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Lee Spencer closed out her report and looked at the clock. It was the worst time of the day to start home. Maybe she would get a start on some of the files she had planned to do in the morning. Johnny was working so it didn’t matter if she was home by a certain time other than the fact he would call around 6 to make sure got home ok. Smiling she dialed the now familiar station number.
“Station 51, Fireman Kelly speaking.” Chet answered as he was in the kitchen fixing a pot of his infamous Irish stew.
“Hi. This is Lee at Rampart…Would you let Roy and John know I have the minutes from the last advisory meeting typed up and they can pick them up anytime now…I’ll be in my office for awhile if they happen over this way.”
“They’re here if you want to talk with one of them…Just a second.” He laid the phone down and went out to the apparatus bay. “Hey guys there are a call from Rampart about committee meeting minutes.”
“Thanks Chet.” Roy answered since Johnny was under the squad trying to figure out where the latest squeak was coming from. “Want me to get it?”
“Yeah…tell her I said hi.” Johnny answered as he tightened another bolt. It had been 2 months now since their second first date. No one at the station or hospital except Roy (and Jo) and Dixie knew they were dating. This was for several reasons, a major one being Chet Kelly constantly teasing Johnny about every aspect of his life.
“Hi…Chet said something about minutes from the last meeting?” He was on the phone in the kitchen and knew Chet was listening.
“Yeah I didn’t want to tell him I just called to let Johnny I wouldn’t be home at the regular time…so not to worry if I didn’t answer his call…” She giggled. “His ‘don’t worry about me theory’ doesn’t seem to apply to me.”
“Yeah I noticed…He said to tell you hi….The suggestions made for the survey seem to go over well?”
“I’ll be glad when this mess is over…for a lot of reasons. San Diego needs to learn how to control the bullies”
“Yeah I agree…the Chiefs here don’t put up with that…We’ll stop by tomorrow …we’ve got a 48 hour shift.”
“Take care and tell Johnny I’ll be home by 9.”
“”I will…Thanks for calling.” He went back out to the apparatus bay just as Johnny was finishing cleaning up the tools . He noticed Chet following Roy into the bay…
“Everything ok?” Johnny asked. “I tightened a couple of bolts and put some grease on a few places…I can’t believe you don’t hear those squeaks and groans.” He was cleaning up and putting tools away trying to keep his back to Chet.
“Maybe it’s all the lose screws in your head you’re hearing Gage,” Chet said. “Anyway, you want go bowling Saturday night? Suzi has a friend…”
“Sorry I’ve got plans,” Johnny interrupted. “Gonna be busy all week end.”
“Yeah doing what? Helping Roy with his honey do list like usual? When you going to get a life, Gage? Stop stealing Roy’s.” He stomped out leaving a very silent John Gage watching him. Johnny’s eyes were narrow and angry and his cheek bones stood out with a red tinge, his mouth a thin line when he turned around to face Roy.
“Don’t pay any attention to him, Junior. I like it when you share the honey do list. Lee’s working late tonight is home around 9….What is you doing this week end?” He was surprised about how angry John had gotten so angry so quickly. Was there a problem he had not noticed?
“Just hanging out…this weather makes it hard to plan anything…” He shook his head. The SCU’s tones put an end to the conversation. “Station 51…unknown rescue …Canton…1 2 4 5 West Canton…cross street Fillmore….time out 17:27...” With well practiced efficiency the squad and engine pulled out of the station. Johnny giving the directions as Roy drove the thru the late afternoon traffic. Cap and the engine followed trusting Johnny’s instincts on the best route.
A block from the address they received the cancellation…it had been an alarm malfunction due to a squirrel chewing on the insulation. Roy used the HT to call Cap and ask permission to go over to Rampart on advisory committee business. Cap had agreed reminding them to stay available and that dinner would be soon.
Lee heard the knock on her door and looked up as Roy and Johnny came in. Johnny quickly entered and gave her a kiss. “Been thinking about that all day.”…Roy went over to the fridge and grabbed two sodas to give them a minute of privacy.
“I heard you guys turned back…isn’t that the third time this week they have had a false alarm at that location? They need to fix that before the people working there stop paying attention to the alarms...if they had a real problem they‘ll just ignore the alarm..…Here are your copies of the minutes…” She was typing as she talked and trying to ignore Johnny sitting on the corner of her desk swinging one leg the other tucked up under him. “Finished.”
“Do we have plans for Saturday?” he asked. “Thought maybe Roy and Jo and the kids could come over….get some pizza? Just hang out and relax.”
“Maria’s going to invite the kids over since she’s watching some of the grandkids while their parents go to a party she has something special planned. Roy you could have a night out if you wanted…I’d be there to watch the kids if they were done before you got back. Or they could even sleep over…”
“Sounds nice…I’ll ask Jo… Do you want to spend your Saturday night babysitting?” Remembering the cold angry look on Johnny’s face earlier. “Junior we need to get back…Lee thanks for the notes.”
“You’re welcome thanks for all the suggestions and help. Go get some dinner…and rest…See you Friday for breakfast?” Johnny bent down and kissed her lightly.
“Yep. I’ll call you when I leave the station… Have a good time with Kathy tomorrow…Tell her I said hi.” Another quick kiss and he was gone.
They were just getting back into the squad when the call came over the radio. “Station 51 structure fire 1245 West Canton…” Quickly getting their helmets on them pulled out of Rampart’s parking lot.
“Think maybe this time it’s for real?” Johnny said as they neared the office building. “We could be messing around with this when somebody really needs us. Why keep tying up a squad and engine with a faulty alarm system?”
“Who knows but do you want to take a chance on it not being real?” Roy let out a sigh knowing that Johnny would keep on complaining the rest of the night as they received the cancellation call.
They had been back to the station for about 15 minutes and Chet was finishing up dinner. The table was set and the salad, bread and drinks in place. Using a dish towel as a pot holder he picked the pan and started carrying it to the table. A crash and a pain filled yelp brought the paramedics and Cap from the office in a hurry.
Marco and Mike were cleaning up the floor and table and Chet was standing there holding his hand. The stew was flung on the cabinet and stove front in odd colored globs that were slowly making their way to the floor. More of it was splattered over the table. Roy quickly left the room.
“Chet get over here.” Johnny ordered as he turned on the cold water. “Get your hand under here.” Roy came with the station first aid kit.
“Chet, you ok?” Cap asked as he looked at the mess. “How did this happen?”
“It’s red but no blisters…” Johnny was looking at the hand he had under the cool running water. Chet was flexing it carefully. Roy handed the first aid cream to Johnny who applied it carefully despite Chet’s complaints after carefully drying the hand.
“Cripes Gage can’t you be more gentle that hurts…My grandma always said butter was the best thing for burns.” He glared as Johnny rolled his eyes. “Don’t go disrespecting my grandmother Gage…didn’t your grandmother ever teach you anything?”
“Kelly, answer my question…how did this happen?” Cap had seen the look on John’s face at Chet’s barb. Roy gave Cap a grateful nod.
“I picked up the pot to put it on the table…I dropped it when I got burnt then got burnt again when some of it got on my hand.”
“You twit were you using the dish towel as a pot holder again?” Cap saw the towel on the floor. “The wet dish towel?”
“It wasn’t that wet, just a little damp…I couldn’t find the pot holders.” Chet’s said not looking at his crewmates. “Man that was one of the best stews I’ve made.”
The others looked at the gray gluey mess on the cabinets.
“Clean it up and order in some pizza. Ought to make just you buy it.” Cap said before returning to the office with Roy and Johnny following. Mike and Marco helped Chet clean up after he called in the pizza order.
“So tell me more about this survey,” Cap said picking up the conversation that Chet’s accident had interrupted. “What has the state in such an uproar all of a sudden?”
“They had a bad situation down in San Diego…2 paramedics got hurt when they didn’t get the support they needed from an assisting crew. It got nasty with each group pointing fingers at the other. Now the state is wanting a study of how firemen and paramedics can get along better especially since a TV station down there picked up on the fact one of the paramedics was Asian and the other Hispanic…”
“State people are due down here in a 2 weeks…LA County’s their test for this survey. McConnikee and Houser wouldn’t let it get that bad…or any of the station captains here…And they want to make sure any problems are stopped as soon as possible.”
“So how is this going to work?” Cap frowned. “We gonna have a bunch of civilians running all over our station asking questions they have no idea if we answer wrong or right?” Sounding pretty disgusted with the whole idea. His body was tense and the lines around his eyes were drawn and angry looking.
“No Le…”Johnny stopped and took a deep breath. “No it won’t work that way…two people from Sacramento and someone local will come in and give out the survey forms…no names just the station number and shift and they will be shuffled maybe even 2 stations together so no way of connecting answers to individuals. The visits will be determined by lottery and could happen any shift…We do know A shift will be visited because Dr. Brackett requested that…but we don’t know when.” Hank did not say a word just looked frustrated and worried.
“So when will all this start? And how long will it take?” Cap was unhappy that his station and his department was going to get caught in the fall out of some idiots and their intolerance. In the back of his mind was a nagging worry about Johnny and Marco. How would all this impact them? His worries interrupted by a knock on the door and Mike sticking his head in. “Pizza’s here.”
Lee was reading some cookbooks looking for a new idea for breakfast. Johnny’d eat almost anything and that made it fun try new recipes. So far, the only thing he wouldn’t taste was Brussels sprouts. The phone rang and she picked it up expecting to hear Johnny. “Hello.”
“Lee, its Roy…” He heard the sharp intake of her breath. “He’s gonna be ok…just got the wind knocked out of him and some smoke inhalation. Dr. Brackett’s keeping him over night so they can do a few breathing treatments.”
“Because of his history of respiratory problems?”
“Yeah…he was worried about you seeing it on the news.” Roy relieved she was being so calm. “Said to tell you he would call soon as he got home.”
“So what happened?” She was trying hard to keep the fear out of her voice.
“The office building on West Canton…the squirrels did a number on the wiring going into the building from the transformer…He was helping a janitor down the stairs and they lost their footing…The janitor outweighed Johnny by a good 30 pounds and landed on top of him.”
“Let me guess the janitor had the air mask on.” She wrinkled her nose up shaking her head as she said it.
“Yeah but this time it was a good thing…the janitor has a history of heart and lung problems…If Johnny hadn’t gave him the mask he could have lost him. That would’ve been harder on John than the smoke inhalation.” Roy’s voice was tight and Lee noticed the fact he called him John not Junior or Johnny.
“Are you ok?” Her voice was softer now and the muscles in her throat and face had relaxed so she wasn’t scowling at the phone. “Do you need anything?”
“I’m ok, thanks for asking. Better get back to the station…”
“If you see him before you leave tell him I sent him a hug and a kiss and to call me if he needs anything.”
“Dixie’s here so I’ll have her deliver the message. How would that be?”
“Perfect…thanks for letting me know.” After they hung up Lee began cleaning off the table. It was a warm night for April so she went out on the balcony to think.
“Chet how’s the hand?” Cap asked as he watched his junior paramedic inhale a slice of pizza. “Didn’t we have a discussion not too long ago about using wet dish towels as a pot holder?”
“But Cap the pot holders are so worn out and scorched they don’t do much good.” Chet said in his own defense. “Someone caught the only good ones on fire.” Soon as he said it, Kelly regretted it. It was his fault they caught fire but Gage never mentioned that even when he got blamed for it.
“Then buy some new ones.” Before they could continue the SCU’s tones called for the squad and engine to respond to an alarm at 1245 West Canton again. Every one quickly took their positions and they left the station. No one said it but all were wondering was this another false alarm?
Soon as they turned down West Canton they knew it wasn’t a false alarm and Cap radioed for reinforcements. Johnny and Roy quickly suited up waiting for his orders before going in.
“Get in and sweep…Hopefully everyone was gone for the week end.” He didn’t like the smoke’s color.
“You go to the left…Don’t go upstairs until we both do,” Roy ordered.” It was a small office building only 6 floors with air conditioning units on the roof. The fire had started on the roof so they were able to quickly search the first 3 floors. The smoke was getting heavier and the doors starting to feel warmer to the touch. They came to the fourth floor stair well just as the alarms on their SCBA tanks began beeping.
“Make it quick, Junior.” They opened the stairwell door and were surprised to see two men sitting on the steps. Quickly they gave the men their mask for some quick breaths. A fast assessment showed no injuries but his breathing was labored.
“We sure are glad to see you guys. Jake‘s having trouble breathing. He’s got a bad cold.” The younger of the two said as Roy took his mask back. Johnny was checking the other man’s pulse and respirations quickly. “I’m Mike.”
“You hurt any where? “ Roy asked. He was also doing a quick assessment.
“Turned my ankle but its ok Jake had to rest a minute…” The younger of the two stood up with a little help from Roy. They started down but then Roy turned to see the other two still sitting. He didn’t like Johnny’s posture as he stood up.
“John, take some air.” Roy ordered his partner frowning.” With a nod, he took several breaths then gave the mask back to Jake. Johnny helped the older man up and they started following Roy and Mike who were half way down the stairs.
Johnny was walking with Jake holding his arm to steady him when suddenly Jake’s knees buckled and his weight pulled Johnny off balance.
“ROY” Johnny yelled as he tried to catch the falling man. Roy turned just as Johnny and Jake came crashing down the stairs. Roy saw Johnny maneuver himself in front of the janitor and cushion the older man’s body with his own.
“Go…” Roy told the younger man as he started up to the fallen men. Mike hesitated a moment then realized he’d be helping most by getting out of the way. As he started down the stairs, Roy was moving up to his partner and Jake. His SCBA alarm began beeping as he reached the men.
He felt for a pulse and found one weakly beating. Quick practiced moves checked for broken bones. There was a knot on his forehead and some bruising but his eyes were now open and following Roy’s movements. Carefully he moved the man off his partner. He could hear the beeping of Johnny’s SCBA alarm.
Johnny opened his eyes as he felt Roy’s fingers on his neck. “I’m ok get him out,” Johnny rasped out. His head hurt and his throat was scratchy and he needed to catch his breath. He closed his eyes.
“Oh no you don’t Junior,” Roy muttered as he checked Johnny’s arms and legs. Hearing a noise behind him, he saw two very welcomed friends. “Marco, Chet… help Jake out…” Johnny opened his eyes as Roy began to lift him into sitting position.
“Just help me up, I can walk…” Knowing Roy’s air supply was the same as his he wasn’t letting him carry him. They made their way slowly down to the first floor. By the time they got to the stairwell door Marco and Chet were there to help them. Johnny was struggling to stay upright and soon as they were outside he gave into the dizziness and sunk to his knees gasping.
“Get him on O2 6 liters.” Roy said as he moved over to Jake who was on the ground with an oxygen mask on. His cousin was sitting next to him talking to him trying to keep him calm.
“Your partner ok? He wouldn’t take the mask back when Jake offered it…Said Jake needed it more.” Jake said something but Roy couldn’t hear what he said.
“Yeah John’ll be fine…Jake you lay still and let me do my job OK?” The older man nodded in agreement. “Dose your cousin have any medical conditions I need to let the doctor know about?” He was setting up the bio phone.
“He’s got lung damage from when he was in the war and has had 2 heart attacks…bet he didn’t tell your partner that.” He laughed. “Says if you tell people that they treat you like an old man…He’s 57.”
“Rampart this is squad 51. How do you read?”
“Loud and clear 51,” Dixie said as she motioned Dr. Brackett over to the station.
“Rampart we have a victim of smoke inhalation that resulted in a fall. Victim one is a male 57 years old weighing about 200 pounds. He has a history of heart and lung problems. Vitals are…BP is 110/70 and pulse is 90. He is currently on 6 liters O2. No apparent injuries from fall on stairs other than a knot on his forehead. He did not lose consciousness and pupils are equal and reactive.”
“51 start an IV D5WTKO and continue O2 and transport as soon as possible.”
“Second victim is a male age?” The younger man mouthed 30. “Age 30 with no apparent ill effects from the smoke but twisted his ankle coming down the stairs.”
“Transport with victim 1 as precaution.”
“Rampart I also have a code 1 who took in smoke and fell coming down the stairs. Was slow getting up but is responding to O2.”
“Would this code 1 be your partner by any chance?” Johnny shot Roy a dirty look.
“Bring him in for a check.”
“Roy I don’t need to go to Rampart…” The start of a Gage rant that was quickly stopped by a hand on his shoulder.
“Chet take the squad and John into Rampart…Gage that’s an order.” Cap watched as his youngest crewmember made his way slowly to the squad. Chet said something and Cap was surprised at the angry look John gave Chet.
Johnny was in treatment room 3 waiting for the therapist to come in and do the first breathing treatment. Roy had finished with Jake and his cousin Mike and was going to check on Johnny before heading back to Rampart. Roy was surprised to see how upset his friend was. It was more than the usual dislike of being in the hospital. “Want to tell me what’s bugging you? Doc told me if you hadn’t kept that mask on Jake he would’ve been in serious trouble…his right lung only functions at 50% and he was already pretty congested from his cold.”
“He didn’t sound good…” Johnny didn’t look at him but overhead or to the side. “Chet’s waiting for you.”
“Are you going to tell me why you’re acting this way? You had to get checked out…is that the problem? Look, if you don’t talk to me I don’t have a clue…” Very tired and more than a little frustrated, he couldn’t get the picture of Johnny tumbling down the stairs out of his head. Or, the one of the bigger man landing on Johnny after Johnny deliberately moved in front of him.
“Do me a favor and let Lee know I’m ok and I’ll call her from home.”
“Ok, I’ll stop by in the morning to give you a ride back to the station or have one of the guys bring the rover over.”
“Keep Chet away from my car…” His tone was cold and harsh sounding even taking into consideration the effect the smoke had on his throat and voice. “I don’t want him around any of my stuff.”
“Sure Junior…I’ll go call Lee…” Anticipating what Johnny was going to say from the look on his face, “And I will make sure Chet isn’t around when I do.”
The therapist came in and Roy left to make the calls he needed. First was to Cap to let him know they needed a replacement and then to Lee. After a few words to Dixie, he and Chet went back to the station. Chet was his usual chatty self but Roy was only half listening.
“…geez I never thought Gage would hold a grudge over something so trivial.” Chet droned on. “It was an accident that it got ruined …”
“What was?” Roy said looking over to Chet “What got ruined?” Suddenly Roy wished he had been paying attention.
“The two pictures he had in his locker…one was of him, Jenny and Chris and the other one was him and someone on a Ferris wheel.…thought it was him and JoAnne. Anyway since that happened he hasn’t had much to say …He didn’t even get that upset when Cap called him a twit for setting the pot holders on fire…when he didn’t…”
It was making sense to Roy now why Johnny had been in such a bad mood when Chet was around. The pictures had been taken at the Spring Funfest at Chris’ school. Johnny had won a gift certificate to one of the local ice cream shops and had given it to the kids.
Roy had snapped the picture of them thanking their Uncle Johnny. The other was Johnny and Lee on the Ferris wheel. They had been teasing her all day about riding it and then when she finally agreed to ride it with him the operator wasn’t going to let her. After some intense talking and Lee pleading with them, they had let her. The picture had been snapped just as they were coming down from the very top. It was the first picture they had taken together.
“And how did the pictures get ruined?” Roy had an idea but wasn’t going to make this easy for him.
“A malfunctioning water bomb it leaked all over everything in Gage’s locker.” Chet said looking and sounding contrite. “The picture on the Ferris wheel was really soggy and fell apart when he touched it.”
“You know Johnny could file a formal complaint and Cap would be forced to send it to headquarters….They’re cracking down on that kind of horse play.” Chet’s eyes got wide and his mouth drew into a thin line under the bushy mustache. “The phantom better hope some down time will cool him off.”
“He knows the phantom would never ruin anything on purpose right? He maybe a prankster but he is never malicious…I really did feel bad but he wouldn’t give me a chance to explain…”
“Maybe he will cool down when I get him copies of the pictures.” Roy said understanding now why Johnny had been so angry. He was very protective of anything to do with Lee.
The next morning Lee went into work early. She wanted to see Johnny and make sure he was ok for herself. She checked to see what room he was in then went down. She made it look very official and even had a folder full of papers and a clipboard.
Actually she did have some questions for him as she was trying to write a new computer program. The nurses smiled and said hi and just took it for granted she was there on hospital business as they saw her going down the hallway.
Johnny had a mask on getting a final breathing treatment when she got down to his room. The therapist was almost finished so Lee waited quietly. She used the time to watch him and listen. There was a bruise on his cheek and she thought he was squirming as if something hurt and he couldn’t find a comfortable way to sit. The therapist finished and gave him a list of do’s and don’ts. Then with a frown looked at him… “I’m serious…you need to do the follow up for at least a week…and try to keep your mask on…”
She looked over at Lee. “Why when I come in and give him this lecture do I feel like I’m wasting my breath?” She gathered up the rest of her things and left not waiting for an answer.
“Well, Mr. Gage, do you have time to answer some questions for me?” Being very serious and business like as they brought his breakfast tray in. The dietary aid nodded and quietly put the tray on the table. Johnny was trying to keep a straight face. As formal and business like as she was sounding he could see the laughter in her eyes. She giggled as the aid left and Johnny winked at her.
“For you Miss Spencer, always.” He took the cover off his plate and made a face. Runny scrambled eggs and limp toast and even limper bacon was on the plate.
“Marco was going to fix cinnamon French toast. Man, if you weren’t sick before you would be after eating this.” He put the cover on then opened the carton of milk.
“Well, considering you have the day off I could take the day off also…” Lee said as she moved closer to him. “There are some advantages to being the boss.” She reached over and took his hand. “Are you really ok?” There wasn’t any laughter in the green eyes now only concern. “Has Kel been in yet to see you? Roy said someone fell on you?”
“Yeah this guy named Jake…didn’t tell us he had some serious health problems including bad knees..One of them gave out on him and he kinda lost his balance and …”
“You put yourself in front of him so he would have something to land on beside concrete.” Roy said as he came in. “Cap sent me over with these and your car. Dwyer’s getting the supplies.” He had Johnny’s clothes from his locker.
“You guys had three more runs after I talked to you…everyone had crazy runs last night…Must be the nice weather after all the rain.” Lee watched their faces trying to see if there was still tension between the two. Roy sounded better and didn’t seem upset. In addition, Johnny didn’t seem angry or depressed. Maybe Roy had just been tired and worried last night. And maybe she had been over reacting …maybe it was her fears and anger she had heard in Roy’s voice. “Roy, do me a favor…go shut the door and kind of pull the curtain…”
“And why would you want him to do that?” Kel and Joe Early came into the room.
“How’s the throat this morning?”
“Lots better and my chest doesn’t hurt…”
“”I better get going Cap’ll be wondering what took us so long…See you Johnny…Call if you need anything this weekend.” He left before he started laughing. The look on Johnny’s face when Brackett and Early came in was priceless.
“Any trouble swallowing breakfast?” Kel asked as he raised the lid from the untouched plate. His eyes narrowed and his mouth twitched. It set off warning bells when Johnny didn’t eat.
“Yeah I couldn’t get past the looks of it…” Johnny said in with a disgusted snort. “A person could starve to death in here …” As if to give credence to the statement his stomach rumbled loudly. “See you need to let me get out of here so I can go get some decent food.”
“Johnny if you feel up to it stop by my office and we’ll go over this paper work. I’m only here for a little while I have some things at home I need to get done today since next week is the start of the survey interview. That doctor is why I wanted the curtain pulled since I had some questions that could be considered confidential information and wanted to let Johnny have some privacy. Hope you feel better soon. If you gentlemen will excuse me.” She wheeled herself towards the door.
“I’m going to be out of the office most of next week so I really do need to see you…Kel don’t forget to fill out the papers I left you yesterday.” With a nod and smile, she was gone.
“Ok, other than starving you got any complaints? The night nurse said you asked for pain meds about 2:30 this morning for your hip?”
“Yeah it was stiff and aching but the aspirin helped. And when I get home I’ll get a good hot shower.” Kel nodded and did a routine check.
“Ok, by the time you dressed I’ll have the paper work ready for you to leave. Just take it easy til your next shift. Any questions or problems call…you know the drill. And do the breathing exercises.”
Fifteen minutes later Johnny was up in Lee’s office. She gave him the paper he needed to fill out and fixed him a snack from the stuff she kept for the paramedics. “Soon as you finish that pull the door shut and it’ll lock. I’m going home…by the time you get there I’ll have breakfast ready …French toast or waffles?
“You don’t go to a lot of trouble I’ll just grab something and go on home.”
“No, I’m gonna fix you a good breakfast. So which one waffle or French toast.” She gave him a look that said no argument. Cocking her head slightly her eyes wide.
“Waffles with strawberries and blueberries?” He gave her a quick kiss. “And whipped cream
“I was thinking more in the line of pineapple and bananas. “ She could hear the hoarseness even if he insisted his throat didn’t hurt. “You sure you can drive ok?”
“Yes…don’t worry about me.” He looked confused as she giggled then left.
As she waited for the elevator, Lee let her mind wander. Depending on how Johnny felt, she might have a long lonely weekend ahead of her. It was kind of ironic before John Gage had walked into that office two months earlier she always had long lonely weekends. She just hadn’t realized it.
She had thought she did a good job of keeping herself happy and busy. Weekends had been a time to catch up with friends and housework. She was proud of how little help she needed to keep the apartment clean and what a good cook she was thanks to Maria. Maria who had put up with all the temper tantrums and crying and feeling sorry for herself days that first year after the wreck. Laughing to herself, Lee thought if the truth be known Maria had been putting up with her moods since the day Jeff had hired her almost 15 years ago.
The warm and there was a nice breeze. Lee decided to set the table on the balcony. Taking towels from the kitchen, she wiped the small table and chair down and put place mats down. In the center, she put a teacup full of pinkish faerie roses. Each week she got small arrangement of the flowers from Johnny and now they had hidden treasures usually a silk butterfly but one had a small silver heart hidden in the middle of the flowers. She looked at the bookcase next to the fireplace. At her eye level was the cups and teapot that had held the flowers and the start of her butterfly collection. She bit her lip looking sad wondering how many more she would receive. It wouldn’t be long before Johnny would get tired of hanging around with her. Especially now the weather was getting nice and he could go camping and hiking. She was going to miss spending time with him. She wheeled herself into her room and picked up her hair brush to put her hair into a pony tail. It was getting long and once the days were nice she’d have even more blond streaks. Having the top down on her mustang made it easier to get the chair in and out of the car by herself. A red mustang convertible had been her dream car, except the one in her dream wasn’t modified with hand controls.
Back in the kitchen, she washed her hands and began cutting up the fresh fruit for the waffles. She had the batter setting up and had the sausage in the oven and the bacon. She smiled remembering the first time she had fixed bacon for Johnny. He had never seen anyone sprinkle sugar on it and put it in the oven. There wasn’t any orange juice but she didn’t think he would want any as irritated as his throat had sounded.
Lee had just finished doing the prep dishes when she heard the door bell say me in Morse code. She had the door to the apartment open so she just kept on doing her clean up and going over things in her mind. Syrup…she had forgotten to get any out. She went over to the pantry shelves and found an empty bottle. She knew there was an unopened bottle on one of the higher shelves. Putting her brakes on and using both hands pulled she up so she was standing. Slowly making sure she had her balance she looked for another bottle of syrup but didn’t see any. She was so focused she did not hear Johnny come into the apartment.
Johnny made good time getting over to Lee’s apartment. The forms had been easy since she had filled in the parts she knew and like Doc promised the discharge papers and his return to work order for the next shift was waiting at the nurses’ station. A few quick words to Dixie and he had left. After breakfast maybe he would call the station and apologize to Roy for his bad mood yesterday.
He decided calling would be better than going over there since he was still mad at Chet and didn’t want to deal with that. He was tired of all the questions and snide remarks from Chet Kelly. And the more he ignored Kelly the more pranks the phantom came up with. The last tactic Chet had come up with was the worst.
Making cracks about his mystery girl. ‘You so hard up for a date you had to invent someone?’ ‘The mystery girl hasn’t got tired of you yet? ‘Hey Gage, was it the mystery girl on the phone last night?’ ‘Have a good time on your days off with the mystery girl?’ Then it started getting personal with cracks like “She must be a real dog if you’re hiding her.’
The worst ever was when the water bomb ruined his pictures. Roy had brought them to him and he had put them under some extra clothes he had there so they were away from prying eyes. He had planned to take them out to the rover but they had gotten busy and he forgot. Then he had forgotten to take them home. He could still hear Lee squealing as the Ferris wheel started getting higher and higher in the air. Her adamant ‘I’m not afraid of heights I just don’t like them.’ Remembering the feel of holding her tight and feeling her relax, laugh, and enjoy the ride made him smile as he waited for the elevator.
Johnny held his breath as she slowly eased herself back into the chair afraid if he made a sound, she would lose her balance. “If you need something ask and I’ll get it for you.” He said once she was sitting down.
“Thanks for the offer but I can do things for myself.” She knew he was only trying to help but she hated it when anyone made her feel helpless. “I don’t need you scolding me like a child. I know my limitations, thank you…”
“Sorry didn’t mean to sound like I was scolding you. Throat is still kind of scratchy.” He went over and kissed her long and deeply. “And sweetheart, I never think of you as a child,” giving her that crooked smile that she loved so much.
That was the whole problem…she loved him so much it made her heart ache. The old Gene Pitney song must be true…only love can break your heart because hers was breaking. She was ashamed at how sarcastic she had sounded.
“I know you were only trying to help and I know your throat hurts…I’m sorry.” The tears started down her cheek and she took a deep breath.
“Don’t cry you didn’t do anything wrong…all you did was try to do something nice for me.”
“Don’t be so nice…you were being nice and I was mean and sarcastic and that makes it even worse because you were so nice…” She was very flustered and embarrassed.
“I never saw you standing up like that before…every time I ever saw you transfer I was nearby so if you fell I could catch you.” He was being so kind and patient with her it was just making it worst for her. It was almost as if she wanted him to get mad and fight back.
“I‘ve had 6 years of practicing how to fall…” Still not, ready to give up her pouting. “Don’t you laugh at me?” Her eyes were narrowed and her mouth drawn into a thin line. Johnny smiled he had never seen her like that before and actually thought she was kind of cute making that face.
“I’ll never do that…remember my promise?” She nodded now feeling even worst. “I was just thinking how much you sound like me when I feel like Roy’s being over protective. Guess this is one is his pay back moments. OK now?” His eyebrows arched as he asked her and a small grin played at the corners of his mouth. “Now what can I do to help?”
“Look and see if there is any syrup….Do you want some eggs?” She moved so he could look in the cupboard and would stop looking at her.
“There is a bottle of syrup pushed back …and no eggs…the ones from the hospital are still haunting me.” He handed her the syrup after giving her a quick kiss. He went over to the fridge and got the milk out. “What do you want to drink? Juice or milk…Soda? Do you want tea or coffee? Don’t think grapefruit juice would be good for your throat.” She ladled the batter into the waffle iron and kept busy trying to regain her composer. He was busy putting the bacon, fruit and whipped cream and syrup on the tray along with the drinks and place settings.
“Milk is fine.” He poured the milk then put the carton back in the fridge. “You‘re almost out of milk…I can go to the store with you after breakfast if you want.”
“You need to get some sleep after breakfast. You can sleep here if you want.”
“You want me around? Does that mean you aren’t mad at me anymore?”
She stopped what she was doing and looked at him trying to decide if he was serious. “I was never mad at you, just frustrated with myself. You never gave me any reason to be mad. It was just my own bad temper catching up to me.”
“So why the bad temper? Are you feeling ok?” He sat the tray down on the counter and put his hand on her forehead. “You don’t feel warm.” He picked up the tray and started out to the balcony waiting for her to go out ahead of him with the waffles.
“I think it’s all this mess with the interviews and surveys. The press has made some comments and the locals down in San Diego have made counter claims and it’s just going to keep getting worst until the trial is over…All we can do is try to do some damage control…Keep the all the positive aspects of the program in view. Show the public that the problems in San Diego are the exception…”
“Yeah it seems like they always want to hear the bad stuff…Wonder why?” He was watching her closely as they talked. Maybe it was just his imagination and she wasn’t trying to pick a fight with him.
“So what do you want to do while I’m off?” Johnny said as he finished his second waffle. “I’ll grab some sleep and then we can do anything you want.” He got up and started clearing the table. They took the dishes inside and went into the living room.
“I have got to get some work done…I need to make sure everything is ready for Monday….” She had a bad feeling about what was going to happen and hoped she was strong enough to do what had to be done for his sake.
“You said you weren’t mad but you don’t seem to want me around right now…Kind of confused here….” Usually she transferred over to the couch and sat next to him but now she just stayed in her chair and that worried him.
“No more than I am.” She said. “Don’t think because I made breakfast you owe me anything. She saw the dark look in his eyes but didn’t know why. He hadn’t told her about his childhood and his family’s throwing that he owed them for anything they did for him. “You don’t have to hang out with me.”
“So what does that mean? This doesn’t make a bit of sense…either you want me here or you don’t.” Now he was the one getting defensive. Was she playing some kind of mind game but that wasn’t like her? That wasn’t the kind, caring, intelligent girl he loved. He loved. He had never thought that about any girl…Besides Roy and his family and Dixie he had never used the word love in connection with anyone except his parents. Even all the girls he had dated and even the ones he had slept with there was never any mention of love. “You can’t have it both ways, Lee. Either you want to spend
time with me or you don’t. If it’s because of work that I can understand…but this …it doesn’t feel right…It feels like you are trying to push me away…Is that it? You don’t want to be the bad one who ends it? But you’re tired of me now that you think I care?”
A cold gray feeling of emptiness came over him as he said that. It was the same feeling he would get when his aunts would tell him how useless and worthless he was. It was like a broken record playing in his head…the same words over and over. He could see and hear his uncle telling him no one would ever want him because he was damaged goods…He felt the pressure building behind his eyes and the tightness in his chest.
“Is that how little you think of me? That I’m one of these empty headed girls who uses people to feel good about themselves? That I plays games with people to make up for my own short comings? God knows that list is long enough to give people a good laugh.” Her voice was soft but full of hurt. “I have cherished every minute we have spent together…You are the one who can make me forget all the things about myself I hate.” She looked at him scared of what she was going to say but knowing it had to be said. “Look at the things you love most in life then look at me…I can’t do anything that you love…maybe it is better for you we don’t see each other except at work.”
“I am looking at what I love most in life…you. What would you say if I said I love you?”
“That I love you too. But that would be a mistake Johnny…you deserve someone who can do things with you and help make your dreams come true. What do you want most in the world?” She knew what the answer would be.
“A family likes Roy’s. It’s funny the other day Chet accused me of stealing Roy’s life and asked why I didn’t get one of my own. Now with you maybe…”
“No. That is why we can’t be together…If I had ever thought it would turn out like this I would have never …I love you so much but it wouldn’t work …“I have been trying to find a way to tell you I couldn’t see you any more since that day we spent at the school festival…When you told me how much someday you’d like to have at least 2 kids…maybe more…Then we would be together and I was too selfish and didn’t want it to end…that maybe you would change your mind about wanting kids.”
“Because I’m a half breed? Is that why you wouldn’t want a family with me?” He was angry and hurt but even as he said it he was sorry. He knew Lee wasn’t a bigot and that what he said had been mean and hurtful.
“No, dam it, because that wreck didn’t just take my legs it took away all the dreams I had…including being a mother some day. Oh there is a 10 to 20 per cent chance maybe I could have a baby but with my luck I wouldn’t count on it happening.”
Johnny sat there feeling as if someone had taken all the oxygen from the room, “Let me get this straight ok, you love me …but because you love me you don’t want us to be together? And Roy thinks I don’t make sense.”
“You aren’t listening …We can’t be together…it wouldn’t be fair to you…and after awhile you’d hate me…I…won’t kill your dreams… I will not do that to you. After the wreck for a long time that was how I felt….Dead inside…nothing hurt but nothing made me happy either…Jeff was hurt and I was so scared of losing him… When you don’t have a dream you don’t have any hope …it’s like your very soul is dead…I think that is what people mean when they say it’s hell on earth. Feeling like you don’t belong anywhere and never will…any hope of anything getting better.”
“Sweetheart, you just described my life…until the De Soto’s took me in. Now there is Cap and the guys, Dixie, Dr. Brackett and Dr. Early they wouldn’t let me live in that empty place any more But most of all there is you and I’m not giving us on us. Are you?” He smiled. “Who knows maybe I changed your luck. But even if I didn’t you changed mine. …I don’t use the word love easily…but I do love you.”
“I love you John Roderick Gage…so much it ….it seems like I have loved you forever…since that day you came in here with those faerie roses…You make my heart smile.”
“That’s nice to know…now no more silliness about us not being together? We will just take each day as it comes and figure this all out… Not gonna promise you it’ll be easy…But I think you are worth it…we are worth it.” His eyes never left her face. They were dark and intense and challenging but extremely gentle.
“When you look at me like that I believe it is…” She said with a sad smile. “I want it to be true…I’m scared…and I am so tired of being scared…Scared people will laugh at me, scared of not being good enough…scared of getting hurt by what people think…most of all being scared of being alone. Not the no one is home but me kind of scared but the no one cares feeling.”
“I care. And you were never alone because there was always people who cared…your uncles, the Alvarez family, your friends.” He stroked her cheek lightly wiping the tears away. “I won’t say I understand why you felt that way but I know what it was like when I felt like that. And you will never have to feel that way again.”
He went over to her and picked her up. Soon as she put her arms around his neck, she began crying again. This time she didn’t try to stop she buried her head in his shoulder and let all the fear and anger and hurt drain away. He sat on the couch holding her and rocking her softly.
“You keep rocking me like this and I’m going to fall asleep…for the first time in awhile I feel safe…It was harder than I thought it would be when Jeff left for D.C. and then waiting for you to say you didn’t want to see me anymore. I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t…”
“Now I am going to get mad if you don’t stop talking like that,” he said but the smile and look he gave her took the sting out of the words. “I told you I’m not leaving you and not gonna let you push me away.” He yawned and she giggled.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing…just feeling safe and happy…and sleepy…Why don’t you go into Jeff’s old room and take a nap and maybe I’ll get one too…Then later we can go do something. I do not care what even if we just hang out here as long as we are together. I have been dreading this conversation for so long…”
“You should have had more faith in me.” He softly said as he kissed her. “I guess I just never thought you’d think that…here I was wondering why someone like you would want to hang out with me.”
“Let’s not start playing that game again both of us are new at this …we’ve got a lot to learn about ourselves and each other at least I do…so let’s just enjoy it and our time together.” He kissed her letting her know he agreed.
“That’s my girl, smart and beautiful.” He helped her back into her chair. You go take a nap and I’ll be back in awhile.”
“Can’t you stay?” She looked at him pleading. “Please.”
“No I have some things I need to do…And didn’t you say you had some work to do? After your nap?”
“But I’ll sleep better with you here, honest.” She looked at him. “Did anyone warn you I’m a spoiled brat?” She giggled. “I promise I’ll try not to be…It’s just that I was so scared and unhappy and now it’s like all that is just a bad dream.” She pushed herself towards the front door. “Go home call me when you get there…Then call me again when you wake up, ok? Besides being a brat or maybe its part of it I’m very bossy.”
“I have never seen a person switch moods as fast as you have today,” he said laughing. “Is this what the rest of our lives is gonna be like?”
“ No…yes…I don’t know…I told you I have been so scared and now it’s like I’m so happy…Is this what it’s like to be drunk?”
“I wouldn’t know…I told you I don’t drink.” He kissed her and left.
After calling Lee to tell her he had gotten home ok Johnny went into shower then laid down. Once his head touched the pillow he was asleep. The last thing he remembered was thinking he wanted to take Lee somewhere special for dinner. He couldn’t believe when he looked at the clock and it said eight thirty. He had planned to be back over at her house by six. He quickly dialed her number worrying she thought he had forgotten his promise to be back.
After Johnny left Lee went out to the kitchen to finish cleaning it. As she was loading the dish washer she began humming the song that had been playing in her mind for the last two weeks ever since she had heard it driving home from work. Gene Pitney had sung only love can break your heart and that had been what she kept hearing over and over but now she could heard the next line…And only love can mend it again.
After she finished in the kitchen she spread the paper she needed out on the dining room table and began making up the packets she would need Monday morning. She had been given the ok, in fact encouraged ,to hire someone to work in her office but she hadn’t found anyone yet. Maybe she needed to get more aggressive with the search. Before she realized it she had been working for 4 hours and was almost finished with enough packets to get thru the first 3 days… She left the papers on the table and went into her room. She was tired but it was a good kind of tired not the bone cold aching tired she had felt for the last two weeks. She decided a quick shower would be great for her back and then maybe a nap. She hadn’t told Johnny how bad she had been sleeping because he would have asked her why and she was afraid to tell him. Now she understood it would have been so much easier to just to talk to him. By the time, she had showered and dried her hair it was almost 4:30. She laid down thinking she’d get up about 6 but it was after 7 by the time she woke up. She checked the phone to make sure she hadn’t missed his call.
Waiting for Lee to pick up the phone he was worried she would be mad or worst think he hadn’t planned to call at all. After four rings, she answered. “Hi sweet heart.”
“Hi sleepy head. Glad you got some good sleep.” She could tell by his voice he had just woken up.
“Yep and now I am starving. How about pizza?” He had really wanted to go somewhere nice and romantic but it was too late now.
“OK I’ll call it in and make us a salad…By the time you get over there it should be about ready…That’ll be quicker than delivery. See you soon love ya.”
“Love you too,” he said surprised at how easy it was to say. “Ya know… it feels almost as good saying as hearing it…”
“Yeah it does…and I plan on saying it a lot.”
Lee had just started to fold the laundry when Johnny called. It was 7:15 she was surprised he was up already. He hadn’t left her place until almost two.
“Good morning …were you up?” He was still a little raspy but not as much as when he had left her earlier that morning.
“Yeah I got up at 6 like usual…wanted to get some things done here …”
“Anything that can’t wait till tomorrow? If it’s just house work I’ll come help you tomorrow.” He laughed. “Being a fireman you learn to clean really well, especially if you’re at Station 51 with Captain Stanley.”
“I may take you up on that offer one of these days,” she answered relieved he sounded so much better.
“I was thinking maybe we could just go down to Venice and hang out for the day or maybe go over to Marina Del Rey …”
“Sounds wonderful…but don’t do it just because you think we have to go somewhere. Didn’t Kel tell you to get some rest? We need to do what is best for you.”
“Spending the day with you is best for me. Remember I’m the guy who loves you. So, I’ll be over about 10...Wear shorts or something cool…but bring something with you in case it gets cooler in the evening.” They talked awhile longer. “Guess I better go get some things done…see you soon, love you.”
“Love you too…” After hanging up she just sat there looking at the phone. It was crazy that someone as wonderful as John Gage loved her. Just the sound of his voice sent a feeling of floating through her very being. She quickly finished the laundry and went into change.
She couldn’t wear shorts…the only ones she owned were very short and were just for therapy sessions. With a jolt she realized he had never seen her legs or the scars on her back or stomach. Oh well he loved her and they were a part of her. She was surprised she felt that way…she had been so embarrassed by the scars for so long.. That is why she never wore anything but long skirts or slacks when any one was around.
She looked at the sun dresses and skirts thinking they would be cooler.. Her new skirt was a soft green with a floral print in blues and pinks and she had a shell that matched the pink. Her white sweater would go with it fine. Before getting dressed, she used a lot of sunscreen on her arms and face. It didn’t matter how much time she spent in the sun she never tanned just got red and blotchy. She gathered her hair into a lose twist with soft wisps framing her face. A little mascara and some rose lipstick and she was ready.
Johnny was whistling as he gathered up his dirty clothes and put them into the hamper. Lee had sounded really excited about their day. He hadn’t been down to Venice in a long time and had been surprised last night when she said she had never went there. She had told him about traveling with Jeff and how scared she was the first time she flew to New York after the wreck alone. But she had never been to a lot of the places around L. A. …But then all her good friends seemed older and more settled.
He checked his watch it was just a little before 8...If he picked her up early maybe they could stop for breakfast. Nana’s Garden opened at 8 so he could stop by for some flowers. It was hard to believe he had been stopping their once a week for 2 months. And that because he had stopped their first time Lee loved him. Well, hopefully she loved him for more than that. He frowned knowing before long they had to sit down and have a long serious talk. But he also knew it would be ok…she loved him and wasn’t about to change her mind. He had seen that in her eyes and heard it in her voice.
“Good morning Johnny, you are out early on a bright beautiful day.” Nana said her soft West Indian accent giving the words a musical feel. “Faerie roses for your lady? With a treasure?”
“Yes…and maybe something extra special for a treasure this time?” Johnny said as he looked at the items in the case.
“Does she ever wear her hair up in a bun or a twist? You told me it was long and brown with golden highlights.” As she was talking she was going through a box of Victorian hair pins. “Maybe this would be nice…” It was a silver butterfly.
“It’s perfect…She said she knew she loved me the night I gave her the first faerie roses.”
“And you?” Nana smiled at the look on his face. It was a mix of puzzlement and concentration and joy.
“Took me longer but from the first time I saw her I knew she made me feel different from any other girl…Just took me awhile to figure out why.”
Lee was just finishing putting what she thought they might need in one of her tote bags. Her sweater, a camera and more sun screen , a comb and some lipstick in a small make up bag. She had keys and her sun glasses her id and some money in a small purse she could slip down beside her. She heard the door bell chime me in Morse code and smiled as she went over to unlock the door.
“Do you make it a habit of being almost an hour early?”
“No…but then if it’s you I’m coming to see…” He bent down and kissed her. “I might.” She giggled as they went on into the living room. “Like your hair up like that.” He handed her the now familiar box. “I bet you thought I had forgotten.”
She carefully opened the box and took out the lovely porcelain box that held the flowers. “It’s beautiful and the flowers …” She found the hairpin. “Johnny its …it’s so beautiful and delicate…” She was trying hard not to cry as she set it on the table.
“Maybe that’s why it’s so perfect for you. Glad you like it.” He kissed her and felt her stiffen. “What’s wrong?”
“I just twisted wrong nothing to worry about,” she answered. “It happens some time…Now shall we go and get you some breakfast?”
“”You’re sure it’s ok? “ He was in paramedic mode as he placed his hand on her back.
“Yes let’s get some breakfast then on to our adventure. .” She started wheeling herself towards the door. “Don’t forget the tote bag….Your car or mine?”
“Mine if it’s ok with you…unless you don’t like riding in it.”
“”It’s your back…if you don’t mind lifting me.”
“Mind? That just gives me another excuse to hold you. Besides you’re lighter than most stuff I lug around…I’m a fireman I have lots of stamina…” He gave her a smile, handed her the tote, and began pushing her. “Any place special you like for breakfast? Or some place on the way?”
“Let’s just drive until we see something that looks good.” They were still not ready for Lee to meet Johnny’s friends as a couple yet but for very different reasons. Johnny wanted to protect her from the teasing and snide remarks about his past girl friends and failed relationships he knew would happen. Lee don’t want to face the looks and comments and be judged by his friends. She knew Roy and Jo accepted her and the limitations…but would the others. And would Roy and Jo change their minds when they found out about the other problem? Jo had been telling her how great Johnny was with the kids and what a great father he would make not realizing it was like a knife in her heart. Once the survey was done and all the interviews and ratings sent into Sacramento…maybe then they could tell Johnny’s friends. Or in the back of her head was that nagging self doubt was telling her enjoy it while it last. He’ll get tired of you quick enough.
The board walk was crowded but Johnny carefully pushed her chair keeping it safe from the joggers, skate boarders and skaters who seemed to think they were the only ones around. It was warm but there was a nice breeze and they laughed and just had fun. Lee had a collection of stuffed animals Johnny had won at the various booths and had a wreath of artificial flowers he had gotten her with bright colored ribbons streaming down. They were at a booth where you had to knock down cutouts with a stream of water. Johnny had just made a perfect score and won a huge teddy bear. Just as the attendant handed it to Johnny Lee saw a Venice police officer walking by.
“Excuse me Officer?” She called, as he got nearer. Johnny looked at her frowning.
“Yes ma’am, can I help you?”
“Could your station use a teddy bear for one of its children’s programs?”
“We kind of adopted the pediatric ward at the hospital and we are starting a program when little ones are in accidents we give them a stuffed toy to ride in the ambulance with them.”
“Johnny is it ok with you? I would like to give the officer some of these. Not the one you picked out for Jenny…and not the one you said looked like Henry.”
“I think that would be a great idea…” He smiled that quirky smile and she blushed. “Bet we could even have some more for him by the end of the day.” He extended his hand. “John Gage L. A. County firefighter/paramedic. This kind lady is Lee…”
“I thought you looked familiar…Your station softball team played in our charity tournament last fall…You hit the winning homer. You people donated the prize money back to our charity. Chad Jenkins.” They shook hands.
“Barney, my friends here are going to leave some animals I’ll pick them up later.”
Johnny handed the teddy bear back to the booth attendant. “The kids will love that.”
“You ready for some lunch? Any where you want.” Johnny asked as Lee gave him the two stuffed animals she kept to put in the tote and handed the others to Officer Jenkins.
“No it’s where you want and it’s my treat and no arguments.”
I think your lady is use to getting her own way, : Chad laughed. “The Mermaid Inn across the street has great steaks and burgers as well as seafood…And the best pies in the city.”
“Can’t beat that. Thanks.” Johnny and Lee made their way over to the café. The old fashion pub type sign had a mermaid and sailor drinking from mugs and the caption said ‘good food good drink good friends’
They were seated in the courtyard where it was shady and there was a nice breeze. They were surprised when they were given dinner menus instead of lunch. The server explained they changed menus at four and it was 4:30. He took their drink orders and gave them some time to look over the menu.
“And this does not change the deal,” she said before he could protest. “I get to spoil you for a change…”
“Ok …I like the sound of that.” He held her hand tightly. “Having fun?”
“Yes…thank you for bringing me here. Sometimes I think I don’t go places because I’m afraid of not fitting in…I hadn’t been to an indoor movie in years…because it’s such a hassle with the wheelchair…Jeff or Maria and Hector or Eddie would take me to the drive in if there was a movie I really wanted to see. But you made it seem so easy and natural…”
“Good...So what are you having? Our server’s on the way over.”
“The seafood salad with extra garlic bread. Now the pool is open I can eat more bread and junk food since I swim every day. What are you having?” Changing the subject quickly. It was going to be hard having Johnny see her in a swimsuit.
“The rib eye steak and shrimp…and extra garlic bread.” She laughed. “Why so sad looking all of a sudden? You stopped laughing with your eyes.”
“You pay way too much attention to me…Just thinking about something I have to do that I don’t want to do…but it’ll be ok. I’m glad you’re off this week end…The next 2 or 3 weeks are going to be really busy…Tom and Will are going to be here Monday thru Friday and want to do at least 3 interview sessions a day…except on Friday it’ll be all in office and they want to leave here by 12. So that isn’t going to leave us much time together.’
After placing their order they went back to talking about the possible time conflicts they’d face with her hours and the shifts he worked.
“If it becomes too much of a problem I’d quit…or tell them they have to let me work the hours I want. And they pretty much let me do that now. I have a few strings I can still pull up in Sacramento…between my friends and Jeff’s and a few others who like me. But there are a few up there that don’t …”
“What’s not to like?” Before she could answer there was a crash and scream from the street. Johnny was up and over the small fence before Lee could react.
The three kids had been skating and laughing not paying any attention to the others around them. The two men on bikes were arguing sports and not paying attention either.The five tangled bodies were in the middle of the street.
“Don’t move anyone until we check for injuries,” Johnny said as a man began to move one of the skaters. “That leg is broke and moving him has to be done easily and with it stabilized…” The man backed off as Chad Jenkins came over to Johnny.
“Squad is on the way…What do you need me to do?” Chad said as Johnny was checking the one of the skaters.
“Can you get some ice and towels?” Johnny yelled. This one has a broken arm and probably a broken hand…The guy over there has a gash I think he caught a skate to the head…” …” The server who had waited on Johnny and Lee came over with a bowl of ice and several more towels. Johnny quickly put some ice in a towel and had the man hold it on the cut. He was checking the man’s bloody knee when he heard the other biker coughing and gagging.
“Help me turn him…keep his back straight…” They had just turned him and Johnny was taking his pulse and respirations when the squad arrived.
“Think the blood was from the cut on his lip…was gagging on it…” He gave the paramedic the vitals. And his assessment of the others. “They were lucky they all had helmets and the skaters had some good protective gear.”
Once all the injured were on their way to the hospital Mitch Drake turned to Chad.
“Good job of triage…”
“Thanks to John here….I was just following his lead. Mitch is the senior paramedic here in town.” Chad said as he turned to start getting witness statements.
Johnny finished cleaning the blood off his hands and nodded at Mitch. “John Gage, Station 51 out of Carson.”
“Thought high rise buildings and cliffs were your specialty? I’ve heard some good things about you and your partner.”
“Nasty rumors…Just glad I could help. Better let you get back to work and I think my dinner is ready.”
“Are you Ok?” Lee asked looking at his bloody shirt and shorts. She shouldn’t have been surprised at how good he was after reading all the reports over the years and having heard him and Roy talk about their jobs. But it was totally different watching and hearing the cries of those in pain he was helping. “I am so proud of you….I …” She shook her head and took a deep breath trying not to cry.
“Shush it’s…” There was a tee shirt vender across the street. “I’m gonna get a clean shirt…You ok to wait here?”
“I’m fine…bet if you hurry you can get it and be back before your steak gets here.” He had just left and the server came over with two new drinks.
“Your friend was pretty impressive out there…Is he a doctor?”
“No a paramedic …He went to get a new shirt since he was all bloody…Guess I have been around paramedics and police for too long when bloody shirts don’t really bother me …at least when its someone else’s blood.”
“Your food will be out in a few minutes…the cook had to redo the steak he burnt it watching the accident out there.”
Johnny came back in a clean t-shirt just about the same time the food came. After eating and talking about lots of general things Johnny suggested they head home.
“I’ll take you home then go home and get cleaned up and come back over if you want…or if you’re tired?’ As they were walking back to the car.
“Sounds good to me…Ya know maybe you should just pack some stuff and leave it over at the apartment? There are two empty bedrooms…would save you some time and gas…” she blushed as she said it. “I don’t mean to sound like I expect you to spend every free minute with me…I know now that it’s nice weather you’ll want to go hiking and camping…and that you do have other friends.”
“That’s a good idea and I also think when we get back we need to have a long serious talk about the future…” To himself ‘and the past.’
Soon as Johnny, left Lee went in and took a quick shower. The water felt good on her tired back and she could feel it relaxing. Once she was dried off she put on a tee shirt and a pair of light weight sweat pants. She undid her hair and brushed it out. It was damp from the shower so she pulled it back into a pony tail that she twisted up off her neck. She then went out and made sure there was tea and soda in the fridge and something she could fix later for a snack. If she needed she could always call downstairs she knew that there was an excess of food for the party. There was always an excess of food down there so Maria could feed whatever number showed up. Cisco was famous for inviting his fellow police officers over to his mom’s to eat. He thought of Cisco and wondered how he and Johnny would get along…She really wasn’t worried about it she knew her “big brother” would be happy she had found someone to love and who loved her. She had just gone out on the balcony when she heard the doorbell. She had unlocked the door so she just waited for him. “Out here.” She called as he opened the door.
“I wish you wouldn’t leave your door unlocked.” He sat down the ice cream he had stopped for on the way over. “Butter pecan.” He went out on the balcony. He came gave her a quick kiss. “Now or later for ice cream?”
“Whatever you want.” She was watching the kids below. “Johnny, are you sure? I need you to be sure.”
“What I want is for us to be together. What I want is to see you happy and laughing and us growing old together.” He had pulled the chair out straddling it his chin resting on the back. “I want to know you are safe and loving me as much as I love you. I want you to trust me to never stop loving you.” She sat there without a word. “You’re scared of being hurt…I see it in your eyes…but I also see that you love me…” He stood up and went over to her. “Let’s go inside and we’ll talk…All the questions and secrets…”
“Put the ice cream in the freezer please…” She was scared and it was only going to get worst if they put this off. “You want something to drink before we get started.”
She went in and transferred over to the couch while he put the ice cream away and grabbed some sodas. He sat them on the table then sat down next to her and kissed her lightly. “Ok this is either the end or the start of us being together.” His voice was soft but firm. “Ask anything you want.”
“Tell me about your parents…” She was sitting at an angle so she could watch his face. The mixture of pride and hurt in his eyes made her heart ache.
“My dad was an engineer who worked for an oil company. His family pretty much disowned him for marrying my mother. Her family was just as angry at her for marrying a while man and leaving the reservation…I was 8 when he was killed in a fire. We lived here in California…”
“Is that why you became a fireman?”
“No I wanted to be a tiller man since I was 5...then afterwards I wanted to be a rescue man…After he died we went back to the reservation in Montana and it wasn’t a good situation…My aunts and uncles resented her coming back with a half breed son…They were…there was a lot of yelling and when my mom wasn’t around my aunts were quick to slap me for being a burden and trouble and worthless…After she died when I was 12...she had cancer…it got worst. The town and the reservation weren’t exactly one happy community…The town kids …and a lot of the kids on the reservation saw me as an easy target…And there was some other problems…I stuttered a lot and would just sort of go away…Sometimes it was only a few minutes, sometimes days would just disappear…I wouldn’t remember anything that happen.” The tears had started and he closed his eyes. “The worst was my uncle…He was mean when he was sober but when he was drunk…He almost beat me to death…a lot of broken bones…and he would grab me by my hair and try to kiss me…and touch me…” He didn’t open his eyes but he could hear her soft sobs and felt her holding his hand tightly. “That’s when I’d go away…deep into my mind where it was safe. Finally after he almost killed me I went to live with my grandfather but that didn’t last long…my dad’s parents refused to see me…but my aunt took me in and it got better…but by that time I was a teenager…and she tried but I couldn’t trust or let her love me…She did her best…She lives in Europe now…haven’t heard from her in a couple of years other than Christmas cards…guess she tried her best and got tired of being rejected…” He stopped and took a long drink of the cold soda. He rubbed his forehead and temples as the memories ached in his heart and mind.
Lee could see the pain in his face and hear it in his voice. “Put your head in my lap.” She moved around so he could be more comfortable. “When I was little and then after the wreck, Jeff would sit for what seemed hours like this.” She began gently massaging his temples and forehead. Brushing the thick dark hair back from his forehead.
“Roy does that when I’m sick or hurt…like my dad then my mom would do when I was sick…sometimes after I went away I would wake up to my mom doing that and singing to me…Rocking me and talking soft…” He was quiet for a few minutes and she wasn’t sure if he was awake. “Did you ever hear of Aspergers Syndrome?”
“Dr. Brackett and Roy knew something was wrong…They both knew some of what my life had been like…Doc had the X-rays from some new injuries but the scars from the old were there…Then after I was kidnapped and beaten they put things together…I didn’t know about it until then.
The department knows now but for awhile I never told them…was afraid. My uncle use to tell me if I told anyone they would think I was dirty and never want to be around me…Roy and Jo went to classes to help me …they learned a technique called touch therapy…They saved my life…I had built walls around myself…didn’t feel anything…seemed like every time I let someone in I got hurt…If Roy and Jo hadn’t … Dr. Brackett and Dr, Early, Dixie and the guys hadn’t cared...I …I would be dead…because no one would have cared if I was sick or hurt…most of all I wouldn’t…” She didn’t say anything because she couldn’t find the words or find a way around the lump in her throat. “I have been officially diagnosed with a mild case of Aspergers and with Childhood Traumatic Stress Syndrome from being a battered child. Now you know all my secrets.”
“All that and you have become the kindest most loving and gentle person I have ever met…Most people would have given up or became so bitter and uncaring…” She touched his lips to keep him from interrupting. “It makes the fact that you love someone like me even more amazing.”
He kissed her fingertips then held her hand tightly. “You keep saying that like I am doing you a favor by loving you…I’m amazed you love me. That chair doesn’t define who you are. What defines you is your loving heart and the way you care for others…You show more courage every day…You think we don’t see the pain in your face or the way you arch your back when it hurts? That I don’t see how sad your eyes get sometimes? I want that to change. Now you tell me about Leona Elizabeth Spencer.
“Leona Elizabeth Holbrook Spencer…my dad promised grandpa Holbrook he would include my mom’s maiden name in my name…My uncle Matt had just lost his wife when my mom found out she was pregnant with me. My dad had to go to Paris for meetings…but he also had some leave time coming he combined them…Two days before they would have came home a drunk driver hit them…my little sister was with them she was almost 4...”
“Why didn’t you go?”
“I had the measles…I was so mad they left me…I thought for a long time it was my fault…because I was so mad I told my dad I hoped he had a terrible time on his vacation…Jeff did everything he could to make sure I had a good child hood…My grandfather Spencer owned this building and they had it changed from 4 apartments to 2 bigger ones…He died a few months after my parents. I heard a lady say it broke his heart when my dad and mom died…A social worker tried to take me away from Jeff because it wasn’t proper for a single man to raise a little girl…That’s when he hired Maria and …I wasn’t very cooperative so the school suggested I go to Westwood Progressive ….it was a pilot program for child based education…connected with UCLA…you studied and took test when you were ready…That’s how I graduated when I was 13...and started college classes at 14...They were trying to decide if it was socially beneficial for kids who were advanced to be with peers or with those on the same educational level. I was great with the academic part socially I was a dud. Then the wreck …I was even more a freak. At least when I could surf and ski I had something in common with other kids my age…”
“You never call it an accident but the wreck.”
“Because it wasn’t an accident it was attempted murder…A drug dealer didn’t want Jeff to testify so they waited till he had picked me up at school and shot him as he was driving…we hit a car and a tree…He had 2 bullets in him…and I was sitting sideways with my left leg tucked up under me arguing that if I was old enough to go to UCLA I was old enough to go to a party at a frat house. ..Really smart wasn’t I? A 16 year old at a frat party…People passing by and a policeman got us out of the car…Pulling and twisting me…but they saved our lives…If there had been paramedics 6 years ago ….standard spinal precautions…so that is how I got involved in helping pass the bill that created the paramedic program and why I am still involved…”
She took a deep breath. “Sit up please… They kept telling me they could fix my knee…after 4 operations and a lot of broken promises they decided it wasn’t just my knee but the nerves in my hip and back and some disc were damaged also compounded with excessive scar tissue…After I fell too many times in therapy they decided walking was no longer a practical option using braces and a walker just wasn’t an option…The tears and resulting scar tissue makes it very unlikely I could conceive let alone carry a child…” She but her lip. “So do you want to still be burdened with a barren cripple? That’s how one doctor described me…”
The anger in his eyes frightened her. Taking hold of both her hands, he held her tight. “Don’t you ever use those words again…I won’t let anyone including you say hurtful hateful things about you…”
“You love me in spite of everything…you really would give up your dream of a family for me?”
“We’ll have our family…maybe we can adopt or maybe it’ll just being Aunt Lee and Uncle Johnny to our friend’s kids…Do you trust me not to hurt you?”
“With all my heart and love…I’m not so naive to think their won’t be problems and we will never get mad at each other but I think we can work it out as long as we remember to love and respect each other…and be honest about what we are feeling…”
She bent down and pulled up her left pants leg. “This is why I wear long skirts and slacks…The ones on my back aren’t as bad or the one on my stomach…not very pretty is it”
“One of these days I’ll show you mine…Honey what I love about you is what ‘s in your heart and mind…not just that cute smile and beautiful eyes so stop trying to find fault with yourself, ok” He grinned. “The fact you’re a great cook doesn’t hurt.” She giggled when his stomach growled. “See what just thinking about your cooking does to me? Seriously don’t ever think you aren’t beautiful to me…and most others who know you would agree with me.”
Lee was at Rampart in her office by 7:00 on Monday. At 8:00, she and her bosses left for the first day of survey and interviews. The fire stations were picked at random and no one had advance notice. Tom Clark and Will Fargo had estimated each station visit would be about an hour long but in reality were taking closer to 2 if they were lucky enough not to be interrupted by a run. So far everything had went well and no major concerns had popped up. They had been invited to lunch at Station 36. Doug Stone and Jay Cameron the Para medics on A shift was telling Will about a MVA the week before that had ended up with 2 squads sending in 4 ambulances to Rampart. There had been several critical patients but all had survived.
“I wouldn’t have given the driver of that little sports car a chance in a million,” Doug said. “ There was a truck load of steel beams next to it and when the load shifted they had buried the small car. The guy wasn’t hurt that bad but trapped and that steel was shifting. Looked like a game of jack straws…move one piece the wrong way and they were all coming down. And the roof of the car was slowly caving in more.”
“How did you get him out?” Will asked. “How could you without dislodging the supports?”
“John Gage…man he can wiggle into places no one with any sense would try…He squirmed around until he got this guy’s foot free then crawled out backwards guiding this dude…They hadn’t cleared that car by more than a foot when that roof gave way.”
Lee had turned towards Doug at the mention of Johnny’s name but had forced herself not to say anything. Doug looked up as he was talking and noticed how pale she had gotten and how as he told about the roof crashing in she had let out a gasp.
“You ok? Looking a little upset, Ms. Lee.” Stony like most of the paramedics respected Lee and the work she did for the program and appreciated the little extra things she did for them.
“I’m fine…just thinking about…” She caught herself before she said Johnny. “…the wreck I was in…How things might have been different.” After lunch they went back to her office for a few minutes then onto the next station.
Monday morning Johnny already in uniform and drinking a cup of coffee when Chet got to the station.
“Cutting it a little close aren’t you, Chet?” Johnny said as he raised his cup. “Busy week end?”
“Can it Gage,” Chet growled. “I suppose you and the mystery date had a wonderful time?”
“As a matter of fact, Chester B. We did …A very enlightening one.”
“Roll call in 10 minutes.” Cap informed everyone. “John got a call from a captain down in Venice telling me what a good job you did helping at a bike accident…Nice to hear.” Chet watched as Johnny just smiled and nodded at Roy then hurried into change. As the others started into the bay for roll call Roy put his hand on Johnny’s shoulder.
“There’s a package for you and one for Lee under the front seat of the rover…you forgot to lock it again.”
“A package? What kind of package?” It’s not my birthday or any special day.” He grinned at the memory. “Friday was a really special day…and Saturday and Sunday.” They went in and Johnny nodded as Chet came in last. Announcements were made, assignments given out.
“Ok the state is pulling surprise inspections and interviews to do some sort of survey on how engine crews and paramedics get along. No one knows when or who will be interviewed but I have a feeling we will be included since Roy and John were the first team in the field when the law passed. ..And since they are on the committee…Roy anything to report?”
“No today is the first day…they are getting started sooner than they planned. This isn’t a witch hunt…The purpose is to see what is being done right and help those stations that are having problems. L a County was picked because we are doing thing the right way and have had very few problems.”
As soon as he could Johnny went out to his rover to check what the package from Roy was. It was 5 by 7 reprints of the pictures from the spring festival. Jenny and Chris had signed theirs to their favorite uncle. Johnny was surprised there were two copies of him and Lee on the Ferris wheel. He looked at the picture and made up his mind about something he had been seriously thinking about since Friday.
The next three weeks were really busy for Lee and she was tired and missing Johnny. Monday thru Thursday, she was going on interviews and compiling survey results. On Fridays she did most of the paper work for the week and caught up on her regular reports. Johnny had been busy too pulling several doubles as virus had been hitting the department hard. Chet had no let up on his quest to find out who the mystery girl friend was and if she even existed.
Johnny was the first one from a shift to arrive on Wednesday morning. The engine and squad had not returned from a 6:30 run so Johnny had made a fresh pot of coffee and was sitting there reading the paper when Cap came in. “You pull another double?”
“Nope was just up and ready early…It was too pretty of a day to stay in bed.” He poured his captain a cup of coffee. “It’s amazing how good you feel after a couple of hours of sleep. No dreams you can remember, no nightmares just good peaceful sleep.” Slowly the others came in and for once, it was Marco who got there last. He had gotten caught in the traffic jam from the accident the station was working.
“They should be back here in about 10 minutes the clean up was almost done.” Marco said as he poured himself a cup of coffee. Roy was watching Johnny who was even more hype than usual. He was trying to avoid Chet who was grilling him about his day off and did he spend it with his mystery girl.( Roy knew the answer was no since she was busy working.) The questions made John glare and frown but he didn’t say a word. The looks and the non-answers just pushed Chet farther in his grilling.
“Can it both of you…you twits are giving me a headache…John start on the dorm…Chet go pick up the trash out of their yard…you can trim the hedge and mow.”
“Cap I need to go out to my car before I start the dorm…” Johnny said looking contrite. He hadn’t meant to cause Cap any trouble. It was just he needed to talk to Roy and Chet had been hovering and picking at him.
“Go but make it fast.” Hank shook his head wondering what was going on now. For the last several weeks, he had noticed a change in Johnny’s behavior. He was still full of energy and the silliness (that sometimes irate but usually made him laugh) but there was something different. He seemed more relaxed and less likely to fly off in a huff at Chet’s teasing. He just seemed more mature…Maybe that was it.
Johnny went outside and checked the package he had under the seat and then made sure the rover was locked. He went back in and made quick work of changing the sheets and sweeping and mopping the dorm then went out to help Roy in the apart us bay. It was a little after nine when the engine and squad returned. Dwyer tossed the keys to Roy and headed for the shower. His partner just went on into the locker room to change after talking quickly with Roy.
Roy and Johnny quickly began the morning radio check and calibrations and did an inventory of needed supplies. They were low on several things so Roy went into o the office. “Cap, we’re gonna make a supply run…shouldn’t take long…The ER was pretty crazy earlier but should be calmer by now.”
Soon as they pulled out of the drive way Johnny began talking about Lee. He hadn’t seen her for 3 days but had finally gotten to talk with her. Friday she was taking the day off and they were just going to hang out at her apartment and pool.
“She said the interviews and surveys are going good that the biggest problem was some of the guys took the horse play too far and at Harbor there were a few of the older doctors who still have an attitude problem…”
“How close are they to being done? They’re already a week later than they thought.”
“She didn’t say. We didn’t talk for long and she is really careful about confidential information…She sounded really tired…Jeff is coming in to visit on Sunday. He has a few things he needs to do…its perfect timing…I need to talk to him…and to her Uncle Matt…but I’ll have to call him.” Johnny let out a deep sigh. “Lee calls him every week and she has told him about us dating and …that she loves me.”
Roy laughed and Johnny looked hurt. Realizing what his crazy partner was thinking
Quickly he explained. “You sounded so surprised…Junior anyone who sees you two together knows that. And?’
“I love her…Soon as this stuff with Sacramento is over I suppose you already knew that. I just hope Chet’ll keep his mouth shut. She worries about what people think too much. Guess that’s because of how some people treated her when she first got hurt…and because she felt like an outsider growing up.” He looked serious for a minute then smiled. “I’ve got something to show you out in the rover…when Chet or the others aren’t around…”
Roy listened and nodded knowing Johnny really wasn’t expecting him to answer. He really was happy for his friend but couldn’t help but wonder how this was going to end. He and Jo had watched them together with the kids and it always seemed as if Lee was uneasy and unsure around them. What if she didn’t want kids? What if she didn’t want to share Johnny’s time with him and his family? He remembered how hard it had been at first for Jo.
“Did you hear what I said?’ Johnny’s question broke through Roy’s thoughts. “I’ve asked you the same question twice.”
“Sorry I was thinking about something Jo said. What was the question?”
“Never mind. It wasn’t that important.” They were pulling into the parking lot at Rampart. “I don’t think she is here…they were going to try to do 3 interviews today.” Her car wasn’t in its usual parking space.
The ER was fairly quiet so it did not take long to get the supplies. Dixie and Dr. Bracket were at the base so they talked a few minutes before going back to the station.
They had just gotten back to the station when they received a call to a nearby school to treat a child who had fallen from a swing. The 7 year old had a broken wrist but was in good spirits and excited about riding in the squad. Johnny rode in with him and they were soon on their way back to the station. Johnny told Roy he had promised the boy a tour of the station and that he and Roy would sign his cast.
Roy answered the phone. “Station 52 Fireman/Paramedic DeSoto speaking.”
“Oh I’m glad it s you…We will be there in about a half hour…Let Johnny know I will behave…” She giggled “Tell him I promise.
“Can I tell anyone?”
“You really shouldn’t…but you might want to let Cap know just so the phantom hasn’t left any unpleasant surprises.”
“Ok…thanks.” He hung an up going over to the office. Cap was working on the pile of papers that never seemed to get smaller. He knocked on the door and Cap waved him in.
“What’s up, pal?”
“A friend just called…you might want to make sure there isn’t any leftover phantom attacks lurking anywhere. But you can’t let anyone know why…”
“Thank your friend for the warning.” They left the office. “Chet”
“There better not be any nasty surprises around…I’m in no mood to hear any splats.”
“Sure Cap.” Roy went out to find Johnny who was washing the windows out back.
“They’re on their way over here to do the survey and interview…Lee said to tell you that she’d behave. She seemed to think that was terribly funny.”
“Squad 51 illness 6790 North Griffin Park 6 7 9 0 North Griffin Park cross street Williams Way…time out 15:45.…”
When the squad reached the address they were lead to a shelter house by a very upset lady in her early 70’s.
“I told them it was a bad idea…but they wouldn’t listen and now my husband can’t catch his breath…”
“The fools decided to play a game of tag…they were sitting here talking about how kids today never play the old games…” Another lady about the same age continued as they set up the equipment.
Roy knelt in front of a man in his mid to late 70’s who was breathing heavily. ‘I’m Roy and this is my partner John…we’re gonna check you out and see if we can get you calmed down.” He got the vitals and Johnny relayed them to Dr. Morton.
Dr. Morton ordered an IV for them to transport as soon as possible. Johnny took the squad in while
Roy rode with the patient. Johnny was hoping it didn’t take long to get back to base. He wanted to see Lee even if he had to pretend they were just casual friends., He was worried about her how tired she had sounded. He knew her back and legs had been hurting pretty bad from all the transferring in and out of her chair and getting in and out of the car. And he still hadn’t shown Roy the package in the car.
Lee had gotten up early so she could spend longer in the shower. I t had been good to talk to Johnny finally and make plans for Friday. She had twisted wrong getting out of the car last night and could really tell it today. Friday she was finally going to get to swim and relax…When she went to the closet she saw nothing she wanted to wear. Everything looked too dull and drab. But the truth is known that is how she felt. She found a short sleeved man tailored blouse and her navy blue skirt and jacket. Jeff always called it her little old lady from Sacramento outfit. She had gotten it to look older for a meeting at the state legislature when she wanted to look official. Since the outfit was so drab and it fitted her mood she put her hair up in a French twist. Now she not only felt old and dull she looked it. She didn’t woven bother with any make up accept a light lipstick. The morning went well and at 1:00 they stopped for lunch then went on to the next station.
“I think we have all we need except for Station 51. Dr. Brackett wanted us to be sure to see that station when a shift was on duty. If we finish them today …I may ask to do a ride along with them…” Tom said as they went were gathering up the papers
“The chiefs at HQ would have to ok that…”Lee said quickly. She had no idea they had even considered that. “Why them?”
“We keep hearing about the paramedics on that shift…several captains as well as crew members from other stations have mentioned them. Several of the captains have even said they are one of the best if not the best team in the county or even the state.” Lee bit her lip to keep from saying anything. “I keep hearing how well they communicate almost as if they read each other’s mind.”
“Aren’t they on your advisory committee?” Will asked. “I’m sure you have an opinion of them.”
“I’m keeping my opinions to myself, gentlemen…Shall we order?” She wasn’t sure if she wanted to cry or laugh at this point. If you excuse me I need to make a phone call. She went into the station office and asked to use the phone and that it was a business call and would be very quick. The cap smiled and told her sure and left to give her some privacy. Thinking to herself, well it was kind of department business she justified the white lie she had just told.
Johnny and Roy pulled into the bay just as Lee was pulling into the parking lot. Tom got out and took her wheel chair from the trunk and held it while she transferred to it.
“Good timing junior.” They went in Johnny swallowing hard at being so close to her and having to pretend they were just friends from work.
“This is Miss Spencer and Mr. Clark and Mr. Fargo. They will be asking you questions individually and as a group and we’ll do our best to answer their questions. Miss Spencer works for the State but her office is at Rampart and she heads the advisory committee that Roy and John are on.”
“Lee tells everyone we are her bosses but in truth she is the one who does all the work and tells us what we should think….” Tom said giving her a nod. “While Will and I talk with your captain and look around Lee will start the interviews…”
“Since it is getting late I am sure you need to start thinking about dinner so perhaps instead of using the kitchen there is another table we could use?’
“What about the table in the day room? The one they use for puzzles?” Mike Stoker suggested.”
“That would be fine, thank you.” Lee smiled at him as she began moving towards the other room.
“Thank you for your consideration…Marco why don’t you take the box of forms into her and gentlemen if you’ll follow me…”
Johnny went to the fridge and pulled out a soda. He fixed a glass of ice and took it into to Lee. “Thought you might need something to drink.”
“That’s very kind of you…” Noticing Chet watching she smiled at him. “John has bee4n to enough meeting at my office to know I usually have a soda at hand.” Johnny and Chet left
“Yeah he’s thoughtful that way,” he said with just a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
“…There will be no names associated with the report and a copy will be sent to your captain as wells LACFD headquarters. Actually you will receive two reports one just concerning your station and one an overall report that will also be sent to members of the state legislature. Well Mr. Lopez, it seems you get to be first.”
There was a break between interviews so Lee could make notes and set up for the next interview. All was quiet. Roy and Johnny were with Cap and the two from Sacramento. Chet, Mike and Marco were in the kitchen. Chet was watching Mike cut veggies as Marco browned and seasoned the meat for tacos. “Gage is up to something.”
“What makes you say that?” Mike said with a shake of his head. “He seems pretty normal to me.”
“Those are two words that don’t belong in the same sentence…Gage and normal. He is being too quiet about this mystery girl…I think if she does exist she must be someone he doesn’t want to be seen in public with…maybe it’s someone mousy like that girl in the wheelchair. She looks as if she’d faint if you said boo to her.” Chet laughed at his own sense of humor. “Can’t you just see Gage with someone like that? Or maybe she is so dumb…some ditzy blonde…that is if she even is real.”
What they did not realize is that Lee could hear every word Chet was saying and it was hard not to scream at him to shut up. Now she understood why Johnny had not wanted her to meet the others…Was he ashamed of her after all? Mousy…like that…girl in the wheel chair... No matter what she did that was how she was perceived…She blinked back the tears and called for Mike to please come in. She did not want to deal with Chester B Kelly right then…she could not.
The interview went well and she had to face Chet. Will and Tom would do the interview, a more in depth version, with Captain Stanley and she would do the paramedics when they finished with Cap and the others. Her head was splitting and her stomach churning when Chet came in. She asked the questions keeping her tone as neutral as possible. Where she had talked with the others about family and interests outside the job she kept unit very low keys and almost robotic with him.
“Man that’s one cold fish,” Chet said as he went back into the kitchen and sat down. “I think if she smiled her face would crack.”
“That’s funny she was really nice and friendly when was in there…she made it more like a conversation not just official question and answers.” Marco said.
“Yeah we talked about how what I see here carries over into the community and how I thought we could improve the ways the public see us…Asked me what my biggest concerns were …”
“You got to be kidding…she sat there looking at the paper never smiling and using this mono tone that almost put me to sleep…like I said a cold fish.”
Roy went in before Johnny and soon as he saw her knew something was wrong.
“Not going well?”
“It’s going great…everyone here likes and respects one another as people and friends as well as co workers.”
“You and Johnny make a good pair…he is a terrible liar too…and why he is such a bad card player.”
“What?” She looked confused. “Everyone here does like and respect each other.”
“Then why do you look so upset? You don’t think Junior is gonna see that?’ Before she could think of an answer Roy heard what had her so upset. Chet’s voice calling her a cold fish. Roy ran his hand through his hair and looked at the hurt and shock on Lee’s face. “Lee doesn’t…”
“I can’t face Johnny…not yet…I don’t want to cause him any trouble…he and Chet are friends in their own strange way…I know from what you told me about how Chet does when Johnny is hurt or sick..And how Johnny was when Chet got those cracked ribs…You got anything in that magic drug box for a headache and upset stomach?”
“Not that I can give you without doctor’s orders…but I do have some aspirin in my locker.”
“Can I have about 4 please?”
“No you can have 2...Didn’t any one ever tell you they are bad for your stomach?”
“All the time…Roy when Johnny comes in here…make sure Chet isn’t…isn’t being Chet, please, I don’t think I could handle that right now.”
“You shouldn’t have to …” He was angry and knew that Johnny would have a hard time controlling his anger. After all these months of protecting her from Chet for this to happen.
“Give me 10 minutes and send him in…oh and if you want you can fill out this form but we’ve pretty much covered it all in the meetings and our conversations.”
Cap saw Roy coming towards the office and saw the look on his face. He excused himself and went out to his senior paramedic. “Problem?”
“Not one I can explain…Cap can you find something somewhere in another part of the building or outside while Johnny is doing his interview. Just keep him out of the kitchen and day room area.”
“What has that twit done now? I know you can’t explain.” He gave Roy a pat on his shoulder and went out to talk with Chet.
“Hi there.” Johnny came in and gave Lee two aspirin. “Roy sent you these. You ok?”
“Just tired and have a headache…anything you need to add to my report?” After looking around, he held her hand. She slid the questionnaire over to him and he laughed when he saw what she had written on it…”I LOVE YOU BUT THAT’S OUR SECRET FOR NOW!!!!!!!!!.
“Yeah I agree totally…but that’s a problem we’ll have to find a solution for soon…Hopefully the next meeting.”
She folded the paper up and put it in her purse and thanked him for his time and helpful input. She wheeled herself into the kitchen where Captain Stanley and the others were talking sports and just waiting for her to finish.
“I think we should get out of here and ;et these gentleman have their dinner in peace…hopefully no SCU’s til after dinner…Again thank you all it was very informative.” Lee said as she smiled at Cap and the others. She was glad to see Chet wasn’t around.
“Johnny why don’t you carry out the box for them and Marco go tell Kelly he can come in and clean up for dinner. Roy can you come into my office please?”
Roy went in and was surprised when Cap gestured for him to shut the door. “Have a seat.” Roy sat down. “That’s her isn’t it?”
“Who? Lee is the project manager we’ve been working with.”
“That is who called to warn you about them coming because she was worried about the Phantom and John. That is the mystery girl that has been driving Chet crazy.”
“What makes you think that Cap?”
“They look at each other the way my daughter and her new husband do…The way Em and I look at each other and the way you and JoAnne look at each other…Do I need any more reason than that?”
“Does this survey have anything to do with them not telling anyone?”
“Lee didn’t want their relationship to have any input on what rating the station gets…she does the collating and reporting the guys from Sacramento take her info and their impressions and rate us. If we do well it’s because of us if we do badly it’s us not her.”
“Any other reason?” Roy shook his head. It was not his place to tell Cap or anyone what Lee had said. He just hoped that it could be cleared up without causing problems for Lee, Johnny or the station.
After leaving the station Lee went back to her office and worked until after 10 on finishing up everything to send to Sacramento. Will and Tom would pick the finished project up in the morning then go on home. She was spending the day with Johnny at the apartment’s pool. He was coming over for breakfast and they would have the whole day together. She hadn’t been home long when the phone rang.
“”Are you ok? Where have you been?” Johnny said his tone telling her how worried he was. “I’ve been calling since 7...Had just about decided to call Maria and Hector to go check on you.”
“Sorry I worried you…I wanted to finish the report so they can take it back to Sacramento…It’s done and I am so glad. Please don’t be angry with me.”
“You shouldn’t have been there that late.”
“My door was locked and the security office knew I was there…Tim walked me to the car and made sure I was ok…I love you and appreciate you worrying about me.”
“I love you; of course I worry about you.”
“Good…now go get some good sleep…I’ll see you about 8:30?”
“Probably closer to 9...Night.”
As soon as he was dismissed Johnny left and went to Nana’s Garden. When he came into the shop, Nana smiled and greeted him by name.
“I need something extra special this time Nana…About twice the size of the usual bouquet and in something special…with this hidden in the flowers.” He handed her the package from the rover.
“This will make your lady very happy…I have the perfect thing…” He looked around the shop while she went to the back and fixed his bouquet. It only took her about 10 minutes but to him it seemed as if it was hours.
She handed him a beautiful heart shaped porcelain bowl filled with 3 dozen faerie roses. “You’re right it is perfect.”
Lee had gotten up about 6:30 and began making sweet rolls. While the dough was proofing she cut up fruit and veggies. The vegetables were for his omelet…green and red bell peppers and onion and finely diced celery . She would sprinkle it with a blend of cheeses he liked. The bacon was ready for the oven the brown sugar sprinkled on it just as he liked it. She got her kitchen cleaned and set the table with her Grandmother Holbrook’s china and glasses and silver. She laughed to herself when she didn’t put a center piece on the table…she was getting spoiled…expecting a bouquet from him. She went in, showered, and dressed. She put on her new swim suit and the matching wrap around skirt. She was a little worried what he would think of the scars but it was something she had to face sooner or later. It was one thing to see them in a dimly lit front room but another to see them in the bright sunlight. That nagging part of her mind that was afraid to be happy was trying to ruin the day.
Johnny rang the doorbell then waited for the elevator. As he opened the apartment door he called out, “It’s me.” He put the flowers on the table by the door.
“I’m in the kitchen.” She turned as he came into the room. “Good morning luv.”
“Good morning.” Looking at her critically. “Your head ache better? And did you sleep well?”
“Yes to both questions. Did you have a good night?”
“Yep only one run and it wasn’t that bad. A girl tripped over her boy friend’s dog and broke her ankle. Smells good in here.” He bent down and kissed her. “Anything I can do to help?”
“Pour the juice and your milk…Do you want coffee?”
“No coffee thanks I had 2 cups at the station…The table looks pretty…” He poured a large glass of juice for her and a small one for himself and a large glass of milk. You want some milk?”
“No thanks…ok soon as your omelet is finished we can eat.”
“Where are your eggs? Did you have dinner last night?”
“I ‘m eating fruit and yogurt and granola…and I had a sandwich and some chips for dinner…and half a bag of turtles…the good kind with lots of gooey caramel.”
During breakfast they talked about a lot of things in general and Lee told him how impressed Will and Tom were with station 51 and how well they worked together. One thing they had talked a bout at every station was the fact paramedics were not able to be promoted and it was a growing concern. If something wasn’t done to change the law they would be losing good paramedics to other ranks. After they finished eating Johnny helped her clear the table and put away the left overs.
“Go over to the table I have something for you,” he said as they finished in the kitchen. Without her noticing, he had moved the florist box to the table.
“It’s beautiful…” She had gently taken it from the box. “The bowl is the same pattern as the tea cups and saucers…”
“You might find a hidden treasure…” He watched as she carefully felt in among the flowers. He was holding his breath as she found the box.
“Johnny?” She held the box in her hand not daring to believe what it was. “Are you sure?”
“I told you I love you and now I’m asking, Leona Elizabeth, will you marry me? I promise you all my love for ever.” He opened the box and put the ring on her finger. “Whatever happens we’ll face it together .” She just sat there looking at the ring with tears in her eyes. “Those better be happy tears.”
“Yes..Oh it’s so beautiful…I love you so much.” The band looked like twisted strands and the diamond while not large was perfect. She watched it catch the sunlight. “Its perfect…Our lives were separate now they’re intertwined…” he bent down and kissed her his hand behind her head pulling her closer.
“In my dreams I stand up and put my arms around your neck and kiss you…So many times…” He moved her chair back and moved the footrest. After she put the brakes on, she pushed herself to standing. A minute to gain her balance then she took two steps toward him. He wanted to grab her but knew this was important to her so he waited. A third step and she reached a round his neck her body leaning against his. His arms wrapped around her holding her tight. “I love you John Roderick Gage…with all my heart and soul…I am so proud to be the one you love.” She tilted her head up to look in his eyes. He kissed her hard with a power she had never felt before. His tongue played over her lips sending shivers down her back. She didn’t even realize she was on her tip toes as his touch blocked everything else from her mind. His hand was moving across her back in small circular motions. It was a shock as she felt his tongue in her mouth…
Johnny was suddenly aware of her arching as he held her then felt her jerk as her knees began to buckle. He shifted her weight and picked her up setting her on the couch. “Baby girl?”
“I…my knees just gave out…I’m fine…that is why I can’t use a walker like the doctor kept telling me I could..”She smiled and touched his cheek softly. “Don’t worry it’s no major problem…”
“Was it as good as in your dreams?” He watched, as her color got better and then laughed realizing she was blushing.
“Better so much better…”
“You rest a few minutes and I’ll change into my trunks…Think you need to relax in the pool for awhile,”
Johnny was impressed with the patio and how the pool was set up. There was a chair that lowered her into the water like he had seen at some of the rehab units. The landscaping was excellent. There was a small bar area with running water, a cooler and next to it was the grill.
“Pretty impressive.” He said as he watched her get into the water. He dove in next to her. It was warmer than he expected.
“Jeff had a heater installed when we redid the pool area. The water stays about 80 degrees…anything below 75 bothers my back….”
“The plants and everything are really cool…it’s almost like at a hotel.”
“Hector and Eddie own a landscaping company…Eddie is a junior at UCLA in landscaping design…he uses this place for his projects.”
She showed him the exercises the pt had given her and they swam laps then just relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company. Soon as they had gotten out and Lee was in one of the lounge chairs she covered her legs with a beach towel. Johnny noticed but didn’t say anything. He got them sodas and he got a handful of cookies from the basket. Lee had put more sunscreen on and was sitting there watching the sun play off her ring.
“Can I ask you a favor?” He nodded yes since he had a mouthful of cookies “I don’t want to tell anyone until we tell Jeff…except Roy and Jo. There is a telephone over in the hut…I think I’ll call Jeff.” Johnny brought her the phone. “Jeff Spencer please.” She had called his office directly.
“This is Jeff Spencer how may I help you?”
“You sound very official…so prim and proper.”
“What can I do for you sweet pea.”
“Any way you can come to LA tonight? There’s something we need to talk about.”
“Sure I can be there about 10 your time.” He was puzzled she didn’t sound hurt or sick so what was so important it couldn’t wait till Sunday? But if she needed him, he would be there for her.
“Great you’re the best uncle in the world…” She heard someone in the background. “You didn’t tell me you had me on the speaker phone. Hi Napoleon…Bye… love you.”
She hung up and watched as Johnny settled down on the lounger. “You look like you’re ready for a nap…Before you do that why don’t you call Roy and see if they want to come over for a cookout and to swim after while. There’s plenty of steaks in the freezer…”
“You sure?” She nodded knowing how much his adopted family meant to him and handed him the phone.
Roy answered on the third ring. “De Soto Residence.”
“Hey, Pally, we were wondering if you could come over to Lee’s for a swim and cook out.”
“Let me check with JoAnne.” He put the phone down and went out to where Jo was planting flowers. “Honey Johnny and Lee want up to come over for a cook out and swim. “
“Oh I was just thinking about going to the mall…Jenny has a birthday party Sunday and I haven’t gotten a gift yet.”
“Think they might have a special reason for asking …”
“Ok just find out what I can bring.”
“Johnny she said that would be good…and what can we bring?” He heard him ask Lee.
“She said just your smiling faces…and not to argue with her.” They set up a time.
Lee transferred back into her chair being careful to keep her legs covered. Johnny started to say something but decided against it. She would let him see the scars at her own pace.
While Johnny laid on the couch and slept she made macaroni salad and deviled eggs and got a pan of baked beans ready for the oven. She took out four steaks and a package of hot dogs from the freezer. There was ice cream, toppings, and fresh fruit. She knew there was soda and beer in the cooler down by the pool.
It was 3:30 so she decided to lay down for about a half hour to rest her back.
The next thing she knew Johnny was leaning over her kissing her. “Hey Sleeping Beauty it’s a quarter till 5.” He kissed her. “I thought I better wake you.”
“Just like Sleeping Beauty…a prince’s kiss…Can’t wait until this is the way I wake up every day.”
Lee had just finished packing a picnic basket when their company arrived. Johnny had already went down to the pool with the first load of food. Roy and Jo took the rest and they all went down.
“We haven’t stocked the pantry down in the changing room yet. Soon as we do that everything we need for a cook out will be down there accept the perishables…The cooler was stocked.” Lee was nervous and that little nagging voice was back telling her they were not going to be happy when Johnny told them. Lee called the kids over to her. “Ok you guys we’ve got some rules for the pool…these are for all the kids and adults who come here…no one goes into the pool unless someone knows it…and anyone under 13 doesn’t go into the water unless an adult is out here…not even on the steps. You have to be able to swim 3 laps before you can go into the deep end…Oh and the lift chair is off limits. Other than that have fun…maybe your Uncle Johnny will put the volleyball net up…it’s in the cupboard in the changing room with the other pool toys and some child size life jackets.”
“Very well organized …impressive.” Roy said as he watched Johnny dive into the deep end and hold out his arms for Jenny to jump to him.
“Maria and Hector have 8 grandkids and they range in age from 16 to 3...and this is the place they hang out all summer and their friends are welcome once Maria and Hector meet the parents…anyone who can’t follow the rules can’t come. We only had a problem once and that was uninvited kids trying to crash a party …Cisco took care of them real quick….They found themselves arrested for trespassing, underage drinking and property damage. Kind of stupid to crash a cop’s party for their kid’s baseball team.”
Roy and Jo had changed and were in the pool. Lee was watching from the sidelines. Roy noticed she had been avoiding getting into the pool making excuses every time Johnny called to her. After about 15 minutes, Johnny decided enough was enough.
“Ok its guys against girls…Jen get a life jacket because you’re gonna be in the deep end… Lee’s team is always in the deep end.”
“Why don’t you and the kids play against Roy and Jo?”
“Nope…” He pulled himself up out of the pool and went over to her. “Time to get in the water …”
“No Johnny…please don’t…don’t make me…” He untied the wrap around skirt and picked her up. He had picked her up so her left leg was against his body. He kissed her then took her over to the pool edge and threw her in. Jo looked shocked.
“Uncle Johnny that was mean.” Jenny said her hands on her hips tapping her foot.
‘No it wasn’t Princess…Lee was afraid for
you to see her scars and she was letting being afraid stop her from having fun with us…Not making her come have fun that would be mean.”
The little girl stood there thinking over what her Uncle Johnny had said. She knew he was never mean so it must be ok. Johnny did a flip into the water and held out his arms and Jen took a leap into them.
They pulled the net across the pool and soon everyone was having a great time. Being in the water gave Lee so much freedom of movement she was soon enjoying herself. By 7:00, everyone was ready to get out and eat. Johnny got out of the pool and lowered the chair so Lee could get in it easily. He draped a beach towel over her legs and carried her to the lounger. Whispering in her ear, forgive me?”
“If you forgive me for being such a brat…” He kissed her quickly. “Ok ladies you just sit back while we man the grill. Hot dogs for you munchkins?”
The kids went in one at a time to change into dry clothes and then went into the playroom. Johnny brought Lee and Jo a wine cooler and got a beer for him and Roy.
“I think these two have something they want to tell you Jo.” Roy said as he stood behind his wife.”
“Actually there I s something we would like to ask you.” Johnny was sitting on the edge of the lounge chair. He looked at Lee and then at Roy. “Was wondering if you’d be my best man…the first Saturday in August…”
“And if you would be one of my bridesmaids…and if it’s ok with you we want Jen to be a flower princess with Stacy and for Chris and Jimmy to be in charge of the bridal runner…” Johnny took Lee’s hand and held it out for a shocked JoAnne to see.
Jo could not believe she had not noticed the ring before. Roy looked at his partner, his best friend, his little brother. He didn’t see the confident smiling man sitting there but the sad lonely kid he’d first met and was so proud of how he had grown. As if reading his mind Johnny looked up at Roy and softly said, “Thanks Pally, for caring.” Roy nodded.
“I’m honored you asked Junior…Congratulations to you both…” He went over and gave Lee a kiss. “Welcome to the family.”
“We aren’t going to tell anyone else until we talk to my uncles and Maria and Hector…” Lee said as she looked at Jo. “I’m going to ask Kathy to be my matron of honor but I would be very honored if your’s be one of the bridesmaids. Thank you for welcoming me into your family…but first I think there is something you need to know. “Johnny was shaking his head no. “They are your family and they deserve to know …its not something we’ll tell others but they need to know…for my peace of mind, ok.” He nodded and reached back to take her hand. “We …we have talked about this a lot. Johnny….Johnny loves me and still wants to marry me knowing he is pretty much giving up any chance of being a father. I know you all think he would be a wonderful father and so do I. I’m not exactly the perfect ...”
“Lee, you are perfect for him all anyone who sees you two to know you two belongs together. And like Roy said welcome to our family I’m gonna like having you for a sister. And I think the kids are going to love having you as their Aunt Lee.”
There was a lot of tears wiped away before Roy and Johnny started the steaks. Jo told Lee to just rest and sat out the other food and the plates and utensils on the counter of the hut. (Maria did not want it called a bar because of the kids.) When they had finished eating decided it was a good time to talk to the kids about the wedding.
“Uncle Johnny needs you two to do him a favor.”
“I asked Lee to marry me and be part of our family…The only thing this is gonna change is you having an aunt who loves you as much as I do and who you can love. We want you to be part of the wedding…Jen would you like to be a flower princess? We are going to ask Stacy too. And Chris we would like you and Jimmy to be in charge of the special rug that the bride walks down…you’ll unroll it just before she comes to me.”
“When you marry her does that mean you won’t go camping and hiking with us any more since she can’t?’ Chris asked. Roy started to say something but Lee held up her hand and shook her head no at him.
“That’s a fair question Chris. And I told you the first time we met if you ever had questions about what I can and can’t do to ask me. I love your Uncle Johnny so much I don’t want him to stop doing the things he loves doing…I can’t hike and I don’t know if I can camp…maybe you can help me learn…But I need you to help make sure he doesn’t stop doing those things…Ok?’
“Sure I can do that.”
“Until Uncle Johnny and Aunt Lee tell her family it’s a secret ok? “ Jo said. “We should feel really special we are the first ones they shared their good news with.”
“Can we start calling you Aunt Lee now? I’m glad you want me to be a flower princess.”
“Can I ask a question…why a flower princess instead of a flower girl?” Roy asked.
“A few months ago a friend of Jim and Kathy got married and when Stacy saw the flower girl in her dress she started calling it flower princess and asking me when I was gonna get married so she could be a flower princess too. I had never even been on a date then.”
“What?” Jo was finding out all sorts of things about Lee she did not know.
“Until Johnny, I never had a date. Guess I was waiting for the best.”
“Was it worth the wait?” Roy teased her.
After Roy and Jo helped take the leftovers upstairs they left. Lee took a quick shower in her bathroom while Johnny used the one in Jeff’s old room. Johnny was still in the shower when Jeff got there. Lee was in the kitchen when he came in.
“ Thank you for changing your plans …” He gave her a kiss then stood back to look at her. “What? You’re looking at me like you were inspecting a car or something.” She giggled and he looked surprised.
“Hey sweet heart, did you see my…” Johnny came out dressed in a pair of cut offs, no shirt or shoes, his hair wet. “Oh hi…didn’t know you were here yet. Lee where is my shirt?” Looking very embarrassed.
“Probably in the hamper with the beach towels…The one I washed the other day is in on the bed in the guest room…all the blood didn’t come out but it’s just faint stains .”
She was giggling again. Jeff just looked at them waiting on an explanation. “Johnny took me to Venice Beach and there was an accident …not us …skaters and a biker..and Johnny did a wonderful job of taking care of them until the squad got there…his shirt was all bloody and we were just getting ready to eat so he bought a new shirt…And tonight we had a cook out and were swimming with his partner who is also his best friend.”
“Stop and take a breath sweet pea. Hi Johnny good to see you again“
“Nice seeing you sir…excuse me.” He made a hasty retreat to find a shirt.
“Do you want something to eat or to drink?”
“I think I’m gonna need a drink…” He went over to the bar and got a glass of scotch then out to the kitchen for some ice. “You want anything while I’m out here?”
“Some soda please…brings one for Johnny, too please.”
A few minutes they were all seated in the living room. Lee and Johnny were on the couch and Jeff was in his favorite chair.
“Jeff, sir, I asked Lee to marry me and she said yes…I’m not asking permission because there is nothing on earth that would stop me unless she changed her mind. What I am asking for is your blessing…I love her with all my heart. And I’ll promise you the same things I promised her…All my love and the respect she deserves…We know there are some problems we’ll have to face…but together we can do it.”
“You have my blessing and my permission…I’m happy for both of you…” He got up, gave her a kiss, and shook Johnny’s hand. “Any plans?”
“I need to talk to Matt to find out if he can get vacation the first 2 weeks of August…I would like garden wedding…like Amos promised but I think maybe it’ll be bigger than his place would hold…”
“We’ll find you a garden…Anything you want we’ll try to give you, right Johnny?’
“Yes sir…ahum…I know that the bride’s father usually pays for everything…but I want to help …” Jeff’s respect for Johnny was high but growing as he listened and saw the way he looked at Lee. “I mean I have a fairly good paying job…and I’ll try to give her anything she wants.”
“Lee is there something you forgot to tell John?”
“If you mean about her medical problems…If we have kids that would be great if we don’t it’ll still be great because we’ll be together.”
“I’m glad to hear that but that isn’t what I was asking her about…Lee?’
“I never think about it…and he never asked …” She looked uncomfortable for a minute then smiled. “Did you ever wonder what you’d do if you were rich?”
“No because that isn’t going to happen on a fireman’s pay. I mean I daydream about buying fancy cars or motorcycles or even a small ranch someday with some horses…”
“Did you ever think what it would be like to have about 2 million dollars? Because that’s about what we’ll have, isn’t it Jeff?”
“I have no idea…Ben and the lawyers take care of your money.”
“You have two million dollars? And you never think about it” Johnny was at total loss for words. “You’re kidding me right? You have to be kidding me… Man, I don’t believe you forgot to mention something like that.” He was up walking around.
Suddenly very afraid of his reaction she began to cry. Jeff just sat there waiting to see how this would play out. Soon as he saw the tears and heard her crying Johnny was on his knees in front of her.
“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to make you cry…please don’t…It doesn’t matter to me if you have a billion dollars or no money…It’s you I love…I told you …I promised you nothing was ever going to change how much I love you…Keep it or give it away…just don’t cry. I told you I never wanted to do or say anything that made you unhappy and I mean it…”
“It has always been there whenever I needed anything I just never think about it…It’s not like I was trying to hide it from you…”
He kissed her and wiped the tears from her face. “It’s ok honest…Just know it’s you I love not your money.”
They talked awhile longer then Johnny went home. Lee and Jeff stayed up talking for a few more hours.
Johnny was waiting for Lee to call so when the phone rang he picked it up on the first ring. “Hello.”
“Hi, were you up?” It was a little after nine and Friday had been a long day.
“Yeah…for about a half hour….How you doing?” He thought she sounded funny, upset about something. “You’re back doing ok?”
“Soon as I know…are you mad at me? I didn’t handle the money thing very well…” He could almost hear her chewing on her lip. “I’m sorry.”
“I have no reason to be mad at you…I told you last night I wasn’t. It just surprised me that’s all.” He was glad Lee had no idea what life had been on the reservation how little money there was just for basics.
“Have you had breakfast? I think Jeff just got up so by the time you get here it should be about ready.”
“Sounds good to me…anything you need me to pick up?”
“No…Unless there is something special you want me to fix for dinner.”
“I’m taking you and Jeff out to dinner. See you soon…love you.”
“I love you.” Soon as they hung up, she went out and began breakfast. Jeff came out of his room a few minutes later.
“That coffee smells good. So you talk with Johnny yet this morning?”
“Good morning…yes he is on his way over.” She poured him a cup of coffee. “What would you like for breakfast?” He took the coffee and went over to the table where the morning paper was waiting for him.
“How do corn waffles and eggs sound? With some sausage. Have any chorizo?”
“Of course and if I didn’t I’d call down stairs.” She giggled and he looked at her in surprise. “What is that look for? You know Maria always has chorizo and is use to me calling to borrow stuff.”
“When did you start giggling like that? You never did as a little kid or as a teenager.”
“Maybe because I was never in love before. Being with him thinking about him…just makes me happy. Knowing he loves me…He is not mad at me. I really never do think about the money…The bills go to the accountant and there is always money in the checking account…” As she was talking, she was making the waffle batter and then cutting up fresh fruit. “Johnny and I talked about his childhood one night…His uncle almost beat him to death…more than once…and tried to do worst…Just made me realize how blessed I am to have you and Matt and …everyone who has loved and taken care of me…”
“No tears…you don’t want your eyes all red and swollen when Johnny gets here. Sweet pea you were easy to love and still are…”
“Johnny has some things he wants to talk to you about alone so after breakfast and after we talk to Matt I’m going down to the pool.”
Soon as breakfast was over Lee called Matt’s office after she couldn’t reach him at home.
“Homicide, Detective Russo.”
“Hi Uncle Johnny…is Matt there?”
“Lee is everything ok?”
“Yes I just have something important to tell him. If he’s busy would you have him call me back?”
“Hold on just a second and I’ll get him. When you coming to see us? It has been too long…You wouldn’t believe how tall the boys are. I’m gonna put you on hold. Johnny went to the interview room where Matt and Chris were going over some notes. “Lee is on the phone said she had something important to tell ya.”
“Lee? Everything ok?” Matt said frowning. He could not remember the last time she called him at the station.
“Everything is wonderful…Why is it when I call you and Jeff you think something is wrong? Am I that much of a problem child?”
Matt relieved to hear the laughter in her voice, “No it’s just you never call here…What can I do for you?”
“There is someone here who wants to tell you something.” She handed the phone to Johnny grinning at how serious he looked.
“Captain Holbrook, my name is John Gage…I’m a firefighter/paramedic with L A County…and I asked Lee to marry me. I wanted to tell you the same thing I told Jeff last night. I am asking for your blessing not your permission. The only thing that would keep me form marrying her is if she changed her mind. I love her with all my heart and will always honor and respect her.”
“Hearing the joy in her voice makes it easy to give you my blessing. Is Jeff there?’
“Yes sir. Would you like to speak with him?”
“Yes.” Johnny handed the phone to Jeff looking relieved. Lee was trying hard not to laugh. He looked like a little kid who had just been sent to the principal’s office.
“So what do you think of all this.” Jeff was watching Johnny as he stood behind the wheelchair his chin resting on top of her head, his arms crossed protectively across her.
“Is she as happy as she sounds? What do you think?”
“Wait till you hear her giggle and see the looks give they give each other. He’s a good man. Lee wants to ask you something.” He handed the phone back to her.
“Can you all get off the first week of August? My New York family has to be here for my wedding.”
“You give us the date and we’ll be there…Better warn your Johnny about your Uncle Johnny…I have to go but I’ll call you soon…Love you.” After he hung up, he looked at his two friends who were waiting to hear the details. “Put in for vacation the first week of August…we’re invited to a wedding in L.A. And I don’t think you want to miss this one.”
“Who is the guy and what do you know about him?” Johnny Russo said as he chomped down harder on his cigar. “Does Jeff say he’s ok?”
“His name is John and he’s a paramedic and Jeff said he was a good man.”
“Two down one more to go…For an orphan I sure have lots of parents to get approval from.” She giggled and Jeff looked at her in shock. She had actually said the word orphan and smiled while saying it. John Gage was a miracle worker. “I’ll be down in the pool when you’re ready to tell Hector and Maria.”
“Why don’t we do that now then Johnny and I will come back up here and talk?” Jeff refilled his coffee cup and started towards the elevator. “Meet you at the pool.”
“I love you so much…Is it terrible to have to do this? I was a nervous wreck when we told Roy and Jo…”
“Nope it’s not terrible at all …I like telling the world you love me.” He pushed her out to the elevator.
When they got down to the pool Maria, Hector and Cisco were waiting.
“Hear you got something we need to see,” Cisco said eyeing Johnny.
Lee held out her hand the light catching the diamond. “I’m gonna give you the same promise I gave her uncles…I will love her and respect her and honor her forever.”
“You’re a braver man than me mijo taking on this hell cat. You’ll never be bored.”
Everyone laughed when Lee stuck her tongue out at him but they could see how much it meant to her to have Cisco say that.”
“Welcome to the Alvarez family, Johnny.” Hector put his hand out for Johnny to shake and when Johnny took his hand pulled him into a warm fatherly embrace. “Now I have 5 fine sons.”
“As do I…Francisco, make the arrangements to rent the park for a fiesta to celebrate the engagement .”
“Yes ma’am…Any special date?” He smiled at his mother then at Johnny. “First rule in our family is mama is always the boss. She may let others think its dad but it ain’t.”
They all laughed but everyone knew what he said was the truth. Jeff looked a t Johnny and they went upstairs.
“You have something we need to talk about?” Jeff said as he sat down in his chair.
“Lee told me a little about your uncle.”
“He and my aunts were ashamed of the half breed they’d been saddled with…Crazy kid couldn’t even t…talk right.” He stopped and took several deep breaths letting them out slowly. “The doctors told me a few years ago besides having childhood post traumatic stress I have a mild case of Aspergers…most of which I outgrew…Never on the job but sometimes when really emotionally stressed…the stutter comes back…haven’t had a problem with the withdrawal for a couple of years.”
“Lee knows all this and doesn’t care so why should I? You make her happy and that is what I care about…You make her feel safe and secure and good about herself…I’m sorry ‘bout the pain you had to endure…but it doesn’t matter now…what matters now is you love her and she loves you. Topic closed as far as I’m concerned. You can talk to Matt about this if you want or downstairs but they’ll tell you the same thing.”
“Thank you sir.”
“Now go down and spend some time with Lee.” Johnny went down to the pool and Jeff thought about what had just taken place. He could have every piece of information about John Gage and his family sent to him from a hundred different sources. But Johnny didn’t know that but still had felt it necessary to explain things in his past that were painful. Like he had told Matt John Gage was a good man.”
Lee was in the shower when the phone rang so Jeff answered. Hello.”
“Hi this is Tom Clark is Lee there please?”
“She can’t come to the phone right now this is Jeff…How’s it going in Sacramento?”
“Good thanks to that niece of yours…She had everything laid out in the report she did made our part a snap…The results are pretty much what she predicted. I called down there and talked with one of the chiefs…Houser and let them know the results. They’ll get the official report in few days….Station 51 A shift received the top rating…Chief Houser didn’t seem too surprised by that but said it was nice it was officially acknowledged. I want to come back down soon and do a ride along with De Soto and Gage. We were both impressed with the feeling of that station and how well they seemed to get along… Have you met them?”
“Yeah a few times.” Trying not to laugh. “Nice guys.”
“Yeah well tell Lee I’ll call her later in the week…Worked today so I can take a few days off.”
Lee dressed with extra care. She wanted tonight to be perfect. Johnny had originally planned on taking her and Jeff out but had called asking if it was ok Roy and Jo came also. She put on her new sundress. It was a soft lavender and very light and flowy. She put her hair up in a twist with the soft wisps around her face. That seemed to be Johnny‘s favorite style. She could see the light streaks were already coming out more just the few days she had been swimming. She put the silver butterfly pin in her hair. She did her make up with extra care. She looked at herself in the mirror pleased with what she saw. No mousy cold fish…How dare he say those things about her when he had never ever talked to her? Lee went out to the front room to wait for Johnny. Jeff was watching the ball game when she came out.
“Wow, if you didn’t have that ring before you would have once he saw you tonight.”
“Thank you kind sir…but I think you maybe just a wee bit bias. Did I hear the phone earlier?”
“Yep it was Tom Clark…said he’d call you in a few days…Was very happy with your report and I think you’ll be happy with his.”
“Why? He usually doesn’t work weekends.”
“He’s taking some days off…A shift received the highest rating of any station and he wants to come back down and do a ride along with a couple of nice guys he met…De Soto and Gage.”
“You didn’t tell him?”
“Nope that’s you and Johnny’s call….” She just giggled.
Johnny looked at her and could not believe someone that incredible loved him. She looked like one of those expensive china dolls people collected. He kissed her and took a deep breath. He loved the smell of her perfume. It reminded him of some of the fields up in the mountains when the wild flowers were in bloom. “You are more beautiful every time I see you.”
“You’re looking very handsome yourself, luv... As are you.” She looked at her uncle standing next to Johnny. “I’m so blessed with two handsome men taking me to dinner.
Jo came out of the bedroom and Roy whistled. She had on a green dress that suited her hair and skin coloring perfect. “We may have to make a short night of it, Mrs. De Soto.” He kissed her pulling her close, his hand traveling across her neck downward. “What time do we pick the kids up?”
“My sister will bring them home late tomorrow afternoon,” She smiled at the pleased look on his face.
Johnny had reserved a table for five on the patio. The ocean was calm, the air warm and the sunset lovely.
“Johnny I know this is your party but I’d like to get a bottle of champagne to celebrate both special occasions.”
“Your engagement and the soon to be announced results of the county wide survey and interviews done by the lovely Ms Lee and her assistants. It seem as if A shift of Station 51 has received the highest rating given by said assistants who just happen to have fancier titles than Ms. Lee.” The two paramedics looked very surprised. “All teasing aside, congratulations guys …Will and Tom was very impressed by your station.”
“Wow that’s great…. When will Cap get the news?”
“Officially in a few days but Tom already talked with Chief Houser and gave him the news…Oh and he wants to come down and do a ride along with you.”
“Wonder if he’s called Cap yet?”
“Roy, Johnny…no fire station talk tonight…Tonight is Lee and Johnny’s night.” Jo said with a wink at Lee.” The three men laughed and Jeff called the server over and ordered the champagne. They toasted to the survey and to Johnny and Lee. The food was very good and the band playing inside was piped out to the patio. There was a dance floor inside and a smaller one outside.
“Roy, I think you should ask your wife to dance,” Lee said as they played a song she knew was one of Jo’s favorites. “Please don’t let me stop you.”
“That was nice of you.” Jeff said watching her face as she watched the dancers.
“Other people shouldn’t have to give up what they like because of me…Johnny and I have talked a lot about that.”
“Sounds like you two have done a good job of pairing your heads and hearts.”
“I just want him to be sure …He shouldn’t have to pay for my problems.”
Jeff looked very serious and a little sad. “Do you know how many times I have thought that? You’re paying for my actions.”
“But I never thought that. …I never want you to be sad about me…I firmly believe everything in life happens for a reason…we may not understand why but we need to remember there is a plan for each of us…”
“I told you not only beautiful but smart.” Johnny said as he leaned over and kissed her.
Sunday Jeff had to go back to Washington so Johnny didn’t come over until after he left to give him and Lee some time together. Besides, he had to laundry to do and the sweeper to run in his apartment. He wasn’t sure what she wanted to do about dinner so he put a nice shirt and a pair of black jeans in the car in case he needed to change.
Lee had given him a key but he still rang the doorbell to let her know he was on the e way up. She was curled up on the couch reading a book when he came in.
“Hi luv, you’re early.” She said putting the book down. “From the way you were talking I didn’t think I’d see you till after 5.”
“Got done faster so I could come see you.” He could tell by her red eyes she had been crying. “Jeff gets off ok?”
“Yeah...we had a nice quiet morning, I made breakfast and we ate out on the balcony…I know it’s silly but it was hard seeing him leave again. But he did say that he will be back any time we need him. In addition, his and Matt’s wedding present to us are tickets to Hawaii and Tahiti if we want them. His friend owns an island that is very deserted. He has a small house there and he will make sure there is food delivered every day or two if we want to spend some time there.”
“I hadn’t really thought about it…whatever you want…” He went out to the kitchen and opened the fridge looking for a snack. “Want a soda?”
“I just want to be with you…” The phone rang. “Hello.”
“Hi…is my partner there by any chance? I called his place and didn’t get an answer.”
“So you decided he was here…great detective work for a fireman. He’s in the kitchen raiding the fridge.”
“Making himself right at home….”
“He better…we’ll be living here after the wedding so it is his home.” Johnny came in with a glass of milk and some cookies. “It’s Roy for you.”
“Hey Pally…figured you and Jo would be off enjoying your time alone.”
“Cap called here and said if I saw you to let you know we got the highest rating in the county and the big chiefs were very pleased with our commitment to the department. Didn’t tell him we already knew.”
“Thanks…that would be hard to explain.”
“Actually he knows you and Lee are dating. We talked about it after they left the other day. Said he could tell from the way you two looked at each other. That you had the same look his daughter and her new husband have. Cap sounded really pleased and we should think about having a cook out or something to celebrate.”
After he finished talking with Roy, Johnny changed into his trunks and they went down to the pool. Lee did her exercises while he just floated around watching her. They did laps then just relaxed. Maria came out as they were getting ready to go upstairs and gave them a picnic basket filled with homemade chicken and dumplings, Cole slaw, mashed potatoes and brownies.
“She thinks we are both too skinny…Johnny…do you have Captain Stanley’s home phone number?’
“Yeah why? What are you up to?”
“I just have a question I need to ask him.” Wide-eyed and innocent looking she smiled at him but she sounded sarcastic. With a shrug of his shoulders, he decided it was his imagination. They went upstairs on while Johnny was putting the food away she went into her bedroom to change and use the phone.
Emily Stanley was watching a cooking show on TV as Hank worked out in the yard weeding the flowerbed. She was writing down a recipe when the phone rang.
“Hi Mrs. Stanley, is Capt, Stanley available?” It wasn’t a voice Emily recognized.
“May I ask who is calling?” She wasn’t going to bother Hank for a sales call.
“I’m Lee Spencer and my work at Rampart in connected with the paramedic program… If this is a bad time, I can leave my number. I just wanted to ask him a question.”
“Oh no my dear…Hank told me about you. Your Johnny’s friend correct? The one who works for the state and did the survey?”
“I’ll get him for you. I’m sure he’ll want to talk to you…After the call from Chief Houser.” She called to him explaining who was on the phone. He came in quickly.
“How can I help you, Miss. Spencer?”
“First of all I’m Lee…and I wanted to ask you a big favor. Johnny doesn’t know why I am calling you. I just told him I needed to ask you a question.”
“Anything I can do to help I’d be glad to,” he answered. The way her voice changed when she said Johnny made him smile.
She explained what she wanted to do and he agreed. She thanked him and went out to see what Johnny was doing.
“Em, I’m not sure exactly what she is going to do but I have a feeling it’ll be interesting.”
“She sounded very lovely on the phone. Go finish your weeding and I’ll start dinner.”
After Johnny left the apartment, Lee got busy baking. They had had a nice dinner and had made some plans. Soon as he got to the station Monday morning he was going to do the paper work to sign up for his vacation. As soon as that was Okayed, they could get down to some serious planning. Kathy and Jim would be home from their long week end away in the morning and she would be able to tell Kathy all about the wedding. She began making a list of things to do.
Jo had been pleased when Lee had asked her to help with the planning. Lee had been fairly certain Jo and Kathy would be good friends after they met the first time. Jim enjoyed talking with Johnny and Roy and the kids got along great. Johnny called about 10 before he went to bed and they talked a few minutes then she went out and finished cleaning her kitchen.
Lee was up before the alarm went off and set her pecan sticky buns to thaw so she could get them into the oven by 7:00. Everything else was ready and packed for Hector to take down to the car. As she was drying her hair she was going over the list of things she wanted to accomplish for the day. She had laid out her clothes before going to bed last night.
An emerald green skirt and a floral print top that had a soft floral print. Kathy was always teasing her about the fact most of her summer things were floral prints and slightly Victorian in design with the high necklines. She did her hair up in the lose twist and made wispy curl for around her face. She did her make up paying special attention to her eyes, using some of the tricks her model friend, Merce, had taught her. The lipstick was a darker rose than she usually wore. The silver butterfly pin was in her hair. She was surprised to hear Cisco calling her from the kitchen.
“Mom said you had boxes to be loaded in the car.” He turned when he heard her coming into the kitchen. “Who you going to war with today? That’s an evil gleam in those eyes.”
“Just following some advice my big brother gave me one time.”
“Now what sage advice would that be? And is the other fellow gonna survive?”
“Don’t get mad get even…and he’ll survive maybe.”
“Like to be there and see that,” Cisco said with a grin. “Mom wants you to call me today and let me know when you want your fiesta…”
“Ok …You have all 5 boxes right? Hand me that picnic basket please…” He followed her out the door and into the elevator without a word.
As he put her wheelchair in the back seat, “Sure I can’t come and watch the fun?”
“It’s tempting…but I need to do this one on my own…”
Roy was finishing changing when Johnny came in. Mike and Marco had already gone out to the kitchen.
“You look well rested after your busy week end.”
“Yeah I was in bed by 11...Swimming all those laps …we only did 25 yesterday…by the end of the summer she does 125 to 200 laps a week.” Chet came in so Johnny changed the subject. “Tell Chris once school is out we’ll do a bike ride on the path near the camp grounds…maybe make it an overnight trip and he can ask his friend Jimmy to come.”
“So Gage, you and your mystery friend have a good time this week end?”
“It was an exceptional weekend…One of the all time great weekends wouldn’t you say Roy?”
“Well now, Junior that may just be an understatement…” Before Chet or Johnny could answer they heard Cap yell “Roll call in 5 minutes.”
Cap looked at his crew feeling very proud. He had gotten more phone calls that morning congratulating him on his crew’s performance on the survey. Quickly they went thru the assignments and announcements.
“We will be having a visitor this morning…I am not exactly sure what the reason for the visit is but was told it’s extremely important.” They heard a horn beeping in the lot where they parked.
“I think that is our visitor. Roy, John, would you go escort our visitor in please.”
Lee couldn’t help but laugh at the look on their faces as they came over to the car. She waited for Johnny to get her chair and carefully transferred before saying anything.
“I told you I would see you sometime today…There are 3 boxes and a picnic basket to go into the kitchen. Do I get a kiss?”
“Yeah sure.” He bent down and kissed her.”
“Come up for air you two, Cap’s waiting” Roy said laughing at the way he was being ignored.
They went in dropping off the boxes in the kitchen. Lee watched Chet’s face as he saw Johnny pushing her in. The way she had her purse on her lap covered her hand.
“I think you all remember Miss Spencer from the other day. She called me at home and asked if she could have a few minutes of our time this morning.”
“And I thank you for your kindness in granting me this time. And I congratulate all of you on the rating you received from my bosses. I had absolutely no say in the ratings…I just enter information and they made the decisions. I told Captain Stanley this is a personal visit not job related…Mr. Kelly you made some observations the other day that I could not address…until the survey and interview process was complete. Now I can and most definitely will comment on your remarks.”
Everyone looked at Chet who looked completely stunned and lost. “First point I want to make is the obvious I do exist. Second, I may have some natural blonde highlights in my hair but I do not consider myself ditzy by any means…I have a BA in statistics and a MA in computer programming and over half a MA in statistical analysis…Thirdly it may be vanity on my part but I don’t really think I’m a cold fish or mousy and I try not to be boring and I do like to smile.”
Roy quickly placed a hand on Johnny’s shoulder as he felt his partner moving forward. The others just stood there shocked that she had heard that conversation. Cap was giving Chet a look that said a lifetime of latrines was in his future. “Sorry you thought my voice was boring but I was working very hard at not crying over your remarks…You know that old saying about sticks and stones? Well its wrong words do hurt. Now the last and most important point to be made…Because I knew the survey and interviews were coming up and because I did not want anyone to be able to say I had any influence over the ratings…I asked Johnny if we could keep the fact we were dating quiet. Roy and Dixie as well as my family knew…” She put her hand up in the air. “And now I am so proud and so happy to tell the world that in August I am going to be Mrs. John Roderick Gage. Therefore, Chester B, I hope all your questions are answered. You see Johnny sees me not some girl in a wheelchair that would faint if you said BOO to her.” The fire in her eyes as she looked at Chet made him feel even smaller and worse than he already did. “Oh, by the way,” smiling warmly to the others. “I made some muffins and pecan sticky rolls…They are out in your kitchen. Think Johnny and Roy will vouch for my cooking.”
“Gentlemen I suggest we go into the kitchen and let these two have some time alone before John explodes.
Roy moved his hand off Johnny’s shoulder and let him go over to her then went out to the kitchen. Johnny squatted down in front of her. “I have never been so proud of anyone in my life. Why didn’t you tell anyone what he said?”
“Because this is your family and I want them to accept me for me. I want Chet and me to be friends because you and him are friends…Now I said what I needed to say it’s over and done.”
“Every time I think I know how amazing you are somehow you amaze me all over again.” He kissed her. “Like you said you are never boring.”
Out in the other room Roy was getting questions from all sides except a very quiet and contrite Chet Kelly. “So how long has this been going on?”
“Since the end of February…after we started going to the advisory committee meetings. Jo and Lee and the kids all get along fine.”
“Johnny and I would like you all to come over for a cookout and swim on Sunday.” Lee said as she and Johnny joined the others. “And my adopted family is planning a huge party in June…A fiesta to celebrate families and friendship…” Lee looked over at Chet and smiled warmly. “Chet, please come join us…get something to eat. I remembered Johnny saying how much you liked banana nut bread so there are some muffins there with cream cheese icing and black walnuts…Capt. Stanley, there are pineapple muffins with the cream cheese and the other two are blueberry and my favorite the orange…Luv hand me one of the banana muffins please.” Johnny did and gave her a wink. “Excuse me…”
She moved over to where Chet was still standing and held the muffin up to him.
“A peace offering from me to my new friend.”
“After what I said you want to be friends? I it sounded pretty awful hearing my words thrown back at me.” He took the muffin. “I never meant it to be mean or to hurt you or Johnny.”
“Like I told Johnny, you two are friends…you guys here are his family…I want to be part of that family. Do you think that will be ok?”
Sure…thanks for giving me a second chance.” They went back over and joined the others. Johnny moved behind her and as usual leaned down putting his arms across her. He kissed her lightly on the cheek.
“Just a warning Chet, she has 4 big brothers who are very protective especially Cisco.” Roy said.
“Not to mention Hector and Maria…” Johnny added.
“If they are so protective how did they ever let you near her?” Chet said with a grin.
“Maria likes me…”Johnny, answered.
“No she doesn’t…She loves you…you are now one of her sons…So like Cisco said…Mama rules. You are now a part of the Alvarez family my love.”
“Cisco Alvarez is your big brother?” Marco was impressed. “Man Chet you are lucky he didn’t hear you.”
“He asked me this morning who I was going to war with and could he come watch…Well I need to get to work and I bet Captain Stanley would like his station back to normal.”
“With this bunch normal is a relative term. Thank you for the muffins and rolls and congratulations to you both.” He came over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “I will check with Em but I am sure we will see you Sunday.”
“You to gonna make a pineapple cake for Sunday?” Roy asked as he helped himself another pecan roll. “As much as Junior likes to eat she likes to cook.”
Oh…one more thing…I think Johnny has something he wants to say?”
“Yeah…Roy is going to be the best man but I’d like you all to be groomsmen. We are going to ask a family friend of Lee’s to do the ceremony and it’ll be a garden wedding…”
“Ok back to work, guys. Lee we’ll see you soon. John why don’t you help her out to the car.” She and Johnny left and Cap turned to Chet. You are lucky she is as forgiving as he is…Why would you say things like that?” He walked away not waiting for an answer because there wasn’t a good one.
“Cap’s right…but if Roy hadn’t stopped him I think Gage would have taken a swing at you…,”Marco said.
“Lee calmed him down but I wouldn’t push it Just kind of stay out of his way until he’s ready to talk to you, ok” Roy advised him.”
Roy went out and did the morning radio check and calibrations then began his chores. John came in and after a quick check with Roy called the scheduling department at headquarters. Tentative approval was given for the dates he wanted off. He was smiling as he knocked on Cap’s door.
“Come on in…Well that is some girl you have.”
“Yep…I had no idea what she was up to…said she had to handle it herself. They gave me a tentative ok for the first two weeks in August…She wants a big wedding with all our friends…”
“The scheduling department is gonna love this…”
She figured it out that will be our Friday and Saturday off any way…You all might want Sunday off to rest up.”
“Good idea…Now get your chores done …I would imagine you need to go get supplies at Rampart?” Cap said with nod. Soon as Johnny left he called the scheduling department and requested that Sunday off then called Emily and filled her in on the details.
“Johnny, me and Chet’ll the dorm if you want to go get supplies.” Marco said as John went into the dorm. The beds were already stripped. “I cook today but with all the food Lee left…Did you look in that picnic basket?”
“No. But that doesn’t surprise me.” Mike had helped Roy do the day room and he was waiting for Johnny
Lee was waiting for Johnny to come over to Rampart before she talked to Dixie and Kel. The morning had gone as planned except she had surprised herself when she actually felt sorry for Chet Kelly. She was glad they had cleared the air and that hopefully Chet would think before making those kind of comments again. The phone rang and it was Chief Houser.
“Good morning Lee. I hear you’ve been causing some uproar this morning.”
“Me? I haven’t been here in the office long enough to do that yet this morning.” Laughing at his tone. “Just what have I done?”
“It seems as if the entire A shift at Station 51 is asking for the same day off on personal business. Except for one who has requested vacation then. And when I called Hank he just laughed and said it’s your fault and it was going to get worst. So what do you have planned for that day that is so important the whole shift needs to be off?”
“I am thinking they will be too exhausted from Friday and Saturday which is their scheduled days off…The rehearsal and dinner on Friday then the wedding on Saturday and the reception will still last into the wee hours of the night regardless when we leave…Johnny tells me you fireman love a good party.”
“Johnny? John Gage? In addition, you? That’s wonderful new…How in the world you have managed to keep the gossip mills from hearing about this. And why?”
“Because I didn’t want any onto say I did anything to influence Tom and Will’s rating…They still don’t know…so please until we tell a few other special people…”
“Of course. But I will let Hank know those days are approved and that there is going to be a rash of days off requested and trading going on …He’s a fine young man…I’m happy for you both.”
“Thanks Bob…tell Susan to pencil that Saturday in and be expecting a party invitation for some time in June…’
A few minutes after she hung up Johnny called from down at the nurses’ station.
Johnny and Roy came up to the base station laughing. “Hi Dixie we need a few things.” They gave her the list.
“What’s so funny? Johnny you look like the canary that ate the cat.”
“Can I use your phone real quick? I need to ask Lee a question.” Johnny said ignoring her question. She nodded and dialed Lee’s office. “We’re picking up supplies. Any chance you can come down? Ok.”
Roy and Dixie were chatting and he went over to wait for the elevator. He pushed her over to the desk.
“You look very pretty today? Something special going on?” Dix knew Lee usually dressed a little more conservative when at work.
“Yeah I had a very important meeting this morning.” She laid her hand on the desk. “Had to show this to a few people.” Johnny slipped his hand under hers.
“And put one Chester B Kelly in his place…He may get fleas from being in the doghouse so long.” Johnny said with a wink to Lee. Roy just shook his head in relief. He had been afraid Johnny was not going to be so forgiving this time.
“It’s about time. Congratulations.” She looked up send saw Joe and Kel coming out of treatment room 3. “Dr. Brackett, Dr. Early, I think you need to see this…”Pointing to Lee’s hand.”
“Did something happen to your hand?” Joe asked concerned as he came up to the desk.
Definitely …and its all Johnny’s fault.” Dixie said with a straight face. “She’ll never be the same.”
“Neither will he.” Roy added his two cents.
Joe and Kel looked at her hand frowning then realized what they were seeing.
“And when did all this happen?” Kel stood there his arms folder a slight grin playing at the corners of his mouth. “You actually let this hose jockey do that to you?”
“”Yep and it’s your entire fault…you and Dixie are the ones who put me and Roy on that committee. Thank you.” There was laughter in his voice but the look he gave them was sincere. “So keep the first Saturday in August open…”
The HT came on “Squad 51 what is your status?”
“Squad 51 available.” A quick kiss and they were gone.
“So do your uncles know?” Kel asked as Lee watched them leaving.
“Yeah Jeff was here this week end and we called Matt and then this morning I went over to the station and took them muffins and rolls and told them. Now you…Maria and Hector are planning a big party for us…
“Did you make your pecan rolls? In addition, didn’t bring us any? Now Dixie is that in gratitude or what? After Johnny tells us we are responsible…” Kel said pouting.
There are two boxes of rolls and muffins up in my office…I couldn’t bring them down until Johnny came and we told you…I have work to do and I want to get out of here early so I can tell Jim and Kathy the good news at dinner tonight. Party at my place Sunday.”
The rest of the day was busy for the squad and Lee as she had to play catch up on all the work she hadn’t done while working on the survey. She managed to get out and to Jim and Kathy’s on time. Soon as she got in the door, Kathy knew something had happen. They went out to the patio.
“I have never seen you look so happy …That smile is all the way in your eyes…Any special reason?”
“Yep…I need a BIG favor…Will you be my matron of honor and help me plan this wedding? It is the first Saturday in August and I have a feeling it’s going to be huge…”
“Of course I will…and of course it’s going to be huge…”
Therefore, begins the next adventure.
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