A Friend in Need is a Friend in Deed -- Chp. 15 An Unexpected Journey

Chapter 15 – An Unexpected Journey

I passed my Canadian passport to the immigration official. Grandpa had already given him his passport and the forms showing that I was a minor child under his control.

“It feels really hot here, Grandpa Miller.”

“Not surprising, the pilot said during the landing that it is going to hit thirty degrees today.”

“Well, it is set to twenty-one degrees inside, young lady. It must still be a big change from frigid Canada for you. Has any of your shoes or clothing been in a stream or lake prior to coming here?” the official asked.

“No sir. All my clothes are brand new. Including my shoes.”

An officer in a blue uniform with a badge emblem on his shoulder appeared. “Excuse me Bruce, they are here on Crown business. Please come with me Ms. Miller and Mr. Miller.”

Constable Leonard introduced himself and led us to a table where he stamped our passports. “Do you have all your luggage?”

“Yes, sir.”

He continued to check our documentation making sure everything was in order. “Did you sleep well on your flight?”

“I got some sleep sir. It was a very long flight. I think my grandfather can sleep anywhere. He is rested. I hardly got any.”

“My granddaughter is right. I have been around the world on security details. I had to learn to sleep the hard way.”

“I understand. It is good to have you both here. Especially on such short notice too. We think we got your man. It looks like he may have travelled under a false passport to Hong Kong where he caught a transport to here. But, we can discuss that at headquarters. By the way, I believe you are an agent? You aren’t armed are you, Mr. Miller?”

“No sir. I wish I was, but I was ordered to stand down on this trip by my government. We are here simply to confirm that you have captured the right man.”

“Good. We can only hold him so long. In less than ten hours, we have to release him if you can’t confirm his identity. Follow me please.”

He led us to a police car stationed outside. We put our luggage in his boot and headed to the police headquarters. We were taken to a room with a door to a dark room with one-way glass. Grandpa Miller went in first and the door was closed. I smoothed my skirt and sat down, crossed my legs, put my hands in my lap, leaned my head back against the wall, closed my eyes, and dozed. A female officer watched over me. Sometime later, Grandpa Miller came out and gently shook me awake, “Come on Samantha, your turn now.”

“Yes sir.” I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and yawned.

Constable Leonard led me into the dark room. He gave me a minute or two to adjust to the light levels. “Now Samantha, the men on the other side of this glass can’t see you. But you can see them. We are going to call them in. Tell them to turn left and then right by telling the officer what you want. Don’t speak when the mike is on. We don’t want him to hear your voice. Your job is to identify the man you saw in Arizona. We want you to be one hundred per cent sure. Do you understand?”

“Yes sir.” I knew my job. Flying here was a gamble. I was praying it would pay off.

“Just so you know, Mr. Abernathy is here from the American Embassy. He is their security officer. Apparently he knows your grandfather personally and asked to be included because of the joint Canadian and American investigation. I guess you Canadians get around.”

“How do you do sir?” I put out my hand to shake his.

“A pleasure Samantha. Your grandfather thinks very highly of your skills.” He leaned over and whispered in my ear, “And no, no one here knows.” He gave me a gentle handshake.

The men were brought in. They stood facing the window. Then they turned left, then right, then faced the window. “Sir, can you ask them to show me their backs too?”

“Sure.” They were instructed to turn and face the wall behind them.

“Definitely the third man in from the left sir. The man I saw in Arizona had a tattoo on his neck on the right side. It said ‘Courage.’ The third man has that tattoo. I recognize his face and the tattoo. I am one hundred per cent sure it is him.”

“Must have been recently done. That is one of the many reasons why we couldn’t confirm his identity. Very good. Mr. Abernathy, you now have two independent confirmations of identity. I will let the Canadian counsellor officer know too. We can begin the extradition proceedings. You both can decide which country he goes to first.”

We exited the room where we were gathered to see the lineup and we all congregated in a larger room including my grandfather. Most talked shop until in came Superintendent Stanley of the AFP, the Australian Federal Police, who introduced himself to us as the head man of the Sydney office. He was Constable Leonard’s boss.

“Pity, he was going to led us to a child porn ring in Adelaide. He has gone tight lipped on us. Refuses to turn on his own. I think he wants to get back to the states. His ties here aren’t good enough for us to have leverage on him anyway. But we know who he was going to contact.” said Stanley.

“Is there any way to get around it. Can you do a sting and turn someone here? I mean you know his accomplices, right?” Grandpa Miller wanted more. He smelled blood.

“Not without the proper bait. We can’t get someone fast enough.” Stanley wanted him too. It was clear both men wanted a better outcome than just an extradition.

“How about my granddaughter, she could help? She has been used by the FBI in multiple stings to flush out child porn perps.”

“You serious! How?” Stanley was intrigued, but didn’t look surprised. I think he had heard something through the grapevine and wanted to hear it for himself.

“Well, for one thing, she is really a boy. Because of that, Sam can go topless and not violate any child porn laws back home.” Grandpa Miller was on the hunt. I could tell he let this bit of information go for a reason.

“But, her passport says she is a girl.” Said Constable Leonard. Grandpa signaled Mr. Abernathy. Mr. Abernathy pulled out my American passport, my real one, and gave it to Stanley.

“For your eyes only. Please return it when you are done looking at it. With a Canadian passport, she didn’t need an entry visa security check meaning they could fly right away and get here in time. Otherwise, we would have used her cover American passport. Time was of the essence, as you know.”

“You are American Samantha? I mean, Samuel. And a boy?!” said Stanley.

“Yes sir. I am really a boy. And that is why I have been an effective tool in flushing out the bad guys. They think I am really a girl. And since I present well, and so convincingly, no one doubts my being a girl in a sting. I am being used by Canada too now. We are benefiting from their cover too for the moment.” Mr. Abernathy took my passport back.

My grandfather spent a few minutes explaining to Constable Leonard and Superintendent Stanley how I was used and in each circumstance that he knew of from his own experiences. Constable Leonard then made a phone call and, rather quickly, I found my talents being called upon to capture bad guys once again.

A little while later, we went into a conference room. An agent from their vice task force sat down to talk to my grandfather and me. He was clearly an undercover officer. He hadn’t shaved for days and his clothes were a little casual. He had a lot of chest hair too. He had lots of bling. Gold chains around his neck and huge rings on several fingers. He smelled of cigarette smoke. I didn’t know whether or not he smoked, but it was obvious that he was playing a part.

“Samantha, outside of Adelaide is the world’s largest wooden Koaloa Bear and a toy factory. Next to it is a petting zoo. We would like to know if you would let us have one of our AFP agents lead you up to the Teddy Bear and take a few photos of you in panties and nothing else. Then take you away. There is a hill overlooking the site. Afterwards, we will let you go over and enjoy the petting zoo and into the toy factory. What we want to do is to establish that we are finding girls and letting them enjoy free toys and a trip to the petting zoo if they let us take special photos of them. This way we can convince David St. Jean’s associates that we are for real. Will you help us do this?” Sergeant Crawford said.

“Yes sir.”

An hour later, we found ourselves on an hour and a half flight to Adelaide. Being summer, it was thirty-eight degrees Celsius in the shade which is one hundred degrees back home in Tennessee. It removed any feeling of it being a holiday weekend and Christmas break from my mind. We arrived and were greeted by the local undercover AFP agent who took us up into the hills of Adelaide to a safe house. They were going to order out. But I looked in the frig and saw enough supplies to make something even better. I asked the blokes if they had potatoes, onions, and red wine. They did and a few other necessary spices. I went to work. An hour or so later, after cooking up bangers, peeling potatoes, making mashed potatoes, and reducing an onion sauce with grilled onions, I started to plate bangers and mash. It was very well received.

“I didn’t know you Yanks knew how to cook. This is ripper. Better than my Mum used to make!” quipped Constable Douglas.

“You don’t know my granddaughter. She could make a gourmet dinner out of leftover corn flakes.” My grandfather proudly stated. He was beginning to see my talents and me, not my sex. I found myself contemplating what I could do with corn flakes and had to pinch myself to wake up.

I was tired, but I wanted to see something before going to bed. I asked them if I could see the southern cross. We went out into the night and the agents showed us southern cross. One of them started to sing some Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. We all sang the ‘Southern Cross’ and watched the stars. The night was warm and I really could feel the heat. I was still used to a Tennessee winter.

“You sing nicely Samantha.” Said constable Leonard.

“I take choir in school. And I play the guitar and piano.”

“What are you learning to sing now?”

“I am learning to sing ‘A Girl’s Garden’ by Robert Frost” with the rest of the girls.

“Can I hear some of it?”

Out of me came this beautiful song and they listened. I sang it acapella. “That is so beautiful. You have a lovely voice, Samantha. What else have you been learning to sing?”

I began singing, “Down by the Salley Gardens,” by Yeats, once again acapella. I could see my grandfather shed a tear and smile. He really hadn’t heard me singing yet and didn’t know how many hours I practiced at school singing these pieces. Mr. Thompson had worked hard with me and I worked just as hard for him.

They all applauded.

“Thank you. You are so very kind.” I curtseyed.

“Samantha, I wish you could hear what a lovely voice you have.” Said Sergeant Crawford. I blushed but they couldn’t see it in the dark.

We said our goodnights. I went to sleep quickly. But, before I fell asleep, I could feel my grandfather pull a sheet over me and kiss me on the forehead. I heard him softly say, “Sweet dreams princess.” I obeyed.

In the morning, I got up to the smell of coffee. “Sorry I slept late. It’s my job to make coffee back home.”

The officers made breakfast for me. They said I was not to worry my pretty little head off. They owed me for such an outstanding meal the night before. Grandpa was sharing war stories with them about cases they all had worked on. He was in seventh heaven. So were they. The brotherhood of law enforcement was a good one no matter where one hung their hat. I sat demurely and listened. Then, I went to take a shower and get cleaned up. I reapplied my appliance and dressed in a nice sun dress. I made sure to wear pink panties. And I didn’t put on a bra as I had been doing lately.

About eleven, they came to pick us up. “It’s weird, Grandpa. It is hot. And we missed New Year’s Eve on the flight out. I have lost that wintery feeling. All I want to do is just go jump in a pool.”

“I think that is why your grandmother and I didn’t miss Christmas so much. Since most of my career has been south of the equator, I am used to this. For me, it is just another hot day and no holiday.”

“That makes sense. I liked listening to your stories Grandpa. It sounds like you had a lot of fun.”

“I have fun telling the stories now. At the time, it was hard work and frustrating. Computers are just starting to make it easier. But, we had to keep files at the embassies and that made it hard because you had to pour through the files to find that one bit of information for a relative whose child was missing or that request from the states to know more about a criminal’s background they needed day before yesterday. That is why David St. Jean fell through the cracks. I knew him, but the rest of the federal government didn’t. On more than one occasion, I had to make a trip like this to identify someone like St. Jean for extradition.”

“Are you going to miss the work?”

“Well, thanks to you, not yet!”

We made our ways into the hills. The agents showed me where I had to walk and what I had to do. Generally, everything goes as planned without a hitch. Not this time. The first inkling that I had that something went wrong was after I got dressed after the photos were taken. I walked towards the petting zoo as planned. I went by a parking lot where tourists could park and either go to the Koaloa Bear, the petting zoo, or the toy factory. As I started to walk past the parking lot. A man rushed out of a vehicle coming for me. He wanted to catch me and run off with me. I ran away as fast as I could in my heels, but he was catching up. Out of the blue, my grandfather popped out of a bush and ran to tackle him. Just as he reached me to grab me, my grandfather took him down. The man was armed. They struggled and two shots rang out. My grandfather held his side and the man fell over. The man was clearly dead. Right behind my grandfather was Constable Leonard, who quickly grabbed the gun and secured it.

Grandpa dropped to his knees and then sat down on the grass. I ran to my grandfather and pulled tampons out of my purse. He was still sitting up. I moved his polo shirt so I could see the entry wound. It was on the right hand side of his stomach. I quickly took out the cotton like material in the tampons and packed the wound and held on for dear life to stop the bleeding. I heard police radios behind me crying out for an air ambulance to come.

“Thank you Samantha. It hurts like hell. I wish you didn’t have to witness this. I love you!”

I cradled my grandfather and he held on to me. “Hold on Grandpa. I love you too. I can’t lose you. I need you.” I looked over at the body on the ground. The cruel reality of death permeated the air. Here was a man that a moment ago was alive. I looked back into the eyes of my grandfather. He had been watching me and I suspected he read my mind.

“Don’t worry honey, ain’t nothing going to take me out this time. I know where I was shot. They should be able to fix me up just fine. I just won’t be able to go back home right away.”

I heard sirens. Constable Leonard came over and checked the body. “You got him Robert. Keep the pressure on his wound Samantha. He should make it. He is right.” I could hear sirens coming closer. Soon, paramedics jumped out of an ambulance and headed to my grandfather’s aid and took over from me. They began to work on him and ready him for transport. Off in the distance, I could hear a helicopter.”

They loaded Grandpa and I into the air ambulance and flew us all off to hospital. Constable Leonard held my hand while he was in surgery. I said a silent prayer. Sergeant Crawford came in. “Samantha, how are you doing? Have you had someone look after you too?”

“I am fine, I guess. No sir, no one has checked me out.”

“It looks like you may have been hurt too. Let me take you down to have you looked after.”

Crawford and Leonard led me down the hall where they had a nurse look after my few scratches. I think they did this to distract me. I was still worried. Dr. MacArthur came in and said, “Samantha, your grandfather is going to be just fine. The bullet passed through the other man before wounding him. It didn’t hit anything vital because of the low impact velocity. We inspected his gut and fixed all the wounds. He should be good to go in a few days. He can’t travel for a week though. He will need to stay in hospital for two days at least for observation.”

“Thank you, sir, when I can see him, please?”

“We will have him in his room soon. A nurse will come and find you. You take care. I hear you are one brave little lady. It took a lot of guts to hold his stomach to stop the bleeding. I am very impressed young lady.” He patted me on the head gently and headed off.

Sergeant Crawford said, “Normally, we would send you off to foster care, but this is special. You are one of our own. I will take you in if you don’t mind?”

“Oh, thank you, sir. That is very kind of you. I hope I am not too much trouble.”

“Not at all, I have two very nice boys. Duncan, who is eight years old, and Trent, who is ten years old. We have a pool too. So, if you like, you can go swimming. In a few days, they are saying your grandfather may be taken to Melbourne in order to be under the care of the American Consulate there. From there, you both will be able to return to the states.”

Constable Leonard piped up. “We have to do an incident report sir. We will need to interview them for the inquest.”

“That is true. One step at a time though Constable. Let’s take care of Samantha first.”

When Grandpa was wheeled into the room, I had flashbacks to seeing Cybil. I began to cry. Constable Leonard held onto me and comforted me as a I started to sob. Grandpa came around and said, “C’mon squirt. Is that how my little undercover agent is supposed to behave?”

“No sir.” I said trying to hold back the tears but failing.

“Of course not. I told you I would be fine.” I took his hand and held onto it for strength.

Sergeant Crawford came into the room. “Robert, sorry about all this. We didn’t realize that the person we had met had a henchman follow us to the site. It was his job to snatch whatever girl that we had. They thought they were turning us. By capturing her, they thought they would have us in their grasp. Turns out that once they saw their guy taken down by your grandfather, they knew their asses were ours. They are facing attempted murder, kidnapping, and numerous other charges including involuntary manslaughter of their own man because of participating in a crime. These charges are far worse than if they had done nothing. So, they are singing like birds now.”

“There has to be an investigation because of the shooting, Robert. So, there will be officers here soon to take statements. I am sure you understand that.” Said Constable Leonard.

“Understood. I have been through that before with other shooting incidents. What about Samantha? Who is going to look after her?”

“I will. I have two sons at home. It will be nice for them to have to put up with a girl for once. But, right now, let’s get the interviews over with. I am sending in an officer who will take your statement.”

I was led to a room where there was a tape recorder and a uniformed officer taking notes. “Please sit down Samantha. We just need some facts to make our reports. When there is a shooting we have to do this. Particularly when it involves a shooting.”

For the next thirty minutes, I related the details of the shooting from when I started walking from the Koaloa Bear to the petting zoo to getting into the air ambulance. It was all pretty straight forward. I went over every detail I could remember. And, I could remember a lot of details.

After saying goodbye to Grandpa for the night, Sergeant Crawford took me home to his place. A constable had already swung by the safe house and picked up my stuff and brought it to us before we left hospital. His wife and kids were gone. I took advantage of the fact and cleaned up. I took a shower, shaved my legs and arm pits. I washed my hair and dried it. I thoroughly got scrubbed. I then reapplied my appliance and got dressed in my nicest outfit. I put on ear rings, did my makeup, put on pink lip gloss, and brushed out my hair. I then did my nails with a nice red. I put on a red headband and my necklace with a silver heart. I then put on heels and grabbed my current book by Charles Dickens and went into their beautiful living room. I smoothed out my skirt, sat down in a Louis XIV chair, put my hand in my lap, and with my other hand held open a window into the French Revolution. I was lost among French nobles in trouble when I was startled by a voice which said to me, “And who might you be, young lady?” I heard screaming boys coming in from behind her. They had clearly been playing soccer, or, rather, football. One of them tugged at his mom’s sleeve and said, “Who’s the pretty Sheila, mum?”

“My name is Samantha, Ma’am. I am here by the kind invitation of your husband, Sergeant Crawford.”

Just then, Sergeant Crawford came out from the kitchen where it looked like he was doing some paperwork. “Sorry Luv, I couldn’t get in touch with you. I had to make an executive decision. Boys, you can go get cleaned up and get changed. I need to talk to your Mom for a moment about our guest.” As they ran off, Sergeant Crawford told her about what happened that day and who I was.

“Oh my, you poor thing. I am so sorry your grandfather got shot. Yes, of course I want you to stay with us too.” She then turned to her husband and whispered in his ear loud enough for me to hear, “And she is a boy you say?!”

Sergeant Crawford nodded yes. Mrs. Crawford looked at me at a loss as to what to say. “Ma’am, what I do is important enough that I can’t break character. It is best for me and for the people I work with if there is no confusion about my gender in their speech or attitude. So, please, don’t even tell your boys unless it is necessary.”

She seemed to accept my explanation. “Well, then, we are happy to have you Samantha. I was just about to do something about dinner.”

“May I help you in the kitchen, Mrs. Crawford?” I set my book down.

“According to the men, last night she cooked the best bangers and mash they have ever eaten.” Sergeant Crawford spoke up on my behalf.

“Come on Samantha, I would love the help.” I followed her into the kitchen and soon found myself standing with her next to their refrigerator. “I was with the boys all day and have no idea what to do for dinner. Any ideas?”

“Mind if I do a quick survey?” She nodded yes and I looked thru the frig. I grabbed some butter, milk, Gruyere cheese, and then some Parmesan cheese. I put them out. I then found some deli black forest ham and Dijon mustard. “Do you have tomato soup, by any chance?” She pulled out some cans of tomato soup from her cupboards. I then checked her bread supply and she had more than enough.

“Croque monsieurs and tomato soup?”

“I think we will like it, but isn’t it hard to cook?”

“Nope. A French teacher recently taught me how to make them.” We went to work together. I made up the roux and then the cheese sauce first. She preheated the oven to two hundred degrees Celsius. We then toasted the bread in the oven while we heated the soup. We quickly assembled the sandwiches and put them in the oven. Soon, the dinner table was set and we were enjoying a French meal.

“Samantha, this is fantastic!” Sergeant Crawford was beside himself.

“Daddy, this is good! Can Samantha come more often?” Duncan, their youngest who is eight years old, was really enjoying the sandwich.

“Yes, thank you Samantha?” said Mrs. Crawford. “I didn’t know girls in the States could cook French food so well.

“It helps that my mother went to culinary school after my brother and sister were born. She didn’t think a history degree would get her anywhere. That is, until she became a teacher.”

“What grade are you in back home, Samantha?” Trent, their ten-year-old asked. “I am in year five.”

“I am in year seven Trent.” It was easy to convert my grade to their vocabulary.

“So, you are thirteen?” Duncan asked.

“No, I just turned twelve at the end of December. I started a year before I should have. It means that I have been both the youngest and the smallest in my class. But, I get good grades and it isn’t hurting me.”

“Why are you here?” Trent asked.

“Honey! That is impolite!” Mrs. Crawford said firmly and calmly.

“It is okay Mrs. Crawford. My Grandpa was helping your Dad and he got hurt. He has to stay in hospital and I need to stay somewhere until he can check out of hospital. Your Dad and Mom have graciously let me stay with you.”

“Well, if you can cook like this, you are welcome anytime. I loved the help in the kitchen. I don’t get much help from my boys.” Mrs. Crawford patted me on the arm and gave me a big smile. Then she glared at her boys.

“Thank you, Mrs. Crawford.” We got up from the table and I started to help clear the table and take everything into the kitchen.

“Boys, did you see what Samantha just did?” Mrs. Crawford gave her boys a long hard stare. I felt sorry for the boys. I was being used as an instrument of correction again. But, at the same time, I realized what my Doug taught me was very important. He got me to participate in family and not just be a taker.

Duncan came up to me and said he was sorry. He took some of my dishes and went with me into the kitchen. “Thank you Duncan. This is very kind of you.” I patted him on the back.

“Can I be your boyfriend Samantha? You are pretty. Like my mother.” Duncan was very bold for eight years old.

Mrs. Crawford smiled at his boldness and looked to see how I would respond with an amused expression on her face. “My mom won’t let me date until next year. Sorry Duncan.”

“Oh darn. My friend Roger has a girlfriend and he is always saying that I will never get a girlfriend.” Oh, how that tugged at my heart.

“Where does your friend Roger live?”

“Three doors down the street. In fact, he is coming over tomorrow to swim.”

I looked at Mrs. Crawford and got a mischievous smile on my face. “Well, while I am here, your Mom is my Mom and I am supposed to obey her. If she says I can be your girlfriend tomorrow, I can be.”

She giggled, “Well, we will have to see. I want my boy to treat his girlfriend right. And how he treats his Mum will be an important part of that.”

I picked up on her logic. “How clean is his room, Mrs. Crawford?”

“Oh, not very clean, Samantha. I would hate for you to have a boyfriend who keeps a messy room.” She was clearly enjoying where this was headed.

“Well, I guess tomorrow you can tell me whether or not I have a boyfriend for the day or not.” I pouted.

“True.” She pouted too. Duncan ran off and started to clean his room. We laughed.

The boys headed off to bed. I was told to stay up because of the time difference. I would be headed to bed just as my parents woke up.

About Ten O’clock at night, the phone rang. Sergeant Crawford answered the phone. “Yes sir, she is here and she is fine. She would like to speak with you.”

“Hi Mom and Dad. I love you and miss you. Have you talked to Grandpa?”

“Yes, honey, we have. He sounded good. We are concerned though. We may have to rethink you participating in this if it means you can get hurt.” Dad said.

I felt pain at hearing that. This could tank my being a girl. But, right now, I had to play along and trust that Doug would take care of their concerns. “I understand. Still, something Grandpa said today put it into perspective for me.”

“What is that honey?” Mom asked.

“The man will never use that gun on a girl again. Somewhere in Australia are little girls who will grow up in safety because of what I did today.”

I heard silence for a moment. Then Dad said, “Well, we will have them do a better job at the very least. We love you sweetheart. Are you being a good girl?”

“Yes sir. I am being well behaved. And the Crawfords are real corkers. They have been extraordinarily kind to me. I couldn’t be in better hands. I am going to be swimming with them tomorrow. They have their own pool.”

“Did you pack a swimsuit, dear?”

“Yes, Mom. Grandpa bought a one-piece with Officer O’ Brien before I left. They did a nice job of choosing clothes for me too. I am going to have to thank her when I get back because I know Grandpa didn’t choose them. I do need to do laundry tomorrow, but I have more than enough clothes. I love you. See you soon. Tell everyone back home I miss them. Tell Doug I miss my brother.” I hung up.

Sergeant Crawford said, “I like what your Grandpa said. He is right. Today you both saved a lot of little girls. That makes you a hero.”

“I don’t know sir. I just feel like a scared little girl right now. Thank you again for taking me in. I really appreciate it. And your boys are really nice.” He patted me on the head and said he understood. Then he sent me off to bed.

I brushed my teeth, got ready for bed, and climbed into bed and fell asleep right away. Somehow, my body clock adjusted to local time and I woke up at six. I went to the loo and went out to the kitchen. It was Sunday morning. I sat at the breakfast table and read more Dickens enjoying the warm sun coming through the window. It was strange enjoying long days in the midst of what should be winter for me.

Sergeant Crawford came out and sat down with me. “Samantha, just to let you know. The story has hit the news service. They have heard a man was shot and killed at the Koala Bear Toy Factory who was attempting to kidnap a child and that an American got hurt while stopping him. It is being handled by the local police bureau’s public relations officer. The good news is that they can’t print your name because of you being a minor. But, the bad news is that your grandfather doesn’t have the same protection. The Vice Consular from the American Embassy is coming here to accept a commendation for his bravery in a few weeks. The media has been given a cover name to print, Roscoe Calvin Milsap. So, it shouldn’t mean much. But, it does mean that if anyone hears you talking about the shooting, they will know about it. The story is that your grandfather saw the man rushing to grab a child and your grandfather tackled him. When he did, the man’s gun went off and killed him. Your grandfather is being called a hero.”

“Well, I think I can live with that.”

“Well, not only that, it has hit the national news in your country too. Local man does good. So, his story is being sent all around the world. It means that you will have to be careful not to be photographed with him.”

“I understand.”

A press release was issued on behalf of my grandfather.

“I appreciate all the well wishes for what I did. But what I did any other father or grandfather would do. I am sorry that it took the man’s life. It is sad that his own gun took his life in the struggle to stop him from harming a precious and innocent child. I request privacy for me and my family. I am no hero. The greatest thanks one can give me is my anonymity. Please understand, I will not be granting any interviews or making any appearances. I am an ordinary man and wish to stay that way. Please respect that and allow me my privacy. Humbly yours, Roscoe Calvin Milsap.”

Of course, the media didn’t care. The press sent their minions in to try and ferret out who he might be. They carefully and quietly transferred my grandfather to home care. He and I were in the same room with a nurse attendant. And I was happy to be together with him once more even if it meant I slept on a cot. He arrived about the time we started to go swimming. I had put on my swimsuit. It was a nice green suit. My appliance made it look smooth. It was my first time swimming as a girl and I was nervous. It made it easier to be in a private pool.

“Mrs. Crawford, can I ask a favor?”

“Yes Samantha.”

“My Mom isn’t here, and I don’t know if I am wearing this correctly. She usually instructs me on how to behave right as a girl. Speaking of which, your boys need to learn to leave the seat down if there is a girl guest in the house. I don’t think I need to explain why.”

She smiled at finding out that she was needed and how she could help. She also giggled at the toilet seat warning. I think she was happy to have a daughter in the house too, even if it was a boy in reality. Mrs. Crawford spent a few minutes showing me how to adjust the suit and make sure it doesn’t crawl up into my bum or reveal too much. I thanked her and grabbed a towel and went out to their pool. The boys came running out and jumped into the pool making all sorts of waves and splashing me in the bargain. Boys!

Duncan had worked hard and cleaned his room, so, I was his girlfriend for the day. He couldn’t wait to tell Roger when he showed up.

Roger said, “Samantha, you are Duncan’ girlfriend?” I came up behind Duncan, being taller, and put my arms around him. I kissed him on the head and said, “Yes, I am his American girlfriend. He is the only Aussie who asked me. I was heartbroken until he came along. I have never had an Aussie boyfriend before. I am very honored that it was Duncan who asked.” I took his hand and kissed Duncan on the cheek and stood between him and the pool.

“Wow, you are a lot prettier than my girlfriend and bigger too!” said Roger. I resisted laughing and just nodded. Mrs. Crawford looked at me and I could tell was having just as much trouble holding her laughter in too.

“Not even Trent has a girlfriend yet. So, I am way ahead of my brother.” He said to Roger. I had to quickly jump into the pool and laugh under water so no one would see. I came up and saw Mrs. Crawford was rushing inside for the same reason.

The afternoon was fun. I had a good time and, thanks to good sunscreen, I developed a nice tan. The Crawfords wanted me to enjoy a little more of the area, so they left my grandfather at their place to sleep under the care of the nurse and took me to a mall where I could enjoy eating pizza with them and the boys. We had a good time. I was surprised that they ate pizza with a knife and fork. I followed suit although I really wanted to pick it up and eat it with my hands. While looking around the pizza place, I saw a woman with grey hair about the same age as my grandmother sitting with a man about the same age with her. She was thin and had a blue and white horizontal stripped long sleeved shirt on. She wore simple jeans. He was casually dressed too. They were enjoying some quiet time together and I could tell he loved her. I came to the conclusion that they were man and wife. When I saw her get up, I realized that she was frail and sickly. She used a cane and leaned heavily on his arm too as they walked. They headed towards the restrooms. I immediately saw a problem. I got up and went over to him and said, “Do you need someone to take her in to the woman’s room, sir?”

“Oh, would you? You are so kind.” His concern for her was written over his face. I smiled and nodded.

“Hello Ma’am, my name is Samantha. May I help you?” I led her gently into the bathroom using me as her second crutch.

“You are an American, aren’t you?” She kept her hand firmly on my shoulder as I walked with her slowly to the women’s room.

“Yes ma’am.” I calmly opened the door to the ladies’ room and led her in.

“Thank you, so many young people don’t have time for their elders these days.”

“I understand. I volunteer at a senior facility back home where I live. I find it very rewarding.”

“Who brought you here?”

“My grandpa brought me on a business trip to visit Australia before I go back to school after my Christmas school break.” I scanned the bathroom for an empty stall.

“Oh, I didn’t see anyone with you my age who might be your grandpa. Is he okay?”

“Oh yes, he is now. Someone hurt him yesterday and he is being taken care of right now by a nurse. It has delayed our returning home a few days while he gets better.”

I brought her to an empty stall door. I pushed it further open and helped her in. She said she could take it from there. I told her I would wait. I closed the door, holding it shut, and guarded it. I waited patiently until she was done. I heard the toilet flush. Then she opened the door and I led her to the sink where she washed her hands.

“I had time to think Samantha. Was your grandfather the one who was hurt by the bad man in the news, honey?”

I looked up at her and my eyes filled with tears. My lip began to tremble. Her face turned to concern because it was obvious that I didn’t need to say anything. “Honey, were you the girl he was protecting? Was the bad man trying to kidnap you?”

I nodded yes. She smiled at me and caressed my cheek. “No worries dear. I won’t say anything to anyone. I just wanted you to know that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. You are a kind and sweet girl with a heart for others. Now I know why your grandfather wants to keep out of the spot light. I couldn’t understand why until now. He is still protecting you, isn’t he?” I nodded my head again. She hugged me and I led her out of the rest room. I had tears flowing down my face still when I handed her off to her husband.

“Thank you so much sweetie.” the man said.

I choked out the words, “Your welcome. It was my pleasure. Thank you for showing me what real love looks like sir and ma’am.” I waved goodbye.

I went back to the table. They asked why I was crying. “Because they love each other so much that even with all their suffering, they think of others. I think they are the most beautiful people I have seen all day.” I blew my nose.

A day or so later, after doing laundry and teaching the Crawford boys how to do it too, they snuck Grandpa and I into the airport. We hid in a tiny room off the jet bridge and they got us onto the plane in advance. To disguise the fact that we were Americans, we spoke French the whole way to Melbourne. We arrived at Melbourne and were greeted by Mr. Abernathy who had flown over from Sydney to take care of us personally. We were taken to a home outside of town where we were we could stay for a few days while my Grandpa healed more.

“While you are here Samantha, I would like to take you to Sovereign Hill and the zoo.” Said Mr. Abernathy.

Mr. Abernathy arranged for a driver and we were taken to Ballarat were we stopped and saw costumed people filing into the front door of this rather plain looking building. We went in and purchased tickets for the day. I was impressed with the displays. The history of the place was amazing. It was an alluvial mining operation and gold rush area. It attracted people from all over the world, including prospectors from California. The displays and the villages were amazing. I talked to people who played the roles of people in the period who told me what it was like back in the 1800s. It was fascinating to meet reenactors who, like myself, were playing a role out of place to what they really were. I found out that if I ever return during the school season, I can dress up as a girl of that period and find out what life was like back then as a student. I then visited the gift shop and bought some souvenirs and books.

After we finished our five-hour tour, Mr. Abernathy and I went across the street after lunch. It was a scout museum.

We stood in front of a portrait of Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts. “Samantha, it is a shame you can’t be in scouts right now.”

“I don’t know; it seems to me that I am living out their oath. And I seem to be doing good deeds.”

“You should think about scouts after you finish helping with this. I hear that by the end of the year, they will have finished using you.”

“Yes sir. That is why it is so important to make every moment count. The more I can help, the more who will be able to live lives free from someone who wants to harm them. I don’t need to go eagle to know that what I am doing is far more important than just wearing a uniform and leading little old ladies across the street. It is doing it when no one is looking.” I thought of the lady I helped the other night. As a Boy Scout, I couldn’t have given her the help she needed. Of course there were tradeoffs, but I knew they were worth it.

Upon our return, we were met by Superintendent Stanley. “Samantha, I have a little present for you.”

“What is it, sir?”

He handed me a little book. It took me a moment; I saw that it was a passport. An Australian passport. I opened it and it was mine. It was my photo and it said Jackie Samantha Miller. I looked up at him wondering what it was all about. “We want you to come back in June, after school, and spend some time here. Your visit here was too short. And, we owe you a nicer time down under.”

“But, a passport? Why?”

“We don’t want you to have to worry about a visa.”

“Thank you, sir, I would love to come back. No, I will come back.”

We were secreted onto the Quanta’s plane. Because of their pulling strings, we were in first class for the return flight. Our seats were together, but separate. I would have loved to snuggle up against Grandpa, but couldn’t. I liked that we could lay almost completely flat and go to sleep if we wanted. We had an elegant dinner and talked. My Grandpa was still looking out for me even on the flight. He made sure I curled up and went to sleep on time. He once again pulled the blanket over me and told me to sleep well. He called me a princess again. I had my eyes closed when the attendant came over to check on us.

“Is there anything we can do for you Mr. Miller?”

“No, I can’t drink alcohol because of the drugs I am taking. But, maybe some water.”

“Is she your granddaughter?”

“Yes.”

“She is lovely and so well mannered. I see how much she loves you. You must be proud.”

“Yes. I am now more than ever.”

I woke up and found out that we had flown by Hawaii and mere hours from Los Angeles and home. I returned my seat to the upright position. My grandfather was sleeping still. The attendant brought me some water. We chatted.

My grandfather woke up and began to do the paperwork for our landing. The AFP stamped our American passports, as well as our Canadian passports, so they showed we had been in Australia. We passed through customs and gathered our luggage. Then we headed off to our flight home. We got in around one in the afternoon. Bill greeted us and brought us down to home since both my Mom and Dad had to work.

“I have talked to your Mom and Dad. They now know that the reasons things went wrong in Australia was because there wasn’t a guardian ad litem to oversee the sting. They didn’t know that the guardian looks only at your safety during the sting and insures every contingency is taken into account before they are allowed to use you. For example, the parking lot at the toy factory. He would have made sure that you didn’t pass by any vehicles without an escort. So, I think your job is safe, Samantha.”

“Thank you. I am more convinced now than ever before I am doing what I am supposed to do. I would hate to stop now.”

“You and me both, Samantha.” Grandpa hugged me.

Just then, Grandma showed up and came in. “It is so good to see you both. My heroes!” We all hugged.

I went upstairs with my luggage and unpacked. I put my new clothes away in the closet and then went to take a much needed shower. I dressed nicely again and came downstairs. Grandpa was resting in the living room chair. He looked up. “Oh honey, you look beautiful. Why the special dress?”

“Tonight is Friday, and I think it would be nice to go see a movie with Mom and Dad. I would like to see Amistad. I know it is rated R, but it is about John Quincy Adams gaining the freedom of men unjustly taken from their land and forced into slavery. I am hoping Mom and Dad get the hint when they come home.”

“We’ll see. Your Mom and Dad may want to go out on a date tonight for just them.”

“If they do, will you and Grandma take me?”

“Maybe.”

“Maybe?”

“Well, what is in it for us?”

“Time with me.” I pouted and pleaded with my eyes acting as coyly as I could.

“Oh, I have had plenty of time with you lately young lady.” My grandfather was clearly enjoying teasing me.

“Robert Correy Miller, you are incorrigible!” Grandma poked her head in from the kitchen to end the argument. “Of course honey, if you parents can’t take you, we will. I have heard good things about that movie. And I, for one, would enjoy spending time with you. Especially with you looking that pretty.”

“Maybe we can all go together?” I heard Dad’s voice. I turned around and there he was. I ran to him and hugged him as though my life depended on it. “Oh Daddy, I missed you so much!” I got the warmest hug back. I realized I was his princess too.

“I missed you too honey. And yes, you do look pretty tonight.”

“How about me Sis?” I turned and Doug was standing there beaming at me. I went to him and gave him a big hug too.

“Hey, we are the ones who need to hug you, Sis. We really missed you too.” Doug hugged me back.

Mom showed up a little later and we all went to dinner and the movies.

The next morning, we went to see Erin. “Thank you for coming in on a Saturday. How is the jet lag?”

“Awful. My body says I should be asleep right now. I am going to have a tough time staying awake in class come Monday.” I yawned and stretched.

“I understand. So, let me get right to the point since this is a brief meeting. You saw a man die in front of you. I have had clients see that happen in their law enforcement career. It isn’t easy to have seen. There are a whole range of emotions that go with it. So, I have informed the agents that I am taking you off of duty for a month as standard protocol. This is normal.”

“Why?”

“Well, the next time you go out, you are going have a knee jerk reaction. What I am going to have them do is rehearsals with you to reacclimatize you to doing stings again. Most officers need a chance to get back into the groove. The axiom of getting back on the horse misses the point. Sometimes you need to get on a gentle horse first to find your feet again sometimes and work back up to that bucking bronco.”

“Oh, okay.” I didn’t get what she was trying to say. Maybe it was the fatigue from jet lag.

“So, how do you feel watching a man die in front of you?”

“Sad. Angry. Humiliated. And scared.”

“Is that all?”

“I think that is quite enough.”

“Well, I might feel confused, guilty, vengeful, and curious too for example. You have seen something that few have seen. The last moment of someone’s life.”

“I saw Cybil die. Isn’t that the same?”

“No. You had a long goodbye with her. This man was a stranger. Your sole introduction to him was that he was out to attack you. Your brief relationship was short and frightening.”

“Mr. Miller, how do you feel about what happened?”

“Please call me Robert. I feel much the same as Samantha. I have seen violence in my career, but this is the first time someone died. However, for me, it was a little different. I have real wounds which gives me a reason to relax and heal. I also had a reason for the violence. I was protecting her from getting hurt. I guess it would be harder for Samantha here who had to witness the whole thing.”

“I guess I feel sick to my stomach too.” I said.

“Good, talk it out. Don’t hold it in.”

“For that brief moment, I was his prey and I felt helpless and vulnerable. I keep seeing that hideous look on his face. He was grinning like he had me and I didn’t stand a chance. I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t because I was too scared. I guess I am mad that I didn’t scream like I thought I would. It was just so unexpected.”

“Well, I assume you were in an open field. The problem with being in an open field like that is that it delays your processing of what is happening. However, in your grandfather’s case, since he was on high alert and trained to protect, he reacted quickly.”

“Which saved me from harm. Thank you again, Grandpa.” He smiled.

“Samantha, what I want you to realize that you are empathetic. More than most. Which means that even though he may have deserved to die because of his actions, you will still feel it was unnecessary. That is not bad in and of itself.”

Erin stopped, walked over to me, and put her arm around me.

“Look, Samantha, it will take time for your mental wounds to heal too. Taking some time to think about what you saw will help you grow and mature. He deserved to die because he made bad choices. He chose to attack you. He chose to carry a gun. He chose to be there. You didn’t chose for him. He was one hundred per cent responsible for his death. You need to see it that way or you will feel guilty for the rest of your life.”

“Then why was I there? Wasn’t it to help hurt him?”

“You were there to stop him from getting worse or doing worse. But, you need to heal because you have something he didn’t have. He had no conscience. You do. He didn’t care if he hurt a child. You do care if he did, or else you wouldn’t feel pangs of guilt that he died.”

I hugged her. “Thank you Erin. You always make me feel better and help me see things.”

“How about you Grandpa?” Erin asked. “How do you feel?”

“There is a child present and the words I have are very adult. But, I feel angry too. I didn’t want him to die. I really didn’t know he had a gun. But, now that I do, I think the outcome was as good as it could get.”

“Well, the important thing is that you two have each other. Don’t be afraid to go off and talk about what happened with each other. If you feel a bad word come on, just replace it with ‘bleep’ or ‘bleeping’ or even ‘bleeped.’ It sounds like it will do you both good.”

After we left, Grandpa said, “I like Erin. She has a good head on her shoulders. I can tell she has worked with law enforcement before.”

“I like her too. She has helped me a lot.”

Grandpa took me to lunch and we had an interesting conversation. He took me to a little restaurant nearby the university and we sat by a window watching people walking by.

He was deep in thought when he asked, “What do you plan to do when this is all over and you aren’t a girl anymore?”

I played with my girl sized salad and thought for a moment. “I have been learning so much, I really don’t know. In the last few months, I have helped deliver a baby, travelled to Canada, Australia, eastern Tennessee, and Arizona. I have learned how people lived in the mid 1800s this week. I have seen how three different governments handle the law. I have no idea what I will be like when the end of the year comes and I have to move on. I just know that the world seems to be opening up to me. I don’t want to say right now. But, I like the choices in front of me. And they seem to keep expanding too.”

“Is that why being a girl is worth it to you right now?”

“I guess so. Being a girl has taught me so much more about life that I can’t explain. I am not just learning about medicine and the law. I am also learning about people. I am also learning so much more about myself and the people I love.”

“Do you miss being a boy?”

“I don’t miss being called a sissy or being picked on. That is all ever being a boy meant to me. Even Robert liked picking on me. I never stood up to him before. That is, until I became a girl.”

“You stood up to Robert? Really!” Grandpa was shocked.

“Oh yes, that is how this whole sting thing began. I gave him a piece of my mind one night and then taught him how to do laundry the next day. It was when his friend Josh tried to use me that all this started.”

“Do you think that is why you didn’t cry after I got shot?”

“How do you mean? I don’t understand.”

“Samantha, what I have seen in you is a confidence that you didn’t have before. When I last saw you, after your other grandfather died, you were afraid of your own shadow. Frankly, you were a coward. Yet, when you came up to me to take care of my wound, you didn’t run. You faced the problem head on when I got shot. You found something to do and you did it. Sergeant Crawford told me before we flew back that when you got pizza in the mall, you got up and helped a frail lady go to the bathroom without any prompting. Tell me, where does that kind of courage come from?”

“I don’t know.” I was intrigued that my actions were even noticed.

“Well, I think being a girl for a while is helping you become less concerned about what people think of you and giving you the freedom to do the right thing. Do you know what a cocoon is from school? Have they taught you that word yet?”

“Yes, it is what a caterpillar turns into before it becomes a butterfly.”

“Well, I, your Grandma, your Mom, and your Dad all think that is what you are in right now. As a boy, you are in a girl cocoon. And, when the time comes, you will emerge as a butterfly.”

I reached down and picked up my silver heart hanging from my necklace. I opened it and showed it to my Grandfather. “Grandpa, do you see the photo in my silver heart?”

He grinned from ear to ear. “Why yes, it is a butterfly. But, how?”

“Erin gave me this locket on our second visit. She said much the same thing. That is why I have been wearing it more and more.” I got up and hugged my Grandpa and gave him a kiss. “Thank you Grandpa.”

“For what?”

“Being so understanding.”

“Viens, mon Papillion!” ( Come, my butterfly) I hung on to him as we left the restaurant. I was proud to be his granddaughter.

Monday, at lunch, I talked to Mary and Vicki about the birth of Samantha Mary Allen.

“Jackie, you have a wonderful tan! Where did you go on your Christmas break?”

“Just places. But, I have great news. Mrs. Allen had her baby and I helped deliver her!” I quickly changed the subject.

“What was it like?” asked Mary. She had only heard Doug’s side of the story.

“It was wonderful. I held a new born infant in hands. She was so small and precious.”

Vicki asked, “Did feel like you were going to drop her?”

“Thankfully no, only after I handed her to Mrs. Allen to breast feed her baby did it occur to me. It was magical to see her take her breast and give it to the baby. And then for the baby to take it instinctively. I don’t think I will ever forget that moment.” In my exuberance, I bumped my purse off of the table and everything fell out onto the ground.

Vicki and Mary helped me put everything back. As I was putting things back in, I looked at Vicki. She had this strange look. I had forgotten that the purse I took that day was from the trip. She held in her hand a thin book with an airplane ticket inside. She opened it and looked over at me.

“You are an Australian? And you just came back from Australia?! And you have a tan. What aren’t you telling me?”

“My grandfather took me on a quick trip to the land down under. And I have an Australian passport because, well, it is a little complicated to explain. I just have one.”

“That’s weird though.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, there is rumor going around that you are Canadian.”

“Where did that rumor come from?” Mary inquired.

“Oh, some boy named Tommy was asked us at the mall the other day. When he heard that I was a student at Danvers, he asked if I knew you. He was curious to know if you were really Canadian.”

“Well, actually, Vicki, I am Canadian. That is how I got an Australian passport during my trip. The two countries are linked by the monarchy of the United Kingdom.”

She looked at my passport and handed it back to me.

“Jackie, you are a mystery. Are you like a spy or something?”

“Not really. I just get around.” Mary and I headed out. Now I know that Tommy Hinks was making inquiries about me. I needed to talk to Bill before he does something stupid and blows my cover.

Mr. Thompson pulled Mary and I aside to talk to us during choir. “We are now going to move into competition mode. We have a nice repertoire of songs that we will use again in Nashville in April, but I think we have a secret weapon this year. It is you Jackie.” The look on my face was enough to tell him that I wasn’t on board.

“Hear me out Jackie. You have a strong voice. I would like our solo to be you. I know you can pull it off. My sister is always sharing with me songs in French she quite likes. She brought me a song by Florent Pagny called ‘Chanter’ that I think we can use. I would like you to listen to it.” He reached over to the CD player and pressed play. We listened to the song.

“It is a pop song. I like it. Seems fitting for me because it is saying ‘sing always and for every occasion.’ But something tells me it will work if you sing it. It is also a song that can be modified to allow a choir to back you up. And the advantage with you is you feel the words and it comes out as you sing. Listen to it again and you can hear where a choir can back you up.”

We listened to the song again. “Sir, before I say yes, can I go ask Mrs. Cox a question about a lyric? I want to make sure I have the correct interpretation.”

I went down the hall into her class. I stood in the back. She was teaching a lesson about the past imperfect tense. She handed the students a sheet of paper and was having them complete sentences. I waited patiently. She came over to me while they were working on their assignments.

“Mrs. Cox, I have a question for you about a lyric to the song, ‘Chanter.’”

“What does ‘Pour quelqu'un qui s'en va, Pour ne pas cesser de vivre’ mean in context? It isn’t someone just leaving, is it?”

“No, Jackie, it isn’t. In context, it means someone who has died. The gist is that you never stop singing to keep their memory alive.”

I softly whispered, “Like my Cybil.” I turned back to her and said, “Merci mille fois.” I returned to Mr. Thompson’s class.

“Can I put on headphones and practice singing with him, sir?”

“Sure.” He plugged in the headphones and pressed play setting the song to keep looping. I listened a few times to get the lyrics down. I then closed my eyes and began to sing with Florent and each verse started to take on meaning. I sang “Pour bercer un enfant” and the memories of holding Alice, Brian, Carol and being there for the birth of Samantha flooded my soul. I sang ‘pour quelqu'un qui s'en va, pour ne pas cesser de vivre’ and could feel Cybil’s hand as she left this world. I sang “couvrant les fusillades” and thought of the two shots I heard just a week or so ago that ended a life. Each lyric brought a memory back. I sang my heart out. Tears flowed silently from my eyes. I felt every word cleanse my soul adding more meaning to the verse of the song, “pour oublier ses peines,” which means sing to forget our pains.

At the end of the song, I opened my eyes. Mary held me because she could see I was about to collapse from the release of so much sadness and grief. About half the class was in front of me listening to me and the rest were silent where they were with their eyes fixed on me. They were watching me the whole time I was singing I think. They began to applaud.

“I didn’t understand a word, Jackie, but, wow!” said Grace.

Dean winked at me and said, “N-nice! Y-you s-sing so p-pretty.” I hugged him and said thank you.

Mr. Thompson smiled at me, “I think you can see now why you are our secret weapon. No one has dared do a solo in a contemporary tune in a foreign language in competition because the words have little meaning to them. It takes real passion to sing like that and lose yourself in the words. You have that passion Jackie.”

“Thank you Mr. Thompson. It seems if I say no now, the class will revolt.” Mary smiled and squeezed me.

The week passed by quickly. I called Bill and told him about Tommy Hinks. He said he would take care of it. My classes became more normal and the feeling of being off elsewhere disappeared in the routine of daily activities. My tan slowly faded and no one seemed to notice it anymore. Saturday, my Dad asked me to dress up. He decided to take me to a local hotel for lunch that had a high end restaurant. He wanted to spend time with me alone. As we entered the hotel, we bumped into an old friend of his from school whose daughter was getting married.

“Paul, I haven’t seen you for years. How are you doing?”

“What are you doing here Alan, I thought you moved to Louisville?”

“Yes, I did. But my little girl grew up and met a boy from here. And well, they just got married. We are having the reception here. My gosh, if I had known you might be in town, I could have sent you an invitation. I am so sorry that we lost touch with each other. What brings you here today?”

“I am having lunch with my youngest daughter. We still live here as a matter of fact. Samantha, this is my long lost friend Alan Carlson. We went to high school together. He was in the grade ahead of me.”

“Hello Mr. Carlson. It is a pleasure to meet you, sir.” I put out my hand and we lightly shook hands.

“Well, I will leave you to have lunch with your very beautiful and polite daughter. Be sure and poke your head into the reception. I would like to introduce you to the family. I must get your information. My new son-in-law works at the local hospital as a radiologist. So, we are going to be visiting frequently. We would love to see you again.”

Dad and I had a pleasant lunch. I had lamb chops with mint sauce and asparagus. The conversation was wonderful. Dad told me about the new bypass they were working on that would allow quicker access to the Interstate into downtown. He discussed all the politics he was having to put up with which had me laughing and giggling. I talked about my being Duncan’s girlfriend and driving Roger nuts. Then I recounted the things I learn at Sovereign Hill. I mentioned the solo Mr. Thompson wanted me to do for the competition. Dad was impressed.

Afterwards, we went by the reception to say hello to Mr. Carlson. The room was filled with wedding guests. I figure that there were about two-hundred and fifty people there. The bride and groom were at their table. We went to the table for the bride’s parents.

“Paul, this is my wife Francesca, my son Devon, and my younger brother Oscar, whom you might remember since you were both in the same class.”

“Good to see you again, Oscar. Have you done your father daughter dance yet, Alan?”

“In about three songs or so. Why?” Dad leaned over and whispered something in his ear. Mr. Carlson smiled and said, “I will be right back.”

“What was all that about Dad?”

“Oh, I asked him to return a favor. I found a way for him to go to the prom years ago with the girl of his dreams at the moment and he is going to repay the favor. By the way, he married that girl sweetheart.” I looked at my Dad and wondered what he was up to now. He seemed very giddy to me.

Mr. Carlson came back and winked at him. “All arranged Paul.”

“Thank you so much, Alan.”

“My pleasure. I have a soft spot for spoiling daughters too.” Mr. Carlson beamed at me.

I looked at Dad with a questioning look. His answer took me by surprise. “Honey, did I tell you that after the father-daughter dance I went to your Mom’s friend Denise and had her teach me how to waltz during my lunch breaks. I have been studying for almost a month it seems. I didn’t want to disappoint you again if the chance ever came up again. I was thinking maybe Valentine’s Day. But, I think this will do.”

“No Dad. Honestly, you didn’t disappoint me.” I looked up at him and he smiled. I knew he didn’t believe me.

“Yes, I did. But not this time.” He took my hand and led me to the dance floor to join everyone else. The last song stopped and he took his position with me in a classic waltz pose. I put my hands around him as best as I could with his being so much taller than I and assumed a classic waltz pose too. The DJ announced a waltz and the music started. It was the Blue Danube.

My Dad began to lead me in a waltz step. One, two, three. One, two, three. I found myself flowing around the room in his arms. He looked down at me and beamed at one point almost causing a misstep. I heard him say, “Well, your Mom says that if I am going to ask you to be a girl, I should treat you like one.”

We lost ourselves in the music. My Dad had greatly improved and it showed. I felt my skirt move and sway to the music as we danced to the luscious music of Strauss. He twirled me around and promenaded me like a pro this time. The music was slow enough for us to get used to each other’s movements and adapt. Soon we were all over the dance floor. We were getting better and letting lose. I looked up into his eyes and they were twinkling with delight. I think he was getting the hang of being a Dad with his daughter. He was loving me as only a Dad can. It was a softer side to him that I was seeing. As the song came to a conclusion, he released me and I twirled to a stop almost in front of the table of the Carlson’s. I deep curtseyed to Dad and he bowed to me. Mr. Carlson applauded. He then took my hand and led me off the dance floor.

“Thank you Alan. You have no idea how much that meant to me.” My dad gave him a hug.

“Well, I have to follow that with my poor dancing. Paul, you didn’t tell me your dancing would make me look bad. But, it was beautiful watching you two, so I forgive you. And thank you for letting me do that for you Paul. You are going to make a graceful and beautiful bride one day Samantha. And I know you will break your Dad’s heart just like my Andrea did mine tonight. So you be gentle.” I smiled and blushed.

“Thank you, Mr. Carlson.” I took Dad’s arm and we headed out. It was a wonderful end to a Daddy date.

Once out of the room, I took Dad’s arm and put it around me and held on to him as we left the building. I enjoyed feeling his strength and love.

I felt like a million bucks and very happy. “Thank you Daddy. You certainly know how to treat your little girl right.” I felt his precious hug in response.

Any sense of guilt over the last few weeks left me. This girl was whole again and ready for more.

Copyright © 2017 by AuP reviner

[author’s note: As I write, I often play songs on Youtube that speak of each character. Samantha’s video is very particular. It is an eleven-year-old girl that won a Kid’s Voice competition. She matches closely how I imagined Samantha when I first starting writing her character. I based Sam in the beginning on the looks of a boy I knew in high school who could have, if he wanted to, passed for a girl. When I saw this video, I realized that she was his doppelganger after a fashion. Here is the video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cODUw5uH7cY – AuP ]



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