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Warning...PG-16...This story contains sexual situations which may not be suitable for all readers.
Santa Monica Pier – New Year’s Eve 1974
Johnny looked at the lovely young blonde sitting next to him, watching the fireworks. On the other side of the blanket, Roy had his arm around his wife and she was leaning against him. Chris was sitting in Roy’s lap intently staring at the firework show being displayed high above them. As if she could sense Johnny was looking at her, Brenna turned to smile at him but instead found herself staring deep into his eyes. Johnny couldn’t resist and leaned over to give her a kiss on the lips. Her eyes widened and then she smiled at him. Seeing the promise in her eyes, he whispered in her ear, “Just a kiss right now, Brenna, nothing more.” With that, Johnny put his arm around her shoulders and felt her relax and lean against him.
As they watched the fireworks, Johnny couldn’t believe his luck when he met her three days earlier. She had been trying to get rid of a couple of admirers who didn’t understand the word no. So he had stepped in to help her. He had walked up to her, apologized for being late and then kissed her soundly. The two young men disappeared. When he had broken off the kiss, he was shocked by his own reaction to it and from the look on her face she was pretty surprised by her own reaction as well. He helped her up out of her chair and they walked away. They had spent the next three days with each other, oblivious to the world around them.
Thirty minutes later, the fireworks were over and the New Year had been rung in. Johnny held Chris in his arms while Joanne and Brenna folded up the blanket and Roy took the garbage to the bin. Walking towards the parking lot, Johnny had his arm around Brenna, wondering if he would ever see her again. She had said she was just visiting the area and would be leaving soon. As he was gathering the courage to ask for her address and phone number, a fight broke out near where they were standing and the sparring individuals were spilling in their direction. Johnny turned to push Brenna behind him when he noticed she was gone. He stood there, confusion written all over his face and inexplicably feeling like the world had just dropped out from underneath him.
Carson, California – February 1976
He could sense her presence in the room, smell her perfume but as he looked around the darkened room, she was nowhere to be found. Panic set in as he couldn’t push away the darkness. He wanted to locate her but didn’t know how. He could feel himself hyperventilating with fear not knowing who she was or where she was.
“I don’t know where you are. Please help me. Tell me how I can find you or where you are.”
“I can’t tell you how to find me. Know this, I will be waiting for you and if you have problems finding me, just remember, I will always be right here in your heart”
“But how do I know where to find you or if I have found you at all? I can hear your voice but I can’t see you. Reveal yourself to me,” he said to her.
“You will know when you have found me. Your heart will sing. I have always been with you, you just haven’t really opened your heart up to me.”
“Wait, please don’t go. I don’t even know your name or what you look like.”
The room all of a sudden became so bright. He knew she was looking towards him but because the brightness was around her, all he could see of her was her long hair flying about her. He wanted to touch her but she was out of his reach. He stretched his hand towards her but only grabbed air. He pleaded with her to reveal her name to him.
“My love, I have had many names. Most people call me………”
Johnny literally jumped up in bed as the tones rang throughout the station signifying the start of another day. Morning had come and it was time to get up. He could hear the others moving around preparing for the next shift to come on duty. He sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed, rubbing his eyes and trying to make sense of the dream he’d been having. The last time he had that dream was a little over a year ago when he met this really pretty girl three days before and she had disappeared New Year’s Eve right after midnight. Now the dream was back with a vengeance and it was beginning to wear on him. It had gotten to the point where he was dreading even going to sleep, not knowing if the dream would start up where it left off or start all over again.
Roy watched Johnny as he sat on the side of his bed. He knew his partner had been having problems with some weird dream and he knew it was at the point where his partner couldn‘t take it anymore. At least, it was not like the nightmare Johnny had been plagued with over a year or so ago that had just about kept all the guys up at night and put them all on edge.
“Same dream again, Junior?” he asked.
“Yeah. I haven’t had that dream in a long time, now for the past two weeks it’s resurfaced. I just can’t figure it out. What does it signify? I’m beginning to think I am losing it.”
“I don’t know if you’re losing it or what the dream is trying to tell you. You never really have told me what the dream is about.”
“Roy, I’m in no place I can describe and it’s dark. There is a young woman in the room with me but I can’t see her. I think she’s someone I have met before but I can’t tell because I can’t see her face. I can sense her in the room and I know I have smelled her perfume before. I can hear her voice and I can talk to her. She says she is waiting for me, that she has always been with me but that I haven’t been able to see her because my eyes and my heart are closed. The worst part is each time I ask her name and she is just about to tell me, either the tones go off or it‘s my alarm clock.”
“Sounds like you need to lay off the dating runaround for a while, my friend. You have been hitting the circuit a little too hard lately,” replied Roy with a hint of laughter in a voice.
“I can’t disagree with that. The last couple of girls I took out were pretty and very nice but there was something missing and I just can’t put my finger on it. Maybe you’re right, I just need to step back for a while and see what happens,” agreed Johnny as he stood up and ran his fingers through his unruly hair.
Chet popped his head around the edge of the door from the locker room and asked Johnny, “What exactly are you waiting to see happen? Your dating life to get better?”
“Get bent, Chet. Didn’t your mother ever tell you that eavesdropping is rude?”
“Numerous times, Gage. Just never sunk in. So what’s supposed to happen? Like I’ve said before, your dating life is not going to get better. You know what that new nurse you are so hung up on and want to take out said about you, she said you are a pest.”
“She said WHAT?” Johnny looked over at Chet with a wounded look upon his face.
“She said you’re a pest.” Chet was all but laughing as he said that. And the verbal battle was on.
About that time, Roy decided to sneak out of the dorm room. He headed towards the dayroom to join Marco and Mike for a cup of coffee and wait for ‘B’ shift to arrive. Greeting his coworkers, Roy grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down at the table with them. They could hear Johnny and Chet walking across the engine bay still arguing about how gullible Johnny was and how Chet just can’t keep his nose, or ears out of anyone’s business.
Captain Stanley walked into the dayroom shaking his head at Chet and Johnny, the twits as he liked to call them. He had to admit it was never a dull moment around Station 51 with those two, but some days he would just like it to be nice and quiet without arguments, practical jokes, etc. As Chet and Johnny noticed the captain had entered the dayroom, they quieted down as both were thinking of duties that could be assigned to them on a more permanent basis if they didn’t cease their bickering.
The guys of Station 51 were like any other station within the LA County Fire Department system with one exception; they are more like family to one another. There isn’t anything they wouldn’t do for each other and during times of trouble, they banded together more tightly than even the closest of families. So to them the bickering of Chet and Johnny was more like listening to your two younger brothers than coworkers who pretended that they couldn’t stand to be near each other.
B Shift finally arrived. Johnny and Roy stood by their vehicles and talked for a bit. Roy had asked Johnny if he had time that afternoon to help him put up the rest of the fence in his backyard. Since he didn’t have anything planned, Johnny told him would be over to his house in a couple of hours after he went home and showered, did some laundry and checked his mail. The paramedics each got into their vehicles and drove away. While he was driving home, Johnny kept thinking about the woman in his dream and wondered why he could not see her face.
The petite blonde haired girl stood beside her car and looked at the house she had purchased sight unseen and smiled. The wide sweeping porch beckoned to her as she glanced at the front door. The warm red portal welcomed her as she stepped onto the porch.
She glanced around envisioning how the groups of tables, chairs and lounger she was going place there would look like. Turning slowly, she looked out over the front yard. She smiled as she saw the flowers in the flower beds brightening up the yard. She was glad the previous owners didn’t plant so many flowers to the point where you could not distinguish one species from another.
The large oak tree was placed a little off center from the middle of the yard, but it would supply plenty of shade on a warm California day or night. Opening the front door, she entered the home and noticed that the movers had made it here on time. The realtor whom she had purchased the house from had agreed to be here to let the movers in so that they could unload her furniture and items since they were going to arrive at her home before she did.
She quickly walked through the two-story foyer and into the Great Room at the back of the house. The floor-to-ceiling windows of the Great Room offered her a spectacular view of the pool in the backyard and of the park behind her home. At least, no one would be building anything behind her, she thought.
Walking into the kitchen, she was pleasantly surprised at the spaciousness of it and couldn’t wait to begin cooking again. She decided to save a tour of the upstairs to the house and headed directly into the master bedroom. She stared at all the boxes and thought to herself that as much as she would like to take a dip in the pool, the room needed to be put to rights first. She located the boxes that held her jeans and t-shirts and since there were no curtains on the bedroom windows yet, she headed into the closet and proceeded to change her clothes.
Two hours later, she had her king size bed frame put together, mattress and box spring on it and the bedding in place. She sat on the edge of bed and wiped her brow. She thought to herself that next time she would make sure she had help for this job. Glancing outside, she decided to keep working on her bedroom, getting her clothes hung up in the closet and then would tackle the master bathroom. When the realtor sent her information about the house she had purchased, she did not pay attention to how big the place was but had fallen in love with the fact that it had a front porch, big yard and a pool. Her parents would have laughed at her extravagance. She smiled as she fondly remembered them and wished they could have been with her at this moment. They would have loved being back in California, she thought. Shaking her head, she slowly closed up the memories of her parents and went back to work.
By the time darkness had approached, she pretty much had her bedroom in order. She felt like she had been put through the wringer. She sat down on her bed and was proud of what she had gotten done. The bed was made and her clothes were all neatly put away. She fell in love with the closet and all the space. The center of the closet had an island that held so many drawers that she was not going to need the dresser that came with the bedroom set she purchased.
Now I am going to have to figure out how get the damn thing upstairs, she thought to herself. The house had three bedrooms upstairs along with two storage areas and a big recreation room. There was also a loft area that she could turn into a reading area if she wished. She was going to need a lot of furniture to fill this place up, but she didn’t mind. She had enough money to do that and then some. Since she really wasn’t feeling all that tired, she decided to go downstairs and begin on the kitchen. That way she could also make a list of what grocery items she was going to need.
By midnight, she had just about unloaded all her boxes of kitchen items. Once she got started, she just couldn’t stop. It didn’t matter to her what the time was, she just couldn’t quit. All she had planned on doing was checking on her boxes that held all her dry goods and spices. But one thing led to another, she just kept on going, unloading just about all the boxes that had been stacked in the kitchen and breakfast area.
She sat on the edge of the counter and looked at what she had accomplished in the last four hours. The last four boxes held the stuff that would go into the china hutch in the formal dining room. She decided that they could wait until morning as she knew if she opened one more box, she would just keep on going. Turning around, she walked into her bedroom and got ready for bed. As tired as she was starting to feel, she knew that she was not going to have any problem falling asleep tonight which made her quite happy.
She knew she was not alone and that he was somewhere in that darkened room. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she could sense the danger from the one who took everything from her, but she could not see him. She could also sense another presence with her, someone she knew. This person she knew would keep her safe. As she turned to look into the eyes of the one who could save her, she felt the hands of the other reach out and grab her, turning her back towards him.
She shot up in bed, her breath coming in jagged spurts. She hadn’t had that dream in ages. As she tried to get her racing heart under control, she relived the dream in her mind. She could see the man coming at her, grabbing at her shirt, ripping it as he dragged her away. The memory of the attack shook her to the core.
She could still see his cold, dark eyes leering at her evilly. As she remembered those eyes, she also remembered another pair of eyes that were a warm, liquid brown with a hint of humor leaning down to kiss her on New Year’s Eve but she couldn’t understand how he got into her dream. She could tell he was frustrated with anger and wanted to help her but knew he couldn’t. Finally she shook the cobwebs of the memory away from her. She got out of bed, walked through the kitchen and out on the back porch. She looked at the pool, stripped her nightgown off and dove in, hoping that the swim would help her forget………
She had her back to him and she seemed to struggling with an unseen force. He heard her screaming with frustration as she tried to get away from whatever was holding her against her will. He tried shouting to her but no sound came from his throat. He tried to run towards her but his legs would not move. He watched helplessly as she struggled in vain to free herself. ‘This isn’t right,’ he thought, ‘I should be able to help her. I’m a rescue man – why can’t I help her?’ He began to shake with frustration that he couldn’t do what he was trained to do. She turned towards him with a pleading look in her eye. He could see her eyes but still couldn’t see her face. The pain in her eyes told it all to him. He couldn’t help her and she knew it but didn’t blame him. He cried from the pain in her eyes….
Johnny sat up in bed and could feel the tears running down his face. He couldn’t understand why he felt the way he did. He never knew he could feel so frustrated at his own inadequacy. What threw him was the fact that the last time he dreamed of this girl she was full of laughter and riddles for him to solve. This time she was a victim and had the most expressive eyes he had ever seen. Rubbing his eyes, Johnny got up and decided to head out to the ranch to do some more work on the house. He wanted to get things done and be settled in his house before the Memorial Day weekend.
He jumped into his Jeep and headed down the highway. Granted it was only four in the morning and still dark out but that didn’t matter, he knew that he would get a lot done by starting out now. He had thought about asking Roy to come out to the ranch to help him but knew that Joanne usually had something for Roy to get done around the house on their days off. He smiled to himself as he thought of how much he had accomplished in the past seven months. It had always been a dream of his to buy his own ranch and have his horses around him once again. He knew he would always be a firefighter/paramedic but he also knew that he would now have his ranch and horses with him.
Turning down the short road that led to his ranch, Johnny smiled at the sight that greeted him. The house was a sprawling one story ranch house with a porch in the front and a nice large covered patio in the back. He parked the Jeep just behind the house out of sight of the roadway.
Behind the house was a large red barn with a large corral next to it. He could see the San Gabriel Mountains in the background and that was one of the big selling points of the ranch when he bought it. He could sit on the back porch late in the afternoon and look up at the mountains.
The restoration of the barn had been completed a little over a month ago and looked great. Some of his coworkers said that he should have gotten the house done first so he could move into it, but he felt he needed to save that for last. Why he couldn’t say. He already had an area where he would like to plant a garden but that would wait for a while as he knew he didn’t have time to work with it. He opened the patio door and entered the house. He took pride in what he had accomplished so far. After a few minutes of glancing at his handiwork, Johnny rolled up his sleeves and got to work.
Several hours later, Johnny sat down on the back porch facing the mountains. He leaned back against the outside wall of the house and stared at the beautiful scene before him. Reaching into the cooler beside him, he grabbed a soda, opened it and drained it. He thought of what he managed to accomplish this morning and was surprised at what a little determination and elbow grease could get done when you couldn’t sleep. He stretched and thought about closing his eyes for just a little bit.
“Hey Junior. Are you going to sleep the day away?”
Johnny jumped, startled by the voice in his ear. “Roy?? What are you doing here and what time is it?”
“It’s about 3 in the afternoon. I tried calling you at your apartment around 2 p.m. to see if you wanted to join me, Joanne and the kids are at our place for a barbeque. Figured when you didn’t answer that you’d be out here,” replied Roy.
“About 4:45 this morning. I couldn’t sleep so figured I might as well put some of that energy to good use. I can’t believe I fell asleep on the porch.”
“If you were up that early, it doesn’t surprise me that you fell asleep,” said Roy. “What I don’t understand is why you were out here so early. I mean, I know when you have problems sleeping you usually do something to work off that energy, but wow. Let’s go inside and see what you have gotten done and see what else we can do before we go to my home.”
Roy put out a hand to help Johnny up and followed him inside. He was pleasantly surprised to see all that Johnny had accomplished in the past ten months. The barn had been completed a little over a month ago, along with the corral. He noticed that Johnny had taken great care in what he chose to use in the house as far as flooring, paint, wallpaper, and various color schemes. He had done this with his future bride in mind, whoever that may turn out to be. It was not feminine by any means but more along the lines of gender neutral in design, but with the right accessories could go either direction. The guys wound up back on the porch after the quick tour. Johnny reached back into his cooler and grabbed a couple of beers handing one to Roy. They sat in silent companionship and enjoyed the view.
Soon the conversation turned to why Johnny was having a hard time sleeping lately and he told Roy about the last installment in his dream with the girl being in danger this time and not being able to put his skills to use. Roy could tell that Johnny was bothered by this even though he knew it was just a dream.
He let his partner keep on talking as it seemed to always take a bit of the frustration out of him. Once Johnny started to wind down and realized that he had been ranting for a while, he chuckled. He told Roy it was time to get out of there and to get home to start that grill up. He had worked up an appetite. Roy rolled his eyes as he realized there would probably be no leftovers tomorrow.
Looking both ways, the blonde haired girl ran across the road and through the parking lot. She couldn’t believe that she was going to be at least ten minutes late for her third day on the job, but what did she expect. Today her luck ran out as her car decided to conk out on her again, so she had to take the transit system. She was thanking her lucky stars that she at least had gotten on the right bus.
She had been told by her new supervisor that she could reach the lab by going through the Emergency Department and remembered he had said that the stairs leading down to the lab were by the elevator.
Upon reaching the entrance to the Emergency Department, she noticed a red truck with the number 51 on it. Curious, she peeked inside and saw two fire helmets sitting on the bench seat of the truck. For some odd reason, there was something about the truck and number on it that tickled the back of her mind like she was supposed to know the significance of it. Figuring that she had better quit snooping, she turned and ran into Rampart’s Emergency Department. As she flew by the nurses’ station, she waved a quick hello to Dixie, who just smiled and silently laughed to herself as she watched the newest member of Rampart’s staff running down the hall as she was late for work.
Roy and Johnny both came out of treatment room 4 and headed over to the nurses’ station to talk to Dixie and stock up on some of the supplies they were running short of. As he got closer to the nurses’ station, Johnny stopped and sniffed the air as he thought he could recognize the scent of perfume in the air but wasn’t quite sure where he had smelled it before. Roy turned to look at his partner and could see him sniffing the air and wondered what was up with him now.
“Junior, what are you doing? The air in here is just fine.”
“I know but I am trying to figure out why that scent I can smell is so familiar,” replied Johnny as he looked around trying to figure out where the scent was coming from.
“I think that bump on your head has affected your senses. Either that or it’s that weird dream you keep having,” stated Roy as he gave Dixie their supply order.
Dixie looked at Johnny while she was getting the supplies and said, “What weird dream?”
“It’s nothing,” said Johnny. “I’ve just been having this same dream every night and I can’t figure it out.”
Roy chuckled and said to Dixie, “He’s got a dream girl but can’t see her face, doesn’t know her name and it’s driving him crazy.”
Johnny turned to Roy and just glared at him. Dixie giggled and looked to Johnny, saying “You have been chasing too many nurses around here lately. You need a break. Perfume, huh. What type of scent is it?”
“Kind of a combination of lavender, roses, violets and something else that I just…..hey, why am I telling you this anyway! You two are just going to keep laughing at me,” said Johnny as he glared at the head nurse and his partner who were trying not to chuckle any harder than they already w s ere. “I’ll be in the squad, Roy, when you two are done making fun of me.” With that aid, he grabbed the handi-talkie and left the nurses’ station.
Roy grabbed the box of supplies and with one last look at Dixie; he followed in his steamed partner’s footsteps, still hearing Dixie giggling behind him. He had to admit it was kind of funny watching his partner sniff the air. His latest obsession seemed to be getting the best of him, even if it was a dream. Opening the door to the squad, he tossed the box of supplies on the seat and got in. Johnny was staring straight ahead and Roy knew he was thinking about the dream woman or lover; however you wanted to look at it. He figured he would just let Johnny stew for a while as he knew that his partner would eventually bring up the subject and either ask a lot of questions or analyze it to death.
He watched her once again walk away from him. He reached out to her and grabbed only air, which only frustrated him more. He wanted to know about the dream he had the other night where she was being hurt and why he couldn’t help her. But she wasn’t going to give him the chance.
She turned to him and said to him, “You can’t see me because you haven’t opened your heart up. When you can do that, only then will you truly see me.”
“How the hell am I supposed to understand this? You enter my dreams, tell me riddles and then disappear. I don’t even know what I’m looking for, an elusive woman or a ghost.”
She laughed and replied, “I am definitely not a ghost. But I will tell you this; I am only elusive because you try too hard. You need to look at what you truly want and to quit searching for it. If you do this, then just maybe you’ll find the answer you are looking for.”
He became angry with her as she once again answered him with another riddle. He began to shout at her, letting her know his frustration. As he did this, she began to back away from his presence, tears filling up in her eyes. When he noticed that she was once again gone, he cried out in frustration.
“Johnny! Wake up!” Roy was leaning over his partner and trying to gently shake him awake. Johnny was in the throes of his dream again but this time he was shouting at whoever was in the dream. He had literally woken up everyone in the dorm room.
“Whaa….” Johnny jumped up as Roy leaned over him for the second time. He had jumped up so fast, so unexpectedly that he and Roy literally bashed heads together. Roy fell back onto his bed and could see stars in front of his eyes. Captain Stanley had heard their heads hit and immediately got up to turn on the lights. He walked over to see Roy sitting on his bed shaking his head.
“You okay, Roy?” he asked his senior paramedic.
“Yeah, just got my bell rung a bit. Johnny’s got one hard head,” replied Roy as his eyesight started settling down. “Junior, are you awake now?”
“Yes. What the hell were you trying to wake me up for?” he asked feeling a little irritated and trying to shake the wooliness from his head.
Captain Stanley answered for Roy, “He was trying to wake you up because you were having an argument with someone who is not in this room. Do you plan on doing this every shift?”
Johnny looked at his captain and couldn’t believe that his dream was turning into a nightmare. He felt bad that he woke up his shift mates while he was trying to have an argument with the woman in his dreams that more than likely didn’t even exist.
“No, Cap. I am so sorry about this.” he said as he swung his legs over the edge of the bed.
“That’s good because I really don’t think I could take another episode of nightmares and mid-nocturnal awakenings like this,” replied Captain Stanley. “Now, it’s four in the morning and personally I would like a couple more hours of sleep.” He walked back to his bed, shutting off the lights before crawling back into it.
“Hey, Johnny. You ever going to introduce us to this mystery woman you were arguing with?” whispered Chet. “Sounds like she might be fun.”
“Kelly, if I hear one more word out of you, you will be doing latrine duty for the rest of the year. Got it?”
“Yes, Cap,” replied Chet, rather sullenly as he rolled over and faced the wall by his bed. He laid there thinking of ways to get his pigeon to tell him who this mystery woman is.
While he listened to Chet muttering to himself, Johnny laid back down with his hands behind his head. He was trying to figure out the latest installment to this ever puzzling dream. Realizing that he was not going to fall back asleep easily, he got up, pulled on his turnout pants and headed to the kitchen. Roy listened to Johnny get up and then decided to follow him to the dayroom/kitchen area of the station. He poured himself a glass of water and waited patiently for Johnny to glance up and acknowledge his presence. When Johnny finally glanced up at him, Roy was surprised to see the haunted look in his eyes.
“Are you going to be okay, Junior?”
“Roy, I don’t know how much more of this dream I can put up with. It seems to be taking over my sleep, turning it into a nightmare especially when I am arguing with a woman that I think I have only met once!” Johnny put his head in his hands and sighed. “And now on top of that, I am waking up all of you. Chet is going to have a field day with this.”
“What do you mean ‘a woman you have only met once?” questioned Roy. “I thought you had never met this dream girl of yours.”
“At first I thought she was just a figment of my imagination. But, Roy, while I was sniffing in the air at Rampart today, it dawned on me why the scent was familiar. You remember the girl I brought with us to the fireworks display in Santa Monica on New Year’s Eve 1974?” Roy nodded his head and Johnny continued on saying, “It was the same scent that the girl I was with that night wore. I hadn’t thought about her in months and now I think she is the one haunting my dreams. Wish I knew what this meant,” Johnny said softly.
“I wish I could tell you what this dream is representing but unfortunately I can’t. What surprises me is that you can remember the scent a woman was wearing and you only met her once. Is there anything I can do to help?”
Johnny looked up at Roy and sighed again, “I wish there was, but I have to work this out on my own and soon. But I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I’ve come to one conclusion, Roy.” When Roy did not reply, Johnny continued, “I really would like to find that one person and settle down. I want what you and Joanne have together…..a family.”
Roy was surprised when he heard Johnny state this. He knew that his partner and friend had been doing some serious looking into the women he had been dating and was finding something lacking, but never would have guessed this. The two friends continued to talk and when they realized that it was almost 6 a.m., decided it would be futile to try and go back to sleep.
“Roy, thanks for listening to me. Hopefully I can get this figured out soon so that I don’t wind up with a trip to the psychiatrist’s couch. Chet would love that,” said Johnny with a chuckle.
“Anytime, Junior. Why don’t you go jump in the shower and I’ll start some breakfast.” said Roy as he put his hand on Johnny’s shoulder and squeezed it, letting his partner know that he was there for him. He was glad that they had the weekend coming up off as it seemed like it was going to be a very long week if Johnny‘s dreams became nightmares and if Chet started in on him about it, he hated to even think about that.
Dixie watched the petite blonde as she meandered through the cafeteria and out to the patio. She could tell by the way the girl was walking that she had something on her mind. She decided to invite her to join her for lunch and get to know her a bit better.
“Why don’t you come join me over here for lunch.” said Dixie as she waved to the girl. She smiled as she watched the newest member of Rampart’s staff walk in her direction and chuckled silently as she watched a couple of the orderlies gawk as she went by.
“Hi, Dixie. How’s the ER today?” she asked as she sat down at Dixie’s table.
“Not too bad really for a Friday. Been kind of quiet so I am catching up with my paperwork. So how’s your first month been here so far and are you enjoying your first day without supervision?”
“Not too bad actually. I like not having someone looking over my shoulder. I got the reports written for a bunch of cultures I set up the other day, five kids from an elementary school all came down with strep throat at the same time. I am so looking forward to the weekend,” she said as she bit into her sandwich. “What about you – have any plans for the upcoming weekend?”
“Not really. I will probably just clean my apartment, maybe go to the beach if the weather stays nice,” replied Dixie. “Are you getting settled into your home?”
“Finally. It helped that I found a realtor that could supervise the movers when I found out my belongings made it here before I did,” the girl said with a bit of laughter in her voice. “I was stuck in Vegas where my car broke down the first time and made it to Carson two days before I had to work. And of course, we know how well my car was working on my third day of work and orientation.”
While they slowly ate their lunch, the two women talked about the new house she had purchased prior to her move to Carson and what they really wanted to do on the upcoming weekend. The blonde thought she heard something behind her and quickly whipped her head around for a look. As Dixie looked in the same direction, she caught whiff of a very subtle scent and it reminded her of a conversation she had with Johnny last week.
“Can I ask you what kind of perfume that is you’re wearing?” she asked.
“It’s one that I concocted on my own. It’s lavender, a bit of roses and violets with just a hint of musk thrown in. Interested?”
“Now I am. You really make your own perfume?” Dixie was intrigued as she had remembered the names of the scents that Johnny had rattled off absentmindedly the other day when he and Roy were in the ER.
“Yes. I am allergic to most perfumes, so I decided to learn how to make my own perfume. It’s kind of fun because you can create a scent that is uniquely your own. You should come over to my place some time when neither of us is working and maybe we can create one for you.”
“I think I am going to have to take you up on that. I’ll call you and let you know when I have a couple of days in a row off and don‘t have anything going on,” said Dixie. She looked at her watch. “I had better get going or I am going to be late getting back from lunch. It was nice talking with you. Let’s do this again.”
They picked up their trays and took them back to the cafeteria and headed to their respective departments. Dixie was so absorbed in what she was thinking that she didn’t see Dr. Kelly Brackett standing almost right in front of her.
“Hey, lady. I think you need to put your blinkers on,” he said laughing at her as he grabbed her by the arms to steady her. “What’s got you so caught up that you weren’t paying attention to where you were going.”
Dixie looked up and said, “Oh hi Kel. I was just thinking about a certain young lab research assistant I just had lunch with and how much fun I am going to have with a certain young paramedic.” She chuckled out loud.
“I don’t know why I am asking this, but what do you have up your sleeve?” He looked at his head nurse and wondering what had her feeling so mischievous.
“It started with something Johnny said to me last week and now I think I have found out what he was talking about and I am just wondering how I could get the two to meet.”
Dr. Brackett and Dixie talked as they headed to the base station. Kel couldn’t believe that Dixie was thinking of playing matchmaker for Johnny and the new research assistant from the lab. He cautioned Dixie about trying to set Johnny up with this young woman and how it could backfire and put her in an unfavorable position with the paramedic she is so fond of. Dixie just looked at him and rolled her eyes implying like anything he said would stop her from trying to put together two young people who were meant for each other.
Johnny whistled softly to himself as he walked into the locker room. He opened up his locker and began to change into his uniform. During his last four days off, he had gotten a lot done around his new home. The house was almost finished and he was just about ready to move in. Better yet, he had not had that dream during that time off. He kept himself so busy that he practically passed out on the bed at the end of the day.
Roy could hear Johnny whistling inside the locker room and knew from the whistling that his partner had gotten accomplished what he had said he was going to do. Walking in the locker room, he looked at Johnny as he opened his locker and asked him, “So from your whistling, I take it you had a good weekend?”
“Yeah, Pally. I almost done with the house and will be ready to move in shorty. That last four days I had off were really productive days and from the looks of the place, it is starting to show. Better yet, I slept really well. No dreams.”
“That’s good to hear. You were looking pretty down when the weekend finally arrived. I figured you would have been happy getting out of there for a while.”
“I was, but I just didn’t want to start having nightmares again. It was bad enough the last time and keeping you up…well, let’s just say that it’s bad enough when my sleep is disrupted but when it starts affecting my coworkers’ sleep, it bothers me.”
The two paramedics talked about other things they had done on their days off and went to join Marco, Mike and Chet for roll call. Captain Stanley went over a few things that he hadn’t been able to get at before the end of their last shift and then handed out the duties for the day. Chet, as was the norm, got stuck with latrine duty again due to the fact the Phantom’s last victim was the Cap himself as he opened the booby trapped cupboard instead of Johnny.
He watched her once again turn away from him. This time, he thought, she is not going to do this to me. “Why can’t you tell me what it is you want of me?”
She turned to him and said to him, “It’s not what I want of you but what you want of yourself.“
Johnny sighed in frustration with another riddle that she placed before him. “I am so tired of these riddles you throw at me. How the hell am I supposed to understand this? You enter my dreams, tell me riddles and then disappear. I just want to find the one person meant for me and to have a family. Is that too much for me to ask?”
She replied, “No, Johnny, it is not too much to ask. I will tell you this, the answer is only elusive because you try too hard. You already have figured out part of the riddle, what it is you truly want. Now all you need to do to solve the rest of the riddle is to quit searching for it because only then will the rest be revealed to you.”
He could feel himself getting angry again as she once again answered him with the same riddle, but as he went to vent his frustration, her words began to make sense. He had figured out part of the riddle, the fact that he wanted what Roy had…a family to come home to. As he turned towards her, he could sense she was smiling at him for finally realizing what she had been trying to get him to understand. Just as he was going to ask her again what she meant by not searching, he heard a loud annoying sound running through his ears………
“Johnny, come on. We have a run. Get up!!”
Johnny jumped up and out of bed as he realized that the klaxon was going off. He got into his gear and headed out to the squad as Roy was starting it up. He barely had time to shut the door before they were out of the station and racing down the road with the engine right behind them. Roy explained to Johnny that it was a motor vehicle accident and that was all they knew.
“You must have really been out cold, Junior. Usually you jump up the minute the first bell goes off.”
“I finally realized part of the riddle that what I have been hashing out in my dreams has been exactly what I told you…that I want what you have with Joanne and that is a family. In my dream, she told me that, but that I am still trying too hard and need to quit searching. I was going to ask her what she meant by not searching when the klaxon went off,” said Johnny. “Hey, what time is it anyway?”
“It’s about 5:45 a.m. This is really going screw up a bit of the morning commute for some,” replied Roy as he looked at Johnny and was pleased to see that his partner looked like he actually got a good night’s sleep for once, even if the dream woman was present.
Just then Johnny let loose with a few choice words as the accident came into view. A semi and recreational vehicle had been involved in an accident. From the way it looked to the guys, the semi blew a tire on the right side of the cab, lost control and sideswiped the RV. In turn, the driver of the RV lost control of his vehicle and rolled it several times down an embankment. Roy pulled the squad off to the side that was closest to the RV and Johnny was out of the squad before it came to a complete halt. Running between the broken guard raid, Johnny began to slide down the hill to the RV and prayed to God that someone was alive in there. Roy wasn’t that far behind.
While the paramedics were looking for the best way to get inside the RV, Captain Stanley directed his men to various points around the accident. Chet disconnected the batteries in the semi as Marco began to hose down the gasoline that was leaking around it. Stations 127 and 110 and Squad 110 had also arrived on the scene as the police were telling them that they were not sure how many victims were inside the RV.
The embankment was a long slope down to the dry creek bed. The RV had landed on its roof in the creek and by some miracle had not ruptured its fuel tank as it rolled downhill. Once they finished around the semi, Chet and Marco also helped set up the lines to send the equipment down the hill on the stokes to the paramedics. Wheeler and Kirk followed Roy and Johnny down to the RV. From the looks of the RV, the front end was caved in from rolling downhill.
As he reached the bottom of the embankment, Johnny looked at Roy and said, “I hope they are alright in there. My god, how could anyone survive this? The RV looks like an accordion!”
“I know, Junior. Let’s just see if there is a way to get in.”
“Johnny, come to the back of the RV,” yelled Wheeler. “I think the window is loose enough for us to try and pull it out but I think you are the only one who might fit through it the way it is right now.”
Johnny, Roy and Kirk raced around to the back of the RV and looked inside it. Everything was a jumbled mess. Furniture, pillows, items belonging to the occupants of the vehicle were strewn all over the place. The guys couldn’t tell if anyone was even in there. Wheeler was trying to pull the back window of the RV open a bit more and looked to them for help. Johnny had a pry bar in his hand and got on the other side of Wheeler to place it inside the area that he has gotten loose. Soon the cracking of glass could be heard and the window popped out.
“Quiet everyone. I need to try and see if anyone can hear us,” said Roy. “Hello, can anyone hear us? My name is Roy De Soto and I am with the LA County Fire Department. If you can hear me, please try and shout out to me.”
The guys listened intently and soon they all heard a very faint voice, a voice crying underneath the jumbled mess of the interior. Roy motioned to Johnny to get inside and locate the victim and assess the patient’s injuries.
Wheeler gave Johnny a boost up to the window. As he lowered himself into the RV, Johnny prayed that the child was not underneath the area he just stepped into.
“Honey, I need you to keep crying or call out to me so that I can find you.”
Johnny could hear the faint voice of a child, “I….am…..underneath…. a bunch of stuff. It hurts to breathe… I don’t even know where I am. Where’s my mom?”
“I know, sweetheart. Can you tell me your name?” From the breathlessness nature of the child’s voice, Johnny knew she was hurt bad, possibly some broken ribs, maybe a punctured lung and internal bleeding. He kept talking to her to not only keep her calm but to hopefully locate her. “Come on, sweetheart. You can tell me your name.
“It’s…….Chelsea. Please, mister, find my mom. I think she’s hurt bad.”
“Chelsea, I am going to try to find you and your mother. Just keep talking to me so I can find you and in the process I hope to find your mom. Chelsea, can you tell me how many people were in the camper with you?”
Johnny heard no reply to his question. “Chelsea, are you still there? Don’t go to sleep on me or I won’t be able to find you.” As he kept talking to the young girl, he carefully began to pick up cushions, pots and pans, and other items that fell out of cupboards and drawers. “Chelsea, come on honey, give me an answer. How many others were in the camper with you?”
“Five. My dad…..mom…..older brother…….younger sister… We were going…….going to……. to Oregon….visit our grandparents.”
As Johnny reached down and picked up a large cushion that more than likely covered a long bench seat in the back, he found himself looking into a very large pair of blue eyes racked with pain and full of tears. He could see blood on her face and trickling down her cheek onto her neck. Quickly he ran his hands over her arms, torso, legs to assess for any other injuries, all while keeping up a conversation to help her maintain a sense of calm. He knew he had limited time to move her.
“Chelsea, I presume?” When the young girl nodded yes, he smiled at her. “My name is Johnny and I am going to help get you out of here."
“Roy, Wheeler, I need help in here. Bring c-collars, backboards, anything you can get in here.”
“Johnny, what’s up?” shouted Roy.
“I have one young female, approximately 14 years of age. She has a tib-fib fracture, multiple contusions, possibly a punctured lung. We need to get her out of her here fast! I can also hear some moaning nearby but I’m not sure exactly where.”
“On our way. We have c-collars and backboards on standby. Kirk will hand them in when we need them and has the bio-phone ready.”
Roy and Wheeler had finished prying the rest of the back window out of the frame and climbed in through it to help Johnny with the girl and to locate any other survivors. Johnny filled them in on the others that the girl told him about. By then, Chet and Marco had made it down the hill and were on the other side of the window to help get the girl out. Wheeler headed to the front of the RV to try and locate the father and son, while Roy helped Johnny get the young girl on the stokes and hand her out the window to Chet and Marco. Once out of the RV, Johnny and Kirk immediately contacted Rampart to let them know what type of injuries they were dealing with and received instructions for treatment.
As he reached the front of the wrecked RV, Wheeler found the father and son. He kneeled down to clear the debris away from the son’s face and checked his carotid for a pulse. He found none as he knew he would. He then turned to check the father and found the same results. His heart felt heavy as he stood back and took a nearby white blanket and covered both victims. While Wheeler was checking on the father and son, Roy found the mother and she too was longer with this world. He pondered where the younger sister was when he heard a sound from what he thought might be the bathroom.
“Wheeler, come help me move some of this furniture. I think the third child is in the bathroom,” cried Roy as he picked up a chair and threw it towards the back.
Wheeler joined him and they made short work of the pile of stuff blocking the entrance to the bathroom. Roy grabbed the door handle and yanked it open. The sight that greeted them stopped them in their tracks. A young girl about ten years of age stood there covered in what could only be the contents of the toilet. The look on her face was that of total indignation and irritation. The smell then assaulted their senses and Wheeler backed up waving at the air in front of his face.
“I can’t…..Roy. She is all yours,” said Wheeler as he backed away from Roy and the young girl. It wasn’t just that the smell was bad and it was just the look upon the child’s face that almost set him laughing.
Roy knelt down in front of the girl and said, “Hi, my name is Roy and I work for the fire department. Are you hurt anywhere?”
The young girl looked at Roy and shook her head no. She hung her head as if she was embarrassed as to what happened to her. Roy looked at the child thinking sadly of the news that would be delivered to her and her sister later. He reached out with his hand and lifted her chin so she could look at him.
“Honey, it’s okay. You don’t need to be embarrassed,” said Roy as he looked around and found a towel to help wipe the mess off the poor child. He kept up a running commentary with the girl to keep her mind off her situation. He could feel her shaking under his attempt to clean her off and didn’t know what else to do…until he heard a small chuckle and found himself looking into two bright eyes trying not laugh.
The girl looked up at Roy and just busted up laughing and couldn’t quit. He soon joined in as it was infectious. Wheeler looked at them like they had lost their minds. Roy figured the girl needed a good laugh because soon it would turn to sorrow. After getting her wiped off the best he could, he checked her over for injuries and finding none, handed her out the window to Wheeler. Johnny had already headed to Rampart with the first victim and another ambulance was waiting to take Wheeler and the other victim.
Roy and Kirk made quick work of grabbing their equipment and waited for help to get back up top. Kirk turned and looked at Roy, stating “What was so funny in there? I couldn’t believe it when I heard laughter.”
Roy looked at Kirk and couldn’t help but smile and replied, “The little girl was found in the bathroom. When the RV started to fishtail, she had the smarts to brace herself in that small space, said she saw it on a TV show one time and had the sense to try it. Well, she wasn’t counting on one thing.” Roy had to stop to get his composure as he wanted to start laughing again as he recalled what happened.
“Come on, Roy. Don’t keep me hanging. What wasn’t she counting on?”
“She wasn’t counting on the contents of the toilet to come running back out. When we got the door opened, she was standing there with such a disgusted look upon her face that Wheeler told me she was all mine and backed out of there before he started laughing.”
Kirk looked at Roy with such a look of disbelief and then began to laugh at the picture forming in his mind. Roy joined in. Chet and Marco came around the corner from the front of the RV looking at the two of them thinking they both had snapped. Once the guys were back up top, they stored their gear and headed to Rampart to pick up their partners.
Johnny came out of Treatment Room 4 and saw his partner talking to Dixie and one of the lab techs at the base station. He figured Roy was checking up on how the two girls that they rescued four days ago were doing. He headed over that direction to join them when he saw who the lab tech was.
“Hey, Mandy. Have you changed your mind yet about going out with me?”
“You dreaming again, Gage. How many times you going to put up with my refusal?” said the brunette as she laughed at him.
“Oh, I suppose as many times it takes until you say yes. So put a poor guy out of his misery and say yes.” He looked at her with puppy dog eyes and his lopsided grin.
“Johnny, I hate to disappoint you but I am just going to have to say no…again. My boyfriend would not like it.”
“You know I will never stop asking you. A guy can’t help but want to take you out,” replied Jonny as he laughed at their banter.
“Don’t ever stop asking, Johnny, it does wonders for my ego…knowing guys are still attracted to me,” said Mandy as she enjoyed their ‘flirting’. “But I will tell you this, I have a friend who would make you forget me in a heartbeat.”
Johnny looked at the stunning brunette with amber colored eyes and smiled back at her, saying, “I highly doubt it.”
“Seriously, Johnny. If you want to meet her, join us this coming Saturday at the Red Wolf in Long Beach. A bunch of us from work and a few friends from USC are meeting there around 8 p.m.”
Mandy turned to Dixie and said, “You are welcome to join us also, Dixie. In fact, see if you can get Brackett to come along and loosen up. Don’t forget to ask Dr. Early, too. He would enjoy the Red Wolf.” She turned to Roy and said, “Roy, why don’t you and Joanne join us too.” Without waiting for an answer from Roy, Mandy turned to Dixie to give her some of the details of the club they were going to.
Roy looked at Johnny and Dixie and chuckled to himself. Johnny was well known for his determination in dating someone at Rampart, anyone new to the facility always came under fire from him. Mandy had been no exception. The one saving grace for her was that she was already dating one of their coworkers, Marco.
“Come on, Junior. We better head back to the station. See you later, Dixie.”
As he was leaving, Johnny turned to Dixie and asked, “Dixie, are you thinking of going to the club with Mandy and the gang?”
“I just might, if I can get Kel and/or Joe to go along with me. Why, care to join me?” said Dixie as she smiled at the young paramedic.
Johnny just smiled in response, turned and ran to catch up with his partner. Dixie chuckled to herself as she watched one of her favorite paramedics (even though she won’t admit to it) leave. She then turned back to Mandy and said, “Okay, girl. I know you are up to something. What is it?”
Mandy just smiled and replied, “What makes you think I am up to something? I just know that Johnny would probably like this certain friend of mine. I know for certain she has talked about him…but in not so many words.”
With that said, Mandy turned and headed back down to the lab, leaving Dixie standing there with her mouth open and her mind going a mile a minute. When it dawned on her what exactly Mandy meant by her cryptic comment, she started laughing as she realized Mandy had just beaten her to the punch with a certain research assistant and her favorite paramedic. She shook her head as she went back to the nurses’ work schedules, still chuckling as she thought about a very pretty research assistant who already had people trying to set her up with a certain paramedic and didn’t even know it.
Roy waited until Johnny had the door shut to the squad before he started it up. He looked at his partner of four years and wondered what he was thinking. Sometimes Johnny was as easy to read as a book, but other times he could be as murky as stagnant water. This was one of those times. Finally when Roy was just about to ask him what he was thinking, Johnny turned and looked at him.
“So, Pally, what do you think? Gonna join us this Saturday at the club?” he asked.
“Wish I could, Junior, but Joanne’s sister is coming down on Friday and we are taking the kids to Knott’s Berry Farm. Personally I would rather join you but if I bring it up, I am sure I will never hear the end of it.”
Johnny laughed and replied, “Yeah, I sure Joanne will make you pay with her “honey-do” list if you do bring it up and then where will you be.”
“In the doghouse,” laughed Roy. “Are you thinking of going then, Johnny?”
“Yeah, I think I will. I have no plans for Saturday and since we have Sunday off, I’ll be out the ranch putting the finishing touches on the house. So I might as well join them, meet this girl and then see what happens from there. Besides for some odd reason, my feeling is that if I miss this night, I am going to miss out on the best thing that has ever happened to me. And if I know Mandy, she won’t let me forget it either!”
The two paramedics kept laughing as they thought about the woman that their coworker, Marco, was dating. She was a firecracker, as Chet would call her. They rode the rest of the way to the station in silence, both in their own thoughts of the upcoming weekend and hoping things all work out for the best.
Bree sighed with relief as she pulled her car into the garage. It had been one long day and she was bushed. She could see her roommate's car in the second stall of the garage and was surprised that she was home. Ever since Mandy began dating Marco, she had become non-existent in the house. She laughed at the expression on Mandy's face when she had asked her to move with her and took her over to her home on their lunch break a couple of weeks ago.
Mandy had practically danced up the sidewalk when she saw the house. Walking through the front door, she stood the foyer and shouted like a little kid so she could hear her voice echo, so she said. It took all of two seconds for Mandy to say yes to the roommate idea. She didn't even care where her room was because she spotted the pool and ran outside to check it out. Bree shook her head to dispel the memory and got out of the car, grabbing her things and shutting the door.
As she opened the door and entered the kitchen, she thought of how nice it was to be Friday. She had no plans for the weekend and according to the weatherman, it was supposed to be sunshine and warm. 'I think swimsuit and pool lounge is on my agenda for the weekend' thought Bree as she threw her purse and keys on the kitchen counter. She could see her roommate was already lounging outside by the pool, and from the looks of it, Bree thought, she is asleep.
She took her shoes off and quietly opened the door out to the patio. She softly walked up to the person lying on the lounger, grabbed the small bucket next to the pool's edge and filled it. As she turned to throw the water at her roommate, she felt herself become airborne and next thing she knew the water was over her head. As she surfaced, she saw Mandy's boyfriend, Marco, half bent by the pool's edge and laughing his head off. Mandy, herself, was sitting up on the lounger and laughing just as hard.
"We got you good, cousin!" cried Mandy between bouts of laughter.
"You were right, Mandy. You knew she wouldn't be able to resist you sleeping by the pool!" said Marco as he reached his hand out to help Bree out of the pool.
Bree had reached the edge and put her hand out for Marco's help to get out of the pool. What he didn't know is that she had her feet braced against the side of the pool and when he went to pull her out she pulled backwards using his weight against him and sent him right into the pool.
"Ha! Ha! That serves you right for being part of my cousin's prank," laughed Bree as Marco surfaced not too far from her with an astonished look on his face. She put her hands on the edge of the pool and raised herself up to get out.
"So what are you two lazybones doing for the day?" asked Bree as she wrung the water out of her hair and took the towel from her cousin's hand.
"Not much, Bree. We went hiking this morning and then decided to just lounge around here," said Mandy. "Hope you don't mind."
"Mandy, this place is just as much yours as it is mine. I don't mind your boyfriend here…as long as you two don't keep me up all night. Got any plans for the evening?
"Nope. We thought maybe we would see if you wanted to grill this evening," replied Mandy as she tossed a towel to Marco who joined them and sat down at the end of the lounger.
"Hey, Bree, you got plans for this weekend?" he asked as he began to towel dry his hair.
"I hadn't really thought about it. Weather is supposed to be nice so I might just be as lazy as you two are right now and catch some rays tomorrow. Why…what's up?"
Mandy smiled at her boyfriend as he snuck in the weekend question. She looked at her cousin and said, "Well, a bunch of us were thinking of checking out the new club in Long Beach this Saturday night. I believe it is called the Red Wolf. We thought we would see if you would like to join us."
"You know, that sounds like a brilliant idea. What time are you thinking of heading over there? If I remember the ad I saw in the papers, it's the grand opening so it is going to be packed," replied Bree.
"I've got that taken care of. I have a couple of connections inside the bar and they are going to hold a table for me in exchange for an autograph from someone I know from school."
Bree laughed as she thought about Mandy and her connections. She was a very gregarious and fun loving brunette who could get anyone off their butts and enjoying themselves. If anyone could get a party started, it was Mandy. It also helped that she was tall and beautiful with a pair of amber eyes most guys would tell her they would love to melt in. Mandy didn't take a lot of them too seriously as she knew what she wanted and most of the guys she met, she found lacking. Shortly after she started at Rampart, she met Marco, a local firefighter, and as she liked to say, the rest is history.
"Okay, cousin. My next two questions are what time and who's driving?" asked Bree.
"The time is 8 p.m. and Marco said he could drive," replied Mandy.
"Have you heard who the band is that's playing there for the grand opening?" she asked.
Mandy stammered trying to find the right answer. She looked everywhere around her but at her cousin directly. "Well, you have heard of them, cousin. The name of the band is Dakota Dreaming."
Bree's head shot up and she looked her cousin directly in the eye with the message that read 'I will talk to you later about this.' Marco caught the look exchange between the two girls and wondered what that was all about.
Johnny had to admit the music wasn’t bad. It was a combination of country and rock, and that was just the piped in music until the band came on stage. When he arrived at the club, he wasn’t sure of what he had gotten himself into. He had to admit that he had been intrigued when Mandy mentioned that she had a friend that would make Johnny forget all about pestering Mandy for a date and he was never one to turn down the opportunity to meet a new girl.
He spotted Mandy and her ‘entourage’ at a rather large table not too far off the dance floor. At the same time, Marco saw Johnny and stood up waving to get his attention. Johnny waved back, weaving in and out of the crowd to get to the table.
“Wow. This place is crowded. What’s up for tonight that everyone and their mother seem to be here for?”
“The band that’s playing tonight used to be the backup band for a well-known country rock singer and I think a lot of the people are hoping that she will show up,” replied Marco. “Glad you were able to make it, Johnny.”
Johnny smiled and clapped his friend on the back and said, “What can I say, it’s Mandy. For some reason, Marco, you just can’t say no to her.”
“Don’t I know it,” chuckled Marco.
When she heard Johnny’s voice, Mandy turned from the one she was talking to and smiled at him. “It’s about time you got here, Johnny. I was beginning to think you stood me up.”
“Funny girl. Like I was telling your boyfriend here, none of us can say no to you,” said Johnny. “So where’s this friend of yours you want me to meet?”
“She’s not here yet. She got tied up at work, said she was going to be a little late so she would just meet me here instead. You know, Johnny, I’m surprised that you’ve never run into her when you and Roy were at Rampart. She works there.”
“Seriously? She works at Rampart and I’ve never seen her. Boy, I must be slipping. Where does she hide out at?”
Mandy laughed at Johnny’s expression. “She is a research assistant in the lab.”
He smiled and stepped closer to Mandy, pretending to twirl the corner of a mustache he didn’t have, saying “Tell me more about this girl, Mandy. You have my curiosity peaked.”
Mandy sat down next to Marco and began to fill Johnny in on her friend from the lab. She tried to be careful not to give her friend’s name as she had remembered her cousin telling her about meeting a young man at the beach a year ago when she had been here visiting. As she described him to her, she immediately thought of Johnny. Of course, she could be wrong but who knows. It’s always fun to play matchmaker anyway.
While Mandy was filling Johnny in on her friend, the object of their discussion had come sneaking in through the back door of the club. She had been running late due to an unforeseen glitch in the project she was working on. When she arrived at the club, there was a line at the main entrance that was so long she didn’t even want to try and get in that way. Thank god she had recognized one of the roadies for the band standing by the bus and although it cost her fifty dollars for his silence, she got him to help her get into the club through the back. She just prayed she wouldn’t be recognized by anybody else with the band and could make it to the table that Mandy said she would be at. And as luck would have it, she was able to sneak through backstage and made good her escape unnoticed by all.
As the petite young woman was making good her escape from backstage, Dixie and Dr. Joe Early were making their way into the club. No matter how hard she tried to get Dr. Kelly Brackett to join them, he stubbornly would not budge on going out to a club that night. Joe saw Johnny and Marco talking and pointed them out to Dixie. They weaved their way through the crowd and approached the pair.
“Hi Johnny. Thank God you are tall enough to spot in this crowd,” said Dixie.
Johnny turned and smiled when he saw Joe and Dixie. “Hi to you too, Dixie. Glad you could make it. Hi, Dr. Early. It’s nice to see you could come too.” He turned back to Dixie and said, “Couldn’t get Dr. Brackett to come, huh?”
Joe laughed and beat Dixie to the punch on the answer, “Nope. No matter how hard Dixie tried, no bullying, no cajoling or sweet talking was going to get him to come out tonight. Besides you know him, when it comes to major crowds and what he would call loud, raucous music, he will avoid it. So you’re stuck with me. By the way, what kind of music are we in for tonight?”
“Not really sure, but from what I can tell with the background music playing, I’m going to guess and say it’s a mixture of country and rock.”
Dixie smiled and said, “That should make it interesting. Who’s the band?”
Mandy, who had gone to see if her cousin was in line, returned to the group and noticed that Dixie and Joe had made it to the club. She walked around Marco and hugged Dixie, saying, “It’s nice to see you and Joe made it. I see Dr. Brackett didn’t want to come, that's too bad because he would have loved tonight.”
“So has our mutual friend shown up yet?” asked Dixie as she had talked to Mandy earlier and told her she knew exactly what Mandy was up to…and with who.
“No, and I’m beginning to worry if she’s going to show up. When I last talked to her, she said she was just finishing up fixing a problem with her research project and would be heading home to get ready. That was over two hours ago. She should’ve been here by now,” replied Mandy. “Oh, to answer your question, Dixie, the band is called Dakota Dreaming. They were the backup band for the country rock star, Bree Montgomery.”
“Isn’t she the one who just up and walked away from a very lucrative career about a year ago, or was it longer than that?”
“Yes, she’s the one. The rumor from Nashville was that one day she just up and told everyone she was done and no one has heard anything of her since. But enough of her, let’s sit down before someone comes along and snags the few empty chairs we have left at this table.”
The group sat down and introductions were made all around. A few of Mandy’s friends from USC in Long Beach had joined them, along with Mandy’s brother and his girlfriend. It turned out to be a large crowd of about 12 people, if you counted Mandy’s missing friend. Mandy sat down next to Marco and wondered to herself where her absent friend was and if she was backing out of the evening.
No sooner had the thought crossed Mandy’s mind did the object of her thoughts make it into the main part of the club. She stood in the aisle between a set of tables and thought to herself, ‘How am I supposed to find them in this crowd?” She glanced about her and just happened upon Mandy’s boyfriend, Marco. She sighed with relief now that she had discovered where they were sitting and immediately headed in their direction.
Marco turned to check behind him when he noticed Mandy’s cousin making her way in their direction. He tapped Mandy on the shoulder and told her to look behind them. She turned and looking in the direction that Marco was pointing, smiling as she saw her cousin. As the girl crossed the dance floor, the band walked on stage and started to play one of her and Mandy’s favorite dance songs. The petite blonde stopped in the middle of the floor and cocked her head to one side, looking at Mandy like ‘Well, aren’t you going to join me?”
When Mandy heard the song and saw that her cousin was waiting, she jumped up so quickly nearly knocking her chair over. Marco had the foresight to grab it before it actually hit the floor. He grinned with astonishment as he watched the two girls begin a dance routine that would have put a professional team to shame. Side-by-side, they shook, shimmied and slid, so perfectly in sync that people wondered if they were with the band. At one point, the girl looked over and saw Dixie, making a small motion with her finger to see if she could entice her friend to come join them. Dixie looked on in astonishment as she watched them dance. She shook her head when she realized that her young friend really wanted her to come out there. She wasn’t sure if she even knew those steps, much less some of the body movements those two were pulling off.
Across the table from Marco, Johnny looked on with something a little more than disbelief. He found himself staring at the woman who disappeared from his sight on New Year’s Eve whose name was always in the back of his mind…Brenna. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Here was that beautiful soft-spoken blonde dancing right in front of him. What he couldn’t figure out is how he could not have seen her at Rampart….after all she was working there.
Joe leaned over to Dixie and asked her, “What’s with Johnny? He looks like he’s seen a ghost.”
Dixie smiled at Joe and replied, “I think he has. I bet the girl from his dreams has come to life and he can’t believe what he is seeing.” She stretched her arm across the table and touched Johnny on the arm. Not realizing how fixated he was on Brenna, he jumped when he felt Dixie’s fingers on his arm.
“Are you okay, Johnny?” she asked him.
“Honestly, Dixie, I don’t know. I take it you know who she is…..the one Mandy’s dancing with?”
“Yes, Johnny, I do,” replied Dixie. “She’s been at Rampart for a little over a month. And from the look on your face, I think you know her too.”
“I met her…a little over a year ago. What I don’t understand is how come I never ran into her at Rampart.”
“I wish I could answer that question for you…call it fate I suppose. But if it’s any consolation, Johnny, I think she’s always wondered about you.”
Johnny turned and looked at Dixie, trying to figure out what she meant by that. He guessed Dixie more than likely got to know Brenna quite well in the short period of time she’d been working at Rampart but he still wondered why he never ran into her. He turned his focus back to the dance floor and the young woman who had stolen his heart a little over a year ago then disappeared.
When the song came to an end, the crown went wild. They were clapping and whooping it up for the two girls who had put on a performance that no one was expecting. Brenna and Mandy looked at each other, grabbed hands and turned to the audience taking a bow. They giggled as they ran towards their table off to the side of the floor. Brenna came to a stop and stared at the dark haired young man who was walking around the table towards her. She couldn’t believe who she was seeing. She remembered him vividly from the evening she spent in his arms watching the fireworks show from the pier.
“Johnny?” questioned Brenna.
“Yes, Brenna. It’s me,” replied Johnny as he stopped directly in front of her. He could see that she was shaking, but couldn’t tell if it was from fear or from excitement.
A thousand thoughts raced through her mind as she glanced up at the man she had wanted to stay with but had to leave instead. She could feel the tears filling up her eyes and didn’t know what to do next. She thought of turning and running once again but from the look in his eyes he wasn’t about to let that happen. As she lowered her head to avoid his gaze, she felt his fingers grasp her chin and lift it back up so she couldn’t hide from him. With his other hand, he wiped away the one tear that had escaped and was slipping down her cheek. She closed her eyes and a soft moan escaped from her lips as she felt his fingers softly brush against her skin. When he heard that moan, he was lost. He couldn’t help himself. He lowered his head and captured her lips with his.
Brenna could feel her knees weaken as he deepened his kiss. She reached up to grab his arms to keep herself from sinking to the floor. She felt his silent chuckle at her response to the kiss and could feel him tightening his arms around her.
When Johnny finally broke the kiss, he was stunned by his own reaction to it. He pulled Brenna even closer into his embrace so that the others could not see just how he had reacted to this beautiful woman. He could feel Brenna’s body begin to shake in his embrace and loosened his hold to allow her some breathing room. As he did so, he realized she was giggling. When she looked up into his eyes, it took his breath away to see her deep sapphire blue eyes laughing at him.
“Methinks you have a bit of a problem, Johnny,” she whispered softly so only he could hear her words.
“How right you are, my lady, and you are the cause of it,” replied Johnny as he rested his chin on top of her head and looked out toward his friends. He chuckled when he saw the looks on the faces of his friends around the table. He dipped his head down towards Brenna and whispered something in her ear.
Brenna spun around in Johnny’s arms and upon seeing the looks they were giving them she could not help but blush all the way to the roots of her hair. When she had seen Johnny walking towards her, she had completely forgotten where she was. She locked eyes with Mandy who returned a smile with a knowing look in her eyes. Brenna quickly turned back around in Johnny’s arms and hid her face in his chest. He gazed down at the top of her head and then back at Mandy with a questioning look in his eyes.
Johnny reached down, placed his hand under Brenna’s chin and brought her face up so she was looking right at him. He gave her a quick kiss and whispered in her ear, “Please do not disappear again on me. I have spent a little more than a year wondering what happened to you.”
As Brenna stared into Johnny’s eyes, she placed her hand on his cheek and replied, “Wild horses could not drag me away from you tonight…at least not like they did the last time.” Not knowing what else she to say, she leaned back into his embrace and laid her head on his chest again, listening to the beating of his heart and slowing down her own breathing.
Johnny tightened his arms around Brenna once again and rested his chin back on top of her head while he looked at his friends around the table. At this point he was wishing they were anywhere but in the club. He had finally found her again and to be in a large crowd of people was not exactly where he wanted to be with her. Mandy caught Johnny’s eye and tipped her head toward the door indicating to him ‘Get out of here. We’ll be fine without the two of you.’
Without saying a word to Brenna, he threw a couple of bills on the table to pay for the drink he had ordered, took Brenna’s purse from Mandy and turned her toward the aisle heading for the exit. Mandy smiled as she watched her best friend and cousin leave with the man she had fallen in love with and thought that she had lost. She turned to Marco, took his face in her hands and placed kiss upon his lips.
As soon as the couple had left the area, chaos erupted. Everyone was speaking at once, trying to figure out what had just taken place.
“What the hell just happened?” asked Marco.
Dixie looked at Mandy and said, “I think the woman sitting next to you knows exactly what happened.” Turning to Mandy, she said, “Spill it, girl.”
“I wish I could, Dixie. Let’s just say I had my suspicions from something Brenna had said to me but I wasn’t quite sure if my suspicions were correct.”
“Mandy, are you saying that you knew those two had met before?” asked Marco as he looked at his girlfriend in disbelief.
“Honey, I said that I had my suspicions. Brenna told me something in confidence and I decided to test those suspicions. I can’t say any more than that because I don’t know any more than what we all witnessed tonight.”
As Johnny and Brenna’s friends tried to make heads or tails of what they had all just seen, the couple were standing in the parking lot by Johnny’s car still holding onto each other as if the world was going to rip them apart again. Johnny again looked down at the woman he held in his arms still trying to wrap his thoughts around his good luck in finding her once again. He just didn’t want to let her go.
Brenna could feel her feet moving but had no clue as to where they were leading her until she felt them come to a stop and felt Johnny’s arm tighten around her again. She took the chance and glanced around to see where she was. She was surprised to find herself in the parking lot standing next a vehicle that was not hers. She looked up to find Johnny staring down at her with a smile on his face. He leaned down to capture her lips with his and deepened the kiss until once again she had to grab onto him to keep from falling.
Breaking off the kiss, Johnny looked at Brenna and asked, “Bree, will you come back to my home with me?”
“Please take me home with you, Johnny. I don’t know if I really want to be by myself tonight,” cried Brenna as she bowed her head down afraid to look into his eyes.
“Sweetheart, don’t be afraid to look at me. I told you once before, I will always be here for you.”
Johnny opened the door to his Jeep and helped Brenna inside. He got into the driver’s seat and started up the vehicle. As they pulled out of the driveway, they failed to notice a dark colored vehicle pulling out behind them, keeping a distance far enough to not be noticed as suspicious.
He held onto her hand as he drove through the streets of Long Beach heading to his apartment on Westwood Palms in Los Angeles. Absentmindedly, he caressed the back of her hand with his thumb as if to prove she was still there. He stole a quick glance at Brenna and could see she was deep in thought herself. As if she could read his thoughts, she peeked up and smiled at him, tightening her grip on his hand.
Parking the Jeep in his assigned spot, Johnny turned off the vehicle, just sitting there in silence.
“Come on, sweetheart. Let’s get inside. I think we’ve some talking to do and I don’t aim to do it here in my car.”
He got out and went around the vehicle to help Brenna out of her side. As he took her hand, he turned it palm up and lightly kissed it. He felt the shiver that ran through her and she locked her gaze on him, he saw the same desire he was feeling. Shutting the car door, he tucked her hand into the crook of his arm and led her to his apartment.
In the shadows across the street inside the vehicle that been following them sat someone intently watching the young couple entering the building. The lone occupant of the vehicle got out and checked the license plate on Johnny’s Jeep and then checked to see which apartment number was his. Finally, he knew who the guy was that had ruined his Bree. He sat in his car for a long time before he took off. He needed to take his time and learn this guy's habits before he took action.
Johnny unlocked the door to his apartment and opened it allowing to Brenna to step in ahead of him. He closed the door and locked it, hoping she would feel safe here. He reached over to turn on the lamp he had on the table next to his couch. Next, he closed the curtains and turned to look at Brenna. She stood in the middle of his living room uncertain of what to do next. In two strides, Johnny was standing in front of Brenna, taking her back into his arms and pulling her close.
He felt her take a deep breath and relax as she felt his arms close about her. He couldn’t understand what had her so nervous. As he stood there and held her close, Brenna knew she needed to talk to him before it went any further. Straightening up, she pushed back a little bit in his arms so she could look up into his face.
“Johnny, I really think we need to talk,” said Brenna.
“I know, but I am afraid if I let go of you, you might disappear again,” replied Johnny chuckling as he said this.
“No chance of that ever happening again. I am done hiding, but what I need to talk to you about just might have you changing your mind about me,” she said as she sat down on his couch, curling her legs up underneath her as she got comfortable.
“Okay, girl, now you have my curiosity totally and thoroughly peaked. But before we get into this conversation, can I offer you anything to drink?”
She smiled as she looked up at him. “A glass of white wine would be nice, but if I remember correctly, Johnny, that is the one thing you said you never keep in your fridge.” As she completed the sentence, Johnny turned from his fridge and held up a bottle of wine that he had kept there since the last time she was with him.
Johnny came back with the bottle of wine and glass for her with a beer for himself. He pulled the cork from the wine bottle and poured her a glass. Sitting down, he waited for her to begin again with what she wanted to tell him.
“Johnny, what exactly do you remember about the first time we met, December 28, 1974?” she asked him.
“I mostly remember that you were looking quite beautiful sitting there at that sidewalk bistro and how I wished I could meet you. Why?”
“Just curious,” replied Brenna.
Johnny chuckled as he remembered exactly what happened on that Saturday. She had been sitting by herself outside at a bistro in Santa Monica and a couple of young university students had come up bugging her about her resemblance to country superstar, Bree Montgomery. From where he was standing, he could tell she was getting annoyed with these youngsters and took it upon himself to ‘rescue’ her.
He had walked up to her, apologized for being late and gave her one hell of a kiss that not only chased off the two young boys but just brought him to his knees. He could tell that she was very much affected by the kiss as he was. But what he remembered the most was the three days they spent together in a tent in the San Gabriel Mountains with no outside distractions to intrude upon their time.
Brenna watched the expressions on his face change and knew he lied when he said he didn’t remember much about the first time they met. She decided to break into his musings and surprise him.
“I thought you didn’t remember anything.” He jumped when he realized she had been watching him and knew she wasn’t fooled but what he said.
“Oh, I remember, Bree, a lot. I remember those two boys bothering you, the first kiss which took you by surprise but got them to leave. What I remember most was the three days I spent with you.”
Brenna blushed as she remembered those three days too. “I’d be a fool if I had forgotten those three days, Johnny. For the first time in a long time, I was having fun. ”
“You never did talk about what had been bothering you the whole time you were with me,” said Johnny. “Is that what you want to talk about now?”
“That’s part of the reason I came back.” She paused long enough to take a sip of wine and then continued, “At the time we met, there was so much going on in my life and I just didn’t know where to turn. I finally had enough and decided I needed time for myself.”
“Good thing I found you then, huh?”
“Yes, it was,” replied Bree with a smile on her face. “You provided me with the escape I needed and those three days we had together were memorable. In the time I’ve been gone, Johnny, those days have helped me get through what otherwise would have driven a lesser person crazy.”
Johnny leaned over, giving Brenna a kiss. “I count those three days among some of the most memorable of my life, Bree. I just wish you could’ve stayed longer.”
“So do I, Johnny, so do I. I’m so sorry for the way I left that night. I found myself falling in love with you, which made it even that much harder to say goodbye, knowing I was leaving that night and not knowing if I’d ever be back. I just couldn’t say goodbye, so when that fight broke out, I ran.” As she finished her sentence, Brenna broke down and began to cry.
Johnny quickly slid over and gathered her in his arms. He could feel the tears in his eyes as he knew how she felt.
Brenna couldn’t help how she was feeling. She was back in his arms and wanted to feel his love once again. She leaned back and took his face in her hands, pulling him down for a long, thorough kiss. Even though it took him by surprise, Johnny let himself be carried away by the passion in her kiss.
She reached for his shirt and slowly began to unbutton it, all the while never breaking off her kiss. As she pulled his shirt out of the waistband of his pants, Johnny broke the kiss just long enough to get up off the couch to pick up Brenna in his arms and carry her into the bedroom. He placed her in the middle of the bed standing back to remove his shirt before he kneeled down on the bed beside her. Johnny pulled Bree up onto her knees and towards him to continue their kiss. As his arms reached around behind her, he slowly untied the knot of her halter top in the middle of her back, slipping it over her head and dropping it on the floor. He could feel the shivers course through her body as he placed a kiss atop each breast.
Looking into her eyes as he went to stand up, he felt her hands on his waist. She cocked her head to one side, glancing up at him with a half-smile as she reached for his belt. Once that was out of the way, she unzipped his jeans, pushing them off his hips. He closed his eyes as she slowly caressed him, feeling like he was going to crazy with the pleasure she was invoking.
When he couldn’t take it anymore, he reached for her but she eluded him. He opened his eyes to see where she was and found her standing next to him, sliding out of her jeans. When she stood before him, it took his breath away. He opened his arms to her and she stepped into his embrace.
As Johnny went to lie down next to Bree, he began to kiss her nearly senseless. Her head reeled as he began a trail of kisses down her neck, across her breasts and continued on to her stomach, tracing his tongue around her navel.
As he caressed the most intimate part of her body, she gasped and arched her back as a wave of pleasure raced up her body. He smiled as he felt her response to his caress. He raised himself over her and ever so slowly slid himself within her, looking into her eyes, questioning if this is what she really wanted to do.
Brenna reached up and drew Johnny even closer to her, kissing his neck and chest, as she arched her back and hips, showing him with her actions just what she requested of him. He softly caressed her body as he began to slowly move within her. Soon the rhythm of love took over, sending them to heights neither had ever reached before. As they slowly came back to earth, Johnny tightened his arms around Bree as she reached to pull the covers over them both. Before he succumbed to sleep, Johnny realized she never did tell him what brought her back to him.
Bree awoke with a start, feeling a little bit disoriented. The room was dark so she knew it was still in the early hours of the morning. It took her only a few minutes to realize just where she was at and who was lying on the bed beside her. She smiled softly to herself as she leaned over him and brushed the hair from his eyes. The thought of waking him up entered her mind but she decided to let him sleep. Quietly she slipped from the bed, leaning down to grab his shirt from the floor and softly shut the door behind her.
Walking into his kitchen without turning the light on, she grabbed a glass from the cupboard and filled it with water from the tap. Bree then walked over to the window and opened the curtains just far enough so she could watch the sleeping neighborhood outside. She had always found this time of the night the most peaceful and often would be up for an hour or two doing her best work with no distractions.
While Bree was watching the world outside the apartment complex slowly come to life, Johnny rolled over and was sleepily trying to find the woman he had just spent the night with. His hand roamed around the other side of the bed before his sleep-fogged brain allowed him to realize that she was not there. He quickly sat up in bed thinking that she had left him again without warning. As he tried not to panic, Johnny grabbed his jeans and quickly put them on. He opened the door to his bedroom and as he headed down the hallway, he saw her…standing in front of the window with his shirt on and a glass in her hand. He could tell she was deep in thought but didn’t want to scare her so he softly cleared his throat.
Bree jumped a bit when she heard the noise and when she turned she couldn’t help but smile as she saw the object of her thoughts standing in the hallway. He quickly walked up behind her and put his arms around her, pulling her back against his chest.
“You scared me, Bree. When I realized you weren't in bed, I thought you left again,” said Johnny as he kissed the top of her head. “Why didn’t you wake me?”
"I thought about it but you looked so peaceful sleeping there that I just couldn’t do it. I’m sorry you thought I took off when you woke up,” replied Bree as she relaxed against him. “Sometimes if I wake up early, I just like to watch the world outside as I find it peaceful, no hustle and bustle, no yelling, just nice and quiet. I find I can do my best thinking at this hour.”
Johnny chuckled and hugged her closer. “You know, you never did tell me what you wanted to talk to me about last night, what the reason was for you returning.”
“I know. I kind of distracted myself with you. All I could think about was being with you again, of feeling that connection again that we had back then. It was probably not the thing to do at the time but it felt right.”
“It sure felt right to me and believe me when I say that I was a very willing participant,” he said as he turned her around to face him and smiled at her. “But why don’t we just go back to bed and sleep a little longer while we can.”
As she leaned against Johnny's chest, she felt the contentment that she had been missing during the past fourteen months. Not able to find the words she wanted to say, she just nodded her agreement with Johnny and let him take her by the hand, leading her back to his bedroom. She looked up at Johnny smiling softly as she slowly unbuttoned his shirt, shrugging one shoulder causing it to slide of her shoulder and down her arm. He grinned back at her as he slid his jeans off his hips, stopping long enough to pick her up and toss her onto the bed.
She giggled as she bounced twice before he caught her, wrapping her legs around his waist to keep him close to her. He in turn captured her lips with his as he slowly slid himself inside her warmth, feeling her passionate response to his intrusion. Slowly they moved in unison, sharing with each other the love neither could express in words. Bree grabbed Johnny's hand as she gazed into his eyes, seeing the passion in them as together they went over that edge into oblivion. Sleep overtook them quickly with their arms still wrapped around each other.
Roy was beginning to worry about his partner. He knocked for the third time on Johnny’s door and wondered why his friend was not answering. Johnny had asked him to come over Sunday morning if he was able to and they were going to go out to his ranch to put some finishing touches on his home. When no one answered the door after the third knock, Roy used the key Johnny gave to him to let himself in.
As he entered the apartment, the first thing he noticed was the silence. It was 11 a.m. and Johnny wasn’t even out of bed yet. That’s unusual for him, thought Roy. Thinking he’d scare the hell out of his partner and make him pay for not being up, Roy quietly snuck down the hallway to Johnny’s bedroom. Seeing that the door was closed, he knew what his plan of attack was going to be. He grabbed the doorknob and pounded on the door as hard as he could before he flung the door open. What greeted him just about stopped his heart…blankets flying through the air and what he thought was a shapely bare leg disappearing beneath them.
Roy quickly backed out of the bedroom and shut the door behind him. He did a quick about face and walked back into the living area, not sure if he should start laughing at the expression on Johnny’s face or die from mortification for walking in on him. He could hear very feminine laughter coming from the bedroom and chuckled out loud as from what he could tell, she was finding the humor in this situation.
About five minutes later, Johnny walked into the living room wearing jeans and a t-shirt glancing over at his partner and best friend who was not only very red in the face, but was trying not to laugh out loud and pretty much failing at it. When Roy finally looked Johnny in the eye, neither one of them could hold it back. Roy plopped onto the couch holding onto his stomach, laughing hard. Johnny slid into his recliner, laughing just as hard.
“If you could have seen the look on your face, Roy, it was priceless!” chuckled Johnny.
“The look on my face! You should have seen the look on your face. I thought for a minute you were going to come after me in all your glory,” replied Roy between gasps for breath.
“I wanted to, but Brenna wouldn’t let go of me. She was afraid that I was really going to hurt you.” He smiled inwardly as he remembered the other reason why she wouldn’t let go of him.
Roy was still laughing hard when the name of the woman who was in Johnny’s room at this moment sunk in. He looked at Johnny and said, “That name is familiar. Who is she?”
“She’s the girl that Mandy wanted me to meet last night," said Johnny with a grin on his face. "The reason the name is familiar is because you’ve met her before…New Year's Eve 1974 in Santa Monica. And you better believe me when I say I thought I was seeing a ghost at first and so did she.”
“She's a friend of Mandy's?” asked Roy. "She’s back in town for how long then?"
“Actually I think she said they were cousins but I’m not sure. Bree said she is back permanently. She has a home in Torrance and you won't believe this, Roy, she works at Rampart,” replied Johnny as he watched the expression on Roy’s face and knew something wasn’t sitting right with his friend. “She’s been working there for the past month and a half and I didn’t even know it.”
“Works at Rampart? And you missed running into her? Junior, you must be slipping if you totally missed her there.”
As the guys kept intermittently laughing while discussing their Saturday nights, Brenna slipped out of Johnny’s bed and picked his shirt up off the floor. She knew it would be decent enough to cover her down to her knees. She hoped Johnny wouldn’t mind her using his shirt again as she really didn’t want to get dressed in what she wore last night.
Quietly she opened the door, hoping to sneak out to the bathroom. While she debated leaving the room, she heard Roy question Johnny about how he felt about her being back in town. She could tell Roy was skeptical about her return and its effect on Johnny as his next statement proved it.
“Are you sure you can trust her, Johnny? I mean the one and only time you spent with her you fell hard and she ditched you like yesterday’s news without a backwards glance.”
Johnny couldn’t believe what he was hearing Roy say. “I know I can trust her, Roy. She wouldn’t do anything to hurt me intentionally.”
“Right, Junior,” replied Roy with just a hint of sarcasm. “Then how come you were a bear for almost three months after she disappeared? You damn near bit the head off of anyone who came near you and had the misfortune to ask what was bothering you. And you just about picked a fist fight with Chet at work when he innocently asked what girl got your goat this time. Want me to continue?”
He ran his fingers through his unruly hair and replied, “Roy, there is nothing innocent about Chet when he asks you something. And no, you don’t need to continue. I was hard to live with and I know it was because she left without saying goodbye and never tried contacting me afterwards, but I believe there is more to her story that we don’t know and I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt.”
Brenna listened to Roy remind Johnny of how he was after she had disappeared and knew she was going to have to eventually face his best friend. She wiped the tears from the corners of her eyes, put a smile on her face as she opened the door the rest of the way and stepped out into the hallway.
Johnny lifted his head as he heard something and made a motion to Roy to cease the conversation. He thought it was his bedroom door and knew that Brenna was coming out. Roy looked up to see a very beautiful but disheveled young woman walking down the hallway in one of Johnny’s shirts and he could tell that she'd been crying. He looked over at Johnny and tipped his head in the direction she was coming from, letting Johnny know in silent communication that all was not right with the young woman.
As she approached the guys, Johnny turned his head to see her tentatively walking towards them. He could see she’d been crying and knew that that she had heard what they had been talking about. He stood up, taking her hand and leading her to the chair he had just vacated.
Looking at Brenna’s tear stained face Roy began to speak, “Brenna, I am so sorry that you heard….”
Brenna interrupted him, saying, “Please don’t feel that you need to apologize, Roy. You’ve nothing to apologize for. You were speaking out of concern for your friend and how I treated him when I left. If anyone should be apologizing, it should be me.”
“Bree, you don’t need to apologize,” replied Johnny.
“No, I do. Like I told you last night, Johnny, I couldn’t say goodbye to you. But that doesn’t excuse me taking off like I did. No explanation, no nothing. It wasn’t right,” she said. “I think it is time I let you both in on the reason why I came to California again and why I was here the first time.”
As she sat down in the chair that Johnny vacated for her, she thought of how she was going to break the news to these two who she was and what she really did for a living. Johnny brought her a glass of water and handed one to Roy before he sat down and waited for her to tell her story
“Do either of you remember a young woman who came onto the country music scene around 1970?” Both guys shook their heads negatively and wondered what direction this story was going to take. She smiled at their confusion and continued with her story.
“Her name was Bree Montgomery and she was 17 years old. She took the country music scene by storm with her combination of country and rock,” said Brenna.
Johnny looked at Brenna as comprehension began to dawn on him just who she really was. He looked over at Roy who was still confused as to what she was talking about and trying to keep up.
“Bree, are you telling me…” Johnny started to say
“Yes, I am, Johnny. My true name is Brenna Elizabeth Leigh Montgomery. I am also known as Bree Montgomery, country rock singer.” She stopped her story there to let the information she just imparted to the guys to sink in. She watched the conflicting emotions run across Johnny’s face and began to worry that he’d reject her for not telling him the truth about who she was when they first met.
Johnny finally spoke up, “Bree, you should’ve known that you could trust me.”
“I wish I had, Johnny, I really wish I had. But there was so much chaos in my life when I first met you and you really didn’t know who I was. It was so nice being known just as Brenna Leigh, newly graduated college student and looking for work,” replied Brenna as she smiled at Johnny.
What she said finally sunk in for Roy. He looked at her and said, “You really are the missing country rock star, Bree Montgomery?”
“Guilty as charged, Roy.”
He shook his head in disbelief all the time looking at Johnny and wondering what was going through his mind. “Joanne’s not going to believe this,” he said. “At first I didn’t recall ever knowing who you were, but now that I think about it, Joanne listened to a few of your albums, especially your first one. It got played a lot to the point of her warping it.”
While Roy and Brenna talked about music in general, Johnny sat and stared at Brenna. He couldn’t believe that she would keep such a secret from him. But then again, he thought, they’d only known each other for a few days. There would’ve been no reason for her to tell him who she really was or what she did for a living. He’d just assumed that she was a college student in town for her Christmas break.
Johnny was so deep in thought that he hadn’t realized the woman whom he was in love with (although hadn’t admitted it yet) and his best friend had stopped talking and both were looking at him. At one point, Roy waved his hand in front of Johnny’s face and Johnny hadn’t even blinked. Roy glanced over at Brenna and she shrugged her shoulders as she had no idea what was on his mind. As she leaned over to get his attention, he surprised her by jumping to his feet. Quickly she pulled her hand back and let him go. She looked over at Roy who shook his head at her, letting her know that he knew what his friend was thinking and she didn't need to worry.
They watched as Johnny paced back and forth across the living room floor, wondering what was going through his mind. Johnny knew that Brenna had no reason to confide her secret to him but at the same time he felt as though what they had shared in those three days was a lie. He didn’t know if she really cared for him or if that had been a lie too. Brenna watched the conflicting emotions run across Johnny’s face and knew he was fighting his own doubts within his mind. She decided to take it upon herself and interrupt the argument he was having with himself.
Standing up, she reached out towards Johnny to bring him to a stop. As he looked down at her, she smiled in reassurance that things would be alright.
“Johnny, I can only imagine what you are thinking right now. Just know this, I didn’t lie about how I felt during those three days we spent together. You made me feel cherished and…”
Johnny grabbed Brenna and pulled her to him. He placed his hands on either side of her face and kissed her deeply forgetting that Roy was still in the room. Releasing her from the kiss, he said, “Bree, I know that you did what you felt was right at the time and I’ve no doubt your feelings were and are still genuine. The only issue I’m trying to deal with is the trust. And it has nothing to do with you, it’s with me.”
The couple softly talked to each other, totally oblivious to Roy who was still sitting on the couch. Roy chuckled silently as he watched the two discuss issues with trust and telling the truth. He could tell how much they cared about each other even after being apart for more than a year. He tried to keep his attention elsewhere but after ten minutes he finally decided to interrupt the couple and bring up the reason he had come to Johnny’s apartment in the first place.
Clearing his throat, Roy smiled as the startled couple pulled apart. Brenna had a faint blush on her cheeks and Johnny was displaying his infamous lopsided grin.
“Sorry, Roy, I guess we kind of forgot that you were still here,” said Johnny.
“Don’t worry about it, Junior. I can understand why you forgot about me,” replied Roy. “But I thought I’d better bring up the reason why I came to your apartment in the first place.”
“You know, I never even thought about that. But why are you here?” asked Johnny.
“You invited me, remember,” said Roy. “You asked if I’d be able to help you on Sunday and I told you that if Joanne’s family left early that I’d be over Sunday morning to ride with you to the ranch.”
“Ranch?” questioned Brenna. “What ranch are you talking about?”
Both Johnny and Roy chuckled before Johnny answered her question. “Six months after you left, I had the opportunity to purchase a ranch near the San Gabriel Mountains. I’m just about finished with the updates.” He turned to Roy and then back to Brenna and asked her, “Would you like to go see the ranch?”
“Yes!” she cried. “I’d love to see what you purchased and what you’ve done with it.”
“What do ya think, Roy? Should we head out to the ranch?” asked Johnny.
Roy laughed and replied, “Yes, we should.” Roy looked at the clock and said, “And we should do it soon as it’s almost 1 o’clock in the afternoon and Joanne said that if her sister left by noon, she and the kids would meet us out there as soon as she could get them ready.”
Brenna and Johnny whipped their heads around to look at Roy and then up at the clock on the wall. Brenna glanced over at Johnny and ran for his bedroom to get dressed. As she ran around the room looking for all of her clothing items, she chuckled to herself as she thought about how things had turned out and hoped that once Johnny learned the rest of her secrets he’d still want her to be a part of his life.
She opened the door to the bedroom just a crack and shouted down the hall to Johnny. “Johnny, I can’t wear a halter top to the ranch. Can I steal one of your t-shirts?”
Johnny laughed as he looked at Roy and replied, “Go for it. Middle drawer of the tall dresser is where you’ll find them.”
“Junior, you’re going to lose all your clothing if you let her rummage through them now,” laughed Roy as he looked at Johnny. “You’re going to find her wearing more and more of your shirts. Believe me, she makes your shirts look a lot better than you do and if you tell Joanne that, I’ll deny it.”
Shortly she came out of the bedroom, smiling as the guys chuckled when they saw the t-shirt she had picked out. The shirt was one that had been sold on her tour in 1973 and given to Johnny as a joke by Chet. She joined in their laughter as they headed out the door and jumped into Johnny’s Jeep.
All the way out to the ranch, Roy and Johnny regaled Bree with stories of their partnership and friendship. They talked about the guys that they worked with at the station and some of the situations they found themselves in. Bree realized that these two were closer than brothers and there was nothing they would do for each other. Roy also filled her in on his wife, Joanne, and their two children, Chris who was 7 going on 8, and Jennifer, a very precocious 3½-year-old. Meeting Roy’s wife and children had Bree nervous. She only met Joanne the one time on New Year’s Eve and she was not sure how she would feel about her being back in Johnny’s life, knowing how close they all were.
It took forty-five minutes to get from Johnny’s apartment to the ranch and when he turned down the lane, Bree could feel her breath being taken away as all she saw at first were the San Gabriel Mountains in the background. When she finally saw the house, she was almost in tears. The house Johnny had purchased was the one that belonged to her grandparents when they first moved to California back in 1935. She remembered as a child playing in the backyard that faced the mountains, riding their horses through the trails that she knew was behind the barn. Brenna was having a hard time keeping her tears in check. Roy could see she was swallowing hard and knew that something wasn’t right with the blonde.
As Johnny brought the Jeep to a stop, Roy nudged the back of Johnny’s seat to alert him to Brenna’s difficulty. Johnny turned to see what Roy wanted when he noticed Bree and the tears in her eyes. Roy got out of the car to give the couple privacy, but also because he has noticed his wife’s car turning down the road into the ranch.
“Bree, honey, what’s wrong?” he asked as he looked at her with concern in his eyes.
She looked at him as one tear slid down her cheek, followed by another. She didn’t know where to begin with the story. She smiled through the tears in her eyes and said, “Let's just say this place took me by surprise. The house is perfect, Johnny, in more ways than you can imagine.” She turned in the seat and looked at him. “I know this house…it had belonged to my grandparents before I was born and I used to spend summers out here as a child.”
While Johnny sat in stunned silence looking at Brenna, Roy was walking back to his wife’s car. Joanne smiled when she saw her husband get out of Johnny’s vehicle but was wondering why they were just arriving. She shushed the kids in the backseat as they shouted they wanted out to see their dad and their ‘Uncle Johnny’.
Stepping out the car, Jo reached up to kiss her husband. “What’s going on, Roy? I figured you two would have been out here for at least the last two hours working on the house. I was surprised to see you pulling into the driveway not too far ahead of me.”
“It’s a long story, Jo, and one you’re not going to believe,” said Roy as he leaned into the car to speak to the kids. “Hi kids. You come to help me and Johnny on his house?”
“Roy, you’re not going to change the subject. What is the story and what am I not going to believe?”
Just as Joanne asked her husband that question, she noticed Johnny helping a petite blonde out of his Jeep and turned to Roy with the very same question in her eyes.
“Who is the blonde?” asked Joanne.
“Do you remember that New Year’s Eve at the Santa Monica Pier in 1974 when Chris was 6?”
“Yeah, Johnny showed up with a really pretty blonde…” Joanne began the sentence and then comprehension dawned on her as she realized what Roy hinted to. She looked back at Johnny and the young woman still standing by the Jeep and noticed Johnny was very protective of the young woman. Turning back to look at her husband, she asked, “That’s her, isn’t it?”
“Yes, Jo, it’s Brenna. She’s back in town and working at Rampart,” replied Roy. He knew Joanne was going to have a hard time with this as she saw firsthand how Johnny was after Brenna disappeared. She had sadly watched him date one woman after another trying to forget the petite blonde. Then she became angry at the blonde as Johnny let anger become a major part of his attitude.
“How can he let her back in?” cried Joanne. “I don’t understand him. He was devastated when she disappeared, never calling him or writing him. How can he let her back into his life?”
“Jo, there’s so much more to this than meets the eye. We both knew that they had met before when he introduced her to us. Nothing has changed. Believe me, I’m just as surprised about this as you are and I have my doubts, but right now this is what Johnny wants,” he said to his wife. “I know it’s going to be hard but we have to give her the benefit of the doubt…”
“I don’t know if I can give her the benefit of the doubt, Roy. She almost destroyed him when she disappeared.”
Roy looked over at Johnny and Brenna and knew that Johnny was worried about Jo’s reaction to seeing Brenna again. Chris and Jennifer were clamoring to get out of the car to go see their uncle. Joanne turned and told them to go ahead. The kids made a mad scramble to get out and catch up with their uncle.
As he watched his kids run to Johnny, he turned to his wife and asked, “Jo, I’m going to tell you something in confidence and I don’t want you repeating it to anyone. Can you do that for me?”
“Why do I get the feeling I am not going to like this?” she asked.
“Honey, it’s not what you think. But that young woman is someone you’ve always liked,” he said as he paused before continuing on. “Her real name is Bree Montgomery…”
As Joanne looked at Roy in total surprise, Brenna was warily watching them wondering how Joanne was going to react to seeing her again with Johnny. She knew from what Roy had told her that Joanne took it very hard as she saw firsthand the affects her disappearance had on Johnny. She knew that the lovely brunette viewed her husband’s partner as a brother and felt protective of him when it came to how the women in his life treated him.
Johnny reached out and put his arm around Bree as the kids came running towards them. He knew she was nervous about meeting Joanne after Roy accidentally let it slip about what happened after Bree disappeared. He looked at her and couldn’t resist kissing the end of her nose. She glanced up at him with what he first thought was confusion in her eyes but he quickly realized she truly was terrified at how Joanne would react to her being back.
“Bree, honey, come on,” he said. “It’s going to be alright. Joanne’s not the type of person to hold grudges. It might take a bit of time for her to warm back up to you but she will not treat you like a pariah.”
Johnny would have said something more but the kids caught up with him and Jennifer came running at him to be lifted up in a bear hug, which was their usual greeting when he came to their house for a visit. Bree took the opportunity to slip inside the house and try to calm her nerves.
Stepping back into this house brought back a lot of memories. She smiled as she noticed the subtle changes that Johnny had made to the house. He updated the color scheme but kept a neutral theme. As she walked through the house letting her memories run loose, the rest of the group were standing in the front yard.
“Where is she, Johnny?” asked Joanne.
“I think she went inside the house,” he replied. “She’s pretty nervous about meeting you, Jo.”
“Nervous about meeting me…why?” she asked in return.
Roy figured he’d better help Johnny on this one. “Because I kind of opened my mouth and mentioned what Johnny was like after she had disappeared and how upset you were with her.”
“Oh dear God, Roy, you didn’t” cried Joanne. “She must think I really and truly hate her.” Joanne turned to Johnny and said, “Is she really that nervous, Johnny?”
“Yes, Jo, she is. I think the whole time she was gone she was been beating herself up for the way she left and neither Roy nor I helped alleviate her fears.”
Joanne looked at the two men before her and shook her head in disbelief. Yes, she had been quite upset with the young woman for what happened after she disappeared but she could never hate her. Jo knew she would have to tread softly as not to scare off this young woman because from the look on Johnny’s face, this girl really means a lot to him and probably more than even he knew.
Telling the guys to keep an eye on the kids, Joanne walked into the house to find Bree. She wanted to have a heart-to-heart with this young woman, partly to clear the air and partly to find out what her plans were. She didn’t have to go far to find Bree. As she entered into the wide foyer, she noticed her standing at the doors to the patio staring out towards the mountains. She walked up beside her and when Bree turned her head to acknowledge her presence, she smiled.
“I think you and I need to have long talk…Bree Montgomery,” said Joanne. “It seems there are a few misconceptions about how I feel about you.”
Bree swallowed uneasily and replied, “So Roy told you who I really am. I do agree we need to talk. If you really want to know the truth, I am not sure how you feel about me.”
As the two women walked out onto the patio, Chris and Jennifer came running around the corner. Joanne rolled her eyes as she realized the guys had already lost track of the kids. Jennifer came to a short stop in front of her mother and stared right at Bree. Joanne knew her youngest would be curious as to who this person was and turned to introduce her to Bree
“Bree, I’d like you to meet my daughter, Jennifer,” said Joanne as she turned to Chris. “And this young man is my son, Chris. Kids, I’d like you to meet Bree. She’s an old friend of Johnny’s.”
Jennifer smiled shyly at Bree and hid her face in her mother’s leg. Chris just stared at the young woman standing next to his mother. He shrugged his shoulder and headed to the barn. Bree knelt down on the patio so she would be eye level with Jennifer and said hi. Jennifer peaked at Bree and giggled, letting go of her mother’s leg and giving Bree a kiss on the cheek before going to catch up with her brother. Bree sat back on her heels, puzzled by that turn of events.
“She likes you,” said Joanne. “She’ll only do that to people that she feels she can trust.”
Bree looked at Joanne as she got back up on her feet, smiled and said, “She is sweet. I guess the next question is, do you feel you can trust me?”
“You don’t beat around the bush, do you? You go straight to the heart of things.”
Bree sat down on the double lounger on the patio and gestured for Joanne to join her. “I don’t believe in whitewashing a difficult situation. It’s best to get it out in the open for discussion. I will admit I was nervous about meeting you after hearing Roy talk to Johnny about how things were after I ‘left’.”
“It wasn’t easy, believe me. For the first month, Johnny hoped you would write or call, and when you didn’t, then the anger and the attitude took over.”
“Joanne, I never meant to hurt him. Like I had told him last night, I just couldn’t say goodbye,” replied Bree as she stared up at the mountains. “I found myself falling in love and knowing I had to leave the very next day made that knowledge even harder to accept. I’ve never in my whole life felt so torn as I did that night.”
She turned to look at Joanne with tears in her eyes. Joanne knew that there was so much more to this relationship than Johnny had shared with them back then. She could see the pain in Bree’s eyes and knew that this young woman truly felt remorse for what happened.
“Why didn’t you try to contact him, write or call?” asked Joanne. “All he wanted to know was that you were alright. After the fight on the pier was under control, he was frantic trying to find you.”
"You don't know how many times I wanted to pick up the phone to call information to get his number and address. Or how many times I started writing a letter that would more than likely never get mailed," said Bree as she watched Chris and Jennifer run out of the barn toward the play area set up in the backyard.
"What stopped you, Bree? What it is that kept you from making that call or writing that letter?"
Bree looked out towards the mountains before she looked back at Joanne and answered her question. "I couldn’t contact him because I had suffered a breakdown of sorts.” She could see the question in Joanne’s eyes and chuckled before she continued with her answer. “No, I was not hospitalized for this breakdown but I did go far away for my recuperation.”
Joanne couldn't believe when she heard Bree say she’d suffered some type of breakdown after she left Johnny. She found it hard to wrap her thoughts around that fact when she realized Bree was waiting to continue. So she had to ask, "What do you mean ‘a breakdown of sorts’? Do you have some type of a medical condition?"
"No. At the time I met Johnny, I was taking some time for myself to try and relax after there had been a number of unfortunate events happen in my life. After I left, the stress finally took its toll on me," said Bree as she turned to face Joanne so it would be easier to talk to her.
Joanne had a feeling this was going to be one heck of a story by the time Bree was done with the telling of it.
Bree smiled as she knew Joanne was making an effort to get to know who she was and she seemed truly interested in her story, but she really wanted Johnny to hear it before anyone else.
"I’d love to continue telling my story to you, Joanne, but I feel Johnny should really be the one to hear it first."
Joanne looked at Bree and silently agreed that Johnny should be the first to be told. She smiled and with her hand nearest to Bree, she pointed to the window just off to the right of where they were sitting to indicate that she knew the guys were right beyond the window in the kitchen. Bree chuckled at what Joanne was silently telling her and spoke up.
"You know, guys, you can come out and join us if you’d like. It’d probably be easier to hear me," Bree stated loud enough for them to hear her.
Johnny and Roy looked at each other and laughed as they realized they had been found out. Grabbing some drinks from the fridge, the two headed out the patio. Roy noticed that Joanne had vacated the double lounger and was trying to pull two chairs over closer. He quickly handed the drinks to Johnny and went to help her.
Just as Bree was going to continue with her story, Jennifer came running up to her mommy crying as she had scraped her knee when she fell off the swing. Between gasps for air, she got it out that she was trying to be like her big brother and jump off the swing before it came to a stop.
Joanne picked up Jennifer to take her inside to clean up her knee. Before she walked through the door, she told Bree not to start without her, that she’d be right back. Roy finished moving the chairs over and sat down as Johnny handed him his beer and placed Joanne's iced tea on the table between the lounger and the chairs.
“Hey, sweetheart, how are you doin’?” he asked innocently as he sat down and put his arm on the back of the seat behind her.
Bree wasn’t fooled, but she smiled inwardly as she knew what he was up to, trying to keep her comfortable. Joanne and Jennifer came back out of the house a short time later and Jennifer went to join her brother back on the swing set with a warning not to try and jump off the moving swing again.
Waiting for Joanne to sit down, Bree snuggled up against Johnny and felt his arm move from the back of the seat to her shoulders. Joanne sat down next to her husband while Roy looked over at his friend who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying having his arm around Bree.
Joanne looked at Bree with concern in her eyes and asked, "What happened in your life that would wreak such havoc to cause a breakdown of sorts?"
"There were numerous things. The first one was an admirer who thought I was his and only his. He viewed anyone who tried to hurt me or cause me pain as a threat. It started out innocently enough. I’d find flowers or small gifts left in my dressing room at some of the venues we played at, nothing extravagant…tulips or carnations, a teddy bear. But as the tour went on, the flowers turned into roses and then purple orchids and the gifts became more personal."
Bree shuddered as she thought of a couple of the gifts that had been left…a black see-through nightgown, a diamond bracelet. She felt Johnny pull her closer to him in a hug to let her know he was there. She glanced up at him through her eyelashes and smiled. Johnny felt his heart contract, not knowing why it did so.
"What happened next changed everything. We were playing at a small county fair and just before we were to go on stage, the weather took a drastic turn for the worse and everyone was advised to take cover immediately. When the all-clear was given, we immediately began to help with the clean-up effort. We were lucky… only minor damage was done to our equipment, but the stage roof took a beating so the concert was cancelled."
Johnny said to Bree, "You were lucky no one was hurt."
"Yes, but it wasn't over. I was feeling tired and dirty so I was heading back to my bus to clean up. Just before I stepped on my bus, I felt someone grab me from behind, putting their hand over my mouth…"
Joanne gasped out loud, covering her mouth with her own hand as she felt Roy grab her other hand. Johnny blanched white as his imagination went wild.
"He was trying to drag me into the trees behind where my bus was parked and while he was trying to do that, he kept saying in my ear, 'You shouldn't be here. You could’ve been hurt. If you had been with me, you’d have been safe.' He wasn't paying attention to his surroundings so when the opportunity arose, I took it. His hand slipped when he tripped over the root of a tree. I screamed, shoving my elbow into his abdomen and ran when his grip on me loosened."
Bree stood up to stretch and walked over to the edge of the patio. Leaning against the support column, she continued her story.
"By the time I got out of the tree grove, my grandfather, my father and three of my road crew were running in the direction my scream came from. My father grabbed me and took me back to the bus while the others went in the direction I pointed to look for my assailant. I had calmed down by the time they came back but he had gotten away."
"Bree?" asked Joanne. "Didn't any of you think that it might be this person who was sending the gifts and flowers?"
"Yes, we did but at the time, my father was more concerned with reporting the attempted abduction," stated Bree as she continued with her story. "I didn't want it reported…."
"Didn't want it reported?!" said Johnny. "Bree, are you kidding me? How could not want to report it. God only knows what he could’ve done to you once he got you away from there."
Bree looked at Johnny with tears in her eyes. Joanne reached over and placed her hand on his arm, hoping to get his attention before he said anything more. As he looked down at the hand on his arm and over to the person it belonged to, he saw the silent message in her eyes as she tipped her head towards Bree. It shocked him when he saw the look on Bree’s face…she looked scared.
“Bree,” said Johnny as he walked towards her. “I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have shouted like that.”
She watched as he walked towards her. She put her hand out as if to stop him before he reached her.
“Johnny, please don’t come any closer. Let me finish this,” she replied.
Johnny turned back to Joanne and Roy, his expression saying it all. He sat back down on the patio couch he had just vacated. He felt terrible about shouting at Bree, mentally beating himself up for doing it. Joanne knew exactly what he was thinking and reached over to let him know they were there for him.
"I didn't want to report it as there was a local TV crew there and I didn't want it to make the news. It would have become tabloid fodder after that. My father located the sheriff and after we told him what happened, he said he’d keep an eye out for any suspicious behavior and that he’d do his best to keep the news crew from finding out…and he succeeded."
She turned back towards the view of the mountains and continued on. "Things definitely were different after that. The flowers and gifts stopped for a while but my freedom was curtailed. The only place I could find peace and quiet was in the bathroom. By mid-July, I was going crazy. I felt penned in. September was by far the worst month since the whole fiasco started.”
She stopped her story as Chris and Jennifer came running up to the adults on the patio. They were thirsty and wanted something to drink. Roy got up and went into the house locating the pitcher of Kool-Aid that Joanne had brought with her and poured two glasses for the kids. In the wisdom of children, Chris knew that the adults were having a serious conversation and so when his dad gave them their beverage, he took Jennifer by the hand and led her back to the playground.
Bree smiled inwardly as she watched the two children walk away. She turned back to continue with her story.
"One of my last stops before my performance at the Grand Old Opry was in Minnesota and since my mother was from North Dakota, my parents decided rent a car and head over to visit my mother's family while I jumped on the bus and headed back to Nashville. Little did I know that it would be the last time I would see my parents or my grandparents alive."
Johnny could see she was slowly falling apart. Her voice had taken on a shakiness that said she was close to losing her self-control. He glanced over at Roy and Joanne and could see the same concern in their eyes. He couldn’t take it anymore. Johnny got up and walked over to Bree. He grasped her chin in his hand and made her look up at him. What he saw took his breath away. The sorrow in her eyes would have knocked a lesser person to their knees, but at the same time he saw an inner strength that he knew got her through one of the worst times of her life. She shook her head as she knew what he wanted to say to her. Instead he leaned against the column and pulled her back against his chest.
“The day of my performance I was a nervous wreck. We’d spent most of the morning going over the song we would perform and the encore number. By the time we arrived at the Opry, my parents should’ve been there. They had called earlier when they stopped to fill with gas to say they were only half an hour out and should’ve been at the Opry long before I was to go on stage.”
Bree swallowed as the memories she kept under lock and key were set loose. She talked of the performance she and the band gave to the Opry audience. She told them of the worry she had as she finished the encore number and her parents still had not arrived. Deep down, she knew that something was wrong.
She could feel Johnny’s arms tighten around her waist as if he was trying to give her some of his strength to continue with her story.
"As I exited the stage, my cousin, Jesse, was waiting for me. He took my arm and rushed me back to my dressing room. I had no clue what was going on. In the dressing room I had been using waiting for me was the Chief of Police for the City of Nashville."
Roy, Johnny and Joanne all looked at each other and Roy asked the question they all seemed to want an answer to. "Bree, what happened?" he asked.
"The chief had arrived halfway through my performance to inform me of the death of my parents and grandparents in a car crash," replied Bree in an almost emotionless voice as she stepped out of Johnny's embrace, turned and looked up towards the mountains. Through her tears, she smiled as she thought of all the happy memories she had in her grandparents' home.
"Thank God my cousin, Jesse, was standing behind me because I completely freaked out. In the period of four months, I had been attacked by a psychotic fan, lost my parents and both sets of grandparents. Other than my two cousins and their parents, I had no family left.”
"I can't even imagine what you were feeling then or now," said Joanne with tears in her eyes as she saw Bree in a totally different light.
"I wasn't even allowed to attend the funerals of my parents or grandparents. The only thing the media had been told was that I was suffering from exhaustion and grief. The last two months of concerts were canceled and the money refunded. I was whisked away to my grandparents’ lake place in Minnesota to convalesce.”
She turned back to Johnny and smiled as he opened his arms for her and stepped back into his embrace. "After spending October and November at the lakes, I decided I needed to get away to a warmer climate for a while. My cousin was in her senior year at USC so I called her to let her know I was coming to visit. I had been here for almost three weeks when I met Johnny…and the rest we can say is history."
Joanne looked at the young woman whom she was now beginning to see in a different light and could see the inner strength that Bree had found within after everything that had happened.
Both Roy and Johnny looked at each other when they realized just who Bree’s cousin was. Johnny smiled at her and asked, “Your cousin…it’s Mandy, isn’t it?”
Bree laughed, looking over at Joanne, "Sometimes you two are too smart for your own good. Yes, Mandy is my cousin and she was the one I was down here to visit.”
The silence was almost deafening as each of them sat quietly trying to assimilate what Bree had told them.
Roy looked up at Johnny who was smiling at him over the top of Bree's head. Within that silent communication, Roy knew that his partner had found what he was searching for. He just hoped that meant the end of the crazy dreams he had been having the past couple of months.
Johnny started walking back towards the couch but was puzzled when Bree didn't follow him. He turned around and looked at her, still holding onto his hand with her arm stretched.
"What is it, honey?" he asked. He could see her take a deep breath as if she was trying to calm herself.
"There is more to this story, Johnny, just a little bit more," she replied. "You might want to sit down for this."
"Join me then," Johnny as he sat down, a little worried about what she had to say next.
"If I sit down I won't be able to continue on with this story. You can be a bit of a distraction, you know," Bree said as she chuckled nervously. "The ending of this tale has more to do with you and me and our three days together than it does with the rest."
She looked over at the De Soto kids playing in the yard and then back at Johnny with a smile on her face. “Johnny, when I left California, I didn’t leave alone.”
“What do you meant you didn’t leave California alone? Who left with you…Mandy?”
Joanne couldn’t help but chuckle at the impatience she could hear in Johnny’s voice. She knew Roy was thinking the same thing as he knew better than any of them how impatient Johnny could get. She smiled at her husband as she could see the question in his eyes about where Bree was going with this.
“No, Mandy did not come with me. She was still in college,” replied Bree. “When I said I didn’t leave California alone, I meant that I was not the only one along for the ride.”
Bree didn’t think it would be this hard to tell him this but with Joanne and Roy here, she found it nigh to impossible to spill the beans. She took a deep breath and plunged right in.
“Johnny, the best way to say this is straight out…three months after I left California I found out I was pregnant…”
"Preg….," Johnny started to say before he found himself sitting down rather fast. He sat in complete silence trying to absorb what Bree had just said to him. She had been pregnant when she left California and didn't know it. He just sat there looking down at the ground trying to wrap his head around what she had said. She hadn't called, written or tried to locate him when she found out. He found himself getting angry with her because of that.
Roy could see the turmoil raging on Johnny's face. He quietly stood up and took his wife's hand, walking out to where the children were playing. He asked the kids if they wanted to go check out the trails behind the barn, figuring he could get the kids out of earshot and give the couple some privacy to have it out, so to speak.
Bree watched as Johnny waged a battle within himself. She wasn't sure what he was thinking but knew that he was having a hard time dealing with that fact that she had not tried to contact him when she discovered she was pregnant. She watched as Roy and Joanne, even though shocked by the news, quietly left the area to give them privacy.
Not knowing if this was the right thing to do, Bree walked over and knelt in front of Johnny, reaching out to place her hand on his knee. Johnny looked straight into her eyes and what she saw scared her. As he broke off eye contact, he stood up and began to pace. He turned and stared right at her.
"Why?" he asked her so softly she wasn’t sure she heard him right. "Why didn't you try to contact me when you learned you were pregnant? Didn't you think I had a right to know about the child?"
Bree started to reply, but Johnny cut her off before she even had a chance to begin her sentence. "Didn’t it ever occur to you that I might have been very pleased to know that we had created a new life? I love children, Bree."
He stopped pacing for a moment as if he was thinking hard and asked, "Where is the child, Bree? You spent last night with me with no obvious concern for a child at home. Did you get rid of it?"
Without even thinking, Bree reached out and slapped Johnny hard across the face. "How dare you! Never in my life would I ever consider doing something like that. I can’t believe you’d even dare to think that I would harm a child, born or unborn!"
Johnny looked at Bree who was standing in front of him shaking. What surprised him was her tenacity at hitting him. She hadn't flinched nor was she crying. He couldn't tell if she was shaking from fear or from anger. He was glad that Roy and Joanne had taken the kids to the trails as he really didn't want them to witness their argument.
"I don't know what to think, Bree, right now. I’m so pissed off right now! I can't believe that you think so little of me that you couldn't even try to contact me about the pregnancy. I missed out on nine months of you carrying our child, of our child's first six months of life. What am I supposed to think?"
Bree swallowed hard and angrily stated, "Do you know how many times I picked up the phone or started a letter? I cried myself to sleep every night because I felt so lost and so far away. I wound up in Alaska at my aunt and uncle’s place until the baby was born. And as far as what you are supposed to think, that is entirely up to you!"
"So you picked up the phone to call and even started a letter but you were too much of a coward to complete it! Bree, I don't know what to think. All I know is that I want you to leave. I need time alone and try and sort this out," said Johnny. "Just leave."
“You want me to leave?” asked Bree, disbelief written all over her face. “You don’t even want to discuss this dilemma as calm, rational adults?”
“Right now, I don’t even feel like a calm, rational adult. What I’m feeling right now is if we continue this discuss it might end badly. Just leave, Bree, right now. Get out of my sight!”
"Will I ever hear from you, Johnny?" asked Bree as she felt the tears well up in her eyes. "Will you ever be able to forgive me?"
Softly Johnny replied, "I don't know."
After hearing those three words, Bree turned to head for the front door. But before she left, she had one last thing left to say. “I never stopped thinking about you, Johnny. As our child grew within me, I thought of our time together. The first time the child moved within me, I cried because I couldn’t share this with you. And when I gave birth, I spent the first two months of our child’s life suffering from depression because I wasn’t sharing even that with you. I am still living in that hell…separated from you and from our child. I hope that one day you can forgive me. Just know this…I will always love you…and that I will be waiting for you.”
Having said what she need to say, Bree turned and ran for the front door. As she stopped outside the house, she realized she had no way of getting home. Deciding that wasn’t going to be an obstacle, she took off down the lane that led to the road they took to get here. She never had a problem with navigation and knew she could find her way back to Los Angeles. She never looked back.
Johnny leaned up against the patio column and stared up towards the mountains. He wondered how he could be so wrong about someone and so lost as to what he should do about it. He never heard Roy approach him ten minutes later.
"Are you okay, Junior?"
He jumped as he heard the voice next to him and turned towards his friend. "I'll be fine, Roy. It's just hard to digest this news."
"I hate to ask this, Johnny, but are you sure it’s yours?" asked Roy knowing that Johnny would not be fine, not for a while.
"I am one hundred percent sure, Pally," replied Johnny. "Just between you and me, she’d never been with anyone before. I was the first."
"Ooooo...kay. So what do you plan on doing about it?" he asked. "You two just found each other again and she goes and drops one hell of a bombshell on you."
"Of that I’m not too sure about. I have a lot to sort through, a lot to try and figure out. I told her I just need time to think."
"You know what amazes me, Junior," Roy said. "It's the fact that even though you two only knew each other for three days and have been separated for over a year, yet there is some type of a connection I just can't get…what is it between you and her."
Johnny looked at his partner as he shook his head in bewilderment and had no idea how to reply to what Roy just said.
While Roy and Johnny talked about what happened, Joanne took the kids inside and tried to find where Bree had gone to. Jennifer and Chris were having fun running through the empty house and listening to their voices echo through the rooms. When she realized Bree was nowhere to be found, she became worried that the young woman took off on her own to get home. As she walked back into the living room, she could see Roy through the patio door and when he glanced in her direction, she motioned for him to come inside.
Roy spotted Joanne motioning to him to come in. He told Johnny that he’d be right back and went in to see what his wife wanted.
"Roy, I can't find Bree," said Joanne with a worried expression in her eyes. "She’s nowhere in the house and neither is she in the front yard. I think she took off."
"That’s going to be one long walk if she did as she rode with us," he replied. "I'd better let Johnny know."
"Don't do that, Roy,” said Joanne as he turned to look back at her. “Let Johnny be. He has enough on his plate that he needs to sort through and so does Bree. I don't condone that what she did was right, but at the same time I can understand her dilemma," she said. "Let me go and look for her. I'll take the kids with me and when I find her, I’ll give her a lift to her house and head home to start supper. Bring Johnny along for supper if he’ll agree."
She gave her husband a hug and told the kids to head for the car. Roy kissed her before he let her go and told her good luck. When she got to the car, she told Chris to sit up front and help her keep an eye out for Bree.
"Did Bree and Uncle Johnny have a big fight or something, mom?" asked Chris.
"Something like that, honey. She must have forgotten that she rode with Uncle Johnny and decided to walk home."
"You grownups are sure silly," Chris replied as he laughed.
"Yes, we are," Joanne replied back as she ruffled her son's hair and laughed with him. She looked at her youngest in the rearview mirror and smiled at the little girl, thankful that she didn't quite understand what was going on.
Putting the car in gear, she backed out of the drive. Roy watched them leave and turned back to Johnny. The two friends sat in silence, looking out towards the mountains and enjoying the peace and quiet.
Joanne told Chris to keep an eye out for the small blonde. About fifteen minutes into the drive, Chris spotted Bree walking up ahead. Joanne couldn't believe how far Bree had gotten in just a short time.
Bree thought she could hear a car coming down the road and hoped it wasn't Johnny. She wasn’t ready to face him right now. Bree stepped off the side of the road to allow the car to pass and was surprised to hear it slow down as it pulled up alongside of her. She turned to see who it was and saw Chris smiling at her as he was rolling down the window.
"Could you use a lift, Bree?" asked Joanne and Chris simultaneously.
She smiled weakly and said, "I’d appreciate it." She told Chris to stay in the front seat and she opened the back door and got in.
As Bree put on her seatbelt, Jennifer watched her with curiosity. She knew the lady sitting next to her was sad and that it had something to do with Uncle Johnny but she wasn't sure why. She could see her mom watching the lady through the mirror up front and that mommy was worried about something. Jennifer decided the pretty lady needed a hug and wiggled out of her seatbelt and slid close to Bree, putting her hand in Bree's and hugging her arm.
Bree felt a small, warm hand slide into hers and when she glanced down, Jennifer was sitting next to her and trying to give her a hug. It almost broke her heart as she knew what this precious little girl was trying to do…comfort her without knowing why. She pulled the little girl into her lap and hugged her close, while the tears slipped down her cheeks.
Joanne almost started crying herself as she saw her daughter reach out to Bree. She couldn't even bring herself to admonish her for getting out of her seatbelt when she knows it is wrong. It amazed her how her youngest child could be so intuitive when it came to others hurting.
As they approached Carson, Joanne said over her shoulder to Bree, "I’m going to need your address, Bree, so I can get you home."
"Sorry, Joanne, I didn't even think about that. It's 1257 Northridge Drive in Torrance. It's at the end of a cul de sac," replied Bree as she continued to hold Jennifer while she looked out the window.
Ten minutes later, Joanne pulled into Bree's driveway. She was amazed at the home that Bree lived in. She watched through the rearview mirror as Bree put Jennifer back into her seatbelt and kissed her forehead and telling her that she was a very special little girl. She then turned and thanked Chris for asking her if she needed a ride.
As Bree opened the back door to get out, Joanne also got out, walking around the front to wait for Bree. Bree shut the door and looked up with a puzzled look on her face until she saw Joanne waiting for her.
"Thanks for the ride, Joanne. I really appreciate it."
"It was no problem, Bree," she replied. Before Bree could walk away, Joanne said to her, "Give Johnny time, Bree. He needs time to work this out in his mind. You gave him quite a shock."
"I know I did," Bree said. "That wasn’t quite how I envisioned it in my mind. But I don't know if he will ever forgive me for this. I robbed him of the chance to see his child born and to grow."
Joanne looked at the younger woman and smiled, "Bree, he just needs time to think it through. But can I ask you this…is the child here with you?"
"No, Johnny's daughter is with my uncle in Anchorage. He and my aunt will be bringing her down here in a few weeks," stated Bree. "I am very anxious to hold her in my arms again."
"He has a daughter!" Joanne softly exclaimed. "When will you let him know she is here?"
Bree struggled to keep it together. Finally, she looked at Joanne and said, "Joanne, I appreciate your efforts to find out what you can…but can we maybe talk this out later? I just want to go inside and bury myself in my bed and cry."
Her brutal honesty showed Joanne that she was truly hurting about what happened at the ranch. She quickly hugged Bree and told her that she would call her later this week and maybe they could get together for lunch. Bree watched as Joanne got into her car and drove away. She turned and slowly walked up the steps and entered her home.
Mandy heard the door open and knew her errant roommate had finally made it home. She came around the corner excitedly as she couldn't wait to hear the details of her reunion with the man she said she had fallen in love with when she was in California. But what she saw stopped her in her tracks. When Bree looked at her roommate, all Mandy saw was the same sorrow that Bree had dealt with when her parents died…only worse.
Bree's resolve crumpled as she looked at Mandy. She let the tears flow freely and Mandy ran to her as she heard the deep sobs ripping loose from Bree's mouth. She grabbed her cousin as Bree began to collapse and helped her to the floor. She held her tightly as Bree released all the grief she had been bottling up since she had to leave her daughter in Alaska.
When her tears finally seemed to be subsiding, Mandy got her back on her feet and took her into her bedroom. She walked into Bree's bathroom, started the water to warm it and began filling the tub. Walking back out, she saw that Bree had not moved. She took it upon herself to grab nightgown off the bed and said, "Come on, cousin. Let's get you into the tub for a good long soak."
Bree didn't say a word but followed her cousin into the bathroom.
" I am not going to ask you what happened. I just want to you soak in the tub and when you are done, crawl into bed and go to sleep. Questions can wait until later."
Mandy left her cousin to take her bath and walked back to the kitchen. Picking up the phone she dialed a number, saying two words to the person who answered on the other end, "It's time."
Continued in Part 2....
Posted to Site 07/31/12
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