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For The Strength of Youth

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    Ch. 44 The Wisdom of the Wise
Submitted by spazmom on 23 February 2007 - 2:36pm. |

The next morning I could have shot myself for agreeing to go - or maybe shoot Sean, since he was the one getting me out of bed at 5 o’clock in the morning. He only gave me a half-hour to get ready! I am not a morning person - my eyelids work better when its midday, actually, but I stumbled out of bed anyway. I had agreed to go after all.

Finally we were on the road in his 4Runner, I was holding a mug of hot cocoa and trying to be excited. I was a little, simply because I was with him. But, it was hard to get my brain to get the message to my body. Sean was smiling an amazingly awake smile at me.

“You’re disgusting,” I muttered, taking a sip of cocoa.

“Why is that?” He asked, showing his surprise.

“You’re happy to be up at o’dark thirty.”

He laughed and turned on the stereo. “Here, listen to some mellow music. This will help you wake up.”

We traveled in pleasant companionship the hour or so it took to get to Seaside. One of the main distinctions the small town had, I suppose, was that it was the end of the Lewis and Clark trail. They also have the friendliest seagulls.

Sean had brought some old bread and we sat on a bench, curled up in a warm blanket, tossing crusts to the birds and watching the beach come to life with the warmth of the sun. It was going to be a beautiful day, and I felt like I was gradually coming to life with the creatures around me. The seagulls were quite daring. One even tried to peck at my shoes!

We spent the morning walking through all the little tourist shops, munching on bagels slathered with cream cheese and drinking juice. I was enchanted with one of the shops that featured blown glass and glass sculptures. There was one that I felt extremely lovely of a delicate rose. The glass had been tinted a shade of pink that made it seem like a frozen flower. I had to buy it.

Sean found a cute one of a angel, and tucked it away in it’s protective wrappings in his large coat pockets before I got a very good look at it. We went back to the car with our purchases, and I realized that I felt relaxed and comfortable in his company. We got back onto the highway and traveled for a while in companionable silence. Then Sean turned to look at me.

“Angel,” he said, his voice hesitating. “Would you be willing to talk about last night?”

My stomach sank to my toes and I wondered why he had brought the topic up. Then I recalled that while we had been walking through the shops in Seaside there had been several galleries as a matter of course, and I had deferred going into any of them. Sean hadn’t said a word, but now he wanted to know.

“I guess not.” I said after a few minutes of desperately trying to think of an alternative. “Why?”

“I’m curious about what happened to make you stop painting. I mean,” he frowned as he concentrated on the traffic. Then he sighed, sounding frustrated. “You apparently had quite a talent going, and now you don’t seem to even miss something that was a part of you for most of your life.” He shook his head. “It’s funny, but my parents never mentioned your painting. It makes me wonder why.”

I chewed on my bottom lip, wondering if I should tell him the whole story, and wondering if he would understand. I wasn’t even sure how I should start. Mari and Bill had kind of found out about my decision to stop painting through due course, but they hadn’t been happy about it. Obviously Mari had hoped I’d changed my mind.

I sighed softly and looked out of the window at the passing pine trees. I was totally at a loss on how to talk to him about this. I hadn’t expected anyone to ask me about it, which I guess was a rather naive thought.

“I didn’t mean to offend you,” Sean said, his voice resigned. “I just want to understand.”

I shook my head. “You didn’t offend me. I was just wondering where to start. I’m not sure I will explain it very well, and I was trying to find the words.”

He glanced at me, his expression open. “Just try.”

I gave a half-hearted grin. “Okay.” I paused to gather my thoughts, still reluctant to open the door to that time - I knew the pain would still be there. “I guess Mari and Bill told you how my parents died?”

He nodded, his eyes on the road. “Yeah, they said they had been killed in a car accident in Utah, a couple years ago now, right?”

I nodded. “Well, the thing was, they were on the road to come see the first real exhibit of my paintings. If they hadn’t been going to see my work, they wouldn’t have been on the road the same time as that drunk.” I had thought I was over my bitterness at the accident, but when I practically spit out the words, I realized I had just buried it all for so long I had forgotten it was there.

I pressed my lips together and stared out the window, blinking at the hot tears running down my cheeks. I still missed them so much! And it was my talent that had brought them to and end. My painting!

Suddenly I realized the car was stopping. Before I could comprehend what was happening, Sean was out of his seat and pulling me out of mine to hold me tightly against him.

“Hush, Angel. Don’t cry so hard!” he whispered, his arms strong and warm around me.

I clung to him, wishing everything could be as it was, and knowing it was all gone. “If they hadn’t been coming, it never would have happened!” I told him in a hoarse whisper. “It’s my fault.”

Sean gasped softly above me, and held me close until I calmed down and the tears dried. I felt weak and drained. I was tired of crying. Sean found some tissue and handed it to me so I could wipe my nose. I was sure I looked quite the picture as he wiped my eyes dry with a gentle hand that almost made me cry again. He was such a gentle person.

He sighed as he finished. “I can’t believe you feel it’s your fault. You can’t blame yourself for their deaths, Angel. Even if they hadn’t been on the road that day, it could have happened another time, another way. It wasn’t your fault the other driver was drunk!”

“You don’t understand!” I cried, grabbing hold of his jacket. “I arranged for the showing! I told them where it was. They almost didn’t go because Dad wasn’t feeling well, but I talked them into it. I was so excited, I couldn’t stand to not have them be there. I talked them into going!”

I must have sounded a little hysterical because Sean leaned back from me and took my face in his hands, his thumbs over my mouth. He made me look him in the face, his expression stern.

“Angela! Listen to me!” his voice was hard, making me look at him with wide eyes. “You did not drive the car that ran into them! You didn’t make your father drive straight through without stopping. You didn’t make him fall asleep at the wheel.”

I let go of his jacked and pushed away, the shock of his words automatically denied. “Fall asleep at the wheel? What are you talking about? A drunk went from his side of the road to theirs and killed them!” I didn’t realize I was yelling until I heard the echo of my voice. I took a gulping breath to calm down and Sean sighed tiredly.

“I really thought you knew the whole story,” he said, running a hand through his hair as I wiped my nose. “I guess you were having a hard enough time dealing with their deaths. My mom and dad were beside themselves too, but they couldn’t stay long enough to do anything after the funeral. Dad had some job he had to finish. He felt so bad they couldn’t stay with you.” He looked out the window for a minute, absently running his hand along my hair.

“Angel, the police told dad that it appeared your father fell asleep at the wheel and drifted over into the drunks lane. If the driver hadn’t been drunk, he would have swerved, and then your parents would have crashed into a mountain on the other side.”

As the horror of his words started to sink in, I knew Bill had decided I couldn’t handle the truth of it then. I was having a hard enough time with it now. I shook my head, still wishing it weren’t so. “My dad fell asleep? My dad never fell asleep while driving!” I put a hand to my eyes, wishing I could get the image of the smashed car into a mountain out of my head.

“I know how hard it is to hear this, but you’ve got to stop blaming yourself!” Sean’s voice over lapped the vision as he tried to calm my terror. “It was your parents choice to be where they were.”

“Then who can I blame?” I lashed out suddenly, wishing there were someone I could pin it on - other than my father. “The drunk who didn’t expect to find a car coming at him? My father’s work that wouldn’t let him take enough time off? My heck, Sean!” I shouted, pounding on his chest. “I can’t take this! There has to be someone to blame!”

Sean grabbed my hands and pulled me to him. “Angel, Angel don’t do this! Stop!” He held me tightly to him as I struggled and then quieted. “You poor girl. You can’t blame anyone. You have to let it go.”

I shook my head, still feeling anger and bitterness inside. “I can’t just let it go. I - I don’t know how.” I took a deep shuddering breath. “How come no one told me before now? Was Bill afraid I wouldn’t handle it?” I hid my face in his shirt. “It just isn’t fair, Sean. I miss them so much!”

“Ah, Angel!” Sean's voice was full of sorrow and emotions I couldn't grasp. His arms tightened to where I almost couldn't breath. "You're breaking my heart!" He stroked my hair and all was silent for a few minutes.

“I know you miss them.” He said after a while. “You always will. But hopefully with time it will get easier. It will be a joy, a fondness to think of them and the times you had together. Not pain. You need to try and let go of it.” He pulled back a little to tilt my face so I could see his. “They are gone. You have to live your life. Hating someone or blaming someone isn’t going to bring them back. Blaming yourself didn’t do any good, did it? All that did was make you lock away your talent for all these years. Your parents would weep if they knew, Angel. They loved your work! My parents love your work, and they love you. Give it back to them.”

I closed my eyes and leaned against him, trying to let the old feelings go. It was so hard to let go - what was I going to do now? Start painting again? Wouldn’t every brush stroke remind me? Could I even do it anymore? It had been so long...

“I don’t know if I can,” I admitted in a small voice. “It’s been too long.”

He sighed against me. “I know. But you have to try. I think your parents are probably begging you to paint. If they could talk to you, I’m sure they would say, “DO IT!”

I smiled faintly at that picture, and tried to relax. Was this one of the reasons I had felt like I needed to come to Astoria? To hear the truth and get back to painting? I wish I knew.

“This is all so much,” I whispered, and he nodded.

“I know. Shall we go on to Tillamook now and get some lunch? I don’t know about you, but tears always make me hungry.”

I laughed weakly as I was sure he intended me to. “Yeah, lets go.”

“Okay.” He squeezed me quickly and then jumped up to help me back into my seat.

I watched him as he pulled the car back into traffic, wondering where he had learned such compassion and empathy. It’s not something one would have expected from a man who hadn’t communicated with his family until a year and a half or so ago. But as we traveled on, I realized my brain was too foggy for much thought, and closed my eyes to rest for a moment. It's amazing how crying wears you out.

After a minute or two Sean put on a music tape and I let the wonderful soft sounds wash over me. It felt like a balm to my sore nerves.

After about an hour, we came to Tillamook - famous on one point for it’s cheese. It’s a nice little coastal town. The people are friendly and they also have some of the best ice cream at the dairy.

We stopped at a nice little place off the main road called the Cove Inn, and went inside to smell the heavenly scents of clam chowder and fresh bread.

“Oh my,” I said, taking a deep breath. “What a wonderful smell!”

Sean smiled. “One of my favorite places.” He led us over to a small table next to a window which overlooked the ocean.

“Oh really - bring many of your dates here do you?” I teased him, knowing he had lightened my mood measurably and wanting to see that smile again.

He cocked an eyebrow at me as he sat down. “No.”

I wanted to ask more, but suddenly decided my teasing was in bad taste. Especially since he was with me and not with another girl.

I looked around at the restaurant, liking it immensely. It was a wonderful nostalgic place, with real shells and starfish caught in old fishing nets hung along the walls. Old snapshots of fishermen by their boats, or holding up a huge prize. The old netted glass candles on the thick wood tables with oilcloth placemats. It wasn’t ordinarily what someone would think romantic, but I found it so.

I turned my gaze back to Sean, the dim interior casting shadows and making his face a little dark. I was glad I knew differently. I put my elbows on the table and rested my chin on my palms. “This is wonderful.”

He smiled. “I’m glad you like it. They have the best seafood. My favorite is the chowder though, and the sourdough bread!”

He rolled his eyes and I laughed just as the waitress came up. A teenager with huge dangling earrings that could have passed for fishing lure and thick dark hair pulled to a one sided ponytail.

“What will it be today, folks?” She asked, her accent a little more East Coast than west.

Sean glanced at me and I smiled. “You decide.”

He grinned and looked back up at the girl. “Two bowls of clam chowder and a loaf of fresh sourdough with butter.” She started to go and he caught her arm. “Oh, and two Ginger beers too.”

She nodded, writing on her pad as she wordlessly went away.

“She sounds like she’s from Long Island or something,” Sean said with a chuckle.

I shrugged, my attention caught by what he'd ordered. I wondered if he planned on getting me drunk. That had been tried before, actually, and failed miserably because I don’t drink. The man had been astonished and didn’t understand it. He’d thought I was a baby. I figured there were lots of things to drink that didn’t smell like someone's urine, and didn’t destroy my brain cells in the process.

“Ginger beer is a wonderful non-alcoholic beverage I acquired a taste for in college. It bites back.” He assured me with a wicked grin, making me laugh.

Then I made a face at him. “I don’t want something that’s going to bite back!”

He chuckled at my words. “Do you like ginger ale?” I nodded. “Then you’ll like this.”

I snorted, highly doubtful.

The waitress returned with two frosty mugs and two bottles, placing them before us. We were pouring the Ginger beer into our mugs when she returned with a large basket of fresh sliced sourdough bread. I paused in my pouring to inhale the wonderful aroma. What a sensory heaven! We both reached for a slice and buttered it before she came back with our large bowls of chowder. It smelled just as wonderful as the bread.

I realized how hungry I was and without another word we dug into our lunch. After almost inhaling my bowl I was able to slow down and I sat back to relax. The sun was glistening off the water outside and I watched the seagulls fly and dip, feeling a little numb around the edges, but much better about things. I had to stop letting myself do an emotional yo-yo when a touchy subject came up. I was going to have a nervous break down if I wasn’t careful.

I buttered another slice of bread and savored the taste as Sean pushed back his empty bowl.

“Man, that stuff gets better every time I eat here,” he said with a contented sigh.

I smiled. “I believe it.” I took another bite of mine, suddenly aware of his gaze on me. Oh boy, my stomach was now full. I had the hardest time eating around him when he looked at me with those warm blue eyes. Oh well, I thought with a sigh, sitting back in my chair. I wouldn’t have to worry about gaining any weight while I was here at this rate.

“So, what do you think of Ginger beer?” He held up his almost empty mug.

I smiled. It was hard to describe the taste other than it was a spicy ginger ale. “I like it,” I admitted. “It seems to grow on you.”

He chuckled before draining his, just as the waitress came with our ticket.

“How are you feeling now?” he asked quietly, as she left, catching me off guard.

I sighed, giving a shrug. “Actually I’m feeling better. You and your family are determined to get me going again, aren’t you?”

Sean smiled, his eyes warm. “What are friends for?”

I grinned, suddenly very glad I had agreed to come.

“Are you finished?” He asked, and I glanced down at my bowl which had a small amount left, knowing I couldn’t hold another bite.

“I’m afraid so,” I admitted, pushing it away.

“Good. Lets go.”

I knew I would always treasure that afternoon among my special memories as Sean took me around the different places of merit, stopping after a while - of course - at the dairy where he bought ice cream cones. I felt like a carefree child again, only I knew it was different. I was with a very handsome man who seemed to let me know at every turn he was interested in me.

We ended the glorious day at Cannon Beach. We walked along the shoreline, finding some shells and starfish, but leaving them there (I didn’t want a suitcase full of that to take home)and then stood hand in hand to watch the sun go down.

I was grateful Sean had reminded me to bring my heavy sweater as we headed back up the beach to the car. The air had become chilly as the sun had disappeared, and we walked quickly to keep warm. We reached the car in no time and were on our way home before I knew it.

“What a marvelous day,” I said with a sigh, leaning back against the headrest. “Thank you for inviting me.” I looked over at him, his face strangely lit by the console lights.

He smiled that smile I was coming to know, and reached out to take hold of my hand. “Thanks for coming.” The way he said it, I felt he meant more than for the day, and my insides went quivery. Not that his touch hadn’t started that on it’s own.

The only problem with modern cars is they don’t let much room for romance. The front seats are too far apart to stay holding hands for very long, so Sean let go and I had to be content with gazing at his profile. I was a goner. Of course, I couldn’t help it, all the charms he had at his disposal, but I knew I was a lost case. I really liked him. I enjoyed his company far more than anyone else’s. He was such a gentleman - I knew even if nothing came of this, I would have new expectations of the next man that came into my life. The only problem was, I couldn’t see that happening. It was like I had known Sean all my life, even though that wasn’t so.

“I wonder what would have happened if we had really met before this,” I murmured, more to myself than to him.

But he heard me. “I don’t know,” he answered slowly. “I don’t think I would have appreciated you very much before now.”

I looked at him somewhat surprised at his soft-spoken words. Appreciated me?

He glanced at me and chuckled at the expression on my face. “Oh Angel,” he said, reaching over to cover one of my hands. “You’re a gem. Yes, I mean appreciate. There’s more to you than your good looks, and probably six years ago I wouldn’t have looked past those eyes of yours.”

I was amazed at his admission as it wasn't the usual guy thing. He was so much what I had always hoped to find. I didn’t think it was possible.

“That’s hard to believe,” I admitted finally. “You’ve changed that much?”

He nodded. “Yep. I told you how I was when I was at college? Well, I was obnoxious all through OSU. Then I graduated and went back east to get my masters.”

I looked at him surprised. “I had no idea, but then, I had no idea who you were anyway,” I reminded myself.

He gave a wry smile and drove on for a while before he continued. “Being back east was a real eye opener. I was miles and miles away from mom and dad, or anyone else who knew me. And,” he sighed, “I discovered I was a nobody. There wasn’t a soul who cared about me.” His face became hard as stone, but his voice was bleak, and I leaned over to touch his arm, making him turn to give me a quick smile.

“I met this girl - Suzette." He shook his head. “What a fool I was. She tore me to shreds.” He went silent again and I wondered if I should say anything.

I couldn’t believe he was telling me this. Well, then, I also had told him things I hadn’t told any one, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. But I knew it was privileged information, and I was nervous as well as anxious about the pain I could hear in his voice. I wanted to take the pain away like he had helped to ease mine.

“I came running home to see if there was anything left in life,” he said, his voice now husky. “I walked in the front room and there was your photo with your parents.” He shook his head. ‘You looked just like your name to me. The sweetest thing to walk the earth, and I hadn’t met you because of my ego.” He sighed and glanced at me. “I couldn’t figure out how to met you. I mean, I knew there were schools - even private schools - in Utah, but I didn’t want to try that yet. Besides, I could just see your reaction if I walked up to your door and said, ‘Hi! You don’t know me, but I know you. Wana go out tonight?’”

I laughed at the absurdity of it before I sensed he was serious. It kind of scared me, how honest he was being. I mean, most men you have to sit on them and put blinders on to get them to talk to you seriously about how they are feeling. Some of them even after months of dating! Of course, I knew my experience was limited in that respect, and that was another cause of my fear. What was I supposed to do now? And what was he leading up to?

I sighed and I guess I was fidgeting a little because he glanced over and took one of my hands to hold it tightly for a moment. “Don’t get nervous,” he said softly, his voice sending a delicious quiver through me. “There’s no reason to worry. We’re just getting to know each other, okay?”

I couldn’t have cared less about what he was saying; his voice was doing such wild things to my insides when combined with his touch. But, I caught the words as well, and nodded my head. I had asked him the questions, didn’t I? I should have kept my mouth shut if I didn’t want to know.

“Actually, maybe it would have been fun to go to your apartment,” he said after a minute, his voice teasing. “It would have been interesting to see the look on your face when I told you I was Sean Palmer.”

I smiled and sat back in my seat. “You would have thought interesting when I slammed the door in your face because I didn’t know who you were.”

“But I would have had flowers!”

“I would have dumped them on your head,” I told him, keeping my voice even.

“And a big box of chocolates!” He glanced at me, his eyes sparkling.

“I might have stomped on the candy.”

“I would have driven up in my black Porsche!” he said desperately.

I laughed and clapped my hands. “Yes! Then I would have let you take me for a ride, no matter who you were!”

Sean laughed and returned his attention to driving. The rest of the ride was silent as we drove to his home.

It had been such a lovely day; I hated to see it end. I didn’t feel like I would never have this opportunity again - I actually felt like this was the beginning of something. However things went, I wanted to relish the peacefulness of the day, the things I had come to understand about myself as well as about Sean.

We pulled into the driveway and Sean turned off the engine but made no move to get out of the car. I looked at him, content to sit, since there was no way I was opening my own door. Finally he turned to face me, and it was hard to see his face by the small light on the porch.

“Angel,” he said softly, “I’ve really enjoyed today.”

I smiled. “So have I. Thanks for everything.”

“You’re welcome.” He leaned forward and pushed a strand of hair out of my face, and my heart stopped and then started again, beating so fast and so loud that I thought for sure he could hear it. He was close enough now that I could see his eyes in the light and they looked violet in the darkness. I felt like I was hypnotized by those warm eyes.

“I have to tell you,” he said softly, his eyes never leaving my face, “I haven’t enjoyed myself this much for a long time. I haven’t enjoyed being with someone for a long time.”

Suddenly his face was very close to mine, and I could feel his breath on my skin, warm and soft. “I’ve missed you, Angel.” His other hand came up so he was cupping my face in both hands. I think if I hadn’t wanted it to happen, I could have pulled away, his touch was very light, but I felt tied to those hands and those eyes.

He lowered his face and I closed my eyes as I felt his lips on mine in a soft feathery kiss. He raised his head a little to see mine, then pulled me closer to kiss me again, this time dropping his hands to my shoulders and they felt warmed by his touch. I had been never been kissed like this in my life. He moved his lips against mine, and I found myself putting my hands around his neck and feeling his hair, which was thick and rich. It was incredible.

Suddenly it was as if our lips were catching up for lost years - it was wild. Before I knew what was happening, Sean pushed me into my seat and was out of the car.

I sat stunned, feeling dazed and trembling with emotions I had never experienced before. I wondered what had happened to Sean, and sat up to look out the window, spotting him standing against the front of the car. I was concerned for him. He didn’t look happy about things, and I wanted him to feel good about kissing me. I certainly felt good about kissing him!

Mindful of his speech on broken arms, I slowly opened the door and climbed out to walk around and look up at him, wondering what he was thinking.

He wouldn’t look at me for a moment, and I felt like a little girl, standing with my arms folded against the chill air and the light breeze blowing my hair.

“I’m sorry, Angel.” He said finally, his voice hoarse. “I’m afraid I got carried away in there.”

I bit my lip, and gave a slight shrug. “I think we both did.” I felt lucky, actually.

With the few men I’d had dates with, those kisses a few minutes ago were mild. I had to fight off more than one who had figured sex was a swell way to end a date. I felt immensely glad Sean hadn’t felt that way, although I’m not sure if I would have been able to say no. It was an eye opener. It’s easy to say no when you’re not involved. It’s a little harder when you’re on fire.

I took a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. This had sure been one wild day. This morning I had just been very attracted to this incredible man. Now I had just been very thoroughly kissed by him, just thinking of it caused my toes to curl, and I decided to make my mind blank for a moment so I could concentrate.

“At least you don’t appear angry,” Sean said, after a moment, his tone of voice encouraging.

I smiled. “No, I’m not.”

He sighed, obviously afraid he had offended me. “Good. I - I, it was incredible, Angel.” He looked directly into my eyes, and I caught my breath at the warmth there. I must have stepped closer because I was suddenly in his arms, being held so tightly I almost couldn’t breath.

“I’ve wanted to do this for so long,” he said against my hair. “I’ve wanted to kiss you since I woke you up yesterday. You don’t know how close you came to being kissed them.”

“And now?” I asked, my voice so soft I wasn’t sure he heard me.

“I think you enjoyed it. I think the feeling is mutual.” He put a finger under my chin and lifted my face so he could see it more clearly. “What do you think?”

“Oh definitely,” I whispered as his face came closer. I met his kiss halfway this time, anticipation tingling in my veins. How do you describe a kiss? All I know is how his lips felt on mine, and how it felt to be held so closely against him. The blood was singing in my veins.

Suddenly we heard the front door open and broke apart to see Sean’s father peering out. “Sean?”

“Yeah, Dad, it’s us.” Sean’s voice was amazingly steady.

“Okay, we thought we heard you drive up. Some dinner’s left if you want it.”

“Thanks dad,” Sean grabbed hold of my hand and started toward the house.

“That sounds good,” I tried to say, and had to clear my throat. Why was I so nervous about his parents seeing us kiss? Or was it just being caught unaware?

Sean kept hold of my hand as we went into the house, and I wondered what his parents would say. From the conversation I had over heard the night before, it didn’t sound like his mother was against it.

Mari was in her robe and was sitting in a large chair with a book. “Hi kids,” she said brightly, glancing up. "Dinner’s in the oven. Sean said he planned on being back for dinner, so I kept some for you.”

“Thanks Mari,” I followed Sean to the kitchen, not sure I could eat anything, but at least I could pretend. Sean didn’t seem that interested in eating either until he looked in the oven.

“Wow, Mom really went all out,” he said as he pulled the casserole dish out.

I glanced over to see what it was. Baked Salmon? I looked at Sean, and he grinned.

“I’ll eat yours if you’re not interested,” he volunteered, walking to the table.

“Why?” I asked, following behind.

“This is my favorite dish,” he answered, setting the dish down on a hot pad and going to get some plates. “Mom usually only makes it for me, since I seem to be the only one who really likes it.”

I smiled and shook my head. “In Salmon country?”

“Oh, everyone else likes the smoked Salmon and stuff. Uncle Jack makes a real mean smoked Salmon. But, for some reason, I’m the only one that likes this version of baked Salmon.” He held out a forkful for me and I took the bite, trying not to look skeptical. I’m not a real big Salmon fan, but it wasn’t bad, actually. I was surprised.

Sean laughed out loud at the expression on my face, and slapped the table, he was so excited. “I’ve done it!” He shouted. “I’ve found her! The girl of my dreams!”

Mari came running in, startled by his shouting. “What’s happening?” She looked from Sean to me and back to Sean. He was still laughing and I shrugged, pulling my plate over.

“I don’t have the foggiest,” I replied as Bill came in, wondering about the commotion going on in the kitchen.

Sean calmed down and put an arm around Mari’s waist, pulling her over to give her a hug. Bill rolled his eyes and left the room, seeing there was no emergency.

“Just what I said, Mom! I’ve found the woman of my dreams! Someone that likes your Salmon surprise as much as I do.”

“Oh my,” Mari grinned as she looked over at me. “You really do?”

“Well, yes,” I said, pausing mid bite. “Why is that so odd? It’s wonderful.”

Mari chuckled and returned her son’s hug. “You’re right honey. Marry her while you’ve got her under the spell!”

I made a face as she left to tell Bill and Sean laughed and shook his head.

“We’re not all crazy, Angel.” He gave me a look that melted my bones and I quickly looked away so I could eat.

We finished our dinner in companionable silence, and I pushed away from my empty plate with a stifled yawn.

“Well, this morning was too early, so I’m off to bed. Thanks for a wonderful day, Sean.” I got up and put my plate in the sink and went to go by him, but he stood up, blocking my way.

“Night, Angel,” he said softly, pulling me into his arms. “Sweet dreams.” He bent down and kissed me very thoroughly before letting go and pointing me in the direction of the stairs.

Oh boy, I thought, going up to my room. I’m supposed to sleep after that? I got ready for bed in a daze, wondering what in the world was happening to me. I felt like a teenager with a crush on someone who had just touched my hand! I sighed and got into bed. Tomorrow was going to be very interesting. Very interesting indeed.

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