Tom

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
Tom and Jeb are good old friends. Tending their farm on their own for the past 15 years. Jeb's son George finally returns home. What becomes of Tom?

Submitted: November 10, 2013

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Submitted: November 10, 2013

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TOM

By: S.R. Remus

The sun broke slowly over the low hill caressing the ravine with tinges of warm sunlight. The rising sun shot hues of red, yellow and orange across the hill topped uneven horizon. Once quiet with only the sounds of crickets in the night, the ravine began to hustle with the gentle noise of animals starting to rise on the crest of a new day. Overlooking the awakening ravine sits a small farmhouse. The blue paint has long faded and chipped, leaving small remnants of its once glorious luster. The sun still slowly rising, the beams of sunlight now reflecting onto the old farmhouse, spider webs nestled away in the corners of the rundown front porch, glisten and shimmer like fresh dew in the morning sun. Further back from the house, sits a dilapidated barn, its fire engine red paint, faded to a worn out pink hue. The wooden planks that once stood proud as the focal point of a busy farmland, now splintered, nail heads loosened, barely keeping the planks attached to the decrepit structure. One of the large wooden frame doors lies off to the side of the massive barn, the front entrance agape letting the sunlight trickle in.

“Ugh,” Tom lets out a strong feeling of discomfort. He slowly blinks his eyes staring around the barn as the sunlight begins to illuminate the cold, dark structure. He tussles upward, placing his feathery arm to the side, using it to support his weight as he struggles himself awake. Tom slowly takes his other hand and tosses his blanket off to the side of his makeshift straw bed. As he sits there, he glances back down at his bed, noticing he has left an imprint in the soft yellow straw. Tom turns back slowly as he swings his feet around, he looks down, now hunched over, his large back covered in thick black feathers, his long, tall tail feathers stretch straight back extending past his bed. As he looks down at his feet he stretches his three front toes on both feet, and extends his legs directing in front of him, stretching them, a small pop from Toms back. “Ah, so much better now,” Tom speaks aloud to himself. He places his wings on his hips and slowly rocks back and then quickly forward, jumping onto his feet. “I’d better go wake up ol’ Jeb, we have some farming to tend to before the November freeze comes again.” And with that, Tom walked slowly out of the barn towards the old farmhouse, his walk swaying his behind from the left to the right, his tail feathers spread out wide like a fan.

Tom stepped gingerly on the creaking planks to the front patio as he made it to the front door. Tom stretched his neck out and tapped at the thin metal screen door with his faded black beak, his bright red beard gently shaking underneath his neck. Tom graciously waits as from inside the doorway he hears feet shuffling towards the front door. A booming voice carries through the screen door as it slowly opens, “Tom, old friend, pleasant morning to ya.” The voice was loud, and hoarse but friendly. Tom walked to the door and walked inside the farmhouse, looking up to greet his old friend Jeb. Tom nodded at Jeb and preceded to a small straw seat in the living room, Jeb followed, shuffling his feet. Jeb sat down on the sofa looking at Tom. The two old friends began their usual banter about the previous day’s events, sometimes talking about the good ol’ days or commenting on the latest news stories. Today’s discussion was heavily focused on Thanksgiving and the winter freeze that comes every year. The two friends commiserated that the freeze would perhaps be coming even earlier this year. Jeb paused and smiled at Tom, the wrinkles in his eyes and cheeks, his hoarse voice, and his shuffling walk, Tom knows his old friend grows weak tending the farm with just Tom to assist. Jeb’s old bones creak and pop as he stands up off the couch. “Come on Tom, we best get started on the work today, otherwise I may just want to sit here and talk your head off.” Jeb slowly shuffles to the front door, placing his hands against the wall to support himself. He raises one foot and slides it into his tattered leather boot, repeating the process for the other. Tom now stands by his old friend, the two friends nod at one another, smiling briefly, they turn and walk out the front door, across the creaking planks of the front porch and back out to the dilapidated barn.

The Farm and the Family

Jeb had just tossed the last of the straw bales into the back of the red two wheeled trailer. The tires were rotted and uneven, the metal trailer nearly rusted all the way through. “It doesn’t look like much anymore Tom, but it always gets the job done.” Jeb turns towards Tom, wiping his brow with a sweat stained blue handkerchief. Tom stands near the trailer surveying the load of straw, looking at his old friend approvingly of the job they had just completed. Jeb winks at Tom, “Come on ya old bird, let’s get the tractor hooked up and get on to lunch. I think I’ve still got some sweet corn for ya.” Jeb shuffles towards the hitch on the trailer, his tattered boots kicking up a faint cloud of dust. Tom follows his old friend faithfully pausing at the base of the tractor before leaping upward, flapping his outstretched wings briefly before landing comfortably on a torn black leather seat. Jeb carefully hoists himself up next to Tom patting him on the back, “Let’s see if we can get the ol’ girl to kick over.” Jeb reaches down to two red levers, both covered in rust and dirt. He jiggles one to the left and it makes a harsh grinding sound. He grabs the other lever firmly, and throws it forward; a loud clunk causes the tractor to jerk forward violently. Jeb sits back, pausing for a moment to catch his breath. He continues, pressing his foot in on a small metal pedal while turning the key to the tractor, which is rusted firmly into the ignition. The tractor motor begins to whir, chugging, spitting and coughing black smoke. Jeb grabs the left lever and pushes it forward, the tractor responds with a jerk, a loud metal squeal sounds out as the giant rear tires move forward ever so slightly.

The tractor lurches to a stop in front of the old barn. Jeb leans over and shoves the levers to their central position and fusses with the key until, with a tired thud, the motor shuts off. Jeb lets out a sigh, turning to his friend. Tom looks at him, blinks a few times, and then turns to hop off the tractor seat. Jeb’s old age shows again as he slowly slides down the side of the tractor, using his tired old hands to support him on the tractor until his boots come to rest firmly on the ground. Tom continues sauntering around the tractor, surveying the load of straw. Jeb hears the telephone ringing from inside the house. “Oh, now who could that be eh Tom?” Jeb shuffles quickly towards the house, grasping the handrail to the steps to assist him as he makes haste to the phone. As Jeb hurries inside Tom stops short of the steps, turning around looking out across the ravine sitting below the farm. The sun was burning bright in the midday sky, every detail of dried brush and rock surface was visible to Tom’s naked eyes. “It’s such a beautiful day today. I’m so thankful for this life I’ve lead, even when the times have gotten tough, I’m glad that I’ve had my old friend Jeb.” Tom smiles thinking to himself.

Jeb clears his throat “Hello?” his voice slightly parched and scratchy from his work on the farm. “Dad, hey dad, it’s George. How are you doing?” a familiar voice filled the handset firmly grasped in Jeb’s old hand. “George! How are you son? Gosh! It’s been, it’s been awhile since I heard from you son. How are Emily and the kids?” Jeb’s voice increased with excitement. It was George his only son. He couldn’t bring himself to remember the last time he had seen or even heard from him. “The kids and Emily are great. I’ve been meaning to call you. I know Thanksgiving is coming up and I have been wondering what your plans were for the holiday Dad?” George spoke with care and concern, with a little anticipation of his father’s response. It had been quite some time since had visited the farm where he grew up. George tried to recollect a time when he had been back, but couldn’t remember a time except the last one, the last one before his mother’s death. “Oh you know me George. I’ll be here tending the farm. Not much goes on around here anymore. What are you and the family doing?” Jeb kept his emotions at bay. Deep down Jeb was hurting from not seeing his only family for quite some time, but he was very excited to be hearing from his son. “Umm, well Dad, if it’s alright with you. Emily and I were thinking about taking a trip across the country to see her parents and since you are along the way, we would like to stop in for a day or two, maybe celebrate an early Thanksgiving with you. We can catch up on the old times and maybe lend a hand to do some work on the farm?” George led into his question cautiously, not knowing what to expect from his father in response. “Ah, well George that sounds absolutely splendid. “ Jeb was exalted with this news. “I’ve got to get back to tossing some straw bales George. Give me a holler when you’re headed down my way. I’ll make sure I’ve got the guest quarters all ready for you.” George lets out a sigh of relief, “that’s great Dad. I can’t wait to see you. I love you Dad.” George pauses for a moment waiting for his dad’s response. “Mhm, sounds good. I’ll see you soon son.” Jeb hangs the phone up in a hurry and begins to shuffle outside quickly.

“Tom, you wouldn’t believe who I just spoke to.” Jeb shuffles to a stop on the porch. Tom calmly walks back around the trailer looking up at Jeb. “Who was that Jeb?” Tom tilts his head slightly looking at his friend. “Well Tom, it looks like George’s family is on their way down here for Thanksgiving. We’re going to have to get the guest house painted and cleaned out. It’s been awhile since we’ve seen them Tom. Much work to do.” Jeb was rambling a little to his friend, but was hurriedly pacing and frantic. Tom looked at the straw bales still sitting on the trailer and approached his friend. “Jeb, we need to get the straw taken to the barn so we can sell it over the winter.” Jeb turned looking at Tom. “Don’t tell me that right now. We ain’t got time ya silly ol’ bird.” Jeb was now shuffling out towards a rundown building further off behind the barn. It looked like a smaller version of the farmhouse, missing only the front porch, they would be identical structures. Tom sighed, knowing he wasn’t going to convince his friend otherwise until the guest house was ready. Tom was trying to recollect the last time he had seen George. Tom trotted along quickly trying to catch up to Jeb’s hurried pace, his small pronged feet unsettling the soft dirt as he ran.

Jeb was already at the guest house. He stood there with his hand on his chin rubbing it furiously. “No, this will not do Tom. We need the hammer and nails, fresh paint and new furniture inside. We need to clean it really well. This will not do at all. George is coming back!” Jeb was frustrated with the guest house, but still beaming with excitement regarding George coming to visit him. Tom, now panting and out of breath, stood idly by as he watched Jeb hurry around gathering the paint and cleaning supplies. Jeb comes to a stop in front of the guest house, turning and looking at Tom. “Oh boy, I need to take it easy on this. I want everything to be perfect Tom. We will make everything perfect for them.” Jeb smiles at the exhausted Tom, using the pause to catch his breath. Tom walks up and begins picking up nails in his beak as he walks up to Jeb. Jeb smiles and reaches down taking the nails from Tom. “Jeb, if they’re coming for Thanksgiving we have enough time to get this all done for them. Let’s just take it one thing at a time. I think we should get the new side panels nailed in and the outside painted. I’ll help you clean once we get onto the inside.” Tom was trying to calm his friend and ease the pace. “You’re right Tom. I know we have time. I shouldn’t have let it get this rundown. I knew he’d be coming back to the farm. It’s been a good 15 years or so Tom. It’s going to be a good time, they’re bringing the grandkids. They’ll probably chase you around too.” Jeb had finally slowed his pace as he began to daydream about the day George would come back to the farm.

Celebration Day

The guest house stood out like a lighthouse beaming across a darkened ocean sky. A light blue exterior was accentuated with fresh white paint around the window and door trim. On the inside Jeb was scuttling around making finishing touches to the placement of furniture while Tom scurried around making sure every inch of the place had been cleaned. Not a single speck of dust would be allowed on Tom’s watch. This was a momentous day for Jeb. Tom wanted to do everything he could to make sure it all went perfectly. Jeb is after all his best friend; well reality is they are each other’s only friend. So having George come back to the farm could potentially benefit Jeb and Tom with having more people around to tend the farm and socialize with. Jeb now stood at the front door looking throughout the guest house. “Tom, come here, come look at this!” Jeb shouted excitedly towards Tom. Tom quickly rushed to his friend’s side and turned looking in on the house. Tom couldn’t believe his eyes.

As his eyes traced across the front of the guest house, Tom could clearly see the light from the skylight gently reflecting off the freshly polished wood floors. The newly hung blinds and window treatments gave the guest house a feel that the old farmhouse had not seen in years. There wasn’t a speck of dust sitting anywhere in the place and the old musty smell was now filled with the smell of fresh linens. The guest house was in the best shape it had ever been in, including when it had first been built so many years ago. Tom looked up at Jeb; he could see a tear welling up causing a small glare off his eye. “We did well Tom, they’ll love it.” Jeb proclaimed smiling, gently wiping his eye on his dirty shirt sleeve. Tom nodded in agreement smiling while looking at the good work they had done in such a short time. “If only we could get George to help us get the rest of the farm like this. Just like the good ol’ days. Bring the farm back to life and some farmhands.” Tom was smiling as his head filled with wonderful thoughts about the future.

Tom turned and walked slowly out the door. Jeb watched his friend walk by and took one last look at the now renovated guest house. He smiles again and turns, shutting the door behind him. The two friends walk across the dirt back towards the farmhouse. The two walk gingerly, looking back and forth at each other; grinning sheepishly.  As they continue to head back to the farmhouse, a cloud of dust out on the far end of the property catches Tom’s eye. Jeb pauses looking in the same direction as Tom. “That must be them! We aren’t expecting anyone else coming down the drive. Let’s go get washed up Tom. I have a feeling the grandkids will be running us ragged here in a few minutes. The two friends picked up their pace and hurried to the farmhouse to get cleaned up.

Jeb sat gently rocking in his chair on the front porch while Tom stood off to the side sitting on a small bed of straw. The dust cloud from the oncoming car grew more grandiose as it approached at a fairly hurried pace. Jeb would sit back for a minute and then lean forward resting his elbows on his knees, appearing to Tom to be nervous with anticipation. Tom would look at Jeb and then back out at the oncoming car. Tom too, was growing nervous with anticipation.

The dust finally settled as the black Mercedes came to a smooth stop in front of the farmhouse. The fine dusty mist barely graced the wet looking silk black paint of the car. Jeb and Tom both stood up and walked to the front porch, they stopped on the top step and waited. All four doors of the Mercedes opened simultaneously and each member of George’s family including George stepped out. Out of the two rear doors stepped two children, each about the age of nine. One is a young girl, her hair neatly done in a French braid, pale skin accentuated by a sundress and white sandals. The other is a young boy, blond slicked back greasy hair, pale skin accentuated by tan shorts and a white polo. He wore brown leather sandals, and immediately began kicking his feet. “Ew father, I have dirt on my feet. I’m going to need a bath.” The young child whined towards the taller male that had exited out of the driver’s seat. “George!” The older woman from the other side shouted at the young boy. “Do not talk to your father with that tone of voice. Do you want the paddle?” She continued to shout at the young boy. “Emily! Not now. We’re here to see my father.” George spoke up, speaking firmly towards his wife. Emily quickly nodded and bowed her head mouthing her apology to George. George smiled turning to Tom and Jeb who were standing on the patio, a bit bewildered by George and his family. “Father, it’s good to see you!” George quickly paced his way to the porch and hugged his father tightly. Jeb was a bit taken aback but wrapped his arms around his son. “It’s good to see you too. Who do we have here with you?” Jeb moved quickly out of the embrace looking towards the young children. “Kids!” George shouts towards his children. “Get over here and tell Grandpa what your names are, now!” The two young children slump at the shoulders and shuffle their feet walking towards and then up the steps to the porch. “I’m George Jr,” the young boy introduces himself not raising his eyes off the floor. “I’m Chelsea,” the young girl sticks her hand out while announcing herself. Jeb does the same with his hand and shakes her hand firmly. “Well it’s nice to meet you both,” Jeb continues “Emily, it’s nice to see you again as well. It’s been quite some time. I’m glad you’re here George.” Jeb finishes welcoming his guests and turns towards Tom. “What do you say we all go inside and catch up Tom?” Jeb asks and then proceeds to turn towards the front door. “That’s a great idea. It’s nice to meet all of you. George it has been a long time. I’m glad you’re back.” Tom welcomes the guests and walks in through the front door. George’s family looks amongst themselves, Chelsea and George Jr. snicker about their Grandpa talking, rather conversing with his pet turkey. Emily and George give each other concerned worrying looks. Slowly the family follows suit and walk into the farmhouse.

The Discussion and Dinner

The last two days on the farm had been filled with child laughter and playing. Tom had never been chased and played with before. He thought fun had been working on the farm. Having Chelsea and George Jr. here was opening him up to new experiences and feelings that had long passed with his old age. The energetic children had chased him into the barn and all three were now sitting in there struggling to catch their breath.

Back on the porch George sat in his dad’s rocking chair while Emily and Jeb sat across from him on the padded bench they had just restored. “Dad,” George broke the silence. “We need to talk to you.” Jeb sat upright leaning his back against the railing that surrounds the porch. The wood creaked against his weight. “Well, I do like to talk, what’s on your mind son?” Jeb replied looking at Emily and then focusing on George. “Dad, Emily and I don’t think it’s good for you to pretend to carry on conversations with your turkey. Especially around the kids, you make it seem like you understand each other. We don’t feel like that is healthy for the kids to witness.” George spoke calmly towards his father. Emily gently places her hand on Jeb’s leg. “We’re really having a good time here Jeb and seeing you so lonely that you think a turkey understands you, is quite disturbing. Let’s try to let him be an animal and we can be a family, together for the holidays.” Emily continues breaking the news of their worry to Jeb. Jeb sighs, standing up, he begins to pace. He alternates bringing his hands up to his chin, rubbing it aggressively. He pauses and turns towards Emily and George. “I guess, ever since your mom died. I forgot how to interact with people. So I used Tom as a crutch to help me through my loneliness.” Jeb acknowledged and understood their concern. “Let’s get ready for Thanksgiving. With my son here, I’m sure everything will be fine.” Jeb let out a half-hearted smile. Emily and George stood up and embraced Jeb in their arms. “You can do this dad, we know you can.” George comforted his dad. Emily stepped towards the door and opened it swiftly. “After you gentleman, let’s get dinner ready.” She smiled as the two men walked through the open door.

The family was sitting down at the large oak table. Food stretched across it from right in front of Jeb all the way down to in front of the children. There was green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, gravy, olives, a vegetable tray and more. In the center there remained a large silver platter; it patiently was awaiting the main course. Emily entered the dining area carrying a large perfectly bronzed bird. The legs still tied together with a thin white string. The aroma of turkey filled the room. George stood up helping Emily place the turkey onto the silver platter. “Dad, would you like to do the honor?” George turned to his father offering him the large carving knife and fork. “No, no George, your wife did the cooking, you do the honors.” Jeb replied with a smile. George smiles back and turns back towards the turkey. He gently places the fork into the thick bronzed flesh and then proceeds to slide the knife right through the turkey. With each slice falls a perfectly cut, tender white piece of turkey breast. George grabs a few of the first cuts and places them onto Jeb’s plate. Jeb looks at the fresh slices and then back at George as he continues to slice the turkey and place its tender meat on the rest of the plates surrounding the table. George sets the knife and fork down and takes his seat. “Emily, will you say the prayer?” George smiles at Emily and the both exchange winks. This catches Jeb’s eye, but he doesn’t think twice about it. “Dearest Lord, we thank you for this wondrous feast you have provided for us tonight. Thank you for reuniting us with Grandpa Jeb and Tom and may this food be ever fulfilling. In Jesus’ name Amen.” Emily concludes her prayer and calmly picks up her silverware. Jeb nods his head and does the same. He places his fork firmly into the tender white meant and slides his knife through, cutting off a bite size morsel. He lifts the bite to his mouth and places it inside. His teeth slide off the metal fork as he begins to chew. George and Emily are looking at Jeb as he was the first to take a bite. “How is it dad?” George asks with a smile on his face. “It’s good, it tastes like turkey. I haven’t had turkey since your mother,” Jeb freezes. His mouth stops chewing. An unsettling familiar taste now resonates across his taste buds. Jeb looks down the table. Emily and George still fixated on him. “Is everything okay Dad?” George’s face grows worried.

“What have you done?” Jeb lashes out shouting. He quickly spits the bite onto his plate. “Dad, calm down Dad. What are you going on about?” George keeping his voice calm replies to his father who is now in a rage. Jeb is now frantically flying around the table grabbing the pieces of turkey off everyone’s plates. “Jeb calm down, you are scaring us!” Emily shouts at the frantic Jeb. Jeb’s face is now red with anger. “Where did you get this? You didn’t bring turkey! I saw you unload the groceries! Murderers!” Jeb shouts maniacally. George and Emily hurriedly grab their young children and beginning rushing them to the door. Jeb follows shouting gibberish at the top of his lungs. “Dad, you need to calm down!” George shouts at his father. “Get out of my house you bastard! I never wanted you here. You didn’t come here for fifteen years! I have no son! I have no family!” Jeb is shouting passionately. George, Emily and the kids rush out the door. They quickly hurry to the black Mercedes. In an instant the car speeds off. Jeb stands on the front porch shouting off at the Mercedes as it speeds down the driveway in the dark starless night.

Jeb rushes back into the table. He frantically attempts to put all the pieces of the turkey back together. He continues to press piece after piece back together. With each attempt, the pieces slide down onto the silver platter. Stunned and pained at what has just transpired, Jeb slumps over the turkey. His old face red with anger as he presses his cheek against the cooked bird. His eyes start to cascade tears down his face. The tears cascade along his wrinkles dripping onto the turkey, running down the remaining bronzed skin and coming to rest on the silver platter. He lets out a long sigh. “Not Tom. God, why did it have to be Tom?” Jeb sniffles, his body quivering as he remains hunched over the table.

The next day

Jeb shuffled his feet towards the old dilapidated barn. His tattered leather boots were moving even slower today. He hung his head low, his shoulders slumped even more today than they ever had. The old barn was even more depressing to Jeb than it ever had been. He shuffled his way through the wide open front door, slowly approaching Tom’s bed. Suddenly Jeb froze. Lying on his bed in front of him, sound asleep, was Tom. Jeb was awestruck at this sight. He couldn’t believe his eyes. A sly smile spread across his face. He shuffled his way closer to the bed of straw and slowly kneeled down next to Tom. He reached his old wrinkled hand outward touching Tom gently. Tom was sound asleep, breathing and dreaming peacefully.

Jeb looked longingly at his old friend as he slowly wrapped his hand around Tom’s neck.  He grasped his hand tightly around Tom’s thin red neck. He could feel Tom’s pulse against his fingers. Slowly he squeezed tighter. Tom’s eye opened, looking straight at Jeb. His beak opened wide and his wings fluttered weakly as he fought for air. Jeb smiled directly into Tom’s eye. “You’re just a damn bird. You should have been dinner fifteen years ago. Where is my Moreen?” Jeb spoke psychotically. His breath was deep and labored as his hand was wrapped taut around Tom’s neck. Tom looking at his old friend one last time as his eye blinked once and then closed forever. Jeb kept his hand wrapped around Tom’s neck as his pulse faded slowly, ultimately disappearing against his fingers. Jeb stood up slowly with his hand still firmly wrapped around Tom’s neck. Tom’s lifeless body dangled, flopping about as Jeb shuffled out of the barn, heading towards the farmhouse.

Family

It had now been one month since he lost it on his son George and his family. Jeb was eager that they had accepted his request to spend some time around Christmas with them. He sat at the dinner table and enjoyed a Christmas ham. He watched as his grandkids opened a present on Christmas Eve and even got to open a gift of his own. His left wrist now adorned with a Rolex watch. A taste of luxury he never would have afforded as a farmer.

It had grown late on Christmas Day. He tucked his grandkids in and told them a story for the first time in his life. “Goodnight Em and George. It’s time for me to disappear.” Jeb bid his son and his wife goodnight. He hugged George and kissed Emily softly on her forehead. He made his way slowly up the stairs and into the makeshift guestroom that had been set up for him. Jeb sat down on the edge of the air mattress. He slid his feet out of his boots that he had hastily cleaned before coming to visit George. Jeb turned to the small bag he brought with him to carry his clothes and hygiene products. Jeb reaches in carefully and pulls out a small .357 magnum revolver. The barrel is gloss black, all the way back to the handle which is smooth white and gray marble swirl. He flips the revolver out looking into the empty holes. Jeb sighs aloud as he digs into his shirt pocket. He removes a small round copper tipped bullet. He kisses the top of it and drops it into the revolver. He spins the revolver and catches it; slowly sliding it shut, ensuring the bullet is in line with the hammer. Jeb spins slowly on the mattress laying his head on the flat pillow provided to him. He holds the revolver to his chest while he stares at the ceiling. “Here I come, Moreen,” he pauses. “Tell Tom I’ll be home for dinner.” Jeb sighs again and places the barrel of the revolver in his mouth.

Emily and George were nestled close in their bed. A thunderous gunshot echoes through the house. George sits up hurriedly. Emily rises up slowly sitting up next to her husband. George turns to his wife; a sly smile spreads across his face. “We can sell the land for oil rights now.” George whispers to Emily. She smiles and kisses him softly. “I told you I’d make all your dreams come true.” George whispers in her ear and the two kiss deeply. They lay back down in their bed and drift off to sleep.


© Copyright 2019 SR Remus. All rights reserved.

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