New World Symphony: Musical Chairs

“Nice dress,” said Cathy Tea, passing Kitten Nell as she walked down the stairs.

“Thanks,” said Kitten. “Part of my entertainer gig, you know. It’s kind of hard to walk down the stairs in. Not to mention the breathing part.”

“Oh, well,” Cathy replied, “I’m sure you could change into something more comfortable. It’s the music, not the dress, that we care about.”

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A few minutes later, they passed each other on the stairs again. Kitten had changed into a cotton t-shirt dress.

“How’s that?” Cathy asked.

“Much better!” replied Kitten Nell. “I think I can actually breathe and move, simultaneously!”

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While all the other guests made their way inside to the bar on the gallery floor or upstairs to the supper spread in the Crow’s Nest, Sugar waited outside for Kitten Nell’s concert. She’d heard about her interpretations of Liszt’s transcriptions of Bach’s preludes and fugues, and she expected to learn something new.

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Upstairs, Floyd joined Cathy for a snack.

“No plus one?” Floyd asked.

“Ah, no,” said Cathy Tea. “I forgot to invite him.”

Floyd chuckled. “Flying solo!”

“I guess so!” she said. “Anyway, everyone I want to see is here!”

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“What a day,” said Wade, wrapping Jaclyn in a big hug.

“You make a fantastic best man,” she replied.

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onezero stood in the middle of the room and closed her eyes. She could hear everyone’s thoughts, all the conversations, and the wedding songs of the 1,000, and every voice, spoken or unspoken, sang of happiness.

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Jaclyn recounted elf weddings that lasted days and days.

“And we had to sleep in the treetops,” she said, “those of us who could sleep! Matter of fact, my mother tells me I owe my very existence to an elvish wedding celebration!”

“Conceived in a tree-top?” Rae asked.

“More like a hobbit hole!” Jaclyn laughed. “My father’s folks aren’t tree-climbers much.”

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Wade looked dashing–everybody thought so.

“What will it be, Wade,” Jaclyn teased, “ever the best man and never the groom?”

“I’m a happy bachelor,” he replied.

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“That I can understand,” said Jaclyn. “I’m in no hurry myself. Something about being part of a couple makes me feel like running away by myself to the mountains sometimes, even if getting together with Davion was my idea!”

“And how does Davion feel?” Wade asked.

“Pretty much like me!” said Jaclyn, and everyone chuckled.

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Sempervirens listened carefully to a conversation that Floyd and Sabreene were having. She caught the word “tree,” her attention was rapt.

“I love this line,” Sabreene said. “‘God is the experience of looking at a tree and saying, “Ah!”

“Who said that?” asked Floyd.

“Joseph Campbell.”

“Ah, of course! And do you agree?”

“With the feeling, yes,” said Sabreene.

“And many things can generate that feeling?” asked Floyd.

“That’s right,” said Sabreene.

And Sempervirens began to think that maybe that meant that God was in many things, not just trees and pollywogs.

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Jeffrey noticed midway through the reception that the caterer hadn’t arrived yet and they had no cake! It was getting late, and the guests might start leaving soon. He thought about which recipe could be baked most quickly: carob cake! As soon as he pulled it from the oven and added the decoration, the caterer arrived.

“Sorry,” Meggs said. “There was a screw-up at the catering office! I just now got the text. Got here as fast as I could.”

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No matter! The guests were still there, the cake was baked, and Meggs was just in time to join the fun!

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Sempervirens knew that every cake deserves a song, so while J. P. cut the first slice she sang loud and clear:

An aunt takes an aunt
And an uncle with an uncle!

‘Come with me to the pond
beneath the hidden tree,’
said the grasshopper to the frog.
‘We will be happy, happy as can be!’

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“I’ve got an idea!” said Rae. “Let’s play musical chairs, and when you’re out, you grab your piece of cake!”

So Sempervirens sang, and the adults marched around the table, and when Sempervirens stopped, the one left standing grabbed the cake.

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“What’s the incentive to find a chair, again?” eXo asked Floyd.

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“To play the game?” he replied. “To be the last to get a piece of cake? Oh, never mind! Just, quick! The music has stopped!”

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It was almost–but not quite–too much joy for onezero. All those games, all those friends, all that family, and the songs from beyond that never did quit, not once.

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Soon the game ended, and all the slices of cake had been eaten, and more guests arrived from downstairs. No more cake? No bother! Redbud whipped up a fresh one, white this time, with sprinkles.

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“Oh, well done!” said Meggles. “Now that’s a cake that any caterer would be proud to serve!”

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Knox got to wondering where his wife had gotten to. The wedding joy was stirring up romantic feelings in him, reminding him of how lucky he felt to be married to the most beautiful member of this family.

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“Have you seen Cypress?” Knox asked Davion and eXo down at the bar.

“She did grace her form troo this way den funf minuten,” Davion said.

“She said she was looking for you,” said eXo.

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Cypress had headed outside–that’s where she always went she couldn’t find Knox.

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But this time, she didn’t see him there. She took a moment to take in the big sky and look up at Orion’s belt. She took a moment to listen to Kitten Nell’s performance on the piano. And then she headed back in.

They found each other at the bar.

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Upstairs, Nathanael painted a wedding gift for the couple. He’d been married to a woman strong as a mountain, burning like lava within–it had been bliss. With this gift, he hoped to pass on that magic to J. P. and Floyd.

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The sky took on the gray of early dawn.

“Hey, Squid,” said Knox. “You’ve been up all night! Maybe it’s time for us to head home.”

“I’m not tired, Dad,” said Sempervirens.

“I am,” said J. P.

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The party was winding down as Joel arrived. He’d been in the middle of drafting a chapter of his novel when J. P. had texted that the wedding was on. He finished the chapter shortly before the sun rose, but he still wanted to congratulate the couple, even if he had missed most of the celebration.

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Kitten Nell played on, and Sugar discovered that she had, indeed, learned something from her performance.

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Kitten Nell had played with passion and grace, restraint and courage, abandon and care, and it felt, to Sugar, a little like living, and a lot like love.

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New World Symphony: Cloud and Pine

“Wait!” Cypress yelled. “I’m coming! Hold off on the rings!”

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While Jeffrey Pine’s sister raced towards the wedding arch, he and Floyd Cloud stretched time the way they liked to.

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Across the block, Rae Rei and Redbud, just finished with closing up the store, also ran to catch the ceremony.

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While they waited for the guests, J. P. looked up at the stars.

“That’ll always be our constellation,” he said. “Orion.”

“Oooh,” joked Floyd. “How romantic! A sword and a belt!”

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Since Floyd had moved in a few months back, life had grown sweet for both of them. They often stayed up all night, talking, playing chess, making love, and then slept the next day through. They had so much time.

Rae Rei managed the store while Redbud and Sugar kept the gallery fully stocked, which meant that J. P. could take the day off any time he wanted.

And with Floyd around, he often wanted to take the day off.

They’d stayed up all night the night before. Floyd was in the process of telling  J. P. about his childhood and youth, starting with his earliest memories and working forward. That night, Floyd told stories about his tenth summer. He’d discovered Emerson that summer. His mom had started him on Thoreau, but all those nature scenes were a bit raw for Floyd. He didn’t like thinking about lizards and mud. But Emerson’s nature poems had a dryness that pleased Floyd.

“Can we remember a whole summer by remembering a poem?” Floyd asked J. P. as they sat on the upper deck, gazing out over the city lights across the park. “‘I see my empty house, I see my trees repair their boughs’–those lines, even now, call up that whole summer to me. That was the summer I learned what loss meant.”

As J. P. leaned into Floyd, listening to him tell of that long ago time, he caught the tail of the dream that Floyd had let go of during that ten-year-old summer. That was the year Floyd realized that he and his mom would never be returning to their old home, but would live on the road, vagabonding from seminar to seminar. “It’s good not to have attachments,” his mom had said when she became aware of Floyd’s grief.

“You don’t have to give up what you wish as a child,” J. P. whispered that night. They looked up at Orion. “I like to feel I belong. It’s a good wish to have. And when you’re grown, you can make your wishes true for yourself.”

They lingered in bed after they woke late that afternoon. When they finally rose to stretch, Floyd said, “I dreamed of my childhood house, and the door was wide open.”

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“Was I there?” J. P. asked.

“You were the one who opened the door!” Floyd replied.

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“I’d love if I could get your old home back for you,” J. P. said.

“If I have a home now,” Floyd continued, “it’s because of you.”

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J. P. thought back to how lonely he’d felt during his first few months here, before Floyd moved in–though he had hardly let himself admit his loneliness back then. Now, he had someone to cook for, someone to share meals with.

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They’d held many conversations about their wedding. Some days, they wanted to elope: it had become something of a family tradition. Sometimes, they wanted a civil service at the courthouse, “because we can” and so that they could stand as part of history.

But sometimes, they wanted the whole thing: the wedding arch, the bartender, the caterer, the entertainer, and as many friends and family as could fit. They even bought an old arch and twelve chairs that they found at a consignment shop and stored them down in the basement, just to be ready.

“I think we should get married today.” Floyd said as they ate. “This evening. Right now.”

“I doubt anyone can come at this late notice.” J. P. replied.

“OK,” said Floyd, “then it’ll just be us, the arch, and that great vast sky.”

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J. P. couldn’t deny Floyd. He called everyone: Davion to tend bar, Meggles to cater, Kitten Nell to entertain, and for guests, all the members of ZenPines, all the family, and as many friends as would fit.

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The men changed. “Our tuxes match,” said Floyd.

“Here, let’s switch ties,” said J. P., and they quickly untied their own ties and retied them onto each other.

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“Is this the day you become my uncle for real?” Sempervirens asked Floyd when she met him out at the side yard.

“It is, Squid!” Floyd answered. “Now we’re officially family!”

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Nathanael felt proud of his grandson. One of the gifts of staying ever-young, Nathanael realized, was seeing the family grow. He and his grandson had always shared a special friendship, and he couldn’t help but take some pride in the man that J. P. had become.

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Nathanael chuckled when he noticed that he’d carried two drinks out with him to the seats near the arch. One of them was for Tamarind, he realized. How funny that even now he still expected his wife to be by his side at every family event!

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“Is this seat taken?” Sabreene asked.

“No, of course not!” replied Nathanael, standing out of respect. “Only by my memories!”

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The family and friends gathered.

J. P. complimented Floyd on his tie, his handkerchief, his cuff links, even the little pearl buttons marking a straight line down his shirt.

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“Did you guys get married like this?” Vi asked her dad.

“Nope,” replied Knox. “We got married in a garden. Just us and a lemon tree!”

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Sugar remembered her own elopement with Ren, also in a garden with a lemon tree.

Sugar felt grateful for this family. Each person a miracle–like every person, really–but these ones were part of her.

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J. P. spoke so softly that only Floyd could hear, whispered promises that made Floyd glow.

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Redbud remembered that overwhelming feeling of young love. She still felt that way, whenever Tomas’s spirit was near.

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“Look how good they are together,” Wade said to Miss Penguin.

“They’re adorable,” replied Miss P. “Simply adorable.”

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As J. P.’s oldest friend and best man, Wade stood beside him to witness the exchange of rings.

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Sempervirens had never seen such an exciting celebration–even confetti. She wanted to sing or cheer, but all the grown ups stood around with mouths smiling and eyes crying.

“Are you sad?” she whispered to her mom.

“No, happy,” said her mom. “Well, sad, too, maybe. Happy-sad.”

“Full hearts,” whispered her dad, and Sempervirens nodded. She was simply happy, through and through.

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Sabreene was the first to congratulate J. P. while the other guests raced upstairs to lay out the snacks for the reception.

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“This is such a happy day!” Sabreene said.

“That it is!” agreed J. P.

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New World Symphony: Indeed

It’s a lot more satisfying to cook for two, Jeffrey decided, as he sautéed eggs for breakfast.

amthree04

Floyd stayed over every night, until finally, J. P. said, “Look. Just stay.” So he did.

One morning, Floyd found J. P. on the second floor, analyzing one of onezero’s paintings.

“I really love this,” J. P. said. “Of course, the composition and colors are nearly perfect–but look at this energy. This creative flow.”

They looked together for a while, wordlessly following the movement of feeling and thought contained in the canvas. It was a painting of the cosmos, and it seemed to express moment of creation, with both fire and ice.

Floyd felt encircled in a feeling of warmth. He had woken with a sense of surety–he wanted to marry J. P. He knew this.

“Babe,” he said, “Give me a moment. I got to get in touch with something inside, and then, I’ve got something to ask.”

J. P. smiled at Floyd’s sincerity. In spite of all his accomplishments as a yogi, Floyd still lived with a divide in heart and mind, and J. P. loved both. They would spend hours lost in intellectual conversation, and then Floyd might say, “Give me a moment,” and he would tune in, get in touch with his heart, and share from the depths of his affection.

For J. P., whose intellect and emotions formed an integrated whole, watching this conscious shift of modalities in the man he loved never failed to interest him. Floyd was like an old-fashioned secretary desk, and each compartment held treasures and secrets that J. P. loved to explore.

amthree01

“When it’s right, it’s right,” Floyd said at last. “I’ve never been one to hesitate when the moment comes. And the moment’s here. Marry me, J. P.”

amthree02

“Marry you?” J. P. said. “What makes you think I want a cute, geeky, yogi husband?”

“Um,” replied Floyd, “the goofy smile on your face?”

J. P. laughed, and then, because he knew that some words must be said, he replied, “Yes. Yes, Floyd Cloud. Let’s get married.”

amthree03

In the evening, while J. P. was washing up the dishes and putting away the leftovers, Floyd saw a little red-headed girl out on the playground.

“Hey, look,” he said. “Is that your little niece Squid that I haven’t met yet?”

“Hey, yeah. It is,” said J. P. “You want me to introduce you?”

“Don’t bother,” said Floyd. “You finish up what you’re doing, and I’ll just go down there and meet her myself.”

amthree05

Sempervirens was just getting off the monkey bars when Floyd reached the playground.

“Hey, Sempervirens,” he said.

“Hi,” she said. “Do I know you?”

It always seemed like everyone she met knew her family, so she was never surprised when strangers greeted her by name.

“I’m your uncle’s friend. Boyfriend. Fiancé, in fact. That means, I’m going to be your uncle, too!”

“Oh!” she said. “That makes sense! It’s like balance, right? I’ve got one house with an aunt who married my other aunt, so it’s only right that in the other house, I’ve got an uncle who married my other uncle.”

amthree06

For Floyd, who hadn’t grown up with any family besides a mother who spent more time in meditation than conversation, this instant acceptance into J. P.’s family felt like a long-awaited home-coming.

amthree07

Floyd was discovering that J. P.’s family was integrated into most of his life. On every neighborhood walk, they ran into someone from the family. The gallery, which dealt mostly in artwork by the family artists, was visited daily by an aunt, his sister, or an old family friend. Even ZenPines, their wellness club, was becoming a family club.

J. P.’s aunt onezero called one evening to see if she could join the club.

“Oh, man,” said J. P. when he got off the phone. “I’m so glad that Sugar suggested we leave a few slots open. I never would’ve thought to ask my aunt onezero to join! She’s always got her own style, and I never really pegged her as a club-joiner, but I’m telling you! We lucked out! She’s going to infuse our club with magic. Just wait! My aunt onez is something else again.”

They called a club gathering to celebrate onezero’s becoming a member.

amthree08

When Miss Penguin walked by, Sugar got a brainstorm.

“J. P.,” she said, “let’s see if Miss P. wants to join. She’s been here at the wellness center every time we’ve had a meeting.”

Sugar extended the invitation herself, and now, their club was complete.

amthree09

While the members headed inside to get massages, take steams, and join the yoga classes, J. P. and Floyd lingered outside, wrapped up in their conversation.

“So I never did get that chance to show you that special yoga I was telling you about that night we first met,” Floyd said. “Maybe I could show you now!”

amthree10

J. P. felt glad that Floyd remembered–so much had happened since they first met, and he felt like this was another example of Floyd’s thoughtfulness, that he’d remember that they’d been interrupted that first time they’d wanted a private steam.

amthree12

“Don’t mind us,” J. P. said as he walked past Miss Penguin outside the steam room.

amthree13

“Well, I’ll be,” said Sugar, when she left the steam room to give J. P. and Floyd a little privacy. “I hope my nephew’s not too embarrassed!”

amthree14

Sugar herself was unflappable. If others were happy, then she was, too.

And when Jeffrey came out of the steam room in time for the energy-centering yoga class, he certainly seemed happy.

amthree15

J. P. was right that onezero infused their club with magic.

amthree16

She found the nooks and crannies in the community center, where she would meditate, tuning in to that otherworldly buzz that always encircled her.

amthree11

While the other club members took classes together, onezero was content to follow her own inspiration.

amthree18

For onezero, the energy of the club and the wellness center helped to concentrate and focus the inspiration she always felt. The center is in a good energy spot, she realized, and it was easy to tune into the voices of the thousand.

amthree17

Floyd was impressed by her. He’d met scores of yogis and wanna-be’s growing up as part of the West Coast movement, trailing his mom to seminars, but he’d never met such a clear conductor of the essence of pure being.

I can learn a lot from her, he thought.

amthree20

“J. P.” onezero said, “I was thinking maybe we should get a club hat. What do you think about these?”

She showed him some photos.

“Animal hats?” he laughed. “I thought I’d escaped the family fashion fad. Let’s think about it, OK, onez? We’ll see how we all feel in a few days.”

“OK,” she said. “But you’ll see. These owl hats might be just the thing.”

amthree19

During meditation, J. P. felt a wave of gratitude. How amazing that his life could take this shape, allowing him to live in a way that let him express his true individuality, without demanding that he sever his ties to his family.  To think that he could have it all, and that his family could be part of this new life that he’d crafted for himself: it was so much to be thankful for.

amthree21

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New World Symphony: In Love

When Jeffrey woke from his nap, his first thought was to call Floyd Cloud, the yogi, to see if he wanted to come over and hang out.

“Oh, I see,” said J. P. “You’re still busy… No, that’s OK. I understand… Yeah, sure. I’ll call back. OK, then.”

am26

How long do I have to wait before I call again? Jeffrey wondered. He was surprised to feel this way. He’d never felt like this about anyone before.

am27

Somehow, he always assumed that he was like his uncle Alder, not interested in romance, content to spend his life pursuing interest and hobby. But he really felt himself drawn to Floyd Cloud. He wanted to be with him.

I guess it just took meeting the right person, he thought.

am28

OK, he was going to call back.

“You’re still busy?”

“Yeah,” said Floyd. “I’m really sorry! It’s this yoga thing. See, at the community center, we’ve got these extended times when we’re serving. So this is my session. But I really want to see you.”

am29

“You do?” J. P. asked.

“Yeah, babe,” said Floyd. “I really do. I meant it when I said I feel a connection with you. I want to spend more time with you.”

That’s strange, thought J. P. when he closed the call. That’s how I feel, too. But we just met. We’ve had, what, three conversations, and most of those were on the phone when he was telling me he was busy.

He called back.

am31

“Are you still busy?”

Floyd laughed. “Yeah. Tell you what. Why don’t I just quit my job?”

am32

“No!” J. P. said. “Don’t be nuts. I can wait. It’s just… I’ve been waiting all my life, and I don’t want to wait much longer. But I can wait. Finish your class.”

am30

After breakfast, J. P. realized, If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain.

He called a meeting of the club at the community center, and since Floyd was just finishing up his brain boosting class there, he was able to join them.

amtwo01

While Jaclyn shared the recipe for mead-calendula porridge (known for its energy-clearing properties), Floyd and J. P. fell into a silent conversation of their own.

amtwo02

This was their second time to be together, face-to-face. And Floyd’s eyes were just as deep as J. P. had remembered. His gaze let him in.

amtwo03

Sugar noticed what was passing between her nephew and the yoga instructor. Good for him! she thought. She knew love was worth waiting for, when it’s with the right person.

amtwo04

J. P. and Floyd headed in for a steam. They both felt too shy to even talk.

amtwo05

After the steam, they wandered into the meditation room.

“I think I’ll put on some clothes!” said J. P.

amtwo06

Fully dressed, it was a little easier to be in the same room together.

“Wanna meditate?” suggested Floyd.

Meditating with someone as skilled and focused as Floyd helped J. P. reach new heights of concentration. He felt weightless, as if his energy body were mobilizing around him.

amtwo07

Hours later, when J. P. headed home for a shower and a snack, Floyd remained deep in meditation.

amtwo08

By the time he got home, though, J. P. knew: he wanted something more with Floyd.

He called him up for a date, and to his surprise, Floyd accepted.

amtwo09

Floyd looked irritated when he arrived.

amtwo10

In fact, he looked downright angry.

amtwo11

“You OK?” J. P. asked.

“Yes. I was so deep in meditation. It’s hard to be interrupted.”

amtwo12

“Look,” said J. P. “I’m no yogi. But from what I understand, the purpose of meditation is to develop inner silence, concentration, space, and flexibility, right? And if so, then shouldn’t an actual yogi, one who is practiced in meditation, be flexible enough to respond when new things come up?”

amtwo13

“Whoa!” said Floyd. “You are absolutely right.”

He took a deep breath.

“Not bad, J. P.” he said. “Good insight, babe.”

amtwo14

“And anyway,” said J. P. “Hey! I’m glad to see you!”

amtwo15

In fact, they were both so glad to see each other that they still felt shy. They sat across the room from each other for a while, just grinning.

amtwo16

Then Floyd could wait no longer.

“Mind if I join you?” he asked, as he came over to the sofa where J. P. sat.

amtwo17

They talked, telling each other about their childhoods. Floyd had grown up an only child to a single mother. His mother was a yogi, too, and they’d traveled during most of his childhood, following the seminars that she gave up and down the coast. She was something of a celebrity, and Floyd had enjoyed the freedom and independence of the overlooked child of someone well-known and respected. His mother was aloof but affectionate, in a careless, detached way. And one thing this upbringing had taught Floyd was that family was important to him. Sometimes, you crave most that which you’ve never really had.

J. P. had family aplenty, and Floyd said that he could sense that from him.

“You’ve got this deep sense of belonging,” Floyd said. “I picked up on that the first time I saw you. It really draws me in.”

“Maybe you could belong with me,” J. P. said, bashfully.

amtwo18

“You mean, like your boyfriend?” laughed Floyd.

“Yeah,” said J. P., with shy excitement.

amtwo19

“Hell, yeah!” said Floyd.

“Woot!” screamed J. P.

amtwo20

amtwo21

“Look, babe,” said Floyd later as they looked at the selfie they took. “This is us. We’re a couple.”

“Yeah,” said J. P. “Who’d a thunk it!”

For a behind-the-scenes look at the events of the last few chapters, read “Author’s Gossip.”

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New World Symphony: In Health

The popularity of J. P.’s Family Emporium and Art Gallery sparked a Boho revival in Magnolia Promenade. A local nonprofit took over the abandoned store space at the Roadstead and converted it into a community wellness center.

am02

Living right across the street, J. P. was one of the first to visit, and he enjoyed it so much that he practically moved in the first weekend it opened.

am08

The open space had been divided into areas for different functions: a yoga studio; a juice bar; a dance area, complete with DJ booth; reflexology and massage areas; workout space; steam room; and a meditation room.

am01

J. P. was pleased to see some new faces there.

“I’ve seen you around,” he said to Jaclyn after yoga class, “but I don’t think we’ve ever been introduced.”

“I know your sister’s family,” Jaclyn said. “I’m in Cypress’s garden and wellness club, and your niece and I are a special friends.”

am03

Of course, J. P. was also delighted when family and old family friends stopped by.

“Mom,” he said, when Redbud showed up, “I’m struck by genius! I’m going to start a wellness club. We’ll call it ZenPines.”

am07

J. P. loved the treadmill right by the front door. It was perfect for seeing who came in. Miss Penguin arrived and promptly changed into a robe for her massage appointment.

And Wade, one of the old park boys that J. P. had grown up with, showed up, too. J. P. and Wade were so glad to see each other, they gave each other big hugs.

“Man, how’ve you been?” J. P. asked. “It’s been forever!”

“Life’s really good,” Wade said. “I am so stoked about this new center!”

am04

Miss Penguin, back in the massage area, was stoked about the center, too. The massage therapist had magic in his hands!

am05

After a yoga class, an individual yoga session, and a session on the treadmill, J. P. was starving. He was surprised to see that Jaclyn was tending bar.

am09

“Oh, yeah,” she said. “I’m a mixologist! That’s what I do. I like it, though. Especially here! I’ve offered to take any shifts that open up. I love the way it feels.”

“If you like how it feels here, maybe you’d like to join ZenPines. It’s my club, and it’s all about wellness, and this is where we hang out.”

Jaclyn was in. “I’ve always wanted to be in a wellness club!” she said. “Well, I already am, since Greenies, your sister’s club has a wellness component, but I can be in both, right?”

“Of course!” J. P. said. “You can share with us what you learn from Greenies!”

am10

Being part of the club, Jaclyn decided to take advantage of the slow times at the bar by getting some reflexology.

For someone with hobbit ancestry, footwork brings special benefits: there’s just so much surface to work on, and the foot-mind-spirit connection for a hobbit-elf is very strong.

am12

With hobbit-sized feet, Jaclyn had more surface area for tickling, too.

am13

“Hey, man, you want to join the club?” J. P. asked Wade as they made their way into the next yoga class.

“Do I? Are you kidding?” asked Wade. “I’ve waited all my life to join a wellness club, and if it’s your club, the coolness factor just got raised exponentially.”

The instructor for the evening class came in, and J. P. felt his gaze drawn to him. There was something about his energy that J. P. found resonating with feelings inside of him.

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After class, they began to talk. Floyd Cloud, the instructor, was inspired by J. P.’s club and was excited when J. P. asked him if he wanted to join.

Floyd began to discuss yoga and energy, and soon the conversation veered into tantric yoga.

“I could show you what I’m talking about,” Floyd said. “We could see if the steam room is empty, and if so, there’s a few partner poses we could practice.”

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It sounded good to J. P. In fact, it sounded amazing. He’d been aware of his own energy all his life, but he’d never really found anyone that he wanted to share it with completely, until now. The idea of tapping into the energy of the second chakra and sharing it with Floyd sounded like something that just might add a new dimension of wonderfulness to J. P.’s life.

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Jaclyn watched them walking by. She was feeling pretty sweet herself, after her reflexology treatment, but she had a feeling that J. P. and Floyd might be on their way to heightened sweetness. Good for them, she thought, wondering for a second who else was in the ZenPines club.

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As they reached the steam room, a voice said over the loudspeaker:

Ready to boost your concentration, focus your energy, and experience bliss? Come to Floyd Cloud’s Energy for You yoga class, now starting in the Yoga Space.

“Dang,” said Floyd. “I’m gonna have to to take a rain-check, babe. You think maybe you and me can try this out some other time?”

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J. P. felt disappointed, of course. He’d only waited his whole life to share that part of himself with someone else. But if it’s worth doing, it’s worth waiting for, he told himself.

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After meditation, he found Aunt Sugar and Guadalupe visiting near the lockers.

“Shug!” he said. “Did you hear about my club? ZenPines! Want to join?”

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“Oh, yeah!” Sugar said. “Count me in!”

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Sugar and J. P. sat together in the alcove.

“Who else are you thinking of asking to join the club?” Sugar asked.

“I’m not sure!” said J. P. “We’ve got you, Wade–remember Wade?–Jaclyn, and Floyd Cloud, yoga guy. You wanna ask Ren?”

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“Let’s wait and save a few spaces for folks that ask to join. How’s that sound?”

“That sounds great!” said J. P. “That way, we can attract people who really want it for what it offers, not just because they’re friends or family.”

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J. P. waited for Floyd’s class to finish, but it was a long class, and J. P. was beat. He’d been meditating and yogaing and running and talking for what felt like days now, and he really had to get home and get some sleep.

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As soon as he crossed the street and reached his own walk, though, he couldn’t resist. He had to call Floyd to see if maybe he wanted to come over so he could show him those yoga moves they’d talked about.

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“OK,” J. P. said. “You’re busy? I get that. But when your shift is over? You wanna come over and hang out then? No pressure, I was just thinking maybe…”

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New World Symphony: The Uncle

Squid’s uncle is all kinds of cool. She thinks he’s about the greatest person around.

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“Thanks for letting me come visit you, Uncle J. P.,” she told him. “Think I could come over every day?”

“Tell you what, Little Green,” he replied, “You can come over anytime you want, as long as you don’t have school or other places you’ve got to be.”

“Lemme take a picture so I can look at it on the days I can’t come. That way, you’ll always be with me, anyway!”

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“Ok!” J. P. agreed. “But only if you let me take a photo of us on my phone, too!”

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Sempervirens loved J. P.’s house. The amazing thing about it is that it’s an art gallery downstairs. Sempervirens thinks it’s special that the art gallery is private: the only people that can see it are the ones that her uncle invites inside.

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She thinks maybe that’s because the paintings are too powerful to share with just anybody.

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You’ve got to have a taste for magic to be able to withstand some of her aunt onezero’s masterpieces.

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They do a funny thing to her when she looks at them. Sometimes, she feels really confident: her great aunt painted this! And sometimes, she feels really inspired: imagine being able to paint something that shows the world the way you see it!

Another thing that Sempervirens loves about visiting her uncle is that he lives in a neighborhood with lots of people, and he knows everybody!

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Whenever she goes there, she meets somebody new and somebody amazing, like Rose, who seems like she’s from a family just as magical as her own.

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Last time Squid was there, a whole bunch of neighbors were having a picnic, and she met Jaclyn, and Joel, and Aya, and a gardener who said she knew Squid’s mom, and another lady with two pigtails on top of her head like panda ears who said she was a good friend of Squid’s great aunt Sugar. It was so easy to make friends when everybody there already knew her whole family.

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She even met her great grandpa there.

“Hey, Squid!” he said. “How are you doing, Little Green? What brings you so far from home? Are you here to see your uncle?”

“Yup,” she answered. “I come visit every chance I get.”

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Great aunt Sugar is often over there, too. Uncle J. P. says she’s a patron of the store.

“Didn’t she also paint all the paintings in there?” Squid asked.

“Well, not quite all of them,” J. P. answered, “but a lot of them! I guess she’s sort of her own patron of herself, when you think about it!”

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Sempervirens’ mom’s garden club members love to walk through J. P.’s neighborhood. Last time Squid was there, she and J. P. ran into John.

“My sister was telling me that the energy of meditation enhances the growth of plants, and that the growing energy of plants facilitates meditation. You’re a scientist, John. What do you make of that?”

“It’s likely,” replied John. “There’s a great deal going on beyond what we see with our eyes.”

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Sempervirens loved it she could hang out with her uncle and his friends in the Commons. Their conversations were seasoned with jokes and stories and references to books they’d read.

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Sometimes, you run into funny things in her uncle’s neighborhood, like Cathy Tea in a hot dog suit!

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But of all the family, friends, and neighbors that Sempervirens might meet in her uncle’s neighborhood, none of them were quite as wonderful as her uncle.

Uncle J. P. is like a sunflower. He stands tallest and brightest, higher than all the other flowers in the garden.

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“Were you waiting for me?” Squid called one evening as they made their way back to her uncle’s house after their walk.

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“Sure was, Little Green,” he replied. “Let’s head on in and see what we can whip up for supper.”

Sempervirens followed J. P. up to the computer room, where he checked out a new recipe for stir-fried chicken.

“Are you checking to see if there’s an email from your girlfriend?” chuckled Sempervirens. She was just joking–she knew she was the apple of her uncle’s eye.

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J. P. provided a show whenever he cooked. He juggled the knives, chopped in rhythm, and danced his way through the preparations of the meal.

And his creations were true works of art, carefully prepared to satisfy every sense.

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“Do you think every girl has an uncle that’s as cool as you are?” Squid asked J. P. after supper.

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“You think I’m cool, Squid? Thanks!”

She giggled.

“Do you know who your mom’s best friend was when she was about your age?”

“Was it you?” Sempervirens asked.

“Nope,” replied J. P. “It was her uncle Alder.”

“Was he cool like you?”

“He was kind of mean, actually. But Cypress thought he was the most amazing person ever. And he was never mean to her.”

“Well, you’re not ever mean to anybody, J. P.,” Sempervirens said, “and you really are the most amazing!”

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There were so many things about J. P. that Sempervirens would stick on a list if she were to make a list of every feature that made him amazing.

But the coolest thing of all is the way he makes her feel when he looks at her.

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“It’s like I got two homes,” she said to herself after supper. “If home is where you know that you can be all completely yourself, and that you’re loved head to toe for who you are, then I got two homes. Because that’s how I feel when I’m home with Mom and Dad, and that’s how I feel here with Uncle J. P.”

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New World Symphony: Walk On In

The small emporium was for sale–stock and all. This was a godsend for J.P., since recent zoning changes prevented him from setting up shop in the abandoned gallery across the street that he’d reclaimed for his residence. He’d planned on living above the gallery, but when he went for his business permit, they informed him that since that was his primary residence, he couldn’t open retail space there.

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The place across the street would work, though. It, too, had a shop-owner’s apartment above the store.

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The apartment had been used for storage by the previous owners, but a few cans of paint, some new kitchen appliances, some garage-sale furniture, and it would be cozy enough for breaks and on those long days when J. P. felt too tired to walk across the street to his “primary residence.”

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After a few days of hard work getting the upstairs apartment ready, hanging the art, and dusting off the old stock, J. P. was ready for the opening.

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He combed down his Mohawk and tied it back into a bun. No need to risk poking customers with big spiky green hair, he figured, just in case the store got crowded.

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He powered on the Open sign, sent out a few tweets, updated the Simbook page, hired a barista for the espresso bar out front, and he was ready. The Family Gallery was open.

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Cathy Tea, who took the opening shift at the espresso counter, was there to welcome the first customers, Grim and a neighbor.

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Sugar, the third one through the door, wondered what kind of omen it to have Grim as a first customer.

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It would be all right, she figured. This was art that transcended time, space, and generations.

“It’s beautiful, J.P.,” she said. “The selection of work, the installations, everything!”

“Thanks, Aunt Shug,” he replied. “I’m really glad you like it.” It was all the family’s work displayed around them, a few generations of brilliance.

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J. P. found himself standing in a circle of customers, as if they expected him to say a few words. It was the opening, after all, he realized. He hadn’t prepared a speech.

“I come from a family of artists,” he said. “Growing up with them, I realized soon it wasn’t just artistic talent that made them artists. It was vision, a way of living. We kept all their work–that is, what we didn’t sell– down in a basement, that hardly anybody ever saw.”

“I’ve seen it,” said Grim in his rumbling bass.

“True. I should’ve said, ‘hardly any living soul ever saw.'”

“That’d be more accurate,” Grim said.

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“Anyway,” J. P. continued, “I always figured that it would be nice to share this work. Why not make copies to sell to the world, so everybody can have their own Bough print on the wall?  I’m hoping some of the magic, some of the special way of viewing life and of living, that my family has will come through these paintings.”

Cypress arrived just as her brother was winding up the speech. She felt so proud seeing her aunts’, parents’, and grandparents’ work displayed.

“Not a bad legacy,” said her friend Grim.

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Soon Sharon Pope called over to J. P. “Can you ring me up?”

He grabbed his tablet and headed over to complete the first sale.

“I’ve been looking all over for these gnomes,” Sharon said.

J. P. had to stifle a snicker. He’d kept the old merchandise as a joke, a hat tip to the store that had been here before, and he hardly expected anyone to purchase these trinkets.

One man’s junk, he thought, as he rang up Sharon’s treasure.

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“I really want this squirrel,” Grim said.

J. P. was just about to ask where Grim would hang it, when he decided better. No need to put a customer on the defensive. “I’m glad this squirrel will be finding a good home,” he almost said. But at the last minute, he simply thanked Grim for his purchase and rang up the sale.

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“I’ve always wanted to see your work displayed,” Miss Penguin said to Sugar. “I’ll keep these in mind for upcoming design jobs!”

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Cypress decided that one of the gnomes would look great in their garden. It took so long for J. P. to finish Grim’s sale that she just about left her purchase for another day, when J. P. ran over.

“I’m so sorry, Cyp,” he said. “That was the weirdest sale. Look, just take the gnome. It’ll look great in your garden.”

But Cypress insisted on buying.

“I want to be one of your first customers,” she said. “Please?”

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Sugar also wanted to be one of the opening day customers.

“But you painted this painting, Aunt Sugar,” J. P. said.

“Yeah, but this is a print! We can keep the original in the basement, but I want a print for Ren. She loves this painting, and it’ll look great in our kitchen.”

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The store was still packed with customers after midnight. J. P. barely had energy to stand. It had been a great opening day, but he was simply beat. Hungry, too, and his deodorant was starting to wear off.

“I stink,” he said, as he made his way up to the apartment.

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The next morning, he woke feeling starving, but enthusiastic. The apartment felt even better than a second home. It was a cheerful, cozy, and restful sanctuary.

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He spent the morning restocking items. Maybe he’d leave the place closed this day and use the time to complete the inventory.

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But when he checked his twitter account, he found that his tweets had been retweeted, and people were asking about hours and new shows and wanting to find out when they could buy their own Bough.

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Sales had been so good the first day that he hired a manager. Rae Rei showed up, along with Miss Penguin as the day’s barista.

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“Rae,” he said, “I’ve been looking over your resume, and I’m lucky to hire you. You just do whatever you think we need to make this place run smoothly.”

“Tell you what,” Rae said, “if you’re open to listening to ideas, I’ll be open to sharing them!”

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Cypress came back again.

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“This is such a cool store,” she told her brother.

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Most of the same customers had returned, and they were all looking to buy.

Rae and J. P. ran into some confusion with ringing up sales. Did she have that customer, or was he waiting for J. P.?

“Tomorrow, let’s have one of us stock and the other handle sales,” Rae suggested.

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At the end of the second day, J. P. was as tired as he had been the night before when he finally made his way up to the apartment. But he was also a lot happier. He remembered what Rae had told him: “We learn by doing, J. P. We can’t expect ourselves to be master merchants instantly. But we’ll get there! We’re smart! And we’re a team.”

He loved his team: baristas, sales manager, and all. And he loved his customers, too: family, friends, and the friends he hadn’t yet met.

Running a store might not be as fun as just hanging out all day, but dang! It sure felt satisfying, especially when he got to share his family’s work with the world.

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New World Symphony: Glass

The colorful Oasis Art Gallery, created by robinf23, is available for download on the Sims 4 Gallery. It’s a delighful space!

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J.P. found the gallery on an auction site.

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The front garden had overgrown the beds, but Jeffrey found a kind of wild charm to the place. The colors were riotous.

It seemed perfect for the family shop. With a few generations of artists, they’d amassed a large collection, including several significant works, mostly by his aunts Sugar and onez, and it seemed a shame to keep all the art stashed in the basement at Cradle Rock.

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Better to pull it all out of storage, display it, and share it with the art lovers of the world.

There was ample display room on the ground floor.

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The second floor wasn’t much more than a glorified landing, but the floor-to-ceiling windows let in light and a bright feeling.

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The top floor housed a studio apartment.

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And it was here where J. P. found himself completely at home.

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Off the main room was a tiny triangular room where his desk fit in front of the huge window. He could look past the rooftops to the river boat.

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Aside from the constant hum of white noise from the freeway, Jeffrey noticed something he’d seldom heard growing up in a full house: silence.

The silence wasn’t just the absence of noise, it was the quietness of thought. For the first time in his life, he wasn’t constantly surrounded with the invisible electricity of the mental, emotional, and psychic emanations from his grandfather, parents, aunts, and sister.

The only feelings here were his.

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He liked having the kitchen entirely to himself and being the one to prepare all his meals. During most of his life, he ate the food that someone else had fixed. And since he prided himself on being a foodie, it felt right to be his own chef, too.

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When he sat down to his first meal in his new home, it hit him: he had left behind Cradle Rock. Sometimes, he used to take his meal alone, if his family members were busy doing something, but now that he’d moved out, unless he invited his family or friends over, every meal would be eaten alone.

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He wasn’t sure at first how he felt about that. Weren’t meals social times?

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Without the buzz of conversation, he discovered that he could focus more on the act of dining. Each bite became something marvelous! He’d never noticed before how the vinegar in the mayonnaise accentuated the acidity of the tomato.

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And the texture of this whole-grain bread! It was enough to send him over the moon. Meals would become not only a treat for his taste-buds, but also an intellectual exploration of sense!

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Solitude had its rewards. He read three books his first night.

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The place had a lot of stairs, that was for sure–thirty, to be precise.

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Walking up and down them was kind of neat, though. It was a good work out, for one thing. But it also felt a little symbolic. Ascending up into his living space reminded him of the journey of his life.

The ground floor held the common area, where nothing was private and all was shared, like in the days of childhood.

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Then there was the landing, neither here nor there, just a stopping place to what comes next.

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You leave that area behind, ascending to something rare and private.

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Your own space waited at the top of the stairs, shared with no one, unless they were especially invited in.

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This was a place where no others’ thoughts intruded.

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It was a place where your only connection with the outer world was through two screens: the window of your computer and the pane of glass in the wall.

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This was a bachelor’s citadel, another word for home.

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