Copyright © 2013 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved
Vickie sat contentedly in the big, soft chair, watching Cliff feed the baby. As usual, he was getting more on himself than in Angela. Their five‑year‑old was coloring at the table, and their oldest, the twelve‑year‑old, was patiently
disembowling[M1] an obsolete HCC300. She [M2] let out a soft sigh of satisfaction. It hadn’t all
been easy. But they
had, side by side, built the white picket fence around Cliff’s house, making it
their home, and side by side had built Hawkesclyffe Computers into one of the
four leading computer companies in the world. They’d had a lot of help, of
course. John had proven himself invaluable in selecting and nurturing the
business ventures they’d chosen. Hannah had helped raise Matt, then when Kate
came along, it turned out she had not only seven sons but a few daughters too,
and one of them was always here helping with Kate or, now, Angela.
The baby finished her bottle and Cliff expertly sat her up and burped her. After a very large belch from a very small child, he settled her back in his arms and rocked her, humming softly. The baby smiled at her father, cooed a bit, then settled off to sleep. After a while Cliff caught Vickie’s eye, looked heavenward as if to say
‘at last ,’
and slowly rose with his precious bundle. She heard him carefully climbing the
stairs to the nursery. Vickie chuckled to herself. Angela was a wonderful baby,
but not a very good sleeper. It was just as possible Cliff would return with
Angela as without her.
Triumphantly Cliff appeared in the doorway. Vickie put down
Kate’s blue jeans, which she had
been patching again, and applauded silently. He came over to
her and kissed her gently on the lips before returning to his chair and a
hardware magazine he had been reading[M3] .
“Oh, yuck,” the twelve‑year‑old said.
“You won’t be saying that in another year or so,” his father admonished him
. “And what about
that little brunette in your science class?”
“Aw, Dad. Judy’s just a friend.”
“Uh‑huh. Speaking of class, have you finished your homework?”
Matt experienced sudden hearing loss, something Vickie had found endemic to children of all ages. “Matthew,” she said sternly. “You know homework is important, especially if you’re going to keep skipping grades
like this[M4] .” He was
already in high school, and showed every promise of finishing that in three
years. Vickie hadn’t been sure it was good for him, but Cliff had reassured her.
“I skipped several grades, and look how well I turned out.” She had, of course,
teased him unmercifully about that. Who could turn down such a perfect straight
line? But, in her secret opinion, [M5] Cliff had turned out marvelously well, so she
had stopped worrying about Matt.
“I’m done with my trig and biology, Dad. I just have my English comp assignment left.”
“Well, what’s stopping you?”
“I don’t know what to write about. I’m supposed to do a three‑page paper about some family story, you know, like ‘Our Summer Vacation’ or ‘The Day the Cat Nearly Got Broiled’ or something like that. But our family is so boring. We don’t have any interesting stories
to write about.”[M6]
Cliff raised an eyebrow at Vickie. “What about how I met your mother?”
at Cliff in surprise. [M7] After they had
returned from the Middle East, she
had [M8] told the story several times to all their closest
friends, and then to whoever would sit still long enough; but Cliff had never
mentioned it. She
always had wondered about it from his
perspective. “This should be good.”
“It had better be,” the twelve‑year‑old muttered, but he dutifully got out his notebook computer. Cliff had
agreed to supply
the school with these tiny, mighty computers, to encourage use of
computers in routine life.
“Well,” began Cliff, “once upon a time
“Hey, is this going to be a fairy tale? If it is, I just may barf.”
Matt made a face, but his father ignored him, continuing his story.
“Once upon a time, there was a man who was unfulfilled. Oh, he had money, and he had his health, and friends, and the start of a good career, but there was something missing.”
“Kids,” interjected Matt.
“Like money?” Matt asked.
“Don’t interrupt. Oh, okay, yes. Like money, career, friends
“A great body,” Vickie murmured.
“I heard that. No more comments from the peanut gallery, either of you
. At any rate, he
tried to fill in the void in his life by doing good things. One day, he was scheming the downfall of a particularly nasty bad guy who showed every sign of trying to take over a country from a good guy, when the man found out the bad guy had done something…well, bad. ‘The bad guy has kidnapped a computer specialist from your country,’ some fellow in power told him.”
“Dad, this is getting a little confusing. There’s a man, a good guy,
bad guy, and a computer specialist and some
fellow in power? Is the man the good guy or the bad guy? And the fellow in
power is a computer specialist? Could we have names here?”
Cliff rolled his eyes. “Adolescents. Oh, okay. So The Chief says to Sir Nigel—that’s the man who’s unfulfilled—he says, ‘We think Col. Azaz has kidnapped and brought the computer specialist, Mr. Johns, into this country. Could you be on the lookout for him, Sir Nigel?”
“Help me Obi‑Wan, you’re my only hope
nodded eagerly. He was a big fan of old classics. “Okay, so then what
“Well, no sooner does he get himself settled in, and starts preparing for the night’s investigation when he hears running. And where there’s running, there’s usually trouble.”
“Especially in disreputable hotels,” Matt agreed.
“Sir Nigel hears a
particularly light set of footsteps in
the hall outside his door. He hears a doorknob rattle, not his. He hears other,
heavier steps thunder up the stairs. He prepares to go out and do battle, when
suddenly the door flies open and into his room floats the most beautiful
creature he has ever seen. Her hair is like golden silk, her perfect body is
clothed in the lightest
fairy gown. She stares at him, and he wants to say, ‘Do not be afraid of me,
lovely creature, I will not harm you,’ but the sound of the thugs in the hall
kicks his gonads out of his brain and he starts to think again.
“Sir Nigel realizes this probably is ‘Mr.’ Johns, the kidnapped computer specialist. Also, knowing Col. Azaz’s penchant for
he understands immediately the reason for her being here. He doesn’t know if
her pursuers pack firearms or not, and he has only seconds to think of a plan. He is about
to panic when inspiration strikes. ‘Kiss her, dummy,’ a voice says to him.
“‘What?’ he responds, for
he is thinking
a bit slowly tonight. ‘
Get her on the bed and kiss her. They won’t see her if you’re in the way.’
he says, suddenly seeing the light. He lifts her onto the bed, wishing he could
find some way of telling her his plan, and kisses her.
“Sir Nigel does not mean to kiss her for real but her lips are like spun sugar and her skin like creamy velvet. The men come in, unarmed, but he could care less now. He just wishes they would go away. He says something to them which is the equivalent of a gorilla thumping
chest, and they do at last go away. Sir Nigel is about to return to the land of
milk and honey when inspiration strikes him again.
“‘Get her out of here,’ the voice says, startling him into leaping away from the beautiful woman. He is grateful for the voice only later. He cools down a bit, then looks back at the woman. She is about to go into shock, probably from his brutish kiss, he thinks ruefully. He attempts to get her some warm clothing, but the only thing he has
around are his own coarse shirts. So
he offers her one, but she will have nothing to do with it. He does not blame
her, after all, she is obviously used to only fine clothes next to her satiny skin, and his clothes are rough and
plain. He attempts to joke about it, and gets the surprise of his life.
“The beautiful creature looks him straight in the eye and jokes back. Sir Nigel is flabbergasted. What kind of woman is this? ‘The woman you have been looking for all your life,’ the voice tells him, but this is obvious. He gives her another shirt to hide her magnificent hair, arms himself, and, instead of going out the door, gives himself an excuse to touch her again by using the window as an exit.
“Now Sir Nigel and the beautiful computer specialist race among the
tops, trying to lose their
pursuers. The lovely woman’s presence is distracting Sir Nigel more and more,
so at his first opportunity he puts her down, forgetting about her fragile
build and delicate skin. She valiantly attempts to follow the lout, but falls
and hurts herself. Sir Nigel hears her cries of pain, and returns to her,
terribly angry with himself. Unfortunately the bad men have heard her also. Sir
Nigel had planned to cross between this building and the
next by rope, because the gap is
too far for him to jump, but now there is
no time. He is even angrier with himself. He picks the lady up, and foolishly
attempts the jump anyway. It is only because of her goodness (“Or good luck,”
Vickie inserted) that they make it. It is certainly not because of Sir Nigel’s
brain. Even with the lady’s goodness, however, they almost do not
make it. As Sir Nigel’s hand is slipping, he calls out to her for help. Amazingly,
she manages, even in her hurt state, to climb onto his back, freeing his other
hand. They pull up to safety.
“The pursuers have also managed to get to the top of this building.
not have guns, Sir Nigel allows
himself to vent some of his anger on these hoodlums. That the beautiful woman
is watching and may be impressed does not
hurt. He takes care of all but one of the men, who has escaped
to find reinforcements.
Sir Nigel turns to the beautiful woman. Her eyes are shining, her lips are
glossy, and he realizes she still has her wits about her. He has one of two
alternatives. He can either take her to a boat he knows waits in harbor, which
will take her to safety, or he can try to seduce her.
“He is leaning toward seduction when inspiration hits him over the head again. ‘Don’t be more of a fool than you can help,’ the voice tells him. ‘If you’re going to seduce this one, do it right.’
But how is that,’ I ask.
You know who she is. Let her get back to the States, and then court her.
It will be
more comfortable than a roof top,
and besides, if you screw up, which you’re likely to do, you’ll have another
chance. Here, you’ll just get shot.’
“I had to acknowledge that the voice was
probably right, so I picked up the lovely woman and took her straight to
the boat. And immediately left her there, too, lest my treacherous libido get the
better of me.”
“Hey, Dad, I thought this was about Sir Nigel. How come you keep saying ‘I’?”
have used Sir Humphrey. That’s
how I met your mother, Matt.”
Matt stared fish‑eyed at his father. “You’re kidding. Really? That’s great! It’s better than a fairy tale, because it’s got sex in it, too!” And he began to intently type.
his eyes again. [M11]
“Adolescents. Is that all they think about, sex?” He looked at his wife of
thirteen years. “When do they grow out of it, do you think?”
Vickie smiled patiently. “About never, I think.”
He smiled back. “Thank goodness.”
After the kids had gone to bed, Cliff and Vickie were sitting alone in the room. Vickie had finished her patching and was working a crossword puzzle. Cliff was sitting on the floor, trying to put the HCC300 back together and failing miserably. Finally he gave up, sighing. “I used to know how this thing worked.” Then he looked more closely at it. “Now how’d that kid…I wouldn’t have thought of that.” He tinkered some more,
Vickie put down her puzzle and joined him on the floor, hugging his still‑massive shoulders. He kissed her lightly, then leaned back. “Do you miss it?”
“The excitement. Evading kidnappers. Getting drunk. Staying out until one in the morning.”
“We stayed out until one last Saturday when Tess and John got a sitter for the kids and took us out for our anniversary.”
“You know what I mean.”
She laughed. “Yes, I know what you mean. And sure, I miss it. It was part of the life we had together, then. It was fun, then. And
secure, too, because it will never change. [M12]
It’s sort of archived, just waiting for retrieval, and it always has a happy
He kissed her collarbone, murmuring, “Not like now?”
She suppressed a giggle. “Now is always changing. You used to call it the bleeding edge. We never know if
it will have
a happy ending, so I guess that’s why it never seems as good.” She swatted at
his hand, which was wandering under her sweater. “But it is as good. Better. Because
you know why?”
“What kind of grammar is that?”
“My kind. Just answer the question.”
“Because I love you, Victoria Lynn Hawkesclyffe?”
She smiled, relaxing under his caressing hand. “Because the bottom line is that we love each other. We have all the past, all the present, and all the future. We have our family, our friends, our career, and each other.”[M13]
“Phew. Sounds like a lot of work.”
“Phew,” she mimicked him. “Sounds like it’s worth it. Hey,” she swatted at his hand again. “Stop that!”
But he didn’t stop, not for a long, long time.
[M2]We know it's Vickie but by the rules, the last name is Angela and the last noun is the 12 yo. Best to be clear.
[M3]This was too much stuff between the kiss and the 12yo's reaction. While it's not difficult to look back on a book page, it's much more likely this would be a new page on an ereader.
[M8]contractions are closer POV--an omniscient/distant authority might write do not, she had; in my head I'm thinking dono't and she'd.
I've since found out that r [M11]olling the eyes indicates a level of disdain I didn't think was appropriate.