Nathan manages to get through the April meeting relatively unscathed until a stranger appears.
Subject:Fourth Meeting of the Crumbington Summer Fête Committee: Wednesday 18 April Attendees: Arlene Killjoy (chair); Doris Watts; Nathan Fresher; Arbuthnot Mulligan; Michael Stanton Apologies: Polly Fischer
Molly had tuned the shop’s personal address system into a radio station called Gold, the current programme playing non-stop classics from the last century. Nathan remembered his mother singing along to the song from an old compact disc bequeathed her by Nathan’s grandfather. A deep baritone accompanied by a full orchestra oozed the tune, one Nathan still associated with her. Maybe the choice of song had been the radio host’s attempt at humour. In reality, the showers arriving in Crumbington that April felt like an augur; a constant downpour bringing day after day of endless gloom. Despite what people said, the weather did affect the bread business. Fingal stood next to him that Wednesday morning, staring out in solidarity at the rain.
“We ought to ramp up the delivery service in preparation for times like this. Nobody comes out in this weather and I hate waste, even though I realise it’s a necessary evil in our business. For all their loyalty, customers won’t tolerate us being out-of-stock. They’ll simply go somewhere else.”
“We’re not bad on wastage. Much of what we can’t sell goes to charities, while the rest goes to local pig farms. But if you have any ideas, Fingal, you know I’ll always listen.”
Without turning, Nathan could tell Fingal was smiling.
“You got one of those meetings tonight?”
“You make it sound like a support group. If you mean the fête committee meeting, then yes. Six-thirty. You want to go in my stead?”
“Mrs Killjoy and I are not on speaking terms right now. Not since I defected.”
Nathan laughed out loud. These days, he seemed to be laughing a lot more. But Fingal had a point. Despite the ‘insider knowledge’ accidentally provided by Arlene’s husband about Upper Crust being about to make an offer on his bakery, over the past fortnight Nathan had received no phone call from a potential buyer, no attractive offer for his shop. And tonight he would find out first hand the extent to which Arlene had been irritated by the outcome of Fingal’s allegiance—surely not one she could have anticipated—and whether her attitude towards him, Nathan, had changed.
“Right. Then if there are no customers, and all the work is done, it’s time for a brew.” Fingal’s constant good mood made the day a little brighter for everyone. “Usual?”
Even on a gloomy day, Fingal brought levity into the old place. Since their chat and his earlier suggestions, Nathan had met with Molly’s daughter, Janette, that lunchtime and had shown her around the shop during his lunch break. By the end of the tour, they’d agreed to have her preparing food on the premises and selling selected items across the counter beginning the end of April. As luck would have it, the arrangement favoured everyone, because she could no longer afford the small kitchen she rented to prepare her organic meals. Using the bakery, she could cover everything including the new demand from Fresher Bakers. Fingal had already put his ovens up for sale and made a draft order for the new model of oven he’d recommended.
Levity was not the only benefit Fingal provided. On Sunday, after Nathan's football game and with Jaymes’ blessing, Nathan agreed to accompany Grant to the city of York to see the sights, or what Jaymes called bonding time. They spent two days wandering the old city, Grant’s bubbling enthusiasm infectious, his knowledge of sites like York Minster, Castle Howard and the city walls probably more detailed and extensive than having a personal tour guide. Grant had organised not only first class rail tickets, but had pre-booked them into a heritage hotel in the heart of York, elegant adjoining rooms overlooking the city centre, and would not take Nathan’s money. Eventually Nathan had to insist on buying dinner the first night at an expensive but highly rated fine dining restaurant. He could tell Grant wasn’t comfortable at having to wear pressed trousers, button-down shirt and a jacket for dinner, had done so simply because Nathan had made the booking.
“This is not your thing at all, is it?” said Nathan, as the waiter took away the amuse-bouche plate.
“It’s fine, Nate.” Hearing Jaymes do the same, Grant had taken to calling him by the short form of his name. “Really. I’m just not—I’m not used to this kind of tucker.”
“What? They don’t have fine dining restaurants back in Melbourne?”
On the table top, the phone Grant had brought with him, buzzed with a message. Abiding by the restaurant policy for patrons, they had put their phones on silent mode.
“Are you kidding me? Melbourne is arguably the gastronomic centre of Australia. But I’m more of a meat and veggies straight off the barbie kind of person. Never really been one for fussy food. That much I get from my dad.”
“Over here, we think all Aussies are born with barbecue tongs in their hands.”
“No longer the case, mate. Plenty of my countryfolk are gastronomes. Can’t turn on the television without wading through channel after channel of cooking shows. Probably to do with all the fresh, organic produce we have back home. I blame my particular predilection on my old man.” He had already explained to Nathan how his parents had divorced before he turned fourteen. “He spent his down time out the back of our house, either tending garden or socialising with friends and hogging the barbie on our deck. Simple, honest food and good company, was his motto.”
“Sorry, Grant, you should have said.”
“It’s not an issue.” Grant’s phone wriggled on the tabletop with another buzz, but he didn’t even look down. “You’ve got to try everything at least once, haven’t you?”
Nathan said nothing, but simply smirked and looked out across the restaurant.
“Not sure what’s going through your filthy mind, cuz, but the answer’s no,” said Grant. “In case you were going to ask. I’ve never been with another dude, nor do I ever plan on doing so.”
Nathan turned back to look shocked across the table at Grant.
“That wasn’t what I was thinking.”
“Liar,” said Grant, grinning.
“Okay,” said Nathan, chuckling at being caught out. “But just so you know, I’ve never been with a woman, either. Nor do I ever plan on doing so. Aren’t you going to see who that is?”
“Is it Polly?”
“If it was, would that be a problem?”
Nathan studied Grant for a while before answering.
“Why would it be a problem?”
“She’s your best friend. And Jaymes’ cousin. Wouldn’t that be weird for you?”
If he was going to honest, the thought had crossed his mind. But at the end of the day, they were all grown ups, finding happiness wherever they could. And he not only liked, but trusted his cousin. Moreover, if they did get together and anything went pear-shaped, Nathan felt sure it wouldn’t be Polly who’d end up needing a shoulder to cry on.
“I’m seeing Polly’s cousin. And she doesn’t find it weird. In fact, she’s really warmed to the idea since you turned up a couple of weeks ago. So if I did object, I’d be a bit of a hypocrite, wouldn’t I?”
Grant smiled back, before picking up his phone and dialling a number.
“Hey Polly. How’s it going?”
They arrived home on Tuesday around six-thirty in the evening. Grant headed back to his hotel, while Nathan went to unpack and shower. Not that he got to do either. An unexpected bonus of the few days away was how much Jaymes had missed him. As soon as he entered the flat, without a word being spoken between them, Jaymes tackled him and took him to bed where they stayed most of the evening.
All in all, piece by piece, his life had become the kind of perfect picture he could never have imagined.
An hour before he left for the church hall, Polly texted him to tell him she would not attend. School had rescheduled her timetable and she had to be there tonight for the parent’s evening. But she’d join them for drinks later. Despite a string of sad faced emojis, Nathan’s heart sank. Tonight of all nights, he could have done with Polly’s support to front Arlene. He’d almost been tempted to text Grant and ask if he wanted to come, but then reconsidered. Sitting through a committee meeting might scare him back to Australian forever and they’d only just gotten to know each other.
After finally texting Grant and then Jaymes to remind them both to come to the pub for drinks and food after the meeting, he made his way to the village hall. Only as he text the word food did his stomach growl,remembering he hadn’t eaten since breakfast.
At the meeting, Arlene arrived last. Efficiently and with a quick nod to everyone, she got straight down to business. Nathan noted no undercurrent towards him, just her usual business self. The topic of the calendar came up last, after all other agenda items were out of the way.
“Due to pressure from our public—following the publishing of the online article—preorders of the calendar have gone wild. I’ll need to contact the printers for a re-run at this rate. At £14.99 a copy, that gives us a clear profit of just over ten pounds for each one sold. Doris reported that we already have over seven hundred pre-booked sales, so that’s seven thousand pounds in the fête kitty already and we haven’t even set up a single stall yet. Officially the calendar launch will be the third week in May, here in the village hall—Nathan, can you make sure they’ve all marked their calendars?—with all the players signing copies and, of course, Jenny explaining her concept. We’re expecting to have prominent members of the press in attendance. There’s been a lot of interest nationally, especially since Clifton O’Keefe and his husband Raul will be here, too. So, of course, we’ll need to lay on a range of canapés, bubbles and cocktails for the event. My contact in catering will take care of all that.”
“Nathan could do the catering. Keep things local,” said Mike, uncharacteristically bluntly.
“It’s a sizeable order, Michael,” said Arlene, not even bothering to acknowledge Nathan. “We’ll be expecting around two hundred in attendance. Moreover, my contact has already been informed.”
“So un-inform them. Nathan can handle the catering, can’t you, Nathan?”
“I suppose so. It’s—what—a month away?”
“There’s no need. Everything’s under control—”
“Your control,” said Mike. Something or someone had really gotten to him. “But if you insist on us using your contact, then we need to have the details. The committee needs to approve the supplier.”
“That won’t be necessary—”
“Michael is right, Arlene,” said Father Mulligan. “We should really have voted on Jenny Gillespie before contracting her to take the photographs for the calendar. But I think in that instance, we would have all been in favour, seeing as we had no viable alternatives. I’m not saying I don’t agree with you on the catering matter—I’m sure your previous role as an events coordinator would have brought you into contact with some very capable people—I’m just stating a matter of protocol.”
“Fine, then,” said Arlene, glaring at Father Arbuthnot, rattled but still sitting stiffly upright. “Let’s have a vote, if we must. Who’s in favour of Nathan’s little shop providing the catering?”
Mike shot up his hand, followed by Doris, and, after a few seconds pause, Nathan put his hand up as well. If he was going to be honest, he didn’t want the job, but if the weather stayed this bad, perhaps he could give Molly and Fingal something else to do.
“So that’s three against two,” said Mike, triumphantly.
“What about Polly?” said Father Arbuthnot. “She may not be here in person, but she should still get a vote.”
“Seriously?” said Mike. “You know she’s going to side with Nathan.”
“I’m not a side—” began Nathan, but was totally ignored. So much for trying to mend his relationship with Arlene.
“Nevertheless, somebody ought to call her,” said Father Arbuthnot.
“I’ll do it, then,” said Mike, before anyone else could offer. Bringing out his phone, he swiped the screen and tapped the display twice with his thumb.
“Since when did you have Polly on speed dial?” murmured Nathan, an eyebrow raised.
“Since my twins were in her class,” said Mike, rolling his eyes. “We’ll be seeing her at the school tomorrow night.”
Luckily for them, Polly appeared to answer on the first ring. Perfect timing, Mike told them, passing the message on as Polly spoke to him. Apparently they’d just finished one round of interviews, he explained, and were having a quick half hour break. When Mike explained the situation to her, she talked for some time, during which Mike listened carefully, frowning and occasionally nodding his head. Eventually, he put her on speaker, so everyone could hear what she had to say.
“Hi everyone. Sorry I couldn’t be there tonight, but duty calls. Listen, I really think we ought to consider Arlene’s contact for this. There’s going to be a lot of important people attending we need to impress and we could do with someone who’s experienced in these things. I know Nathan would do a good job, but let’s use someone who does this kind of thing for a living. My vote is with Arlene.”
Nathan sat stunned. Although he didn’t really want the job, he was floored that Polly would choose Arlene over him. Even Doris let out a soft ‘well, I never!’ After thanking Polly, and getting back to the meeting, Arlene took back control, her hands clasped triumphantly in her lap.
“So that’s a draw. In which case, as the chair, I have the deciding vote.”
Nathan turned his attention to Mike, who no longer seemed irritated. While Arlene finished off the meeting he tried to read between the lines. Why had Polly voted against him—not that he wanted the job anyway, but she didn’t know that? And why had Mike suddenly chilled? While Arlene droned on, he pulled out his phone and sent a frowning emoji to Polly. She immediately replied with a simple ‘I’ll explain in the pub later.’ After shaking his head, his attention returned to the room.
“…two more meetings until the event. By May, the next meeting, all arrangements for the calendar should have been completed, so we can concentrate on the actual event, and, of course, the date auction. Nathan, I’ll expect you to have finalised the list of players who can participate by the next meeting. Persuade as many as you can from the calendar.”
“I’ll do my best. But some of the boys are concerned because they’re either married or in relationships. Ken wondered if we could revise the auction prize into the men offering their services for their given professions. Ken would offer them a round of personal training sessions—”
“What?” said Mike, grinning. “So Mel would mow their back lawn, and Eric and Tom would decorate a room. All to the highest bidder? Would they need to be naked when they carry out these jobs?”
“Of course not,” said Nathan, beginning to see the flaw in the idea.
“Then why not just—I don’t know—hire them? Got to be cheaper.”
“He’s right, dear. Who’s going to bid for that?” asked Doris.
“And what would they be bidding for with me?” asked Mike.
“Your meat,” said Father Mulligan, which had Nathan chuckling and Doris coughing into her drink. All the while Arlene sat back and said nothing, a thin smile on her face.
“Okay, but can you just make sure the publicity is clear, and says the highest bidder gets to have a dinner date—with the emphasis on dinner—with the person. We could combine the offer of the individual’s professional services to add a further incentive and sweeten the deal. Most importantly, let’s not compromise the goodwill of the players or mislead the bidder into believing they’re getting something they’re not.”
“The wording in the publicity is crystal clear, Nathan. We’re not pimping any of you out, for heaven’s sake. But do remind the men it’s for charity.”
As usual, the meeting petered out and, as soon as Arlene left and Nathan had tidied furniture away, he made his way over to Mike to talk. Until Doris stepped in and intercepted him.
“Ooh, Nathan, dear,” she said, grabbing his forearm in both her veined hands. “Just wanted to tell you. I had a long chat on the phone with Margie Hogmore—Clifton’s mother—over the weekend. Called out of the blue. She does that from time to time. Anyway, she’s flying into London next week and, among other things, she wanted to come here and talk to you. I gave her your number, I hope that’s okay?”
“Absolutely fine. What does she want to talk about?”
“She didn’t actually say. But from the other things she mentioned, she’s worried about Clifton. He’s going through a difficult patch at the moment, and she knows you two have reconnected. So I think maybe she wants get your advice on what’s best for him.”
“Why doesn’t she talk to Raul?”
“I have no idea. Maybe they don’t see eye to eye.”
Nathan found that hard to believe. In his experience, Raul came across as likeable with everyone. More than likely, though, Raul knew where his allegiances lay, and would not be as candid with Clifton’s mother as someone like Nathan.
“Not sure what good I’ll be, but I’m happy to meet and talk.”
Actually, he had fond memories of Aunt Margie from when they were kids, standing on the sidelines with his mother, watching them play football. Even if he was no help, he’d welcome seeing her again.
“Good. Anyway, she’ll call or message you.”
“Still got those rings?”
Nathan smiled and looked sheepish.
“Safe and sound.”
“Not thought about sharing one yet?”
“Not just yet, no.”
“Well, don’t leave it too long. Don’t want to miss the opportunity.”
Lost in his talk with Doris, Nathan noticed a stranger enter the hall. Clad in black jeans and a thick North Face jacket opened up, he wore a brown shirt with a logo Nathan vaguely recognised. If anything, his grim expression made him appear annoyed or put out, or both, as his eyes darted about the room.
“Is Polly Fischer here?” he barked out.
“No, she isn’t,” said Nathan, before anyone else could answer. “She’s at the school tonight. Parent teacher night. Is there anything I can help you with?”
Unsteadily, the man sized up Nathan before making up his mind and continuing.
“It’s about her cousin.”
Coldness washed over Nathan, as the blood drain from his face.
“You know him?”
“Of course I do. He lives with me. What’s happened?”
“You’d better come with me. I’m Kurt, one of his co-workers. There’s been an accident at the lodge. They’ve taken him to Eastbourne General.”
Nathan didn’t usually mind hospitals, especially not this one. Twice a year he hung about in Eastbourne General during his bi-annual heath check, waiting to have various specialist tests performed, so he’s become immune to the pungent smells, stark neon lighting, and strict precision. In his past experience, medical staff had been courteous, friendly even, chatting and smiling as they went about their duties. But health checks happened in a different wing; relaxed, decorated, bordering on sedate, where he inevitably felt fit and healthy.
Tonight he felt sick to his stomach, worn thin, as though he had been woken too early from a deep sleep. Kurt managed the half hour journey in record time, speeding around bends, breaking hard, accelerating rapidly whenever the road allowed. And now the accident and emergency waiting area did nothing to soothe him, the hall wholly unfamiliar and unnerving. Row upon row of pale-faced people sat either waiting for loved ones or to be seen by professionals, while fraught medical staff rushed from one emergency room to another. According to Kurt, as they stood drying off in the foyer after a short walk through the crowded carpark, prolonged bad weather ensured a fuller house than a Bon Jovi concert.
On the way down, largely to keep his mind occupied and himself from throwing up with worry, he grilled Kurt about the accident. Having shed his jacket, Nathan finally recognised Kurt’s short sleeve shirt uniform and breast logo of the Mosswold Forest National Trust. For all his indifference, Kurt drove competently, knew exactly how to handle his silver Toyota Landcruiser. Sitting high on the road, its beams flooded the silvered road and wipers dealt efficiently with the constant downpour. Either talk did not come naturally to Kurt or he didn’t want to discuss the accident. After a number of Nathan’s questions, he finally snapped.
“Look, I wasn’t there. All I know is what I’ve been told.”
“Which is?” insisted Nathan.
“Which is that they should never have been out there in the first place.” So there it was. Kurt’s taut shake of the head and barely surpassed anger had Nathan wondering at what Jaymes seemed to consider his close, tightly-knit team. “Mitch is going to be fucking pissed when he gets back.”
Nathan had heard Mitch’s name mentioned before. He ran operations at the centre.
“So what happened?”
“I told Fischer to leave it ’til tomorrow—see if the weather improved—but if you know him, you’ll know what a stubborn prick he can be. Could have gotten somebody killed.”
Yes, himself, thought Nathan, but by the sound of things Kurt meant someone else. Only ten minutes into the journey and he got the strong impression Jaymes and Kurt were not the best of mates in or out of work. Nathan knew Jaymes well enough to recognise how he could be stubborn sometimes, but never reckless.
“But she always sides with him. Every fucking time.”
“Beth,” said Kurt, turning to Nathan as if the answer was obvious. “They went to inspect a patch of trees in the northeast corner of the forest, a part fenced off from the public—for good reason. Anyway, from what I heard, they reached a spot covered by bracken beneath dense trees. One minute, Fischer goes prancing off the path into the undergrowth, next minute he disappears from view. Beth called out a couple of times and then went to check on him. Beth’s smart, cautious—she’s got good instincts, a good person to have by your side. Anyway, she discovered a steep, hidden ravine. She called down, but got no answer. Just as well Fischer took her in the end. If he’d gone alone, help may have come too late. Beth’s a total pro and radioed the incident in straight away. Even so, four people were needed to haul Fischer’s body back out, strapped to a gurney and still unconscious.”
“What’s the latest?”
When Nathan sighed, Kurt glanced over briefly before continuing on.
“I don’t know, because I got tasked with finding the cousin, from the emergency contact he provided. A landline number. Who has a fucking landline these days? Every call I made went to her voice-call service.”
“Oh, shit. Polly’s going to freak.”
“Only left one message. Told her to call me. Nothing more.”
“I’ll text her mobile when we get there. Are his injuries serious?”
“No idea. All I know is he was unconscious when they pulled him out.”
“Nobody’s given you an update?”
Not that Kurt would have given a monkey’s. Maybe they knew that much, maybe Kurt had been given this particular task for a reason. Nathan decided not to push.
“How did you know about the committee meeting?”
“I didn’t. Beth did. She’d been banging on about some calendar or another, and mentioned Fischer’s cousin being on the committee. Heard Fischer saying he was going for a drink tonight with his mate and her after they’d finished the meeting at the village hall. So after I had no joy with her number, I went there to find her. I suppose you’re the mate?”
Despite his apparent lack of knowledge of, or interest in, events, Kurt excelled in the hospital, finding out information, stopping staff and addressing them directly, until he found out what he needed. Nathan assumed he had done this kind of thing before, and used the alone time to call Polly and Grant. As luck would have it, they were already in the pub, with Polly insisting on coming straight away. As soon as Nathan clicked off the call, Kurt returned with an older nurse, who led them to a ward room two floors up, to the first bed inside the door.
Kurt marched straight into the tableau, where two other brown shirts stood around the bed. One was a pretty blonde-haired woman around five six standing near the head of the bed, the other, a big man in brown short sleeve shirt and shorts, stood opposite. Sitting up, Jaymes had part of the left side of his head covered by a large patch bandage, but when Nathan saw he was conscious—a little tired and shaken, but otherwise healthy—realisation and relief hit him hard. As though his body had been tensed up the whole time, awareness hit him like collapsing soufflé. Apart from a very early breakfast, a small bowl of oatmeal and berries, he had eaten nothing all day. Supported by the cool wall, he steadied himself, watching Jaymes take in Kurt as he lumbered over to the woman. Without even a glance at Jaymes, Kurt placed a hand on the shoulder of the woman, who had to be Beth, and began an earnest conversation. On the opposite side of the bed, the other colleague now stood in Nathan’s line of sight of Jaymes. A mountain of a man, he had a startling shock of ginger hair tied back in a ponytail, enhanced by the brown uniform of shirt and shorts, a colour which continued down in the hairs of his big, tattooed arms and thick thighs. Kurt must have announced something at one point, because as one, they turned to where Nathan stood, with Ginger stepping out of the way, and Jaymes’ gaze swinging Nathan’s way.
Immediately Jaymes’ sat up, his face brightening, but then almost instantly creasing with concern.
“Nate?,” said Jaymes, softly. Hearing so much love and care in the voice threatened to overwhelm Nathan. “Are you okay?”
Nathan pushed away from the wall, but then thought better of the action. Nausea and dizziness hit him like an oven door opening and the ground tilted suddenly, threatening to topple him.
“Actually, I don’t feel so—”
“Fuck. Ralph, get him a seat.”
Before he knew what was happening, a strong arm clamped around his shoulders and lowered him into a plastic hospital seat. Voices carried on around him, as he leant forward, his head cradled in his hands on the side of the bed.
“Shit, sorry everyone,” Without even attempting to lift his head, he spoke to the grey linoleum floor. “I haven’t eaten all day. Feeling a little light-headed. Give me a minute.”
“Want me to get him a coffee and a sandwich from the cafe?” said Beth.
“You’re an angel, Beth.” Jaymes’ voice.
“I’ll come with you.” Kurt, cold as ever.
“Me too. Give you two some time to—err—catch up.” A deep voice, accented, warm, and the only one Nathan couldn’t make out, must have belonged to the large ginger-haired man.
And suddenly, apart from the general background noise from the rest of the ward, glorious silence descended. Nathan took a few steadying breaths, about to lift his head, when a warm hand landed on the back of his neck. Tears filled his eyes, as he let the familiar hand massage his neck.
“Hey, Nate. I’m sorry.”
With an effort of will, and excruciatingly slowly, Nathan raised his head. Jaymes’ beautiful face and adoring gaze almost undid him.
“You scared the shit out of me. I thought when I got here, you were going to be in a coma. That fuckwit neanderthal told me next to nothing.”
“Ha. You met Kurt? I’ve met oak trees with more emotional intelligence.”
“The way fuckwit tells it, you were goofing around in the woods, and thought leaving the path might be a brilliant idea—
“Path? What path? There are no fixed paths in that part of the forest. Old trails maybe, but most of those are hidden by the undergrowth. Unless you know that section of the forest well, you’d never find them. I went on ahead to check because the ground seemed to undulate, and I didn’t want Beth put in any danger. But some of those areas are tricky, deceiving, where branches have fallen and vegetation has grown over the top.”
“You see? Kurt’s a prick.”
Jaymes grinned and leaned over to take hold of Nathan’s hand.
“I called Polly and Grant,” said Nathan, feeling more centred now. “They’re coming down, but I said I’d call and give them an update. What’s the diagnosis?”
“I’m fine, I really am. Banged my head on a stump, and got a few scratches and scrapes, but bloody lucky that’s all, according to Beth. When they lifted me out, she saw what a deathtrap the hole was. They’re going to keep me in forty-eight hours for observation. Mainly for possible concussion. And then I’m back home.”
“Don’t suppose there’s a flying ban in there somewhere?”
Jaymes smiled sadly then, and gently shook his head.
“Okay, Nate. We need to sit down and talk about me going to Malaysia. The reason I left early this morning was to have a conference call with them, something I didn’t want to do at home with you around. We’re both skirting the subject and before we know it, the time will be upon us. So when I’m home, let’s sit down and have a serious chat. About the trip, and most importantly, about us.”
When Jaymes reached out and touched the side of Nathan’s head, Nathan placed his own hand on top.
“Because I don’t know about you, Nate, but I want there to be an ‘us’ in our future.”
Thanks for reading.
Keep the comments, reactions, and plot ideas coming. This is still a work in progress and I am trying to decide how the story ought to end.