THIRTY-THREE

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Virginia was standing on the Kellys' back deck, holding her phone, waiting for his reply to her latest text. A warm breeze coming off the ocean ruffled her hair and she closed her eyes, enjoying the gentle caress on her face.

She had transferred Janine to the school nearby, getting a court order to seal the records, just in case. Janine had adjusted well, meeting new friends and adopting Bill and Carol as another set of grandparents, much to their delight. Bill, especially, seemed to adore having the chance to play granddad. It was sad to reflect on how Bill's and Carol's chance for grandparenthood had ended with the death of their only child.

Virginia spent most of her time volunteering at the school and helping Carol with the cleaning and cooking. The Kellys had loaned her their station wagon, giving her some freedom to venture out from the house. She was a regular visitor to the neighboring town, enjoying the local fare at its colorful street markets that were peaceful for now with the summer rush of tourists still a few months away.

It had taken her one week to turn on her phone again. She started out simple, sending a short note to him, saying she was feeling better and Janine was doing well. He replied right away, telling her he loved her. That was all she had given that day.

Each day after that, they had exchanged a little more. Before long, she was spending an hour each night texting him back and forth. They did not talk about past events or their respective jobs. She did not call him, and he followed her lead. And although she was a firm believer in old fashioned communication, there was some sense of excitement in the non-sensory contact as she sat waiting for his responses like a teenager with a crush.

Four weeks had passed since the day of her arrival. She had thoroughly enjoyed the relaxation, but she missed her home, her brother, the gym, the station with all of its chaos, and most of all, the man who occupied nearly all of her thoughts.

She wanted to go home.

A week ago she had packed her bags, planning to leave. It had been his idea for her to stay longer. Something big was going down and he was worried about her safety. She had agreed, knowing her return would be a distraction, not wanting to put him in further danger. She remembered his statement about having help but couldn't shake the sense of dread, wondering if he was the one in jeopardy.

She really wanted to go home.

Frustration drew her from her thoughts, triggering her eyes to open. Movement in her peripheral vision provided a momentary diversion: Janine and Jack's dad were walking along the beach, returning from a late afternoon stroll. Two sets of footprints trailed behind them, little dots of dark paint on a massive sand-colored canvas.

Carol walked up. "Here is your tea, hon."

"Thank you," Virginia said, taking the steaming mug from Carol's outstretched hand while stuffing the phone into her pocket.

Carol studied her for a moment. "You know, I think you are glowing. I'm glad to see your time here has helped."

Virginia blushed. "It has. I'm so grateful to you and Bill, considering . . ." She glanced over at the two explorers to check on how close they were, not wanting Janine to hear the conversation. "I'm pregnant," she all but whispered, staring down at her cup.

As the silence stretched, Virginia peeked up through her lashes to find Carol smiling.

"I had a feeling," she said. "You might be able to fool men with all that baggy clothing, but you can't fool a woman."

"I should have told you when I arrived, but I wasn't sure how you would take it. I didn't want to upset you."

Carol reached over and lifted Virginia's chin, forcing their eyes to meet, the elder's full of knowledge and sincerity. "We know how you felt about Jack. His death was tragic, but we didn't expect you to give up everything to find his killer. You are young, Virginia. You need to live your life, be happy."

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