"Thank you Pastor Grange." Peter shook his hand, and he walked to give other people their chance to give condolences. I stayed seated waiting for the procession of people that chose to come up and speak with Peter and his family. Most would smile politely past me as they walked by. Except for one elderly woman that stopped to ask Peter, "And who is this lovely lady?" Peter looked up and smiled saying, "This is my girlfriend Julie."

The older woman smiled, nodded, and said. "I hope you too are as happy as your parents, Peter."

"Thank you Aunt Clarice." He grabbed her hand, and she took his other in hers and patted it. I looked at Aunt Clarice, with a nod.

"You take good care of him, dear."

"I will." It was the first acknowledgement as Peter's girlfriend. If I hadn't been at Peter's Dad's funeral, I would have jumped for joy. All I could do was smile back at Peter's aunt with the joy of being accepted as his finally. I wasn't sure if Jessica had heard, but I intended to let her know somehow that she was out of the picture.

When most of the people were done speaking with his family, Peter helped his mother get up and guided her to the limo. I followed as close behind him as I could not giving Jessica another opportunity to get to him. She stayed wisely with his sister, but still shadowed us back into the limo.

There wasn't any conversation to his parent's house in the limo. There wasn't much to say after burying your father. In fact, it seemed like the right thing to say nothing. Peter just held his mother as she leaned on his shoulder. Every once in awhile he would look my way and I'd nod. It was right for him to take care of his Mom. In fact, I was loving him more the fact he was so good with her. To loose someone close to you hurt so deep, I knew that pain. I knew that being there for him sometimes meant he had to be there for others that needed him.

The limo finally slowed as we neared the Upper East Side. Traffic was nearing a standstill. But it's not like we could get out and walk. So, I looked out the windows to pass the time as we made our way through traffic.

Peter caught me looking out the window. "I keep forgetting this is your first time in New York, Julie. My parent's live in the Carnegie Hill district of Manhattan. It's the intimate, home feel of New York. I want to show you around later."

It was good to hear his voice talking about the future. I couldn't help but pick up on his cheerful vibe. "I'd love to explore the city with you." I could imagine myself walking arm and arm with him looking like Audrey Hepburn with the soaring high-class apartment buildings I could see out the window.

"Better yet Peter, I think we can take her shopping too." His mother seemed to break out of her melancholy with the talk of real life events. "I love showing people around Manhattan for the first time."

"I'd love it Mrs. Mason." It was good to hear some sparkle come from her.

"It will give Shelley and Jessica some time to catch up too. I know you girls have a lot to talk about." Even though the dark sunglasses were hiding her eyes, I could tell Mrs. Mason had caught onto what was going on. Maybe she had noted the way Peter held my hand at the gravesite. I wasn't sure yet. I just agreed with her comment. Anything to help her get through this.

"I'd also like to get to know Peter's new assistant better. Mr. Mason had told me how he expected good things from you for Peter."

"I'd love a shopping trip. That's one thing I wanted to see in Manhattan were the shops." I didn't have the heart to say I'd probably didn't have the money to shop at them, but I'd love to see them. That was full truth.

Jessica spoke up. "Of course, that will be great to do. We can look at registering with the different shops."

This cut the conversation to the core. The long pause that followed was broken by Peter's next words. "Jessica, I don't want to hurt you on a day like today. There's been pain enough. But there isn't going to be a wedding."

I tried not to squirm in my seat. Peter had slapped the bitch good. I tried to not look at her. But I could hear her swallow hard next to me. "What do you mean no wedding, Peter?"

"This has been all your delusion. I didn't want to get into this today, but you've left me no choice. My family needs to know the truth especially for today. We're over. I don't want to marry you, not after what you did."

"But you said you needed space to decide for sure. It was only a slip, Peter. I really love you."

"Not after what you did. I can't stand to be with someone that really can't decide one day or the next who she is going to sleep with. I want to be with someone that wants me for me, and not my family or money. I figured it out only when I met someone else that does want me for myself. She has no idea about my family influence. I realize now, she means more to me than I thought until my father's death. At least all this grief has made me realize there's more to a relationship than love, there's trust. And I just don't trust you Jessica, not now or ever."

The awkward silence was interrupted by the humph from Jessica. It silence grew only to be ended by the car pulling up along Park Ave, and a doorman coming to open the door. Jessica hopped out faster than a cat on a hot tin roof. Shelley went after her, and I just stared ahead looking at Peter in shock. He'd saved me.

"So you've made your choice after all." His mother's voice was the singular factor that broke the silence.

"What do you mean Mother?"

"I could tell there was something wrong, and after you ran off to the Midwest on business, you came back different. When your father mentioned you had a new assistant, I knew you'd found someone else. I knew Jessica's appearance would force you to either go back with her or make a choice to move on. So I invited her."

It was time for both Peter and I to be stunned. He answered the silence now. "You knew about Julie?"

"Your father let me know you'd gotten so distracted from your new project by your new assistant that she had to be special. Now that I've met her I understand. Besides, Jessica was very brash and arrogant. I always thought you deserved better."

Peter hugged his Mom and kissed her on the cheek. "Thank you. I don't know what to say."

"We better go out and welcome everyone to the wake. It is the official send off of your father. Besides, I want to get to know Julie better." She turned to me and smiled, "I'm sure we'll have a lot of time now to do that."

"Yes. I'd like that. I'd like that very much."

***End of Part 23****

So, it's almost done folks! Whether you've been with me since the beginning, or just jumped on for the ride now, thanks for joining me in this journey to writing my first on-line romance novel. It has been a real event. It even helped me get healthy and beat the blood clot in my heart. Truly, writing this novel has helped me save my heart. I hope it has brought some joy to you as well. Until next time when I wrap this thing up, have a fabulous week!-Marilyn

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