This Magic Place -- Chapter 13

    After a couple of wet, kisses, essence of burrito, a hug and a squeeze, I said goodnight to Dac and headed out of the room. Jerry and Dulce were waiting, Craig and Kevin having gone ahead in the pickup. The back of the Land Cruiser was loaded with plants and flowers. The fragrance was an strange mix of roses, gardenias and Jerry's aftershave and an occasional scent of Dulce's perfume.

    It was a relaxed drive back to the house and conversation drifted back and forth between us ranging from Thanksgiving, getting things ready for the twins, dealing with Dac and his needs as he began his recuperation, an occasional joke, work on the house and grounds and so forth.

    "When is the attorney arriving?," as Dulce looked over at me.

    "Tomorrow night. He'll probably be here through Saturday and head back to Albuquerque Sunday afternoon. I won't any more than get Dac home and settled and Geoff will show up."

    Jerry spoke up, "That's the attorney's name?"

    "Oh, sorry, yes, it's Geoffrey Macleod, Geoff for short," I said. "He'll be leaving Albuquerque after court tomorrow. He said he only had a couple of motion hearings in the morning, so by the time he shuts things down at the office and gets on the road, and you figure a four- to five-hour trip, he should be showing up probably around 6:30."

    "Do you want me to have a big meal ready for him?," Dulce asked.

    "I'd rather just keep it simple. Why don't we all crowd around the kitchen table. He likes Mexican food, so maybe something that you usually make for all of us. Besides, it's less work for you that way."

    "That sounds good," Dulce said. "That's something I have been wanting to talk with you about."

    "I think I know what it is, Dulce. I need to hire some full-time help for you in the kitchen. But let's wait and talk about it after I get Dac home and we've had some time to think about what we both want and need. If you need to get some help while McLeod is here, that's fine. Can you get somebody from town on a temporary basis? Do you know of anybody?"

    "Yes, I do. And I'll call her this evening. Her name is Guadalupe. She's about my age and an excellent cook and out of work at the moment. You want me to hire her on a day-to-day basis?"

    "Yes. I'll pay her a good wage. If she works out -- well, we'll just have to wait and see."

    Dulce didn't say anything and I could almost hear the mental wheels grinding away.  It was probably a foregone conclusion.

    We pulled onto the access road, keyed the gate, and started toward the house. Something looked different -- nothing wrong or damaged, just different. The sky looked lighter in the distance. Everything seemed different.  Surely it was my imagination. The gardenias were getting to me, or Jerry's aftershave.  I wondered where he bought the stuff -- a hardware store?

    "Look," Jerry pointing as we crested the hill and began dropping down into the valley.

    "What is it?," Dulce said.

    I stepped on the gas and came over the crest and immediately slammed on the brakes, swerving to the left to avoid Craig and Kevin parked in the middle of the road and cussing under my breath. We came to a sliding halt in the ditch alongside the pickup. We got out and looked.

    The entire house was bathed in a shining ivory-colored light. There were streaks of silver, appearing in one place then disappearing only to reappear in another, moving, pulsing. I looked up in the sky to see where it was coming from but except for the diamond-like brilliance of the stars, the sky was a dark velvet. The entire house was enveloped in this light. There was movement inside the light -- at least I think there was. It was beautiful and it seemed almost alive and yeah, just a little frightening.

    There was a hush over the valley. No breeze stirring in the tree tops, no sounds from the usual night creatures, as though everything was waiting. We stood in the still, cold air and watched and waited for we knew not what.

    "I don't know what it is," finally answering Dulce and thinking to myself, how beautiful it is.

    Almost imperceptibly at first, the light began to fade, then faster, then finally disappearing altogether.

    There was a collective sigh of tightly held breaths.

    And Kevin, almost in a whisper, gazing at the house, "The music was so beautiful."

    Craig looked at Kevin, started to make a joke, then seeing the rapt expression on his face, "What music, Kev?"

    "You didn't hear it? Oh, it was so beautiful, it was so . . . You really didn't hear it?"

    "No," as Craig put his arms around him.

    "Maybe you just heard it in your mind," Jerry volunteered.

    "No, no, I heard it out loud and it was everywhere. It . . . It . . . It just . . . I was so afraid when I first saw that light, I thought the house was going to catch on fire and then the music started and it just . . . It just filled me up."

    "I've never heard anything like this before. It was so beautiful, I . . ."

    By this time, we were all looking at Kevin with varying expressions.

    Kevin looked at me, "I heard it, I know I heard it. It was beautiful."

    "What kind of music?," I asked.

    "I don't know, for sure," as Kevin stood there with a puzzled look on his face. "It sounded like a harp, lots of harps, all different kinds. It was beautiful."   

    I put my arm around Kevin's shoulders, "Well, Kev, I don't doubt you heard something. Guess we'll never know what it was, though. Well, c'mon, everybody, let's get all these plants unloaded."

    "Wish I could hear it again," Kevin said, as we got in and proceeded on down to the house.

    "What's that fragrance?," Dulce asked as we got out of the Cruiser. "It smells like roses."

    "Considering the botanical garden we've got in the back, it's not surprising," I said.

    "No, it's different and you can smell it everywhere."

    "Yeah, I can smell it, too," Craig said.

    "Yeah," as Jerry looked around.

    I could smell it, too. And Dulce was right, it was different. It finally dawned on me. "You know what that is? That smells like the incense they use in church during high mass."

    "That's it. That's why it was familiar," as Dulce looked around. "Where is it coming from?"

    "I don't know," as I walked several steps away from the car. "It's the same over here."

    "I came back to the car and started picking up plants and the rest followed suit. As we entered the house, the smell of incense was even stronger than outside. We sat things wherever we could in the kitchen and started walking through the house, room by room. It seemed stronger in the library but was present in all the rooms, even upstairs in the bedrooms.

    Another mystery, I thought as I picked up one of the gardenia plants, "Let's take the gardenias and roses into the library. The rest we can put in various places in the house. Oh, and bring the jade plant, too."

    "David, look," Dulce said, pointing to the gardenia plant.


    "The gardenia plant," as she pointed to the gardenia.

    "What about it? Looks fine to me."

    "It's in bloom," Dulce said, as though explaining to an idiot child, noticing the vacant look on my face, "David, it wasn't in bloom when we left the hospital. The other one was but not this one. I put it in the Cruiser myself. I figured it had maybe four or five days before it would start blooming."

    "You're right," I said, finally remembering the number of buds on it when I looked at it in the hospital room.

    We all stood around looking at the gardenia plant as though waiting for it to speak up and explain the mystery.

    I shook my head, "Another mystery. First the great white light, then Kevin hears music that no one else hears, the house is filled with incense and now this plant suddenly springs into bloom. I don't know what's happening and I'm too tired to deal with it now. Maybe we'll find out eventually," as I picked up the mysterious gardenia and headed for the library. "But let's get this stuff put away so we can grab a snack for those who want one and call it a night."

    "Okay, everybody," as we came back to more than a dozen or so plants, "pick whichever ones you want for yourselves and the rest we'll put in various places throughout the house."

    We finished with plants in practically every room in the house and headed back to the kitchen for a late night snack.

    After carrying a multitude of foodstuffs out of the walk-in, we finally sat down to our late night snack.

    Dulce set a carafe of coffee and a jug of milk on the table and sat down and everybody dug in.

    "This has been a strange day," Dulce said looking at several of the plants in the kitchen as though they were about to burst into bloom.

    "Yeah," as Craig looked up with a mouthful of sandwich, "I wonder what strange things are going to happen tomorrow when you bring Dac home."

    "Mmmph," I said. "Better not be anything, but if I know Dac, he'll be demanding all kinds of things. 'Oh, I'm so sick, I need this, I need that,' complete with a limp wrist and woebegone expression. He's probably laying up there in his little bed right now plotting. Boy, what an awakening he's going to get."

    And even though we joked about Dac and talked about various other things, the mystery of what had happened this evening was still very much on everyone's mind as we put food away, said our goodnights and headed in our separate directions.

    I stood at our bedroom window, looking out at a night full of stars and moonlight on a forest of pine. I wouldn't be here, I thought, were it not for a bunch of numbers on a slip of paper and a whim. So many things had happened in these last five or six months. And most wondrous of all was the love that I shared with another and I almost lost him. The family that we had suddenly acquired, Dulce, the twins, Craig and Kevin. And Tiger. And Jerry. I loved them all. It was mind boggling and I wondered if there was a divine hand in all this.

    I went to bed, thinking of Dac and ended with a prayer of thanks and finally fell asleep.

    Morning. I lay in bed, luxuriating in the soft comfort of our bed, thinking about getting up and continued to lay there. Dac would be coming home today and it seemed almost strange to think that this time tomorrow morning he would be laying there next to me, his head on my chest, still asleep or half awake and probably with roving hands which brought about some immediate results. He wasn't the only horny one. Wishing he was here right now, I smiled and got up. I stood at the window looking out. The sky was a ragged checkerboard of clouds and blue sky, the ground covered with splashes of slow-moving sunlight and shadows. I saw Craig walking across the grounds going somewhere. He looked up and spotted me at the window and stopped with a look of amazement on his face. Then he laughed and waved. I waved back, wondering what he was laughing about. And then I realized I was standing at the window stark naked, with everything pointing up. I headed for the bathroom, feeling bright red all over. Lord, what if it had been Dulce down there.

    I got dressed and opened the bedroom door and Tiger met me with a loud meow. I reached down and picked her up. "Now what's the matter with you?"

    She just looked up at me with a little cat's grin on her face and put her paw on my chest. I carried her on down the hallway and stairs telling her that Dac would be home today and finally putting her down and watching her scamper over to her bowl as I went through the door to the kitchen.

    "Good morning, Dulce, and everybody," as Craig and Kevin came through the outside door. Craig had this big grin on his face looking like he was about to bust.

    Jerry came in bleary-eyed and a good morning to match. Definitely not a morning person.

    We sat down, said grace and began breakfast.

    "Well, today's the big day," Dulce said. "I bet you're really looking forward to Dac being home; aren't you?"

    "Oh, he definitely is looking forward. No doubt about it." Craig said, managing to stifle a laugh. Barely.

    Everybody was looking at Craig and me.

    "Am I missing something here?," Dulce asked.

    "Nothing that I intend talking about," as I glared at Craig.

    I picked up my coffee cup and beat a hasty retreat to the office, muttering something about paperwork.

    I started cleaning off my desk, finding several lost things.  I finished that and started writing out some ideas about additional help for Dulce in the kitchen. I wasn't making much headway with the writing-things-down idea and I finally decided to head to the kitchen and talk with Dulce and see what she had in mind.

    "Well," Dulce said, "I guess I would want someone that's as good a cook as I am that can handle half of the cooking and half of the housekeeping. At least that was my starting point when I began thinking about just what we needed in the way of extra help."

    "Well as a general outline, I would agree, but there are a number of exceptions that I would want you to handle. Namely, taking over running the house, keeping up a running inventory of things we use: food, paper products, kitchen equipment, linens, that sort of thing plus the reordering and stocking of same. Since we now have a very good computer, the logical thing would be to put all this on computer. Some sort of inventory control program. I'll talk to Jerry about writing a program that will cover all the things we would want in it.  You've a good educational background and I'm sure you will be able to come up with a number of ideas insofar as inventory control.

    "The next major item is keeping this place clean. My idea of cleaning is sort of hit or miss. So what I would suggest is to get a cleaning crew to come in here and clean this place top to bottom, everything, walls, ceilings, windows, carpeting, furniture. Have them start in the attic and go from floor to floor, room to room, clear down to and including the basement. We could have the cleaning crew come back periodically, of course, but in between times, it will just be maintenance housekeeping. Perhaps this is something that you and whoever we hire could share 50-50 or however you want to work it.

    "It goes without saying, Dulce, that you're in complete charge of all this. And for that matter, you'll have the final decision as to who and I'll have the final say-so as to salary and benefits. But whoever is hired, first and foremost is going to have to be comfortable with the relationship that exists between Dac and I and Craig and Kevin. I know there are homophobes out there but they sure as hell ain't going to be working for me.

    "I had thought at one time of hiring a couple, husband and wife, and maybe having the husband do butler things and a certain amount of housekeeping. But I don't really like the idea, and besides, where would I put them? And for that matter, where am I going to put whoever we do hire? I suppose he or she could commute back and forth but that's going to present some real problems during the winter with all the snow storms coming through here. I have plans for sometime in the future of building a large building to replace the two cottages. Something that would have four or five completely furnished apartments and a number of single rooms and maybe a commons rooms with small kitchen, tv, that sort of thing. But that's in the future and even if it were in the building process right now, it wouldn't be of any immediate help.

    "Well, anyway, you've been remarkably quiet through all this. What do you think about what I've said so far?"

    "Well, I wish I had taken notes, but I can remember most of it. I'll sit down tonight and write out some of my thoughts on this and maybe come up with some additional ideas.

    "But what you've said so far, I would agree with. One thing, however, is that if we do hire Lupe, and since I have the final say-so, I guess we will, assuming she's interested in the job. Anyway, she can live with me. That's a two bedroom apartment, and large, so there's more than enough room. Lupe and I grew up together and have been friends for years, so it wouldn't be like a stranger moving in. As far as being comfortable with the relationship between you and Dac and so on, she comes from a large family and one of her younger brothers is gay and she and I have talked about it a number of times and I know she wouldn't have any problems with it. So I think that part of it is pretty well taken care of."

    "Okay, you talked about wishing you had taken notes. These are the things I had written down before I came to talk with you," as I handed her the sheet of paper I had been working on.

    Dulce glanced over it, "I notice you have two or three items on here that you didn't cover:  Dac, Twins, and Salary."

    "Oh, overlooked it. Sorry. Since Dac and I will be partners, then it's only fair that he'll be half owner of all this -- and he will be by the time the lawyer gets everything done this weekend. Anyway, I would want to talk all this over with him before we go ahead with these plans and I will try to get that done over the weekend or first part of the week.

    "As to the twins. As soon as Dac gets back on his feet, there are places that we both would like to go and see: The symphony in Denver has a good program, as does the one in Albuquerque and Salt Lake and these are places that we would be going to and be gone for two and three days at a time. Probably some overnight trips to the Santa Fe Opera. So there's going to be times when Dac and I will not be here and I'll need you to look after them. Actually, at one time or another I'm sure all of the crew will have a hand in looking after them as I have a pretty strong feeling that those two are going to be pretty active little boys with all the things around here to get into and places to explore.

    "And as to the salary. If you decide to take on all this responsibility, there would be a considerable raise in pay for you. And again, that's something I would want to talk over with Dac.

    "I know that this sounds a bit overwhelming, but it's not something that anyone would expect you to come up to speed in a days' time. Perhaps the best thing to do would be to just add them in one at a time as you feel confident in being able to handle them. Go at your pace, in other words."

    "I can do that. Do you want me to go ahead and hire Lupe or wait until you and Dac have talked it over?"

    "No, go ahead and hire her but on a temporary basis and as soon as Dac and I have had a chance to talk all this over, then we'll get together and work out all the details. I'm sure we'll all have some additional ideas by that time."

    "Good. You were talking last night in the car coming home about Thanksgiving and I figure you're going to want to invite a number of people, in which case, I'm definitely going to need help."

    "You got it. If you need to, hire some high school kids to do slave work, peel potatoes, haul trash, wash dishes, sweep floors and so forth and you and Lupe handle the cooking. I plan on doing a certain amount of cooking, also, but my time will be somewhat limited. I'm figuring on two very large turkeys and a couple of large hams and all the various things that go with that kind of meal. There's probably going to be another ten people besides our crew, and all men with big appetites, so we are going to go through a lot of food. I'll start on the mincemeat later today and start baking the pumpkins the first part of next week. And I'll start making the cherry pies right now and put them in the freezer."

    "What time do you have to pick up Dac?"

    "At one o'clock but he'll probably call before then wanting to know if I've forgotten him, whine, whine. It's only 10:30 so I have plenty of time to get several made," as I made my way to the freezer."

    I hadn't any more than got one pie put together and my hands in pie dough when the phone rang. "I'll lay you odds as to who it is," I said, as Dulce answered the phone.

    "Hello? Yes, he's here. He's making pies. You want to talk to him? Well, I'll ask him if he has time," with a big grin.

    I had my hands cleaned off by that time and took the phone. "I'm up here weak and starving to death and you're having a jolly time making pies? What about me? Is anyone ever going to come get me?"

    "Oh, well, yes, Dac, I was planning on coming up and getting you around five this afternoon."

    "Five O'clock!" Italics, underscored and loud. "You said you were going to be here at one o'clock.

    "I did?  Must have forgotten. Well, I suppose I could. I did have some other things planned this afternoon."

    I held the phone away from my ear as a stretch of loud profanity came flying through. "You get your cute little butt up here and pick me up at one o'clock or I'm going to start walking home. Dammit, I'm hungry and I want to come home."

    I could hear the frustration in his voice and I wished I hadn't teased him. Well, almost.

    "Well, keep your pants on, Bud, I'll be there with a sackful of hugs for you at one o'clock. Okay?"

    "You promise? I miss you and everybody so much. I just want to come home."

    "I know you do. Don't worry. I'll be there at one o'clock. You be ready to go."

    "I already am. I'm checked out, dressed, packed, and sitting in the chair waiting for you."

    "I'll be there. Okay? I love you."

    "Okay. I love you, too. Bye."

    I hung up the phone. "Boy, there's one frustrated young man."

    "Is he ready to go?," Dulce asked.

    "Yeah, all checked out, packed, waiting in the chair and patting his foot."

    "Well, why don't you finish that pie and go and pick him up early? I'll make up the bed in your room and have lunch ready by the time you get back. It'll be a nice surprise for him."

    "Good idea," as I finished the other pie. "Why don't you go ahead and bake these and we'll have them tonight with supper."

    I washed my hands and grabbed my jacket and headed out the door.

    I made it to the hospital in record time. Dac was flopped over to one side in his chair sound asleep, a magazine open in his lap. I leaned over and whispered in his ear, "Hey, Bud, dreamin' about me?"

    "Mmmm," as he looked up at me, "Only if your name is David."

    "That's me. Let me go tell the nurse we're leaving," as I headed out the door.

    I came back to the room accompanied by a nurse pushing a wheelchair.

    "Who's that for?"

    I gave him one of my don't cause problems looks, along with a smile. "It's for you, hop in."

    "I'm not riding in no wheelchair," as he stood up preparing to stomp -- albeit carefully -- out the door.

    The nurse stepped in front of him and finally spoke up, "I can't allow that. It has to do with insurance regulations. I have to dismiss you from the front door of the hospital."

    "Oh, wonderful," as Dac grumbled his way into the wheelchair. "First you try to kill me with your cafeteria and now this. I hope you're not a woman driver!"

    "Oh, please. I'm a very good wheelchair driver. This isn't my idea. It's part of my job. So just sit still and enjoy the ride. Okay?"

    "I was just kidding," as Dac looked up at her with a smile and a look of sincerity that I'm sure must have charmed the knickers right off a number of local ladies.

    She managed to hang on to hers, however. "Um-hum. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. In the meantime, here, have a plant," and she plonked a philodendron in his lap. He grabbed at it about the same time she took off heading out the door and down the hallway. Definitely a woman driver.

    I walked ahead, got the Cruiser and pulled up just as they sailed out the front door.

    The nurse leaned down and got the wheels locked and pulled the leg supports apart and helped him stand up and opened the door of the car.

    "I can manage," Dac said, handed me the plant and got in the car.

    He started to close the door and the nurse held onto it and leaned down, and in a very sweet, kind voice, "I hope that once you are completely on your feet again, you'll come pay us a visit. You've been a good patient and we'll all miss you."

    Dac turned and smiled at her, "Thank you and yes, I'll come back and visit," as he closed the door. I leaned over and fastened his seatbelt. "Ready to go home?"

    "I'm ready to go home," and leaned back in the seat.

    I headed out of town, driving slowly, neither of us saying much.

    I pulled into the access road and had driven in maybe half the distance when Dac turned to me, "Stop for a minute, would you, David?"

    I stopped off to the side of the road and looked a question at Dac.

    He looked over at me, "C'mon," and got out of the car.

    We walked into the forest for a ways and stopped in the middle of a little sun shattered opening in the trees and Dac stopped and put his hands on my shoulders, looking straight at me.

    "Some of the things you take for granted, almost to the point of not even thinking about them they've become so much a part of your daily existence. And then you don't have them and suddenly they become the most important things in your life. Like the smell of the pines, the quietness, the peace that seems to be in the very air that you breathe. And you, David.  I missed you, so much.  Most of all, you, and all the little things that make up the whole that is you. You're the magic part of me that I've never had before and I can't imagine living without now. Nor would I want to." And he stood there, looking at me, with tears running down his cheeks and trying hard not to lose it.

    We came together and stood there with our arms wrapped around each other, not saying anything yet saying everything.

    I smiled as he moved against me. "I think someone else has missed me."

    "All of me has missed you, but Fred's really been anxious," he muttered in my hair. "Let's go home."

    We pulled up in front of the house and I got Dac's things and walked with him in the front door and practically into Dulce's arms.

   "My favorite smart mouth," she laughed up at him and hugged him close, having to stand on tiptoes to do it. "You glad to be home?"

    "Oh, yeah, I missed you, Dulce."

    "Oh?," looking skeptical. "You sure it wasn't my cooking?"

    "Well, maybe a little," he admitted.

    We walked into the kitchen and Craig, Kevin and Jerry were sitting at the table.

    After more hugs and male awkwardness, we all sat down to a lunch of sandwiches and baked beans and finished up with coffee. Dulce sat a plate of what looked like cookies on the table and a bowl of apple butter.

    "What are these?," Dac asked.

    "Those are serdels," Dulce said.

    "Oh," as Dac picked one up and looked at it as though he expected a set of directions to be printed on the side. "Okay, what are serdels?"

    "It's a dough made out of potatoes and flour and fried in deep fat. And yes," catching the skeptical look on Dac's face, "you will love them."

    "Hey, these are good," Dac said with a full mouth.

    Dulce looked upward and rolled her eyes, as though asking someone up there why she had to deal with such dumbbells.

    "Have some apple butter," Craig said as he pushed the bowl in front of Dac.

    And in less than five minutes time, everybody was laughing and talking. The new had worn off of Dac's arrival and it was though he had never been gone and our little circle of magic was complete once more.

    "Well," as I finished my coffee, and grabbing Dac's suitcase, "I'll take this stuff upstairs. You bring the plant?"

    "Yeah, I'll be up in a minute."

    I started unpacking his clothes and took out a bulky envelope with appointment times and dates and some pills just as Dac walked in with a plant in one hand and a couple of serdels in the other.

    "What are the pills for?"

    "Oh, for pain. Dr. Salazar gave them to me."

    "Oh, I thought they were antibiotics you were supposed to be taking."

    "Nope, I'm done with those. He's going to take the stitches out the next appointment I have with him."

    "Have they been bothering you?"

    "Been itching like mad. But at least I can wash with soap and water and that helps."

    I sat down on the bed beside him, "You want to take a nap for a while?"

    "I'd rather make out with you for a while and then take a nap," as he put his arms around me.

    "I can hardly wait to get reacquainted with Fred but it's going to have to wait until bedtime. The lawyer is coming for supper and I have things to get done in the kitchen."

    "The lawyer?"

    "Yeah, Geoffrey Macleod. He's going to spend the weekend and we'll get all the papers signed and/or in the process for everything we have talked about, including adopting the twins. So it's going to be a long weekend. "How about a back rub?"

    "Fred get one, too?"

    "Does Fred need one?"

    "Oh, real bad. He's really stiff."

    "Yeah, I noticed something was sure sticking out down there."

    I sat on the bed beside him and helped him undress, then grabbed some lotion and started rubbing his back and shoulders.

    "Oh, that feels good, so good. I know a neat thing you can do with hand lotion."

    "I bet I can guess," as I glanced down at the thick pelt of black with Fred standing straight up begging for attention. "Think he'd like a rub or two or three?"

    "You have to ask?"

    "Hmm, I'll see what I can do," as I worked down his shoulders onto his chest. Dac lay back on the bed looking up at me.

    "You have magic in your hands; you know that?"

    "Just for you, Bud, just for you," as we gazed at each other. I reached lower and lower.

    He took in a deep, sharp breath, "Oh, David, oh, yeah."

    Dulce looked up as I walked into the kitchen. "How's he doing?"

    "Oh, almost asleep when I left."

    "Good. He looked worn out sitting there at the table."

    "Yeah, the hospital's the last place in the world to get any rest what with all the interruptions and general noise. He was sound asleep in the chair when I went to get him.

    "So, what do you need help with?"

    "I don't - at least for supper. It's just going to be a simple meal and then Lupe will be coming over the weekend to help with everything else. So you can work on your projects."

    "Sounds good. What're we having for supper?"

    "Dac's favorite, chicken enchiladas with plenty of red and green chili sauce, buttered tortillas and pie for dessert."

    "Fantastic. I'm hungry already.

    "Well," as I looked around Dulce's spotless kitchen, "I think I'll start peeling and chopping apples for the mincemeat. I doubt I'll have time for anything else before Geoff shows up." I got a large basket of apples from the walk-in and sat at the table and started peeling.

    "With everything going on, I haven't had a chance to talk with Craig or Kevin. How're they doing?"

    Dulce looked up, "fine as far as I know. Although getting information out of those two is like talking to a rock."

    I chuckled. "Oh? I take it, then, that you never found out what their secret project is all about?"

    "Don't know why they won't tell me. It's not like I was going to tell anybody."

    "Well, I suppose we'll find out eventually. How's Owen and crew doing or do they have a secret project, too?"

    "Not that I know of. They've been up to the house a couple of times to check on Dac and how he was doing, but other than that, they've kept pretty much to themselves with their own work."

    Dulce glanced over at me, "Is Dac going to be okay?"

    "Yeah, no disabilities. At least the doctor didn't mention anything. He's sore and weak but now that he's home he'll be getting the rest that he needs and good food, so I figure he's probably going to snap back pretty quick. The doctor gave him a series of exercises to help the soreness and get the abdominal muscles back in shape."

    I sat there in the pleasantness of the kitchen talking with Dulce about Thanksgiving, additional help, computer inventory and various things.

    Owen, Anthony and Mario showed up, knowing that Dac was home and wanting to see him.

    "He's asleep at the moment," I said, "but he'll be up and around Monday. How're you guys doing with the work schedule?"

    "Oh, right on schedule," Owen said. "No problems. Everything's going fine."

    "Is Dac going to be okay?," Anthony asked. "He's not going to be disabled or anything, is he?"

    "Oh, no, just weak and sore and pretty worn out. That's why I put him to bed as soon as we got home. He'll be his ornery self by Monday.

    "Oh, before I forget, you're all invited here for Thanksgiving dinner. Lots of good food and all kinds of leftovers to take home with you. Hope you can all come."

    Anthony glanced over at Mario, "Yeah, we'll be here. We'll really be looking forward to it. Thank you for the invitation."

    "Thanks, David," as Mario poked him in the ribs, "you get out of cooking that big meal you were whining about."

    "Oh, well," as Anthony glared at him, "I'd changed my mind about that. We were just going to have pigs in blankets."

    "What's that?"

    "Hotdogs with bacon and cheese," Anthony answered.


    I laughed. "Looks like you both win out. Owen, what about you, can you and your wife be here?"

    Owen hesitated, "I think so. My wife's been making noises about us spending Thanksgiving with her parents and I absolutely refuse to go. I can't stand them. They think I'm a barbarian because I won't go to their church. And I'll tell you," as he shook his head back and forth, "you haven't seen anything 'til you've seen a whole congregation jumping up and down and screaming and howling like a bunch of animals. Man, I'd think God would be embarrassed.

    "Sorry, I shouldn't go on like that. Anyway, this barbarian and wife will be here. And I certainly am looking forward to it."

    "You sure she won't have problems with a bunch of guys who are different?"

    "Oh, no. Barbara is real easy-going and laid back. It's just her parents that're crazy. And besides, she knows about you and Dac and these two yahoos," looking over at Anthony and Mario.

    "Good, I'm glad you're coming.

    "By the way, you talking about religion made me think of Malcolm. What's become of him?"

    "Oh," Mario said, "I was talking to one of the deputies the other day. Malcolm's out of the hospital and in jail, awaiting an arraignment/commitment hearing. He's a real mess from what the deputy said. They practically have to clean him up and hand feed him. He spends the whole day and most of the night singing and giggling and yelling. He's made such a racket and smell they finally had to move him to a cell clear in the back of the jail. His mind is totally gone, way out in space.

    "From what the deputy said, the psychiatrist that did the evaluation said there was no hope of rehabilitation."

    "How sad. What a terrible waste. What about his wife and children? What's happened to them?," I asked.

    "Oh," Owen said, "She moved into an apartment. A couple of the churches took up a collection to help her with food, rent and utilities and she's working for one of the grocery stores. Guess she's doing as well as could be expected after something like that."

    "Well," I said, glancing at the clock, "I'd better get back to what I was doing. Why don't you guys take off the rest of the day and I'll see you first thing Monday morning. Dac will be up and around by then and I'm sure he'll be down to talk to you and probably bug you to no end."

    "Oh, great," Anthony said. "We've got a bunch of errands to do. Thanks, David."

    "Yeah, thanks, David," Owen said. "We'll see you Monday," as they headed for the doorway.

    I went back to my apples and continued working on them.

    "You better put the apples away," as Dulce glanced at the clock, "and go up and wake Dac. The attorney will be here in a little bit and supper's almost ready."

    "You're right." I put everything back in the walk-in and headed upstairs.

    I stood over the bed looking at Dac as he slept, thinking how much I loved him. I leaned down and kissed him on the cheek. He stretched, opened his eyes, looked up at me and smiled and my heart did a couple of flip-flops as usual.

    "Nice nap?"

    "Uhmm, time to get up?"

    "Fraid so. The attorney will be here in a little bit and supper's almost ready."

    "That sounds good. I'm starving." He sat up on the edge of the bed, yawning. "Grab some clothes for me, would you?"

    I came back with jeans, shirt, socks and sneakers.

    "Oh, I get to wear your yellow shirt?," grinning at me.

    "Oh, I suppose. Actually, it looks better on you than it does on me."

    "It does?"

    "Yeah, it goes with your black hair and blue eyes. Not to mention that devilish smile of yours."

    "You brought out the devil in me a little while ago, that's for sure."

    "Tell me about it," as I glanced down his body.

    "No, no, no," following my gaze. "You're going to wake him up, then we'll never make it downstairs."

    I groaned. "Yeah, yeah, I know. Well, get dressed. I'm going to help Dulce get things ready for supper."

    I walked into the kitchen and Tiger met me at the doorway doing piteous meow routine.

    "Oh, now, what is your problem?"

    "Oh, she thinks her bowl should be full all the time," as Dulce picked it up and emptied a can of cat food into it. "Don't know how you could be hungry, you lazy cat. All you've done today is sack out in the library. Why aren't you out catching mice?" Tiger gave her a dirty look. "Here," as she sat the bowl down and stood watching her for a moment as Tiger busied herself stuffing her face.

    "You know," as she stood at the sink washing her hands, "I don't think she knows he's home."

    "You're right," as I thought about it. "She would've been at the bedroom door meowing her head off otherwise."

    I jumped as the buzzer sounded for the access gate. "That's probably Geoff," as I pressed the release.

    I grabbed my jacket and Geoff drove up as I stepped out the front door. I watched as he untangled his six foot plus frame from a white Jaguar.

    "Wow, who says crime doesn't pay?," as I walked toward him.

    "Oh," a muffled response as he bent over the front seat rummaging around in the back. "It pays pretty well." He finally stood up with a brief case in each hand which he set down and grabbed me in a big hug. "Actually, it pays very well." He stood back and looked around him. "How did you manage all this?," as we headed toward the front door.


    "You're kidding, aren't you?"


    "Jeeze, and I slave my tail off for pennies," he muttered.

    "Don't look like pennies to me," looking at the Jaguar.

    "That's because I save my pennies."

    "A lot of pennies. Well, c'mon in and let's get a look at you and I'll introduce you to everyone."

    Geoff looked more like a ranch hand or truck driver than a lawyer. He was about 6'1" or 2", skinny, a shock of unruly reddish brown hair, ears that stuck out, a long narrow face, and big, gentle brown eyes.

    I introduced him to Dulce and she looked up at him and said, "I hope I made enough for supper. I have a feeling it's going to take a fair amount to fill you up."

    "Well, I'll try not to eat too much."

    Dulce grinned up at him, "Oh, c'mon, that's a joke. Believe me, we'll get you filled up and then some."

    "Well, let's go upstairs, Geoff, and I'll show you to your room and by that time the rest of the crew will be here. Did you bring a suitcase?"

    "Oh, I forgot. It's in the trunk. Wait a second I'll go get it," as he headed out the door.

    "He sure doesn't look like a lawyer," Dulce said as the front door closed.

    "I know, but he's one of the best in Albuquerque, and as I was told, he wins most of his cases."

    "Dac not down yet?," I asked as Geoff came in the front door.

    "He came in and got a cup of coffee and headed for the library," as she turned to the stove.

    "Well, c'mon, Geoff," as he came back into the kitchen, "let's get you installed in your room."

    "There's the closet and the bathroom is through there," as we walked in the guest bedroom. "Come on down when you're ready," and I headed out the door.

    "Hey, what're you doing in here?," as I walked in the library. Dac was parked in one of the chairs leafing through a magazine.

    "Oh, I just didn't feel like talking to anyone at the moment. I talked to Dulce for a bit and decided to come in here and read for a while."

    "Are you feeling all right?"

    "Yeah, I feel fine. Just didn't feel like getting into any lengthy conversations with any of the crew yet."

    "Yeah, well, there'll be time enough for that later. Supper is ready as soon as everybody shows up. Hungry? I mean, I know you're hungry for me, but you know, eat, eat?"

    "Well, how about a couple of special hors d'oeuvres to tide me over until bedtime?," as he walked into my arms and planted a kiss on me.

    We finally broke apart. "I hope I can wait until bedtime," trying to catch my breath. "And watch the hands, please. I don't want to walk into the kitchen looking like I have a flashlight in my shorts."

    "Just a preview of what's in store for you," as he grinned at me.

    "Oh, just what I need to hear," I said. "I won't be able to carry on an intelligent conversation, thinking about that remark."

    And wickedly, "You wanna see Fred?"

    "No, absolutely not!"

    We managed to make it down the hall and into the kitchen without any further pawing at each other.

    Introductions were made and we all got seated at the table. Grace was said and the quiet and serious business of eating began.

    "Oh," Geoff said, his mouth half full and shaking his head back and forth, "this is excellent. These are the best enchiladas I've eaten in years," which managed to shame everyone else and compliments began flying right and left and then everybody got back to eating.

    Supper finished, we all sat around in sort of a happy stupor. Dac finally summed it up, "Dulce, that was the absolute best. I feel like I'm home at last."

    "I'm glad you all liked it," Dulce said.

    There came a pat, pat, pat on my leg. I looked down into Tiger's piteous face -- all 35 pounds of her. I couldn't work up a lot of sympathy.

    "There isn't anything left, Tiger."

    Dulce spoke up. "I have some enchilada left on my plate. Give that to her, although you better wipe off the hot sauce."

    "You're in luck after all," as I handed the plate down and Tiger licked it up in nothing flat. She got this funny expression on her face, swallowed a couple of times and looked up at me and let out a loud meow, turned around a couple of times and meowed again, loudly.

    "Hot sauce," Dulce said. "Give her some milk, David."

    I put some down in a saucer and Tiger lapped it up, gave me a dirty look like I couldn't be trusted, turned around and stalked off with her tail swishing angrily back and forth.

    Geoff looked at the cat and then at me, laughing, "Good lord, what a huge cat. I don't think she likes you very much at the moment."

    "She'll get over it, though, as soon as she gets hungry," I said.

    Dulce looked over at Dac, "You know, she hasn't paid any attention to you, Dac."

    "I know. She's mad at me," Dac said as he watched her swishing out of the kitchen. "She did this once before when I had to go out of town and had the neighbor lady come over and feed her. Totally ignored me for almost a week before she decided to forgive me."

   "She thinks she's human," Craig said, looking at her.

    "Yeah, and in charge, too. By the way," as I looked over at Dulce, "Where's Jerry? I haven't seen him all day."

    "Oh, sorry. With everything else going on, I forgot to tell you. He and Laura went somewhere. Said he wouldn't be back until late this evening."

    "Wonder where they went," I said.

    "I don't know. He wouldn't tell me. Acted like it was a big secret or something. I wouldn't even have known Laura was with him if she hadn't let it slip last night when I was talking to her."

    "Who's Jerry?," Geoff asked.

    "Oh, he's my brother, older brother. He's out here visiting. Lives in Kansas. Has a business back there."

    "Well, I better start clearing dishes," as Dulce started gathering plates.

    "No dessert?," Dac said in a small heartbroken voice.

    Dulce smiled at him, "You want dessert after all those enchiladas you ate?"

    "Well, yeah, I saved room," Dac smiled up at her. "Besides," with a big smile on his face, "David made pies today."

    "Oh, those are for Thanksgiving. I made tapioca for dessert," as Dulce gave him an evil grin.

    "Tapioca?," Dac said, as though he had accidentally taken a big bite of hospital food. "Oh, I guess," in a voice of resignation.

    "It's good tapioca. You'll love it," Dulce said. "Kevin, could you give me a hand, please?"

    Kevin got up as Dulce started slicing the pies. She whispered something to Kevin and handed him a bowl and he got a big grin on his face. He brought the bowl of tapioca over and set it in front of Dac, getting a dirty look for his efforts. Dac picked up his spoon and with head down, a picture of disappointment, started eating the tapioca.

    Kevin, in the meantime, was very quietly handing out slices of cherry pie to everybody else.

    He and Dulce sat down and everybody began dessert with exclamations of 'oh, this is so good,' and 'fantastic' from somebody else and 'I haven't tasted anything this good in years' from Geoff.

    Dac glanced up, no doubt wondering how anybody could get that worked up about tapioca and made the awesome discovery.

    "Hey!," he said and everybody started laughing.

    Dulce got up and gave him a big hug, "Did you really think I was going to serve you tapioca on your first night home?," as she slid a big slice of pie in front of him and picked up the bowl of tapioca.

    Dac sat there looking at the pie and shaking his head back and forth, "Boy, I definitely know I'm home," and didn't loose any time in catching up with everybody else.

   Supper and merry pranks over with, everybody sat around the table with coffee and easy conversation. Geoff was a natural story teller and began entertaining everybody with anecdotes about the happenings in court, strange clients and even some lawyer jokes. Finally, during a lull in the conversation, he looked over at me, "I guess we'd better get started on all the paperwork ahead of us."

    "Right," I said as we all got up and started carrying plates and silverware to the sink. We each grabbed a cup of coffee and started out of the kitchen.

    "Where did I put my briefcases?," Geoff asked, looking around.

    "Oh, I put them in the office while you were upstairs," I said.

    "Okay," as we got seated, "before we begin, I'm going to need some basic information from each of you. Dac, let's start with you. I need birthday, place of birth, age, social security number, bank and account numbers, educational background, etc.

    And thus it went for the next two or three hours, Geoff filling out one document after another and explaining each, its purpose, the information needed, how it would protect Dac and I and so on.

    "I'm doing all this in draft form," Geoff said "and I'll do the finals when I get back to the office. I'll mail you the originals for signature and you can send them back to me and I'll file them with the court and/or various other agencies and send copies for your files. Several of these are going to have to be notarized and I would assume that someone in the bank will be able to do that for you."

    "I think Kevin is probably a notary since he's a real estate agent," I said. "I'll check with him tomorrow morning."

    "Good. Tomorrow we'll work on the adoption stuff and it's rather involved. I want both of you to give some thought to adopting these kids and at some point tomorrow or Sunday, I'll have each of you write several paragraphs as to why you want to adopt them. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate, just straightforward and honest. Also, I would like to see them and possibly talk to the social worker involved and also the doctor in charge of the case.

    "Well," as Geoff started putting papers in his briefcase "that finishes things for this evening unless you have some questions you need to ask."

    "No, I don't think so," I said as I looked the question at Dac. "I think we'll head on off to bed, it's been a rather long day."

    We said our goodnights and Dac and Geoff started up the stairs and I headed for the front of the house to make sure everything was buttoned up, the security lights on, then headed up the stairs.

    As I came into the room Dac was sitting on the edge of the bed sort of looking off into space. He looked over at me and smiled as I sat down on the edge of the bed. I held his face in my hands and kissed him and started unbuttoning his shirt.

    "Hey, what're you doing?"

    "Undressing you, I want to see Fred."

    "You wake him up and you'll pay the penalty."

    "God, I hope so. I've been thinking about it all day long."

    "You going to take your clothes off, too?," glinting at me.

    "Uh-huh, in a minute," busy with the last of his shirt buttons.

    "Want some help?"

    "You bet!"

And thus ends Chapter 13 that has taken so long. Had it not been for the many emails urging me politely to get off my tokus, I'd probably still be fooling around with it. For that, I thank all of you. After an illness -- mine and the computer -- it seemed to take me a long time to get back into the writing grove and I probably still would be floundering around had it not been for the kindness and generosity of friends who helped me out during this time including even a computer. Thank all of you and I know it's inadequate but the best I can do at the moment.

Feed back from all of you is what keeps me going with this story and gives me the inspiration I need -- sort of a team effort, I guess. So please keep writing. And here's hoping that Chapter 14 will not take as long to get off the ground.

Please Note: new email address: ThisMagicPlace@Netscape.Net. In case you should get a reject, use the old address of DacandDavid@Hotmail.Com.

-- Harlequin, Sunday, March 9, 2003