The Light Fantastic

by L.A. Tucker

Part XXIII:  And on the Seventh Day, God Created Golf

For disclaimers see Part I

Chloe's hand slammed down erratically on the flat space next to her, trying to find a way to stop the buzzing of the unfamiliar alarm clock. The room was dark, and she pounded around on the night stand fruitlessly, even when her fuzzy mind settled on an object that she thought was the clock radio.
The buzzing continued unabated, and her hand moved, and found the small bedside lamp, and she switched it on.

"Goddamnsonofabitchfriggin ..." Her eyes adjusted to the light, and she found the button, at last, to shut off the infernal racket of the alarm.  The clock, in red numbers, flashed 7:00 at her bloodshot eyes, and her weary mind figured out she had been haplessly smacking a box of Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls in her attempt to silence the alarm.  She pushed out an arm to the other side of the bed, not surprised to find it was empty. Sara said she was going to get up early, and get things rolling for today's grand opening of the course. Chloe's eyes shut again, and she imagined the tall woman out in an electric golf cart, in the dark, riding from hole to hole, placing a numbered flag pole in each hole. Chloe listened for any sounds that might indicate inclement weather, a drumming of rain on the bungalow's roof, a gust of wind.  Her sense of hearing picked up neither of these sounds, and she sighed, a bit disappointedly, that she had no excuse now to simply reburrow herself under the covers. Damned weather people.  They forecasted a beautiful day, in the low 70's, why, for once, do they have to be right?

If Chloe's eyes could be described as bloodshot, then one would have to describe Dave D'Amico's as 'devil red', with a definite tinge of 'my whole family was just wiped out in a flash flood, and I'm the only survivor' glaze to them.  He was sitting in the barn/garage/pro shop, on the low stool, staring at a display rack of golf towels, gloves and tees. No matter how much he blinked, the items were still merely a colorful blur.  In Dave's exuberant celebrating of all the happy  events of last night, he had, with numerous friends, decided the best way to keep underage teenagers from snitching any beer from the keg was for them to drink it all themselves. It'd seemed the perfect and smart solution at the time.  Now Dave was perfectly sure that 'smart' was a word that really didn't apply to him.

He glanced at his watch, and then again, because the numbers and the placement of hands had no meaning to him the first time around.  Big hand on ... quarter hour ... little hand on 7...   Sara should be back soon.  Chloe, I wonder where she is?  I think, yeah, she stayed with Sara last night. Marcy's still in bed, I should go wake her up.  People will be arriving shortly, for the first tee-off at 8:30.  Dave felt no embarrassment when he groaned loudly, and rubbed his pounding temple with his hands.  I absolutely deserve this hangover. Oh god. I have to be one of the first official foursome.  Dave wracked his fermented brain. Me, Mark Benson from the zoning board, Chuck Fugate from the Chamber of Commerce, and ...  Dave rubbed his eyes.  Uh,  oh yeah,  Stan.  All three of them had been present last night, and the same three had happily helped Dave as official 'keg killers'. And Paul, he's going to follow us around from hole to hole, taking pictures for the Stonecreek Courier.  Somewhere around the 3rd hole, Paul's going to get some monster shots of 4 grown men puking in the lilac bushes.

Dave's stomach turned over at that thought, and he immediately got up to use the newly installed lavatory facilities conveniently located in the barn.  Five minutes later he emerged, a scowl covering his face.

"Goodgoddamnedfreakin ..."

"What's the matter, Pop?" said Nelson, a little bleary eyed himself, but none the worse for wear. He was freshly showered, casually dressed up in his new golf shirt, and was standing just inside the opened barn doors.

Dave was loudly rooting around on the other side of the barn, where the tools were kept, still cursing dementedly under his breath.

"Nelson!  Do you know if we have a toilet plunger?"

"Hey Marcy. How's it going? " said Sara cheerfully, when she entered the kitchen at Dave's house. It was only 7:30, the course looked good to her even in the dim light of early morning.  She'd been fondly reminiscing about last night, that ended up with an energetic and imaginative Chloe in her bed, and she was experiencing some very satisfying afterglow flashbacks.  She walked over to the coffee pot, poured herself a cup, and then turned to face Marcy.

Marcy was sitting at the kitchen table, completely enveloped in Dave's terrycloth bathrobe, looking small, forlorn, and yes, lethally grumpy.

"Marse?" grinned Sara, not knowing what to expect, but expecting something ... not friendly.  Poor woman, first no cigarettes, now no caffeine.

"Uh huh."  Marcy turned a jealous eye to the cup of coffee in Sara's hand. "What?"

"You all ready for today?", Sara tried to keep the beatific smile on her face toned down to a minimum. "Did you get a chance, over the last few days, to read that cash register manual?"  Marcy and Chloe had 'volunteered' to run the club house for the day, taking green fees, selling golf accessories and pushing pop and snacks on people.  Dave had bought a second hand cash register to tally and hold his new earnings. Marcy had been elected to become the expert on its use.

"How hard can running a cash register be?" snapped Marcy, her tone letting Sara know, for certain, that Marcy never got around to reading the manual.

"Well, those dorks down at the Quickie Mart seem to have a hard time running theirs ... "

Marcy pushed a hand through her amber curls, skewing them in rather odd patterns, and pulled Dave's huge bathrobe up in wadded bunches around her. She squinted meanly at Sara. "Do I look like a Quickie Mart dork to you?"

Before Sara could come back with a retort to that, the kitchen door opened, and Chloe stepped inside, wearing off-white khakis and a green 'Stonecreek Golf Course' polo shirt that Dave had supplied his family and friends.  Even though she was sleepy, her redblonde hair still damp and awry, Sara lit up at the sight of her, and felt a warm sensation she couldn't attribute to the coffee she had just sipped.  They exchanged lovers smiles, and Sara grabbed another cup from the cupboard, and filled it, and she wordlessly handed it to Chloe.  She knew from experience not to speak to Chloe before she had at least a half a cup of caffeine in her bloodstream.

Chloe smiled gratefully at her, and settled down at the table, across from Marcy.  Marcy practically sneered at her in greeting. No one wanted to speak to break the church stillness of the kitchen, but then Dave briskly entered, with Nelson trailing behind.  Dave said nothing to disrupt the silence, he just walked straight to the coffee pot, and saw that it contained perhaps half a cup, maybe. His blood red eyes narrowed. Sara grabbed the pot, and poured the remainder into her own lukewarm half full cup, and then handed it to Dave, who nodded a reluctant thanks at her. He took a sip, testing it for warmth, then without further hesitation, lifted it to his lips again, and drained the whole cup. He handed it back to Sara, who cleared her throat and said, "I guess I'd better make some more, huh?"

Dave looked at his rumpled, pregnant fiancée, and held out a hand. "Shower?"

Marcy grabbed his hand and stood up, the hem of the robe pooled at her feet. "Uh huh."  The newly engaged couple dragged themselves out of the kitchen. Before they had made it a few steps into the living room, Dave stopped, and spoke in Nelson's direction, "Uh, tell your aunt about the clogged toilet in the barn, wouldja?" before they continued on their way.

Three eyebrows in the kitchen rose, obscenely high on each one of the D'Amicos' standing there, and one moderately high on a seated Donahue.

Nelson looked at his Aunt Sara, her formerly cheery demeanor now flown.  He nodded and shook his head at her.

Sara sighed, and brushed Chloe softly on the back as she headed for the kitchen door. "Goodlordalmighty ..."

"Sara?"  Chloe was standing in the open barn doors, staring wide eyed across the gravel covered parking lot and to the driveway leading from the road beyond. "Sara?" She called a little louder, hoping her voice would carry without her having to turn her head from the bewildering spectacle that had her mesmerized.  A steady stream of cars was turning into the long driveway that led from the road, and Chloe had lost count at 30.  She watched as a increasingly desperate Nelson, also in a smart green logoed polo shirt, was trying to direct cars to park in a lot that was perhaps meant to hold 20 at the maximum.  People were departing their cars, dressed in various states of golf attire, and were opening their trunks, taking out golf bags and greeting each other. A few leaned against their cars, taking off street shoes and were hopping around one legged, trying to put on their spiked golf shoes without getting their socked foot wet on the dew covered gravel.

"SARA!!" Yelled Chloe, knowing that her lover was in the lavatory, trying to get the toilet to flush without large masses of water gushing onto the floor.

"What?"  growled Sara, now in a hellatious mood. She was getting nowhere with the damned toilet, and the overflow of the toilet was no where near the overflow of impatience that showed in her voice.

Chloe glanced around quickly, and waved at her to join her in the doorway.  Sara grabbed a towel to dry her hands, and strode quickly over to the door.

"Jesus Christ." whispered Sara in reverent awe, on this day of our Lord, Sunday, 8:00 A.M.

"Amen to that." murmured Chloe, a large dose of wonder and amazement in her voice, as they stood and watched even as more cars made a mini traffic jam in the driveway. Nelson was now walking around, nervously asking people to repark their cars, so even more vehicles could be jammed into the already maxed out available spaces.  Even if he succeeded, there wasn't a prayer that all the cars now parked in driveway would find a niche in the lot.

Sara laid a hand on the small of Chloe's back. "It looks like Frank Sinatra's funeral procession out there. Holy shit."

Chloe moved closer to Sara. "Does Dave know?  Good God, somebody had better go get him, so he can figure out what the hell we're going to do."

Sara nodded, shook her head, and strode off towards the house, keeping an eye on the poor figure of Nelson, who had apparently come across a person who wasn't being cooperative with Nelson's polite plea to reposition his car.

Just as Sara's feet hit the steps of the porch, the door swung open, and Marcy stepped out, took one look at the Armageddon in the parking lot, and saved Sara the effort.

"Dave?" Marcy shouted over her shoulder, as Sara pulled up and stood beside her. "DAVE!!" she shouted one more time.

She looked up at the stunned visage of Sara, and then she whistled, low and long. "Goddamnsonof ..."

The inaugural tee-off time was pushed off until 9 A.M.  The overflow of cars had been diverted to the land behind Sara's house because it had a  driveway leading to it just up the main road, and just the grass in front of Sara's house had been manicured for the 8th hole.  The land behind it was still cow pasture, and no one gave a second thought to its demise.  A Justin from school had shown up, hoping to golf 9 holes, but he soon was converted into being a helper.  He was now blocking the entrance to the main driveway, and waving cars down to the next driveway, leading to a less frustrated Nelson, who was pointing the way to park behind Sara's house.  The morning was beginning cool and fresh, the sun beginning its climb in the sky, and even with the convoluted and unexpected parking situation, most of the arriving golfers seemed cheerful and content to wait to begin their round on the new course.

Cheerful and content could not be used to describe some of the people in the barn/clubhouse, who were gathered behind the John Deere tractor, as another unsuspecting volunteer,Jeanette, bobbed and wove behind the counter, signing people in for their rounds. To simplify things, she was chucking coupons into a nearby trash can, and was charging a flat $3.00 per person per round, tossing the money into a hastily crowbar pried open cash register drawer.

"Jesus Christ, Dave, what do you mean you don't know how half-off coupons work?  And did you have to blanket a three county area with them?  There's people from Dunkirk out there, for Christsakes, and that's 60 miles from here..." sniped a very pissed off Marcy.

"How the hell did I know they'd all show up on the same day? I mean, come on?"

Even Chloe was showing Dave no mercy. "Good Lord, Dave.  Didn't you know to put something on the coupons that said 'not good with any other offer'?' ... I mean, you're giving them half off, and then they're using the two dollar off coupon on top of that ... do you know how many people I had bitching me out, all smug and explaining the 'rules of couponing' to me, like I was some kind of friggin' idiot?... and to top it off, there's no expiration date on them ..."  Chloe threw up her hands in exasperation, wishing she was tall enough to get a good grip around Dave's throat.

Dave just looked ... persecuted, to say the least. "I know, I know, I KNOW!  Now, can we get rolling here, and get these people out of the barn and the parking lot, and out onto the course?  The last time I looked, there were 80 people waiting to play. Eigh-ty."  He said the number twice, hoping to shock these bitching women into action, and away from reaming him multiple new assholes.

He was gratified to see his sermon had some effect on them, and they stilled their tongues, and just stared accusingly at him instead. That, he could handle. "I have to go grab Paul, and have a quick, really quick ribbon cutting ceremony at the first tee."  He noticed two of his starting foursome standing not far away from them, waiting impatiently, a little Kermit greenish, just like him. "Damn." He called over to Mark Benson. "Where's Stan?"

Mark coughed and answered him. "Worshiping the old porcelain god at home. He's not coming."

Dave let out yet another irritated breath. "Shit. I have to have some kind of representative from the town do this.  I can't ask someone to break up their group out of all these folks ..."  His brain then worked for a millisecond, and he grinned. "C'mon Chloe, " and he firmly grabbed her by the elbow and started pulling her through the crowded barn towards the exit. "Let's see how good a golfer you really are!"

Marcy looked around, looking for Sara. Nowhere. She had an epiphany, and realized she and Jeanette were being left in charge of the disaster in the clubhouse, while her fiancé and best friend got to go out and play a pleasant 9 holes of golf. She was not in a forgiving mood.

"GODDAMMIT, DAVE!!"  Marcy shouted as loudly as she could over the milling throng, "I WANT A DIVORCE!"

At precisely 10:30,  Sara finally had the mess in the lavatory cleaned up, and she exited it to find a few grinning, if desperate looking people congregating near the door, blissful now that she had fixed the problem.  The crowd in the clubhouse had diminished, although more people were coming in, but at a more reasonable rate.

She didn't even have time to go over to speak to a glowering Marcy, whose face was a stark contrast to Jeanette's beside her at the cash register. Jeanette was blondely bouncing and angelically gracious, talking up the waiting golfers in the barn like she was a first cousin to them all.  Sara smiled at the girl's natural ability to charm, and was going to go praise her when Jason raced into the barn, and stopped breathlessly in front of Sara.

"Ms. D'Amico?" Jason panted, and took a moment to catch his breath.

"What's up, Jase?" Sara said, concerned.

"Um, Nelson sent me."  He gulped and looked at her with a sympathetic half-smile. "Your brother just hit a five iron shot right through the front window of your house."

Chloe was enjoying a heavenly swig of cold water outside of the barn.  It was nearly noon, and she had made arrangements with a very vicious Marcy to relieve her behind the cash register at midday. Dave was busily glad-handing every person that crossed his path.  Paul was standing beside her, snapping the odd picture here and there of golfers both arriving to play and those finishing their rounds.  Church would be out soon, and everyone expected a new influx of golfers wanting to try out the new course.  Chloe had just finished tallying the scorecard from her round, and she didn't disguise her grin at the results. I kicked those guys' asses. Big time. And except for that problem on the 8th hole, with Sara's window ...  Chloe looked around again to see if she could locate her missing lover.  She's probably at her house , putting up some kind of  barrier.   The foursome had felt bad about the window, well, after Chloe stopped laughing at the look of horror that had covered Dave's face after he had teed off, and the four of them stood and watched the flight of the ball take its left leaning arc, and the resounding crash that followed when it hit glass instead of green. They had regretfully decided, once Chloe had regained her composure, that there was nothing they could do about the 'unfortunate incident', and decided to play on, not wanting to hold up any golfers behind them.  They had, however, taken a moment or two to argue about how many strokes to penalize Dave.

Jason came sprinting across the parking lot, and stopped in front of Paul, gasping for a breath.

"Mr. Hoderman." Jason was no track star, and his lungs knew it. "Mrs. Raeburn sent me to get you, come quick ... it's your mother ..."  Jason took on another lungful of air.

Paul, frightened, simply stared at the young man before him.

Chloe jumped in, and quickly questioned Jason, who was bent over, hands on his knees. "Jason, should I call 911?"

Jason looked up looked at her, confused, and then grinned. "Oh, no, Ms. Donahue. It's a miracle.  Mrs. Hoderman just got a hole-in-one out on 7...."

Sara's back was screaming in protest.  She and Nelson had spent a good part of the later afternoon, pushing cars out the soft, mud covered ruts that now covered what used to be her back yard.  The light was fading from the sky, and the dribble of golfers was lessening, and soon it would stop, not because of lack of devotion on their part, but because of the fading of available sunlight on this Sunday in April.  They had pushed the last car out, and the only remaining cars were parked in relative safety up at the main parking lot up by the barn. Sara was filthy and tired, and said little other than giving departing drivers grunting commands as she and Nelson heaved cars, spinning tires baptizing her with mud. She hadn't seen Chloe since 8 o'clock this morning, it was nearly 5 PM now, and she was eager to see her, filth or no filth.

She and Nelson settled in, side by side, in the electric golf cart she had parked near the front of her house, its window boarded up with an old plywood sign that had 'Cherries, You Pick' painted onto it.  She sighed, and wiped her hands off onto her blue jeans now brown with dirt. They sat, taking a breather, and looked across the 9-hole paradise shining green and lush in front of them.

Nelson returned his Aunt's sigh. "We did a good job, huh, Aunt Sara?" He smiled, knowing he was right, and feeling very proud.

Sara knew he wasn't simply talking about the day that had passed, no, he was describing the whole of the golf course adventure, the hours they had spent together fussing and fertilizing, picking and grooming the expanse that lay ahead of him. She smiled, and did something very atypical of her, she reached across, and grabbed his hand, squeezing it and not letting go.  Nelson, a little surprised, then feeling somewhat very blessed and content, returned the squeeze and lightly held on. Their eyes traveled over green again.

"So," began Sara softly, "gonna be a big brother, are ya?"

Nelson chuckled. "Yeah, isn't that something?  I mean, its great how that all turned out ... I was so surprised when Marcy did that ..."

"You and me both, nephew, you and me both."

"And here I was thinking that maybe Chloe was the one ... " Nelson stopped, suddenly guilty over his previous perceptions, and not wanting to tell his Aunt about them.

"Chloe was the one what?"  Sara's voice was encouraging, and curious.

Nelson shook his head, and laughed, embarrassed. "I was thinking there that the rumors about Chloe were true, ya know ?  That maybe she was really sleeping with Dad, and was pregnant ... that she was sleeping with you both."  Nelson really laughed now. "I wasn't sure what was going on,  I didn't want to get her in trouble with you, or Dad, or Marcy by saying anything." Nelson felt another tight squeeze on his hand, and a light chuckle from the aunt he couldn't quite bring himself to look at just yet. "I am such an ass. I thought she was bisexual ..." Another squeeze, more chuckles.

"Jeez, Nelson, I was worried about you for a minute or two there. I mean, I thought maybe Jason had been hitting on you ..."

Nelson snorted, and laughed a hearty laugh, and finally met his aunt's eyes. "Oh, yeah, like Jason would hit on me ..."

Sara just grinned, and opened her eyes wider, and kept looking at him.

Nelson blinked. "Jason?"

Sara's grin grew into a smile, and said nothing, but then she gave Nelson a quick nod.

Nelson sat back, and pondered this a moment. He looked at her again for confirmation, and there it was.  His face split into a very, very wide grin. "Well, I'll be damned."

Sara gave his hand one more squeeze before she let it go, and pushed the start button on the cart.  She pushed on the accelerator, and aunt and nephew rolled in silence, with a glorious sunset behind them, to join their family across the yards of grass and gravel ahead.

Dave was out in the parking lot, still chatting with a few stragglers who were in no hurry to get home.  Sara watched as Nelson hopped off the cart, waved at his dad, and then walked up to the porch and into the house.  She pulled the golf cart into the barn, relieved to see that there was no one left inside.  She slid out of the cart, and pulled a large electrical line over, and plugged it in to recharge it overnight.  She took a quick glance around, and saw that the register was now firmly shut.  She smiled to see that the revolving golf accessory rack was now more than half empty.  I've been so busy all day playing Handy Dyke, I have no idea just how many people actually came through here. The glass on the display case of the front counter was a mass of fingerprints and smears.  She walked over to the small stand up pop cooler, and grabbed a Diet Coke out of it, and sucked down nearly half before she stopped and had to take a breath.  I think I got a sunburn.  She'd never had the chance to put on her official polo shirt today.  Good thing, it would be covered in mud right now. It'll be clean for tomorrow.  She wandered the barn a few minutes, glad for the few minutes alone to relax and collect her thoughts.

Let's see, I still have to take the cart around and collect the flags. I probably can get Chloe to ride with me.  Or, I could just leave them there tonight.  Sara liked that idea so much, she decided to just go with it, not to question the decision, not to berate herself for her irresponsibility. She finished off the rest of the pop, and tossed the empty can into a recycling bin near the wall.  She stretched, pushing her elbows far behind her, and heard a few satisfying creaks and she groaned.  Wow, I'm tired.  Poor Dave,  he looks like the walking dead.  And Marcy, I wonder if she actually killed anyone today?

She grabbed a ruler from under the counter, and started scraping dried mud off her sneakers.  Everyone was great today, from the family and friends, down to the kids. Jeanette. Jason. Justin.  She shook her head and chuckled. Those kids aren't just kids, those kids are friends. She laughed again. They're all going to be college students very soon, there's no reason I can't think of them as friends.  I think that's the way they look at me. Damn.

Sara started pushing dried lumps of crusted dirt off her other sneaker. And someone said Mrs. Hoderman had a hole-in-one. That's friggin' amazing. I bet it took twenty years off her life.  Maybe she'll let loose of Paul a little ...  Nah, that's not going to happen.  He'll be with her until she dies ... or until he does.  That's OK, he seems happy.  Sara sighed.  Happy, wow, what a word. For years I never considered myself happy, never dreamed of being happy. Now I am. I can say it, in my head, and out loud. I'm happy.  Just since the night since Nelson came to me, telling me he wanted to be in his senior class play, and the whole thing just started snowballing on me.  Nelson, Marcy, Dave, Doris ... and Chloe.  Chloe.

Sara walked across the barn, and stopped in front of her beloved John Deere tractor, rolling the name that she adored through her head, and even whispered it a few times just for the sheer joy of feeling that it brought to her. Chloe. Chloe.  She patted the old leather seat of the tractor.  I've got to make some decisions, Chloe hasn't asked, and I haven't been very open, mostly because I don't know what to do.  I didn't think she could be happy with someone like me. Panicky. Scarred. Scared. Just a mechanic on a tiny golf course. But I was wrong. I was the one who didn't think I could be happy doing this, but I am.  I feel needed. And productive. And I feel very, very loved.  Sara's smile grew with that word, love.  She stroked the steering wheel of the old green John Deere, and whispered softly to it, a little embarrassed that she was speaking to a tractor. Ah, hell, it's not like the first time I've done it. She leaned in, and softly said, "Goodnight, old girl. Tomorrow, or the next day, I'll take you out for a good long ride, all right?  And I'll wash some of that dirt off you, and make you look real nice."  One more pat, a gentle kick to a tire, and Sara turned and left the barn, turning the lights off and shutting the doors behind her, and headed towards the house.

Nelson, Marcy and Chloe were seated at the kitchen table when Sara strolled in. Dave was perched on the sink counter.  Sara was pleased to see a whole stack of pizza boxes stacked in the middle of the table, as she grinned her hellos to everyone, she walked purposely around the table directly to Chloe, and leaned in and gave her a resounding long smooch that she realized midway through that Chloe was pulling away from.  Sara released her from the kiss, and still leaning over her, teased, "Oh, c'mon Chloe, still shy?"

"She's always been shy, Sara. I've known her longer than you have. You're embarrassing the poor girl."

Sara, who was still bent over Chloe, didn't straighten up when she recognized that voice coming from the archway leading into the living room.  Her eyes met Chloe's and they stared at each other, amazed at how wide the other's eyes were getting.  Sara was frozen in place.  She heard a few chairs being pulled away from the table, and a couple of bodies settling into them.

Sara straightened up, her heart pounding, although she wasn't frightened, wasn't panicking. All right,  OK,  maybe a little panicky.

"Hiya, Doris."  Sara said genially, and she glanced at Doris, now seated across from Chloe, who was displaying a full body blush. Sara turned her head a little more, and then said, "I didn't realize that you ... and Jeanette, were still here."

Doris sniffed, her face unreadable, and usually a woman of excess words, spoke one of the shortest sentences anyone in the kitchen had ever heard her say. "Obviously."

Jeanette, the undervalued and always underestimated young woman that she was, broke the silence in the room of mortified adults. "Well, Mrs. Raeburn, if you didn't know about them, you must be living on another planet. I mean, just look at them.  They belong together."  This blonde girl was brave, much braver than the silent, stunned adults around her.  Everyone looked at Jeanette with a quick look of surprise and respect, and then their eyes turned back to the gray haired school principal.

Dave slid off the counter and silently stood just to the side of his sister, who had placed a comforting and protective hand on Chloe's shoulder. Everyone was waiting for Doris to say something. Normally, they were waiting for her to shut up. They didn't have to wait long.

"Well, Jeanette, "  Doris turned her eyes to the blonde cheerleader who was wondering if she had done the right thing, "I'm not sure about that.  I certainly have to admit that I don't like ..." and her gaze turned to Sara and Chloe again, and her mouth slowly formed a smile, "being the last to know about such a lovely couple."

Marcy, whose pregnancy hormones were running amuck and screwing up her emotional stability, simply broke down in tears at that very moment.  She started sobbing in Doris' direction, a grateful and relieved smile on her face. "Oh, god. Oh, god,  Doris.", she snuffled.

This unexpected turn of events and Marcy's very uncharacteristic outburst made everyone start laughing nervously.  Dave moved over and stood behind the bawling Marcy, wrapping his hands around her neck and cooing at her in between disbelieving chuckles. Sara's mouth was hanging open, an uncontrolled strangled braying sound emitting from deep within her, as she moved her gaze from Doris to Marcy back to Doris again.  She felt Chloe stir beneath her hand, and watched as Chloe got out of her seat, and moved around the table, and over to the side of her long time friend, Doris Raeburn, and simply put her arms around her in a wordless and long hug. Doris blushed at the sentiment, and that spurred Sara into movement, and she too, made the trip around the table and waited quietly until Chloe released her hug on Doris.  Chloe looked up expectantly at Sara, a small smile gracing her face.  Sara grinned and shook her head, first at Chloe, and then did the same to Doris, before she swooped down and gave Doris a hug of her own.  Doris snorted as Sara let go, and wiped at her eyes.  Sara and Chloe joined hands, and moved around the table until they were both standing next to Jeanette, who had decided, happily, that she'd said the right thing after all. Chloe leaned over, and placed a soft kiss on Jeanette's cheek, and gave her a gentle smile of appreciation.  Sara merely reached out, and patted the red-faced and pleased cheerleader on the back.

Doris shifted in her seat, and looked around at each of them in turn, clearing her throat a few times. She watched as Chloe settled in her seat and Sara pulled a chair up next to her, comfortably taking Chloe's hand into her own, and settled their clasped hands unapologetically on the tabletop in front of them.  Dave handed his suddenly emotional fiancee a few paper towels.  They all listened to the melodious sounds of a softly sobbing Marcy, the usually pessimistic and smartassed art teacher, who was now reduced to blowing her nose like a overwhelmed six year old who just got a pony for her birthday.

Doris took a full breath. "Well, as I was saying before someone rudely interrupted me, I'm sure that's what happened, one of you interrupted me, and I forgot what I was going to say.  That damnable Helen Hoderman is going to be an insufferable presence on this earth for the rest of her days. You would think she saw the Virgin Mary on that 7th hole, she was so incredibly smug after that hole in one.  And let me tell you, the woman 3 putted every other hole on the course. Sara, since I'm bringing my summer golf league out here to play, we'll be here most every day, perhaps you and your  ... girlfriend can find a way to drown her somewhere out by that beautiful 9th hole?  What a fountain! Where was I? Oh, yes, everyone, save your money for bail, I may need it if she keeps acting like she walks on water  ...  Chloe, stop slouching ...."

Continued in Part XXIV

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