Colleen

Chapter 01

Mythology tells the story of the Phoenix; a powerful bird that at certain intervals will build a nest and sit in it as it is consumed by flames. Out of the ashes the Phoenix is reborn to once again grow in strength and wisdom. Sometimes in life, the thing that kills and destroys us is the very thing that is life’s greatest blessing.

My name is Robert O’Conner. My family calls me Bobby but the rest of the world knows me as Robert. Immediately after graduating from college I was recruited by Willis, Goldman & Reed and assigned to the Chicago office. There were eleven new hires that started on the same day and that is when I met Barbara. We were given desks next to each other and as the new kids on the block we sought safety in numbers in defense against the veterans. The rookies started having coffee together at the break and then meeting over lunch to commiserate or cheer each other on as we all tried to integrate ourselves in the corporate world. After several months the group began to dwindle until there was just Barbara and myself.

Barbara was gorgeous. The kind of physical beauty that could make a dead man stand up and dance. After we got to know each other she admitted that she had been featured in one of those photo spreads that Playboy magazine occasionally runs, “Sorority Girls of New England Colleges.” I immediately went out and found a copy of that issue and kept it in the drawer of my nightstand. Every guy in the office tried to date her but she rebuffed them all.

She had long thick red hair, a mass of curls that hung below the middle of her back, and dark green eyes. Her skin was flawless and she used very little makeup, she didn’t need to. Even without lipstick her lips were a deep red. She stood six feet tall in her stocking feet, an inch above my own five-eleven. Most of the time she wore slacks to the office but on those occasions when she wore a skirt the male employees were treated to the blinding vision of her perfectly formed long legs. Her breasts were neither large nor small, just the right size and shape. Every thing about her body was in perfect proportion. Each movement she made was a symphony of sensuality, from walking across the office to get something from the filing cabinet down to the simple act of putting a paper clip on a piece of paper.

As for myself, I am not a Golden Adonis nor am I the elephant man. A girlfriend in college once described me as being “six points above average.” I have been told by several women that my best features are my blue eyes and my smile. One of my few regrets in life is not being able to reach six feet like my two brothers. If genetics hold true, by the time I reach fifty I will be thirty pounds heavier than the day I graduated from high school…with absolutely no hope of ever losing them.

I am not the life of the party but can hold up my end of a conversation and do reasonably well at telling a joke. For all of her beauty Barbara is fairly quiet but not shy, she was the center of attention no matter what the setting. Without even speaking she would have men gathered around her, just waiting for the pleasure of her smiling in their direction. You don’t realize how intelligent she is until you have been around her for a while. I could never figure out how we ended up connecting.

From having coffee and lunches at work we progressed to catching a movie after work and then on to dinner and drinks Friday nights. From there it was Friday and Saturday nights and then several nights during the week. Six months after our first official date we were married.

Life was good. We were madly in love with each other. By working in the same office we could go to and leave work together. We had our own little universe that had little room in it for other people. The daily sex was fantastic and together we learned new ticks and moves that made it more intense as we went along.

Several years after we were married, corporate headquarters sent in a new manager for my unit. Derrick Andrews was a tall muscular black man with his head shaved smooth and an arrogant look in his eyes. He was smooth with the women and a real bastard to the men in the office. Gradually I found more and more of the workload being put on my desk as I struggled to get it all done. Instead of coming to work with Barbara, I increasingly had to go in early and stay late, not getting home until eight or nine most nights plus having to go in to the office on Saturdays. It became obvious that Andrews was trying to force me to quit the company.

During this time the only thing that kept me going was Barbara. Every night she would sooth my battered ego and take away all the stress. During the day she would call my desk just to say, “hi” or come by my desk with a cookie or slice of somebody’s birthday cake. I had just about reached my breaking point when Barbara gave me the news. She was pregnant.

All thoughts of quitting immediately flew out the window. There was nothing that Derrick could do to me that I couldn’t endure. The joy of knowing that I was to be a father took care of every thing. The sex on the night she told me was one of the greatest experiences of my life up to that point.

I had heard the stories from the other guys in the office about how horny their wives got during pregnancy. At first it was true and the sex was almost non-stop at home. But as the due date got closer Barbara seemed to run hot and cold. One night she would literally jump me and tear my clothes off as I walked through the door. The next night she would be cold and distant. During the last few weeks she had completely withdrawn and would flinch whenever I tried to touch her.

At last the day came. Her water broke on Sunday morning and we rushed to the hospital. By the afternoon we were in the delivery room with the doctor telling her when to push. Finally there was one last push and the baby came out of the birth canal. The doctor immediately looked up at me and then over to Barbara. The room was oddly silent. Without saying a word the nurse placed the baby on Barbara’s chest.

The baby’s skin was back as coal.

I stood there, stunned, looking at the baby. Barbara’s face had a horrified look. It seemed as though everything was happening in slow motion. I backed away from the delivery table, then turned and walked out of the room. As the doors closed I could hear Barbara screaming, “Robert come back here.”

I made it as far as the parking lot before I stopped to throw up in the bushes. In a daze I was somehow able to find the car and take off. I drove around aimlessly for a while and then headed home. For the next several hours I paced back and forth trying to make sense out of what just happened.

I wrestled with my emotions for hours. Had I made a mistake, could I be wrong? Did I misunderstand about the baby? Had I misjudged Barbara? Where do we go from here? What possible explanation could there be? Had I done something to cause her to be disloyal? What signs of her cheating could I have missed? Was there more than one man she had cheated with? Could the marriage be saved, or was there any thing left to save? It always came back to one simple fact.

There is no way in hell that two people of Irish descent could produce a black baby.

After my third trip to the toilet to vomit I lost any sense of self-control and completely destroyed the bathroom. Barbara, my reason for living, had betrayed me. The emotional pain of her obvious infidelity became a physical pain as well. After all the years of what I thought were love and devotion for each other, Barbara had been unfaithful and bore a child fathered by another man.

We all make choices about where our lives will go. It was very clear that Barbara’s choice did not include me; she had not honored the wedding vows we made to each other.

The phone had been ringing constantly since I returned to the house. The first time I let the answering machine pick up and heard Barbara’s voice demanding that I return to the hospital so we could talk. She called five more times in the next hour, each message becoming less demanding until the final one when she was crying and begging me to come to her.

I couldn’t take it any more and unplugged the phone so I wouldn’t have to hear it. I went to the garage and came back with a hammer. I placed the telephone on the kitchen counter and left it in a thousand pieces before throwing the hammer through the closed window above the sink. By now the rage had subsided enough that I was able to put together some coherent thoughts.

In situations like this it is surprising how quickly material things become meaningless to your life. Over the next several hours I gathered up the few things that I now valued and piled them in the middle of the living room floor. Everything fit into three cardboard boxes that I found in the garage and I loaded them into my car. I threw all of my clothes into the car without bothering to pack them into suitcases. I put the empty suitcases in the car planing to pack them later. I had to get out of that house that held so many memories of Barbara’s and my life together.

The last thing I did was to go to the garage and come back with another hammer and nail. I went into the bedroom one last time and looked around. I took off my wedding ring and nailed it to the wooden headboard. I heaved the hammer through the mirror over the dresser and left. By 11:30 that night I pulled out of the driveway and went in search of a hotel.

I got no sleep that night and in the morning I called my secretary, Mrs. Lopez, to tell her that I would not be in that day. Mrs. Lopez asked how Barbara was doing and I quietly hung up the phone with out answering. I spent the entire day inside the hotel room trying to get control of my thoughts and emotions.

The next morning I knew I would go crazy if I stayed there any longer, and not knowing what else to do, I went into the office. I was standing outside my office door trying to focus on what Mrs. Lopez trying to tell me when Derrick Andrews walked up.

“It’s about time you showed up for work O’Conner. I’m getting tired of your work habits lately. The only reason I don’t fire your ass is because I need to keep you employed so you can raise that little bastard of mine.”

Mrs. Lopez and I both stared at him with our mouths open. With a smirk Andrews continued.

“Didn’t know about that did you. I’ve been fucking your wife non-stop for the last two years. Your wife is one sweet pussy.”

I am not a violent man and I don’t actually remember hitting him, but I watched as Andrews flew backward knocking over several chairs before bouncing off of John Gordon and sliding to the floor. Blood was flowing out of his nose leaving a large red stain on Gordon’s shoes. Mr. Gordon was a corporate vice president and head of the Chicago office. It was rumored that he was first in line to become the next CEO. When Andrews tried to get up from the floor I kicked him in the ribs three times as hard as possible. After the third time he remained on the floor curled up into a ball. I spun around and walked past the other people in the room that were cowering wide-eyed in the corner and left.

Outside I walked away from the building. My hand was really starting to hurt so I stopped at a deli and bought a large cup of ice to stick it into. I kept walking until I came to a bench that overlooked Lake Michigan and just sat, staring out at nothing. In the space of three days my life had turned to complete shit. I was twenty-seven years old and had been betrayed by my lover, my marriage of four years was in ruins, I was out of a job and was probably going to be arrested for assault. I am normally a laid back type of person, but today I had turned in to some kind of homicidal maniac. As I sat there, words like love, betrayal, cheating, dishonesty, commitment, infidelity, deceit, unfaithful kept floating around, racing in and out of my thoughts. Eventually I noticed that it was getting dark so I returned to my hotel room.

At 9:30 that night I was wrapping my hand in a fresh batch ice when someone knocked on the door. I opened the door and was surprised to see John Gordon.

“Good evening Robert, you’re a hard person to find.”

I only stared at him in confusion.

“Do you mind if I come in? What I have to say may take a while.”

“Sure, why not.” I stepped back to let him in. “Look, Mr. Gordon, I won’t apologize for what happed this morning, but if you don’t mind there are a few personal items in my office…excuse me, my former office that I would like to get.”

“Ah yes, this morning. You certainly have an interesting way to start your Tuesdays.” I opened my mouth to speak when he raised his hand to stop me. “Please don’t interrupt me just yet. I need to say this and get on my way before my wife reports me as a missing person. First off I want to assure you that you are not fired. In fact, I am very grateful for what you did this morning. Derrick Andrews is a shithead and I’ve hated him from the moment he walked into our office. But he was sent by headquarters so my hands were tied.”

“After you left, Mrs. Lopez grabbed me and pulled me into your office and started yelling in Spanish. At first I didn’t understand much of what she was saying, but gist of it was ‘you have to fix this.’ I thought she was mad at you but she wasn’t, it was Andrews. She told me about the things he had done to you in the office over the last two years…and about your wife.” At that point he paused and looked around the room before continuing.

“By eleven o’clock this morning, Mrs. Lopez had seven women lined up outside my office telling me that they were going to file sexual harassment charges against Andrews and the company. I spent most of the afternoon on the phone with the legal department in New York. The upshot is that the women are not going to file a complaint against the company, but in return our legal depart will represent the ladies in court when they do file against Andrews personally.”

“I have done nothing today except try to put out the fires that you and Andrews started. I interviewed every single person in your unit and they all confirmed what Mrs. Lopez told me. You may not be aware of it but you are the most respected person in that building. Within twenty minutes after you left the entire unit was writing their letters of resignation. Andrews has completely destroyed the morale of that unit and most of the people only stayed out of loyalty to you. Fortunately the staff has agreed to hold their resignations until I get a chance to sort everything out.”

“You have several options to think about here. If you want to come back to the office, you will be coming back in Andrews’ position as manager. If that is too much for you right now, I know several CEOs around the country who will hire you at a moment’s notice on my recommendation…or here in Chicago if you want to work on your marriage.” Again he paused for a moment.

“There is a third option I would like you to consider. You are too valuable an employee for the company to lose. I understand that you’re originally from California. I can arrange for you to be transferred to our San Miguel office in California…at times like this it helps to be around family.”

The minute he said San Miguel I knew my answer. I opened my mouth but before I could speak he stopped me again.

“I don’t want an answer tonight, I want you to sleep on it, although it doesn’t look as though you’ve been doing very much of that the last couple of days.” He handed me a small card with a telephone number on it. “This is my private line, call me at 9 AM tomorrow.” With that he headed for the door. He opened it and turned around with small grin on his face. “Just so you know, the score was one broken nose and three cracked ribs. I made certain that assault charges will not be filed against you. Here’s the good news. When Andrews gets out of the hospital, he is going to explain to the district attorney how a man on his salary is able to pay cash for a Mercedes-Benz.” His grin got bigger and then he left.

The news about San Miguel was the only good thing I had heard in the last few days. I was born and raised in Santa Teresa, about one hours’ drive south of San Miguel. My mother and two brothers still lived there but that was not the good part. My best friend in the world lives in San Miguel. Colleen has always been the most important person in my life, from childhood and on to our “grown-up” lives. We share everything. I was the best man at her wedding and she was a bridesmaid at mine. There was nothing that we would not do for each other.

Colleen is also my sister.

There are four of us. Colleen is the oldest and three years older than me. In between are James and Michael, the twins. We all love each other but as children the natural paring was always Jimmy & Mikey against Colleen & Bobby in all the games we played. That same bond just continued as we grew up.

Colleen taught me how to tie my shoes and held my hand crossing the street. She sat behind me when we went down the giant slide and let me hide in her bed under the covers when the monsters in my closet were ready to come and get me.

When we were in high school, she watched out for me and kept me from doing anything stupid that would end up branding me as a hopeless dork for the next four years. Colleen gave me the best birthday present any fifteen-year boy could possibly imagine. She convinced her best friend on the cheerleading squad to take me to the Senior Class Christmas Ball as her date. I was the hero of every male in the freshmen class. Afterwards Cindy would wink and wave to me in the hallway and I became a living legend.

Colleen had married Bill after college and moved to San Miguel so he could open his business. They soon had two daughters and everything looked bright. Bill became an extension of Colleen for me and there was nothing I wouldn’t do for him. But then Colleen’s world fell apart.

Bill was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of cancer. After five months of agonizing pain, Bill died at home in Colleen’s arms. Two months later our father suffered a massive heart attack and died instantly. The strain was almost too much for Colleen but somehow she survived, became stronger and kept herself involved in her daughters. Even though we talked on the phone at least weekly, if not daily, I had not seen Colleen since Dad’s funeral two years ago. I was excited at the prospect of living in the same town with her.

Surprisingly, I did get some sleep and after a shower in the morning felt almost human again. That was the physical part. On the inside, I could feel my soul, my spirit, whatever you want to call it, starting to shrivel up and die. At 9 AM I called Gordon and told him my decision about San Miguel.

“Excellent choice Robert. There is a Starbucks around the corner from here on 53rd and Randolph. Meet me there in one hour.” And he hung up.

By the time I got there he was already sitting at a table with a box in front of him.

“I don’t have much time so here is the deal. Mrs. Lopez put all of your personal things in this box. Right now, Mrs. Lopez and I are the only people that know you are going to San Miguel and it will remain that way unless you tell someone personally.” He handed me a thick envelope that was sealed and stamped CONFIDENTIAL. “Harold Peterson is the head of the San Miguel office and is expecting you at 8 AM Monday morning, he loves punctuality. Give this to him when you get there.” He handed me a second envelope that was not sealed and I pulled out the contents. Inside was a first class airline ticket, one way to San Miguel. The other item was a piece of paper with the name and address of a law firm a few blocks away.

“You have an appointment with these people in thirty minutes. Whether or not you keep that appointment is your decision, but I suggest that you do.” He stood up and was ready to leave when I stopped him.

“Mr. Gordon, why are doing all this for me?”

He looked down at the floor for a long time before raising his head to look me in the eye.

“Because I was in your position myself a long time ago. Besides, Mrs. Lopez told me this morning that if I didn’t help you, she was going to bring her husband in to beat the crap out of me. The scary thing is I believe her. I don’t know what you did to earn her loyalty, but that’s the kind of people I like to have around me. She started this morning as my personal secretary.”

“Thank you Mr. Gordon…and please tell Mrs. Lopez thank you and that I will miss her.”

“I think she already knows that Robert, and good luck. I know it doesn’t seem like it right now but life will get better, you’re just going to have to trust me on this one.”

One more time he looked at me and grinned.

“This morning an independent auditing firm will begin examining the accounts that Andrews managed. I’m very interested in seeing what they find.”

He shook my hand and walked out the door.

I did keep the appointment with the attorneys. Obviously Gordon had set this up himself because they already had some background information about what had happened. We spent the rest of the day going over all the options that were available to me and any possible consequences. I made it clear that for all the pain and the shit that Barbara had dumped on me, I did not and would not seek any revenge. I did not want to destroy her, to have my “pound of flesh.” All I wanted was out of the marriage as quickly as possible and to never see or hear from her again. I had already taken the few things I wanted to keep from the last five years and just wanted to walk away.

I finally left the lawyers around 7 PM that evening and went back to the hotel. I was able keep some food down and for the first time in days felt as though I was taking back some of the control over my life that had been yanked way from me. I waited until I knew it was after dinnertime in San Miguel before I called Colleen. It was such a joy just to hear her voice when she answered.

“Bobby, where are you? What’s going on? Barbara has called here a hundred times; she says that you’re missing.”

“Do you know if she’s talked to Mom or the twins?”

“Yes she has, she’s been calling everyone from what I can tell. What’s going on?”

“I’ll explain everything later but right now I need some help.”

“Anything you need, you know that Bobby.”

“Thanks. I need you to pick me up at the airport. I’ll get into San Miguel Friday afternoon at 5:30, TWA flight 1649. I also need a place to stay for a while; I was hoping I could stay with you and the girls.”

“Of course you can, I’ll move Molly in with Meghan. They will love to see you.”

“One more thing, call Mom and the twins and ask them to come to your house Saturday morning, but don’t let them know that you’ve talked to me unless you have to. I don’t want Barbara to know where I am just yet. I’ll explain everything on Saturday.”

“OK Bobby, but the explanation had better be a good one.”

After a few minutes of banal conversation we hung up and I lay back on the bed. I tried to compare what had been the two most important people in my life up to now. Barbara was cutting edge fashion and all night dance clubs. She was all angles and flat planes and tight muscles; she was smoky darkness and a promise of sensual erotic delight. You knew that sex with her would turn into an athletic event.

Colleen was clean simple lines, all curves, classic, timeless traditional beauty. She was daylight and PTA meetings. She gave you a feeling of contentment. I can put on a perfectly tailored suit and it will look like I had slept in it for a week before I reach the sidewalk. My sister on the other hand, can put on discards from the Salvation Army store and look elegant and sophisticated. She makes people, male and female, want to go find their partner and reproduce the species so they could have children just like her.

More from total exhaustion than anything else I did sleep that night, but the dreams made me wake up the next morning in a cold sweat.

I spent most of the morning back at the lawyers finishing everything so I could leave Chicago the next day. I told them about Barbara calling my family. They immediately started the paper work to get a restraining order that would prevent Barbara from contacting my family or me. I signed a power of attorney so that I wouldn’t have to be involved in every little detail of what was going to happen. In the afternoon I tried to tie up all the loose ends I could think of and packed everything to leave.

And then I waited.

By this time all of the rage and anger had dissipated but in its place was a constant dull throbbing pain that was starting to wear huge calluses onto my soul.

The next morning a secretary from the attorney’s office drove me to the airport in my car. The lawyers were going to sell the car and the money would be added to the final settlement. The divorce papers were to be served to Barbara that afternoon. From the time I left the hospital Sunday afternoon until I got on the plane Friday morning, I had not seen nor spoken to Barbara. And if there was a God in heaven I never would in the future either.

I don’t remember much about the flight. I kept trying to force myself to stop thinking about what I was leaving behind and concentrate on where I was going. I had a three-hour lay over in Denver where I changed planes for San Miguel. Everyone left me alone as I waited; it felt like I was sitting in some type of isolation both. When I went to the men’s room I was startled by the dead face staring back at me from the mirror. I was lucky I wasn’t hauled away as a suspected terrorist.

John Gordon was right; being close to family was just what I needed right then.

The only emotion that I could feel was a small flicker of excitement at being able to see Colleen. It’s funny how genetics works. The twins, Jimmy and Mike, and I look like Dad. Fortunately Colleen looks like Mom. Growing up, Colleen was the typical girl next door. She was cute and bright and sunny and everyone’s best friend. When she was in high school she was the head cheerleader and had at least two dates every weekend. She was so sweet that the twins and I teased her that she would give us diabetes, but every boy in town knew that the twins would beat the crap out of them if they didn’t treat our sister right.

Colleen had made the transition to adulthood beautifully. If you look in the dictionary under Soccer Mom you will see Colleen’s picture. She is five foot four and had complained to me one time that her wedding dress was a size 6 but after giving birth to my nieces she was now a size 10 and her bra had increased a full cup size. Just like Mom her hair is the color of gold and she keeps is short, not even long enough to pull back into a ponytail. The twins and my eyes are blue like Dad’s but Mom and Colleen’s are a deep brown that has a completely serene look. I know it sounds corny but it is true; when she smiles the sun shines.

After the plane landed, I walked through the gate and started to look around when I heard two small voices squealing, “Uncle Bobby! Uncle Bobby! Over here.” Meghan, age seven and Molly, age six were jumping up and down, waving their arms and each holding a bright red balloon on a string. Colleen was standing behind them, smiling and they all rushed over to hug me. I have never seen a more beautiful sight.

We collected my bags and on the ride to the house Meghan and Molly were chattering a mile a minute telling me everything they had been doing since the last time I had seen them. Colleen lives in an older part of town in a large craftsman style cottage that had been built in the 1920’s. She and Bill had spent a lot of time and money restoring it to a pristine condition. Pulling into the driveway, I felt as though I had come home.

After we had unloaded my stuff, Molly took my hand and pulled to show me her room where I would be staying. While the girls and I talked, Colleen went to the kitchen to start dinner. After we ate, she told the girls to get ready for bed and that she had surprise for them. Grandma and Uncle Jimmy and Uncle Mike were coming tomorrow for a visit. This caused more squealing and jumping and it was another hour before she could get them into bed.

After closing the bedroom door on the girls, Colleen went to the kitchen and came out a few minutes later with two cups of tea. She set them down on the coffee table and sat next to me on the couch. When several minutes of a comforting silence had passed she put her arms around me and gave me a little kiss on the cheek.

“Is there any thing you want to talk about?”

“Not just yet, wait until tomorrow. I don’t want to go through this more than once.”

“Ok.” She stroked the back of my head and gave me another peck on the cheek. “It’s good to have you here. The girls are really exited about you staying with us.”

“Thanks, I think this is where I need to be right now.”

Colleen stood then took my hand and pulled me up after her. “I gather that tomorrow is going to be a tough day and you look beat. Why don’t you go to bed and I’ll see you in the morning.”

I lay on the bed but did not get undressed. I lay there staring up at the ceiling as every emotion in my body slowly drained away, leaving me completely numb. I must have eventually fallen asleep because the next thing I knew it was daylight and Meghan was shaking my shoulder to tell me, “breakfast is ready and mommy said to come and eat.” After breakfast, I took a quick shower and then spent the rest of the morning letting the girls introduce me to their favorite Saturday morning activities.

Mike pulled up in the driveway just a little before noon with his wife Sharon and their three kids. Mom arrived with Jimmy and his wife Mi Lin and their two kids about 10 minutes later. Mike has a successful and growing construction business and Jimmy is a deputy sheriff. No one was interested in lunch right then so Colleen asked Meghan and Molly to take their cousins out in the back so the grown ups could have a little talk. On the way out, Mike’s youngest, two-year-old Patricia, turned back, climbed into my lap and refused to leave. Somehow that seemed right so I kept her there and five minutes later she was asleep in my arms. I was sitting on the piano bench facing everyone else who was spread around the living room.

Over the next hour I told them everything, the story of Barbara’s infidelity, the baby and Derek Andrews, spilling out all the anger and pain and frustration that had been overwhelming me for the last week. I held nothing back and didn’t try to sugar coat anything. Jimmy and Mike only stopped me a couple of times to ask questions and Colleen and Mom said nothing. By the time I had finished, Colleen and Mom had tears in their eyes and Colleen said, “No wonder you only wanted to tell this once.” After several minutes of silence, Colleen asked what my future plans were.

“Bright and early Monday morning I officially start at the San Miguel office of Willis, Goldman & Reed. After that I’ll just play it by ear I guess.”

From that point every one started in trying to carry on ordinary conversation and catch up on things from the last few years. All too soon lunch was started and finished and it was time for everyone to make the drive back to Santa Teresa. For the first time since we were kids, my brothers gave me a hug when they said good-bye and Mom hugged me like she would never let go.

The next day was Sunday and after church, Colleen, Meghan and Molly drove me around introducing me to my new hometown. The girls showed me their favorite parks and had a spirited argument about which restaurant had the best pizza. That night after the girls were in bed, Colleen and I sat talking late into the night and then I went to bed. I lay in bed staring at the ceiling again, trying to sort out what was happening to me.

At 8:01 AM the next morning I was seated in a chair across the desk from Mr. Harold Peterson handing him the envelope from John Gordon. He laid the envelope on the desk in front of him without opening it. He picked up the phone, punched in a number and said, “Miss Jennings, would you step into my office please.” A moment later a young girl that appeared to be a recent graduate from a secretarial school came into the office.

“Miss Jennings, this is Robert O’Conner. He will be taking over for Barry, would you show him around and to his office. Robert, Miss Jennings will be your secretary. When you’re done, come on back in here for a few minutes.”

After the tour, I was back in the chair across from Peterson. This time the envelope was open and a pile of papers sat in front of him. He got up and crossed the room to shut the door and sat back down. He tapped the stack of papers with his finger then spoke.

“John speaks very highly of you and his word is good enough for me. Did he tell you that we were room mates in college?”

“No, I don’t think he mentioned it.”

“Oh well…here is the plan. For the next six months you will be doing the same job you had in Chicago, only not so much of it at one time.” This he said with a small smile on his lips and then continued. “After that we will sit down and chart out your future with Willis, Goldman & Reed. Welcome to San Miguel.”

San Miguel was as different from the Chicago office as anyone could possibly imagine. Chicago had over 300 employees and was the stepping stone to get to corporate headquarters in New York. San Miguel had 65 employees and suits and ties were discouraged unless corporate drones flew in from headquarters. Working in this office was a welcome relief from Chicago and I fell into the routine rather quickly…same job, new faces.

Peterson was a dream to work for. He was 40% manager and 60% cheerleader. He set incredibly high standards for his staff then spent most of his time convincing them they could do it. As a result, our office had the highest profit margin in the company. I was able to meet and interact with all of the employees, even fake a laugh at the typical office humor. But inside I kept myself separate and apart, never letting down my guard for one second about my personal life. I was living inside a glass booth.

And then the numbness came.

I had always been a person that enjoyed his life, but now…nothing. At times it almost seemed that people could hear a dry wind blowing through the hole in my soul. Before, I had been open and comfortable in almost any situation, but now I was closed and guarded.

The only pleasure that I had was being around Colleen and the girls. Meghan and Molly and I struck a bargain. Each night after dinner I would help them with their homework, how to add and subtract, learning to read a chapter book. They in turn would teach me every “Knock, Knock” joke known to mankind. They insisted that Colleen and I tuck them in together before allowing the lights to be turned off and go to sleep. Afterwards, Colleen and I would sit together in the living room and talk or watch TV or read or do nothing, just sit on the couch next to each other before going to bed.

It was at night that it was the worst. I had not slept alone for almost six years and it was then that everything could creep back, all the images, all the thoughts. Some were real pictures from my memory, others were pictures from my imagination, constantly playing in an endless loop until I couldn’t tell the difference. But now they meant nothing to me. I had no feelings, nothing good, nothing bad…only mental pictures that just wouldn’t go away.

Only the numbness remained.

Life became an emotionless routine for me. Routine was something that I desperately needed. During the day when I was at the office, Colleen was at home. After Bill died, Colleen sold the business and between that and the life insurance, she and the girls were set financially. This gave her the time to be a full time mom and do the thing she loved the most while they were in school. Colleen was an illustrator. She had illustrated seven children’s books, none of them best sellers, but she was proud of them and rightly so. In between she had freelanced a couple hundred drawings to several greeting card companies. All of this allowed her to work at home and set her own schedule.

Living together, we become this odd family unit. Each morning I would say good bye to the girls as they sat at the table eating their breakfast. Colleen would meet me at the door and send me back to my room to get rid of that hideous tie or put on socks that matched. She was still preventing me from humiliating myself in public.

Saturday mornings the girls would get me out of bed early and drag me half asleep to the couch. There I would lie down and they would lie on top of me watching the early morning cartoons. At 8:30 everyone would eat breakfast, get dressed and take Meghan and Molly to their soccer games.

If Colleen and the girls had not been there to prop me up, suicide would have been an attractive option.

About three weeks after I had arrived in San Miguel, I came home to find a large manila envelope lying on the dining room table. The return address was for the attorneys in Chicago. I opened it and inside were two other envelopes. One was an empty envelope that was already stamped and addressed to the attorneys, obviously meant to be used to return something. The other envelope was thick with papers and across the front was hand written, “Robert, please read this. PLEASE!” I recognized it immediately as Barbara’s handwriting. I stared at it, studying it for several minutes. Without opening the envelope, I tore it in half and put the pieces into the return envelope, sealed it and took it out to the mail box for the postman to pick up the next morning.

I continued to sleepwalk through my days and nights. Colleen did everything she could to draw me out of my emotional coma. The best part of the day was when she would kiss me on the cheek in the morning as I went out the door, or when the girls hugged me good night before bed. But for the most part the emotional numbness had taken over my life.

One Monday morning six months after leaving Chicago, Miss Jennings brought a FedEx man into my office saying that I had to sign for the package personally. After signing, the deliveryman said that his instructions were to wait until I had signed the papers and return them.

I opened the package and inside was the final divorce papers. I signed in the marked places and handed them back the FedEx guy. He stuffed them into another envelope, turned and left. It took less than ten minutes and four years of marriage to Barbara was over.

Six days later on Saturday morning, the doorbell rang and outside was another FedEx delivery from the attorneys. I signed for the package and went out back onto the deck. I sat on the glider and watched Meghan and Molly as they played in the yard. Finally I gathered what strength I had and opened the package. Inside was my copy of the final divorce papers signed by Barbara, the judge and myself. Also included was a check for my portion of the community property settlement. My marriage to Barbara was now officially over and the four-year investment for me had a monetary value of exactly $7,827.59.

I was lost in my own private misery when I felt something next to me. Meghan and Molly were standing mere inches away, holding hands and just watching me. Meghan sat next to me and put her arms around me. Molly crawled up into my lap and put her arms around my neck. She quietly said. “I love you Uncle Bobby,” then lay her head on my chest.

A second later another pair of arms went around me from behind and I heard Colleen’s voice whisper in my ear. “And I love you too Bobby, we all love you.”

After several moments Colleen stood up, kissed me on the top of my head and said, “Girls, would you mind going into the house for a little bit? I need to talk to Uncle Bobby.”

A quick squeeze from the girls then they hopped, skipped and jumped into the house as Colleen replaced Meghan on the glider next to me. She hooked her arm through mine and pulled me closer until we were leaning against each other. She took the papers out of my hands, looked them over then set them aside. We sat quietly before she spoke.

“When Bill died, I wanted to die too. I couldn’t see any reason for going on. And then Dad died. The only thing that kept me here was the girls…and you. I must have sat holding the girls for hours; I couldn’t bear to have them away from me. And you, you called me what…three…four times a day? You have no idea what that meant to me. I know what it means to lose someone you love. I think loosing someone to death is probably easier to deal with than what you’ve lost because I know that Bill loved me. Do you remember what you said to me…oh, must have been a couple of months after Dad died?”

“No, I don’t.”

“You said, ‘Colleen, you will always love Bill and Dad and it hurts to lose someone. You must remember everything about them, the good and the bad, but we love you and it is time to let go…’ Bobby, it’s time for you to let go.”

For the first time since that day at the hospital with Barbara, I cried. It was as though a giant festering emotional wound had erupted and my soul was pushing all of the poison out. Colleen sat holding me saying nothing. She waited patiently until the sobbing of a grown man stopped and I was able to pull my self together.

“You’re right, I know it’s time to let go. I just loved her so much. I don’t want her back; I just want to understand why she did it. I know in my mind that I did nothing wrong, but emotionally I feel like I failed as a person somehow…that I failed Barbara…that I failed myself. But you’re right, I will not let what Barbara did to me ruin the rest of my life. I’ve been using you and the girls as an emotional crutch for too long…I need to stop free loading off of you, I’ll start looking for a place of my own.”

“You will not. You’ll just sit there alone in some apartment feeling sorry for yourself and the girls would be devastated if you moved out.” Then she ruffled my hair, “besides, it’s nice living with you again without having the twins around to tease the hell out of us. When you’re ready, come inside and help me fix lunch.”

John Gordon was right. It was at that moment that life began to get better.

After lunch I took everyone to an afternoon matinee of the new Disney movie and against Colleen’s wishes, treated the girls to buckets of popcorn, candy and sodas. During the movie Colleen kissed the back of my hand and held it in the dark until the credits began to roll. For the first time in a very long time, I was having fun.

That night after the girls were in bed, Colleen and I talked late into the night, mostly me taking, Colleen listening as I purged my soul of more emotional poison. We have always been close, but now I was able to understand how much our family loved each other. That simple act of listening meant more to me than anything anyone has ever done. Only now did I realize the importance what I had done for Colleen after Bill died, and now she was returning that act of love to me.

After I had gotten into bed and was lying on my back staring at the ceiling, I heard the door open and watched as Colleen came into the room walking to the bed. She lay down next to me on top of the covers and pulled me close to her. When I started to say something she just stroked my face and said quietly, “Sh-sh-sh, just let it go baby.” When I awoke in the morning, she was gone.

Slowly but steadily my life got back on track. My harrowing nightmare existence began to fade, the dreams and mental pictures came less frequently at night. I began to interact with the people in the office in a more personal way. One day I had Colleen come to the office where I introduced her around before taking her to lunch. Later that evening after the girls were in bed, she had a half smile on her face when she asked why I hadn’t mentioned to anyone that she was my sister.

“I don’t know, it never crossed my mind. I guess that I’d better correct that tomorrow.”

“No, that’s ok. It’ll be good for the rumor mill to think that Bobby O’Conner has a girlfriend. Besides, I haven’t been the object of gossip for a long time.”

I thought about it for a while and realized Colleen had introduced me to her friends as just plain Robert. I pointed out to Colleen that she had not mentioned that I was her brother to the neighborhood, that she done the same thing I had done. We started laughing at what a scandal we must be in the neighborhood, that nice widow woman with the live-in boyfriend. We were laughing so much at what we both had inadvertently done that we had tears coming down. Laughter felt good once again.

When we caught our breaths, Colleen gave me a hug and whispered in my ear, “Well, I have to admit, I could do a lot worse for a boyfriend.” Then she turned, went to her bedroom, stopping to smile and blow me a kiss saying, “good night sweetie” before closing the door.

Life was getting better for me and the memories of my time in Chicago began to fade. Colleen and I spent a lot of evenings talking late into the night. Conversations that started with “Do you remember when…” and “What ever happened to…” but always ended with sharing everything that was important to us. Colleen told me of how much she missed Bill and Dad, but was now at peace with the idea of that chapter in her life being closed. My thoughts no longer dwelled on Barbara and I tried to express to Colleen how important Meghan and Molly had become to me.

I was surprised when Colleen insisted that I accompany her to the parent-teacher conferences for the girls. I applauded enthusiastically after Meghan and Molly sang their solos at the first, and second grade concert. Gradually I began to accept Colleen’s invitations to participate in her neighborhood activities. Our hugs at the front door in the morning were lasting longer each day.

It may seem odd, but one of the things that I came to enjoy the most was grocery shopping with Colleen. We would walk, or more accurately, stroll down the aisles pushing the cart, talking about everything and nothing. If the girls were with us, they would have to remind us that we had put nothing in the cart and they were getting hungry. Many times in public and when we were at home alone I would glance up to find Colleen looking at me with her half smile. She would hold me in her gaze for several moments and then return her attention to what ever she had been doing.

But she wasn’t the only one. Unconsciously I would find my attention drawn to Colleen at unexpected moments, watching her play with the girls or working in her studio. My relationship with her was shifting from little brother and big sister to friends that genuinely care for each other. Smiling came much easier me and I found that I had a tendency to whistle as I walked to the car after work.

One Friday in late March I came home from work to find Colleen and the girls loading sleeping bags and duffel bags into the trunk of Colleen’s car.

“What’s going on? Is someone running away from home?”

“No Uncle Bobby, we’re going to our Gymboree. Come with Mommy to take us, please, please, please.”

The girls had been talking about this for weeks. The Camp Fire Girls had a weekend campout that was going to take place in the gym of the local high school. The campout would last from Friday evening until 10 AM Sunday morning. We arrived at six o’clock along with 70 other girls between the ages of six and twelve and assorted parents and grandparents. Inside the gym was an entire village of tents and sleeping bags scattered around. To call the scene bedlam would not do it justice. We got the girls signed in and found their assigned place with the rest of their troop. A quick kiss, a few hugs, a rapid “see you on Sunday” and Colleen I beat a hasty retreat, barely escaping with our lives. We agreed that the adults who actually planned this event and stuck around to supervise the weekend deserved the Congressional Medal of Honor.

As we pulled out of the parking lot Colleen said that we needed to stop at the supermarket and pick up something for dinner. I looked at her for a few minutes and said, “Listen, this is the first time since I got here that we’ve been able to have an evening alone. How about I take you out to dinner, someplace where the food doesn’t come in a paper bag with the picture of a clown on it?”

Colleen had a faint smile on her lips as she spoke. “Why Robert O’Conner, are you asking me out on a date?”

“Well…yes…I guess I am…that is if you’re not busy and it’s ok with you’re parents, I’d really like to take you on a date…if you don’t already have a boyfriend.”

“I don’t know, I sort of promised Cindy that we might go to the malt shop together, but sure, I guess we could go out if you’re sure you want to…with me that is. I know it’s ok with my parents.”

“Gosh Colleen, you’re just swell.”

We had instantly reverted to that gut wrenching insane insecurity everyone has in junior high and we continued joking in this manner as we decided where to eat. We finally settled on the Shanghai Garden, a small neighborhood Chinese restaurant at the edge of downtown. After parking the car at the curb, I walked around, opened the door and held out my hand to help Colleen out of the car. When she was out of the car I held on to her hand and asked, “Would it be alright if I hold your hand for a while?”

She gave my hand a squeeze and said, “Sure. Just remember, I don’t kiss on the first date.” I didn’t reply, but gave her a quick peck on the cheek then we walked down the block to the restaurant.

It was much warmer than usual for March. Colleen was wearing a thin jersey knit black top. It was sleeveless with a scoop neck, low enough to show the smallest possible view of her cleavage and emphasized the full roundness of her breasts. She wore a khaki colored skirt that stopped inches above her knees; modest but still short enough to show the beautiful shape of her thighs. It was snug enough around her hips to be flattering without making her look like a streetwalker. Her legs were bare and she had on a pair of sandals that consisted of a sole and a couple of thin straps.

It was early in the evening so we were the first patrons for dinner. The waiter was showing us to our table, Colleen following the waiter and me following behind, watching Colleen, when I had a heart stopping epiphany.

My sister has a fantastic ass.

This realization threw me for a loop. That mental picture of her ass made it difficult for me concentrate on what to select for dinner from the menu. Eventually we did order something and began to eat. We talked about what we thought the girls were doing right then and whether or not the troop leaders were still sane, or were they ever sane to begin with. We talked about my work and what illustration projects Colleen had going at the moment. We discussed what was on the upcoming schedule for Meghan and Molly. All through this we kept our private joke running about our first date. After we finished eating, we were waiting for the waiter to bring us coffee when Colleen reached across the small table, placed her hand on top of mine and left it there.

When we were completely finished and the bill paid, we walked out of the restaurant still holding hands. Out on the sidewalk I asked, “it’s still early, want to catch a movie? We could see something for grown-ups this time.”

“I’m sorry Bobby, but tonight is too nice to waste it sitting in a dark room staring at lights on the wall. Let’s just walk for a while.”

We casually walked along the sidewalk with no particular destination in mind, talking or stopping to look in the shop windows, completely oblivious to the fact that we were still holding hands. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Colleen’s breasts gently sway underneath her top as we walked. When we stopped to look in the windows, we stood close to together, the skin of her arm pressed against mine. When she would turn to say something to me, her breast would delicately brush across my arm and cause a strange feeling to shoot across my chest. I don’t know if it was because of our joking about dating or what, but tonight I was seeing a completely different Colleen than the girl I had grown up with as a sister. I was starting to feel more than a little confused and awkward.

Eventually we found ourselves in front of a bookstore that was still open and we went in to browse around. Several times I looked up to find Colleen gazing in my direction with that half smile she uses when she is happy. We finished up by buying a bunch of paperbacks for ourselves, and a couple of volumes of the Nancy Drew Mystery series that the girls had not read yet. By the time we pulled up in the driveway at home, I looked down at my watch; it was only 9:45. We walked up to the front door where we quietly continued acting out the big finish to our date. I held both of Colleen’s hands in mine and tried to look at her face but for some reason the only thing I could focus on was her lips.

“Golly gosh gee whiz, I had a super-duper time Miss Colleen, I hope that you will let me take you out again sometime.”

Colleen has this way of laughing quietly that is so intimate you can only hear it if you are right next to her. She pulled me close and softly said, “I think that can be arranged.” She pulled my head closer and whispered, “I told you I don’t kiss on the first date but tonight I feel like breaking that rule.”

She put her arms around me and kissed me full on the lips, a kiss that was tender and loving and held the promise of something I couldn’t comprehend. I held her in my arms and was lost in the love I felt for this woman. After several minutes she pulled her head back and asked, “Do you have a curfew? Would you like to come in for awhile?”

“What about your parents, will they approve?”

“They’re already in bed, and they won’t know if we’re really, really quiet.”

“Ok, as long as we won’t get into trouble or anything.”

Again Colleen smiled, then opened the door and we went inside. She went into the kitchen and started making us some tea while I sat on the sofa in the living room skimming through the books we had just bought. She brought out two mugs, set them on the coffee table then sat next to me. We didn’t say anything for a while then Colleen turned to look at me.

“Bobby, all kidding aside, I want you to know that I haven’t had this much fun in a very long time. I haven’t had a date since before Bill died and I just want to say thank you. Tonight has been very special for me.”

“I know what you mean. These last eight or nine months, I feel like I’ve been to hell and back. I never would have made it if it weren’t for you and the girls. Tonight is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life…you know, I really do love you.”

“I know Bobby, I love you too.”

Colleen placed her hand along the side of my jaw, leaned in and kissed me again full on the lips. She pulled her head back as we looked at each other in the eyes. This time, I leaned over and kissed her, but now all pretense was gone. Our arms wrapped around each other as the kiss grew in intensity, becoming an act of passion trying to feed a desperate hunger. Somewhere along the line our mouths had opened and our tongues began a dance that was millions of years old.

After what seemed like an eternity that lasted only a few minutes, I broke out of Colleen’s grasp and slid down to kneel on the floor in front of her. I looked up into her face to see that she was breathing heavy, her breasts rising and falling with each breath. At that moment I began to feel like I was having an out body experience, as though I was standing over in a corner watching myself.

Kneeling in front of her, I slid my hands slowly up the outside of Colleen’s thighs. When they reached the hem of her skirt, I gently pushed it up her legs until it reached her crotch where it exposed the tiniest bit of her panties. I could see a large wet spot on her panties between her legs when I leaned forward and began to gently kiss the tops of her thighs.

“BOBBY! WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING?”

I looked up into her face and saw a glazed look in her eyes and she was biting her lower lip. By now I no longer had any conscious control over what I was doing. I was on automatic pilot and found it hard to actually form words.

“I think I’m going to fuck my date.”

We were frozen there, staring at each other, uncertain of what to do. After several moments, Colleen spread her legs apart, as wide as she could get them. This forced her skirt all the way up around her hips, exposing her pubic area and lower stomach. At the same time she placed her hand behind my head and gently pulled it forward until my face was pressed against her panties.

I could make out the faint shadow of her pubic hair that was trapped behind sheer pale lavender panties. I began to slowly and gently rub my face against the silky thin material. Each time my lips got to the top I would give a small kiss or a lick on her skin above the waistband. I moved my face further down and started to lick and suck directly between her legs. I placed my open mouth directly onto her pussy and began sucking the juice that was soaking the material. It seemed as though the more I sucked and swallowed, the more the wetness flowed out of her.

I felt Colleen moving around and raised my eyes to look up at her. She had removed her top and was grasping her breasts in her hands. She wore a matching bra made of the same thin material and I could see the dark circles surrounding her nipples. She had a frantic expression on her face and was rolling her head around on the back of the sofa. Her body gave a small shiver then she reached down, placed both hands on the side of my head and pulled my mouth away from her.

“Bobby…stop…stop.”

She stood up, pulling me with her. She was directly in front of me, looking me in the eye when she spoke. “You are most certainly not going to fuck your date.” Then she leaned in and whispered, “But you will definitely make love to your sister all night long.”

She walked away from me and down the hall to her bedroom. Her skirt was still up around her hips and I watched her gorgeous ass it twitched from side to side. The bouncing movement of her panty covered cheeks was breathtaking.

I paused for only a moment before sprinting behind her into the bedroom. A bedside lamp was on and she was standing in the middle of the room by the time I had entered. There was a bemused smile on her lips as she watched me desperately ripping the clothes from my body. When I was done she didn’t say anything, just pointed to the side of the bed where I sat down. She reached behind and undid the clasp on her bra. She leaned forward slightly and shrugged her shoulders, letting the straps slide down her arms before falling to the floor, allowing her breasts to sway freely.

She stood there bare breasted, her skirt up around her waist and her panties just barely big enough to cover her pubic area. A few stray hairs were sticking out above the waistband and between her legs at the crotch. She reached behind again, this time undoing the button and lowering the zipper on the skirt. She gave it a small push and it fell to the ground on its own. She stepped out of it and kicked it aside.

I had never thought of my sister as a sexual being other than to acknowledge the fact she had given birth to the two sweetest nieces in the world. Nothing in any fantasy of mine could compare with what stood in front of me. Colleen was erotic and sexy and earthy and sophisticated and loving and warm and desirable all at the same time. So much so, that I was having trouble breathing. She was a million times more beautiful than anything I could have ever imagined and I was starting to get dizzy.

My sister, the head cheerleader, my best friend, was standing before me with a contented smile on her face. Most women look better naked than clothed but I was not ready for this. Her skin was flawless. It was smooth in texture and creamy in color. The only mark was a small dime sized birthmark on her right hip just above the panty line.

Colleen’s waist was slightly thicker than it had been in her cheerleading days and her hips softy flared out and down to her full thighs. Even after giving birth to two children there was not a single stretch mark to be found anywhere. Her stomach was flat from the bottom of her breasts all the way down until it reached her mons. She was all soft curves without crossing the line into chubby.

Her breasts were large and round. Nursing the girls had only added a fullness to them that I had never noticed before. They were not the huge medical oddities I had seen in pictures that gave some women a certain bovine quality. They were in proportion to her body and hung down because of their weight. The nipples were wide and long, and very hard from excitement. The only two words I could think of at that moment were “ripe” and “succulent.”

I put my hands on her hips and pulled her forward. Once again I started to rub my face against her panties. She held me there for a moment then stepped back and put her hand under my chin, lifting my head to look up at her. She began speaking in a quiet and very serious voice.

“Bobby, we need to talk. I have already lost one lover in my life and I will not go through that again. If we do this, we are no longer brother and sister; we will be lovers and nothing on this earth will be able to put things back the way they were. If you later decide to move on to some other woman I won’t be able to take it. Once this is done, you have to understand that we are both in it for the long haul…the very long haul. If you’re not ready for that, we have to stop right now.”

I could hardly get the words out of my mouth. “Stop loving you? I don’t think so. If by long haul you mean the next fifty or sixty years, then I’m in. I have always loved you, even when I was a baby. I just didn’t know how much until tonight. I have never been happier than I am right now. If I learned anything from Barbara, it was the meaning of commitment. I promise I will never leave you…or cheat on you…and never…ever…do anything to hurt you.”

The smile on Colleen’s face spread from ear to ear as she leaned forward until our noses were touching. “Good. I’m glad you feel that way because if I catch you so much as looking at another woman I will cut your dick off and feed it to the ducks.”

“Jesus, you drive a hard bargain. Is it too late to back out?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Well ok then…I guess I can live with that.”

She took another step back and paused. She pushed her panties down her legs, stepped out of them and tossed them over her shoulder into the corner. I had never known how erotic and sensual the simple act of removing a pair of panties could be. I thought my eyeballs were going to explode.

She held her arms out to the side and struck a model’s pose. “This is it Bobby. This is what you get…this is what a soccer mom looks like…last chance to change your mind. Do you still want to do this?”

There was not a snowball’s chance in hell that I would change my mind. No soccer mom, or any other woman in the world could look as good as she did. I wanted to shout with joy, secure in the knowledge that I was going to see this every day for the rest of my life. I would sooner die than give up what I was feeling right then.

There is one genetic thing about Colleen that I have never been able to understand. The hair on her head is golden blonde. I know it’s natural because I have lived with her for most of her life. But her eyebrows and eyelashes, and as I could now clearly see, her pubic hair are a deep dark brown. The effect in contrast to her smooth creamy skin was arresting. The thick mass of dark hair created an inverted triangle, forming an arrow that pointed down between her legs.

I tried to speak, to tell her how much I loved her but the words came out as a soft gurgling sound. She laughed in her quiet way and said, “I’ll take that as a yes,” and gave me a kiss on the lips.

Colleen crawled up onto the bed and arranged the pillows at the headboard. She lay back and spread her legs wide. She looked at me and said simply, “it’s time Bobby.” I moved until I was kneeling between her legs, looking down where they joined together.

Colleen always shaves her underarms and legs, and the skin felt like satin. But she has never shaved her pussy. The hair continued between her legs and her swollen pussy lips poked through making it look like two black stripes that slowly faded out by the time it reached her ass. Her clit was barely visible as it peeked out from under its hood at the top of her slit. Every new feature of her body that I was discovering was more amazing than the last. My dick was like an iron bar and my brain was trying to pump more blood into it. If I dropped dead right then, I would die a happy man.

I stroked the insides of her thighs once or twice then leaned forward to taste the sweetness of the juice I could see dripping out of her. Before I could get close enough to do that she put both hands on the sides of my head and pulled me up over her until we were face to face. She reached down between us and brought the head of my cock up until it was touching the lips at the opening of her cunt.

“Baby, you will get plenty of chances to taste that, but right now I need your cock inside of me.”

She let go of my cock, placed her hands on my hips and slowly but firmly pulled me forward until I was buried as deep as I could go. We fit together like the first two pieces of a puzzle that had finally found each other. I could feel the muscles in her cunt grasping, holding on to me, trying to swallow my dick even further. She was wet and hot and tight inside. Not so tight that I had trouble going in but tight enough that if she kept flexing her cunt like that I would orgasm instantly. The only sound that either one of was capable of making was that low inarticulate moan of pleasure that only lovers can make when they first join together.

We lay there without moving, not speaking, my cock deep inside my sister. The feeling was glorious and I was afraid that I would awaken from a dream and loose all of this. I dropped my head down and began to kiss my way up the side of her neck until my lips reached her ear. Even though we were the only people in the house, what we were experiencing was so intimate that we could only whisper to each other.

“Colleen, you feel wonderful.”

“I know baby, but please, just fuck me. I’ve needed you for so long.”

“My God, I can’t believe how wet you are.”

“All for you baby, all for you. Now shut up and fuck me before I go crazy.”

I pulled back until I was almost out, then slowly pushed forward to be inside of her again. The inside of her sheath felt like velvet that had been soaked in warm oils. Her hands were still on my hips and she began pulling on them, helping me set our rhythm. She would grunt at the end of each stroke and sigh as I pulled back. She planted her feet flat on the mattress to use her legs as leverage to push her hips up to meet each of my downward strokes. Soon we began to pickup speed and she started to whisper frantically in my ear.

“Oh god this is good…please don’t ever stop fucking me…dear god I love you so much.”

I don’t know if we were pumping against each other for five minutes or five hours, all we knew was that we couldn’t stop. We were going faster and faster until we were thrashing around uncontrollably on the bed.

Suddenly Colleen arched her back and her eyes rolled back in her head. Her body started to convulse then she snapped forward, throwing her arms and legs around me. She held on to me as tight as she could and began sobbing as the orgasm overtook her. She was practically screaming, “Oh God…yes…do it…put your cum inside me…put it inside.”

At that moment my own orgasm exploded and my balls began to pump all of the pent up semen out the end of my dick and into her waiting pussy. Her cunt muscles were flexing, trying to swallow every last drop I could give her. The feeling was so intense that while Colleen was sobbing, I was still pumping and gave out one last low moan of pleasure when I was completely drained.

We finally let go of each other and collapsed on to the bed, lying on our backs looking up at the ceiling. Colleen reached over and grasped my hand, squeezing it as hard as she could. After several minutes she whispered, “I feel like I’ve just been hit by a freight train. Sweet Jesus that was good.” She turned on her side and propped her head up on her arm and looked at me. I turned my head to look back at her.

“That was fucking amazing,” I said.

“Damn right it was.” She began planting soft kisses on my face and neck and lips. She reached down to hold onto my cock using slow sensual strokes and whispered, “we are going to be doing a lot more of that…one hell of a lot more.”

I pulled her closer to me and started returning her kisses. “My god, why didn’t we do this years ago?”

“Because we would have been arrested. But now that we’ve started, I have no intention of ever stopping. How soon can we do it again?”

“Jesus woman, give me a break. I need to get my heart rate back to normal before I have a stroke.”

“Ok, but don’t take too long, just remember what I’m holding on to. I wouldn’t want anything to get hurt while I’m waiting.”

“For a sister you can be very demanding.”

“I know, that’s why you love me.

She gave me a deep kiss and tried to shove her tongue past my tonsils. She gently laid her head on my chest and kept sliding her hand up and down, squeezing my cock. We lay quietly with my arms around her, slowly stroking her back. I was about to drift off to sleep when I felt Colleen moving around. I opened my eyes to see her with her head raised, smiling and watching my face.

“What?” I asked.

She said nothing, but slid sideways and rolled on to her back. She spread her thighs wide again and said, “I’m ready.”

I rolled over and lay on top of her, my hips falling between her legs. This time Colleen did not have to guide me, my cock knew how to find its’ way back home. We quickly found our rhythm, slow and steady that seemed to go on forever. No words were spoken, only our grunts and groans, the involuntary reactions to physical pleasure. At last Colleen started to throw her hips hard and fast up against mine. She began chanting, “oh god…oh fuck yes…oh fuck I’m coming…I’m coming…” She twitched all over then went rigid. Her cunt clamped down and started sucking on my cock as my balls began pushing more sperm into her.

When we were done, we rolled over until we were lying on our sides, our arms wrapped around each other, my cock still inside of her and fell asleep.

I was dragged back to consciousness when I felt Colleen shifting around on the bed. I opened one bleary eye to see that the bedside lamp was still on, making everything on the bed visible but leaving the rest of the room in shadows. I turned my head and opened the other eye. Colleen was kneeling by my hips, one hand holding my balls, gently squeezing and rolling them around. Her other hand was methodically sliding up and down my cock. She looked at me with that half smile she has and said, “sh-h-h-h…I’ll take care of everything.”

My hips began a rocking motion on their own that matched her strokes. When my body had pumped enough blood into my cock to make it hard, Colleen raised one leg and straddled me. She held my cock straight up and lowered herself until her pussy lips were touching the tip. She let go and lowered herself the rest of the way until I was buried inside her, deeper than I had been before. Her eyes were unfocused and her breathing was heavy. She was sitting straight up, rocking her hips back and forth, pressing her clit against me as my cock massaged the inside of her cunt. I could feel her juice is it flowed out of her around my cock and down on to my balls.

She leaned forward until she rested her hands on either side of my head. She slowly moved her shoulders causing her to tits sway directly above my face. Using one hand, she took one of the breasts and held it to my mouth. Both of my hands came up to hold the breast in place as my lips opened to suck it in. Up until this moment I had neither touched nor tasted her breasts.

It was divine, I couldn’t get enough of them. My head began moving frantically back and forth between them, kissing, and licking and sucking on the nipples while my hands were rubbing and squeezing what I couldn’t get into my mouth.

Colleen began to pump her hips up and down on my cock. When she started to moan, I put my hands on her hips trying to pull her down harder on each stroke. Without warning, my balls exploded forcing another stream of cum into my sister. As soon as she felt my cock pulsing, her own orgasm started, forcing a long extended moan out of her throat. She collapsed on top of me and lay on my chest.

Colleen wasn’t kidding when she said that I would make love to my sister all night long. We did it two more times that night, and after the last time, I looked over at the clock that said it was 5:10 in the morning before we both passed out.

When I awoke, I sat up, confused, trying to figure out exactly why I was in Colleen’s bed. Then the memories of what we had been doing for the last eighteen hours came rushing back. I fell back on to the pillows and lay smiling up at the ceiling. I looked around and saw that Colleen was not in the room but I could hear faint noises coming from the direction of the kitchen. I got up and without putting any clothes on, headed down the hall.

I thought that I would never see anything as erotic as Colleen had looked the night before, but I was wrong. I was to soon discover that the most erotic vision will always be the next time I see Colleen. When I stepped into the room, my sister the head cheerleader was completely naked, standing at the counter with her back to me, pouring two cups of coffee. Her magnificent ass was directly in front of me and I could see the side of one of her breasts when it would sway into my line of sight.

I stepped behind her putting my arms around her waist and kissed her on the cheek. I pulled her close to me and slid my hands up until they cradled both breasts.

“Hey watch it, this coffee is hot.”

“Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Did I ever tell you what a great looking ass you have?”

“No you didn’t.” She took one of my hands off of her breast and moved it down until it rested on the thick mass of her pubic hair. She kept her hand on top of mine, forcing the fingers between the lips and setting a very slow rhythm of movement. “Is there any thing else about me I should know?”

“That I love you.”

“Yeah, I think you did say something about that last night. By the way, you should know I feel the same was about you.” She turned, put her own arms around me and gave me a kiss on the lips. She handed me one of the cups and picked up the other before taking my hand, pulling me with her towards the dining room. “Come here. I need to get some coffee into me before I start breakfast.”

We set the cups on the table and then did something that we were destined to repeat a thousand times in the future. With neither of us wearing any clothes I sat down on a dinning room chair. Colleen turned sideways and sat on my lap with her arm around my neck. A kiss on the cheek and she rested her head on my shoulder.

There is a certain kind of silence that only lovers can experience. There is nothing that can compare to the quiet comfort that comes from two bodies at rest against each other, skin on skin. We sat there in the now mid-afternoon, holding each other in silence, sipping our coffee. We were so focused on each other that we had no concept of the passage of time.

Colleen finished her coffee and set the cup back on the table. She kissed me on the forehead then leaned back to look me in the face. “Bobby, we need to talk.”

“Uh-oh, this doesn’t sound good.”

“I don’t know if it is or not.”

There was an uncertainty, almost a sadness in her voice as she spoke. “Last night was the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me. I loved Bill passionately and the sex with him was fantastic, but what we did goes beyond anything I have ever experienced. I was a virgin the day I got married and you are only the second person I have made love to. For the last couple of weeks, every time you kiss me good bye at the door, you leave me so wet that I have to run and change my panties so the girls won’t smell anything. I loved you before, but right now I’m almost scared at how much more I love you. I don’t ever want anything to come between us. I’m going to give you one last chance to change your mind. We can keep the memory of last night and go back to being brother and sister if that is what you want.”

“You have got to be joking. I made my choice last night and there in nothing on God’s green earth that can change my mind. The very thought of living here in this house with you, or any where on this planet and not being able hold you like this for the rest of my life is so terrifying I can’t think straight. You said it last night, I agreed and I still stand by it, we are both in this for the long haul…honey, why are you crying?” Colleen’s eyes were wet and her lower lip was quivering.

“Because I was afraid I might loose you,” she whispered.

“Oh no sweetheart, your problem is going to be how to get rid of me. Besides, you have a lot more body parts I need to examine and tell you about.”

“Thank you.”

She thew her arms around me so hard it almost knocked us both out of the chair. After a few minutes Colleen was able stop sniffling and regained her composure. She stood up and said, “If we’re going to repeat anything of what we did last night, we need to get some food. What would you like to eat?”

“Actually, I was hoping it would be you.”

“Good Lord, you are incorrigible. Is it going to be like this for the rest of our lives?”

“Pretty much, yes.”

“Good, I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Colleen gave me one of her sunshine smiles. “I mean it this time, what would you like to have for breakfast?”

“I don’t care, anything quick and simple. But I wouldn’t try cooking bacon dressed like that if I were you.”

Colleen gave me a cheerful laugh and a slap to the back the head then went into the kitchen. After eating, we spent the rest of the day doing nothing, just being lazy, not once giving any thought to putting clothes on. We talked, we read, we watched a movie on TV, we danced nude to Sinatra singing Cole Porter tunes. I think I might have given the old lady across the street a heart attack when I went out to get the newspaper off of the porch. As the sun was starting to set, turning everything that kind of amber color that only a sundown can do, Colleen was lying in the middle of the living room floor moaning in ecstasy while I was furiously pumping more sperm into her.

After that we went to the kitchen for more nourishment and headed back to the bedroom to pick up from where we left off the night before. Colleen lay down on the bed and propped her head up with the pillows. She spread her legs wide and said, “I believe you said something about eating…”

No matter how many times I see it or taste it, I am always dumbstruck by how wonderful Colleen’s pussy is. The hair is dark and thick and feels like silk. When she gets excited the flesh between her legs swells up forcing the slit to open ever so slightly, allowing her juice to leak out. The clit starts to escape from its hiding place and sits there like a big pink button coming out of the hair.

I leaned forward and began kissing, nibbling, nipping at the lips of her cunt. Using the flat of my tongue I gave long, wide strokes along the length of her inner lips, stopping occasionally to push it inside as far as it could go. When she started the quivering motion that I now knew was the beginning of her orgasm, I moved to the top of her slit and took the clit between my lips. I pulled it in, sucking it like a nipple, massaging it with my tongue. I opened my mouth wide and tried to cover as much of her pussy as possible, sucking and swallowing all of her juice. Colleen put her hands against the back of my head to push my mouth even harder against her as her thighs clamped around my head. She suddenly pulled me up until I lay on top of her.

“Oh god Bobby, get your dick inside me quick. I need to feel your cum.”

I always obey my older sister.

We were slamming against each other for only a couple of minutes when we screamed out together the arrival of another freight train orgasm. My balls are only average sized, but they should have been the size of grapefruits for the amount of sperm they were producing. It completely filled Colleen’s womb and started a back-flow out around my cock and was oozing down her ass on to the sheets. The major waves of pleasure had stopped and my balls were still pumping out thick cream.

When everything had subsided we lay still with my cock still inside of her, hoping that the moment would never end. I held most of my weight on my elbows and dropped my head to whisper in Colleen’s ear.

“You realize of course that I am living out every boy’s fantasy.”

“What, every guy wants to screw his sister?

“Not that fantasy, the other one.”

“Which is…?”

“I am the high school freshman geek that gets to fuck the head cheerleader.”

“Hey, the only reason I let you do that is because you promised to respect me in the morning.”

“Sweetheart, what I feel for you goes way beyond respect.”

“I haven’t led a cheer in years, but if that makes you drop your socks, I just might have to take it up again.”

We couldn’t match our record from the night before and were physically capable of doing it only two times before falling asleep for the night.

I woke up the next morning to find that we were spooned against each other; Colleen was behind me with her cheek resting on my shoulder blade and her arm around my waist. After several minutes her arm casually drifted down until her hand rested on my dick and started to squeeze and pull. I rolled on to my back to give her better access and she lay her head on my chest. Just as things were starting to get serious, she let go and sat up.

“Ok bub, time to get up.”

“I am up.”

“Not that kind of up, get out of bed.”

“WHAT! What I supposed to do about this?” I pointed down to my rock hard cock that was standing straight up.

“Don’t you dare touch that. Just think about it all day, that will make it twice as good tonight.”

“So there’s going to be a tonight? I like the sound of that.”

“Get a move on. We’ve got a lot to do.”

“What could we possibly have to do at…” I looked over at the clock, “oh Christ it’s only 7:30 in the morning.”

“We have to pick up the girls by 10 and we need get the house in shape before they get back. I don’t want the girls coming back with the house smelling like a bordello.”

“And exactly how is it that my two nieces know what a bordello smells like.”

Standing, Colleen reached down and cupped her pussy. “If you expect to see or touch this any time in the near future, you’ll get your ass out of that bed by the time I count to 3. 1…2…ok that’s better.”

“You can be such a tyrant at times.”

“I know sweetie.” She bushed the hair back from my face and kissed me on the lips. “We’ll start with a shower. You’re starting to get a little ripe.”

I lifted my arm and took a whiff. “Don’t know what you’re talking about, fresh as a daisy here. You in the other hand…”

Laughing, she took my hand and pulled me into the bathroom. It was a good thing that Colleen had started us so early because the shower took much longer than it should have. Showering with Colleen was definitely going on to my list of things to repeat.

We got the house in order, changed the sheets on the bed and opened the widows to air out the bedroom. To be honest, it was smelling a little rank. We arrived at the high school with five minutes to spare.

We got the girls signed out, collected up their gear and all the crafts projects, said good-bye to their friends (“see you at school tomorrow”), loaded up the car and headed for home. Meghan immediately leaned over the back of the seat and said, “Mom, how come you’re smiling so much?”

Colleen shot me a quick glance, wiggled her eyebrows and replied, “Uncle Bobby told me a funny story.”

“Goody, tell us the story Uncle Bobby.”

Colleen watched me with a grin as I struggled to come up with an answer to that one.

“I can’t. It’s a grown up story and little girls aren’t allowed to hear it.”

“OK…Mom, Brittany is going to get a pony and she said we could come to her house and see it, is that all right?”

“Sure, I’ll call her mom and make arrangements,” she said, then leaned over and whispered, “Nice save.”

All the way through lunch, the rest of the afternoon and then dinner, Colleen and I were treated to a constant stream of consciousness description of every activity they did, every craft they made, every song they sang and everything their friends did. By the time they were done, we were as exhausted as the girls. By 7 that evening Meghan and Molly were sound asleep on the sofa. We picked them up and carried them to their bedroom. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried to put pajamas on to a limp child.

We watched a little TV, waiting for several hours to guarantee that the girls were not going to wake up until the morning then went to bed ourselves. Colleen was right, thinking about it all day did make it that much more intense. This time we both had to bite the pillows to silence our moaning and screaming. The next day I would have to move the bed and headboard away from the wall.

The next morning I was rudely woken by Colleen shaking my shoulder. “Bobby, wake up. You have to get out of here.”

“Why?”

“Because you can’t be in here when the girls get up.”

Ok, ok, ok, ok, I’m up.”

I went in to the kitchen to start the coffee while Colleen got the girls up. We spent the next hour doing the things we normally do on a Monday morning in order to get out the door to school and the office. As I was heading out the door, Colleen was there as usual to hug and kiss me good-bye, still wearing her nightgown and robe. While she was hugging me, I looked over her shoulder to keep an eye on the girls. I pulled up the front of the nightgown and slid my hand down into her panties. I inserted two fingers into her hole and wiggled them around, using my thumb to rub her clit. I whispered, “Do you realize that we spent thirty-six hours without a single stitch of clothing on?”

“Yeah, that was a lot of fun. We’ll have to do it again the next time the girls are away.”

“Well, you know, they really like getting to see Mom and the twins…”

“I’ll call Mom tonight and see how soon we can arrange something.”

“Maybe we should join one of those nudist society groups.”

“In your dreams buster.” She pulled my hand out, gave a small push on my chest, and said, “We’ll finish this tonight. Now out.”

As I went through the door I called out, “good-bye girls.”

“Good-bye Uncle Bobby.”

I had just sat down at my desk with a cup of coffee when Peterson walked into my office. He started to tell me something then stopped and looked at me.

“Robert, you look like the village idiot with that grin all over your face.”

I clasped my hands behind my head and leaned back in the chair. “Feel as happy as the village idiot, sir.”

He smiled and said, “Good. Glad to see things are looking better.”

Right then Miss Jennings walked in and dropped a stack of papers in my in-box. Without looking in my direction she said “somebody got lucky this weekend,” then turned and walked away. Peterson was roaring with laughter as he followed her out.

That evening we did our normal weekday routine. During dinner everyone discussed their day, told jokes, planned the next day’s activities and created general chaos. After dinner, the homework was finished early so there was time for the four us to play a quick game of Candyland before sending the girls off to bath time and bed.

Once we were assured that the girls were definitely down for the night, I was headed to my bedroom when Colleen grabbed my arm and pulled me into hers. As she was taking off her clothes she started talking.

“Bobby we need to talk.”

“I hate it when you start with that phrase.”

“Just shut up and listen. I’ve made a decision. From now on, you’re not going to sleep anywhere except in bed with me. If you’re in the other room at night I’ll go crazy, I want you in here next to me.”

“What about Meghan and Molly?”

“Think about it for a minute. They always go to bed before we do and always get up after we do. If we’re careful they will never know.”

“What about Saturday morning cartoons?”

She got into bed and pulled the covers up to her neck. “We have four more days to figure out the weekends. So what do you think?”

It didn’t take me long at all to think about it.

“Ok, on one condition. You have to promise me that you will never wear any clothes to bed, nothing, nada, nine, nyet, zilch, zippo.”

She smiled and pulled back the covers to show me the thick bush surrounding her pussy. “Deal. Now get your clothes off and get in here.”

I slid into bed, settled in between her legs and whispered, “I must be the luckiest man in the world.”

The next two weeks were like a dream come true. During the day we were focused on the girls, laughing and telling jokes, crying over skinned knees and struggling with homework. The big family project was teaching Molly how to ride a bike. Colleen and I followed the schedule closely and had the most delicious sex every night, most nights more than once. We were even able to deal with the Saturday and Sunday morning problem. Then disaster struck.

I was roughly shaken awake by Colleen as she whispered in panic. “Bobby, wake up. You’ve got to get out of here, and be quiet.”

I rolled over to look at her and was horrified at what I saw. Meghan and Molly were sound asleep, dead to the world, lying in the middle of the bed between Colleen and me. As quietly as possible, I rolled out of the bed and onto the floor. I grabbed my clothes and crawled on my hands and knees out the bedroom door as fast as I could.

During breakfast Colleen was so nervous that she kept dropping things and I wasn’t much better. At the door I asked, “Do you think they saw me?”

“I don’t know, but we have to come up with a better solution. Now get going or you’ll be late.”

That night after dinner Colleen served us lemon meringue pie for desert, an unusual treat for the middle of the week. Just as we were about to take the first bite, Colleen spoke. “Girls, we need to have a discussion.” There was a collective sigh from the three of us because we all knew that what was about to be said was going to be serious.

“Your Uncle Bobby and I had a talk today. Bobby feels very badly that he is taking Molly’s room and that Meghan has to share hers, plus Molly’s room is sort of small for a grown up. So, Bobby has been thinking of moving to his own home. I told him that we needed to talk it over with you girls.”

They immediately erupted in protest. “NO! You can’t leave; we want you to stay here.”

“Well, can you help us to think of a better solution?”

Both of their faces went into a frown as they began to concentrate. Suddenly Molly broke into a big grin as she looked first at Colleen and then at me. “Uncle Bobby, mommy’s bedroom is huge and she has a great big bed. Why don’t you sleep with her?”

“I hadn’t thought about that. It sounds like a very good idea, but what does your mother think?”

“Mommy, is it ok, can Uncle Bobby sleep with you?”

“I don’t want him to leave either so, yes, I’m willing to give it a try and see if it works out…as long he promises not to hog the covers.”

“Yay! You get to sleep with Mommy, Uncle Bobby.” Then they both giggled, “And leave the covers alone or we will come and get you.”

They ran down the hall to gather up Molly’s things to move her back into her own room. I leaned over and kissed Colleen on the cheek and asked, “how did you know how to do that?”

She got that half smile of hers again and said, “Once you become a parent, these things just come to you.”

So that night I permanently and openly moved into Colleen’s bed and made it our bed. Molly never said anything, but you could tell that she was happy to be back in her own room. Things just kept getting better for everyone.

About a month later I woke up to find myself in bed alone with some awful sounds coming from the bathroom. I got up and went in to find Colleen on her knees with her head in the toilet. I ran to her in a panic and asked, “Are you ok?”

“Does it look like I’m ok? Go away, I don’t want you to see this.”

“But…”

“Just go away…oh god…” This was followed by something very unpleasant looking spurting out of her mouth. “GO!”

I went back and sat on the edge of the bed listening to some violent retching noises for the next ten minutes. Finally I heard the toilet flush and the sound of Colleen gargling with mouthwash. She came in and sat on the bed next to me, her face pasty white and her eyes slightly red.

“Honey, are you Ok?”

She turned her head and smiled at me. “Yes, as a matter of fact everything is fine, it couldn’t be better.”

“What happened, what’s going on?”

“Well, let’s think here for a minute. I’m three weeks late with my period and I’ve been puking my guts out for the last four mornings. If I remember the symptoms correctly from the last two times, there’s a fairly good chance that I’m pregnant.”

“WHAT? How? When?”

“You had better already know the how part, and as to when, it was probably the first time we did it. I was ovulating that day and some how I just felt it, sort of special you know.”

“Are you sure?”

“I can’t be one hundred percent positive until I take the test, but yes, I’m reasonably sure that we are going to have a baby.”

I sat staring at her with my mouth open for several minutes before she spoke again. “Bobby…are you ok, say something.”

I pushed her back on to the bed, spread her legs apart and slammed my cock into her. She yelped out, “Bobby…what are you doing…oh God…Jesus Bobby you’re…oh God, oh fuck…don’t stop.” She put her hands on my ass, pulling me in and at the same time telling me to go faster and harder. I only had to stroke about nine or ten times before both of us screamed out our release. We lay there panting and gasping for air. After we had calmed down, Colleen turned and looked at me with a shocked expression on her face.

“What the hell was that?”

“If you’re not pregnant now, I’m going to make damn sure that you will be.”

“Does this mean that you’re ok with the idea of being a father?”

“How could you possibly think any thing different?”

She cuddled in close to me and whispered, “I just need to hear you say it.”

While Colleen got the girls up and ready for the day, I called the office to tell them that I would not be coming in. Together we dropped Meghan and Molly off at school then stopped at the pharmacy to buy a home pregnancy kit. Holding hands we raced into the bathroom. As Colleen sat on the toilet and put her hand between her legs to pee on the stick, I unbuckled my belt and shoved my pants down to my ankles. When the pee started, she reached over, grasped my dick and began sliding her hand up and down. When she finished, Colleen laid the stick on the counter and said, “We have to wait for ten minutes.”

I pulled her up by the hand, spun her around and made her bend over the sink. Driven by some type of animalistic compulsion, I shoved my cock into her from behind. She immediately began pushing back against me, neither one of us caring if the other one climaxed. The only thing I wanted was to leave another load of sperm in my sister’s womb. The screaming of our orgasms was magnified by the echoes inside the small room. She turned her head and looked back over her shoulder, smiled at me and said, “I think being pregnant is going work out pretty good for me.”

Colleen picked up the stick, looked at it for a second and said one word.

“Positive.”

With the urgency of knowing about the pregnancy over, we spent the rest of the morning in bed making love, slowly, tenderly, passionately. In the afternoon we got dressed and I went to pick up the girls while Colleen phoned the doctor. She got an appointment for later in the week to have the official test, but it didn’t matter, we already knew.

We were deliriously happy during those first few weeks. When she wasn’t looking, I would catch Colleen smiling and slowly rubbing her lower stomach where our baby was growing. Our friends and neighbors began to smile when they looked at us as though they knew something was different.

By the third month, Colleen was beginning to show and we knew that we would have figure out some way to let people know. Since no one in San Miguel knew that we were brother and sister, we decided to neither hide it nor broadcast it, but go with a direct response if asked. Yes, Colleen is pregnant and we are overjoyed. Let the rumor mill feed itself…the live-in boyfriend knocked up that nice widow woman. As far as the office was concerned, when Colleen was really showing, I had her come in and pick me up for lunch. By the time I got back an hour later, everyone in the building knew I was going to be a father and Miss Jennings was already making plans for a baby shower.

The family however was a different matter.

Colleen hated maternity clothes, so the only things she would wear were two pairs of overalls left over from the last time she was pregnant, or a couple of pairs of track pants with an elastic waist that I had purchased for her. When Colleen got big enough that loose clothing couldn’t hide it any longer, we decided it was time to tell the girls. One night after dinner, she brought out the lemon meringue pie.

“Girls, we need to talk.”

Meghan and Molly froze in place; their eyes focused on Colleen, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“You girls are growing up so fast; you’re going to be in the second and third grades next year. You’re just not my little babies anymore. Uncle Bobby is at his office all day while you’re at school so I’m here alone. You know how much I love tiny babies so I was wondering…what would you think if Mommy had another baby?”

Both girls squealed and clapped their hands. “That would be wonderful. How soon can we get the baby?” Meghan looked over to me then back at her mother. “What about Uncle Bobby, he lives here too. What does he think?”

“I agree, I think a baby is a wonderful idea.”

“Good. I’ll go clean my room so she can sleep in my room.”

“Will not, she’s going to be in my room.”

The girls went into the living room still arguing about where the baby was going to sleep when Molly ran back in out of breath and yelled, “We want a sister, bothers are icky,” and ran back out.

I looked at Colleen with admiration. “You’re very good at this.”

“Don’t worry, a year from now you’ll be able to do this kind of thing in your sleep.”

The next step was dealing with Mom and the twins. Every couple of weeks, Mom or one of the twins, or all of them would drive up from Santa Teresa and spend the day with us while the kid cousins would wreak havoc and mayhem together in the back yard. They were concerned about my well being after all the shit from Barbara and wanted to make sure everything was going ok. Once Colleen was showing, we started coming up with excuses to keep them from coming to visit.

By the seventh month, Colleen was as big as house. Most of the weight that she gained was all in the front where the baby was. She had been like that with Meghan and Molly too. She looked like a lady who had shoved a beach ball up under her shirt.

It had reached the point where we couldn’t put off telling Mom and the twins any longer. I called Mike and Jimmy and asked them to meet us at Mom’s house the next weekend. So bright and early on Saturday, we loaded Meghan and Molly into the car and headed out for Santa Teresa.

When we pulled up in front of Mom’s house, Meghan and Molly had the car doors open by the time the engine was off. They flew up the steps and burst through the front door yelling. “Grandma, Grandma we’re here.” I walked around to the other side to help Colleen get out of the car and saw Jimmy step on to the porch. He took one look at Colleen and stuck his head back in the door and yelled.

“Mike, get out here, quick.”

Jimmy and Mike watched as their brother and sister, Colleen holding on to my arm for support, walked up the steps of the house we had all grown up in. Their sister who would only dress in the most sophisticated of clothes was today wearing a pair of navy blue track pants with a white stripe down the side. On top was one of my t-shirts and a sweatshirt from college that was not zipped up because it couldn’t stretch far enough to close around her belly. She had accessorized her wardrobe by putting on a baseball cap with the stray ends of her blonde hair sticking out from underneath going in a dozen different directions. The last thing she wore was a beatific smile that made her look like Pintirelli’s “Madonna.” In plain and simple terms, Colleen looked beautiful.

Colleen had to hold on to my arm to get up the eight steps to the porch. Mike came half way down to meet us and took her other arm to help get her the rest of the way up. As we walked past Jimmy I heard him say, “I can’t wait to hear this.”

Once in the living room, Jimmy and Mike, and their wives just stood staring at Colleen. Finally Jimmy’s wife Mi Lin spoke. “You’ve been in the car for over an hour, you probably need to go to the bathroom and we can talk when you’re done. Jimmy, go outside and get your mother…and tell the kids to stay outside.”

Mom came in followed by Mike’s daughter Patricia who was now three years old. She ran over and held out her arms for me to pick her up. Mom smiled at us while everyone else was fidgeting and looking at me.

“What’s so important that the kids need to stay outside? Where’s Colleen?”

“Right here Mom, I just went to the bathroom.”

Colleen walked into the room and came to stand next to me, holding my hand as I held Patricia in my other arm. Mom took one look at Colleen and her eyes began to bug out. She took two steps back and sank down on the couch, her eyes wide and mouth open staring at Colleen’s mid-section. After several minutes of deafening silence Mom spoke.

“Colleen, is there something you would like to tell us?”

“Mom…Jimmy…Mike…I’m pregnant.”

“I can see that for God’s sakes,” Mom snapped. “I’m not blind. Could you elaborate? As in who is the father?”

“I am.”

There was an audible click as all eyes snapped towards me and jaws fell even further. Mike’s wife Sharon was the first to recover. “Excuse me, what did you just say?”

“I said, I am the father. Colleen and I are having a baby…together.”

Everyone looked to watch Mom. The color in her face had turned white as she said. “Oh my God,” and placed her head in her hands. After a long pause she raised her head back up and shook it hard as though trying shake things back into place. Mom took several deep breaths that seemed to calm her down somewhat and stared wide-eyed at Colleen for several minutes then asked, “Why?”

Colleen squeezed my hand a little harder and answered, “Because I love him.”

Mom looked to me. “Bobby?”

“Mom, I love Colleen more than life itself.”

After a long period of silence, Mom gave a sigh of resignation then stood up. She came over and put her arms around both of us. “I don’t understand what is going on here, I just pray to God that you kids know what you’re doing. I don’t want anyone to get hurt. When is the baby due?”

“January 3rd.”

“Your grandfather’s birthday, he would be very honored.”

During this time Mike and Jimmy had been whispering to each other, getting more and more animated. Finally Mike asked his question.

“Listen, guys, when did you…um…the first time…the very first time…uh…you know…first time…um…uh.”

Jimmy finished Mike’s question. “When was the first time you guys did it?”

Colleen looked down at her stomach then back at the twins with a smile. “This March, first time’s the charm. Why do you ask?”

Jimmy said, “HA!” at the same time Mike exclaimed, “Damn it.” Mike pulled out his wallet, counted out five singles and handed them to Jimmy who was grinning from ear to ear. Mom watched this and asked, “What’s this all about?”

Mike had a sheepish look on his face. “Oh…well uh, when we were in high school I bet Jimmy five dollars that Colleen and Bobby were doing it.”

“MICHAEL THOMAS O’CONNER! That’s a disgusting thing to say about you sister!”

“Oh come on, Mom. Until Colleen met Bill, she and Bobby were practically joined at the hip. Half the kids in school thought they were doing it.”

Our mother looked like she was about to have a stroke.

“JAMES, IS THIS TRUE?”

Now it was Jimmy’s turn to look awkward. “Yeah Mom, but I didn’t. Remember, I’m the one that won the bet.”

One of the many things that we have always been able count on from Jimmy has been his ability to defuse explosive situations, especially when it came to our parents. He walked over, put his arms around both Mom and Colleen and grinned. “Just relax Mom. Take a look at Colleen, you can see how happy she is…and that big doofus brother of mine. Everything is going be fine. Besides, you’re going to have one more grandchild to spoil rotten. Now where is that casserole you promised? I’m not leaving here until I get some.” Still grinning he leaned in to me and whispered so that no one else could hear. “Do anything to hurt Colleen and I will kill you.”

I knew that he meant it.

I whispered back to him, “If I ever do any thing to hurt her I’ll load the gun for you myself.”

“Good, just so we understand each other.”

As lunch was started the tension was still there but once Mom showed signs of accepting the situation, things started to smooth out. After lunch, Colleen and Mom, Sharon and Mi Lin stayed in the kitchen talking about all of the things women talk about when one of them is pregnant. The twins and I wandered out to the back to keep an eye on the kids and sat on the steps of the deck. Jimmy was watching the kids and didn’t look in my direction. “You don’t have a clue about what you’re doing, do you?”

“Probably not, but Colleen and I have never been happier.”

“Just remember what I said.”

“Don’t worry, I will.”

Mike turned his head, looked at me with a serious expression and said, “Don’t ever let Colleen get more than twenty feet from a bathroom or you will live to regret it.”

That was the last time either Jimmy or Mike said anything about the pregnancy.

All too soon it was starting to get dark so we rounded up the girls to head back to San Miguel. The girls were buckled in the back and Colleen and I were standing on the sidewalk saying our good-byes. Jimmy and Mike shook my hand and gave Colleen a quick hug then headed back into the house. Mom gave Colleen a hug that seemed to last forever and finally whispered something in her ear that made both of them smile and tear up. Next she gave me my hug and whispered in my ear. “I know she’s the oldest but she’s my baby, just make her happy.”

“I will Mom, I promise.”

As we pulled away from the house, Colleen reached over and took hold of my hand. I glanced over to see a tear trickle down her cheek.

“What’s wrong honey?”

“I know Mom is upset, but she and the twins are so accepting of us and I love them so much…we are the luckiest people in the world to have them for a family. I don’t know what we would have done if they had rejected us.” I didn’t say anything, just nodded my head in agreement and tried not to cry myself.

By the time we arrived back home it was past the girls bedtime so with very little fussing we got them tucked in for the night and headed for bed ourselves. From the very beginning, Colleen has known how excited I get watching her take off her panties, so every night, she has performed her own private strip tease show just for me. Only now, because she couldn’t bend over with out losing her balance, I had the pleasant task of pulling down her panties for her. She has kept her promise to me and never worn any clothes to bed.

Once I had gotten her clothes off of her, Colleen sat on the side of the bed and pulled me by the hips in front of her. Looking up into my eyes, she smiled as she began to unbuckle my belt and open my pants. She pulled out the waistband of my jockeys and reached inside to take hold of my erection. Holding it in place with one hand, she used the other hand to push the underwear and pants down my legs until they fell to the floor and left them there.

My cock was already rock hard and pointing toward the ceiling. With one hand she cupped my balls while the other hand was around the base of my dick. She held it steady then lowered her head until my cock head was at the opening of her mouth. She held it there for only an instant so that I could feel her warm breath then inserted it the rest of the way and closed her lips tightly. She tilted her head until the roof of her mouth was caressing the tip while her tongue began to massage along the shaft.

Colleen sat there on the side of the bed with the weight of the baby resting on her thighs, slowly bobbing her head up and down sucking my cock, stroking the bottom half with one hand and gently massaging my balls with the other. When I began to feel the orgasm build in my balls I leaned over and said, “Oh god honey, I’m going to cum soon.”

Colleen slowed down and then took her mouth off of my dick. Looking into my eyes she said, “I don’t understand it, but ever since I got pregnant I can’t get enough of your cum inside me. It wasn’t like this when I was pregnant with Meghan or Molly but sometimes I feel like I will go crazy if I can’t feel your cum inside my cunt.” With that she let go of me and turned around to crawl up on to the bed. As she was doing this I finished taking off my clothes.

Making love to a woman in the final stages of pregnancy is tricky at best and damn near impossible at times. We had stopped using the missionary position several weeks before and by now the only position that made Colleen feel comfortable was rear entry, either lying on her side or on her hands and knees.

Colleen was on her knees at the very edge of the bed facing away from me. She pulled all the pillows over then leaned forward, resting her belly on the pillows, her legs spread. Her cunt lips were swollen, exposing her slit. She was so excited that I could see her juice began to leak out. I stepped up behind her and gently stroked between her legs, running my fingers through the thick mass of hair that covered her pussy.

Holding her hips I placed the head of my cock at the opening of her cunt and began to slowly, but steadily slide inside of her. She let out a soft moan that only ended when I had reached as far up into her as I could go. I leaned forward until my chest touched the skin on her back. I reached around with both arms below the baby and held her as I began to slowly and deeply hump in and out of her as she pushed back against me. I kept a slow and steady rhythm until I started to the feel the tingle re-build in my balls. I began to pick up the pace until I was slamming into her with everything I had. I slid my hand down into her pussy hair, wiggling my fingers around searching for her clit. At last I found it and held it between my thumb and forefinger. When I pinched down and pulled on her clit, Colleen exploded with her orgasm and the walls of her cunt clamped down on my cock. This caused me to go over the top and I began to shake as I pumped one more load of cum into my sister.

We rolled sideways and lay there with my cock still inside of her as we tried to catch our breath. When my dick had deflated and fallen out, Colleen scooted up further into the middle of the bed and under the covers. She held the covers open for me and said, “Baby I’m really tired, let’s go to sleep.”

Because Colleen was so far into the pregnancy and couldn’t travel, it was decided that Thanksgiving would be at our house that year. Everyone drove up to San Miguel and arrived early in the morning. Mike’s daughter Patricia had recently been moved out of her crib and into a real bed, so he brought it with them for the baby. Mom, Sharon and Mi Lin commandeered the kitchen and started fixing the Thanksgiving dinner. In the end they prepared enough food to feed a small village. Mike spent the morning reassembling the crib while Colleen directed Jimmy and I in bringing down boxes of baby clothes that were stored in the attic and out in the garage. The cousins spent the day in the backyard enjoying what would probably be the last of the mild weather.

After dinner, the grown ups were in the living room talking and the kids were roaming who knows where. Colleen and I were sitting on the sofa holding hands when Patricia came in and crawled up into my lap. She gave me a hug then leaned over and hugged Aunt Colleen. Next she lay her head on Colleen’s belly and promptly fell asleep.

Family memories are made from these types of gatherings and often Colleen and I regret not living closer to Mom and the twins. Even though it is only an hour away, it’s still too far when you want to just drop by for a cup of coffee. But even so, it is also good when everyone packs up and leaves and quiet returns to the house.

For a while I was worried that I had developed some type of kinky fetish about pregnant women. But after looking around I realized that my obsession was not pregnant women, just one woman, Colleen. At the time half of the women at the office were pregnant, but they did not appeal to me. It seemed like the only thing I wanted was to fuck my pregnant sister. Each time I did, it only intensified the desire to fuck her again. And, Colleen wanted me as much I wanted her.

During the last month of the pregnancy the sex was intense and frequent, sucking and fucking at least twice every single day. Sex so strong that it would make a bald man grow hair. On more than one occasion Colleen sent the girls to play with the kids next door so that I could fuck her senseless before we started to make dinner. But that is not what I remember the most about that time in our lives.

In the evening she would lay on the sofa on her side with her head in my lap. We would watch TV or read while the girls lay on the floor in front of us doing homework or some kind of craft project. I mastered the art of holding the book and turning pages while softly stroking Colleen’s head or swollen belly at the same time. The four of us had become so bound together as a family that none of us were capable of being in a different room, separated from the others. It was these moments of serenity that I treasure the most.

After Thanksgiving Colleen began to get tired during the days and needed to rest. During the last few weeks she didn’t leave the house except to see the doctor. She didn’t walk any more as much as she waddled around the house with one hand on her sore back. When she sat down it took me or both Meghan and Molly to help her stand back up. The only clothes she wore were a thin flannel floor length nightgown and a robe that couldn’t close because her belly was too big. But she still came to bed in the nude.

One day I walked into the living room and found Colleen standing in the middle of the room with an exasperated expression on her face. She glared at me and hissed, “This is all your fault…you did this to me. If this kid doesn’t come out pretty soon, I’m going to reach up in there and yank it out.”

The girls and I got the house decorated for Christmas, all under Colleen’s careful and explicit…very, very explicit…directions. This was the happiest any of us ever been. Laughing, singing, dancing…yes, at some point in your life you must slow dance with the woman who is two weeks away from delivering your child. There is no greater feeling that any man can experience.

At last Christmas Eve came and we had finished the last minute details to get ready for the next morning. Meghan and Molly put out the cookies and milk for Santa and oatmeal for the reindeer. There was a round of hugs and we sent the girls off to bed. At the doorway, the girls stopped and stood whispering to each other, pointing back to where Colleen and I were standing. Finally they walked back to us, Meghan pushing Molly in front of her saying, “You do it.”

Molly took several deep breaths to screw up her courage, with Meghan behind her saying, “Go ahead, ask him.” Finally she spoke.

“Uncle Bobby, can we ask you something?”

I was ready for this.

I had been planning for weeks, rehearsing my best “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” speech. I had a very well thought out, logical explanation for the existence of the Christmas spirit. “Of course sweetheart, you girls know you can ask me anything.”

The girls looked at each other and back at me. Then Molly asked.

“We don’t want to call you Uncle Bobby anymore. Is it OK if we call you daddy?”

I was not ready for this.

I was so stunned that I dropped to my knees and pulled both girls to me. I looked behind them and saw Colleen standing with her mouth open, a look of complete shock on her face as a tear rolled down her cheek. After a moment she smiled and nodded her head yes.

“Meghan…Molly…I would be very happy if you call me daddy. I can’t think of a better Christmas present I could ever get.”

There is a particular squeal of delight that only little girls can make and I got it in stereo. More hugs and another kiss on the cheek and the girls ran toward their bedrooms, pausing at the doorway laughing.

“Mommy, Daddy…you guys better go to bed soon or Santa won’t come.” And then they disappeared. As soon as they had turned the corner I grabbed Colleen, pulled her to me and held on tight. By this time she was openly sobbing.

“Sweetheart, are you Ok with what the girls just asked?”

“Oh Bobby, of course I’m ok with it. I’m more than ok with it. Meghan barely remembers Bill and Molly has no memory of him at all. You’re the only father they’ve ever known. I just had no idea they were thinking about this.” Then she wiped at the tears and smiled. “Looks like you’re going to be more of a daddy than you thought.”

“Just like I told the girls, best Christmas present I ever got.”

We sat on the sofa in silence holding and caressing each other for almost for an hour. I got up and went to check on the girls to make sure that they were asleep. We drank Santa’s milk, ate his cookies, leaving a few crumbs on the plate, and put the oatmeal back in the box, also leaving a pile grains on the floor near the bowl. Reindeer are very messy animals when they eat.

We brought out the presents that Santa was bringing and put them under the tree, and wrapped the last three or four presents that we hadn’t gotten to yet. Then we started locking up the house so that we could go to bed ourselves. Finally we were in the living room where the only lights that were on were the small twinkling lights on the tree.

Colleen was on her hands and knees in front of the tree with her nightgown and robe pushed up over her hips. I was behind her in between her spread legs with my cock held tightly in her sheath. I leaned over her and reached around to hold and massage her breasts that had been growing the last few days in preparation to produce milk.

Of all the times that Colleen and I have made love, this is the one time I remember and cherish the most. This was not sex, it was not fucking, this was making love in every sense of the word. My stroking inside of her was not fast, it was not hard, it was not frantic. It was slow and tender, every touch, every feeling an expression of our love for each other. There was very little of our normal grunting and moaning, only the soft sighs of lovers. When our orgasms came at the same time, it was not one of the freight train experiences that we are capable of producing. It was a quiet gentle expression of emotion that far out shown any physical pleasure.

When we were done, I helped Colleen stand up, turned off the Christmas tree lights and we went to bed. As I turned off the bedside lamp, I looked at the clock and saw 12:27

At 4:30, Colleen and I were waking up the girls, trying to get them dressed as quickly as possible, then loaded them into the car and headed for the hospital. At precisely 7:03 AM Colleen gave birth to our child, a beautiful girl.

I had written Mom’s telephone number on a card and I handed it to Meghan as we went into the delivery room. One of the nurses helped her make the call to Santa Teresa to tell Grandma the news. By 11:30 Mike’s wife Sharon, and daughter Patricia, had driven Mom to the hospital. Jimmy and Mike would drive up with the rest of the kids that afternoon. Colleen was asleep so we all went to look at the baby through the nursery window. While talking to Grandma and Aunt Sharon, Meghan and Molly kept calling me Daddy. Mom gave me a questioning look and then the exact same half smile that Colleen uses to show that she approved of that concept.

After several minutes, the nurse indicated that Colleen was awake and was taking the baby to her. We walked to Colleen’s room to find her sitting up in the bed cuddling the baby to her chest. Everyone crowded around to get a look at this new member of our family. Patricia was too small to see over the top of the hospital bed so I picked her up and held her as she leaned forward to look.

“The baby’s beautiful. What’s her name?” Patricia asked.

“Well, we were thinking that Rose was a pretty name,” Colleen replied.

Then Meghan spoke.

“No. She was born on Christmas day so her name is Noelle.”

Colleen and I looked at each other. Smiling, Colleen kissed the baby on her forehead and said, “girls, meet you new sister, Noelle Rose O’Conner.”

Chapter 02

“Girls, meet you new sister, Noelle Rose O’Conner.”

Meghan and Molly were literally shaking from excitement, their smiles as wide as it was possible to stretch. Patricia was studying Noelle’s face intently and then whispered, “she looks just like Aunt Colleen…’cept no hair.”

Mom pulled up a chair to the side of the bed. She gently took the baby from Colleen and sat down. Meghan, now age eight, Molly, seven and Patricia, three years old, crowded around her and continued to watch the baby up close as she slept. Mom studied the three girls that surrounded her and then the baby before raising her head. She had that contented half smile that she and Colleen share and said, “When it comes to making babies, my kids do a pretty good job.”

Everyone took turns holding Noelle for at least a few minutes. Even Patricia got a chance when she sat in Sharon’s lap and Sharon helped her hold the tiny bundle tightly wrapped in the blanket.

Jimmy and Mike showed up at the hospital just after lunch and the nurse told us that everyone would have to visit in shifts because the room was too crowded. As the sun was going down, Jimmy, Mike, Sharon and Patricia got ready to head back to Santa Teresa. Mi Lin had stayed behind to watch all of the cousins and get everything ready for the Christmas dinner. Colleen got a hug from Mike and Jimmy and Noelle got a tickle under the chin and kiss on the forehead. I got a handshake and a slap on the back. As he left the room Jimmy said, “It’s a good thing she looks like Colleen and not you, otherwise the poor kid would never get a date when she grows up.”

Colleen was getting tired so Mom took Meghan and Molly home to have dinner and get some sleep. Colleen and Noelle could come home the next day as soon as the pediatrician had checked Noelle and given the seal of approval. Mom was going to stay with us for a few days to help out until Colleen was back up to speed. Everyone tried to get me to go home and get some rest but I was adamant. Ever since our first date, Colleen and I had not spent one single night apart and that was not about to change.

I sat in the chair next to the bed holding Noelle. Colleen lay on her side watching us and softly talking to me until she slowly closed her eyes and went to sleep. Holding my daughter close to me, I felt emotions that I had never experienced before or even dreamed were possible.

I suppose they were the same emotions that my father had felt when his children were born. They were feelings of intense love and awe at the wonder that I held in my hands. I knew that I would lay down my life to protect this tiny life from the evil that is out there in the world. I looked over at Colleen and watched her breathing, thinking, “Good Lord, she even smiles in her sleep.”

It was as if someone had slapped me awake from a deep sleep and everything became crystal clear to me. Looking at Colleen and Noelle I suddenly understood what the word family meant. All of the things that my father had said to us as children about family being the most important part of a person’s life came rushing back to me. I had to smile and finally accepted that maybe Dad knew what he was talking about after all.

I will let you in on a dirty little secret. There is another emotion that all guys feel, and if you confront them, they will deny it.

The first time we hold our newborn child, we are scared shitless.

We are afraid that somehow we will fail as fathers, that we will do something that will screw up our child’s life. I was almost trembling from this combination of love and fear that were raging inside me when Noelle opened her eyes. She looked at me with an expression that said, “It’s ok Dad, you can do this,” then closed her eyes and went back to sleep. After that I calmed down and knew that once again my life had made a major shift and that it was all for the good.

Eventually the nurse came to take Noelle back to the nursery. She advised me to get some sleep while I still could. It wasn’t until later after we got home from the hospital that I could appreciate what she was telling me. As the nurse left and closed the door, I reached over to hold Colleen’s hand.

She slowly opened her eyes and whispered, “hey sweetie.”

“Hey yourself.”

Colleen gave me her half smile and asked, “Have I told you today that I love you?”

“Not yet, you were kind of busy earlier.”

“Oh yeah, that whole giving birth thing…I love you.”

“I love you too. Noelle is beautiful.”

“I know.” With that she squeezed my hand as her eyelids drifted shut and went back to sleep.

I sat next to her, again just watching her breathe as she slept. This was all new to me, unexplored territory. The only thing that equaled my love for Colleen was my love for Noelle. I should have experienced this a year ago, but Barbara had ripped that away from me and left my life in shambles. It was my sister Colleen, along with Meghan and Molly that had helped me glue the pieces of my life back together. Eventually I leaned forward and lay my head on the bed next to Colleen’s and fell asleep.

I felt movement on the bed and could sense daylight through my closed eyelids. I got one eye open and started to sit up when my back rejected that notion. I struggled to get my spinal column into a straight line when I saw Colleen sitting on the side of the bed watching, trying not to laugh. With great difficulty I got my legs to unfold and stood up. Colleen hopped off the bed and came over to put her arms around my waist.

“You should have gone home and gotten a decent night’s sleep.”

“No…I’m fine…I’m ok…except…I…I can’t feel…my left foot.”

Colleen patted me on the check and said, “Poor baby.” This was followed with a quick hug and a kiss.

“Why don’t you go downstairs to the cafeteria and get yourself something to eat. Just be back by 8:30, that’s when the pediatrician starts her rounds. We should be able to get out of here by noontime.”

As I headed out the door I heard her call out, “And bring me some coffee…”

Down in the cafeteria I sat and had a muffin and a glass of milk while I finished waking up, getting the rest of the kinks out of my body from sleeping in the chair all night. I grabbed two coffees and headed back to Colleen’s room to wait for Noelle’s release so we could go home. I stepped into the room and stood there like the village idiot with my mouth hanging open.

There are times when you already know what to expect and have done all the mental preparation that you possibly can and yet when the event actually happens, you’re still left dazed and confused.

This was one of those moments.

Colleen was sitting in the chair at the side of the bed with the front of her gown open. She held Noelle to her chest, nursing at her breast.

Of course I had seen other women breast feeding their children, but this was different. This was my sister Colleen, my best friend, nursing our daughter. I stood there spellbound, drinking in the sight, totally incapable of speech. Reaching out her hand, Colleen smiled at me and spoke of the only thing on her mind at that moment.

“Give me that coffee before I die.”

It was a good thing that I had put lids on the paper coffee cups because the way that my hands were shaking, I would have scalded Noelle as I handed the cup to Colleen. Colleen knew instantly what was going through my mind at that moment.

“Relax, you’re going to do fine.”

“That’s easy for you to say, you’ve already done this twice before. This fatherhood thing is leaving me a little shaky. What if I drop her on her head or something?”

Colleen laughed, “That’s a chance we’ll just have to take.”

Moments later the pediatrician walked in and said good morning to everyone. She was Meghan and Molly’s pediatrician and looked more like someone’s grandmother than a highly trained doctor. Colleen had told me months before that she was the best in the county if not the state and she immediately put my mind at ease. She lay Noelle in the hospital bassinet and opened the blanket that was tightly wrapped around her. She began to gently poke and prod different parts of Noelle’s body and listened with the stethoscope. She laughed when Noelle smiled in her sleep.

“Ok, ten fingers and ten toes, got a great start there.” She wrote something on small business card and handed it to Colleen. “Call the office and get an appointment for a one week check up. She’s a beautiful baby and she’s going to break a lot of hearts when she turns sixteen. Now you people get out of here and enjoy what’s left of Christmas.”

I called Mom at the house while Colleen was taking care of all the paperwork to leave. We walked out of the hospital at the same time that Mom drove up to the sidewalk in Colleen’s car. I was holding Noelle as Mom hopped out of the car, walked around and opened the door to the back seat. I stood there staring at Mom and then at the infant car seat that was sitting on the seat. Finally Mom pointed to Noelle then at the car seat. Colleen and Mom began laughing as they watched me struggle to figure out how to strap Noelle in to the car seat. At last Colleen pulled me back and went up on her toes to give me a kiss.

“You really are new at this. Don’t worry, we’ll get you trained in no time.”

We got back to the house just before lunchtime. The teen-aged girl from across the street had been recruited to watch Meghan and Molly while Mom had come to pick us up at the hospital. She was quick to let us know that she had a lot experience babysitting infants and was always available at a reasonable price. Colleen immediately got her telephone number and told her that we would definitely be calling her in the future.

Meghan and Molly had already eaten lunch so we went into the living room to relax for a few minutes before getting lunch for ourselves. As we stepped through the archway Colleen and I were surprised at what we saw. The Christmas tree was in the corner just as we had left it the day before, the presents still under the tree, unopened. But there was something new there.

Next to the tree was a rocking chair. It was at least sixty years old and had been painted black when it was new. The paint was worn on the edges but was still in good condition and all of the joints were still as tight as the day it was made. The back was straight and the arms were the perfect height for holding and rocking a baby. Colleen and I recognized it instantly.

The chair had been a present from our grandfather to our grandmother. It had been passed on to Mom when Colleen was born and she had held all four of her children in this chair, accepting their hugs and kissing their cut fingers. Now it was sitting in our living room. Colleen turned to Mom.

“How did this get here?”

“I had Mike and Jimmy bring it when they came up yesterday.”

“Why?”

“Well, it’s not like I’m going to be needing it, and in another thirty years you can decide which of your daughters will get it to pass it on to her daughter.”

Colleen gave Mom a hug, nearly crushing Noelle in the process. She sat down in the rocking chair with the baby and Colleen and Noelle both had a look of utter bliss on their faces. Colleen looked at Meghan and Molly and said, “So girls, I think it’s time to open some Christmas presents. Who wants to start?”

Meghan and Molly looked at each other then went over and reached under the tree. They walked to the rocking chair, each holding a present that Colleen and I had not seen before. The packages were wrapped in paper of an indeterminate nature and held together with many yards of scotch tape. On the outside of each present, written in a child’s handwriting was a single word, “Noelle.” They walked over and lay the presents on Colleen’s lap next to the baby. Then Mehgan spoke.

“Santa didn’t know about Noelle so these are for her.”

Colleen handed the baby to me and carefully opened the presents. She stared at the contents for the longest time and then with tears in her eyes she hugged Meghan and Molly and whispered, “Thank you.”

Inside the packages was Meghan’s baby blanket and Molly’s small teddy bear. They were the objects that were most important to the girls and every night they refused to go to sleep unless they could hold them tightly to their small bodies. Now, they were gifts to their baby sister. Children aren’t supposed to make their Mom and Dad cry like that, it blows the strong parent image right out of the water.

I stared in amazement at the two young girls who less than forty-eight hours before had asked if they could call me Daddy. It was Mom who was able to speak first.

“Those are very special gifts. I’m sure that Noelle will love them forever. But I think it’s time for you girls to open your presents.”

With squeals of delight and hand clapping, they both ran to the tree and began pulling the presents out. As they opened each present in turn, they brought it over and held it up for Noelle to see, even though she was contentedly sleeping through everything. This symbolized how the bond between our daughters was to strengthen and grow with each passing day.

At long last the ordeal of opening the Christmas presents was over and we were all picking up the debris when I suddenly looked over at Colleen in great embarrassment.

“Damn, with everything that’s been happening lately I completely forgot to get you a present…I am so sorry.”

Colleen hugged Noelle closer to her chest and gave me her contented half smile.

“I think you gave me the perfect Christmas present.”

After the adults had finally gotten a chance eat, we sat around the living room relaxing, just talking. It had been awhile since we had been able to have Mom all to ourselves for any length of time so Colleen and I were very happy. The weather was cooperating so Meghan and Molly were allowed to go outside and play in the yard. They didn’t understand when we told them that it probably wasn’t a good idea to take Noelle for a ride in the wagon just yet.

It was that afternoon that I had my next lesson in fatherhood…changing the diaper. This is a process that while second nature to female of the species, is a definite test of the male’s dexterity and commitment to their offspring. I learned early on that it is a good idea to have a fresh roll of duct tape close at hand to insure a successful completion of this exercise.

Later I learned another interesting fact regarding this peculiar parenting skill. If the child is breast feeding, never…ever…and I mean NEVER allow the mother to eat Mexican food. The results the next day will have you racing to the telephone to call the Office of Emergency Services, begging them to send the Toxic Waste Disposal Unit to your house. Remember, what goes in the mother’s mouth comes out the baby’s bottom and if the windows in the house are painted shut, you are in for a very unpleasant three days.

As the day wound down, Meghan and Molly had their only argument of the Christmas season. They both wanted Grandma to sleep in their room and were not going to comprise under any condition. It was finally settled when Mom suggested that all three of them sleep together in Meghan’s room because it was bigger.

At last Colleen and I were able to go to bed ourselves. The crib was in our room so Colleen took Noelle in to get ready for bed while I went around turning off the lights and locking up for the night. We had only been gone for one night but it felt like we had been away for months. Our own bed was going to feel good.

I stopped just inside the doorway of the bedroom. I will always remember the times that I have watched Colleen nurse our children and be filled with a sense of awe. Colleen was already in the bed, propped up on the pillows, leaning against the headboard. True to her promise, she was not wearing any nightclothes, the sheet spread across her lap as she nursed Noelle at her breast.

I sat on the edge of the bed and just watched Noelle sucking at the nipple, smiling at how lucky a person I was. Finally Colleen pulled Noelle away from her breast and adjusted the blanket around the baby.

“She’s asleep, why don’t you put her down?”

At this point I was still new to holding an infant so I carried the fragile life the five steps over to the crib and gently lay her down. It took me ten minutes to get her settled just right with repeated checking and constant monitoring to make sure that she was still breathing. I could hear the smile in Colleen’s voice as she whispered, “Bobby, she’s ok. Leave her alone or you’ll wake her up, now come to bed.”

The bedside lamp was on leaving most of the room in shadows and only lighting the bed. Colleen was still propped against the headboard as she watched me get undressed in the semi-darkness, a smile of eager anticipation on her lips. As I crawled into the bed, she pulled back the covers so that I could see her in all her naked glory.

The nurses at the hospital had shaved Colleen’s pussy completely smooth for the birth so she spread her thighs apart, letting me see it’s new condition. “How do you like my new hair cut?” she asked.

“It’s…interesting…but I prefer the old one. Rubbing my face on your hair is so much more…naughty…don’t you think.”

“Don’t worry, it will grow back, maybe thicker than before.”

“You’re just saying that to get me excited.”

“Just thinking about you rubbing your face there is getting me excited.”

She pulled me closer to her until we were face to face and then kissed. It had been forty-eight hours since I had held Colleen this close and it felt great to have her back in my arms. Colleen put her hand on top of my head and began to gently press downward until my mouth was in line with one of her nipples.

“You’re going to like this. Bill used to love it.”

Lifting her breast up and holding it in place, Colleen guided my head until my mouth was touching her nipple. I took it between my lips and began to suck. I was startled when sweet cream began to flow out of the nipple, into my mouth and down my throat. I had never experienced any thing like this before…well, actually I had but not since I was two years old.

It was divine. I had to have more. I began to suck harder, gulping everything that flowed out until there was nothing left. Colleen gently pulled her breast away from me.

“That one is empty, try the other side.”

I became a madman. I turned my head and grabbed the other nipple with my mouth, my arms around Colleen’s waist. I drank like a man dying of thirst. Colleen softly stroked the back of my head until I had drained that side as well.

“So…did you like that?”

“Like it? I loved it! I don’t ever want to stop doing that.”

Colleen laughed. “Here’s the deal. Noelle always gets first dibs but if she is anything like Meghan and Molly there will be a little left over for you every night. And who knows, if the schedule works out right, you just might get a little before you go to work in the mornings.”

“Oh my God, I will love you forever.”

“You already do Bobby.”

After a moments rest, Colleen again gently pushed me down until my face was almost between her legs. I rubbed my cheeks against her pubic area where the swollen lips of her vagina came together; her skin felt as smooth as satin.

“But the doctor said that we couldn’t have sex for eight weeks.”

“You weren’t paying attention, Bobby. He said that we couldn’t have intercourse for eight weeks, not that we couldn’t fool around.” Colleen lay on her side, reached for my cock and gently tugged, forcing me to scoot around until I was facing the opposite direction. She held my cock with the tip just inches from her mouth. “I believe that you know what to do from this point on, so hurry up so we can get some sleep.”

“What is this obsession everyone has with sleep? I don’t understand.”

Colleen looked down into my face with a smile. “Don’t worry, you’ll find out soon enough. Now get down to business, you’re wasting time.”

With that she spread her thighs wider. She placed my cock into her mouth and began sucking in a slow rhythm. I wiggled my head around until my lips were in full contact with her vaginal lips and began to French kiss her pussy. I pushed my tongue in as deep as possible, scooping out as much of her juice as I could. I nibbled all around the opening, gently tugging on the lips of her cunt for as long as I could before I needed more. I changed the angle of my head until I could get her clit between my lips. By instinct, I began to nurse on her button the same way I had nursed on her nipples a few minutes earlier.

We continued to suck on each other for minutes, hours, days…who knows how long, we just kept going. Colleen stopped sucking on my cock just long enough to give her deep-throated groan. Suddenly she convulsed and gripped my head with her thighs. Half way through her orgasm she pushed her head forward, jamming my cock down her throat and began sucking and swallowing with wild abandonment. Within seconds of Colleen starting her orgasm I started pumping cum down her throat.

When we had both stopped twitching from the explosion, we lay relaxed against each other, our lips still holding on. I slowly turned around until we were lying in the same direction and pulled Colleen into my arms. I reached down and pulled the covers up over us. As she was fading off to sleep Colleen whispered in my ear, “You eat my pussy almost as good as you fuck me.”

It was obvious that I would not be seeing very much daylight in the next eight weeks.

When the screaming started I instantly sat upright and saw what was happening. I leapt out of the bed and in two strides made it to the crib and rescued my daughter from the danger that was about to harm her.

At least that was what I intended to do but it didn’t quite work out that way.

When Noelle started crying it scared me so bad I nearly wet myself. I jumped out of the bed but became so entangled in the covers that I ended up falling down, my face on the floor and my hips and legs still in the bed. Colleen calmly got out of bed, picked up Noelle and lay back down as I continued to flop around like a dying fish, trying to free myself from the sheets.

“Bobby, what are you doing?”

“What happened… what’s wrong…why is she crying?”

“Nothing’s wrong, she’s just hungry. Calm down and get back into bed.”

With that Colleen grabbed the covers and gave a quick snap of her wrist. This released me from the sheets and I slid the rest of the way down onto the floor. As I got back into bed I looked over at the clock and was astonished to see that it was only 2:30 in the morning.

“Hungry, how can she be hungry? She just ate a couple of hours ago. Why is she crying like that? Doesn’t she know that people are trying to sleep around here?

“Honestly Bobby, don’t you know anything about babies?”

“How am I supposed to know, I’ve never had one before.”

“Well, you might as well sit back and relax because you’re in for the ride of your life.”

As soon as Noelle’s lips latched onto Colleen’s nipple she stopped crying and ten minutes later was asleep back in her crib. I wrapped my arms around Colleen and faded off to sleep at last…until…

Noelle’s shrill screams brought me back to consciousness. By the time I had forced myself to sit up, Colleen had already picked up Noelle and was getting back in bed.

“Oh God, what is her problem? Doesn’t she understand the concept of sleep?

“Get used to it. She’s going to have to nurse three or four times during the night.

“Every night?”

“Every night.”

“Jesus, I haven’t done anything to her and she hates me already. All I want to do is get some sleep. How long will this last.”

“With Meghan and Molly it was only five or six weeks before they slept through the night.”

“FIVE OR SIX WEEKS? You have got to be kidding me. I’ll be a dead man before then…wait a minute, did you say ‘only five or six weeks.’ Does that mean it could last longer?”

“Do you remember my friend Cindy? It was six months before her son started sleeping through the night.”

“Christ, just shoot me and get it over with.”

Colleen just smiled. She whispered into my ear, “No can do bucko. Welcome to the wonderful world of fatherhood.” She snuggled into the crook of my arm with her head on my chest. After a few moments of quiet she whispered again. “Bobby…”

“Yes?”

“I love you.”

“You better, or I’m not going to make it.”

One of the odd things that happened after Noelle was born was that we didn’t have to set the alarm for the next several months. Every morning without fail, precisely at 6:45, never varying more than a minute, she would wake us up to get the entire house started on the day.

I had called the office and Peterson told me to go ahead and take the rest of the week off but be back in the office the day after New Years, no one was getting much work done during the holidays anyway. It was a good thing that Mom was in the house with us. If she had not been there I don’t know what we would have done. Mom kept everything in the house running, leaving Colleen and I to focus on Noelle. Colleen was right, after several days of training by Colleen and Mom, along with Megan and Molly, I had the father act down pat and was working like a pro…well, actually more like an advanced amateur, but at least I wasn’t terrified by own daughter anymore.

When Mom was with the girls I could overhear her telling them about their responsibilities.

“A big sister should always…”

“Because you’re older you need to…”

And they did. Meghan and Molly jumped right in and did everything they could to help while at the same time doting on their new baby sister.

All too soon it was the day before New Years Eve and Mom had to get back to Santa Teresa. She needed a couple of days to get ready to return to her classroom of thirty second graders. Mike drove up with his daughter Patricia to bring Mom home. Mike said that Patricia had insisted that she come along because she wanted to see Noelle again. Now that I was a father myself I understood how difficult it is to deny something to your three-year-old daughter.

There were hugs all around and then Mom was gone, and our family was here in the house alone. I was standing alone in the living room when I began to feel a sense of abandonment and panic beginning take hold of me. At that moment Meghan walked into the room and looked at me. She put her arms around me and gently squeezed saying, “don’t worry Dad, you’re doing fine. I love you.”

“I love you too sweetheart. Let’s go see what everyone else is doing.”

Each night before I fell asleep, what little of it I could get, I would lay in bed with Colleen on my arms and marvel at the beauty of our daughter and how much in love with Colleen I really was.

The next few days were uneventful except for the fact that I still could not get a complete nights’ sleep. Noelle not sleeping through the night did not seem to affect Colleen and the girls but it was turning me in to a physical wreck. On the appointed day I returned to work looking like the walking dead.

“Good God Robert, you look like hell.”

I can count on Miss Jennings to always get directly to the point.

At the end of the day Colleen brought Noelle into the office to pick me up. As soon as they walked through the door, Noelle was snatched out of Colleen’s arms by the first grandmother they ran into. We didn’t see Noelle for the next hour as she was passed from one mother to the next. We could catch glimpses of her being passed along the way but never heard a peep out of her. Finally Harold Peterson was the last to person to hold her. He was standing in front of Colleen looking down at the sleeping bundle in his arms. He raised her up and kissed her on the forehead before handing her to Colleen then looked directly at me.

“She’s beautiful child. Take good care of her.”

He made it sound like both a request and command at the same time.

We made our good-byes and headed out to the parking lot. When we got there we were surprised to discover that every available inch in the backseat and trunk had been stuffed with presents for Noelle; clothes, blankets, toys, things that we had no idea what they were for. You name it and the people in the office had wrapped it up and given it to us. Turns out that this is the standard operating procedure for every baby born to the office.

Life quickly fell into our normal routine, as normal as it can be for a household with a new born. Meghan and Molly were back in school with all the exiting news about their sister. They would race each other home after school, the winner getting to be the first to hold Noelle. Colleen put all of her illustration jobs on hold and did not take any new projects for the next several months. She used her time during the day to focus all of her attention on our daughter. It was during these first few weeks that Colleen built the bond with her child, just as she had with Meghan and Molly.

Colleen still met me at the door every morning to send me off to the office for the day. Only now she was holding our daughter in her arms. Now, I got to kiss two beautiful women as I went out the door.

I was back in the office full time. Miss Jennings did something for me that earned my undying gratitude. For the fist three weeks after I returned, she sat at her desk during lunch and would not allow anyone to enter my office between 11: 30 and 1:00. This allowed me to get a full hour and a half nap that would keep me going until I got home.

Noelle did better than Meghan and Molly. By four weeks, she was sleeping through the night and Colleen and I began getting a full night’s sleep. The next step was to deal with the bedroom situation. We didn’t want it to appear that we were playing favorites about who got to have Noelle in their room, so our first thought was to have Meghan and Molly share a room and put Noelle in Molly’s smaller room.

After dinner one night I brought up the subject but before I could get very far into the discussion, Molly stopped me.

“Meghan and I already talked about it Daddy. We think that Noelle should share a room with Meghan.”

Meghan was sitting next to Molly, nodding her head in agreement. Colleen and I looked at each other in confusion. If this was what the girls wanted, it was ok with us, but from the way they were grinning at each other I had the uneasy feeling that there was something going on between them that Colleen and I didn’t know about. Seven and eight year old girls are not supposed to be involved in conspiracies.

We spent the next Saturday rearranging the furniture in Meghan’s room and moving the crib in. Once again Colleen and I were alone in the bedroom. My initial guess had been correct; I was spending more time with my face between Colleen’s thighs than I could keep track of.

One of the first things Colleen had done after bringing Noelle home from the hospital was to march over to the calendar on the kitchen wall and draw a big red circle around Friday, February 19th. When I asked her what that was for, she just stared at me for few moments before answering.

“Eight weeks Bobby. Eight…long…weeks. God I hate this part about having kids.”

“Eight weeks? Eight weeks for what…oh…that eight weeks.”

At last the day arrived. I had finished my breakfast with Meghan and Molly, getting ready to go to work. I was rinsing the dishes out with in the sink when Colleen grabbed me by the arm and dragged me over to the calendar on the wall. She stood there holding Noelle on her shoulder with one hand and was tapping the large red circle with the index finger of her other hand. She looked at me with excitement in her eyes and her half smile on her lips. She leaned in and whispered to me.

“You had better eat a lot of protein for lunch today. You’re going to need it tonight.”

“Do we have to wait? I could call in sick.”

“NO! Now get going, the girls are listening.”

February the 19th was the longest day in history. It was at least three weeks long. It is very hard to pay attention to the business at hand when all you can think about is crawling between your lover’s delectable thighs. It was made even more unbearable because several corporate officers had made their semi-annual visit to the San Miguel office. Fortunately, most of the time was spent sitting at a conference table so no one could see the obvious visible signs of what I was really thinking about while they droned on endlessly about corporate policy and projections. Even more frustrating was the fact I had been selected along with two other people to assist Peterson in taking the corporate people to dinner and then get them to the airport in time for the flight back to New York.

By the time I got back home it was after eleven o’clock. Everyone had already gone to bed so the house was dark except for a light in the hall. A faint light shown from under the bedroom door letting me know that Colleen was waiting for me. I stepped into the room and looked at the bed. Colleen was lying on the bed with only the sheet covering her, pulled up to her chin. She was grinning as I began to undress. When I started to hang up my clothes she spoke to me for the first time.

“Why are you taking so long? Leave those on the floor and get over here.”

When I got to the side of the bed, Colleen flipped the sheet back and spread her thighs wide. I crawled onto the bed, got on my knees, settling in between her legs and looked down at her almost laughing.

“What is this?”

Colleen had used the brightest red lipstick she had and written instructions on herself. On her chest and stomach just below her breasts, in large letters, were the words, “INSERT COCK HERE.” She had also drawn half a dozen large red arrows below her navel and on the inside of her thighs all pointing to her newly returned thick crop of pubic hair.

“I was afraid that you might have forgotten where all the pieces go.”

“Well, it is a little hazy for me. I think that you’ll have to help me get started.”

Colleen reached down between us and took hold of my cock. My cock that been standing at attention almost all day was now like an iron bar. After stroking it a couple of times, she gently pulled it into place and inserted the tip just inside the lips of her pussy.

“Ok, I think that you can figure out what to do from here.”

I leaned over Colleen until I could rest my weight on my elbows. I gently rocked my hips forward and began to push my dick into her. It was fortunate that she was as wet as she was because her cunt seemed to be even tighter than it had been before Noelle was born. Colleen was flexing her cunt muscles to make her pussy swallow me. I stopped when my pubic bone was resting on her clit.

“Oh GOD Bobby, I’ve missed having you inside of me.”

“Not half as much as I’ve missed being there.”

I began to withdraw until I was almost out then reversed direction. I slid back in, feeling the wet smoothness that grasped and squeezed my cock.

“Oh sweet Jesus I need this…thank God you remember what to do.”

All I could do was grunt in response and begin the next stroke of my cock.

“That’s it baby,” Colleen moaned into my ear. “More, just like that.”

Colleen had raised her thighs until they were gripping my ribs, her heels resting on the cheeks of my ass. She began to rock her hips upward, impaling herself on my cock at the same time that I was pushing myself inside of her, trying to go deeper with each thrust.

“It is so good to be back where I belong…I love you so much,” I whispered back to her.

We lost all ability of speech and the only vocal sounds we could make were the grunts and moans of uncontrollable love. The slapping of our bellies and the slurping sound of my cock sliding in and out of Colleen’s juicy cunt seemed to echo in the quiet of the night. We kept up a steady rhythm of pushing and pulling against each other for quite some time and then began to pick up the pace. I could see the expression on Colleen’s face as she began to concentrate on what was happening to her body, her eyes begging me to make it happen. She started throwing her hips faster and harder onto my cock as I began to slam into her cunt with everything I had.

I could feel my nuts begin draw themselves up into a tight ball at the base of my cock in preparation for the impending explosion. Colleen put her lips next to my ear as she franticly whispered.

“There…now…now…almost there…Bobby…NOW…GOD YES I’M CUMMING…cumming…”

At the same time that Colleen’s body began to spasm, my nuts began pushing my sperm out the end of my dick and into Colleen’s waiting cunt. The harder her cunt swallowed the sperm, the harder my balls pushed it out. Finally she relaxed at the end of her orgasm but my body kept pumping the white juice into her. Colleen’s smile grew bigger when she realized that I was still draining sperm into her.

“That’s it Bobby…give it all to me. You know how much I need your cream in me.”

At last I was empty and I rolled us over onto our sides, my cock still inside of her. Colleen kissed me deeply then pulled her head back and looked into my eyes.

“I loved Bill very, very much but my God he couldn’t make me cum as hard as you do.”

Her cunt was flexing and gripping my dick that was still embedded in her.

“Your cock isn’t going down, does that mean what I think it means?”

All I could do was nod my head yes.

Colleen rolled us over the rest of the way until I was on my back. She was straddling my hips with my cock going straight up inside of her. She began raising and lowering herself, driving me as deep as possible on each downward stroke. Colleen never took her eyes off of mine, her breasts flopping around wildly as she pounded her crotch against me. Soon her eyes started to glaze over and I knew that she was ready. I grabbed her hips and with one last effort I pulled her down at the same I shoved up into her. Her orgasm triggered my own; we grabbed each other and held on as tightly as possible. Once again my balls were pumping sperm into Colleen long after she had finished cumming.

We slowly fell apart and lay on our backs, holding hands, staring up at the ceiling for a few moments, when Colleen rolled onto her side and lay her head on my chest. Her hand slowly slid down my stomach and I could feel her fingers traveling through my pubic hair. Colleen cupped her hand and gently cradled my balls.

“How many times are you going to drive that freight train across me Bobby?”

“As many time as I can, sweetheart, as many times as I can.”

Eventually Colleen’s slow rhythmic breathing let me know that she had fallen asleep so I wrapped my arms around her even tighter and nodded off myself. At some point during the night we woke up and made long slow deep love, then went back to sleep, my cock still inside of her.

I awoke to the sound of someone, several someone’s, walking into the bedroom. Meghan and Molly had come into the room and Meghan was holding a whimpering Noelle. They walked around to Colleen’s side of the bed and gently nudged her on the shoulder.

“Mommy wake up, Noelle is hungry.”

Colleen stretched and rubbed her eyes then sat up. She arranged the pillows against the headboard then sat back, took Noelle into her arms and began to nurse. The girls and I watched as we always did in fascination. Eventually Molly said, “We’re going to get some cereal for breakfast Mom.”

“Ok…be sure you put the bowls in the sink we you’re done this time”

As the girls went out the bedroom door and down the hall we could hear them talking.

“Something smelled funny in there.”

“I know, I think they were eating tuna fish in bed last night.”

Colleen and I were both sputtering, trying not to laugh out loud. I looked at Colleen and began to openly laugh and pointed at her chest. She gave me a confused look and then glanced down at herself. She grinned at what she saw and lifted the sheet to take a good look at my chest before she began laughing herself.

The lipstick instructions that were on her chest and legs from the night before were now smeared all over her body as well me and the sheets. We were laughing so hard that Colleen almost dropped Noelle. We heard Meghan and Molly running down the hall and pulled the sheets up to our chins just before they burst into the room.

“What’s so funny?” they asked.

This sent us into another round of uncontrollable laughter.

“I’m sorry honey, it’s grown-up funny stuff. We can’t tell you.”

The girls frowned and went back to the kitchen. As they went out the door Molly said, “They never tell us any of the good stuff.”

Even after a long shower and continual scrubbing, our skin was stained a light pink that lasted for several days. The white sheets were a lost cause. The lipstick color never did come out but everytime Colleen put them on the bed, I knew that I was in for a very long and intense physical workout after the kids went to bed.

Life was good.

I found great joy and contentment in being the family man. Even this early Noelle showed signs of developing a personality that involved lots of smiles and laughter and by the time she was three months old had mastered the art of sitting up. Meghan and Molly were nothing but a pure delight. They, as much as Colleen, were instrumental in teaching me the art of fatherhood.

It was in about the middle of March that Colleen came down with some type of bug that settled in her stomach. For a couple of days she was tired and listless and her stomach seemed to be queasy most of the time. One morning we were standing in the kitchen. The girls had finished breakfast and had gone to get dressed for school while I was gathering up my things to go work. I heard Colleen make a strange noise and I turned to look over at her.

She was standing there holding Noelle with a strange expression. It was a look of panic, dismay and confusion all at once and then the color began to drain from her face. I stepped towards her as she shoved the baby into my arms, turned and ran down the hall.

I walked after her and found her in the bathroom, on her knees, her face in the toilet. She was making gagging noises and then with one long drawn out moan began to spew out every thing she had eaten in the last twenty-four hours. I took Noelle back to the kitchen and Meghan and Molly came in with a panicked look.

“Is Mom Ok?”

“She’ll be alright; she’s just not feeling well right now. So go finish getting ready for school.”

Over the next twenty minutes, the girls and I could hear Colleen in the bathroom. There would be several minutes of silence and then the retching sounds would start all over. At last we heard the toilet flush and the sound of running water in the sink. Colleen came out of the bathroom looking pasty white with a dazed look on her face. She took Noelle into her arms and rocked her gently.

“Bobby, call the office and tell them you’re staying home today. Take the girls to school and stop at the pharmacy on the way home.”

“Of course. What do you want me to get at the pharmacy?”

Colleen only stared at me with no color in her face and a bewildered expression.

Then it hit me what she was telling me.”

“You’re kidding me, right? It can’t be…”

“Oh yes it can. Now get going.”

I dropped the girls off at school then stood at the pharmacy door for half an hour waiting for them unlock and open up for the day. As soon as the store manager turned the key in the lock I shoved the door open and ran past him. I grabbed the kit off the self and threw some money at the cashier. I sat in the car for a minute thinking, then ran back into the store and bought two more kits for insurance.

When I got home Noelle was already down for her morning nap. Within minutes Colleen was bent over the bathroom sink, moaning and grunting as I stood behind her slamming my cock in and out. After we had calmed down from our climax, Colleen picked the stick up from the counter and studied it for a moment. She handed it to me and pointed to the plus sign that was showing in the little window.

Positive.

Colleen was pregnant again.

To say that we were stunned is an understatement.

I took Colleen’s hand and led her back to the bedroom. I slowly undressed her and she lay on the bed. I undressed myself then lay on top her and we began to make love, and that’s what it was, love. The first time you make love with your partner after finding out she is pregnant is one of the most glorious experiences two people can share. We made love until we heard Noelle waking up.

Noelle was not old enough to comprehend that her mother and father were spending the entire day completely nude, feeding her and playing with her. Minutes after Noelle was down for her afternoon nap, Colleen was lying on her back in the middle of the living room floor as I lay between her legs, pumping my hips up and down, pushing my cock in and out of her as we both grunted out our love for each other. We did it one more time with Colleen lying back on top of the dining table while I stood between her legs, leaning over her, huffing and puffing until we both screamed “OH GOD YES!”

We were lying still, catching our breathes when I looked up at the clock that I could see through the kitchen doorway.

“OH shit,” I yelled and grabbed Colleen’s hand. I dragged her into the bedroom just as we heard the front door open and two small voices sing out, “MOM! We’re home.”

That night after the kids were down for the night, Colleen and I lay in bed talking.

“How could this happen?”

“Well, it’s not like we were using a whole lot of protection here.”

“No, I suppose not.”

Colleen studied my face for a few moments then asked, “What are you grinning about?”

“I just realized that I get another chance to fuck my favorite pregnant woman.”

Colleen rolled over to lie on top of me and began kissing my face.

“That sounds pretty good to me.” She scooted her hips back until the end of my cock touched the lips of her pussy. “I think now would be a good time to start…”

Telling people the news was going to be much easier this time, but we decided to wait just a little bit anyway.

The next morning I went into work and as I walked past Miss Jennings’ desk, she looked up and gasped. Miss Jennings followed me into my office and when I sat down at my desk I saw her staring at me, her eyes wide. After a minute of silence I asked the inevitable question, “What?”

“Colleen is pregnant again, isn’t she?”

“Good lord how did you know? Did she call you?”

“No, you have that same stupid grin on your face as the last time. Don’t ever try to play poker; you’ll be destitute before you know what hit you.”

“Listen, we’re not ready to tell anyone right now so can we keep it just between us?”

“Alright, but if you don’t get rid of that idiotic grin the entire building will know before lunch time.”

Miss Jennings was right. It was almost impossible to not go around all day with a smile on my face. At home Colleen was the same. Meghan and Molly kept asking her what she was smiling about and when we were out in the neighborhood, total strangers would look at us and smile.

When Colleen was three months along, it was time to tell people, and since we were repeating the cycle again, we started with the girls. I said that I would tell them this time just so I could practice my new parenting skills. So, one night after dinner, Colleen reached into the cupboard and brought out the lemon meringue pie. After Colleen cut it and served the pieces to everyone, I began.

“Girls, can we talk for a minute?”

“Sure Daddy, what’s on your mind?”

Meghan and Molly were trying not to smile, looking at each other out of the corner of their eyes.

“Meghan, who is your best friend in the world?”

Meghan looked startled, showing that she was caught off guard with that question.

“Molly is…Molly is my best friend.”

“And Molly, what about you? Who is your best friend?

“That’s easy Daddy, Meghan is.”

“Ok, here is a hard question, who is going to be Noelle’s best friend?

Their brows were furrowed for a moment and then their faces relaxed into smiles as understanding came to them.

“We don’t know Daddy, do you and Mommy know?” The grinning got even bigger.

“Well, your mother and I were thinking that the perfect way for Noelle to have a best friend would be for Mommy to have another baby.”

Meghan and Molly threw their heads back and began to laugh. Noelle was sitting in her high chair and began to imitate her sisters, laughing when they did and clapping her hands when they did. But she soon lost interest this and went back to eating her favorite desert, a pile of dry cheerios lying on the tray of the high chair.

The girls finished their desert then scooted back their chairs. As they walked away form the table, Colleen and I could hear Meghan whisper to Molly, “See, I told you they would.”

Molly quickly spun around and returned to the table. With a serious expression she said, “Remember, no brothers. She’s going to share a room with me,” and walked off to find Meghan.

Colleen looked at me with a questioning look and said, “You don’t suppose they already knew, do you?”

“I don’t know.”

Telling Mom and the twins was much easier this time also. The next weekend we drove down to Santa Teresa to Mom’s house then called Mike and Jimmy to come over for a while. After lunch we were sitting around the table talking while all the cousins were outside. There was a lull in the conversation when I spoke.

Mom…guys…Colleen and I have some news to share with you.”

Everyone’s faces were blank for a second, and then began to change. Mike’s face had a questioning look, Jimmy was suspicious and Mom looked panicked. Sharon and Mi Lin glanced for a second at Colleen who was wearing her contented half smile then all three of them broke into huge grins.

“Colleen and I are pleased to announce the impending birth of a new grandchild for Mrs. Margaret O’Conner.”

The statement was a tad overly grandiose but somehow fit the occasion.

Everyone came around the table to hug us with their congratulations except for Mom. She was still sitting down, one elbow on the table, forehead in hand, slowly shaking her head back and forth. At last she raised her head up and looked first at me then to Colleen. She gave us a shrug of her shoulders and a small smile.

“Well, I survived it once; I guess I’ll live through this one too. Just make sure this baby is as good natured as the rest of the kids. The one thing I will not tolerate is an ill tempered grandchild.”

Mom stood and hugged us, then all of the women drifted into the livingroom for an extended session of pregnancy talk. This left Jimmy, Mike and I alone in the kitchen. Mike and Jimmy were standing next to each other, arms crossed, their backsides leaning against the counter. Mike was smiling and Jimmy seemed to be lost in thought, both of them just looking at me. I could stand the silence for only so long before I spoke.

“Hey, don’t everyone talk all at once.”

Mike gave a small laugh then came over and put his arm around my shoulders.

“For a complete nitwit, you’re ok. Don’t let them let them tell you any different.”

There was another pause of silence then Jimmy spoke.

“Bobby, I owe you an apology.”

“Apology? What for?”

“Last year when you and Colleen told us she was pregnant, I thought both of you had lost your minds. Do you remember what I told you at the time?”

“Yeah…something along the line of you would kill me if I ever hurt Colleen.”

“I meant it then and I still mean it, except now it’s different.”

“Different how?”

“Mike and I have been watching you and Colleen since then, especially since Noelle was born. You’re totally incapable of doing anything to hurt her, you love Colleen too much, you always have.”

“What does that mean?”

Mike gave me a gentle slap to the forehead. “Get real! Even when we were little kids the whole world could see that you were in love with Colleen. I think the only people who didn’t see it were Mom and Dad. Colleen couldn’t see it because she was so gaga over you. That’s why we so surprised when she married Bill. You know, sometimes you had such a goofy look on your face when she was around, it was down right embarrassing to admit to people that you were our brother.”

“I think there’s a compliment in there somewhere, I just can’t see it right now, but thanks, I appreciate it.”

There was another moment of silence as we all looked down at the floor, processing our individual thoughts. Jimmy spoke softly without looking up.

“I wish Dad was here, I think he would be very happy about the way things have turned out. You and Colleen were always special to him.” Jimmy raised his head and laughed. “Dad told me one time that he wanted all four of us to have ten kids each so that he and Mom could have a never ending supply of grandkids.”

Mike and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. At the same instant we said the same thing out loud, “I don’t think so.” Still laughing, we went into the livingroom to be with the women we love. As we went through the doorway Jimmy whispered in my ear.

“Just remember what I said, hurt her and I will hunt you down.”

This time, pregnancy was not a new thing for me and it seemed to go by much too fast. I don’t think I am some kind of a pervert, but making love with Colleen when she is pregnant adds a whole new dimension to our lives. I absolutely adore her.

One night after a particularly satisfying session of love, we were lying in bed relaxing before turning off the light to go to sleep. I was lying on my back with Colleen cuddled in my arms. Her head was on my chest with her thigh draped across my legs, her ever expanding stomach firmly held against my hip. Her hand was slowly rubbing my chest at the same time that I was stroking her back.

I could tell by her body language that Colleen was thinking about something so I wasn’t going to disturb her until she was ready to share it with me.

“Bobby, can I ask you something?”

“Of course cutie, what do you want to know?”

Colleen’s face had that same furrowed brow frown that I had seen countless times on the girls when they were trying to get their courage up to say something.

“Do you ever think about us?”

“Of course I do. I think about you all the time.”

“No, not me…us.”

“What do you mean?”

Colleen sat up and looked down at me. “I mean do you think about us, you and me together, as a couple?”

I sat up and looked at Colleen. “What is there to think about?”

“Well for one thing there is the fact that we are brother and sister. We had a baby together and we’re about to have another. This is California, not Arkansas, but I’m pretty sure that this is illegal in all fifty states. Does it ever bother you?”

“Oh, the incest thing.” I paused to get my thoughts in order because it was important that I get it right the first time.

“You’re going to have to bear with me because I really don’t know if I can explain this so anyone can understand it.” Colleen sat waiting and listening.

“That night of our first date, and then that whole weekend, I didn’t think about it at all. But after Meghan and Molly came home, that was all I could think about. Do you remember what you said about us having separate bedrooms?”

“I told you that I couldn’t stand not having you in bed with me every night.”

“Right, and I feel the same way. You also said when we started this that it was for the long haul, and you were right. You mean the world to me and I would die inside if we couldn’t be together as partners.”

I leaned over and kissed her on the nose.

“Look, we were grown ups when we got going. It’s not like we didn’t know what was happening; we had both been married before. And it’s not like some sick adult taking advantage of an innocent child…well, you are older than me so it’s all your fault and I’m totally blameless here.”

I smiled at her, she stuck her tongue out at me and muttered, “blameless my ass.”

“So, do I think about us? Yes, all the time. Do I think about us being brother and sister? No, I don’t. I only think about how much I love you and how empty my life would be without you.”

Colleen’s head was bent down as she listened, her finger drawing slow lazy circles on my leg as she thought.

“I feel the same way Bobby, but sometimes I wonder if we’re doing the right thing.”

“It’s not a question of right or wrong, it just is. I know that to other people it might seem weird and all, but I’ve never felt that anything was so meant to be as this, you and me. Under other circumstances, our lives might have gone down a different path, but things are the way they are. When I moved here from Chicago, if Bill were still alive, or Barbara hadn’t done what she did, would we have still ended up in a relationship like this? I doubt it but you can’t tell because there is no way to change the past. Bill died and Barbara did it. I am not going to spend the rest of my life playing the ‘what if’ game. The only thing that matters is that I love you and you love me. And there are three little girls right down the hall that we both love just as much. It’s called family.”

I reached over and stroked Colleen’s belly.

“And I can’t wait to meet the next member of our family.”

Colleen reached up and placed her open palm against my cheek.

“I love you so much Bobby…sometimes I wonder…if I really loved Bill at all?”

I pulled Colleen close and held her tight.

“I have no doubt that you loved Bill, I could see it in your eyes everytime you looked at him. And he loved you, that’s why I liked him so much myself, because he was good for you. You can’t compare your love for Bill with your love for me; it’s a different time, different place.”

Colleen was quiet then whispered her biggest question of the night.

“Do you ever think about Barbara?”

I took my time before answering. I knew that Colleen was feeling extremely vulnerable right then and if I wasn’t careful, I could hurt her very badly.

“When I first got here from Chicago that was all I could think about. But you, with a lot of help from Meghan and Molly, showed me that there is another life out there in the world. That I not only could, but would, live through everything and find a different happiness. Once I understood that, she just faded away from my memory. The answer to your question is no, I don’t thank about Barbara. In fact I surprise myself sometimes when I realize that I was married before. It’s almost like it was a story I read in a book a long time ago. It was something that happened to a fictional character, not to me.”

I could tell that Colleen needed more reassurance from me so I continued.

“I loved Barbara very much when we got married; there is no escaping that fact. But that love no longer exists. That love is gone just a much as Bill is gone. They have both died and they are never coming back. You and I have been released to continue living our lives in the here and now, not somewhere in the past.”

“Do you think you should have stayed in Chicago and tried to work things out with her? Talked to her, at least let her tell you why she did it?”

“No, I don’t, there would be no point in that. It’s like this. If a drunk walks out of a bar, gets behind the wheel of a car, then drives sixty miles an hour down the street and kills a small child in the intersection, no matter what the drunk says, or explains, the child is still dead. The driver knew the possible consequences before he got drunk, but he made the choice to drink and drive anyway. For him to try and justify anything and hide behind some lame excuse that he was impaired by alcohol does not change the fact that the child is dead.”

“It’s the same thing in a marriage. Love is a living and breathing thing. Barbara made the same promise to me that I made to her. The vows say ‘forsaking all others.’ She knew before she made her choice what it would do to our relationship, but she did it anyway. My love for her is just as dead as that child in the intersection.”

“What could she say that would make a difference? That it was just sex and not love? That she loved me but had to have someone else’s dick inside of her? That infidelity is acceptable in a marriage? That because I loved her I should accept that she would screw anyone anytime she felt the urge? That type of relationship might be OK for some people, but not me. I don’t believe any of that. It’s all a line of horseshit by someone who won’t accept responsibility for their own failure in a relationship.”

“I suppose that on some level maybe Barbara still loved me when she got pregnant by another man…she loved me…but not enough to put me first, to be number one in her life. If there was something wrong in our relationship, she obviously didn’t love me enough to come to me and try to work it out; she just didn’t care. That’s why your love is so different, because I know that I am number one for you. I don’t for one second doubt how you feel. I know you will never betray me.”

I had to pause for a moment to digest in my own mind what I had just said. Colleen gave me a gentle kiss on the lips and sat back, waiting for me to continue.

“Barbara never said it out loud, but I knew that she was jealous of you.”

“Me? Why?”

“Who knows. Maybe because it is so easy for you to be beautiful, it comes natural for you. She always felt that she had to work at being glamorous. I think she was jealous of how close you and I are…maybe that’s why she did what she did…I don’t know. The sad thing is that she had no reason to be jealous…I was in love with her, but she chose to destroy that.”

We sat on the bed facing each other, just being silent together when Colleen took both of my hands in hers and squeezed. She smiled and spoke.

“When we were younger, I used to brag to all of my friends about how cute my little brother was…and still is I might add. I never did feel the same way about the twins as I did about you. They were always just my brothers, but you were special to me. Always have been, always will be.”

I nodded my head in agreement. “Yeah, same here. As far as the incest thing goes, it’s really not part of the equation. I don’t get all hot fantasizing about hopping into bed with Mom…”

“Please, that’s not a good mental picture for me.”

“…and I’m not standing around drooling at the thought of all the nieces growing up…”

Colleen laughed. “That certainly puts my mind at ease.”

“…the only important thing is that we love each other, no matter what our biological relationship is. I really don’t understand this ‘soul mate’ thing I’ve heard people talk about, but I do think that you and I were meant to be together from the very beginning. The fact that you and I are brother and sister was just a bad accident on the part of nature. I want to tell you something that Mike said to me a long time ago.”

“What’s that?”

“One night when we were in college, Mike and I were sitting around talking, being philosophical, solving all the problems of world and we ended up talking about the family and stuff. Mike said, ‘I’m sorry Bobby, you’re my brother but Jimmy is my friend.’ I never really understood what he was saying until I came back from Chicago. You’re not my sister; I don’t think you ever have been. You’ve always been my friend, and now you’re my lover. Does any of this make any sense?”

“Yes it does.” She leaned in gave me a small kiss. “Thanks, I feel a lot better.” Colleen lay down, pulling me with her. She reached over and turned off the light. In the quiet of the darkness she held my hand and whispered, “I am never going to let go of my friend.”

The relationship between Colleen and I was always good, but the conversation we had that night cleared up a lot of the lingering issues both of us had in the back our minds. It added a new dimension and depth to our love. But…

Gradually, something else began to creep into the back of my consciousness. I couldn’t put my finger on it, I just felt that something was missing and I didn’t know what. The more I thought about it the more it eluded me. For several weeks I struggled with it, trying to find the answer. Even Peterson and Miss Jennings commented that I seemed to be preoccupied.

It sounds like a scene in a low budget movie, but the answer came to me in a dream in the middle of the night. I sat up in bed with a jerk and yelled out, still half asleep. Colleen didn’t open her eyes, just groggily asked, “What going on?”

“Nothing honey, go back to sleep.”

I lay back down and stared at the ceiling. Now that I knew what was wrong, I had to figure out how to correct it. I spent the next few weeks playing out different scenarios in my mind, rejecting most of them, looking for the perfect plan that would fix everything.

Then one night I was in the kitchen cleaning up when Colleen walked in after putting the kids to bed. She stood there watching me for a few moments before she spoke.

“What’s wrong?”

“What do you mean?”

“Something is bothering you. You’re quiet all the time and half the time you don’t even hear me or the girls. Now what is going on?”

I was having trouble finding the right words. I stood there looking at her before I spoke.

“I want to get married.”

The expression on Colleen’s face couldn’t have been any worse if I had punched her in the stomach. Her eyes slowly got bigger and her bottom lip began to tremble. A tear rolled down her cheek then she turned and walked out of the room with out saying a word. I heard her walk down the hallway and close the bedroom door.

I tossed the dishtowel onto the counter and went to the bedroom. I stopped, took a deep breath before opening the door and stepped in. Colleen was sitting on the edge of the bed; her arms wrapped her mid-section, rocking back and forth holding our unborn child. Tears were pouring down and she was shaking when she looked up at me.

“How could you? You promised me.”

“How could I what?”

“You promised me that you would never cheat on me, who is she?”

“Who is who?”

“The tramp…the slut you want to marry.”

My head was starting to spin, everything had gone terribly wrong. Colleen’s face was in her hands and she was sobbing uncontrollably. I walked over and knelt on the floor in front of her. I carefully pulled her hands away from her face then held it between my own.

“You are.”

“I am what?”

“It’s you. You’re the slut I want to marry.”

Colleen sat straight up and snapped her head back with a look of total shock.

“ARE YOU CRAZY?”

“No…I’m not. I’ve never felt so sane in my life. Colleen, I love you and I want you to marry me.”

“But that’s impossible!”

“Why?”

“Why? Because it’s against the law, that’s why.”

“So?”

Colleen was frantically looking around the room, trying in her mind to latch onto something that would bring this moment back into reality. As her breathing began to slow down her eyes settled on mine.

“There is no way we could get married.”

“Sure there is. All we have to do is get a marriage license, invite Reverend Stevens over, she says a few words for us out in the garden and then we have a nice party. Pretty simple actually.”

Colleen was having trouble assimilating what I had said.

“We can’t just waltz in and get a license.”

“Sure we can, it’s easy. Here, let me show you.”

I went over to the dresser, took Colleen’s wallet out of her purse and removed her driver’s license. I pulled my wallet of my back pocket and took out my own license. I sat down on the bed next to her and held them out for her to see.

“This all we need.”

“What?”

“Look, when we get the license, we only have to show them identification to prove that we are who we say are, we don’t have to provide a copy of the family tree. What name does it say here?”

“Robert Mathew O’Conner.”

“And what name is on this one?

“Colleen Margaret Wilkowski.”

“Ok, who in San Miguel knows that we are brother and sister?”

She had to think about that for a few seconds. “No one as far as I know.”

“Alright then. As far as anyone knows, we are two unmarried people living together, we had a baby and now another one is on the way. We want to make the ultimate commitment to each other and publicly say we are in love, what’s wrong with that?”

The look in Colleen’s eyes told me that she was not having any better luck in processing any of this.

“What about Mom and the twins?”

“Now that does have me worried a little, but I’m betting that if they can deal with us having two children together, then they will be able to cope with us getting married. What do you say? Will you marry me?”

Colleen stared at me for a few minutes then got up and walked over to the closet. With her back to me she began to undress and said, “I can’t deal with this right now, it’s making my head hurt. We’ll talk about it later.”

When she had finished undressing, she came back and stood in front of me in all of her naked glory. There was a confused look on her face and her hand was rubbing her forehead.

“Christ, the father of my children is a raving lunatic…I’m going to bed now.”

Colleen got under the covers and rolled over with her back to me. She lay there quietly then spoke.

“And don’t you ever call me a slut again.”

The next morning Colleen was unusually quiet at breakfast. When she met me at the door before I left for work, I tried to talk to her but she put her hand over my mouth and shoved me out the door. When I got home that night it was just as bad. She interacted with the girls but completely ignored me. Even the kids were picking up that something was wrong. They didn’t say anything, just looked at us with questions in their eyes.

I sat on the sofa trying to read as Colleen put the kids to bed. After fifteen minutes I had read the same paragraph a hundred times and still had no idea what it said. I had given up when Colleen walked into the room and stood in front of me, her protruding belly in my face and staring down into my eyes. I waited for her to say something to me.

“Yes,” she said.

“Yes what?”

She rolled her eyes, looking up at the ceiling for a second and then back down at me.

“Yes, I will marry you. Apparently insanity runs in our family. I hope we haven’t passed it on to the girls.”

She turned and walked away. At the doorway she stopped and looked over her shoulder.

“Bobby, it’s time for bed. We have a lot details to discuss.”

And we did discuss the details, but first we…well, let’s just say that we did lots of other stuff before talking about a wedding.

After two pregnancies for Colleen, telling the family about the wedding was a piece of cake. Sharon and Mi Lin were startled at first but that quickly turned to delight. Mike just smiled and under his breath said, “It’s about time.” Jimmy rubbed his temples with his fingers for a long time before he looked at us.

“You do realize that I’m a deputy sheriff, don’t you? I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear anything you just said.”

Mom’s only comment was, “You two only do these things to make my hair turn gray. How can we help?”

For all of the bravado that I had shown to Colleen when I first talked with her about getting married, I was terrified when we went to get the marriage license. Colleen and I drove to city hall one afternoon and walked up to the appropriate window. An old lady who was somewhere between eighty and death was behind the counter slowly writing something on a form. It seemed like she took hours before looking up at us.

“Can I help you?”

“Yes,” I said. “We need to get a marriage license.”

She looked at me, then at a very pregnant Colleen who was holding Noelle.

“I should think so,” was all that she said before handing me a form to fill out.

Once we had returned it to her, she gave us the license, showing us where to have the minister and witnesses sign, telling us to return it within thirty days of the ceremony for it to be recorded and become legal.

Because of the circumstances, the wedding was kept exceptionally quiet and very small. Since there were three kids in our house and another on the way, Sharon and Mi Lin took charge so that Colleen wouldn’t have to deal with any of that stress. For obvious reasons, the wedding would be in our back yard in San Miguel, too may people in Santa Teresa knew who we were.

Sharon and Mi Lin made numerous trips to San Miguel to take care of everything and Colleen was having a blast spending time with her two sisters-in-law. Mom made the trip with them half of the time and there was so much laughter going on that I had a hard time believing they were getting any work done.

A couple of days before the wedding I got a call from Mike. After exchanging pleasantries, Mike asked his question. “Have you guys got your rings yet?”

Rings. I leaned over and began pounding my forehead on the top of my desk.

“Jesus, Mike. I didn’t even think about getting rings. What am I going to do now?”

“Relax little brother, I’ve got you covered. Some how I knew you wouldn’t remember. I will bring the rings with me on Saturday.”

The day of the wedding started out crappy. It was early fall and there was gray fog everywhere, but by 10 AM it had burned off leaving the rest of the day bright and sunny. The temperature us just right for wearing a suit without working up a sweat. Bill had built a small arbor in the backyard that was now completely covered with climbing roses. At 4 PM that Saturday afternoon, I stood in front of the arbor with Reverend Stevens waiting for Colleen.

For the actual ceremony, the only people there were Mom, Jimmy and Mi Lin and their two daughters, and Mike and Sharon and their three daughters. The only additional people were Harold Peterson and Miss Jennings from the office plus Frank and Linda with their daughters from next door. Frank and Linda had bought the house next to us about a month after I came from Chicago. Their two daughters were the same age as Meghan and Molly, and we had all become close friends.

We heard a small noise and we all turned to look at the back door. The first one to walk out was Molly who holding a small bouquet of flowers in her hands. Meghan was next and she was holding Noelle who was sound asleep on her shoulder. All three of the girls were in the new dresses that Mom and Colleen had bought for the occasion and they were very far off the top of the cute scale. The girls walked to the arbor and waited. Then Colleen stepped out.

Stunning – breathtaking – there aren’t enough adjectives in the English language to describe what I saw. Colleen was wearing an ivory colored dress made of raw silk that fell below her knees. It was devastatingly beautiful in its simplicity. It displayed every beautiful line and curve about Colleen including her pregnancy. While everyone else was smiling at how wonderful she looked, I was struggling to take a breath without wheezing, she was that beautiful.

As Colleen took her place next to me we turned to face Reverend Stevens. On Colleen’s left was Meghan, holding Noelle and next to her was Molly. Just as everyone moved in and formed a semi-circle around us, I felt a small hand slip into mine. I looked down to see Patricia who was now four years old looking back up at me.

“What are you doing?” I whispered.

“You didn’t have anybody on your side,” she smiled back in reply.

The gathering settled down and waited for Reverend Stevens to begin. As she opened her little black book Patricia leaned in and in a clear voice innocently informed the Reverend, “My daddy says that now Aunt Colleen is going to be an honest woman.”

The entire group was struggling to not break out into unbridled laughter except for Mike whose face had turned bright red and was trying to hide behind his wife.

The ceremony itself was very short. When it came to the point of exchanging rings, I glanced over my shoulder at Mike who smiled and pointed at Patricia. She was very slowly and carefully unbuttoning the flap covering the pocket on her dress. She reached in and handed two objects to the pastor. She said her blessing over the rings then handed one to me and one to Colleen. We looked down at what lay in our palms and both of us gasped.

It was our parent’s wedding rings.

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We both looked at Mom who was smiling and nodding yes. We said our vows and exchanged the rings. The rings fit perfectly, as though they had been custom made specifically for us. After the last prayer, I kissed my new bride.

I felt Patricia tugging at the hem of my coat and she was wiggling her index finger at me to bend down. Cupping her mouth with her hand she whispered into my ear.

“Are you still Uncle Bobby?”

I picked her up, swung her around and kissed her on the check.

“Yes sweetie, I will always be Uncle Bobby.”

The caterer’s that Sharon had hired began putting out the buffet and the other guests began to arrive. We had invited about twenty other people but we didn’t tell them it was a wedding reception, we just said that it was a formal garden party. It was evenly divided between our friends in the neighborhood, my closest co-workers from the office and several of Colleen’s clients. Soon the newcomers knew that Colleen and I had been married, secretly we were counting on the rumor mill to spread the news. The live-in boyfriend finally married the nice widow woman.

As soon as we could we found Mom to ask her about the rings.

“I want you to have them. I talked with Jimmy and Mike and they agreed with me. The rings are yours now.” She paused for just a second with a small smile and said, “I know your father would want you to have them too.”

The party went into the evening with Mom and the twins meeting most of our friends for the first time and everyone having a good time. There was one incident that happened where I could not have foreseen the future disaster in store for me.

Mike and Jimmy met Harold Peterson.

I have a used set of golf clubs and play eighteen holes maybe once or twice a year, almost always with my brothers. I don’t play very well so it is not something I enjoy doing a lot of. After nine holes, my score is something that a professional bowler would be proud of, somewhere around 280 or 290. The twins are the opposite. They are fanatics when it comes to golf and every year they spend a fortune on new clubs and greens fees. As I said, once or twice a year they harass me into a round of gold. The problem with this is that I am by far the best one of the bunch. After years and probably thousands of dollars spent on lessons, they simply continue to get worse.

And then they met Harold.

Harold Peterson is possibly the only person on the face of the earth that could be more obsessed and worse at golf that Mike and Jimmy. I now had three people constantly nagging me to be the fourth man on Saturday mornings. Sharon and Mi Lin tolerated this small personality disorder of their husbands and knew that it was perfectly harmless as long as everyone wore a crash helmet. Harold on the other hand, was a widower with no one to keep him on a short leash and occasionally would slip into an uncontrolled frenzy at the mere mention of golf. It was inevitable that I would raise my number of golf games to five or six games a year. Colleen simply smiled and gave me big hug.

“Maybe you can give the boys a few pointers.”

By nine o’clock everyone had left, the caterers had cleaned up and the only one who was still with us was Mom. She had taken a weeks vacation from teaching her second graders to stay with the girls in San Miguel while Colleen and I went on our honeymoon.

The honeymoon wasn’t an extravagant trip. Because of Colleen being so close to the time of giving birth, we couldn’t travel very far or be gone for too long. We left on Sunday morning to drive up the coast for a couple of hours to Carmel where we had rented a bungalow on the beach for the week. By Wednesday night we missed the girls so much that we decided to cut the trip short and was back home Thursday afternoon.

Friday morning, Colleen and I were in the attorney’s office starting the paper work for me to adopt Meghan and Molly and legally change their last name from Wilkowski to O’Conner.

One month later, with me holding her hand, Colleen Margaret O’Conner gave birth to Brigid Fiona O’Conner.

But this time, I was an old experienced hand in the maternity ward. I was on my way back from the cafeteria with two cups of coffee for me and Colleen when I passed a young couple in the hallway that looked to be barely out of their teenage years. She was wearing an open robe over her hospital gown and looked to be ten months pregnant. He was much taller than she and had his arm around her, helping her to move along very slowly. He had a look of panic in his eyes as though he might bolt for the door at any second. I stopped and handed him my cup of coffee.

“Here, you’re going to need this much more than I will.”

Having a new born in the house was not that new for us any more, it was just part of our daily routine. Noelle was now eleven months old and immediately took notice of the new life form that had invaded her territory. Colleen was sitting in the rocking chair with Brigid in her lap when Noelle toddled over and stared at the first person she had ever seen that was smaller than she. Noelle squealed “BeBe,” clapped her hands, bent over and kissed her sister on the cheek.

Molly immediately stepped in and took over the care of Brigid, impatient that she couldn’t move onto her room right away. When it came to Noelle and Brigid, Colleen and I are the parents, but Meghan and Molly are the guardians. The sisters’ bond between the four of them is stronger than any I have ever seen.

There are certain images that are burned into my memory. One of those images is when I was in kindergarten and sick. I had some type of virus and was in bed for a couple of days, weak and not able to do much of anything. To this day I can see Colleen sitting on the edge of my bed, wiping my face with a washcloth and then reading me my favorite story. Another image I have is when I was about eight years old. I walked into the livingroom on Christmas morning and there next to the tree was a bicycle with my name on it. Standing next to the bike was my Mom and Dad, the joy in their smiles just as big as my own.

But there is one mental picture that I keep pulling out to look at. It was the day after Thanksgiving when Brigid was just a few days old. Outside it was cold and dreary, everything inside was warm and we were wrapped in the cocoon of our house. I was standing in the dining room and looked through the archway into the livingroom. A blanket was spread out on the floor in front of the fireplace and Meghan was helping Noelle play with her blocks. Molly was lying on her stomach, watching and laughing. Colleen was sitting in the rocking chair with her blouse unbuttoned while Brigid nursed at her breast. Colleen was humming softly to Brigid as she alternated her attention between her daughter in her arms and her daughters on the floor. Occasionally she would look in my direction and give me the gift of one of her contented smiles.

I love my family.

Now, with four kids in the house we had to address a specific logistical issue. We became the first family in the neighborhood to own a minivan.

The same afternoon that we brought Brigid home from the hospital, Colleen grabbed a red marker and walked over to the kitchen calendar. She counted off eight weeks and raised her hand to circle the date when I grabbed her wrist. I moved her hand down to the following Friday and wiggled the pen until that date was marked.

“Bobby, what are you doing? That’s nine weeks, not eight.”

“I know, but what day is that?”

She looked at it for a second then broke into a huge grin. “My birthday, I like the way you’re thinking.”

“This year you are having a special birthday,” I said, wiggling my eyebrows.

Colleen’s response to this was to give me her contented half smile and a hug. “Just do what you need to do, I can’t wait.”

I had been thinking about this for some time. My part of the settlement after the divorce had been a little over $7,800. Somehow it seemed like tainted money to me and I hadn’t wanted anything to do with it. I was earning good money at work plus Colleen had her income from her illustration jobs and Bill’s insurance. We hadn’t needed to use any of the blood money from Barbara. All of this time it had been sitting in a mutual fund account collecting interest. Because of the rising stock market it was now over $13,000. I knew what I wanted to do with it.

Our parents had taught us to be careful with money. The four of us kids aren’t cheapskates, but we don’t spend money on frivolous extravagances either. We save our money and surround ourselves with comfortable things without living in debt up to our armpits.

Now, I was going to spend the dirty money on something that was outrageously expensive for no other reason than to celebrate Colleen’s birthday. I had already spoken to Mom and the twins and they were saving that date to help us celebrate. When I told Colleen what I had in mind she felt my forehead to see if I had a fever.

About ten miles outside of San Miguel is a large rambling farmhouse. The descendants of the original owners from the gold rush era had expanded the structure and modernized the utilities without changing the charm of the architecture. It was no longer a working farm and the house had been converted into a restaurant and named after their great-grandmother, “Gypsy Sally.”

It is also the only five star restaurant between Los Angeles and San Francisco. There was a one year wait to get a reservation and many people planned their vacation itinerary around the reservation. It was the type of restaurant that did not have prices on the menu, but the cost at the end of the evening was about the same amount as a down payment for a house. I talked to Harold Peterson, he made few phone calls and got us a reservation on Colleen’s birthday.

The nine weeks wait meant more time spent with my face between Colleen’s thighs – not that I was complaining. But as her birthday drew closer, the more excited we became. This was going to be the once in a lifetime extravaganza.

One of the things that I had done was to hire a limousine. The limo picked up Mom plus the twins and their wives and brought them to San Miguel. This way they would not have to be concerned about the hour long drive back to Santa Teresa at the end of the evening. After they had arrived at the house, I ushered everyone into the livingroom where we waited for Colleen to finish getting ready.

As we stood around making small talk while we waited, I observed once again that the women in the O’Conner family were beautiful. Mom is an older version of Colleen with golden blond hair and deep brown eyes. Tonight she was wearing a pair of black silk tuxedo pants with a white silk blouse and a strand of pearls around her neck. We could all see where Colleen had got her curves and good taste from. Mom also had a while silk shawl with a twelve inch fringe around her shoulders.

Sharon is five eleven, only slightly shorter than Mike. Her medium brown hair is straight and falls down her back to her waist. Most of the time she wears it in a single thick braid but tonight it was hanging free with just a hint of a curl. She was wearing a jade green dress that accented the golden glow of her skin tones. The dress floated around her figure and was cut to fall below her knees, showing just the beginning cleavage of her ample bosom. Sharon was a big woman and while she would never be considered fat, she would never be accused of anorexia. Her Norwegian Viking heritage was obvious.

Mi Lin is five-six and thin. Her hair is jet black and hangs like a thick mass of shining silk thread, curling under at her shoulders. Her dress was a deep navy with a slit on one side that went from her calf to a couple of inches above her knee, showing just a hint of her thigh. The mandarin collar accentuated her slender neck. Her dark almond shaped eyes contrasted pleasantly against her fair skin.

Sharon and Mi Lin were roommates in college and double dated the O’Conner twins on a dare from one of their friends. The date must have gone well because within the year, the four of them were married in a double ceremony. Jimmy and Mike were just as much in love with their wives as I was with Colleen.

Jimmy looked at me and smiled. “Nice suit. Let me guess, Colleen picked it out, didn’t she?”

“Yeah, how did you know?”

Mike laughed. “Because it fits and it doesn’t look like you slept in it last night.”

They were right. Colleen had insisted that if we were going to do this we were going to do it right. She had gone with me to buy a new suit and spent an hour telling me to be quiet as she conferred the tailor while I tried on various options. My reward for being patient during this ordeal was a couple of hours of incredible toe curling sex that night after the kids were in bed.

Colleen kept us waiting for only a few minutes before she entered the livingroom. This time even Mike and Jimmy’s jaws dropped when they saw their sister. I had not seen what she had chosen to wear before this very moment. I stood there speechless. In all of the times I had seen Colleen dressed up for an event, I had never seen her this stunning.

Colleen had designed her dress herself and had it custom made for her. As in everything she does it was clean and simple in its line but in its’ simplicity it was stunning. It was a sheath dress but had been tailored to fit Colleen like a glove. It skimmed along every line and curve of her body but was not so tight that she couldn’t breathe or move around.

The dress was made of black silk velvet that seemed to reflect the light everytime she moved. The shoulder straps were wide and it was cut low in a scoop across her chest revealing about three inches of her cleavage. It was the lowest neckline I had ever seen Colleen wear. The bodice of the dress was constructed so that her breasts were held together but still allowed them to sway gently as she moved about. In was cut so that the back of the dress was six inches below her shoulder blades.

It was obvious that Colleen was not wearing a bra.

The hemline of the dress was about four inches above her knees and had a six inch slit on top of her left thigh. This slit gave her the freedom to move about without being constricted. She wore a pair of sheer nylons that were silver in color with a sparkle to them and a pair of low heeled shoes that were held on by a series of tiny straps.

Her nail polish and lipstick matched in bright deep red, a shade that our father used to call “Harlot Scarlet.” The hosiery was sheer enough that we could see that the toenails matched the color of her lips. Depending on how the light would hit her, Colleen’s appearance would change from simply tasteful to highly erotic and back again.

Colleen, Mom, Sharon and Mi Lin were congregated on the other side of the room from us, commenting on each others clothes as Jimmy, Mike and I were drinking in all of the beauty that was standing there.

Mike looked at Jimmy and I and whispered, “Is it legal to have so many beautiful women in one spot?”

Jimmy answered in his own whisper, “Gentlemen, I hope you brought your clubs because the animals out there are going to try to steal our women tonight.”

Then all four of the women turned to look at us. This reduced my brothers and I to incoherent morons. The image of Colleen, Mom, Sharon and Mi Lin standing there smiling at us is one that is burned onto the retinas of my memory forever.

Finally Mom said, “Mike, will you do the honors please?”

Mike reached inside of his suit coat and drew out an envelope and handed it to Colleen.

“Happy birthday Colleen, this is from all of us.”

Colleen read the papers she had pulled out of the envelope and smiled. She handed them to me and said, “That is great, thank you guys so much.”

Mom and the twins had paid for a weekend for two at the Saint Francis Hotel in San Francisco and two advance tickets for the De Vinci exhibit that would be opening at the Legion of Honor Museum that same week, an exhibit that had already been sold out for six months.

Sharon was smiling when she said, “The weekend is for two, maybe Meghan or Molly would want to go with you.”

Colleen only grinned. “No, I have a date with my husband that weekend. I think I can probably talk him into going with me.”

I looked at her with a serious expression, “Only if you promise to be nice to me. Come here, I want to give you my present.”

When Colleen was standing in front of me, I bent over and opened the drawer of the end table. I took out a small box that was gift wrapped with a large pink bow. I had spent months looking for this gift and was nervous about how Colleen would react to it. Colleen pulled the end of the ribbon untying the bow and peeled off the wrapping paper. She held the small box in her hand and smiled at me before lifting the lid. When she saw what was inside her eyes grew larger and she gasped.

“My god Bobby, they’re gorgeous.”

Colleen held out the box for everyone to see what was there. Inside was a pendant necklace with matching pendant earrings. The stones were teardrop shaped and were the deepest dark red that is only found in the purest of rubies. Everyone was ooohing and ahhhing and Mike slapped me on the back.

“What do you know, you’re not as tasteless as we thought you were.”

Jimmy was laughing, “Damn you Bobby, now I’m going to have to take Mi Lin shopping tomorrow.”

Colleen stepped over in front of the mirror that was above the fireplace. She hooked the earrings in place, turning her head from side to side admiring how they looked.

“Bobby, come here and do the necklace for me please.”

I stepped behind her and could see the huge smile on her face in the mirror as I fastened the clasp at the back of her neck. I whispered into her ear, “I can’t give you the rest of your present until everyone is gone.”

The pendant hung down midway between her neck and the beginning of her cleavage and lay against her chest. The contrast between Colleen’s soft creamy skin and the deep rich red of the ruby was arresting. Colleen turned and put her hand behind my head, pulling it down until she could whisper in my ear.

“Thank you husband.”

“I love you wife.”

Colleen shifted her head until her lips were in contact with mine. My mouth opened and Colleen’s tongue slid inside and began its dance of love. My arms went around her, one around her back and the other slowly sliding down until I could cup her ass. Colleen kept one hand at the back of my head, running her hand through my hair as the other went around my waist. Slowly she brought her leg up, the inside of her thigh massaging the outside my own as she hooked her calf around mine. Our groins were together and we began a small gentle rocking motion.

“AHEM”

I was startled by the sound of someone loudly clearing their throat. We immediately released each other as I spun around to face the room.

Mike and Sharon had suddenly discovered that the top of the lampshade was the most fascinating thing they had ever seen. Mi Lin was looking down at the floor with her hand shading her eyes and Jimmy had turned his back and was staring at the ceiling. Mom was standing there, staring with large saucer sized eyes and her mouth opening and closing like a guppy. I could feel more that see the color in Colleen’s face turning a bright red to match my own. After several seconds that seemed like hours of embarrassment, Mom spoke.

“Will you two try to control yourselves! Colleen, go fix your make-up. Robert, you have lipstick all over your face.”

Mom only calls me Robert when she is near the snapping point.

Like two small children that had been caught being naughty, Colleen and I slipped into the bathroom to repair the damage.

Once we arrived at the restaurant and the meal was begun, we understood why it had the reputation it did. There were a total of ten tables in the room but each one had the atmosphere of being the only one there. The staff was quiet and unobtrusive; the only thing for us to do was enjoy the meal and the pleasure of our guests. The experience was proving to be worth every penny. As the waiters were serving the desert I looked down at my watch. I thought that we had been there for only an hour or so and was surprised to see that more than three hours had passed.

As we began the desert course, Sharon asked the question that we had all been wondering about.

“Margaret, how are things going with you and Dutch?”

Dutch was the husband of Mom’s best friend. Lydia had died a few weeks before Dad and Mom and Dutch had turned to each other for support during the grieving period.

“Oh, things are going fine, not much new.”

“Do you think that you and Dutch will ever marry?”

Mom gave a gentle laugh. “Good heavens no. Dutch is a dear friend and one of the sweetest men I know, but it’s never going any further than what it is now. We both agreed that we’re just not interested that kind of relationship, we’re simply not attracted to each other that way. All of our dates are when one of us has to go to some function and we need someone to keep the sharks at bay. Once you reach middle age and suddenly become single, it’s amazing how much the rest of the world thinks of you as fresh meat. But we did agree that once we turn seventy-five, if we’re both still single, we’ll become roommates just so we can have someone to talk to at night.”

Colleen asked, “Do you think you’ll ever remarry?”

Mom smiled. “I don’t know, I don’t really thinking about it. But if I did it would have be someone very special. Your father set a pretty high standard.”

We were all lost in thought for a moment as we individually remembered Dad. Mom was still looking down at her plate when she spoke.

“I would like to say something.” Then she looked up. “First I want to say Happy Birthday Colleen, you look absolutely radiant tonight.”

“Thank you Mom.”

Mom paused for a moment then took a deep breath before continuing. She glanced at everyone around the table before settling her attention on Colleen and I.

“I don’t know quite how to say this correctly so I guess I’ll just jump right in. When you two first came to us with the news about Noelle coming, I was not pleased, but you are my children and I will never turn you away. Since then, and especially after Brigid was born, your brothers and I have had a lot discussions and they have pointed out a lot of things that I had never seen before. I don’t know how your father and I were so dense as to not see how much you two have loved each other your whole lives. But I do see it now and I’m OK with what you’re doing. Family or not, I’ve never seen two people who care for each other like you two. Mike and Jimmy, that goes for you too. Nothing makes a mother happier than to see their children find the person they love and give me such wonderful grandkids. If your father were alive, I think…no, I know that he would be very happy. What I’m saying is that…that I am sorry for being so late to say this but you have my blessing. Keep making each other happy.” Mom’s voice was too filled with emotion to continue so she stopped speaking.

Colleen, Sharon and Mi Lin each sat with tears in their eyes. Then Jimmy spoke. “Mike and I feel the same way you guys, happy birthday Colleen.”

I didn’t speak until I could get my emotions under control, and then it was barely above a whisper. “Thanks Mom. You don’t know what it means to us to hear that from you.”

We all sat in silence for a few minutes, then finished the desert and sat enjoying the after dinner coffee. Jimmy was telling us a story about some adventure involving him and his patrol partner, making us all laugh. Colleen was sitting with her arm on the back of my chair, slowly and lightly stroking the back of my neck. There was a lull in the conversation when she leaned over and whispered in my ear.

“I’m not wearing any panties.”

Fortunately the coffee cup was empty when it slipped from my fingers, bounced off the plate and landed on the floor. The racket startled everyone except for Colleen who stood and said, “If you’ll excuse me, I need to go to the ladies room.”

Sharon and Mi Lin immediately pushed their chairs back and stood up.

“Sounds like a good idea, we’re right behind you.” Then they all left the dining room.

As we watched them walk away, Jimmy’s brow was furrowed as he asked the question Mike and I were wondering about.

“Why do they do that?”

“Do what?” Mom asked.

“Why do women always go to the bathroom in a group like that, is it some sort of herd instinct?”

Mom only laughed. “It’s one of those secrets that only women know and I’m not going to be the one to tell. You’re just going to have to suffer without knowing, just like your father did.”

The four of us continued talking but after a while I noticed that our wives had been gone for quite awhile. Just as I was getting up to go look for them they returned to the table. As she sat down, Colleen had her half smile on her lips and she gave me a kiss on the cheek.

“Where did you go, I was starting to get worried.”

Colleen only smiled and whispered, “We had a very interesting conversation in the ladies room.”

“What about?” I whispered back.

“Oh just girl stuff, I’ll tell you later…when you’re ready.”

Sharon and Mi Lin had sat back down by their husbands. Mi Lin scooted her chair closer to Jimmy and it looked as though she had subtly put her hand in his lap under the tablecloth. Jimmy’s mouth opened part way and his eyes rolled back as he slowly tipped his head upwards.

Sharon leaned over and was whispering into Mike’s ear. His head snapped around and looked at Sharon, his eyes bugging out as she slowly nodded her head yes. Mike looked first at Jimmy and then me, beads of sweat beginning to form on his forehead. He gulped as he spoke.

“This has been a lot of fun, but…umm…I…uh…I…I…I have to get out to the job site early so we better get going.”

Jimmy was quick to add, “uh…yeah, me too…I mean I have a lot of paper work to finish at the station…we better get going…quick.”

Mom and I looked at each other, confused, but shrugged our shoulders and began gathering our stuff to leave. Mike and Jimmy were doing everything they could to get us to hurry and I noticed that Colleen, Sharon and Mi Lin each had a small conspiratorial smile on their faces.

On the ride back to the house, conversation was stilted and the twins seemed nervous and agitated. I invited everyone in for some tea before they had to go back to Santa Teresa, but Mike and Jimmy both yelled “NO!” The last thing I heard as Colleen and I got out of the limo was Jimmy yelling at the driver, “There’s an extra hundred bucks in it if you get us home by eleven.”

The tires were screeching on the pavement as the limo pulled away from the curb.

Colleen and I stood on the sidewalk and watched the taillights of the limo as it sped down the block and turned the corner. I was baffled by the twin’s behavior and looked at Colleen.

“What was that all about?”

Colleen looked at me with her half smile and said nothing for a few moments before answering.

“Let’s get inside; I’m sure that Debbie wants to go home.”

We walked up the steps of the porch and stood at the door. Before I unlocked the door to go in, I took Colleen in my arms and pulled her to me. I kissed her lips softly and quietly said. “I love you Colleen.”

“I love you Bobby.”

After we got inside the house, we found Debbie sitting at the dining room table with a plate of cookies and a glass of milk, working on some math problems for her homework. Debbie was the teenager from across the street that did most of our babysitting.

“Hi Debbie, how were kids?”

“They were great. Noelle fussed a little about going to bed but Meghan took care her right away. When she and Molly get a little bit older, I think I’m going to out of a job. How was the restaurant?”

Colleen and Debbie were talking as Debbie gathered up her things to leave while I went to kiss the girls good night in their sleep. I was coming back down the hallway when I heard Colleen call out softly, “I’m going to walk Debbie home, I’ll be back in a few minuets.”

I raced into the bedroom and began ripping my clothes off. I knew that Colleen would take a few minutes to exchange pleasantries with Debbie’s parents but time was short and I wanted it to be just right. Finally everything was ready and I lay down on the bed just as I heard the front door open. I listened as Colleen locked the door, turned off the last of the lights in the dining room and heard her footsteps in the hallway.

When she stepped into the bedroom, the light from the hall was shining through the doorway and the backlight made her hair glow even more golden. She looked at me lying on the bed as her half smile slowly turned into a grin of eager anticipation.

“I’m ready for the rest of my birthday present.”

This is definitely not the end of the story.

Chapter 03

“I’m ready for the rest of my birthday present.”

Colleen closed the bedroom door behind her and watched at me lying on the bed. If I didn’t love her so much I would have been terrified at the grin on her face. The look in her eye was that of a starving predator and I was tonight’s entrée. She slipped off her shoes and walked over to stand by the side of the bed looking down at my mid-section.

“Oh my, and you went to all the trouble of wrapping it too.”

I lay on the bed, hands clasped behind my head, completely naked except for a large red ribbon tied in a bow around my cock.

“I wonder what could be inside. I guess I better unwrap it.”

With that she bent over and grabbed the end of the ribbon with her teeth. She raised her head to untie the bow and pulled the ribbon the rest of the way off with her hands.

“It looks absolutely lovely but what am I supposed to do with it?”

From the second she had told me earlier at the restaurant that she was not wearing any panties, my brain started pumping blood into my dick. At this point it was about to burst as Colleen slowly stroked it with her warm smooth hand. She said nothing, her eyes smiling as she waited for my answer.

“I don’t know. It didn’t come with an instruction manual.”

Colleen turned her head slightly, looked at the alarm clock on the nightstand biting her lower lip, and then looked back at me. She climbed up onto the bed, straddling my ankles. She walked on her knees up my body until she was directly over my cock. Colleen bent over and placed her hands on either side of my head and whispered in my ear.

“I love you so much Bobby.”

Colleen took a soft nibble of my ear lobe and began gently kissing down the side of my neck until she reached the crook of my neck and shoulder. She straightened back up then reached down and took hold of the hem of her dress. With agonizingly slow movements Colleen raised her dress until it was up over her hips and around her waist. Her silver stockings were thigh highs that were held in place by a large band of black elastic lace. This was in contrast to the creamy texture of her thighs and stomach.

By this time all of her pussy hair had grown back after having been shaved off for Brigid’s birth. Once again there was the thick mass of dark silk threads that covered her pubic area and continued down between her legs. My cock had been hard since the restaurant and now I was about to pass out from lack of blood to my brain.

Colleen reached down between her legs and wrapped her fingers around my cock. My cock was so stiff that it almost hurt as she gently pulled back until it was pointing straight up towards her. She lowered herself until the tip of my cock came into contact with her pussy. She slowly rocked her hips back and forth, pushing my cock through the thick forest until I could feel the lips of her cunt. Still holding my cock, she slowly slid it back and forth against herself until I could feel the juice begin to drip out of her. Slowly her pussylips opened and I slid the tiniest fraction of an inch up inside of her.

Colleen kept her eyes focused on mine and continued to rock her hips, slowly working my cock deeper inside of her. I felt her cunt begin sucking on me as the head moved past her pussylips, following the path to its home. Colleen’s eyelids made small fluttering movements as she pulled her hand away from my dick. With a sigh she relaxed her leg muscles and slowly let gravity pull her down forcing me further up inside of her. When I felt my balls nestled in the dense forest of her hair I knew that I was deep as I could possibly get.

Colleen stopped moving and was breathing deeply. She bent forward again, leaning on one arm. With the other hand she kissed the tips of her fingers then gently pressed them against my lips, slowly stroking my face then sat back up.

She began a small slow gentle rocking motion with her hips, back and forth, not even an inch in distance. I slowly slid my hands along the tops of her thighs. Colleen placed her hands on top of mine and slid one of my hands to the inside of her thigh and pulled it up until it was tangled in the thick mass of her hair. She pushed down on my middle finger until it lay between the lips of her pussy, rubbing against the nub of her clit. Colleen showed me the slow rhythm she wanted then let go.

As she continued the slow undulation of her hips, Colleen looked to the side and studied the clock again for a moment. She turned her face back to me and smiled. Still rocking back and forth, she raised herself ever so slightly and then lowered herself back down. Her cunt kept a slow rhythmic sucking, gently squeezing and releasing. I could feel the pulsating motions of her cunt walls against my cock.

I raised my hips to drive my cock deeper into her as she pushed herself down. Her hips were constantly in an agonizingly slow movement, her cunt grasping and releasing my cock while my fingers slid around and against her clit. I placed my hands on her hips to pull her down tighter against me and began to force myself even harder and faster into her.

Colleen put her hands on my wrists and pulled my hands away. She was breathing deeply and her eyes were starting to glaze over when she looked at the clock again. She looked back to me and panted, “Not yet…it’s not time yet…slow down.”

She stopped the movement of her hips but I could feel her increase the pressure of her cunt gripping my cock. Her silk clad thighs closed even tighter on my hips as she reached around behind and I heard the sound of the zipper on the back of her dress. Slowly the shoulder straps began to slide down her arms and the bodice of the dress gently fell away from her breasts. She pulled her arms free from the dress and pushed it down until it lay at her mid-section. The dress was now just a band of black velvet wrapped around her waist.

Colleen’s breasts were full and heavy with milk for Brigid. The slightest movement, each breath, each twitch of her body as her cunt continued to suck my cock caused the breasts to ripple and wobble before my eyes. I raised my head up until I was close enough to kiss and lick along the side of each breast. Colleen put both of her hands on the back of my head and pulled me to her until my face was buried in the valley between those two glorious fountains of motherhood.

Dear God I love doing that.

Gently she pulled me away from her chest and quickly glanced at the clock. Slowly, ever so slowly she began the rhythmic rocking of her hips again, raising herself up on my cock and then sliding back down in an effort to push me even further, deeper inside of her.

I could feel the pressure building in my balls, ready to explode large streams of sperm deep into my sister. The pace of pushing ourselves against each other was becoming more rapid. Colleen’s breath was deep and heavy and her eyes were starting to become unfocused. Her head started wobbling around on her neck when she looked at the clock again. In a voice filled with frustration and anguish she said, “Not…time…yet…oh God…”

Colleen stopped all of her movement and looked into my eyes. Her look was one of hunger and need and she was almost incoherent.

“Not time yet Bobby…oh sweet Jesus I love you…”

As her breathing began to slow down I made my cock twitch inside of her. She moaned and began the gentle undulation of her hips again. Again she started the torturously slow rhythm of our fucking, building up the tension inside of us both until we were both ready to explode. Again she looked at the clock and with voice filled with pain that came from deep inside of her soul she wailed, “Not time yet…not time…” and almost began to cry as she stopped all movement.

If I had been capable of rational thought at that moment I would have gotten up and thrown the clock out the window but the only thing my brain could process was my need to cum.

That was the pattern of our love making over the next hour. The slow gentle cadence of pushing our hips together as Colleen slid up and down my cock, gradually picking up speed almost to the breaking point and then stopping all motion just before the explosion when Colleen would look at the clock and her voice would weep as she moaned, “Not time yet…”

Over and over we did this until I was ready to throw her onto her back and continue fucking whether she wanted to or not. I placed my hands on her hips and pulled down in an effort to shove my cock deeper inside of my sister when she looked at the clock and grunted, “Now Bobby…now…it’s time…put your sperm inside me…oh God yes cum inside me…”

That was all it took. I don’t know how many orgasms I have had in my lifetime, but none have ever been as intense as that one. So intense that it was almost painful.

The second Colleen’s cunt felt my sperm rocketing out the end of my cock, it clamped down hard to squeeze the life out of it. Her thighs gripped me tighter as her hips began uncontrollable spasms and her body began to convulse. She frantically grabbed the pillow that was lying next to her and brought it to her face. She bit down hard and began screaming into the pillow in an effort to not wake the girls that were sleeping just across hall from us.

Colleen’s body gave one last major shudder and then stopped all movement completely. The pillow fell from her hands and she slumped forward to lie on my chest. I wrapped my arms around her and held her close. Slowly the blood began to drain from my cock and return to my brain. The only thing I was physically capable of doing was the slow stroking of my hands on her back while her face was buried in crook of my neck. Gradually my heart rate began to slow down and the ringing in my ears stopped.

My hands slid up until I could cradle her head between my two palms. I kissed her on the lips and looked deep into her eyes. All of the love that we have for each other could be felt in that look.

“What the hell was going on with you watching the clock?” I asked.

Colleen began to grin and then laugh. She placed her lips next to my ear and through the laughter she said, “Let’s just say that right now Mike and Jimmy are two very happy campers.”

Colleen woke me in the middle of the night by pulling on me until I was laying on top her.

“What are you doing?”

“I want to play with my birthday present again.”

“Ok…but don’t you dare look at the clock…”

I was down in the depths of a well deserved sleep when someone dropped a 20 pound sack of sugar onto my chest. The air rushed out of my lungs and my eyes popped open. There in front of me, no more that two inches away were the dark smiling eyes of Noelle. She threw her arms around my neck and began chanting half of her thirteen month old vocabulary.

“Daddy…DaddyDaddyDaddyDaddy…DADDY!”

She bent her head down to give me a kiss and in the process smacked her forehead into the bridge of my nose. My eyes immediately unfocused and one eyelid slammed shut as I moaned out something that sounded like “owgranabunakeek.”

Noelle began sliding away from me as Meghan grabbed her ankles and pulled her backwards on her tummy. When she was close enough, Meghan picked up her sister and held her on her lap.

My eyes were tearing as I struggled to sit up and look around. Colleen was still next to me but she was propped up by a large pile of pillows leaning against the headboard. She was smiling as she held Brigid to her breast and I could hear the quiet sucking noises as mother and daughter continued to cement their bond. Meghan and Molly were sitting at the end of the bed with their legs crossed Indian style. Noelle was settled into Meghan’s lap, leaning back against her chest. She would occasionally bounce up and down while babbling something and then settle back down against her big sister.

Everyone was smiling except for me. I was struggling to get my brain and both eyes to focus on the same thing while uttering a series of unintelligible sounds. I was finally able to wiggle and scoot around until I was sitting up and leaning against the headboard myself. By the time I got my body into a comfortable position the girls were snickering at my efforts.

“Mom, is daddy always this funny when he wakes up?” Molly asked.

“Yes, he is and now you see what I have to put up with every morning,” Colleen replied.

Brigid had finished nursing so Colleen handed my daughter to me. I held her on my shoulder and was gently rubbing and patting her back. Brigid made a sound like a small hiccup and then let loose with a belch that was loud enough to rattle windows in the next block. This sent everyone into an explosive fit of giggles and laughter. Even Brigid had a smile on her face.

As everyone began to settle back down I looked at my family and made an executive decision.

“All right campers, everybody up. Girls, take your sisters and get dressed while your mother and I take a shower. We’ll meet you at the front door in exactly thirty minutes. We’re going to Waffle World.”

Meghan and Molly popped up and began shouting and jumping on the bed. Noelle just laid back laughing and clapping her hands.

“OK girls, get going. Let’s get this show on the road.”

The girls headed out of the bedroom, Noelle hopping while holding onto Meghan’s hand and Molly holding Brigid on her shoulder.

“Bobby, we don’t need to go out, I was going to…”

“Nope, not going to happen,” I interrupted Colleen. “There’s a stack of waffles out there with my name on them. I’m going to find them and eat them and not think twice about it.”

I got out of the bed and walked around to Colleen’s side. I reached out and took her by the hand, tugging until she stood in front of me. She slid her arms around my waist and pulled me close, slowly rubbing her nipples against my chest.

“Watch it woman, don’t get anything started. The girls could come back in here any second.”

“Ok, but you’re going to owe me big time tonight.”

I reached down and squeezed one of her ass cheeks. “You know that I always pay my debts.”

Holding hands, we walked into the bathroom and got in the shower.

Meghan and Molly had Noelle and Brigid dressed and were waiting for us at the front door by the time we came out of the bedroom.

“What took you guys so long? You said thirty minutes and we’ve been waiting forever. We’re hungry.”

Colleen leaned over and whispered loud enough for the neighbors to hear. “We would have been here twenty minutes ago but your father couldn’t make up his mind about his wardrobe.”

Meghan looked at me with total amazement. “And that’s what you picked out? Dad you need some serious help.”

I had grabbed the first pair of jeans and sweatshirt I could find.

Colleen was wearing my favorite pair of jeans, the ones that hugged her ass and thighs and always left me imagining naughty thoughts about my sister. She was wearing sandals that left her toes bare for me to see the red nail polish and a light blue scoop neck T shirt. She was still wearing the necklace and earrings that I had given her the night before. Meghan and Molly were buckling Noelle and Brigid into their car seats while I was locking the front door.

As I pulled the key out of the lock Colleen whispered in my ear.

“I’m still not wearing any panties.”

“Wife, you’re trying to kill me.”

Colleen just smiled and pulled me towards the minivan.

Breakfast at Waffle World was uneventful except when Noelle discovered that the metal tray on her high chair made an interesting sound when she slammed her spoon down on it. She found this so intriguing that she began slamming it down repeatedly until we had to take the spoon away from her. This brought a collective sigh of relief from the rest of the patrons in the restaurant. Noelle crossed her arms on her chest then stuck out her lower lip and pouted for the next ten minutes until Molly began poking her in her ribs and made her start laughing.

We finished eating our late breakfast and got out of the restaurant just as the lunch crowd started showing up. When we got settled into the van I asked the question, “Where to?” The vote was 5 to 0 in favor of the park (Brigid was abstaining because at two months she didn’t care where we went.)

In the van we always kept one of Meghan and Molly’s soccer balls and an old blanket that we used for picnics. After we got to the park, Colleen and I spread the blanket out in the shade of a tree while the girls began practicing some of their soccer drills. At the tender age of thirteen months Noelle was able to demonstrate that she had a firm grasp of the three basic fundamentals of soccer.

One – chase the ball until you collapse on top of it.

Two – grasp the ball firmly in both hands and throw it straight up in the air.

Three – chase the squirrel that just ran in front of you.

After an hour of chasing the squirrel and her two older sisters, Noelle toddled over and sat down next to me on the blanket. She very slowly crumpled over sideways until her head was in my lap, her eyes closed with a tiny line of drool escaping from the corner of her mouth. Colleen carefully picked up Noelle and laid her next to Brigid who was already passed out on the blanket on the other side of me. Colleen sat between my legs and leaned against me, her back against my chest and my arms around her as we watched Meghan and Molly play a pickup game of tag with several of their friends from school.

When the girls began to show signs of running out of steam, we packed up and went home. After getting a snack and resting for a few minutes, Colleen stayed home with Noelle and Brigid while I took Meghan and Molly downtown to the library so they could get the books they needed for their school projects. By the time we got back, Colleen was minutes away from having dinner ready for us.

In twenty-four hours we had gone from a limousine and dinner at Gypsy Sally’s to hotdogs and chips at the kitchen table. If I am given the choice I will choose Café O’Conner every time.

Afterwards I cleaned up the kitchen while Colleen supervised personal hygiene activities for the girls. Finally all four kids were tucked into bed and it was time for Colleen and I to turn out the lights and head for bed ourselves.

With the door firmly closed we began to undress each other, all the while kissing and gently stroking, caressing. Colleen folded the sheet and covers back and then lay down with her legs spread. I carefully lay on top of her, my hips settling between her thighs.

Last night the sex had been about celebration, celebrating Colleen’s birthday, celebrating the closeness of family, celebrating the end of two months mandatory celibacy. As I slowly slid inside of her, we recognized that tonight was about experiencing the love just between Colleen and I. There were no wild gyrations or bouncing around on the mattress, just slow and gentle movements and soft murmurs of unconditional love for each other. When our orgasms came they were slow, small and barely noticed, but the emotional exchange was greater than anything that happened the night before.

The next morning was Sunday and we actually made it to church with five minutes to spare.

Following her birthday, Colleen began spending a lot of time talking with Sharon and Mi Lin. At first I didn’t pay any attention to it but when I saw the phone bill and the long distance charges were almost ten times higher that they were the month before, I knew something was up. When I asked her about it, she just gave me one of her half smiles and was very evasive saying, “Oh you know, some times I just feel like talking to my sister-in-law.”

Two months after her birthday I was woken up by Colleen getting out of bed. With one eye barely open I glanced over at the window to see that the sun was just beginning to come up. Colleen went into the bathroom and I heard the now all too familiar sounds. I lay on my back staring up at the ceiling waiting for her to come back to bed. She came in and sat on the edge of the bed and I reached out to place my hand on the small of her back.

After a moments’ pause Colleen scooted back then twisted around and cuddled against me, her head on my chest and my arms around her. Her head was just below my chin so I bent my neck slightly and kissed her on the top of her head. Her lips were against my chest and I could feel her begin to smile. After several moments I whispered.

“Pregnant?”

“Yep.” She whispered back.

I continued slowly stroking her back and then whispered again, “Ok, I’ll take the girls to school this morning.”

“Thanks,” she replied.

After several minutes Colleen spoke.

“Don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t take the girls to school today.”

“Why not?”

“Today is Saturday and they’ll be the only ones there and the cafeteria will be closed and the entire world will know about it after they write their Mommy and Daddy Dearest books.”

“Ok,” I said as I kissed the top of her head again. “Do you want a test kit? I think we have one left over in the bathroom cabinet.”

“No, there’s no point. I’ll call Dr. Chan on Monday for an appointment.”

“Ok,” another kiss on the top of her head. “Go back to sleep.”

Colleen lay still for a second and then turned over onto her side, her back to me. She reached back and took hold of my wrist, pulling on my arm until I was lying spooned against her, my arms around her just below her breasts. In unison we quietly said to each other, “I love you,” then we both faded off to sleep.

A couple of hours later we were up and had breakfast with the girls. Afterwards I was sitting on the couch in the livingroom with my cup of coffee reading the morning paper. The weather was nice so Molly took Noelle out to the backyard for a little while. Meghan was heading out to join them when she stopped and looked through the doorway into the kitchen. She walked over and hugged me then kissed me on the cheek. She put her finger against her lips in a signal for me to be quiet then took my hand and pulled me after her. When we were in the place where she had been standing before, she signaled again to stay quiet and pointed into the kitchen.

Colleen was standing in front of the kitchen cabinets pulling out the ingredients to make a batch of oatmeal cookies, a particular favorite in our household. She had her gentle half smile and was softly humming to herself. Meghan tugged on my arm until I bent over so she could whisper in my ear.

“Isn’t mom beautiful? I think you make her happy.”

That said, Meghan turned and went to join her sisters.

I looked back into the kitchen and watched Colleen. Meghan was right; her mother was beautiful, so beautiful it literally made my heart ache. I must have made a sound because Colleen turned her head and looked over her shoulder. Her smile got just a tiny bit bigger.

“What? Did you need something?”

“Yes…I do.” I walked into kitchen and stood in front of her. “I need this,” and kissed her. “You’ve been ignoring me and I haven’t had a kiss in at least twenty minutes.”

Colleen placed her hand against my chest and laughed as she gently pushed me away.

“Get out of here and let me get my work done.”

When I turned around to go back to the livingroom, she reached out, pinched my butt and said with her half smile, “We’ll take care of this later.”

Once the cookies were in the oven, Colleen came into the livingroom and pulled the newspaper out of my hands. She turned sideways and sat in my lap with her arms around my neck and my arms around her waist. She gave me a little kiss on my ear lobe and said, “Hey, you know what? If this one is another girl, you’ll be able coach your very own women’s basketball team.”

“Well, if she’s can’t pass the ball any better than Noelle, we’ll never make the playoffs,” I told her as I kissed along the side of her neck.

Actually the odds were pretty good that we would have another girl. Jimmy had two children – daughters. Mike had three children – daughters. Colleen and I had four children – again, daughters. Mom had nine grandkids, not one grandson. This didn’t bother any of us except when it came time for dad to deal with the public restrooms. Why can’t those kids ever go before we leave the house?

Monday morning I passed Miss Jennings’ desk on my way into my office. She stuck out her arm and handed me my cup of coffee without looking up. It doesn’t matter what time I arrive in the mornings, Miss Jennings is already at her desk and hands me my coffee as I pass by. I have tried varying my arrival time by as much as an hour either way…unannounced…I have even tried sneaking in the back door…and she is still there with hot coffee.

I sat at my desk and was studying my appointment calendar when Miss Jennings came in and dropped some papers into my in-basket. She was about to turn and leave when she looked at my face and did a double take. She placed both her hands on the edge of my desk and leaned over to take a closer look.

“Jesus, Robert, you just can’t keep it in your pants, can you. Honestly, I don’t know how Colleen puts up with you.”

How in the hell does she do that?

I opened my mouth to speak but she held up her hands to stop me.

“I know…I know, I won’t say anything but have you guys EVER talked about birth control?”

Then she turned and went back to her desk.

There was something different about Colleen being pregnant this time. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was, just different somehow. When Colleen was pregnant the first time with Noelle we were ecstatic with joy and anticipation. I was so excited I wanted to do back-flips all the time. The second pregnancy came as such a shock to us that we were both in a state of confusion for weeks after we found out. And now a third pregnancy…

Everything about it had a feeling of…I don’t know, maybe predestination is the only word to describe it. It felt as though this is the way the universe wanted things to be. We had a sense of serenity, of contentment almost to the point of casualness about the whole thing. Don’t get me wrong, I was excited and very, very happy, but there in the background was a voice saying, “Yes, but don’t worry, this was meant to be.”

Just like before we waited awhile before telling anyone about being pregnant. But by three months we couldn’t put it off much longer and as always we started with the kids. We flipped a coin and Colleen won (or lost depending on your perspective) and got to tell Meghan and Molly. Noelle and Brigid’s language comprehension skills were not advanced enough to understand just yet.

One evening after diner, Colleen brought out the lemon meringue pie again. She set the plates down in front of us and then sat down in her chair with Brigid in her arms. Meghan and Molly looked down, staring at the pie and then looked up at each other. Noelle watched this from her high chair, leaned over and stared at their pie just like her sisters then looked at their faces when they looked up. In unison all three kids turned and looked at me then Colleen with questions written all over their faces.

Colleen opened her mouth to speak when Meghan raised her hand just like she would in school. Colleen looked at her for a second and then said, “Yes Meghan?”

“Mom, are you pregnant again?”

Meghan, Molly and Noelle sat staring at Colleen, waiting for her answer. Colleen was caught off guard and had a startled expression on her face.

“Uh…yes, I am.”

“OK”

Meghan and Molly looked at each other again then shrugged their shoulders and began to eat their pie in silence. After a few moments Molly looked up at me and quietly said, “Dad, it’s OK if we have a brother this time.”

Our kids will always amaze me.

Next was telling Mom and the twins. When I brought it up, Colleen got her slow, soft smile and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”

The next day when Colleen was kissing me good-bye at the door in the morning she informed me that she was going to call mom and give her the news. Just before lunch Miss Jennings stuck her head in the door and said, “Your mother is on line 6.”

I picked up the receiver but before I could say anything Mom spoke. “Robert, this is your Mother.”

This was not a good sign.

Mom only calls me Robert when she is upset; and when she identified herself as my mother I knew the ship I was sailing was going down fast.

“What exactly do you and your brothers talk about when no one else is around?”

My brain was scrambling to make sense out of that question.

“Is something wrong Mom?”

“I didn’t say anything was wrong, just that you and your brothers have a very strange sense of humor.”

“Mom you’re losing me here. What are you talking about?”

“Sharon and Mi Lin are here with me and I just got off the phone with Colleen. How long have you boys been planning this?”

“Planning what?”

“Making your wives pregnant on the same night?”

“WHAT?”

In the background I could hear Sharon and Mi Lin giggling.

“Mom, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Are you saying that Sharon and Mi Lin are pregnant?”

“Of course they are. Now which one of you boys first had this bright idea?”

“This is all news to me.”

“Are you saying that you didn’t plan this?”

“If this was planned I had nothing to do with it…and tell them to stop laughing so loud, I’m having trouble hearing you.”

There was a moment of silence and then Mom said, “I have to call Colleen back.”

I could hear hysterical guffaws in the background then a click followed by a dial tone. I sat paralyzed at my desk staring at the receiver in my hand.

When I got home after work that day, I found Megan and Molly on their hands and knees in the dining room chasing Noelle who was laughing and running around the chairs and under the dining table. Brigid was sitting in her highchair with a pacifier clinched between her gums, watching all the action taking place in front of her. She looked like the line judge in some obscure game that only children could understand.

Those that were capable of speech yelled, “Hi Daddy.” Noelle darted out from under the table and hugged my knees before running back under the table.

“Hi girls, where’s your mother?”

“She’s working; we’re watching Noelle and Brigid until dinnertime.”

I headed down the hallway towards the back of the house. Colleen had converted the small bedroom across the hall from ours into a small studio where she could work on her illustration projects and still be close at hand to keep an eye on the kids. The door was open and I stopped to watch her at work for a second before I interrupted her.

She was sitting on her stool with her back to me, leaning over her drawing table. She sat up and put her hands on the small of her back and pushed in an effort to get her spine into a straight line up and down. When she did this I walked in and put my arms around her from behind and rested my chin on her shoulder. She turned her head slightly and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek.

“Hi sweetie, I didn’t hear you come in.” She glanced at the clock on the wall as she stood up. “Oh Lord, I didn’t realize it was so late, the girls are going to be staving.”

Colleen started to pull my arms from around her waist but I kept them there so she couldn’t get away. I slid one hand down to her lower belly and started to slowly stroke the small bump that was growing there. You could only see the bulge if you knew to look for it, but I loved to touch and feel what would soon be our next child. I nibbled along her neck for a moment before I whispered into her ear.

“I doubt the girls are in danger of passing out from lack of food any time soon.”

I kissed along the other side of her neck before I spoke again.

“I had an interesting phone call from Mom this morning.”

I could hear the smile in Colleen’s voice as I continued kissing towards her ear.

“Is that so…what did she have to say?”

“Turns out that Sharon and Mi Lin are both pregnant too. You wouldn’t know anything about that would you?”

“I don’t know…I might have heard a rumor to that effect somewhere. Why do you ask?”

“Mom accused me and the twins of planning this…I don’t remember exactly…she may have used words like sick, and what was that other one…oh yeah, perverted.”

Colleen gave a soft giggle and pressed back against me. My other hand slid up her chest until it was caressing and gently squeezing her breast.

“I assured her that I was still her baby boy and didn’t know anything about where babies come from. I always thought they came from the cabbage patch. Do Mike and Jimmy know any thing about this?”

Colleen turned around inside my arms until she was facing me. She put her arms around my neck and gave me a quick kiss before answering.

“They do now.” Colleen punctuated this with another kiss.

“So neither one knew about the other’s wife being pregnant?”

“Nope, not until today; just like you.”

“And what you’re saying is that Mom was right. This group pregnancy thing was planned all along, just not by her sweet and innocent sons.”

“Well DUH.” Colleen pulled her head back with a look of concern on her face. “You’re not upset are you?”

“Hardly…” this time I kissed Colleen. “…is it safe to assume that you and Sharon and Mi Lin came up with this little plan all on your own?”

“Actually Sharon and Mi Lin had already decided to do it before they talked to me. Sounded like the thing to do at the time so I said ‘what the hell,’ count me in.”

I couldn’t stop myself from grinning. I already knew the answer to my question but I had to ask it anyway.

“And exactly when did all this planning take place?”

“My birthday party at Gypsy Sally’s. Remember when we took so long in the restroom?” She put her lips next to my ear and whispered. “Now you know why girls go to the restroom in a group.”

Colleen gave me a short kiss under my earlobe, then took me by the hand and led me into the kitchen so we could start fixing dinner.

One Tuesday night we decided that we needed to have some grown-up alone time for ourselves. When there are this many kids in the house you have a constant craving for adult conversation with your lover. Debbie the teenager across the street was available to sit with the girls so we headed out for dinner.

We didn’t have to discuss where to go, it was the Shanghai Garden. The restaurant was the scene of our first date and had become our favorite destination for date nights. Just like the first time, the waiter was showing us to our table, Colleen following the waiter and me following behind, watching Colleen’s backside. She was about seven months along; her stomach was huge and her hips had begun to widen but she had not yet reached the waddling stage. Once again I was reminded of what I had observed on our first date.

My sister has a fantastic ass.

After dinner we were relaxing over coffee and talking. The conversation was meandering all over the map when it ventured into the subject of our dating experiences in high school. We pondered what the reaction would have been back then if we actually had dated each other…probably not very positive. But according to Mike, everyone in school thought we were doing it anyway, so it probably wouldn’t have mattered.

“Bobby, I know that I had a lot of dates, but they never went any where. I never had what you could call a real boyfriend, just guys that would take me out a couple of times and then move on to someone else. I bet I was the only girl in high school that never got taken out to Miller’s Pond.”

Miller’s Pond was a small body of water outside of Santa Teresa that was somewhere between a large pond and a small lake. Every Friday and Saturday night all of the available parking spaces would be taken by cars filled with teenage couples and steamed up windows. It was estimated that Miller’s Pond was responsible for half of the teen pregnancies in Santa Teresa.

“Of course you didn’t, no guy in his right mind was going to take you Miller’s Pond.”

“Was I that ugly?”

“No! You were gorgeous. It’s just that none of the guys in school had a death wish.”

Colleen was frowning.

“What, were they afraid I might have cooties?”

“Of course not.”

Colleen was beginning to show her irritation.

“Then what was it? Is there something you’re not telling me?”

I had to laugh.

“You mean you don’t know?”

“Bobby, you had better tell me right now what you’re talking about or you’re going to regret it tonight when you try to go to bed.”

“You don’t know, do you? Everybody else in school knew.”

Colleen had the same expression on her face that Mom always had just before she lost her temper.

“Bobby, I’m going to count to three and then…”

“Ok, just calm down. No guy would take you to Miller’s Pond because they were all scared to death of Mike and Jimmy.”

“WHAT!”

“I’m guessing that means that you don’t know about Butch Woodcock.”

Colleen sat back with a confused look on her face.

“Butch Woodcock? Are you talking the about that jock from high school?”

“That’s right, he was a senior when you were a freshman. Do you remember what happened to him?”

Colleen knitted her eyebrows together as she thought.

“I think I remember. He was a quarterback and had a scholarship to one of those big name football schools then he got beat up by a gang from another school. His knee was banged up pretty bad and he lost the scholarship. The last I heard he was working on his dad’s dairy farm.”

“Yeah…only the other school was the junior high and the gang was Mike and Jimmy.”

Colleen sat with her mouth open in astonishment.

“Why would they do that?”

“Butch was an asshole. He was bragging to the football team and all of his friends that he was going to take you to the homecoming dance then out to Miller’s Pond and turn you into his personal slut. Mike and Jimmy found out about it so one evening after practice they explained to him that was not the sort of thing they wanted to hear about their sister.”

“Why didn’t Mike and Jimmy get into trouble over this?”

“Because Butch didn’t want any one to know that a couple of eighth graders beat the crap out of him. So he made up the story about the gang, but everyone knew anyway. Once the story got around, every guy in school knew what would happen if they didn’t show you a whole lot of respect. They didn’t care who you went out with but anybody that tried any funny business was dead meat. I’m surprised you never found out.”

“And you knew about all of this?”

I was a little sheepish when I answered her.

“Well, I guess you could say I was sort of a lookout for them…and I might have kicked him the balls once or twice. But Mike and Jimmy did most of the work.”

Colleen smiled then leaned over and patted my cheek.

“My big strong hero.”

“Besides, I don’t know why you’re complaining. I never got to take a girl to Miller’s Pond either…and it wasn’t because I didn’t ask.”

Colleen sat back in her chair with a smile and began to laugh. Her laughter made me smile along with her.

“What’s so funny?”

“It’s the irony of it all. I told the cheerleading squad that I would hunt down and scratch out the eyeballs of any girl that went to Miller’s Pond and defiled my innocent brother.”

Colleen had a thoughtful look on her face.

“Funny thing is, I only said that about you, not Mike or Jimmy.”

We were both sitting quietly, contemplating what we had been discussing when an idea began to form in my mind. I looked at Colleen and almost telepathically I knew that she was having the same thought. She raised her eyes and looked directly into mine. Her small smile began to grow until it was spread across her face and up into her eyes.

“Are you thinking…”

“…the Bluffs.”

I stood up and threw a fistful of money on the table.

“I’ll bring the car around. Call Debbie and tell her we’ll be an hour late…no, better make two hours…oh hell, just tell her we’ll be late.”

The Bluffs was San Miguel’s version of Miller’s Pond. Outside of town was an old farm road that was lined with large oak trees. At one spot there was a break in the line of trees and the ground fell away sharply, almost straight down about twenty feet. At this particular location there was enough room for about ten or twelve cars to park and look out at the lights of San Miguel in the distance.

It was very popular with the high school crowd.

When we pulled up to park at the Bluffs we were pleased to see that we were the only couple there. Colleen looked around with a grin and muttered, “School night.”

She looked at me expectantly. “What do we do now?” she questioned.

“How am I supposed to know? I’ve never done this before.” I thought for a second. “How about a kiss? You can never go wrong by starting with a kiss.”

“Works for me. Come here baby,” she said as she started to slide her arms around me. We got only as far as touching lips when we both pulled back.

“Just a second, let me get this out of the way.”

Colleen leaned back and I pushed the center arm rest up and into its’ place between the two seat backs. Once again we came together with our arms around each other and moved in for a kiss when Colleen yelped.

“O-W-W-W!”

“What?”

“The gearshift just poked me in the stomach…see if you can turn a little more sideways and scoot closer towards me.”

“Can’t, my legs are trapped under the steering wheel.”

“Well this is not working. Why did you have to buy a Japanese car?”

We sat back in frustration. I was trying to visualize the correct positions our bodies would have to be in to achieve this endeavor when I looked at Colleen. We both said the same thing in unison.

“Back seat.”

I got out of the car and went around to the passenger side; lately I had to help Colleen get in and out of the car. We both stood at the open rear door looking in.

“Now what?”

“One of us has got to get in and lay down…you do it.”

“Me? Why me?”

“Because dear brother, you know that you can’t get far enough inside me any more unless I’m on top. Now get in there before I loose interest. I’m getting cold standing out here.” Colleen issued this last command as she stood stroking her distended belly.

I backed into the open car doorway and sat down, then leaned back and scooted towards the other side of the car. When I was far enough in I lay the rest of the way down and with a loud thump and a muffled groan I smacked the back of my head on the armrest.

“Are you ok in there?”

“I’m alright but let’s get this show on the road. Just remember we’re paying Debbie by the hour.”

Colleen crawled into the car headfirst and wiggled forward until she was lying nose to nose on top of me. She put her lips against mine then her tongue slithered out and began exploring the inside of mouth. My left arm came up and embraced her, stroking her back and caressing her ass. My right arm was pinned between my body and the back of the seat. Colleen pushed her hand between us and gently stroked the front of my slacks. My cock was standing rigid by this point.

Colleen brought her hand up a few inches and began to fumble with my belt buckle. After several very unsuccessful attempts to undo my pants she said, “There’s just not enough room. I’m going to back out and you pull your pants down.”

Once she was out she bent over at the waist and peered in to watch what I was doing. I undid my belt, the buttons on my pants and pulled down the zipper. I raised my butt off of the seat and begin to shove my slacks and jockeys down my legs. When I got them as far as my knees, Colleen stuck her head in and started to crawl back on top of me. She gave me a long and deep kiss and began moving her hips around to find the best position when I screamed.

“STOP! GET OFF ME QUICK!”

Colleen scrambled backwards until she was out of the car and looking back in at me.

“What? What happened?”

I raised my butt up and began to feel around underneath. After a second I found it. It was a large narrow piece of plastic that was wedged down between the seat and the back sticking straight up. I yanked it free and stared at it for a moment before I handed it to Colleen.

“Here…Barbie just tried to shove her head up my ass.”

Colleen looked at the doll in her hands. “Why that cheap slut. I have a good mind to tell Ken what a tramp his girlfriend is.” She tossed the doll onto the front seat. “Thanks, Molly’s been looking for that all week.”

“Considering where it’s been you should probably soak it in some disinfectant for a while before you give back to her.” I was gingerly massaging my ass check where I found a large dent in my skin.

One more time Colleen began her entry to the backseat. She was part way in when she stopped and backed out. This time I asked the question.

“What now?”

In the moonlight I could barely see the smile on her face.

“Just thinking ahead this time.”

Colleen raised the hem of her skirt up over her hips. She hooked her thumbs into the waistband of her panties and began to wiggle her hips as she worked them down her legs. When they were at her ankles she stepped out of them and picked them up from the ground. Given her lack of balance that was caused by her large stomach, this was no mean feat. She balled up the panties and tossed them onto the front seat on top of Barbie. Colleen left her skirt up around her hips and crawled back on top of me.

With a grin on her face she said, “I think we’re ready to do this now.”

Colleen was finally in place on top of me and with some strange twisting and reaching behind her she managed to get the car door shut. She settled her hips against mine and my cock that was still hard as a board could feel her thick mat of hair. She wiggled her hips until my cock slipped up between her thighs. Slowly she began humping her ass backwards until I felt the tip of my dick start to slide between the lips of her cunt. With one last push of her hips backwards I was buried to the hilt inside of her.

My neck was bent, my head on the armrest. My knees were going straight up with my heels almost touching my ass, toes touching the door. Colleen’s knees were almost in my armpits and her ass was wedged into the angle formed by my hips and thighs. Very slowly she began to rock her hips up and down, and side to side. This time I had kept my right arm out so that I would be able to use it. Even with Colleen’s huge belly I could still get my arms around her…but just barely. I tried to push my hips up in an effort to drive my cock deeper into her but I was pinned in so tightly that I wasn’t having much luck. We were jammed together, we couldn’t move and I was starting to get a cramp in my right leg.

This was one of the greatest sexual experiences of my life.

The only movement was the rocking of Colleen’s hips and the flexing of her cunt muscles as it sucked and pulled on my cock. The slightest movement sent shock waves of pleasure racing up my spinal column to my brain and looped back down to my testicles that were now trying to crawl up inside Colleen’s cunt all by themselves. Colleen was moaning into my ear as she began experiencing the same intense sexual pleasure. Even though her hips could only slide up and down on my cock an inch or less, she began increasing the cadence of her movements. Soon we were vibrating at ninety miles a minute until we both screamed out “OH FUCK” in an explosion of orgasm. My balls were pumping sperm out the end of my cock toward Colleen’s womb that was already occupied by our baby.

Every muscle in our bodies contracted and we lay rigid, smashed together in the back of the small car. Gradually we relaxed, melting together and I could feel the mixture of my sperm and Colleen’s juice begin to ooze out of Colleen’s cunt and around my cock that was still stuffed up inside of her. Colleen was giving me small delicate kisses on my neck and face then whispered in my ear.

“Damn, if I had known it would be this good I would have dragged you out to Miller’s Pond myself when we were in high school.”

“I would have been the happiest boy in the freshman class.”

“I would have made a permanent reservation for a parking spot and had you between my legs every night…oh Jesus, now I’m talking like a slut…I’m as bad as Barbie.”

I gave her a kiss on the end of her nose. “Sweetheart, nobody can be as bad as Barbie.”

After several minutes of wiggling around and breaking the plastic cover on the dome light with my elbow, Colleen and I were sitting upright in the backseat putting ourselves back together. Colleen rose up a fraction of an inch and was able to work the hem of her skirt back down over her ass. I pulled my pants up and got them fastened but I couldn’t find where my belt had gone.

We were sitting there in the dark, in the back seat of my car, resting, catching our breath and letting our heart rate drop back down to normal. My arms were around Colleen as she leaned against me. She turned her head towards me and gave me a gentle kiss.

“Bobby…”

“Yeah?”

“Have I ever told you I love you?”

“And you waited all this time to tell me? You could have at least…”

I didn’t finish my sentence because she had slid her tongue into my mouth. We spent the next ten minutes enjoying some plain old fashioned necking and fondling of each other. The interior of the car was suddenly filled with a bright light and there was a sharp rap on the window of the door next to me.

“Sheriff’s Department, would you step out of the car please.”

I very nearly wet myself.

I got out the car and stood next to the door. There were two patrolmen standing there, their flashlights shining as bright as air raid searchlights. Colleen had one leg out of the car when the officer spoke.

“You can stay inside the car miss.”

Colleen pulled her leg back in and sat still. The officer shone his light up and down my body and as he did so I looked down at my disheveled appearance. My collar was unbuttoned and the tie was shoved to one side. The shirt was completely wrinkled and the shirttail was half way tucked in the front and hanging out in the back. My belt was missing and my pants had started to sag down around my hips. The zipper on the fly was partway down and a corner of the shirt was sticking out.

“You folks having any trouble here?”

“No, we just stopped to see the lights of the city. Never been here before and thought we’d stop see what it looked like.”

“I see. May I see some identification please?”

I pulled my wallet out of my back pocket, fumbled around with it then handed my license to the officer. He shown his flashlight on the license, up into my face and back down to the license again.

“Mr. O’Conner are you aware that…wait a minute…Robert O’Conner…I know you. You’re Sergeant O’Conner’s brother. And the young lady in the car is…?”

“My wife.”

The patrolman switched off his flashlight. In the moonlight I could see a smile on his lips and after a moment he handed the license back to me. Trying to suppress a laugh he said, “You folks be careful out here, we don’t want any accidents to happen…”

He looked over at the open car where his partner’s flashlight still shown on Colleen. Her face was hidden by the roof of the car but her seven month pregnant mid-section was shining like a beacon. He turned back to me to finish.

“…but we may be too late for that. Phil, there’s nothing here for us, let’s go.”

As the two men walked back to their patrol car I could hear them talking quietly to each other then start laughing as they got in. By this time Colleen had gotten out of the car and was standing next to me. We stood in the moonlight and watched as the car pulled back onto the road and continued off into the night. We turned to face each other and Colleen slid her arms around my waist.

With a kiss she said, “The next time we come up here we’re bringing the minivan.”

The next time?

The next morning I got into the office and sat at my desk with my cup of coffee. I heard a noise and looked up to see Miss Jennings standing in the doorway with a panicked look on her face.

“The Sheriff’s Department is on line three and they asked to talk to you.”

“Relax Miss Jennings; it’s probably just my brother.”

She gave me a look of relief then went back to her desk as I picked up the phone.

“This is Robert O’Conner.”

“Bobby, it’s Jimmy.”

“That’s what I thought; you just scared the hell out of my secretary.”

“Oh…sorry about that. Listen, I had a very interesting conversation with one of our deputy’s this morning. Fellow by the name of Shaffer, you know him?”

“Don’t think so.”

“Tall blond guy, working the night shift this month…patrols the area just south of San Miguel…ring any bells?”

“Oh…”

“Yeah…oh…”

There was silence on the line before Jimmy continued.

“…I can’t believe that I’m about to say this. If that was not Colleen in the car with you last night you’re a dead man.”

I started to laugh.

“No, that was Colleen. You can call the house and talk to her if you want.”

“What the hell were you guys doing out there in the middle of the night?”

There was a tone of exasperation in his voice. Still laughing, I replayed the evening to Jimmy, except for all the intimate details about Colleen and I in the back seat of my car. By the end of the story Jimmy was laughing along with me.

“How could she have not known? Everybody in school knew. And you’re not any better; even I knew when Colleen told the cheerleading squad what would happen if you went out to Miller’s Pond. You two were just oblivious to rest of the world around you.”

“Listen Jimmy, if you’re smart, you won’t mention to Colleen that we had this little conversation. She was ok with it last night but I don’t want you or Mike to set her off about it. Remember, I have to live with her.”

There was silence then with a quiet voice Jimmy replied, “Please…don’t remind me.”

Miss Jennings had begun working for Willis, Goldman & Reed the week after she graduated from high school. She is smart and dedicated in everything that she does and in less than three years she had been promoted several times until she was my personal secretary. Miss Jennings is living proof that the universe has a sense of humor.

Miss Jennings’ full name is Sarah Jane Jennings. The manager in the Accounting Department is named Sara Jane Jennings, the only difference being the letter H. To the delight of everyone in the building, on her first day of work, Sarah Jane Jennings was introduced to Sara Jane Jennings. It was quickly decided that during working hours, Sarah would be Miss Jennings and the other would be SaraJane. They agreed to have lunch together that first day and thus began one of the great friendships of all time.

Miss Jennings is tall, slender, and graceful with very small breasts and to this day still looks as though she had just graduated from high school. The word willowy was created just for her. SaraJane is five years older than Miss Jennings and much shorter, probably five foot two with large breasts and is three pounds away from being classified as plump. One look at her and you think earth mother.

They are both reserved in their public persona but each one possesses an imposing presence that commands attention and respect. Both are intelligent and exact in all that they do. SaraJane always seeks consensus and is a team builder while Miss Jennings has a sharp and biting wit and is not afraid to use it, wielding it like an ice pick. On more than one occasion I have seen grown men back away from Miss Jennings with a look of fear in their eyes and their hands unconsciously protecting their groin area.

Both women have a quiet demeanor but when they are in the company of the other they become animated and down right garrulous. They have so much fun entertaining each other that soon anyone around them gets sucked into their joy. Whenever they attend any type of social event, their dates usually end up being an after thought.

Several months after their first meeting, the lease on Miss Jennings studio apartment was up and SaraJane invited Miss Jennings to move into her three bedroom apartment and split the expenses. By paying only half of the rent, it was a cost savings for both women. Then one year later, they surprised everyone when they announced they were going to jointly purchase a four bedroom house on the edge of town as an investment. Everyone in the office volunteered to help, showed up with their vans and pick-ups and moved the two Sara’s in a single day. That evening they hosted a barbeque in the back yard of their new home.

With the encouragement of SaraJane and the direct orders of Harold Peterson, Miss Jennings began taking evening and weekend classes until she graduated with a BA in Business Administration. When she had finally achieved this goal, Miss Jennings and SaraJane celebrated by taking a well deserved vacation and left for two weeks in the Bahamas. They returned well rested, relaxed, tan and wearing matching gold bands…third finger, left hand.

What can I say, this is California.

Not long after returning from their vacation, Sarah and Sara had a long term visitor. SaraJane’s younger brother Ryan had recently graduated from college and had a six month break before starting Princeton Medical School in the fall. Because all of his med school expenses were being paid for by their grandparents, he came to California to relax and enjoy life because he knew it would be his last chance for the next eight years.

Like his sister, Ryan was a quiet and easy going person and everyone at the office quickly adopted him as part of the family. He had an infectious smile with a willing ear to listen and walking away from him you felt that you had a new best friend. Sarah and Sara were gently teased about being Ryan’s harem and they responded with a quick smile and said that we were all jealous. At the end of the summer, SaraJane and Miss Jennings held a barbeque at their house to both celebrate and mourn Ryan’s leaving for New Jersey the next day.

The week after Ryan left, I was coming back from the conference room and noticed that Miss Jennings was not at her desk. This didn’t mean anything and I walked into my office when the phone on my desk rang and I picked it up.

“Robert, it’s Harold, would you come down to my office for a few minutes?”

Being summoned to Peterson’s office was nothing out of the ordinary, he did it at least twice day, but there was a tone to his voice that implied this was something important. When I stepped into his office he said. “Close the door if you would please and have a seat,” pointing at the chair at the side of his desk. Miss Jennings and SaraJane were sitting in front of the desk directly across for Peterson. He made a small gesture with his hand and said, “Ladies, go ahead.”

SaraJane and Miss Jennings were quiet for a moment and then SaraJane spoke.

“Thank you for letting us meet with you Harold. There is something we need to discuss with you and since it will affect both you and Robert we thought it would be simplest if we told you both at the same time.”

Peterson and I looked at each other and it was obvious from the expression on his face that he had no better clue than I what was going on. We looked back at the two ladies and waited. Finally Harold said, “Yes…what is it that you wanted to say to us?”

SaraJane seemed to be struggling to find the right words so Miss Jennings, being Miss Jennings, jumped right in.

“We’re pregnant.”

Peterson sat there expressionless then he suddenly sat up straight and looked as though he had been slapped in the face.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, would you back up there a minute and repeat what you just said?”

The two Sara’s looked at each other and then back at Harold and I with that same soft smile that I recognized from Colleen’s face each time she was pregnant. Again, Miss Jennings spoke.

“SaraJane and I are both three months pregnant.”

From the corner of my eye I could see that Peterson was trying to do the same mental calendar calculation that I was trying to perform. I opened my mouth to say something but Harold caught my attention and with a sharp negative shake of his head indicated that this was not a direction the conversation should take. We sat waiting for the other shoe to drop when SaraJane spoke.

“Since Sarah and I are both due on the same day…”

Peterson’s jaw visibly dropped.

“…and we will be going on maternity leave together, we thought we should give you enough time to prepare for our absence.”

Harold’s shoulders relaxed and he slumped back in his chair.

“Oh thank god. I thought you were going to imply that Robert and I were responsible for this.”

This time it was the two ladies who jerked up straight in their chairs with a startled look, then started to giggle.

“Harold…perfect gentleman…you and Robert…best bosses anyone could ever hope to have…the idea that you and I could…that we would ever…I mean…ridiculous…” the sentence just faded off into uncontrolled laughter.

They certainly knew how to build up a guy’s self image.

The two Sara’s were wiping the tears from their eyes as they stood to leave. When they reached the door they turned and opened their mouths to say something else then stopped and looked at Harold and I. This sent them into a new round of giggles and we could hear them reach a crescendo of laughter as they walked down the hall.

Peterson and I sat there staring at each other, uncertain as to what to think.

“Who do you suppose was responsible for…”

Harold raised his hand to cut me off before I could speak any further. He looked me square in the eye and spoke.

“Robert, there are some subjects that are best left alone.”

Later that night after the kids were in bed, I shared the news with Colleen about Miss Jennings and SaraJane. Although we could only speculate about who the father might be, I remembered the relaxed and satisfied expression I had seen so many times on Ryan’s face. But as Harold said “…there are some subjects that are best left alone.”

Colleen and I had always enjoyed the company of the two Sara’s and had frequently socialized with them outside of the office. But now that the three of them were pregnant at the same time, it was like there was some type of tribal bonding thing going on. Because Colleen had the most experience, this being her fifth time around, they were constantly talking, sharing even the slightest nuance of the experience. It got to the point where it felt like Colleen was conducting a pregnancy support group meeting every Saturday in our living room. Our neighbor Linda was also pregnant and then there were the times that Mi Lin and Sharon would show up and the six of them would be there and…

Sweet merciful crap, I was drowning in a sea of pregnant women.

I found myself spending a lot of Saturday afternoons next door, having a cup of coffee with Frank on his back deck, desperate for the company of an adult that didn’t possess a uterus. I was so desperate I began accepting the invitations to pay golf with the twins and Harold, an activity I loath with every fiber of my being. But everytime I came back into the house, Colleen would stop what she was doing, kiss me on the cheek and whisper in my ear, “I missed you.”

Miss Jennings going on maternity leave did create a problem for me, a huge problem. When she returned she would no longer be my secretary. She would still be working for me, but because she had obtained her college degree, she was being promoted to an account rep position. Finding a new secretary was going to be one horrific pain in the ass.

I was spoiled. The entire time I had been working for Willis, Goldman & Reed I had only two secretaries, Mrs. Lopez in Chicago and Miss Jennings here in San Miguel. They were two distinctly different personalities but they shared a common trait. They knew exactly what needed to be done and could probably do my job better than I. They anticipated every thing I ever needed or wanted. I could have skipped going to the office for six months and no one would have known the difference. Miss Jennings took her leave about two months before Colleen’s due date and this started the process of finding a replacement.

And so the nightmare began.

I am a flexible and easy going person. I don’t think I’m a difficult boss to work for, but with the responsibilities that I had, the person who sat at the desk outside of my office door had to meet the standards set by Mrs. Lopez and Miss Jennings or it just wasn’t going to work. At the end of six weeks I had gone through eleven secretaries. Two of them simply went to lunch on their first day and never came back.

On Friday afternoon I was leaving for the day when Peterson called out to me from across the lobby.

“Your new secretary starts Monday morning, don’t be late.”

“Ah geez, is this never going to end? How long is this one going last?”

Peterson’s face was one large grin.

“Don’t worry Robert; I think this one is going to be a keeper.”

“Why, who is it?”

“Don’t even worry about it. Just go home and have nice weekend. I’ll see you Monday morning.”

I followed Harold’s orders and didn’t think about it that weekend, knowing that the situation was hopeless.

Monday morning I decided to go into the office an hour early to try and get some work done before I had to greet the next batter up in the endless line of minor league players known as “Robert’s Secretaries.” As I headed towards my office door I noted that someone was already sitting at the desk. Her head was bent down as she was going through the desk drawers. I thought that I would dump my briefcase inside before I sent the new person off down the path of failure. As I walked past she raised her head and smiled.

“Good morning Robert.”

“Good morning Mrs. Lopez.”

I got as far as the door when I dropped everything in my hands and literally sprinted back to her desk.

“Mrs. Lopez…what are you doing here?”

“I wanted to get settled in a bit before I started work.

“But…but you’re in Chicago.”

“No, unless we took a wrong turn somewhere I believe that I’m here in San Miguel. I am still your secretary aren’t I?”

“Oh please dear God, tell me this isn’t a dream.” I grabbed a chair and pulled it up next to her desk. “Now tell me everything, exactly what’s going on here?”

After thirty years with the Chicago City Police Department, Detective Sergeant Ramon Lopez retired, turned in his badge and his gun and told his wife to start packing.

“Where are we going?”

“I don’t care; as long as it’s sunny and a thousand miles away from this frozen corner of hell.”

John Gordon didn’t want to loose his secretary and trusted friend but he made the necessary phone calls and Mrs. Lopez was transferred to the San Miguel office. Harold Peterson had kept it a secret from me for the past five weeks saying, “It will brighten his day.”

If only he knew.

I heard a sound behind me and turned my head to look. Peterson was standing there grinning from ear to ear.

“Harold you rotten bastard, why didn’t you tell me Mrs. Lopez was coming. You could have saved me all this grief.”

“What, and miss the expression on your face? It was worth every minute of it. Welcome to San Miguel Mrs. Lopez, I believe you already know this fine gentleman that just sullied my family’s good name.”

“Yes I do Mr. Peterson…”

“Hey now, none of that, my name is Harold.”

“Ok Harold. Yes I do know him and he’s always had a potty mouth so don’t listen to anything he says.”

“What makes you think I listen to him now?”

Harold and Mrs. Lopez were enjoying a good laugh at my expense but I didn’t care. Now my life at the office would regain a sense of stability.

“Robert, introduce Mrs. Lopez around and then we can get back to business. If John Gordon was telling me the truth, your unit should be back to normal by lunchtime.”

Still smiling, Harold clapped me on the shoulder and headed off to his office.

Harold wasn’t far off the mark. By the afternoon break Mrs. Lopez was functioning as if she had spent the previous twenty years here in San Miguel instead of Chicago. During our conversations through out the day we were both surprised to discover that she and her husband had bought their new home just five blocks away from Colleen and I. Somehow we had missed running into each other after they had moved in last week. I called Colleen to let her know that we would be having two guests for dinner. She immediately picked up on my excitement.

“Sounds like the new secretary is going to work out.”

“Sweetheart I’ll explain it all to you when I get home, but yeah, this is the one.”

When I got home, Colleen was putting the finishing touches on dinner and Meghan and Molly were setting the table. I barely had time to get my welcome home hugs and kisses from what Colleen and I were now calling the “Gang of Four” when the doorbell rang. I ushered Mrs. Lopez and her husband into the livingroom where the kids were lined up to greet our guests.

Molly has holding Brigid who was squirming but immediately settled down and smiled in the presence of the new adults. Noelle was standing and holding on to Meghan’s hand, hiding halfway behind her but still peeking out with her smile as I began the introductions.

“These are our children. That’s Molly holding our youngest, Brigid. This is Meghan, she’s oldest and the shy one is Noelle, but this is the last time you will see her standing still tonight. Girls, I want you to meet Consuela and Ramon Lopez.”

At that moment Colleen came in from the kitchen.

“And this charming yet provocative woman is my wife, Colleen.”

At this point Colleen was one week away from her due date. She was dressed in her maternity overalls and her stomach had that beach ball look as she waddled over to shake hands.

“Mrs. Lopez, it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Please, I’m Connie and he’s Ray. Colleen? What a coincidence, that’s the same name as…”

Mrs. Lopez stopped mid-sentence as she turned her head towards me with a puzzled look. Colleen and I glanced at each other quickly then back at Mrs. Lopez. I could see the wheels turning inside Mrs. Lopez’ head as a sudden feeling of panic gripped the pit of my stomach. I had two photographs on my desk in Chicago, one was a picture of Barbara and the other was my favorite photo of my sister Colleen taken when she was in college. Mrs. Lopez had seen the photo of Colleen a thousand times. Colleen and I were holding our breaths.

“Connie, what were you saying? It’s the same name as who?” her husband asked.

Mrs. Lopez was still staring at me with her mouth open then she broke into a smile.

“I have a very dear friend who has a sister named Colleen…”

She turned to Colleen and instead of shaking hands; she put her arms around Colleen in an embrace.

“…but I never had a chance to meet her. I am so glad to meet you.”

There was an audible sigh of relief from Colleen and I as Ray stood there looking confused.

By the time we had finished eating dinner; our immediate family had increased by two. The Lopez’s had no children of their own so our girls instantly adopted Connie and Ray. The die was cast when Ray got down on his hands and knees in the middle of dinner to give Noelle a pony back ride. The Gang of Four insisted on good night hugs from Uncle Ray and Aunt Connie before they would head for bed.

Once the kids were down for the night, we were sitting in the livingroom talking. Colleen and Connie were talking as though they were best of friends who had not seen each other for years. I went into the kitchen to make a fresh pot of tea and Ray wandered in behind me a couple of seconds later.

“So Ray, how do you like San Miguel so far?”

“Very nice place. You know, I’ve never lived anywhere but Chicago, and now I’m starting to wonder why we stayed there so long.”

Ray turned his head and watched Connie and Colleen through the kitchen door for a moment then turned his attention back to me.

“Listen Robert, there is something I want to tell you but you can’t let Connie know about it. She won’t talk to me for a week if she finds out I told you.”

“Sure, what is it?”

Ray quickly looked at his wife again before continuing.

“I thought you should know aboutDerrick Andrews.”

My insides immediately tightened up.

“What about him? I haven’t heard anything about him since…since that day.”

“Connie said everything happened so fast that she barely saw what happened but you must’ve done a number on him, he was in the hospital for four days. When he got out and went home to his apartment I was there to greet him.”

“What? Why would you do that?”

Ray smiled.

“Strictly business. John Gordon had the auditors working night and day going over Andrews’ accounts. The morning he was released from the hospital the D. A. issued an arrest warrant and I got assigned to pick him up. Nobody at the station knew that my wife worked for you.”

“Arrest? What for?”

“Embezzlement, he stole over three hundred thousand dollars from the company. Gordon said that it would have been spotted immediately during the next annual audit. The fool left his tracks all over the place. I only met him once before that day but I knew then he was an asshole. The auditors were with me and we had a search warrant. They found a complete set of his records five minutes after we walked through the door.”

“I didn’t hear anything about this.”

“Nobody did. It’s not the sort of thing the company wanted the stockholders to read about on the front page of the Tribune; it would be bad for business. Anyway, Andrews tried to blame it all on Barbara and the other women in the office, but he was such a moron about how he did it that the D. A. didn’t bother to interview anyone else.”

“So what happened? Did the company get the money back?”

“In cash and assets, they got it all except for about twenty thousand. Apparently Derrick Andrews was a big tipper. John Gordon must have a lot of influence in the company. He found out who sent Andrews to Chicago and some vice president in New York was fired the week after you left town.”

I had to stop and digest this. I was feeling a little overwhelmed.

“So what was the end result? How did it all end?”

“Well, my partner and I took him in. We were taking him up to the second floor to be booked and when we got to the top, he slipped and fell down the stairs…broke his leg in a couple of places.”

“Bummer,” I said with a tight grin of satisfaction.

“Yeah…everyone at the station house felt real bad about it. We took up a collection to send flowers when he went back to the hospital.”

Ray said this without cracking a smile. Then he continued.

“The schmuck was going to plead innocent but there was no way he could beat the charge. His lawyer finally convinced him to accept a plea bargain. He got five years and that meant he would get parole in two.”

“So is he out now?”

Now Ray smiled.

“No…well, sort of. You know those cheesy prison movies where they tell the new guy to grab the first person they see and start pounding on him to prove that he’s not somebody to mess with? Andrews actually fell for that crap and punched out some scrawny dude in the yard the day he went in. Only problem was he picked the wrong guy. They found Andrews’ body in the exercise yard the next day with a three foot piece of pipe sticking out of his chest. He was such an asshole that the prison doctor put down natural causes on the death certificate. The arrogant prick didn’t even last twenty-four hours. Just in case you’re wondering, no one came to the funeral.”

There was silence while I tried to take this all in.

“Thanks for telling me Ray, I appreciate it. I promise I won’t let Connie know you told me.”

“I hope knowing helps a little bit.”

“Yeah, it does…a little bit,” I said as we returned to the livingroom.

A while later Connie and Ray were standing in the door way making their good byes when Connie stopped and looked at Colleen. She was smiling when she spoke.

“Robert, you have a beautiful family. I think coming to San Miguel may be the smartest thing you have ever done.”

“I couldn’t agree with you more,” I replied.

Now Colleen spoke, “I’ll call you Saturday morning. You can’t possibly be finished settling in until you and I do some serious power shopping.”

“It’s a date. Good night guys, Robert I’ll see you in the morning.”

As the door closed, Colleen slid her arms around my waist and pulled me close.

“I love you husband.”

“I love you wife.”

“Bobby, you have some very loyal friends.”

“I can see that. It’s nice to know.”

Colleen took my hand and began slowly pulling me towards the bedroom.

“Come with me husband. We have some serious cuddling to do tonight.”

The next morning I was in my office thinking about the things Ray had told me the night before. I suppose that I should have been feeling happy or satisfied that Derrick Andrews had ended the way he did. But I wasn’t, the news left me feeling numb and a little depressed. I simply can’t find any joy at anyone’s death although I probably had every right to. It was revisiting in my memory all of the incidents that led up my leaving Chicago that had resurrected that small piece of depression. Mrs. Lopez brought in the morning mail and was returning to her own desk when I stopped her.

“Mrs. Lopez, wait just a minute. Can I ask you something?”

“Sure, what do you want to know?”

I waited for her to sit in the chair at the side of my desk before I continued.

“After I left Chicago, you were John Gordon’s secretary…how well did you know him?”

“You can’t be someone’s personal secretary without getting to know them pretty well, why do you ask?”

I paused, staring at the picture of Colleen on my desk, the same picture that had sat on my desk in Chicago, before I spoke.

“The last time I saw him I asked him why he was helping me. He said, ‘Because I was in your position myself a long time ago.’ I’ve always wondered what he meant. If it’s not betraying any confidences, do you know why?”

Mrs. Lopez sat looking down at her lap, a look of concentration on her face. Her head was making a slow, small nodding motion as she was internally going through the decision making process. When she looked at me again she had a small smile and her eyes were focused over my shoulder at a memory.

“A couple of days after I started working for him, I asked the same question, why was he helping you, and he told me the story. It’s not something he wants the entire world to know, but I don’t think he would mind you knowing. You’re probably not aware of it but John Gordon has a very high opinion of you.”

“He does…why?”

“John is always on the lookout for smart and talented people that can be an asset to the company. He told me he had been watching you even before Derrick Andrews showed up. When everything blew up, he recognized his own story in yours so he made arrangements with Harold for you to come to San Miguel. Do you know about Harold and John?”

“Harold mentioned that they had been roommates in college but that’s all he’s ever said.”

“And they’ve been best friends ever since. They were even married to their college sweethearts in a double ceremony right after they graduated. They started the same day at Willis, Goldman & Reed in the Omaha office.”

“What happened was almost a cliché. John came home early from a business trip and Harold picked him up at the airport and took him home. John and Harold both walked into the house and found John’s wife and his supervisor on the couch, right in the middle of…in the middle of doing it. I guess the affair had been going on for some time. From John’s description the supervisor was the same type of arrogant jerk as Derrick Andrews and he started laughing at John. That was when John threw the supervisor out of the bedroom window…oh, and the window was closed at the time. John and Harold packed up all of John’s clothes and personal belongings and moved John into Harold’s guest room.”

“What happened afterwards?” I asked.

“Everything turned to crap for John before it got better. Apparently his wife thought the supervisor was the better meal ticket. She called John a loser and said that she was going to marry the supervisor. Unfortunately for her the supervisor’s wife didn’t see it the same way. By the time the wife’s lawyers finished with him in divorce court the supervisor was bankrupt and penniless. Harold had some very heated discussions with management in the Omaha office, but in the end the supervisor was fired and would never be able to get a job anywhere in the industry again.”

“What about John’s wife?”

“Oh, she tried to get back together with John but John is not a fool. They had only been married for a couple of years so they didn’t have many assets to speak of, and because John and Harold had caught her in the middle of an adulterous act, plus some of the things she had testified to in the supervisor’s divorce trial, she got no alimony. Basically John walked away from his marriage without it costing him a penny. But it did cost him a lot of pain…but you probably already know what John was feeling.”

“Yeah, I know exactly what he was going through.”

“Well, John lived with Harold and his wife Caroline for a long time and they helped him keep going. But there is that one good thing about crap.”

“What’s that?” I asked, slightly confused.

“It helps beautiful things to grow. Couple of years after the divorce, John married Caroline’s older sister Diane. They’ve been happily married for over thirty years now.”

“Oh wow, John Gordon is Harold Peterson’s brother-in-law? I had no idea.”

“Not many people do. Do you know about Harold’s wife Caroline?”

“Only that she passed away, he doesn’t talk much about his personal life.”

“I’m not surprised. According to John, Harold and Caroline had decided to wait a few years before having children but before they could, she was diagnosed with ovarian

Mrs. Lopez stopped for a minute and looked at me before continuing.

“And that’s why Harold is here in San Miguel.”

“Ok, you just lost me there.”

“John knew Harold well enough to know that he needed a change of scenery and something to focus on if he was going to keep his sanity. John had worked his way up in management far enough that he was able to pull some strings and get Harold transferred here to San Miguel as head of the office. At the time this office was leaking red ink like a sieve. Harold was given one year to turn things around or they were going to shut the place down. He did turn it around and in a big way. Harold has been here for twenty-five years and refuses to leave. The company has been after him for years to go to headquarters at probably twice or three times the salary but he won’t budge…”

Mrs. Lopez smiled.

“…and sometimes he’s not very polite when he declines their gracious offer.”

I had to smile at this because it was exactly what I pictured Peterson’s reaction would be to the suggestion of moving to New York.

“Thanks for telling me Mrs. Lopez. You know, I’m probably the closest thing to a friend that Harold has here in the office and I hardly know anything about him. After twenty-five years no body knows anything at all about his personal life; you’ve just explained quite a lot about Harold. I’ll respect his privacy and keep this to myself.”

We both sat quietly for a few moments, wrapped up in our own thoughts, when Mrs. Lopez looked directly into my eyes.

“Robert. Is there anything else you want to know about Chicago?”

I knew exactly what she was saying. In a perverse sort of way, I did want to know, but I also knew that if she told me, a lot of memories I didn’t want to see again would come back to haunt me. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss. I turned my head to look at the picture of Colleen again. When I finally answered her my voice was barely above a whisper.

“No. I think I have every thing I need to know about Chicago.”

She sat for a minute studying me before she spoke.

“Well then, I guess I better get back to my desk.”

Mrs. Lopez stood up and started to leave my office but stopped at the door. She stood with her hand on the doorknob for a moment then turned back around and stared at me. She came back and sat down once again at the side of my desk. She didn’t say anything, just sat watching me. She then looked at Colleen’s photograph as she spoke.

“When John Gordon arranged for you to come to San Miguel, neither he nor Harold knew anything at all about Colleen…”

At this point Mrs. Lopez paused and looked directly at me.

“…and as far as I know, no one is aware of it to this day…”

Again she paused for a second before continuing.

“…and no one ever will.”

I opened my mouth but she continued before I could speak.

“Robert, you don’t owe me any explanations. In Chicago you were like a son to Ray and I and we will never say, or do, anything that might harm you or your family. And especially after last night, I can see that you and Colleen love each other very much.”

I took a deep breath and exhaled before I spoke.

“I can’t tell you what a load off of our minds that is.”

Mrs. Lopez stopped and looked at Colleen’s picture again before speaking.

“Last night I told you that coming to San Miguel was the smartest thing you have ever done. That was my opinion when you left and that’s my opinion now. If you had stayed in Chicago it would have been a complete disaster for both you and Barbara…and everyone else around you. Your children are delightful and I can see that Colleen loves you very deeply. Robert, you are a lucky, lucky man. I hope you realize that.”

She was smiling as she said that.

“I do, I realize it every morning when I wake up next to her.”

Now it was my turn to smile.

She gave a small laugh.

“I think that’s all the personal information I need to know. And now I really do need to get back what to work.”

She stood up and then did something totally unexpected. She placed both hands on my shoulders then leaned down and kissed me on the forehead. She smiled and walked towards the outer office. When she got as far as the door I stopped her again.

“Mrs. Lopez…”

“Yes?”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome…oh, and by the way, Ray confessed to me he that he told you about Derrick Andrews. He may have been the toughest cop on the force but I can still break him like wet paper bag.”

Still smiling, she exited the office and closed the door behind her.

I don’t think Colleen knew anything about what Ray and Connie had told me. But for some reason she was a little more attentive than usual that night when I got home…or maybe I had been reminded once more of just how special she is. It is amazing to me how she can tell Molly to eat her green beans and no funny business young lady; and lovingly stroke the back of my hand at the same time.

After dinner I was sitting on the sofa enjoying a brief period of “Brain Dead” time when I was invaded by the Gang of Four. Noelle and Brigid both ended up in my lap. They were playing a private game of their own that involved taking turns touching each other’s nose then both them touching my nose at the same time and laughing hysterically. This kept them occupied for at least twenty minutes. Meghan and Molly were on the floor at my feet doing their homework. Eventually Noelle and Brigid were asleep in my arms and Meghan and Molly ended up on the sofa, leaning against me as we watched a little bit of television.

Colleen came in after cleaning the kitchen and stood in front me, her protruding belly in my face, smiling down at the kids.

“Here, let me take one of those so you can relax.”

I pulled the two sleeping bodies a little closer to me and smiled back at her.

“It’s ok; they feel pretty good right where they are.”

Colleen sat in the rocking chair. She watched, contemplating me and our daughters with her contented half smile. We sat there in silence for a while and by the time the TV program was over, Meghan and Molly were also asleep, slumped against me like matching bookends. Colleen stood and walked from the room. As she was coming back into the room, I was leaning my head over sideways and kissed Meghan on the top of her head.

Click

I looked up to see Colleen holding the camera.

“What are you doing?” I whispered, trying not to wake the girls.

“That’s a picture I want to look at forever,” she whispered back.

Three days later, I was coming back from a meeting in the conference room when I saw Mrs. Lopez walking out of my office. In one hand she was holding my jacket and my car keys in the other. She saw me and started speaking in an excited voice.

“Good, you’re here. I was just coming to get you.”

“What’s going on?”

“Colleen just called and her water broke.”

“Oh shit, I’ve got to go.” I grabbed my jacket and keys.

“Just calm down for a second. Your neighbor Linda is there and will stay with the girls. I called Ray because he’s at home and can get there quicker. He’ll take Colleen to the hospital and they’ll meet you there. I’ll close up here then Ray and I will be at your house and stay with the girls, don’t worry about them. Just call later and let us know what’s happening…now GO!”

By the time she had finished saying this I was already on a dead run for the front door.

When I walked through the doors of the maternity ward I saw Colleen and Ray standing at the admitting counter. Colleen was filling in forms and Ray saw me first.

“Robert, over here. Colleen was…”

“A-A-A-H-H-O-O-W-W-W…”

Colleen had cut off what ever Ray was starting to say with a sound that was somewhere between a moan and a scream. She was holding her stomach and had a panicked look on her face. Two nurses were there instantly putting Colleen into a wheelchair. They began pushing her down the hall as quickly as they could without braking into a run. As they turned the corner one of the nurses yelled out, “Let’s move it people. It’s show time.”

I was right behind them.

The birth process for Noelle and Brigid had been leisurely affairs; go to the hospital, sign forms, get settled into the pre-natal room, shave Colleen as part of the pre-op preparation, suck on some ice chips, do Lamaze breathing, time the intervals between contractions…

Screw that stuff this time around.

The nurses were lifting Colleen onto the delivery table as I followed them through the doors. A second behind me was the doctor. He was moving in low speed casual mode and asked, “How far is she dilated?”

“Twenty-one centimeters.”

“HO-LY CRAP!” he yelled and jumped to the stool that was positioned at the end of the delivery table.

The nurse looked at me and barked, “You…get a mask on.”

There hadn’t been time for Colleen to get into a hospital gown; she was still wearing the dress she had on this morning when I left for work. The nurses lifted Colleen’s legs into the stirrups and raised the hem of her dress onto her stomach. The doctor was sitting on his stool and looked between Colleen’s legs when he screamed.

“Somebody get a catcher’s mitt…NOW! Ok mom, when I count three I want you to push, but not until I tell you.”

As soon as someone shoved something into his hands he looked at Colleen’s face with a smile in his eyes.

“Here we go; it’s time to become a mother. Remember; wait until I tell you then push as hard as you can. One…two…three…push.”

Colleen was holding my hand and when she squeezed I thought I could hear bones cracking. Her eyelids were clamped shut and she emitted one long loud combination grunt and groan through gritted teeth. When she finished she was panting heavily and her bright red face was covered in a heavy film of sweat.

I was deliriously happy.

Colleen’s eyes were glazed and she asked in between her labored breaths, “How soon before I have to push again?”

The doctor gave a short laugh.

“We can wait a minute before the second act. Here, I’ve got something you might want to see.”

One nurse laid a towel across Colleen’s chest then the other laid down a tiny bundle of humanity that had a thick coating of disgusting body fluids.

I have never seen a more beautiful sight in my life.

Colleen looked down at who was lying on her chest then she looked at me, her face beaming. She spoke with a large grin.

“Sorry Bobby, your basketball team is going to have to be co-ed.”

I grinned back at her.

“That’s ok wife, every team needs a good outside shooter.”

Just then a nurse lifted our son…our son…I would have to get used to saying the word son…off of Colleen.

“We need to send this little fellow out for dry cleaning. We’ll have him back to you in ten minutes.”

They whisked him across to the other side of the room where they began cleaning the goop off of him then measuring and weighing and all of the other stuff that had to be done following a birth. True to their word, ten minutes later Colleen was holding our son as they wheeled the gurney down the hall to her room.

Colleen was sitting up in bed watching our baby’s face as he slept while I sat in the chair next to her. She was smiling and without looking up she said, “He looks like Daddy.”

“Good, maybe he’ll get a date in high school.”

Colleen looked at me with a smile.

“Oh come on, you had dates in high school.”

“Yeah, but I was a horny teenager, I could’ve used a lot more.”

Colleen only grinned at me.

I sat in the chair holding our son and glanced over at Colleen. She had closed her eyes and her soft regular breathing told me she was asleep. Looking down into the face of this little miracle my thoughts were wandering all over the place.

A son…I’m going to have to learn a whole new parent vocabulary…coaching little league can’t be all that hard…maybe his sisters will teach him soccer instead…can’t coach soccer, don’t understand it well enough…we have a minivan, I can drive on field trips…Colleen is right, he does look like Dad…I wish he were here to meet his grandson…he has four sisters; he’s either going to be the little prince or the goat boy…we’re out of bedrooms, where is he going to sleep?

I don’t know why, and I suppose there is some deep psychological explanation, but no matter how many children you already have, that first time you hold your new child…in the quiet by yourself, you begin to think about your own past and your child’s future. We all begin with a clean slate and we almost never end up where we thought we were going to be.

Every child deserves to have parents and family that love them. Parents that are Married/Unmarried/Gay/Straight, it makes no difference. The child should grow up knowing that they are loved and cherished and in a home where they feel safe. In the end, I hope that our children know how deeply Colleen and I love them, and how much we love each other.

There is a simple elegance to every aspect of Colleen, but especially in the way she loves me. We were inseparable as children and now as adults we were continually learning together what true happiness and love is all about. I was the pillar that she leaned on when Bill died and she was there to hold my hand in the aftermath of my marriage to Barbra crashing down in flames. We had helped each other survive our own individual separate corners of hell and our love for each other grows stronger every day.

Our life together has been nothing but a blessing for both of us, but we have also had to make some sacrifices too. By making our choices we have had to cut ourselves off from our past in Santa Teresa so that we can have a future together. We will never be able to attend any of our high school reunions. Friends that were so dear to us we could no longer stay in touch with, only keep them locked away in our memories. But our love for each other and our children is so great that none of that matters. Any part of the individual hell that we went through, any loss of our past; we would go through it again a hundred times over if we had to so we could end up where we are today, together with our children.

There has been a rapid turnover of the people in our neighborhood. One generation dying, or retiring and moving away to make room for the next generation of young families to move in. By this time no one in San Miguel had any memory of us as anything other than Mr. and Mrs. O’Conner.

There was a country western song on the radio years ago; I can’t remember the name of it and don’t ask me who the singer was. But I do remember one line…

“Don’t ask me where she came from;

All I know is she gave me back my life.”

I am thirty years old…I am married to my sister…We have five children; I have adopted my nieces and my sister and I now have three children together under the age of twenty-two months…

I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

The nurse came and took the baby back to the nursery so that both he and Colleen could have their much needed rest. While she was sleeping, I decided to go downstairs to get a sandwich and coffee plus call home to tell everyone the news that there would now be two males in the O’Conner house. Mrs. Lopez answered the phone and was excited to hear that Colleen and the baby were doing well. She told me not to worry; she and Ray would spend the night at our house with the girls and would see us tomorrow. Then she handed the phone to Meghan.

“Hi daddy, what’s our new sister look like?”

“Sorry sweetie, it’s not a sister. You have a brother.”

There was a second of hesitation as Meghan processed what I had just told her.

“Really?…Molly, we have a brother!” she yelled across the room to her sister. In the background I could hear Molly’s laughing cries of “yippee” and the squeals of Noelle and Brigid as they mimicked their sisters.

“Listen sweetheart, I’m going to stay here tonight with your mother and the baby, but Aunt Connie and Uncle Ray are going to spend the night with you guys. We’ll bring your brother home tomorrow.”

“That’s ok, Aunt Connie promised she would make tacos and Uncle Ray is being funny. Daddy, I have to go now. Molly and I need to help Aunt Connie get the girls ready for their nap but Grandma called and wants you to call her back. She’s at the hospital with Aunt Sharon and Aunt Mi Lin.”

Hospital?

We ended the phone call with Meghan promising to spread hugs and kisses all around. I immediately called the hospital in Santa Teresa and got passed around and put on hold for a long time before I finally got a hold of Mom.

“Mom, is everything ok? Meghan told me Sharon and Mi Lin are in the hospital.”

Mom laughed. “Didn’t she tell you the rest of it? They had their babies this morning, two new granddaughters. How’s Colleen? Meghan said that Colleen is having her baby too.”

“Had…she already had the baby. Mom, are you sitting down? You have a grandson.”

I could hear the surprise in her voice. “Are you sure? Did you look? I don’t know how to buy presents for a grandson.”

“Yes I looked; the doctor looked too and he was almost positive it’s a boy.”

“Eleven granddaughters and one grandson, the poor boy’s going to have his work cut for him.” Mom paused and I could literally hear her thinking.

“Bobby, what time was your baby born?”

11:07…eight pounds eleven ounces, twenty-two inches.”

There was silence on the other end then Mom laughed.

“They really planned this right down to the minute didn’t they?”

“Planned what, what do you mean?”

“Bobby, Sharon’s baby was born at 11:11 and Mi Lin’s baby was born at 11:17.”

Mom stopped talking to let this bit of news sink in. I was stunned; all three babies had been born within a span of ten minutes.

“Bobby, you need to get back to Colleen. Tell her I’ll call her at home tomorrow.”

With that, we ended the conversation and I went to tell Colleen about the other babies.

By luck of the draw, we had the same nurse three years in a row for the birth of our children. The next day as we were gathering up our things to leave she said, “So will we be seeing you folks again next year?”

Colleen looked at her with a straight face and responded, “I don’t think so, we just found out what’s been causing all these babies.”

The look on the nurse’s face was priceless.

Colleen and I had decided that we had added enough to the world’s population and would take steps to insure that we would not be returning to visit the delivery room any time in the future. During the period that we would not be having actual sex, I would get a vasectomy and Colleen would have her tubes tied.

Although not enthusiastic about getting a vasectomy, I was willing to do it without complaining or whining. However I could not see any good reason for Colleen to go through the process of getting her tubes tied, a much more difficult and complex procedure. But she was adamant.

“I don’t care how many vasectomies you have. If you so much as sneeze in my direction I’m going to end up pregnant. This uterus is going out of business for good.”

The trip home was uneventful. Meghan and Molly were excited about meeting their brother, and Noelle and Brigid were too young to understand what was going on, just another baby in the house. Even with all the excitement around the three births at the same time, it was the next weekend before we could get to Santa Teresa so that Mom could meet her only grandson.

It was quite a family gathering that weekend. We met at Mike’s place because he had the largest house. When you own the construction company, you get a pretty good deal on the house of your dreams. Even Harold Peterson was there. Ever since meeting at the wedding, Harold had been playing golf with the twins once or twice a month. They had forged a friendship that seemed to be based a competition to see who could play the worst round of golf in the history of the game. He was playing with them that morning and they convinced him to stick around and have lunch with us.

When we arrived Mom was already there with Sharon and her kids and Mi Lin arrived just minutes behind us with her kids. We were waiting for the twins to finish their game and get back before starting lunch. The cousins were running in all directions without any obvious purpose, but they were having one hell of a good time. Needless to say, babies were being passed right and left by the adults.

Mom immediately latched on to her grandson and took him into the livingroom. She sat down on the sofa and was rocking him gently back and forth in her arms. She was smiling and rubbing the back of her forefinger on his cheek when she asked her question.

“What did you name him?”

The ship was filled with immigrants as it steamed from Dublin toward New York and Ellis Island. On board were four children named, Brigid, Fiona, James and Michael who had never met before the journey. They were five years old and like all five-year-olds quickly formed an alliance to protect themselves from the older kids. Shortly after landing and then another long day of train rides, they were ecstatic to learn that all four of the families had ended up living on the same block of an Irish neighborhood in Boston.

The four became inseparable and basically indistinguishable to the rest of the world. At St. Catherine’s School everyone, including the teachers, thought of them as a single entity. The future held little promise for people in their position, to be servants or day laborers like their parents. The day after graduating from high school, they met on the banks of the River Charles to discuss what they were going to do. They talked all afternoon and late into the evening and didn’t stop until everyone was in agreement. It was settled.

One week later, with their families’ blessings, James married Fiona and Michael married Brigid. They packed their bags and headed west, eventually settling in San Francisco, living in houses next door to each other. After a while James and Fiona had their only child, a son they named Christopher. Ten years later Michael and Brigid had their only child, a daughter named Margaret. As the infant Margaret became aware of the world around her, the first face she began to recognize other than her parents was the face of Christopher. For some inexplicable reason it made Christopher very happy every time that Margaret smiled at him.

When Margaret had graduated from college and began her career as a second grade teacher, the agony of waiting was over and Christopher Patrick O’Conner and Margaret Louise Murphy were married. They had four children; Colleen, twins James and Michael, and Robert.

“What did you name him?”

“Mom, this is your grandson, Christopher Patrick O’Conner.”

Mom held him on her lap looking down at his sleeping face, not speaking. Colleen and I watched as two tears fell onto the blanket tightly wrapped around Chris’ tiny body. Mom raised her head and with the happiest smile I had seen on her face since Dad had died, silently mouthed the words, “thank you.”

“Grandma, why are you crying?”

Mike’s daughter Patricia, now five years old, was standing in front of Mom with a look of deep concern on her face. Holding Chris in one arm, Mom pulled Patricia into a hug with the other.

“Because sweetheart, sometimes Grandmas cry when they are happy.”

Patricia’s face showed confusion at this bit of information but accepted it with out comment. She turned her head and looked at Colleen and I.

“Aunt Colleen, can I hold Christopher?”

“Of course you can honey. Sit down right here beside Grandma.”

Patricia sat on the sofa between Mom and Colleen. Mom placed the sleeping Chris onto Patricia’s lap and arranged him carefully to make sure that he wouldn’t slide off. Mom, Colleen and I started talking amongst ourselves when Patricia squealed.

“He’s smiling, he’s smiling at me. Uncle Bobby, Christopher is smiling at me.”

She was literally shaking with excitement. We all looked down at Christopher and Patricia was right. Chris’s eyes were wide open and he was studying Patricia’s face. He had that open mouth, toothless grin that only looks good on a newborn. Chris closed his eyes with a small sigh and began to wiggle around trying to burrow in closer to Patricia. She turned her head and looked at her Grandmother with a tear in her eye.

“I’m happy too Grandma.”

About a year after Chris was born I was promoted to Senior Manager. This made me second in command of the San Miguel office of Willis, Goldman & Reed. One morning Harold Peterson called me into his office. As I walked into his office and sat down, Harold was staring out the window with a frown.

“Harold, you’re not wearing your happy face. What’s going on?”

Peterson slowly turned to face me. He seemed to be studying me for a moment and then he spoke slowly.

“I just got off of the phone with Jamison. Corporate is sending me a new Senior Manager. He will be here on Monday the 17th.”

I opened my mouth to say something but he cut me off.

“I don’t know what’s going on but I intend to find out. We’ll talk about this after I know more, but I wanted to let you know right away because it will directly affect your position here. Right now I need to make some phone calls.”

With that I understood it was time to return to my office.

Jamison was a vice president at corporate headquarters in New York and head of the Human Resources Division. This was a highly unusual move on the part of headquarters. Under normal circumstances, it would be the field office that requested a new senior manager, not the other way around. Something was not right.

That night I told Colleen what was happening and she was as concerned as I about what it might mean to my job with Willis, Goldman & Reed. She pulled me into her bosom and was gently stroking the back of my head when she said, “Try not to worry. Everything will work out all right and we’ll be fine.”

But I did worry, and the next few days were not productive for me. The memories of Derrick Andrews being suddenly thrust into the Chicago office came rushing back to haunt me and sleep was a precious commodity.

The next afternoon, Harold walked into my office and sat in the chair next to my desk. He leaned back and stretched his legs out straight. He clasped his hands behind his head and stared up at the ceiling for a moment before he spoke.

“The new guy’s name is Jack Cartwright and is supposed to be a hot shot at management. He’s already been to the Atlanta and St. Louis offices and now some jackass thinks we need to have him here. This corporation has ninety-seven offices and San Miguel isn’t even half the size of most of them. We have the highest profit margin in the company and we’re number eleven in terms of real dollars generated. The idea that we need management help is horseshit. I don’t like what’s going on but I guess that we’ll have to wait until he gets here and see what happens.”

At 7:55 AM on the morning of Monday the 17th Harold and I were in the lobby of the office. The office begins work promptly at 8:00 and we were waiting to greet Cartwright. Mrs. Nelson is a charming lady in her sixties and had been our receptionist for almost forty years. She had already settled in behind the counter and was preparing for the new work week to begin. By 8:20 Harold was fuming when we heard someone walk through the front door.

He appeared to be in his late twenties and made a quick visual survey of the lobby then walked towards us. Even from ten feet away we could tell that his suit was incredibly expensive and with his hair slicked back he looked like he had just stepped off the cover of GQ Magazine. He regarded us with the beginnings of a sneer at the corner of his mouth and stood there saying nothing. Harold put out his hand and said, “Good morning…Jack Cartwright?”

Cartwright looked down at Peterson’s hand but didn’t shake it. “You must be Peterson,” was the only thing he said.

Harold pulled back his hand and I could see the color of his face slowly begin to turn red. He gestured towards me and said, “This is Robert O’Conner. He is the Senior Manager here.”

Cartwright glanced over at me for less than a second then back at Harold and spoke.

“We’ll see about that. Now let’s get started, there’s a lot I want to get accomplished today.” He turned and leaned over the reception counter and spoke to Mrs. Nelson who was smiling sweetly at him.

“Listen sweetheart, why don’t you make yourself useful and get me a cup of coffee. I take it cream no sugar and you’re going to want to remember how I like it.”

Harold was standing directly behind him. He reached out and grabbed the back of Cartwright’s pants at the waist and yanked up as hard as he could. This produced a wedgie of epic proportions. Cartwright went up on his toes, eyes bugging out, and he emitted a shrill screech that began going up in pitch until it reached a frequency of sound that only dogs could hear.

Still holding Cartwright up on his toes, Harold grabbed his coat and shirt collar at the back of his neck and pushed down until his torso was parallel to the ground. Keeping him in that position, Peterson spun him around and began marching him across the lobby towards the front door. Marie from housekeeping was polishing the glass and stopped to open the door as they approached. Harold bodily threw Cartwright out the door and we watched as he bounced once on the sidewalk and skidded towards the gutter. Harold pointed to his left and said, “The unemployment office is six blocks that way,” then came back into the building.

As soon as Harold had grabbed Cartwright, Mrs. Nelson picked up the phone and began punching in numbers. By the time Harold got back to us he was breathing heavy and reached out to take the receiver that Mrs. Nelson was offering to him.

This was obviously a routine they had participated in before.

“Hello, Jamison? This is Peterson…that’s right, your boy Cartwright showed up…no, I fired his ass and threw it out on the street… Jamison, you’re stuttering again. Just shut the hell up and listen…I don’t give a rat’s ass what you think…well whose bonehead idea was it…listen very closely; I have two things to say to you. Derrick Andrews and Tony Patterson…just calm down before you wet yourself…if they’ve got a problem with it, tell them to call me directly…listen; don’t ever send me an asshole like that again. If you do, I am personally coming to New York and explain to the Board why that’s not such a good idea…that’s right, I knew you would see it that way once I explained it. You have just a peach of a day.”

At that moment I truly and absolutely knew that Harold Peterson is one of the good guys.

Harold hung up the phone then rubbed the bridge of his nose, lost in thought for a moment.

“Mrs. Nelson, if you would be so kind as to file a sexual harassment charge against Mr. Jack Cartwright, I would greatly appreciate it.”

During this whole time, Mrs. Nelson had been smiling pleasantly as she watched the proceedings.

“Right after lunch Harold,” she said, and then she smiled in my direction. “Usually they last until at least Thursday. This one was a record.”

By this time Harold had calmed down and turned to me.

“Did anyone else smell liquor on his breath? Robert, I’m going to need you to sign the claim form that you witnessed Jack Cartwright sexually harassing Mrs. Nelson. By the way, I’m playing golf with your brothers on Saturday and we need a fourth, do you think you can make it?”

“Uh…yeah…sure…I’ll have to check with Colleen but I think I can make it.”

As much as I get nauseous from the mere thought of playing golf, at that moment I would crawl on my hands and knees bare assed naked across a field of broken glass for this guy.

I begged Colleen to not let me play golf but I ended up going and actually had a blast. For the first time in my life I scored below 220 for eighteen holes and still won the match. Mike and Jimmy spent the entire morning laughing after I told them what Harold had done to Cartwright.

Mom and Dad were each the “only child,” so Colleen and the twins and I grew up without any aunts, uncles or cousins of our own. Because we live in San Miguel and out of necessity had to limit our contacts in Santa Teresa, our extended family grew through adoption.

Miss Jennings and her partner SaraJane became the sisters that Colleen never had growing up. When we are at the office she will always be Mrs. Lopez but our kids love their Uncle Ray and Aunt Connie to death. And Harold Peterson…

Harold is a smart businessman with a gruff exterior and when the need arises, can exhibit a take-no-prisoners approach. But he is fair and gracious in all his business dealings, highly respected by his peers. He is an intensely private person with a crusty exterior as a public face, but in reality he is a considerate and compassionate man, especially regarding his employees. When Linda Stewart’s husband was injured in an industrial accident and hospitalized for eight months, Harold authorized a ten thousand dollar third quarter bonus for Linda that kept their home out of foreclosure.

But his particular weakness is children.

Harold has spent countless hours pulling strings and calling in favors to get the children of his employees into the college of their choice or arranging scholarships for those that had no hope of going to college at all. Every three year old that wanders into the building knows that Harold is a soft touch and keeps a dish of chocolate drops on the corner of his desk.

But there is a special connection between Harold and our kids. Even with the grumpy look on his face and his habit of barking out his sentences, the kids knew instantly that on the inside Harold is as tough as a chocolate soufflé. The second time she met him Meghan called him Uncle Harold and he has been that ever since.

Mom and the twins had met Harold and the two Sara’s at the wedding and accepted them as part of the family. Mike and Jimmy immediately bonded with Harold over an irrational love of the game of golf. Mom and Sharon and Mi Lin simply pulled the two Sara’s into their circle as if they had always been there. After Connie and Ray moved here from Chicago, the circle grew a little bit larger. With law enforcement as a commonality, Jimmy and Ray instantly connected and as always, Mike came along for the ride.

One day the twins and Harold cornered Ray and was trying to harass him into playing golf with them. Ray did not have a look of amusement on his face when he said, “I shot the last guy that asked me to play golf with him.”

There was a brief moment of silence until Mike responded, “So-o-o…can we take that as a maybe?”

You would think that living in a house with five kids would be sheer bedlam twenty-four hours a day but this was not the case. From the very beginning, all five worked together, running like a well oiled piece of machinery. I have never seen another group of sisters and brothers establish a set of relationships quite like theirs. Colleen and I did not overtly push them into any particular behavior pattern; they just worked it out on their own. There were squabbles and the typical sibling flare ups, but the pouting and hurt feelings never lasted more than a couple of hours and then the participants were back to helping each other finish the household chores and struggle with tonight’s geometry homework.

Meghan and Molly were inseparable, constantly finishing each others’ sentences. Noelle and Brigid are the same way. Two pairs of best friends completely devoted to each other. Meghan and Molly took their role as older sisters very seriously. They were constantly there for Noelle and Brigid, holding hands, kissing boo-boo’s, offering comfort and teaching them how to fold napkins for dinner. All four of them insisted that Meghan and Noelle share a room and Molly and Brigid share the other. They wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t think anyone of us would have survived if the Gang of Four had not had the bond that they do.

The Gang of Four absolutely adored their brother and worshiped the ground he walked on. But they were not at all hesitant to slap him on the back of the head and tell him to “stop acting like an idiot!” This kept him from developing any exaggerated sense of self importance.

With the Gang of Four paired up this left Christopher as the odd man out but it never seemed to affect him. One day when he was about four, Chris was sitting at the dinning table, deeply engrossed in drawing pictures on the back of some used sketch paper that Colleen had given him while his sisters were having a conspiracy meeting in one of the bedrooms. As I sat down next to him, I studied him for a moment wondering how he fit in as an individual into this web of best friends.

“Hey Chris, who is your best friend?”

He didn’t even bother to look up when he answered.

“Patricia.”

Patricia? Mike’s daughter?

Chris raised his head to look at me and his expression told me that was the dumbest question he had ever heard.

Patricia.

As soon as I thought about it, it made sense. From the very moment they first met, they insisted on being together as often as they could. When the family would get together, Chris would run to Patricia first before acknowledging the existence of anyone else. They would play together and tune everyone else out. Many times Mike or Sharon would bring Patricia to San Miguel to be with Christopher just so that she would smile again. It was not uncommon for her to spend a week or more at our house in the summer and literally became a sixth child for us.

Truth be told, there were times when Colleen and I were not at all sure how many kids actually lived in our house. Frank and Linda Martin were our close friends that lived next door. Their daughters were the same age as Meghan and Molly and their son Keith had been born a couple of weeks before Christopher. The back and forth traffic between the two houses became so constant that Frank and I finally took down the fence between the two backyards. This gave the kids a much larger area to play in and we didn’t have to constantly nag them about closing the front door.

Somewhere along the way our two houses became neighborhood central for every kid in a ten block radius. Down to the very last one, they were unfailingly polite and well mannered although at times the decibel level was excruciatingly high. God only knows how many kids were in this group, a number that was constantly fluctuating, with an age span of about ten years. Colleen and I loved the commotion these kids created but it also meant that we had to pay special attention to the task of finding time just for ourselves, time for just the two of us to remind ourselves why we love each other so much. We had to be imaginative in ways to create these moments.

One morning about 10:30 I was sitting in my office when my phone rang. When I answered, all I heard was Colleen’s voice.

“I’m lying on the bed and I don’t have any clothes on…don’t make me start without you.”

And then a dial tone.

By the time I walked through the bedroom door, I had already taken off my shirt and was working to get my pants off. Colleen was lying on the bed with her legs parted and a look of frustration on her face.

“Jesus Bobby, what took you so long?”

“I got a speeding ticket over on Balboa Avenue. I’ve never seen a cop write so slow in my life.”

As I lay on top of her and my hips fell between her thighs, Colleen lightly held my face between the palms of her hands and gently kissed me on the lips. She smiled and whispered, “I’m glad you could make it.”

I will agree that being married to your sister is not the conventional approach to marriage. But in the end, it makes no difference if you are married to your sister, the girl next door or the woman you met at the bar last night. The marriage is doomed to failure if both of you don’t work together and individually to keep the love alive, the love that made you want to get married in the first place. A good marriage is a lot of hard work.

Colleen and I make love to each other twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Please note that I said that we make love, not have sex. We make love to each other in little tiny ways all the time that does not involve sex.

We are not embarrassed to express genuine affection for each other. We hold hands in public. Our shoulders touch when we sit in the pew Sunday mornings. At neighborhood parties Colleen stands next to me with her arm around my waist, my arm around her shoulders. It is against the laws of nature for Colleen and I to walk past each other without stopping for a quick kiss or a gentle touch and then continue on our way. One of our favorite ways to tease the kids is to wait until we are all in the same room together. Colleen will sit in my lap and we start kissing and hugging until the kids run from the room screaming, “Oh gross!” When she got older Meghan’s comment as she left the room was always, “Would you two just go to a motel…PLEASE!”

I suppose that the frequency of our sexual encounters is higher than the national average, but we are not constantly tearing at each other’s clothes every moment of the day. Nothing could be further from the truth. We were forced to slow down considerably out of necessity when the kids were young. When you have three children under the age of two and a half, exhaustion is a way of life. The only thought that sits there in your head all day is knowing that at the end of the day you will crawl into bed with your lover and then sweet, delicious, glorious sleep.

One occasion sticks out in my memory and I will never forget it.

Colleen and I had not had sex for over two weeks. Meghan and Molly were squabbling about something and for the first and only time the bad feelings had spilled over to a second day. Christopher was teething and both Noelle and Brigid had killer ear infections. The constant bickering and crying from all five of the kids had us completely frazzled. Just as we were starting to get them down for the night, Colleen pulled me aside out the kid’s range of hearing. She gave a quick kiss and whispered in my ear.

“You better get yourself ready because in exactly twenty minutes you are going to crawl between my legs and do what you do best.”

It was actually two hours before we finally got into bed. Colleen wrapped her legs around my waist and sighed, “I’ve been looking forward to this all day.”

I could tell that this moment had been on her mind as soon as I slid into her. I had missed this as much as she. That velvet feeling of being inside of her only increased the flow of blood to my cock. She moaned deliriously as I felt her pubic hair begin to caress my balls. I slowly pulled my hips back and then reversed direction as we began the journey to our ultimate pleasure. As I began to pick up speed, I realized that something didn’t feel quite right. I heard a sound escape from Colleen’s mouth and I looked down into her face.

Colleen’s eyes were closed and she was snoring.

My only thought at that moment as I rolled us over onto our sides was, “Oh thank you God! I don’t think I have the strength to finish this.”

Life is not, as they say, “just a bowl of cherries.” You can’t live with someone as long as we have and not get on each others nerves at least once and a while. But Colleen and I are luckier than most married couples. Any arguments that we’ve had have always been the simple little ones that usually began with statements like, “How could you forget to pick up the dry cleaning? It’s right next door to the hardware store.” Or “I told you two weeks ago I had this meeting. I even wrote it on the calendar.” Or more frequently, “Could you PLEASE keep the kids quiet. I have to get this done by tomorrow morning.”

But these flare ups are very infrequent and so minor that within the hour we are hugging and doing what we need to do to make sure that we are back on track with each other. I firmly believe that these types of incidents are necessary to remind ourselves that if we are not diligent about keeping the love alive, it can all turn into a living hell overnight.

I pulled the minivan into the driveway and turned the engine off. I can’t remember what started it but for the last five minutes Colleen and I had been snapping at each other over something that was of absolutely no importance in the grand scheme of things. Colleen and I turned toward each other, mouths open, ready to speak the words that would begin World War III when a tiny voice drifted up from the back of the minivan.

“All right children, let’s all go to our happy place”

Our heads snapped around and we stared at the back of the van. There we saw five innocent, expressionless faces staring back at us. Colleen began to giggle and soon we were all roaring with laughter. I had no other option but to start the car and drive to our favorite burger joint.

There was only one time when things came close to getting out of hand.

I will admit that draining the oil out of the lawnmower into Colleen’s favorite casserole dish was not the smartest decision I have ever made. But I felt that her reaction was way out of line when I told her that yes, I did in fact know it was something that she cooked food in and I had every intention of rinsing it out before I put it back. I then calmly informed her that the lawnmower would not fit where she told me to put it…no matter how far I bent over. I also knew that it was going to take me all afternoon to replace the porch light that fell off when she slammed the back door.

I stared at the door for a minute then turned around to find all five kids lined up in stair step fashion looking at me, faces devoid of any expression. You don’t know true humiliation until your five year old son looks you directly in the eye and says, “Gee dad, that was really dumb.”

The kids did a right face and marched off. As they were leaving, Meghan turned and looked over her shoulder at me and said, “You know dad, this is really going to cost you.”

When I slid into bed that night, Colleen was lying with her back to me. For the only time in our lives, when I placed my hand on her hip she shoved my arm away. I don’t know about Colleen but I didn’t get much sleep that night. In the morning I woke to find Colleen staring at me with tears in her eyes. Her lip was trembling as she spoke.

“Who was that crazy woman you let get into our bed last night?”

“I don’t know but her brother is a complete imbecile.”

Colleen wiped her eyes and sniffed as she asked, “Are we ok now?”

I pulled her close and held tight as I whispered into her ear, “Yeah, we’re good.”

Meghan was right, it did cost me. That afternoon I bought Colleen a brand new set of gourmet cookware, a very small price to pay to make the woman I love happy.

Meghan and Molly invented a game we all love to play that they named Dog Pile on Daddy. In this game Colleen would surprise me by leading a gang of five screaming and squealing kids, chasing me around the house or yard until I was gang tackled. The winner was the first person to steal my shoe. The winner also got to choose what we would have for dinner that night.

There is a variation of this game that Colleen and I play in the bedroom late at night after the kids are asleep. The name of this game is Dog Pile on Mommy. The rules of this game are that I chase Colleen around the bedroom until someone steals her panties.

I am always the winner.

Then one day it happened.

Dad had told my brothers and I to expect it, it happens to all men. But being forewarned did nothing to lessen the panic that I felt.

It was a Saturday morning and the kids were out somewhere which left Colleen and I alone in the house. I was standing in the dining room going through the mail that had just arrived when Colleen walked in from the bedroom, turned her back to me, looked over her shoulder and asked “THE QUESTION.”

“Does this dress make my ass look fat?”

There is no correct answer to this question. If you answer “yes,” you’re a dead man. If you answer “no,” you’re immediately called a liar and your parents’ marriage is questioned. This is typically followed by a long series of slamming doors. If you try to waffle and resort to vague and ambiguous comments, she turns into a starving wolf and you are the wounded lamb. She will be relentless until you collapse from exhaustion and give an answer.

This question is the root cause of 90 % of all the divorces in America today. (Ok, I made up that statistic, but I am dead certain the number is at least 80 %.) Dad had also given the twins and I the key to survival in this situation. The secret had been passed down to him from his father and from his father before him going back thousands of generations. There is only one thing that can save both your marriage and your life.

Distraction.

Many men have faked a heart attack at this point. But that is only good for one time and after you return from the hospital with a clean bill of health, she will be standing there in the same dress, asking the same damn question.

“Does this dress make my ass look fat?”

I turned Colleen around to face me and pulled her close. When she opened her mouth to speak I immediately shoved my tongue in as far as it could go. My hands slid down and started to caress her ass. When I pulled my tongue away from her tonsils she asked, “Bobby! What are you doing?”

I continued stroking and squeezing her ass. Colleen moaned “that feels good,” and began to kiss me along the side of my neck. I slowly pulled up her dress up until I could feel the silkiness of her panties and slid both hands down inside, stroking the satin smooth skin of her cheeks. I pulled her closer to me until we were rubbing our groins together and Colleen softly whispered as she nibbled in my ear.

“Are you trying to start something here? Because it’s working.”

I pushed her panties down her legs then lifted her up and sat her ass on the edge to the dining table, spreading her knees apart and standing between her thighs. Colleen put her arms around my neck and then it was her turn to slide her tongue down my throat. At the same time I was undoing my belt and shoving my pants down to my ankles. I pulled her dress up further until it was above her waist letting me see and feel the thick fur of her pussy. With one hand I was running my fingers through her pubic hair and the other hand was on my cock, lining it up with the opening between her legs.

“Baby, you have the most delicious ass in the world. Every time I see it or even think about it, I can’t control myself.”

My brain was screaming “MAY-DAY, MAY-DAY” to my dick. If I didn’t give a world class performance, my testicles would be separated from the rest of my body without the use of anesthesia or surgical tools. But that has never been a problem for me. Everytime I see the dark forest of hair between Colleen’s legs, my cock is as hard as a concrete pillar. As soon as the tip of my dick touched the lips of her cunt, Colleen moaned and put her hands on my hips to pull me deep into her. When I was completely inside of her, she gave a big sigh and lay back on the table. She was breathing heavily and groaned out, “Don’t stop now.”

I put my hands under Colleen’s thighs and lifted them until they were around my hips. She crossed her calves behind my ass and tried to pull me in even deeper. I began to work my hips, sliding in out of Colleen. As I started to pick up speed, I leaned over and braced myself with both arms on either side of her head. Colleen’s mouth was open and her eyes rolled back in her head. My hips were doing 100 RPM’s as Colleen was slapping her palms on the tabletop. Within minutes Colleen and I both screamed “OH DEAR GOD” and went into convulsions as semen shot out the end of my cock.

We were both gasping for air as the tremors of our orgasms began to fade away. I leaned down and quickly kissed Colleen on the lips. As I pulled my head back she whispered, “I love you husband.”

“I love you wife.”

I paused, my mind scrambling. “Listen, I have to…uh…go to…um…go to the hardware store. I need to…need to get some…uh…nails. I need to get some nails for…the thing. I’ll be back later.” As I was talking I was pulling up my pants and moving towards the front door.

Colleen was still lying on the table, completely relaxed and panting heavily with her panties dangling off one of her ankles. She was smiling as she spoke.

“Ok, don’t be long.”

It was less than fifteen minutes from the time Colleen asked the question to the moment I exited out the front door. As I stepped out onto the front porch and closed the door behind me, I was still fastening my belt and zipping up my pants. I flew down the steps towards the car. By the time the car door was closed and the seat belt was buckled, I was already turning the corner at the end of the block.

I actually did go to the hardware store and bought the first bag of nails that I saw on the shelf. Now I was going to have to remember where I left the hammer in the garage the last time I used it, probably sometime last year. After the hardware store I stopped at the bakery, got a Danish and café mocha to go then wandered across the street to the park and watched a little league game for a while. After a couple of hours had passed I decided it was time to go home.

When I walked back into the house I was a little apprehensive about what the fallout might be from what had happened that morning. I was standing in the middle of the livingroom nervously looking around when I heard Colleen come down the hall from the bedroom and step into the livingroom.

She was as naked as the day she was born.

Wordlessly she walked up to me and began to unbutton my shirt. She gave me little bites on my nipples as she slid the shirt off my shoulders and down my arms. Next she unbuckled my belt, lowered the zipper on my pants and pushed them to the floor. When she had me completely undressed, she took my hand and led me down the hall to the bedroom. At the door she stopped and gave me a gentle kiss then whispered in my ear.

“The kids are spending the night with Connie and Ray. We don’t have to pick them up until ten o’clock tomorrow morning.”

With that she gently pulled me into the bedroom and closed the door behind us.

We were late picking up the kids.

After thirty-five years, Mom decided that it was time for the next generation to take over the responsibility for teaching the second grade. There were seven teachers retiring that year so a large banquet was held at the Santa Teresa County Club. All the friends from San Miguel were invited but Harold was the only one who could make it to help Mom celebrate.

The food was superb, the speeches were dreary, the music was smooth, the dancing was good and the bar was open. There were tears and laughter from co-workers who would no longer be seeing each other on a daily basis.

Late in the evening Harold pulled me aside and said, “I was just talking to your mother about her trip…”

For years before he passed away, Mom and Dad had talked about visiting Alaska and now she was going to fulfill that dream. She was leaving next month for a cruise that started in San Francisco and sailed up the coast stopping in Vancouver and several other spots in Canada and then Alaska, returning two weeks later. As soon as she returned Mom was traveling back east to visit an old friend from college.

“…and it got me to thinking. I’ve been in San Miguel for thirty years and built up more vacation time than God himself. I think it’s time that I get the hell out of Dodge for a while.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know, travel I guess, definitely go visit John Gordon and give him some golf lessons. Mostly relax and not think about the office.”

“I’m envious, that sounds fantastic.”

“Anyway, that means that you will be in charge of the office while I’m gone but don’t go crazy. I don’t want to have to re-train everyone when I get back.” It was a rare moment, Harold was smiling.

“When are you going?”

“First I want to make sure that the Gibson nonsense is taken care of and then tie up some other loose ends. I don’t know, three…four weeks maybe.”

Harold had an odd look on his face. I just chalked it up to anticipation about getting away.

So on a Friday afternoon, Harold shook my hand, said, “Good luck, don’t call. If anything happens I don’t want to hear about it.” And headed out the door.

It seemed like the second that Harold left the building, every conceivable crisis scenario mankind could possibly envision popped up. But with everyone in the office functioning like the precision machine that Harold had built over the years, everything was running smoothly when he returned.

On a Thursday night Mom called to tell us that she had just returned from her trip and would see us soon. There was a tone in her voice that showed she was tired but definitely relaxed and happy. After thirty-five years of being the kiddy wrangler for 25 eight year olds, Mom had earned the right to relax.

The next morning we were all up and getting ready for the day. At 6:30 AM the doorbell rang. Colleen and I looked at each other, who could possibly be coming to our house this early in the morning? Still in my robe I got up to answer the door. When I opened it, there standing in front of me was my mother.

“Mom, what are you doing here this early?”

“I came to have breakfast with my grandkids.”

By this time all five kids came on a dead run and threw their arms around their grandmother.

Colleen was standing in the doorway to the kitchen and called out, “Kids…come on…let go of your grandmother long enough for her come inside.” Mom came in and sat at the kitchen table to eat breakfast with us. She explained that Mike and Jimmy’s children were in and out of her house all the time but she didn’t get to see our kids nearly as often. Now that she was retired she was going to make up for lost time.

When I got home from the office Mom was still there in the kitchen helping Colleen prepare dinner. After we had eaten dinner, the kids were settling down to do homework when Mom looked at her watch and said, “Oops; getting late, gotta go,” and was out the door. Colleen and I just stared at each other.

“That was weird.”

“I know, what just happened?”

Over the next few weeks Mom began showing up at the house unannounced at odd hours of the day but usually early in the morning. In order for her to get to our house from Santa Teresa in time for breakfast she had to be getting up at 4:00 in the morning.

About that time Mike called me at the office and got straight to the point.

“Jimmy and I were talking and I need to ask you a question. Have you and Colleen noticed anything strange about Mom lately?”

I hesitated before answering. “What do you mean?”

“Well, it’s like she disappears for a while, a couple of days at a time and when we asked her about it she just brushed it off…said she was visiting you guys but when I talked to Colleen she said she hadn’t see Mom all week.”

“I don’t know Mike, Mom has been showing up at all kind of oddball hours; early in the morning or late at night and then rushing off like she has to be somewhere else right away. Colleen and I were going to talk to you and Jimmy about the same thing. Do you think she’s ok?”

Mike paused before he answered.

“I think so, but…it’s just not like her at all.”

The day Harold came back from his vacation, he was in the office early and didn’t come out. After things had settled down for the morning I went in to welcome him back and bring him up to speed on everything that had happened in his absence. When I stepped into his office he was sitting in his chair with his back to his desk staring out the window at the San Grigorio Mountains in the distance. I had to call his name a couple of times to get his attention.

“Harold, welcome back. How was the vacation?”

“It was good. I could get used to not coming into the office.”

“So where did you end up going?”

“Oh…went up into Canada for a little bit…always wanted to see Canada…spent a week with John Gordon…stopped off and saw my nephew in Santa Fe, haven’t seen him in quite a while; he’s got some great kids.”

I started telling Harold all the gritty details of what had been happening in the office but from the expression on his face I wasn’t sure that he had heard a single word I said. Over the next few weeks Harold was still on top of things but he seemed to be distracted most of the time and we all felt that we had to work hard to keep his attention. Mrs. Lopez spoke to me about it late one afternoon.

“Robert, have you noticed anything different about Harold since he got back from his vacation? Do you know what’s going on?”

“Yeah I have noticed and no I don’t know what’s going on. I wish I did. If I didn’t know any better, I say he’s acting like he’s happy. The other day I actually caught him smiling.”

Six weeks after Harold retuned from his vacation, the regularly scheduled annual audit of the San Miguel office occurred.

Once a year, the suits from the New York Headquarters would pay a visit. They would show up early Tuesday morning then spend all day Tuesday and Wednesday going over the annual reports with the local managers. Thursday mornings was spent meeting the rest of the employees individually and in groups. It was a pro forma visit but it did help to create a bond between the field office and headquarters.

This year the visit was different. The folks from headquarters spent all of Tuesday and Wednesday morning in the conference room with Harold alone. They didn’t meet with the rest of the managers until that afternoon and even then it was brief and perfunctory. The Thursday morning session went as usual and then just before lunch the announcement was made.

On Friday, the next day, a meeting of all employees would take place promptly at 11:30 AM at the Sheraton Hotel. Attendance was mandatory for all personnel and failure to attend would result in disciplinary action. When they were asked about what was going on, the suits were tight lipped and didn’t respond.

The next morning everyone was walking on eggshells. The New York people and Harold were not in the building. At 11:15 people started streaming out of the office and headed over to the Sheraton. In the hotel lobby was a sign that said the Willis, Goldman & Reed meeting was in the Sequoia Room.

When I walked into the Sequoia Room I was surprised by several things. The room was set up for a formal banquet with white linen on the tables with gleaming silverware and crystal. But a bigger surprise was Colleen and Mom standing in the back of the room talking to Mrs. Lopez. As soon as she saw me Colleen broke away and came over to me.

“Bobby, what’s going on?”

“I was going to ask you the same thing. What are you doing here?”

“I don’t know. Harold called me this morning and told me to be here. He made it sound like your job was at stake. I haven’t had a chance to ask Mom why she’s here.”

Just then a waiter came by and informed us that it was time to sit down for lunch. There was one long row of tables for managers in San Miguel and the New York visitors. Colleen was told to sit next to me and Mom sat in between me and Harold. Then came the next surprise. John Gordon was sitting on the other side of Harold with Mrs. Lopez and Ray.

The meal was excellent, just as you would expect and every one was having a good time but there was an underlying current of confusion and tension as we all waited for the other shoe to drop. When everyone was almost finished with dessert, the speeches began.

Mercifully they were short.

We were congratulated for our teamwork and it was announced that several people from our office were going to be assigned to visit other field offices to help train personnel in some of the process changes we had developed in San Miguel. We all cheered when it was announced that once again San Miguel had the highest profit margin and had moved from eleventh to ninth place for real dollars generated during the last fiscal year.

Then John Gordon stood up and walked to the podium. Gordon had been appointed CEO of the company several years before and was now living in New York. Everyone immediately fell silent. We knew that we were about to be told what this was all bout.

Gordon looked at the managers table for a moment and then turned to address the rest of the employees.

“I want to add my congratulations for another stellar year by this office. Although it amazes me how you continue do this year after year when someone like Harold Peterson is in charge. Just think what you could accomplish if you had someone who actually knew what they were doing.”

There was an audible gasp from everyone in the room.

“Harold Peterson has been a dead weight on this company since the day he was hired. I’m surprised that he’s lasted as long as he has. We will be making some changes around here and get this place producing like it really should.”

Harold stood up and threw his napkin on to his plate and stormed over to where Gordon was standing.

“Listen you jackass, I’ve taken all the crap I’m going to take from you.”

The veins on the side of Harold’s neck were standing out.

“I haven’t even begun to hand out the crap…and you’re going to go back and sit down just like the sissy you always have been,” Gordon yelled back.

Everyone on the room was paralyzed in shock at what they were witnessing.

“I’ve had to carry you’re ass on my back and fix every screw up you made since the day we met and I’m not going to do it anymore,” Harold thundered.

“The only mistake I ever made was letting you be my roommate in college…and believe me when I say that I’ve regretted it ever since,” Gordon bellowed.

Everyone sat immobilized in fear except for Mom. She was calmly leaning slightly forward with her elbows on the table and her chin resting in her hands. She had a look on her face that suggested that she was slightly amused by this whole episode.

“You know what? You and this company can take this office and shove it up your collective asses.”

Harold pulled something out of his pocket then turned and tossed it in my direction. It landed with a thud on the table in front of me. I looked down to see Harold’s office keys.

“I’ve had it with this chicken shit outfit. O’Conner, it’s your problem now, I’m out of here.”

“That’s right Peterson, you always were a quitter.”

Harold spun around to face Gordon and they stood nose to nose. With a roar the two men lunged at each other. Ray and I both stood up ready pull them apart before they killed each other, and then stopped.

They weren’t wrestling; they were hugging and slapping each other on the back. When they broke apart and turned to face the room they were laughing and had tears in their eyes. Everyone except Mom sat in absolute bewilderment about what they had just witnessed.

After they had caught their breath, John Gordon wiped the tears from his eyes and began to speak, his arm around Harold’s shoulder.

“I apologize for that little charade, but the timing was too good to pass up. I have known Harold Peterson for over forty-five years and I consider it a privilege and an honor to call him my friend. You don’t know what true friendship is until you experience Harold in your life.”

Gordon paused to allow everyone time to relax back in their chairs.

“I came here today to make two announcements.”

Gordon now had everyone’s undivided attention.

“First; I am here to announce that after forty-one years, as of eight o’clock this morning, Harold Peterson has officially retired from Willis, Goldman & Reed…”

There were more gasps and a few soft cries of “oh my God.”

“…and I am extremely jealous. Secondly; I am pleased to introduce the newest vice-president of Willis, Goldman & Reed and the new head of the San Miguel field office…Mr. Robert O’Conner.”

It took a moment for what Gordon had said to sink in and then the applause began. I was too stunned to react. Colleen threw her arms around me and Mom reached over and squeezed my hand. I stood up and waved my hand as a sign of acknowledgment. I opened my mouth to say something but no sound came out so I sat back down.

Harold and Gordon were still standing at the podium, still smiling as people began to settle back once more in their chairs. Gordon rapped his knuckles on the podium to get everyone’s attention and then spoke once more.

“This morning I asked Harold if he wanted to say a few farewell words to all of you. Good manners prevent me from repeating what he said. Mr. O’Conner’s first official act as vice president is to give everyone administrative time off for the remainder of the day in celebration of the changes here in San Miguel and as CEO of this corporation I enthusiastically support that decision. And that ladies and gentleman concludes the annual review of the San Miguel field office.”

I sat in my chair completely stunned. Colleen couldn’t stop hugging me and people were streaming by with congratulations. I turned to talk to Mom but she wasn’t there anymore. I looked around and finally spotted her. A group of people had gathered around Harold, and Mom was standing next to him wearing that contented half smile that the O’Conner women have.

Colleen and I started to make our way over to Harold and Mom, but we were constantly being stopped and congratulated with a handshake or a slap on the back from all the men and a quick peck on the cheek from all the women. Colleen was next to me with her arm around my waist smiling from ear to ear.

By the time we got to the other side of the room the crowd around Harold had thinned and we stopped in front of Harold and Mom. Mom still had that small, amused smile and spoke before we had a chance to.

“Harold was just telling me about this fantasy he has. He thinks that since we’re both retired he’s going to teach me to play golf. I told him that he’s delusional but medication and a good therapist could take care that.”

Colleen laughed, “That’s not a good idea Harold. Dad tried that once and trust me, you wouldn’t be happy with the experience.”

We all laughed and I asked Harold, “Why didn’t you tell anyone you were going to retire?”

“I didn’t want anyone to make a big deal out it.”

Harold gestured out towards the now almost empty banquet room.

“This was bad enough but John insisted on doing it. Sometimes it’s just easier to humor him.”

This was typical Harold Peterson but as he said it his face was beaming.

At that moment John Gordon and a couple the New York folks walked up us.

“Robert, could I speak to you and Colleen for a moment.”

“Of course Mr. Gordon…”

Before I could continue, Gordon laid his hand on my shoulder and interrupted me.

“Robert, if you want to keep your new position, the first thing you have to remember is to never call me Mr. Gordon. My name is John. John, never Jack…I hate that name.”

“Ok…John…I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for me. I will do my best to not disappoint you.”

“I know you won’t; you’ve been trained by the best man there is. What I wanted to tell you is that next month you and Colleen are coming to New York for a week. There is a ton of things that have to be taken care of before this transition can be completed.”

“But why am I coming to New York?” Colleen asked.

“It’s company policy, spouses always travel with our executives.” Gordon’s eyes almost twinkled when he added, “Plus my wife Diane wants to meet you, we’ve heard quite a bit about you.”

This last statement left Colleen and I with more questions than answers.

“Anyway Robert, I’ll just say congratulations once again and be on my way. I promised to have dinner with the Lopez’s and then I fly back to New York late tonight. I’ll see you in two weeks.”

As Gordon walked out of the room it slowly registered that he had said “see you in two weeks,” not next month.

Colleen and I turned around to talk to Mom and Harold but they were gone. There were only a few people in the room besides the hotel staff that was starting to clean up. We went out to the lobby and looked around but couldn’t find either Mom or Harold.

I walked Colleen out to the parking lot to her car. Mom’s car was still parked in the space next to Colleen’s and I saw Harold’s car three spaces down from Mom’s. I turned to look around but Colleen and I were the only people in the parking lot.

“Where could Mom and Harold have gone off to?”

Colleen gave me a quick kiss on the lips and then said as she got into her car, “I don’t know sweetheart but I’m going to go home…” She was smiling as she added, “…and I think it could work out nicely for both of us if you follow me.”

I raced to my car and was behind her by the time she was ready to pull out onto the street. When we got home we made love very slowly in the middle of the afternoon and then had to scramble to get dressed before the kids got home from school. Once everyone was home, we told the kids about my promotion. Everyone was excited and there was a mass of confusion as we discussed where we would go to dinner to celebrate when the doorbell rang.

After opening the door I was surprised to see Mike and Sharon, and Jimmy and Mi Lin.

“Hey guys, come on in. What’s up?”

“We were hoping that you could tell us.”

“What do you mean?”

Mike and Jimmy looked at each other then back at Colleen and I. It was Jimmy who spoke.

“Mom called us last night and told us to be here exactly at 5:30 dressed for dinner or there would be hell to pay.”

Everything about this day was confusing.

We were all standing in the livingroom. Colleen and I had begun to tell the twins about my promotion when the doorbell rang a second time. After everything that had happened today I wasn’t all that surprised to see Mom on our porch, but I had no idea why Harold was standing there with her. I was caught off guard so I didn’t even say hello, just stepped aside and let them walk into the house.

It was one of those awkward moments when no one knows what is going on or what to say. We were all standing in a large circle staring at each other, no one talking. Mom was standing with her hands lightly clasped in front of her with her half smile. Harold stood next to her with his hands in his pockets slowly rocking back and forth on his heels, head down studying something on the floor in front of his shoes, not looking at anyone in the group. The rest of us were looking at each other trying to figure out what was going on.

This was getting weirder by the moment.

Gradually our collective attention drifted to Mom and Harold. Suddenly Sharon and Mi Lin gasped and Colleen exclaimed, “MOM! You didn’t…no…yes…yes you did, didn’t you?”

Mom didn’t answer, she just continued to smile.

Sharon and Mi Lin’s eyes were bugging out and their hands were clapped against their mouths. Colleen’s eyes were large circles and her jaw was hanging down in shock.

The twins and I were totally mystified about what was happening.

“What? What did Mom do?”

Colleen turned to look at the twins and then me before she answered.

“Our mother just had sex.”

The blood was draining from Mike and Jimmy’s faces and I was beginning to get light headed.

Mother just looked at us with her smile for a split second before she spoke.

“That’s correct dear. Harold and I spent the afternoon in a room at the Sheraton.”

I was starting to see spots swimming in front of my eyes. Mom and Harold?

Mike’s lips were moving but no sound was coming out. Jimmy was staring at Mom and Harold but the expression on his face indicated that all of his neural systems were beginning to shut down.

Harold is definitely one of the good guys…but Harold and my Mother? I thought my head was going to explode.

Suddenly the light bulb went on for me.

“Harold, you said that you went to Canada on your vacation. Does that mean you were on the same cruise ship as Mom?”

“Yes Robert, I was on the same ship as your mother.”

It seemed bizarre to see Harold smiling so much.

Then Mom spoke.

“As a matter of fact, Harold and I were in the same cabin.”

Mike was gasping for air when he croaked, “Please tell me there were two beds in the cabin.”

Mom was smiling broadly when she answered.

“No dear, there was only one bed in the cabin.”

Jimmy placed both of his hands on the side of his head and sank down on to the sofa, softly moaning. It was then that I noticed that Mom and Harold were standing very close to each other holding hands. I was struggling to cope with the fact that everything I knew about the natural order of the universe up to this point in my life had suddenly taken a sharp left hand turn.

Colleen’s eyes began blinking in rapid succession. I had seen this before when she was processing some new information. I could see the gears turning in her head and she asked, “So all those mornings that you came to have breakfast…”

Harold was still smiling when he said, “Your mother spent the night at my condo.”

Everyone was quiet as we stared at Mom and Harold. Finally Mi Lin asked the question that was hanging out there in the air in front of us but no one was brave enough to ask.

“How long have you guys been…uh…you know…umm…?”

Her question faded off into an embarrassed silence.

Mom and Harold smiled at each other then Mom answered.

“A little over two years.”

None of us were emotionally equipped to handle this bombshell.

At some point each of us opened our mouths to say something, but nothing would come out. Slowly we became aware that Christopher was standing in front of Harold. With the innocent curiosity that only an eight year old can express he asked, “Uncle Harold, do you love my grandmother?”

Harold quietly and seriously answered, “Yes Chris, I love her very much.”

Christopher wrinkled his forehead in thought then asked his next question.

“Does that mean we should call you grandpa from now on?”

Harold slowly smiled and looked at Mom. Mom bent over and kissed Christopher on the top of his head. She gestured to the gang of four to come and join Christopher in front of her.

“Kids, I think that it would be appropriate for you to call him Grandpa, after all we are getting married.”

Please dear God, make the surprises stop.

The kids broke out in grins and began to hug Harold as a group.

Mom spoke again. “Kids, would you mind giving the grown-ups a little time so that we can finish talking?”

One more hug for Harold and Mom then the kids left the room. Everyone was staring at me and waiting. Somehow I had ended up being the designated spokesman for the group.

“Married?”

“Yes Robert…”

That was as far as Harold got before I interrupted him.

“For God’s sake Harold, if you’re going to sleep with my mother, the very least you could do is have the decency to call me Bobby.”

It took a second for Harold to fully comprehend what I had just said. My family was the only ones who called me Bobby. I was beginning to like this new Harold, the one that smiled all the time.

“Yes…Bobby…I asked Margaret to marry me and she said yes. We’re getting married two weeks from tomorrow.”

So that was what Gordon had meant by “see you in two weeks.”

“Harold, if you love my mother, why did you hide it for two years?”

“Oh, I’ve loved Margaret much longer than that. I fell in love with her the day I met her at your wedding.”

Mom turned her head and looked at Harold. Now it was mom’s turn to look surprised.

“Why didn’t you say anything to me sooner?”

Harold’s natural bluster was gone and in its place was a different Harold. Someone who was shy and uncertain when he said, “I didn’t think you would be interested in someone like me.”

Mom hugged Harold and kissed him gently on his cheek. She softly told him, barely loud enough for the rest of us hear, “Well, you were wrong.”

Harold and Mom stood holding hands looking at each other for a minute before Harold turned to face the rest of us and continue his story.

“Two years ago I was in Santa Teresa one Saturday. I finished what I was there for and didn’t feel like eating lunch alone so I took a chance and called your mother. I can’t tell you how surprised …and happy I was when she said yes.”

“But why did you hide it from us for so long?” Sharon asked.

“We had to. Six months after Bobby came here from Chicago it was obvious to everyone that he would be my replacement; it was only a question of when. If word had gotten around in the company that I was in love with his mother, it would have had the odor of nepotism and probably pulled the plug on any chance of his promotion. We did it to protect Bobby’s career. John Gordon was the only person who knew.”

Harold paused for a second and his eyes were moist when he spoke again.

“We want you to remember that your mother still deeply loves your father and I will always love and miss Caroline. But today, I can’t imagine my life without Margaret.”

Mom smiled and kissed Harold’s cheek again and said to us, “Harold is the only person I know who can measure up to the standard that your father set. I love this man very much, but no matter how much I love him…”

Mom’s smile moved into a full blown grin.

“…I will never, ever play golf so don’t even ask.”

This last statement was directed to Mike and Jimmy.

Harold insisted that the only thing that could complete the day for Mom and him would be to take all of us out to dinner. By this time Meghan and Molly were old enough to baby-sit so we ordered a combination of pizza and Chinese food to be delivered for the kid’s dinner. While at the restaurant we were able to see with our own eyes the love and affection that Mom and Harold had for each other. It was a good thing that Mom is left handed because she and Harold held hands all the way through dinner.

Later, after Mike and Sharon, and Jimmy and Mi Lin had left to return to Santa Teresa, Harold and Mom stayed at our house for a cup of coffee before going to Harold’s condo for the night. Colleen and Mom were having a deep discussion about the details to have a wedding two weeks from now when Harold and I wandered out on to the back deck. We spent several minutes sitting just enjoying the quiet and stillness of the night.

“Bobby, I wanted to let you know that I know about you and Colleen’s…shall we say unique situation. I can’t say that I completely understand it, but I look at you and Colleen and I can see how much you love each other so it’s very easy for me to accept. The look that I see in your eyes every time Colleen walks into the room is exactly the same way I feel about your mother. You and Colleen are special to me and I will never say anything to anyone about it.”

“Did Mom tell you?”

“Oh no, she’s never said anything about that, only how much she loves her children. I don’t think she is even aware of the fact that I know. I figured it out not too long after Brigid was born. It was the little things, a few comments Mike and Jimmy made to each other on the golf course and I finally put it all together. I don’t know if you fully understand just how much your brothers love you and Colleen. I feel very lucky to be marring into a family that actually likes each other.”

The next morning Mike and Jimmy were back with one of the large trucks from Mike’s company and with Ray Lopez’s help, we moved Harold out of his condo and into Mom’s house in Santa Teresa. At first I was afraid that it would be strange to have Harold living in the house where we all grew up, but when we saw Mom’s beaming face, we knew it was the right thing.

Mom and Harold asked Colleen and I if they could have the wedding in our back yard. We were happy to do that for them but we had to ask why here and not in Santa Teresa? Harold simply said, “Because that’s where I met Margaret.”

Several months after the wedding, Colleen announced that she had a major project she had to complete. For the first time ever she would not allow any of us to see what it was. When she was working she kept the door to her studio closed and when she finished for the day she locked the door behind her. When I asked her about what she was doing she would only say, “You can see when it’s done.”

What ever the project was it must have been large because it seemed like she worked on it forever.

Mom and Harold were going to celebrate their first wedding anniversary with a family barbecue in their backyard. As we were getting ready to go to Santa Teresa, Colleen said. “I have a present for Mom and Harold, could you put it in the car please?”

There was large package wrapped in brown paper on the floor leaning against the wall in the hallway. When I picked it up I found that it was not heavy at all, just bulky.

It was one of those perfect afternoons. The weather was perfect. The food was perfect. The company was perfect. The kids were perfect. The family stories everyone was retelling for the hundredth time were perfect. Perfect, Perfect, perfect. One of those magical days that a family will remember forever.

We were sitting around the dining table finishing dessert and coffee when Colleen leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Go get the present out of the car and put it in the livingroom.”

Colleen was waiting for me in the livingroom when I brought the package in. She pointed to where I should set it down and said, “Go back in the dinning room and don’t let anyone come in here.”

As I walked back into the dinning room, everyone was laughing and talking over each other and Mom looked at me with a questioning expression. All I could do was shrug my shoulders. I could hear Colleen tearing off the brown paper and then the sounds of her moving things around.

After a few moments of this Colleen was standing in the doorway. She looked a little nervous as she said, “I’m sorry to interrupt but Mom, Harold, would you mind stepping into the livingroom for a minute?”

We all stood to follow Mom and Harold but Colleen raised her hands to stop us and said, “Just them for a minute.”

Colleen’s nervousness seemed to grow as Mom and Harold walked past her and into the other room. Seconds after they entered the room we could hear Mom gasp. Moments later Mom came out of the room followed by Harold. Mom was crying when she threw her arms around Colleen and said, “Thank you so much dear. It’s so …” Her voice just faded off into nothing.

Harold had a tear running down the side of his face and he was struggling to control his voice when he said, “I don’t know what to say. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” He looked over at me and asked, “Did you know about this?”

“No. What is it?”

With the tear tack still visible on his face, Harold was smiling broadly when he gestured for us to follow him into the other room. He and Mom went to stand together beside the fireplace and we could see why they were both so emotional.

We were stunned.

Placed on the mantle, leaning against the wall were three canvases about 18 inches by 24 inches that Colleen had painted. Two of the paintings I recognized immediately. The one on the left was a copy of a photograph, a studio portrait that Mom and Dad had taken a couple of years before Dad passed away. The twins and Colleen and I had a copy of the same photograph in a rosewood frame resting on each of our own mantles.

The painting on the right was a copy of a photograph that I had seen a thousand times. It was the portrait of Harold and his wife Caroline taken over thirty years before and had sat on the corner of Harold’s desk for as long as I had known him.

The painting in the middle was the surprise. It was of Mom and Harold. They had not yet had any portraits taken of them so Colleen had painted them out of her own imagination and memory. Instead of looking out at the viewer, Colleen had painted Mom and Harold looking at each other. Mom had that contented O’Conner half smile. It was the same smile that I was now starting to see every day on each of my daughters. Harold’s face had that ear to ear grin that he had worn ever since the day he married Mom.

Each portrait had been painted in excruciating, realistic detail but that was not what was so breathtaking.

In each portrait Colleen had captured in the eyes, the evidence of the deep love that each person felt for each other. We had obviously never meet Caroline, but the expression that Colleen had captured in her face and Harold’s face left no doubt about their love. To once again see our father and mother looking at each other with so much love, to one more time feel the happiness they gave to each other was a moment of joy.

But it was the portrait of Mom and Harold that was overwhelming. What Colleen had done was to tell the story of the love between these two wonderful people.

I was never more proud or in awe of my sister as I was at that moment.

One by one the kids began to grow up and go away to college. Colleen, the twins and I had all graduated from the University of California, Santa Teresa so it was only natural that all twelve of Mom’s grandkids attend there themselves. None of them were forced to go there, or even encouraged. They chose the school on their own because it is one of the best in the nation and it is an O’Conner family tradition.

The summer between Christopher’s junior and senior year of high school, Mike got a contract to build a small office building in San Miguel. So Chris went to work for his Uncle Mike in hopes of saving enough money to buy a car when he went off to college himself. This was the summer that Christopher found his calling.

Mike made sure the crew knew that Christopher was his nephew. He also made sure they understood that they were not to go easy on him and I suspect that the crew worked him twice as hard as everyone else. The foreman took him under his wing and even as he had Chris doing the dirtiest jobs, he and the other members of the crew were patient and began teaching Chris everything they knew about construction. By the end of the summer, Christopher had matured both physically and emotionally to the point that we hardly recognized him.

At the end of the summer when Christopher started his senior year of high school he knew what he had to do to get into the engineering department at UCST. He approached everything he did at school with a focus that we had never seen in him before. He had always been a good student; in fact all of his sisters had been too, each one of them the valedictorian of their graduating class, but now the intensity of his studying was going to push him past the mark that his sisters had set.

It was the spring of Christopher’s senior year and he was the only one of the kids left in the house full time. Frank and Linda and their son Keith, Chris’s buddy, were all over for a Saturday afternoon barbeque. We were sitting on the back deck relaxing when Linda asked the boys if everything was set for the senior prom the next week. They were quiet for a moment then Keith said, “We decided not to go to the prom.”

“Why not?”

Chris shrugged his shoulders and answered, “Can’t find anybody to go with.”

Frank laughed, “You two can’t find anyone? You guys have girls following you around all day long. What gives?”

Keith smiled, “It’s not a question of getting someone to go with us. We want to go with someone special.”

“This is a pretty big deal and if we went, we want it to be with someone we’ll actually want to talk to the day after it’s over. It’s just not worth the effort if we can’t find someone like that and right now we don’t see anyone out there that fits the bill,” Chris added.

Colleen spoke up. “You should go; these are the kind of things you’ll remember for the rest of your lives.”

Both boys just shrugged their shoulders and were quiet for a moment then Christopher spoke.

“Yeah, I know, but most of the people are going to be spending a gazillion dollars just to get drunk afterwards and then try to have sex in the back a rented limo. That’s not what we’re interested in.”

I could see Colleen’s eyes blinking as she began to think. Chris and Keith stood up and Chris said, “We’ve got to get going, we need to pickup Jerry pretty soon if we’re going to get to the movie before it starts.”

As they took a step towards the door Colleen held up her hand in a signal for them to stop.

“You boys stay right there. Linda, can I talk to you inside for a minuet?”

“Mom, we really need to get going, we’re going to be late.”

Colleen got that look in here eyes and pointed at the chairs they had just vacated.

“Sit.”

Colleen and Linda walked into the kitchen and we watched them through the window. We couldn’t hear what Colleen was saying but we could see the expression on Linda’s face. At first it was one of surprised interest and then she broke out into a huge smile. Colleen picked up the phone and began dialing as Linda came back outside.

“Can we go now?” Keith asked.

“No, just wait. We’ll tell you when it’s time to go.”

“But Mom, we’re late already. Dad…”

Frank held up his hands in defense.

“Son, it’s time you learned that when the women in your life tell you to do something, life is a lot simpler if you just do it in the first place.”

Linda leaned over and kissed Frank on the cheek. “I was so proud of you when you finally figured that out dear.”

Frank kissed Linda back then looked at the boys. “And it’s a lot less painful too.”

Ten minutes later Colleen came back outside and looked towards Linda. “Everything is all set. Bobby, tomorrow you and Frank take these two out and get some tuxedos; they are going to the prom.”

“But Mom, we don’t have dates. Keith is a nice guy and all but I’m not going to hold his hand and get a prom photo taken with him.”

We laughed at this then Colleen said, “Don’t worry about it, your dates have already agreed to go with you.”

“Who is it?”

“That, dear son, will be your prom surprise.”

Keith was grinning. “Cool, mystery dates…this might turn out ok.”

The next day after church, Frank and I took the boys to the mall to rent tuxedos. Christopher and Keith were both very mature for their age but when they get together they turn into a couple of ten year old goofballs. Frank and I both said an emphatic “NO” when they tried to rent powder blue tuxes with the peach color ruffled shirt and white patented leather shoes.

The prom was that Friday night. Christopher and I were sent next door where Frank and I were under very detailed instructions to make sure the boys were dressed and presentable, and bring them back at our house by 6:30 to meet their mystery dates. Linda had already gone over to help Colleen get the girls ready.

We were standing in the living room making small talk with Chris and Keith getting more nervous by the second when I heard Linda’s voice say. “Keith, it’s time to meet your date.” At that same moment I saw Keith’s face explode with happiness and a smile. I turned to look and there standing next to Linda was my daughter Brigid.

Keith had a grin on his face as he walked over and his hands were shaking as he presented her with a corsage. His smile was getting bigger by the second as he looked first at Chris and then me. He only spoke two words, “Someone special.”

Christopher had the palm of his hand pressed against his forehead and was moaning, “Please dear God, tell me I’m not taking Noelle to the prom.”

I heard footsteps in the hallway then saw Christopher’s eyes widen and a tiny smile creep into the corner of his lips. I looked over my shoulder and standing next to Colleen was Christopher’s date for the prom, his best friend.

Patricia.

I looked back to Christopher to see that he had changed. Instead of the goofy fidgeting teenage boy here was a calm, confident adult who was prepared to take on the world. There was a light in Chris’ eyes that I can’t begin to describe, this was a man who knew that his dream was about to become reality. There was a serenity that seemed to flow out of him and enveloped all of us in the room. I turned around to look at Patricia again only this time I saw her through Christopher’s eyes.

She was a Viking goddess.

Patricia had inherited almost all of her mother Sharon’s Norwegian genes. She was six feet tall and wearing her low heels put her eye to eye level with Christopher. Her hair is the color of honey and falls to the middle of her back. Tonight it was loose instead of her usual pony tail. Her eyes are almost violet in color and were now sparkling as she looked at Chris. Patricia is not a slender woman but no one would ever consider of her fat. Her curves make you think of the pinup girls of World War II.

Christopher never took his eyes off of Patricia as he walked over to give her the corsage. It was a small flower on a wrist band and after he slid it on he lightly kissed the back of her hand. He leaned forward and put his lips next to her ears. I was the only one close enough to hear him whisper, “I’m glad it’s you.”

Christopher and Patricia suddenly realized that they weren’t the only people in the room. Chris had a slightly embarrassed look as he asked, “I completely forgot…Dad, is it ok if I borrow your car tonight?”

Patricia took a hold of Chris’ hand and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. “Don’t worry; transportation is all part of the package. C’mon Brigid, let’s show the guys what we’re taking.”

Chris and Keith had confused looks as their smiling dates pulled them out the front door. The rest of us followed and the small crowd stood on the front porch looking towards the street. There parked at the curb was Mike’s band new silver Mercedes Benz.

The Mercedes was Mike’s pride and joy. He was fanatical about the car; he valued it second in his life right after his family and just ahead of his business. Colleen and I were surprised that he had let Patricia take it for the weekend. It was later the next week that Sharon told us she and Patricia had worked on Mike for three solid days before he collapsed from the pressure and allowed his daughter to take the car.

We used a whole roll of film taking pictures of the two couples and as Colleen was reloading the camera, Christopher spoke up.

“Mom…enough…we need to go.”

The two couples went down the porch steps and when they reached the car, Patricia gave her best friend Christopher a hug and handed him the keys as she slipped into the passenger’s seat. He was grinning from ear to ear when he slid behind the wheel. He leaned over and kissed Patricia on the cheek and started the car; in the backseat, Brigid was leaning against Keith who had his arm around her shoulders. As they pulled away from the curb to go to the prom, the only words to describe to the expression on Keith and Christopher’s faces was “idiot grin.”

Patricia and Brigid looked pretty happy also.

We watched them move down the street and I asked Colleen, “are you sure this is the right thing for them to do?”

Colleen gave me the smile that always melts my heart then slid her arm around my waist and said, “Yes Bobby, this is exactly the right thing for them…all of them.”

Later that night after Colleen and I had gone to bed, I was awoken by a noise in another part of the house. As I got out of bed I looked at the clock and saw that it was 12:30. I walked down the hall toward the light that was coming from the kitchen then stopped at the doorway and peeked in.

The four kids were sitting at the kitchen table in their prom dresses and tuxedos. The table was strewn with sodas and chips and they were engrossed in playing our battered copy of the board game “Chutes and Ladders” that someone had dug out. They were using it as an excuse to talk and laugh and I suspect they were having more fun here in our kitchen than they did at the prom. Chris was seated on the same side of the table as Patricia and I could see them holding hands under the table.

I started to stick my head in and say hello but thought better of it and went back to bed without disturbing their fun.

The next morning Colleen and I were in the hall headed to the kitchen when we passed Chris’s bedroom. His door was partially open and we looked in to check on him. He was lying face down with one leg sticking out from under the covers and his arm hanging limp off the side of the bed. Colleen smiled then turned to the door across the hall. She opened it and we looked in. Brigid was in her bed and Patricia was sleeping in Molly’s bed. The contrast between the two rooms couldn’t have been any greater. Christopher’s room looked as if a small piece of military ordinance had been detonated in his bed. Brigid and Patricia’s beds looked liked the sheets had just come back from the laundry, freshly starched and pressed.

When Colleen went into the kitchen to start the coffee, I went into the livingroom. An unconscious Keith was sprawled on the couch, covered in a blanket, his tuxedo crumpled on the floor.

For the rest of the weekend the four of them were inseparable. Colleen helped Brigid and Patricia pack a big lunch for a picnic out by the river. Christopher and Patricia stayed next to one another the entire day, so close that daylight could not pass between them, never letting go of each other’s hand. Brigid and Keith showed no signs they would even consider being separated from each other for longer than five minutes.

Late in the afternoon, Colleen fixed a pot of tea and she and I took our cups out onto the back deck to relax. Keith had recently learned to juggle and was standing at the bottom of the steps entertaining the rest of them. Brigid was sitting at the bottom giving him words of encouragement and laughing at the jokes he made as he dropped the red rubber balls every thirty seconds. Christopher and Patricia were sitting on the top step, her arm hooked through his, watching but not commenting.

There is one genetic trait that is visible in all of the O’Conner women. It is obviously embedded in the X chromosome because it shows up in Mom and her daughter and all eleven of her granddaughters.

It is the smile.

It would be more accurate to classify it as a half smile, pushed slightly to the left side of the face. Even though it is barely discernible to the eye, the contentment that flows out of it can be felt on the other side of the river.

This was the smile that was on Patricia’s face as she rested her head on Christopher’s shoulder.

The next day after church, Brigid and Patricia had to return to Santa Teresa and start their final push to finish the semester at UCST. Frank and Linda, and Colleen and I were standing on the front porch and made our good byes to the girls then Chris and Keith walked the girls down to the sidewalk. We couldn’t hear what they were saying but this good bye was taking much longer than ours.

Finally they couldn’t put it off any longer. Chris gave his sister a quick hug and said something that made her laugh. And then Patricia…

Christopher and Patricia held on to each other with an intensity and desperation that was difficult to describe but was very plain to see. The kiss was long and slow and you could see that they didn’t want to let go.

There was one last wave good bye and the car pulled away from the curb. Chris and Keith stood and watched the car as it rolled down the street. You could visibly see their bodies slowly slump as the fact that the girls were leaving began to sink in. They stood watching long after the car had turned the corner and was no longer in sight.

They turned and looked at each other, both at a loss for words. Finally Keith spoke.

“Hey, I have to take the car to school in the morning. I can give you a ride if you think you can drag your ass out the door by 7:30.”

“Sounds good, I’ll see you in the morning.”

Keith turned and walked back to his house. Chris walked into our house and I doubt that he even knew we were standing there as he went past. He spent the rest of the day in his room with the door closed, only coming out for dinner.

On the second Friday in September that year we loaded everything that he needed into Colleen’s minivan and moved Christopher into the dorm room that he would be sharing with his buddy Keith the day before freshman orientation at UC Santa Teresa. Once that was done, Chris was very patient with his mother but was giving visual cues that it was time for his parents to head for the door so that he could get on with the business of starting college.

I had taken the following week off and we planned to casually drive up the coast toward San Francisco, stopping when we got tired and have a quiet non structured vacation. But first we stopped and had lunch with Mom and Harold before going back home to pack. Just as we were finishing up, Mom looked at us with a thoughtful expression.

“Now that Christopher is out of the house, will you two be able stand all that quietness?”

Slowly the impact of what Mom had just said began to dawn on me. It had been twenty-one years since I first came to San Miguel and moved in with Colleen and the girls. In all of that time Colleen and I had never experienced a time where she and I were alone for any extended period of time. Now for the first time in our lives we had the opportunity to be alone, to focus on just ourselves and not anyone else. No more driving the taxi to soccer practice or cello lessons…just Colleen and I…alone…together.

I was contemplating this thought, causing my heart rate to go up when Colleen snapped her fingers in front of my face to get my attention.

“Bobby, we need to get going, there’s a lot stuff we need to take care of this afternoon.”

I was glad Colleen had been able to cut the lunch short and graciously get us on the road to San Miguel. As we pulled away from Mom’s house I asked Colleen, “Exactly what is it we have to do this afternoon?”

Colleen’s brown eyes were shining and the grin was spread across her face as she leaned over and whispered in my ear.

“You, dear husband, are going to get into my panties.”

We were half a block from the house when Colleen reached up under her skirt and began wiggling her hips as she worked her panties down her legs. She pulled them off of her feet and left them lying on the floorboard as the car came to a stop in the driveway, tires squealing and brakes screeching. Throwing the doors open we got out of the car and she said. “Jesus Bobby, we could have been here a lot sooner if you didn’t drive like an old lady.”

Under normal conditions, the drive time from Mom’s house to our house is one hour and five minutes.

Today I had done it in forty-six minutes.

We held hands as we raced up the steps to the front door. Colleen was grabbing at my belt as I fumbled around trying to get my key into the lock. When I finally got the door open, Colleen pulled me inside by the waist band of my pants as I kicked the door closed behind me. She was frantically shoving my pants down my legs as she went over backwards, pulling me on top of her.

My cock was buried to the hilt in Colleen’s cunt before her ass hit the floor.

Ten minutes later we were both screaming “OH FUCK OH GOD SWEET JESUS YES!” as we exploded in orgasm.

I will admit, and proudly so, that we went just a little bit crazy. We were alone and didn’t have to worry about anyone hearing us scream or grunt in ecstasy. Over the course of the next four days we went at each other like a couple of demented rabbits. We didn’t put any clothes on until I went back to work the following Monday. Luckily we had food in the house and didn’t need to go out.

We fucked.

There is no polite way to say it.

We fucked.

We fucked all over the house.

We fucked in every room of the house, all of the rooms more than twice including the laundry room, the kitchen pantry, and most of the closets. Down and dirty, nasty, screaming, grunting, sweaty, belly slapping against belly fucking. After it got dark on Tuesday night, I grabbed Colleen by the wrist and pulled her out the backdoor.

“Where are we going?”

“The garage, it’s the only place where we haven’t done it yet.”

“Ok, but hurry up before Linda turns on the porch light.”

We were buck naked, holding hands as we raced across the backyard headed to the side door of the garage. Once we were finished in the garage, we raced back into the house and collapsed on the bed in exhaustion. We were both unconscious for eighteen hours before we woke up. For the rest of the week it was nothing but sweet, gentle, softly making love. Always caressing, always touching.

We never did make it to San Francisco that week.

There was one thing that had worried us over the years. We knew at some point, the kids would learn that Colleen and I were brother and sister. But to protect them we wanted to control the time and circumstances of when they were told. Because of the age gap between Meghan and Molly and then Noelle, Brigid and Chris, we decided to do it in two phases after they were in college.

The first phase was in the fall after Molly started her freshman year of college. Mom helped us by having them to lunch at her house and then she and Harold withdrew to another room near by so that Colleen and I could talk to the girls in private. We were talking in circles around the fact when I finally got to the point and told them straight out that their parents were brother and sister. When I finished talking, Meghan and Molly sat impassively looking at us with that contented half smile on their faces.

Meghan’s smile got a little bit bigger when she said, “We already knew that. We wondered if you were ever going to talk to us about it.”

“How did you know?”

“Oh come on Dad. When you came here from Chicago, we were little kids, we weren’t idiots. Besides, Aunt Sharon and Aunt Mi Lin told us.”

“WHAT! When was this? Why did they do that?”

This time it was Molly who spoke.

“Right after I started high school. And they didn’t want to tell us, we kind of forced them to. We knew there was something about our parents that we didn’t understand so we just kept asking until they told us.”

“How did you feel after you found out?”

“Aunt Mi Lin helped us the most with that. She asked us two questions. Did we think you and mom loved us any less than someone else could because you were bother and sister? And did we love you guys any less now that we knew? The answer to both questions was no. No one could love us as much as you two and if it’s possible, we loved you even more.”

Everyone was quiet for a moment when Meghan asked, “When are you going to tell the others?”

Colleen answered, “We’ll wait until Chris is in college. We want them to be old enough to be able to cope with news like this.”

“When it’s time to do that, wait until Molly and I can be there. We want to help them understand.” She paused for a moment. “Hey, with news like this aren’t we supposed to get lemon meringue pie?”

Mom and Harold came back into the room to ask what we were laughing about.

Now that the other three were in college, it was time to talk to Noelle, Brigid and Christopher. Meghan and Molly came down for the weekend to be there when their brother and sisters would need them the most.

To say that they were stunned would be an understatement. The three of them sat, not moving, their eyes wide and mouths open. Meghan and Molly began talking to them telling them everything they knew, sharing how they felt and what everything meant to them in their lives. The three kept shifting their attention from Meghan and Molly to Colleen and I then back to their older sisters.

At last they were silent and Christopher realized the others were staring at him. He sat up straight and looked at the gang of four and said, “I’m sorry girls, it’s just not going to happen.”

It was Noelle who snorted, “You wished it would happen.”

Now that the bother and sister thing was out of the way, Colleen and I had to tell them the rest of the story. I think the three of them were more astounded to find out that I was not Meghan and Molly’s biological father than they were by the news about Colleen and I. The news that Colleen and I had both been married before sent all five of them reeling. Even Meghan and Molly didn’t know about Barbara and I told that story very quickly with out giving them any of the harsh facts. Without commenting, they sensed that it was a painful period in my life and didn’t press for any details.

The last part was telling them about Bill. Over the years Meghan and Molly had never asked about him and had forgotten that it was another man who had given them half of their DNA. Curiously it was Noelle and Brigid who asked all the questions for their older sisters, gently drawing out bits and pieces of information from Colleen and I to paint a picture of their father.

We told them how Bill was such a good friend to me, how much he and Colleen loved each other and how his death nearly destroyed Colleen.

The five of them were in a group hug when Chris looked at his sisters then his parents and with a soft smile said, “Good lord, what kind of family was I born into?”

Our children are normal every day, run of the mill kids, no different than most other kids. There were times when I felt that I could strangle them and no jury in the world would convict me. And then there are the times that they will commit an act of such rare beauty and sensitivity that it brings tears to our eyes at the memory of it.

Early the next morning after “the talk” Noelle, Brigid and Christopher left the house before Colleen and I came out of the bedroom. Meghan and Molly were up but had no idea where they had gone. We assumed they had gone off somewhere to be alone and talk things through for themselves.

The three of them came back right after lunch. They rushed into their rooms to change and get cleaned up. They were only at the house about ten minutes when they grabbed Meghan and Molly, loaded them into the car and took off again without telling us where they were going.

Several hours later they returned and Meghan and Molly came through the front door and rushed over with tears to hug Colleen and I. They were both so emotional that it took a lot for their mother and I to get the story out of them.

It was Christopher’s idea but Noelle and Brigid immediately jumped on board when he presented his plan. When they left the house that morning, they drove to the cemetery where Bill is buried. There was no one around so it took them a while to find his grave. Once they found it, they spent a long time cleaning up around it, pulling out the weeds the cemetery workers missed and trimming the grass away from the grave marker. In this cemetery there are no headstones, only rectangular bronze markers that lay flat on the ground. They went to a hardware store and came back with a can of Brasso and some rags. The three of them spent the next hour carefully cleaning and polishing the marker until it literally glowed in the sunlight.

When they were done, they came home to get Meghan and Molly and took them to the cemetery. The three had already bought flowers so the only thing that Meghan and Molly had to do was to place them in the container that was waiting by the marker for the man that had given them life. Noelle, Brigid and Christopher had done this out of love for their older sisters and to honor the memory of someone who meant so much to their parents.

During Christopher’s first semester at college, he started to struggle in his freshman English class. For our five kids, struggling meant that they were getting a B+ instead of an A. So Chris turned to the most logical place to get help.

Patricia had just gotten her teaching credential from UCST that spring and was starting her first year teaching English at a junior high. She had taken an apartment two blocks from Chris’s dorm so he began going to her for extra tutoring.

Mom and Harold, plus Mike and Jimmy all had our kids over for dinner at various times during the school year so they wouldn’t feel so isolated being away from home, even if it was only an hour away. It was Mike who told us about Patricia and Christopher spending most of their free time together and that she and Chris were practically joined at the hip.

As soon as Mike said this, alarm bells began ringing in my head.

I looked at Colleen but she only gave me that half smile and stroked the back of my hand as she whispered in my ear.

“Don’t worry Bobby, it’s the right thing.”

Christopher was getting his Bachelor of Science in structural engineering. Every waking moment was spent studying and the classes he had to take his last year were the most difficult of the degree program. Because he needed a more quite study environment than he could possibly get in the dorms, he looked for somewhere else to live. We were not at all surprised when he told us that Patricia had invited him to move into her apartment for his senior year. She had a spare bedroom and it was still close to campus and the library.

In late October of that year, Colleen greeted me at the door when I came home from the office. She does this every day but there was something different about the way she hugged and held me before taking me by the hand into the livingroom.

“Christopher called me this afternoon to tell me that he’s coming home tonight.”

There was nothing unusual about this except none of the kids ever called to tell us, they simply showed up, spent the weekend and went back to school. Then Colleen continued.

“Patricia is coming with him.”

“Oh?”

“She said that she hadn’t seen Uncle Bobby and Aunt Colleen for a long time and wanted to come visit.” She saw the expression on my face and said, “It’s ok Bobby, I think it’s time.”

I didn’t ask her to explain that last statement. This was making me apprehensive but Colleen was smiling.

“Are they going to be here for dinner?”

“No, he said they had to take care of something in Santa Teresa this evening and would be here late tonight.”

Christopher and Patricia didn’t walk through the door until almost 11:30 that night. They both looked exhausted so we didn’t try to keep them up. Colleen hugged them both and said, “Patricia you can stay in Brigid’s room. Let’s all go to bed and we can talk in the morning.”

I closed up the house and turned off all the lights for the night before heading to the bedroom myself. As I walked down the hall I noted that the door to both Chris’s room and Brigid’s bedroom were firmly closed.

I was lying on top of Colleen after we finished making love when Colleen whispered, “Quiet…listen.”

I didn’t move and could faintly hear footsteps in the hallway and a hushed voice say, “Sh-sh-sh…” followed by a door being closed as quietly as possible.

I looked Colleen in the face and saw her half smile. She wrapped her thighs around my hips and pulled my head down until my ear lay next to her lips.”

“Bobby, I need you to make love to me again…”

I was happy to oblige her request.

The next morning Colleen and I stood in the hallway and looked at both doors. They were closed tightly so we shrugged our shoulders and went into the kitchen to start breakfast. Colleen was just taking a coffee cake out of the oven when Chris stumbled in. He staggered over to the counter and poured himself a cup of coffee then kissed his mother on the top of her head and sat down at the kitchen table.

Just as Chris was sitting down, Patricia walked in. She was wearing a pair of flannel boxers with the logo of Christopher’s high school and one of his t-shirts.

“Morning Uncle Bobby.”

She gave me a quick hug and then one to Colleen before getting her own cup of coffee and sat down next to Chris. It was clear that the two of them were still tired and sleepy so the conversation at breakfast was sparse and limited to one or two word answers from their side of the table.

After we had finished eating Colleen cleared the plates from the table then poured everyone a fresh cup of coffee and sat back down. Everyone was quiet, Colleen looking over the top of her coffee cup, first at the two of them across from her then at me. I could only raise my eyebrows in a questioning look as she looked back at Chris and Patricia. Colleen cleared her throat before she spoke.

“So…have you two picked a date for the wedding?”

Christopher’s face turned white as the blood began to drain from his face. He slowly started to slide down in his chair and I had the distinct impression that any minute I would look under the kitchen table and find Christopher on the floor curled into a fetal position.

Patricia gently placed her hand on Chris’s arm and he stopped his descent. She had her own version of that half smile on her lips when she answered.

“Christopher is done with his semester finals on December 15th,that’s aWednesday, and my school gets out the next day for the winter break so we thought that Saturday the 18th is best. That way we could have two, almost three weeks before we both have to go back to school.”

Patricia had a serene look in her eyes as she bent over and kissed Chris on the cheek before looking back at us. For his part Chris had stopped fidgeting and clamed down. The expression of love in his eyes when he looked at Patricia was an emotion that I was very familiar with. We sat in silence until Colleen asked her next question.

“Do you know yet when the baby is due?”

There was a look of absolute panic and terror on Chris’s face. He started to stand up and run for the door when Patricia moved her hand to his shoulder and he sank back down into his chair. The look on Patricia’s face was the same expression I had seen so many times before on Colleen’s face. Her other hand had unconsciously slid down and was gently caressing her lower stomach.

“I just went to the doctor for the first time this past Monday and so far the due date is June 11th. That works out pretty good for us. Chris graduates the end of May and my school gets out for the summer the following week. That way I won’t have take any time off from work. And Daddy said that Christopher can go to work for him full time once the baby comes.”

Colleen reached over and took both Christopher’s and Patricia’s hands and gently squeezed with a smile.

“I’m glad you two didn’t take as long as Bobby and I did. We’re very happy for you. I better call Sharon so we can plan another wedding.”

Colleen and Patricia got on the phone together and called Sharon and Mike. I wandered into the living room with my coffee secure in the knowledge that Colleen would let me know when my input was required…probably never.

After a couple of minutes Chris came into the livingroom and sat in the chair opposite from me with a look of uncertainty on his face. He sat biting his lip and then started to speak. I gently stopped him before his words could come out.

“Son, I only have one thing to say to you. What ever you do, don’t ever let Patricia get more than twenty feet from a bathroom or you will live to regret it.”

Chris’s face changed from a look of trepidation to one of confusion when he said, “That’s the same thing Uncle Mike said last night.”

There is nothing in this world that Mom likes more than to be surrounded by her grandkids and great-grandkids. Mom was telling this to Colleen and lamenting the fact that they had all scattered away in every direction with their own families, their own lives. Mom and Colleen called Sharon and Mi Lin and together they planned the first ever all family reunion. Rio Linda is a large regional park about half way between San Miguel and Santa Teresa so last summer on the Fourth of July the entire O’Conner clan came together in the same spot. All of our family plus each one of Mike and Jimmy’s kids and their spouses and children came.

Lunch turned into an orgy of food and we all committed the sin of gluttony. After we had finished eating and things were put away, everyone spread out to spend the rest of the afternoon having fun. I was sitting on a picnic table that was in the shade with my feet on the bench in front of me watching my family. Mom and Harold were sitting in lawn chairs in the shade of a tree with Colleen, Sharon and Mi Lin resting on blankets that were spread out on the ground next to them. They were all talking and I could hear laughter and squeals from every direction as the afternoon went on. Occasionally Colleen would look at me then smile and wave or blow me a kiss and go back to the conversation.

Some of the group was trying for an afternoon nap while the rest were playing in the meadow, running until they out of breath and collapsing from exhaustion. Years ago Meghan and Molly had taught all of their cousins how to play Dog Pile on Daddy. From the number of little children that were running around, I think they had figured out how to play Dog Pile on Mommy all by themselves.

Mike and Jimmy came and sat on the table next to me. We were probably thinking and feeling the same things as we sat and watched our families, not speaking. There was nothing to say out loud; watching our children and grandchildren was enough.

Six years ago Jimmy was elected County Sherriff in a landslide. Two years ago he was re-elected for a second term. Mike’s construction business has tripled in size in the last five years and he is making money hand over fist and works hard for every penny of it.

It was Jimmy who broke the silence.

“I don’t think there is anyone in this world that is luckier than we are. I wouldn’t trade this family for anything.” He was quiet for a moment then turned his head and looked at me.

“Way back when you and Colleen got started, I thought you were a complete bonehead and I was ready to kill you. I meant it when I told you that, and I would have if you had hurt Colleen in any way…but I think you and Colleen are the best thing that has happened to each other. Looks like you two are going to make it last after all.” This last part was said with a smile and genuine affection in his voice.

Mike had been sitting on the other side of me during this with an expression on his face that told me he had something on his mind. I waited and let him tell it in his own time.

“Jimmy has two more years left on his term of office. We’ve always said that we would retire together so when his time is up, we’re both done.” He looked at me with a grin and continued.

“This year for Chris and Patricia’s wedding anniversary, I’m going to make Chris a full partner in the business and when I retire, I’ll sell him my interest in the company for a dollar.”

This was a huge surprise.

“Good lord Mike, are you sure about that?”

“Yeah, Sharon and I have been talking about it for a long time. Chris is practically running the business by himself anyway and my other kids are terrified that I will make them take over the business. They’re all a bunch of doctors and lawyers and will never need the money. Besides, Chris is the hardest working guy I know and has earned it. He works hard at the company and works even harder to make Patricia happy. A father can’t ask for any more than that. It’s the right thing to do.”

Mike paused for a moment in thought, and when he spoke it was more to himself than to me.

“It will still be O’Conner Construction. I like that,” then he fell silent.

“Have you told anyone else?”

“No, Sharon and I want to keep it a secret until their anniversary.”

After a few minutes Mike and Jimmy got up and started to walk across the meadow to try and organize a softball game. Mike put his arm around Jimmy’s shoulders and said something that made him stop and raise his face to the sky in laughter.

When Colleen saw the twins walking away, she got up and came to sit next to me. Like her two brothers she sat in silence, her arm around my waist and her head on my shoulder as we watched our family.

These days it is difficult to get our kids and their families together at the same time so we were enjoying it while we could. The other members of our extended family were there also.

The two Sara’s came with their kids and SaraJane’s brother Ryan. Ryan had finished med school and Harold called in a favor to get Ryan into the residency program at San Miguel Memorial Hospital. After that he opened his own family practice in town. As a low paid intern, Ryan had moved in with Sara and Sarah and never left.

Sara and Sarah now have four kids.

Mrs. Lopez came too. Ray passed away the year before and we all mourned his not being with us but we celebrated his memory and laughed at the stories each of us told about him. All five of our kids call their Aunt Connie at least once a week to make sure that she is ok.

John Gordon and his wife Diane were there. John retired the year after Harold and he and his wife bought a house on the beach in Santa Teresa. For the first time in thirty-five years, Harold and John lived in the same town. Mom had become close friends with Diane and they generally referred to their husbands as “The Rover Boys,” or “those two goofballs.” John living in Santa Teresa was a direct benefit to me. I no longer had to be the fourth man when Harold and the twins played golf.

Let there be dancing in the streets.

Mom and Harold are in their eighties now and still going strong. Mom is just as beautiful as she always has been. If she is any indication of what Colleen will look like at Mom’s age, I am a very lucky man. The only sign of age in Harold is the arthritis in his right knee. For the past year he has had to use a cane and had to give up playing golf. He still goes out to the course with Mike and Jimmy but now he rides in the golf cart and yells out words of encouragement and tips from twenty yards away.

Meghan and Molly took their roll as protectors of their baby siblings seriously and it has shaped their lives every since. Today they are both registered nurses and work at San Francisco Children’s Hospital. Besides being sisters they are such close friends that it was inevitable they marry two brothers. I believe that God is out there watching over children and fools. I also firmly believe that he has an endearing sense of humor. The whole family enjoys the quirk of fate that Meghan and Molly O’Conner would end up marrying James and Michael O’Conner from Victoria, British Columbia and live in houses next door to each other. Their husbands are both doctors; Michael is a cardiologist and James specializes in pediatric oncology at UCSF Med Center. They have given Colleen and I two grandkids each.

Noelle inherited the teaching gene from her grandmother and teaches the second grade. She is married to Robert Kwan, her Aunt Mi Lin’s god-child. Robert is a high school principal and they live in Crowley. Crowley is a small community about thirty miles off the main highway between San Miguel and Santa Teresa. Very few people actually live in Crowley. It is in the center of a large agricultural area and most of the people are farm laborers and only come into Crowley to go to school or shop at the grocery store. Last month Noelle and Robert announced that she is pregnant with their third child.

Brigid is the only one of the five kids to get any of Colleen’s artistic talent. Just last month she and her mother finished their first children’s book together that will be published next spring. Colleen has turned over all of her illustration work to Brigid and now only paints when she gets the inspiration.

Keith, Christopher’s buddy from next door, graduated from UCST and was taken seventh in the first round of the NBA draft. He had the sweetest three-point shot as any you could ever hope to see. He stunned the sporting world two weeks later when he announced that he would not be seeking a professional basketball career for personal reasons.

Brigid Fiona O’Conner and Keith Alan Martin were married on August 28th at the First United Methodist Church in San Miguel. Two weeks later Keith entered the Pacific School of Religion. Three years later after his ordination, Keith was appointed by the bishop as pastor of the church in Crowley. When Brigid and Keith first moved to town there were twenty parishioners but now Sunday morning services average about four hundred and they are fundraising to build a new sanctuary that will seat nine hundred. Brigid and Keith have two children and are talking about a third.

What can I say about Christopher and Patricia? They are so special to Colleen and I. Chris’s sisters continue dote on him but his wife and the gang of four are still ready to tell him to stop acting like an idiot. Patricia is taking a leave from teaching junior high but will return as soon as the last of their kids is in kindergarten. Patricia was now seven moths pregnant with their fourth child and while we were eating lunch, Chris said, “If Dad can have a basketball team, I’m going for a soccer team.”

Patricia was not smiling when she said, “Christopher, we really need to talk.”

Colleen and I continued sitting there on that picnic table, not saying anything, just watching our family at play. I slipped my arm around Colleen’s shoulders, pulled her a little closer and whispered into her ear, “I love you wife.”

Well, that’s pretty much our story, the story of Colleen and Bobby. It’s been thirty years since I moved from Chicago to San Miguel. After five kids, eleven grandchildren with three more on the way I can honestly say that I am more in love with Colleen today than I was the day I got off the plane and saw her standing there with Meghan and Molly with their red balloons.

We had quite a scare a few years ago when Colleen discovered a lump in her breast. It turned out to be benign but we spent a couple of terrifying days while we waited for the final report from the lab. The lump was removed at the hospital as an out patient procedure but the celebration that night was not as joyous as you would think. We had dodged a bullet this time but we are painfully aware of the possibility of it reoccurring, or worse. Colleen goes in for a checkup every three months and so far we have had five years of perfectly clear results. We thank God every day for the time we have had together and treasure every moment and every memory. We hold each other a little closer and a little longer each night when we go to bed. We will probably be one of those couples that you read about in the newspaper. One of us will die and the other will die the next day of a broken heart.

But we are nowhere close to being at that stage. That is unless one of the grandkids asks us to read “Curious George” for the ten thousandth time and make our head explode. But we’ll take our chances and read it to them anyway.

We celebrated Colleen’s sixtieth birthday last week. After the party was over and everyone had gone home, Colleen and I made love slowly and sweetly. I was still lying on top of her gently kissing her forehead and cheeks when she held my head in both of her hands and looked me in the eye.

“Bobby, enjoy this while you can. Once I turn ninety I’m not going to be doing this any more.”

“What?”

“I said, after I have my ninetieth birthday party, I’m not going to let you fuck me anymore.”

“But what about me, I’ll have three more years before I turn ninety. It’s not fair.”

“Sorry pal, it’s not your call.”

I thought for a moment.

“But what about birthdays?”

Colleen scrunched up her eyebrows in thought.

“Well…Ok, we can make love on birthdays, but that’s it.”

“Just ours? Do the kids count too?”

“Of course they count. We can’t celebrate their birth unless we celebrate the conception.”

“How about the grandkids?”

“We didn’t have anything to do with their births, but I love them so much, so all right, I guess we can include them too.”

“What about Jimmy and Mike? What about all the nieces and nephews? They’re family too you know.”

“All right Bobby, you can fuck me on any birthday you can find, but it has to be family. I’m not celebrating a total stranger’s birthday.”

I paused to kiss her on the lips before I continued.

“Holidays?”

“What?”

“Can I make love to you on the major holidays? You know…Christmas…Thanksgiving…Fourth of July…Arbor Day, Ground Hog Day…”

“Ok, birthdays and holidays, but I’m drawing the line there.”

Again I kissed her.

“What about special days?”

“What special days?”

“Well, every morning that I wake up in bed with you is special.”

“Yeah, mornings in bed are pretty special so mornings are ok too.”

“What about nights? You know how I feel about watching you take your panties off at bedtime, that’s special to me.”

“Well, if we’re going to do mornings we might as well include nights.”

“Evenings? What if I want to take you to the Bluffs some evening?”

“Yeah, going to the Bluffs is fun, but I will not allow you to take me to the Bluffs more than twice a week. I’ve got my reputation to think of.”

This time Colleen kissed me as I asked.

“Afternoons…how do you feel about afternoons?”

“What about them?”

“Suppose we get the urge in the afternoon, what do we do about that?”

Colleen wrinkled her forehead in thought again before she answered me.

“If we both get the urge we’ll have to do something about that so afternoons are in. But only Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.”

“But what if we get the urge on a Thursday, or a Saturday or Sunday?”

“Ok they’re in too, but not Tuesdays. Tuesday afternoons are absolutely out. I will not make love with you on Tuesday afternoons, this is non negotiable.”

One more kiss and a hug.

“So let’s review here for a minute. Once you turn ninety, I will only be allowed to make love with you on family birthdays, all the holidays that I can find, any morning or night, I’m limited to two trips to the Bluffs each week and any afternoon that we get the urge except Tuesdays.”

“That’s right.”

“What’s wrong with Tuesday afternoon? Why can’t we do it then?”

“For God’s sake Bobby, I’ll be ninety years old. A girl has to get her beauty rest sometime.”

“It’s a harsh schedule but it appears I don’t have any options left so I guess I have no choice but to agree.”

“That’s right, you don’t have any choice.”

Colleen wrapped her thighs around my hips and pulled me in closer.

“Bobby…”

“Hmmm?”

“You’re hard again. I’d really like to feel you sliding in and out of me one more time tonight.”

“I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.”

“I love you husband.”

“I love you wife.”

Maybe in another thirty years I will write the final chapter of our love story, but until then, I will hold her close in my arms and try to keep the idiot grin off of my face.

I love Colleen.

I love Colleen more than life itself.

P.S.

To this very day, Colleen refuses to let me fuck my date, but yes, I still make love to my sister all night long.