Lessons of Life

 

Chapter One

Emily Fraley was the youngest daughter of Jonathon Fraley and Patsy Teale Fraley Tralfagar Hewitt. This day brought the two together, along with other family members, for the sole purpose of watching their youngest daughter marry her best friend. It was a day greeted with the joy and bounty hearts in love bring to such occasions. Everything about the day was beautiful, with family and friends gathered together. Temperatures were approaching 70 degrees with a slight breeze from the south. The trees had fully leafed out, proving spring was ready to succumb to early summer, flowers were in abundance in neighbor's yards and the lawns were lush and green. Emily had grown to 5'10 inches in height with hazel eyes like her father and a slender build with golden brown hair like her mother. There was a grace and sincerity in her manner, evident to friends and first acquaintances. She began the day with the knowledge that by evening, the man she knew for sixteen years, since the fourth grade, would be her husband.

Her intended, Tyler Banks, was the boy that scared her one Halloween night by hiding in bushes along the street, kissed her when both were 14, danced with her at Junior Prom and gave her his class ring in their senior year of high school. He was tall, with a strong, athletic build, dark eyes and hair. Popular with everyone, classmates, teachers and parents alike, Tyler had always been her friend. His shoulder offered in comfort, his teasing offered in play, he seemed to instinctively know which one to apply. He was there with her through almost all of her life. Everyone wondered what took them so long to marry, suspecting him of dragging his feet. In truth, she was the reason for the delay. She learned love and commitment weren't always one and the same. After her parents' divorce, then her mother's divorce from her second husband, Emily wanted to be sure.

The past week of preparations had provided plenty of opportunity to reflect on the changes in her life. The lowest point was the day her parents announced they would divorce. She was just eight years old when it happened. Her parents spoke calmly to Emily and her older sister, Trisha. They said their lives had changed and, though their love for their children would go unaltered, they must move on to separate lives. The shock left her confused and insecure, her world in turmoil. Her father worked so much that she rarely saw him but on weekends. The annual family vacation was her favorite time, when she and Trisha would get their parents undivided attention for ten whole days. Still, she was clueless of her parents' troubled marriage until it ended. It was with absolute disbelief that she greeted their decision. Her world came crashing down and there was nothing to cheer her. She went to her room soon after, accompanied by Pooch. The golden coat of the retriever absorbed her tears, as she hugged the dog two years older than herself. The gray-muzzled companion was ever content to serve as the young girl's confident.

"Pooch, Daddy's leaving, he's going away. Why does he have to go? I want him to stay." Her words sputtered out amongst sobs. "This is where we live. How can he leave? Didn't I love him enough? Oh Pooch, promise me you won't leave me too. I love you so much. I'll never leave you. Never." Her arms held him close while Pooch licked away her tears. Tears were falling down the cheek of her father, standing just outside her bedroom door. He knocked before entering his youngest daughter's room.

He wanted to turn back the hands of time, before his career somehow became more important than the blessings of his children and the love of his wife. How could he not have seen it? His daughter held his heart in her small hands. From the moment he watched her come into the world, she captured his soul. How did he lose sight of the importance of her trust? Of her faith? He was ashamed of himself. His daughter's words were the twist of the knife in his heart. She pierced his soul with her tender words to the family dog. He had come to say good-bye, and now wondered if there wasn't some way to work things out. Yet, he knew Patsy was resolved on the matter. The children's maternal grandparents cared for them over the weekend to allow privacy for their discussion. Patsy was prepared, citing one disappointment after another to him. She was lonely, neglected and could no longer stay in the marriage. His career was his first priority, something proven to her time and again for the past few years. Any hopes she held for their reconciliation had died -- she'd been unhappy for too long to go on with their marriage. Her remarks hit him hard, Emily's destroyed whatever resolve had remained.

"Em, may I come in?" His daughter did not answer, and instead turned her back to him. Pooch's tail thumped a steady beat against the floor as Jonathon moved toward his daughter. He sat down on the floor, beside the attentive dog and the girl clinging to him. "I won't leave you, I just can't stay here with you. But I will talk with you every day, and see you on weekends. I am sorry for this--it is my fault. You mean so much to me. I love you. I always will. Nothing will ever change that Em."

His daughter came crashing into his chest, her arms wrapped around his neck. "Oh Daddy, don't go." He held her close, crying right along with her. Her arms clung in desperation, willing her father to change his mind. "Stay Daddy, tell Mommy you're sorry. She'll forgive you; she does me when I say I'm sorry. Please Daddy. Stay." Take it back, make it go away. If she only knew how much her father wanted that too. If only he could go back to before he lost sight of the value of his greatest gift -- his family's love. Emily just kept thinking her world would end without him there. Her mother had taught them to believe with all your might and wishes could come true. You could get anything you want if you just believe. She knew she wanted it, wanted her father to stay and the last hour to go away. Her Daddy belonged here with them, always. She held his hand with a hold on his thumb that wouldn't let go.

He held her and wished it were that easy to stay and work things out. But Patsy wasn't interested in making amends. Try as he did to convince her that he would change his way, she would not deviate from her decision to divorce. She made that point clear. His only hope was making sure both daughters knew of his love. It became his sole purpose.

He spoke softly to his youngest daughter, hoping the comfort he was trying to provide would come through. "Em, Mommy's right to be mad at me. I let her down by working too much. It wasn't fair to her or you. Sometimes things go wrong that despite our best efforts to make them right. But you and Trisha have the key to my heart, you always will and that won't change, ever. I love you. I wish this didn't happen, but we will get through this, together." He pulled his daughter a bit from his chest so he could gaze into her teary eyes. "Now, I am going to call you every day and we'll need to think of somewhere to go this Saturday. Be thinking of what you want to do, okay? Will you plan a day for us? Maybe we'll take Pooch with us and go to the Monument, or play Frisbee on the Mall?"

"We've been there Daddy. Remember? We waited in line to go to the top and you held me?"

"Yes, I remember, but we could go again. Whatever you want, Em. Sunday will be Trisha's day. We'll do whatever she wants, but we will be together. Okay?"

"Can Mommy come? She'll be alone without us." Her big eyes looked up to him filled with innocence and hope.

"I think Mommy may have made plans already, so this will just be Daddy and his girls. Maybe another time. But will you plan Saturday for us?" She nodded her head in agreement. "That's my girl. Now, I have to go. You know I love you, right? Be my angel and sleep tight. I'll talk to you tomorrow. Good night, Em." He rose, placed a kiss on her forehead and exited her room though the sounds of her cries began again.

The absence of her father in their home seemed a turning point. For all the despair Emily felt the day he left, she saw more of him in the days, months and years to come. A warning shot had been fired and her father heard it loud and clear. He had changed his ways. His efforts were rewarded with the adoration of his daughters. They never lacked for his love.

 

Chapter Two

Jonathon had a rough time of it at first. Guilt consumed him and there was no escaping the loneliness. He didn't fight the divorce for there was no changing Patsy's mind. It happened quickly, with a friend handling the division of property. Almost everything went to his family, as it was the least he could do for his actions. Patsy declined alimony, since she was a partner in her father's legal practice. There wasn't any argument over child support either, or custody. Visitation was generous, more time than he had spent with his daughters in years. Friends and associates immediately began the process of suggesting women to date. What was the point? He had failed miserably at the one relationship he valued. Only the love of his daughters kept his head above water -- such was the depth of his despair.

He moved in with his best friend, Jack O'Leary, until a place of his own could be located. They ended up being roommates for nearly three years, sharing a brownstone in DC. Jack was movie star handsome with charisma that charmed the ladies and endeared the mothers. Perhaps it led back to Jack's Irish ancestry, but his friend's easy going demeanor suited Jonathon and helped him get through the pain. His daughters met Jack a few times, but he was usually away for the weekend when they came to stay with their father.

Jack worked with the United States District Attorney's Office, graduating from Yale's School of Law in 1978. He could have worked at any of the top law firms, but chose prosecution on behalf of the government. He enjoyed the process, the righteousness of nailing corporate zealots. It was a game for him, to watch the accused bring in the top gun law firms to profess their innocence. Images of the virtuous cowboy came to mind as he pressed the government's case. Every success was the equivalent to a notch on the gun's handle.

It was that similar trait of idealism that bound them instantly as friends. They quickly became competitors at tennis, with sets lasting hours as neither gave up. Local amateur tournaments would always end with one of them making the finals, and often times, both. It was a rivalry that only enhanced their mutual respect and friendship. So it was a natural for Jack to influence his friend's recovery from a personal crisis. Jack also knew enough about human behavior not to overstate the obvious. He would get his friend out of the brownstone for dinner, and slowly move towards socializing with companions they would coincidentally meet afterwards. They became known at the popular bars, with regulars shouting out their names upon arrival. Jack was the jokester, the life of any party.

Jonathon watched his friend and marveled at his ability to charm one woman after another. He seemed to waste not a single glance or wink. Their answer machine was filled with messages of women asking Jack to call. It had been ages since Jonathon dated, and the mere thought of being pursued was beyond believability. He was curious of the affect Jack had on women, and their evenings out provided plenty of opportunity for observation. Dancing was just one of Jack's talents, yet it was the total abandon in which he approached the activity that captured attention. It didn't matter if he and his companion were the only couple on the dance floor, or even if there was a dance floor, such was Jack's pursuit of fun. The evenings would sometimes end with Jonathon having drank too much and partied too hard. But he would forget, at least for a few hours, his failure that caused the look of disappointment and pain from his wife and daughters. No matter how hard the two roused about, the morning would find them at their respective offices tackling the business at hand. At least in this arena, Jonathon knew his worth.

The Environmental Protection Agency was defending itself and the 1990 Pollution Prevention Act. After a decade of no new legislation adopted concerning the environment, passage of the Act took on greater significance. The directive was simple: stop or reduce pollution at its source whenever feasible. Pollution that cannot be prevented should be treated in an environmentally safe manner whenever feasible; with disposal or other release into the environment employed only as a last resort. Grant monies of eight million dollars had been established for three years to assist states in their recycling efforts. It was the "whenever feasible" that generated the lawsuits from manufacturing corporations.

Since the new law's passage, most of Jonathon's time had been defending the Agency's enforcement actions, either as lead counsel or advisor. Cases were filed across the nation that kept the Agency on the hot seat. The research and preparation for the courtroom monopolized his staff's time. No sooner did the Agency win one case in Appellate Court then face another. It was a different company but the arguments were repeated time and again. Finally a major paper manufacturer moved for an appeal before the United States Supreme Court. The Justices agreed to hear the case with written arguments due in March and oral arguments to follow in May. The only good news was that the appeal immediately suspended the remaining cases awaiting decisions by lower courts. The top 100 corporation hired one of the best law firms to augment its in-house counsel. Nearly all of his energy, along with other attorneys, barely kept abreast of opposing counsel. For the past year, the burden of paperwork and case study resulted in late hours and lost weekends. He was oblivious to the burden his determination placed upon his family. His focus was solely on winning -- not for the mere adrenaline rush or some manifesto of male ego. He knew the culmination of his work would result in either the country standard being upheld or toppled. The stakes couldn't have been any higher or more challenging.

Other challenges to Jonathon's life came in the months that followed his separation from his family. Patsy called him a little over a month after their divorce became final and asked for a meeting. The request wasn't unusual in itself, as they met to review their daughters' report cards or other mutual concerns. What was different was the invitation for lunch; they usually spoke at the house, with the girls playing in another room. Curious on what she had to say, he readily agreed. They met at the restaurant and exchanged a brief hug and kiss on the cheek. Patsy looked absolutely breathtaking. Her blue eyes flashed with happiness that he hadn't noted in some time. His heart began to beat a bit faster in the hope of her subject matter. It had been seven months since he moved out.

"You look beautiful, absolutely radiant," he remarked as he helped her into her seat at the table. The fragrance of her perfume reached his senses, further intensifying his physical response to her. She had swept her long hair up into a neat French twist that allowed his eyes to hold their gaze upon the nape of her slender neck. He so wanted to place a kiss there and feel her hair fall by the caress of his hand. It was all he could do to take his seat and hope her voice would speak the words he desperately needed to hear.

"Thank you, that's nice of you to say. How are you?"

"Better, thanks. I guess the days are getting easier, and you?"

"I'm just great. I have news I wanted to tell you in person, not over the phone."

"Well, don't keep me waiting, let me hear it!" His eyes were bright with anticipation, and hope. He felt his throat go dry as he waited to hear her words.

"I hope you take this as I want you to. Well, I've met someone and we plan to marry." Her voice carried the smile that radiated exuberance. Her eyes were fixed on him, eager to see his reaction.

To say Jonathon was stunned would be an understatement. He couldn't believe his mind had allowed him to believe she wanted a reconciliation. His hopes finally put to rest in one brutal sentence. A sentence that held so much more than her announcement. His daughters would be living under the roof with someone else. Will I lose them too? He sucked in a breath and wrestled the cloth napkin on his lap. Its form became twisted into a tight spiral between his hands. Eyeing the silverware on the table, he posed the pressing question, "Do the girls know? Have they met him?"

"No, they don't know, though they have met him. I wanted you to know, to hear it from me. I am hoping we can all be friends. Your importance as their father doesn't change."

How could it not? They would have a man in the house and it would be natural for them to look towards him with paternal regard. "No, of course not. Who is he, Patsy?" It was all he could do to force the words out, suppressing his emotion as much as possible. Meeting the stare of her eyes was impossible. The waiter came to take their order, but Jonathon had lost his appetite. "Nothing for me, thank you." His hand reinforced his words, motioning off the waiter from any further inquiry. If he didn't have to return to the office, he would have ordered a double scotch.

She spent the next ten minutes telling him about the man, eight years her junior and an associate with her father's law firm. Her glowing praise was only interrupted by the arrival of her salad. Jonathon noted the restaurant's artwork, windows, drapes, even other diners, anything except her face. He knew the moment their eyes met she'd know the pain of his soul. Somehow, he had to conceal his broken heart from her. Patsy aimlessly picked at her salad while a silence began to consume them. Jonathon could think of nothing to say that was supportive, cordial or bordering on enthusiasm. His thoughts centered more on betrayal and flight. One he knew must be confronted and the other, well, best left unsaid. What purpose would be served? The alienation of his children's mother? A further divide of his family? That thought kept him at the table until she appeared finished.

"Well, if there's nothing else, I guess I'll head back to the office."

"Jonathon, just a minute. I was hoping for a favor that I think will serve us both."

He wondered what further pain she was about to inflict. Perhaps she wanted him to attend the wedding. "Yes, what is it?" His jaw clenched as he waited for the final blow.

"I wonder if you'd care for the girls while we go on our honeymoon? I could have them stay with my parents, but I think they'd prefer your company. You could stay at the house, unless you prefer them to stay with you."

"Sure, I'll look after them at my place. Pooch can come too, Jack won't mind. How long will you be gone?"

"Two weeks. It's a little late for Negril, but hopefully the weather will hold." She had planned a June wedding, just a month away and it would be a small ceremony.

He rose from the table, expressed again his willingness to care for their daughters and wished her happiness. Once outside the restaurant, he walked for a while before returning to his car. It was a few minutes before he started the ignition. He turned up the car's stereo and punched the button preset for his daughters favorite radio station. Somehow the unrecognized music was preferred as a backdrop for his spew of emotions. "What an idiot you've been! Could you have been more blind? Thinking she would return and all the while she was probably having an affair with this man!" He berated himself out loud, with the fire and intensity that had been burning since she announced her engagement.

There was no other answer and yet, he found himself willing to give her latitude. A vicious tug of war was taking place within him. One side despising her, accusing her of the worst deceit, and the other understanding if she did begin the relationship while they were married. After all, he was to blame. He was the one who took happiness for granted. He was the one that put his career ahead of his family's needs. The pain consumed him and shook his soul to its very core.

Jonathon managed somehow to finish the workday, but not before applying sarcastic cuts at his secretary and associates. Their surprise at his changed demeanor had them speculating as to the cause. Any questions they had were held for the light of a brighter day. Jonathon was oblivious to their responses, absorbed solely in the fear of losing his daughters. Once his final appointment was concluded, he grabbed his briefcase and left for the nearest watering hole. On his mind was the double scotch he had wanted since lunch. The Capitol Grille was already busy with the after five crowd when Jonathon entered and found a seat at the bar. Liam, the congenial bartender, came with his usual drink. He knew he was being eyed with concern and only offered a meek "Rough day, don't ask." Liam heard that often enough from clientele and had no problem complying. Besides, customers didn't start unloading until the second drink. He left Jonathon alone and watched the stir stick become broken into tiny pieces.

Jack joined him an hour later and noted his friend was already two sheets to the wind. He eyed Liam, hoping for some insight and received a heavenly roll of the eyes. Jack mouthed the words "How many?" Liam's hand showed four fingers wrapped discreetly around a balled fist. Jack winced at the answer and signaled his willingness to take control. He had no idea how he would accomplish the task but his friend was obviously forlorn and in need of a rescue. A depressed drunk will either cry or turn angry, but an angry state of mind prior to drinking fuels a raging fire. Jonathon was in an intense burn. Somehow Jack knew he had a limited window to get his friend home before the words came forth with the velocity of a meteorite. Now, getting him there was another story, and finding his car, a tougher challenge still. He settled Jonathon's tab, leaving a healthy tip to Liam for diplomatic services that he knew had been applied.

Once home, Jack offered the reward they had agreed upon for revealing the location of Jonathon's car and willingness to give up the keys. Jack handed him the brandy snifter filled with a generous pouring of Grand Marnier.

"So what is this about Patsy with a young man? How young?"

"She's been screwing him the whole time! What an idiot I've been. ‘Sure Patsy, I'm to blame for our division of family, here's my heart on a platter.' Could I have been more blind?" He was pacing the room as only an angry fool could, without direction or purpose, just constant movement.

Jack watched him and knew matters were coming to a volatile head. Reason had made a swift departure upon the arrival of raw emotions. "Jonathon, how do you know she was seeing him while you were married?"

"Please!" He shouted his response with incredulous force. Turning to face Jack and using his hand in a sweeping arm gesture, he continued his lament, "They announce they're getting married just seven months after she demands a divorce? Who needs more proof?"

Jack started laughing softly and slapped his friend on the back. "You're jumping to conclusions then? You have no proof. Even a first year law student knows better than that."

Jonathon glared at him with anger before his body became unsteady. Somehow the room was moving too much and it was all he could do to remain standing. Jack immediately recognized this blitzed look. "Let's get you into your room." He removed the glass from Jonathon's hand and prodded him forward towards the hall. The flight of stairs was exhausting as Jack debated whether carrying Jonathon up would have been easier.

"How could she do this to me? I loved her, only her." His words were no longer filled with anger. The hurt and pain had returned.

"I know, life sucks sometimes. What's that line of Jimmy Buffet's ‘Questions are the easy part, answers raise the doubt.' Perhaps with time, and the light of day, things will be better."

Jack dropped him into his bed, removing his suit coat, while Jonathon attempted to loosen his tie. His hand kept missing the knot before he opted to let it remain. Jack threw his friend's legs up onto the mattress while Jonathon continued to ramble, "Who is this Steve guy anyway? I never met him. Now he's going to take my place, I know it. I've lost them all."

"Jonathon, just try to sleep man. We'll talk later, I promise. And no one can replace you in the eyes of your daughters. They love you and you know that. Rest up pal." He turned out the light and closed the bedroom door. I'm never getting married. Why anyone would trade in single life for this kind of pain is beyond me.

The next morning, Jack made a large pot of coffee and waited to hear movement from behind Jonathon's door. The usual time of rising had long since past. Soon, he'd have to leave to make it to the Federal Courthouse building in time for his first appointment. He poured a mug and carried it upstairs towards his friend's room. Knocking on the door, then louder still, he heard no response. He turned the knob and walked in to see Jonathon sprawled on top of the bed, still sound asleep. His clothes a rumpled mess from never having been removed.

"Jonathon, man, wake up. Christ, it's nearly 7:30!" He set the coffee down on the nightstand and shook his friend, repeating the words of his wake up call.

The eyelids opened to reveal bloodshot eyes. "What did you...oh God, my head hurts."

"It should, you were three sheets to the wind last night. Why don't you call it a day today and hang out here. We'll get together after work and reconstruct yesterday."

"No, I'm up. What time is it? Shit! I have oral arguments at nine before the Supreme Court." He leapt from the bed and wobbled wide-legged to the bathroom.

"Well, further bad news. You have to drop me off if you're going to use your car. We left mine behind last night. So shower quick and dress in the car while I drive."

They were on the road within ten minutes, much to the astonished looks of other commuters. All the while Jonathon cursed himself for his physical state. How could he be so poorly prepared for the day? What happened last night? Then it dawned on him and the pain only worsened his mental state. He brought his fingers up to his temples, massaging them in small circles.

"You all right? Do I need to pull over?" Jack inquired, as he noted the sweat form on his friend's brow.

"She's getting married -- Patsy. She's getting married to an attorney at her firm. Some young stud is taking away my family." It all came back to him. All the dread, the fear, the loss of any hope in the reunion of his family. The realization stung just as much the second time around.

"Jonathon, do yourself a favor, block those thoughts out until the end of the day. You have a case before the Justices of the Supreme Court in less than an hour. For God's sake, the highest court of our country and you are a mess. Your reputation and your Agency's are too important to neglect right now. Tonight, we'll sort all of this personal stuff out. But know this, no one could ever take your place with your daughters." He moved his right hand to his friend's left shoulder. "The case, think of your arguments."

Jonathon grabbed his briefcase from the back seat and searched for his files. They weren't there. The abuse he lashed upon himself just reached new heights. The biggest case of his career and he was so ill-prepared. The lame excuses would be unacceptable to the Agency's Administrator and justifiably so. The curse words flowed as he thought of his stupidity.

"Jonathon, what's this bashing of yourself resolving? Think of your opening statement, then the questions the Justices will pose. What did your research show on their past decisions? What are the weakest points of your case? Think man, you've spent the last two years on this case. You know this information backwards and forwards." Jack was direct and his words hit all the right elements.

"Jack, take my car and just drop me off at the Justice Building. I'll grab a taxi or ride with one of my associates. Let's meet at the Grille tonight, then pick up your car from there."

Jack nodded his concurrence while changing lanes and getting his friend to his destination. He hoped the day would go well. If Jonathon pulled this off, he would be heralded as one of the greatest attorneys of the nation. The odds were against him on the best of days. Yet reason had taken a back seat to raw emotion, a major defect for an attorney. Jack couldn't help but think of the repercussions that would result. Tonight his friend would be bereft with guilt. He already believed he failed personally and to fail professionally, on this major high-profile case, would be the knockout punch. Once at his office, Jack managed to make a couple of phone calls in between appointments and meetings. The only tonic he knew that would heal his friend's certain misery was the company of two loving girls. He hoped they would be available for dinner.

They were waiting for their final guest in a corner table, with Jack serving as host. His jovial presence had them in laughter and capturing the attention of the surrounding diners. More than one happy hour visitor was surprised to see him with his companions. Jonathon entered the facility and scanned the bar for his friend. Trisha and Emily jumped from their seats to greet him. The look of surprise on his face was all Jack needed to know he'd made the right decision. He looked over Jonathon's appearance while the girls hugged him. The tie was loosened, shirt collar unbuttoned and yet the paleness of the morning gone. His demeanor incredibly brightened, though Jack remained anxious to hear the play-by-play of the day.

Kiddie cocktails were the beverages of choice, waiting to toast their father's work. Jonathon immediately grabbed the champagne glass filled with ginger ale and grenadine syrup, "A toast -- you are looking at a man who faced some of the nation's best attorneys in the greatest court of the land and survived. I'm so glad you're here." He soon became engrossed with telling the atmospheric details that he knew his daughters would enjoy. They couldn't understand that the knowledge of winning or losing wouldn't be known for months. The subject of their mother's engagement was mentioned with brief descriptions of Steve Tralfagar. Jonathon noted Emily became silent while her sister answered any questions posed. He offered his hope for the couple's happiness, then proceeded to look forward to his daughters stay with him. The actual arguments that Jack longed to hear would be discussed once the girls were back home.

Jonathon threw his car keys down on the hallway table upon entering their place. Jack was on the phone but soon freed himself upon his friend's return. He watched as Jonathon poured himself a cordial then returned to the living room.

"Well, come on, tell me how it went?" Jack was impatient for the details.

Jonathon took a sip and savored the taste in his mouth. "First, thank you for being a great friend. I don't know how you convinced Patsy to let the girls out tonight but it was the perfect end to a vile day. Second, it didn't go as badly as I deserved but they certainly outperformed me."

"Well, you're welcome and as to Patsy, let's just say I hope I never have to swear to anything I said to sweeten the deal. You know I've never been one of her favorites. Now, tell me about the case. Who asked the first question?" Jack wondered which Justice would take the lead on the case.

"Scalia, though Thomas was right up there for sheer number of questions. I tell you; Johnson was one top-notch arbitrator today. He knew how to compose his responses to their liking. They never followed up with him. Now Bessemer, the second counsel? I beat him handily in counterpoints and the Justices seemed to jump on him."

"Overall?"

"Overall, I just don't know. I feel so uncertain that the questions posed were sincere. Something in my gut tells me their decision, or at least their leanings, were set against our case. I know this much, it wasn't worth it."

"How is that?"

"The case ate me up for two years. I spent nearly all my spare time researching the arguments for an hour's performance. For what? To lose my family? My wife? They should have remained the highest priority. Instead, I screw up on every front. It somehow seems the perfect ending." He was desolate, evident by the hang of his head and shoulders.

"Sympathy, pity, condemnation, just where will this end? Jonathon, stop beating yourself up and wake up to what's right in your life. You have great kids and are performing the kind of work that inspires students to study law. Patsy left you. She was unwilling to work things out. It's a blow but not the end of your life. There will be even greater events to come and you don't need me to tell you that. Or do you? Have you become a simpleton in the past 48 hours?"

Jonathon swirled the liquid in his snifter, transfixed by the golden amber hues' movement. He swallowed the remainder and moved his eyes up to meet Jack's. "Yes, I guess I have. Well, listen, I'm not the best of company. I'll head off to bed and hope tomorrow is a better day. Thanks again, for everything."

Jack wished him a good night then turned on the TV to catch the latest scores on ESPN. The Orioles lost again with Cleveland on a roll. Things didn't look promising for Cal Ripken to finish his career with a winning season. His mind drifted back to Jonathon and wondered if he was right, that his case was decided before he entered the courtroom. It wouldn't be the first time but the Justices were just as likely to play devil's advocate to legal arguments. Justice Scalia leading off the questions seemed insightful. He expected the conservative members of the Court to offer the greatest debate. Yet he couldn't believe his friend performed so poorly. Somehow, a second wind had to rise to such an auspicious occasion. All the preparation would fuel recitation of the case law once embroiled in oral arguments. His mind shifted back to Patsy and her fiancé. Did she purposely announce her engagement the day before the case, hoping to punish her ex-husband more? She was cunning, calculating but was she malicious? No doubt the associate's companionship prompted her desire for divorce. Still, Jonathon would never convince him he lost his family. Emily and Trisha rambled the entire car ride to the restaurant about how great their dad was. He turned off the television and headed to bed.

 

Chapter Three

Emily noticed her mother recovered quickly from the break up with her father. She began dating before the divorce was even final. Steve Tralfagar was an attorney in Grandpa Teale's law firm. He seemed to make her mother smile again, though Emily resented his presence and was determined to see her parent's reunited. This man placed that dream in danger. Trisha didn't seem to mind so Emily was mad at her too. Her mother was angry at the actions of her youngest daughter, with frequent reprimands given for any slight directed at Steve.

She first met her mother's friend, as she referred to Steve, prior to their going out for dinner. A baby sitter had been hired to stay with them. Steve had sandy blonde hair with blue eyes and stood about as tall as her mom. He tried to ingratiate himself to her sister and herself. He offered to take the girls to the National Zoo, but Emily wasn't interested, even when he said they could see a baby gorilla. He offered to take them to see the monuments and Emily quickly informed him they went there with their daddy. The next meeting was when her mother invited Steve over for dinner. They usually ate good stuff, like macaroni and cheese, or meat loaf, but that day Emily watched her mother fuss over the meal of the tiniest chickens she'd ever seen. She was certain they weren't even all grown up, and there wasn't any "corn" in them that she could see. Her mother seemed agitated by her questions. Emily spent the rest of the afternoon playing with Pooch in the yard. Trisha seemed so smart about the meal, saying they were fed corn and that's why they were called "Cornish Hens." Emily still thought they were too small to eat. Steve arrived with a bouquet of flowers for each of them. Her mother watched him constantly, and prompted her daughter's response to his questions. At dinner, he tried to entice Emily into a conversation, though never quite succeeding. He did invite the three away for a weekend, a boating expedition where they would spend the night with his parents in Baltimore. Her mother quickly agreed and marveled at what a wonderful idea.

Emily was warned prior to Steve's arrival that she was expected to be nice to him and his parents. If she didn't have something nice to say, she was to say nothing at all. Emily was determined to do just that, and would say nothing for the entire weekend. That would show Steve that he wasn't wanted. She tried to get Trisha to join her quest, but her sister wasn't willing. Her plan was foiled almost immediately when Steve announced that Pooch was invited too. "Emily, do you think he'd mind sleeping with you? Oh and Emily, my mom loves baking chocolate chip cookies and I have it on good authority that she's looking for a helper. But maybe you don't like home baked cookies."

How could she resist? It happened so fast, Pooch coming and then the cookie offer. "No, I like ‘em just fine, unless she puts raisins in ‘em. Raisins have no business in chocolate chip cookies. You can add nuts, but that's it." Emily stated it in such a matter of fact manner that the adults did their best to contain their laughter.

Steve added, "Then the two of you are in perfect agreement, for I happen to know not a single raisin has ever landed in a chocolate chip cookie made by my mom. Now, whom shall we get to eat them once they are ready? Trisha, are you interested in serving as official cookie tester?" His eyes looked to meet hers through the rear view mirror as he drove. "Though I'll warn you, the role will have to be shared with my father, who has years of experience. But he's willing to train a new cookie tester, if you want. What do you say?"

"What do I gotta do?" Trisha asked cautiously, as only a soon-to-be eleven-year-old could do.

Her mother interjected, "Have to do, Trisha, it's What do I have to do?"

Trisha was certain there was a catch. There couldn't be a job of eating cookies warm from the oven. Everyone would want that job. Why was Steve offering this to her? Still, never one to shy away from an opportunity, Trisha accepted the duties of cookie tester. The Tralfagars weren't anything like Grandma Fraley or Grandpa and Grandma Teale, but they were nice enough people. The weekend ended pretty well, with Emily speaking more often than not.

Patsy and Steve were married in early June, just eight months after her father moved out. Emily grew to tolerate Steve's presence, and really couldn't say why she didn't like him except that his presence ended her hopes of reconciling her parents. She and Trisha were bridesmaids in their mother's wedding. She had to admit their participation was a mix of pleasure and pain. Their mother selected dresses for them that resembled pink lace over meringue, and if that wasn't enough, their hair was styled exactly alike.

They had packed their suitcases and left them in the hallway. Her father was to pick up Pooch and their luggage prior to picking Emily and Trisha up from the reception. Emily kept looking out the window to see if his car had arrived. She was more excited about the opportunity of spending time with her dad than any activity the reception offered. To her, it was just a bunch of grown-ups celebrating what should never have happened. Her sister would check in with her from time to time. Her mother tried once to convince her to enjoy the party, as did Grandpa Teale. Their efforts were of little success against the determination of an eight-year-old. In the end, her mother ceded to her will, and returned to the pleasures the reception offered. The crowd turned upon hearing the shouts of a little girl's voice, "He's here! He's here!" just as the bride and groom were cutting the cake. She opened the door and ran down the sidewalk to be gathered in arms that lifted her up into the sky. "Daddy!" She giggled her greeting as he responded, "How's my princess?" He set her back down on the pavement and looked up to see Patsy in white, with her new husband by her side. Mr. and Mrs. Teale stood next to the newlyweds, and Trisha stood just in front. It made quite a family picture. Emily heard her father exhale and grabbed his left hand with a firm grip as they walked toward the others.

"Shall I offer my best wishes?" Jonathon thought the situation was awkward enough, but he had discussed this moment to death. Jack advised him, as his sister Pat had, "Whatever you feel or think, don't say it. Take the high road, be supportive, collect your daughters and get out of there!" Their advice was the best course, for the sake of his daughters. "Hello, you must be Steve. Congratulations." Jonathon shook his hand then moved to greet the Teales, while hugging Trisha and placing a kiss on top of her head. "Well, we best be on our way. Do you have everything girls?" They nodded and Jonathon wished the couple well as he bid good bye. He told himself he wouldn't look in Patsy's eyes, for the possible pain, but he took one last look at her before he walked away.

Emily had a hold of her father's hand and was swinging it as they walked towards his car. Pooch was hanging out the back window, waiting to greet her as well. "Daddy, what are we gonna do first?"

"Well, I thought we would get you girls out of those nice dresses and head out for ice cream cones and a walk in the park."

She yelled out delight with his plan and opened the car door to sit with Pooch, leaving the front seat solely to Trisha. Jonathon wondered if he could somehow go back to the simple joy of an ice cream cone to brighten his world. A smile consumed his face just watching the joy in Emily. His eyes moved to the front seat, instinctively checking to be sure Trisha's seat belt was fastened.

"Trish, is that plan okay with you?" He noticed how quiet his eldest had become, as he drove away from the reception.

"Sure, whatever." Trisha was looking out the window, clearly out of sorts from her usual chipper self.

"So how did the wedding go? Did you enjoy being bridesmaids?" Maybe she was feeling disloyal for having a good time, or maybe she had a terrible time. His mind raced over the possibilities.

"It was fine," she quietly responded, still not looking at him.

Emily leapt forward with her hands and face wedged between the front seats. "Everything was so grown-up Daddy. We kept getting shushed by Grandpa and Grandma anytime we asked or said something. But it was okay. You know what the best part was?" Her excitement level was in every word, as if she was jumping on a trampoline.

"What's that, Em?" He smiled as he watched her in the rear view mirror.

"When you came and got us!"

His heart melted at that moment. He had worried Steve would replace him, that his daughters wouldn't need him, yet at least Emily put those fears soundly to rest. "Well, I am happy for us to spend time together. Any ideas for dinner tonight? How about you Trisha?" He was trying his best to get her into the conversation.

"I know, I know!" Emily shouted from the back seat.

"Well, let's hear it!"

"Let's go to Chuck E. Cheese's for pizza!"

Trisha now moved her body to face her sister. "No way! We're not going there, with all those little kids." Her censure didn't dispel any of Emily's enthusiasm. She simply offered another suggestion, "Okay, how about McDonald's?" Trisha was considering it, then offered "What about Big Boy's?" Emma accepted this plan and both daughters now turned to face him with a united recommendation.

"Big Boy's it is then. Shall we see if Jack wants to join us? Being Saturday night, he might have plans but we could ask?"

"Sure Daddy, but if he's busy maybe he could have breakfast with us." She sat back and resumed hugs with Pooch.

Jack joined them for breakfast the next day and Trisha's spirits began to resemble some degree of normalcy. Jonathon did let her know it was okay to like Steve and hoped she had a good time at the wedding. Emily just seemed to enjoy every minute. Jack was so funny; tickling her and playing tag with her. She hated to have to go to school the next day. Their mom called once to make sure all was well. They received postcards from the newlyweds of the sandy beach and people walking up through a rocky waterfall.

It wasn't until a week had passed that Trisha quietly asked, "Daddy, are you happy for Mom?"

"Of course I want your mom to be happy. Why do you ask?" They were sitting on a park bench while Jack and Emily played Frisbee with Pooch on the Mall, with the Washington Monument as a backdrop.

"It's just that, well, he'll be living with us now, won't he?" She was looking down at her shoes as she spoke, but now her eyes had lifted to look straight into his. He was struck by how grown up she had become in just a few months. Despite his efforts, her childhood innocence seemed a distant memory. She had just turned eleven last month, but the eyes searching his for truth were that of a more learned soul.

"Does that make you uncomfortable? Don't you like Steve?" What would he do if she said something awful had happened? The thoughts raced through his mind. There were often reports of stepfather's taking advantage of stepdaughters. "Has he hurt you in any way Trish?"

"No Daddy, no. I don't mean to sound like that."

He had been holding his breath without realizing it until he exhaled. He wrapped his left arm around her shoulder, "Thank God for that. Then, what is it? You can tell me anything, Trisha. You know that, right?" His hand stroked her cheek, and hoped the words would soon come.

"It's just that, will you still be our dad, or does Steve take over, because he'll be living with us, right?"

"Oh, Trisha, listen to me. No one is taking my place as your father. There is no way I will ever not be in your life. I promised you that the night I moved out. Your mother's marriage doesn't change that promise." He was holding her hand as he spoke, trying his best to make sure she understood. "We'll still spend time together and talk, just like we did before. Things will be different at the house, but I am sure your mom has everything under control. If you ever need to talk with me, you know how to call, right? Day or night, I am here for you."

She collapsed into his chest, her arms around his neck, tears falling down her cheeks. "Oh

Daddy, I thought this might be the last time we got to see you!"

He held her, rocking her gently and stroking her hair away from her face. He reached one hand into his back pocket and retrieved his handkerchief. "Here, let's wipe away those tears. Now, tell me Trish, why did you think that?"

"Because I overheard Mom talking to Steve about moving away!" The tears began all over again and he gathered her back into his arms. His mind quickly searched through the possibilities, not willing to speak until he ascertained a reasonable answer.

"I'll talk to Mom and see what plans she and Steve are making. Maybe they just want a new house, some place that's a new beginning for everyone. They both practice law at Grandpa Teale's office, right?" Trisha nodded her head in confirmation. "Then they couldn't be moving too far. But distance would never keep us apart. They have airplanes and trains that I would use to see you. Understand? I'm sticking with you, Trish! There's no getting away from me. I love you so much."

"I love you too, Daddy." Her eyes brightened for the first real time all week. He soothed her, stroked her chin and held her with arms that couldn't let go, not now, not ever.

"Trish, did you enjoy the wedding at all? Wasn't it fun to dress up and have everyone watch you as you walked down the aisle?" He asked with all the tenderness he felt for her. It was more important that she felt comfortable with the idea of talking openly about it than for him to selfishly protect himself from further heart break.

"Oh Daddy, it was okay. But everyone seemed tense then the preacher mispronounced Steve's last name and I laughed out loud. So did Emily. The preacher said, ‘Do you Steven Trafficker' and it was funny, that is, until Grandma Teale shushed us."

Jonathon was laughing at the picture his daughter had just provided him. He could well believe the grand southern dame that his former mother-in-law personified was mortified by the error. Trisha joined his laughter, and asked more than stated, "It is funny, isn't it?"

"I think so, and I guess they were just too stressed to see the humor. What else happened?"

"Oh Daddy, Mom said we shouldn't talk about this with you."

"She did? Well, this is one time your mom is wrong. I want you to talk about it with me."

He learned the minutest details of the event, the color of dresses, the flowers in the church, the food at the reception. Trisha returned to her joyous self and Jonathon returned to feeling like a successful father. He had managed to turn around not only his daughter's emotions concerning Patsy's marriage, but his own as well.

 

Chapter Four

Changes seemed endless for a time in their lives. Within a year, Emily experienced her father moving out, her parents divorce, her mother's remarriage and now, moving into a new home. The move also brought a new school, new everything it seemed except Pooch, her sister and the continued presence of her father.

He became more visible in the lives of both his daughters. The third weekend of every month was spent with him, fun mixed with homework assistance, or reading a book from the library. That summer, they shared three weeks together, beginning in July with a trip planned. It was the best of times, when they were together. Life seemed relaxed and comfortable in his presence. It was as if their father had reconfigured himself to the person that always had time for them and listened to their stories, ever hungry for more. Their mom was important too, yet she was often busy with Steve or meetings and the move to a new home only seemed to heighten her stress level.

That first day in the new school was scary and never was Emily more delighted to have Trisha about then when she was walking past all those strange faces. The new school had an odor the moment you walked through its doors; fresh paint mixed with the smell of new books, highly polished floors, not to mention various flavors of gum being chewed by the students. At least she knew one person in the crowded hallways and her eyes were ever searching for Trisha, as well as the route between her classroom, the playground and the cafeteria. Their lunch times didn't coincide though, so Emily sat with the girl she met while waiting in line. The days that followed found both girls making friends and getting to know their classmates and teachers. They rode the bus home and compared stories of the day. There wasn't a moment she could identify when she noticed the dark haired boy, but he was always on the bus with them. One day he stopped by her seat and she smiled at him. The next day, he introduced himself and took the seat in front of her.

"I've seen you in the hallways. You're new here, aren't you?"

"Uh-huh. We just moved here in August."

"Whose class you in?"

"Mr. Terry."

"Oh, he seems pretty cool, I mean, no horror stories or anything. I've got Ms. Mullen. She gave us homework on the very first day! Can you believe it? Did Mr. Terry give you homework?"

So began her first conversation with Tyler Banks. He lived two streets over from her house and sometimes he would walk with her and Pooch after school. They would talk about computer games, or television shows they liked or didn't like. He introduced her to other kids in the neighborhood, instigated games of "Kick the Can" and his favorite, baseball. They talked about her parent's divorce and his parents being together, but sometimes fighting. He was an only child, though he had cousins in Pennsylvania. They barely saw one another though, unlike her friendship with her cousins. She felt she had older brothers in Peter and Tommy, and another sister in Tracy. Tyler had a ready ease about him, and they quickly became good friends. He came to her birthday party the 17th of October, along with friends from the old neighborhood. Steve and her mom planned a big Fall Fest, with bobbing for apples and pumpkin carving. It was fun and so were the times that followed. There was only one problem that remained, at least, in the mind of a just turned nine-year-old.

She worried about her father being lonely. He never introduced them to any girl friend, never spoke of dating or even marrying again. She went to talk to the only person who would understand -- her big sister. Trisha agreed their father was lonely and they should find him a girlfriend so the two set about meeting single moms. It would be easy, they thought. A couple of their classmates had divorced parents as well. They made a list of what they thought were important things to consider in their father's potential girlfriend. Things like "How many times a week do you bake cookies?" or "How many pets should a family have?" The simple question, "What's your favorite color?" to the trick question, "If you had to pick between going to Disney World or Six Flags Atlantis, which would you choose?" Finally, "Your favorite dinner is, macaroni and cheese or hot dogs?" They started going over to their friends' homes, secretly interviewing the mothers then asked their father the same questions.

At first, Jonathon answered them without alarm, sometimes laughing. He was certain his daughters were testing the waters for a request. But then came the "accidental meeting" of a couple of women. It didn't take long to realize what was going on. He sat them down and confronted them. Trisha was first to confess their plan, despite Emily's protests. She was still convinced their plan would work. They told their father how lonely he was, and how worried they were on his behalf. Mom had found someone and that made her smile more. He pulled both girls to his chest, gave them hugs and kisses, then made them promise to stop. He wasn't lonely, for he had the two best girls in the whole world.

The new house provided Trisha and Emily with their own rooms. Decorating Emily's walls were items related to the environment as she embraced her father's work. It was her dream to be a lawyer like her dad and mom. She admired her dad and never doubted his strength and protection. He always made her feel special and loved. She didn't serve him or her teddy bear imaginary tea anymore, but each day she welcomed the chance to tell him something new that happened in her day. Sometimes he would call after school, other times after dinner. If he was travelling on a case, he would leave a message on their answering machine. Their lives were changing yet his love remained constant. Classmates whose parents divorced weren't as lucky. There were stories of fathers never returning, of violent fights between separated parents. Cory, her girl friend, hadn't seen her father in six years. She wasn't even allowed to ask about him. Emily couldn't imagine what that was like, living without being able to know your dad, or even mention his name. Cory thought fathers like Jonathon only appeared in a television sitcom on Nick at Nite. So with all the changes in her life, Emily felt lucky to have a father she loved and knew loved her.

Yet her life still had changes to come the following year. First was the realization that a dog's life isn't forever, despite all the love and care offered. She and Trisha returned home from school to find Pooch so sick, his legs couldn't carry him. Their mother came home and the three took him to the veterinarian for treatment. From the beginning, she overheard remarks of Pooch being 12 and his prognosis not being good. He was there for three days before he died. She returned home from school to find her mom waiting to break the news. Emily ran to her room, where remnants of Pooch's hair still covered her comforter and sweatshirts. The tennis ball forever carried around in his mouth in hopes of an impromptu game of fetch, was on the floor beside her bed. She grabbed the only thing she could hold that provided comfort, her old teddy bear, and cried. Trisha came into her room and cried too, then her mom joined them. There they were, huddled together in a mass of tears. Trisha offered a story first, about when Pooch went swimming in the lake at Grandpa Teale's and chased the wild ducks. Then her mother shared a story about picking him out of the litter, or more accurately, he picked them out. "I remember your father and I going to the shelter and seeing all the dogs there. But this golden fluff let out the highest pitched bark and waited for us to look at him. Oh the shoes he went through during those first few months. I had two babies to care for then, Trisha and Pooch." Emily couldn't remember a time without Pooch, so attentive a friend he had always been to her.

They buried him in their back yard, with her father and Tyler in attendance. Everyone knew the importance of Pooch in her life. She was saying good-bye to her best friend. Her only comfort was hearing he was in Heaven, and one day, she would see him again. Her mother told her pets went to Heaven and played with other pets until their human friends died. Once the person went to Heaven, the pet would cross the Rainbow Bridge to reunite with its' owner, together forever. She drew a picture of Pooch, with a rainbow over him and hung it on her wall.

The siblings' interests were changing as well, both moving away from stuffed animals and dolls. They attended different schools, their friends no longer mutual. Teen magazines and global issues dominated their conversations, along with new music. Trisha spent hours on the phone discussing clothes, boys and songs with girl friends. Though the sisters were still close, their lives and interests took on independent direction. Only in emotional moments, and when other friends weren't available did they unite. It was just such a moment their father brought forth.

He prefaced his talk with the assurance that he would always love and be there for them. Emily immediately worried about what was coming next, for these were the words her parents had expressed the night they announced their plans to divorce. She and Trisha had just arrived for their summer vacation with him. They had plans to go canoeing and white water rafting in North Carolina, then visit with Aunt Pat and Uncle Tom's family before coming home. Campground reservations had been booked months ago for the Smokey Mountains National Park. Emily's mind was racing over what her father might say next. She moved to hold his hand, unwilling to lose him now.

"I am seriously considering a job offer that would take me away from here, back to Tallahassee, Florida. That's where your mom and I went to school, remember? Well, I wanted to talk it over with you before I made a decision." He paused and could see the confusion in both his daughters' eyes. There was no easy way to discuss it, that much he knew and yet he felt he had to move on, for his own sanity. Every corner reminded him of what he'd lost. His daughters had readjusted well to the changes in their lives. He had toiled with the pros and cons, wrote them out on paper, and though everything about the offer cried, "Yes" he remained unsure. He couldn't get beyond the possible pain he might selfishly cause and decided to put the matter before his daughters to let their reactions determine his fate.

"Daddy, why would you leave? Aren't you happy here?" Trisha asked the questions first, with Emily nodding her head in agreement. They both moved closer to their father, unable to let go of his presence in their lives.

"Yes and no. It's confusing, I know, but I feel like you have grown up so well, your interests have changed, and maybe it's time for me to change too. Again, nothing will change our time together or the relationship we have. I promised you that didn't I? I won't let you down. The proudest thing I've accomplished is being your father, and having your love and trust means so much to me. Yet lately, I'm not happy with where I am. I've thought about a new yet familiar place to resettle. This job offer would still have me protecting the environment, from a state level, and travelling here and Atlanta on some cases. What do you think?"

Emily stroked his hand before answering, "Are you lonely Daddy?"

"No honey, not in the sense that you think of the word. You mean everything to me, and are the daughters any father would be proud of. It's more about a sense of worth, of feeling good about yourself and moving forward."

"And this move to Tallahassee would give you that?" Trisha asked the question with hesitation in her voice. Jonathon knew he was causing pain and was about to say, "forget it." He couldn't go through with it, when Emily spoke up, "Daddy, what if it doesn't make you happy?"

"Well, you shouldn't enter a decision thinking it won't work out. I enjoyed living in Tallahassee. It's a great mix of government, higher education, nature and southern charm. I think that's what I need right now, a smaller city to stand tall in."

Trisha hugged her father. "Could we come with you?" Emily nodded her concurrence of the idea.

The easy route would be to admit his desire for the three of them to do just that, but Patsy wouldn't agree to it, and a custody battle would tear apart their current agreement. "No, your lives are here, with your mom and friends. But we would still vacation together, and I would still see you every month. That won't change."

Trisha wanted to be certain he wasn't leaving them, "We could come visit you, stay with you, even go to college there?"

"I would welcome it. If I move there, you will both have rooms ready for you anytime. There is nothing that would bring me greater joy then to have you come live with me once you're grown. In the meantime, we'll visit often." He held Trisha close, kissing her forehead, then turned to Emily.

Emily loved their daily phone conversations and sought his assurance. "Will we still talk on the phone?"

"I will give you a calling card so that you can call me anytime you want, without Steve and Mom worrying about the long distance bill. Besides, I love our daily chats. I do want to make a request though."

"What Daddy," both girls answered at once.

"That before you date any boy you tell me about him. I may even fly in to meet him!"

"Daddy, that's a long way off," Emily answered. Trisha, however, just said "Sure." Jonathon liked Emily's answer better, but knew Trisha was already curious about boys.

"So, I know you can't say you're happy about my proposal, but do I have your support?" He thought he'd ask one more time before closing the subject, for a while anyway.

"I think that as long as we still get to see you often, it's okay with me. I want you to be happy too." Emily added onto her sister's remark, "Me too Daddy. And I plan on going to college there too, and becoming a lawyer, just like you."

"Oh, I am blessed to have your love and whether you become an attorney or not, or even go to Florida State, is only important if it's what you want to do. But wherever I live, there will always be room for you."

The three shared a hug that lasted longer than usual. Emily never wanted to let him go--not knowing her father was feeling the same way. She and Trisha talked about it that night and both expressed concerns over his moving away. Yet again, her father honored his word. Though he now lived in Tallahassee, things really didn't change. He flew in to see them once a month, still staying with Jack. Their summer vacations saw him take the entire three weeks off from work where they would visit their cousins or take a trip, enjoying the time spent together. His new home had pictures of them and the things they had given him. There was never a reprimand for their daily phone calls and the smallest story remained of interest to him. He did seem happier than he'd been in a while. They visited his office, where his secretary knew their names before being introduced. More pictures of them were on display behind his desk. A plaque honoring his victory for the federal agency in the Supreme Court was on the wall next to a bookcase that held statutes, rules and opinions. He took them on a tour of the college campus, pointing out Sally and Kellum Hall, where he and Patsy lived in their freshman year. They went on a hot air balloon ride over the city, and canoed down a local river. She and Trisha were more determined than ever to live with him after finishing school.

 

© 1999 Copyright held by the author.

 

 

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