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Lee was sitting on the couch reading while Jenny and Stacy were sitting on the floor with their dolls and coloring books. Kathy and Jim were at a medical association conference so Lee had asked if Jenny could come spend the weekend with her and Stacy. Jimmy was spending the weekend with one of his friends, as was Chris. Since both the kids were busy with their social activities Jo and Eileen had decided to have a night out with their mother and aunt.( And Jo and Roy were having a date night the next day) "Aunt Lee it's not fair, ya know it?" Stacy said suddenly a deep look of concern on her face.
"What isn't?" She put her book down and gave her full attention to the little girl.
"Everyone is having a good time and doing something special tonight but Uncle Johnny and Uncle Roy."
With their own brand of understanding and logic it made perfect sense to the girls the adults were aunt and uncles since they were cousins.
"Well, it might seem like that but I bet everyone they helped today and tonight think what they are doing is pretty special. I do."
"Yeah but its not fun special." Jenny joined in. "Like when we had our picnic after we went on our bike hike."
"That was the bestest day." Stacy said looking at the newest picture on the bookcase. "I bet the little girls in that picture would have had fun with us too."
"Yeah they would…and one of them did."
"Who?" Jenny had not noticed the small picture of two little girls on a beach. "There was just me and Stacy. And our family."
"Me, I was six years old and Sara was 3...we were at a picnic on the beach by our house, an island in the middle of the ocean with no other islands around for a hundred miles. At least ones where people lived"
"Was Sara your friend?" Stacy came over and sat down on the floor in front of Lee.
"Sara was my little sister. We loved the beach and playing in the sand…especially when Gunny wasn't on duty he would take us wadding or sometimes if we were extra good he would carry us piggy back out into the waves."
"Who was Gunny? That’s a funny name." Jen had moved over so she was sitting next to Stacy.
"Gunny was his nickname…He was a Marine and sort of a special helper to my dad. His wife and little girl lived a long way away from where we did and he would come visit us when he wasn't working. Kind of like your Uncle Johnny would do before we got married." She smiled remembering Liam Cronan. He was a gentle giant of a man who would rock Sara to sleep singing old Irish songs. It wasn't until years later when he came to visit her in the hospital she found out the real reason his wife and daughter hadn't lived on the island. When she was 5 years old, Katie Marie Cronan had gotten polio. It had left her needing braces and the island just wasn't equipped for any special needs. "After I got hurt he came to visit me once or twice a week for the first 2 years. He lives in Ireland now with his wife and daughter and her family."
"Aunt Lee, I'm sorry your baby sister and your parents died. I'm glad you didn't."
"I bet you're right pumpkin. Hey in the extra room not yours, but the other one, on the book case is an old book with yellow flowers on it. If you bring it here I'll read you a story out of it."
The girls got the book and Lee eased herself off the couch so she was sitting on the floor using the couch as a back rest. With a niece on each side of her she opened the book.
'It was a beautiful day just right for a picnic. Bill and Gunny were off duty so we all went down to our favorite cove at the beach. The cove is cool even on the hottest days as the wind from the water blows in cooling air. The flowers there are wonderful. Lee picked me a big bouquet of flowers. Gunny made a wreath out of them for me to wear. He also made a wreath for the girls but Sara played with hers. Lee said we were the queen and princesses of the island because daddy was the king. Gunny laughed and told her she had the touch of the fey in her. She said he was the head knight and protector of the castle.
Lee tells everyone when she grows up she is going to be a Marine just like her daddy…I pray that she changes her mind. She is so smart in her school work…We do our school every day in the small Sunday school room at the chapel. Since there are only 10 other children here it's like the old one room school houses we read about. Lee does the same work as the second and third graders…and her math skills are so advanced. Maybe she will be a math teacher some day or a scientist. She loves exploring and nature.
Bill thinks she will be a marine biologist and calls her his little mermaid. He is teaching her to surf and sail. She is going to grow up to be a tom boy. But Sara is so the opposite even so young her personality is very girly girl. She will be the prom and homecoming queen when she grows up. I don't think Lee will care about that but she will be the girl who is friends with everyone. Sara is so like my German cousins with her blue eyes and blonde hair…she is learning her numbers and letters just from going with us to school every day. In a few weeks, we'll be going on our vacation…I want my girls to see all the wonders of the world. Two more years and Bill may retire. We will settle down in one spot. His dad has already bought land to build our dream house on. He wants Bill to come join his business since he knows Jeff 's interest in the law is more towards criminal justice than business. Sara was busy having a tea party with sea shell cups and flower petal plates with her daddy while Lee and Gunny were building a fort to defend the picnic basket from the sea monsters. Maybe she will surprise us and be a writer…Her favorite way to fall asleep is to listen to someone reading to her. Well, time to get ready to put the girls to bed…Will write more tomorrow. Lillian will be pleased to hear that I am putting her gift to good use. She is in California now visiting her mother-in-law and Kathy. I know it is hard for her to be away from her daughter but our school is not advanced enough for Kathy to stay here during the school year. When she is here, Lee follows her around and calls her sister. Lillian and Ken will be here as long as we are, hopefully. I know Lillian would like to move back to England when Ken retires but Bill is thinking maybe he can talk them into moving to LA and working at WBS. The girls are so tired I don't think it will be the usual begging for one more story or two more pages from Lee tonight. She takes after her grandmother Spencer with her dark hair and that fair skin that never tans just burns. She is a little pink tonight so bath time was a cool bath with baking soda water instead of the bubbles. Sara stayed out of the water and in the shade so she is fine. Bill is done with the story and Sara is asleep on his lap. Lee is Lee…even with her eyes almost shut begging for just two more pages…Tonight they started reading from the new Beatrice Porter book Sara got for her birthday….Sweet dreams my darling wee ones…’
Lee read the words her mother had wrote so many years ago. There were several of the journals in the box but this was the only one Lee had read so far. Johnny had found the picture when they had moved the journal when they had rearranged the bedroom. They meaning he did all the work with some help from Roy while Jo and Lee supervised.
"The story was about you and Sara. Can mommy read it sometime? Maybe she will write a story about me." Jenny said as she looked at some of the other pictures. Turning the pages very carefully since they were so old…
"Aunt Lee, my mommy is in the story too and Nana Lilly and Papa Ken…" Stacy said with a sudden realization as she saw a picture of Lee and Kathy. They sat on the floor awhile longer then Lee decided it was time to think about getting ready for supper. It was then Lee made a very interesting discovery. She couldn't get up. When she turned so she could pull herself up her back and hip knotted. She sat there and waited a few minutes glad the girls were still so busy looking through the journal they hadn't noticed her inability to get up. As the pain got worst she knew there was only one option since no one was home down stairs. Cisco was on loan to the DEA, she couldn't call on him and she had no idea where Eddie was.
"Jenny would you bring the phone over here please." Soon as she had the phone, Lee let out a big sigh. With a silent prayer that they were not on a run, she dialed the station.
"LA County Fire Station 51. Firefighter Lopez speaking." Marco had been in the kitchen getting some ice tea.
"Marco, is Johnny there by any chance?"
"Yeah he's outside shooting baskets to decide who has to wash dishes tonight.…Just a second I'll get him. He laid the phone receiver down. While he was out Chet walked into the kitchen and saw the phone off the hook. Not thinking too checks if anyone was on it, he hung it up. Lee heard the click and for a minute wasn't sure if they had hung up because they got a run or why. Calming herself down she realized she had not heard the SCU go off. She hung up and waited for him to call back.
Johnny made a basket as Marco came out to get him. "Lee's on the phone."
"Thanks…" He tossed the ball to Mike and trotted into the station. He frowned as he saw the phone was hanging up on the wall. Digging in his pocket, he found some change and called her back.
"What's wrong? Are you and the girls ok?" He could hear the slight panic in her voice.
"They are fine…it's just me being stupid…I'm stuck."
"Stuck? HOW? Where? Are you hurt? How in the Sam Hill…" He took a deep breath.
" I were sitting on the floor and now I can't get up…Every time I try to turn so I can try to pull myself up I get this really sharp pain and I'm afraid if I do get up I'll fall….I don't want to do that and scare the girls…"
"I'll have Cap call in a still alarm and be there soon as I can…Don't try to get up…You sure you're not hurt?"
"Nothing but my pride," she reassured him. He went over to the office where Cap was working on the never-ending paper work.
"Cap Lee is stuck sitting on the floor …Her back is knotting up and she can't get up. She's afraid if she tries she'll fall."
"I'll call in a still alarm." Cap answered knowing Lee would not have called if she wasn't desperate.
"We've got a still alarm at my place…The girls are fine," he explained, seeing Roy's face. "For some reason she was sitting on the floor and now she can't get up, it sounds like her fear factor is setting in. Said when she tried it hurt really bad. Cap called it in as a still alarm."
"She is more worried about the girls than about herself." Johnny said chewing on his thumbnail as they waited to pull out into the traffic.
"If it had been anything really serious she would have called dispatch." Roy said trying to ease his friend's mind.
"Johnny and your dad will be here in a few minutes Jen so why don't you two go out on the balcony and watch for them, ok? They shouldn't take real long to get here."
"Why are they coming here?" Jen asked, "Are you sick?"
"No …I just need some help because of my back…You be thinking about what you want for dinner.
Remember we are going to order in." She was trying very hard to make sure the girls weren't upset or scared. "Sometimes when I sit the wrong way it makes it hard for me to move so I need help. Did you ever get pins and needles in your foot if you sat too long and it went to sleep?" Trying to explain it so they would understand and not be scared. They heard the siren.
"Go open the door for them. Please." Lee said as a bad contraction raced across her back and down her hip. She moved her leg slightly trying to ease the tension but it was the wrong move. Instantly her left leg became one huge Charley horse with a knotted area at the top of her hip, in her calf and the tendon at her heel.
"Girls, if I yell it’s not because they are hurting me…It's gonna hurt … when they move me but it’s the cramp in my leg not them that is hurting…It would hurt just as bad if they weren't here, ok? "
"We know daddy and Uncle Johnny wouldn't hurt you they're here to help you." Jen said with confidence. "I had a Charley horse one time…I cried. It's ok if you want to cry."
"Lee? " Johnny and Roy came into the apartment. She could hear the panic in his voice.
"By the couch…" The girls moved away from the couch as the men came over to Lee. They both went and sat in Johnny's recliner, holding hands. Roy smiled as he saw the two giving each other comfort and strength.
"Ok…you want to tell me why you were on the floor…Did you fall?" All the panic was gone from his voice he was all paramedic, all business.
"We we're reading and it seemed like a good idea at the time." Johnny was taking her pulse and respirations. "Then went I went to get up I couldn't get turned to pull up and even with both girls sitting in my chair I decided it wouldn't be good thing to pull up on.
"Good thinking," Roy said. "So what were you reading about that was so interesting?" He was taking her blood pressure. "125/95..."
"About me." Johnny did a quick double take then saw the journal on the couch.
"That Uncle Johnny isn't hurting you but helping you…" Jen answered.
"…and it would hurt just as bad if he wasn't." Stacy finished.
"Let's get her down flat…On the bed is the little pillow she uses under her back…Leona Elizabeth stop that." He saw the blood on her lip where she had been biting it so she wouldn't scream each time she moved.
"Don’t want to yell…scare the girls…" She moved her head so she could see that they were ok. That set off another wave of spasms.
"Now look, you have to calm down and stay still…" He looked over his shoulder at the girls and gave them a quick smile. "They are fine and once we get you relaxed so will you…" Roy came back and they slipped the small thin pillow under her. "Ok, now I am going to massage the knot at the hip and Roy is going to work on the one at your Achilles' tendon." And from experience they knew that the one in her calf was going to get worst. "Jen go into the bathroom and bring me a washcloth or hand towel…a clean dry one."
"John Roderick, don't even think about giving me a shot…Need to be able to take care of the girls." The hitch in her voice told him how bad she hurt.
"Don't you worry about the girls…besides you can't do much for them like this." Roy said. "Can you?"
"You had to say that didn't you? That was mean…right but mean." Lee arched as a powerful contraction hit. The tears in her eyes were stinging and she wanted to yell. Jenny brought Johnny the washcloth. While he was waiting Roy got another blood pressure reading.
"Here bite this not your lip." She did as she was told. "Ok…now relax Roy is gonna lift your foot up just a little so he can reach your heel and ankle…you know it’s gonna hurt."
"Like bloody Hades…" She closed her eyes as his fingers aggressively attacked the knotted nerves in her hip. He shifted position slightly so he could rub the calf as well. "Just get me on the couch and put an ice pack on my knee…"
"You should go into Rampart and have a shot." Roy told her as she arched and the knotted muscles tighten.
"I am fine…the pumpkins will take good care of me. We're going to call out for dinner and just relax…"
"OK this is gonna hurt…" The lifted her as easy as they could and got her on the couch. The washcloth clenched tight between her teeth and tears running down her face. "Ok , Baby girl, you need to just take a deep breaths…don't breathe so fast or you'll hyperventilate… Jen you go into the kitchen with your dad and get her a soda…" Roy had gone out to get the cold packs. Soon they had her all settled with her knee resting on an ice pack and another one on top.
"Now, you sure you don't want to go get a shot?" Roy thought maybe if he suggested it, again after the painful move she would agree.
"Yes the pumpkin twins will do a great job of taking care of me…If there is any more trouble I will call…You know I don't ignore pain well."
"Now you be good for her and help her ok? Make her keep the ice on her leg and get her more if she needs it." Roy told his daughter who was looking very concerned.
"I will." He gave her a quick hug and a kiss.
"You two did really good here tonight…thanks for taking such good care of her and listening and following directions." Johnny gave each the girls a kiss and a hug. "And you, stay put at least an hour, please."
"Don't think I have a choice in the matter…Sorry I had to bother you and sorry to worry you." She said as they were gathering up their equipment.
"No problem its our job to help…Girls, you make sure she is really careful when she moves into her chair after while, ok? You know how to call for help if you need it, right."
"Uncle Johnny we aren't babies." Jen rolled her eyes at him. Roy almost choked at how much she looked like Jo when Johnny was used that tone of voice with her.
"Give me a kiss and get out of here before you get into trouble." Johnny leaned down and kissed her warmly. "See you in the morning… I think there was a request for biscuit and gravy and home fries?"…"
Roy called in available and after Lee signed the form refusing to be transported, they left. Johnny really wasn't happy that she wouldn't go to the hospital or let them call to see if they could give her something from the drug box.
"She wouldn't risk the safety of the girls…If she thought she couldn't take excellent care of them she would have called Em or someone to take them and went to Rampart." Roy said with conviction.
"Yeah you're right…" Johnny suddenly did feel better about her choice. "I was surprised she read the girls something from that journal. She said the last time she even looked at them was when she graduated from high school… said that was one of the days it seemed even worse than usual not to have her family with her …watching all the others…Of course Jeff, Hector and Maria and some of their kids were there. Jeff had a friend tape it so they could send it to Matt and the New York family."
"So why does she have it out now?"
"It fell off the bed and a picture of her and Sara fell out when we were moving the bedroom around…Making it more into an office."
He didn't add that Lee had planned on that being the baby's room someday. "They had taken the books out of the case so it would be easier for us to move. I took it down to the dark room and made a copy and did some enhancing and repair work. Made the frame from some of the wood left over from her doll cabinet."
"And she liked it?" Remembering his hesitation with the pictures of Johnny's family, he had given him one year at Christmas. Afraid the memories would be too painful.
"As much as I did with the pictures you gave me." He smiled at the memories.
They were putting dinner on the table when they got back. "How is she?" Cap asked as they sat down.
"Stubborn and hurting." Johnny answered. "She had 3 Charley Horses as she calls them going on at once but wouldn't take a shot or let us take her to Rampart. She had been sitting on the floor reading to Jen and Stacy and her back just went into spasms and she couldn't get up. She was more concerned for Jen and Stacy that they wouldn't be scared."
"Her blood pressure was up…isn't it usually about 105 over 80?" Roy asked as he sat down. "She was pretty upset but didn't let the girls know it."
"I'll check it in the morning…Cap if there are any more problems she might call Em to get the girls…"
"No problem…Em would be glad to help."
"Ok I am getting hungry what do you all want?" Lee asked them.
"Chicken and macaroni and cheese….and strawberry cupcakes." Jen said and Stacy agreed.
"OK that sounds good…as long as you get a green vegetable or a salad with it,. I want a chicken salad plate and extra garlic bread and a butter pecan brownie…" She looked a t the girls. "Don't you think we need a double order of cheese straws too?" They giggled knowing that was Lee's favorite snack. "If we are gonna stay up all night watching TV we'll need a snack for later, won't we?"
"Can we really stay up all night?"
"I told your moms we were having a slumber party and that’s what you do…stay up as late as you want. Ok, hand me the phone." The brought it to her and she dialed O'Shea's and asked to speak to Mick. The background music played as she waited for him to pick up.
"This is Michael O'Shea. May I help you?"
"Yes you may…I have two hungry wee ones here that want some of your chicken and Mac and cheese…and I want a chicken salad plate and a double order of cheese straws and extra garlic bread…oh and some peas and carrots or green beans with the chicken legs…and their favorite desserts please. And since I can't drive today I need it delivered."
"Don't you be worried about that…Are you ok? Is the boyo at work?"
"I'll be fine just a problem with a muscle spasm…and yes he is…He even had to make a run to the house officially…"
"Someone will be there as soon as possible…would you like the Mac and cheese and chicken and veggies family style?"
"That would be great…Thank you ….Will you trust me to pay when Johnny is home tomorrow? I didn't go to the bank and I can't get to my check book."
"And since when has your money been any good in my establishment when it’s yourself and yours you are getting for? You send us more business and give us more work orders…"
"Hey its my pleasure…Ok Tell whoever comes to ring the bell downstairs since Hector and Maria aren't home the boyo probably locked the front door. I can unlock it up here and the elevator is working."
"Good for the lad…watching out for you and those babes…"
45 minutes later the doorbell rang and when Lee pressed the intercom she was surprised to hear Mick's booming "Delivery boy" in response.
"It’s open…Come on up." She turned to the girl. "Go open the door please." She was considering the wisdom off getting off the couch and into her chair.
Mick came in and Lee told him to put the put the food on the dining room table.
"Would you have a minute to help me?" She had considered the options. "If you hold the chair steady I should be able to get in it fine."
"I have no problem with that and if you'll be telling me where the dishes are I'll set your table." He had never watched her transfer before and watched closely in case she had any problem. She smoothly slid to the edge of the couch, pulled herself to standing and pivoted into her chair. As she eased herself down, she gave him a smile. "Very impressive Lass. You made it look easy."
"It usually is but today I was just a little worried. Sometimes after a really bad muscle spasm my knee will buckle. It was just less worrisome with another adult here. The dishes are on the counter. Johnny put them out for me last night. We have a system that seems to be working well… the ones I use the most are on the shelves in the free standing cabinet. So if I am here alone I can get to them without having to stand. Or he will put out what I think I will need since he doesn't like me standing up when I am here by myself." Lee said as she wheeled herself towards the table.
"Mr. O'Shea thank you for bringing our dinner…We made you a card." Stacy held up the card she and Jenny had worked on while waiting.
"That was all their own doing…Other than a little spelling advice." Lee proudly told him.
"Their parents should be proud of such fine manners…And so should their aunt and uncle. " He soon had the table set and accepted the offer to sit and have a glass of ice tea.
"I worked breakfast and lunch. Sean has the kitchen well under control for dinner... I was just hanging around since Martha and the girls are back East visiting family in Boston."
"Mr. Kelly is from Boston, isn't he?" Jenny said.
"Yes he is….Chet is one of the linesmen at 51...I think you've met him."
"The curly haired one with the mustache? That teases you and your boyo so you've been near tears."
Mick frowned. "I saw him one day and was about to come out and teach him a lesson but you stood your ground and gave it back to him."
"I try…And while he can be a tease and a pain at time Johnny and the others know he's very good at his job and has their backs' always."
The girls finished their meal and asked to be excused, Lee and Mick moved into the front room. "So how is the new building coming along?"
"Grand…We'll be ready to open two weeks after Johnny Pat and Amanda get here. That will give them time to be settled. The apartment you suggested is perfect for them."
"Great…I am looking forward to meeting them. Ben said you all are catering the party for his sister in law and brother's anniversary. That should be a fun party."
"The referrals we have gotten because of you are amazing…between the lunches for your advisory board and WBSF functions and your wedding…And your help in getting the restaurant started and now this. "
"Mick, if you didn't work so hard and your food so good nothing I do or anyone else would matter. The food is fantastic and you and your family are such a important part of our family now…"
"Well Lass you might not want others to know it but you loaning us the money for the down payment and the rent agreement you worked out…that made the difference in our having the restaurant or still just having the bakery and deli…and now for Johnny Pat and Amanda to be coming here to start their place…"
"I'm glad I could help…And if there us anything else I can do , just let me know. A few minutes later, he left.
A little later they all changed into their new nightgowns Lee had got special for the sleepover. Lee had given the girls the option to sleep in what they considered their room or sleeping bags on the front room floor. She was going to sleep in the recliner since they had chosen the sleeping bags. She had wanted to sleep on the air mattress but Johnny had said absolutely not…even before the incident earlier in the day. The couch or the recliner was her options. Lee had promised them something special after they brushed their teeth. Stacy wanted to know why they had to brush their teeth if they were going to eat cheese straws later. Lee just shook her head and sent them off to the bathroom. When cleaning she had found her old UNCLE WIGGLY game and some of her Uncle Wiggly books. They had been a favorite to have her parents read her. Finding the journals had brought back so many memories…she wanted to sit down with Kathy and talk about them…She had lost contacts with so many people who knew her parents…You couldn't live in the past but it shouldn't be forgotten…She thought about the land her grandfather had picked out for her parents to build their home…wondering what ever happen to it. Depending where it was and how much of it there was she might have Johnny see if it would be someplace they might be interested in on building on.
"Aunt Lee, can we have our surprise now?" Lee looked up she hadn't heard them coming back into the living room. The sat on the couch with her.
Look under the couch…There is a special game and some books there." Lee had asked Johnny to pull the square short table that usually sat by his chair to the end of the couch so the girls could push it in front of the couch easily. The table was the perfect size for a game board and for the girls to sit on the big throw pillows that were stacked over in the corner for them.
"I got this game and books for my birthday when I was 6...If he was home my dad read to me every night before I went to bed…If he was on duty my mom would read to us…or sometimes Gunny did. These were my favorite stories and we would play the game after dinner…There wasn't any TV on the island and so we did fun things like games or having friends over. Sometimes there would be movies…Disney and fun stuff for the kids then later they would show movies the grownup’s liked…If I had been really good sometimes I got to stay up and watch the westerns with the big kids and grownups."
Lee read one of the stories from the book then they played the game. A little after 10 o'clock the girls decided they needed a break and laid down on the sleeping bags to watch a movie on the new VCR Lee had bought Johnny as a surprise. Now she could record shows he liked and would have missed because of work. If he did get to watch a show he just erased it. Lee had also bought some of the pre recorded tapes and had put one in for the girls. By 10:30, they were sound asleep. The phone rang and Lee answered it quickly. "Hello."
"Hi Baby girl, how's the party?"
"They fell asleep about 15 minutes ago watching a cartoon. How you doing?"
"Just fine…getting ready to get some sleep. You doing ok? No more muscle spasms?"
"Nope…gonna read awhile then get some sleep. You and Roy still want sausage gravy and biscuits for breakfast?" Jo wouldn't be home until after 12.
"Whatever you fix will be fine." He listened closely to see if her voice gave any indication of discomfort. "Better go…Cap said lights out 10 minutes ago…Love you."
"Love you darlin'…stay safe, all of you."
Johnny had just finished changing and was waiting on Roy when Chet came into the locker room. "Hey, Gage, you want to go bowling tonight?"
"Can't Lee and I have the girls. They’re staying until tomorrow afternoon. Not sure what Lee has planned after Roy and I have breakfast."
"Oh, Roy is having breakfast with you…Why wasn't Marco and me and the other guys invited? She making a big fancy meal?"
"Just figured you all had things to do…Jo's out of town so I thought Roy might like to see his daughter and hear 'bout her sleep over with Lee and Stacy."
"Yeah the last I heard it was biscuit and gravy, home fries, fresh fruit…" Roy said with a grin. "Bet she does eggs to order…I know Jenny'll want scrambled."
"Yeah there is nothing better than dipping one of her fresh hot biscuits into the runny yellow egg yolk…And I bet she even has some of that peach jam she got at the farmer's market…" Johnny closed his eyes and licked his lips "Or maybe she'll have some of the one with the walnuts in it…the carrot cake jam."
"That’s really good Gage…kick a man when he's down…" Chet said frowning. John knew he loved anything with walnuts in it here he was teasing him with that jam…
"Chet, do you want to come to breakfast? I can call her and tell her to set some more places at the table. Hey, Marco, you want to come to breakfast?" He asked as Marco came into the kitchen.
"Thanks for the offer but I promised my folks I'd come over and help them this morning."
"Kelly, you free loading again?" Cap asked. "Lee did not take this station to raise… That girl has better things to do than run a restaurant for hungry firemen."
"You tell her that Cap, maybe she'll listen to you …" Johnny said as he headed for the phone.
"Good morning Mr. Gage." Lee said before he could say a word.
"Good morning Mrs. Gage. You sound happy this morning.… Does that mean you're feeling better?"
"Yes …actually I feel very good, it’s a beautiful day, the girls are still asleep, my wonderful husband will be home soon with our good friend. What could go wrong?"
"Can Chet come to breakfast? He is here giving me these big sad puppy dog eyes."
"Can Chet behave himself and not make any outrageous remarks? I won't be embarrassed by him in front of the girls….When he does it with the adults around its no big deal." That wasn't totally truthful but then at least she would tolerate it.
Johnny was surprised at her question and reasoning behind it. "I'll let him know…Anything you need me to stop at the store for?"
"Nope, love you see you soon." After they hung up he turned to Chet who was waiting patiently.
"She said for you to behave in front of the girls and she would see us all soon."
"Man, I don't think she is ever gonna trust me again. And I know it's all my fault…I really don't want her mad at me forever."
"Cisco told you, Roy told you…Cap and all the guys…I can't make her change her mind. She had really forgiven you about all the old stuff when you gave her the Irish angel…Then this new stuff…it won't be so easy." Johnny was serious and Chet finally realized how close he had come to be thrown out of their home forever. Cisco and Hector were the ones who were going to bodily throw him out. Only Maria, Em and Jo had been able to calm the two men down. Mike and Marco had gotten Chet out of there while Roy and Cap had stayed close to Johnny as he tried to calm a hysterical Lee down.
When the three got to the house they were greeted with the smell of fresh baked buttermilk biscuits coming out of the oven and of bacon. The potatoes were almost done and the gravy was ready to go to the table. There was juices , milk and coffee on the one counter and a platter of fresh fruit. Silverware and napkins, butter and two kinds of jams were on the table.
"Its serve yourself guys. I was a little afraid of lifting anything too heavy…The girls wanted scrambled eggs with cheese…What about you three?"
"Lightly basted, please." Johnny said giving her a kiss.
"I have water boiling if you want soft poached…or soft boiled."
"Soft poached please….Roy? Chet?"
"Over easy is fine," Roy, answered. Chet agreed that would be good. Lee fixed their eggs then did Johnny's soft poached. The girls wanted to eat at the little table on the balcony as the adults sat at the dining room table. Lee was pleasant and smiling and Chet breathed a lot easier.
"So what do you have planned for Junior today," Roy asked as they were finishing their meal.
"A nap if he wants it…than I think the girls want to go to the nature preserve…either to bike or just hike…or maybe fish…Jen keeps telling Stacy about how great our camping trip was…We may need to do another one including the Kildare family."
"I'm heading home and grabbing a nap before Jo gets home…Jen you have fun and listen to Johnny and Lee, ok?"
"I will." She came in from the balcony and gave him a hug and a kiss goodbye. Chet decided to walk out with Roy.
"Ok, what if we go fishing…We'll pack some sandwiches, snacks and soda. We can get some worms… there are some nice trees and Lee you can fish or read…what do you think? Or I can load the bikes and we can go over to the nature reserve bike path…"
"I want to go fishing so Aunt Lee can fish too… if we ride our bikes she just has to sit by herself."
"That’s very kind of you to think of me…But I want this day to do what you want to do."
"We want you to come fish with us …,"Jenny said going over to her aunt. "We love you and we want to do things together. Not just, you watching us have fun." She gave Lee a hug and then her Uncle Johnny.
Stacy did the same then they went into change into the old jeans and shirts Lee kept at the apartment for when they went on hikes or bike trails. In addition, their safe nature shoes. Uncle Johnny wouldn't let them wear their sandals in the woods.
"They have a point you know," Johnny said as he bent down to kiss her. "Things are more fun when you're part of them."
"You are biased my dear one…and so are the girls."
"That’s be because we love you. Let's get changed them while you fix the snacks we'll load the other stuff…"
Soon they were on their way to the small fishing pond in the nature preserve that was about 40 minutes from their apartment. It was a pretty spot and for some reason usually fairly private. There were some shade trees so it was cool and fairly level. The girls carried the poles and bait bucket and Lee had several items on her lap as Johnny pushed her down the gentle slope. He would have to make another trip up to get the small cooler. They also had brought along a transistor radio and of course, the first aid kit and Johnny's camera. They had been fishing for about an hour and the girls were starting to get bored even though they had caught several nice sunfish and blue gills which they had thrown back in.
"They are small and we aren't going to eat them so they go back in to grow and someone else who may want to eat them can catch them…" Johnny explained the catch and release theory in a way they could understand.
"Like the fish we got on our camping trip…they were so good when you cooked them…" Jenny said. "I took my picture of my fish to school when we had to have something from a special day for sharing. Did you have sharing time when you went to school, Aunt Lee?"
"No because when I went to school on the island when I was little…my mom was the teacher and she had to teach all the grades…And when I went to school here in LA it was different from a regular school …There was some group things we did then everyone would have time in their cubical to do the work packets…You could do as many as you wanted as long as you did at least 3 in every subject during the week. When you finished all the packets in your assignment box you took a test and got the next set of packets. There were special projects you had to do with others my favorite was reading group…We would pick a book we liked and everyone read it and on Friday we had to give a report on the book and do a project."
"Did you like school Uncle Johnny," Stacy asked forgetting Lee's rule about not asking questions about when he was younger.
"Sometimes…Hey why don't we put the fishing poles up and go for a short hike? We can check on the ducklings. Then when we come back we'll eat lunch."
"That sounds good to me…You can hike and I can sit under the tree and read…And I think Uncle Johnny might have a surprise for you in his backpack…" Johnny gathered up the poles and bait bucket and went over to the car. It was parked where they could see it in case he had to make any extra trips Lee and the girls were in sight. Before Lee could say anything Jenny turned to her friend, anger in her eyes. She and Stacy were best friends and cousin but she would fight her or anyone else she thought hurt her beloved Uncle Johnny.
"You don't ask questions about Uncle Johnny when he was little. It makes him sad to remember the bad times."
"I…I forgot…don't be mad…" The dark eyes glistened with tears. Jenny's blue eyes so like her dad's flashed but then softened at the other's distress. "Sorry Aunt Lee you mad too?"
"No sweetheart… no one is mad…Jenny knows you would never hurt your uncle…it’s just something we don't talk about…So now both of you be happy or that will make him feel bad. He would be very unhappy if he thought he ruined our day or you two were mad at each other."
"No one is mad and we're going hiking, right Stacy." The two little girls smiled at Lee. "We don't want to make anyone sad…"
"I know sweetheart…Lets just try to remember to talk about when I was little when we have girl time.
That will be part of our special times, ok?"
"Ok," they both said as Johnny came back with his backpack. "Ok what are you three plotting against me?" He asked the three giggling girls. Lee shook her head no.
"We aren't plotting we're just talking girl stuff…" Jenny said tossing her hair the way she had seen Lee do.
"You two ready for a hike?" He opened his backpack and gave Lee a handy talker. "This is the one with the 3 mile range…." He clipped the other one to his belt. "Here is your book." He then moved her chair farther under the tree. He opened the cooler and put a soda next to her then took out three canteens that had water in them, giving one to each the girls. The girls had decorated them before using them on their first hike early in the spring.
"Ok close your eyes and hold out your hands." They did. "No peeking…" The giggled. "Ok TAAADOOOOMMMMMMMMMMM opens your eyes after placing an object in their hand.
"Uncle Johnny…thank you." The two were thrilled with the small colorful cameras. Jenny's was pink with yellow flowers and Stacy's was green with a blue butterfly on the casing. They had found the cameras at the photo supply shop when Johnny had went to get more supplies for his dark room.
"These are real cameras so you need to handle them carefully…When you've taken all the pictures on the roll I'll develop them for you." He was grinning as much as the kids were. Lee took pictures of him and the girls and their cameras and then of the girls pretending to take pictures of each other and one of them taking Johnny's picture. He took some of the girls and Lee and one of Lee by herself sitting under the tree with her book. Finally, they were off on their adventure.
Lee read a chapter of her book then put it down in her lap. She hadn't thought about when she was in school for ages, especially when she was on the island. It had never seemed like work when she went to the island school. She was four when her mother had started taking her to school. At first her mother had thought she was just 'reading from memory' when she would pick up one of her favorite picture books and read it to her dolls.
She had learned to print LEE on the chalkboard in her room. Kathy had taught her hand over hand to write her letters and numbers…They would playschool while their parents visited. She wondered if Kathy remembered those days. There hadn't been any girls her age to socialize with and when she was 15 she had went to live with her paternal grandparents during the school year for 3 years until she went off to college. Lee had stayed with Kathy's parents when hers went on that last trip.
She could remember Gunny holding her and rocking her softly after Kathy's dad and the chaplain had told her they were never coming back. Jeff had flown over and picked her up…but never for a minute had she felt unloved or been fearful for her safety . She had been a little hesitant when she met her grandpa Spencer because it had been so long since she had seen him. That was the trip they had went to visit him when he was on business in Hawaii.
Someday she was going to ask Jeff about something Gunny had said in the hospital. That spying had already cost her so much and now the drug lords…What did spies have to do with the drug lords except Jeff had been working undercover. They would be getting a notice soon the parole board would be meeting and they would have to go testify why they believed Richard Palmer should not be granted parole .
Johnny and the girls were making their way down the path from the pond into a more wooded area. The path was narrow but Johnny skillfully guided the two very quiet girls thru it. They remembered the lessons from other walks…no loud talking or giggling, stay on the worn path as much as possible, watch for tree roots or other things that could trip you.
The girls watched for wild flowers or even some of the pretty weeds but knew not to touch. You didn't leave any trash and they usually had a bag they would pick up any litter they found and take back to the trash barrel near the pond. After about a half of mile they reached the second smaller pond.
There was a family of ducks that had adopted this as their home. They had been watching this small group since the spring when they had seen the mother sitting on her eggs. They had watched as the ducklings had hatched and now they were almost ready to leave. Stacy had used up almost all of her film taking pictures of the plants and flowers. Jenny had saved hers for the pond. But in their usual fashion they had agreed that they would share copies of the pictures so it was ok.
"Ok find a place to sit and watch for awhile…Remember to look for the plants that you need to avoid…" They sat there about 10 minutes and the ducks came back into view. Johnny and the girls took pictures and when all the film in Jenny's camera had been used up they started back to Lee.
"Can we see the pictures today?" Jenny asked as they were walking. "It’s so cool not having to go to the drug store and wait forever to get pictures now. Dad said you let people take advantage of you…what does that mean?"
"He did, did he…any special reason…" Johnny was curious.
"He said that Mr. Kelly used your good nature …I thought nature belonged to everyone and that’s why we had to take care of it."
"It does, sweetie…I think your dad meant another kind of nature…That’s a good question for you to ask him." Johnny chuckled to himself. Jenny's questions could be interesting at time. When Chris had been that age his questions had been about sports or camping or the things he was learning in scouts. Jenny's tended to be more about feelings and why people acted like they did. And when she and Stacy and Lee would have their conversations…He laughed out loud.
"What's so funny?" Jenny asked as no one had said anything for awhile.
"Just thinking about something your Aunt Lee said."
"Mom and Aunt Jo said you make Aunt Lee's heart smile…Does she make your heart smile." Stacy said with a serious look on her face. "How do you know when your heart is smiling?"
"Yeah she makes my heart smile…a lot." He answered softly the soft tenderness of the statement showing in his eyes and smile. "When your heart smiles you just feel good inside and out…Like the way you feel when you haven't seem a friend for awhile then you are together."
"Like me and Stacy when we don't see each other for 3 whole weeks…" Jenny answered. "Or the way when Chris comes home from camp you're glad to see him even if big brothers can be a pain."
"Yep exactly like that…Just being with that person or thinking about them…"
"Do we make your heart smile, Uncle Johnny?" Stacy asked.
Johnny stopped walking and kneeled down on one knee. Opening his arms wide he gathered the two into his arms. Hugging them tightly, "You two most definitely make my heart smile…And your Aunt Lee's smile too. Family makes the heart smile most of all…." He stood up and they continued back to Lee.
"Makes your heart sing really loud too because you're so happy."
"Like when we are in the car and you turn up the radio when your favorite song comes on? "
"Yep like that and you just want to sing along at the top of your lungs."
"Uncle Johnny? When you are sad does thinking about us make you happy ? When Aunt Lee was sick…mom told me we had to help you not be so sad…Did I do good?" Stacy was still a little worried that she had made Johnny mad when she had asked about what it was like when he was at school.
"Princess two, you did very good…" Stacy giggled at his special name for her. "You and Princess one helped make everything better."
"Good that makes my heart sing."
"Oh what song is it singing?" Johnny said giving her a quick tickle.
"A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down in a most delightful way…." The two began singing.
After watching the movie with Lee they had decided that was their new favorite song. By this time they were out in the open and they went skipping ahead of Johnny as he listened to them sing.
Lee could hear them singing as they came into sight. The three of them were skipping and singing. The sight of her husband skipping just sent her into a gigantic fit of the giggles. She was glad they had a good hike. Johnny loved being with the kids and he was such a good teacher. Maybe if something happened and he could not be a paramedic anymore he could go back to school and get a teaching degree. Or they could set up a program where he taught nature awareness and safety…and offer it to the schools as an enrichment program. But then she could not imagine Johnny not being a firefighter/paramedic…Maybe it was just wishful thinking on her part. The part that always feared a call in the middle of the night or any time he was on duty. She would be happy to see him doing something else but in her heart of hearts she knew being a paramedic was what he loved doing. The two girls came and sat down on the blanket Johnny had spread out before they started on the hike.
"The duckling’s were there…they're almost grown now…And we took lots of pictures and Uncle Johnny said he will develop them tonight and ….There were new flowers by the old log…They were wild roses…they looked like your faerie roses…."
"Child slow down and take a breath," Lee said laughing. Johnny had joined them and was lying on the blanket panting.
"They wear you out…where do they get all that energy?" He was smiling and he knew what was coming with him laying flat out on the blanket like that.
"Uhhooooooooo it's the attack of the tickle pumpkins…" Lee said in a middle of giggling. Soon the two girls were tickling Johnny and giggling even more than their aunt. "You better give up and surrender my boyo…"
"Never…" He easily rolled over and soon had them begging him to stop. As soon as they said stop he did. Unlike most adults he knew when it went from being fun to painful. That had been a lesson well learned when he was a child.
"OK who is ready for a sandwich and some chips? And some juice." Lee asked the panting "children" at her feet. "We have peanut butter and strawberry jelly…there is ham, pimento and cheese on rye…pimento on white and turkey and Swiss cheese on rye."
"Let me guess…Stacy is peanut butter and jelly, Jen is pimento and cheese on white and I get the turkey and Swiss." Johnny said as he passed out the sandwiches. He handed Lee ham and cheese and smiled as she never said a word. Taking a small bite out of the turkey he laughed. "You really would sit there letting me eat your sandwich?"
"I like the ham too." She smiled at the look on his face. "I just figured I guessed wrong…" He took the unopened ham sandwich from her and handed her the turkey. "Are you sure?" She asked him.
"Yes Baby girl, I'm sure that I love you for all the little things you do…like giving up your favorite sandwich because you thought I wanted it." The girls just laughed when he kissed her hand. After they ate they stayed awhile longer to play Frisbee. Stacy and Johnny played against Lee and Jenny in their version of keep away. By the time they were ready to go all were tired but happy.
"Why don't we go home, get cleaned up and rest awhile then go out to dinner later. We'll let Johnny chose tonight, ok?"
"Ok with me…" The girls agreed. Once they got home and got everything situated they girls went in to shower. Jen used Lee's shower and Stacy used the one connected to their bedroom. After they got out of the shower they were told to just rest for awhile. Lee set up Mary Poppin’s on the VCR.
"While we are in the shower please don't open the door unless you know the person there. Not just because they say they know us, ok." When the girls had first started staying over Lee and Johnny had showered separately but after Lee had fallen getting back in her chair the girls accepted the fact that Johnny went into the shower to help her.
There had been times she had went into the shower in shorts and t shirt with the girls to help them wash their hair. They had come up with an adaptive solution to almost every problem they had faced with the girls from the first time they had stayed with Lee even before the wedding. Lee still dreamed of holding a newborn child …her child but maybe Kathy was right…There were lots of 5 year olds that needed a home…maybe someday….but the time wasn't right yet. Johnny went out to check on the girls after he got out of the shower. A quick glance and he went back into the bedroom. Lee had gotten dressed and was brushing her hair.
"They are asleep…curled up on the couch." Johnny lay down on the bed. "Think they'll be happy if we went for pizza?"
"You know where they are going to want to go if you say pizza."
"Chucky Cheese?" He groaned "I know…" She was watching his reflection in the mirror of her dressing table. "You gonna take a nap?''
"If you come lay next to me…" He said as he moved over to his side of the bed. "You were totally amazing out there today."
"I didn't do anything special…Johnny, Stacy was afraid she hurt your feeling and you'd be mad at her…"
"I can't be mad at those babies for asking questions…It just took me by surprise…I wasn't sure how to answer her. I didn't want to lie to her but I couldn't tell her the truth. What did you say to her?"
"Jenny took care of it…told her to remember not to make you remember the sad times…They worked it out very nicely."
"Yeah they are pretty great kids."
"They have a pretty great Uncle Johnny." She wheeled herself over to the bed and transferred on to it.
Johnny made sure the small bolster was in place since she was on her side. Soon they both were asleep. When Lee woke up an hour later she could hear the girls out in the front room. Quietly she slipped out of bed and went out.
"We got some juice and some cheese straws, was that ok?" Jenny said.
"That was fine…If we are quiet and let Uncle Johnny sleep a little longer he might take us somewhere special tonight."
"My dad said not to let you spoil us any more than usual…would going somewhere special be spoiling us more than usual?" Stacy asked.
"My grandma said you try to buy us…That’s silly you can't buy and sell people, can you?" Jenny said. The girls were drawing "That you have more money than sense."
"Don't repeat things your grandma said, ok? Especially to Uncle Johnny." Lee was trying very hard to be nice. She considered Jo's mom someone to avoid as much as possible.
"Aunt Lee, are you and Uncle Johnny rich?"
"Yes we are…very rich because we have a wonderful family and lots of friends who love us and care about us…That is what really makes you rich, pumpkin, not money."
"Listen to your aunt she is a very smart lady. Now anyone in here in the mood for pizza?" Johnny said from the doorway. Lee wasn't sure how much he had heard. He went over and kissed her lightly. "Any suggestions where we can go?" He asked the girls.
""Chucky Cheese!" They said as one. "You know that’s our favorite…"
"Ok well, I am hungry…anyone ready to go?" He laughed as the girls threw themselves into his arms and hugs were exchanges as Lee told them to go find their sweaters.
The restaurant was busy but they found a table that Lee could sit at without being in the way. And it was far enough from the stage that the noise wasn't unbearable. They ordered then Johnny and the girls went over to the game area. Lee was enjoying watching them. Johnny was winning a lot of tickets at whack-a- mole. The girls were cheering him on. She almost hated it when she had to call them over for dinner. They had gotten a medium pizza with everything on it and a small pepperoni and cheese for the girls. As a special treat, the girls got sodas.
Two tables over was a family group. The three women looked like sisters the kids varied in ages from infant to about 12.. There was a set of twins that looked to be about 9. Lee notice how carefully they cut the pizza into smaller bites before placing them on the younger children's plates. One of the older children had a large slice with lots of cheese on it and was standing up easting it.
"Jason slow down you'll choke if you aren't careful," his mother said. As if bestowing a prophecy, the 9 year old began choking.
Johnny heard the mother's frantic cry for help and was over there before anyone else could react.
"Stay here girls." Lee wheeled herself over to where Johnny was doing the Heimlich maneuver. At the second thrust a large globe of the stringy melted cheese flew from his mouth.. The boy was still limp and not breathing.
"Lee have them call the squad….move back please." Johnny laid the boy down on the floor and began mouth to mouth. The people had moved back and a young man made his way over to Johnny and the child.
"Squad is on the way…I'm certified in CPR…" He told Johnny who nodded.
"Take over the compressions." Johnny moved slightly so the young man could get into place. Lee had moved over to the mother and her sisters.
"Why don't we take the other children over to our table…that'll give them more room to work." She took the mother's hand. "He is an LA Paramedic…it'll be ok…" If nothing else it gave the women something to think about besides the boy on the floor and it was better for the other crying children. And it helped that the crowd moved back.
The on duty paramedics came in and quickly took over.
"What happen?" Doug Stone asked as they got the oxygen mask on the boy
Johnny looked around for the girls and Lee. He smiled when he saw Lee taking care of the others. "The kid's aunts are over with Lee and the other kids…and some cousins I think."
"Gage I knew you were cheap but to bring Lee here for dinner?"
"Hey this was where my other dates wanted to come." Johnny said laughing. He was grateful to whoever it was that handed him an ice cold soda. "Thanks."
"Other dates?" Kirk said looking up from where he was kneeling cleaning up the site and putting away the equipment.
"Jenny DeSoto and Stacy Kildare…Lee's having a girl's week end with me as chauffer and all around assistant."
"Well that kid was lucky you were here…His throat was swollen shut." He finished loading up and Johnny walked out to the squad with him.
When he went back in Lee was talking to the young man who had helped with the CPR. Lee introduced him to Johnny.
"Kyle works here part time and is going to UCLA….biology major."
Johnny shook his hand. "Thanks for the help. You guys doing ok?' Looking down at the two little girls.
"Did you eat?"
"Yep…We're proud of you…"
"Well now thank you...that’s nice to hear."
"Let Johnny eat a little more and we'll go play games ok?"
"Would you like another pizza? That one has to be cold by now."
"Are you kidding? I love cold pizza…it’s the breakfast of champions."
"That was before we got married…but he does still like cold pizza…"
"Not cold, room temp." He laughed as he picked up a slice and took a big bite. "Wonder what made his throat swell shut? His mom said he had never had a problem here before. And they come really often."
"His cousin dared him to sprinkle a lot of the red pepper flakes on his pizza." Lee said shaking her head. "I hope they all learned a lesson today about silly dares." Johnny finished eating and they went to play games. Lee watched as Johnny won lots of tickets for the girls and even for some of the other kids. She was impressed with how many baskets he made.
"This is a breeze compared to trying to make a basket with the guys trying to block you," was his response to her praise. Finally the girls admitted they were getting tired and agreed it was time to go home.
"Or a banana split?" Lee said. "I want a peanut butter and hot fudge sundae with extra nuts."
"A strawberry milkshake for me, please," Jenny answered.
"Me too." Stacy said with a giggle. "Mom said you were gonna turn into a butter pecan sundae…"
"Well…that sounds good but tonight is a hot fudge and peanut butter kind of night."
"Princess One and Two, can I ask you a favor?" Johnny said sounding very serious. They said yes just as seriously.
"It's been a pretty busy day…think we can wait till tomorrow to develop your pictures? I know I said I would do it tonight but its gonna be late when we get home."
"When you have time you can do it…We know you won't forget."
"Thanks for understanding." He was tired and he knew Lee needed to get to bed. He really wasn't too happy she had slept in the recliner the night before. They got their ice cream, the girls sitting at a table right in front of where they were parked. They had decided sundaes sounded good also and had strawberry sundaes instead of the shakes. Once they got home the girls washed their faces and brushed their teeth and got ready for bed.
"Ok here is the deal…you can sleep out here or in your room…but Lee and I are gonna be in our room…after she gets a shower Lee is taking a pain pill and going to bed…You can stay up and read or play a game…just do it quietly, ok. In the morning we'll decide what we are going to do until your folks come…I would suggest you go in your room and read." Kisses were given and good night hugs and the girls went happily off to bed.
"They will be up for awhile yet…They have to get the dolls ready for bed and tell them all about their day. Stacy Lee and Jenny Lee had their own beds and table and chairs there at the apartment. They had a drawer for their clothes. It had been decided after a near tragic lost they would stay home when the girls went on outings unless they went in the stroller. Jo had commented that that doll had a better wardrobe than she did.
"And why am I taking a pain pill?" Lee said as he pushed her into the bedroom.
"Because I have been watching you arch your back and I saw the muscle on your left leg jumping…So a quick hot shower then you sleep…or watch TV or read but you are gonna sleep I would guess."
"You are so smart…I love you…I was so proud of you….always but tonight …that little boy would have died before a squad could have got there…" After a quick shower she was safely tucked in.
"Anything you need before I get in bed?" Johnny asked as he moved her chair.
"Check on the girls…" She was lying on her right side which give him a good idea of how her back was feeling.
Lee had taken them shopping for the new curtains and spread and the little extras…They had picked out the colors they wanted in there. Granted his old room had become that out of necessity with his first injury/illness back when he first became Roy's partner. But the underlying motivation had been love of family. One last whispered love ya and he went back to his bedroom. He smiled seeing Lee asleep. Her hand was lying on his pillow and she had a smile on her face. Checking the bolster was in place he settled down for a good night's sleep.
"Sweet dreams my boyo," Lee said not opening her eyes. She snuggled down deeper into sleep as he kissed her lightly.
"And to you…"
The girls were up watching TV when Lee came out of the bedroom. "Good morning early birds. Would you like some juice while we decide what we are going to do?"
"Yes please. Is there any more of the pineapple juice?" Stacy said as she got off the couch.
"Yep there is and I bet missy Jen would like apple juice?"
"How come you always have all the different kinds of juices? Mom usually only has orange."
"Well, I knew you two would be here so I got what you told me you liked…and your Uncle likes orange but sometimes he wants grape or cranberry and my favorite is grapefruit…"
"And… (Yawn) your aunt always wants everyone to have what they want." A few more yawns. "That is why this morning she is going in and read the paper, watch TV or whatever while we make her favorite breakfast…so we can tell her how much we appreciate her and all she does for us."
"But I like making you all breakfast…"
"And we like doing things for you…now scoot…" Johnny said then kissed her .Then with a grin he whispered in her ear. "Think tonight its Camp Gage time?"
"Maybe if you play nice all day…" He laughed as he pushed her into the living room and lifted her onto the couch, tossing them with a wink and a grin. "Ok Princesses she is our captive…We can do what we want in her kitchen." He gave her a kiss and didn't resist as her hand curled around his neck and she pulled him closer deepening the kiss. "Now go help the girls…"
"Tease" He pouted as he went out but she knew it was a fake pout.
"Ok, you two ready to work" He opened the drawer where she kept her aprons and found one for each.
They giggled as he tied the aprons so they were up under their arms and put one on that had hearts on it and said KISS THE COOK. He went over to the fridge and got out the milk, eggs, butter and ham slices, and a loaf of whole what bread. He sat these things and a large bowl on the kitchen table. He put a colander on the table also setting it on a tray. He went back over to the fridge and got out several oranges and a from the counter a small bunch of bananas. "Ok, I need you to crack the eggs in this bowl, the shells in the colander."
"8...no they're pretty little…10." He went over to the cupboard and got a glass. He filled it about a quarter full. "Beat the eggs up really good and add the milk then beat them some more. Then put a cap full of this vanilla in the eggs and this teaspoon is for the cinnamon…mix it all together. " While they were doing that he got the ham slices ready to put in the oven. Then he got the griddle out and got it ready to heat.
"You can crack 5 eggs then it'll be my turn…'' They got the eggs in the bowl and while Stacy stirred Jenny add the other ingredients,
"Ok I need you to peel the oranges and then I'll cut them while you peel and slice the bananas," he answered. (He gave them butter knives to cut the bananas with.). He had gotten a can of pineapple tidbits out of the cupboard and emptied it into a bowl. "The bananas go in here."
Lee was reading and trying not to listen to the conversation in the kitchen but she heard bits and pieces. The way the couch was sitting she could not see into the kitchen or the dining room table.
"Where are the cloth napkins?" Johnny called from the kitchen.
"In the drawer in the china cabinet…with the placemats…"
"Thank you…" She listened to the chatter and giggles and the occasional oops. The smells coming-out the kitchen were good. Finally Johnny pushed her chair over to the couch and helped her transfer back into it.
"The table looks beautiful…" They had set the table with her Grandmother Holbrook's dishes and crystal and silverware. The dishes looked very nice on the white placemats that Em and Lee had made when Em taught her how to embroider when she was healing from the last surgery. At each place was a glass of that person's favorite juice. There was a small pitcher of warmed maple syrup and a dish of soften butter to go along with the French toast, ham and fruit. Johnny and the girls also had a glass of milk.
"Uncle Johnny only spilled a little when were cooking," the girls said looking very serious. "But he cleaned it up…"
"That's good. You all make me feel so special and loved…"
That’s because you are, silly girl…" He kissed her. "Not let's eat."
After breakfast Johnny and the girls cleaned the kitchen while Lee read. Soon as the kitchen was cleaned the girls went into pack their backpacks and get ready for their parents to come. Lee had them strip the bed saying she would make it later, just put the sheets and pillow cases in the hamper. She could hear them laughing and giggling as they were in the bedroom. Johnny had gone down to the dark room. It seemed to Lee as if the girls had been too quiet for too long in the bedroom.
She sat out in the hall watching as the two struggled to get the sheet on the double bed. Finally they got the corner to stay and then just kept working. Lee went out to the front room to wait. She was thinking about how Johnny and the girls had made up the bed the last time they stayed and how patiently he had taught them to make hospital corners when they tucked the top sheet in. And how they had been at the pond A silent prayer of thanks that he loved her so much that he had willingly given up so much was given .…They hadn't mentioned it for several months but some days the ache was there so bad…
Johnny worked on the films but his mind was wondering over the last two days. Lee was so awesome with the girls. She taught them so much about so many things. As he looked at the pictures of the girls and her yesterday at the pond. And the one she didn't know he had taken of her sitting alone under the tree watching t he girls as they were walking down to the pathway. There was a sweet sadness in her smile. They had not mentioned it for months but when she was ready they would look into adoption…she would make such an awesome mom. They both knew that family was made of love not biological connections.
The girls finished their bed making and packing and came back out to the front room. Neither said anything about making the bed at first then Jenny said, "We know its hard sometimes for you to make the bed…so we did…"
"Thank you I appreciate that…you two want to do something special for your Uncle Johnny and your mom and dads and brothers?"
"Yeah that would be cool."
"Now crack the egg and mix it in the sugar." They did this easily since they had done it that morning. "
This the hardest part. Measure out one cup of peanut butter." The watched her do it. "Then scraper it all into the bowl and mix it really good…until you don't see any white sugar." Lee had already set the oven to preheat and had cookie sheets on the table. "Now take a spoonful of the dough and drop it on the sheets …far enough apart they won't touch when you bake them…press them down just a little with the nack of the spoon. Now in 8 minutes you'll have soft cookies…I'm gonna make mine bake for 10 minutes cause your uncle likes crispy cookies." Once they were in the oven Lee let them look thru her box of pretty cookie tins and they lined them with wax paper and had them ready for when the cookies cooled. When Johnny came up with the pictures his plate of cookies was ready for him along with a card with a big heart and 2 smaller ones that said I love you with a smiley face in each heart and music notes floating in the air.
"Wow that is an awesome surprise…"
"We each made a batch of cookies but me and Stacy put 2 of our cookies on your plate 'case we wanted to share with you…and Aunt Lee gave us 4 cookies each for our tins…" Jenny said.
"That makes them even more special… cookies from my 3 favorite girls…"
"They did all the work on their cookies…And they made their bed…put the sheets on and everything all by themselves…As a surprise for me to help me. And the card was their idea…they wanted you to know you make their heart smile and sing.:"
"The corners were hard but we did our best and you told us that was what counted…"
"That’s right, sweetie pie. You make my heart sing and smile all the time…Both of you….All three of you." Giving Lee a nod and smile. They had some milk and cookies as they looked at the pictures, laughing and talking. Jo and Roy were the first to come just as they had finished clearing away the snack dishes.
"So did you miss me? I heard you had a very exciting weekend." Jo said as she gave Jen a hug and a kiss. They were seated on the couch, Jenny between her mom and dad.
"Oh yeah, Junior I want to see that picture." Johnny brought it over to him. ""Really nice frame. Cute picture."
"When do I get to have a sleep over with Aunt Lee and get all this good stuff." Jo said laughing.
"I think the next time the guys go camping. They're going to ask Jim and Jimmy to go along. If you all don't think it’s too much of a pain we can go somewhere for an overnight trip. Ya know I'm not the easiest person to travel with." Wanting to say more but not in front of Johnny and Roy she just sighed.
The same scene played out again when Jim and Kathy came to pick up Stacy. Kathy was a little concerned about the part where Johnny and Roy came to rescue Lee but just shook her head. Kathy was surprised when Johnny gave her a copy of a picture of her and Lee as children.
By 6 the girls were gone. Johnny had moved the little table back over by his chair and was settled in it reading. The TV was on but he wasn't really watching it. Lee was on the couch writing something down.
"So what are you so intent on now?" Johnny asked as he laid the book in his lap.
"Just some stuff for work. I had an idea and wanted to write it down before I forgot. Any suggestions for dinner?"
"You want Chinese? We haven't had that for awhile. I can call or we can go out."
"Call. I think we both are ready for a quiet night in." She answered with a smile.
"You're right. Dinner, a shower and early to bed?" He gave her that quirky grin she loved so much.
"Perfect," she said understanding his unspoken suggestion. "When they review the runs do you think there will be any problem with you and Roy coming over here?"
"Nope already talked to Kel about it. You have a documented disability and were in a medical emergency. He would have been happier if you had gotten a shot to ease the spasms but understood the reasoning behind your not getting one. He did suggest no more sitting on the floor unless there was another adult present."
"Yeah I had kind of figured that out for myself…." She let out a long sigh. "Guess that is one more thing to add to the failure list."
"Will you please stop with that bloody list? Why can't you just concentrate on all the things you can do?"
"I'm sorry I didn't mean to make you angry." Surprised at his reaction. "I guess because the therapist I had first at the hospital drummed into my head all the things I couldn't do so I would concentrate on what he thought I should do."
"Baby girl, I'm not angry at you. Now the jerks that made you feel less than the amazing person you are is a whole other story. You always seem sort sad after the girls leave."
"Yeah I have such a good time when they are here." She called to order dinner. She wheeled herself out to the balcony and looked over the patio and pool area. Johnny had gone down to the dark room while she was on the phone. Life was good and everyday she was discovering more and more things she could do. Maybe it was time to put t hat list away or better yet start one with all the positive things in her life.
And the very first thing on that list was John Roderick Gage. The one thing she could do very well was love him better than anyone else on earth. Yep as crazy as it was sometimes all was well.
PS--the cookie recipe is really good!
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