

Ten minutes later, they began calling passengers to board. Jeff, being in first class, was among the first. We stood together; that familiar but detested lump in my throat grew to the size of a grapefruit. He saw the tears welling in my eyes and embraced me. We shared a tender but passionate kiss. 

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“We’re going to survive, Des. I won’t let this go any other way.”

He’d already promised, so begging would accomplish nothing. Nodding, I stared into his blue eyes. “I believe you.” 

Jeff took his suitcase and walked toward the gate. This was the moment I dreaded. I needed one last kiss, one last touch. I grasped for his hand. “Don’t go…” 

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He embraced me one last time. “You know I have to go, Des. I need to finish my degree. But I’ll call you tonight, I promise.” 

I stepped back from him and nodded. “Okay.” 

The attendant at the doorway took his ticket, then he walked through. He didn’t turn around or look back as I watched him walk down the jetway to his airplane until he disappeared from my sight. My heart broke into pieces as he left. 

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I couldn’t drive, not when I was this emotional, so I sat at the gate trying to collect myself, feeling like a fool. I despised being emotional in public. His plane sat at the gate for a while; I stared out the window at it, wishing he’d come running back down the jetway and into my arms. It was a fool’s errand wishing for it. Jeff was going home, whether or not I liked it.

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The plane pushed back from the gate after the jetway door closed. I stood at the window, my face nearly pressed against the glass, watching… wanting. All the times I had denied him were now heavy, endless regrets. Why am I so stupid? I stood there until the plane taxied away from the gate, my heart heavy with sorrow. I wept all the way home.


Four months from when I graduated, I sat at the title office in downtown Appaloosa Plains with Aunt Jenny by my side. We closed on the house, and I handed over the keys to its new owner. The sale, of course, was bittersweet. Mama was born in that house, and her mama before her. Three generations of Hutchins women lived in that home, myself not included. For the first time since its construction, the farmhouse belonged to someone besides a family member. 

Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul both brought me to the airport. I knew it would be the last time I’d ever see them. I hadn’t planned on returning to the Plains except on tour someday in the future. Aunt Jenny wept when we hugged, planting a kiss on my cheek.

“Remember, Desi, what you’re going to Starlight Shores to accomplish. Work hard, do good, and remember where you’re from. That’s all your daddy and mama wanted for you. Do them proud, baby girl.” Aunt Jenny wiped tears from her eyes. Uncle Paul said nothing, but hugged me close to him and patted my back a little harder than he probably intended. 

Inside my backpack, I had a surprise for both of them. I reached in and removed an envelope addressed to them. “I asked the title company to cut a check for you, as a thank you for all the help and hard work you’ve done on the farm.” Aunt Jenny took the envelope from me. “I couldn’t have done everything we did without your help. Please, do me a favor and go on a vacation somewhere warm and tropical, for Mama and Daddy?” 

Aunt Jenny hugged me and rocked me in her arms. “We’d be so honored to take that trip in their memory, sweetheart. Thank you.” It was time for one last hug. I had to walk away, because if I didn’t, I’d never leave. Taking the handle of my suitcase, I turned to go. A few steps away, I turned around. They stood, weeping and waving the same way Mama and Daddy were when I left them standing at the mailbox. 

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“Thank you again! I love you!” I shouted at them. It was so hard to leave them, but I needed to go. I walked the jetway to the airplane that would take me to Starlight Shores, the first step toward fulfilling a lifelong dream. Look out, world, I thought. Here comes Destiny Farmer.

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Up Next: Chapter One, Generation Two


Pose Credits

Forever Hailey
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Lover’s Poses

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The Morning After by Spladoum

Poses By Bee
Couch Cuddle Set 1
Cuddle Sad
Engagement Portrait Poses
Family Fighting – Updated
Wedding Guests – Sitting
Wedding Guests – Standing

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104 Degree Fever by Spladoum

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Save The Last Dance by Lenina90

*****

Custom Content

Around The Sims 3
Bottle of Wine
Christmas ‘09 Gifts
Church Items
Coffee Mug
Five-Star Restaurant Set
Glass of Wine
Wedding Shop

Butterfly Sims (Site defunct)
Female Adult Hair #085

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Jeff’s Hair by Cazy
Tablecloth 1×1 Square by LilyOfTheValley 

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G2 Prologue – Meet Destiny Farmer, Part One

In the small, rural town of Appaloosa Plains, Destiny Penelope Farmer loved to play in the yard in the summer atop a heap of fill dirt left over from restructuring the half-acre farm plot. She’d play on the dusty hill from morning until dusk, when the fireflies lit the evening skies in the lot behind the little farmhouse. The dirt pile, dubbed “Destiny’s Hill” by her mother, Fran, was her favorite spot on the entire property. 

While her father, Charlie, was on deployment and her mother tended their farm, Destiny would play on the hill, riding her favorite dolls on toy horses, pretending to be the queen of her own kingdom. It was this mound of dirt that inspired her eventual stage name: Destiny Hill. It was the name that would become known in every corner of the world; the red-headed girl with the small-town drawl and the big voice.


i.

My name is Destiny Farmer. My parents called me Desi, mostly because I couldn’t say my name when I was three, and I guess they thought it was cute. This is my story—all the who’s, the where’s, the why’s, and the how’s. Maybe I should start at the beginning? Yes. The beginning. 

I’ve always lived in Appaloosa Plains on Pomona Promenade. Across the road were the festival grounds, the place that would set my life on its current trajectory. Each year, the summer festival was my favorite, because that’s when the rides came into town. I loved the carousel, because Daddy would stand next to me, and steady me on the horses. Though I loved my parents the same, Daddy and I had a special bond. Mama called me a ‘daddy’s girl’.

When I was a little girl, he was deployed overseas to fight in the big war. He didn’t come home with the rest of his unit. I remember my mama being sad, and I remember seeing a big box, which I found out later was his coffin. But he wasn’t inside the big box that day. He came home much later, in his own time, on his own terms. Since that day, when I was old enough to understand what he’d endured, I made sure he knew I loved him. We were very close. I could always count on Daddy to have my back. 

Next door to us lived the Bradfords; Caleb, Sunny, Junior, Kristen, Tommy, and Maya. They were Mama and Daddy’s best friends. Maya lived with us when I was little, while Daddy was stationed on his last deployment. She attended veterinary school, and now lives in Hidden Springs with her husband, Clay. We saw her occasionally during the summer festivals, but since their first baby came, they stay closer to home. Of the four Bradford kids, Maya was the only one I knew.

My favorite subject in school was, of course, music class. Sara Thompson, the elementary school music teacher, taught me to play every instrument I could get my hands on. She was also the children’s choir director at the chapel, where we attended services every Sunday morning. It was she who fostered in me my love of singing and vocal performance. 

I’ve always been a creative spirit, writing my own songs and lyrics, sometimes as I sang them. I had journals full of songs I’d written over the years. From the time I learned to read and write, I wrote songs; love songs, ballads, tunes with a pop flavor, even though my main genre was country music. That was all we listened to on the radio, in the car, or while Mama and Daddy worked on our half-acre farm.

When I was ten, the county built the stage at the fairgrounds. The first year, the festival featured a talent show, and I remember wanting to sing. But that was the year I broke my wrist in the park. It was also the year the Bradfords sold their ranch and moved away. I learned that family isn’t always blood-related; Mama cried the day Aunt Sunny and Uncle Caleb left Appaloosa Plains for good. She told me that Aunt Sunny was the sister she never had.

After the Bradfords sold their ranch and moved away, another family moved into their house. Their only daughter, Polly, was just a few months older than me, and from the moment we met, we were pretty near inseparable. She was beautiful; thin with brown hair and eyes to match, and black plastic-framed glasses. Polly wanted to be a programmer when she graduated college; she loved computers and gaming. We giggled about everything. We had each other’s backs in high school. She was definitely my BFF. This was us at the farmhouse, back when things were good, and we were still friends. I miss those days.

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The summer before our junior year, when I was fifteen, and she was sixteen, we both got our first jobs. Hers was at the spa downtown working as a receptionist, but I worked backstage at the festival on the setup and breakdown crew. The job was hard and tiring, but I learned how to run a soundboard and the stage lighting. I also had access to every visiting singer that performed in our little park, including my favorite singer, Katie Price.

Katie opened the festival the first year the fairgrounds had the stage, back when she was still only playing at carnivals and small venues, back before she caught her big break. But she loved playing at county fairs and festivals, which is why she returned to Appaloosa Plains every year, even after her star burned bright and everyone knew her name. 

The summer before my senior year in high school was the best of my life to that point. The best, because I finally had the chance to sing on the big stage; Katie asked me to open her concert on the festival’s first day. 

The night of my debut, I was so excited, and I wanted Daddy backstage with me. Katie let me borrow a dress from her wardrobe, some of her stage props, and even had her cosmetologist do my makeup. When I walked onto the stage, Daddy was having the time of his life. I saw him mouth the words, “I love you, Desi,” as I took the stage. I played his favorite song first, because he requested it, and because he loved it. After every song, I looked over my left shoulder, watching him enjoying the concert.

Just before my last song in the set, I saw him teetering, grasping at the air, and then collapsing onto the floor. I screamed, and Mama ran right up onto the stage. The crowd, who’d been chanting my name just seconds before, watched as paramedics loaded him onto a stretcher and took him to the hospital. That was when I first learned about his illness. You see, my daddy had cancer; lymphoma, to be exact.

Learning about Daddy’s cancer changed my life, and it almost changed the direction of my career. I didn’t want to go to Sim State. But Mama sat me down and explained what the lymphoma meant to Daddy; to us as a family. There was a chance he could beat it. We prayed every day, hoping those prayers would be answered. 

When school started that year, Daddy’s cancer was in remission. I’d already been accepted to Sim State. The work I’d done at the festivals as a stagehand transferred to college as credits earned. I didn’t have to spend a year on prerequisites, which meant getting into my major quicker. Polly and I walked into school that first day of senior year when I felt him tap my shoulder. Who, you might ask? That would be Austin Linde. My first love, my first boyfriend. 

Let me tell you about my sweetheart. Austin moved from Sunlit Tides with his dad, who was in the Army like mine was years ago. He transferred to Appaloosa Plains, and Austin left his childhood friends behind. Austin saw my debut at the fair that July. He couldn’t resist telling me how much he enjoyed the show. 

Austin was my height, but he had muscles on top of muscles! He played any sports he could, and he started for the varsity football team that year. He was on the swim team, played baseball, and volleyball. You name it, and he played it. 

His hair was the color of the beach’s sand, and his eyes as blue as oceans I’ve only seen in pictures. Not to mention his freckles, which were adorable. We hit it off immediately, and he asked me out on our first day of school.

Polly and Austin got along okay, but sometimes I think she resented the closeness I had with him. He intruded on our friendship, though that was more my fault than his. You see, my mama and daddy loved each other with an intensity I took for granted. I believed every married couple was like them. I decided that, when I got married, I wanted a relationship just like theirs; loving, devoted, an unbreakable bond. 

Until I met Austin, I saw the world through rose-colored lenses. I believed every relationship survived, that every love was true and everlasting. I’d never met someone my age whose parents had separated, never mind divorced. But Austin’s had, and it turned my personal truth into an enormous lie. It made me realize nothing is perfect. Eventually, Austin would teach me that firsthand. 

Austin and I had our first date at the burger place in downtown Appaloosa Plains. He picked me up in his car and drove us there. Much to my great surprise, Mama and Daddy let me out of their sight long enough to date this incredible boy, one I couldn’t believe was interested in me. He held my hand as he drove, rubbing my fingers between his, much the way I’d seen my daddy do with Mama’s. 

Austin parked outside the burger place, jumped out of the driver’s seat, and ran to my side. He opened the car door for me, held his hand out for me, and helped me up. He was always the perfect gentleman, and I’d never met a boy as charming as Austin Linde. 

We walked inside, hand in hand; he guided me to a corner table with a strange-looking box sitting on it. He told me it was a jukebox. I had never heard of it before. So he asked me what song I’d want to hear. Naturally, I chose a Katie Price song! He dropped the coin into the slot, pressed some numbers, and I waited. And waited. He watched my face as I sat in expectation.

“Where is my song?” I asked.

“It’s in queue,” he said. “It will play eventually, depending on how many songs are ahead of it.” 

I must have worn a puzzled look, even after his perfect explanation. “How many jukeboxes are in here?”

“Look around, Destiny.” He pointed to each table that had the same peculiar box; it was every single one. “They’re all over.” 

I blushed a deep red. “I guess I’ve never seen a jukebox before now.” 

“That’s okay,” he said. “I think you’re beautiful.” Thankfully, he changed the subject. 

Feeling bashful, I looked away. “Thank you, Austin.” 

After the date was over, he brought me back home. He walked me to the front door, where I saw Mama waiting for me. I was much earlier than my ten o’clock curfew. “Can I take you out again? It was fun getting to know you.” 

I nodded my head. “I’d like that. Thank you, for supper, and for the song.” 

He stared into my eyes and brushed a lock of hair from my face. “I’ll see you in school tomorrow?” I only nodded. He kissed my forehead and stroked my cheek with the back of his fingers. “Goodnight, Destiny.” 

I couldn’t think straight. My head felt light, and butterflies swarmed in my stomach. I might have fallen over if not for his arm around me, steadying me. “Goodnight Austin,” I squeaked out. I reached for the doorknob and turned it—the door swung open with my gentle push. I turned around as I walked inside and blew him a kiss. 

“How was your date, sweet pea?” Mama asked me. 

My answer came in a three-word sentence. “Best night ever.”


Everyday through Snowflake Day that year, Austin and I spent time together. We grew close, much to Polly’s chagrin. But I convinced myself that she understood, that she just needed to find a boyfriend so we could double date. 

On Snowflake Day eve, Austin and I exchanged gifts. I couldn’t give him material things that he would need or want. What I gave him was much better. I sat down and wrote a love song for him, complete with musical accompaniment. Then on Snowflake Day eve, I played and sang it for him. Now, Austin isn’t the sentimental type, but the song made him a little misty-eyed. Then a broad smile crept across his face. It was time for him to reveal what he’d gotten for me. 

He seemed antsy as I reached for the box and tore the paper from it. The box was small, and I couldn’t guess what was inside. It held a smaller item, a clamshell-type box. The suspense must have been killing him, because he looked at me, exasperated. 

“Are you going to open it, or make me suffer?” he teased. 

I giggled at him. “I should go slower, just to make you wait.” 

“Oh, give it to me!” He grabbed the clamshell from my hands. “Close your eyes.” 

“Why?” 

“Just do it, Des. Please?” 

I huffed. “Okay.”

I heard a faint creak, and him shifting positions. “Open your eyes.” My eyes popped open, and so did my mouth. He was on his knees, sitting back on his feet. The opened box in his hand, a smile on his face, he presented this precious gift to me. 

“It’s our birthstones, Des. Green for mine, and blue for yours. I know we can’t get married, or even engaged because we’re too young, and our careers might take us down different paths. But this ring signifies a promise to you, Destiny. Someday, I want us to be together forever. I love you.” It was the first time he’d ever uttered those three words to me.

I wiped tears from my eyes. “I love you, too! Thank you, so very much!” 

A silver ring with two stones cut into the shape of hearts sat inside. It was the most beautiful ring I’d ever seen. He reached to kiss me. My heart fluttered, and so did the rainbow of butterflies that lived in my stomach. Then he took the ring from its box and slipped it onto my left ring finger. The dim lighting in the room reflected in the facets of the stones, making them sparkle. 

“I never thought I’d find someone like you. Someday, I’ll replace it with a big diamond ring, and a much bigger promise. But this ring shows everyone that you’re taken.” He kissed me again, much longer and with more passion. I melted into his embrace, so in love with the boy from Sunlit Tides.

*****

The next morning was Snowflake Day. I wore my new ring on my finger against my better judgment. Though Mama and Daddy liked Austin, I wasn’t sure how they would feel about the ring, and more importantly, the promise behind it. 

I was the first one up, so I lit the tree, illuminating the evergreen with shimmering light. Next, I walked to the kitchen and turned on the coffee pot. Last, I started a fire, so it would be toasty when Mama and Daddy came downstairs. The radio played holiday music; I turned the volume up a little and sang along. 

The fire had just begun to flicker when I heard Mama’s soft footsteps in the stairwell. She saw me sitting cross-legged in front of the fireplace and greeted me. 

“Good morning, Destiny. Happy Snowflake Day!” 

I turned around to see her. She was wearing her favorite white robe and matching fluffy slippers, and in the lighting from the tree, I saw my first glimpses of gray hair in her thick, red, curly mane. “Good morning, Mama,” I said. “Happy Snowflake Day. How is Daddy today?” 

“He’s still asleep, sweet pea. He had a rough night last night.” 

“What’s wrong?” 

Mama sighed and sat in Daddy’s recliner. “He had a bad nosebleed. It didn’t stop for hours.” 

I hated when he wasn’t well. “Let him sleep, then. Gifts can wait.” 

“But coffee can’t,” she said with a chuckle. “Thank you for starting it.” 

“No problem,” I returned. “I haven’t been out to feed Sweetie yet this morning.”

“That’s okay, Desi. She should be alright until later.” Mama joined me by the fire with her first cup of coffee in her hands. “Would it bother you if we don’t make a big supper today, honey? I don’t think Daddy will eat much, and I don’t feel like fussing.” 

“Of course not, Mama. Snowflake Day is more than supper and presents.” I sat at her feet, snuggled up to her legs. “You and Daddy are the most important people to me.” 

I saw her eyeing my ring. “Austin and Polly, too.” She reached for my left hand and studied my ring. “Did Austin give this to you, sweet pea? It’s lovely.” 

I nodded. “Yesterday. He said it was a promise ring.” 

“Remember how we talked about relationships and keeping yourself for your future husband, Desi?” 

Oh my goodness, is she really going to give me ‘the talk’ on Snowflake Day morning? I thought to myself. “Yes?” 

“Now that you and Austin are in a committed relationship, it doesn’t give you license to pursue a physical relationship with him. You’re much too young for that, Destiny.”

I tried not to act flustered. “I know, Mama. That doesn’t interest me yet. You don’t have to worry about me.” 

“Good.” We sat in awkward silence until she got up. “I’m going to wake your daddy.” 

“You don’t have to, Mama. Let him sleep.” I stood and walked toward the steps. “I’ll get dressed and feed Sweetie.” ‘No’ was not an acceptable answer, either.


As the school year went on, Polly drifted away, and I didn’t notice it. Austin and I were connected at the hip, so to speak, and I spent all my waking time with him. During my diner shifts, he’d come in and keep me company, and since he drove everywhere, I relied on him to carry me around town. 

I knew Polly was on the prom committee. One day, she asked me for some help with ideas for our senior prom. Though I was joking, my jest was poorly received when I said, “I’ll play the prom for free!” Her snarky comment took me by surprise.

“I’m shocked you offered that, Destiny. Do you think Austin would let you away from him long enough to sing?” 

Her comment stung, but I couldn’t see the pain in her expression. “Ouch, Polly. Where did that come from?” 

“If you have to ask, Des, then I’m done.” 

“You want to go there?” I asked. 

“You already did.” She pushed her glasses up onto the bridge of her nose. “I hope Austin makes you happy, but I pray someday you can see who he really is.” 

“What does THAT mean?” 

“He’s a snake, Destiny. He doesn’t love you.” 

“You’re just jealous!” I snarled at her. 

“Yeah, I used to be until I saw the truth. Gosh, Des, I hope you see it before he ruins you.” She wiped a tear from her eyes. “As long as you’re with him, I can’t…” 

“You can’t what?” I spat.

“I can’t be friends with you anymore.” She turned from me and walked away. “I hope he’s worth it.” 

“Polly?” I called out, stunned to the core. She never turned around or looked back. 

*****

“Austin, can I ask you a question?” I took the damp rag from the sink and wiped down the counter where he sat. 

“You know you can. What’s on your mind, Des?” 

“Why did you give me this ring?” I wiggled my finger. “What does it mean to you?” 

He looked shocked. “It’s a symbol of my love for you. I thought you knew that when I gave it to you?” 

I nodded. “That’s what I thought. But Polly…” I took a deep breath. “She called you a snake, and she told me you don’t love me.” Tears filled my eyes. “What did she mean, Austin?” 

“Why would she say that?” He took my hands and squeezed them in his firm grasp. “I don’t know what she’s talking about.” 

“You don’t know what she meant?” 

“No, of course not! She’s probably just jealous of me, Des.” 

I shrugged. “She says she used to be.” 

“Have I ever done anything to make you question my love?” 

“No, Austin, you haven’t.” 

“Well,” he said. “Consider the source.” 

“Yeah, I guess you’re right.” I walked to him and stole a kiss. “I’m sorry.” 

“You’re forgiven. Why were you talking to Polly, anyway?” 

“She asked my opinion on entertainment for the prom. I joked and said I would sing for free. I didn’t get the reaction I expected. She hurt my feelings.” 

“You don’t need her, Des. All you need is us. And that reminds me…” Austin stood and dropped to one knee. My heart raced; all I could think was ‘No!!’ “Would you do me the honor of accompanying me to our senior prom?”

I breathed a sigh of relief, hopefully unnoticed. “Of course I will, though I just assumed we’d go together.”

“Nope! I couldn’t wait to ask you.” He laughed. “You should have seen your expression when I got on one knee!”

I stood with my hands on my hips, feigning insult. “That wasn’t funny!” He laughed harder, and I gave him a sheepish smile. “Okay, I guess it was a little funny.”

“I know this isn’t the time for proposals, Des. But I’m not going anywhere.” His sweet smile always had a way of making me feel at ease. “I love you.” 

“I love you, too.”


I worked long hours at the diner, and at the festival when they needed me, to afford the gown I wanted for our senior prom. It was a gorgeous, red, floor-length gown with a crushed velvet ribbon tied in the back; strapless and sleeveless. It was the most beautiful thing I ever owned. Mama drove me to the boutique downtown when I went to pick it up.

I held the door open for her, and she walked inside. “We won’t be long, will we, Desi? Your daddy hasn’t been feeling well since Snowflake Day, but he is too stubborn to see Dr. Bennett.” 

“I have to pay for the dress and we can leave. I can’t wait to show you, Mama.” 

We walked to the counter, and I told the clerk my name. She nodded and left. When she returned, she had the gown in her hands. Mama must have seen how my face lit up when I saw it. “That dress is beautiful, honey,” she said. “How much was it?” 

I didn’t want to admit it was a month’s wages at the diner. But it was my senior prom, and Austin already had the prom bid. “Probably more than I should have spent on it.” My voice sounded weak and unsure. I thought for certain she’d give me a hard time about it. Instead, she reached to touch the fabric. 

“I have never seen its equal, Destiny. I bet you will look like a movie star in it.” 

My complexion matched the color of the dress. I was sure of it. “Thank you, Mama.” I paid the balance owed and carried the dress and shoes to the car.

“So?” she asked as we got into the car. “When is the prom?” 

“A week before graduation, after the exams are finished. They said the timing was unconventional. But, the class president wanted prom to be our congratulatory ‘party’. The principal was outvoted by a wide margin.”

“What will Austin do after he graduates, sweetheart? I haven’t heard you mention it?” 

“He’s accepted to Sim State…” I paused. Though he had his acceptance letter, he hadn’t responded to it. “Come to think of it, I’m not sure what he’s doing.”

“Hasn’t the deadline already passed?” 

“Mmhmm.” 

Mama said nothing more.

*****

I stood in front of the full-length mirror in my bedroom wearing my new gown and shoes. “Mama!” I called. “I need your opinion.”

She walked in from the sitting room off their bedroom. When she saw me, she stopped in her tracks. “Oh, Desi, sweetheart.” I heard sniffles from over my right shoulder. “You look so statuesque in that gown.” 

“That’s what I needed to know,” I laughed. “So you like it?” 

Mama nodded. “It’s so elegant. You did a good job picking it out. Austin will love it.” 

“Thank you,” I said. “Mama, can I ask you a question?” 

She sat down on my bed and patted the spot next to her. “What’s on your mind, sweet pea?” 

“When you and Daddy got together, was there any doubt about him?”

Mama shook her head. “No, not at all. Why, Desi? What’s wrong?”

“It was something Polly said a few weeks ago.”

“Polly? I haven’t heard you talk about her in a long time. How is she?” 

“I don’t know. She ended our friendship. I think she’s jealous of Austin, and trying to break us up. But she’s gotten inside my head, and I can’t shake this feeling that she might be right.” 

Mama took my hand in hers. “What did Polly say, sweetheart?” 

“She said that Austin is a snake, and that he doesn’t love me.” 

I’ll never forget the look of surprise on Mama’s face. “That doesn’t seem like him.”

“I know. And she said she hopes I see what he is before he ruins me.” 

“Did you ask him about this?” 

I nodded. “Yeah, but he didn’t know what she was talking about.” 

“I see.” She put her arm around my shoulder and gave me a quick hug. “What does your gut say, Desi?” 

“It says I should trust Austin, and not Polly.” 

“You have a good head on your shoulders, sweet pea. Trust your instincts.” 

If only she knew how terrible that advice was…


Austin was supposed to pick me up for the prom at six o’clock sharp. Though supper would be served at 8:00 PM, we’d vote for prom queen and king and have photographs taken beforehand. He hadn’t seen my gown before that night. I wanted to surprise him, but I gave him a swatch of fabric so the tux shop could match the color. 

Mama took me to the salon to have my hair trimmed and put up, and my makeup done. When we got home, Daddy was sitting and resting in his recliner. He acted like I was a movie star. 

“You look beautiful, Princess,” he said. 

I walked to where he sat and kissed his forehead. He didn’t look good. “Thank you, Daddy. Are you okay?” 

He coughed and heaved a heavy sigh. “Of course I am. I’m just tired.” 

Mama took my arm and pulled me into the sitting room. “He sees Dr. Bennett next week after your graduation. He didn’t want me to tell you, but I vowed to you and myself I wouldn’t keep things from you anymore.” 

I felt a glob of bile rise into my throat. “Thank you,” I whispered. I wish she would have waited until after my prom to tell me. I thought of little else that night.

Two hours later, I walked down the staircase, ready for Austin’s limo to pick me up. Mama insisted she take photographs inside before we leave, and I know Daddy wanted that, too. 

Five minutes before six o’clock, a sharp knock sounded at the door. Austin stood there in a black tuxedo with a red vest under it, one that matched my gown. In his hand, he held a beautiful corsage with a red rose and greenery that slipped onto my wrist. Mama answered the door and invited him in. 

“Hi Austin!” she said and gave him a quick hug. “You look sharp!” 

I stepped out from inside the sitting room, and I thought he would drop the corsage he held. “Wow. Destiny, you are gorgeous.” 

“Thank you,” I whispered.

Screenshot-141

Mama posed us in front of the fireplace, the usual spot for family pictures. I can’t recall one photo that was taken anywhere else but there. We did a formal portrait pose, and one candid shot. Daddy got teary-eyed when Austin took my hand and led me from the house. He didn’t think I noticed, but I watched every move he made. I wanted to remember him, and that night, forever.  

Screenshot-142

The limo dropped us off at the school gymnasium; together, we walked inside. Much to my surprise, Polly was there by herself. I guessed she was there to make sure everything went as planned. She gave Austin a dirty look, then turned to hide her face. It didn’t occur to me that seeing me there with him was difficult for her, and that she missed my friendship. I was too focused on Daddy to notice much of anything.

We had our official prom picture taken, facing each other and looking cute. Afterward, we voted for prom queen and king, each voting for the other and not figuring either of us had a shot. The music and dancing started early, but Austin didn’t want to dance.

After supper, they announced the prom queen and king. Austin won prom king hands down. But the queen was Polly. She tried to get away from the crowd, tears running down her cheeks, but they formed a circle around her and forced her into my boyfriend’s arms to dance. When their dance ended, she glanced at me with the most pained, hurt look on her face; I excused myself to the restroom.

I don’t know how long I was in the ladies’ room when Polly came looking for me. “Des! There you are. I have something to tell you.” 

“What’s—”

“Your boyfriend has another girl.” She spat it out so fast. “During our dance, Des. He told me he’s not interested in you anymore, and he’s going to break up with you after graduation.” 

“Huh?” My head swam, and I didn’t want to believe her. Would Polly really lie to break us up? “No,” I said. “You’re not telling me the truth. He’d never do that to me!” 

“You don’t sound like you believe your own words, Des. I’d never lie to you.” 

This wasn’t helping the doubts I had about him since our last exchange together. “How do I know you don’t want him for yourself, Pol?”

“Because I hate him!” she screamed at me. “Don’t you see what he’s done to us? Des, you haven’t been able to think straight since he came into your life. Wake up!” Tears free-flowed down her face, ruining her perfect makeup. “I can’t stand him, but I’d never lie to you just to break you up. Go look for yourself if you don’t believe me.” 

I tried to stand up on jelly legs and wobbled myself to the door. I cracked it open to find Polly had been telling the truth all along. Austin was wrapped around someone else’s date, lip-locked with her, and it looked like he was having a grand time without me. I collapsed on the floor, sobbing. “No…”

Polly looked into my eyes. “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, Des.” 

Ten minutes later, Austin’s voice came through the ladies’ room door. “Des? You’ve been in there a while. Are you okay?”

Polly, to her credit, stayed with me. “She’s not coming out,” she yelled to him. 

“Why not? I’m her ride home, and prom is nearly over.” 

“Why don’t you tell her, Austin, what you were doing, and what you told me?” 

“Des, please come out? I want to talk to you. I haven’t seen you since they announced the prom king.” He kicked the door. “Please?” 

I stood up and straightened out my red gown, now wrinkled and dirty from sitting on the floor. I checked my makeup—ruined—and walked back to the door. With a deep breath, I opened it. He stood there with his arms open. I walked past him and back to our table, Polly by my side. 

He followed me to where we sat and plopped himself next to me. “Can I talk to her alone, Polly? I won’t bite her, I promise.” That got a weak smile from me, but I was still heartbroken. When she walked away, he wiped tears from my face with his handkerchief and kissed me. “What happened?” 

“You tell me.” 

“What does that mean?” 

I took a deep breath, held it a moment, and forced the air from my lungs in one long huff. “I saw you kissing that girl, Austin.” 

“There’s an explanation for that.” 

“Don’t tell me. She was choking.” Sarcasm dripped from my words. 

“Hilarious. No, Des. She kissed me. I couldn’t get away from her.” 

“You’re telling me I peeked out the restroom door at exactly the right time? I don’t believe you.” 

“Remember what I told you when I gave you the ring, Des?” 

“Which part?” 

“I love you.” 

“Do you still?” 

His expression softened. “Yes. Destiny, you’re my life. And someday, I want to marry you.” 

“I want to believe you.” 

“Why don’t you?” 

My gaze shifted to where Polly sat. I didn’t know who to believe anymore. “Polly told me you have another girl, Austin. Do you?” 

“Des, I know you and Polly are best friends—”

“Were.” 

“Okay, you were best friends. I really don’t like Polly, Des. She’s spent the last three months trying to drive a wedge between us. I see it’s working.” He touched my face and kissed me. “Destiny, I love you. Please don’t give up on me.”

I was so confused. Someone was lying to me, and I couldn’t decide who it was. But I recalled my conversation with Mama, and I went with my gut—the same awful, terrible decision I’d made earlier. “I won’t. I love you, too.”


Graduation day. The end of one chapter, and the beginning of a new one. I gather that’s the reason they call it ‘commencement.’ I knew ahead of time that I would be valedictorian, and I had my speech already prepared. It should have been a happy day. So much weighed on me. So much was unknown. It drove me almost crazy. 

Mama and Daddy were waiting downstairs for me. Though it wasn’t confirmed, Mama and I both suspected Daddy’s cancer was back. He couldn’t stand longer than five minutes, and walking for him was impossible. Their bedroom was now on the ground floor in the sitting room. But I knew he wanted to see me graduate, to hear my valedictory address. He wanted to see his little girl take her first steps into adulthood. 

I stood in front of the fireplace alone while Mama snapped a picture of me in my cap and gown. She was having a hard time keeping it together, and I had a tough time pasting a smile on my face. It was anything but sincere.

“I’m so proud of you, sweetheart,” Mama whispered into my ear when she hugged me. Even she felt thin; I wondered if she was caring for herself as much as she cared for Daddy. 

“Thank you, Mama. We should probably get going.” 

Uncle Paul installed a temporary ramp over one portion of the front steps for Daddy’s wheelchair. But Mama needed help with it because of its steep grade. I steered the chair down backwards while she steadied the chair from the front. Step by step, we descended this ramp, my sheer force and determination holding his chair back from running away. 

Ten minutes later, we were on the way to the graduation ceremony. Our graduating class had twenty-two seniors. Did I mention Appaloosa Plains was a pretty small town? I was informed that ours was one of the largest graduating classes in almost fifteen years. 

Once Daddy was out of the car and Mama had him at the entrance, I needed to join my classmates. We agreed to meet out front after the ceremony, and they walked in ahead of me. Polly stood alone, looking just as sad and dejected as I felt.

“Hi Polly,” I said, approaching her. “Are you ready?” 

She didn’t say a word to me and turned her back. I guess taking Austin’s side at prom sealed our fate as friends. I sighed and walked past her. 

Austin found me and greeted me with a single rose and a kiss. “Hi, beautiful,” he said. 

I blushed. He looked so handsome in his cap and gown. He took my hand, and we walked to the staging area. The principal told us where to stand and sit. I scanned the room for the chair with “Valedictorian” on it, and nodded. That was my seat. 

Austin must have noticed I was out of sorts, so he put his arms around me and held me. “Are you okay, my love?” 

I nodded, but I had a lump in my throat. “I’m okay. Daddy…” I was trying so hard not to cry. “He isn’t well today. Austin, I’m scared.” 

He held me tighter, doing his best to comfort me. “Shh,” he said. “Look at it this way. He’s here, right? That’s a good thing!”

He could make things perfect with a sweet word or a kiss. “You’re right.” I opened the curtain and spotted Mama’s white hair in the audience. “See? There they are.” My smile returned as I pointed to them. 

His hand on my shoulder pulled me back to him. “I know how close you are to him. And I’m sorry he isn’t well.” Austin kissed my forehead and hugged me again. “I’m right here when you need me.”

“Thank you,” I said and took his hand. 

My valedictory address was brief and to the point. I acknowledged Daddy and Mama because of all they sacrificed for me and my future. And of course, I didn’t make it through my speech without emotion. One by one, the principal called us to receive our diplomas, and when the last graduate walked, we all threw our caps into the air. 

Austin and I had plans to meet for supper that night after the ceremony. He said he had some big news. I couldn’t decide if I was nervous or excited about our date. After the spectacular mess at prom, I didn’t know which end was up. I was hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.

He found me before I walked outside, and we cemented our plans for supper that night. The restaurant was fancy, so I decided I’d wear my prom gown. We kissed, and he left; I went in search of Mama and Daddy. 

Daddy was on his feet, waiting for a hug. I hurried to his side so he wouldn’t have to stand for long, and I wrapped his skinny body in a hug. 

“I’m so proud of you, Desi,” he whispered in a raspy voice. “It was a brilliant speech.” I helped him back to his chair. 

“Thank you, Daddy. I’m surprised I didn’t cry more!” Mama and I both giggled. She walked to his chair to push him, but I shook my head. “No, Mama. I’ll push him.” 

Once we got home, I made getting up the ramp a game for him. Usually, it took both Mama and me to clear the ramp in one shot. But this time, I got a running start with him. His eyes widened like we were on a roller coaster, and we made it up the ramp together, laughing like fools. 

“You’re a pretty strong little girl!” he said. “I had no idea.” 

“That’s what I get for working as a stagehand, Daddy. It’s hard to keep weight on because I’m so active.” I know he didn’t realize it, but I had a nice six-pack forming. 

“I wish I had that problem, sweetheart,” he said, looking sad. “Weight’s falling off me, but for a different reason.” 

“I know, Daddy.” I hugged him and kissed his cheek. “You’ve sacrificed and suffered so much. You deserve better than this.” 

He took my hands and stared into my eyes. “Even with this outcome, I wouldn’t change anything. Your mama and you have made my life complete, Destiny.”

It was one of the most humbling moments of my life.

*****

Austin knocked on the front door at five-thirty. We had a six o’clock reservation at the restaurant. Mama let him in while I finished getting ready upstairs. My hair was down, and I had on a lip tint with blush. I walked down the steps, and his face lit up. My uneasiness was abating. We were going to enjoy a beautiful evening. I could feel it in my soul. 

He took my hands when I reached the bottom step and kissed my cheek. “You look beautiful,” he whispered. “I’ll have her home by ten, Mrs. Farmer,” he told Mama, and she nodded. 

“Have a good time, kids.” She stood at the front door waving while we walked, hand in hand, to his car. 

Ever the perfect gentleman, he opened his car door for me and helped me in. After he got into the driver’s seat, he turned to me, took my hands and kissed me. “Destiny, you’re gorgeous in that dress. I’m sorry the last time you wore it was so miserable. I want to make it up to you tonight.” 

“That would be lovely,” I whispered, and bit my lip.

We drove to the fancy restaurant just a few miles outside of Appaloosa Plains, one I’d only been to once before. He parked his car and helped me out. My arm tucked under his, we walked into the restaurant and to the hostess station. 

“Linde, six o’clock,” he announced. The hostess nodded and motioned us to follow. She led us to a table set with a dozen long-stemmed roses. He held my chair while I sat, and he took his place next to me. 

Austin ordered for both of us. I felt so spoiled. The roses, the restaurant, the atmosphere were more than I expected. How could I have ever doubted him? The night was perfect. 

“You know, Des, I have some big news.” 

I nodded. A spark of excitement stirred within me. I couldn’t imagine what he had in mind, or what he was planning. “I can’t wait to hear it.” 

He moved his chair closer to mine and turned to face me. With my hands in his, he looked into my eyes. Whatever he had to say, it had to be big. “Des…” 

I closed my eyes, preparing myself for his big announcement. Maybe it was that diamond ring he promised me. That had to be it! I knew I would say yes, too. “Yes?” 

“I… I, um…” he stuttered. “I joined the Army.” 

What? I felt the blood drain from my face. “You… did what now?” 

“My dad talked me into enlisting. It’s why I never returned my paperwork for Sim State. I was waiting for the perfect time to tell you.

I wasn’t sure I could endure what Mama had with Daddy’s deployments. I was not cut out for military life. “What about us?” 

He took my hands and smiled. “Other couples make long-distance relationships work. There’s no reason we can’t, too.” 

“You’ll be away for months, maybe years at a time, Austin. Will you wait for me?” 

He peered into my eyes with the sincerest look. “As long as it takes. You know, you can come live with me on the base after I graduate basic.”

“What about my career? You know how long I’ve been dreaming of singing. I can’t give up my ambitions.” 

“Not even for me, Des?” 

My heart sank. “You don’t know what you’re asking of me.” 

“I don’t believe what I’m hearing from you right now, Destiny. I thought you loved me.” 

Why must it always be guilt? “Of course I love you, Austin. But you’re being selfish.” 

“I’m being selfish? You’re going to cause our breakup, and I’m selfish. Oh, that’s rich, Des.” He pulled away from me and crossed his arms in front of him. 

“Break up? No, I don’t want that!” I hated myself for what would come out of my mouth next. “I won’t go to Sim State, and I’ll go with you, if that’s what you want.” It wasn’t what I wanted, but I loved that boy. Nothing seemed too outrageous when he asked it.

“Then it’s settled. I’ll send for you when I graduate. Meantime, just work for your mom and dad on the farm.” He gave me a half-smile. “That is your last name, after all.” 

I was not amused. “Like I’ve never heard that, Austin.” Did he hear the sarcasm in my words?

He chuckled and took my hands in his again. “I just love you so much, Des. I’m not ready to let you go.” 

Ah yes, Mr. Charming was back. “I love you, too.”

*****

Mama was waiting for me when I arrived back home. But she sensed something wasn’t right. She was always so astute. 

“How was your date with Austin, sweet pea?” 

I couldn’t lie to her, because she would have seen right through me. I just had to pad the blow the best I could. “It was okay, I guess. Austin had some big news for me.” 

She gazed at my left hand, probably searching for a new ring. “What was his news?” 

I sat in Daddy’s recliner and slipped my shoes off my feet. “He joined the Army. He wants me to come live with him on base after he graduates basic training.” 

I watched Mama’s smile fade away as a frown took its place. “That means…”

“Yeah,” I said. “It means I don’t go to Sim State, and I don’t move to the city.” 

“Did you tell him yes already, Desi?”

I nodded. “I did, Mama.” 

“Is that what you want, honey? To spend your life loving a man who is never home, one who doesn’t mind taking you away from your heart’s desire? Someone who is content to make you sacrifice your dreams? Think about this long and hard, Destiny.”

My shoulders slumped, and I sighed. “I don’t know what I want anymore.” 

Mama sat back in her chair. “I’m going to say a sentence about you, Desi, and I’m going to stop. When I do, say the first thing that comes to your mind. OK?”

“Yeah, but why, Mama?” 

“You’ll see.” She closed her eyes. “Close your eyes, and say the first thing that pops into your head. I’m Destiny Farmer. I am a…”

“Singer.” It came out so naturally, I didn’t even think about it. 

“Do you want to abandon your dreams for a boy?”

“No. I don’t want to give it up for anyone or anything. I want it so much.” 

Mama smiled. “I think you have your answer, Destiny.” She stood and kissed my forehead. “I’ll see you in the morning. Goodnight.” She walked into the sitting room where Daddy was already asleep. I took my shoes and padded up the stairs to my bedroom. How was I going to tell Austin I had changed my mind? I didn’t sleep that night.


The week after my graduation, Daddy got the news that his lymphoma had returned, and it had worsened. The doctor believed that she could force it back into remission with a rigorous chemotherapy regimen, which he started with right away. At first, the treatments were rough on him. Many nights, I heard him getting sick in the bathroom.

The summer concert series kicked off two weeks after graduation with Katie’s concert. She didn’t ask me to open her show that year. I guess the fiasco the year before decided it for her. I was a liability, and I accepted it. 

Austin left for basic training the morning after Katie’s concert. We went on one last date before he left, so I could tell him I’d changed my mind about the plans we’d made. He wasn’t happy, but he acted like he understood. Austin walked me to the front door when he brought me home. He kissed me and begged me to wait for him. We promised to keep in touch, to call when we each had the time. And he walked away, our last confessions of love hanging over us. I wept when he left, but I felt more at peace with my decision. 

Chad kept me busy at the festival for the summer. But when August rolled around, I had to leave for school. He called me into his office on my last day of work. When I opened the office door, he asked me to sit, which I did.

“Destiny, I make it my policy to not get attached to my employees. But when they’re as hardworking as you are, well, it’s difficult. I hired you based on your application, in which you had many impressive claims. To your credit, each one of them was truthful.” 

“Thank you, Chad, for believing in me. I’ve had so much fun working for you these past years. I’ve learned a lot about the backstage process, and I think it will be useful for me in the future.” 

Chad sat back and smiled. “You’ve worked hard in the face of difficulty and adversity. Your parents must be so proud of you.”

I blushed. “They are.” 

“I’m going to miss having you around, Destiny. To show my deep appreciation, I’m including a bonus for almost two years of hard work and dedication. You’ve earned it.” 

He handed the last paycheck to me, larger than I expected. My mouth dropped open. “Are you certain this isn’t a mistake? You have a few too many numbers on this…” I felt myself getting emotional. 

“There’s no error. Thank you for everything. Go off to school and have fun. Take advantage of every opportunity. And maybe someday, the next time I see you, it will be your name in flashy lights instead of Katie’s.” He stood and motioned for me to stand up; he wrapped me up in a hug. “I’m proud of you. Now, go get ‘em.” 

I was overwhelmed, not only by his generosity, but by his kindness as well. “Thank you, Chad. I will definitely come home to sing someday. You have my word.” 

“I look forward to it. Give my best to your dad and mom, okay?” 

“Will do!” He walked me to his office door, one last pat on my shoulder, and I left the fairgrounds, unemployed for the first time since I was fifteen years old.

Mama and Daddy took me for supper the night before I left for school. His treatments were working, and he felt better. He said nothing would have kept him home. I believed him. 

At the restaurant, Mama presented me with a gift I wasn’t expecting. It was small but heavy, the size of a block of wood. When I unwrapped it, I saw the book she read every night before she slept, with its worn, faded leather cover, a cross bonded in gold on the front. I wept when I saw it. She was never without her prayer book. 

“Mama, I can’t take your prayer book from you.” 

“Desi, that is my prayer book,” Daddy said. “I took it on every deployment, and it always came home with me. I want you to have it, sweetheart.” 

That didn’t help my emotions one bit. I opened the cover to see he had written a message inside:

Destiny, take this with you. Read it often and let its wisdom guide you. Never forget where you’re from, and to whom you belong. Remember whose daughter you are. I love you more than words can tell you. Love, Daddy.

I closed the book, tears flowing down my face, and I walked to him. He stood up and embraced me, weeping onto my shoulder. “I love you, Daddy,” I whispered to him. “Thank you.” 

“I love you to the moon and back, Destiny. Never forget it.” 

“Never.”


The next morning, I woke up earlier than I needed to, and looked outside my bedroom window for the last time. Sweetie was grazing in the pasture. She’d gotten older and was slowing down at almost twenty years old. Mama didn’t figure she had much more time with them. 

I got dressed to spend some time with Sweetie. On my way outside, I stopped at the sugar bowl Mama kept on the dining room table and grabbed three cubes for her. I whistled for her, and she trotted to where I called her. “Good girl,” I said and patted her neck. My hand produced one cube of sugar, which she took from my palm. She pranced around me and whinnied, as though she had just won an important race. Belly laughing, I gave her the other two cubes of sugar. She nudged me pretty hard, looking for another, but I just wrapped my arms around her neck and hugged her. 

My flight to the university was at 2:14 PM. I had some time to kill. I strolled down the street to the old Bradford ranch. Polly was outside tending to her horse, so I called to her. She tried to ignore me, but I kept talking to her. Finally, she broke down and walked to the fence. 

“What, Des?” She looked more than a little annoyed. 

“I wanted to say I’m sorry. I didn’t want to leave for college without at least letting you know.” 

She pushed her glasses onto the bridge of her nose. “You really hurt me.” 

“I know, and I’m sorry. Polly, losing you was the hardest thing I’ve ever faced.” 

“Why did you let him blind you? You must know he’s moving to Sunlit Tides to be with his old girlfriend and their baby.” 

I looked at her, stunned. “He told me he enlisted in the Army.”

“Why am I not surprised he lied to you again?” 

I was tired of being lied to. But who was lying to me? Polly or Austin? “Do you have anything to back up your claims, Pol?”

“Why don’t you trust me? Des, we’ve been friends for years, but you take his word over mine? Have I ever lied to you?” 

“No.” I wrapped hair around my finger and twirled it. “He’s so smooth, and he makes me feel so amazing…” 

“But at what cost, Des?”

I had to change the subject. “Where are you going to college?” 

“I’m not. I’m staying here to work on the farm. Someday, I’ll take it over.” 

“I’m sorry,” I said. I couldn’t imagine a worse fate.

“Why? It’s what I want.”

This wasn’t the Polly I knew. She was a go-getter with higher ambitions than to settle for ranching. “What happened to your dreams about being in IT?” 

“I can still do computer stuff. But Mom and Dad need me on the ranch.” 

I sighed. “Do you mind if I call you while I’m in school?” 

“I’d rather you didn’t, Des. Sometimes, it’s just too late to say you’re sorry. And I can’t forgive you for staying with Austin when you knew what a snake he is.” 

Tears stung my eyes. “You don’t really feel that way. Please, Polly… say you don’t.” 

“I’m sorry. I meant it when I said I couldn’t be friends with you if you’re involved with him. He’s a liar and a cheat. It’s too bad you don’t see it. He will cost you everything if you stay with him.”

“Well,” I said, trying to swallow the lump in my throat. “I guess this is it, then?” 

“Yeah,” she replied. “I need to get back inside. Have a good life, Destiny. You won’t if you stay with Austin. It will just be filled with heartache and pain. I’m just saying…” 

“You too,” I choked out, ignoring her last comment. “See you around.” 

“No, Des, you won’t.” She turned around and walked inside. I never saw Polly again.

Austin’s house was just down the street from ours, so I walked toward the house where I’d spent so much of my time over the past year. His father, Pete, was outside washing the car. When he noticed me, he waved me over. 

“Hi sweetheart,” he said. “Austin will be back soon. He ran an errand for me before he leaves.” 

I played dumb. Austin was supposed to be at basic training. At least, that’s what he told me. “Well, I’ll wait for him. I’m leaving for school in a little while. I’d like to see him before I go.” 

“How odd!” Pete said. “He’s going back to Sunlit Tides today. But I’m surprised you’re here. He told me you two broke up.” 

“I still want to see him before I leave.” I was getting ticked off. Polly was right. “When will he be back?”

“He shouldn’t be long. He went to buy a gift for the baby.”

“That’s nice,” I said. “Whose baby?” 

Pete looked at me with an odd expression on his face. “Didn’t he tell you, Destiny? He has a baby son back home. It’s why he’s moving. He wants to be closer.”

I played dumber. “Of course, he told me. I just forgot.” Inside, my blood boiled with certain rage. He lied to me! 

Ten minutes later, Austin’s car pulled into the driveway. I watched from a place out of his view. He got out of the car and Pete greeted him. I sauntered out from behind the garage. 

“Hi Austin,” I said. 

“Des! What are you doing here?” The look on his face was priceless. 

“Funny, I was about to ask you the same question.” 

The position I had him in was most enjoyable. He couldn’t lie to me with his father there, nor could he lie to his dad. Watching Austin squirm was the best revenge I could have had… except for my heart, which was shattering into tiny shards. He lied to me. That bastard…

“Why don’t we take a walk?” he said, but I shook my head. 

“No, let’s talk right here in front of your dad. Why don’t you tell me why you’re home from the Army, Austin?”

Pete looked at his son. “Is that what you told her? That you joined the Army?”

“Well, yeah, but I didn’t want to hurt her by telling her about Jules.” 

Pete saw the tears welling in my eyes and took pity on me. “How did that work out for you, son?”

He had both of us staring at him, wanting answers. I saw his shoulders slump, and he took a deep breath. “Okay, Des. This is the truth. I found out four months into the school year that my ex-girlfriend was pregnant. She was almost eight months along when she told me, but I’d already fallen in love with you.” 

I almost fell for his line of BS. But no more lies, and no more believing them. I was finished. “You never loved me, Austin. If you had, you’d have never lied to me like this.” I was spitting mad. 

“No, that’s where you’re wrong, Des. I really loved you. A part of me still does. But I have to return to Jules. I have to take responsibility for my mistakes. That’s why I’m marrying her.” 

His confession took my breath away. That was MY ring! He was MY love! He was MY future, and she stole him from me. “Were you going to tell me the truth?” I read his face, and the awful realization hit me. “You weren’t, were you?”

He hung his head in shame. “I hoped that when you went to college, you’d find someone who would sweep you off your feet, and you’d forget about me and the promise I made to you.” He walked to where I stood and tried to hold my hands, but I recoiled away from him. “I meant to keep it when I made it. But that baby needs his dad, Des.”

“Polly was right all along.” I wept bitter tears, our last goodbye still fresh in my mind. “I should have believed her.” 

“Well, go make amends,” Austin said. “I’m leaving today. I know you are too. It’s not too late.” 

I shook my head. “No… you’ve done a fine job of destroying our friendship, Austin. Now I don’t have her OR you. I’m such a fool.” 

“I’m sorry…?” 

“Are you asking me or telling me?” I growled. His apathy was unappreciated.

“I guess I’m telling you. Goodbye, Destiny. I hope I’ll see your name in lights some day.” 

“I hope you rot in hell,” I spat back. I took the ring from my finger and threw it at him, turned on my heel, and walked away. The score was 0-2. Time to go home and lick my wounds.

*****

Mama had breakfast cooked, and they were finishing up when I dragged back through the front door, tear stains on my face. My emotions were worn to shreds, and my body ached with fatigue, but I had a long day ahead of me. My feet felt like lead trudging through the house to the kitchen. Daddy watched every step I took while Mama stood there watching me, her hands on her hips. I poured a cup of coffee and sat down. 

“Where were you? We’ve been worried sick, Desi!” 

I sighed and breathed in the vapors of a stale cup of coffee; it smelled revolting. “Out. I only meant to give Sweetie a treat, but I went for a walk. I should have stayed home.” My shoulders heaved in sorrow as I fought the inevitable tears. 

Mama plopped next to me in a chair and took my hands. She noticed my tear-stained face and puffy, swollen eyes. “You’re a mess. What happened?”

“I walked to Polly’s house, hoping to tell her goodbye before I left for school. She told me that as long as I was with Austin, she’s not interested in my friendship. She said she couldn’t forgive me for choosing him. I don’t blame her, either. I’ve been a terrible friend.” 

“Oh sweet pea, I’m sorry,” she said. “You two were so close.” 

“That’s not all. I walked a little further down the street, and Austin’s dad was outside washing his car.” I had to take a breather and sip my coffee. “Remember how Austin left for boot camp?” Mama nodded, and I saw Daddy smile. “Well, he didn’t. Everything Polly said about him was true, Mama. He has a girlfriend and a baby back in Sunlit Tides. He’s moving back to marry her…” The tears came fast. “Austin lied to me.” 

A few years ago, Daddy would have gone to defend my honor. But he was in no condition to stand, much less fight. He reached for my hand and squeezed it. “I’m sorry, Princess. I know how much you loved him.” 

“No more. I’m done with boys.” Wet, sloppy teardrops splattered on the tablecloth and soaked in. “I’m just going to mind my business and do my schoolwork.” I got up from the table and took my coffee cup. “My suitcase won’t pack itself.” 

“Do you need help?” Mama asked. 

“No. I’m just finishing packing my clothes and a few things into boxes that I’ll check on the plane. I almost finished it last night before I fell asleep.” 

“Well, holler if you do, sweet pea.” I nodded, gave Daddy a kiss on the cheek, and made my way up the steps. 

My clothes were scattered on my dresser, and I had a basket full of clean, folded clothes to pack away. I had two weeks’ worth of outfits; only a few were my favorites. By the time I finished packing, the suitcase was overstuffed. I couldn’t fit a sneeze in there if I wanted to. 

“Mama!” I called down the stairs. “I need some help!” 

I heard a conversation stop, and her footsteps on the stairs. When she got to my door, I was sitting on the suitcase, trying to zip it closed, to no avail. I must have looked like an idiot sitting there, because she belly laughed when she saw me. 

“Do you have your entire bedroom in that suitcase, Destiny?”

“Probably,” I snickered. “Could you give me a zip?” 

“Yeah,” Mama said. She grabbed the zipper pull with frail fingers and yanked with all her might. “This isn’t budging.” 

“Wanna trade places?” 

She snorted—that was a first—and I giggled. “I don’t think I could climb up there, sweet pea.” 

“Well, just help me put some pressure on the corners. That’s where I need the help.” I shifted my weight and swung my leg over the short side of the case. Mama pushed down on it with all her strength, and I pulled the zipper around the tight corner. 

“Other side?” she said.

I nodded. “The first one was easy!” We repeated it on the other side. Me shifting my weight, her pushing down on that bag with everything she had, and my nimble fingers zipping the corner of the most stubborn suitcase on Earth. “All done,” I announced. “I couldn’t have done it without you, Mama.” I slid off the suitcase and onto the floor. Mama grabbed me as if to save me from a nasty fall, and she clung to me. 

“This can’t be happening, Desi. You’re still my baby.” I felt hot tears dampening my shirt. “How did you become so grown up? Yesterday, I was teaching you how to say ‘Daddy.’ Today, you’re a high school graduate, and tomorrow, a college student.” 

I returned her hug and held her to me. “I don’t know, Mama.” 

She pulled away from me and looked into my eyes. “Always remember how much we love you. Remember everything we taught you. And never forget where you’re from. No matter where life takes you, always remember these three things, Destiny. Promise me.”

I looked at her, tears in her eyes and mine watered, too. “I promise. But you know, I’ll be home for Snowflake Day, Mama. This isn’t goodbye.” 

“I know. But your daddy and I aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. I just wanted to say my peace before you spread your wings and fly away from us, little bird.”

She had to go there. I was already struggling with the thought of leaving them. “I will call you every night after I get back to my dorm. After supper. Okay, Mama?” I felt her trembling in my arms. 

“Every night,” she repeated, her tears soaking into my shirt. 

Time was getting short, and I had to get my bags downstairs. Mama walked down ahead of me, and I lugged my suitcase, a carry on and my guitar case down on the first trip. I eyed Daddy watching me.

“You really are a strong little girl, Destiny,” he said. “But be careful on those stairs.”

I walked to where he sat and kissed his forehead. “I’m always careful.” One more trip and I was moved out of my room. Except, of course, for the furniture I couldn’t take with me. 

We sat in the living room together in silence, watching the hands on the clock taking their sweet time. Half an hour before Aunt Jenny came to take me to the airport. Each time I checked my wristwatch, only two minutes had passed. I couldn’t stand it anymore. 

“Are you sure you will be okay without me, Mama? It’s not too late…” 

“We will be fine, sweetheart,” she said. And more silence.

The deep, steady ticktock of the grandfather clock in the dining room echoed through the house. I’d never realized how loud it was in total quiet. The house phone’s ring broke the silence and startled all three of us. Mama jumped up to answer it. Daddy and I heard one half of the conversation, but I figured it was Aunt Jenny. Mama wiped tears from her eyes, then placed the handset back.

“She’s on her way.” 

I stood and carried what I could onto the porch and walked back inside. Daddy stood by his chair, comforting Mama. I couldn’t imagine what they were thinking, or the pain they were feeling. I know how I felt, and it was awful.

Daddy broke his embrace with her and walked to me. With tears in his eyes, he embraced me, held me so tight I almost couldn’t breathe. “You’re doing the right thing, Destiny. Get out of here and don’t look back.” He kissed my cheek and brushed a lock of hair from my face. “The world is yours for the taking. Grab it by the horns, baby girl, and give ‘em hell.”

“I will Daddy. I love you.” Although I’d be home for the holidays, it felt like ‘goodbye.’ It was driving me out of my mind. I hugged him as tight as I knew he could tolerate. I couldn’t let him go.

A few minutes later, Aunt Jenny let herself in the front door. “Hey kiddo,” she said. “It’s almost time.” She pulled her camera from her purse and gathered the three of us in front of—you guessed it—the fireplace. “Family photo time!” 

Mama and Daddy made a Destiny sandwich, both of them holding onto me, all three of us giving our best plastered-on smiles for Aunt Jenny’s camera. She grinned when she looked at the photo, and then declared she needed ‘just one more!’ Of course, we all faked smiles and cheerful faces until it was time to leave. That’s when Mama fell apart. 

“Remember what we talked about, Destiny,” she said. “I love you.” 

Daddy joined in the chorus. “Give ‘em hell, baby girl.” One last smooch on my forehead from him. My emotions were hanging by a thread. 

Aunt Jenny recognized the magnitude of the moment. “I’ll come by later,” she told Mama. “You’re looking good, Charlie,” she said to Daddy and hugged him. 

She helped me carry my bags to the car. Mama and Daddy walked to the mailbox together; I worried how he would climb the front steps after I left. They put on a strong front. I know they were hurting inside. 

I gave Mama one last hug. “Don’t worry. You raised me well, and I’m ready for this. I’ll call you tonight when I get in.” 

Aunt Jenny got into the driver’s seat, and I opened the door. My heart broke watching Mama cry and Daddy holding her. I got in; I couldn’t endure it for another second, and I was afraid I’d chicken out. My window rolled down, I waved and shouted “I love you,” as we drove away from the little farmhouse on Pomona Promenade.

The airport was only a thirty-minute drive from the house. We shared some small talk during the trip, and when she pulled up at the terminal, she helped me to check my bags. All I had left was my backpack. 

“Well, this is it,” she said. She wrapped me in a tight hug. “Have fun, Destiny. You’re going to do well there.” 

Only one thing was on my mind; I had to ask her. “Aunt Jenny, please watch over Mama and Daddy for me? Let me know if anything changes. It’s the only way I can bear this.”

She pulled back and stared into my eyes. “I will take good care of them for you. Don’t forget, your daddy is my big brother, and I love him, too. It’s hard on all of us, sweetheart. But I’ll keep in touch.” She checked her watch. “You should go. You still need to walk to your gate.” 

The enormous lump in my throat prevented any speaking. I just waved and nodded as I walked away. I think she understood. 

As I walked away, I was no longer a child, but an adult. I cried all the way to my gate, feeling like I was making a huge mistake.


ii.

The journey to Sim State was uneventful. I had no idea the culture shock I was about to endure. The cab driver dropped me in front of my dorm, where a welcoming committee greeted me. I thanked the cabby and set my largest bag on the sidewalk. I walked to the table labeled, “A-F,” seeing as my last name was Farmer. The young man assigned there acknowledged me. 

“What’s your name, love?” he asked. His accent was odd, or so I thought. Strangely enough, I had the weird accent.

“Farmer. Destiny Farmer.” 

He searched through a pile of paperwork until he found mine. “Oh yes, Destiny.” He fiddled around inside a lockbox and came out with a key. “You’re in room 301, top floor. It’s a single. You’re a lucky girl to get a single as a freshman!” I reached for the key he held to me and attached it to the lanyard I wore around my neck. “Just sign here for your key and this welcome kit, and you’re all set.” 

I scratched my name onto the sign-in sheet and picked up the folder of papers he handed to me. His name tag read, ‘Josh.’ “I have a cousin named Joshua,” I said. I expected a comment or at least awareness that I’d said something. What I got was an annoyed look and a gesture to move. 

Great. Welcome to college.

I moved the boxes inside the dorm into a common area and piled them up. They had knick knacks, sheets, blankets, towels, and my new coffee maker, along with Angaloo. I couldn’t leave my buddy behind after all he’d been through with me. Maybe I’d seem like a baby with a stuffed kangaroo on my bed. I didn’t care; Daddy gave him to me.

With my suitcase in my hand, I started up three flights of steps. I hit the second landing and stopped for a breather. A guy stood there watching me struggle with the bag. He looked years older than I was, so I figured he was an upperclassman. I could have used help with the bag. I cleared my throat, hoping to catch his attention.  

He chuckled when he saw me wrestling with the heavy case on the last flight of stairs. I wasn’t in Appaloosa Plains anymore. And even though I hated his guts, I missed Austin. He’d have rather died than watch me struggle like this. I’ll give him credit for that much. 

Out of breath and sweating, I reached the door to my room. I inhaled and held it as I slipped the key into the lock. The portal swung open, and I stepped inside. There was a double bed, fireplace, desk, and a closet. The room was huge, and it was all mine. The fireplace had one prefab log sitting in it, I guessed, as a courtesy or a welcome gift. 

Two more trips up the stairs—the same guy watching me—and I finished moving in. First things first, though. I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and dialed the house number. It rang once before Mama’s gentle voice was on the other end. 

“Hi sweetheart,” she said. “How was your trip? Are you settled in yet?” 

“Hi, Mama. The trip was okay. I just got my last box upstairs. My dorm room is enormous, but I have it all to myself.”

I heard a muffled conversation, and then she returned. “That’s great, sweet pea. I’m glad you got there safe and sound.” 

“Me too, and thanks.” Should I tell her how afraid I was that I’d made a mistake coming here? Should I just suck it up and act like I’m fine? “I miss you already.” That would have to do. 

“Oh Desi, we miss you so much.” I heard sniffles on the other end. “Well, sweet pea, I won’t keep you. I know you need to unpack.”

“OK, Mama. I’ll call you soon. I don’t know what’s going on tomorrow, but you’ll hear from me, anyway.” 

Her breath caught in her throat. “That’s good. Want to talk to your daddy?” 

If I do, I’ll be on the next flight home, I thought. “No, not right now. But I will when I call tomorrow.” 

“OK, Desi. We love you.” 

“I love you too, Mama. Give Daddy a hug and a smooch for me?” 

“Mmhmm. Talk to you soon, sweetheart.” 

I pressed the ‘End’ button on the phone and just stared at it. One warm, salty tear splattered on the screen, and I wiped it away on my jeans. Breathe Destiny, I thought. You can do this.

I spent the next hour unpacking my boxes and suitcase, arranging all of my treasures in the room, and setting up my guitar on its stand. I made the bed with fresh sheets and put the towels in the closet. It wasn’t much like home, but Angaloo’s sewed-on smile comforted me. It’s amazing how one little thing can make a room feel like home.

Suppertime had long passed when I realized I was hungry. I went on a fact-finding mission and explored the dorm outside my four walls. I kept my dorm key on the lanyard around my neck. This wouldn’t come off, even in the shower. If nothing else, I’d have the cleanest dorm key on campus. I locked my door behind me and ventured out into the common area. 

The guy who watched me struggle earlier was downstairs, playing pool with a bunch of others. He saw me and smirked. I tried not to roll my eyes at him, gave him a half-smile, and walked toward the kitchen. The cook was off-duty; the fridge was full of wrapped sandwiches for everyone. I grabbed a tuna salad sandwich and a can of pop from the fridge. 

A young girl sat down next to me and introduced herself. “Hi,” she said. “I’m Ashley.” 

“Destiny,” I said between bites. She gave me a weird look. “Nice to meet you.” 

“You talk funny.” Her blonde, almost yellow-ish hair mesmerized me. Certainly, it couldn’t have been natural. “Where you from?” she muttered.

“Appaloosa Plains. How about you?” 

“I’ve heard of that place. Never met anyone from there. I’m from Isla Paradiso.” Her hair was short; the haircut looked like a toddler with safety scissors had done it. She was very tan, but I couldn’t decide if that was natural, either. She wore heavy eye makeup and smelled like gardenias.

“Well,” I said. “You have now.” I smiled at her, but she just got up and walked away. After I finished my sandwich, I cleaned my mess. I’d never make friends here if everyone was this friendly. That was okay with me, though. I was there to learn, not party. 

I walked back to my dorm room and unlocked it. If nothing else, I had my guitar. I grabbed it by the neck, took a chair from the hallway, and sat. I remembered Katie’s advice about keeping my songs close, so I just played. In minutes, a group gathered around me, listening and talking. I learned my first lesson in college life. Music will bring people together, no matter where they’re from. 

I played for about an hour, and when I’d finished, a young man approached me. He looked a little older than me, but I was only seventeen. Almost everyone was older than I was. He held out his hand and introduced himself. 

“I’m Jeff,” he said. “You know your way around that guitar. How long have you been playing?” 

“Destiny,” I said, returning his firm handshake. “I’ve been playing since I was in grade school.” 

“No wonder. You’re fantastic.” 

I blushed. “Thank you.” 

He motioned toward my room. “Is that single room all yours?” 

“Mmhmm.” 

“You’re a lucky girl.” He turned and pointed to a shared apartment—the door wide open—furnished with two beds. “That’s my room. I live with him.” He pointed to the guy who watched me struggle with my bags. Oh, the irony. “Jacob.” 

“What year are you?” 

“Sophomore. I know you’re a freshman. You look young.” 

I blushed. “I’m seventeen.” 

“When’s your birthday?” He didn’t seem fazed by my accent at all. “Maybe I’ll take you for a birthday dinner.” 

“Close to Snowflake Day. We’ll be out for winter break by then, I’m afraid.” 

“Well, maybe we won’t have to wait for your birthday, then.” He winked at me. 

I needed to nip this in the bud before we got started. “Look, Jeff. I just ended a terrible relationship, and I’m not interested in—”

“I’m not looking for a relationship, Destiny. But you’re fascinating, and I like you. Can’t we just be friends?” 

“Sure.” I breathed a sigh of relief. “I need to be up early, Jeff. I’m sorry to be rude.” 

“You’re not,” he said with a serene smile. “I look forward to running into you again.” 

“Likewise. Goodnight, Jeff.” 

He nodded. “Goodnight Destiny.” 

I walked backward into my room and closed the door behind me. That was awkward. I waited a few minutes, then walked into the bathroom. That Ashley girl was there with someone else. I saw her nudge her friend, point at me, and they both giggled. 

Oh super. I’m already the punchline in a joke. 

After I washed up, I returned to my room, locked the door, and flopped onto my bed. I changed into a nightshirt and a pair of soft shorts, climbed into bed, and hugged Angaloo to my chest. I wept into his worn, plush fur, missing my family and my home.


The next morning, I was up early for a meet and greet at the Student Union hall. It was mandatory for all incoming freshmen, so I had to go. I made my bed and set Angaloo on it, got dressed, and headed downstairs for breakfast. The chef had pancakes on the hot bar with sausage, bacon, and other breakfast staples. I took two pancakes with some syrup and butter. They were nowhere near as delicious as the ones Mama made, but they were filling.

The campus was huge, and from my dorm, everything was at least a half-hour walk. I needed a better plan than hoofing it around. The walk to the Student Union was longer than I planned, and I was a few minutes late. The event was more of a gathering. My student ID card joined my dorm key on the lanyard and was easy to access. I scanned it into the kiosk and walked inside.

A school mascot dressed like a llama walked around the room, greeting people and answering questions. There were tables with free stuff on them: a kicky bag, or at least that’s what they called it, flying discs, candy bars and cans of pop, maps of the campus, and a place to write class schedules. I checked to see where the bookstore and the concert hall were located; it was where most of my music classes would be held. They were close to the Student Union, so I planned on visiting them on my way back. 

The fraternity on campus was throwing a party that night, open to everyone. For a moment, I considered it. But classes started in two days. I still had preparations to make. On my walk back to the dorm, a yellow Camaro pulled up next to me. Jeff. He honked the horn and rolled down his window.

“Where are you headed?” 

“Back home.” 

“Hop in,” he said. “I’m going back home, too. I’ll give you a lift.” 

Either I’m too trusting, or naïve, but I hopped into the car with this man. I never once considered the danger I potentially put myself in. Lucky for me, he meant no harm. 

“How was the mixer?” he asked. 

“It was okay. I picked up a few helpful things.” 

“The kick bags always go fast. Did you score one of those?” 

I shook my head. “What’s it for?” 

“You just kick it around, see how many times you can kick it without letting it drop.” 

Well, that just sounded stupid. “Oh. I’m not really into sports.” 

“Seriously?” He sized me up. “I figured with that body, you were into ladies’ sports.” 

I blushed the same color as my hair. “No.” I wanted to crawl under the seat.

“I’m sorry.” He saw my obvious discomfort. “I forget you’re not of age yet. Please forgive me?” 

Maybe Jeff had some redeeming qualities. “Of course, I forgive you.” 

“So, you must work out, though.” He couldn’t let it go. 

“I worked at the fairgrounds back home. Stage setup and break down. It was pretty physical work.” I didn’t dare show him my six-pack. 

“Wow.” 

“What?” 

“That’s pretty hard work for a young lady.” His winning smile returned. 

“I’m going to be a singer someday. The concert stage back home provided some useful life experience.” 

He nodded his head. “Now it makes sense.” 

“What does, Jeff?” 

“The guitar. You. You’re a songbird.” 

I smiled. Daddy called me a songbird all the time. “Yeah, you could say that.” 

He pulled into the dorm parking lot, walked around, and opened my door. “By the way,” he said, pointing to a rack full of bicycles. “There should be one with your name on it. The college provides them to students for free while you’re here. But if you decide to take it home with you, they’ll tack a five hundred dollar charge onto your room and board bill.”

“That’s a pricey bike,” I said. That solved my transportation problem, though. “Thanks for letting me know.” 

“I could drive you anywhere you need to go, you know. Just ask me.” 

“Thanks, Jeff. But the bike will be fine.” 

“The offer stands. Anytime, anywhere.” He took my hand and kissed it. If he was just wanting to be friends, he was on the wrong foot.

“I’ll remember that. Thanks for the lift.” I had a phone call to make. I walked upstairs to my room and locked the door.


As I settled into a routine, Jeff became less and less available. I guess he was busy with classes. I had a full course load, too; three two-hour long classes a day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Tuesday was lecture hall day, and Thursday was ‘lab day,’ so to speak. Most days, homework was abundant, and I got little sleep. It wasn’t difficult, but time-consuming. I always made time, though, for my phone call home every night.

The first term flew by. Before I knew it, I was on a plane back to Appaloosa Plains for winter break. I had a month off before I had to return; a chance to spend some quality time with both Mama and Daddy. Aunt Jenny picked me up at the airport and took me home. Being back home was more emotional than I expected, but comforting. I needed to be here for them. 

Mama was waiting at the door for me when I walked up the steps, toting my suitcase behind me. Her arms opened for me, and I walked right into them; her warm, familiar hug felt so good. But my first words to her were, “How’s Daddy?” 

Her eyes filled with tears. “Destiny, I need to talk with you.” Fear rose inside me. I was on the verge of tears myself. I peeked into the sitting room, where their bedroom was situated, when I left. Daddy laid in the bed and he looked terrible. I gasped at the sight of him and lost my composure. 

“He…” I couldn’t say what my mind told me to. 

“The treatments aren’t working anymore, sweetheart. He stopped them a month ago. The cancer is spreading, Desi. He doesn’t have much time.” 

“How much time are we talking, Mama?” 

“Months, sweetheart.” Her hands shook. “I’m not ready…” her words faded to quiet sobs. I couldn’t imagine what she was going through. 

“Mama, I’m not going back. I can’t…” We held onto each other and cried. 

After a few minutes, I gathered myself and stood up. “I need to say hi.” I walked into his room and touched his hand. It was cold, and it startled me. “Daddy?” I wasn’t expecting a response.

His eyes opened, and he looked right at me. “Hi sweet pea,” he croaked out. “You’re home.” 

I sat at his bedside and laid my head next to his hand. “Daddy, I’m not leaving you. I’m staying here.” 

His long, bony fingers stroked my hair, and I let him. “How is school? Are you fitting in okay up there?” 

Tears ran down my face and soaked into the bedsheets. “Yeah, Daddy. I’m doing okay. I made the Dean’s list this semester.” 

“You did?” He patted my shoulder. “I knew you were a smart cookie, Desi.” 

I needed to pull myself together. He couldn’t see me crying like this. “It’s so good to be home.” 

“Your mama and I couldn’t wait…” he closed his eyes and groaned. “Frannie… when can I have pain medicine, darling?” 

Even though it didn’t sound like him, there was comfort in hearing him calling Mama ‘darling.’ That’s when I knew he was still my daddy. She entered the room with water and a small pill. “Now, my love. Sit up, so you can drink the water.” 

I stood and got behind him. My arms around his shoulders, I helped him to sit forward, and I held him there until he took the medicine Mama gave him. His body had wasted to almost nothing, eaten away slowly by the monster within him. Carefully, I let him settle back against the bed. His smile was still the same.

“Thank you, Destiny.” 

“You’re welcome, Daddy.”

*****

Every morning while I was home, I spent time with Daddy while he couldn’t sleep. We talked for hours, reminiscing about time when I was little. He remembered every detail of his journeys, and he talked about how he made his way home. Everything he wanted me to know, he told me during those mornings together. 

My birthday came just days before Snowflake Day. Mama tried to make everything special for me and Daddy, but none of us felt like celebrating. She made a cake with eighteen candles on it. Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul came to see me; as a gift, they paid for a revolving plane ticket for me. We spent the day as a family in Daddy’s makeshift hospital room. I wanted him to be in every memory of my last birthday with him. 

We agreed to not exchange gifts for Snowflake Day, but I put the tree up for Daddy. I lit a fire in the hearth that morning and got him into his wheelchair. The three of us sat by the fire all morning, singing songs and talking. When he got tired, I took him back to his bed and got him comfortable. He was surprised that I could lift him without help. I was surprised he allowed me to do it.

It was just Mama and me for supper that night. We folded our hands in prayer while I spoke a blessing over us. It wasn’t a fancy meal, but it was home-cooked and what I needed to feel normal. 

“Mama, I want to stay home. I don’t want to return to school,” I said while we cleaned up the dishes from supper. “I can’t leave you, not now.” 

She stopped drying the pot she held and looked at me. “Destiny, sweetheart, you have to go back. Don’t let us stop your future.” 

“How can I go?” My shoulders heaved in sorrow. “He isn’t well.” 

“If you go in and ask him, Destiny, he will tell you what I’m telling you. He never wanted to be the reason you didn’t chase your dreams.” She looked into my eyes, her hands on my shoulders. “Do it for him, sweetheart. It’s what he wants.” 

I shook my head. “I can’t leave here knowing it’s the last time I’ll ever see him, Mama. It’s too painful.” 

She took my hand and led me to the dining room table, where we both sat. “Sweetheart, none of us lives forever. Someday, Destiny, we won’t be here. But death is not the end, baby girl. You’ll see us again in the next life. That’s what our faith is about.” She wiped my tears away. “Daddy and I want you to go live your life. You’re young, and you have so much potential—”

I interrupted her. “But you need help! You can’t keep doing this alone, Mama. I see how sickly you’ve become! You’re not taking care of yourself…” Tears stole the rest of my words away. 

“Desi, we are okay here together. We have nurses here all week. Aunt Jenny comes to help me take care of your daddy. Uncle Paul sits with him while she and I go to shop. I have help, honey.” 

That made me feel a teensy bit better, and I had the plane ticket home when I needed it. “Okay.” My agreement was reluctant. I still didn’t want to go. 

I had another week home after Snowflake Day, to celebrate the new year. We sat awake until midnight on New Year’s Eve, enjoying sparkling wine together. Daddy even had a glass with us. It was one of his best days in a long time, according to Mama. The next morning, I had to say goodbye all over again. I dreaded my alarm clock.


Jeff was waiting by my dorm door when I returned to school. I’d spent my entire trip crying, and it was obvious by the tears staining my face. He looked concerned and followed me into my room. 

“Welcome back. I take it your holiday didn’t go so well?” He hugged my shoulders and sat on my bed. If he saw Angaloo sitting there with his silly, sewn-on smile, he said nothing about him. 

“It was hard leaving home,” I whispered. And then I wrestled with how much information I should tell him. I didn’t want pity. “My daddy is dying, Jeff. He doesn’t have much time, so it was painful to leave him.” 

Jeff wore a look of shock, and then sadness. “I’m sorry, Destiny. Are you close?” 

Tears rolled down my face, and I nodded. “Very. I’m close with both my parents. I was their miracle…” I couldn’t hold it anymore. Deep, ragged sobs echoed through my room. Then Jeff stood and embraced me, allowing me to cry on his shoulder. 

He rocked me in his arms, whispering words of comfort into my ears. When I stopped crying and could breathe again, he pulled away and looked into my puffy eyes. “I’m just across the hall when you need to talk, honey.” Honey? I was going to get offended, but I realized… I liked it. 

“Thank you. And you can call me honey anytime you want.” I sniffled and wiped my eyes with my hands. 

He put his cheek to mine and held me close. “I know you weren’t looking for a relationship, Destiny, but I’m…” He stopped, as though he needed to choose his words. “You’re someone special, and I like you.” 

“I like you, too.” He turned his face toward me and pressed his lips to mine in a sweet kiss. My heart melted, and my arms wrapped around him tighter. “Thank you for being here.” 

“I’ll always be here for you.”


Two weeks later, my phone rang in the middle of the night, startling me awake from a sound sleep. Mama always told me an early phone call never brought good news. I fumbled for the phone and answered it before it stopped ringing. 

“Mama?” 

“Desi, find a way to make it home, sweetheart. He’s fading…” 

I sat up straight in bed. “I’ll be on the next plane out.” There was one problem; the airport was thirty minutes away, and I had no car.

I walked across the hallway and knocked on Jeff’s door. Jacob, his roommate, answered it. “Jeff,” he said. “Jeff, your girlfriend is here.” 

It didn’t occur to me to be shocked by Jacob’s declaration. Jeff rushed to the door. “What’s the matter, honey?” 

“I need a ride to the airport,” I said, with tears in my eyes. “I need to get home.” 

“Hang tight,” Jeff said. “I’ll take you.” 

I didn’t bother packing a bag; my clothes were still at the farmhouse. I just grabbed my purse, my keys and the plane ticket Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul gave to me. In five minutes, we were on our way to the airport. 

Jeff and I stood at the terminal while the ticket attendant booked me on the last standby spot, leaving for Appaloosa Plains in two hours. He didn’t leave my side, holding me and comforting me. When the coffee counters opened, he bought us each a cappuccino and sat with me. The flight started boarding; he hugged me tight and kissed me.

“Call me, Des,” he whispered. “Let me know how I can help.” 

Weeping in his arms, I nodded. “I won’t make it home in time,” I cried. I prayed Daddy would hang on long enough for me to say goodbye.

*****

I stood outside the airport, my purse and phone in my hand. The cab I had called pulled up in front of where I was standing. The driver opened the passenger window. “Going into the Plains, Miss?” he asked. I nodded and gave him the address. On the way, I dialed the house phone. 

“Mama, please tell me I’m not too late…” my breath escaping my lungs in ragged, panicked gasps. 

“He’s still hanging on, Desi. We believe he’s waiting for you.” 

“I’ll be there soon. Tell him I’m coming, Mama.” 

The cab driver looked into the rear-view mirror and saw me crying. “Your father?” he asked.

“Mmhmm. I flew in from Sim State. My mama called me… I hope I make it.” 

“I’ll make sure you do.” The driver picked up his speed, navigating the streets and roads that led into the neighborhood. When he pulled up out front, he looked at me. “Bless you, sweetheart,” he said. “Don’t worry about the charge, just go see your father.” 

“Thank you!” I yelled and waved. Mama was standing in the doorway waiting for me. Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul were there, too. 

A nurse sat by him, monitoring him. Mama took my arm and brought me into the sitting room. “This is our daughter,” she said. “Charlie, love, Desi is here.” 

He was on oxygen, barely able to take a breath. But when he saw me, his eyes lit up. “There’s my… baby… girl…” he whispered. 

I sat beside him, trying so hard to be strong. This was it… the moment Mama and I had dreaded since his diagnosis. How would I live without him? “Hi Daddy,” I said and planted a kiss on his forehead. I took his hand and held it; my heart pounding in my chest, aching with every beat. “I love you so much.” 

His weak smile must have taken so much effort. He squeezed my fingers. “And I love you… sweet pea.” 

It was obvious he was struggling to breathe. Struggling one last time to be the strong father I had grown up with and respected. The one I still needed. I leaned in to kiss his cheek and I whispered in his ear. “If you need to go, it’s okay, Daddy. I’m going to be alright.”  

When I pulled away from him, he smiled. I heard Mama’s sniffles behind me. Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul huddled around her. But they had already said their goodbyes. These last few moments of Daddy’s life were mine to cherish. Mine to remember. I kissed his fingers and held his hand to my face. Low and soft, tears filling my eyes, I began to sing his favorite song to him, and he closed his eyes. He took a ragged breath, then exhaled. I kept waiting for his next one, but it never came. 

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“Daddy?” The voice in my head screamed ‘No!’ “Daddy?” I repeated, my hand still clutching his. “I’ll always love you, Daddy, and I’ll always remember you.” His nurse stepped in, placing her stethoscope on his chest. She listened for a moment, then laid her hand on my shoulder. 

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “He’s gone.” She turned and hugged Mama, who looked as broken as I felt. “I’m so sorry, Miss Fran.” 

Mama looked as though she might pass out, weak and wobbly on her feet. Aunt Jenny caught her before she fell to the floor, weeping uncontrollably. The nurse stepped out of the room to give us some privacy. 

I couldn’t let him go, my head resting on his chest. Tears like molten lava ran down my face and dripped onto his skin. Never in my life had I hurt like this or felt this kind of grief. I know it had to be a hundred times worse for Mama; he was all she’d ever known, and now he was gone. This time, there was no mistaking it. Daddy was gone.

*****

Dr. Jordan came out that evening to see Mama. She’d been crying since Daddy passed, listless and despondent. He prescribed a sedative for her to take, and Aunt Jenny made sure she took it. Uncle Paul carried Mama to the sitting room and gently laid her down on the bed. I volunteered to get her ready to sleep. A part of me needed to stay in her bed that night, cuddled up next to her like I used to do when we thought he had died years ago. 

After I got Mama settled, I walked back to where Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul sat waiting for me. The room felt so empty without him in it, without his laughter and warmth. I missed him already, and it had only been hours since the funeral director took his body from the house.  

“How are you holding up, kiddo?” Aunt Jenny asked. 

“Not much better than Mama. I can’t believe he’s gone.” 

“I know, sweet pea.” She wrapped her arms around me for the umpteenth time that day. “We’ll be here tomorrow to help you with anything you need. Your mama needs to make arrangements for him downtown. You should go with her.” 

I nodded. “I will. Thank you both for everything today. I love you.” 

“We love you both, Desi.” She kissed my forehead and let me out of her embrace. “We’ll see you tomorrow. Call if you need us, okay?” 

“Mmhmm,” I mumbled. “Goodnight.” They both waved and left. I locked the door behind them—the latch sounded colder and more final than usual—then sighed. My belly growled at me and I realized I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, but I wasn’t starving either. I pulled my phone out of my back pocket and dialed Jeff’s number, remembering I’d promised to let him know what was going on. 

“Hi, Des,” he said, his voice filled with concern. “Are you okay?” 

“No, but I’m trying to be,” I said. “Daddy passed about twenty minutes after I got here this morning. It’s been a long, rough day. Mama is sleeping and I think I’m going to sleep in the chair by her bed. I’m worried about her. She’s older now. It will be harder for her this time.”

“This time?” Jeff said.

“Remind me to tell you about it someday. It’s too long of a story for tonight, I’m afraid.” 

“Oh, okay. I wish—I wish I was there with you, Destiny.” 

I nodded my head, as though he could see me. “Yeah, me too. We have a busy day tomorrow, but I’ll call you tomorrow night. I’m so tired.” 

“Get some sleep, Des. I’ll be thinking about you tonight.” 

“Thanks, Jeff. Talk to you tomorrow.” I hated to be so short with him when he’d been nothing but supportive and sweet to me. But I knew he understood. 

I walked to Mama’s bedroom and collapsed into the chair on Daddy’s side of the bed. The room felt so empty without him; his presence, his memories invading my every thought. I finally drifted off to sleep, exhausted, with Daddy on my mind.

*****

The sunshine pouring through the bedroom window awakened me the next morning. Mama was still sleeping, her position not much different from how I’d tucked her in a few hours before. I rose from the chair, stiff as could be from sleeping there all night. I stretched and stifled a yawn, not wanting to awaken Mama any earlier than I needed to, then walked to the bathroom. A little water splashed on my face, and I gave my teeth a quick brush, trying to feel a little more… what? Human? Normal? After yesterday, I’m not sure what normal will be anymore.

It would be a busy day. I wanted to feed Sweetie and let her know Daddy had passed. Daddy was always Sweetie’s favorite, and he seemed to reciprocate that feeling. I walked to check on Mama to let her know I would make banana pancakes for breakfast. She looked so peaceful, but she still hadn’t shifted position and I sensed something wasn’t right. I sat down on the bed next to her.

“Mama?” Normally, she would sense me sitting on the bed, and it would wake her. My hands trembled, as if they perceived more than I did. “Mama?!” I asked again. I grasped her hand; it was cold to the touch. I reached out to brush a lock of her snowy white hair from her face and touched her forehead; it, too, was cool, and Mama never moved, never flinched. I saw her chest still, the rhythmic rise and fall that indicates life gone from her body. “MAMA!” Sliding off the bed and onto my knees, new tears welled in my eyes and ran down my cheeks. I kissed her hand, holding it in mine, then stood and kissed her forehead. I didn’t call for an ambulance; the time for that had passed. 

Mama was gone, too, but reunited with Daddy. Their bond no longer broken, their love once again whole. I was both happy and sad.

An odd calm came over me. Maybe it was more of a numbness? It was how I felt when I called the funeral home. Then I dialed Aunt Jenny’s phone number. Her greeting wasn’t as cheerful as usual. My daddy’s passing affected her as much as it did Mama and me. “Aunt Jenny,” I said to her, far more calmly than I would have expected. “It’s Mama,” I said, the solemnity clear in my voice. “I need you.” 

“We’re on our way, Destiny!” I heard her say. 

When the doorbell rang a few minutes later, it was Joseph Palmer, the funeral director. There was some great irony because I had called him to talk about Daddy’s arrangements, and he was here, having to verify Mama’s passing and discuss her arrangements as well. I met him at the door with the pretense of a smile. I’m sure, in his line of business, he knew my smile was less than sincere. “She’s in here, Mr. Palmer.” Aunt Jenny and Uncle Paul burst through the unlocked door a few moments later.

“Desi! What happened?” Aunt Jenny said. She was out of breath and frightened.

“It’s Mama…” I couldn’t talk, my mouth dry, my mind unable to process what was going on. Aunt Jenny peeked through the curtain into the sitting room. It felt like someone had punched me in the gut for the second time. I heard her gasp, or thought I did. The scene was heartbreakingly tragic.

Mr. Palmer confirmed the awful truth I already knew; Mama had passed away in her sleep sometime during the night. I never had time to tell her goodbye. I never got to tell her I loved her one last time. My heart shattered into a million tiny pieces. How could they BOTH be gone? Devastation couldn’t possibly describe how I felt. 

I never recognized that Mama hadn’t been well for months, either. She was so wrapped up in her tireless devotion to Daddy that she never told me or him about her own declining health. The weight she’d lost, the pain she suffered, but never complained about. I learned later that the same Beast that claimed Daddy took Mama’s life, too. She was never given the chance to fight it. Mama selflessly sacrificed her own well-being for Daddy, her last act of love for him. 

Instead of planning one funeral, I now had two…

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Up Next: Meet Destiny Farmer, Part Two


Pose Credits

Mod The Sims
Wheelchair Poses by Spladoum (Wheelchair CC Included)
Camera Pose Pack by Traelia (Camera Accessory Included)

Poses By Bee
Don’t Die – Updated
Family Fighting – Updated
Just Standing – Males
Meeting For Tea – Bad News
Vintage Portrait
Wedding Poses – Updated

Tumblr
Twin Poses (Female) by Dovah

*****

Custom Content

Around The Sims 3
Sims 4to3 Hospital Set

Butterfly Sims (Site Defunct)
Female Teen Hair #085

The Farmer Legacy
Hospital Patient Whiteboard

Mod The Sims
Hospital Set by Hekate999
Take A Bow Dress by sweetdevil

Poses By Bee
Hospital Bed 

The Sims Resource
Polly’s Hairstyle by Leah Lillith
Teen Cardigan by Lutetia
Garden Rose Living Chair by Severinka
Modern Rug 19 by Ung999
Austin’s Hair by WingsSims
Destiny’s Hair by WingsSims 

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


G1 Chapter Twenty – The Finale, Part One

The following morning, Fran and Destiny waited in Charlie’s hospital room for word from Dr. Bennett. Charlie slept comfortably in his bed; monitors and machines kept track of his vitals and administered the treatments to keep him stable. Destiny was curled up, sleeping in a nearby chair. She was still dressed in the outfit she wore on stage for her show the previous night. 

Destiny had been uncharacteristically silent since they arrived at the hospital, the events of the night weighing heavy on her in more ways than one. She had fallen asleep after Fran heard her quiet sobs, her body heaving from the tears. Fran hadn’t slept at all since Charlie was admitted, but nodded off now and again as she rested her head on Charlie’s pillow, his hand squeezed in hers.

Fran’s nap was interrupted by a soft knock on the room door before Dr. Bennett opened it. Destiny stirred at hearing the doctor’s voice. She jumped out of the chair, stumbled due to stiff legs, but made her way to her father’s bedside. 

“Good morning, Fran. Good morning, Destiny. How are you two holding up?” 

“Hi, Doctor Bennett,” Destiny replied, Fran still shaking off her nap. “We’re doing about as well as you might think…” Dr. Bennett looked at both women, the sheer exhaustion showing on both their faces.

“I can have a couple of cots brought in if you ladies would like to get some actual sleep…?”

“That—that would be wonderful, Doctor…” Fran responded, brushing the heavy sleep from the corners of her eyes. “Do you know what happened last night?”

“His O2 levels were very low when they brought Charlie in last night. We noticed it was a struggle for him just to breathe,” Dr. Bennett said, sitting cross-legged in a chair across from Fran and Destiny. “Without scans, I’m not sure what brought on this flare-up of symptoms. It could be lymphoma-related, treatment side-effects, or Charlie’s body being over-tired AND over-stressed.”

“He’s been trying so hard to keep up with the farm. I tell him that his sister will help me, but I think he hates being unable to work.” Fran folded her hands together. “And then Destiny’s concert last night. He didn’t feel well the night before. I know he’s tired all the time. He pushes himself too much.”

“Well, that needs to stop—all of his unnecessary exertion and stress. Charlie’s not a young man anymore and his age will work against him if we’re not careful. We’re going to keep him, at least overnight, for re-evaluation and so we can do a PET scan. Fresh lab work is needed. His blood chemistry was way off last night.” The doctor stood and hugged her. “Try not to worry, Fran. A lot of patients like Charlie get bumps in the road, but go on to recover. I’ll get his PET scheduled as soon as possible and I’ll look into those cots for you two as well. If you and Destiny need anything else, please let me or his nurse know.” 

“Thank you, doctor,” Fran replied. She sat down at Charlie’s bedside as the doctor left the room, stroking what remained of his hair. It was two hours later that her gentle touch awakened him. She smiled at him and touched his cheek. “How are you feeling, my love?” 

“Did anyone get the number of the tractor that hit me?” Charlie smiled and joked. He knew humor would likely help soothe Fran’s nerves. “As to how I’m feeling; if I weren’t so tired, I’d be out running a marathon.” He looked at his hand with the IV line in it. “I guess this is our life now? Makes for a heckuva date night!” 

Fran laughed a bit nervously. Charlie was glad to see a smile on her face; A laugh, albeit a nervous one, still counted. “You’re not getting out of dates that easily, Mister Farmer!” Fran responded. “Except for tonight, maybe. Doctor Bennett wants to keep you here overnight to run some more tests and get a new PET scan on you. It’s your job…” Fran emphasized herself by leaning close to Charlie and gently poking him with her finger, “… to rest. Those are doctor’s orders!”

“You’ll get no argument from me, at least not right now. How’s Desi doing with all this, Frannie?” 

“Not good.” Fran huffed, her and Charlie’s gaze shifting to Destiny, who lay asleep on a cot. “She hasn’t spoken much since last night. We shouldn’t have kept this from her, Charlie. It was a terrible decision.” 

“Well, we can’t dwell on that now. What’s done is done. We’ll just have to repair the damage and keep her in the loop.” 

She lifted his hand to her face and kissed his fingers. “You need to stop pushing yourself, Charlie. You scared us half to death last night.” 

Charlie felt overwhelming guilt as he watched the pain and uncertainty etch lines in Fran’s face, then looked back over to where Destiny lay. She was curled up in a ball, the dress she wore last night draped over her like a blanket. “I ruined her set, didn’t I?” 

“Don’t worry about that, Charlie. She’d rather have you well.” 

“Would you mind waking her for me, sweetheart? I want—no, I need—to apologize to her.” 

Fran nodded and stood. She walked to where Destiny slept and rubbed her shoulder. “Destiny? Wake up, sweet pea. Your daddy’s awake and he’d like to talk to you.” 

Destiny awakened with a start. She looked around, wide-eyed, and when she realized where she was, her eyes filled with tears. “Is he okay?” 

Fran knelt and looked into her eyes. “He’s fine, sweetheart. He wants to talk to you.” She wiped the tears from her daughter’s eyes.

Destiny stood and approached Charlie’s bedside. “Oh, Daddy,” she wept. “I’m sorry. This is my fault…” She knelt next to him and laid her head on the bed. “I’m so sorry.” 

“Destiny, this isn’t your fault.” Charlie ran his hand over her long red hair, trying to soothe her. “In fact, I owe you an apology. I wanted to protect you from this, but in doing that, I made things harder on you and your Mama. She wanted to tell you when we found out.”

Destiny sniffled; her eyes met his. “When did you find out?” 

“Last year, the week you went away on your retreat.” 

“A whole year?! You’ve known about this for a whole year?! Why didn’t you tell me?!” Destiny asked. Charlie noticed an edge of anger creeping into her tone. He reached out and took her hand in his, hoping he could find the words to repair the damage he’d caused. “I’m NOT a baby!”

“Desi, please try not to be angry. If you have to be, I understand, but be angry with me. This mess is my doing. I-I didn’t want my illness to distract you from your studies, or keep you from your music. You’re smart, beautiful, and talented with big plans and ambitions. I didn’t want my cancer to interfere with any of that. Please make me a promise that no matter what happens with me, you’re going to keep those plans… those dreams.” Charlie reached out and brushed a teardrop from Destiny’s face. 

“No, Daddy. I’m going to stay here and help Mama run the farm and help her take care of you.” This started a fresh round of weeping. Charlie looked at Fran; his eyes begged for her help.

“Desi,” Fran said, walking up behind her daughter and gently placing her hands on Destiny’s shoulders, “we don’t want you to put off your future. We want you to go to college next year, no matter what happens here at home.” 

“How can I, Mama? How can I leave you and Daddy now?” 

Fran didn’t know how to answer her. “We’ll discuss it some other time, Destiny. For now, let’s all concentrate on getting Daddy home. Deal?” 

She wiped her tears away and nodded. “Okay.” Destiny got up and settled down into the cot where she’d slept.


Two days later, Charlie felt better. The doctor had prescribed medication that helped his strength improve, and supplemental nutrition to support his recovery. Destiny stayed with Polly’s family while Fran kept vigil at his bedside. She didn’t leave him for more than a few minutes when she got up to stretch or walk around. 

The doctor knocked on the door; Charlie invited her into the room. She smiled at them and sat in a chair near Charlie’s bed. “Hi folks. I have the results of the testing we’ve done. I’m happy to report you’re still in remission, Charlie. The PET showed no new tumors or activity, and your blood work is working its way down more toward your normal range.” 

“What caused his collapse, then?” Fran asked. 

“I think a few things factored into his collapse. The first is him not knowing when to quit. Charlie, you need to be kinder to your body. Rest when you need it. Drink a lot of water and keep eating well. The second is likely damage from the chemo and radiation. You’re still a little anemic, too, which will cause additional fatigue. We did a ferritin infusion overnight to help with that. It’s not a cure, but it will aid in your recovery.” 

“When can I go home, doc?” 

“I’m signing your discharge papers when we’re done here. You can go home when they get you ready to leave. There’s nothing more we can do to make you feel better. Time, and Fran’s loving care, will do much more than we can.”

Charlie smiled at his devoted wife. “She is more than I deserve, but I’m so thankful for her.” Fran blushed a deep red. 

“You two are just adorable,” the doctor said with a snicker. “We’ll get you home within the hour.” 

“Thanks, doc,” Charlie said. “I guess I’ll see you at my next follow up.”

“Yes, you will,” Dr. Bennett said with a wave as she left the room.

Less than an hour later, Fran and Charlie were on their way home from the hospital. Though they had good news, they still had Destiny to worry about. They knew she deserved answers; Charlie felt guilty about keeping his illness from her for so long. Fran called Destiny before they left to tell her they were on their way home. She expected their daughter to have a lot of questions and some anger. She was justified, too. 

Destiny walked home from the Stonewall house next door. Fran’s little car pulled into the driveway as Destiny walked back from feeding Sweetie. Instead of going in, she walked to the car, ready to lend a hand. 

“Hi Mama,” she said. “Hi Daddy. Do you need help inside?” 

“I’m okay, sweet pea,” he said, but she held onto his arm with a firm grip. 

“I’m not letting you stumble or fall.” Together, they walked from the car into the house. She steadied him on the step, taking them as slowly as he needed, and she didn’t let him go until he was safely in his recliner. 

“You’re taking such good care of me, Desi. Thank you.” He squeezed her hand before she walked away and up the stairs. “Frannie? Could I ask you to make some tea for me?” 

Fran smiled. “You know I will. What kind, love?”

“It doesn’t matter. Surprise me.” Charlie watched as Destiny descended the steps with her guitar in her hand. “Are you going to practice, Desi?” 

She shook her head. “No, I’m going to sing for you. I don’t need to practice this one. I know it backwards and forwards.” She sat on the chair near him, strummed her new guitar, and sang the first note of his favorite song. Charlie sank into his chair, closed his eyes, and let the sweet sound of her voice take him to a happier place, one where he wasn’t sick. One where he didn’t have cancer.

Fran sang along to it in the kitchen, as though it was just another song she’d heard on the radio. The teakettle whistled; she took his favorite mug, squeezed a little fresh honey into the cup, and an Earl Grey bag. She poured the hot water over the bag and let it steep for the duration of Destiny’s song. Fran stood in the dining room watching her daughter and her husband sharing a moment. She feared there weren’t many such moments left. 

She tiptoed into the room and peered at his face. “Is he sleeping?” she whispered. “I can’t tell.” 

Destiny shook her head. “I don’t think so, Mama. You’re just enjoying the music, aren’t you, Daddy?”

A grin pulled Charlie’s face. “You bet I am. Desi, your voice has always been a salve for my soul. I wish I…” He stopped speaking. No, I’m not going there with her. Not yet, anyway. “I mean, I can’t wait to see your first shows in the city. We can talk about going with you. When you move, that is.”

“Really, Daddy? I’d love that!” Destiny beamed with joy, watching his happy affirmation. It was the first time he’d ever offered such a thing. What she didn’t realize was how unlikely it was to actually happen.


Two Months Later

“Daddy, would you help me?” Destiny sat at the dining room table, a stack of college applications spread over the table. “Sim State wants me, and they’re willing to accept all my work at the festival as college credits. It will cut down my prerequisites quite a bit.” She shuffled those papers into a pile, and she picked up another ten-page application for a different college. “This one is offering a full scholarship for four years, but they won’t accept the festival credits, so I’ll spend longer there. And it’s further from home. I couldn’t make it home fast if I needed to. They have a first-class music program, though.”

Charlie sat at the table with her, overwhelmed with the paperwork she had sprawled out on it. “What’s this one, sweet pea?” An application packet as thick as her journal laid in the center of the table. 

“Oh, that one’s for an ivy league school. I’m not even going to try for that one, Daddy.” She lowered her head and spoke quieter. “They won’t offer any help, and I know you and Mama can’t afford that school, what with your treatments and all.” 

A pang of guilt pricked Charlie in the heart. At almost seventeen, she was having to deal with things she shouldn’t need to endure—a sick parent and financial hardship. “You choose any school you want, Destiny. If you’re accepted, and it’s your heart’s desire, we’ll find a way to make it happen.” 

Destiny was very aware of all Charlie and Fran had sacrificed for her. So she shook her head, placed her hands on his, and smiled. “I’m not going to apply, Daddy. I don’t want that school, anyway.”

“Are you sure, Desi? I know you’re a smart cookie. You can go wherever you’d like.”

“Mmhmm,” she said. “Sim State is a good school, right?”

“One of the best, yes.” 

“And they’re offering me work credit. I might pick up an extra job downtown during the winter at the diner. The concerts are almost non existent in the winter. No one wants to sing or perform outside during a Plains blizzard.”

Charlie chuckled. “You’re correct, sweet pea.”

“For the record, I would.” She winked at her father. “I’d sing anywhere, any time, and I wouldn’t care if it was snowing, or raining, or hot.” 

“That’s because you’re dedicated, Desi. That will make you successful both in school and in life. You can’t lose with that attitude.” 

Destiny blushed. “Thank you, Daddy.” 

“Have I told you how proud I am of you?” His face beamed. 

“Well,” she said. “You and Mama taught me the value of hard work. I know it’s the only way we’ve survived the hardest years. And it’s how you’re going to beat the lymphoma, Daddy. You are going to beat it.” 

Charlie swallowed hard. “From your lips to His ears, Destiny.” 

“Every morning, and every night.” She stood from the table and kissed his cheek. “Thank you for your help. Sim State is my choice.” 

I didn’t do much, he thought with a smile. “You’re welcome, honey.” Charlie stood from the table, tired and achy. “I’m going to lie down upstairs, Desi.”

Destiny didn’t look up from her work, but nodded. “Okay, Daddy. I hope you feel better.” 

“Me too, sweet pea. Me too.”

*****

Fran came back from the market, tired but happy. Destiny was still at the table working on her application for Sim State, and Charlie was resting upstairs. She greeted her daughter, but was dismayed to see nothing started for supper. “Hi sweet pea,” she said. “Where’s Daddy?”

“He’s upstairs.”

Fran huffed and walked to the kitchen. “He didn’t start supper like I asked him to. Is he okay?”

Destiny shrugged, not looking up from her work. “I dunno. He said he was going to lie down, and he went upstairs.”

She slammed the refrigerator door shut and fell against the counter in frustration. Fran muttered under her breath. That got Destiny’s attention.

“Are you okay, Mama?” 

“Oh, I’m fine, Desi. I’m just tired.” 

Destiny stood and gathered her applications, arranged the papers into a pile, and slipped them into her backpack. She walked to where Fran stood fighting tears, and hugged her. 

“I’ll cook tonight, Mama.”

Fran looked up and into Destiny’s eyes. “No, honey, this isn’t your responsibility—”

“Will it help you?” 

“Well, yes, but…” Fran couldn’t contain the emotion. “It’s not your worry.” She wept openly with Destiny’s arms wrapped around her. “I couldn’t ask that of you.” 

“You’re not asking.” Destiny backed away from Fran to see her tears. “Go upstairs and rest, Mama. I’ll call you both when supper is ready.” Fran nodded, sniffled and mouthed the words, ‘thank you,’ before she turned to walk up the steps.

It wasn’t the first time Destiny had cooked a meal, and what she had cooked before wasn’t traditional ‘supper’ food. But she made it well, and it was her favorite thing—banana pancakes. She pulled the recipe card from Fran’s box, measured the ingredients out and mixed the batter. Then, she took two bananas, sliced them thin, and sprinkled lemon juice on them so they wouldn’t brown. The griddle on the stove got sizzling hot, so she poured the first four cakes, arranging the banana slices on each one.

While the first batch cooked, she walked to the steps and called for Fran and Charlie to come down for supper. Little by little, she cooked the pancakes until the batter was gone. The finished ones rested in a warm oven until supper was ready.

Fran held onto Charlie walking down the stairs. The aroma of banana pancakes filled the bottom floor of the house. Charlie looked at his wife. “Desi cooked that? It smells amazing in here.” 

She beamed at him and nodded. “She did. Our baby girl is taking care of us.” 

“Enjoy it now, darling. She won’t be home much longer.” 

Fran sighed. “Don’t remind me.”

Destiny had finished cooking the last pancake when Charlie and Fran walked into the dining room. “Oh good!” she said. “Just sit, and I’ll do everything.” The table was already set, and everything they needed was placed out: soft butter, pure maple syrup, coffee and all the fixings for it. She pulled the warm cakes from the oven, put them on a platter, and served them. 

“Destiny, this looks incredible,” Charlie said. “Did your mama teach you how to cook?” 

She blushed. “Just this, Daddy. It’s all I can make.” 

They sat together and joined hands. Charlie prayed for their meal. The first bite for Fran tasted different than how she usually made them. “Destiny, how did you make the batter? These are delicious!”

“Just a little vanilla added in. When I made them at school in cooking class, it made a big difference. I got an ‘A’ on the project.”

“I can see why!” Fran grinned. “Is there anything that you don’t do well, sweet pea?”

Destiny thought for a moment. With a sly grin, she said, “I can’t think of anything!” The three of them laughed together.

After supper, Destiny cleaned the kitchen and all the dishes. Charlie and Fran retired to their bedroom early. So Destiny walked into the yard with her song book in her hand and a pencil tucked into her ponytail. Sweetie was still in the pasture, and the dim light of dusk settled over the small half-acre farm plot. Destiny had hit a dry spell with songwriting, so she’d hoped the night air would help to clear her mind.

She had paid little attention to her surroundings until Sweetie’s sharp whinny broke her concentration. When she looked up, the evening’s darkness had settled in around the farm. Crickets chirruped in the fields behind the property, and fireflies dotted the night sky. Soon, she detected the syncopation in the songs of the night’s creatures. She picked up her pencil and jotted down words that came to mind, her concentration on the only home she’d ever known. 

Destiny’s mind crept back to the afternoon’s task of college applications, and her father’s illness. How can I leave them? She wondered to herself. I can’t. Daddy needs me. Her pencil fell to the table; the clatter on the metal surface startled her, as though she didn’t expect it. “How can I leave you, Daddy?” she said aloud, talking to no one but herself. Tears filled her eyes, and she wept, so unsure of what the future held for any of them.


Destiny’s alarm clock sounded the next morning; she turned it off and covered her head with her pillow. “No…” she groaned. “I’m not ready to get up.” Nevertheless, she threw the covers from her body and sat up. The clock next to her bed read 5:02 AM. 

She walked through the bathroom and into the sitting room in her parents’ bedroom. A quick peek revealed both were still sleeping. She tiptoed down the stairs to shower in the first floor bathroom, a consideration for Charlie, since he had more difficulty navigating the stairs early in the morning. 

Destiny started the coffee pot, still wrapped in her robe, and gazed into the yard. Sweetie was still in the pasture, grazing. Or perhaps she’d slept in the barn and was up early; Destiny wasn’t sure. A few moments later, she heard light footsteps padding down the stairs, and a glimpse of red hair like hers. “Good morning, Destiny,” Fran said. 

“Good morning, Mama. I was going to let you sleep.” 

“And let me miss your last first day of school? Goodness, girl. I hope you’re kidding.” 

Destiny gave her a sheepish smile. “Sorry?”

“It’s okay, Desi. Daddy will be down soon, too. He’s been looking forward to this.” 

“Mmph…” She sat in the dining chair a little too hard. “I wish he’d stay upstairs until he’s ready, Mama. It’s not that important.” 

“You’re not keeping him away, sweetheart. He wants every memory he can have with you.” He’s afraid there won’t be many more, Fran thought. 

“Well, I’ll go up and help him.” 

“That’s a sweet gesture, and a good idea.” Fran poured a cup of coffee and took another mug to fill for Charlie. Destiny walked up the staircase to the master bedroom. 

Charlie was walking from the bathroom, his cane in his hand, when she knocked on the door. “Daddy?” 

“Come in, sweet pea.” He sat on the bed and took his robe from the chair. “Happy first day of school.” 

“Thanks, Daddy. I came to help you down the steps.” 

“I appreciate it, but I think I’m okay this morning.” 

“Are you sure?” Destiny studied his face. Now that she knew the truth, she could see the toll his illness was taking on his body. “How about I walk in front of you?” 

Charlie nodded. “I’ll agree with that, Desi. You’re a good girl, you know that?”

“Well, you’re my only Daddy, so I want to make sure you’re safe.” She hugged him and took his hands in hers, pulling him to his feet. “Upsy Daisy!” 

“Wow, you remembered that, too!” Charlie laughed. “I haven’t said that to you since you were little.” 

“I remember everything. My guidance counselor wanted me to go for testing last year. He thinks I have an eidetic memory.” 

“I wouldn’t be surprised, Desi. You’ve remembered things from your childhood that most kids forget.” 

“Like that book I memorized?” 

“Exactly like that.” Charlie smiled; it was one of the best days of his life. 

“I want to confess something about that, Daddy,” Destiny said, wincing. 

“What’s that?” 

“When you came home, and you asked me if I remembered you, and I said no?” 

“You did, didn’t you?” He chuckled and smiled. 

“Yes, Daddy.”

“You little stinker.”

She giggled. “I remembered everything.” Her face turned serious, and she looked away from him. “But I didn’t understand it, either. I was so confused.” 

“Well,” Charlie said, brushing a lock of damp hair away from her face. “It was hard for all of us. I never expected you to remember me, sweet pea. It was great just to be home.” 

“I didn’t want to let any more time pass before I told you…” She bit her lip. Destiny didn’t want to entertain the thoughts she had about his future, or lack thereof. 

“I’m glad you did, Destiny. Thank you.” He hugged her close. “Let’s get breakfast, so you’re not late for classes.” 

“Okay,” she said. Together, they walked down the stairs; she was two paces in front of him, just in case. 

Fran had breakfast cooked and ready by the time they reached the bottom step. The aroma of fresh eggs, bacon, gravy and biscuits scented the morning air. They all sat together as a family, enjoying their meal and small talk. 

“Desi, your daddy tells me you’ve chosen Sim State for college?” 

She nodded and finished chewing a bite of eggs. “Yeah, for what they offer, it’s the best option. I won’t have to spend longer than three years there with the work credits they’re offering me.” 

“I was going to attend Sim State at one point. Then I didn’t.” 

Destiny cocked her head and looked at Fran. This was news to her. “Why didn’t you, Mama?”

Fran set her fork down and took a sip of coffee. “My daddy died when I was your age, Desi. My mama and I struggled for years, and college was never an option after he died.”

“I’m so sorry, Mama, I didn’t know!” Destiny got up from the table, walked to where Fran sat, and wrapped her in a hug. “I can’t imagine how much that hurt.” 

“It’s okay, sweet pea. That’s why we want you to go to college, even though you‘d rather start your career right away. You’ll have your degree to fall back on. The music business is tough, Desi, but making your way in this world without an education…” Fran sighed. “You don’t want to end up back in the Plains, working on a farm for the rest of your life. You are meant for something bigger than existing here.” 

“I thought you loved it here, Mama?” 

“Oh, I do, Destiny. And I wouldn’t do a single thing different. But I know you won’t be content to live your life here in the Plains. You are your daddy’s daughter, sweetheart. I know you want to make a difference. I believe you will, too.” 

Destiny stood with her empty breakfast plate and carried it to the kitchen. “I have little time before Polly gets here. She’s driving us to school today. I know you’re going to want a picture.” 

Fran nodded and smiled. “I do, sweet pea. One with your daddy, and one by yourself.” 

“Come here, Daddy,” Destiny said in a sing-song tone. They posed together for Fran to snap a photo, and then she took one of Destiny alone. Pleased with the result, she showed them first to Charlie, and then to Destiny. She wrinkled her nose and made a raspberry. 

“That’s a terrible picture of me!” 

“Oh, it is not!” Fran said, laughing. “You’re beautiful.”

Polly, who arrived during the photo shoot, knocked on the door. “Des? Are you ready?” Fran waved her in. 

“Come pose with Destiny for a picture, Polly!” Fran said. The best friends embraced with big smiles as Fran snapped the picture. “Oh, now that’s a picture we’re going to frame!” Destiny looked and rolled her eyes. 

“Come on, Polly, before she takes any more awful pictures of me!” The girls giggled while Destiny hugged both Fran and Charlie. “I’ll be home right after school!” 

“Good luck!” Fran and Charlie said in unison.

*****

Destiny and Polly entered the school together, giggling, while they walked to their lockers. Destiny felt a tap on her shoulder. When she turned around, she saw a face she didn’t recognize. 

“You’re Destiny Farmer, aren’t you?” 

“Yes,” was her simple answer.

“I saw you at the festival, and I thought you were awesome.” He stuck his hand out for her to shake. “I’m Austin.” 

With beach blond hair, crystal blue eyes and a muscular build, Destiny was dumbstruck that he was even talking to her. “I’m Destiny,” she said, and then giggled. “But you already know that.” 

“I’m new at the school. I was hoping you might show me around?” 

Polly nudged her and whispered into her ear. “He’s cute! Go ahead, and I’ll catch up with you in second period language class.” 

Destiny, having her best friend’s approval—as though she truly needed it—nodded her head. “Sure, Austin. I think I’d like that.” He reached for her hand; she blushed but felt butterflies in her stomach. “So, where are you from?” 

Hand in hand, they began their stroll down the main corridor, through the mathematics and science wings. “We moved here from Sunlit Tides after the school year was over. My dad is in the Army, and this is his new post.”

“My daddy is retired from the Army. He’s been through a lot.” 

Austin stopped in his tracks. Now it makes sense. “Your dad is Charlie Farmer?” 

“Yeah, how did you know?”

“His survival stories are legendary in military circles. He’s a pretty big deal in the Army.”

“He’s a pretty big deal to us, too.” Destiny beamed with pride. “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” 

Austin nodded. “I’m the youngest. My siblings stayed behind in Sunlit Tides because they’re settled into their careers. My oldest brother is getting married next year, so I’m hoping to go back for that.” He squeezed her hand. “How about you?” 

“No, I’m it. But we have a horse on our farm. I guess she’s the only sister I’ll ever have.” 

“You’re cute,” Austin said with a smile. “So, are you going to college after grad, Destiny?” 

“Mmhmm,” she said. “I’ve been accepted to Sim State already, and I’ve been working toward an accelerated program with college credits.”

“Wow, that’s impressive. I haven’t even started looking at colleges yet.”

“Are you considering Sim State?” 

“To be honest, I’m not sure. I haven’t thought about it much. I think my dad wants me to follow in his footsteps.” He gave Destiny a shy smile. “I don’t want to sound forward, but…” Austin paused to gather his thoughts. “I’d love to take you on a date. Are you free tonight?” 

Destiny blushed deep red. “I am, but my mama might not let me go. She’s pretty strict. Can I tell you a secret?” 

“Secrets already, huh?” Austin chuckled. “Sure.” 

“I’m only sixteen.” 

“And you’re a senior?” 

“Mmhmm.” 

“Now I’m really impressed. I’ll be eighteen in the spring. In May, just before graduation.” 

“My seventeenth is in December, just before Snowflake Day.”

“Oh, so you’re only a few months younger. I don’t feel so bad now!” he teased. “I’m serious, though. If your mom will let you, I’d love to take you for a burger downtown tonight.” He wrote his phone number on a slip of paper and handed it to Destiny. “If you can go, call me. And if you can’t, call me anyway.” He squeezed her hand, and they held onto each other until distance broke their grasp. Destiny collected herself and scurried off to her first period class.

*****

Polly stood outside Destiny’s first period classroom, waiting to walk with her to their next class. And, of course, she wanted the scoop on the hunky boy interested in her best friend. Destiny walked through the door, and Polly grabbed her arm. 

“Okay, girl, spill your guts.” 

Destiny laughed. “There really isn’t much to tell, except…” she stopped and looked around, making sure they were alone. “He wants to take me on a date tonight!”

“Ooh! What’s your mom going to say?” 

“That remains to be seen.” Destiny wrinkled her nose. “But I’m hoping she’ll tell me I can. He’s only a year older than me. It shouldn’t be THAT big of a deal.” 

Polly giggled. “We shall see!”


Snowflake Day Holiday

Destiny and Austin had been dating since the school year began. Though she tried to fit into the young couple’s lives, Polly fell by the wayside for the first time since she and Destiny became friends. 

On the day before Snowflake Day, Destiny invited him to the house to exchange gifts. She sat in her bedroom—Fran and Charlie both required that she keep her door wide open—while she got her guitar and songbook from her bookcase. Austin knocked at the front door, and Fran welcomed him inside.

“She’s in her room. You can go right on up.” There was something about Austin that Fran really liked, something that reminded her of Charlie when they were both that age.

Austin knocked on Destiny’s door and then peeked his head inside. “Anyone home?” he joked. Destiny waved him in. 

“Come in,” she said. She had her guitar around her neck, and her favorite chair set up. “I wanted to sing for you because I didn’t know what else to give you.” She strummed her guitar and cleared her throat. “Are you comfy?” 

“Yep!” He sat cross-legged on the floor and leaned back on his hands. 

She played the opening riff of a pretty ballad, one she had written especially for Austin. As she sang the words, as her fingers plucked the strings of the instrument, Austin’s eyes welled with tears. He sat and listened to each note and hung on her every word, swaying with the music and in awe of her talent. When she finished, she set the guitar on her bed and joined him on the floor.

“Des, that was beautiful.” She’d never seen him get emotional; his reaction to it was natural and raw. Never had he heard anything as beautiful, and it touched him deeply. 

“Thank you. I was hoping you’d like it.” 

“I loved it.” A smile pulled his face. “Now, it’s your turn.” He dug into his jacket pocket, pulled out a small box, and handed it to Destiny. “Happy Snowflake Day, Des.” 

She tore the paper from the outside of the box and opened it. Inside sat a smaller box, clamshell-type made of crushed velvet. She took the clamshell from the box and studied it. She’d never seen one like it before. 

“Are you going to open it, or make me suffer?” His eyes danced with mischief. 

“I should go slower just to make you wait!” Destiny giggled. 

He laughed and grabbed the box from her hands. “Oh, give it to me!” He paused for a moment and laughed. “Close your eyes.” 

“Why?” 

“Just do it, Des. Please?” 

She feigned exasperation and huffed. “Okay.”

Austin got to his knees and sat back on his heels, took the box and opened it. A soft creak from the hinge squeaked; he noticed her ears straining to hear. When he was ready, he said, “Open your eyes.” 

Destiny’s eyes opened, and her mouth fell agape, too. Inside the box sat a ring crafted from silver with two heart-shaped stones set within; one was emerald green, the other crystal blue. 

“It’s our birthstones, Des. Green for mine, and blue for yours. I know we can’t get married, or even engaged because we’re too young, and our careers might take us down different paths. But this ring signifies a promise to you, Destiny. Someday, I want us to be together forever. I love you.” It was the first time Austin had uttered those words to Destiny.

She wiped tears of joy from her eyes. “I love you, too! Thank you, so very much.” 

Together they sat, drinking cocoa that Fran brought to them, holding one another.

*****

The next morning was Snowflake Day. Fran awakened to the aroma of fresh coffee that wafted up the staircase. She gazed over at the space next to her, where Charlie slept in peace. He’d put in a rough night fighting a nose bleed; they were both tired, but Fran needed to get up. She leaned to kiss his cheek. “Happy Snowflake Day,” she whispered into his ear before she covered him.

Destiny was up singing along with the holiday music on the radio, sipping her first cup of coffee, when Fran’s feet hit the bottom step. “Good morning, Destiny. Happy Snowflake Day!” 

Destiny yawned. “Good morning Mama. Happy Snowflake Day. How is Daddy today?” 

“He’s still asleep, sweet pea. He had a rough night last night.”

“What’s wrong?” 

Fran flopped into Charlie’s recliner and sighed. “He had a bad nosebleed. It didn’t stop for hours.”

Destiny wrinkled her nose. “Let him sleep, then. Gifts can wait.” 

“Yes, but coffee can’t.” Fran laughed as she got up to pour herself a cup.

They sat together and talked for a while until Fran noticed Destiny’s new ring. She picked up her daughter’s hand and admired it. “Did Austin give this to you? It’s lovely.” 

Destiny nodded. “He said it was a promise ring.” She cringed; Destiny was never sure how her mother would interpret things. What came from Fran’s mouth next surprised her.

“Remember how we talked about relationships and keeping yourself for your future husband, Desi?” 

Destiny covered her face with her hand. “Yes…?” 

Fran sipped her coffee. “Now that you and Austin are in a committed relationship, it doesn’t give you license to pursue a physical relationship with him. You’re much too young for that, Destiny.”

Destiny squirmed uncomfortably. We’ve already had this talk, Mama! She thought. “I know, Mama. I’m not interested in that yet. You don’t have to worry about me.” 

“Good.” Fran set her coffee cup down on the side table, her fingers twirling a length of hair around them. After a few awkward moments, she stood. “I’m going to wake your daddy.” 

Destiny shook her head. “You don’t have to, Mama. Let him sleep. I’ll get dressed and feed Sweetie.” 

Fran walked to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, and gathered items to make Charlie’s favorite breakfast. When Destiny returned, the biscuits were cooling on a rack, and the gravy was nearly finished. 

“Sweet pea, would you wake Daddy and help him downstairs for breakfast?” Another pot of coffee was brewing; Fran had polished off the rest of the first pot by herself.

“Sure.” Destiny walked up the steps to the master bedroom. Charlie was already awake and halfway out of bed. “Good morning, Daddy,” she said. 

“Good morning, Desi. Happy Snowflake Day.” He held his arms open for her and hugged her. “Is that your mama’s cooking I smell down there?” 

Destiny nodded. “She made your favorite.”

“Ah, good!” He stepped into his slippers and reached for Destiny’s arm. “Mind helping your old man down the stairs this morning?” 

“I’d love to, Daddy.” She kissed his cheek before they started down the steps. She walked in back of him with a tight grip on his belt. 

The three of them sat for breakfast. Fran realized this would be their last holiday as a family before Destiny went to college. And though she would return home for Snowflake Day the following year, it wouldn’t be the same.

Everything was going well until Charlie saw Destiny’s new ring. He reached for her hand and studied it. “Where’d you get this pretty ring, Desi?” 

She blushed, and she prayed Charlie would take the news well, minus the talk about the birds and the bees. “Austin gave it to me yesterday.” 

Fran nodded at him and raised her eyebrow. “It’s a promise ring.” 

Charlie liked the young man who called on his daughter. “Well, sweet pea, I’m happy for you! It’s beautiful, and he has good taste.” 

“The stones are our birthstones, Daddy. Mine is blue, his is the green one.” She showed off the ring under the lights until the gems sparkled. 

“Well, it’s beautiful. That Austin is a good boy. I like him.” 

“That’s because you sit and talk about Army stuff,” Fran chuckled. “We should have had him and his dad over for dinner. But I suppose it’s just as well.” 

“They were going to spend it on the base,” Destiny said. “His dad was handing out toys to less fortunate kids today. He was dressing up like Father Winter.” 

Charlie remembered fondly the guys who stayed on base to take part every year. He never got the opportunity, something he regretted. “He’s fortunate to have walked into that role his first year at this post. There was always a waiting list.” 

Destiny cleaned up the kitchen while Charlie and Fran sat by the fireplace, each holding a cup of coffee. Fran looked at her beloved husband, wondering if this would be his last holiday. He looked tired and worn, but he was enjoying the day. Good enough, she thought.

They gathered around the tree and opened gifts. Everything they bought for Destiny was something she would need at college: sheets, towels, a new cell phone, a small coffee maker for her late night studying, and a capo for her guitar from Charlie. 

Fran had already decided not to bother with a traditional meal, so they sat around the fireplace talking and reminiscing about holidays past. Destiny held up her finger and ran up the stairs. “What’s gotten into her?” Fran said, thinking out loud. 

“Knowing her, she’s going to try out the capo. I hope what I got was what she wanted.” Charlie sat back in his chair, resting his head and eyes. “I don’t think I’ll last much longer, sweetheart. I’m tired.” 

She reached to stroke his cheek. “I know, love. And it’s okay if you take it easy today. I’m not cooking a big supper.” 

Minutes later, Destiny bounded down the steps with her guitar. She set it down on the floor behind her and cuddled up next to Charlie’s legs on the floor. “I want to sing a song, Daddy. Maybe it will help you feel better?” 

“It couldn’t hurt, sweet pea. And you know I love to hear you sing. Anything particular in mind today?”

She shook her head. “No. I thought I’d make up the words as I go along today. Is that okay?” 

He smiled and reached to stroke Destiny’s hair. “It will be perfect.” 

She was going to pick up her guitar and play a few notes, but instead, she listened to the pops and hissing coming from the hearth as the wood crackled and burned. She hummed along with the syncopated rhythm that emanated from within the fire, tapping her legs like the drum set at school. 

Daddy and me by the fireplace
Curled up together, tapping my drum
Sitting close beside him by the fireplace
Listen to the hissing and the popping thrum

Of the fireplace, so bright and warm
The fire flickers, so we can see
The flames of the fireplace
The place we all want to be

Daddy and Mama by the fireplace
Curled up together, he’s kissin’ her nose
She’s sitting right beside him by the fireplace
Gotta be careful, don’t get too close

To the fireplace, so bright and warm
The fire flickers, so we can see
The flames of the fireplace
The place we all want to be 

When she finished singing, she blushed. “I’m sorry, Daddy. That wasn’t my best work.” 

“What was wrong with that, sweetheart? I thought it was a cute little song.” 

“That’s all that matters,” she said. “As long as you like it, Daddy, I do, too.” 

He reached down and patted her shoulders. “Desi, I love that you sing to me because it lifts my spirits. I love you to the moon and back.” 

“I love you too, Daddy.” 

“I’m going to go nap upstairs,” he said and stood. 

“Do you need help, Charlie?” Fran asked, ready to assist at his request. 

“No, darling. I’ll be okay.” He walked to the staircase and held the banister as he climbed. Fran heard him mutter, “I’m too old for this,” as he hit the top step, and she chuckled. 

*****

Later that evening, Fran sat alone in the living room. Destiny was asleep, and Charlie was laying down. Whether he slept was a mystery to her. He’d become an insomniac of late, and she never knew if he was pacing the floor or knocked out cold.

The fire was winding down to its last embers, and when she peered outside the window, she noticed snow falling at a gentle pace. She rocked in her chair, peaceful and content, a length of increasingly gray hair wrapped around her finger. This moment was the first she’d had to herself—no interruptions or demands for her time—in a very long time, and she was relishing the quiet. 

The radio played one of her favorite songs: “Silent Night.” As she listened, her mind drifted back to the past—the last holiday with her father, Jake. Had she known, she would have done all she could to make it special. Tears flowed from her eyes, now faced with another uncertainty. Would this be Charlie’s last holiday? And if it was, did she do everything she could to make it memorable?

“… sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace.” The song’s last words echoed in her mind. “I miss you, Daddy,” Fran whispered into the still of the night. “And I miss you, Mama. Happy Snowflake Day.” 

The fire burned out so only embers remained; she cooled the warm spots with a splash of water, turned out the lights, and walked upstairs to bed to the man she couldn’t live without.


Five Months Later

Tap. Tap. Tap. Charlie’s ring made the heavy, metallic clink on the arm of his wheelchair as they sat in Dr. Bennett’s office. Fran sat beside him with worry sitting heavy on her heart. Tap. Tap. Tap —

“Stop clanging that damned ring!” she snapped, and then cringed. “I’m sorry, love. I guess I’m on edge.” 

“We’re both on edge, darling. I can’t take much more bad news.”

She understood the statement. Since Snowflake Day that year, Charlie’s health had deteriorated. Now it was May, and with Fran’s insistence, he sat, waiting for the appointment that would confirm what they both suspected: his cancer had returned. 

The doctor entered the room, holding test results from his most recent blood work. “Hi Charlie, hello Fran,” she greeted them. The doctor observed their faces, dreading what she had to tell them. She sat at the desk and opened Charlie’s folder. 

“Hi doc,” Charlie said. “I know it’s been a while since I’ve been back here—”

“I don’t mean to be rude, Charlie, but your non-compliance has made my job much more difficult. Why did you cancel your last appointment back in…” she checked his chart for appointment information. “… December?” 

“Well, you know with the holidays and all—” he began. Fran cut him off. 

“He wasn’t feeling well, and he didn’t want bad news around the holiday.” Charlie scowled at her. 

“When did you begin using the wheelchair?” 

“Um… last month? Frannie?” 

Fran nodded. “Yes. April. He can’t walk more than just a few feet. He’s out of breath so much, standing is difficult for him.” 

The doctor closed his patient folder. “You know you’re going to need another PET, Charlie. This time, I don’t expect a good report.” 

Though the news was expected, it hit like a ton of bricks. “When can we do the testing?” Fran asked. 

Her demeanor softened. “As soon as possible would be best, Fran. If we’re not beyond a certain point, we could force the lymphoma back into remission. But it will take some powerful treatments, Charlie. It will be hard on your body, so the decision would be yours alone.” 

Charlie nodded. “Whatever it takes. I need to survive. My little girl is going off to college. I don’t want her to delay her life for me.” 

“I understand better than you think,” Dr. Bennett said. “My father died of cancer years ago, before we had breakthrough treatments like these. I’d give anything to have more time with him.” 

Charlie wore a solemn expression. “I’m keenly aware of how hard that must have been.” 

“He’s why I became a doctor. I wanted to give families more time with their loved ones. You might be in a better position if we’d kept you on track.” She rose to her feet. “We’ll get this scan scheduled right away, and I’ll call you with the results.” 

“Sounds good,” Fran said. “Thank you, Dr. Bennett.” 

After the doctor left the room, Charlie sat silent in his chair. “I’m sorry, Frannie. I should have been more proactive.” 

“What’s done is done, love. We can only move forward from here and pray the treatments work.” He unlocked the wheels on the chair and pushed himself forward enough for her to get behind it. “Let’s go home.” 

Charlie only nodded. 

Since his condition had deteriorated, Paul and Jenny moved the bed from the master suite to the sitting room off the living room. Fran hung a curtain across the door for their privacy, doing her best to make it feel like a bedroom, and not a makeshift hospital room. It was necessary, because Charlie no longer had the strength to climb the stairs, nor could he navigate them safely. 

Five days later, after the scan was completed, a phone call from the doctor’s office confirmed what Dr. Bennett had suspected: the lymphoma was back and had worsened. Destiny was working across the street for a concert; Fran and Charlie had the house to themselves. 

He laid on his side, his back turned from Fran, hoping to hide his emotions from her. A deep, ragged sigh hissed from his mouth as he turned onto his back. “I’m so sick of feeling sick, Frannie.” 

“Have you decided how to proceed?” She reached for his hand and held it. 

“What choice do I have, darling? I have to fight this with every ounce of strength. For her.” 

“You know we have to tell her.” 

Charlie wiped tears from his eyes. “I don’t want to. She’s just months away from college. What if she backs out?” 

“We can’t give her that option. We just enforce it. She’ll be home for Snowflake Day.” 

“What if…” Charlie’s voice caught in his throat. “What if I’m not here for Snowflake Day?” 

“You will be. You have to fight like this is the biggest mission of your life, Charlie, because it is. And you know I’ll be by your side.” She snuggled up to him, his arm wrapped around her. “I love you. We’re in this together.” 

“Frannie, on her graduation day, Destiny said that I deserved better than this. But she was wrong. It’s you who deserves better, my darling. You’ve suffered so much more than I have with everything I’ve put you through.” 

“Shush,” Fran said, her finger on his lips. “This isn’t a contest, babe. You don’t deserve the hand you’ve been dealt at every turn. Your leg, the deployments, the lymphoma. Especially the lymphoma. Charlie, you’ve sacrificed so much.” She kissed his fingers with a smile. “I’m honored that I’m the one you chose as your life partner.”

He looked at her with love in his heart. “Frannie, you were always my first choice. I loved you from the first moment I saw you. Our breakups when we were kids? Those were just setbacks. Even your father couldn’t stop our destiny.” 

She grinned at his choice of words. “He’d love our Destiny now.” 

“That’s one thing he and I will have in common.”

“What’s that, Charlie?” 

“Not living long enough to see grandchildren. You don’t know how much that grieves me, sweetheart.” 

“No more talking like that tonight. We’re going to fight this. Dr. Bennett thinks we can push it back. I’m hanging my hope on her words.” She kissed his cheek. 

“I hope you’re right, my sweet Frannie. Oh, I hope you’re right.”


Destiny’s room was packed up, everything she was taking to Sim State with her sat in boxes, ready to go. Fran helped her with the last of her clothes; together, they zipped her overstuffed suitcase. 

Destiny slid off the bed onto her feet; Fran pulled her close and clung to her. “This can’t be happening, Desi. You’re still my baby.” Fran wept on Destiny’s shirt. “How did you become so grown up? Yesterday, I was teaching you to say ‘Daddy.’ Today, you’re a high school graduate, and tomorrow, a college student.”

She held Fran in a firm embrace. “I don’t know, Mama.”

Fran pulled away from her daughter and took her by the shoulders, looking straight into her amethyst-colored eyes. “Always remember how much we love you. Remember everything we taught you. And never forget where you’re from. No matter where life takes you, always remember these three things, Destiny. Promise me.”

“I promise. But you know, I’ll be home for Snowflake Day, Mama. This isn’t goodbye.” 

“I know. But your daddy and I aren’t promised tomorrow. I just wanted to say my peace before you spread your wings and fly away from us, Destiny.”

Tears came for both of them, and they flowed freely. “I will call you every night after I get back to my dorm. After supper. Okay, Mama?”

Fran nodded and released her grip on Destiny. “Every night.” 

A few minutes more, and Destiny collected herself. “I need to get these things downstairs. Time is running out.” Unable to assist her, Fran walked down the steps to Charlie. 

The new treatments worked for Charlie as he regained strength. He used the wheelchair for long walks or when he was very fatigued; their bedroom remained on the bottom floor of the house. He was in his recliner when Destiny carried the first bunch of boxes downstairs. 

“You really are a strong little girl, Destiny,” he said. “But be careful on those steps.”

“Don’t worry, Daddy, I’m always careful.” She blew him a kiss, then returned to retrieve the last few items.

With everything ready to go, the three of them sat in silence. Charlie hated they weren’t able to take her to Sim State themselves, that she had to fly alone. This isn’t how it’s supposed to go, he thought. He hated he was too sick to share special moments with her. He watched every move she made, noticing how much of Fran lived within her. Her mannerisms, her nervous tics… those she got from her mother. 

Jenny pulled up outside the house a bit earlier than Destiny expected, but she walked in with a camera in her hand. “Family photo time!” she announced, and gathered everyone in front of the fireplace; Fran on one side, Charlie on the other, making a Destiny sandwich. Jenny grinned when she looked at the photo, and then declared she needed ‘just one more!’ The family faked smiles and cheerful faces until it was time to leave. That’s when Fran fell apart. 

“Remember what we talked about, Destiny,” she said with great sorrow. “I love you.” 

Charlie joined in the chorus. “Give ‘em hell, baby girl.”

Jenny helped Destiny carry her bags to the car while Fran helped Charlie down the steps and to the mailbox. The last goodbyes were painful for them; their hearts ached to watch their baby girl leave the nest. Fran never would have confessed to Destiny. She had her own life to live. 

Destiny gave Fran one last hug and a kiss. “Don’t worry. You raised me well, and I’m ready for this. I’ll call you tonight when I get in.”

Charlie held Fran as they watched their daughter get into Jenny’s car. Destiny rolled down the windows and shouted, ‘I love you’, waving as they drove away. 

He looked at his beautiful wife, trembling in his arms. “She’s going to be okay, darling,” he said, a gentle hug and a kiss on her forehead. 

“Why does this hurt so much, Charlie? She was supposed to stay little forever…” 

“Honey, you knew this day would come. But I’d hoped we could have made a road trip out of bringing her to college. Instead, we’re dealing with this… cancer.” 

“Let’s get you inside before I can’t help you up the stairs.” She took his arm, and together, they walked to the house. 

Step by step, Fran and Charlie made their way up the stairs. He was out of breath by the time they reached the top, but sheer determination saw him to his recliner, into which he fell. A sigh of relief escaped his mouth, and he closed his eyes. “I’m getting too old for this, Frannie.” 

She sat in the rocking chair beside him, weeping for everything they were missing. Their little bird had spread her wings and flown away.


That November

Charlie’s condition had steadily worsened since Destiny’s departure for school. He’d had blood tests and a CT scan, as recommended by Dr. Bennett. Fran and Charlie sat in the doctor’s office, awaiting the results of the scan and blood tests. 

Neither of them spoke; they held hands in silence, listening to the ticking of the wall clock. A gentle rap on the door startled Charlie, and he jumped a foot, nudging his wheelchair forward a bit. 

“Hi, folks,” Dr. Bennett said. She shook their hands and took her seat at the desk. “Charlie, I’m afraid I don’t have good news for you.” 

“I figured as much,” he said. “I’ve been feeling rotten.” 

“The treatments aren’t working anymore, and we’re out of options. There is nothing more we can do for you.” 

Fran felt her eyes swell with tears. “What kind of time do we have?” 

Dr. Bennett bowed her head. “Months, maybe two or three? We have no way to slow the progression anymore. I’m so sorry.” 

Charlie sat expressionless. “Destiny is due home for the holidays. Am I going to make it?” 

“I hope so, for her sake.”

The news was devastating for them. “Well, I guess I don’t need to follow up again, do I?” Charlie said. 

Dr. Bennett shook her head. “We can arrange for hospice care when you’re ready. They will keep you comfortable.”

“I’ll call when we’re ready,” Fran said and stood. “Thank you for everything, Dr. Bennett.” 

“I’m sorry the news wasn’t better. I wish you both well.” 

They said nothing more as they left the doctor’s office.

Fran got him into the car, put his wheelchair in the trunk and closed it. She leaned against the fender, inhaled, and walked to the car door. Charlie looked straight ahead, no expression on his face, no emotion shown. Together, they drove home in silence. 

A half-hour later, when they were back home and in the house, Fran broke down in tears. “What do we tell Destiny?” 

“We don’t until she comes home, or she’ll leave school and not go back. You know it’s true, Frannie. We can’t tell her.” 

“We can’t keep withholding information from her! She has a right to know!” Fran’s sobs got louder. 

“Please, honey. I will fight as hard as I can. I’m not dead yet. But she can’t leave school until the semester is over.” His eyes begged her. “Please…”

Fran sighed and shrugged. “I guess two more weeks won’t hurt.” 

“Thank you, darling.”

*****

The next day, a knock sounded at the front door. “Who is it?” Fran called out.

“Hospice,” the voice answered. 

Fran gritted her teeth. I didn’t ask for you yet! She thought. “Coming!” She opened the door to a young woman in her thirties dressed in a skirt suit. “Hi,” Fran said while holding the door. 

“Hi, you must be Fran?” She extended her hand to shake. “I’m Carol. Dr. Bennett referred you to my office. She mentioned you would call when you were ready, but I like to make introductions and inform you of the process pre-need, when it’s much less stressful.” 

“Well, that makes sense. Charlie is resting in the other room.” She pointed to the sitting room, closed off by a curtain. “I’ll wake him.” She walked to his bedside and kissed his forehead. “Love, we have someone to see you.” When he was decent, Fran called Carol into the room with them. 

“Hi, you must be Charlie,” Carol said. “I’m a hospice coordinator, and I meet with families pre-need, so you know what to expect, and what’s involved in our process. It’s nice to meet you.” 

Charlie was less than impressed, but greeted her anyway. “Nice of you to come out,” he said. “So, are you doing an evaluation, or… what, exactly?”

“I’m here to evaluate your home, determine what equipment you might need and get those things for you.” Carol studied Fran’s form. There was no way one thin little lady who looked weak herself could manage his care alone. “I’m going to suggest we start palliative care within the week. We can transition once we reach that point. Our primary aim is to keep you comfortable, Charlie. Our nurses can be on duty for up to forty hours a week, depending on what your greatest needs are.” Carol scribbled something into a notebook. “We’ll bring in equipment for you and turn this room into a safe, comfortable place.” 

Fran breathed a sigh of relief. No longer would she have to worry about whether he was getting adequate care. “That sounds nice. What do you think, Charlie?” 

“I suppose so. None of this has sunk in yet. I’m still numb.” 

Carol took his hand and patted it. “That’s a normal reaction to getting this type of news. We’ll be here to support you and Fran in any way we can.”

“Thank you,” Fran said. 

Carol finished her evaluation and left the farmhouse. Fran felt a sense of relief wash over her. But Charlie felt hopeless. She sensed his discomfort and sat down next to his wheelchair, his hand in hers.

“What’s bothering you, love?” 

“Nothing.” 

“I know it’s something, Charlie. Please be open with me? We only have each other.”

“It’s just that…” He stopped and sighed. “I’m not ready to give up, but I feel like you are. Carol is, Dr. Bennett is. Frannie, why should I fight if everyone’s given up on me?”

Fran looked straight into Charlie’s eyes. “I will NEVER give up on you. Do you understand me? Never…” She swallowed hard, trying to push the almost constant lump of emotion back into the pit of her gut. “Charlie, you are my life, and I can’t live without you. I’m fighting with you until the very end.”

“I’m happy to hear you say that, darling.” 

She sat with him and took his hands. “Babe, I will never abandon you, and I won’t give up. But I need to take care of myself, too. I haven’t eaten right since Destiny left for school. I have given everything I have, and I don’t have much left. That’s why I welcome this help. I won’t have to worry about how I can’t take care of you like you need.” 

Charlie felt guilty for being a burden to her. “Oh Frannie, I am ashamed of myself for putting such strain on you, with no consideration for what you need. I should be pampering and spoiling you…” He hadn’t processed his emotions since the doctor’s appointment the previous day, and they were winning. “My gosh, Frannie, I’m going to die.” He leaned forward and buried his face in his hands. “I can’t escape it. At this point, I’ll be lucky to see Snowflake Day and our daughter’s eighteenth birthday…” 

“We have to fight this together and pray with everything we have, Charlie. We have only prayer left. He has never let us down before.” She knelt beside his chair and tried to comfort him the best she could. 

“I have to see Desi one more time, Frannie. I can’t break that little girl’s heart before her birthday. I won’t!” His ragged sobs destroyed her. 

“You will see her, Charlie. I believe it. Believe it with me, okay? You have to be strong. We need to fight.” 

He wiped tears from his eyes. “What if I don’t have enough fight for one more round?” 

“Charlie, you’re the strongest man I know. You can do it.” 

“With you, Frannie, I can move mountains.” 

“That’s the man I know and love,” she said and squeezed his hand. Together, they sat, watching the flickering in the fireplace, counting the moments until Destiny came home. The time couldn’t pass quickly enough.

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Up Next: Chapter Twenty, Part Two, Generation One


Pose Credits – Cover Photo

Poses By Bee
Don’t Die – Updated
Meeting For Tea – Bad News
Sleeping In A Chair Pose Pack
Vintage Portrait Pose Pack

*****

Custom Content – Cover Photo

Around The Sims 3
Sims 4 to 3 Hospital Conversion

The Farmer Legacy
Hospital Patient Room Whiteboard

Mod The Sims
Hospital Set by Hekate999

The Sims Resource
Hospital Paperwork and Tests by metisqueen

Tumblr
Deco Hospital Bed 4 to 3 Conversion by purplepixls
IV Cannula Accessory by VenusPrincess


I apologize for the lack of screenshots for this chapter. Due to time constraints, they were not possible to do well. When I have time, I will update nineteen and twenty with pictures! 

Thank you for your understanding!

Can I Be Real For A Moment…?

Hi everyone. 

This isn’t something I normally have to talk about on this blog, because it isn’t usually an issue. But I’ve made some promises I haven’t kept regarding the Generation Two rewrites. It’s time I come clean and tell you the real reason I can’t keep to timelines and deadlines I’ve set for myself. 

In the simplest terms, I’m a chronic pain warrior. I have suffered and struggled with Fibromyalgia for 22 of my 52 years. Some days are better than others. This past week has been my worst symptom flare up of the year, maybe of the last two years. These are things I can’t control, and when it flares up, I’m out of commission despite my attempts to remain ‘normal.’ 

This is why I appreciate your patience when I miss deadlines, or when I’m a year behind where I wanted to be with rewrites. When I started my Generation One rewrites last January, I never intended them to last nearly two years. I thought a couple of months, then revisit Generation Two, and I’d be back with Danae and Andy in Generation Five by May of last year. But that didn’t happen. 

It’s important to me to come clean on this stuff, because it impacts the blog progress. It impacts you, and me, too. I am grateful for every bit of grace you’ve all extended by way of your patience, hanging with me when it seems the stories are taking forever. I’m asking you to extend that grace one more time when it comes to Generation Two. It’s coming. It’s long. But it’s awesome. Destiny Farmer has a story to tell, and believe me, she will. Hers is a story of patience, determination, disappointment, heartbreak, love, and triumph. I promise, it’s worth the wait. 

As the great Paul Harvey once said… “And now, you know the rest of the story.” Thank you, for sticking with me, and for understanding. I appreciate it more than you know. As always, I’m open for comments and whatever else you’d like to throw my way. My email box is open. Feedback is always welcomed!

We will see you soon!

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