Author Topic: Duty Calls Chapter 31: Vanquishing the Enemy (Completed)  (Read 15472 times)

Offline Magz from Oz

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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 20: Control?
« Reply #50 on: December 20, 2012, 03:30:47 PM »
Duty Calls Chapter 20:  Control?

I have to admit that it disturbs me somewhat that Agnes asks to meet me in such, shall we say, uninspiring locations, first the fire station and now the graveyard.  It’s almost like she’s taking great pains not to be seen with me yet at the same time, she’s the one asking for the date.  Clandestine is not my style.  Okay... admittedly I don’t yet have a style, but I’m sure if I was going to go to the trouble of asking a girl on a date, you can be sure I’d want the rest of civilisation to know I wanted to be with her.

In line with my new determination to take control of my life, I decided to start as I meant to go on.  “Agnes,” I began. “Why are we meeting at the graveyard at this time of night?  It’s not exactly the most idyllic of places.”

“Oh Brandon,” she smiled, “I just got off work and I sometimes come here for the solitude.  It’s actually a private and pleasant place to be before the ghosts appear.”

“Well Agnes, for me it’s just plain creepy.” I said, “I come here to fish for the deathfish and nothing else.  Can we go somewhere less scary?”

“Um... I’d... I’d... rather not,” she stammered.

“May I ask why?” I asked, slightly exasperated but nonetheless, intrigued.

“Because people talk about me, and I’d rather not put you through the rumour mill just yet.” She said looking at her feet.

“What do people say about you?” I asked, now really intrigued.

“Um... are you sure you want to hear all this now?” she whispered, her words faltering.

“Yeah sure why not?” I replied. “After all, we have tons of privacy.”

She stood in front of me silently struggling with her words for the longest time and then cleared her throat.  “Um... well you’ve probably heard that my family, the Crumplebottoms, have been here in Sunset Valley for a long time.  Before the Landgraabs and before the Altos, the Goths and Crumplebottoms had been the preeminent families here.  Almost everything we do is news.  Did you know my older sister Cornelia is married to Gunther Goth?” She looked up at me and I nodded in response.

“Well to cut a long story short, everyone expected me to marry very well.  But instead, I married a new townie.  He had no money and no breeding but he was sweet and fun to be with.  The private wedding was a total spur of the moment thing and some people were just plain nasty.  Some said he was a gold digger and others watched my waistline almost as if they expected me to pop out a nooboo any second."

Agnes looked around as if the memories were too painful and I speculated whether his gravestone was nearby or at the Goth house.  Then she continued with a voice barely above a whisper.  “We’d planned this super life together but Erik drowned on our honeymoon.”  I knew Agnes was a widow but I hadn’t heard that bit.

Agnes signed deeply and continued, “As if the hasty wedding wasn’t enough grist for the rumour mill, it went into overdrive with Erik’s untimely death.  The coroner ruled an accidental drowning so nobody accused me outright of foul play, but I was subjected to the worst public backlash this town has ever seen.  The metaphorical drawing aside of skirts when the ladies of town saw me coming.  The young men in the town, who previously tried regularly to date me actually ran away if I approached.”  I was so enthralled by her story, I became angry on her behalf for all the mean things people did and said to her.  She held her hand up to stop me interrupting her story.

“Please let me finish.” She said putting her fingertips to my lips and I felt this odd frisson of tingles down my spine which so startled me, I nearly missed her next words.  “It was embarrassing and dreadful.  The very friends I expected to rally around me in my time of need almost accused me of murder.  Only my sister and her husband stood by me.  The power wielded by the Goths was still strong enough in those days, that the town gossips stopped short of outright slander.”

“I thought about leaving town.  I have some cousins in another town and they asked me to go there, but Cornelia was pregnant and I wanted to be involved in my new niece or nephew’s life.  I thought I would never marry again and my dream of motherhood seemed to be a pipe dream.” The wistfulness in her voice as she spoke about motherhood should have had me running for the hills, but I was fascinated by her story.

“Gradually over time, when I didn’t leave town and didn’t date, people stopped treating me like a leper.  There’s always some new item for the town’s busybodies, like poor Clair Ursine.  But even to this day, any time I so much as talk to a young man the whispers return.  When I first met your brother, people began pairing us together and I know for a fact, that at least three people warned him to learn to swim.”

“Oh that is dreadful!  How dare they!”  I was so indignant, I forgot she asked me not to speak.

“Oh you do understand!  You’re so nice.” she said relieved.  “This is why I asked you to meet me at unusual locations.  I guess you’ve heard I’m a bit of a loner and a tad grumpy?” I nodded a response.  “The truth is I’m not, it’s a persona I developed to cope with the situation and encourage people to leave me alone.”

“So why are you making an exception in my case?  You’ve rung asking for a date more than half a dozen times,” I asked.

“Because there’s something about you, I can’t explain it, and I know this sounds silly, but it’s like some invisible force has control of me.  I hear a voice inside my head that tells me it’s time for me to stick my neck out and take a chance on you,” her eyes pleading with me to understand.

“Okay, I do understand why we’re meeting here.  And Agnes, please accept my condolences for your loss, and believe me, you didn’t deserve that sort of treatment by your friends and neighbours.  But before you go pinning any hopes of a relationship on me, let me tell you I’m not the man you think I am.”

It was my turn to look at my feet. “I’m about as flawed as any man can be.  I’m erratic and indecisive.  I’m not sweet or fun to be around.  Chris thinks I’m childish and irrational.  I’m all that and worse.  So I’m certainly no knight in shiny armour to sweep away all your worries.”

“So why did you accept my request for a date?” she asked clearly puzzled.

“I came primarily to take some sort of control over my life.  To make a stand and become proactive instead of reactive.  Since you have been so open about everything, I should tell you that my doctor recommends psychological counselling to help me get a grip on my life.  I’m reliably informed that I don’t take stress very well and the last few weeks have been incredibly stressful for me.”

“Yes I heard all about your parents being stuck in a tomb in France when everyone believed that they had been killed by a meteor.  Then they came home and remarried at a private ceremony at the Serenity Retreat and are now expecting a nooboo,” she said softly.

“Where did you hear all that?” I asked concerned.

“The whole town has been talking about it since yesterday.  I got a call from Cornelia earlier this evening.  She’s at the Landgraab’s party with Chris and your parents and she told me about your mother expecting.  I wondered why you weren’t at the party celebrating with your parents,” she said.  I was so astounded I couldn’t say anything.

“Please understand that I know what it’s like to be the prime subject for the town gossips and I wanted to offer you my help,” she replied touching my arm.  While I was incensed that the whole town seemed to know all about my family’s most personal business, I was equally annoyed that once again, I felt those little tingles where her fingers touched my arm.

“Look, I’m sorry that you’re going through a rough patch and I’m distressed that your family has fallen victim to the town’s insatiable gossip mill.  I’ve more experience with this type of thing than you, and the Goth influence still carries some sway in the important matters in this town.  Will you believe me that I’d like to help?"

I felt as if my knees were buckling and grabbed Agnes’s hand to steady myself.  Maybe I held her hand too tight, I don’t know, but before I was conscious of what was happening, she had her arms around me.  I was trying to formulate words but I couldn’t and I held onto Agnes like she was my personal lifeline to reality.

Slowly I became aware that her face was wet with tears.  Then reality began disappearing.  I was sure I simply intended to raise my hand to brush those tears away but kissed them away instead. 

Tasting the saltiness of her tears was the most personal connection I’d ever had with a woman.  But just like Agnes who said she felt manipulated like a puppet, I knew I had to kiss her.

Then she kissed me back.  Her kisses were electrifying and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.  I was drawn into more of her intoxicating kisses and soon we were making out.

Those kisses became hot and heavy and who knows where this would have ended up if it weren’t for the ghosts interrupting us with cat calls.

We sprang apart but before I could muster the words to ask her to go somewhere else with me, she said she had to go.  As she ran away, in the lamplight, I saw a new flood of tears course down her flushed face...

Oh Brandon, I chastised myself, you moron!  That’s not how you take control of anything!
Where there is love - there is life. -- Mahatma Gandhi

My Stories:
1. Duty Calls
2. Duty Calls Sequel: Islands of Sunset Valley
3. The Lady of the Lake
4. The Secret Time Traveler

Offline JudesSims

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Duty Calls Chapter 20: Control?
« Reply #51 on: December 20, 2012, 03:39:14 PM »
Excellent! Can't wait for the next chapter!

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Offline RaiaDraconis

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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 20: Control?
« Reply #52 on: December 20, 2012, 06:06:23 PM »
That was excellent! Beautiful, yet sad. I love the way that you have described Agnes's plight, as well as Brandon's reaction.


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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 20: Control?
« Reply #53 on: December 21, 2012, 05:16:37 AM »
I love the update! Can't wait too see what happen between those two. :)

Offline Magz from Oz

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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 21: The Assessment
« Reply #54 on: December 21, 2012, 07:06:07 AM »
Duty Calls Chapter 21:  The Assessment

I called a cab to take me home.  In the cab I was mentally kicking myself for all the stupid moves I’d made and yet at the same time, bewildered by my still tingling lips and wonderful feeling and taste of Agnes’s lips against mine.  I just had to close my eyes and the heady scent of her hair filled my nostrils and exciting feel of her body pressed up against mine was back with sledgehammer force.  I’d been kissed before.  But never like that! 

I needed to talk to someone but the only one up when I arrived home was Chris, who seemed to be waiting up.  “Where have you been?” he asked clearly annoyed.

“I went to the graveyard” I replied truthfully.

“Did you catch any more deathfish?” he asked.

“No, the ghosts were too distracting,” I responded which was not untrue.  Trying to divert attention from my activities, I said, “I had a visit from Jamie earlier.”

“I noticed”, was all he said in response.

“Well, you might be interested to know that she’s not the least bit interested in me romantically, as she considers herself to be my doctor.  However she specifically said she is not your doctor,” I said evenly.

“Really?” he exclaimed.  “You two talked about me?”

“No you drongo, we talked about me!  But just when the conversation turned to you, she had an emergency at the hospital.  So I think if she’s the lady you’re interested in, your feelings are not as unrequited as you think.” I responded.

“Since when have you been an expert on love?” he retorted.

“Just like you, I’m finding out the hard way.” I replied.  “I need a shower.  Goodnight.”  I headed to the ground floor bathroom/ laundry so my shower wouldn’t wake mum and dad.

“Yeah, later!” he responded which had me smiling as I left him standing in the kitchen.  But when I finished my shower and put the laundry on, I noticed Chris was sitting at the dining table writing a letter.

“Don’t you have a 5:00 a.m. wake up call for work in a couple of hours?” I asked.

“Yep” he replied not looking up.  I didn’t know how to respond to that.  He’s a grown man and if he falls asleep on the job, I’m sure Jack Bunch will sort him out well and truly.

“Okay, night,” I said.

“Yep” he replied again not looking up.  I went to bed and slept well, dreaming lots of dreams about absurd things and not one of Agnes or the searing kisses we’d exchanged.

When I went downstairs to breakfast, there was another note appended to the fridge with a strawberry shaped magnet.  My mother was having a field day, doing exactly as she wanted with that fridge now it was in her house!  “Shopping.  Back for lunch.” mum wrote.

I grabbed a plate of leftovers and ate a solitary breakfast.  I had obviously licked that conflict with the refrigerator.  Maybe mum’s capricious use of the magnets made it seem more her fridge and not Dynasty Founder Anthony’s. 

I planned to spend the day at the library, studying to improve my cooking skill, but while I was washing up my plate, my phone rang.  It was Doctor Jamie.  If I could come now, Dr Simgund agreed to see me but at the hospital and not the GO Treatment Centre.  I told her I was on my way. 

While I had expressed a reluctance to go through with this process, after last night, I felt I owed it to Agnes to sort myself out and stop being such a jerk.  I appended a message on mum’s note that I would be out for lunch, and went to the hospital to meet with Dr Simgund. 

I somehow expected a gruff facsimile of Grandfather Arthur who would ask me a barrage of questions.  But instead found a gentle, softly spoken, unassuming man who asked me my opinion about everyday things like books, paintings, houses, cars, school, work and people.  We talked until his stomach started to grumble and I looked around for a clock.  His office didn’t have one so I surreptitiously looked at my watch.  We’d been talking for hours.  He must have noticed me looking at my watch and said, he was hungry, how about we do lunch at the hospital cafeteria.

We went downstairs to the cafeteria and ate a tasteless autumn salad which had seen better days.  We talked about how bland hospital food generally is and he told me how much he missed Austrian cuisine.  We talked about his days in Vienna and when we began attracting strange looks from others in the cafeteria, we returned to the office he had been using.  We talked late into the afternoon when an alarm went off on his pocket watch.  He stood and said how much he enjoyed out little chat and that he looked forward to seeing me again.

I left the hospital and thought how very civilized it all had been.  I didn’t feel like I’d been assessed or analysed and especially didn’t feel like I’d been psychoanalysed.  I went home to find Chris already home from work and pacing the floor with his cell phone pressed to his ear.  He looked up at me as I entered and held up his hand in acknowledgement but didn’t hang up.  “Garden,” I said to which he nodded and gave me a thumbs-up signal and continued with his phone call.

Tending the garden, I remembered something Dr Simgund said, that plants were restful as they had neither emotions nor conflicts.  While that’s true they have needs and demand a lot of attention.  The bees also demand a lot of my time and effort.  Nevertheless, I enjoy the silent demands placed on me by plants and bees because their needs are so easily understood.

As I tended the garden I felt a certain triumph about the events of today.  If this was all there was to psychoanalyses then I was going to be comfortable with the process.  Dr Simgund’s counselling, if indeed that’s what it was, came in the manner of observations, rather than advice on courses of action.  He told me that a man should not strive to eliminate his complexes but to understand them, since they serve as the basis for our conduct and desires.  The mere mention of desires had me thinking about last night and flushing bright red which that ever observant man, duly noted.

We did talk about love and women.  However, I felt reassured that my total lack of understanding of women was not a flaw reserved for myself alone.  Dr Simgund assured me that even after decades of research into the feminie soul, he was yet to answer the universal question, “What does a woman want?”  When we talked about love and relationships, he said he believed love was one of the cornerstones of humanity but that people were rarely crazier or so vulnerable than when they were in love. 

Well that certainly explained a lot about dad but I sincerely doubted that my craziness the evening before had anything to do with love as the root cause, more likely stupidity, anxiety and just plain old hormones.  Not to mention my first experience with kisses that are so addictive, I couldn’t get enough.  I was so distracted by that thought, I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing and disturbed a bee pollinating a plant and was stung.  Ouch!

Dr Simgund said man should not waste his intellect and energies on problems that had no answers.  He said man would unravel the mysteries of the universe before he moved one inch closer to understanding women.  My familiarity with women was too limited to make a valid judgement.  However, based on my experience of great-great-grandmother Annette, mum and now Agnes, it did seem to be true.

Dr Simgund talked about his theory of psychic energy and how he believed that, like the energy of our bodies, the energy of the mind expended to solve problems and regulate our actions was not limitless.  He said that unless I let go of some issues, I would overwhelm my mind’s ability to rationally process information and situations.  Now that made a whole lot more sense than his talk about women.  Sometimes I just felt so overwhelmed with everything and one more problem has been like the proverbial straw breaking the camel’s back.

Dr Simgund said I had to learn which problems were within my control and which ones weren’t.  He gave me lots of pointers in solving problems by picking them apart to find the root issue and then working forward by asking myself “what if” as I considered each issue to solve the problem.

I asked him what to do about problems outside my control.  He said to understand I had no control over them specifically but I could control their effect on me.  He asked me if I was angry when it rained.  I told him no, it might mess up my plans for the day but I had an umbrella and that ultimately rain was good for the plants.  He said the weather was out of my control but I hoped for the best, planned for the worst and saw that some good can come from adverse situations.  It was an interesting metaphor but he obviously didn’t know about the new lifetime reward for a Climatron Control Unit.

Then he enigmatically said that time spent with cats is never wasted.  I didn’t know if he was alluding to yet another uncontrollable situation or the general use of pets as therapy.  Perhaps he meant uncontrollable in that most of my friends attest to the fact, that cats have staff while dogs have masters.  Maybe I should get a cat.  We’ve never had a pet and there are enough strays that turn up at the gate almost every day.  On second thoughts, perhaps not or at least, not yet, cats have emotions and conflicts and are far more demanding than mere plants.

Finished in the garden, I was thinking about a swim rather than the shower when my cell phone rang.  Agnes wants to meet me at the Bistro, could I please meet her there?  Yes I could.  A meeting at a very public place, I wondered whether that meant that I’ve been forgiven for being such a schmuck last night.  Time for a quick shower, shave and shampoo and to find out…

Where there is love - there is life. -- Mahatma Gandhi

My Stories:
1. Duty Calls
2. Duty Calls Sequel: Islands of Sunset Valley
3. The Lady of the Lake
4. The Secret Time Traveler

Offline RaiaDraconis

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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 20: Control?
« Reply #55 on: December 21, 2012, 04:51:24 PM »
Bees and plants are much easier to understand than people. :P

Offline Magz from Oz

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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 22: Agnes - Bold and Beautiful
« Reply #56 on: December 22, 2012, 07:28:11 AM »
Duty Calls Chapter 22:  Agnes – Bold and Beautiful

I worried about what to wear and decided it was getting too cool for my usual clothes so I wore jeans instead.  I arrived only a few minutes later than I said I’d be, but thankfully Agnes was not in sight.  Then I saw my very pregnant mum seated with dad and a woman I didn’t know.  I had momentarily forgotten all about mum being pregnant.  She looked amazing and glowing with pride over her burgeoning tummy.  Mum saw me and stood up.  She waved to me to sit down beside her and I did, kissing mum’s cheek in greeting first before turning to their guest to introduce myself.

The mystery woman was none other than Agnes and she looked... smashing!  She’s changed her clothes and her hair and her makeup!  No wonder I didn’t recognise her.  Suddenly I felt very nervous.  I didn’t know mum and dad knew Agnes.  Oh God, did Agnes tell them I’d been such an idiot last night.  I looked at Agnes for clues but shouldn’t have.  Agnes was wearing, or should I say almost wearing, the skimpiest of dresses.  I didn’t know where to look!  Hooray for Hollywood tape.  Eye contact! Brandon, I kept telling myself... eye contact!

I looked intently at mum and dad but they didn’t show any disapproval in their faces.  In fact they were beaming.  I thought, that can’t be good!  Dad made small talk about the weather and I just couldn’t look anywhere but at my hands which were starting to sweat.  Mum tried to include me in their chatter but I responded in monosyllables.  Agnes wasn’t helping,  She didn’t say anything,  I was tongue tied and I rubbed my sweaty palms on my jeans.

After all the chitchat about the weather dried up, in a tight voice I asked if they were joining us for dinner.  Dad said they were just heading home, as the evening chill was not good for mum.  I smothered an obvious sigh of relief.

I waved them goodbye and then looked at Agnes for clues.  Eye contact!  Brandon I reminded myself.  She’s going to catch a chill in that dress!  “Do you want to eat alfresco or go indoors?” I asked Agnes stumbling over my words.  I wasn’t sure I could swallow a bite I was that nervous.

“Inside.  It’s getting awfully crowded out here,” she replied.  I went to hold her chair but she already stood up.  Oh good, I thought, we’d change into formal wear to go inside but to my dismay Agnes was already dressed in formal wear.  Not good!  Eye contact Brandon!  We went inside.  Agnes was obviously well known to the maitre‘d as we were seated at one of the nicer tables with a view out over the bay.  Agnes ordered the Aloo Masala Curry but I played it safe and ordered the fish and chips. 

While we waited for our meals, I tried to think of some small talk but my mind was a blank.  “Nice view isn’t it” I said covertly rubbing my sweaty hands along my trousers.  Then I began fiddling with the table centrepiece.  Agnes leaned across the table and took my hand and held it.  Eye contact Brandon!  “Do I make you that nervous?” she asked concern deepening her voice.

“No!” I choked, that dress sure does!  “Yes!  No!”  sigh “Yes!” heavy sigh...  “I wanted to see you and apologise for being such a jerk last night but seeing mum and dad threw me.  I’m sorry Agnes, I didn’t mean to frighten you last night.  I don’t know how all that happened.”  I looked at the uncertainty on her face.  “Please say you forgive me.” I pleaded.

“Do you regret kissing me? Me kissing you back? Or that you wanted me to?” she asked her voice barely a whisper through trembling lips.

“No, no and no,” I replied searching her face and hoping my answer didn’t upset her more.  “I regret that I got so carried away.  As I said last night, I’m something of a mental basket case and I had no right to start something like that just now.  And after you took such pains to maintain your privacy, I acted so inappropriately and in front of ghosts who are terrible gossips too, you know.  Do you forgive me?”

“You weren’t the only one kissing in that graveyard last night, you know.  You put yourself down a lot, don’t you Brandon?” she asked, her voice had a harder edge to it.

I looked down at my hand still captured firmly by hers on the table and shrugged, “Sometimes it’s hard to buck the trend.” I responded ambiguously.

She gripped my hand hard and her nails bit into my palms.  “That part of your life is over, Brandon… new town… new life.  There’s nobody here to whom you’re a burden or a nuisance.” She said with a firm voice.

“There’s Chris,” I said neutrally.

“Brother’s don’t count.” She admonished.  “Siblings are always there to keep you grounded but I’m sure he’s more concerned for your welfare than you give him credit for.  Your mum and dad seem lovely.  I can’t believe Audrey’s your mother, she looks like a sister.”

“Um… well she used her lifetime reward points to get a Young Again potion,” I replied not sure where this was going but Agnes still hadn’t answered my question.  I decided I had to stop looking at my hand because then whenever I lifted my gaze to her face, I got an eyeful of that oh so revealing dress. 

Our waiter came and my belief that this Bistro couldn’t actually ruin a simple recipe like fish and chips was ill-founded.  The fish was overdone and the chips were almost crisps.  I could never work here, I decided.  My pride in my cooking wouldn’t allow it.  Judging my Agnes’s cough, the curry wasn’t much better.

Over dinner, Agnes asked me about books I’d read.  I learned we both had a fondness for whodunits with relatively low body counts.  Blood and gore was not to either of our liking.  Horror, no.  Science Fiction, yes.  Drama, yes.  Historical, yes.  She liked romance and biographies and I liked fantasy.

We could have talked all night about books.  It’s a nice safe topic.  But as the restaurant started to fill up, Agnes became edgy.  I wondered if it was because of her loner trait or that she was being seen in public with a man.  But this was her choice, I reminded myself.  We were getting quite a lot of people staring but I’m certain that dress had to bear some of the blame.

To ease her discomfiture a little, I asked Agnes, “Where did you meet my mother and father?”

“At Barney’s Salon and Tattoo.” She said flushing, “Your mother was selecting a new wardrobe for your father and my sister works there.  We started chatting and your mother remarked on my unusual lipstick colour and how men didn’t know how to launder clothes with lipstick stains.”  I think I groaned aloud at that.

“When I knew that your mother knew whose lipstick was on your shirt, I was terrified, but she was so sweet.  She didn’t talk about it again, but she did spill the beans on everything about you.” Agnes said coyly.  I know I groaned out loud because heads turned from everywhere.

“Have you finished?” I asked.

“Yes, well as much as I care to.”  I signalled for the waiter and asked for the bill.  He asked if we’d care to see the desert trolley but we declined, my stomach was having second thoughts about the fish. 

“Just one more question.” I said, “Did my mother pick out that dress for you?

“No,” she said ruefully, “My sister.  Don’t you like it?”

“I love it but I’m not sure it’s you.” I replied carefully selecting my words.

“Oh, me too.” Agnes responded.  “But sisters, you know.  Sometimes you have to humour them.  It’s from the Date Night range.  My sister said it was great dress for a date.  Your mother said she was sorry she couldn’t fit into it.”  Yeah right, I thought, then dear old dad would be the candidate for a heart attack instead of me.

When I paid the bill I added a sizable tip that was no indication of the quality of the service or the food, but just my haste to get out of the restaurant.

As we walked out of the restaurant, there were a lot of people outside and I wanted to take off my jacket to cover Agnes but she stunned me by pulling me into an amorous hug in front of everybody! 

I was just about to ask if she was cold when she asked if I would like to go dancing.  I thought that’s a great idea.  The Grind is a nice dark albeit crowded place but instead she drove us to the Recurve Strand.  There wasn’t anyone there but the bartender. 

“Can I get you a drink?” I asked.

“No I just want to dance and she grabbed my hand and pulled me out to the centre of the dance floor.  We started a slow dance and for a few moments everything was perfect. 

Then she nestled closer into my body and I lost concentration and stood on her foot.

I was mortified but she brushed aside my apologies.

We began dancing again and it was wonderful.  I could have danced all night just holding her in my arms. 

I wondered if she’d be getting cold but I could feel the heat of her body against my hand.  All too soon the music stopped and the bartender called last drinks. 

I didn’t want to let this magic of the evening end but it was really late.  Agnes slowly pulled away from my arms and held my hands for the longest time.

“Um I think I’ll walk home, Agnes.  I had the best evening.  Goodnight.”

“Wait! Brandon, don’t I get a kiss goodnight?” she asked.

I leaned in for a chaste kiss but she wrapped her arms around me and kissed me with a long slow burning kiss that was just as treacherous as the searing kisses of last evening.  Then she held my head and looked into my eyes.

When she asked me to go steady, I was incapable of speech but I nodded. 

Or at least, I think I nodded because she kissed me again and again and again. 

Just when my resolve was crumbling, she pulled away.  Gulping air into my aching lungs, I was totally unprepared for what she did next...

Where there is love - there is life. -- Mahatma Gandhi

My Stories:
1. Duty Calls
2. Duty Calls Sequel: Islands of Sunset Valley
3. The Lady of the Lake
4. The Secret Time Traveler

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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 22: Agnes - Bold and Beautiful
« Reply #57 on: December 22, 2012, 11:34:50 AM »
Poor Brandon, he did have a hard time with Agnes's dress. It was so adorable. I hope he said yes and don't chicken out.

Offline RaiaDraconis

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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 22: Agnes - Bold and Beautiful
« Reply #58 on: December 22, 2012, 12:09:34 PM »
Talk about grabbing the bull by the horns. Way to go Agnes!

Something about Brandon's character, though, seems to tell me that he won't accept right away...

Offline Magz from Oz

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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 23: Confusion Reigns
« Reply #59 on: December 23, 2012, 09:15:11 PM »
Duty Calls Chapter 23:  Confusion Reigns

I walked home in a daze.  How I managed not to fall over and break an ankle astounded me.  Just then I remembered Agnes in those dainty strappy shoes and hoped she fared okay.  I should have walked her to her car at least.  What was I thinking?  Where were my manners?  Probably as absent as my grey matter!

Only away from the mesmerising sight and smell and the incredible feel of Agnes and her oh so intoxicating kisses, did my mind begin functioning again.  I’m sure I clearly recall Agnes down on one knee in front of me with a ring in her hand.  Or do I?  What is more disturbing is that my next memory was stumbling over a tuft of grass in the sand dunes.  The time in between was a total blank.  Did what I think just happened... actually happen?

Did Agnes really propose or was that just an illusion, or worse, a delusion?  But more importantly, if she did propose, did I accept?  I don’t know.  I... just... don’t... know!  I felt that awful panic rising in me.  I tried to remember Dr Simgund’s advice.  Break a problem down into little pieces.   But for the life of me I couldn’t.  I didn’t know where to start!

Think logically Brandon, I chastised myself.  My memory was a blank but my senses weren’t.  I felt my face and while my cheeks were hot and flushed, they didn’t sting.  Obviously Agnes didn’t slap me.  But would she have slapped me if I’d said no.  Probably not, she would have just run away crying.  Did she run away crying?  Is that why I didn’t walk her to her car?  I don’t know. 

I felt my lips but they were useless at providing clues.  They were still tingling from Agnes’s onslaught of kisses so all that touching my lips did, was bring back memories of Agnes’s passionate kisses that burned their way into my very soul. 

I felt my hands and while my palms were no longer sweaty, my fingertips were like ice.  Interestingly, I couldn’t feel my hands freezing.  It’s not quite autumn so this is not symptomatic of frostbite.  Then I remembered Grandfather Arthur telling me those symptoms could be stress induced.  My brain was shutting down extraneous bodily functions to activate the fight or flight response.

Is that what I did?  Flight?  Would I have just cut and run?  Possibly.  But before or after I answered her proposal.  Again either is possible.  How do I find out?  I can’t just ring her and say, “Hey Agnes, did you just propose and what was my answer?”

Reaching my house I was reluctant to go in.  Was anybody up?  I looked up and the ground floor was ablaze with lights.  Yep, someone’s up.  Knowing my luck they’re all up. 

Right now would be a good time to get out Great-Grandfather Andrew’s miner and dig a hole, climb in and hope someone fills it in after me.

I think I need to see Dr Simgund again.  I entered the quiet house and called out if anybody was home.

“Hey night owl,” Chris called, “I’m in here.  What’s up?”

I walked into the lounge room and he was reading a book which he put it down on my approach.  I scanned the cover, “Baby Incoming: Preparing with a Vigilance”.  Odd choice for a single man.  I raised my eyebrows in question.

“Don’t look at me like that, it was on the coffee table when I came in here to think.  Dad’s in the basement creating a racket sculpting and mum’s asleep upstairs.” Chris said with a shrug.

“So twins again huh?” I said.

“Looks like,” he agreed.

“So is that why you needed space to think?” I asked.

He looked at me for ages noting my still flushed face, then sighed heavily.  “No lame brain, I came in here to think and saw that.  What’s got you hot under the collar?”

“Date with Agnes.” I replied which wasn’t untrue.

“Why are you dating her?  I thought you didn’t want to date any of the horde of townies who send you love letters by the dozen,” Chris asked.

“I didn’t want to, but you and Jamie encouraged me to get out more.  I thought I’d ask her to leave me alone, but, you know, Agnes is actually very sweet once you get to know her?” I said.

“I already told you that.  But I also told you that she has the Hopeless Romantic trait.  She wants to be in love and you could wind up married to her before you know what you’re doing and you’ll be wanting this” he said picking up that book and flinging it at me.  I blushed scarlet. 

“Oh... my... God!  You... didn’t!” he said with his voice rising half an octave and a full decibel with each word.

I couldn’t look at him, “I don’t think so,” I mumbled.

“What!  You don’t think so!  Don’t you know?” he shouted.

I shook my head.  “I don’t remember, Chris,” my voice trembled with tears.  I looked up into his shocked face.  I ran my finger through my hair.  “It’s all a blank.” I replied glumly.

“You want to tell me what you do remember?  Let’s start from the top.  When did you start dating Agnes again?” he inquired.

I told him everything about the previous evening at the graveyard and this evening.  When I finished I felt hollow, absolutely gutted and Chris looked stunned. 

He sat and thought for a moment.  “Okay, first thing you do is establish whether you’re engaged.  So ring Agnes, it’s late, sure, but say you’re just checking that she got home alright.  Put your cell phone on speaker and I’ll try to pick up cues.”  I fumbled with the phone so much that Chris grabbed it out of my shaking hands and searching the phone list, dialled the number.  Then he put it on the coffee table in front of me.  It began ringing and ringing.  She answered just before the message bank kicked in.

“Hello darling,” she said. “Sorry I just ran a bath when I heard the phone ringing.  I wasn’t going to answer it until I saw your caller ID.” My mind froze at the mental image but every sweat gland in my body went into overdrive.  If I’d been holding that wretched phone, I’d have dropped it for sure. 

“Hi Agnes,” I gulped, “I was just calling to check that you got home okay.”

“Oh you’re so sweet,” she cooed.  “I promise I’ll wear a different dress for our date tomorrow night.  How about we make it a picnic instead?  I don’t think my stomach can take a Bistro meal two nights in a row.  Can you meet me after work and we can go to Performance Park from there?”

“Yeah sure,” I said with images of that dress floating past my eyes, images of Agnes taking it off for a bath had me hot and flushed all over again.

“Goodnight darling.  I love you,” she whispered making kissing sounds.

“Ditto.  Goodnight sweetheart,” I replied momentarily forgetting Chris and just lost in her seductive voice until Chris reached across to end the phone call.

“Congratulations, Brandon, you’re engaged,” Chris said handing me back my phone.

I groaned.

Where there is love - there is life. -- Mahatma Gandhi

My Stories:
1. Duty Calls
2. Duty Calls Sequel: Islands of Sunset Valley
3. The Lady of the Lake
4. The Secret Time Traveler


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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 23: Confusion Reigns
« Reply #60 on: December 25, 2012, 04:36:45 AM »
Poor Brandon lol! I just love him. What will happen on the wedding day. :P

Offline RaiaDraconis

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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 23: Confusion Reigns
« Reply #61 on: December 26, 2012, 09:02:49 PM »
Hoo boy...Brandon is in quite a pickle. This ought to be interesting. :P

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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 23: Confusion Reigns
« Reply #62 on: December 26, 2012, 09:27:38 PM »
If he loses his short term memory when she propsose, the the wedding ought to fun.
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Offline Magz from Oz

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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 24: The Talk
« Reply #63 on: December 27, 2012, 01:14:27 AM »
Duty Calls Chapter 24:  The Talk

I couldn’t sit any longer and began pacing the room too anxious to settle.  Chris stood and said “I think you should talk to dad.  I have to go to bed; I have work in the morning.  Goodnight.”  Then he gave me a reassuring hug and went upstairs.  I think I’d much rather talk to mum.  It’s absurd but sometimes dad still feels like a stranger, an authoritarian stranger at that.  This is one of those times.  But I can’t dump all this on mum so near to her delivery time so I may as well talk to dad.  I went downstairs to the noise of his sculpting.

Dad had just finished another brilliant shapely conundrum metal sculpture which I thought was portentous for me as well as a risky enterprise for him given that he has only one deathflower.  Then I remembered advice from a friend that there is another deathflower at the graveyard.  I must harvest it tomorrow... make that today...especially if he’s going to sculpt in metal.

“Dad, can we talk?” I asked.

“Yeah sure,” he said, “give me a minute or two to put this stuff away and wash my hands.  How about you make us a drink and bring it into the snug”.

I made the drinks and took them on a tray into the little lounge / snug in the basement.  Dad came out of the bathroom.  “Hmm...skill gain drinks... unusual choice.  How’s that going?” he said but grabbed a drink anyway.

“Level 6 so far,” I said blandly, “Dad, don’t you think it’s dangerous to be sculpting in metal at this point in time?”

He looked at me blankly for a moment then his features relaxed.  “You’re right you know.  I won’t do another metal sculpture until we get that potion.  My mind was in a bit of turmoil so I guess that sculpture is what easily came to mind.”

“Um... so you know about the pregnancy books huh?” I asked.

He ran his fingers through his hair and looked at me as if assessing my reactions.  He shrugged, “Yeah I saw them.  Every spare second she’s got, she’s reading them.”  He looked down at his feet than lifted his head and looked me straight in the eye.  “You don’t think she read those books when she was having you two, do you?”

“Um dad, I wasn’t there, remember.” I said not untruthfully.  “Besides I thought the pregnancy books were locked away with the rest of the skill books in the basement of the house in Simfield.”

“You’re right they were.  But there is the public library and she had my fishing radio...” his voice trailed off.

“Dad, does it matter?  Even if she did, would it have changed how you feel about her?” I asked.

“No, it wouldn’t.  There’s almost nothing on this planet your mother could do that would stop me loving her.  And even if she did deliberately have twins, I’m sure she couldn’t know how she had boxed us all into a corner.  She not malicious, just sometimes, your mother’s a bit headstrong.  It’s one of the things I love about her.  There’s never a dull moment when she’s around and I wouldn’t change that for the chance of a thousand lifetimes.” He smiled.  “So what did you want to talk about?”

“Um... do you like Agnes?” I asked not knowing where to start.

“I don’t know her that well but, your mother seemed really taken with her and she’s generally a good judge of character.  They got along like a house on fire and your mum was really excited about helping her with a makeover for her big date” He replied, “Although I didn’t know until you arrived at the Bistro that you were the man she was seeing?  How did it all go?”

“Surprisingly well, we talked about books and family mostly” I replied ambiguously while I tried to muster the courage to really get to the crux of the matter.  “After dinner, we went dancing at the Recurve Strand and that was very nice.”

“Good, I think she’s a fine young lass despite that choice of a frock,” he said.

“You didn’t like her dress?” I asked.

“On Agnes, yes, it looked great.  But if that’s the dress your mother plans to swap with Agnes when she looses her baby weight, then I hope she doesn’t plan to wear it in public!  It’s not a dress a man wants to see his wife wear for every man within cooee to ogle?  Besides I think it’s a hunting dress.” he said coolly. 

“Oh,” I said, “How so?”

“It’s the sort of dress that a girl wears when she’s trying to attract a young man’s attention, bewitch him or ensnare him.  In any case, it’s not a dress I want to see your mother wearing if other people are about.” He said pointedly.

“Oh,” I said.  “So you think the dress may have been a subtle ambush?”

“There’s nothing subtle about that dress!  Personally I think the poor girl was railroaded by her sister and your mother into wearing it for your date.  Your mother was bored and every time she’s bored, she shops for clothes.  Since she won’t buy anything for herself until the baby is born, she went shopping for a new wardrobe for me, which I pointed out was futile because when I take the potion, nothing will suit and she’ll have to do it all over again.”  Dad sighed.

“But you can’t argue with a pregnant woman.  She just touches her tummy and all my resolve turns to dust.  Needless to say, I humoured your mother.”  Dad said wryly.  “So in between fittings, I heard Agnes say to her sister that she’s met someone special and wants a new look.  Then your mother struck up a conversation with Agnes about makeup or lipstick or something like that and from then on, they were fast friends.  To tell you the truth, I was glad your mother latched onto someone else to play dress-ups with.  I read most of Logic Vol II: To Xor or Not to Xor and reached level 5 in logic, so I was happy.”

Dad looked at me squarely, “So,” he said, “did the dress work its magic?  When are you seeing Agnes again?”


“So watch yourself,” he advised.

“Um dad,” I said mumbling my words, “I’m... um... I... Agnes and I are engaged.”  Dad’s shocked face said volumes and I felt three inches tall”.

“Okay” he said recovering his cool, “That was obviously the plan hatched between, your mother and her sister, but is that what you want?”

“Dad, I never expected to marry so I didn’t socialise with girls much.  Most of the time they terrify me, including Agnes!  But when I really got to know her, I kind of like her.  And when she kisses me, I can’t think at all.  It’s like I’m caught in a massive wave and I just hold my breath and hope I can make it out the other side.  I don’t know what I want” I said venting all the exasperation I was feeling.

“Brandon, you don’t suddenly find yourself engaged to a girl you just kind of like.  Sit down, I think it’s time we that THE talk.” Dad said gesturing to the couch.

I sat and turned to him, “Dad I passed biology.  I don’t need THE talk.  I know all about the birds and bees.”  I pleaded.

“This isn’t about birds and bees.”  I must have looked totally perplexed because he sighed heavily.  “Okay, let’s try a different metaphor, think of fishing.”  I still looked blankly at him.  “Son, you’ve been reeled in, hook, line and sinker.” Dad said.  “The question is how do you feel about it?”

“In a word... confused.  I already told her that I’m not a good catch.  She knows I’m getting counselling.  Why would she set out to reel me in?” I asked puzzled.

“Perhaps she has a soft spot for tragic clownfish.” He said dryly. “Just kidding!  Brandon, there’s nothing terribly wrong with you.  You’re 25 going on 12 because your mind chose arrested development.  Back in Simfield, you couldn’t do all the things being a young adult meant, so in your mind, you didn’t become an adult even though your body matured.

“When I first noticed this phenomenon, I raised it with my father.  I wanted him to get you some help.  But your grandfather argued that it would only make you suffer more because you would become aware what you’re missing when the time came for Chris to take a wife and that you could probably do something that would cause the dynasty to fail.” He said ironically

“Anyway, I hoped that being here in Sunset Valley and starting again, that you would grow into the man you are.  Deep down you are very much a man but on the surface, you are the child.  When things happen to the you, like kisses that can knock your socks off, the man in you takes over but away from that stimuli that only the man can respond to, the child still dominates.”

“So my question to you is, when you’re dancing with Agnes, and kissing Agnes, are you thinking “Oh gross”; or are you thinking about taking those kisses to the next level?” dad asked and I blushed scarlet.

“So is it only when you’re away from Agnes that you’re unsure of what to do?”  I nodded.

“I’m sure Agnes isn’t the only girl that you’ve kissed so do any of their kisses make you react to them the same as Agnes’s?  I shook my head still too embarrassed to speak.

“On your date last night, were you revolted by Agnes’s dress?  I shook my head and he continued, “Did you want to cover that dress up in public but on the privacy of that deserted dance floor did you want to hold her in your arms for slow dances?  I blushed even redder and nodded.

“Then your feelings for Agnes aren’t superficial.  The simple solution is to stick to Agnes like glue.”  He said matter-of-factly.  “She seems to be the one who brings out your baser instincts which will help the man in you take dominance from the child.”

“Even if I end up married to a woman I don’t love?” I asked.

“That’s not likely to happen,” he assured me.  “The man in you is already in love with her, the rest of you has just got to believe in it.”

Dad and I looked at each other for a while and I tried to figure out who talked the more mumbo jumbo, him or Dr Simgund.  But dad did make some sort of sense.  I actually liked being with Agnes, I really liked the feel of her in my arms and I really really liked those kisses that promised so much more. 

I was uncomfortable about where my thoughts were leading and began pacing the room.  I decided that I truly liked the whole idea of marrying Agnes and being with her day and night forever.  Somewhere in my subconscious, I heard the faint toot of a car horn and the sounds of Chris racing off to work.  I stopped pacing and looked at dad stretched out asleep on the couch.  It was 5:32 in the morning.  It was time to go to bed.  I gently woke dad so he could sleep more comfortably in his own bed.

“Dad, I’m going to marry Agnes?” I said.  Dad stood up and congratulated me.  He yawned then I yawned.  We both walked silently up the stairs.  My head was already in the clouds when from the nursery, we heard a scream which could buckle steel.  We raced in to see this.

Where there is love - there is life. -- Mahatma Gandhi

My Stories:
1. Duty Calls
2. Duty Calls Sequel: Islands of Sunset Valley
3. The Lady of the Lake
4. The Secret Time Traveler

Offline RaiaDraconis

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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 24: The Talk
« Reply #64 on: December 27, 2012, 01:23:53 AM »
Alistair is a very wise man, and Brandon a very lucky one for having him as a father. I do hope that it goes well for him and Agnes!

Once again a fantastic chapter. You convey such trust between the characters and their interactions are so believable.

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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 25: Triple Whammy
« Reply #65 on: December 28, 2012, 11:56:57 PM »
Duty Calls Chapter 25:  Triple Whammy

I looked at dad who’d clearly lost it and said to mum, “Chris has the cruiser with him.  I’ll call a cab!”

My mother shouted, “No!  [pant pant pant] No Cab!  I’m having a home birth [pant pant pant]!  Get out and take your [pant pant pant] father with you! Yooooowwwwwza.”  She screamed.

I looked at dad and pulled him outside the room and shut the door.  I’d never seen him do an orangutan imitation before.  So who’s the child here?  My father was insensible until I dragged him outside the house and only then did he return to something akin to normal.

“Home birth dad?  You discussed this?  When were you going to tell us?” I asked heatedly.

Dad looked at me dumbfounded, shrugged his shoulders and took a deep breath, “You don’t have discussions with pregnant women,” he said.  “They tell you what they want and if you’re sensible, you just say “Yes dear!” and hope cooler heads will prevail when the time comes!”

“Duly noted, but cooler heads didn’t prevail.  So what do we do now?” I said as another shriek echoed from inside the house.

“I don’t think it’s wise if I left the lot.  That’s more trouble than it’s worth but I don’t think I can stand hearing that.  How about a sauna?” he suggested.

“I’m dog tired, what happens if we fall asleep in the sauna?” I asked.

“Oh!  Yes, good point,” he replied.  “How about we sneak next door for a massage and impolitely fall asleep?”

I shook my head.  “It’s a BYO masseuse set up.  How about we drag those deckchairs over to the shade of the willow tree and just nap?”

“Works for me!” he said but his stomach growled.  “You grab us a bite and I’ll move the deckchairs.”

“Deal” I said but there were no leftovers in the fridge.  I grabbed us some cereal and went out to dad who was fast asleep on the deckchair.  I put his food back in the fridge just as another shriek echoed through the house.  With the hairs on my arms standing to attention I went back outside and napped on the deckchair beside him.

I awoke some time later to see dad watching me, which until even 24 hours ago, would have made me more than slightly uneasy.  Our little talk in the wee hours of the morning had established a bond I hoped we would have for life.  I wasn’t hearing any hair-raising noises from the house, so I asked, “All quiet on the western front?”

“I’ve only just woken too, but yes, so far so good,” he said.  Shall we investigate?”  Gingerly he stood, and shrugged his shoulders to get some of the kinks out and proceeded into the house.  I know he only looked 60ish but in reality he was over 100 and I think he felt every one of those years as we silently went inside.  The house was eerily quiet except for dad’s grumbling stomach.

“How about we eat first, nothing can be gained by us starving to death,” dad said.

I wasn’t that hungry myself as I had eaten earlier, but in this house you never know what’s going to happen to disrupt your equilibrium.  I saw the note on the fridge first.  The note read, “Lucy Isabel (left) – Rosalie Anne (right) – bed - DON’T WAKE ME!”  I gave the note to dad as his stomach growled loudly.  “Food first I said!”

We both grabbed a plate of soup from the fridge and as we ate in silence, I noticed dad’s cheeks were wet with tears.  I looked at him with interest.  He silently brushed a tear aside.  “Lucy Isabel was my mother’s name.  Rosalie Anne was Audrey’s mother’s name...” his voice trailed off.

He collected himself and continued, “You would have liked your grandmothers.  My mother was the gentlest humblest woman you could hope to meet.  She adored me but she worshipped my father.  He was the genuine love of her life but I never knew if he returned even a fraction of her love and devotion.”  Another tear trickled down his cheek.

Wiping it away he continued, “Audrey’s mother, Rosalie Baker died in a fire while Audrey was still a baby.  I don’t know the full story but some of the Simfield gossips talked about the hippy Bakers and their faire folk style house with candles everywhere.  Most people attribute it to a candle fire but apparently Rosalie Baker was no Ma Baker in the kitchen, so it’s a toss-up how it happened.

“Did you choose the babies’ names?” I asked.

“Not exactly, I said to your mother that if we had a daughter, maybe we could name her Rosalie Lucy after our mothers.  Maybe that’s why Audrey tried so hard to have twins.”  Let’s go meet your sisters.

The babies lay quietly in their cots but were not asleep. 

I stood back and watched Dad picked up Lucy first, snuggle and play with her before putting her back in her cot. 

Then when dad went to snuggle and play with Rosalie, I picked up Lucy.  I’d never held a baby or a toddler before.  I was fascinated.  I’ll never forget the smell and feel of her.

Kissing her tummy as I played with her was incredible.  I felt my insides turn to marshmallow.  I looked at my father holding and playing with Rosalie and saw the same feelings etched on his expressive aging face.

I know Agnes wants kids and for all I care she can have half a dozen if they make you feel like this.  But first, I resolved I’m going to get dad that Young Again potion.

We swapped babies and snuggled and played with one each.  They began mewling almost simultaneously, so we fed them and changed their nappies.  I was reluctant to put Rosalie down but when dad put Lucy back in her crib I did the same with Rosalie.  I was floored by the experience.  “I have gardening to do,” I said giving dad time alone with his new daughters.

“Give me a minute and I’ll help you with that,” he said evenly.  I went out to the garden in the still warm noon day sun and worked steadily on harvesting the produce.  Dad soon joined me and helped in the garden.

As we worked I told dad that I was going to register with City Hall as a professional Gardener.  I figured even if I was lazy, all I had to do was grow about a dozen Glow Orb mushroom and harvest around 10 or more plants a day at §256 each for a perfect plant, I’d make a reasonable living.  It was a steady commitment because plants still needed care and without glasshouses, would lie dormant over winter, maybe I can make some side money as a painter if Agnes didn’t want to keep her job at the diner.  With my life plan mapped out for Agnes’s perusal, I felt the best I’d felt in... well... forever.

Then my phone rang.  Thinking it was just another person asking for a date, I checked the caller ID first.  It was Chris.  I meant to text him when the girls were born but forgot.  Maybe dad did.  It wasn’t time for Chris to leave work yet so he must be calling in his lunch break. 

“Hi Brandon, no time to explain now but get everyone into their glad rags and meet me next door at the Serenity retreat in half an hour.” And he hung up.  I must have looked at bamboozled as I felt because dad came over to see what was up.

“That was Chris,” I explained and then repeated his instructions to me.

“Let’s go wake your mother... together.  She will probably chew both of us out but it’s good practice for you.” He said.

“Coward!” I said and playfully punched his arm. 

He frowned at first and I thought for a moment that I had gone too far and ruined our new found relationship, but he smiled ironically, “Live and learn, son.  Live and learn.”

We went inside and didn’t need to wake up mum.  She was in the hall talking to this young teen and giving strict instructions for looking after the babies. 

Then she turned and looked at us.  “Get your sweaty smelly bodies upstairs and into a shower now!”  She turned those green eyes on me, “Did you sleep in your suit?  It’s crushed.  I steamed it as best I could and it will just have to do!” 

Then without a backward glance, she turned back to telling the babysitter what she can and can’t do with newborns.

Like co-conspirators Dad and I went upstairs for a quick shower and dutifully trooped downstairs at the appointed time dressed in our finery.  I noticed that mum was wearing a pretty cherry print dress.  It looked great on her and if she had gained any baby weight, it didn’t show.

Still being kept in the dark, dad and I walked behind mum as we walked next door to meet Chris.  He looked every inch Mr Desirable in his usual suit.

He kissed mum and shook dad and my hand and said, “Thanks for coming.  Let’s get this over with first before she changes her mind and runs away.”  We walked around the back and there was Dr Jamie Jolina in a wedding dress!

Chris went straight up to her and whispered something to her, she nodded and together they went to the same wedding arch that mum and dad used.

The music started and I was engrossed.  I just love the emotions of a wedding, the vows, the exchange of rings and the promises of love everlasting.  Chris and Jamie’s wedding was as delightful as it was unexpected.  I wanted this for myself as well.  I wish I had been given the opportunity to know beforehand because I would have liked Agnes to be here with me.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the forum may I present Lucy Isabel St Clair and Rosalie Anne St Clair.


Mr and Mrs Christopher Steel

Where there is love - there is life. -- Mahatma Gandhi

My Stories:
1. Duty Calls
2. Duty Calls Sequel: Islands of Sunset Valley
3. The Lady of the Lake
4. The Secret Time Traveler

Offline RaiaDraconis

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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 25: Triple Whammy
« Reply #66 on: December 29, 2012, 12:43:33 AM »
Total aww-ness! I love how Alistair and Brandon handled things. Just let her do her thing, stay out of the way, and stay alive. :P

Good for Christopher and Jamie. They are such an adorable couple.

Offline Magz from Oz

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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 26: The Wedding Brunch
« Reply #67 on: December 30, 2012, 08:37:47 PM »
Duty Calls Chapter 26:  The Wedding Brunch

After the wedding, we congratulated the happy couple, but Chris warned us we were burning daylight, so we promptly returned home where Chris carried his beautiful bride over the threshold.

Once inside the babysitter swiftly decamped.  I think the girl spent the entire time sunning herself out beside the pool and didn’t go anywhere near the twins who were crying up a storm.  Mum delegated duties like a Sergeant Major.  She and dad would take care of the babies, I would rustle up a wedding lunch, and Chris and Jamie would go upstairs to change clothes and sort out Chris’s things. 

I knew Chris and Jamie would take a long time to change which gave me ample time to make the new recipe I’d wanted to try out.

Over a late lunch, Chris explained the hasty wedding.  He said “A freak flood had devastated Strangetown!  To make matters worse, a blizzard followed in the flood’s path, freezing mud and slush and leaving the town a wreck.  I’d just been promoted to Squad Leader and I have been selected to take a squad to Strangetown to help with the recovery efforts.  Jack said he’s like to go but he has a bunch of responsibilities here in Sunset Valley.”  We all groaned at his terrible pun.

He ate another mouthful of food and we waited until he continued, “Anyway, when I called over to Jamie’s house to tell her why I had to go out of town for a time, she said she already got the notification of the disaster as she had registered a while ago with Doctors Without Borders and they asked her if she wanted to be on the team being sent to Strangetown.”

Jamie took up the story between mouthfuls, “Just so you all know, I registered with Médecins Sans Frontières long before Chris ever came to Sunset Valley.  Of course back then, I didn’t know there would be a reason I would want to stay in Sunset Valley.” She smiled as she glanced over to Chris.

Chris picked up the story.  “To cut a long story short, because we have almost no time, we both have to report to the base at 18:00 hours.  I was delighted that Jamie was going to Strangetown and I offered to help her square away her stuff.  While I probably won’t see her much, I asked her to call me when she had some down time."

"When she didn’t tell me to get lost, I just couldn’t waste the opportunity to put some moves on her and they worked!"

“Once thing led to another and I asked her to go steady.  She said yes.  Not being one to let the grass grow under my feet, I went full throttle and proposed.”

“When she said yes, I knew I didn’t want to wait.  So I rang the resort. They had no previous bookings and Jamie agreed to marry me before we left instead of waiting until we came back or marry in private.  The rest you know.”

“Just so you know, mum, this is not a spur of the moment thing.  I’ve been in love with Jamie since the day I met her.  Just like dad, I was in love at first sight and every single sight since has been bittersweet .  I just sort of hung around and hoped she’d notice me, even a little bit.  I crashed a couple of Thornton Wolf’s parties because I knew she was friends with them.  Eventually she noticed me and we seemed to get along fine but whenever I invited her over she would chicken out or if she came, she would get called back to the hospital for an emergency.  When I still lived at Garden Cottage, I even sent her love letters a couple of times but she never responded,” he said ruefully.

“Just to set the record straight,” Jamie interrupted, “I only take the bills from the mail box and bin the rest.  I don’t read any of it.  I rarely even get the chance to read the newspaper.  This is excellent risotto by the way Brandon, have you ever thought of opening a restaurant of your own.  So where was I?” she asked.

“Oh yes,” she answered herself, “I did notice Chris but I thought he was too young.  I didn’t realise he was singling me out for his attention.  I just thought he was just a bit of a party animal like me.  Also he seemed to be hiding a secret which was just mysterious enough to get all the girls in town interested but which I had neither the time nor inclination to unravel.  I heard it as gospel on the grapevine that he was an undercover secret agent.  I know for a fact that a lot of people checked out your house looking for the secret passage to your underground HQ.”  She wiggled her eyebrows at him.”

“Anyway, I asked my friend Hank Wan but he told me Chris wasn’t in either branch of law enforcement.  So when it was discovered that quiet unassuming Chris Steel was not 007 but none other than Adam St Clair, the missing heir to the St Clair fortune, I didn’t think I stood a chance.  Then everyone began pairing him with Agnes Crumplebottom and I thought that was the end of it.”

“But Chris was always hanging around like a lost stray.  Sometimes when I got off a double shift, he’d be waiting on my doorstep with those sad steel blue puppy dog eyes.  I’d let him in and he would just cook me a meal and sit and watch TV with me and quietly tidy up and leave so I could sleep.  Who could resist a man who feeds you when you’re hungry and doesn’t want small talk when you’re all talked out?”

“Then he began asking me for ideas on how to help his poor troubled little brother,” she smiled at me, “I saw yet another endearing facet to this multi talented man the townies calls Mr Desirable.”

“So to cut a longer story short, I heard the news of the flood in Strangetown last evening and wondered if Chris was going to be among the troops the Governor promised to send there to help with the cleanup.  That was before the blizzard hit and made things worse and Médecins Sans Frontières were called to assist.  I called Jack Bunch who confirmed that he was going to send Chris to lead the squad.”

“Knowing I had to make a move before Chris left town, I rang Cornelia Goth straight away and asked her if she had another magic dress I could wear to snare the man of my dreams.”  She turned to me and said, “Yes Brandon the entire town knows.  Agnes told Cornelia who probably didn’t know that Vita Alto was visiting Cornelia at the time.  So now the entire universe knows of your engagement.”

At that point my mother butted in.  “Yes Brandon, I already know about you and Agnes, but just when exactly were you going to tell your mother you were engaged?” she demanded.

“Hang on a minute,” I protested.  “When have I had the chance?  The only words you’ve spoken to me today have been to order me about: get out of the room, take dad with me, get into the shower and make lunch.  I haven’t even had the chance to say you look fantastic for a woman who just had twins.”

“Yeah well thanks, but I’m wearing a corset which is killing me.  Oh Brandon,” she said with a hurt edge to her voice.  “You should have told me last night.  I had to hear it from Cornelia this morning.” Then she pouted which was nearly my undoing but dad saved my bacon.

“Calm down Audrey,” he said, “Our son had a few issues he needed to speak man to man about first, before he could tell his mother.  When he was ready to tell you, it wasn’t the right time for you.”

“Oh,” she said immediately contrite, “I’m sorry I jumped down your throat, Brandon.  Today’s been a bit hectic hasn’t it?  Please go on Jamie, I love hearing your side of this?”  I was startled by mum’s ability to change from anger to hurt to curiosity in the space of a minute or so.  I wonder if I’ll ever learn how to keep up with a woman.  Agnes seemed to have mercurial mood swings too.  I guess dad’s right, live and learn.  But if they can write pregnancy books for parents-to-be, why can’t they write skill book for husband’s-to-be?

Jamie smiled and resumed, “So...back to me.  I understand that Cornelia rang Audrey last night as both of them were at my door before dawn with another dress from the Date Night range and a wedding dress.  Before I could try either on, Audrey went into labour and had to leave.”  So that explained why mum was up and dressed at the crack of dawn, I thought.

Jamie continued, “Well, I planned to phone Chris before he went to work to ask him to come over later, but my beeper went off before I had the chance to make the call.  I was called back to the hospital, so, naturally, I was still in surgical scrubs instead of the dress when Chris showed up on my doorstep with his little story and how much he was going to miss me.”

“So there I was trying to figure out a way I could seduce him with just my charms when he started flirting with me and the rest you know.  Except he had this silly idea that I might change my mind about marrying him now that he doesn’t have the St Clair fortune behind him and he’s just a poor soldier trying to make a living.  Plus, he thinks I need someone more cerebral than him.  But” she said mischievously, “I’m prepared to spend the rest of my life finding ways to tell him why we’re so perfect together.”

“Well, my darling,” Chris said pulling Jamie to her feet, “Now that you’ve spilled all our inner secrets to my family, how about we get moving?  You said you wanted to do a handover of some patients to the new doctor at the hospital and we have a plane to catch.  And spoiler notice Mrs Steel, whenever you can spare an hour of your time over the next fifty years, I’m going to show you why we’re so perfect for each other.”

“Ooh,” she grinned playfully.  “A whole hour!  I think I can rearrange my schedule for that!”

We all got up from the table and I offered to wash up.  Chris and Jamie stopped for a smooch in the hall.  “Oi Brandon! Catch!” he said and threw some keys at me which I barely caught. “Congratulations, you just scored the cruiser for a wedding present.  If you’re not married by the time I return, I want my car back!”  His car?!?

Chris and Jamie went in to see Lucy and Rosalie before going upstairs.  When they clame out I was still cleaning up.  The acoustics in the hall must be very good because I heard every word they said.  Chris whispered, “We don’t have an hour” to which Jamie whispered back, “Pffft.  You don’t need an hour, ten minutes tops...”

Where there is love - there is life. -- Mahatma Gandhi

My Stories:
1. Duty Calls
2. Duty Calls Sequel: Islands of Sunset Valley
3. The Lady of the Lake
4. The Secret Time Traveler

Offline RaiaDraconis

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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 26: The Wedding Brunch
« Reply #68 on: December 30, 2012, 11:42:43 PM »
That was a sweet backstory for Christopher and Jamie. It makes Chris all the more endearing of a character. It will be sad to see the two of them leave town, though it sounds like they'll be back eventually. :)

A "bunch" of responsibilities...baaad pun, Chris. :P


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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 26: The Wedding Brunch
« Reply #69 on: December 31, 2012, 04:21:04 AM »
And there I thought Brandon was getting married. :P
Congrats to Chris and Jamie!

Offline Magz from Oz

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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 27: Goodbyes and Heartbreak
« Reply #70 on: January 02, 2013, 03:17:46 PM »
Duty Calls Chapter 27:  Goodbyes and Heartbreak

Chris and Jamie went upstairs as I continued tidying up in the kitchen.  Lost in the contemplation and excitement of my impending wedding and the even more pleasant thoughts of our wedding night, mum derailed my train of thought.  “So Brandon”, she said, “Let’s talk about your wedding!”  I flushed bright red because of where my thoughts had been drifting.

“Nothing’s decided yet.  I have a date with Agnes tonight when she finishes her shift,” I said, “I’ll find out about her plans and let you know, I promise!  You won’t have to hear them from Cornelia Goth.”  Just then, one of the babies cried and mum looked around for dad who seemed to have disappeared.  Then the crying became louder and in stereo. 

“Make sure you tell me immediately!” she called back as she went into the nursery.

I wondered what Agnes had in mind.  I happily let my thoughts drift back to the wedding as I continued cleaning up.  I hope we can afford for Agnes and I to go to France for our honeymoon because I do not want a houseful of family knowing about our bedroom activities.  Maybe Chris is totally unaware that his bedroom is directly over the kitchen but the sounds I hear from above don’t sound like packing to me.  Chimes?  Did I just hear chimes?

By the time I’d finished straightening the kitchen and sorting the contents of the fridge; Jamie and Chris were downstairs ready to go.  We wished them well for their new life together and luck with their respective tasks in the rescue and recovery efforts in Strangetown.  Mum assured them we would be glued to the TV each night to catch the any news from Strangetown.

They left and mum let out a heartfelt sigh, then a sob, but seconds later Chris came back to give mum a special hug before leaving again.  The special hug left mum in smiles and once again I was in awe at her total unpredictability.  I never noticed this aspect of her before.  I wonder if it’s just mum or females in general.  I’d better ask dad.

I changed out of my formal clothes and put a load of laundry on.  As I went outside to finish tending the garden, I noticed dad napping on the deckchair in the shade and left him be.  I worked steadily in the garden making sure I allowed myself plenty of time to shower and change before meeting Agnes.  When I went back inside, I noticed dad had obviously finished his nap.  Those deck chairs had been surprisingly comfortable and I wondered how often I’d be seeing dad snoozing on them over the next few weeks. 

I’m going to max out cooking, learn the Ambrosia recipe and then concentrate on maxing logic because twin daughters was a young man’s caper not really suitable for an elder.  What a pity Jamie had to go so soon after joining the family, her genius trait might have come in handy.

I arrived at the Diner in plenty of time to meet Agnes.  I ran into some friends who all congratulated me on our engagement.  I hoped that they’d all be gone by the time Agnes gets off work as she’d feel uncomfortable with so many people around and knowing her private business.

Finally Agnes emerged from the Diner.  Fortunately only a couple of friends stayed to offer their congratulations.  By the time we’d escaped from them though, the final show at Performance Park was over.  Instead we strolled along sidewalk towards the Fae Ray Arboretum.  I told her all about my day and she told me about hers. 

She turned to me, “I want to apologise for breaking the news to Cornelia without first checking whether she was alone.  I guess I just wasn’t thinking there’d be any visitors there at that time of night.  I’m really sorry that the rest of the town was informed before you had the chance to tell your mother.  Cornelia told me that your mum didn’t know.”  She said it as a statement but I knew she wanted to know why I hadn’t told mum last night.

“Yeah, mum was asleep when I got home last night and then Chris and I had a long chat.”  I was definitely not admitting the subject of my talk with Chris.  “Then dad and I talked man to man right through the night into the morning.  I wish I had woken mum because I know she was hurt that I didn’t."

“Oh,’ she said, “I totally understand that you didn’t want to wake your mother so close to her time.  You’re far more considerate than Cornelia, who had no hesitation at ringing Audrey in the early hours of the morning to help select a special dress for Jamie.  I hope you took photographs of the wedding.”

“Of course!  Speaking of which, have you decided on a time, date and place for our wedding.  Mum is champing at the bit to know the details?” I asked as we reached the Arboretum.

The Arboretum was a bit crowded and it was difficult to find an area all to ourselves.  We sat down and Agnes turned to me, “Is tomorrow too soon for you, because I really don’t see the need for waiting?” she asked timidly.

I gently held her head and kissed her, “I don’t want to wait.  Tomorrow’s perfect.  It’s your day off so we have all day and evening.  Although for the babysitter, daytime would be probably be better.  Do you have a location in mind?"  I asked wondering if she’d like to use the wedding arch at the Serenity Resort.  It had sort of become a family tradition.

“I want to be married at the Claude Monet Artist Gardens.  They are so beautiful and it’s probably my favourite spot in the whole town.” Agnes replied as she proceeded to blaze a trail of little kisses along my neck and across my jaw towards my lips.

Concentrate Brandon!  I told myself.  “Okay, that’s nice,” I replied feeling my insides melt.  “It’s good that the venue has a special meaning for you and the Gardens are spectacular.  Have you decided on a time?"

“I suppose given that your mother has babies to tend to and you have the garden, would midday be good for you?” she asked in between kisses so hot they’ve almost liquefied my self control.

Concentrate Brandon or put a stop to this!  “Dawn would be good for me but impractical for everyone else.” I answered truthfully.  “I’d marry you right now but mum would have a hissy fit about missing out.”

“Hmm... so would Cornelia,” she agreed between kisses.  I had to stop Agnes from destroying my last shred of self control.

“Oh my stars... Agnes stop!” I said needing to put some breathing space between us.

“Whaaat...?” she said dazed.

“I need to drive you home before I get arrested for indecent behaviour in public.” I pleaded.

“There’s no such charge,” she responded, “but I take your point.  I have my own car.”  Reluctantly she unglued herself from my body.  If anything her breathing was more ragged then mine.  She took a minute to collect herself.  “Okay, my prudent fiancé, I’ll meet you at the wedding arch at the Claude Monet Artist Gardens at noon tomorrow.”

She gave me a goodbye kiss that knocked my socks off.  “Bye” she whispered.  I wondered how soon after the ceremony I could decently take Agnes somewhere very private and... Oh nuts!  I forgot to ask if she’d planned a lunch or something afterwards.  I’m sure if she had, she’d have mentioned it.  I went home to blissful dreams of Agnes and I having a wonderful honeymoon.

The morning was chaos, the babies would not settle and everything that could go wrong, went wrong.  Mum left early to go to the salon to get a new dress.  She said she couldn’t wear the same dress two weddings in a row.  Why on earth not?  What was wrong with the Armani dress she wore every day?  It was very flattering and more stylish than anything the rest of the townies wore.

“I’ll meet you and your father there.” She called, “Don’t be late.  Get the mail for me will you.  There’ll probably be a lot of mail for Chris and Jamie that we will have to forward”.

Dad and I waited forever for the babysitter to show.  It was a young lad this time, which would please mum, the girl from yesterday had been neglectful.  I grabbed the mail and sorted through it in the car since dad chose to drive.

As I sorted through mostly Chris’s mail, one large envelope was addressed to me but there was no return address. 

I opened the envelope which seemed to hold some photographs and got the shock of my life.  There was a printed note that simply read, “You need to know this!  Look at the time stamp!”

I think I was still in shock when we arrived.  I saw mum and Agnes with Cornelia near the pond over to the left so I grabbed dad’s jacket sleeve and steered him over to the sculpture garden on the right.

"You haven’t developed cold feet have you Brandon?” dad asked concerned.

“Dad, take a look at these.”  I said as I handed him the two photographs.  “Look at the time stamp!  Those photographs were taken four hours after we got engaged!”

Where there is love - there is life. -- Mahatma Gandhi

My Stories:
1. Duty Calls
2. Duty Calls Sequel: Islands of Sunset Valley
3. The Lady of the Lake
4. The Secret Time Traveler

Offline RaiaDraconis

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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 27: Goodbyes and Heartbreak
« Reply #71 on: January 02, 2013, 03:53:02 PM »
Oh that adds a whole new twist to things. Poor Brandon!

Ooh, I daresay that Christopher and Jamie won't be gone for too long. Jamie may be sent home early if there's a nooboo on the way. :)

Offline Magz from Oz

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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 28: Damage Control
« Reply #72 on: January 03, 2013, 04:17:25 AM »
Duty Calls Chapter 28:  Damage Control

Dad was deeply shocked by the photographs.  “You need to speak to Agnes right away.” He said, “There must be some sort of logical explanation.  I don’t know the girl all that well, but she didn’t seem the type who would cheat on a new fiancé on the night of her engagement.”

“Of course she didn’t cheat on me!” I said heatedly.  “You’re right, you don’t know Agnes well.  But I forgive you for jumping to that conclusion.  I think it was the conclusion I was meant to make too.  Those photos were probably photo-shopped but even if they weren’t, I know there’s a reasonable explanation!  No!  What breaks my heart is that there is someone out there trying to wreck our happiness.  Agnes and I have acquired an enemy!”

“Well Agnes, at least!” dad responded.  “If you had an enemy, Agnes would have been sent salacious photos of you in compromising situations.  Brandon, I’m proud of you.  Most people would think the worst on seeing those photos but you’ve stood by your fiancée.  You are indeed the man you were meant to be.”

“Well logic prevailed dad, but the emotional me is still ravaged.” I said wryly.  “Agnes told me that everything a Crumplebottom did in this town was news and that if she so much as talked to a man, the gossips went into melt down.  We spent an hour or so last night in the company of her friends and not one of them mentioned another man in Agnes’s life.  I believe if those pictures were not photo-shopped then she has been betrayed by someone she knows very well because a Sim can’t share a bed with an acquaintance.” I was deeply distressed that someone would deliberately set out to hurt my beloved Agnes.

“That’s true,” dad said, “We can show them their strategy didn’t work.  Let’s get you two married before your mother has a conniption fit.”

“No dad,” I said, “right now, we have an enemy prepared to stage photos to try to break us up.  If we marry in public, who knows what might happen next?  I don’t think this hatred is directed solely toward Agnes because the perpetrator has had years to hurt her and hasn’t.  I think this attack is generated by the fact that we are engaged?  I think it’s an attempt to stop this wedding.  Let’s not make the perpetrator desperate to do more damage until we can find out what’s going on.”

“That makes sense,” dad said. “What are you suggesting instead?”

“I’m taking Agnes to France or China or possibly Egypt in case we’re in mortal danger,” I replied.  “In the meantime, you contact Jamie’s friend Hank Wan and start an investigation into who the man in the photograph is.  I want to know who he is and how he was able to get into her house.  It’s someone Agnes knows very well so Cornelia may know him too.  Find him and get an explanation.  He must have a co-conspirator because someone took those photographs of him with Agnes.”

“Okay, that sounds reasonable but I think your mother is going to be miffed at being deprived of a wedding,” he said ruefully.  Just then our phones rang simultaneously.

Dad answered his first and he didn’t need speaker phone for me to hear every word, “There’d better be a good explanation as to why you two aren’t here!” mum’s voice shrilled.”

I got a more subdued voice full of tears, “Are we still getting married?” Agnes asked.

“Yes my love, but not here and not right now.  Something has happened.  Take mum and Cornelia and go to Goth Manor.  Don’t leave their side.  That’s imperative and non-negotiable.  I will meet you there soon.  Remember Agnes, I love you with every beat of my heart.  I wouldn’t do this unless it was unavoidable.”

“Are you sure it’s unavoidable?  Come over here so we can discuss this,” she begged.

“Agnes, if I thought it was safe, believe me I would.  But you’re too important to me to take unnecessary risks.  Do you trust me?” I asked concern thickening my voice.

“With my life,” she replied.

“Well I hope it won’t come to that.  Trust me Agnes, something evil is afoot and I really believe us marrying here today is dangerous.  Please go to Goth Manor and dad and I will meet you there as soon as we can.” I asked.  She hung up and dad and I watched them depart.

I didn’t observe anyone closely watching the departing party but an Egyptian tourist who was using the easels left shortly afterwards on foot. 

Dad and I looked briefly at his painting as we left.  The tourist was not much of a painter.  I said to dad, “Take those photos to Hank Wan.  See what he can discover, I’m going to follow that tourist.  Dad took the photographs and left in the cruiser.  I ran after the tourist, then followed him at a discrete distance all the way to City Hall, where he went inside.  That’s really odd, I thought, I’d never seen tourists go into the buildings.  I watched City Hall from across the street in the park.  I waited for a while but he didn’t come out.  Instead I was joined by dad who saw me when he came out of the Police Station.

“Did you find out anything useful?” I asked.

“Well the photos are not fakes.  Hank Wan identified the man as Dave Ramsey, a local paparazzi.  Hank says he is certain Ramsey has gone with the press contingent to Strangetown to cover the disaster and is not available for questioning.  Hank believes the bedroom is Agnes’s but he had no idea whether Agnes knew Ramsey or how he got into her house or her bed.  How did it go with the tourist?” he asked.

“He went into City Hall and is yet to emerge.  How long does a tour last?” I asked.

“I’ve no idea,” dad replied.  “A couple of hours maybe?  He may be an innocent tourist you know.”

“Okay.  We’re burning daylight as Chris would say.  I’ll send an email to Chris and ask him if he can track down Dave Ramsey and get some sort of explanation from him.  Right now let’s get to Goth Manor.  We’ll go first to the house and pick up some fishing gear and then to Pinnochle Pond.  From there we’ll go to Goth Manor.”

“Do you want to change first?” he asked. “Your red jacket could be seen for miles through a telescope.

“No,” I said.  “If someone is watching us I want them to see my red jacket at Pinnochle Pond.  Let them think they’ve succeeded and give us breathing space.  We’ll change there and go across country to Goth Manor.

At home we grabbed our gear and a change of clothes.  As we walked to the fishing hole, we kept looking over our shoulders but no-one followed us.

I began fishing while dad changed his clothes behind a bush.  Then I changed.  In Chris’s old camouflage fatigues we may not be so easy to spot.  Unhurriedly, we walked to Goth Manor.  We’ll be harder to spot walking casually.  The eye can easily detect movement if something is moving fast.  Two military guys out for a stroll may go unnoticed.

When we arrived at Goth Manor, we were let in by hostile albeit curious Cornelia.  “Well well well!  This better be good soldier boys?” she warned.  “Agnes and Audrey are in the living room.  We haven’t answered our phones which have been ringing almost non-stop.”

Dad and I changed out of our disguises into our suits.  “Trust me Cornelia, I’m not being melodramatic.” I said.  “How well do you know Dave Ramsey?”

“The paparazzi guy? I barely know him.” She said, “Why?”

“Dad, show Cornelia the photographs.  Look at the time stamp” I said. 

Dad gave her the photos.  She gasped in shock.  “That’s ridiculous.  Agnes wouldn’t do that.  They’re fake!” she ranted as she threw them on the counter.

“No they’re not.  Hank Wan had them analysed by his own people.  Those are real, but we believe they are a setup.”

“Of course they are!”  Cornelia said with shock and rage thickening her voice.  “Who would do that to Agnes?  She has no enemies”

“We aim to find out,” dad said.

“I’m calling Gunther, he still has resources and we can do this discretely.” Cornelia said in a tight voice through clenched teeth.  “I can’t believe anyone can be that nasty to Agnes after all she’s been through.”

Just then mum and Agnes walked into the kitchen.  “We heard shouting.  What’s going on?”  mum said as Agnes saw the photographs on the counter.  I made a grab for them but Agnes was closer and got to them first.  Her face was ashen as she examined each photo.  “Is that what this is all about?  These are not real.  I didn’t sleep with Dave Ramsey.  Not ever.  You have to believe me.  I wouldn’t cheat on you!”  Her voice started as a whisper but rose in intensity with each word as tears glistened in her eyes.

“Darling Agnes, I know you didn’t.  I didn’t believe that for a second.” I said as I held her, “but we need to know who did this to us.  But more importantly, we need to find out why.  Without the reason, we may be endlessly walking into traps set for us.  You obviously know Dave Ramsey well.  What can you tell us about him?”

“Oh, he was Erik’s best friend.  They were very close and naturally we became friends.  Dave told me a while ago that he wants to move into regular journalism and so I introduced him to Simis Bachelor.  I last saw him about a week ago.  I honestly didn’t think he was mean enough to do something like this.  It’s awful to find out an old friend could be so wicked.”

“Well he had help.  He couldn’t get into your house on his own.” I said.

“Oh Erik probably let him in.  Do you think Erik is behind this?  He likes to frighten gentlemen callers but I can’t believe he would do something like this.” Agnes said sadly

“Your late husband’s ghost is in your house?” I asked incredulously.

“Yes, his gravestone is on my lot.  Where else would it be?” she replied.

Cornelia interceded at this point, “At the graveyard, where it should have been all along.  Agnes, you’re moving on.  I’ll get rid of Erik’s pathetic ghost as soon as I can!”

“Yes, of course, you’re right,” Agnes said, “but I still don’t think he’s jealous enough to do this.  He likes to frighten people but he wouldn’t deliberately hurt me.  Someone else is using him to get to me... someone alive.”  She paused and sighed, “How do you know it’s someone who hates me?  Why not someone who’s hates Brandon?”

“I do have someone who dislikes me, but given the time of the photographs, my enemy wouldn’t have had the time or the resources to be responsible for this deception.  Besides, dad and I think this person doesn’t necessarily hate you but is just determined to stop this wedding.” I said carefully choosing my words, “So Agnes, my beloved, how about we rectify that immediately.  Will you do me the honour of becoming my wife in a private wedding instead of a public one?”

“Yes,” she said her soft voice not nearly as sure as I’d like to hear it, but given all that has just happened; I was content with the simple yes.

“Not here in the kitchen,” said Cornelia.  Use the living room, it’s nicer.  We went into the living room.  I took Agnes’s hand in mine as mum, dad and Cornelia watched with avid interest.

Sincerely from my heart, I said, “My darling Agnes, as I stand here with you and our gathered family, there are many things I could promise you.  I could promise that I will love you for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish from this day forward, till death do us part.  But that vow is for idealistic couples who celebrate a romantic love.  We share more than that.  I am certain of our love and that love is strong enough to last forever.  Our love will carry us through when things become difficult, when we are too tired, when we haven’t had the time to talk because of work, when our lives become dull and routine, and when the more difficult side of life overshadows the better one.  When all those things happen and more, our love will hold us together.”

“I believe that the our love is the kind that strengthens the soul, that makes us reach for more, that lights a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds. That’s what you’ve given me.  That’s what I hope to give to you forever.”

“You are my love and my very best friend.  You are the embodiment of what love is for me.  I promise to give you my heart, all of it and my soul.  I give you me.”

I placed the ring on her finger.  She placed her hand over mine and looked into my eyes and said in a trembling whisper, “My dearest Brandon, in front of the witness here present, I accept your love.  In return I promise you my life, every moment of every day.  I promise you a life spent trying to make you happy.  I promise you love, in the purest and strongest form I can ever give.  I will love you unconditionally.  I may not always get it right but I promise you that I will spend everyday for the rest of my life trying.”

“You are someone real and vital to me.  You make mistakes but it doesn’t mean you don’t try your best.  In fact, it’s what I love about you.  You have no illusions of perfection or greatness or even of deserving great things.  You are honest, sincere, and most of all, a gentle man and a gentleman.”

“And as selfish as it may seem, I want to be the one beside you as you live your life.  I want to be the one to take care of you, the one you come home to, and the one you hold every night.”

“You are my light and my life.  When I look at you, I know that I love you in my mind and my heart.  I love you for my soul.  I promise you the rest of my life.”

Agnes placed the ring on my finger and we kissed with the promise of love in every beat of our hearts.

Dad wiped a tear from his eyes.  “That was so beautiful,” dad said.  Then they hugged and congratulated us. 

Dad clapped his hand on my shoulder.  “Okay, you two go off to France.  China is not a good option there is only one private room and Egypt has none at all just tents.  I’ve taken the liberty of packing some stuff for you.  Audrey and I will tell people that you’ve gone to Bridgeport to drown your sorrows in the night life.  Cornelia can tell people that Agnes has gone somewhere else.  Chris can track down this Ramsey character and find out why he was involved in this and if possible, who’s behind it.”

Cornelia said, “I’ll tell people Agnes has gone to our cousins in Moonlight Falls and don’t worry little sister, in your absence, we will find out who did this to you two.  Be happy and be careful.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Ladies and gentlemen of the Forum, May I present to you, Brandon and Agnes Crumplebottom.  (Well Agnes did propose.)

Where there is love - there is life. -- Mahatma Gandhi

My Stories:
1. Duty Calls
2. Duty Calls Sequel: Islands of Sunset Valley
3. The Lady of the Lake
4. The Secret Time Traveler

Offline Schipperke

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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 28: Damage Control
« Reply #73 on: January 03, 2013, 06:52:04 PM »
Magz, I've just been catching up with your story, and all I can say is Wow!  You have drawn Agnes as a very poignant, compelling character, which is just how I see her.  I'm glad Dr Simgund was able to give some useful advice.  ;)

And that wedding scene was just beautiful.  Very nicely done!
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Offline RaiaDraconis

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Re: Duty Calls Chapter 28: Damage Control
« Reply #74 on: January 03, 2013, 06:52:16 PM »
The plot thickens. :) I have a theory as to who may be involved...but I'm not saying anything. Here's hoping the newlyweds have a good time abroad!