A week passed and Michael sat with Natalia. It was their last day to visit. “Make sure to keep in touch, Honey. If you need something, anything, let us know. Money. Anything.”
Valeria was also sitting nearby. “Yes, even if it is just to hear our voices. We miss you. I miss you.”
Natalia smiled. “I will Momma. And I will be sure to call if I need anything, Daddy. I promise.”
He smiled. “Good. I am going to begin sending you a little of your inheritance, Hon. Now, I don’t want you to object. It belongs to you and you need it.”
She gave him an annoyed look, then smiled. “Alright, Daddy. Thank you.”
They rose and she rose with them. It was time for them to leave ad she knew it. “We’ll try to come back and visit once in a while after the wedding, but there aren’t any guarantees.”
She hugged him. “I know, Daddy.”
Valeria kissed her daughter. “Please. Send us pictures of Matthew every chance you get. I want to see my grand-baby as he grows.”
Natalia kissed her mother’s cheek. “I will, Momma. I promise.”
She walked them to the door and watched as they got into their car, waving as they did, and then left. When they had disappeared, she found herself saddened. There had been so much to catch up on, so much to build. Had they really finished the repairs to the damage from so long ago? Or had they only begun?
She determined they had done as much as they could given the short time they had together. After all, Daddy still controlled Morrow Mill Works and would until Sasha came of age to take over. If he decided to do so. That meant that Daddy had to go home.
Still, she hated to see them go. It was like losing them again. She forced herself to smile. At least they loved Matty. That was a good thing.
And Daddy had made friends with Charles and Tom. He had even gave his blessing on her marriage to Trent. Over all, it was a very good visit. She only hoped that they would come again. Often.
Ken slipped into the jungle after dark fall. No one saw him go. with little more than a rifle, a bow, and a selection of bladed weapons, he left the safety of camp. He was now on his own.
He had been directed to seek out and destroy what the soldiers called rats’ nests, little pockets of Vietcong that seemed to appear out of the jungle to harass the camps, then vanish. Thought to be hiding among the villages nearby, they tended to be gone when patrols came upon their village hideouts. It was handed to him to eradicate these little problem areas. Quietly.
It didn’t take him long to become one with the jungle.Even more so than the enemy. He had truly become the hunter. Hell. He was a ghost.
Tom stood on his patio, staring toward the east. Somewhere, Ken was beginning to strike terror in the hearts of the enemy. He hoped his friend would find peace someday. But he knew that someday never comes for those whose hearts were filled with strife.
And Ken was at war with himself. Not to mention the world. Tom knew, deep down, that Ken would never find peace. Not in life.
He sighed. Let the young fight wars and old soldiers battle their demons. He would stick to photojournalism. Besides. There were things heating up in the south. Not to mention in the west. He would soon have plenty to write about and record in pictures.
He would have to be careful, though. The south was the KKK’s stronghold. They grew their white boys big, dumb and hateful down there it seemed. He snickered. Anyone who ran around wearing white sheets and silly looking hoods had to be stupid. Or at least ignorant of any sort of truth.
Susie appeared beside him. “What’re you thinkin’, Hot Stuff?”
He took her hand and kissed it. “I was thinking about Ken. How things could’ve been different. How they should have been different.”
She hugged his arm, laying her head on his shoulder. “We each choose our path. If we don’t, it gets chosen for us. Ken chose his path a long time ago. There was no way to save him from himself, Baby.”
He smiled sadly.”True. I suppose he was doomed from the very beginning. I’m glad you pulled me back before it was too late. I might’ve ended up like him if you hadn’t.”
She looked at him. “Might’ve? Honey, you would have.”
He smiled at her. “All Ken needed was a good woman.”
She giggled. “True.”
He turned and took her in his arms. “Enough about him. How about a night on the town? I know a nice little Italian place down on Blondo.”
She smiled up at him. “What about Lansky’s?”
He kissed her. “Sure. Why not?”
Natalia listened to Matthew as he played the piano. As she sat next to him, she listened as he hit every note perfectly. She smiled. She placed her hands on the keys too far away for him to reach and began playing along with him.
He looked up at her and smiled. “I Love you, mommy.”
Her heart melted. He had been her sole reason for surviving until now. He was still the sole reason she did anything. Well, almost anything.
Trent was the other. He had remained with her even when she left reality for a while. Between him and little Matty, they were enough to keep her from falling apart. They kept her sane.
Who cared what was going on in the outside world. Here and now, she was happy. She was safe. She was in love.
She looked over at Trent. He sat listening to their little melody. A smile had spread upon his face. He looked so peaceful with his eyes closed. It was almost as if he’d fallen asleep, yet he was humming along. She smiled.