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Anna looked over her suitcase and made a mental note of each item.  She sighed in frustration.  Historically, there was always something she forgot.  She looked towards her bathroom.  Maybe she had forgotten a toiletry.   She rolled her wheelchair into her bathroom and looked up into the mirror.  She rubbed the faint shadows under her eyes.  Maybe one of these days she'd get a good night's sleep.  But it's hard when, even after all these years, the other side of the bed is empty.

Even after four years, I still miss Darren, she thought.  This vacation is probably just what the kids and I need.  We get away from the house to hang out with mom and dad and take a much-needed break before I have to lesson-prep for the next school year.

She saw her medicine organizer peeking out from underneath her teacher's planner when she looked over by her dresser.  That would have been a disaster to forget either one.  Sitting next to the planner was a framed picture of her and Darren's engagement.  Darren had hiked her up on his back piggyback style.  They both had huge smiles on their faces.  She laughed.  She was sliding off Darren's back just as the photographer took the photo.  She had fallen squarely on her behind but they ended up giggling so hard, she couldn't be mad at him.  Anna's heart clenched for a moment remembering.  She put the picture back down before she wiped some moisture from the side of her eyes.

You always knew how to make me laugh, babe, she thought. I still miss you.

Before she could go into a full wallow mode, her cell phone rang.

"Hi, mom," Anna said. "Just finishing up here and we'll be on our way in a few minutes or so."

"Oh, good," her mom said. "Honey, I've got some bad news."

"Did dad lose the motorhome keys again?" Anna said.

"No, nothing like that.  That circuit route around the country you found on the internet?  Well, we had to shorten it.  Your dad was asked to do a presentation at Arizona State University at the beginning of August."

"Oh," Anna said, trying to keep the disappointment out of her voice. "That's ok.  The kids love every minute they're with you, no matter how long or short.  Besides, that will get me back in plenty of time to get my classroom put together."

"I thought as much," her mom said.  "Your dad was worried you would be disappointed."

"He's so sweet to worry but it's absolutely fine," Anna said. "Mom, I've got to run so I can get the luggage and the kids thrown in the van."

Anna sighed as she hung up the phone.  The first time we get a real vacation with them and it has to be cut short, she thought.

She zipped up her carry-on and stuffed the medicine and her planner in the front pocket.

"Where are my knuckleheads?" Anna shouted.

"Mom?" a sweet little voice called from the other room.

"In my room.  Go get your brother so we can get this stuff loaded, and get out of here."

"Mom!" she heard Brody's voice coming from the front room. "Can't I just finish this level? Please?"

"Nope," Anna said. "Grandma and grandpa want to get going.  They might leave without us, they're so excited."

Her baby girl, Zoe, bounced into the room.  She jumped onto her mother's footrest and gave her a big hug.  "Baby, why don't you grab mommy's pillows and her blanket."

A grumpy Brody finally came in the room but picked up his mom's carry-on without having to be asked.

A grumpy Brody finally came in the room but picked up his mom's carry-on without having to be asked

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Anna's van pulled up to her parent's house. She saw her dad fiddling with the motorhome.  Knowing him, he'd checked everything from top to bottom three times or more.  He looked up, grinned and waved at them.  He pulled the van's door open, pulled out Anna's wheelchair and brought it around for her.

"There you are!" he said, giving his daughter a quick peck on the cheek.  "We were going to leave without you guys if you'd taken any longer.  Where are these grandchildren I've been waiting to see?"

"Grandpa!" Zoe said, jumping out of the van into her grandfather's arms.

"Hi, grandpa," Brody said as he gave his grandfather a side hug.

"I don't see mom," Anna said, opening the rear door of her van.

"She's puttering around in the house somewhere," her father said.  "Brody, help me get this stuff in the motorhome, will ya?"

"I'll go check on her," Anna said.

Anna opened the garage door and smiled.  There inside was the old rickety ramp her dad built for her when they moved into this house.   It was one of the few modifications her parents had made her for.  She pushed up the ramp and opened the door.  She found her mother putting items into a large wicker basket.

"Hi, mom," Anna said.  "Dad's looking for you."

"Just had to get the rest of this stuff in the basket," her mother said, giving her daughter a peck on the cheek.  "I don't want to have to stop in the afternoon for lunch."

Mother and daughter left the house and Anna's dad signaled for them to come over faster.   "Daylight's burning, ladies," he said, holding the passenger door of the motorhome open for Anna.  She was just about to pull herself up into the seat when a metallic screeching sound tore around the street corner.  A dumpy blue sedan ground to a halt right behind Anna's van.

"Hi!" said a pretty young woman as she leaped out of the clunker.  She ran towards them. "Mommy!" she said, giving her mom a big hug.

"Darling, what are you doing here?" Ellen said with a surprised smile on her face.

"I lost my job yesterday," the young woman said completely nonchalant. "So I figure I have time now to come with you guys!"

"Phee, you lost your job again?" Anna scolded.

"My boss and I had a difference of opinion," she said, entirely unrepentant. "He thought he could grab my ass and I disagreed.  So I threw a cake in his face and followed up with my apron."

Anna smirked.

"Good for you, sis," Anna said. "Having you along will be a lot of fun.  The kids will love it."

Ophelia smiled.  "I know, right?"

A little body flung itself from the side door into the arms of her aunt. "Aunt Phee!"  Ophelia hugged Zoe back.

"Hi, there, my pumpkin," she said. "You ready for a road trip?"

"Yeah!" Zoe said little hands balled into fists she was so excited.

"Can I come, too?"

"YEAH!" the little girl shouted.

"Stop, Zoe," Brody said coming up behind his sister. "You're hurting my ears."

"There's my favorite grumpy Gus," Ophelia said, holding her arms out to him.  He tried giving her a side hug but her arms wrapped around him. Before he could protest, she spun him around.  He pushed her away but Anna saw the hint of a smile on his face.

"Are we going or what?" their dad said.

"Me, too?" Ophelia said.

"Get in," he said.  She kissed his cheek before she entered the motorhome.

Anna pulled herself up into the passenger seat in the motorhome, and they pulled out of the driveway and onto the road.

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