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    Parker Owens
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A Fall Observation - 1. Parking

This chapter was written jointly by Skinnydragon and me. I will cherish our multicolored notes sent back and forth to one another. If you haven't read A to Z or 18 Weeks of Twoey, you might want to. But that's just because these characters get under your skin.

"Hang on a second Gary, okay?"

 

I stopped, more than a little impatiently, waiting there with Mel for my friend Twoey. He had feet planted in place and phone pressed to ear. "No, we going someplace Gary scouted out."

 

We'd gotten up way too early in the dark morning hours. We needed to make the drive over to Letchworth State Park and arrive by early morning.

 

"Love you. See you on the course." Twoey pocketed the phone, shyly looking up at us.

 

The giant high school invitational cross-country running event of the fall was being held at the park this October morning. Some of the best teams from three states would be represented. It was so big, SUNY Geneseo had volunteered to house most of the teams traveling long distances to compete.

 

"Thanks, Gary. Just had to tell David…"

"I heard." I smiled back.

 

"So how far from home are we? Seems we were driving forever."

 

"You slept most of the way, Twoey. Actually, we're not so far west, but we had to go up and around the Finger Lakes – can't drive through 'em."

 

"No one’s built a bridge yet?” Twoey was smirking. “I've never been here, how big is this place?"

 

"Pretty big. Twenty miles along the river, I think."

 

Letchworth really is pretty big, for a park in the East. I mean, our family took a vacation out West one year, and the parks out there – those are massive.

 

"What river is that again?" Twoey asked.

 

"The Genesee. It flows north to Lake Ontario. You ought to see the falls farther up the river. They're huge. I mean, not Niagara Falls huge, but big enough." I’d been here with my family as a kid, and remembered being impressed. I don’t know why we never came back; it’s only a few hours drive from Daleville. I'd scoured the computer maps long enough to know a whole lot about this place.

 

"Yeah. Maybe we could come back some day for a hike," he mused. "It's beautiful here."

 

“Or just you and me for a picnic.” Mel’s whispered comment made Twoey look up.

 

“I heard that!”

 

We'd driven in from the north end of the park, and I'd followed the dawn dappled winding road running parallel to the gorge. My car passed stands of huge fiery red and yellow maples gracing either side of the gorge until I located the parking lot I wanted to use.

 

"So is David okay?" I asked as we walked toward the place I'd found along the race course.

 

"He's mostly fine. Maybe a little nervous, but he did his meditation earlier. Although, something’s been a little off with him lately."

 

Mel looked concerned when she asked, “He’s not reverting, is he?”

 

“No, No – nothing like that, thank God. He doesn’t keep those dark secrets anymore, so if I wait a day or two he usually confesses whatever he’s been mulling over. He’s been really good about it.”

 

"Well then, I'm really glad we can do this," I said. "It's been a while since the four of us have been together." We ducked into a small grove of trees. "I think I found the best spot. We're gonna have a long view of everyone as they come up the riverbank. And it's away from the crowds, so no one else will be there."

 

"It better be good," Twoey laughed behind me as a tree branch snagged at his jacket. "I'm fighting the jungle back here."

 

"Trust me, David will know it's us standing there doing all that cheering and hollering."

 

We broke through the trees and came into a small clearing, which opened out to our right. "Come on, this way." I gestured toward more open ground. I knew from my mapping there would be the perfect spot at the top of a small rise ahead of us. But my heart sank a few moments later. I heard a voice right ahead of us. We would be sharing our perfect spot. Damn. I so didn't want to share.

Walking up to my carefully researched spot, I found a short girl chatting with someone on her phone. She wore a green backpack, which was pointed towards us. Brown collar-length hair escaped from under a knit cap.

 

"Hey, you found the lot? See our car? Great." Her voice carried. Actually, it was kind of a nice voice.

 

Still, I made a face at her, which she couldn't see. Obviously, she was telling someone else how to get to this place.

 

"Sorry about this," I said, turning to Mel and Twoey. "I thought we'd be on our own."

 

"It’s okay, Gary," Twoey soothed. "It's a public park."

 

"Good. Now follow the path on the far side of the lot across the field and into the woods. When you get through the woods, head to the right." Who the hell was she bringing in, the 10th Mountain Division?

 

"Yeah, well, I just didn’t want to have to share."

 

In some ways, I was still a little jealous of Twoey. He'd captivated David's heart since he appeared in town, what, two years ago? I mean I was David's oldest friend. This was the first time I'd get to see David run in a tri-state race. I wanted him to know I was still there for him.

 

"You want to go back?" I asked.

 

"Hell, no. This is great," Twoey grinned back at me.

 

"You guys doing okay these days?" I asked, changing the subject. I hadn’t been as close to David since he moved out of his home and in with Twoey, even if they were only a block away. It simply wasn’t the same.

 

"We're fine," Twoey said with a sigh. "Busy, but that's good. David's been kind of sad, lately. Something's bugging him, but he doesn't want to talk about it yet – but he will. I think he's having a hard time shaking it, whatever it is."

 

"Think it might have something to do with Danny?"

 

Danny. Danny who was murdered by his own father. Twoey had almost died by the same gun. It was enough to make any of us quiet and sad.

 

Twoey shrugged. "Maybe. I think Danny's on his mind a lot. Or it could be about his family."

 

Shit. David's brother Tommy was a great guy. The rest of his family either abused him or neglected him. And now his father was in jail. The whole fucked up situation would have given anyone nightmares.

 

"Hi there!" The brown haired girl must have finished her phone call. "You here to see the race, too?"

 

Twoey spoke up right away. "Yeah, my friend here mapped this spot out. The runners come from that way, right?" Twoey pointed away downhill, toward the river.

 

"I think so," she replied. "Hey, my name's Terry. Terry Pruszeiwicz." She stuck out a hand.

 

"You can call me Twoey. This is my friend, Gary. He actually found this spot. And that’s Mel, Gary’s girlfriend."

 

I watched Terry and Twoey shake hands. She turned to us.

 

"Hey," I gestured quietly. "Gary Galli. This is Mel."

 

"Nice to meet you, Gary; Mel. So who are you guys here to watch?"

 

I let Twoey answer. "My boyfriend is running for Central New York today."

 

If she was surprised, she didn't show it. "Oh, wow, I hear they're good. I came up from Western PA. I guess I'm like you, Gary," she laughed, "I did a big map search to find this spot. I'm so short, I wanted a place where I could actually see."

 

My estimate of the girl rose a little.

 

She chose that moment to wave at someone behind us. "Hey, you made it!"

 

I turned, expecting to see a crowd, but there were just two guys walking up the shallow slope toward us. One was tall, dark haired and square shouldered. I didn't know the guy at all, but I could recognize a swimmer anyplace. The other was a little shorter, blond and looked like he knew what manual work was all about. He wore some sort of backpack on his shoulders. I wondered which of the pair was the girl's boyfriend.

 

She made a beeline for the taller boy, nearly tackling him with a hug. It had to be that one, I guessed. He kissed her on the cheek. An ex-boyfriend, maybe?

 

She moved on to her next victim, the blond, who gave her just as warm a reception.

 

She grabbed the two of them by the hand and walked them over to us. "I made some new friends waiting for you," she announced. "Zander and Andy Stevenson, this is Gary Galli, his girlfriend, Mel and friend, Twoey."

 

I nodded, and put out my hand to the dark haired guy.

 

"Zander Stevenson," he acknowledged pleasantly.

 

"Gary Galli. And you're a swimmer, aren't you?"

 

"Guilty as charged. How'd you know? I don't remember you from anything last year…"

 

"Doubt it. But it takes one to know one, doesn't it?"

 

Zander grinned. "Yeah, I guess so."

 

"So, this is your brother, then?" I turned to the blond, Andy.

 

"Um, no." he shook my hand with a smile and a grip that meant business. "Zander's my husband."

 

I have to admit, I blinked. "You're shitting me."

 

He made a face and shook his head. "Nope."

 

"You’re married?" Twoey asked, eyes bright. "Like in husband and husband? And you’re still in high school?!"

 

Andy took Zander's hand. "Yup. Just like that."

 

"That's cool," said Twoey.

 

Married? I knew David and Twoey had been together for a couple of years – and they seemed pretty tight. But married? Since when do kids get married in high school? I kept my opinions to myself, though, as Twoey and Mel introduced themselves.

 

"So I didn't get a schedule of what's happening this morning," the taller guy, Zander spoke, turning to Terry. "When does the race start?"

 

"There are four races – a 5K women's event, a 10K women's race, and then two men's races. The women's 5K race is first, it starts in about ten minutes."

 

"So how long until the men's races?"

 

"I don't know; maybe a ninety minutes?"

 

"Ninety minutes! I could have slept another hour!" Zander groaned.

 

Terry smirked and I could see the blond guy narrow his eyes. Jeez. Shit, if I'd had another hour with Mel, I doubt I would have spent it sleeping.

 

"So we're watching women's races for an hour and a half first?" Mel asked.

 

I was kind of irritated. I hadn't realized I'd gotten here so early. But Twoey didn't seem to mind. "Hey, Gary, is there a blanket in the car?"

 

"Yeah, my mom makes me keep one." Winter in upstate New York. You never know. "I'll go back and get it."

 

"I've got one in my car, too," added Zander, "I'll walk back with you."

 

I turned to head back down the slope.

 

"I told you we should have stopped at that Timmy's we saw near the park entrance," laughed Twoey behind me.

 

I didn’t really mind the walk. It was one of those absolutely perfect October mornings. Crystal blue sky, sun rising higher above trees, nearly all of them painted in gold, brilliant oranges and flaming reds. The air was crisp and cool, almost cold, but there was the promise of a warm afternoon. It was one of those Saturdays that define what a weekend in October should be like.

 

"Who did you come to watch?" Zander asked me from a few steps back.

 

"My best friend from home is running. Twoey's boyfriend."

 

"That's funny. We're here to see my best friend, too."

 

"Terry's boyfriend, right?" We entered the woods.

 

"She told you? Yeah. Kaz is a running machine."

 

"Yeah, well, he hasn't met my friend David, yet."

 

Zander laughed in back of me as we made our way through the trees. "You guys staying at the college?"

 

"No, David came over on the team bus, and Twoey and I and Mel drove up this morning. We’re from a little town over a hundred miles east of here."

 

"Damn, you must have gotten up early to get here."

 

"I'm used to it – swim team practices and meets, they're always getting us up early."

 

"No shit!" Zander laughed again. The guy was really growing on me. "But you're coming back to the college for the post-race thing they're having? Terry and Kaz signed us up for it."

 

"I'm pretty sure Mel would want to, but I don't know what David and Twoey intend to do. We might just head back."

 

“No, you can’t do that! It’ll be great. Look, I’ll talk Twoey into it when we get back. Then a text to Glenn will get you guys signed up. You’ll like Glenn.”

 

“Glenn? A friend of yours?”

 

“He’s the student the college assigned to our suite areas. Something between a mentor and a guide. You’ll like him; he’s a sophomore.”

 

“Hey, Zander; Mel and I will have no problem with it. Anyway, it’ll be fun to watch your powers of persuasion with Twoey.”

 

“Speaking of Twoey, is that a real name or a nickname?”

 

“It’s a nickname. If you want to spend an amusing ten minutes with him, ask how he got it.”

 

We grabbed blankets out of our cars and headed back. The dew on the grass got my big carpentry boots pretty wet with all the walking we were doing. The idea of lying out on the hillside with a blanket to dry out seemed pretty good to me. Especially if I got to do it cuddled up with Mel.

 

"What's your event?" Zander's voice snapped me out of my daydream.

 

"Sorry?"

 

"In swimming. What's your event?"

 

"Oh. I do freestyle events, and backstroke. How about you?"

 

"Distance free, usually. Fly once in a while. I suck at backstroke." Zander returned.

 

"Pity you guys never get up here to compete."

 

"Think you'd give us a run for our money?"

 

"Our divers would demolish you. We've got this one kid, the stuff he can do is unreal."

 

Zander laughed. "You're probably right. Our best divers graduated."

 

We climbed the hill back to where the others waited. The sun on our faces felt warmer and stronger, as if to keep the promises of the clear morning.

 

"Come on, Gary, let's get that spread out here," Mel and Terry had the spot they wanted picked out. Leave it to the girls to have everything decided and organized.

 

We unfolded our blankets side by side in the bright sun, overlooking the course. I enjoyed stretching out, looking into the deep blue empty sky. Terry sat on Zander's blanket, closest to Mel. Zander and Andy sat down side by side a little farther off. I missed Twoey for a moment, then realized he was still standing, staring out onto the course, hands in his pockets.

 

"He's going to be fine, Twoey. Hell, I bet David wins the race." I called out to him.

 

He turned and smiled wryly. "Sorry, just a little worried." He walked over and sat down next to me on my left.

 

"Hey, you want some?" Terry, beyond Mel on my right, was offering me a huge thermos. Steam drifted from the opening at the top.

 

"Where'd that come from?"

 

"Andy brought it. He comes prepared for everything."

 

That remark earned her a sidelong glance from the quiet blond. I hadn't heard him say much since he arrived, apart from his introduction. Then again, Terry seemed to do enough talking for all of us put together.

 

"Thanks." I took a sniff. Hot chocolate. I took a trial taste, then a longer sip. I savored the sweet warmth as it trailed down my throat.

 

I passed the thermos on to Twoey, who accepted it gratefully. I watched him tip the flask up, his dark hair glinting in the sun. "Thanks, Andy. That was really nice of you," he said, lowering the thermos again.

 

The blond boy nodded, and a small smile formed.

 

"Hey, did you bring my sketchbook?" I overheard Zander ask.

 

"Um, yeah. The midsize one – in the middle pocket," Andy told his boyfriend – no, husband. Damn. How did that even happen?

 

"You draw?" Twoey asked.

 

"Yeah," Zander said offhandedly, extracting a black bound sketchbook the size of a laptop computer from Andy's battered looking pack.

 

"Don't let him get all modest on you," Terry interrupted, "make Zander show you his stuff. He's incredible."

 

What impressed me wasn't Zander's flush; it was Andy's wide smile in agreement. God, I wonder if Mel ever feels that way about me.

 

Twoey crawled behind me, over towards Zander on the other blanket. "Can I see?"

 

Zander looked torn. He hesitated, then nodded, handing over the book.

 

Twoey sat, paging through the sketchbook. At first, he turned pages pretty quickly, but he slowed down. He studied Zander's drawings more carefully.

 

"These are really good, Zander."

 

"Thanks."

 

Twoey turned another page. He was taking time to look hard at what he saw, now. I couldn't see much from my vantage point, so I sat up straighter to peer over.

 

For a few seconds, I couldn’t make out what was on the page because the paper was oriented wrong. Then I realized I was looking at sketches of parts of someone's body. A muscular forearm. A knee. A left hand. And a beautifully drawn neck and shoulder. I wondered if the model was Zander's boy – no, husband – Andy. A glance in Andy's direction told me nothing; he was wearing too much to show if the body in the picture was his.

 

Twoey handed the sketchbook back to Zander. "You must do that a lot."

 

"All the time," Andy volunteered with a grin.

 

Terry got up off the blanket, and ambled over to the spot that seemed best for viewing. "They're coming," she called out.

 

We all rose and joined her. A stream of runners emerged from our right along the riverbank, and began toiling up a slope toward us. Girls – young women - with determined faces, bright with exertion, began passing just below us. It was good course etiquette to clap for them, I knew that much. Our patter of applause hardly made a dent in the morning quiet as the long river of competitors flowed by on the dewy green carpet. Before long, the main body had passed, with only a few stragglers left to puff up the slope.

 

We retreated to the blankets again. I snuggled up behind Mel in the warming sun. Twoey started talking with Terry, and I kind of zoned out for a little while. Don't give me any grief about that: I'd been up way too early driving in the dark to get here. I was enjoying our cuddle in the sun.

 

Andy's quiet voice brought me back into focus. "Don't move. Zander's drawing your feet."

 

Of course, that made me twitch. Never tell me to not do something. Not that it seemed to make a difference to Zander. He just kept sketching, sketching, all concentration.

 

"They're coming again." I hadn't noticed Terry get up. Runners in the second race were approaching.

 

Andy, the blond, left the blanket and walked over to her, but Mel and I and Twoey stayed put while Zander drew.

 

"He's in another world," Twoey whispered, gesturing with his head at Zander. "David sometimes gets like that, when he's thinking hard."

 

I nodded.

 

"He's been kind of like that, lately."

 

"I told, you, David will talk to me when he's ready. Probably."

 

So it was official. Twoey was worried about David, too.

 

"Your boyfriend isn't the only one," Zander spoke up, softly, not looking up from his work. "Andy's pretty quiet, too, sometimes."

 

"David has a lot to think about," Mel blurted out. Twoey looked daggers at her.

 

Mel is wonderful, but sometimes, she picks the wrong time to state the obvious.

 

Zander's hand kept moving. "Yeah, well…"

 

"That's up to David to tell you about. Or not." Twoey's voice was firm.

 

The pencil stopped. Zander lifted his head and looked over at Andy. A warm smile formed. "That's right. It's up to him."

 

There was something I was missing.

 

"Here. I think that's a pretty good job, for a rough sketch." Zander had turned the sketchbook around towards us.

 

Somehow, he'd caught three distinct feet, three different shoes, all as they had come together on the blanket.

 

"You call that a rough sketch?" I asked. It was a damn good drawing.

 

Zander shrugged.

 

Just then, Twoey's phone sounded. I could tell it was a text from David just from looking at Twoey's face.

 

"The men's 5K race is going to get started soon."

 

"Wish David luck for us," Mel spoke up.

 

Twoey grinned as his fingers tapped out his message.

I hope you enjoyed this short glimpse of characters you may have read about. There are two more chapters. But if you have a comment, I would be happy to know it. And as always, thank you for reading.

Copyright © 2017 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments



28 minutes ago, dughlas said:

It's brilliant ...

 

Perhaps like one of those bright, crystalline blue autumn days...

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1 minute ago, Mikiesboy said:

Warm and gentle, just like the October sun.  Skinny would love it xo

 

Yeah. Just like that.  Thank you so much for reading this.

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I know I’m not the only one to have missed Andy & Zander, but I’m probably the only one who is still intimidated by the more than 100 chapters of Twoey to start reading it even after all the rave reviews. (I even started to read one of the spinoffs, but felt lost by all the references in the Reviews/Comments.) But isn’t there an Anderson who should be with A & Z too?

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26 minutes ago, droughtquake said:

I know I’m not the only one to have missed Andy & Zander, but I’m probably the only one who is still intimidated by the more than 100 chapters of Twoey to start reading it even after all the rave reviews. (I even started to read one of the spinoffs, but felt lost by all the references in the Reviews/Comments.) But isn’t there an Anderson who should be with A & Z too?

Not yet. :) Hope you liked this snapshot.

 

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3 minutes ago, Parker Owens said:

Not yet. :) Hope you liked this snapshot.

A & Z are married, but haven’t acquired the runaway Anderson yet? Or he’ll show up in one of the other two chapters? Or will you quote LitLover’s notorious :X ?

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1 minute ago, droughtquake said:

A & Z are married, but haven’t acquired the runaway Anderson yet? Or he’ll show up in one of the other two chapters? Or will you quote LitLover’s notorious :X ?

 

Reed Anderson appears much later in A & Z's lives...after high school and they have moved to the farm. We're not ready for him yet...

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13 minutes ago, Parker Owens said:

Reed Anderson appears much later in A & Z's lives...after high school and they have moved to the farm. We're not ready for him yet...

I didn’t realize there was such a big gap between the wedding and their moving to the farm. More of my age-related memory loss, I guess…  ;-)

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This reminded me of everything I love and missed about these four young men and their friends. 

I loved it Parker... 

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1 hour ago, droughtquake said:

I didn’t realize there was such a big gap between the wedding and their moving to the farm. More of my age-related memory loss, I guess…  ;-)

They move to the farm after college. If I remember correctly, Zander had qualified as an architect.

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1 hour ago, Defiance19 said:

This reminded me of everything I love and missed about these four young men and their friends. 

I loved it Parker... 

 

I am glad you liked this. It was difficult to write for several reasons; but I hope it came out all right. Thank you for reading!

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1 minute ago, Paqman said:

They move to the farm after college. If I remember correctly, Zander had qualified as an architect.

 

Yes...your memory is flawless. 

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2 hours ago, droughtquake said:

I didn’t realize there was such a big gap between the wedding and their moving to the farm. More of my age-related memory loss, I guess…  ;-)

 

These things happen...at my age, I just recall when...

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I can't think of a more perfect collaboration.  I tried reading A-Z and Twoey simultaneously as they were posting, and had to stop because I kept mixing the characters up.  That the backdrop of this collaboration is Letchworth State Park makes the story even more special.  The descriptions of the park are spot on and I can clearly imagine the spot they picked to watch the race.  I'm really looking forward to reading more. :hug: 

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1 hour ago, BlindAmbition said:

Great job Parker. Look forward to the rest. Nice to see these characters interact. Handled with love!

 

Thank you. And yes, these people have special spots in my heart. I am happy you liked it. 

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46 minutes ago, Valkyrie said:

I can't think of a more perfect collaboration.  I tried reading A-Z and Twoey simultaneously as they were posting, and had to stop because I kept mixing the characters up.  That the backdrop of this collaboration is Letchworth State Park makes the story even more special.  The descriptions of the park are spot on and I can clearly imagine the spot they picked to watch the race.  I'm really looking forward to reading more. :hug: 

 

As you know the Park, then imagine how much fun they had on that day. It was a wonderful collaboration, and I only regret it was our first and last. I hope this is worthy of Skinny. 

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Just what I needed to cheer me up on a dreary Saturday. :)  So lovely to see skinny's characters and feel the worry and caring from Gary and Twoey for David. I look forward to a Zander or Andy viewpoint next, it warmed my heart to hear Andy refer to Zander as his husband and smile in quiet pride over his drawing talent.

:thankyou:  for this gift, Parker. :hug: 

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I've never read skinny's work, but it doesn't matter. I love the way that just enough detail is given so I have some idea of the relationships going on. Nothing is laboured, instead a sure, light touch. Lovely. Only two more chapters? I shall have to savour them like I have this one. :yes::)

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19 hours ago, Timothy M. said:

Just what I needed to cheer me up on a dreary Saturday. :)  So lovely to see skinny's characters and feel the worry and caring from Gary and Twoey for David. I look forward to a Zander or Andy viewpoint next, it warmed my heart to hear Andy refer to Zander as his husband and smile in quiet pride over his drawing talent.

:thankyou:  for this gift, Parker. :hug: 

 

The gift was Skinny's, as he brought the scene to life as we worked. He left me to complete it. Andy and Zander must be very unusual to Twoey and David, still more to Gary and Mel. Thank you for reading this and commenting!

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4 hours ago, northie said:

I've never read skinny's work, but it doesn't matter. I love the way that just enough detail is given so I have some idea of the relationships going on. Nothing is laboured, instead a sure, light touch. Lovely. Only two more chapters? I shall have to savour them like I have this one. :yes::)

 

Yes, only two more. But I hope these few offer a fair glimpse of new friends and new lives. Your words are so kind, especially as these chapters were difficult to produce. Thank you. 

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I am as yet unfamiliar with these characters (I stopped reading A to Z after it triggered some unpleasant memories... at some point I will return to it, and take on Skinny's epic as well), but I enjoyed the easy coming together of these five people. Well done... thinking of Skinny is still sad, but I'm glad you had the resolve to continue this, Parker. I'm three quarters of the way through Toph's Empty Year, but each time I go back, I falter. Anyway, despite not knowing these people, I was intrigued... entranced... well done, sir, as always... cheers... Gary....

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16 hours ago, Headstall said:

I am as yet unfamiliar with these characters (I stopped reading A to Z after it triggered some unpleasant memories... at some point I will return to it, and take on Skinny's epic as well), but I enjoyed the easy coming together of these five people. Well done... thinking of Skinny is still sad, but I'm glad you had the resolve to continue this, Parker. I'm three quarters of the way through Toph's Empty Year, but each time I go back, I falter. Anyway, despite not knowing these people, I was intrigued... entranced... well done, sir, as always... cheers... Gary....

 

I am all the more grateful to you for reading this, then, even though you are familiar with neither story. @Timothy M. had good advice about where to pick up the thread of A to Z; you can ask him. This was meant to be a pastorale, in contrast to the other, more turbulent main stories. I am glad you got that sense. I hope you will continue with these few chapters, at least. Thanks so much for reading.

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