"Better let's go eat." I had kinda figured it was my cousin Amber. She had been at my side while I cried and out of everyone I she was the only one who really felt like a mothering type or at least that's what I felt.
"Can I umm." I hesitated wondering why I suddenly had this thought. "What?" She asked.
"Can I introduce you to someone?" I spoke softly.
"Sure who?" I got up and went into the hall pushing open my parents bedroom door. Jace, Albert, and Yellow were there and Jewel was standing gripping on to the edge of the playpen in the corner watching everyone. My father was sitting on the bed looking out the window with his back to me.
"Dad can we take a plate to Shelly?" I asked.
"Sure there's plenty of food just stay in the backyard." His voice seemed fine but he never turned from looking out the window. I ducked back pulling on the door feeling like an intruder in my parents bedroom. I headed to the dining room with Amber following making my way around guests, some who stopped me to say hello. I waited for a canine and some odd lapine probably a hybrid before I stepped up to serve two plates using real plates instead of paper ones. As Amber served herself I made the suggestion that we should maybe take a fourth plate. She made another and we both tried walking out the back door and across the backyard trying not to drop pr allow something to fall off one of the plates.
Carefully placing one dinner on the rail next to the back door I knocked loudly, took the plate, and stepped back down. *thump * *Thump * Thump * I watched Shelly pull open the back door when her footsteps got close enough. I couldn't stop myself from grinning as she stared down at me, "Shelly I would like to ask you and your father to join us for dinner."
"Just a moment he's in the restroom." She informed me while a voice quickly called out behind her, "No, no I'm here." Mr Thaner stepped behind his daughter just a few seconds later pulling the door all the way open. Shelly hopped down the steps and as her father stepped out I tried to sound somewhat formal, "Sir, would you like to eat with us?" I asked holding out the plate.
"Alright." He said taking a glance back at the clock before he too stepped down and took the plate from my hand. When I turned I saw Shelly was already sitting on the grass next to Amber who was passing over one of the plates.
"Mr. Thaner, Shelly, I'd like you to meet my cousin Amber." I spoke while sitting down myself on the other side of Shelly. "Amber this is Shelly and her father Mr. Thaner."
"Hmmp. Amber, I'm guessing the same one we saw before, just after we moved in here?" Amber was nodding in response receiving an odd look from the male before she offered a hello.
"And hello and nice to meet you too Shelly." She spoke offering a hand to the young canine.
"Hi Amber." She had stopped herself from biting into a chicken thigh to shake hands.
"Anyone else coming?" Mr. Thaner look up over towards my house as he sat down on the steps.
"No. Someone you'd like to see." Amber spoke before quickly adding. "Or not see?" The two exchanged a glance before the male dog shrugged. "No worries my mother is still likely locked in the bathroom after Ben told her off." I stopped eating after the first bite almost dropping the corn I hand in my hands.
"What did you do?" Shelly half whispered causing me to lay my ears back flat.
"Now none of that Ben Eat! You did what you needed to do and that's that. Mother wouldn't have understood any other way unless you really had tossed her out." I flinched when she said that no longer feeling angry or powerful now it was just shamed that I had taken things so far.
"What exactly did he do?" Mr. Thaner asked now interested as well.
Amber wiped her fingers through the grass. "We should have brought napkins." "Sec." Mr. Thaner placed his plate down and went inside returning just a moment later with a pile of napkins. "Eat." Amber said again when she noticed I had still not touched the food on my plate besides the one bite of corn and Shelly gave me a little nudge as well before I started eating the corn again.
"So?" Mr. Thaner spoke looking at me but I just shook my head and kept chewing.
"Oh you'll love this. Mom had cornered Allen and with everyone sitting in the living room she tried to force him to admit he didn't need the car." Mr. Thaner was shaking his head already as she started. "Ben was suddenly there yelling telling her she didn't deserve to have his mom's car. She wanted Lucy's car bad especially since she has to wait for Jace all the time since he outright refused to let her drive his truck. Anyway she tried to turn Ben around with the family thing and how he didn't care and he literally exploded and told her the only reason he wasn't going to toss her out was because she was family." Mr Thaner started to chuckle looking at me like it was something good only I knew what was coming and there was no way he was going to laugh at that. Again I felt my ears flatten causing him to put on a puzzled expression as Amber continued. "I'm not sure exactly what happened but Ben had a hold of her tail and when she raised a paw he dared her to hit him and told her he would put her in the same hospital bed as his mother. Of course all that was after he called her a bitch and told his father to be quiet."
I flinched with the word and again when Shelly and her father looked at me. They both stared at me and it was like I could feel the disapproval like it was crawling across my fur. "Eat Ben or I will get your father and tell him you aren't." With little choice I picked up a piece of chicken and started in not willing to let my eyes move past my plate.
It was Mr. Thaner who spoke first finally breaking the silence, "Sometimes family cam be like that." It certainly wasn't approval but I couldn't pick out any harshness to the words.
"Indeed!" My fathers voice came from behind me causing the three of us on the grass to turn. "So Mark, I wanted to ask before and I am sorry I didn't find the time but are you going to come to the memorial service tomorrow?" I turned back watching him chew for a moment and consider.
"I'm not sure I want to. Besides I'm not really one to be on a boat." He stated.
"But, I really want to gooooo." Shelly called with nearly a whine. "You are!" I said before she had even finished her oo's, "You can ride with us." We both looked to her father who just nodded.
"So you really thinking of being the first in our family to step out of race eh." I looked up to see Amber grinning then giving me a solid wink. Leaving me a little puzzled for a moment as Mr. Thaner spoke.
"I don't think so." He grumbled.
"Why not the two of them are obviously close, and they got the whole next door neighbor thing going for them." She spoke out waving from me to Shelly and back.
Mr. Thaner growled lightly but Shelly raised her voice, "Dad and I have already talked about it. I know what we can and can't do and for now that's enough." even as she spoke she moved a little closer making me realize exactly what 'stepping out of race' meant.
Amber stifled a little laugh at my sudden realization while informing me, "You have your work cut out for you especially with this family but at least it seems you have someone willing to help. To bad you can't flash her or something."
"Amber!" My father suddenly jumped into the conversation. "That is enough."
She looked abash, "Sorry I apologize I shouldn't have said that. I forgot you're still a little young."
"Exactly!" Mr Thaner stated for emphasis.
"It just kinda slipped out I've been giving Thomas a bad time since he can't seem to decide which girl he wants to take out." She tired to explain.
Somehow being called young had gotten me to find a voice and say something very stupid trying to make myself be older. "I kinda flashed her but I wasn't trying to do that." I mumbled. That had three sets of hard adult stares nailed at the two of us.
Shelly squirmed under the looks and broke, "I wanted to tell you but..." I was looking at Mr. Thaner when she spoke up wanting more than anything to explain how none of it was her fault with the sudden dark look of her father. It took me a few seconds before I was able to say exactly that, "It wasn't her fault."
I watched as he slowly put his plate to the side and turn his full attention on me I could see a small line of teeth that seem barely held in check by his lips as I tried to find my voice. "When I was sick on, on Thursday." I blurted out, "Shelly came over." We looked at each other and I could see her little head shake but it was far to late now.
Amber gave her a little pat on the shoulder as she spoke sensing both of our worry and fear. "Whatever happened it's okay."
"It is NOT!!" Mr. Thaner roared ending with a growl that had his lips curled up and me nearly feeling the need to wet myself.
It was my father who somehow made himself heard and understood, "Mark use your head! He was sick and he hasn't even told us what happened yet. I know he couldn't have done anything he was nearly comatose."
Shelly's dad was still growling and chuffing but at a much quieter volume and at least he didn't look like he was going to leap at me. The only thing I could think of at the moment were the words he had spoken to me earlier. "You told me not to be stupid. And mom told me not to lie." I added on realizing that I was just spitting out some words. But for some reason they seemed to work and he visibly calmed down, at least enough that I could feel I wasn't in serious danger. I could suddenly feel Shelly gripping my hand but when I looked over her eyes were closed.
More than anything right then I wanted her dad to trust us along with my father even if it seemed like we had done something that they were both were going to be seriously upset over. Taking a deep breath I tried to spill out the full story. "In the morning I thought I had a migraine and I had fallen asleep that night with my pants on. I tried to get them off or Dad took them off, I'm not sure. But then later Shelly was there, after school. She was trying to tell me something was wrong."
She interrupted me, "You wouldn't wake up. I tried and tried... but when he finally did wake up he fell of the bed and threw up." With that her mouth slammed shut and her lips sealed. I sat there staring at her for several seconds before Mr. Thaner said, "And?" trying to keep the story going.
"Well I didn't have my pants on so... I was in my underwear." I spoke quietly. He kept staring at me like I don't know part of me was really worried he might start growling again. We didn't really do anything I told myself, "If.. if she hadn't helped me I would have died."
"Help you?" My Dad prompted. "Well I don't really remember she was trying to get me to the kitchen and I remember laying on the counter. I don't really remember well."
It was several bits of broken words but Shelly added. "He was heavy... I had to keep grabbing his arm... grabbing on his underwear to keep him up."
"I remember her telling me she had to leave and she was dead if you found out." I put in.
"I shouldn't have left I'm sorry Ben." It was the first solid set of words that I heard come out of her mouth and the way they were said made me reach over but she was pulled away wrapped up by Amber. "I didn't know you could DIE!" She started a small whine which quickly stopped but I could tell she was crying. I rubbed her back as I picked up the plate and retrieved the dumped chicken, bones, and bread placing them back onto the plate and setting it aside.
I looked around for a moment before finishing, "So she saw me and I don't want you to be upset with her."
"BEN!" Mr Thaner had stood up and was now standing over me, "She saw you or she saw you underwear." I had no choice but to look up at him.
"No not... My underwear, Amber said I should try flashing her, I thought we should let you know the truth." I could still feel his gaze had on me as I looked down.
"Flashing means showing off your fur or private areas. Did you do that?" I looked up surprised shaking my head vigorously.
"I figured as much." My dad was almost chuckling, "You really should know by now that you can trust my son and your daughter. I think he was remembering how Lucy always got upset with a short skirts which she called flashing, but she meant panties."
Though it was hard to understand Shelly was trying to make herself heard, "I didn't mean to dad really."
"Young one if you had just left Ben or anyone who really needed help, just walked away because they were in their underwear or even less, you wouldn't be Ben's friend. If someone is truly hurt or needs help you don't turn away and tell them to get dressed first." Mr. Thaner grunted again at Amber's words but did nothing to contradict her.
"Besides," She spoke looking directly at Shelly's father, "I think it would be wonderful if my daughter found someone as honest as Ben. At least I would know I'd get the truth if something had happened and not some half lie."
"WELL I wouldn't expect any of my kids or grand kids to lie!" A new voice spoke walking up to us from between the houses.
"Pops!" My father called rushing forward giving the elder cat a hug. "Grandpa?" I asked quickly getting up and walking over.
He moved just enough so he could hug me as well. "I wanted to let you know your mom and I are here now." He spoke to my father, "I left her back at the hotel to rest."
"But how? On the phone you were sure you couldn't make it." My father spoke.
"No, I said we couldn't fly, its been a long nineteen hours of driving over the last two days but we got here. And your sister said she should be here sometime late tonight. She's taking a plane and left Tom, the kids, and the baby behind."
"I didn't think any of you would come. It's not like there.."
My grandfather interrupted him, "Son you can count on your family. We maybe spread out now but this is far more important than some birthday or promotion. You need us." He gave both of us a hug again, "Sorry I need to get back to Nancy. The drive was rather hard on her and she's been having a lot of trouble with her leg."
"What?" Amber called out, "No introduction, no dinner? Just gonna leave?"
"Young lady." I could feel my grandfathers voice harden just slightly like his body. "I will not leave my wife for very long, certainly not for a meal. Introductions can and will be made tomorrow when you can meet both of us, together, like it should be." With that he turned and left.
"Well that was kinda rude." She said after she was sure he was out of earshot while picking up the plates left on the ground.
"Amber you will understand tomorrow when you meet Nancy. Honestly I wasn't sure I would be seeing mom again unless I found time to go back and visit." I only half understood what dad meant knowing only that grandma didn't travel anymore. Suddenly I was feeling tired and following a simple compulsion I grabbed Dad and pulled myself to him pressing my head against his shoulder. He returned the hug patting me on the back. Although it was barely a whisper I heard him say, "Anything you need?"
"Sleep." I muttered. He pulled away and took my shoulders giving me a quick look over.
"That is probably a good idea we need to be up early tomorrow." I turned to head inside but was quickly stopped by Shelly who grabbed my arm. With a smile we both turned towards each other and embraced and for the first time I didn't hear even a little grunt from her father. I gave a quick glance over before letting go seeing that he was turning away but that he had obviously saw us hugging.
Even before I was able to take two steps Amber blocked my way with my plate stating that I had to finish eating inside. With a sigh I accepted the rest of my meal and heard her making proper goodbyes to both Shelly and her father. I quickly devoured what was on the plate moving to the kitchen to put what was left in the trash which was again over flowing. I guess Yellow who was in the kitchen notice my slight distress and pulled the bucket out, "I'll take that out now."
I heard voices drop off as I tried to make my way through the crowed living room and the suddenly louder voice of my Aunt proclaiming, "Far to young." I turned back to look at her sitting on the far side of the couch empty plate in her lap with one of our nearly never used wine glasses in her hand. Rather than cause any more trouble I kept going reaching my door when I suddenly decided to enter my parents room.
Amber's husband, Ron or Ray I wasn't sure since I hadn't seen or really heard anything about him since the wedding was on the bed. He had laid Jewel out on the bed slowly petting down her back and it looked like she had just fallen asleep. He nodded to me as I walked over to my mother's vanity. On one side was a very beautiful carved miniature wardrobe which now had my attention.
It was actually a jewelry box and the one that had made my mother seriously upset when I had tried to touch it when I was young. She told me a story about how it had been her grandmothers wedding present from her second husband. Believing that she would never remarry my great grandfather had spent nearly all his time over the course of months crafting the little wardrobe to try and impress her. I carefully slid the box to the center of the table. I knew I wasn't to young now and I was sure my aunt would try to do everything she could to get it and what was inside the moment she had the chance.
I knew with out a doubt that it really was something that she should actually have, or Amber, having already been passed down two generations of daughters. I carefully opened the wardrobe gently removing the necklaces that hung on the right side laying the four of them out flat on the vanities top. I took the three rings from their hooks and searched through the small drawers on the left finding a broach, two smaller rings that I found out were clip on earrings, and in the bottom drawer there was a wide bracelet that seemed stuck. I carefully pulled the drawer all the way out and gently removing the piece before putting the drawer back in and closing the jewelry box.
I had been so intent of the removal of the bracelet I had not heard my father enter the room, "Ben." His voice sounded behind me and with a click three soft white lights lit up the entire area causing the bracelet to sparkle. They were multiple bands of gold gently woven together with slow curves as each wound its own course through the band. There were also several small gems that glittered each spaced out along the curve of the bracelet adding to its reflectiveness. "I never saw this before."
I wasn't expecting a separate voice to answer, "Nor should you! That was my mothers." I kept a groan in check hearing aunt Lisa's voice behind me as well.
I chose my words carefully, "Would you please, tell me what it is?"
When I turned I was also able to see that Amber had entered the room and was siting on the bed resting Jewel against her shoulder. Lisa had moved around my father and now stood next to the vanity staring over the items. I held my palm up with the bracelet in the center raising it high enough for everyone to see. I could almost sense her wanting to reach forward and snatch it but instead she gently lifted it up holding it towards the lights.
"This bracelet was the first piece of jewelry my father ever bought and he gave it to mom. He never told how he could afford such and expensive piece but he gave it to her just weeks after meeting her. A year later on the same date he proposed with a ring also as expensive." I was looking back to the table top and at one of my mother's favorite necklaces. It was a simple silver chain with a small blue drop sapphire looped in gold. I was something she often wore around the house and had to have at least that on if she ever left the house if not something nicer. It was hard to remember times when she actually didn't wear a necklace.
Standing I handed the necklace over to Dad pointing at Amber before I sat back down. It was like a twin gasp one from Amber the other from Lisa. I turned back to my aunt speaking softly, "Anything that was definitely your mothers we will put in the wardrobe and you can have. Only!" I stopped her from reaching out, "Mother said it was very fragile so it stays right here until you leave." I tapped the vanity to make sure my point was made.
She quickly slipped on the bracelet holding her arm up to admire it, "Very well." I looked back at Amber who had traded the kit for the necklace. She looked at me so I nodded and she opened the clasp and hooked it around her neck.
"That was Lucy's favorite. I had a hard time keeping it off her neck." My father spoke. "She always joke that she was never truly dressed unless she had some jewelry on." It seemed to fit exactly how it was intended, resting just above the collar to her blouse.
"It has a new home." I said finally feeling a little confident with my decision, "That's the only things that will leave. Those that no longer have a home." I looked at my father who seemed to be nodding in both agreement and approval. Mom always was trying to toss anything that was clutter. Except of course in the garage which was my fathers only hiding place. Even the back store room with its boxes and broken table had been placed exactly where my mother allowed it simply saying that was where it belonged, without a spot, any item, was just something that needed to be removed.
I carefully pushed the wardrobe to the back of the vanity and opened one of the top drawers and placed the other items inside. "Wait aren't you going to chose who gets what now?" Lisa asked seeming almost to whine.
"No I'm going to bed in just a minute." I continued poking around in the top drawer looking for something that might fit my purpose now that I had realized what it was. Rings were not something I was looking for nor were any of the expensive items. I shut the drawer and opened the second shaking small boxes and picking up the trays.
"It's all there, as if anyone would ever steal anything." I ignored her comment. I knew no one would take anything but there was one who might try and beat you into submission to get a hold of one. The last thing I pulled out was a wide flat box. Opening the lid I found both of mom's bracelets and one being her most stunning piece. It was a ruby diamond mix on a thick gold bracelet each section a circle of gold connected to the next piece and it was likely her most expensive piece. The second was a smaller bracelet with gold heart links, each with ruby and emerald chips spaced in small patters with in the gold.
Closing the box and drawer I could almost imagine aunt Lisa with quivering lips and pathetic little whines. If I wasn't intent on something else I would probably get more enjoyment out of this than the little I was taking at having her watch my every move. I reached down and opened the bottom drawer which held just a few boxes, a manikins wrist and hand, and a small tangle of broken necklaces. Only one piece that still adorned the fake wrist and I the one I was looking for. I unclipped it then handed it over to my dad.
"I need that tomorrow." I told him as I stood up and headed for bed. He ruffled my ears and grinned as I walked past maybe knowing or understanding what I had planned.
I woke the next morning very early after a bit of troubled sleep. I could already hear movement around the house as I looked through my dresser finding a pair of underwear and little else realizing that I really needed to get my clothes washed soon, but anything in my dresser wouldn't be any good for today anyway. I headed to the closet picking out one of my nicest dress shirt and a pair of slacks that matched and set them both out on the bed.
Tuning at the soft knock on my door it opened to uncle Albert standing there, "If you're up, could you dress and allow some others to use your room to change?"
"Sure." I answered, "Any chance of a shower?"
"I really don't think we have time." He answered.
"Don't worry I only need fifteen minutes tops." I watched as he looked down the hall speaking with someone.
"It will be just a few minutes." He told me looking over my selection of clothes. "Wait what about some shoes." I picked up the clothes and handed them over waving him back so I could close the door and open the closet. I took out my nice shoes and with another thought grabbed my black belt as well before I took some socks from the dresser and left my room claiming my clothes as I entered the hall.
"You have to hurry Ben," Jace spoke almost like he was irritated with me, "there won't be enough time for all of us to get ready."
I smiled realizing no one really expected me to be right back out. "You're all gonna see my famous Sluice and Fluff!" It felt good saying it like somehow mom was still right there in the hall. I was showered and out into the hall with just my slacks on in under fifteen minutes as Yellow and Leanne slipped in behind me. I took a moment to slip on my shirt over my not quite damp fur before sitting down in the living room to finish dressing. Breakfast was a total mess but I was able to pull a chair and have a bowl of cereal next to the fridge before the phone rang and Amber who had answered, told me the caller asked for me.
The clock told me it was just a little before seven am and I wondered who could possibly be calling me especially since anyone I might know would be here or my friends who would likely just be getting up and starting to head to school, "Hello?"
"Ben good. This is Mr. Went." That was the schools director. "I was wondering if you and your father could make it to a meeting at the school today by three twenty."
"I don't know." I answered.
"Well I was hoping you could find out now. I can hold the line." I set the phone down calling out to see if anyone had seen my father. 'Out front.' was a reply from the living room area. I decided dashing out the washroom and out the side door to get to the front would be the fastest and made it to the driveway hearing someone talking.
"That still leaves us three short especially if some one else shows up." It was Jace. I don't think I took the time to explain he lives with aunt Lisa and the twins evidently helping to raise my cousins but he isn't really family. I had kinda been thinking about him a few times ever since I yelled at my aunt wondering how he put up with her under that same roof.
"Dad?" I asked politely trying to get his attention out of the group of seven standing outside.
"Ben." He said turning. "Mr. Went is on the phone and he wants to know if we can be at the school for a meeting at three twenty." I told him.
"Today?" He said with a puzzled question.
I remembered I had not told him yet about the conversation yesterday. "Well he said he would talk with my teachers yesterday about how to help me complete the tier so I didn't have to repeat it.
"Tell him we will be there what ever it takes." He stated firmly.
"How?" Uncle Albert asked, "The boat will get back just before noon and you still have to go to the Restaurant. Even if you leave after eating its nearly a three hour drive how.."
"We'll leave from the docks." My father stated firmly. "We get back here by three or so, Lucy would truly be upset if I ignored the chance for him to pass the tier." He waved me back and I hurried back inside to give my answer to Mr. Went.
Having lost my seat and my breakfast I just shook my head and went back outside to avoid bumping elbows and every other body part with those trying to hurry and get going. Dad and Albert were now talking with Mrs. Attent our neighbor from across the street. They were explaining how all the cars should be gone by Friday or Saturday morning.
"Well just so long as it doesn't turn in to some wild drinking party. I'll call the Police you know!!" An older ferret, Mrs. Attent was the kind to complain about almost anything and would end up shouting out about the simplest minor infraction drawing as much attention as she possibly could. I had upset her a few times when I had enough friends over to play in the street. True we could have used the backyard which actually was bigger but roller skates and bikes don't work on grass and when a football is involved well the street just seemed more the place. That is until you end up knocking someone on to her front lawn.
"I'm sure our family gathering won't get out of hand." My father replied.
"Well just you remember that!" She said walking away, "Far to many cars." She muttered loud enough to make sure she was heard.
"Loud music and drunks, cars parked on lawns. That's all she sees, like were a bunch of young hearts with our parents out of town." My uncle spoke softly enough but I heard because I was close behind them.
"Dad." I said watching them both turn. "Are we leaving soon."
Everyone has to be gone with in the hour if they want to be sure to make it. We should be leaving in about twenty if your ready." He answered. Maybe I had unconsciously glanced sideways or maybe he just knew what I was thinking. "If you want to head over and check you can. You can come back when your ready." Out his pocket came the bracelet which he handed to me.
A simple gold charm bracelet small diamond shaped connected with wide oval hoops. Well it was meant to be a charm bracelet, my father and I had picked it out several years ago for mom's birthday. Last year was the first time I had bought a little gold teddy bear charm and the only one that had actually gone on it although she did have two others that she could have added.
He put out a hand stopping me from taking my first step, "Ben tell me why, why exactly do you want to give that to her."
"I want her to know," I paused choosing the words carefully and knowing my father wanted me to do so, "I want her to know that I appreciate the stuff she's done and what she's been trying to do. Also she doesn't have any jewelry yet and I think mom would say she should have something."
"Alright as long as your not trying to make it seem like something else, your not are you?" He asked the question.
"No." I said firmly. "It's a thank you gift only."
"Then make sure you tell Mr. Thaner exactly that, no misunderstandings alright." I nodded and walked across the lawn, "Make sure you don't take to long Ben."
I was across the yard, up the steps, and rang the bell suddenly feeling a little nervous stuffing the bracelet into my pocket so it couldn't be seen. It took a moment but Mr. Thaner opened the door. "A little early. You eat breakfast yet?"
"Umm sorta." I answered following him inside shutting the door. Stopping as he turned and stared at me. "I was having cereal and the phone rang." I explained. "By the time I hung up the phone my bowl was gone."
"Sometimes you're just plain dumb." All I could do was nod as he lead me back to the kitchen. "What would you like?" He offered.
"Nothing." The words were out before I even considered and I kinda jumped at the growl while he pointed to the chair next to Shelly. "I really don't feel like trying to eat right now." I tried to explain. He just stared for a moment before taking his seat at the table I guess deciding not to argue. I was still standing watching Shelly eat a few bites of an omelet while her father crunched on some toast.
"I, umm.. I wanted to give Shelly something, Because she's been a good friend and I wanted to thank her and." My words were as elegant as my fumbling fingers that tried to pull the bracelet from my pocket where I had jammed it. Finally freeing it I set it on the table and pushed it towards Shelly.
"Oh wow." She spoke quietly first holding up the bracelet then laying it against her wrist.
"Ben, I don't think that is appropriate." He seemed just about ready to reach over and take it away from her.
"Sir two things please." I stated. After another bite and his daughters pleading look he nodded. "First it doesn't mean anything more than she is a good friend and she has helped me out. Second it was my mothers. I know mom would probably say all girls should have a nice piece of jewelry." I finished.
"True you mom would say something like that, but.." "Dad!" Shelly tried interrupting. "NO. Its not appropriate for him to give you something like that. Its much to expensive, maybe if it were a simple bracelet or necklace but that is to much."
"That's just the problem. I mean I can't give her anything else, definitely not a ring." The look he gave me on his fast swiveling head made me speak faster. "All of mom's necklaces and stuff are very expensive or important. This is the one thing I can give her since dad and I bought it. I know its gold but it is still just a simple charm bracelet and its only got one charm."
"Please, please, please, Dad." Shelly whined.
"Ben I'm surprised he even let you take that. Your right it is just a bracelet but I'm sure there are members of her family that would find such a thing something to be treasured because it was your mothers. Besides if I know your mother she has something like that written down in a will along with every item she owned." He was still shaking his head at both of us.
"No." I answered quietly, "I am the only inheritor." Mr Thaner stared at me and I nodded back. "I decide if anything goes and who gets it. Honestly there's only dad and me and aunt Lucy and her family. Of course some of the stuff others will ask for but for my mom's close family..." I just kinda trailed off.
Mr. Thaner let out a long slow whistle, "That is fairly rough to make you do it."
"So I can keep it." Shelly suddenly piped in.
While he looked back and forth between us I gave one more try. "I don't think that anyone would really want it and I told my dad that stuff should go only if it has a new home. Shelly would take care of it and it would make mom happy to see it being used."
"Is this the only thing you'll be giving us?" I nodded. "I will accept the gift as neighbors, but I want you to understand you're giving it to both of us."
"Okay." I answered as Shelly gave an excited little squeal. With food forgotten Mr. Thaner beaconed to his daughter and she passed the piece over. He inspected it with a little 'hmmm' holding it up to get a good look at it.
Shelly stood thrusting her arm across the table waving her wrist at him, "Not yet." He spoke standing up as he walked past he pulled out a chair. "Take a seat I'll be back in a moment." He laid the bracelet out on the table and told his daughter, "Don't touch." as he walked out of the room.
"Ben." She spoke my name and I couldn't help returning the big grin on her muzzle as she almost bounced in the seat. I told her where both dad and I picked it out and how he agreed to allow me to give it to her. I was mentioning where I bought the charm when Mr. Thaner came back into the room.
He dropped a small box and a cookie tin on the table pushing his plate aside and again picked up the bracelet to inspect it. We both watched silently as he popped open the tin and removed two small pairs of pliers. Then he opened the box and drew out a large jangling charm bracelet. I suddenly remembered it from one time quite a while back seeing Mrs. Thaner nicely dressed dropping Shelly off to be watched for the evening at my house. She had shaken her wrist jangling it for me seeing that I had shown and interested in it.
I think Shelly was surprised as I was watching her father work as he removed two charms. One a small gold heart and the second a little silver dog. It took him just a few minutes to switch the charms from one bracelet to the other explaining how he had bought both the bracelet and the heart for Ellen after they had been going our for a while. The second he had added to the bracelet the same day he had found out she was pregnant hurrying to the department store and back.
He gave the bracelet a good shake and we listened but there was only little tinkles before he set it back down on the table. "There they shouldn't fall off but we can take it in later and have them checked." This time Shelly stood up and walked around the table before she stuck out her arm at her father. He made her wait dropping the pliers back in the tin and carefully replacing the other bracelet to the box before he picked up the bracelet setting the band on her wrist and snapped the clasp.
He gave a slight sniff before suddenly hugging his daughter tight catching me by total surprise since I had never really seen him be affectionate before. I sat there for a full minute trying to make myself go unnoticed as they kept a strong embrace.
Shelly finally retook her seat and Mr. Thaner moved the tin and box back returning his plate to the spot in front of him. I watched as she kept clutching her wrist and the bracelet every few moment between bites of her omelet occasionally blinking away water in her eyes or wiping her dress sleeve across her eyes. The silence between us continued and I lost myself in the events of the past few days and what was going to be happening in just a few hours.
I was startled by the hand on my shoulder and the white hanky that flicked back and forth in front of my nose. I had been staring out the window crying and Mr. Thaner was trying to hand over a kerchief for me to use. I swallowed hard trying to clear the lump in my throat and ended up gagging. As I choked Shelly pushed her glass of milk towards me while her father gave me several hearty swats on the back.
As I gulped down the bit of milk and wiped up my muzzle Mr. Thaner began clearing the table letting both of us stay seated. "When do you leave?" I looked at the clock realizing that it was now nearly seven thirty.
"Now or soon." I answered.
"I'll be back." Shelly stopped playing with the bracelet and jumped up and left. He refilled my glass with milk before taking the carton away and starting some dishwater. After I drank the cup I set it on the counter and dipped a rag into the hot soapy water in between Mr. Thaner's movements. I had the table scrubbed and the chairs back into place before Shelly came back into the room with a small purse that matched the dress she was wearing. She had it opened and partly pulled out several handkerchiefs before stuffing them back inside letting me know they were there.
We left the house with a simple short good bye going out the kitchen's door and walked back to the front of my house. With eight o'clock as the deadline to leave since the boat was leaving at eleven sharp several cars were already gone and my father was waiting outside speaking to some canines I thought I knew. Of course he wasn't the only standing outside since it seemed dozens of people were in cars and standing around obviously waiting for someone. Not wanting to be in the group of people I went to moms car with Shelly following behind. James and Leanne were already sitting in the back seat.
I opened the door and said, "Do one of you want the front seat?" James had already lept out and was running around the car before Leanne had even opened her mouth.
"We wanted you to have the front seat." She told me.
"Today I'll take the back." As I climbed in gesturing my cousin to move over and taking the center as Shelly sat beside me. "Leanne, James this is Shelly. Shelly, Leanne and James my cousins." After several handshakes and hellos we sat waiting for my father to finally get in the car. "So how is everyone?" I asked wondering how the morning had gone looking at Leanne.
She looked at me kinda funny and said, "Busy and well, Lisa has been very quiet."
"Likely plotting." James stated from the front seat. I could almost imagine her tongue stuck out with the look she gave him before she continued. "Mostly everyone is okay some are sad and a few seem excited almost. But there seems to be a lot of people who are just here." I nodded at that having no clue about several of the faces who were getting into vehicles nor when so many people had arrived.
I wiggled around pulling out the seat straps as I saw my father moving to the car. It seemed like a signal because almost everyone now was headed for a vehicle and many cars were slowly moving down the street. Dad hopped in grabbing the strap like second nature before telling James to strap in. Leanne had quickly followed suit where Shelly had hers on since she sat down.
"James, Leanne this is Shelly." "We know" came from both sibs almost in unison. "Alright." my father spoke, "Just so you all know. Shelly you'll be riding home with Jace sorry but it will be a tight squeeze in his truck. James, Leanne you will be riding home with your grandfather."
"Why?" James questioned.
"Ben and I have to leave from the dock to get back here early." He answered.
"Shouldn't I come back with you?" Shelly asked.
"No, it's fine don't worry. There's a lunch and you'll have a chance to meet lots of people." I could see her looking at me more than a little unsure with my dad's words.
"I have to go to the school and meet with the director." I told her. Dad started the car now that whom ever had been behind us left and with the time still being just after seven forty nearly all the cars had left but two. I reached over and grabbed Shelly's paw and she smiled and squeezed back. Leanna gave me a poke in the shoulder staring at both of us and our attached hands. Something in me just couldn't help it as I smiled sweetly back and leaned a little closer to Shelly removing the few inches that had separated us.
I could see her quick glance to the front seat as we started out on our journey and she pointed with one finger at each of us and then touched them together. "Almost." I answered quietly. It's funny sometimes watching someone who's been totally shocked or surprised try and work out what just happened. It was no less funny seeing my cousin trying to work out what she should say or do, or maybe not do.
"Is everyone strapped in?" My father called from the front seat. "Yes." We all chimed as he pulled out onto the main road that would take us to the expressway. "Everyone good right, no need for a restroom or drink." Silence was all he got. "Okay we have one stop in about an hour so everyones gotta wait now." He said as the car picked up speed.
Over the next hour all of us tried to start up a conversation filling in the bits of silence here and there but none of us was willing to talk for more than a few sentences so we were left with long stretches of quiet car driving. At one point I had to ask Dad if we could get the radio fixed. "Probably it will just take a bit of time." The antenna had snapped off at some point and since mom never seemed to drive very far it had never really been an issue for her.
We had taken our pit stop and had been back on the road for another thirty minutes dad honking back as the few cars that we passed or passed us by that were from our group. It wasn't that he was speeding but he did seemed to be pushing the limit occasionally changing lanes to get around vehicles.
It wasn't long before we all felt the drastic weather change as the sky was now mostly overcast. A while longer and we were exiting the expressway taking the turn off that was the main road that lead out and along the coast. We all watched, well not my dad, as the ocean came into view looking out across the wide expanse of water and after a few miles of sweeping curves we started a steep decent that was leading down to the small bay and the docks were we would meet up with everyone.
I turned back and my neck was hurting a little from staring out the window for so long. Shelly pulled the shirt against my shoulder moving me just a bit closer as she leaned in giving me a light peck on my muzzle. "Woah! Guys!" James exclaimed from the front seat looking back at us. He looked over at my father and said, "She kissed him!!"
"That happens." He said simply. "everyone sit up and face forward." He gave the command as we started down the last few sweeping slow curve and steep grades following the mountainside down to the cove.
James had several times glanced back over the seat checking us out and I knew at the same time Leanne had taken several sideways looks in our direction. Shelly seemed to squirm from the attention keeping her head turned watching the trees and rock wall pass. Dad drove through the little town and down two streets before turning into the parking lot and finding a spot. There were dozens of cars already there along with the three more that were pulling in behind us.
I was surprise to see how many people were in little groups that were heading to an awning area which sat out in front of a docked boat that was far bigger than I had expected. As dad pulled in to the spot and shut the car off James immediately popped the straps latch and turned around. "She kissed you." He accused. Before I could answer Dad had his hands on my cousins shoulder forcibly turning him around and back into his seat. He looked back at Leanne before turning back to speak with James. "Several things have happened recently not just Lucy's death. Ben almost died too. That and other thing have found their friendship growing stronger. A little kiss," He paused looking back to Leanne, "or holding hands is okay. It shows how much you care for someone. I don't want to see you two making a big deal out of this or making fun of them."
As my cousins looked us over again my Dad got all of our attentions back by holding up one finger. "It's very hard to find someone who is kind and willing to help you out when your having a hard time. They are both a lot a like and they both understand what they should and should not do. So just let them be, Alright?" With that he exited the car not bothering to wait for an answer leaving me staring back at my cousins.
We walked towards the awning as a group and I noticed there were rows of chairs laid out and many of them already had occupants. But what had now captured my attention was the boat. It had two decks and was white with yellow and red trims. The name on the side said 'Sunlight Streams' which seemed appropriate for the moment since there were several streaks of sunlight punching through the cloudy sky, several of them were dancing across the boat and parking lot as we walked across.
The next twenty minutes were full of introductions and meeting far more people than I could ever hope to remember as I stayed near my father at his request. It seemed nearly everyone wanted to meet Lucy's son but besides my family, who I had to greet, and the very few of mom's friends who I had met before I was lost in all the names and strong handshakes as people tried to catch my father and I before they had to board. Shelly for the most part could be found a few steps behind me keeping out of the way with the exception of my grandparents.
We met Grandmother in the last few minutes before they called the first boarding call. She was seated in a wheelchair with Grandfather right behind which made me wonder exactly what was wrong and how bad it really was remembering my fathers own remark the day before. I look the time to introduce Shelly to both of them and she politely said hello stating that it was an honor to meet them.
"And why is that Dear? An honor meeting an old woman like myself." My grandmothers words startled Shelly and she took a step back unsure what to say or do.
"I'm sorry I never mentioned my grandparents before Shelly. I've only remember meeting them a few times before but it is an honor and a treat each time I see you Grandmother. So why shouldn't my neighbor and my best friend find it an honor as well." I spoke as gracefully as I could stifling my irritation over the fact she hadn't been nice to Shelly.
"Well an honor in meeting grandparents is usually the way a female would be greeting us if she was interested or wishing to join our family young man. With your mother past those duties will fall to Nancy." My Grandfather spoke like it was simple fact and one that I should already know. I felt my fathers hand on my shoulder ready to guide me away as he made an excuse that we had to meet with someone else. My fathers interference was likely unnecessary for me since I was at a loss. I couldn't very well say she was and I wasn't going to even deny the fact that maybe someday I wished she might.
But it was probably Shelly whom my father should have stepped up to guide since she took two steps to my side and reached out finding my hand. I heard my grandmother's sharp intake of breath almost like a hiss at the action. "We ARE close friends and if it turns out to be more than that's a good thing." Shelly spoke out.
"Little miss you have no clue and certainly not enough class to be in OUR Family." That was beyond it for me old female or not, family or not! Only Shelly's sharp tug on my arm when I drew in my breath stopped a total shout out that I was ready and able to supply. I took a sideways glance still ready to continue but she placed on paw on my shoulder and simply shook her head. It was enough to remind me of the half a dozen shouting matches I had started with my mother out in the open and each and everyone I lost do to the fact I became embarrassed minutes later from the scene I was causing.
"Perhaps.. Perhaps you haven't heard how special she is or how important." I allowed more of my anger to slip away as my voice grew strong and controlled, "I'm sure you would never have allowed her into my room." Those words had my Grandmother's eyes open wide in shock as her hand went to her mouth making me fell a little satisfied. "But if she hadn't been there then I'd be dead just like mom." I had raised my voice enough to be sure it was heard by several of the guests around us. "Oh drop your hand! You have no clue what happened nor even bothered to ask before you snapped at her." I had lowered my voice again allowing those around us to ignore the small scene.
"Boy!" My grandfather stepped out.
"Shut UP!" It was the same commanding tone and power I felt when I had quieted my father in the hall. "This day is for my Mother, I won't let you insult my friends who deserve to be here more than you! I would have thought that you at least had that much Class." I turned still gripping Shelly's hand and walked away. My father had caught up with in five steps and with a firm hand on my shoulder and a squeeze that was to hard to ignore I looked back.
"We will discuss this later." He spoke firmly.
"Yes father as long as it is a discussion." I answered pulling away.
People had started moving up the ramp and onto the boat so I followed the crowds up the ramp. We headed to the top deck and waited while more people boarded until we saw the last few board running across the parking lot as the mooring lines were being removed. With a loud shrill whistle and several dings of a bell the motor revved up and the boat began backing away from the dock.
The trip suddenly seemed like it was going to be short since it seemed only a few minutes later we were quickly passing through the small harbor and pulling closer to the long shelf which had the lighthouse at the end. For me this thought brought a little comfort since being the the open ocean air seemed to be drawing moisture to my fur and making me feel a little uncomfortable that along with the thoughts of exactly what would await me in a short while for my mothers service should have put me in a fowl mood or at least left me upset. But watching what seemed to be real excitement from Shelly as the boat swayed and the ocean drew closer had me grinning a little in answer to her own smiles of enthusiasm. I think we drew several stares from the other people on the top deck as if her and my occasional smiles were out of place. "BEN." I heard my fathers voice call from behind me. "Come down for a minute."
I turned as he began walking back down the stairs and stopped after several steps realizing Shelly was still on the rail. "Don't worry I'll look after her." Amber stated getting up from where she was seated with Jewel and her husband.
"No, I could really use Shelly help. Otherwise this is likely going to be an all out shout fest." I used the word quoted from Mr. Thaner who I had overheard speak about mine and my mothers arguments on more than one occasion. She let go of the rail and followed but this time she shook her head when I held out my hand.
Down stairs my grandparents were set up near the forward side of the boat right behind the operator's room. There were partitioning doors which separated the first third of the lower deck seating which my father pulled closed after we had walked through.
"If this is a family matter then I'm not sure Shelly should be here." My Grandmother started.
I sat down on the same row as the one her wheelchair was parked on but at the far end. "I need her." Both my father and grandfather had sharp looks with what I said.
"Ben." My Father started, "I would like you to apologize first."
Of course they would make me admit I'm wrong then tell me why I'm wrong and how I can't do it again. This was how it was to start but they had better be ready for me. "I am sorry for raising my voice." I stated simply.
"Not for how you treated your grandfather or how you treated me before?" I grumbled to his question. "I was angry."
"Son if you can't control you temper you are going to have a lot more problems in your life." I could see where my father got his steady lecturing tone.
I gave a weak little laugh. "Nope I can't control my temper." I paused letting them know I could admit that.
"Of course you can control your temper. I've never heard anything so absurd. You just don't want to." Grandmother stated.
"Mother that isn't fair."
"Yes it is." She stopped him. "Far to long you allowed him to argue with his mother instead of having him do what she asked."
"Son you know to well you have to care and protect those that are sick, not fight and argue." I heard grandfather's words and had opened my own mouth but my father had already beat me to it.
"Ben didn't know!" Again I was a little surprised to hear my father raise his voice just a bit.
"And that was the most foolish thing of all. Allowing her to carry on like that." Grandmother now. I slumped back into the seat. This was going to turn into an argument no matter what was said and then to a shouting match. For a moment I wondered if I could just maybe leap over the side of the boat and swim back but the rocking of the boat had gotten stronger as we talked. I felt Shelly's hand on my shoulder as she pressed her forehead into the back of mine from the row behind me.
"It will be alright." I heard her whisper just loud enough for me to hear. I didn't bother responding. "Ben it will be alright." She repeated louder this time. Whether they heard her because of some break in the argument or they simply sensed something had changed the adults turned to stare at us.
"It doesn't matter anymore." I told her. She tried to reach around to hug me but I quickly stood up and out of her reach. "None of it matters anymore." I turned and walked off sliding the partition aside and return to the top deck as the boat moved out into more open waters and a much deeper rolling and dipping.
I kept a firm hand on the rail as I moved to look out over the open ocean riding the roll of the ship and wondering if I would be one of those who ended up seasick. My facial features probably more than matched the mood of the boat as I stared blankly out at the water. "Everyone." I heard Jace call from the stairwell, "the memorial service will start in about ten minutes at the rear of the boat! There will be a microphone so you can also sit downstairs and listen!" He called out enough to reach both decks before he climbed back down and I could just hear him shouting out the same thing below.
It was time to say goodbye but it seemed part of me had already left and I wondered if it even mattered if I was even here. Suddenly I had the thought that maybe I was expected to do or say anything, I had forgotten to even ask. Mostly everyone was heading to the stairs while a small group was forming at the back of the deck where they would be able to overlook the back of the boat.
I waited till the deck was clear before I went downstairs. Most of the seating was full and I realized just how many people were on the boat more than a hundred maybe even another half. Walking down the side seemed easier and I realized the rocking had lessened and wondered if that was because the boat no longer seemed to be charging forward. I tried to squeeze past the bodies that were in my way excusing myself as necessary trying to reach the back of the boat till I finally worked my way outside.
I was standing behind two people that I didn't know at the edge of a half circle pressing myself against the railing behind them. About six feet away was my father along with aunt Lisa and Jace and a forth person, a leopardess dressed in a black business suit. I didn't notice it at first but she was also holding a black box in her hands. I'm not sure which seemed weirder to me the fact Jace started the ceremony not my father or the fact it actually seemed like aunt Lisa really was trying not to cry and slowly failing. Although when I pushed forward some hoping to get a better look I could now see my father was also crying.
Jace had evidently taken over and was able to speak clearly about my mom, what she had done, and what she meant to people. It wasn't a lot but to be honest I wasn't even paying attention mostly I had eyes for the box finally realizing what was inside. It seemed like only a few moments but it had been likely way longer before my father stepped forward taking the microphone.
"I just wanted to thank everybody for coming to honor such a wondrous life." He pushed back the microphone he had taken and took the proffered box that was held out. Dad moved away blocked by the person in front of me. I tried to move around but it seemed that everyone had taken several steps forward to watch pushing me away.
"Move please." I said shoving hard against the shoulders of the blocking body trying to break out from the line. I was in time to see my father leaning over the back railing tipping the box in his hands. I raced forward grabbing the rail next to my father and leaning out to look down. All I saw was ripples being consumed by the waves and the light power that was drifting down disappearing as it touched the water. I had missed her again. I stood suddenly unwilling to move as the waves removed the last traces that existed from her body. It didn't help that someone tossed a colorful wreath over my shoulder and out into the water as more people moved forward to throw flowers and bouquets into the water.
I leaned a little further over as the engine roared to life and the boat shifted starting to move forward. It was over, done with, and just like that everyone was moving back slowly spreading back over the boat. I was having a hard time trying to understand my own emotions. I knew that I was feeling a great deal at the moment maybe more than I could handle. They tell you black is the mix of all the colors and if I chose my emotion to be a color than yes it was black; black, dark, and heavy. I felt the hands on my shoulder forcibly pulling me back and turning me around to face my father.
He was trying to tell me something but there was like a buzzing in my ears and the heavy thrumming vibration of the propellers working below my feet. Dad wrapped his arms around me and gave me a hearty hug before stepping back and wiping his eyes with a small white cloth. I still hadn't really moved not even when he gave a little shake with the cloth in front of my nose. He made several gestures to someone at our side and then stepped back motioning to the bench not far away.
The boat had been turning back towards the bay and a somewhat larger swell caught the boat dipping one side down before flinging it back upwards. Everyone was gripping their seat or a railing some dropping to their knees with no balance. I stumbled backwards slamming into the rail with my tail kinked and squished between me and the metal. Someone obviously fearing for me had reached out and grabbed my arm hauling hard and as the boat took another rock to right itself I stumbled forward crying out in pain from both my back and tail.
The hand had kept a painful hold keeping me upright while I think ripping my shirt slightly and definitely tearing some fur out underneath. "That was a rather harsh wake up call." Jace spoke beside me letting go.
There were two people on each side of me guiding me to the bench at the center of the boat and people scooted down to make room. I was guided down to sit and had to lean forward since the thin cushioned back made me hiss in pain.
I tried to gently kneed my back and kept a firm bite on my lip to stop any noise that might come out with each pass my hand made. There was another hand on my shoulder that rubbed higher and tried to ease my pain. After a few minutes I straightened up willing to thank whom ever was at my side but I realized I should have already known it was Shelly. I stumbled over a thank you as I scooted down more to make room next to me. As I went to inspect my tail she gave me a light peck on the cheek sitting down put an arm over my shoulder for a hug. Deciding my tail didn't hurt all that bad I returned her hug with both arms holding her close.
I had no clue that all the guests had moved back inside or to the top deck and only my family was now at the back of the boat watching. Even if I had known I don't think I would have stopped drawing comfort from her as I could now not stop the tears that had finally started. Maybe Shelly knew everyone was watching because it felt like she was trying to pull away. After a couple of attempts she moved her arm from my shoulder and began petting my head as it dropped lower to cry on her chest.
"Honestly Allen how can you allow that. You should have stopped this long ago." I registered the voice but not the who.
"Cathrine ease up can't you see Ben needs some help." That was my father's voice. I felt the bench shift and soft hands that began rubbing against my shoulder. I guess grandmother had said something because I could hear my father answer behind me. "Well mom would you like me to just tear them apart? Today is going to be one of many hard days to come and if he needs her help then I'm just fine with that. We set guidelines for both of them so they can't make some big mistake and they will either come together or not."
His hands moved under my shoulders drawing my body up some and giving a slight shake. "Ben we need you here, now. Please sit up and you can let me dry your eyes."
Shelly let her hands slide down causing me to hiss when they passed over my side close to the bruise I was likely to have now on my back. "Sorry." She whispered in my ear as the hands under my arms pulled me back and turned me around. I could feel the rough scrub of a cloth against my eyes face and muzzle as he tried to remove most of the water as I kept my eyes closed. After he was done I tried to blink the rest of the water away rubbing my eyes with my sleeve to finish the job.
Blinking I could see that everyone was hear cousins, aunts, uncles, and family including several felines who I wasn't sure I had met unless it was earlier today but obviously some part of the extended family, like the long furred bushy tailed old tom that was sitting farther down the bench. In fact Shelly was the only one out of the thirty plus people who wasn't feline.
"Okay everyone." My dad started out in front of me. "I have Lucy's will which I'm sure you have all already heard about by now." He began with a slow voice reading out the legal part before mentioning all of five names each with a specific item after it. It seemed almost funny when he moved to aunt Lisa. "To my sister our grandmother's treasured jewelry box along with our mother's bracelet." as he started to move on I could even see a few surprised expressions on those around me that she had not said a word of protest. But what had me was that I had already gifted my mother's wish with out even knowing it. "And to my son. Everything else I own and all financial and monetary items I have not mentioned are to be given to Ben. I cannot be there to provide or support him as a mother should. I can only hope this can supply or buy what is need to help him grow into the great man I know he can be."
I was fighting to keep my eyes clear and finish watching my father fold up the papers and I was hardly able to breath with the constriction of my throat. "Ben has already decided that nothing leaves that already has a home and anything that no longer belongs will be given away." He gave a strained chuckle, "Something he learned from his mother. What this means is things like jewelry since there are no females are going. Her car which holds memories and has a use and home in the driveway is staying." There were a few mutters around but for the main part everyone stayed quiet as the boat plowed it's way back into the bay. "Also Ben and I are going to leave as soon as we dock. We..."
There were several voices that interrupted him calling out asking why they weren't staying. "You're supposed be here!" a voiced called out over the rest.
"The director at Ben's school call this morning and has scheduled a meeting we both need to be at." Dad spoke loudly stopping the others. "After being sick and missing several days and the fact he had missed a few the weeks before and the fact he is still missing school now, we were informed that he would not be allowed to pass the tier. This meeting will decide how and if he can pass the tier. The final testing starts next week and as many of you can guess he hasn't and likely can't study for that now. Passing the tier would be first on Lucy's list of things she would want. We will see some of you tonight and the rest of you tomorrow."
After Dad finished a hand landed on my shoulder from the bench on the other side. "I know many of you would disagree but I believe we should all go and leave Ben and Shelly alone for the time being. Whether or not she is feline doesn't matter at the moment she is his next door neighbor and his closest friend and she is doing her best to help Ben through this hard time." I could feel the change of emotions as fur raised on several bodies from Amber's words.
Whether I had really realized it at the time or not, this was an ALL feline family allowing no cross breeding and several even took serious actions to prevent such a thing. The suggestion of leaving a canine with me had been exactly the wrong thing to say. I could tell that all sides seemed to be together on this except maybe my father and a few that might not speak out. None would encourage me and most would deny the day a mixing would ever come.
"Just because you ran around an had your fun Amber doesn't mean you should try to help others do so as well. Even you settled on a nice young man." Coming from her mother that was probably the best compliment she had paid to Ronald in the four years she had known him.
"All of this!" Albert spoke out loudly, "Is something that we will all just have to let be. I know all of you would have wanted to stop this before it started. Well it's to late they are already sweet on each other and stopping them now is the absolute worst time. It's that simple." He stated.
My father added to the silence. "Shelly and Ben have been together for years and since Ellen, her mother died Lucy took her in almost as a second child. I know most of you have seem them playing together years ago when you visited and now you want to tell them its wrong to be together. As Amber said I think we should just leave them alone for now."
"You can't just expect us to not try and stop them. We have traditions, integrity, honesty, and pride. We won't allow some foolish near adult to do that to our family. We have always had good feline blood, its all we will ever allow!" I couldn't remember my exact relation to the female on the other side of the ten foot bench maybe it was some second cousinish thing but that didn't matter. And why she even came I have no clue but as always family is Family.
"Moron." I muttered. I felt Shelly grab my arm. "No not this time." I told her standing up. Looking at my father I told him, "This isn't my house but I will limit it to MORON!" I said pointing at the cat on the end of the bench. "If any of you think you know what happened the past few weeks to me then maybe you might listen. But to a Moron who is only concerned about her own little world has no right to tell me how mine should be."
"You are far to young to know anything." She stated standing up, "Do you even know how people will treat you or how that reflects on our family." I took two steps forward before I felt her hands on my shoulders giving me the slightest of tugs stopping my forward movement.
I took a deep breath and a moment just to think. I had all kinds of lines that had popped into my had while I moved forward but nothing now that would be useful except, "I see, you would rather have me dead and my Dad a completely broken man." I turned giving Shelly a quick hug and taking another deep breath sitting down and pulling her into the seat beside me.
There was total silence for well over a minute including my father who had seen my slight head shake. "Ben she didn't say she wanted you to kill you nor would any of us ever wish that on you." The voice also female and somewhere behind me.
"Like I said Morons. You all know nothing and never even bothered to find out." I told them.
"And what exactly is that supposed to mean." What does one call your grandfather's brother? His name was an Mal... something, and he barely even bothered to acknowledge me when dad introduced me.
Instead of answering I grabbed on to Shelly whom I felt shudder. I turned and grabbed her muzzle to make her look at me already knowing what this topic had brought up. "It's not your fault." I let go letting her head drop wondering what I could do, "Shelly stop trying to punish yourself for leaving. I know what would have happened if you didn't stay but you did you got me to the kitchen right? Besides I know now, we know now that won't ever happen again you don't have to leave."
Her arms reached out grabbing around my middle as I was suddenly forced to grab her arm and try to pull it away stifling a cry of pain. "Shelly!" She was crying in my lap and likely wouldn't even hear me at the moment. I ground my teeth and tried to slowly slide her paws lower easing the stabbing pain shooting across my ribs.
"Jace why do I get the feeling you didn't tell me everything?" Dad's sister Megan, aunt Megan asked.
"Well we were interrupted and I only know what I overheard." He stated.
"You know it's hard to make a proper decision on only half a story." She spoke looking over to my father and back at me.
The fact that most of them still knew nothing and that they still felt they needed to decide how my life was going to play out brought my anger to the front, besides they still should apologize for implying she has no class, or integrity, honor or what ever other crap they wanted to claim she lacked.
"STORY?!!" I shouted. "Me in the hospital the day ofter my mom nearly died and its just some story." I stroked Shelly's head, "With out her I would have died and dad would have been...." I stopped to look up at him, "Suicidal! Blaming himself for my death and not being a good parent and protecting me." Everyone was looking at my father who had his eyes closed leaning against the rail nodding with every word I spoke.
Shelly twitched trying to grab me again as I grabbed her arm back probably harder than I should. "Stop your hurting me." Instantly she let go pushing back but as I gasped in relief she slid off the end of the bench arms flailing for a moment before her back meet the deck with one of her legs still up on the bench allowing her dress to fall across her body and reveal her panties which were a light pink color. I had acted quickly leaping forward to slide her leg the rest of the way off and pulling down her dress to cover her up while in my mind had just told me that she had now flashed me back.
I'm sure several people had things to say about my actions but the fact I was moving to cover her up would keep them quiet. I stepped around and helped her get far enough away from the bench and stand before I pulled out the blue kerchief she had given me to wipe up the tears that stained her fur. As I finished with one side and went to move to the other I heard my grandfather speak up.
"Ben! I'm sure she is quite able to do that herself." I stopped to stare at him while Shelly reached out and snatched the cloth which I released. It was almost an argument that I was willing to drag through. I glared out at the faces around me trying to think which ones looked like they would be a problem. After she was finished cleaning up I turned back.
"Let's go back up and watch the boat dock." I said quietly to her. She looked around like she would rather stay put than try to follow me to the stairs. I moved to my father first looking at his tear stained muzzle and gave him a little hug whispering, "We'll be up top." I strode forward Shelly following almost on my heels as I passed everyone opening the doors and heading for the stairs. She had caught my hand and arm by my second step and together we went up the stairs and stood at the rail where we started the ride out.
I shivered feeling cold and drained and she moved to put an arm around me this time being extra careful of my back. The boat was already slowing down and we were only three piers away from docking as it started making a wide swing out into the water to be able to glide in against the pier.
We stayed up top waiting until after the boat had docked and everyone had already moved to the stairs ready to file off the boat. I turned with Shelly still at my side and made my way down the stairs with her following close behind.
Walking down made me start to feel lightheaded and by the time I reached the lower deck I was left wondering if the boat was back in choppy water rolling again. Shelly was grabbing me helping me to seat even while the thump to the back had me yowl out. I didn't think this had anything to do with my back but my head as it felt like my head was going to roll off. I took several minutes before I realized I was laying down and I could hear a voice speak.
"We should still call an ambulance." "no." I moaned weakly. There was a gentle hand stroking a few fingers down the bridge of my muzzle and between my eyes.
"Are you okay?" I could hear Shelly ask as her other hand began petting my head.
"I don't..." I opened my eyes seeing her move her paw away and struggled to sit up. Firm hands grabbed my shoulder and had me seated in a second making me a little lightheaded again.
"You shouldn't do that. Lay him flat and call the ambulance for goodness." the same voice as before and I wasn't sure but I thought it was aunt Yellow.
"He'll be okay he was supposed to take it easy." Shelly replied.
"Hhmmpp! What do you know you young barker." Yellow snapped.
"I began to growl even as my father was saying, "She knows the doctors and nurses orders as well as I do. Ben stop that now." He told me.
I did stop taking a deep breath and found that anger was quickly clearing my head. Looking around I focused on aunt Yellow. "You call her a barker ag.mmm." My father had clamped a firm hand on my muzzle.
"Leave it we have to get going or we won't get back in time." Tilting my muzzle so I was staring directly at him he looked at me. "Are you okay."
I took another deep breath and explained how I felt lightheaded and was feeling a little cold. When he inquired what I had eaten I just kinda shook my head. "I'm just tired." I said as a candy bar was being tapped against my fathers arm.
He took it and had me finish it before he let me stand up. "Well, we'll see how you feel when we get to the car. You can sleep on the way and if your still not feeling good we will stop at the hospital instead."
I could see Shelly fidgeting next to me and I told her I was fine. It was the little head dart looking around that made me realize that the six clustered around us besides my father were all family. "Come on." I told her following my father who had started to move away. As we stepped on the ramp heading down I spoke, "Dad where's Jace or Amber."
"I'm not sure they may have already left." He replied.
I could see both James and Leanne standing a ways off and called them over stepping off to the side and away from the adults including my father. "Hey guys." I spoke as they got close. "Listen can you please, please watch after Shelly, make sure she's okay."
"Definitely." Leanne quickly said taking Shelly arm, "Come on Dad's car is this way."
"Watch her and you can sleep in my room tonight." I said quietly as Leanne lead Shelly far enough away not to here. "Please."
He was already nodding with a grin as he turned to catch up to his sister. Feeling tired again I dragged my feet across the parking lot to the car which my father had already started and backed out. By the time I had strapped in he was already in the line of cars exiting the parking lot but we turned to the right where the majority of the cars were going left.