Chapter 3She had to admit it. Not to Sue, yet, but she would. Maybe. Her friend had done good. Mark was a great guy. What started out as a one-time obligation turned into a month of some fun dates. They got along really well and had very similar interests.
They'd been to a couple of movies and museums. They'd gone to bike shops and drooled over the latest dual suspension mountain bike models. They began to see each other at least twice a week when their schedules permitted.
Even Mark's shyness had gotten less and less pronounced as they spent time together too. She found him quite charming and looked forward to the times she'd get to see him.
It was all kind of bittersweet though. She knew he'd be leaving in a little over 3 months for Japan and he'd be gone for over a year. Hardly practical to start something serious that had no real future, thought Jump. For now though, it was fun.
Tonight, she and Mark would be joining Sue and Matt for dinner. They'd tried to get together sooner but all of their different schedules made it hard. Finally, they found a day they could all go to dinner and both women were looking forward to it.
Sue had come over to Jump's apartment and they were busily getting ready for their date.
"I feel like we are going to the prom, sans the ugly dresses." Sue commented excitedly as she brushed her hair.
"I'm so glad I never experienced that particular right of hormone passage." Jump said offhandedly as she tucked her shirt into her favorite jeans.
"What?!" Sue swung around mid brush. "You never went to the prom? Why would you miss your prom?" Sue was baffled.
"Listen Miss Homecoming Queen… I wasn't one of the popular kids. Those things are no fun for ones outside of 'the circle'." Jump gestured, making quote signs in the air at the last two words.
"You didn't have a boyfriend or a friendboy you wanted to go with?" Sue was genuinely intrigued by this whole thing. It made Jump laugh, especially the 'friendboy' comment. She'd have to get clarification on exactly what that meant.
"I had my nose in a book most of my high school career. If I wasn't reading I was swimming. I just had no time and no desire for that kind of stuff."
Sue just shook her head in disbelief. She had Jump pegged for at least a semi-popular overachiever in high school, like one who would be on the debate team or class treasurer.
She was about to say something else when there was a knock on the door. "That's our boys!" Sue sang cheerfully.
They had agreed on a seafood restaurant close to the shop and up the street from Jump's apartment. The brothers had picked both women up and the four of them chatted animatedly about the day's events at their respective work places.
Matt was relaying a story about how his sister had to eat serious crow after the property owner, Kratt, caught the end of a brief tirade about his penny-pinching ways. She had no idea he was standing behind her listening for a good 20 seconds.
"Didn't you try and warn her he was there?" Jump asked incredulously.
Twin blue eyes met in the rearview mirror. It was Matt who spoke. "Stop my sister while she's on one of her infamous tirades? Not a chance."
Mark saw the unasked question on her face. "Don't worry, she just explained to him that some of the subs she's had to use have been 'dicking' her around…" "Her word" piped in Matt. "…and she wished she had a bit more money to throw these guys out and hire new ones. She had to pay them for the work they'd done so far and was upset she had to continue to work with them because it was all she had budgeted. He asked her an amount and took out his checkbook!"
"Our lovely Bernsy can literally talk her way out of any situation, although she'd rather just do her job and get on with it."
"Sounds like my kinda girl!" Jump said as she smiled at a knowing Sue.
"You know, we should all try and get together for another barbeque!" Said Mark excitedly. Matt and Sue groaned loudly and Jump looked back at them quizzically.
"I didn't say I'd be the one barbequing." Mark quickly amended. He turned to Jump in the passenger seat and explained his lack of culinary skills.
"Well, actually, Thanksgiving is coming up soon. Do you ladies have plans?" Matt asked.
"Um, no, I don't." Said Jump. Jump was generally on her own for Thanksgiving. Her dad lived in the Central Valley in California, her mom in Vermont and her brother lived in Seattle. She usually closed the shop and flew out around Christmas for a few days, alternating destinations. Usually her dad would drive down during the holiday season and they'd spend time together as well.
"I have the family thing early, but I can usually sneak away by 1pm." Said Sue. She'd actually been thinking of asking Matt to join her. He glanced at her with a tiny smile and squeezed her hand. Yeah, I'll definitely ask him tonight.
"Cool. Well count on coming over to my sister's then. She's gotta great little beach house that she loves to show off." Matt said as he smiled at his brother through the rearview mirror.
"Shouldn't you ask her first?" Said Jump. "Nah.." the brothers said simultaneously.
Dinner at the casual seafood restaurant was a very fun affair. The brothers were certainly entertaining telling the women stories of their childhood and family. By the time they were finishing dessert, both women felt they knew the entire Rand family well.
Jump kind of envied the closeness Mark had with his family, especially his sister Bernadette. She sounded like something else, the way they talked about her. It was obvious they both idolized her and that she had a lot to do with raising them.
They also credited 'Bernsy' as they call her with keeping the family strong and together after their mom had died of lung cancer a couple of years ago. The brothers admitted to getting a little lost and in trouble following their mother's death and it was Bernadette who "pulled their heads out" and got them help. She hired Matt onto her crew and Mark decided to join the Navy.
Jump had a pretty run-of-the-mill childhood. Stay at home mom, dad who worked too much. She had an older brother who lived up north, Shane, whom she hadn't seen in over a year. She knew he'd gotten married and had a baby on the way. Or was it already here? I'll call them tomorrow and see how they are…perhaps plan a visit for this Christmas instead of staying home this year.
The night ended with a walk on the beach, each couple hand in hand. Jump and Mark were in front of the others by about 10 yards and she heard the two laughing at something.
Jump hadn't thought about the limited time she had with Mark all night. She just enjoyed being with him and hearing him talk of his family. But now, on the beach, she felt a great sadness.
"What's wrong, Jump?" Mark asked gently. She looked up at his beautiful blue eyes and smiled through unshed tears. She asked, "Would you like to come home with me tonight?"
"Wow. What a great little house!" Jump said excitedly as she walked into the bright open entryway of Bernadette's newly almost finished renovated beach house. Bernadette smiled proudly as she took in what she'd done to it.
"You did this all yourself?" Jump asked as she joined Sue in the kitchen. "Mostly. These two knuckle heads helped when they had time." She winked at her brothers as they set down the paper bags of food on the open kitchen counter.
"Can I have a tour?" Jump asked as she walked toward the huge picture window that looked out over the Pacific.
"Can I come too?" Sue asked, even though she'd seen the house when Matt brought her over before.
"Absolutely." Bernadette smiled as she began leading the women down the hallway to the bedrooms.
As an afterthought, Bernadette commented over her shoulder, "Mark, don't turn anything on. Matt, make sure he doesn't go in the kitchen." Bernadette deftly caught an apple as it came flying toward her head.
She chuckled as she tossed it to Matt and stuck her tongue out at Mark who was glaring at her. It quickly gave way to a tiny grin as he caught eyes with Jump and winked. Bernadette made a big show of rolling her eyes as she motioned for the women to follow her down the hall.
They trailed the tall dark-haired woman from room to room as she explained the changes she'd made to the floor plan of the beach house, adding a bedroom and an office. Some of the construction terms Bernadette used went beyond Sue and Jump's understanding but they got the idea of the before and after as they admired the little house.
It was obvious Bernadette was very good at what she did and enjoyed it as well. She talked very animatedly about the type of tile she used for the bathrooms and floors and the energy efficiency of the little house.
When they got back to the kitchen, Bernadette explained how she opened up the whole front part of the house to create the openness and light. The kitchen blended easily into the living room and off to the corner was a small elegant dining area that had a view of the beach.
In the center of the picture windows was a large sliding glass door that opened onto a wooden deck with a bbq and patio furniture neatly arranged. Two small steps off of the deck and you were on the beach. The three women continued their tour outside onto the patio and Bernadette pointed out the small islands in the distance.
"I love this time of the year. It's so clear and the ocean is so blue. Sometimes I take out my telescope and I can see the ships docked on the island."
"Well, it is quite breathtaking. You have quite a nice set up here, Bernadette." Jump said with a polite and genuine smile.
"It was quite interesting how I happened upon this property, actually." Bernadette said as she followed Jump and Sue back into the house.
Jump cocked her head and looked at her with rapt interest, encouraging her to continue.
"I was doing some work for this real estate agent and he was telling me about this dilapidated house on the beach he owned and was trying to sell. Obviously, it was the property the house was on that was so valuable, but he was still having a hard time unloading it. I'd told him I'd seen the house and sometimes I would imagine I owned it. I described exactly how I would remodel it."
She paused and gently laughed at the memory, still quite amazed at the outcome of the story even after telling it so many times. "I should tell you too, this guy was absolutely loaded and I think a bit eccentric, as only loaded people can be. Anyway, he was so impressed with my vision and taken by my obvious fondness for his property, he knocked off a huge chunk of the price, sold it to me and carried part of the note on the house."
"You're kidding!" Jump exclaimed, laughing in disbelief.
"It's true." Mark said as he came up from behind Jump and put his arms around her. Bernadette grinned widely and nodded.
About an hour after Jump, Sue and the brothers arrived, the rest of the Rands showed up. Like Sue had told Jump before, the whole family was extraordinarily good looking. Their father, Frank had dark hair that had started turning gray at the temples some years ago, but he was still very handsome with deep blue eyes and a square jaw.
Their sister Carrie had long chestnut hair and gray blue eyes. While not as striking as her three siblings, she had a subtle beauty. Out of all of them, she looked most like their mother from what Jump could tell from family photos scattered throughout the house. She was also showing a bit of the weight and glow that comes from the early stages of pregnancy.
Jump was thoroughly enjoying the day; getting to know this family she'd heard so much about. They loved to tease each other and push one's buttons, but it was never malicious. They all shared an easy love of one another. A love that was put to the test when their mother died, Jump remembered Mark saying. Seeing their interaction, she couldn't help but drift in and out of thought about her own family again.
She was never really close to her mother or brother, but she was with her father. Even though he worked a lot, he would make time for his daughter. She would come to his office in the small medical plaza for lunch sometimes and even worked a couple of summers filing medical records for him. It was he who encouraged her to follow her dreams of becoming a business owner when she'd first mentioned it.
By the time her dream was becoming a reality, he had nothing monetarily to give her; his divorce from her mother had drained him of everything. He did give her some advice that had been more valuable to her than any amount of money: Don't avoid making mistakes at all costs; avoid repeating them.
The words made little sense to her at first, but as she got older, she understood exactly what they meant. There was a time not too long ago when they saved her life.
She was pulled out of her moment of reverie with a loud "WHHOOAAA" as she saw Mark, Matt and Bernadette down by the shoreline stripping down to their underwear.
"What the hell…"She said louder than she intended.
"It's a tradition these goofballs have." Explained Carrie who was bundled in her husband's sweater this late November afternoon.
Sue and Jump looked on slightly slack-jawed as they watched their boyfriends and Bernadette plunge into the icy-cold Pacific Ocean.
Not taking her eyes off of the trio who were frolicking in the surf, Sue smirked and asked Carrie, "You ever join them?"
"Let's put it this way…" She paused as they heard someone shriek like a little girl, and it wasn't Bernadette. "…They got the lion's share of the looks, but I definitely got the lion's share of the brains."
All three women laughed as they continued to watch the three play around for about a minute more and then stumble out of the water and up the shore to the beach house, collecting their clothes on the way.
"I bet you are all sober now!" Carrie's husband, James, laughed.
The three had been drinking homemade beer from Matt's latest batch. It was good, and potent. The instant each got tipsy, they headed to the shoreline.
Now, the three stood on the deck dripping, shaking and blue with large kid-like grins on their faces.
Sue and Jump made moves to go get them towels but were stopped by Frank's voice in the living room. He was in there watching the football game, seemingly oblivious to his offspring's antics. "This is also part of the tradition. First to use a towel to dry off does all of the dishes." He explained, not taking his eyes off of the 3rd and long play on TV.
Continued in Chapter 4
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