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    FSELL
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Jamie - The Journey Begins - 29. Chapter 29 Frost, Pastry and Sunshine

Who doesn't love a good pastry, and that Boston frost...

Clearly, I'd forgotten how cold it can get up north – well, for the first few weeks anyway's. The guys at the station said it was ‘fresh.’ Bullshit, fresh! I think my balls stayed lodged so far up inside me, I felt them in my neck for the first two days, ha-ha.

I’d woken up a few hours before my shift started. It was still dark and pretty much quiet outside. I was lying in bed, warm but alone - no Ben - no sexy warm body next to me.

I couldn’t help reminisce about how the past few months had flown by: Phoenix was a fantastic posting, as was Tucson - warm weather, great guys to work with, plus we had a couple of small brush fires, like our grass and scrub fires at home. Up here in Boston, MA, it was a completely different job. I was stationed at Columbus Ave Rescue 2 & Engine 42. It was much like back home - a fantastic mix of structure-based firefighting and using tools to pull shit apart.

The clock was running on my time up here though - two more rotations with 4days off between each. The good part of being alone here, if there is anything GOOD about being alone, was it was super easy to pull extra reliever shifts, half-shifts across this rotation, landing an extra day off. I opened up the work calendar on my cell, looking at my shifts on this last roster and it filled me with a little sadness.

All of a sudden it sprang to life. Shit - I almost dropped it. Lucas’ belly button was on my screen. Ha - someone wants to facetime.

“Hey, Lucas, what's up?"

“Thought I’d check see how my frozen cuz is going? Where are you, Jamie? You look like you’re wearing every bit of clothing you own!”

"Thanks, mate! Facetime - just love it, hey. Nah, I just walked in from work. I'm still half-frozen. Last night was brutal. I can see that you’re feeling the cold - you’ve got socks on, shorts and a tee, ha-ha”

“Oh yeah it’s freezing. I’m sure it dropped to 75deg today. But seriously how you going? Must be hard getting close to the end right?”

“Mate, the last almost seven months have been such a fantastic experience, you know. I’ve had the opportunity to put a host of skills to work.”

“Nice when you get the chance to show ‘em what you got, -surprise a few of the guys with what you actually know, can do.”

“Yeah, true. It does feel good, hey.”

“Yep, same for me when I shifted over to Johnson Space Centre. I remember the first time I got to review some specs on a turbine project. I kinda felt that I needed to prove myself and that was within the same organization. I totally get it, Jamie.”

“Wow listen to us, hey - all adulting and stuff. Could you ever imagine, hey? Haha. Imagine if my Mom and Dad or Uncle Reid and Aunt Ann-Maire heard us?"

“They wouldn’t believe us, we’ve got them all fooled, even Hailey and Ben too.”

“Lol, I know. I don’t get how they haven’t caught onto you though, Lucas - like shit, you have two engineering degrees. Look at the work you’re on - the 2024 Moon project - plus shit with defense, like, you’re not a dumbass.”

“Hey, I’ve seen what you can do too. I’ll never forget seeing you pull that family out of that house in Cali. Tom said it was just mind-blowing that you got them out and safe with next to nothing except for the fire extinguisher in the truck, then resuscitated the mom. Like, goddamn Jamie! Plus, you've got a degree education too - know more about hydraulics, volumes, and liquid dynamics than anyone I know - advanced life support too, like, shit man!”

“Yeah, well, I had to help. You just can’t sit back and do nothing, let people die. Anyway, the work here - it’s been such an opportunity to learn new skills, gain an understanding of how other services worked. Reinforced that there is good and bad in all our fire departments, at home where every measure of those I'd encountered here.”

“Love the way you downplay stuff. It works, hey. On some, Uncle Rob would love to hear that, but it doesn’t surprise me though. We deal with a few Australian companies in the flight project - they're a match for us - so I get when you’re saying Aussies, for your population size and county age, punch above your weight.”

“Anyway, so what’s the go - you have interviews lined up?”

“Yeah, I’ve got two onlines. Let see what happens hey.”

“I can ask here too if you like. We’ve got a fire service here - didn’t know that till three days ago, I ran into a few of the guys. You know, if you like?”

"Thanks, mate! Might be a good idea. Better to have a few plan B's hey."

“I’ll ask around. Hey - gotta go. Hail's is back and I haven’t done shit since I got home.”

"Ok, no worries. Thanks, Lucas. I'll try to catch you when I'm back in Texas."

..o0o..

After finishing two back-to-back pre-interview online sessions, I wasn’t feeling confident in securing a position in the near term, deciding to quietly lay down on Ben’s bed, I guess our bed now, right? I still say that because it’s all his really - my stuff is 14,000km away. Anyway, time to chill out, try and get my head in a good place.

Sinking into the comforter, I closed my eyes with my arm draped across my face. I could feel myself relaxing somewhat, almost like gently falling. The afternoon sun was warm on my face and upper body. I have to say it was having the desired effect, calming.

My ears twitched, pulling me back to the here and now. The slight rustle of the bedding and then gentile movement, silently almost, there was a familiar comforting feeling. Ben was laying on his side, lightly pressed up against me. I could feel his warm soft face and a little bit of stubble pressing against my chest.

“Hey, I know you’re stressed, Jamie. Your heartbeat is giving you away. It didn’t go too well… The interviews?”

I lifted my right arm slightly, my fingers absentmindedly playing with his hair, slowing or trying to slow my heart rate by breathing slowly and deeply. “Both services are under financial constraints. Basically, they’re only replacing staff losses - you know, general attrition, people retiring, that sort of stuff.”

“It would be a mistake, their mistake, if they didn’t hire you. I’m not saying that because I love you, married you, respect and admire you,” he said, pausing for a moment to gently kiss my chest.

“Hmmm… thank you, that was so sweet.”

“Why wouldn’t I want to kiss you every chance I get, Skip! Besides being the hottest, sweetest, most genuine guy I know - even when you drive me crazy with the adult child stuff at times - you’re an amazing man.”

“Thanks, Be.” I grabbed his hand for a moment, kissing it.

“Look. You’d be a fantastic asset to any fire service. Tom says it;, every other FD’s that you’ve worked here says it. Remember too, I’ve seen what you can do firsthand. It’s totally their loss if they don’t hire you.”

“I think they want to, but I don’t know. Their intakes at the colleges were tuned pretty much to cover that percentage, they’ve said that. I know at home, sometimes the funding cycle dries up and you just have to cut corners and make do.”

“You still going to meet with them face to face tomorrow?”

"Nah, I suggested that we touch base when I return from Australia after my last rotation in Boston. Gives them 5+ weeks to work out what they want to or can do,” Ben just looked up at me, with a mix of compassion and concern in his eyes.

"Hey, I'm not worried. I can pick up some part-time work around the place. Lucas said he asked the guys at the Johnson Space Centre if any Fire Crew jobs were going. Hey - I might even be able to dust off my engineering degree, lol. I'm sure I'll find something. Hey, I can work a street corner if I really have too, right?" Ben laughed at that one.

“You know how you just told me you weren't worried, Jamie? You should tell your heart that - it's beating something crazy."

“That’s not stress, Benjamin - it’s because I have a sexy ass guy lying in bed with me and my mind is thinking less about work and more about…”

“You're such a horndog, Jamie.”

“You love me for it.”

“That, and other things, like…” Ben wriggled over a little and started to tongue my exposed nipple. That made something else visible too … quite visible.

“Oh, hey there, you.”

“He likes you, Ben.”

“I like him too.”

..o0o..

The whole travel and being apart was tough, I won’t lie. That’s why we made the most of the off-shift time we had. We lazed around at home. Lucas and Hailey called in. But pretty much, we just hung out and spent some ‘us’ time.

Lt. Wiessnat came looking for me. I was busy stowing away a recently cleaned hose – hey, everyone should do it - not leave it to the probies.

"Hey, Jerad," I called to one of the Lieutenants I'd worked with most shifts. "Mate, this is it, my last shift!” I’d been back in Boston for 14 days and my last shift was almost up. I was literally counting down the hours till it was over.

“Hey, the boss is looking for you.”

"Thanks, Jerad. What's up? Didn't he like my nude run through the engine bay, ha-ha?"

Jerad smiled, shaking his head. “We are so going to miss you when you’re gone. The boss said that the two services you were talking to in TX, were…”

"Yeah, not filling me with confidence in landing a position. But Lucas has found me something as a stopgap over at the Johnson Space Center, so at least I won’t have to work a street corner real soon.”

“Ha-ha, street corner. See, that’s what we’re going to miss, you’re crazy Aussie sense of humor. Anyway, come on, let's go see the chief."

The boss had an open-door policy. I’d only seen his office door closed once in my time here. So, with a quick knock on the door frame, we were summoned in. "G' day mate! Did I finally get it right, Jamie?"

I could feel the broad smile on my face. The boss must have practiced saying ‘g-day’ every day, coz now he had it, which wasn't easy. He had that strong Boston/New England accent going on - he almost sounded like some of my relatives from NH. "Yes sir, you do, mate."

"Jamie, when your time is up here," he paused to look at his watch, "- well, that's in less than two hours - I just want you to know the entire station house, all the crews will miss you. You've been a great addition, valued by the crews here. If those Texans don't sort themselves out, there's a full-time position for you here at Boston FD.”

I was dumbstruck. The boss had always been nice, well, polite and kinda grumpy, but that’s normal - all firefighters, when they aren’t on the trucks anymore, get a little grumpy around the edges, lol. "Thanks, sir, I'm grateful, really grateful for the offer. I will keep it in mind." With that, we shook hands and Jerad and I returned to the muster room.

Everything was set - my flight to Texas was at 1100h, giving me a few hours after coming off shift to grind out a quick session in the gym, get showered, changed, and across to Boston Logan and away. It's going to be a busy few days, flying into Austin TX, then back to OZ to sort all my personal and financial stuff out. I’ve gotta say, the thought of doing that just filled me with dread, but I have no choice, I’ve got to get his all done.

..o0o..


Ben was on-shift when I arrived at Austin-Bergstrom. Aiden was off-shift - he’s a good guy volunteering to pick me up. It was well after 1700h when I finally got out of the terminal in Austin. “Hey Aiden! Thanks for coming out to get me - appreciate it.”

“What up, Jamie. Happy to.” He pulled me into a hug. “Boston cold enough for you, hey?”
"Pfft, I think it would take me months to get used to the cold - not my thing."

We headed over to the baggage collection. I’d accumulated - no-bought - a new wardrobe of winter gear. Don’t think it will get much of a run in Texas. I’ve learned that the summer is a lot like northern Queensland - hot and humid at times.

“Hey Aiden, feel’n a little thirsty. How about we grab a quick beer on the way?”

“Hmmm, I could be tempted, but just one or two, right?”

"Sure, sure - one or two quick ones mate, maybe."

Ok, so that didn’t go too well. Amanda showed up 2hrs later to collect Aiden and me, I sat in the back with little Olivia.

“Uncle Jamie, you smell like beer and whisky.”

“How do you know what whisky smells like, hmm?”

“Sometimes poppy drinks ‘number 7’ - you smell like that.”

I almost wet myself laughing, such a little miss! Telling me I smelt like liquor – wow, she’s a grammy already. I was trying to get a read on Amanda. She didn’t seem too upset. I’m sure she laughed a few times. I think the beers and Jack had slightly diminished my ability to … think!

“Lucky for you, Jamie, Ben’s not home yet. You’ll have time for a shower and change your clothes, hmm.”

“Ah yes. Thanks, Amanda. Great advice - think I might do that.”

Aiden just giggled, which was abruptly stopped with a death stare from his wife.

”Why are you laughing? Thought you were only going to be gone 2 hours, tops?”

There was a whole lotta , um-well-ahh, Aiden was struggling to dig himself out of that one.

“Sorry, Amanda, it’s my fault. I talked him into it.”

“Do you carry, Jamie?”

“Sorry, what?”

“Do you carry a firearm?”

“Ummm, no ma’am, hate guns.”

“So, you didn’t force my husband to pull off the highway or force a drink down his throat?”

"No, sorry. I was just happy to see a familiar face and let it get a little out of hand. Sorry Amanda, don't be too mad at Aiden - it's my fault.”

“Ha-ha, I’m good. Was enjoying the look on both your faces, like two little boys busted.”

“Yeah, mom. They’ve been drinking. They’re badddd.”

“Thanks for the backup, Olivia. Thought you were on my side.”

“No, Uncle Jamie, I’m on mommy’s side.”

I couldn’t help but smile at that. “Smart girl. Keep on mom’s good side.”

“Do you keep on your momma’s side, Uncle Jamie?”

“I try to… I really try to.”

Amanda pulled into Ben’s driveway in what seemed to be only seconds later. Taking a deep breath, I opened the door of Amanda’s SUV, the coolness of the night air washed over me. ‘Okay, Jamie, you can do this.’ As I stepped out, my feet felt a little off, like someone had tilted the pavement by about 10 degrees. Yeah, I almost fell ass over getting out of her truck.

"Shit who moved the ground?"

“Momma, Uncle Jamie cursed. Can we wash his potty mouth?”

"Where is this kid channeling all this grandmother energy?"

Aiden tried not to laugh. Amanda was looking straight ahead, trying her best not to laugh at her daughter who was looking directly at her mom with her head tilted. “We really should, momma. Y’all would wash my mouth out if I cursed.”

“True, Olivia. I am sorry for cursing.” Placing a steadying hand on the SUV, you know just to get my balance, with all the flights and stuff (well that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it), I continued, “ I will get Uncle Ben to wash my mouth out when he gets home, ok? Very sorry Ma’am.” I bowed at the little miss, to which she nodded and slipped her headphones on. “I think I’ve been dismissed.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t think Ben’s tongue washing your mouth out is a punishment, more like a reward.”

"Thank's Aiden, I’ll take that," I shot him an eat shit grin. "Thanks for the lift, Amanda. We’re catching up with you guys before I leave on Sunday?”

“Yes, we’re catching up Friday night at our place. See you then.”

And with that, the guys drove off. I walked in with my duffle bag full of clothes and the stuff I'd taken up to Boston with me. I don't remember bringing half this with me, geez.

By the time Ben got home, I'd showered, changed, and even had a nap for a couple of hours. To say I was like an overexcited puppy the instant I heard his keys in the door lock was an understatement.

“Ben!” I squeaked out as I ran up to him. The poor guy hadn’t walked 6 feet in the door before I pounced on him. Okay, might have been still half-drunk, but oh-so ready to go. Back home we call it P&H, pissed and horny, and I was very that.

“OMG, I’ve missed you so much,” I said while crashing my mouth against his, somehow timing it so we didn’t clash teeth, or end up bruising our lips. Yeah, they might have been a little red for a bit afterward. Still lip-locked, I reached down and slipped my arm halfway between his butt, -and what a sexy butt it is too- sweeping him up in a fireman’s carry. Ben’s surprise was muffled by our connected mouths.

“Jamie, no!” he pulled his mouth off mine for a brief moment. “Here, right here on the sofa,” I changed direction veering to my right walking until my legs hit the edge of the sofa.

Lowering Ben down, while not losing physical contact with him, connected all the way till we were on the sofa in one movement, Ben remarked, “Man, we were never going to make it to the bedroom, not when you pounce on me like that, Jamie.”

“Hmmm, yep.”

..o0o..

“Hey dad, you got a moment?”

“Always mate. What’s up?”

“I’ve tried my best not to worry too much about work and all that stuff since getting back from Boston. But Dad, I’m failing, feeling overwhelmed … big time!”

“Ok, what did you do. Are you and Ben ok?”

Taking a deep breath of guilt, I continued, “I’m gonna say it right now! My husband is an absolute saint! How he didn’t end up killing me these past few days I’ll never know.”

“Oh, this will be good, Go on.”

“So, Thursday morning. I was being such a dick, I’d just had the best breakfast cooked for me. But I could feel I was just so… pissy, for no reason. Ben just made me an awesome breakfast.” I could feel my face turn bright red with embarrassment and self-anger.
“He was being all chatty trying to distract me, trying to disarm me, or talk me down I think, but I was having none of it. Was being such an ass, just mumbling or single-syllable responses to him. So I thought, maybe I should go get my running gear on and run it off, you know.”

“Just like you did as a kid. Did you get that far?”

“Nope,” I answered meekly.

“Okay then. You lost it, didn’t you, Jamie?”

“Yes, dad. I was so angry at myself for being such a dickwad to Ben. The last time I was this mad was when-"

“You and Mason got into it in the kitchen. I think your brother underestimated how much you'd bulked up at the fire college. Was kinda funny.”

Did my dad just say it was funny that I beat the crap out of Mason? I still remember him saying that 'we were twenty year olds and to act like it, not our brain sizes.’

“Yeah, I walked into his bedroom to get changed and saw clothes scattered across the room. My mind was in overdrive, dad. Those idiots on the controls were pulling all the wrong levers. I’m like thinking, was he testing me? Just how many dirty clothes can be left on the floor before I would get triggered. Well… FINE then!”

“Ok, so you regained control and calmed the farm, right? I think we both know that answer though, don’t we, son?”

“Yes, dad. I’m still ashamed. I was like, that is … this is one piece too many, as I grabbed the clothing like it was… I don't know, like.”

Anyway, I turned around to see Ben standing in the doorway, his face was neutral.

“So what do you call these Ben!” I’m standing at the end of the bed, waving a pair of trunks in my hand like a damn flag.

“He just smiled… he fucking smiled! Christ, Dad… it tripped me over, and I feel like shit for it." Pausing to gather my emotions that were threatening to take over, I was only holding back tears of frustration and disappointment by single threads. "I haven’t stopped apologizing like every 10 minutes for the last 24hrs, but wow, I was out there somewhere.

“What did he say, do, at this display of such adult and balanced behavior?"

“Pretty much nothing, Dad. He was silent. His face was emotionless. Shit, Dad, I have no excuse for it - I was a total ass.”

“Although after about a minute - it felt like hours - he reminded me that those are trunks I was waving around still, like some crazed idiot. They were the ones I ripped off him last night. Sorry, Dad, if that's TMI."

“No-no, not too much information. I’ve heard worse.”

“I tried to walk out of the room with the evil trunks in my hand when I saw a Tee tossed on the floor over near the window. For a split second I could feel a second burst of unbalanced behavior brewing, but quickly realized they were my handy work. It hit a chord but I just tried to ignore it. I simply asked Ben if I could please squeeze past him to get to the laundry. He didn’t say a word. Just stepped back and waved me past. At least I had recovered some sense of mind, thanking, thank god not rudely, and just walked off toward the laundry.”

“When I came back he was in the shower. I quickly put my gear on, grabbed my backpack, and walked off with Nike's in hand. As I got near the front door I saw the glass I’d left on the sideboard last night. It finally sunk in. Okay, he’d done nothing, I was being my brother. One word: Ashamed!”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself son, I’m guessing this is probably the first time you’ve gotten mad with each other. I’m not saying it’s good, but your mom and I had our share of angry words at times in the first few years we were first married.”

Dad paused for a moment like he was clearing his mind or something. “Sometimes, it’s just learning how to ask for space, or help when your struggling with something. That ability comes with time and maturity. Just remember - if you don't learn to talk and listen - I mean talk and listen to each other – you’re gonna do it hard.”

“Yeah, true, dad. I can see that now.”

"We have all these conversations going on inside our heads, but only tell the other person 10% of it! The more you tell them your thoughts, the better it will work out. The same for listening - listen to everything that's said, not just get hung up on a few words, and miss the rest, ok?"

“I'm guessing you're still pitching a fit over work and the resettlement paperwork too right?”

“Yeah, I am,” I replied in a resigned voice. This has just got me so down.”

"One-sec son, just going to grab a glass of water and a couple of paracetamols.”

“You ok dad?”

“Yeah, all good, just had an annoying pain in my neck. Might go to the osteopath - get them to set me right.”

“I’ll let you go if you want, dad. Sorry … I’ve just been bitching on here.”

"No, you're all good."

“Anyway, I slipped out the door and started on my run, then I decided to head down towards Baguette et Chocolat in Bee Cave. Thought maybe I could buy him a few peace offerings - you know, to go with my head on a platter. I settled on a set of petit fours and escargot. And, yes, he liked them… didn’t throw them at me.”

We talked for about an hour. Dad was a calming influence. When I got back from my run, which did take a while, I went looking for Ben and started apologizing - yeah also filled him up with French pastries (he has a weakness for them after our time in Paris) - I broke him, he said a few times.

While sitting at the kitchen counter, I initiated the conversation around safe words, etc, I had too I caused this one. We agreed that if we, either of us, were in a mood, that we’d use a safe word, a timeout, so we could give each other some space, you know - it can help snap you out of the mood also.

..o0o..

We went over to Aiden and Amanda’s place for dinner Friday night. Josh and Zoe were down from NH for a few days, I hadn’t seen Josh since our wedding, which I guess wasn’t all that long ago. Okay, before that it was like 6 months plus.

Saturday, we went to Lucas and Hailey's place so that we could just spend Sunday morning together before I flew out at 1300h. There was no more bullshit behavior from my end. I still said sorry at the terminal - Ben said it wasn't necessary. He'd been off-key a few times, due to my travel. The pressure sometimes at his work can get pretty upsetting at times.

But still, lesson learned!

..o0o..

I let out a small groan while removing my headphones. My mind was just spinning with all the things I had to get done while I was home back in Oz. My mind was just overloading and the frigg’n Australian Tax office was being a pain in my ass with all this living abroad stuff. They could learn a few lessons from the IRS - information was somewhat easier to find.

With all of that going on coupled with a matching video loop in my head, you know like a trailer flashing between scenes, of me quitting the fire service here, working out all the financial stuff, talking to my parents and friends, seeing the disappointment in their eyes as I explained how I was becoming an ex-pat. You know the normal crazy shit that goes on in my head.

“Mr. Spence, can I get you a drink or something light to eat?” Oh wait-what? I looked up, Gabrielle, one of the friendly cabin crew, repeated herself, "Can I get anything for you, Mr. Spence?”

“Um… no thanks but thank you.” I managed to eke out a half-smile.

"No problem. If you need anything please let us know." And with that, she was gone

Wonder how long till we land… hmm where’s the flight tracker screen? I pressed on the large button on the touch screen in front of me that said ‘flight tracker,’ go figure. Great, we’re almost there - only 5h25m till we land in Sydney.

That feeling, that overwhelming feeling was kicking in. I knew that when I asked Ben to marry me, we'd most likely end up in the States. And I’m happy to … it's just the bullshit paperwork that you have to navigate through, and I was lucky, having dual citizenship. Would be a lot harder if I didn’t have that.

If Ben was here, I’m sure he’d calm me down. I guess I just need to let it go, relax a little. It’s not like I’m doing it all by myself - Dad and Avery were helping out big time. Maybe part of my current stress was that Ben was Stateside still. We were good now, just I haven’t seen much of him in the past month or so and would have loved to have shown him around. He couldn’t get leave to come over, plus it’s not a cheap exercise to fly across the Pacific Ocean. We'd been spending a bit of late on just …. stuff like weddings etc.

My flying back to Texas pretty much after every shift didn’t help either. I guess, well it’s not like we're broke or anything. I guess I’m just being a little hypercritical, it’s all just… stressing me out. Plus I was still disappointed at myself over that whole childish outburst before I left.


..o0o..

“Good Morning, passengers and cabin crew. This is Capt. Lowe from the flight deck. Shortly, we will be commencing our on-time decent to Sydney, where the weather is currently 15 deg, a light onshore breeze of 5 knots and an expected top of 29 deg. If you could, please assist the crew in preparing the cabin for landing. We expect to have you disembarking on time at 0720.”

Thankfully, I’d managed to fall asleep for a couple of hours after writing three drafts of my letter of resignation, finally settling on the first version, go figure. I hadn’t told the family I was coming back a day earlier. I wanted to try and sneak back in and just get myself into that headspace I needed to be, without all the fuss of everyone wanting to catch up and my cell exploding with messages asking me to come out for a drink here or there.

Ben, Lucas, and Hailey knew but promised not to say anything, I’d even switched my snap maps off. I was going dark, lol.

In the end, the longest part was getting the car service out front, because I only brought a small carry on with me. I didn’t need to wait for luggage. Just walked up to Customs and Immigration, used the scanner thing that was working, then on to the quarantine guys and out. The car ride was pretty much a non-event, I had saved a few of my frequent flyer points up, so used the Qantas connect car service to get me home.

The guy was nice enough. It felt a bit weird when he asked me if I was over here on holiday. Guess my accent has faded a bit. Strange though - just last week someone asked me three times what I was saying because they couldn't understand me… how else do you say ‘cheese and tomato toasted sandwich’?

In the end, I went longhand, explaining two slices of bread, spread two cheese slices and tomato. It’s not like I sound like Matt-the-crock-hunter. I’m sure the guys will give me plenty of crap, doing the whole, what did you say mate thing over and over just to stir me up, just you watch.

I thanked Matt the driver and looked at my watch - it was almost 0900. My appointment at HQ was at 1400 so had a bit of time to kill. Guess - let’s see who’s home. Luckily the key safe code hadn’t been changed, because I rang the doorbell for a solid 2minutes with no answer, so I just let myself in. The place was spotless - it pretty much looked the same as when I left, other than the flowers I could see on the hall stand. Good boy Adam - Jules deserves it.

“Hello, anyone home?” Nope, obviously not, just silence. I headed upstairs to my room. Opening the door, the bed had been stripped and fresh linen was folded, sitting on a corner of the mattress. Other than being very tidy, again thanks, mom, it was pretty much as I left it.

..o0o..

‘With no one to play with, and a few hours to kill… what to do, hmmm. Go for a surf. Haven’t been for a surf in months.’ I rummaged through my wardrobe: in the corner was my surfing bag, a few board shorts, tees, a huge towel, board wax, and sunscreen. The next question was how was I going to get there? Hopefully, my truck was in the garage…

“OMG, I didn't even say hello to my baby truck.”

In what seemed to be a few steps but wasn’t really more like two corridors and a flight of stairs, plus via the bathroom, I was looking at my baby, she was lurking beneath a softcover.

"Keys! Shit, where are the keys?" I remembered Adam had installed a key safe in the garage. Only now I had to remember the code. Third, guess and we were all good.

“Shit - I’d better leave a note, right, else Jules or Adam will think someone has stolen my truck!” After pulling the cover off and starting her up, I went back inside the apartment for a moment and left them a note on the counter.

Hey guys, got back a day early to sort some stuff out Taking the truck and going for a surf. See you guys a little later, Jamie.

Stowing my board in the truck’s tub, I slipped back behind the wheel. "Oh, I’ve missed you… daddy loves you." Yeah ok, I know you shouldn’t talk to inanimate things, but I'm sure cars/trucks can hear us, right?”

Pulling out from the garage, I clicked on one of my favorite playlists and zoned out for the 35-minute drive to the beach. By the time I got there, the best waves had gone, although the onshore breeze was helping kick it up a little. ‘Well, I can’t complain right… there are still waves and it’s nice and warm.’

Using the front and rear driver side open doors as a makeshift change room, I slipped out of my jeans and into my favorite pair of boardshorts. Catching a reflection of my butt in the door of the Ranger ute next to me, ‘Damn, they made my ass look good.’ Gathering up my chucks, jeans and other clothes. I threw them on the back seat and closed her up.

I sat on the lowered tailgate to make it easier to pull the suit past my feet, hooking my shoulders in, wriggling around as I pulled the zip cord up from behind.
I caught sight of myself in the windows of the car next to me: it struck me that I was still a fair bit thinner than before the accident. For once, I didn’t feel like Spiderman pulling on my wetsuit.

Sure, it was right where it needed to be - wrists and ankles, but the rest was just firm and hey, I’ve had this suit for 9 years! Not bad, I reckon. If anything, I’ve grown an inch or two in height since then.

My senses were taking it all in, from the beautiful ocean running all the way out, to a distant blue sky. With every step, the grass enveloped my feet, pressing up between my toes like a soft green carpet, met by the soft warm sand and finally the water.

Out here amongst the waves, it was just me, my board, and the Pacific Ocean. The whole relocating to the US was causing much more stress than I'd thought it would, but for now, it was time to catch a few breaks and enjoy.

..o0o..

‘Wow I thought this day would never actually come, but here I am, I’m doing it.’ Pulling into the car park in uniform for what was probably going to be the last time, I had months of leave entitlements backed up and as is the normal practice, officially you go on administrative leave to use it all up, then quietly exit stage door left and you're all done. It wasn’t the way the service used to do it; more, it was the governmental media managers.

It didn’t bother me really, I kept telling myself - just hand in the letter and your done Jamie. But holding it was another thing: crap, in my hand it felt like it was made of lead, heavy and cold. The mind is a powerful thing hey, when the truth be known, it was just paper - the sentiment is what makes it heavy.

Stepping out of the F250, I walked straight up to the sliding glass doors. Once inside the foyer, I saw a familiar face manning the reception desk, Bec - Rebecca.

Our faces lit up when we locked eyes on each other.

“OMG, you’re alive Inspector Spence! How are you, Jamie?

“Hey Bec! It's so good to see you again.” Looking around the foyer, it was pretty much the same - only the seasonal promotional material was on display.

“How have you been, Bec? How’s your Mom and Dad?” Leaning over the counter, I kissed her on the cheek.

“Thanks, Jamie. They’re fantastic. Enjoying retired life. They've moved up to the warmth of Northern Queensland. I think your Mum and Dad are heading up there in a few weeks.”

“Yeah, Mom said they’re going sailing in the islands for a few days with your folks, right. Dad is super keen. Mom just wants to escape the cold down here, although I’m not sure what she’s complaining about - it's beautiful here today."

“I know! You must have brought the sunshine with you.”

“I am the sunshine, Bec!”

At that we both started to laugh.

“So how was Boston? Cold?”

“You have no idea! I spent two months in a freezer city - bloody froze my ass off.”

“Ha-ha, that’s so funny. The email you sent back did the rounds of the office – you, all wrapped up in three jackets and snow on your hat - it was priceless! I felt cold just looking at you.”

“Well, it wasn’t warm, that’s for sure.”

“So anyway, Jamie, are you working here now? Did they reassign you to a district HQ?”

“Nah not yet.” I didn’t want to give anyone a head’s up as to what I was doing- “I’ve got a meeting with Raine, oops, I mean DCO Wilmer.”

“You haven’t heard? He’s just about to get out of a meeting with acting DCO West.

“Wow! Did Susan get the promotion? When?

“The entire corporate team has been switched around: the boss is about to announce he's not seeking an extension to the job and is going to finish up on 30 June.”

“So, he’s going on leave till then, after they announce it, right? I’m guessing that game hasn’t changed.”

Bec leaned in a little closer. “They advertised the position on the quiet. A government panel has selected a replacement that they're going to announce the day after tomorrow.”

“Oh wow! Do we know who it is?”

“There’s plenty of rumors going around, but no. You should ask Raine. You two are close. He might tell you, then you can tell me.”

“Thanks, Bec, but let’s see if we can leave it to the press team to break the news, hey. They’ve gotta earn their wages right?”

And with that, I swiped my way inside the inner door, over to the lift, and up to the executive offices. Have to say, my mind was spinning. ‘Hmm, wonder who it is?’ To fill in a few moments, as I’d arrived early for our meeting, I did the rounds of the office saying hi and catching up with a few friends until Raine appeared.

“Got to go, Charlie. The boss is looking for me, I think.”

“Good to catch up, Jamie. Take care.”

“Thanks, mate.”

With that I headed toward the big offices down the end, giving one or two small waves to a few faces I hadn’t had the chance to catch-up with so far. I’ll see them on the way out.

Each step closer felt like I had concrete in my boots. ‘You can do this, Jamie. Deep breath and speak slowly. Don't rush like you always do when you're nervous.’

I stopped a few yards in front of this person whom I deeply admired and respect.

I came to attention, no salute - neither of us were wearing our hats inside.

“Morning, Sir. How are you?”

“Inspector Spence. How are you, Jamie?” He held out his hand.

“Excellent, boss. Thanks for seeing me.” We walked into his office, closing the door quietly behind me.

“So how was the US, Jamie? Heard you’ve been busy.”

“Well, you could kind of say that, boss.”

“Hmm, yes. We’ve received nothing but great feedback from all the services you were at, which I expected, and a little birdy told me that you also go married, hey.”

“Haha. Didn't know my dad was getting around like a little birdy these days.”

That made Raine burst out laughing, “I just got a vision of Rob dressed as a bird. Thanks, Jamie. That’s a vision I won’t forget in a hurry. So, what brings you to the big house?”

This was it. I instantly felt my hands break into a thin sheen of sweat. I’m sure that the redness I was imagining was burning its way up my neck must have been visible. “Um, I heard that some changes are going on here, Raine. What’s the go?”

“Ahhh, so you've traveled across the Pacific, just to get the lowdown on what’s happening here? Of course, I can see that.”

“Well, that and some other stuff.” I reached inside my tunic and pulled out the dreaded envelope. “So” I suddenly felt the need to stand up and do this with the respect that Raine deserved and the service. It’s been so much to me, has meant so much to me. “DCO Wilmer, I would like to offer my resignation from the service.” I held the envelope out in the void of space between us.

The look on Raine’s face was a little surprised.

“My partner, Ben… he's an EMT/para in Austin, and although…” I paused and took a breath to settle my nerves. “…he was ok… IS ok to head down here, see what he could land as a job. But knowing what jobs are on offer here or even interstate, there is nothing that matches his skill set. So I thought it would be easier for me to find work in the services as a Firey over there, you know.”

The DCO stood, with a small smile creeping across his face. “So you’ve thought long and hard about this, Jamie? You’re set on relocating to the US and … giving it a go?”

“Yes sir, I am.”

“Well, I accept your resignation. It is our loss and their gain. You're a fantastic firefighter, Jamie, a great leader. You will be missed.”

And with that it was done. Raine held out his hand, one taking the letter of resignation, then shaking my hand. “That’s the hard part over for you. Now, you can breathe, else I think you might faint.”

I didn't even realize that I was holding my breath until I took a huge gasp of air in.

"The pay office will be in touch with the payout details and payment schedule, which I'm sure you already know how it all works.”

“Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.”

“So, do you have anything lined up?”

“No, nothing concrete. I’m interviewing with the Austin and San Antonio services but nothing yet.”

“I’d welcome an opportunity to write a reference for you if that is ok?”

"Thanks, sir. I’d appreciate it.” And with that, a handshake and a letter, I was out of the service.

As I turned to walk out of the office I paused for a moment. “You didn’t tell me what was going on with the chief’s replacement.”

“Well, I have it on great authority, that his first action as Chief is something that was a total surprise.”

“So, you know who the new boss is then?”

“Sure do,”

“and…”

Reaching down, he picked up what I could see was marked as a press release-draft. “Sshhh… don’t say anything, ok.” He held it out toward me.

Reading the media release, it jumped off the page at me.

‘The Minister has the great pleasure of announcing today, that after an exhaustive process, the search for a new Chief of our fire service is complete.

Demonstrating a long and diverse career with wide experience in the new and emerging fields, someone that will lead our service into the future with solid operational and people-first credentials, it gives me great pleasure to announce that Raine Wilmer, the current Acting Chief Fire Officer, will take over as Chief as of 1st July.

Raine has demonstrated during his time as acting chief those attributes that will guide the fire service forward. He has served us well during his term and we look forward to the future of the service under his leadership. Please help me congratulate A-CFO Raine Wilmer.’

“OMG,” I was fully speechless for ten seconds - for me that's almost a lifetime, right. “You mean I’ve just resigned to the new incoming Chief… WOW! Congratulations Chief! You are the right person for the job! What, that's a fantastic outcome for the service, the state!”

Shaking my head a little, I felt like I was going to burst. “Wow, I’m blown away.”

"Thanks, Jamie. Do you think you can keep it to yourself till after the presser at 16.30?"

“Thank you again for everything and all the best, Raine.” I was feeling kind of sad on some level, in that I wouldn’t be part of what was going to be a fantastic wind of change, but my future wasn’t here. It was with Ben in Texas.

Almost on cue, Raine’s phone started to ring. “I’d better get this, Jamie. I’ll speak to Rob and we’ll catch up for a quick beer before you go home, ok?”

“Sure Raine, and thanks again."

I slipped out of his office and stopped by a few of the guys I missed on the way out, saying hi and catching up on what's being going on. None of them had a clue.

Before I even knew it, I was walking out of the lift and dropping my swipe pass in the little slot normally used for visitors to return their day pass. Guess I wasn’t going to need it anymore!

Thankfully, I was able to escape out the front doors unchallenged. Bec was on a break and I didn't recognize her reliever. Truth be known, I didn’t want to stop and talk to anyone. I was feeling far too emotional on so many levels, both about Raine but also my resignation.


 

Thanks y'all for your feedback, encouragement and passion for the story. A huge thanks to my editor, and wingman, but moreover you guys. If y'all stay on the good list we might fit another chapter in for Christmas, have a fantastic day all.

Copyright © 2018 FSELL; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments

8 hours ago, Tonyr said:

Awesome chaptwr FSell. Merry Xmas. .

 

8 hours ago, Tonyr said:

Awesome chaptwr FSell. Merry Xmas. .

Thank you so much @Tonyr and have a merry Christmas 

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8 hours ago, empresslovesreading said:

Ok. Boston isn't THAT cold. Geez. Pussy.

Lol for some that don’t run anti freeze in their veins it’s bloody cold, I’ve always frozen north of NYC, just a summer/sunshine boy I guess. Have a fantastic Christmas too . 

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To this boy, being raised in California and living in Florida - Boston is cold - damn cold!! Great chapter FSell

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14 hours ago, KayDeeMac said:

To this boy, being raised in California and living in Florida - Boston is cold - damn cold!! Great chapter FSell

@KayDeeMacOMG Yes, but you get used to it I guess, went are far north just outside Portland Maine in early Spring, though I’d die, hahaha , thanks for reading and commenting too, love it. Have a fantastic day, 

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7 hours ago, danalford said:

Took me two days to read all of the chapters.  I think this is your best story yet!

 

@danalford Wow, that was some binge eating well done you, I’ve done similar a few times when I’ve been hooked by a story. Thank you so much for letting me kms, it’s so nice to hear when people enjoy the story, again thank you and everybody too. Hope you have a fantastic day enjoy.

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Whew! This chapter had me little worried when Jaime went to see Reine. I thought Reine was gonna offer Jaime the job.

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On 12/20/2020 at 6:17 AM, James B. said:

Whew! This chapter had me little worried when Jaime went to see Reine. I thought Reine was gonna offer Jaime the job.

Hey @James B.  superintendent job was clearly in his future if he’d stayed. But sadly no... I’m not sure how I’d go with leaving so much behind, but when you fall deeply for someone it’s makes it easier, and Ben was keen to relocate to Australia that would have been interesting to see. Thanks for following along, love the feedback, always appreciated. 

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On 12/25/2020 at 4:17 AM, Bft said:

From one Aussie ex-pat to another, it’s a big move but also a new adventure 

And you’d have first hand experience too, everyday would have that similar but different feel too it for a while. And some random things being so similar but different also, I think Jamie’s life will settle when he can find a job and get that security we all look for. Thanks for following along and the feedback too, really appreciate it. 

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F Sell

Yr one great author.  Could not put it up until I'd read umteen chapters

I noticed in opening remarks, it stated "in progress".  Hopefully you mean

more to come?  Please say, there  will be more? You really are one of my

best pick as a author, what can I say keep up the momentium.  Outstanding.

Charlie C. or Chazbo @ " oneintexas@sbsglobal.net" 

 

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9 hours ago, Charlie Calin said:

F Sell

Yr one great author.  Could not put it up until I'd read umteen chapters

I noticed in opening remarks, it stated "in progress".  Hopefully you mean

more to come?  Please say, there  will be more? You really are one of my

best pick as a author, what can I say keep up the momentium.  Outstanding.

Charlie C. or Chazbo @ " oneintexas@sbsglobal.net" 

 

Hey Charlie @Charlie Calin thanks so much for the kind remarks, 🙏, glad that you’re enjoying it and appreciate your time in commenting too. 
Yes the story is absolutely in progress with more to come. have a fantastic day, thanks again John 

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