Stretching Home

I really need to find a doctor or NP.  My drinking has lead to liver disease or cirrhosis.  Not that I’ll stop drinking until N5 v2 is complete, but I’d like to know exactly what’s wrong with me:  even with Metoprolol, my BP is up, I get tired easily, lose my balance in the mornings, and my right under my ribs hurts.

In the mean time, Nichole starts her tour.  This segment touches on her school fellows and puts Nancy in a can.  We’ll be back to Zom’s for dinner – have to fit Joe in somewhere as he’s a part of the second to last scene of Part 3… a fighting retreat.  Honestly, I don’t actually see him die…  Tomorrow should be a good day for writing.  If you’re inclined, pray for me*.  I’d appreciate it.

*For the stories, not my health.  I’m gonna die regardless… need to get these out!

Nichole had dropped by Professor Vincent’s office just prior to the class she led, asking him to come over at the end. John and Sanjay were already seated and she was surprised that Teresa was there as well.

Must have the same political ‘sixth sense’ her father does!

As the class would end in a few weeks, and to get ready for Vincent’s new lab, that would follow, her instruction was more and more about real-world application and coding. Given her less than peripheral involvement, she did not want her potential cousin to be stillborn or insane.

“Which brings me,” she looked up at the end of the hour to see Erik in the doorway, “to what may be good or bad news: Professor Vincent shall resume teaching this class, for what little time of it is left.”

The two young men looked stunned. She noticed Teresa nod to herself.

“But… why?!” Sanjay almost shouted.

“I am called upon by the local government to assist them.” She paused as Sanjay and John looked at Teresa. “For a delicate task outside of the City.”

“What shit is this, Trees?” John rumbled dangerously, obviously angry.

“It’s not me!” She yelled right back. “You think I want my friend in danger?!”

“So what Miss Clarke is being asked to do is dangerous,” Erik said softly, still in the doorway. He held Nichole’s eyes. “Many Huns have been seen in and about the City. I won’t ask what’s going on in front of Miss Johnson, here. But whatever it is you think you have to do, we need you here, more.”

Nichole capped the marker she was holding and placed it beneath the eraserboard, amazed at how much he’d put together. Am I so transparent?

“Sic Parvis Magna,” Nichole tried.

“Hah.” Erik replied blankly, coming into the classroom and guiding her away from the board toward her old seat next to Teresa. “You are not Lawrence and I am certainly not Allenby.”

He picked up the marker she’d put down.

“Let’s take five minutes to make sure I know where you guys are so as to not waste everyone’s time in our next meeting…”

Shortly after, considering the lengthening shadows outside, Nichole spoke up.

“Everyone? As thanks, may I treat you to dinner?” She thought about one more place she had to go. “In two hours, at Zom’s?”

“And drinks?” John asked, ever the practical one.

Nichole smiled and nodded. If this doesn’t work, money will be of no avail.

They all told her they’d be there.

She noted Teresa taking her time with her tablet and bag. They were alone.

“Gotta bang your boyfriend first?” she asked.

“No. Last.” Nichole said. “I’ve another friend to visit.”

Teresa stood.

“You… you’re acting…” he voice shook. Nichole waited.

“You’re acting as if you’re saying ‘goodbye’ to everyone! Dad, General Tessmer, everyone has thought this through!” Teresa took a breath to steady herself and narrowed her eyes. “What do you know that we don’t?”

“’Know?’” Nichole mused, not lying. “I cannot know the future. I can only do what I can with the present before me.”

She took two steps and rubbed her right cheek against Teresa’s left. Not for show: for affection.

“See you soon!”

Teresa opened her mouth to speak, but her friend was already gone.

Half a mile south of the university the population was sparse enough for Nichole to run at her best speed. Even if one or two saw her, they wouldn’t be believed. While she did not know that her friend, Nancy, would be home…

Dear God, she tried, this might be presumptive of me, but I’d like to see all my friends this day! Thank you… er… amen!

Nichole was perfectly still and silent before the front door of the Brunelli house. Her hearing told her that her friend was home. She rapped on the screen door twice. After a few moments, the front floodlights came on. Right after that, the door opened.

“Nichole!” the old woman called, opening her arms to her young friend. “So cold! Come in, come in!”

She ushered Nichole into the kitchen and put on a small kettle to boil.

“My Johnny has dropped rather broad hints about great things being a-foot,” Nancy said, preparing the tea proper and with a sharp glance over her reading glasses at her guest. “Is that what brings you so unexpectedly?”


“Yes, Nancy,” she replied. “In fact, for my mission I asked for your son by name. If anything… untoward were to happen to him, the blame is mine alone!”

“Heavens!” Nancy cried, picking up the kettle just before it steamed and pouring the water over the tea leaves in their strainers. “Here, now! Let’s warm you up!”

Nichole took the steaming cup. She would not disgrace her host. She took a long drink of it.

“Thank you, friend Nancy!” She found it hard to bring her eyes back up. “I… we… are on a mission. To the horse – ”

“Now you just hush!” Nancy said with a smile. “You forget that Johnny’s father served, too! I know full well about security! You all do what you have to then come right back here for nice dinner! I’d have you bring that handsome man of yours, but Johnny…”

She trailed off with a great smile. As much as she hurt, Nichole returned it.

“Thank… thank you, Nancy. I’d… like that.” Her head went back down.

With a still, small sound, she felt Nancy take her hands. Raising her eyes, she saw the old woman’s head down in prayer.

“Dear Saint Christopher, pray with me: you have a beautiful name as a result of the wonderful story that while carrying people across a raging stream you carried the Child Jesus. Please teach us, all, to be true Christ-bearers to those who do not know Him. Protect those that now travel into the unknown and often unknowingly carry Christ with and within them. Amen.”

“Amen.” Nichole echoed before realizing it. Unlike her confrontation with her eldest sister Hajime, just before the battle at The Dalles dam, when it seemed the ground opened under her feet into a glimpse of Hell, Nichole perceived an odd radiance in the upper corners of her friend’s kitchen. She had not been this calm since her solitary walk around Tokyo before coming to Portland.

She tightened her grasp of Nancy’s hands.

“If you need to cry, my young friend…”

Nichole shook her head once, sharply.

“I cannot!” she said, not caring if she was understood or misunderstood. “But I wish I could!”

Confused and conflicted, she stood and drank the rest of her tea.

“I shall do almost everything in my power to see your son home to you!” Nichole pronounced, her emotions getting caught up into her voice.

Her tone was such that Nancy almost dropped her teacup. Being made of sterner stuff, she carefully set it down and stood, taking two steps around the tiny kitchen table.

“I know.” She lightly kissed Nichole’s right cheek. “So many love you and pray for you; more than you can imagine, I bet!”

She picked up both cups and moved to the sink. Nichole wondered if she should say more, but decided they had all said enough.

Nancy heard the screen door bang shut. She carefully set the teacups down and sank to her knees. Taking her Rosary from around her neck, she began to pray, her son’s name uppermost in her mind. She paused after the first decade.

“Johnny!” she sobbed. “Please come home!”

2 thoughts on “Stretching Home

    1. “Cut short” begs the question that I am guaranteed a time, which I do not believe. Alcohol is a crutch I use for some writing, especially stories that are, say, grittier. Once Nichole’s second book is complete, I will cut back… I’d like to stick around long enough to see Daughter #2 as the first RN in the Space Force.

      Thanks for reading, JB.


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