Substitute Family Chapters 18 and 19

Chapter 18

On Saturday morning, Emily awakened before anyone else. She got up and showered quickly. When she came out of the bathroom, dressed in jeans and a lightweight sweater, she saw Garret sitting in the easy chair, with Chloe, still in her pajamas, on his lap. He was dressed in faded T-shirt and baggy sweatpants, and his hair stood up in short spikes. She tried to hide her smile at his disheveled appearance, but was unsuccessful.

“Don’t laugh,” he said, with a scowl that did not reach his eyes.

While Garret showered, Emily dressed Chloe, and Cody, also, when he came bounding out of the bedroom. She found a package of sausage links in the freezer and warmed them up. With toast, cereal and bananas, she felt that it was a complete breakfast.

Garret came to the table, clean- shaven and smelling of a cool aftershave. There was something very intimate in sharing the apartment, even for a couple of nights, with Garret that caused Emily to consider their arrangements should she decide to become the nanny.

“You realize that I would need to have an apartment of my own,” she said, and saw that her comment caught him by surprise. “I would not be comfortable living with you, even as the nanny,” she admitted, blushing when he studied her intently. “I know that the arrangement would be innocent, but it would not be right.”

“Does this mean you will move here with us?”

She smiled. “I will. It’s time I make some changes in my life, too.”

“I guess having a live-in nanny is out of the question, unless we had a live-in chaperone, too.” Garret grinned, and she saw that he was unbothered by her convictions.

“Does this apartment complex have a studio apartment that rents pretty reasonably?”

“I don’t think these apartments were designed for kids. The rooms are pretty small, and with all that concrete and expensive landscaping outside, there would not be much room for them to run. I thought maybe we could drive around today and look at some other areas of the city. Maybe we can find one that would be more family-friendly.” Garret looked at the two toddlers, innocently seated in their makeshift highchairs.

“If we could find a two-bedroom apartment and a one-bedroom, or studio, in the same building or complex, then it would be more convenient. Would you have a problem living that close to us?” His grin held an air of mischief, and she laughed as she shook her head.

“As long as I can go home at night.” A worried line creased her brow. “But—I don’t know how much I would be able to afford for an apartment,” she said, looking embarrassed. “I was thinking about my expenses. I would have to continue my health insurance on my own, and I would have utilities and car insurance. If my cottage continues to rent, it would make the house payment to my parents, or I thought I could put it up for sale.”

He raised an eyebrow. “You might want to wait before you do anything that drastic,” he warned.

“Why? Are you going to fire me before I even start?”

“No, but you may find it’s not what you want to do. You might go back to teaching, or find someone and get married.”

Emily blushed. “Well, I won’t deny that I would like to get married someday, if the right person came along. But I really don’t see that happening in the near future.”

“You never know,” Garret said seriously. “Maybe you’ll meet someone new here in Dallas.”

“Maybe you will, too,” she said with a slight smile.

Garret scowled. “I’m not ready to think about dating again. Julie hasn’t been gone a year yet.” Then his gaze clouded. “I guess it’s been almost a year, hasn’t it?”

Emily had tried not to think about the one-year anniversary of Julie’s death that was coming up soon. Julie had died a couple of days after Thanksgiving, and the holidays had been miserable for all of them.

After breakfast, Emily put the new DVD on for Cody and Chloe. They went online and looked at apartments for rent.

“Do you think it would work out to pay your apartment costs as part of your salary?”

“Can you afford to do that?”

“I can comfortably afford a two-bedroom apartment and a studio, unfurnished. I’m not making any payments on a vehicle or house, you know.”

“Will you be selling your house?”

“My in-laws will kill me if I do,” he muttered, and she felt empathy for him. “Not only will I be taking Julie’s children away from them, I’ll be selling her dream house as well.”

“You could rent it out.”

“Even if I return to Michigan, I don’t think I would want to return to that house,” he admitted. “And not just because it was Julie’s home, too. I loved her, and I knew it meant a lot to her to live in that subdivision and have a nice home. If I had had my choice, I would have invested in a few acres and an older, comfortable home in the country. I don’t like a lot of concrete around.”

“I understand,” Emily said. She had grown used to living in the city these past few months, but she still preferred the quiet tree-lined street where her cottage stood. “Someday, you’ll probably want a few acres for these two to run around on.”

Garret looked at her intently for a few seconds. “You don’t like the city all that much, either, do you?”

She shook her head. “I’m the country cousin.” Her laughter faded when she saw the flicker of pain in his eyes. Of course, he would remember that Julie always referred to her as the “Country Cousin” while referring to herself as the “City Cousin,” like the two little mice in the children’s tale.

Garret folded the paper back up. “If you’re ready, we can go to a couple of these places and check them out,” he suggested.

The apartment search took most of the morning. They looked at one apartment building after another, and were disappointed in each one, for various reasons. One was too modern, and Emily could not picture the twins’ sticky hands all over the white walls and French doors. Another one bordered a questionable neighborhood, so they did not even get out and look at it. Still another one had no one-room or studio apartments available, and the waiting list for one would be at least three or four months.

“Maybe we’re just too picky,” Emily thought aloud as they returned to the car after looking at a fourth apartment. “When were you thinking of having us move down here?”

“Ron and Taylor are planning to go home for the holidays, and load up a moving van to bring down the rest of their stuff. I could ride home with them, and we can bring a moving van back down here with us.”

“Will you move all of your furniture?”

Garret looked thoughtful. “Most of it, I will. It will cut down on the rent to get a place that is unfurnished.”

They ate lunch at a fast food restaurant that had a play area. “They need to stretch their legs after sitting in the car all morning,” Garret said, carrying a tray with their lunches to the tables in the play area.

“I know I’m not looking forward to their being cooped up in the airplane all day tomorrow,” Emily said, making a face.

Garret’s eyes met hers, and she saw his reluctance. “I’m going to miss them when they’re gone,” he admitted honestly.

Equally seriously, Emily added, “I know you will, and I’m glad.” He smiled ruefully as he set the tray down on the table and lifted Cody onto a booster seat.

“I need to pay you back for the airplane tickets,” he said, as they ate. “How much were they, again?”

Emily told him, and added, “It does not matter if you pay it back. That was the money you paid me this summer, and I did not expect to be paid for helping out.”

After lunch, they went to a city park. It had a playground, and they spent a long time pushing the toddlers in the swings. Garret held them on the little merry-go-round and took them down the twisting slide on his lap.

A trail led around the park, and they followed it to a pond where there were a lot of ducks. “I don’t have any bread, but I have some crackers,” Emily said, fishing around in the diaper bag for the square crackers. She and Garret broke them into pieces and showed the toddlers how to toss them to the ducks. When the noisy ducks got too close to Chloe, she started to cry, and Garret picked her up and set her on his shoulders.

Cody was unafraid, however. He soon tired of throwing the crackers, and tried to catch the ducks. “Guck, Guck!” he shouted, running at one that was nearest to him. The duck flapped its wings and quacked loudly, and Cody reached out his hands and lunged forward. The ducks scattered as he stumbled and fell onto the ground. Emily took a step towards him, but realized he was okay when he got back up and started running after the ducks.

“Guck!” Cody wailed, coming to a standstill and watching the ducks fly away.

“I think you scared them all away, buddy.” Garret handed Chloe over to Emily and picked Cody up onto his shoulders. As they followed the trail back towards the playground, he said, “I’ll call Peg and Dan tonight and let them know about my decision. I don’t want to leave it up to you to tell them tomorrow when you see them.”

“It will be better if they hear it from you, first,” she agreed, “but don’t think they’ll let me off the hook just because you call.” She smiled wryly. “I am awfully fond of Dan and Peg. Our two families have always been close. Since Julie’s death, they seem overly protective of the twins, and I know they’re going to take the news hard.”

“Your parents aren’t going to like the news any better when you tell them you’re coming back, are they?”

She shook her head. “My mom will be beside herself. She was worried that I was jeopardizing my teaching career this fall by taking an extended leave of absence. Wait until she finds out that the change is going to be a permanent one. Well, permanent in that I’m quitting my teaching job. Temporary in that I don’t know how long I’ll be needed as a nanny.”

His mouth curved up in a wry grin. “How many years before they’re old enough to start school?”

She did not voice the thoughts that came into her head. What if Garret were to remarry? Certainly the stepmom for the twins would not appreciate a full-time nanny, unless, of course, the person he chose to marry was career oriented. The picture of the programmer, Laurie, came into her thoughts, and she was saddened by the thought of Garret marrying someone who seemed so cold.

They pushed the toddlers in the swings for a few minutes, and then loaded them into the car. “I need to get a few things for the trip tomorrow,” she said, “so could we stop to a grocery store before heading back to your apartment?”

Garret drove to a chain grocery store. “Do you want to go out to eat tonight, order in, or do you want to pick up something we can fix later?”

“I’ll pick up something. Do you want to try and take them in?” she asked, looking into the back seat. He shook his head. “I’ll keep it under fifteen minutes, then.”

Trying to keep her shopping to fifteen minutes was easier said than done. She was unfamiliar with the layout of the store. She picked up crackers and cookies for the flight tomorrow. She purchased the fixings for lasagna, recalling that it had been a favorite meal of Garret’s last summer, and also a loaf of garlic bread. When she arrived at the car almost half an hour after entering the store, Garret had the kids out of their car seats. Cody was climbing all over the car, and Chloe sat on Garret’s lap, teary-eyed.

“Sorry it took me so long,” she apologized breathlessly when she opened the door. “I didn’t know where anything was.”

He looked annoyed, but his expression softened. “It’s okay. They got a little nervous, calling out for their ‘Memmy.’” She blushed at his deliberate mispronunciation of her name, as Cody called her.

Both of the toddlers kicked and fussed when they were made to get into their car seats. “I guess they’re tired of being hauled around everywhere,” Emily said when she was back in her own seat.

“They’ll probably be out of sorts even when they move down here, won’t they?” He frowned. “Do you think they will be okay with so many changes in their lives?”

“They will survive, but it’s not going to be easy. I know when we get back to Michigan tomorrow, they are going to be disoriented for a few days and crying for you again. About the time we settle into a routine, Christmas will be here, and then we’ll be moving down here. None of it will be easy.” She looked at him steadily. “Are you sure it’s worth it?”

He was taken aback by her question. “I like my job here, Emily,” he said honestly. “I thought I could do this on my own, and I found out this weekend that I really don’t want to be apart from the kids. If I’m going to make this career move work and keep my family, then we’re all going to have to stick it out and adjust.” Seeing Emily’s smile, he said, with one eyebrow lifted, “Right answer, teacher?”

When they arrived back at Garret’s apartment, Cody went right over to his toys and started playing. Emily put Chloe on the couch with a sippy cup of juice, and put the DVD on for them to watch. “I think I should call my parents before you call Peg and Dan,” she said, and Garret nodded. “Otherwise, Peg will call her the minute you end the call.”

“At least it will be easier to dodge the bullets from this distance,” Garret joked. Emily laughed at his nearly accurate description.

Emily’s mom answered on the second ring. “You did not even call to tell me you were flying down to Dallas,” Geri said immediately when she learned it was Emily calling. She was already angry, and she had not even heard Emily’s news. “I can’t believe you acted so irresponsibly, flying clear across the country with those two little ones without any help.”

“I did what I thought was right, Mom,” Emily said, moving into the kitchen where she hoped she would be out of Garret’s earshot. The apartment was so small, she was sure he could hear her side of the conversation, if he were so inclined.

“Hopping on a plane and hunting him down was the right thing? What if something had happened to you, or to one of the children?”

“I did not feel that I had an alternative,” Emily defended her decision as calmly as she could. “Garret had not returned any of our calls, and I was going to have to give my decision at the school. I thought the best thing to do was to confront him personally.”

“Well, did it work?” Her mom’s tone was still angry.

“I think so. He’s decided to take responsibility for raising the kids now, instead of leaving them with Peg and Dan.”

“How can you do that to Peg and Dan, Emily? It wasn’t any of your business to interfere, and you know it. If you had not gone to Dallas, they would have taken the kids in, until Garret was ready to raise them on his own. They were so hurt by what you did. Is Garret coming back home?” Geri asked.

“No, Mom, he is not.” Emily listened to her mom’s sharp intake of breath.

“Does this mean he is going to keep the kids in Dallas with him? Peg and Dan will be beside themselves with grief, if he does.”

Emily’s heart felt heavy as she realized that she would be the cause of her aunt and uncle suffering an even greater loss with the twins’ move to Dallas. In her heart, she still believed it was the right thing for both Garret and the children. She also knew it was what Julie would have wanted, but Julie would never have stood up to her parents and defended Garret’s position.

“That’s what his plans are, Mom.” Emily hesitated for only a fraction of a second, then blurted out, before she lost courage, “I’m planning to return to Dallas as their full-time nanny.”

“No, Emily!” There was a muffled sound, and then Emily’s dad spoke into the phone.

“Emily, your mom just dropped the phone. Are you okay? Did something happen to you?”

“Not anything terrible, Dad,” she reassured him. “I just told mom that Garret is going to move the twins back to Dallas, and I’ll be quitting my job at the school to come with them, as their nanny.”

“Emily, are you sure you know what you’re doing?” her dad asked in concern.

Emily talked a few more minutes with her dad, and then her mom came back on the line.

“We’re not done with this conversation by any means,” her mom told her when they said their good-byes.

“When I get back, we’ll get together and talk it over in person. Just pray that everything will go according to God’s plan, will you, Mom?”

“When you put things like that, you know I’m not going to say no. I’m going to ask Him to give you more wisdom on this issue than you seem to have at the moment.”

When Emily ended the call and returned to the living room, Garret looked up from the floor, where he was building a block tower with the toddlers. He looked concerned.

“You going to be okay?”

While Garret talked on the phone with his in-laws, Emily prepared a double batch of lasagna. She planned to bake one for dinner tonight, and leave the other in the freezer for Garret to warm up when he wanted it. At times she could hear Garret’s voice rise as he spoke, but she tried not to listen to his side of the conversation. He ended the call and walked out into the kitchen, Chloe in his arms and Cody following behind him. She could see from the anger and frustration on his face that the call had gone as poorly as expected.

“They’re not going to be forgiving,” he said, leaning against the counter. “They accused me of stealing Julie’s kids from them. Well, Peg did, anyway. Dan was a little more reasonable.”

“Hopefully they will calm down by tomorrow night,” Emily said as she mixed the cheese layer for the lasagna. “They think they know what is best, but they have to realize that even though they’ve lost their mom, the kids haven’t lost their dad. I think they have to let go, and trust God to handle things.”

“I need to trust Him a little more, myself,” Garret said heavily. He snitched a piece of browned ground beef from the dish and popped it into his mouth.

“It will be easier for you to raise the twins if you do start trusting God again.” He flashed her a look of annoyance. She smiled sweetly at him. “And you know I’m right.” His scowl faded and he slowly grinned.

“You’re not going to ruin our last evening together by preaching at me, are you, Emily?”

Her immediate response was to be angry with him, but she saw the teasing light in his eyes, and responded,

“I’ll make a deal with you.”

“Uh-oh,” Garret said, looking concerned.

“I won’t preach at you, if you tell me I’m right about your needing to trust God again.”

“You think I would make a one-sided deal like that?” He looked annoyed, but a little bit amused, as well.

Emily responded with a smile. “Then you’ll just have to put up with a little bit of preaching now and then.”

The flight home had been miserable, with two fussy and restless toddlers. Dan and Peg insisted that she and the twins go to their house for dinner, when all Emily really wanted to do was go home. Peg fussed over Chloe and Cody and almost completely ignored Emily. Every time she met her aunt’s eyes, she saw the anger and disbelief in her aunt’s expression.

Dan tried to carry on normal conversation, but she could tell that her decision to help Garret move the twins to Dallas had affected him deeply, as well.

When they finally brought Emily and the twins home, Emily gave the toddlers a bath and bottle and put them right to bed. She had a message from Garret. She called back and he answered. After telling him about the seemingly long flight, she told him that she had dinner with her aunt and uncle.

“I hope they went easy on you,” he said with true concern.

“I’m not sure that Peg is speaking to me,” she admitted. “She’s pretty stubborn.”

Garret’s reply was teasing. “You, if anyone, should be able to handle that, Emily. I think you probably inherited that streak of stubbornness from her.”

“Thanks a lot,” she said, with mock-anger. “You’re lucky you’re clear across the country from me or I’d probably throw something at you.”

Garret laughed outright at her words. Then he sobered as he added, “You’re going to need some stubbornness in the next few weeks if you’re going to follow through with this decision.”

“You still want them there with you?” She waited for his reply. When it came, she was not disappointed.

“I miss them already, Emily,” he said. “When I think that I almost gave them up, it makes me realize what I would have missed out on. I don’t want them to grow up without a dad.”

“You’re a good dad, Garret.” She tried to encourage him, and answered honestly. “And if you really want to have your kids there with you, then I’ll do all I can to help you make that happen.”

Peg came over at 10:00 the next morning, as she had told Emily she would. Emily needed to buy groceries and do some banking, and she had mentioned to her aunt that she did not want to get the twins out again that morning. Peg was friendly enough when Emily left for the grocery store, but when she arrived home an hour later, her aunt had allowed her anger to build up during her absence. While Emily put groceries away, Peg stood near the kitchen sink.

 “Won’t you please reconsider, Emily? Maybe if you don’t agree to go with them, Garret won’t want to take the kids.”

“I’ve already called the school and given them my notice,” Emily said. “They’re unhappy about it, but somehow it will all work out. I think Julie would have wanted us to support Garret in his decisions, Peg.”

“Julie would not have wanted those two raised in another state, and you know it, Emily,” Peg said, her eyes blazing with anger.

“She would not have married Garret if she didn’t believe he was the one God intended. As her husband and the twins’ dad, he has the right to make the decisions about their future.”

“I can see we’re not going to get anywhere with this.” Peg threw up her hands. “I wanted to ask you to bring them over for dinner tonight so that Melanie and Scott and the baby can see them.”

“Why don’t we make it tomorrow night?” Emily suggested. “It’s been a long weekend, and they probably will be cranky tonight.”

“See what you’re going to put them through if you take them across the country? If we just see them at holidays and during vacations, they will never feel at home with us.” Emily wanted to hug her aunt when she saw the tears in her eyes, but knew that Peg would reject any affection from her at this point.

“I’ll bring them around, but don’t expect too much out of them,” she agreed.

The dinner and discussion that accompanied it were forebears of the weeks to come. Emily felt miserable with the tension between her relatives and herself. Melanie was as angry as Peg and blamed Emily’s trip to Dallas for Garret changing his mind. While the whole purpose of Emily’s trip had been to have Garret stand up and take responsibility for his children, she came to realize that her relatives thought he should have left the twins with them to raise, if he was not returning to Michigan.

“They can go and live with Garret when they’re a little older, and not so helpless,” Peg insisted. Emily argued that if they were kept away from their dad, they would grow to resent him for abandoning them, but they were not in the right mind set to heed her words.

“Can we call a truce, for their sake?”

Their stony, angry glares told her that it was not possible.

Not only did she have to contend with their anger and resentment, she also received several calls from her mom in the few weeks after her trip to Dallas. Her mom begged her to reconsider her decision to give up her teaching career. “What are you going to get out of all this?”

“I’m not going into this for what I can get out of it, Mom,” Emily said, in a tone of disbelief. “I liked teaching, and found it rewarding in its own way. But this is fulfilling to me, to step in and take care of Julie’s kids.”

“Are you trying to live Julie’s life for yourself?”

Emily thought about her answer before she spoke. “I’m not Julie, Mom. I can never be a mom to these two like Julie was. But they don’t need a mom right now, either. Garret will eventually marry again, and hopefully he will choose someone who will love the twins as if they were her own.”

“Are you hoping that you’ll be the one he marries?” Geri’s question surprised Emily, and she was quiet. “I don’t want you to get your hopes up and be hurt, Emily.”

“I don’t harbor any hope of Garret falling in love with me,” Emily said. “I’m not Julie. I’m not his type. But we get along well, and he needs someone to help him with the kids. Someone he can trust to raise them with the values Julie had.”

Geri sighed. “I wish you would find someone to marry and have a family of your own,” she said. “Then you would not want to interfere with Julie’s family.”

“Garret does not see it as interfering, Mom, and neither does his mom. She called me last week to encourage me, she said, since Garret had told her about his decision and the way Peg and Dan feel about it. She wants Garret to keep the kids, but she was worried about who would take care of them so far away from home.”

Chapter 19

Garret felt lost on Sunday after he dropped Emily and his kids off at the airport. He waited until after they boarded, then he drove around the city for a while. He looked at some of the apartments that were listed, from the outside, anyway. He did not see anything different than what he and Emily had already looked at. Hopefully something would open up soon. It would be easier if they shared an apartment, but he had to give her props for sticking with her values. And maybe it was for the best that they lived separately. It did not go unnoticed by him that Emily was an attractive woman. She did not look like Julie. Julie had bright blue eyes and blond curly hair. Emily’s hair was darker and straight, and she wore it up in a ponytail or braid most of the time. She didn’t have the bright blue eyes. Hers were a light blue, almost gray.

            What made her most attractive, he realized, was her smile. And she smiled often. Her sense of humor had helped him through some rough spots this summer. She had been angry when he saw her in the conference room the other day, but it wasn’t long before she was joking with him and smiling. Life with her would never be dull.

            Not that he was looking for a relationship. He was bringing Emily here as the nanny, and it would be best if he kept that thought at the forefront of his mind.

            He called a meeting with his employees on Monday after Emily left. He invited the receptionist to sit in on the meeting, and Ron came in also. It would be important to Garret’s boss back in Michigan that Ron oversaw any decisions he made from here on out, at least that is what Court had told him on the phone this weekend. They were overlooking Garret’s omission and the fact that at least one of his employees wanted to file a complaint and get him fired. He was thankful for the second chance and determined not to blow it.

            “I want to start off by apologizing for not telling you that I was widowed with two children, when I arrived here and we were introduced,” Garret started off by saying.

            “Why hide it?” Tony asked the question Garret figured they were all thinking.

            “At my former work, and in my personal life, people were always apologizing for saying something that they thought offended me. Like if someone was talking about their wife, I would get these looks of pity, that I don’t have a wife anymore. I was so tired of the sympathetic looks and apologies. I just did not want have to deal with it here.”

            “So when were you going to tell us?” Tony was the one who spoke up again.

            “I was going to wait out the three months trial period, then if I decided to stay, I would tell you I was moving my family here. My boss back in Michigan threw a wrench in the plans by offering me the permanent position after only eight weeks. I accepted the position, then I had to decide if moving my kids here was the right choice.”

            “For you or for them?” It was Laurie who asked.

            “They were my biggest concern. Bringing them here meant taking them away from everything they had ever known, and the people who had been helping me raise them. I didn’t know how I was going to get good day care here or how they would settle in.”

            “When did you decide to bring them here?” Again, it was Tony who asked.

            “When Emily showed up with them.”

            “So that was unplanned?” Teri was the one who asked. “She called several times that week and left messages.”

            “She and my mom called me for over two weeks, and I ignored all of their calls. When Ron told me he talked to her on the office phone, he said I needed to come clean and make a decision. I didn’t listen. Emily booked a flight to Dallas and showed up here with my kids to make me take the responsibility for them.”

            “Do you want them here?” Tony asked.

            “Yes, very much. I love my kids. It was never my intention to walk out of their lives permanently. And you may as well know that Emily has agreed to move to Dallas and continue to work for me as their nanny.”

            This was met by a round of murmurs. Laurie glared at him. Teri and Craig’s faces were pretty neutral, but Tony had a big grin on his face.

            “Smart choice. Your nanny is one very attractive woman.”

            Garret felt heat rise in his face. “It is a professional relationship. We will be living in separate apartments, and her job will end when I get home in the evenings.”

            Tony nodded, but the amusement did not leave his eyes.

            “Does anyone have any further questions for me?” Garret asked, glancing at each one and briefly meeting their eyes. Laurie would not look at him, but the other shook their heads.

            “Ron, did you want to say something?”

            “I told Garret that it was brought up to file a complaint against him, and that I talked you all into giving him a second chance. His boss in Michigan agreed that he has proven he is capable of his position here, and that he did not realize his omission would cause problems. He still has his position here, and is now the permanent program manager for this Southwest Division. I trust you will all be able to give him the respect and hard work you have shown for the past three months.”

            He called Emily that evening and told her how his meeting had gone.

            “So they are not going to hold this against you?” She sounded relieved.

            “No. Well, Laurie might,” he said.

            “Is she—is there something between you?”

            Garret told her about the problems he had in the beginning with Laurie stopping by his office and not knowing how to do some of the work. “After she came back from the week-long training seminar, she has been cold towards me. I would much rather have it that way than have her interested in me. I am not interested in pursuing a relationship with her, especially not when she works under me.”

            “That is smart thinking, for your work. And it’s probably best for the kids, too.”

            He wondered what she was thinking. “What do you mean?”

            “I’m sorry. I was just wondering about the impact of someone like her on the kids.”

“Like her?” he pressed for her answer.

“She’s not like Julie.”

Her words touched a sore spot. He was not looking for someone to replace his wife. “No one is like Julie.”

            “I know.” He accepted her apologetic tone. He changed the subject. “I thought you should know I am going to put the house on the market.”

            “Really? Are you ready to do that?”

            “I am ready to cut my ties with that house, yes. I am looking at this move to Dallas as a permanent one.”

            “Good luck telling Aunt Peg.”

            “Yeah, I’ll need it.” He paused. “Maybe some of your prayers, too.”

            To her credit she did not make a big deal about that.

            “Always,” she said in a quiet voice.

End of Chapters 18 & 19

Come back next week for Chapters 20 and 21 of Substitute Family.

Published by Carol Underhill

Author of Christian romance. Mom to 3 adult children and a spoiled Lab. Household includes several rescued cats. Loves flavored coffees and quiet mornings. Likes finding new authors on Kindle and binge reading all their books.

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