One Last Look

Chandler

“Let’s remember this. Nothing special–just everything!”

“Look,” says Chandler after he and onezero snap a selfie, “it’s us!”

Before it all changes–and it will be changing very soon–Chandler is taking a look around to remember how the family is now, while the kids are still teens, and before he and Salix become elders.

His daughters are so close that it seems they communicate without words.

onezero

They must be saying something–is it telepathy?

When they do talk, he can’t understand them half the time, for the words they use seem to mean something entirely different to them than they do to him, and each word carries with it a lexicon of private references that only the two girls understand.

onezero

“Blue! Simply blue! And gold. Orange.”

They choose to be together most of the time, for homework, for meals, when reading, whenever possible.

onezero

“Seven. Red. Nouns. Quadrilateral!”

His kids have a closeness that he never shared with his sister. He was friends with Khloe, but she was so much older that she always felt more like another mom than a sibling.

onezero

“Do your words look upside down if you squint and use the back side of your brain to read?”

Even Doug Fir likes to hang out with his sisters, and he seems happiest when one or both are near.

Doug Fir

“Hey, Tam is a fellow snob! We’ve got the same taste! Of course I’m happy near her!”

During meditation, onezero’s natural focus creates this zone of concentration, and Doug Fir has been taking advantage of that by meditating within her zone.

onezero

He can feel this quietness from her.

onezero’s friend Cassie has started dropping by. Tamarind felt a little giggly and silly when she met her.

“Cassie, have you met my brother yet?” she asked, and for some reason, that question made them all giggle.

Tamarind

“Cassie? Doug Fir? *giggle*”

Chandler suspects it may have something to do with the way Cassie looks at Doug Fir. He’s seen that sideways glance from one other woman: his wife, who hooked him hard when she looked at him like that.

Day after next, Doug Fir will be a young adult. She can’t be thinking… could she? His young son? His young son will not be so young for much longer, and any woman who gets him gets a lot: either Cradle Rock or the mansion across the street, depending on which of the twins ends up as heir.

Cassie

“I think she likes my brother!”

Chandler can’t stop time through meditation. But he is learning that he can hook into this feeling of peace and stillness which is almost as good. And onezero keeps telling him about “the moment that exists outside of time, where it is all timelessness.” Though she claims that meditation is the gateway, Chandler hasn’t felt it yet. But when he feels as relaxed and peaceful as he does, perhaps timelessness isn’t needed. Maybe peace is enough.

Chandler

Chandler’s newest favorite activity is meditation.

Chandler’s developed a bit of an obsession with incense. The saffron is great for when Sugar’s programming and the kids are doing homework, but he likes the patchouli best.

The only thing about burning incense, though–it does burn. The other day the ashes fell on the table cloth, and before they knew what had happened, a fire started. Cassie was on the scene before Sugar had a chance to rise from the table.

Fire

“They really need to package warnings with those things.”

“We’ve got this boys,” Cassie said, while she and Sugar put out the fire. “It’s no big deal.”

Cassie

Women have a long fire-fighting tradition at Cradle Rock reaching back to the very first fire, which Acacia put out.

And indeed, when the family gathered at the curb after the fire was extinguished, they realized it really was no big deal. onezero and Doug Fir, who’d been meditating all morning, found their peace stayed with them, but even Quinn, who had dropped by for a visit, discovered an unshakable good mood.

After Chandler said a quick and silent word of gratitude, he looked at his kids, shining with this calm blissfulness. “Huh!” he thought. “What kind of hippie peace kingdom is this new generation bringing!” It was all right with him.

onezero

“There’s always something at Cradle Rock.”

Chandler often wondered how did he get so lucky. It was this woman–Salix. That was the center of his luck. He couldn’t remember when he’d fallen for her. It must have been when he was just a little kid at the park and Sugar and her big sister came so Sugar could make friends. And then, every day after that, he saw her. He always came over. He was always watching her, when she was a teen and he was kid, when she was a young adult, and he was a teen. And then, when they were both young adults, he still watched. And she saw everybody but him.

He knew he was too nice for her. She had an eye for the mean guys. Then, he knew he ways too young for her. She had an eye for old guys. And then finally, one day, she had an eye for him.

And since then, everything, every single speck of his universe, revolved around this one beautiful woman who had grown into the strength of bamboo.

Salix

He could watch her all day. And sometimes, he did.

Late at night, while everyone else except Chandler and Salix were asleep, Miracle’s ghost stopped by. Chandler hung back to give the women a chance to catch up.

“It’s all good,” Salix told Miracle. “Everything’s going great.”

Salix

“The kids have A’s. And they seem happy, too!”

Sometimes, Chandler’s art students ask him his secret. He’s held that top position on the faculty at the art institute for so long that his young students somehow assume he knows the answers.

He doesn’t have a clue. It had been a fluke of the game that had put him into that position. He still hasn’t maxed his painting skill, though he’s somehow managed to rack up a few post-max promotions.

He has an idea that his daughter, whose painting skills are developing quickly, might be able to explain the secret of success to anybody.

Chandler

“Maybe I should ask her.”

But for him, he was still clueless. He’d been loved, and he’d loved in return, and that was all he knew for sure.