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Cynthia Hepner

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Featured Book
Fly With The Mourning Dove
by Velda Brotherton

The story of a young girl growing up on a homestead in New Mexico after WW I..  
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By Cynthia Hepner
Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Rated "PG" by the Author.

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Recent stories by Cynthia Hepner
· HAWK: Sound Justice
           >> View all 2

“Sloane”, we find the investigator in “Hawk:Sound Justice” that helped to find and bring the criminals to justice has his own story to tell.
Sloane has strong morals and a sense of duty to right the wrongs of the underdog.
As he protects a battered wife and her two developmentally delayed children from the ex-husband that is determined to finish the job, Sloane finds that life with his dog Clancy is about to change.
There are several layers to this story that will touch the reader deeply as you pray that the women and children residing in the Transitional Living Center will find a life free of abuse—with the help of Sloane.

Chapter 1

“To get through the hardest journey...we need
take only one step at a time...”~ Chinese proverb

She stood at the entrance to the Transitional Living Center, her arms heavy with bags and suitcases that represented what was left of her life and the life of her children, everything else that they owned or once owned was left behind when she fled her home.


“Yes, Brad,” Paige answered.

“Is this where our bed is?” he asked.

“Yes, honey, this is where we are going to sleep tonight,” she said, her voice sounding so weary even to her own ears.

“You sure?” asked her daughter, Melissa.

“Pretty sure, Lissa.” With that she knocked on the door and waited for someone to let them in.

It had been a long drive to Seattle from Los Angeles and she and the children were tired, hungry, and in need of a bath. Starting over took more energy than she had anticipated. She was certain that here they would finally be free, free of the hell they had been living that past five years. Free of Don and his ill temper and tantrums. Tantrums that left her bruised and bleeding and the children extremely fearful and afraid of their own father. Please, God, don't let Don find us. Help me to keep my children safe...

The door opened and a woman stood in the doorway. A smile spread across her face and her brown eyes twinkled with light as she ushered them all into the hallway.

“Hi, I’m Maggie,” she said extending her hand. She was met with a look of confusion and apprehension instead of the usual acceptance.

“You must be the Morgans. Los Angeles called ahead to let us know you were on your way. I’m sorry if I’ve frightened you,” Maggie tried breaking the ice with her usual cheery disposition.

Mrs. Morgan relaxed a bit. Looking down, Maggie gave a quick smile and spoke directly to the children.

“You must be Bradley and you must be Melissa,” she said confidently.

“I’m Lissa and this is Brad. He’s my brother,” she said looking at her mother, “huh, momma?”

“Yes, sweetheart,” Paige confirmed nervously. Did she make the right choice coming here? Maybe she didn't go far enough. Maybe she should have left the Country instead of just the state...

Maggie extended her hand again noticing that the mother was fussing with the hem of her shirt.

“Thank you, Maggie, for giving us a place to stay,” Paige whispered taking her hand and blinking back her tears.

“I’m glad that we are here to help, Mrs. Morgan. Now, let me call Cassie in to take the children into the playroom so we can go to the office and go over the rules.”

Maggie reached for the intercom and pushed the little black button at the bottom. She spoke into it and within seconds a beautiful young woman with long black hair and dark brown eyes was walking toward them. She stopped in front of the children and bent down on her knees. Looking at them eye to eye she smiled broadly and asked, “Who wants to go down the hall and color with me?”

Both children turned to their mother with a look that told her they wanted to go. She nodded and in unison they shouted, “I do, I do!”

Cassie smiled, took them each by the hand and together the three of them walked down the white hall destined for the playroom.

Maggie told Paige to leave her stuff in the hall while they talked in the office. She was reluctant, but Maggie assured her it would be fine.

“We are the only ones here tonight, Paige, it will be fine. Honestly, I promise,” Maggie said a couple of times before convincing the poor gal to leave all she had left in the world behind in the hall.

Paige gave her a reluctant smile and placed her bags on the floor. Walking in the office, she sat in an old winged back chair with faded roses and several thread bare spots that told Paige this chair had been around for a very long time. She made herself comfortable while Maggie sat down behind the scuffed old desk and started ruffling through the file of papers. She brought out three sheets that were type written and sat them in front of Paige.

Pointing to the first page, she explained, “Paige, these are the rules of the Center. They let you know what is expected of you while you are here. All women are required to attend the counseling classes as long as they are living here. Read it over and if you agree, then please sign it.”

Pointing to the next one in the row she continued, “This one explains your rights in the State of Washington, and this last one is an agreement that states you will not, under any circumstances, tell your ex-husband, boyfriend, or anyone, the address of the Center. It is imperative that we keep anonymity for the safety of the women and children that stay here.”

The last thing Paige wanted was for anyone to find her. She wasn't about to tell anyone where she was. Paige read the paperwork before her and signed each one quickly.

Gathering the signed papers and putting them in a manilla file folder Maggie cleared the desk and stood. “Good, now, let’s show you to your room and after we put your things away, I’ll give you a little tour. How does that sound?” Maggie asked with a large grin that made her brown eyes light up.

“It sounds fine,” Paige replied quietly, feeling overwhelmed and helpless.

Maggie could see the tell tale signs of long-term abuse in Paige. She hoped that with time and counseling she would be able to put it behind her and make a new life for her and her children here. Maggie walked in front of Paige and led her up the stairs and to the right. She stopped in front of the first door and opened it.

“This is your room, Paige. The children will be next door. The rooms connect so you can leave the internal door open if you’d like. There is a bathroom behind the door there,” pointing to the door at the back on the right, “and a closet in the kid’s room. I know it isn’t the Ritz, but it’s safe,” Maggie comforted tilting her brown curly locks to one side.

“It’s fine,” she said meekly, desperately trying to keep control of her emotions as she looked around. She saw the two doors that Maggie referred to in her room, one the connecting and one the bathroom. It was all more than she could have asked for. And, she was teaching her kids that was all right to start over, at the bottom, and work up. The childrens room was a duplicate of her own except where the bathroom door was in her room, was the closet instead. Paige put her things on the bed and turned to Maggie.

“Okay, let’s go downstairs and start the tour,” Maggie said with a smile and gave her a soft pat on the shoulder. Flinching slightly Paige followed Maggie down the hall to another stairway at the back of the house. When they reached the bottom they were in the kitchen.

Paige looked around and noticed that it was cheerful in a plain sort of way. It was clean, painted white, and had a super long stainless steel table that was used for an island in the middle.

The tall cabinets were also white and she could tell that they had been painted with several thick coats over the years. Several of the cupboard doors had handles that didn't match, the curtains white with green checks, and fuzzy white little balls trimmed the bottom of each panel. It wasn’t pretty, but it was clean. It would be nice to get in and start cooking again. It had been a long time since she had a place where she could actually make a nutritious meal for herself and the children.

She missed her own kitchen and the fun she had with the children cooking and baking together. God willing, they would once again have a home of their own, a safe home of their own.

Maggie was walking out now and Paige hurried up to follow. They walked down the hall and Maggie pointed out the rooms here and there.

“This is where we have the counseling sessions. They are every morning at 10:00,” she said.

Paige quickly looked through the window and noticed there was a ‘C’ on the door. C for counseling, right! Paige thought committing it to memory.

“The kids will be in the playroom down the hall while you are in class,” Maggie explained.

Continuing down the hall, she went to the French doors and opened them.

“This is the movie room. We show movies on Friday nights for the women and Saturday mornings for the children. The movies for this week are Sleepless in Seattle and Balto. We also have popcorn and pop for the kids. It’s a great way to bring a little normalcy back into their little lives.” Maggie talked happily and with lots of enthusiasm as they finished the tour.

“You know, Paige, you did the right thing in coming here. We know it is very difficult right now, but once you get settled and find a job, I know you and the children will happy. Seattle is a great place, a little wet, but that is part of the beauty.” Maggie smiled warmly at Paige.

“I know, Maggie. Thank you so much for allowing us to come here. We need a safe...” Paige swallowed and choked back the tears that threatened to fall. “ to call our own.”

Paige was exhausted after that long drive and looked forward to getting upstairs to their room so she could bathe the children and take a long hot shower herself. She made the sixteen hour trip in one day not wanting to stop and give her ex the opportunity to find her. The children came running down the hall with pictures waving above their heads and paint all over their hands and faces.

“We painted pretty pictures for you, momma!” Melissa yelled out so she could be the first to share.

“Yea, picture for you, momma. Pretty.” Brad gave the picture to Paige and then slipped his little hand into hers as he moved behind her hiding himself behind her legs.

Melissa started up the stairs. “Where is our room, momma? Can we go there now? Is it pretty, momma? I hope it’s pretty,” she asked not stopping for an answer.

“Yes, Lissa, it’s pretty. Let’s go kids, bath time for you and then off to bed. We have a big day tomorrow,” Paige stroked Brad’s little head and the possibility of a tiny smile cracking through her lips.

Paige and the children went upstairs. Maggie and Cassie went into the office to talk.

“Those children are so sweet,” said Cassie, “but, they are severely delayed. I don’t know how to broach the subject with Mrs. Morgan, but I think they will need to be put into a special needs class when she enrolls them into school.”

“I noticed how child like they seemed, but thought perhaps it was the trauma of leaving their home and coming to a strange place,” interjected Maggie.

“That could be, but I don’t think so. Is there anything in the file that will help me to help them?” asked Cassie.

Maggie handed the file over to Cassie. Walking to the window and looking out over the flower garden she said, “It isn’t very good reading, Cassie. That woman and her children have been through hell.”

Cassie looked up from the file, “Oh, Maggie, those poor children… Why? Why is there so much violence in the world? Why do men promise to love and protect these women and then destroy them bit by bit until they are no longer able to function normally? This man was a monster and…and…” Cassie was unable to finish. The tears that welled up in her eyes fell down her checks. She closed the file and placed it back on top of the desk.

Maggie turned and watched as Cassie left her office, her own tears falling softly down her cheeks.

Chapter 2

Sloane looked into the mirror and spread the white foam over his face. Picking up the razor, he made quick work of the job at hand and with a hot wash towel, wiped the remaining shave cream from his face.
Beating the floor with his tail, Clancy was waiting for his master’s next move. The morning routine never changed for Sloane and Clancy. Sloane reached down and gave Clancy his much awaited pat on the head.
“Today’s the day, Clancy,” stated Sloane. Clancy answered with a bark.
“Today our friends tie the knot. Sorry you can’t go with me buddy, but I will bring you back a piece of wedding cake.”
Clancy laid down and put his head on his paws, clearly upset. “Ah, buddy…I’m sorry, but you can’t go to a wedding. Dogs aren’t allowed. How about we go for a run when I get back?” As if he understood, Clancy stood and his tail took off once again.
“Good boy.” Sloane put on his long coat over his most formal clothes, grabbed his hat and walked out onto the porch, locking the front door as he left.
It had been six months since Cassie pushed her way into his employer and friends office, and in doing so, pushed her way into his heart. Her brother had been at the wrong place at the right time and over heard a plot to take land from the Indians and the murder of one of the partners involved.
After rescuing her brother, Hawk and Cassie began to date and fell quickly in love. Sloane was standing up for Hawk today and hoped his friend and Cassie would be happy for a good long time. They deserved a life full of happiness and children…lots and lots of children.
He stopped for a moment and remembered the day of his wedding. Beth had been a beautiful bride and they thought their happiness would last forever. They had made so many plans together, but they were young. They planned to have a large family and just knew that their marriage would be perfect. It wasn’t. Not being able to conceive took a heavy toll on Beth and nothing he could say or do eased her pain. It wasn't long before she found solace in someone else. He swore he would never let himself fall that hard again. So far, he hadn’t… Enough of that! Today was for Hawk and Cassie...
Sloane jumped into his Lexus and drove to the wedding venue on the sound. He pulled up to the curb and looked out over the park. Sloane spotted the arch of flowers and walked toward where the wedding would take place. It was very beautiful with the Sound as a backdrop to the wedding. He was very happy they were finally tying the knot. There at the arch he found his employer and friend, looking very nervous.
“Hey, buddy, how you doing?” he asked with an all-knowing grin.
“Fine, this is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” Hawk stated a bit too fast and beamed as he straightened his sleeves.
With a laugh and a quick slap on the back, Sloane asked, “Are you trying to convince me or you, Hawk? You seem a little nervous, is there anything I can help you with?”
“No, I’m fine. Have you seen Cassie yet? We should be starting the ceremony pretty soon. How about Jason? I haven’t seen him yet today. I hope he hasn’t gone off and gotten himself into any more trouble. I wonder where Cassie is…if she is know,” Hawk babbled glancing in all directions, turning in circles.
“Wow, you are a mess,” he told his friend, “I think you need to take a deep breath and slow it down a bit. You’re going to be fine, Hawk. Cassie is a wonderful woman and you two are perfect for each other, but you need to take a step back here, Buddy, and relax a bit. You are wound tight as a drum!” Sloane couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped and the look his friend shot him told him he didn’t think it was funny.
“Do you think you could lose the duster on a day like today?” Hawk asked pertinently, his hands moving up and down the length of Sloane’s trademark jacket.
“At least I shaved, Boss, and I left my hat in car,” he grinned impishly and slid his coat from his arms to reveal a simple button up tucked into jeans with a nice leather belt and boots.
“That is dressed up?” Hawk asked him incredulously.
“As fancy as I get, my friend. I’m even wearing cologne…smell!” he laughed leaning closer to his friend.
Hawk couldn’t help it and let out a few bubbles of laughter himself.
Sloane stood next to Hawk and waited while the rest of the guests arrived. The Tribal Elder arrived and stood under the Archway. Hawk knew the ceremony was about to begin.
Hawk and Sloane turned to see Cassie and Jason walking towards them. Sloane heard his friend's sharp intake of breath and didn’t blame him at all. Cassie was a vision in her Native wedding dress of white deerskin and beads.
“Breathe,” Sloane whispered. Hawk let out the breath he was holding. Sloane noticed the tears in his friend’s eyes and wondered if he would ever find the kind of love that his friends shared…again.
Jason brought Cassie to the Archway of Flowers and put her hand into Hawk’s. They turned and walked together to the washbasin that was set up for them. It was custom for the couple to wash their hands together in clean, fresh water to signify the washing away of past evils and the memories of past loves.
When the washing was completed, they walked back to the arch where the Elder presiding, spoke to them.
“Love is your river of life, your eternal source of recreating yourself. Above all else that flows in your river, love one another completely.
You must provide a refuge for each other. A sanctuary for each other from the cold and winds of the world, your marriage is a hearth that provides warmth, peace, and harmony for your soul and your spirit.
Warm your loved ones body with your healing touch. A marriage can wither from a lack of closeness and touch. Do not let your love wither. Seek not to create for each other a new mold that they cannot fit without discomfort. Accept each other as you are now,” the older man said in his soft tone.
The elder’s words were wise and Sloane wished he and Beth had heard these very words at their wedding. Things may have turned out very differently.
The elder continued with his advice, “You must always remember that criticism divides. Do not point out to each other their mistakes, for each of you will discover their own. Instead, encourage each other with compliments.
Do not bind yourselves with secrets. Secrets cause suspicion and doubt. Trust and reveal all about yourselves to each other…for it is in this openness that you will find each others heart and soul.” The elder nodded to Hawk and Cassie that he was finished.
Now it was time for Hawk and Cassie to speak to each other. One of the women stepped up and handed a beautiful hand painted vase with two spouts to Hawk and Cassie. Hawk spoke first:
“There was darkness around me for a long time and now there is light. You are my light, Cassie. Your love has given me the wings to take you on this journey of ours together. I pledge to you and all those present that I will be your husband and love you with all I have in me from this day forward.”
Cassie looked into his eyes and with tears in her own said, “I have dreamt my whole life of loving a man like you. This is the day I give myself to you, as your wife, and promise to love and treasure you today, tomorrow, and forever.” They raised the vase to each others lips and they each drank from it.
The elder then prayed for them saying, “Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter to the other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other. Now there is no more loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other. Now you are two bodies, but there is only one life before you. Leave here and begin your new life together and may it be good and long.”
The ceremony was completed and all that were there, gathered around to congratulate the new couple. Sloane was first in line to give them a hug and wish them well.
“I wish you both the best of everything,” he said with sincerity.
“Thank you so much. Will we be seeing you later at the reception?” asked Cassie.
“I have to get back, but hopefully I will catch you before you leave for the Islands,” stated Sloane. And then he slipped his jacket back on making the two laugh.
“I need to talk to you about a client at the Center. Call me later, Sloane, it’s really important that I talk to you before we leave,” Cassie said sobering for just a moment.
“I will make sure of it,” he said and left the happy couple to their guests. Sloane couldn’t help but feel a bit melancholy. He generally avoided weddings and only attended this one because his friend asked him to stand with him. He usually liked hearing about weddings second hand, but was glad he witnessed this one.
He had never been to a Native American wedding ceremony. He liked it very much. Leaving the park and his friends, Sloane headed home to get Clancy and go for a much-needed run.

As Sloane and Clancy ran to the park, the beautiful wedding clouded his mind. Is there really love that special out there? He thought that he and Beth had been in love, but now, after watching the love that had grown between Hawk and Cassie, he knew that he and Beth were never really in love at all. And at his age, he figured he was pretty darned unlikely to find that kind of love.
Clancy's barking brought him to reality just as he was about to run right off the pathway. He caught himself just in time, but managed instead to run right over someone's picnic that was laid out on a blanket ready for their lunch.
Everything on the blanket went flying and what didn't get tossed in the air ended up smashed under his feet. He tumbled, and what ensued then was pure chaos. Clancy was barking, children were crying, a woman was trying to console them, and he was trying to get untangled from the blanket. Clancy thought he could help and jumped on Sloane. The woman got her children under control and pushed Clancy off the blanket. She pulled the blanket off of Sloane and in her best, calm, motherly voice said, “What in the heck just happened here?”
Sloane righted himself and scraping potato salad off his face said, “I'm so sorry! I was running and must have been daydreaming. My dog tried to warn me, but instead, it startled me and I ended up veering off the path anyway...right into your wonderful picnic lunch.” Tasting the salad all over his face, he added, “A very tasty picnic lunch I might add.”
“Now what are we supposed to eat, Momma?” the little girl asked crying.
“It's all ruinded!” cried out the little boy sticking his lip out.
“I don't know...Momma will figure out something,” she told them trying to settle them down, casting Sloane an irritated glance.
Sloane felt horrible. “Why don't you let me get cleaned up and I will take you out for pizza or burgers, anything...just let me make this up to you.”
“I...don't...know,” she hesitated. She knew how men were…all the same. Liars, hypocrites, and kick-boxers!
“We love pizza, huh, momma?” said the little girl looking up at her mother, her shiny brown curls barely reaching her slender little shoulders and those pretty brown eyes could not be refused.
“Yes, we love it pizza!” stated the boy nodding. Same curly brown hair, same big brown eyes.
“Look, I can imagine what you are probably thinking, but please, rest assured, I'm safe and believe it or not, so is Clancy,” he said with a smile, one that even showed his teeth! That never happened!
She had no idea why, but she felt she could trust this man that had just landed in their lunch, literally. She smiled and said, “Okay, I guess it will be okay. How will you change?”
“Can you follow me back to my house? I live three blocks from here. You can drive if you'd like or we can take my car.” Sloane could see she hesitated again, her smile faded and her brown eyes grew dull at the mention of them riding in his car.
“Okay, how about we do this. Drive down Main Street for about four blocks. You will come to a shopping center on the left. Turn in there and wait for me in front of the Pizzeria. I should be there in about fifteen minutes. Is that okay?” he asked.
Looking relieved, she smiled a pretty smile and then said, “That works. See you in about fifteen minutes, you sure you want to do this? You don't have to, you know. I could just as easily go back to the shel...uh... go home and make a couple of sandwiches for the children.”
He looked down at the children and saw the disappointment in their faces. He caught her blunder and acted as though he had heard nothing.
“I doubt that would be as much fun for them,” he said shrugging and they both smiled.
“Okay, we will meet you there,” she relented and the children cheered at her decision to have pizza instead of going back home for sandwiches. She picked everything up and put it in her truck to take care of later. Putting the children into the back seat she headed in the direction of the Pizzeria.
Sloane called for Clancy and they ran back home so he could clean up. Taking the fastest shower he had ever taken, Sloane dressed in a pair of khaki's and his favorite soft and faded sweatshirt. Slipping into his loafers, he told Clancy he would be back in a bit, jumped into his truck and headed to the Pizzeria. Clancy let out a groan as his master left him behind.
They were waiting for him at the door when he drove up and he smiled. For a minute he entertained the thought that maybe they wouldn't have come after all and was glad to see that they had. The four of them walked into the restaurant and were seated at a picnic style table. The pizza place was very casual and family friendly. They ordered their pizza and while they waited, Sloane started to get to know his new found friends.
“So, how long have you lived in Seattle?” he asked.
“We have only been here about a month. The kids and I moved here from Los Angeles,” the mother said quietly.
“We live in a really big house by the...”
“...Lissa! No!” she cried and startled the little girl who immediately started crying hysterically. She stood quickly. “Sorry, but this wasn't a good idea. We need to leave...I'm really sorry,” she said as she gathered the kids and quickly walked out of the restaurant. Both children were crying now and Sloane could see there was way more to this little family than he knew. Getting up he ran after her.
“Please...please, come back inside. The children are hungry and want to eat. I more questions or talking about anything you don't want to talk about. I promise you that once the food gets here and the kids have eaten, you don't have to ever see me again,” hesitating, he added, “if you don't want to. What do you say? For the kids.” He smiled and could see that she was loosening her hold on the little boy. Sloane held out his hand for him and with a nod from the child’s mother, he walked back into the pizzeria with Sloane. The waitress delivered their order and Sloane put a piece of pizza on each of their plates.
As they started to eat he said, “See, isn't this nice? And the good part ...this is the best tasting pizza around!”
The kids nodded in unison and even mom looked as though she agreed. They didn't talk much. Sloane thought it best to tread lightly.
“We haven’t had good pizza since we left Los Angeles. This is really good, though,” she said as cheese strung from the bite she was trying to remove from her piece.
“What's your name?” asked the little boy sucking on each finger in turn and looking at his new friend expectantly.
“Sloane. What's yours?”
“Brad. What's your last name?” he asked.
“That is my last name.” Sloane wanted to ask his last name, but thought maybe he’d better not get too personal.
He thought for a moment.“Then what's your first name?” Brad asked.
“Cooper,” Sloane said stuffing his mouth with his pizza.
“Isn't Cooper a last name, too? It is, huh, momma?” asked the girl.
“Well, it can be a first name, too,” said the Momma.
“We had a friend named Millie and her last name was Cooper, huh, momma?” she said looking towards her mother and licking the sauce off from around her lips.
“Yes, Lissa,” her mother answered, trying to be patient yet feeling the blush of usual embarrassment creep over her face.
“Well, it is a last name,” Sloane said to the little girl. He couldn’t help but chuckle. Her little face was turned up and her big brown eyes were staring intently into his. He continued his explanation, “You see, when I was born, my mom wanted to name me after my father, but he didn't want her to, so after a long time of not knowing what to name me, they settled on my mothers last name before she married my dad and my dad's last name. That is how I got the name Cooper Sloane.”
“Oh, okay,” she said simply. “My name is Melissa, but my mommy and Brad call me Lissa. You can call me Lissa, too, if you want, huh, momma?” she said looking at her mother again. Her mother nodded and smiled reassuringly.
"Okay, Lissa, don't mind if I do. And you can call me Sloane if you want,” he said chewing and swallowing as he spoke.
“No, I think I want to call you Cooper. That's your name. I like it. It's a nice name, huh, momma?” she asked her mother.
“Yes, Lissa, it is a nice name,” her mother replied with an apologetic smile to Sloane.
“And what is your name?” Sloane asked looking at their mother, everything around them seemed to slow down considerably.
“Paige,” she answered and bowed her head shyly, her eyes cast to the floor and her fingers working her hems.
“Well, I'm pleased to meet you, Paige,” Sloane said with a smile and then taking another bite of pizza. After they finished off their lunch, the kids went to play in the childrens playground that was in the corner of the restaurant.
“That's quite the little family you have there. How old are the children?” he asked.
“Lissa is ten and Brad is eight.” She could see the look of doubt that crossed his face. Feeling the need to explain she said, “I know they seem a lot younger. Not only are they small for their age, they are also developmentally delayed or mentally challenged, whatever the politically correct terminology is today.” Her hands waving her words away as she spoke them.
“No need to explain. They are a blessing, no matter what term you use,” he said matter-of-factly, watching them play happily as though nothing plagued them.
His response surprised her. Not many people reacted to her children in that way. Neither one of her children looked at all like there was a problem. In fact, you didn’t even realize anything was wrong until they spoke and then the delays were evident. That was when she would be on the receiving end of the strange looks and hear the whispered comments.
“I'm sorry, it's just that I always feel I need to justify why they act the way they do or say the things they do. You know, if it passes through their minds it’s going to come out of their mouths, regardless,” she said with a quiet laugh.
Just then, Brad ran back and asked, “Can I may go on the blue slide, mom?”
“Yes, you can and yes, you most certainly may,” she answered smiling at her son and seeing the simple joy in his eyes. It had been a long time since she saw her children actually laugh and play with such sweet vitality .
Sloane could tell that she loved her children dearly and the kindness she showed him told him she was a kind and loving mother. He hoped when he, if he, had children that his wife would be loving and patient like Paige.
Brad ran back to the playground as quickly as he came. She laughed and said, “He knows he is supposed to ask, but he gets confused between can and may, so he uses them both.”
Sloane laughed at that, but to himself wondered what could be so wrong that she didn't want the children telling him where they lived or any other personal information about themselves. Yet, in his line of work, a few ideas were already forming in his mind.
When it was time to go, Paige called for the children. After putting on their sweaters, they walked out into the parking lot. Sloane opened the door for her and helped the children get into her car.
“Thank you for the pizza, Sloane, although unnecessary, it was very good and I enjoyed talking with you,” Paige said crossing her arms defensively in front of her. Goodbyes always made her very nervous…
“Maybe we can do it again sometime,” he said with his best smile, “I think the children had a great time and so did I.”
“Uh...I don't think so. I appreciate what you did for us today, but I don't think it would be a good idea to do it again. I hope you understand,” Paige said.
“Well, no, I really don’t understand, but I will respect your wishes,” he said and turned to the children, something inside twisting uncomfortably as he did so. “Bye kiddos, I hope you had fun,” he said as he tousled Brad's hair.
“Good-bye Cooper. The pizza was great, huh, momma?” Lissa added.
“Yes, Lissa, the pizza was great,” turning to Sloane she said, “Thank you again for your generosity.”
Sloane noticed that every time the little girl spoke she looked to her mom for acceptance. Ending everything she said or asked in ‘huh, momma’ was another evident way that told him the children were ‘younger’ than other children their age.
He knew that he and Beth were better off for not having any children in the marriage, it made the split that much easier. But today, as he helped the kids into the car and closed the door, he felt the void that not having a family of his own had left in his heart.
He watched them as they drove off and a real uneasy feeling came over him. He enjoyed talking with the children and thought Paige was an attractive lady, not too tall, with a slim build, medium brown hair, and brown eyes. It wasn’t the way she looked that attracted him, because she wasn’t what you would call a raving beauty or anything, but she had something. He couldn’t put his finger on it...just a simple, inner beauty that seemed to shine through, especially when she smiled. She had a very wide easy smile that some might say was too big, but when she relaxed,her smile reached her eyes and left a slight sparkle there. Yes, she had something...he hoped that he would run into them again…real soon.

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Reviewed by Janice Scott 5/18/2011
Good story, Cynthia. I hope this lovely little family makes it, and that Sloane and Paige hook up together!

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