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After fibbing to my friends and family about going on a simple "family trip" with the Hansons, and dropping my cats Scabbers and Trouble off at my aunt's house, I was on my way to Lambert Airport in St. Louis to fly to Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta.

I had no idea who would meet me at the airport, but I assumed it wouldn't be one of the brothers. As I approached the baggage claim area, I saw Diana Hanson, checking out the screens to see which carousel my baggage would end up on. She was holding a very nicely drawn sign that said "Welcome Aria Smithson to Atlanta!" I came up alongside her and playfully said in an affected accent, "Ah, I assume you're my driver?"

"Aria!" Diana exclaimed, hugging me, bending the sign, and drowning me in her long blonde hair. "Ah, let me look at you. You have blossomed into such a beautiful woman. Didn't know if I would recognize you, so I made this sign. Oh honey, I was so sorry to hear about Jamie last year, how are you doing?"

I shrugged. I silently wished people would stop asking me that. I was over it. "I'm fine, it's been a year, and we were practically broken up anyway, what else could I do but move on?"

Here it comes. "So, have you started dating again?" Diana asked as we walked over to carousel 4.

I hated when people asked that question. Oh well. "Well, I'm ready, but I haven't found anyone suitable to date. I don't like the 'bar' scene, and the dating services frighten me, and a co-worker tried to set me up on a blind date, but he stood me up and decided to go back to his ex-girlfriend."

"Well, I'm sure things will start looking up for you soon," Diana said. "What about guy friends? Weren't your parents just friends for years?"

"Yeah, let's see, I've got three close guy friends. One's a total wild child, one's gay, and one's your oldest son. I'm 0 for 3 in that department." I heard Diana make a weird noise at the last item on my list, but I dismissed it. My bag came, and we left the airport. "I'm starving and my watch stopped, what time is it here?" I asked.

Diana replied as we walked to her car, "It's 1 o'clock, and we can get you a watch battery at the mall. We need to get lunch, and go shopping for a dress for you, don't we?"


Diana and I shopped for a few hours, caught up on old times, and had our "girl time" together. She took me right to my cabin at Callaway Gardens, and got me settled. She was so nice to me, always had been. She told me about the family dinner that night at 6:30, handing me a detailed itinerary for the whole weekend which I certainly appreciated, and told me to just come to the restaurant at that time, also handing me a map of the Callaway Gardens grounds. I guess going on world tours with a family of nine plus an entourage helps you prepare for a simple wedding, right? I used the hour I had in between to rest up and retouch my makeup, with a promise from Diana that she told the family to not come and bug me until dinner.

As I walked alone to the restaurant where we were all meeting for dinner, I heard footsteps behind me, footsteps of someone trying to be sneaky but failing miserably. "There's my favorite babysitter!" Zac said, coming up behind me and picking me up.

"Aah! Put me down, you little shit!"

"Okay" he said as he dropped me, and I somehow landed on my feet.

I turned to him. Zac was sporting a new, short haircut, and seemed to get taller and better-looking each time I saw him. "Is this how you treat all the ladies?"

"No, but this is!" he said, pulling me into a bear hug and shoving my face into his armpit.

I struggled to get away, and felt someone come up behind me and try to pull me away, while Zac held on and tickled me. I screamed for him to stop, and in the flailing of arms and legs, accidentally whacked Isaac where it counts. He fell to the ground, and I broke free from Zac. I knelt down next to Isaac. "Oh god, are you okay? Isaac, I didn't know, I'm so sorry..."

"It's okay," he said, forcing a smile through his pain. "Good to see you, though."

Zac crouched on the ground next to us. "Hey, Ree, why don'tcha kiss it and make it feel better?!"

I slapped him on the arm. "Real funny, Zac. He's hurting, thanks to you."

"It might help," Isaac commented. I looked at him, and he was lasciviously smiling at me, but obviously still in some pain.

"I think you'll be fine now, Isaac," I said as I helped him to his feet.

"Are you sure?" he asked, dusting off his blue shirt. "'Cause if you think it'll help--"

"Isaac!" I said, hugging him close. "You are absolutely impossible." I tried to break away from the hug, but he hugged me tighter. "I've missed you, Isaac."

"I've missed you too," he said, looking into my eyes and smiling that wonderful smile. "Shall we?"

"Yup, I'm starving," I replied, and the three of us linked arms and continued on to the restaurant.

On to Chapter Three
Back to Chapter One

Copyright ©1999-2006 Winona Patterson.