I'm sort of in the process of just working on what is speaking to me at a particular moment. That's very common for me right now. --Bruce Springsteen, January 9th, 2014

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

"The One"

Blogging Friends.... Cliffhangers--whether they be on television shows or in books--I absolutely hate them!! {Do. Not. Dare. Leave. This. Crazy-never-shuts-down. Head. Of. Mine. In. Suspense!!} I need another season. {Wait. What?! It was cancelled?! Why....?!} Or.... I need to keep reading. {Where is the next book?! Has it been written yet?} Well.... Is it just me, or did I leave last month's fictional story on a cliffhanger? Whoops. That was purely unintentional!! So!! Despite telling everybody--myself included--that I could never write a book series, because I possess far too many names, characters and stories within this crazy head of mine.... I've done it!! Dear Blogging Friends, Readers and Followers.... I present part two in my very first fictional book series!! Because I, for one, needed an ending!! But there is a catch. In order to follow through with "The One", you must first read "Freedom Isn't Free"!! So!! Happy reading!! Love you later.

Note. I broke twain records while writing this fictional story. One.... It is--thus far!!--my longest ever. I have worked very, very, very hard on cutting it down to size!! In my own defense!! Two.... It took approximately three weeks and three days to write!! Oh yeah. This fictional story also took me four days to edit!! Why? Because my entire Summer has happily consisted of this. Sunday.... Write!! Go to church. Spend time with Rosey. Dance to Bruce Springsteen!! Monday.... Write!! Spend the entire day with my twelve year old cousin. Dance to Bruce!! Spend time with Rosey. Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday.... Write!! Spend the entire day with my nieces "Amethyst" and "Opal". Dance to Bruce!! Spend time with Rosey. I am doing it all and I've made it work!! Somehow.... So please.... Read, comment, and just enjoy my hard work!! Because.... I certainly had fun creating it!!
    
"The One"

Resilience. It is a positive human characteristic that everybody possesses!! Although some people are seemingly more resilient than others!! Because, honestly, hard times come to us all in this broken, fallen, sinful world and we must persevere. Resilience. It is also a human constant!! But in order to show true resilience, you must fall first. That is a given. Well.... Johonna just so happens to fit this very description of resilience!! Because after her lover Timothy's death? She suffered through four stages of grief. Denial. Bargaining. Anger. Acceptance. And--like he promised--her friend, Trenton, patiently helped Johonna through every single stage!! Well, as best as humanly possible, sans being a trained therapist, that is!! And, despite Johonna's unbearable loss, she--over the course of time--showed incredible resilience!!

First came denial.

"This did not happen to me," Johonna firmly said one day while inside her dormitory, "No. No. No. No. No!! Timmy.... Is not...."

Johonna paused at the word "dead". As though saying it would make her lover's passing Reality.

"Timmy.... Is not.... Dead!!" said Johonna, "He is still alive somewhere in Iraq!! And I am going to see him again!! I can feel it!! Timmy.... Will come back to me!! I can feel it!!"

"Johonna...." Trenton gently and patiently--yet firmly--began, "Timothy. Is. Dead--"

"No!!" screamed Johonna, "You are lying!! No, no, no, no, no!! Timmy.... Is still alive!!"

"You attended his memorial service," Trenton gently continued, "Remember? Timothy's Mom even handed you a folded up, unfinished, handwritten letter. Remember? I, myself, was there when you read it aloud."

"'Freedom isn't free'," whispered Johonna.

"Those are somber words," said Trenton, 'Freedom isn't free'."

"Those words are so true, too," said Johonna, "Because freedom is definitely not free. And no matter how.... It.... Happened.... Timmy.... Is a courageous hero who gave his very.... Life.... For our nation. So that Americans--like you and I--can continue to enjoy their freedoms."

"Timothy's death was sudden and unexpected," Trenton gently said, "I think that is why you are experiencing these feelings of denial. Johonna, this is natural and completely normal."

"It would not ever happen to me...." added Johonna, as wet, hot, tears streamed down her cheeks like a Portland, Oregon rainfall, "Losing.... Timmy.... In Iraq.... That was the lie I told myself.... It could not ever happen to me.... Other wives? Sure. Other husbands? Certainly. Other girlfriends? Yes. But me? No...."

"I understand...." Trenton gently said, "Nobody ever wants to 'go there' when it concerns the death of a loved one. Believe me."

Although it took time, Trenton did--eventually--help Johonna overcome those feelings of denial!!

One overcast, gloomy, rainy Saturday morning, he called her with a last minute request.

"Hi, Johonna!!" Trenton said, "It is--as you can probably already tell--pouring down rain outside!! I am watching Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby today!! They are five little three-year old balls of boundless energy right now!! How about we drive to OMSI for the day?"

Johonna could hear Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby happily screaming in the background.

"Alright!!" she said, "Being so busy with work and college, I have only had the time to go there once!! Timmy.... He was not able to come with me.... So I drove there all by myself!! I remember that I liked OMSI!! It was a neat, educational place!!"

So Trenton--with Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby--picked up Johonna in Katharina's blue-colored Chevrolet minivan at her dormitory to drive toward Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, or OMSI. Although they successfully found a parking space, there were crowds of people there!!

"Wow!!" said Trenton, "I guess everybody else had the same idea!! 'It is pouring down rain outside.... So let's go to OMSI'!!"

"I guess so!!" said Johonna.

As always, there were endless educational exhibits to explore at OMSI!! When they entered its prenatal development room, Johonna smiled hugely!! Then, like an enthusiastic tourist, she happily lead Annie, Angel and Abby toward every single display!! From a button that their little hands can push to activate a "kicking" baby. Very descriptive pictures of the male and female reproductive systems. Several cases that displayed actual real embryos--plus fetuses--which ranged from six weeks to thirty-two weeks.

"Annie, Angel, Abby!!" Johonna said, "This was my most very favorite room when I came here!! Do you know why?"

Annie, Angel and Abby shook their heads "no".

"Why?" the blond-haired, blue-eyed quintuplet sisters asked in unison.

"Because I've always--ever since I was a girl--wanted to be a Mama," answered Johonna.

I wonder if.... Timmy and I.... Would have ever had children....? she wistfully thought, Now.... I guess I'll.... Never.... Know....

"Maybe you will have kids someday," said Annie.

"Yeah!!" said Angel.

"Hey, it could happen!!" said Abby, "Never lose hope!!"

Johonna smiled. Annie, Angel and Abby just snapped her out of that little pity party!! Johonna quickly wiped away a wet, hot, tear.

"That is sort of what you girls looked like in your Mama's tummy," she explained while at the cases of embryos and fetuses, "See? You started out so tiny but then your little bodies grew and grew and grew bigger!!"

"Wait a minute," commented Annie, as she pointed to the cases, "But that is just one baby!!"

"Not five!!" added Angel.

"Yeah, when we were inside Mommy's tummy, there was us and our brothers!!" explained Abby, "One, two, three, four, five babies!!"

Johonna quietly laughed.

"You are absolutely right!!" she said, with a smile written on her face, "There were five babies inside your Mama's tummy!! You girls are so smart!! There were five babies {And not one} inside your Mama's tummy because you are quintuplets!! Oh, Annie, Angel and Abby!! You girls are way too smart for your own good!! Wow...."

After exploring every single educational exhibit, Trenton and Johonna lead five very exhausted, whiny, nap-deprived, argumentative quintuplets into the OMSI science store. There they purchased them each a toy!!

On the drive back to her dormitory--as Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby slept peacefully in their car seats--Johonna thanked Trenton for this fun-filled day.

"It was such a much-needed distraction from.... Losing Timmy.... And my ongoing grief," she said.

"I am so glad!!" replied Trenton.

But Johonna's heart and soul were far from healed. For the next stage of grief that she'd suffer through would be bargaining. And--like he promised--Trenton lovingly helped Johonna through this!!

"Timmy.... Never should have been deployed to Iraq," said Johonna one day while inside Trenton's house, "Oh, if only I did not let him go!! I should have stopped.... Timmy.... From being sent overseas!!"

"Johonna...." Trenton gently and patiently--yet firmly--began, "How could you have possibly been able to prevent Timothy from being deployed overseas? It was his duty and calling--"

"Timmy.... Would have stayed home.... Of I asked him to...." interrupted Johonna.

Once again, wet, hot, tears streamed down her cheeks like a Portland, Oregon rainfall.

"Oh, I should have asked.... Timmy.... To stay safe at home...." said Johonna, "With me...."

"Timothy would have gone to Iraq, anyway," Trenton gently continued, "His entire Army unit was being deployed overseas!! He would not have been the man left behind. For a deep, unselfish, love of his country, freedom, family--and you--called him to Iraq!!"

"Timmy.... Is a courageous hero who gave his very.... Life.... For our nation," said Johonna, "So that Americans--like you and I--can continue to enjoy their freedoms. I can feel it."

"You just keep reminding yourself over and over and over of those comforting words," Trenton gently said.

He paused for a minute.

"Timothy's death was--and is--completely beyond your control," Trenton gently continued, "I think that's why you are experiencing these feelings of bargaining. Johonna, this is natural and completely normal."

"You mean you're saying...." said Johonna, "That none of this.... Timmy.... Being deployed overseas.... His.... Death.... Nothing.... Is within my control....?"

"Exactly!!" Trenton gently said, "After all, you did not shoot down Timothy's helicopter. Right? You did not cause Timothy to die."

Although it took time, Trenton did--eventually--help Johonna overcome those feelings of bargaining!!

One unseasonable, beautiful, sunny, clear-sky Saturday morning in Winter, he called her with yet another last minute request.

"What do you say we drive to Wildwood?" suggested Trenton, "I will pack a lunch and pick you up at your dorm!! Do you like strawberry cream cheese bagels? Double Stuf Oreo cookies? Cheetos Puffs? Vanilla Coke? And, of course, water?"

Johonna laughed.

"You sure do enjoy making spur-of-the-moment decisions!!" she exclaimed.

"Yeah!!" said Trenton, "Spur-of-the-moment decisions keep Life exciting!! So.... What do you think? Wildwood? Strawberry cream cheese bagels? Double Stuf Oreo cookies? Cheetos Puffs? Vanilla Coke....? I am going shopping at WinCo!!"

"Alright!!" said Johonna, "Let's go to Wildwood!! I have never been there before!! And you know what? I have also never had a strawberry cream cheese bagel before, either!! That sounds yummy!!"

"You have never had a strawberry cream cheese bagel before?!" exclaimed Trenton, "Well!! Then, you are in for a treat!!"

"We cannot ever go wrong with Cheetos Puffs, Double Stuf Oreo cookies and Vanilla Coke...." continued Johonna, "But...."

"What?" asked Trenton.

"You are doing everything," said Johonna, "Driving me to Wildwood. Buying the food and drinks. Shouldn't I contribute something, too?"

"Nah!!" said Trenton, "Just contribute your presence!!"

Oh, Trenton, you are so sweet!! Johonna caught herself thinking, with a smile written on her face.

She then froze mentally, emotionally and physically.

Whoa, whoa, whoa!! wondered Johonna, Am I falling for Trenton?! But it is way too soon after.... Timmy.... Died!!

Johonna suddenly felt confused by complex thoughts, feelings and emotions. She wiped a wet, hot, tear from her eye.

"Will Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby come with us?" Johonna quickly asked.

"Not this time," answered Trenton, "Their Daddy has today off from work!!"

As soon as they arrived at Wildwood, Johonna handed Trenton a small-sized baby blue-colored gift bag. For she had done some shopping of her own!!

"What is this?" he asked.

"You said to only contribute my presents," said Johonna, with a smirk written on her face, "No pun intended!!"

"Ha. Ha. Ha." said Trenton, with a smile written on his face, "Tell me. What is inside the gift bag?"

"Open it and see for yourself!!" said Johonna.

"Okay...." said Trenton.

He opened the gift bag. Beneath flimsy, cream-colored paper lie a golden cross necklace and hoop earrings!!

"Wow!!" said Trenton.

"You are always wearing necklaces and earrings...." explained Johonna.

"I love them!!" said Trenton.

"And you have been such a good, faithful, friend to me as I grieve.... Timmy's.... Death...." said Johonna, "This is just a little token of thanks!!"

Trenton used his car's window to see as he put the cross necklace and hoop earrings on.

"Thank-you!!" he said.

They carried Trenton's cooler and reusable bag toward a weathered, dirty, moss-covered, wooden picnic table.

"This place is beautiful!!" said Johonna as they ate, "The trees are so tall, they practically reach up and touch those broad, blue skies!! Look!! It is a cute little chipmunk!! So, have you lived in Oregon your entire Life?"

"Yep!!" said Trenton, "I was born and raised here!! It is home, sweet home to me!! But you're not from Oregon, you said?"

"Nope!!" answered Johonna, "I am from back East!!"

"Wow!!" said Trenton, "You are, like, thousands of miles away from home and family!! So you're here to attend college. Right? What are you attending college for, exactly?"

"To be a kindergarten teacher," answered Johonna, "Because I love children and educating young, curious minds!!"

"You will be a wonderful teacher someday!!" encouraged Trenton, "You're great with Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby!! They really look up to you!!"

"But, I.... Uh.... I dropped out of college," Johonna sheepishly confessed, with a weak smile written on her face, "Because it reminded me far too much.... Of.... Timmy.... I mean, that college was where.... We met. Timmy.... And I used to.... Attend classes together. Timmy.... And I used to.... study together. Everything about that college.... And chasing our ambitions.... Now just reminds me of.... Timmy.... And I cannot go back...."

Wet, hot, tears streamed down Johonna's face like a Portland, Oregon rainfall.

"So now I'm currently apartment and/or house-hunting, because I cannot live in my dorm room anymore...." she continued.

Johonna wiped wet, hot, tears from her eyes.

Trenton just sat at the picnic table--speechless--yet completely nonjudgmental.

"Is that a swing set over there?!" Johonna quickly said while pointing to a playground and wiping away her tears, "I love those things!! Riding on swing sets always makes me feel like I am flying high in the air!!"

"Really....?" said Trenton, "Would you like to swing with me?"

"Sure!!" said Johonna.

Then, while abandoning their food on the picnic table, they playfully--and childishly--ran toward that swing set!!

"I think I'm hyped on caffeine from my Vanilla Coke!!" said Trenton, with a huge grin written on his face, "Let's see who can swing the highest!!"

"Bring it!!" said Johonna.

They sat on their selected swings. In unison {Like trained Olympic gold-medal-winning synchronized divers} Trenton and Johonna pulled their legs back. Then {Two by two} they swung their bodies forward. Trenton and Johonna flew higher, higher, higher.... Laughing all the way. They screamed and hollered in delight. It was a very close finish. However. Johonna swung the highest!!

"You did it!!" said Trenton, "Your swing swung the highest!! Congrats!!"

"I win!!" announced Johonna for anyone within earshot to hear, "You lose!!"

Then--suddenly--Trenton found himself looking lovingly at Johonna. And--almost flirtatiously--he smiled at her.

Johonna is kind of cute when she wins!! Trenton could not help but think.

Oh my gosh.... thought Johonna, I saw the look. It was in his eyes.... And the way Trenton smiled at me.... I know that look all too well. Because.... Timmy.... Used to.... Look at me the same exact way....

Once again, Johonna felt confused by complex thoughts, feelings and emotions. She wiped away a wet, hot, tear from her eye.

"What else is there to do and see at Wildwood?" Johonna quickly asked.

"Oh, lots of things!!" said Trenton, "We can hike down to the boardwalk!! It overlooks a body of water!! But sometimes you can see and hear birds as they fly through!! Once, I witnessed a pretty--yet very noisy--red-winged blackbird!!"

"Cool!!" said Johonna.

"We can also walk a bridge!!" continued Trenton, "And from there we just have to hike down toward the Salmon River!! You can dip your feet in refreshing waters!! Or.... You can throw rocks into it as though you're a little kid!!"

"That sounds like fun!!" said Johonna.

"We can also walk down to an underwater viewing of various fish!!" finished Trenton, "Well.... That is if you enjoy watching fish swim around!! Me? I find it boring!!"

"Yeah, my favorite kind of fish is breaded and fried!!" said Johonna, with a huge smile written on her face, "Well, what are we waiting for?! Stop talking and let's go!!"

They packed up Trenton's cooler and reusable bag.

"So, where do you want to go first?" asked Trenton, as they walked back toward his car.

"The boardwalk!!" answered Johonna.

"Good choice!!" said Trenton, "The boardwalk it is!! Onward ho!!"

So Trenton and Johonna walked through the baseball field. Then they found a trail. Trenton and Johonna hiked through some woods until quickly reaching their destination. The boardwalk!! It felt long and winding, because they were walking very slowly, observing nature's many different surroundings.

As Johonna sniffed the air, her nose turned up.

"What is that smell?!" she asked.

"It's skunk cabbage!!" he answered.

"Oh!!" said Johonna, "It stinks!!"

Along the boardwalk--which was partially shaded by towering trees--Trenton noticed a bright yellow bird flying through.

"Look!!" he whispered to Johonna, "I wonder what kind of bird that is?"

"I do not know!!" Johonna whispered, as she looked closely, "He has a black 'bib' on his chest!!"

"Wait!!" Trenton whispered, as he looked a little closer, "I think I know what kind of bird that is!! It's a Western Meadowlark!! That is Oregon's state bird!! Wow.... I have seen countless pictures of Western Meadowlarks, but I've never actually witnessed one before!!"

"Really....?" whispered Johonna.

To Trenton and Johonna's delight, the Western Meadowlark then opened his mouth and sang beautifully.

"You sure do know your birds!!" whispered Johonna, "I am impressed!! And we do not even have any bird books with us!! You never had to look the Western Meadowlark up on your Smartphone!!"

"Yeah, I like birds," said Trenton with a shrug.

Then they both just stood there for several speechless minutes, watching the Western Meadowlark!! Trenton pulled out his camera and attempted to snap some pictures. Finally, he spread his wings and flew away!!

Once they reached the boardwalk's end where it overlooks murky, oily-looking water, there was very little shade. But neither Trenton nor Johonna even cared!! It felt hot and blinding as sunbeams touched the water. Then they were suddenly distracted by a little garden snake!! She popped her tiny head in and out, in and out, in and out from under the boardwalk's cracks!! Johonna was utterly mesmerized!! Terrified, Trenton gasped, screamed like a girl, and jumped back in one comical leap so that he could escape that harmless little garden snake!!

"You may like birds...." began Johonna.

She smiled at Trenton.

"....But I think I've found a creature that you do not like!!" Johonna finished, "Me? I love snakes!! Oh, I just wanted to pick her up.... But she slithered away too fast!!"

"Eeek!!" said Trenton, "You are much braver than me!!"

Soon Trenton and Johonna exited the boardwalk.

"Where do you want to go now?" asked Trenton.

"Um...." answered Johonna, "I think you should choose next!!"

"Alright!!" said Trenton, "Let's walk the bridge!!"

So that is what Trenton and Johonna did!!

But before they even set foot onto the long bridge that overlooks a flowing, rushing Salmon River, she quickly picked up twain completely different-looking sticks.

"What are you doing?" asked Trenton, with a quizzical expression written on his face.

"Let's play Pooh sticks!!" she said.

"What?" asked Trenton.

"Pooh sticks!!" said Johonna, "You know...."

Trenton shook his head.

"You have never heard of Pooh sticks?!" said Johonna, a shocked tone in her voice.

"No!!" said Trenton, "Should I have?"

"It is from Winnie the Pooh!!" she explained, "We each take a stick. Toss them over this bridge and into the river. Then we watch our Pooh sticks closely. Whoever's makes it to the other side of this bridge first wins!!"

"You are on!!" said Trenton.

Johonna handed him his Pooh stick.

"Ready....?" she said, "Set...."

"GO!!" Trenton and Johonna said together.

Then--like small children--they dropped each other's Pooh sticks into the Salmon River.

"Go, go, go!!" said Johonna, as she coached her Pooh stick along.

"Come on, come on, come on!!" said Trenton.

His Pooh stick came in first!!

"I won!!" exclaimed Trenton.

"Well done!!" said Johonna.

She attempted to embrace Trenton, but awkwardly stopped herself.

Wait. What?! thought Johonna, Was I seriously just going to hug Trenton?! You know.... Make physical contact with.... Another guy besides.... Timmy....? That somehow feels like cheating on.... Timmy!!

Once again, Johonna felt confused by complex thoughts, feelings and emotions. She blinked back wet, hot, tears.

"Let's walk down the bridge!!" Johonna quickly said.

So they did!!

Then Trenton and Johonna walked down to the Salmon River!!

"Well?" said Trenton, "Do you want to pull off your shoes and feel the river's waters on your feet? Or throw rocks into it?"

"I want to get my feet wet!!" said Johonna.

So they pulled off their shoes!! While sitting side by side on a rock, Trenton and Johonna plunged all four feet into freezing cold waters!! As an immediate reaction, she screamed.

"That is cold!!" said Johonna.

But she did not take her feet out of the Salmon River!! Trenton grinned at Johonna.

He picked up a small rock and threw it into the Salmon River. Then one, two, three, four.... Trenton's rock skipped across its rushing waters!!

Then Johonna noticed a salmon flip flop her scaly body in and out, in and out, in and out of the river.

"Look!!" she said, "It is a fish!!"

Trenton and Johonna watched the salmon repeatedly perform flips for several minutes. Then a white-headed male Bald Eagle swooped in--from completely out of nowhere!!--and successfully caught that fish!! He flew away with the salmon still in his beak!!

"Did you see that?!" exclaimed Trenton, "Wow.... That Bald Eagle just caught the salmon!!"

"I did!!" said Johonna, "That was neat!!"

On the drive back to her dormitory, Johonna thanked Trenton for this fun-filled day.

"It was such a much-needed distraction from.... Losing Timmy.... And my ongoing grief," she said.

"I am so glad!!" replied Trenton.

But Johonna's heart and soul were far from healed. For the next stage of grief that she'd suffer through would be anger. And--like he promised--Trenton lovingly helped Johonna through this!!

"I am so mad!!" said Johonna one day while inside her dormitory, "I'm angry at the Iraq war for ever happening. You know.... If the Iraq war had never happened, then.... Timmy.... Would still be.... Alive!! This may sound disrespectful.... But I cannot help it. I am just so mad!! I'm angry at President Attenborough for agreeing to send our soldiers overseas in the first place. You know.... If it were not for that decision, then.... Timmy.... Would still be.... Alive!! Why did I ever even vote for President Attenborough?! Huh? Why?! I am so mad!! I'm angry at whoever it was that shot down.... Timmy's helicopter. If I could be face-to-face with them, I'd shoot their sorry little bodies dead!! I mean it. I would!! I am so mad!! I'm angry at Life in general. I am so mad!! I'm even angry at.... Timmy.... For.... Dying. For leaving me feeling like a loner who is now forced to wander this Earth without.... Him. I know this sounds terrible.... But I cannot help it. I am just so mad!! Sometimes I think I even hate.... Timmy.... For joining the Army, going to Iraq and.... Dying. Oh Trenton, I am just so mad!!"

Wet, hot, tears streamed down Johonna's face like a Portland, Oregon rainfall.

Trenton had remained silent the entire time as she expressed her raw thoughts, feelings, emotions and anger. At last he spoke up.

"I understand your feelings of anger," Trenton gently began, "When my beloved--and favorite!!--Uncle Bruce died after a hard battle with multiple sclerosis, I was mad, as well.... Angry at the disease that took his Life. So I actually understand these feelings firsthand."

"I did not know about your Uncle Bruce...." said Johonna.

 "If it weren't for the multiple sclerosis, then he would still be alive," Trenton gently continued, "Those were my exact thoughts, feelings and emotions while grieving our family's loss. Just like with you. You're angry at the Iraq war--and rightfully so--because if it never happened then Timothy would still be alive. But a while later after Uncle Bruce died, I started thinking.... Death can happen in any way, shape or form possible. Whether it be from disease. Or old age and natural causes. Whether it be from a.... Fiery helicopter crash. Or.... An Iraq war casualty. Death is a natural part of Life. It's inevitable. You know what? Uncle Bruce was a middle-aged man when he died from multiple sclerosis-related complications. Several years ago. Chances are, he could still be alive today.... Or not. Because death can happen in any way, shape, form.... Or time.... Possible."

"But.... Timmy...." argued Johonna, "He was only twenty years old!! Not middle aged like your Uncle Bruce. Timmy.... He was still so young!! See.... Timmy.... He had so much Life to live.... With me...."

Once again, wet, hot, tears streamed down Johonna's face like a Portland, Oregon rainfall.

"I think you are feeling this way because Timothy's death seems untimely and not fair," Trenton gently said, "As resulted? You feel like your Life has been somehow ripped off. Right?"

"Yes...." said Johonna, as she wiped away a wet, hot, tear from her eye, "I do feel as though my Life has been ripped off...."

"I think that it is okay {And perfectly normal} to feel anger toward President Attenborough," Trenton gently said, "As long as it is only a stage or season!! Because, yes, President Attenborough did agree to send our soldiers overseas. And, as resulted, Timothy died. So I think you have every right to feel anger toward President Attenborough."

"I do....?" asked Johonna, as she wiped away yet another wet, hot, tear from her eye.

"Yes," Trenton gently and patiently--yet firmly--continued, "Just please do not--in your poor mixed-up grieving mind--arrange for President Attenborough to be assassinated!!"

Trenton smiled at Johonna.

"I guess I should--eventually--forgive the man...." Johonna reluctantly said.

"Exactly!!" Trenton gently and patiently--yet firmly--said, "And speaking of forgiveness. You said that {If you're face-to-face with whoever shot down Timothy's helicopter} then you would shoot them all dead. Well.... I have a few hard questions to ask you. Shoot them all dead.... Like an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth? Revenge? Retaliation? Vengeance? What will that prove? And how would this be any different from what they did.... Or the Iraq war that you currently find yourself so angry at? Huh? How?"

"I never thought about it that way before...." Johonna silently said, "It would be violence for violence, huh....?"

 "Yes!!" Trenton gently said, "You are angry at Life. If I were in your shoes, I think I'd be just as mad--"

"Did you.... Lose.... The love of your Life?" Johonna angrily interrupted, "No. Did you watch him be deployed countless miles away from where your dorm is located? No. Did you feel the separation of an entire world apart and miss your lover terribly while he was gone? No. Did you experience the heartbreakingly empty feeling that is now forever in my heart and soul because he did not come back.... Alive? No. Until you walk one thousand miles in my shoes.... Trenton.... Then you have no idea what it is like!! No idea!!"

Once again, wet, hot, tears streamed down Johonna's face like a Portland, Oregon rainfall.

"I am sorry...." Trenton gently said, "You are absolutely right. I have not even walked one mile in your shoes. I apologize.... For being so inconsiderate of your thoughts, feelings and emotions. Will you please forgive me?"

That was an incredible, real, from-the-heart, sincere apology, thought Johonna, He truly is sorry!!

She nodded her head "yes".

"I think that it is completely normal to feel angry at Life," Trenton gently continued, "Because, after all.... Life did hurl you one nasty curveball. Right? And it is also absolutely okay to feel angry at Life.... For a while. But you cannot live the entire rest of your own Life angry!! There's a Robert Downey Jr. quote that has helped me through certain hard times...."

"'When life is kicking your butt, never forget to kick it back right in the face.' Those words have encouraged me countless times!!"

"'When life is kicking your butt, never forget to kick it back right in the face.'...." Johonna quietly said, "I like that...."

"Timothy loved you," Trenton gently said, "Without a doubt. Tell me, what were his last words to you before being deployed overseas?"

"Timmy.... Actually said: 'I love you!!' 'I love you!!' 'I love you!!', she answered, with a smile written on her face.

"Well?" Trenton gently said, "There you go!!"

Although it took time, Trenton did--eventually--help Johonna overcome those feelings of anger!!

One Wednesday morning, he called her with yet another last minute request.

"Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby keep asking about their Auntie Johonna," said Trenton.

She smiled.

"Their 'Auntie' Johonna?" she said.

"Yeah!!" said Trenton, "That is what they call you!!"

"But I do not know who influenced it!!" Trenton teasingly said, "Kids these days!!"

Johonna laughed.

"I love that Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby call me 'Auntie Johonna'!!" she said, "Awww.... It makes me feel like I am an honorary part of the family!!"

"Well, you are!!" said Trenton.

Oh, Trenton, you're such a sweetheart!! thought Johonna, What on Earth would I ever do without you?!

Johonna suddenly felt her heart pound hard like the rhythm of a skilled, talented, gifted, drummer's beats.

Oh my gosh!! she thought, I have feelings for Trenton!! So that can only mean.... I really am falling for Trenton!! And there is absolutely nothing I can do about it!! Because I know these feelings all too well.... I recognize them from when I fell in love with.... Timmy!! Oh my gosh....!! This feels so unexpected!! I mean.... These feelings for Trenton that I am experiencing are happening all of a sudden!! This feels so unplanned!! I mean.... I was not even looking for love!! No, no, no, no, no. Because.... Timmy.... He is my one true love!! Whoa....
    
Once again, Johonna felt confused by complex thoughts, feelings and emotions. She wiped away a wet, hot, tear from her eye.

"Well?" Johonna quickly said, "What spur-of-the-moment plan do you have for us today?"

Trenton laughed.

"Am I that predictable?!" he said, "Well, as I said, Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby keep asking about their Auntie Johonna. So.... What do you say all seven of us take a day trip to the beach?"

Johonna suddenly felt her eyes fill with uncontrollable, wet, hot, tears.

"Um...." Johonna began, "The beach....? No.... I cannot go there.... Because.... Timmy.... And I have been to the beach.... We walked--hand-in-hand--as freezing cold saltwater touched our bare feet.... Timmy.... He taught me that you can use every one of your five senses at the beach....!! Like hear countless seagulls' high-pitched cries....!! Touch gritty wet sand between our toes....!! See the ocean's foamy waves as they repeatedly come in and out, in and out, in and out....!! Smell numerous fishy scents....!! And taste sweet orange cream-flavored saltwater taffy....!! No.... I cannot go to the beach.... It will only remind me of.... Timmy.... And how romantic the beach can feel when you are walking side-by-side with.... Your lover.... It will only remind me that.... Timmy.... Is no longer.... Here.... With me.... To enjoy the beach...."

Wet, hot, tears were now streaming down Johonna's face like a Portland, Oregon rainfall.

"I am sorry...." said Trenton, "I did not know any of this. Wow.... What a precious memory of Timothy!! Aw.... Always remember that trip to the beach and you can keep Timothy alive forever within your heart and soul!!"

Trenton paused for a minute.

"I just have one quick question," he said, "Which beach did you and Timothy visit?"

"What?" asked Johonna, with a confused expression written on her face, "Why does it matter?"

"Well, there are several different beautiful beaches in Oregon!!" explained Trenton, "Like Lincoln City. Newport. Cannon Beach.... To mention just a few!!"

"Really....?" said Johonna, as she wiped away her wet, hot, tears, "I did not know that!! It was Cannon Beach.... With the memorable Haystack Rock!! That was where.... Timmy.... And I.... visited!! I remember buying postcards and magnets with Haystack Rock on it in gift shops as souvenirs!!"

"Ah, Cannon Beach!!" said Trenton, "Yeah, that Haystack Rock is really impressive, huh? Well, Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby actually love Seaside!! Because other than the beach? There is a merry-go-round located in Seaside Carousel Mall that they enjoy riding over and over and over again!!"

Trenton laughed.

"Yes, Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby can ride on that merry-go-round all day long if we let them!!" he continued, "So consider yourself pre-warned!!"

"Alright!!" said Johonna, with a huge smile written on her face, "I have been pre-warned!!"

"You know what?" she said wistfully, "I actually love riding on merry-go-rounds!! You get to choose an animal.... The pretty music starts up.... You spin around and around and around.... Those things somehow magically transport me into a little girl again!!"

"That is cool!!" said Trenton, "So what do you think? Should we go on a day trip to Seaside? Or not?"

"Seaside!!" "Seaside!!" "Seaside!!" "Seaside!!" "Seaside!!" Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby chanted together in the background.

Johonna laughed.

"Alright!!" she said, "Let's do it!!"

So Trenton--with Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby--picked up Johonna in Katharina's Chevrolet minivan at her dormitory to drive toward Seaside!!

While walking the beach, Johonna immediately stopped. She closed her eyes. Johonna inhaled Seaside's fishy smells. She kicked off her shoes and felt gritty, wet sand as it crept between every single toe. Johonna listened to multiple seagulls' shrill, high-pitched cries. Then she slowly opened her eyes. Johonna watched the Pacific Ocean's waves as they repeatedly rolled in and out, in and out, in and out. Finally, a smile lit up her face.

That was for you.... My darlin'.... Timmy!! Johonna thought, as healing, wet, hot, tears filled her eyes before she started walking again.

"Uncle Trent?" asked Annie, "Can we go to the merry-go-round?"

"Yeah, I am sick and tired of this beach!!" said Adam, "All it is is sand, sand, sand!!"

"Bor-ing!!" said Angel.

"Yeah, can we go to the merry-go-round?" asked Andrew, "Please?"

"Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty please?" said Abby, "With a cherry on top?"

"If Auntie Johonna is ready!!" said Trenton, with a huge smile written on his face, "Because we will all go to the merry-go-round together!!"

Johonna smiled.

"How can I possibly resist an adorable 'pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty please with a cherry on top?!" she said, "Huh?!"

"Oh, you cannot!!" said Trenton, with a smile written on his face, "It is utterly impossible to resist!!"

Johonna laughed.

"I feel like I've just been hypnotized!!" she said, "By five little three year olds!! Alright!! Okay!! Let's go to the merry-go-round!!"

"Yay!!" said Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby in unison.

So off to Seaside Carousel Mall they walked!! On the outside? It is a large, brightly-colored, old-fashioned-looking building. On the inside? There are seemingly countless cute, little stores and gift shops. But you cannot miss the merry-go-round with its enticing brightly-painted animals!! Children {And adults!!} can ride sea creatures. Wild animals. Or, of course, horses. Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby excitedly ran toward the merry-go-round!! Naturally, they each had an animal in mind!!

"There it is!!" said Annie, "I want to ride the lion!! That is my very favorite zoo animal!!"

"I want to ride a seahorse!!" said Adam, "Because he lives in the ocean on Octonauts!!"
  
"I want that horsey!!" said Angel, as she pointed to a pretty one in specific.

"I want the white bunny!!" said Andrew "I just love holding onto his big ears!!"

"I want the kitty cat!!" said Abby, "That is my very favorite animal!!"

"Oh yeah....?" said Johonna, with a huge, childlike smile written on her face, "I want the unicorn!! Because they are beautiful, magical, mystical, imaginary creatures!!"

"You kids have fun!!" said Trenton, as he teasingly glanced at Johonna, "I will be waiting outside the gate to catch Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby when you're done!!"

Trenton is playfully teasing me.... thought Johonna Just like.... Timmy.... Used to. Oh my gosh!! Is Trenton falling for me, like I am with him?!

 Once again, Johonna felt confused by complex thoughts, feelings and emotions. She wiped away a wet, hot, tear from her eye.

"Alright, lets ride the merry-go-round!!" Johonna quickly said, "I cannot wait!!"

Trenton paid for their merry-go-round ride. Johonna hurriedly helped the quintuplets to their chosen animals and then safely buckled them in. As soon as she sat down on her unicorn {Unbuckled!!} it spun around and around and around!! Johonna held on tight to the unicorn's black-colored reins. Then she smiled!! Soon the loud music stopped playing and their merry-go-round ride was over....

"Again!!" said Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby in unison.

This time, Johonna paid for their merry-go-round ride. Trenton hurriedly helped the quintuplets to their chosen animals and then safely buckled them in. As soon as he sat down on a Pinto horse {Unbuckled!!} it spun around and around and around!! Trenton held on tight to the horse's black-colored reins. Then he smiled. Soon the loud music stopped playing and their merry-go-round ride was over....

"Again!!" said Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby in unison.

Johonna laughed.

"I think twice around is plenty for now!!" said Trenton, "We need to let other people ride, as well!!"

"Awww...." protested Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby in unison.

"There is a pressed penny machine over there!!" said Trenton, in an effort to distract them away from their precious merry-go-round, "Who wants a little pocket-sized souvenir?"

"No...." whined Annie.

"We want to ride on the merry-go-round again!!" said Adam.

"No pressed pennies!!" said Angel.

"They just get lost, anyway!!" said Andrew.

"Merry-go-round!! Merry-go-round!! Merry-go-round!! Merry-go-round!! Merry-go-round!!" chanted Abby on the top of her lungs.

"Well.... Maybe Auntie Johonna wants a pressed penny!!" said Trenton.

"That is alright!!" said Johonna, "I do not need any pressed pennies, anyway!! How about we get some.... I-C-E  C-R-E-A-M!!"

"I have an even better idea!!" suggested Trenton, with a smile written on his face.

"What?" said Johonna.

"Deep-fried Twinkies!!" said Trenton.

"Wait. What?!" said Johonna, "Deep-fried.... Twinkies?!"

"Yeah!!" said Trenton, "They are frosted, delicious.... And, I am warning you. They are highly addictive!!"

"Twinkies!!" said an excited Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby in unison.

"Alright!!" said Johonna, with a huge smile written on her face, "Let's go and get us some deep-fried Twinkies!!"

So they did!!

"Mmmm...." said Johonna, "You're right, Trenton!! These deep-fried Twinkies are almost sinfully good!!"

Timmy.... Would have loved deep-fried Twinkies.... thought Johonna, as she wiped a wet, hot, tear from her eye.

Then Johonna smiled.

I am tasting something at the beach {And I already want another one so badly!! Yum!!}, she thought, as healing, wet, hot, tears filled her eyes, Another one of our five senses has been used!! My darlin'.... Timmy.... This is for you!!

After looking at several gift shops--where, of course, they purchased some souvenirs--everybody walked the beach one last time before leaving. Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby kicked off their shoes. With Trenton following closely behind, they immediately ran into the foamy, freezing cold ocean together. But Johonna stopped at a patch of wet sand. She crouched down. And with her fingertips, Johonna wrote this message in huge, hard to miss, capital letters. "JO-JO LOVES TIMMY!! GOOD-BYE, DARLIN'!!"

On the drive back to her dormitory--as Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby slept peacefully in their car seats--she thanked Trenton for this fun-filled, healing day.

"It was such a much-needed distraction from--" said Johonna, "Hey!! I just figured it out!!"

"Okay...." said Trenton, "You just figured what out? Do tell!!"

"I just figured out why you keep driving me places on spur-of-the-moment decisions!!" said Johonna, "To provide a much-needed distraction from.... Losing Timmy!!"

"Ah, my secret's out!!" said Trenton, "Is it working?"

"Yes!!" said Johonna, with a grateful smile written on her face, "Thank-you."

But Johonna's heart and soul were far from healed. For the next stage of grief that she'd suffer through would be acceptance. And--like he promised--Trenton lovingly helped Johonna through this!!

"Timmy is dead," Johonna said--with conviction in her voice--one day while at Trenton's house, "He's gone."

"Yes," was all Trenton could gently say.

"Timmy is not coming back," continued Johonna, "Whether it be from Iraq. Or his grave."

"No, he is not," Trenton gently said.

"I will never see Timmy again," said Johonna, "I won't ever kiss his lips. Or go on a date with Timmy. I will never hear his deep, attractive voice. Or be embraced in Timmy's loving arms. I will never walk the beach with him. Or stare deep into Timmy's beautiful, attractive brown eyes. I will never make out with him. Or study for college classes alongside Timmy. And did I mention that I'll never kiss his lips? Ever again? I miss all of that and then some. But everything was abruptly taken away from me. Oh, Trenton.... This is going to sound so weird. But I feel like a grieving widow.... Even though I was not married to Timmy. But I feel like a grieving widow, anyway."

"I do not think it sounds weird at all," Trenton gently said, as he blinked back wet, hot, tears.

"Timmy is dead," repeat Johonna, "He's gone."

"Look up the word 'resilience' in your Merriam-Webster dictionary," Trenton gently encouraged, "It means: 'an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change'. Johonna.... You most certainly fit that definition!!"

"You're so sweet!!" said Johonna, with a smile written on her face.

I did it!! she thought, I actually said those words out loud as opposed to just thinking them!!

 "Trenton, I cannot thank you nearly enough for faithfully standing by me through thick and thin during this painful grieving season of my Life," continued Johonna, "I mean, I know that I was such an emotional basket case!! Surely most people would have deserted me a long time ago. So thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!!"

Then, Johonna looked deep into Trenton's sky-blue eyes. And suddenly--sans any warning--she locked lips with his!! Stunned, Trenton gave Johonna a quizzical facial expression. For he was rendered completely speechless!!

"Has anybody ever told you that you're completely wonderful?!" said Johonna.

Trenton did not answer her question. Together, they locked lips with one another's in a long, passionate kiss!!

"Oh Trent.... I know that I once described Timmy as being 'the one'," said Johonna in between kissing, "But I was wrong!! See, I knew that you were 'the one' almost immediately!! But I had these brick walls of grief and stubbornness which needed to be busted apart first. So.... I refused to even see that you are 'the one'. Because I was emotionally and mentally blind."

Trenton just smiled. Together, they locked lips in yet another long, passionate kiss!!

"I was not even looking for love," Trenton finally said in between kissing, "Because I had Annie, Adam, Angel, Andrew and Abby to keep me busy.... Quite frankly, I did not even have time for love!!"

"And yet...." he added, with a huge smile written on his face, "I ended up falling in love with you, anyway!!"

Johonna just smiled. Together, they locked lips in yet another long, passionate kiss!!

"But I most certainly was not looking to fall in love with you," continued Trenton, "We were only friends and co-workers!! Timothy had just died.... You were grieving his death.... I was there only to provide comfort.... No strings attached. And under those circumstances--despite my strong feelings for you--I was not going to make any moves."

"You're such a gentleman!!" said Johonna before locking lips with Trenton in yet another long, passionate kiss.

"Honestly? I realized that we both had feelings for each other awhile back," said Johonna, "Because it was evidenced in the small things. Like how you would bend over backwards just to assure my happiness!! But.... I refused to see it. Or when I thought you were so sweet, and would not dare even say those words aloud because of Timmy. But.... I refused to see it. Like the way you looked at me lovingly and smiled flirtatiously after my swing swung higher than yours at Wildwood. But.... I refused to see it. I could go on and on and on--"

Together, they locked lips in yet another long, passionate kiss!!

"But when I first saw that I truly do have feelings for you, I felt my heart pound like the rhythm of a skilled, talented, gifted drummer's beats!!" said Johonna.

"Oh yeah?" said Trenton, "Was it anything like Max Weinberg's drums from the E Street Band? Because I felt that too!!"

"Think 'Candy's Room'!!" said Johonna, with a huge smile written on her face.

"Oh!!" said Trenton, with a smile written on his face, "Now, those are some intense heartbeats!! I am surprised that you did not suffer from a cardiac arrest!!"

Together, they locked lips in yet another long, passionate kiss!!

"Falling for you felt so unexpected and sudden," continued Johonna, "Because I was not looking for love, either!! Oh no, no, no!! Timmy was my one true love!! Right? Falling for you may have been completely unplanned. But Trent.... You truly are 'the one'!! I do mean that. Because I can feel it!!"

Both Trenton and Johonna smiled at each other. Together, they locked lips in yet another long, passionate kiss!!

Then suddenly--sans any warning--Trenton knelt down on his left knee. He looked deep into Johonna's green eyes.

"I do not have an engagement ring with me," began Trenton, "Sorry about that!! But, Jo, will you marry me? And have the wedding be today? We can live together in my house!!"

Her eyes filled with happy tears. Then she laughed.

"You and your spur-of-the-moment decisions!!" said Johonna.

But she did not even hesitate with an answer!!

"Yes!!" said Johonna, "Trent, will you grow old and silver haired with me, as laugh lines frame our faces?"

He did not hesitate with an answer, either.

"Yes!!" said Trenton, with a smile on his face, "I will!!"

By then, nearly an entire year had passed Trenton and Johonna by. So they planned their wedding that very Tuesday, August 11th, at 1:00 P.M.!! Its location? Waldo Lake!! It was a small, intimate celebration with family!! Surrounded by countless towering trees, unbelievable clear skies, the mighty Waldo Lake, long-bodied blue-colored Dragonflies, and, of course, pesky blood-sucking mosquitoes, Annie, {Who looked pretty in her pink princess dress} Angel {Who looked pretty in her yellow princess dress} and Abby {Who looked pretty in her purple princess dress} all served as flower girls. Adam {Who looked handsome in his blue suit} and Andrew {Who looked handsome in his green suit} each held a wedding ring. Trenton's brother-in-law, Mason, served as their groomsman. And {Because this wedding was a last minute plan!!} he served as their lone groomsman!! Trenton's sister, Katharina {Whose tour in Iraq is over!!} served as their bridesmaid. She was obviously the only one, as well!! And--while wearing her Mom, Ainsley's lovely white wedding dress--Johonna's Dad, Oscar, walked his beautiful red-headed daughter down Waldo Lake's wooden, moving, unstable dock. Meanwhile--because they did not have a band--everyone hummed "Here Comes The Bride" in unison!! Pastor David affiliated their wedding.

"Do you, Trenton, take Johonna to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you apart?" asked Pastor David.

"I do!!" answered Trenton.

"And do you, Johonna, take Trenton to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do you apart?" asked Pastor David.

"I do!!" answered Johonna.

"Then I now pronounce you husband and wife!!" said Pastor David, "You may kiss the bride."

And that is exactly what Trenton did!! Together, they locked lips in a long, passionate, unforgettable kiss!!

After their wedding, Trenton and Johonna stayed behind at Waldo Lake!! For this was also their honeymoon destination!! Trenton and Johonna then pitched a tent, unrolled one large sleeping bag, got out some gear and relaxed together. All while the gorgeous Waldo Lake overlooked their campsite!! They watched romantic sunsets together. Trenton and Johonna took turns spinning the ors on their yellow-colored inflatable raft. They gazed up at literally countless twinkling stars together. Holding hands, Trenton and Johonna enjoyed woodsy hikes. Well, Waldo Lake also turned out to be a good baby-making honeymoon destination!! For shortly thereafter? Johonna became pregnant with their firstborn son!! And nine months later? A handsome, green-eyed, red-haired infant--whom they named Waldo Timothy--entered the world....

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