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Chapter Two

 

 

            The first time Miss Parker asked about having a sibling, she was about six. Most of the other children at school had one or more siblings, and she didn't really understand why she didn't.  To her, it seemed normal to not be an only child. And she liked the idea of having someone else at home to play with.

 

            She felt alone most of the time. She loved it when her mother took the time to play with her whenever she asked her to. Her father, on the other hand, was always too busy with his work, and there were even days when she barely saw him at all.

 

            But even though spending time with her mother was great, it wasn't the same as having someone close to her age to play with. And so, one day, she finally asked her mother.

 

"Why don't I have a brother or a sister?"

 

            Being this young, Miss Parker missed the shadow that crossed her mother's face when she spoke. Instead, she waited patiently for her to answer her question. When she finally did, it was with a question of her own.

 

"Why do you want a sibling?"

 

"I want someone to play with," Miss Parker admitted.

 

"I'm not enough anymore?"

 

            As she said this, Catherine leaned over her daughter, and started tickling her. Soon, Miss Parker was rolling on the floor, laughing so much that she could barely breathe.

 

"Stop it, Mama," she managed to say between two giggles.

 

            Catherine Parker finally took pity of her daughter and stopped tickling her. She gathered her in her arms, and held her tight as the little girl was trying to catch her breath. Miss Parker, all too happy to be in her mother's arms, didn't question the sudden hug. She let herself be held, and she closed her eyes.

 

            Despite it being the middle of the afternoon, she was slowly drifting off to sleep. Her mother was rubbing soft circles on her back and was humming one of their favourite songs. She placed kisses on the top of Miss Parker's head who yawned.

 

"Are you falling asleep on me?" Catherine asked in a whisper.

 

            Miss Parker shook her head against her mother's chest, but she didn't open her eyes. She felt more than heard the giggles that escaped her mother's lips. She was feeling content here, in the arms of the person who mattered the most to her. She didn't want to be anywhere else at the moment.

 

            Her mind drifted back to what prompted all this, her question about having a sibling. She remembered what the other children at school said about siblings and how they requested their parents' attention. This was something that Miss Parker wouldn't like.

 

            She was used to being the centre of her mother's world. She wasn't ready to share that with another child. She didn't want to share her mother with anyone else. Maybe she didn't want a sibling as much as she thought she did after all.

 

            She liked playing with her mother. And if she wanted to play with kids her age, there was recess at school for that. She didn't need someone else at home to claim her mother from her, or to catch the little attention she had from her father.

 

"I don't want a sibling," she murmured, her face still buried in her mother's chest.

 

"It's alright," Catherine replied, a small smile on her lips. "It'll be just you, me and your father."

 

"I love you, Mama."

 

"I love you too, baby. And nothing will ever change that."

 

            Miss Parker smiled, and cuddled closer to her mother. She was happy here, and she knew she always would be. As much as she was the centre of her mother's world, her mother was the most important person in her eyes too.

 

            She loved her father too, but that was different. Her mother would always hug her tight when she needed it. Her mother was always there for her when she needed her to be.

 

            She wanted her father to be there, too. She wanted him to take her in his arms and to whisper words of love in her ear. But he almost never did, even when she requested it. Her mother would comfort her by holding her in her arms. She would reassure her that her father loved her, even though he didn't always show it.

 

            Sometimes, though, Miss Parker wanted more than just reassurances from her mother. She wanted to feel like she was more important to him than his work. She was just a little girl, and it hurt her to think that her father would rather spend his time at work instead of with his daughter.

 

            Maybe that would change over time, but she needed her father now, not when she was all grown-up. She wondered sometimes whether her father was proud of her; he never said it to her. And she wanted to make him proud. She didn't yet know what it would take, but whatever it was she would do it one day.

 

"I don't want you to go, tomorrow, Mama," Miss Parker suddenly said, remembering that her mother was set to leave in the morning.

 

            Catherine tightened her hold on her daughter, and dropped another series of kisses on the top her head.

 

"I don't want to go either, but I promised your aunt Dorothy."

 

"Can I go with you?"

 

"You can't miss school, baby. And Daddy will be very sad if we both leave."

 

"Won't you miss me?" Miss Parker asked again.

 

"Of course, I will. I'll miss you so much, but I really have to go. Will you miss me, too?"

 

"Very much, Mama," Miss Parker assured her, wrapping her arms around her mother's neck. "Can I come with you next time?"

 

"Maybe not next time, but one day, you will. I promise."

 

            Miss Parker looked up to her mother's face. She was smiling down at her, a bright smile that she had once said was only for her daughter. Catherine dropped a kiss on the button cute nose and tucked back a stray lock of dark hair behind Miss Parker's ear.

 

"Why don't you make me a drawing that I can take with me tomorrow?" Catherine suggested and Miss Parker nodded with enthusiasm.

 

            She placed a kiss on her mother's cheek and left her lap. She almost ran out of the room in her urge to go get her drawing material. If she had looked back just one second, she would have seen the sad look that replaced the smile on Catherine Parker's face. And when Miss Parker came back in the room, there was no trace of it.

 

 

###

 

 

            They had spent more than an hour trying to figure out where the Centre would have been likely to hide Joshua, but there was nothing in the files Jarod had gotten from Raines' computer. However, as much as they were talking about finding the child, Jarod realised that they had yet to have really talked about him. And he wanted to get to know his son.

 

            He knew Parker cared a lot about the little boy, and that she was the best person to turn to. But the part of him that always cringed when he 'tortured' her about her past, as she usually put it, didn't want to make her suffer anymore than she already did.  Nevertheless Joshua was his son too, and he already felt like he had lost too much time with him.

 

"Can you tell me about Joshua?" he asked, having finally made up his mind.

 

            Miss Parker wasn't surprised by this question. She was only surprised it hadn't come sooner. She easily understood where it was coming from, though. While she had had the chance to hold Joshua in her arms, to whisper loving words to him, he hadn't even get to see him once.

 

            They might not have known that he was theirs before last night, but they still had been deprived of his presence in their lives. Jarod, even more so than herself. She knew that. For a man who had spent most of his time since he had escaped the Centre trying to find his family, it must be even harder to know that one more person had been added to the list.

 

            But she could, if not give him back what he had missed – this was something that no one could ever do –, offer him the chance to know Joshua as well as she did. It might not be a lot, but for now, it would have to be enough. They would have plenty of time to know him more once they would have freed him from the Centre.

 

            She walked towards the package she had sent herself, and looked inside for the picture she knew was there. She was glad that she had thought about packing it, even though it had meant nothing at the time to even pack this box.

 

            When she found it, she looked at it for a moment, before handing it to Jarod.

 

            His eyes first found Miss Parker's face. She was happy, smiling like he had so rarely seen her smile since her mother's death. It was a smile that he wished he could witness more often, now that she wasn't working at the Centre anymore. And, to be honest, more than anything else, it was a smile that he wished to see directed at him one day.

 

            He knew he couldn't stare at her face on the picture any longer without her asking questions about the look on his face. His eyes finally left her face to follow hers, and he was looking at the baby in her arms. Joshua, his son, their son, was cradled in her mother's arms, and neither of them knew it at the time.

 

"When was it taken?"

 

"I went to see him two days after he was born. Broots found me, and he took this photo. He was in a room, alone. A nurse came to see him every couple of hours to feed and change him, but apart from that, he was all alone."

 

"And you often went to see him," Jarod stated, more than asked, his eyes still on the picture.

 

"As much as I could, yes."

 

            She didn't tell him of the time she had found Raines with the baby. Even though he helped him in the end, she still refused to think about that day. And even less now that she knew he was hers. Jarod didn't need to know about that, he didn't need to live with the image of Raines and his son. God knew what they would find once they locate Joshua. There was no need to add to that right now.

 

            Jarod's eyes hadn't left the picture from the moment Parker handed it to him. The look that he saw on her face wasn't one he had ever seen before: it was a look of pure love. Sure, it had been the love of a sister for her baby brother at the time, but now, he could only see the love of a mother for her son.

 

"What colour are his eyes?" he asked.

 

            His question surprised her, but then, as her eyes fell on the picture, she understood: the baby had his eyes closed. She guessed it was the kind of curiosity all father had for their child, and it was an answer she could give him.

 

"When he was born, they were blue. But then, they became brown. Just like yours," she added.

 

            And when she said this, she wondered why she hadn't realised it sooner. Joshua's eyes were exactly like Jarod's. But she had never noticed it before.           They had spent more than an hour trying to figure out where the Centre would have been likely to hide Joshua, but there was nothing in the files Jarod had gotten from Raines' computer. However, as much as they were talking about finding the child, Jarod realised that they had yet to have really talked about him. And he wanted to get to know his son.

 

            He knew Parker cared a lot about the little boy, and that she was the best person to turn to. But the part of him that always cringed when he 'tortured' her about her past, as she usually put it, didn't want to make her suffer anymore than she already did.  Nevertheless Joshua was his son too, and he already felt like he had lost too much time with him.

 

"Can you tell me about Joshua?" he asked, having finally made up his mind.

 

            Miss Parker wasn't surprised by this question. She was only surprised it hadn't come sooner. She easily understood where it was coming from, though. While she had had the chance to hold Joshua in her arms, to whisper loving words to him, he hadn't even get to see him once.

 

            They might not have known that he was theirs before last night, but they still had been deprived of his presence in their lives. Jarod, even more so than herself. She knew that. For a man who had spent most of his time since he had escaped the Centre trying to find his family, it must be even harder to know that one more person had been added to the list.

 

            But she could, if not give him back what he had missed – this was something that no one could ever do –, offer him the chance to know Joshua as well as she did. It might not be a lot, but for now, it would have to be enough. They would have plenty of time to know him more once they would have freed him from the Centre.

 

            With her mask firmly in place, Jarod couldn't see the turmoil that was eating at her insides. His eyes hadn't left the picture of his son. Even though he liked that Joshua had something from him, Jarod was still a bit disappointed. He would have loved for their son to have Parker's eye colour.

 

"He has your nose," he said, as he looked more closely at the baby's features.

 

            Parker went to stand beside him, and her hand rested on his arm when she looked down at the picture. She hadn't noticed it before, but Jarod was right: Joshua did have her nose.

 

"He also seems to have my temper," she said; it was a trait that he couldn't see on the picture but that she wanted to share. "Poor him."

 

"I don’t think it will be a problem. If I can keep up with you, I'll be able to keep up with him."

 

"We'll see if you still say the same when he wakes you with his cries in the middle of the night."

 

            Her words slowly sank in both of them. It might just be hypothetical for the moment, but very soon hopefully, they would have their son with them. They were already parents, even though neither of them felt like one just yet. When they found their son and freed him from the Centre, it would all be real.

 

            And right now, for Miss Parker, it already felt too real. She stepped away from Jarod and went to sit on the bed, her eyes on the floor. When she raised them, she saw that he was looking at her with worried eyes.

 

"My God, Jarod… We have a son!"

 

"Yes. And he's beautiful."

 

            He sat on the bed beside her, not touching her, but closer than he would have dared only weeks before. Their fingers brushed when he handed her back the picture.

 

            She let her eyes fell on the picture and she could only agree with Jarod. Their son was beautiful, and she wished she had a more recent picture to show him. But they were already lucky as it was to have this one.

 

"Do you think we should tell them?" Jarod asked, nodding towards the door.

 

            If she was honest, she had almost forgotten that they weren't alone. But they weren't, and they knew that there would be questions as to why they had shut themselves in her room for a couple of hours.

 

            But then, she thought about telling Ethan, and she started to laugh.

 

            Hearing Miss Parker laugh was even rarer than seeing a smile on her face. She hadn't had a lot to laugh about after her mother's death. He had still managed to make her laugh a couple of times, when they were children. But as the years had passed, her mood had become darker, and her laughter a distant memory.

 

            And now, here she was, laughing, and he didn't have a single clue why. He wondered if she was laughing at him – a distinct possibility – but it didn't really matter to him right now. Seeing her like this just brought a smile to his face.

 

"What's so funny?" he still asked when she finally calmed down.

 

"Ethan… How are we going to tell him that his brother and sister have a son?"

 

"Well, just like you said it. We have a son, and he has a nephew."

 

"If you think it's that simple, then, you should be the one to break the news to him."

 

            Jarod just shrugged. He wasn't really seeing the problem here. He agreed that their family situation wasn't a normal one, but he doubted that they were unique. Surely, the world was big enough for a family such as theirs to exist.

 

            If she didn't want to be the one to tell their brother about Joshua, then, he would. Ethan would understand, he had no doubt about that.

 

"We should probably go see them now," he said, and she nodded.

 

            He stood up from the bed, and held open the door for her. When she walked past him and out of the room, he briefly took her hand in his and squeezed it.

 

            The kitchen was empty as were the other main rooms. It was only when they stepped outside that they found the other two men. They were sitting on the porch, and Ben was telling Ethan about the Catherine he knew.

 

            It was a story that Miss Parker knew well, but she didn't mind hearing it again. When Ben stopped talking as he noticed them, she gestured for him to continue, and went to sit on the steps beside Ethan. The older man resumed talking as Jarod stayed standing against the wall.

 

            It was a story that the Pretender had heard too, the first time he had come here. It was what had decided him to lead Miss Parker here. He wanted to show her a part of her mother that had been hidden from her.

 

            But what he had never told her was that Catherine had planned to take her daughter here one day, after they would have ran away from the Centre. Maybe it was time he told her, and maybe it was time he finally gave her her mother's diary. She would probably slap him for having kept it away from her all this time, and she would be right to do so. But if they were to stay together, he had to give the diary to her.

 

            He could only hope that she wouldn't shoot him when he did.

 

 

###

 

 

Lyle was the last one left to face Raines. After Cox’s had come Broots' turn, and now, Sydney was sitting at the table. He wasn't surprised that Raines wanted to interrogate him last; he was holding him responsible for what had happened in Sherwood.

 

            But he wasn't, and he would make sure that Raines knew that from the moment he sat down on that chair.

 

            For the moment, though, he was still stuck in this room. From the small window, he could see Sydney being interrogated. Even though several hours had passed, he still felt frustrated not to be able to hear what was being said. He didn't think Sydney would say something of importance; the old man didn't know a thing about Miss Parker's escape. But it didn't mean that he didn't want to listen to the conversation.

 

            More than anything else, he wanted to know whether Raines had something up his sleeve. Anything was possible with this man, and no one really knew what he was capable of. He might be his father – and it was something he still hadn't come to terms with – but that didn't mean that he trusted him. To save himself, Raines would put him in the line of fire, there was no doubt.

 

            Lyle could feel Cox's eyes on his back. He hadn't talked to him since he had come back into the room. And until he was certain that Cox wasn't the one that had warned Miss Parker of his plan, he didn't intend to even look at him.

 

            For the moment, he kept his eyes on Raines. If the older man knew that he was being watched, he wasn't showing any signs of it. And usually, when you worked at the Centre, you knew when someone was watching you; it helped you stay alive.

 

            Raines' face was unreadable. He hadn't shown a single emotion at what he was being told, as if he wasn't the least bit interested. But Lyle knew that it was just a mask, one that he had perfected through the years. He wouldn't be able to read anything on his face today.

 

            Lyle finally saw Sydney getting up from his chair and being led back towards the room they were locked in. He mentally steeled himself for what he knew was to come. He did as he was told when Willie gestured for him to come out of the room; protesting now would be useless.

 

            He didn't wait for the sweepers to indicate the chair to him: he walked straight towards it, and sat sideway, his right arm resting against the back of the chair. He wanted – needed – to show Raines that he couldn't intimidate him like he had the others. It might be useless, but he still hoped that it would unsettle Raines. The Chairman of the Centre was so used to have him at his beck and call that he had to make a statement straight away.

 

            Again, nothing showed on Raines' face, but Lyle noticed that something had changed in his eyes. It wasn't a lot, but it was enough for him to feel more confident than he had been only a few minutes ago.

 

            He wasn't surprised when Raines didn't start talking after a couple of minutes, like he did with the others; it was a way to unsettle him. But it wouldn't work. Lyle might not have the upper hand here, but that didn't mean he would let the bald man control him.

 

            Slips of paper with questions and notes on them were passed from the people in the shadows to Raines. He didn't know what was on them, but he could guess that most of them were pertaining to the reason they were here in the first place. That was why Raines' first words, after long minutes of silence, surprised him.

 

"Tell me about Jimmy Radloff."

 

            Lyle's back stiffened at the sound of this name. This question was just made to destabilize him. He had no doubt that every single person in the room knew about Jimmy Radloff. It had been Raines' idea at the time, and now, he was almost certain that the Tower had been behind it.

 

            He considered not answering the question and waiting for the next. But as he saw the ghost of a smile on Raines' face, he realised that this was a test. And if he were to ignore the question, he would fail. He didn't want to think about what that would tell them.

 

            If he had to talk about a life he had left behind years ago to keep his head on his shoulders, then he would.

 

"I murdered him."

 

            He didn't stop here. He described exactly what he did, and how he framed his father for his faked death. He knew that was what they had expected, and he was giving it up to them. He would show them that you don't unsettle Mr. Lyle that easily. That was a lesson he planned to teach them.

 

            Once he was out of here, though, he would find that security footage, and destroy it. This tape could easily be used against him at a later point. If he knew one thing, it was that the Centre would resort to all length to get rid of one of its employees. And he had proved in the past that he wasn't an easy man to kill.

 

 

###

 

 

            Ethan and Ben had taken the news more easily than Miss Parker had anticipated. As Jarod had thought, Ethan had been mostly unfazed by the fact that they had a child. His only questions had been about how to get him back. Ben had also offered to help them in any way he could, but they had declined, neither of them wanting to put him in danger.

 

            Soon after, Jarod and Ethan had left to start making lunch, and Parker was left alone with Ben. He sat down next to her on the stairs, and gently bumped his shoulder against hers.

 

"You haven't said much," he remarked. "How are you feeling about all this?"

 

"I wish I could say I was completely floored by what they did, but honestly, I just don't know why I hadn't figured it out sooner."

 

"You had no way of knowing that they would do something like that."

 

            Miss Parker scoffed. If there was someone who should have noticed that something was going on, it was her. Not only was it about her, but she probably knew better than anyone else what the Centre was capable of. She should have known, that was as simple as that.

 

            But Ben couldn't understand that. He didn't know everything about the Centre; there were just some things that neither she nor Jarod could bring themselves to tell him about. And because he didn't know the Centre as well as she and Jarod did, he couldn't understand why she was berating herself for not having noticed it sooner.

 

"The Centre is capable of anything," she finally said. "They do whatever they want. They take from you whatever they want. They use you. You're nothing to them."

 

"It's all over now, isn't it? You ran away."

 

"It'll be really over the day the Centre is taken down. Until then, we don't live, we merely survive."

 

            Maybe she was telling him too much. He didn't need to know all this, but he had to understand that as long as the Centre was still in the picture, they would keep hunting her and Jarod.

 

"Alright. Then, you'll take it down. I know, I know," he said putting his hands up at the look Miss Parker was giving him, "it won't be easy, but it's something that has to be done. And you can do it, together."

 

            She nodded, agreeing with his assessment. It certainly couldn't be done overnight, but they would take the Centre down. Together. If there was one thing she had understood in the past few years, it was that when they were working side by side, they were stronger. The only mistake the Centre had ever made was to allowing them to meet. Sure, they had never condoned them being friends, but it was that first meeting that had started it all.

 

           The thing was, the Centre had always underestimated her. They had mostly seen her as an asset to get Jarod back, and their latest plan had just been another evidence of that. And that might just help her and Jarod in the long run.

 

"Yes, we will," she said, as much for herself as for Ben.

 

"You will," Ben repeated. "You know, that wasn't what I wanted to know when I asked how you were feeling. I meant how are you feeling about all this? About Joshua being your son."

 

"I'm feeling… lost. I never envisioned being a mother. I don't know how to be a mother."

 

            She hadn't told Jarod this; she had figured that there would be time for it later, and that, for the moment, they needed to concentrate on getting Joshua back. But it was nothing more than the truth. Being responsible for a little child who couldn't defend himself was something she wasn't sure she could do. Sometimes she wasn't even sure she knew how to take care of herself.

 

"I'm sure that, had Catherine been there, she would have told you that no woman is born a mother, and that it's alright to feel scared. But I'm sure you'll do great, just like your mom did with you."

 

"I'm not my mother," she said, though it lost the venom it usually had.

 

"No, you're not. You're your own person," he said. "And yes, you'll make mistakes, but that's how you learn how to be a parent." He paused, waiting for his words to sink in, before he resumed talking. "Don't you think your mother was afraid of the same thing?"

 

"My mother was perfect," she replied, a sad smile on her face as she thought of the parent she had lost so many years ago.

 

"She really wasn't. She was your mother, so in your eyes, she was perfect, but no one really is. She had the same doubts as you do. And from what she told me, they never really go away, even when your child is older. I don't have children, but I imagine every parent feels the same."

 

"I doubt that Jarod will. He'll be the perfect father, or as close to perfect as he can. He's going to research how to be a father, because that's what he had been taught to do at the Centre. He can be whoever he wants to be."

 

            Ben saw that Miss Parker was really worried about the kind of mother she would be for Joshua. Whatever he could say wouldn't help her because he wasn't the one she should be hearing them from.

 

            He squeezed her shoulder as he got up from where he was sitting on the steps. Just before he entered the house, he looked at Parker over his shoulder. She was looking straight ahead, but he knew she wasn't really seeing anything; she was lost in her thoughts about how to be a mother.

 

            He let out a sigh, and walked inside and to the kitchen. Jarod was telling Ethan about the time he had been a chef in a small restaurant in San Francisco and the recipes he had learnt there, including the one he was making for lunch.

 

"Hey Ben," Jarod said as he spotted the older man coming into the kitchen.

 

"Why don't you go outside, Jarod," Ben replied, cutting to the chase. "I'm sure Ethan and I can manage for a while."

 

"Is it Miss Parker?" the Pretender asked, instantly worried that something had happened.

 

"Just... go outside."

 

            Jarod nodded, untying the apron he had been wearing and handing it to Ben. He didn't stop when he heard Ethan asked Ben what was going on, he just quickened his pace.

 

            She didn't turn around when he stepped onto the porch. He wondered whether she hadn't heard him or if she was just ignoring him. He sat down beside her, close but not touching her.

 

            He turned his head to look at her; her face was shielded by her hair. He wanted to brush it away, but he had no idea how she could react. The last thing he wanted after the progress they had made this morning was to make her run away by doing something she didn't approve of.

 

"Are you alright?" he asked.

 

"What did Ben tell you?"

 

"Nothing. He just told me to come outside. Did something happen?"

 

            She shook her head. She had no doubt what Ben was trying to do here: he hadn't been able to reassure her so he had sent the Pretender to her hoping he would. And maybe he was right and she needed to talk to Jarod. It didn't mean that it was easy.

 

            She was still learning to treat him as an ally and not an enemy anymore, just as much as she was learning to let go. It was easier said than done; she knew she wasn't at the Centre anymore and that she didn't have to pretend to be strong all the time, but she was still figuring out how to do this.

 

            But maybe it came with telling him what was on her mind.

 

"I was just telling him that I don't know how to be a mother. I never thought I would be a mother one day."

 

"I never thought I would be a father one day, either," he admitted. "And, unlike other parents, we don't exactly have nine months to prepare ourselves to this big change in our life."

 

"And I'm still dealing with a huge change," she added, and he nodded. "But you don't have to worry. You'll read all the books that have ever been written on parenting, and you'll know everything you have to."

 

            Jarod was surprised by the bitterness of her words. He had always known that she didn't like him showing off; it irritated her more often than not when he knew something that she didn't. Granted, most of the time, it was something about her past, but at times, mostly when they were children at the Centre, it was something that he had learnt during a pretend.

 

            He couldn't help it, though, he was a Pretender, and he was trained to be whoever he wanted to be, to do whatever he wanted to do, after having read only one book on the subject. That was what Sydney had taught him as a child, and it was a habit that was hard to shake off.

 

            And Parker was right; he would most certainly read every book available on the subject to try and be the best father possible. He would treat this new part of his life as a SIM. And just when that thought crossed his mind, he knew he was in the wrong: this wasn't just a SIM, this would be his life from now on, his son. And neither Parker nor he could see Joshua as just another pretend. If they did, they would only prove that the Centre still had influence on both of them, and Jarod was afraid to know where that would lead them.

 

"What if I decided not to read a single book on this topic?" he asked, and she scoffed at the idea.

 

"You wouldn't be able to help yourself. It's who you are."

 

"Maybe it's time I change."

 

"Anyway, you can't," she said, not even addressing him wanting to change his ways. "At least one of us will need to know what we're fucking doing."

 

"Well, I don't know about you, but I don't need to read a book to know that you shouldn't swear in front of a child."

 

            She let out a half-hearted laugh at that, and he counted it as a small victory. He decided that from now on, he should always make a mental note of all these small victories; it might not be much, but it would have to do for the moment.

 

"We'll learn together," he continued. "As long as Joshua doesn't have high hopes about us as his parents, we should be fine."

 

"One step at a time?" she asked and he nodded.

 

"One step at a time," he repeated.

 

"Alright, so what now?"

 

"Now, we're going to have lunch with Ben and Ethan, and then we're going to rest." As he saw she was about to protest, he continued. "If we want to be on the road tomorrow at dawn, it's better that we rest. It's going to be a long trip."

 

            He stood up, and held his hand out to Parker to help her up. But, in true Parker fashion, she swatted his hand away and got up on her own. He wasn't surprised by that; she would need time before she was truly ready to accept his help.

 

            But for the moment, he was focusing on the small smile she had on her lips as she was looking at him. Another small victory.

 

 

 To be continued












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