Chapter X

 

RJ opened her eyes slowly. They both worked and the left one didnít even feel nearly as badly swollen this morning. She smiled at Leigh, who was still sound asleep, lying on her stomach with one arm draped off the bed.

Propping herself up on her elbow, the pilot tenderly ran a gentle hand through Leighís coarse, fair hair, tucking it behind a pink ear so that she could watch her sleep without anything blocking the lovely view. Leigh looked young and happy while slumbering. Her face, now slack in sleep, contrasted sharply to the woman who even while trying to relax seemed to hold RJ just a little further away than she wanted her to be. RJ sighed, understanding exactly why Leigh was doing it. When this week was over their Ďlivesí would go back to normal Ö and for both of them that mainly meant being alone.

These past few days had been some of the most interesting RJ had ever experienced, and she would be forever grateful for the time that she and Leigh had been given together. She wished there was more she could do to make the young woman happy, but this wasnít Glory and there just wasnít time. A firestorm of resentment built up within her when she realized she only had a few days ó time was slipping away like sand between her fingers Ö I just need to stop feeling sorry for myself and make every moment count. And dammit, I will.

RJ leaned over and gave the smaller woman a tender kiss on the cheek, getting swatted by a grumpy bedmate. She jerked her head back just in time to keep from getting smacked again by her growling companion. Drawing in a deep breath, RJ rolled out of bed, doing her best to ignore the kink her neck had developed in the night. Not surprisingly, being dead was much more conducive to a good nightís sleep. Moving quickly and quietly to the bathroom, she spent a few moments indulging in her morning ritual.

She inspected her eye, wincing at the lurid purple bruise that extended halfway down her cheek. "Whatís this?" She spied a small bottle of hand cream on the shelf above the sink. Oh, yeah, this is good. Cool and soothing, the cream caused RJ to sigh happily as she carefully rubbed it into the puffy skin around her eye. "Much better."

Leigh was still asleep when RJ clicked off the light and returned to the bed, sliding beneath the covers with the bottle of lotion still in hand. A light rain was tapping against the window, and the room was still steeped in early morning shadows.

RJ slowly pushed the covers down, exposing Leighís bare back. She squeezed a bit of the cream into her hands and rubbed them together, warming it before beginning a gentle massage of Leighís shoulders. She kept her touch light, waiting to see how Leigh would react to being awakened this way.

"Now thatís the way I like to wake up," Leigh mumbled sleepily, still not opening her eyes.

RJ breathed an inner sigh of relief. "Well, good." Because it would be one of my favorite ways to wake you up. Iíd do it every morning if I could. "Would you like a little more pressure?" RJ subtly dug into Leighís muscles with her thumbs.

Leigh moaned. "Donít you dare change a thing." Her eyes rolled back in her head. "Itís perfect."

A grin lit RJís face as she continued to run her hands over soft, warm skin. Leighís back was already relaxed from sleep, and her palms and fingers easily pressed into the muscles, drawing frequent, nearly sub-vocal sounds of praise from the trucker. More than once Leigh drifted back to sleep.

RJ chewed her lip as she regarded Leigh, who at this very moment was mumbling happily. "Would you like to go back to sleep?" she whispered. "I can stop if you like." RJ was half teasing. She knew what she wanted to do, but if Leigh was more interested in sleep Ö well, that would be fine too.

RJ glanced out the window. It was gray and drippy, a perfect day for lounging in bed. Or at least until they both got so antsy they couldnít stand it. Which, she suspected, would be early afternoon at the soonest. "You know, lass," she squeezed another dollop of lotion into her palm, "Itís not really a nice day out. I could go out and find a market and pick us up a few things and we could just stay in today. Would you like that?" She titled her head in question. "Or did you have plans?"

"I could say I had plans," Leigh admitted, sighing as strong thumbs worked down the length of her spine, finding sensitive spots along the way. "Driving gets me really tense there." What was she asking me? Oh, right. "Considering that this is better than anything I had planned, Iíd love to spend the day in bed. With you."

RJís eyebrows jumped. "Well, I would hope itíd be with me. Seeing as how Iím the one whoís gonna go out and get everything we need to have a lovely day together while you go back to sleep. How does that sound?"

Leigh mewed her agreement at the idea, gently patted RJís leg, and promptly fell back asleep.

With the help of the hotel clerk and a hand-drawn map, RJ found her way to a strip mall not too far from the hotel. It had several interesting stores full of electronic equipment that RJ couldnít imagine people really needed and a decent-sized grocery store. She liked the fact it was within walking distance. It gave her a chance to stretch her legs, and if she were lucky, sheíd get back to Leighís suite before it began raining any harder. Her jeans and light sweatshirt were already soaked but oddly she was enjoying every minute of it. While she had gotten used to her physical sensations being slightly dulled, she hadnít grown blasť about seeing this new and exciting world around her that was the same and yet so different.

The comfortable clothes that she loved and that had driven her mother and teachers to near fits had become common place for woman. Hairstyles were a wild mix, for both sexes and from behind RJ couldnít tell who was who. The people even looked bigger than in her day. RJís five feet eleven inches had made her taller than most of the men and nearly freakishly tall for a woman. Nobody stared at her height in this time Ö and she walked the streets with a delicious sense of anonymity.

By the time sheíd finished her shopping and returned home, she was wet to the bone but in a cheerful mood. It wasnít until she made it back to the hotel that an actual storm cut loose, sending bolts of jagged lightening through the gray sky.

She fumbled for a moment as she tried to get the Ďkeyí to their room from her pocket without dropping anything. What happened to real keys? These flimsy plastic cards donít work for shit! On the fourth try, a tiny green light appeared on a box above the door handle and her timing was right. RJ breathed a sigh of relief when she could actually open the door. She wondered if all the noise sheíd made rattling the door in frustration had sent the people next door calling for the police.

RJ set the wet sacks onto the counter, glad that sheíd selected plastic and not paper. Is everything plastic nowadays? She thought of some of the horrible little cars sheíd seen up close on her trek to the store and decided that plastic had, indeed, taken over the world.

She peeled off her sweatshirt and padded out of the kitchen to hang them on the metal hooks sticking out of the front door. RJ turned for the kitchen when another loud clap of thunder shook the building. She looked up, annoyed, and sucked a puff of air through her teeth. "You could tone that down a bit, you know." Her hands moved to her hips. "Leighís still sleeping."

She waited a moment, listening, as it seemed to move off into the distance. RJ grinned toothily and headed back to the kitchen. "Thank you." It didnít really matter if the storm had moved along due to her complaint or not. If RJ had learned one thing since dyiní it was that it never hurt to be polite.

Hair still dripping into her face, she put away the groceries and took twenty minutes to figure out how to start the coffee pot. The one at the diner was a new-fangled model from the 1960s that Mavis had ordered from a catalog when the old one officially died, but this little plastic one was all electronic. Luckily her intellect prevailed. Eventually. Not only did she figure it out, but she was almost certain that she fix it to where it would come on for the next morning while they slept. Truly amazing! The things in the electronic shops were fascinating and not terribly expensive, considering the fantastic technology that made her head spin. But milk was nearly three dollars a gallon and gasoline almost two! This world made no sense.

RJ was in the process of scrambling eggs when she heard the bedroom open and Leighís soft footsteps. Leigh pushed open the swinging door to the small kitchen. Judging by her erratic movements, she was obviously still partially asleep. Her eyes were still half closed and her hair was a mess, sticking up in several directions. She was also naked as the day she was born.

To RJís eyes, she looked lovely.

Leigh stumbled past RJ, completely oblivious to her presence and opened the door to the fridge. She removed the carton of orange juice that RJ had put in there and took a long drink.

RJ leaned against the counter, watching Leigh in amusement as the swirling action of the eggs got slower and slower. Once Leigh was finished she put the juice back, moved to RJ, giving her a soft kiss on the cheek as she reached around her for a coffee cup in the cupboard.

I guess the lass did notice me after all. "You mean youíre not gonna drink it straight from the pot?" She gestured toward the percolating coffee maker with her spatula.

One eyeball rolled in RJís direction and fixed on her spectacular shiner. "Who kicked your ass last night, Irish?"

"I said it was a good punch. I never said it wasnít a lucky one to boot." She winked her good eye. "Umm Ö tell me, did someone break in here in the middle of the night and steal your clothes? And isnít the cold floor making you chilly?"

Leighís gaze drifted down her own body, but she couldnít dredge up even the slightest bit of embarrassment. Theyíd had sex in a dozen different locations since theyíd met. It seemed sort of silly to start worrying about modesty now. Her brow creased. "It appears that you need to be reminded to actually remove your clothes before you take a shower. Youíre all wet!"

"Groceries."

"Oh, right," Leigh yawned, remnants of their earlier conversation and a wonderful massage floating back to her. "Does me being naked bother you?"

"Depends on how you define Ďbother.í" The pilot wiggled her eyebrows. She set the skillet off the burner and wrapped long arms around Leighís waist. "If youíre thinking it bothers me in a my-goodness-sheís-runniní-around-naked way, then youíd be wrong. If you think it bothers me in a sheís-naked-and-weíre-wastiní-time-talkiní-about-it-in-the-kitchen sort of way, then youíd be right." Her hands drifted down to the truckerís backside and she gave a little squeeze, her own body reacting fiercely to Leighís presence. "How bad do you need that coffee, Leigh Matthews?" she whispered throatily.

"Bad." Leigh closed her eyes and let her lips brush against RJís damp collarbone, feeling the slight shock of cool wetness against her warm skin. "But not that bad."

RJ kissed her soundly, removing the coffee cup from Leighís hand and placing it haphazardly on the counter behind her. She lifted the blonde and felt strong legs curl around her as she deepened the kiss, tasting the sweet tang of orange juice and Leighís tongue. RJ slowly walked them to the bedroom and stopped at the foot of the bed where Leighís legs dropped.

She began peeling off her undershirt. The thin white material had been made see-through by the rain and Leigh growled impatiently at the sight. Reaching out, she tugged at the buttons on RJís jeans with slightly trembling hands. "How can I want you so badly already today?" she breathed, popping the last button and quickly working the material over RJís hips.

"I dunno, lass." RJ kicked out of her pants and underwear and pushed Leigh back into the cool, tangled sheets as their bodies met and their breasts pressed firmly together. Sweet Jesus. "But I feel the same way."

***

Leigh slowly opened her eyes, surprised to find RJís arms and legs intimately wound around her like a snake. This was new. With most women she was already gone by this point, and even with RJ, she woke up firmly on her side of the bed.

Now, however, they were so close together, not in sex, but in mutual comfort and genuine affection that it was hard to tell where RJ began and where she ended. It was what sheíd always avoided. And she couldnít decide which was cause for more alarm: the fact that she immediately loved it so and that she didnít intend to move a single inch. Or that she knew in her heart this was a very dangerous idea but she couldnít dredge up an ounce of willpower against it. In the end, her body defied her brain and snuggled a little closer, sighing when she felt RJís lips brush across the top of her head. "Hmm Ö nice." So nice. God, too nice.

"Yes, it is." The pilot pulled Leigh closer, feeling the hot tickle of her breath against her neck. "Is this all right?"

"I Ö I Ö I think so," Leigh said quietly, hearing the uncertainty in her own voice.

RJís forehead creased and she loosened her hold a little as she cleared her throat. "Can I ask you a question, Leigh?"

Leighís body stiffened at the solemn note in RJís voice. "Youíre not going to propose, are you? Iíd hate to turn you down and ruin your morning," she teased feebly.

RJ chuckled and softly kissed her friend on the forehead. "Nah, I wouldnít do that. My mother would never forgive me for proposing to a woman whoís not Irish or Catholic." Though for you, Leigh, I think I could live with my motherís wrath. "I was just wondering why you bolted from the truck the other night."

Leigh had been giggling along with RJ, but froze at her last words. "What did you say?" Oh, thatís brilliant. Maybe sheíll think youíre deaf and not just pathetic.

"I was just wondering why you ran away from me the other night in front of that motel in Wyoming." RJ shifted a little so she could have eye contact but still maintaining a gentle hold on Leigh. The blue-eyed gaze that met her own was tinged with fear. Youíre not getting out of this, Leigh Matthews. I want an answer.

Leigh swallowed, her throat suddenly dry. "You want the truth?"

"That would be nice."

Leigh licked her lips. "Okay. I Ö Well Ö Iím not exactly sure why I did it." Liar! Shit.

RJ released Leigh and worked herself free from the woman, a little sick to her stomach and more than a little frustrated. She sat up on the edge of the bed and dropped her head forward, taking a few deep, calming breaths. "If you donít want to talk about it, just say that! But donít insult my intelligence by lying to me. Iím Irish; Iím not stupid." The pilot stood and pulled on her underwear and undershirt.

Leigh cursed herself. "RJ, wait." She scrambled off the bed, not bothering with the sheet. "I never said you were stupid."

"Yeah, I know." She looked for her socks for a second and then decided she didnít need them. "Are you hungry? I can go fix breakfast now."

Guilt warring with resentment, Leigh watched as RJ shrugged into her clothes. I donít owe you an explanation! Right? "Please, RJ." She stepped forward, grabbing a handful of the tall womanís cotton undershirt to prevent her from leaving the room. "Iím not hungry and I donít want breakfast."

The pilot nodded and gently pulled away. "Suit yourself. Iíll go make some fresh coffee then. Seems we could both use it."

Leigh sighed. "Iím not going to beg you to stay and talk to me, RJ. I donít know what I can say anyway." She turned and stalked back to the bed, yanking up the covers. "Go make coffee." She made an irritated flicking gesture toward the door. "Iím not stopping you."

RJ just shook her head and left the bedroom, muttering, "Women."

Leigh jumped at the sound of the slamming door. "Fine," she mumbled. "I wonít beg you to stay and talk to me." She punched her pillow, moving her head back and forth against it in a vain attempt to get comfortable. "I donít even want to talk!" She lasted all of three seconds before jumping out of bed and heading for the door.

RJ looked up from the sink where she was refilling the coffee pot. She didnít say anything to Leigh as she set the pot to brew. She could tell that the blonde woman was mad and she didnít want to annoy her any further. This was supposed to be a vacation; they were supposed to be having fun. Things werenít supposed to be getting complicated! "Iím sorry. I didnít mean to upset you. Letís forget it and start over. Iíll fix some more eggs," she glanced at the clock, "for lunch. Then we can figure out how we want to spend the rest of the day."

Leigh crossed her arms over her chest, tapping her foot. God, she hated this emotional shit. She could see RJ wanted an explanation and yet the dark-haired woman was going to make her chase her in order to give it. "Iím not Ė" Leigh paused. No lies. "Okay, Iím a little upset. But mostly not with you."

RJ watched the dark liquid streaming into the pot, her empty cup in hand. She grinned at the blonde woman standing there in the kitchen naked as a lark and looking like she was going to start spitting nails at any second. "Lass, I really didnít mean to upset you. Iíd just been wondering why you jumped out of the truck the way you did that evening" And holding you so close, I couldnít stand the thought of you running away from me.

Leigh leaned against the counter. "I left because I was starting to feel Ö uncomfortable," she said seriously. "I needed some fresh air so I could think."

RJ cocked her head. "Was I making you uncomfortable? And would you like a robe or a blanket or something? I have to admit having your chest out there like that is making concentrating very difficult." She grinned, hoping to lighten the mood a little.

"I donít want a robe." She plucked RJís cup out of her hands and loudly set it on the counter. "It wasnít entirely you that was making me uncomfortable, it was the situation. And youíre making me insane! You act angry, but smile, then makes jokes about my chest." She crossed her arms over her breasts. "For once Iím not thinking about sex!"

For a moment RJ was speechless.

"Did that answer all your questions?" Without waiting for RJ to respond, Leigh turned on her heel, marched to the fridge, pulled out a Pepsi and cracked the top. She took a long, satisfying drink, looking at RJ over the top of the can. "Are we done?"

RJ nodded. Biting back a grin and trying not to laugh, she let her head sway slightly. "If you say so. Youíre so cute when youíre grouchy."

"Argh!" Leigh set her can and ran over to RJ. She held her hands up in front of her neck, shaking them wildly as though she was choking her. "Youíre trying to make me go nuts! I just know it." When RJ only winked back, Leigh dropped her hands in exasperation. She picked up the Pepsi can and stomped toward the bathroom, loudly calling out what RJ had only mumbled before. "Women!"

RJ puttered around the kitchen for a bit, hearing the shower go on in the bathroom. Then she remembered the cure for her black eye was in the fridge. She touched the tender skin as she pulled the steak from its wrapping, then rinsed it in the sink and poured herself a cup of coffee. Hopping up on the counter she placed the steak on her swollen eye and began sipping the dark liquid, wishing sheíd thought to bring her cigarettes with her.

Leigh emerged from the bedroom a few minutes later. Her shower had been a quick one and she hadnít bothered to blow-dry her hair. She was wearing a thin pair of gray sweats and a mint green t-shirt that somehow managed to make her eyes look even more sky blue.

RJ jumped off the counter and followed Leigh into the living room. "Feel better?"

"Jesus Christ!" Leighís stomach churned queasily when RJ lifted the steak from her eye, leaving a pink, bloody ring around the discolored flesh. "God, RJ, thatís disgusting."

"Itís the perfect cure for a black eye, lass. But Iím guessing from that response you wonít be joining me for steak and eggs for lunch then?"

Leigh shook her head and laughed. "What is this obsession with food? Over the last few days you havenít had much appetite at all." She gestured toward the steak, now resting comfortably back on RJís eye. She sat down on the sofa and curled one leg under her.

"Iím not obsessed with food." RJ went back into the kitchen and re-wrapped the steak, placing it back in the refrigerator. She then washed her hands and her face, before joining Leigh, who was watching the rain through the glass door that led to the balcony. She gave the young womanís foot a little tickle. "I have much better things to be obsessed with than food."

Leigh feigned surprised. "Feet?" She made a face. "Ewww ... I can barely stand to look at my own feet, much less anyone elseís."

"No," RJ said in exasperation as she tickled her foot again. "Not feet. You. All of you."

"Oh." Leighís ego hummed happily. "Thatís a plan I can get behind. So Ė" she paused and jerked her chin at the rainy gloom they were watching from the couch. "What do you want to do today? I know I want to go and see how the body shop is doing on my truck." Those fuckers had better not be ogling Mom as they paint over her.

"Well," RJ began a gentle massage of the foot she still held onto, "actually there is someone here in Seattle Iíd like to try and see." Here goes. "Itís the woman who was my grandmotherís co-pilot."

"Youíre going to wash that hand before touching me again, right?" Leigh pulled her foot from RJís grasp and leaned forward, interested. "She was the one who tried to save your grandmother, right? Wow, she must be pretty old."

RJ looked at her hands. She shrugged and dropped them in her lap. "Thatíd be the one. Sheís probably in her mid-eighties by now. Itís been sixty years since the end of the war." Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It never seemed like that long ago until RJ actually said the words. I canít even imagine that sweet, red-haired lass, Lucy, that old. Does this mean Iím robbing the cradle with Leigh? "I just hoped maybe sheíd be able to tell me something I didnít know about my grandmother. My mother suggested that I look her up if I was going to be in Seattle. And I need to try and thank her for what she did for me.

"Do you know where she lives? Seattle isnít a small place."

"Sheís in a nursing home. I have the address in my duffel bag. If you donít want to go, Iíll understand. I could call a cab or something. Lots of folks can think of better ways to spend part of their day than visiting an old woman."

Leighís gaze softened. "Itís important to you, right?"

The pilot nodded, trying not to allow the tears that threatened to spill. There was no way she could explain this type of emotion to Leigh, considering she supposedly hadnít even met the old woman yet. She swallowed hard. "Itís very, Leigh. Sheís the last one Ö who really knew my grandmother, and even though I didnít know her sheís important to my family."

"Hey." She patted RJís leg worriedly, feeling a pang in her guts over the sad look on RJís face. "Donít worry. Iíll take you. We didnít have any special plans for the day, and if itís something you want to do," she shrugged, "thatís more than good enough for me."

RJ leaned over and gave Leigh a gentle kiss on the cheek. "Has anyone ever told you how special you are, Leigh Matthews?" If I didnít know better, Iíd say you are my guardian angel.

"Only my junior high school guidance counselor. But that was just because I was tardy for 86 days in a row." Leigh quirked a grin and received a wry one in return. "I believe you have a hand to wash before we go?"

***

"Bait!" The male squirrelís jaw wobbled loosely from his face.

The female nodded and shrugged. It had to be.

"I donít want to be bait!" He began to tremble and blurted out in a panic, "Bait is bad! Bait is dangerous! Bait gets eaten! And I just know it would hurt."

"Donít make me alter my plan and remove the small contingency Iíve incorporated so that you have at least a minute chance of surviving," the female warned reasonably. "All missions have a certain of level of acceptable losses for the greater good."

"Acceptable losses?"

She rolled her eyes. "That would be you, dear."

"Greater good?"

"That would be me."

"But I donít want to be bait," he whined, digging his little toe into the soil.

"Let me put it this way: one of us has to execute the plan with extreme precision, skill, brains and cunning."

"I could do that part!"

The female simply stared at him until he cracked under her knowing gaze.

"Iím the bait," he sighed.

"Of course you are." She patted his shoulder comfortingly, thinking that she would always remember him. Then for the first time that afternoon she got a good look at his attire. "Why are you wearing that hideous outfit?"

He puffed up his chest. "Iím a warrior! Brave and strong. Ready to fight to save the squirrel I love most!" That would be me.

"Uh huh."

The male was wearing an oak leaf twisted into a ridiculous hat, a dented beer bottle cap serving as a chest plate.

"Iím emulating my favorite warrior I saw on TV. No woman could resist him!"

"The imbecilic moron?" The femaleís face twisted in disgust. Humans were such perverse animals.

The male looked aghast. "But kids love him and heís the cornerstone of all the comedies!"

"I am not having this discussion with you again." The female sat down on a large stick sheíd dragged into their nest while the mate went in search of weapons to use in their battle against Flea, the bane of their eternity. Heíd excitedly returned with rusty nails, bits of glass, a half-eaten Ho Ho which he refused to share, and an issue of ĎPlay Squirrel.í Heíd cried for hours when he discovered that the best parts had already been torn out, confirming once again that they were, in fact, in squirrel hell.

"What did you collect for our attack against the evil one?"

"I didnít collect anything. I made something. Just as a backup to my brilliant plan."

"What?"

"This!" She reached behind the stick and thrust a large furry thing in her mateís face.

"Ahhh!!!" he screamed, throwing himself under their bed. "Take it away! Take it away!"

"What? You donít like my voodoo doll?" She laughed wickedly, stroking her cat-like creation, which was complete with brown fur. Sheíd wanted black, but her choices had been woefully limited.

"No! I hate it! Itís grotesque." He peeked his head out from under the bed. "But I see you managed to get lots of brown hair to glue onto the doll ... finally decide to shave your upper lip?" He burst out laughing at his own joke, his stubby arms wrapped around his shaking sides.

The female narrowed her eyes. "Yes, dear. Thatís exactly what I did." Her gaze flicked to his now bald back and ass, thinking it much improved over normal.

"You know," he paused and scratched an itch on his back that had been bothering him all day. "I had the weirdest dream last night."

***

 

Patrick and Liam just rolled their eyes as their mother continued to place dishes on the table in what they kindly thought of as a less-than-loving manner. They both looked at their father, who simply shrugged and tried to remain inconspicuous.

The younger Fitzgeralds, ages 8 and 14, watched their mother with slightly wide eyes. She was in a rare temper. And for Katherine Fitzgerald that was saying a lot. Dinner hadnít even started yet and it was already a quiet affair ó always a bad sign in the usually boisterous household.

Finally, Patrick couldnít stand it any longer. "Mother, you donít know what the councilís answer is going to be," he commented, reaching for the rolls.

"Tis not a matter for the council," she snapped, giving the red-haired man an annoyed look. "They already said no." She slammed down the gravy boat, biting her tongue when the brown sauce sloshed over the sides and onto her lace tablecloth. "Tis up to a higher power now."

"Katherine, having a fit about it certainly isnít going to help." Harrisís voice was calm as he tried to clean up a bit of the gravy.

"Harris, tis not a fit Iím throwiní." Katherine sat down, literally wringing her hands. "Iím the one who made the petition today. Iím the one who stood there and said that Ruth Jean deserved this chance. Iím only fretting because I canít decide what breaks me heart more. The idea of her leaving us for years on end or the idea of her staying when her heart is driving around in a big red truck."

Liam leaned over and placed a serving of vegetables onto his sister Maryís plate. "Mother, RJ is a big girl. She knew what she was getting into when she went off with Leigh." He nodded to the younger children to eat, which they both began doing with varying degrees of enthusiasm. They were far more interested in finding out if RJ would be leaving Glory.

Katherine tossed her napkin onto the table. "You shut your mouth, Liam! RJ had no idea this would happen when she left. Even now she might not be sure of her feelings for the truck driver. And she certainly didnít ask to be allowed to leave Glory for another lifetime."

Liam, the oldest of the children, who had died in a crop dusting accident in the late 1960s, always seemed to be the one who clashed with his mother. And he was as accustomed to his lot in the afterlife as he had been in life. "No, youíre right, Mother, she didnít. You took that crusade upon yourself. How do you know Ruth Jean will even want to leave? Maybe when the week is over itís her intention to just come home where she belongs."

Katherine looked pointedly over at her husband, Harris, her gaze softening almost imperceptibly. "Tch. I know what I would do and Ruth Jean is ten times as stubborn as I could ever hope to be."

The table burst out laughing.

"What?" Katherine demanded, looking at each face with accusing eyes.

"Mother," Patrick nearly choked on his coffee, "We love you. You know we do. But when it comes to stubborn, youíve written the book!"

Patrickís wife, Betsy, rolled her eyes. When would the man learn to shut up?

Katherine reached over and smacked Patrick in the back of head, earning a broad smile from Liam, who was the one who usually got smacked. "You just volunteered to say grace. Get to it, boy. Our dinner is gettiní cold."

Patrick scowled but began reciting a commonly used blessing.

Under the table Harris reached over and squeezed his wifeís hand. Katherine gratefully squeezed back. This is where she found her strength. She wondered briefly where Ruth Jean found hers.

Chapter 11

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