THE WISHING WELL SODA SHOPPE

The Wishing Well Soda Shoppe"You're not saying anything," Janet spoke up after several long minutes of awkward silence.  "I am right, aren't I."

Randy refused to look up at her.  She'd pretty much hit the nail right on the head.

"Oh, Randy, say something!"

"For as long as I can remember, it's been me and Burt," he began slowly.  "We dealt with Pa's leaving together.  We dealt with Ma's sickness together.  Now that she's gone, he's...all I have left."

"Randy, you're not a little boy anymore.  You're a grown man."

"I know that!" he snapped angrily.  "It's just that...."

"Suppose the roles were switched," she broke in, not willing to give over control of the conversation.  "What if you were in your brother's shoes.  What if you wanted to get married and Burt didn't want you to because you were his only family.  How would you feel about that?  Would you like it?"

"Well...no, I guess not."

"If you got married, would that mean you loved Burt any less?"  She paused for a moment for an answer.  When nothing but silence came, she went on again.  "Do you think that having someone else in your life -- a girl, perhaps -- would make you love him any less?  Do you think that would make you stop thinking of him like your brother?"

Randy Lamont"No!" he blurted out.  "Nothing and no one will ever change the way I feel about Burt.  He's my brother."

"Even if you two don't have the same father?"  Janet leaned back in her seat and eyed him closely.  She had to see if there were some kind of indication that she was getting through to him.  He just had to give up his foolish idea about standing in the way of her planned marriage to Burt.

"He's still my brother."

"And that's exactly how Burt feels about you," she nodded.  "I don't care whether his father was Landon Callison or whether he marries me, a Stokes -- it doesn't change the relationship that you two have.  It doesn't change everything you've been through together for the last eighteen years.  He's your brother.  I can't change that.  I don't want to change that.  Oh, Randy, I love you!  You're...like the little brother I've never had.  Do you understand what I'm trying to say?"

"I...I guess so."  He looked up at her slowly, not really wanting to admit that she was right, but unable to avoid the logic of her reasoning.

"Please, Randy.  Please stop standing in the way of our happiness.  You do want your brother to be happy, don't you?"

"Of course, I do," he muttered.

"Then please give your blessing for us to get married.  You know he wants to marry me.  I want to marry him.  It's what I want most in this world."  Janet bit her lower lip, hopeful that he would agree, but still anxious that the progress that she'd made might turn out to be for naught.

"O-okay," he muttered again with a nod as he slowly looked up at her.  His eyes were starting to water, but he was determined not to cry.  After all, just like Janet had said, he was a man, now, and men didn't cry.

"W-what?" she stammered, unable to believe her ears.  "Okay?  Do you mean it?  Are you going to give us your blessing?"

He didn't say anything, he simply nodded.

Janet Stokes"Oh, Randy!" she exclaimed with excitement, grabbing his hands tightly and pulling them to her in gratitude.  "Oh, you won't be sorry about this.  I promise you that!  You're going to make your brother so happy.  We're all going to be happy."

"J-Janet, I'm...I'm sorry," he finally spoke, his voice catching in his throat.  "I've always...I've always liked you.  I know Burt loves you.  I never wanted you to think I didn't like you.  I didn't want to be mean to you, I just...."

"I know," she smiled softly and patted his hand.  "You were just scared.  Change is a very scary thing, after all.  Very few people I know like to go through it.  It doesn't matter who you are or what family you belong to."

"Janet?"  Randy finally looked up at her, blinking away the moisture in his eyes.

"Yes, Randy?"

"Let me...tell Burt myself that I'm giving the two of you my blessing.  Please?  Let me do this.  I'd do anything to make this up to the both of you."

"Do you mean that?"  She eyed him suspiciously, a sudden thought popping into her head.  "Do you really mean that?"

"Of course I do!  I haven't been fair -- far from it, actually.  Let me do this to make it up to you.  I want to make all of this up to you."

"Well, in that case...."  Her voice trailed off as a seed of a plan began to take root inside her mind. 

She'd made so much progress so far, did she dare risk it by asking what could be the impossible?  Would voicing her idea completely counteract everything that had happened today?  However, despite the nagging voice warning her against it, she couldn't ignore the possibilities.  They had made progress -- great progress.  She didn't feel like she could ignore the opportunity to use that progress to her advantage.  After all, the ticking on the clock was getting louder and louder.

"What?  What is it?"  Randy looked at her carefully, not sure what she was going to say.

"Randy, if you really do want to make this up to me like you've said, there is something you can do."

"What?  Anything."

"Okay."  Janet paused and took a deep breath.  Here goes nothing.  "This is what I have in mind...."


THE CALLISON HOME - DINING ROOM

63 Mapleton Way"Just put those flowers right over there," Francis Callison said, waving her arm, as she breezed into the room.

"This is going to be a beautiful dinner party, Mrs. Callison," Hannah Meadows said, setting the arrangement in the middle of the dining room table.  "We've got our best china and sterling, and dinner is right on schedule."

"I just want this to be perfect."  Francis carefully surveyed the room as she bit her lip nervously.  "This is our first family dinner in the new house since the wedding.  Nothing can go wrong."

"So, how are things coming along?" Charles Callison asked as he walked into the room, the evening edition of the Daily Post in his hand, and kissed his wife Francis lightly on the cheek.  "No disasters brewing in the kitchen, I take it?"

"The only thing brewing in the kitchen will be the coffee after dinner," she laughed and then turned to look at him in annoyance.  "You're not going to wear that are you?"

"What's wrong with it?"  Charles stepped back and held out his arms for full inspection.  "This is a perfectly good suit."

"You wore that to the office today," Francis reminded.  "It's all wrinkled and creased.  And...and look!  Your tie isn't even straight!"

"Honey, it's just dinner with the kids," he laughed.  "I'm sure they've seen me in much worse shape."

"I don't care."  She folded her arms across her chest and stuck out her lower lip in a mock pout.  "This is going to be our first...."

"I know.  I know," he nodded, having heard the words nearly a million times.  "Our first family dinner in the new house."

Hannah Meadows"Since the wedding," Hannah spoke up, finishing the statement, and then laughed.

"Oh, you two!"  Francis shook her head in bemused annoyance.  "I mean it!  This is very important to me."

"I know," he laughed and then again kissed her on the cheek.  "We're just teasing you."

"Well, now scoot!"  She patted him on the arm, gently nudging him out of the dining room and towards the stairs.  "Go upstairs and change."

"Yes, dear," he called back with a nod as he headed through the foyer, passing their youngest child Maggie Callison in the process.  "Tread lightly with your mother, sweetheart.  She's a bundle of nerves about this dinner."

"Don't tell me she's going on about it being the first dinner in the new house since the wedding again," Maggie grumbled.  The simple, silent nod from her father was all the answer she needed.

As Charles disappeared up the stairs, Maggie strolled into the dining room.

"Maggie!" Francis exclaimed in horror.  "You're not dressed!"

"I'm dressed!"

Francis Callison"Not in that, you're not!"  Francis hurried over to her and swiftly pushed her towards the door.  "That jumper you've had on all day will not do for dinner.  Go put on that nice new blouse and skirt we bought at Lerner's last week."

"Oh, all right," Maggie muttered with a sigh just as the doorbell rang.  "I'll get it!"

As she made her way to the front door, Maggie continued to mutter and grumble under her breath.  Her mother sure could get all worked up over the silliest stuff.  When she flung the door open, she was surprised to find her older brother Trevor Callison on the other side.

"Trevor!  You're early.  Mom's gonna have a fit.  She's not ready yet and, to listen to her, neither is anyone else in this house."

"Hey, kiddo, I know I'm early," Trevor responded as he stepped into the house, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek.  "I wanted to have a chance to talk to Dad before dinner.  Is he around?"

"Yeah, Mom sent him upstairs to change."  She let out a giggle.  "Seems the fashion warden isn't too approving of anything we're wearing."

"Same suit as the office today?"

Maggie Callison"Yep."

"Gee, I hope I pass inspection," he laughed as he headed to the stairs and then took them two by two on the way up, leaving Maggie to trudge up along behind him.  "Dad?  Dad, I want to talk to you."

"Trevor!" Charles called out as he poked his head out of the bedroom he shared with Trevor's mother.  He'd just finished putting on a clean, fresh shirt -- not a wrinkle in sight.  "What's all the commotion about?  What is it?"

"Dad, I wanted to talk to you for a bit before dinner," Trevor explained, stepping into the bedroom.

"Well, what is it?  What's so important?"

"I...."  Now that he was there, Trevor wasn't exactly sure how to broach the topic of conversation considering he knew that it was one that had proven tense in the past.  "I wanted to ask you how your private detective was coming along?  Has he found out anything about Grace?"

"Trevor, I...."  Charles paused and let out a weary sigh.  "Trevor, close the door.  I need...to talk to you."

"Yes, Dad?" Trevor said, closing the bedroom door as directed, and walked over to his father.  "What is it?  Is Grace okay?  Did you find out anything?"

"Trevor, I've told the detective to stop his search," Charles finally said.  "Hiring him to look for her isn't a good idea."

"W-what?  You can't be serious!"

Charles Callison"I'm very serious.  Grace left town and doesn't want you to find her.  I don't know why, but I'm sure she has her reasons.  You have to respect that and move on."  He turned to face the mirror so that he could work on tying his tie -- an attempt to maintain a casual tone to the conversation.  "There are plenty of other girls out there.  You shouldn't let yourself get so focused on one girl who clearly doesn't want any contact with you."

"But...but...."  Trevor shook his head back and forth, unable to believe what he was hearing.  "Dad, I love Grace!  There isn't another girl for me and there's never going to be.  What...what if she's hurt?  What if she's in trouble?  What if she needs me and she just doesn't know how to tell me that?"

"Son, if she's in some kind of trouble, let Douglas handle it.  He's her brother.  She's his responsibility, not yours."

"Dad, if you're not going to help me with this, then I'm going to do it myself!"  Trevor spun around angrily, his hands balled up into fists, and headed for the door.  "I'll find Grace if it's the last thing I do."

"Son, wait!" Charles called out.  "There's actually something else I wanted to discuss with you."

"What is it?" Trevor sighed in annoyance.  He felt betrayed by his own father and the last thing he wanted to do was to continue with the conversation.

"I need you to help me with a little business matter," Charles began carefully.  He had a plan, but he new he had to play is cards carefully.  "Do you remember our dealings with Thornton Preston, the author?"

"Yeah, I remember," Trevor muttered.  "We got Sara mixed up in all of that by having her spy on him."

"Well, that's part of what I want to discuss with you."  Charles paused.  "Preston  was a very prolific author.  Before he died, he'd completed several novels that we've got the publishing rights to since he was under contract with us.  I want to make good on that contract and publish those works and I need you to act as sort of a go-between between Callison Publications and Sara.  She did inherit Preston's estate including his unpublished manuscripts, after all, and you are good friends with her."

Trevor Callison"Dad, I'm a newspaper reporter.  I'm not some kind of publishing executive.  Don't you have someone else at the company who could take care of this?"

"Well, I'm sure I do," Charles nodded, "but you and Sara are friends.  I just...think that it would make things easier since you two already have a good relationship."  He paused.  "Son, do this for me.  Do this for the company.  I know I'm asking a lot from you.  You're always so busy with the newspaper and I know this is just going to add more work for you...."  And less time to go on a foolhardy chase after Grace Davis.

"Well, if it's that important...."

"It is, Son.  Very important.  You see, while we do have the publishing rights, we don't exactly own any of the manuscripts.  If they do get published, it will be through us, but if Sara doesn't want to have them published, then there's nothing we can do.  And that's not even considering the work that would be involved to review and edit them to get them ready for publication if Sara decides to go through with it."

"I see."  Trevor let out a long sigh.  "Okay, I'll do it.  I'll work with Sara on this."

"Good," Charles smiled broadly and then gave his son's hand a firm shake.  "You know I'm always glad to have you involved in the company.  You much too talented to be just a reporter."

As Trevor thought about the new workload ahead of him, he realized that he couldn't put his thoughts of Grace out of his head.  He was still determined to find her -- with or without his father's help.


THE LAMONT HOME - KITCHEN

2312 Spring Lake Rd."Burt!" Janet called out as she flung open the screen door and hurried into the kitchen, Randy following along right behind her.  "Oh, Burt, I have wonderful news!"

"Janet, honey, what is it?" Burt asked in between sips of lemonade.  He'd been out working with the horses in the barn for most of the afternoon and had just come back into the house to take a break from the heat.  "What's got you so excited?"  At that point, he noticed Randy just behind her and a look of confusion spread across his face.  "What's...going on?"

"Randy and I talked," she explained carefully, barely able to hide her excitement.  "We got a lot of things straightened out."

"You...did?"  Burt's face registered his shock.  Sure, he'd hoped that the meeting between Janet and Randy at The Well would bring about results and progress, but he knew how stubborn his little brother could be and he hadn't gotten his hopes up.  "I take it that your little pow-wow went well?"

"Better than I could ever have imagined!"  Janet rushed into his arms, completely ignoring the fact that Burt was rather dirty and grimy from his work, and kissed him lovingly.  "Randy finally realizes what we've been trying to make him understand all along."

"Randy is this true?"  Burt still couldn't believe his ears and he walked over to his brother to get definite confirmation.  "Is she saying that you're ready to give our marriage your blessing?"

Randy Lamont"Yes," Randy nodded.  "That's exactly what she's saying.  Oh, Burt, I'm sorry.  I've been a major jerk these last few months.  I've just been so wrapped up and myself that I never even bothered to think about anyone else.  You're my brother and I just want you -- all of us -- to be happy and...well...if marrying Janet is going to do that, then I'm all for it.  I know...I know that you're never going to forget about me just because your married.  Just like I'd never forget about you."

"Randy, you have no idea how happy this makes me."  Burt pulled his brother into his arms and gave him a big hug, slapping him on the back.  "You'll see.  We're all going to be one big family.  We're going to be the Lamonts of Albanyville.  And, one day, when Janet and I have kids and when you get married and have kids, we're all going to be one huge family."

"Kids?" Janet laughed.  "Let's not get too ahead of ourselves.  We've still got to get married, after all."  She paused and shot Randy a subtle look -- almost as if she were giving him a cue.

"And, you know what, I've been thinking about that."  Randy slowly walked around the kitchen table.  No matter how much his attitude regarding Burt and Janet had changed, he still wasn't sure about this.  It all seemed too quick and too rushed.  However, he'd made a hurried promise to Janet and he felt that he had to honor it.  "Burt, why...why should you and Janet wait?"

Burt Lamont"What?"

"Well, because of me, you two have had to put your lives completely on hold.  That's not been fair to either one of you."  Randy paused and looked down at the table, his hands nervously playing with the edge of the tablecloth.  "I know the two of you love one another very much.  Since that's the case, why should you even wait to get married?"

"Are you...suggesting that Randy and I elope?"  Janet clasped her hands together in excited surprise -- almost as if it were the first time she'd even heard the idea.

"I...I don't know about that," Randy muttered, shaking his head.  "That just seems too casual.  Janet, you deserve to have the wedding of your dreams with a church and a beautiful dress and all of your family."

"Oh, Burt, as long as your the man I'm marrying, it will be the wedding of my dreams," she sighed and rushed into his arms.  "I think it's a beautiful idea.  Mother's already done that huge wedding for Jillian and it just wouldn't seem fair to her to force her into planning another big affair."

"Your mother wouldn't feel forced into doing it, I'm sure," Burt laughed.  "She'll want to and I'm sure she'll be very disappointed if you don't let her."

"But, Burt," Janet pleaded.  "We've...we've waited so long."  She paused and leaned in closer so that she could whisper in his ear.  "And if we wait, your brother could change his mind again and then where would we be?"

"This is all so sudden."  Burt pulled away from her and then slowly began to pace around the kitchen as he ran his hands through his hair.  "There's still some planning to do even if we do elope.  You've got to get a dress -- you're not getting married in just anything -- we've got to find a minister or a judge, get the marriage license...."

"One of the guys I graduated with said that there's a little chapel with a justice of the peace over in Davenport," Randy spoke up.  "He and his girl just up and ran off and got married graduation night.  He said that there was nothing to it.  They draw up the license right there and you sign it and the justice of the peace performs the ceremony."

Janet Stokes"Well, Randy, for something just off the top of your head, it's almost like you thought a lot about this."  Burt eyed his brother suspiciously.  "But...it does sound a little easier than I thought."  As the excitement Janet had started to prove contagious, he quickly looked back and forth at her and Randy.  "We should elope, hmm?"  He paused and inhaled deeply.  "So, when do you want to do this?  This weekend?  Next month?"

"Next month?" Janet eyes grew wide with shock.  "No!  If it's so easy, why should we wait?"

"W-what?"

"Oh, Burt, darling, I don't think I could bear to wait another month to be your wife."  She flew into his arms and hugged him tightly, almost desperately.

"Well, when?"

"Tonight," she blurted out, looking past Burt and towards Randy.  "Let's not wait another single moment.  Let's get married tonight."




NEXT TIME

Going to the chapel?





produced/written by G. Matthew Smith

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