At Last

Part 8 

By: Girl Bard 

Disclaimer: Please see Part 1.


August 17, 2001 

I open the oven door for Jillian and she slides the pan of lasagna in triumphantly. Grinning at me, I’m once again surprised by our physical resemblance.

"How long till it’s done?" She asks, setting the timer.

"About an hour. We should make a salad or something to go with it." I tell her as I open the fridge and get some ingredients out.

"This was cool, I’m glad we made dinner for everyone." My little sister says as she plops herself down on the kitchen stools and begins chopping cucumbers.

"Me too." I answer. "I know Jaden will be starving after work."

Jillian cocks her head, studying me. "She hasn’t been around much."

Frowning, I wash the lettuce before ripping it apart. "I know. She’s been really busy lately, especially since we’re leaving in a few days."

My sister mirrors my frown. "I wish you weren’t. You’re so much cooler than Michelle. She never wants to do anything with me because she’s always hanging out with her weird friends."

"I know." I tell her. "And I know it has nothing to do with you personally. Michelle is just getting older and more independent now." I smile at her. "Anyway, we have to get going. My semester starts soon, and you have school. Can you believe you’ll be a sophomore this year?" I ask, hoping to cheer her up by changing the subject.

Jillian shrugs. "I want to be done with school. It’s so boring. Jason is so lucky that he’s graduated and has a real job."

"I’m really excited to have him so close to us in Boston." I tell her honestly. Jason announced he was taking the job on the East Coast last night at dinner. I’m thrilled to be able to have him closer! "I wish I got to see all of you more, though."

"Well, I’m going to go to college in Boston, so I’ll see you then." Jillian says, smiling.

"I hope you do." I answer. "Now, come on, let’s set the table. We’ll put a place setting for Jaden in case she is able to make it for supper."




My eyes stinging and skin tight from windburn, I yawn with exhaustion. This project is taking more time of mine than it should, and I’m counting down the days until I return home with Gracie.

To our normal life.

Chicago is a beautiful city, certainly cleaner and easier to get around than Boston, but I miss the charm and people of my hometown. I’d never thought I’d say that.

"Jaden, you up for a drink tonight?" David asks from atop his mount. "We all get together on Thursday nights." Glancing over at him I regard my options wearily. Martha, one of the other officers smiles at me, and I’m torn between saying yes and doing what I really want to do. Maybe if I socialize with the officers more, they’ll try a little harder for me and won’t put up so much resistance.

Sighing in defeat, I smile briefly at them. "Sure, but just for a while."

"Great, let’s get off of these fleabags and head out." David states, patting his mount’s neck roughly. My heart goes out to the horse, a nice draft mix gelding, as he kicks the horse into a trot.

Martha follows suit and I shake my head in both anger and frustration at the people I’m working with on this program. Most of them have no idea what it takes to be a mounted officer, and the rest just don’t care. I’ve tried everything from lectures to real world experience and still can’t get through to a few of them.

I can’t wait to go home.



After our shift, I hitch a ride with Martha, Joanie, and Greta to the bar where the force is meeting tonight. They are the only three women new to the mounted program, the other newcomers being seven men. As soon as I complete their training, they and their mounts will join the existing force of five.

Needless to say, it scares me that the ten newcomers will outnumber the veterans on the force, but it’s not my problem.

I’m discouraged about everything right now, and it’s frustrating because I’ve never once felt this way about work. Maybe it’s because I can’t see any good coming out of my hard work here, or that I’ve been working so much I’ve seen Grace for only a few hours a day at best. Usually by the time I get in she’s sleeping, and I leave before she even gets up.

At least she has her family here, and I know she’s able to visit them while I’m working.

"This is a new place that just opened." Joanie comments as we join the others on the force at the large central table. "We haven’t been here yet, but it seems nice."

"Yeah." I answer, looking around. It seems to be filled with mostly college kids, and I suddenly feel very old. Was I ever that young?

I know I’m not that much older than Gracie, but sometimes I feel it.

"Jaden! Let’s get you a drink." David and John, two of the male officers greet me. I agree, exchanging pleasantries while wishing the entire time I was home with Grace.

Soon the table has a few more pitchers of beer and everyone around me is getting more and more increasingly drunk.

I’m a little tipsy, realizing the night will be a lot more tolerable if I’ve at least had a little to drink.

Steve is one of the nicer guys in training, and I didn’t turn him down when he offered a game of pool. He’s alright to talk to and we’re both equally matched at the game. After we’ve been playing for a while and he has more and more to drink I realize he’s flirting with me.

Ignoring his advances, I glance at my watch and realize it’s late. Finishing one last game I drink the last of my beer and set it down noisily on the table.

"Steve, it’s been fun, but I gotta go."

The tall man approaches me, a frown evident on his boyish face. "We were just getting started!" Slinging an arm around my shoulder, he gives me a wide smile.

"Stay, Jaden. I’ll make it worth your while, I promise." He practically leers with beer-laden breath. Disgusting.

I give him a slight hug. "No, but thanks anyway."

Steve leans over to kiss my cheek, and then I pull away. "Listen, I said no thanks." Flashing him my left hand, I make sure he sees the gold band of my commitment ring to Gracie. "Besides, I’m married."

Holding up his hands, Steve backs away. "Can’t blame a guy for trying. See you tomorrow."

"Yeah, see you." I tell him before saying goodbye to everyone else at the bar.

I catch a cab back to the hotel and let myself in the room, hoping Grace is still awake. Instead, I find her sound asleep and clutching my pillow.

Exhausted, I sink onto the soft mattress and immediately fall asleep.



When I wake the next morning, Grace is gone. Pushing down my surge of disappointment, I check the clock to find I’ve got little more than thirty minutes to get to work.

"Shit." I complain as I get out of bed and turn on the shower. It’s then that I see the note.

Hey Love,

Missed you last night. You lost out on my lasagna at dinner, but don’t worry, I saved you some for lunch at work today. It’s in the fridge, so enjoy.

The family is taking us out tonight; we’re leaving their house at 6:30. I hope to see you, it’s my birthday, remember?

Of course you do. J

Love forever,



"Double shit." I moan as I step in the steaming water. I didn’t forget it was Gracie’s birthday, but the days just caught up and flew bye. I’ll have to make sure I’m there tonight.

Throwing on my uniform, I take the Tupperware container housing Grace’s famous lasagna with me for my lunch break. She’s so considerate, sometimes I feel like I can never repay her for all she’s given me.





I glumly hang up the phone and turn to my waiting family. "We can go, she’s not going to make it."

Laura places a comforting hand on my shoulder. "I’m sorry, sweetheart."

"That sucks." Jillian says as she follows her brothers out the door.

"She’s just really busy right now." I say, understanding why Jaden can’t make it to dinner tonight. She sounded really upset and I thought she might be crying.

I can’t say I’m not disappointed though, I really wanted to see her tonight. And it is my birthday; I wanted to spend it with my wife and family.

I head out the door, followed by Laura and Jackson. Michelle trails along, a strange little smile on her face.



"This is beautiful, thank you all for coming." I tell my family after we order. We are at a beautifully decorated Italian restaurant.

The loud and boisterous company of my family is helping to ease my disappointment about Jaden, with the usual exception of Michelle who won’t stop smirking.

Try as I might, there’s something about her that always makes me feel uncomfortable.

"Such a shame Jaden had to work tonight." Michelle suddenly states, her dark eyes flashing.

"I know, she’s been working so hard, I was hoping it would be easy for her to get off tonight." I respond, taking a sip of my wine.

"She didn’t look like she was working hard last night when she was getting fresh with some hottie." Michelle answers, smirking.

I almost drop my wine glass and it clatters loudly on the table as I rush to catch it. "What?"

"Michelle!" Laura practically shouts.

"What are you talking about?" I ask, hiding my hands under the table to hide the shaking.

My sister shrugs, trying to act nonchalant. "I saw her in a bar last night, some guy’s arms all around her. They were laughing and he kissed her."

"What were you doing in a bar? You’re only 20!" Jackson growls, his hands clenching his napkin.

I just feel sick, my stomach doing flips inside.

"We will talk about this later." Laura tells her daughter, her composure finally returning. "When we are at home. Now, let’s enjoy our family dinner."

"Sure." I agree before excusing myself to the restroom. I think I’m going to be ill.



Begging off desert because of my stomach, I thank everyone as they drop me off at the hotel. Entering the room, I see Jaden isn’t here yet.

Perhaps that’s better. I wearily kick off my shoes and lie down on the bed. "Happy birthday to me." I mutter to myself as I burrow my face in Jaden’s pillow.

Tears flow suddenly, and I soon find myself sobbing. I don’t know what to say or who to believe, Jaden has never lied to me before and has no reason too.

But why would Michelle make that up? I know she’s bitter and angry toward me, but that doesn’t excuse her for making up an outright lie. The only thing to do is discuss this rationally with Jaden when she gets here.

As if on cue, the door opens, and Jaden strolls in. She’s carrying balloons and flowers and has a huge smile on her face.

"Hey birthday girl! I’m so glad to see you, I’ve missed you so much!"

I fly into her arms, still sobbing uncontrollably.

Part 9 is Coming Soon:

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