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Art, like fiction, comes to me when I least expect it. I'll be doing something very random like driving, folding laundry, or just laying on the floor when I get an image or an idea in my head. I've tried thinking about people and what they would like, this normally doesn't work very well to me. Usually I reflect on a conversation, and then work backward from that. When I went shopping and saw the black shower curtain with the sparkles in it, I went home and suddenly I saw a fluffy pink heart in the middle of a diamond bright sky. I'm better at concepts then I am at execution, when I get to the art studio I realize that I forgot my templates at home. My goal is to do something my sister will like better than the mermaid picture. I start with a diamond in the middle and I'm pleased with the way that turns out. I have to have a ruler or I can't even start. Somehow having that helps me, even if the end product doesn't use the lines I drew before I started painting.

Once I had the diamond shape I started filling it in, I was really happy with the way that things were going as far as control went, but the colors were very wrong. I know I can fix this and get more paint which feels wasteful even though I always try to use as little as possible. Eventually I'd like to get to where the better artists are at where they take amounts that seem too small to be effective, this is a smarter and better approach, I'm just not there yet. My focus in on my sister, but my mind wanders. I don't know why I think this way, but I have lists in my head and I go through them in numerical or alphabetical order. The other day my unicorn friend told me to paint for those who inspire me. I think about her, then I think about this guy and other people at work. Suddenly this guy and my sister are connected inside of my head which seems very strange to me.

I totally change the entire piece and it's all sorts of fun, but as I'm working I'm wondering, what is the connection between him and her? They've never met, they don't look like each other, but the dots have been connected inside of my head and I want to understand why it exists. It's almost like they're merging together and I can't tell where one of them begins and the other ends, this happens to me, but typically not to this extent. Ever since I met him he's reminded me of my youngest daughter. They both have this intense stillness about them as if the world is going on around them and they aren't really a part of it. Their job is to observe, to reflect, to contemplate, they have flashes of insight that I appreciate, they have a very similar sense of humor, it takes them a long time to warm up to others. They seem disinterested in most conversations, but if you can get them talking, they're endlessly fascinating and captivating. They have bedroom eyes that seem at odds with the precision of their insight, as if they see people on every level imaginable.

This is subjective, but they're both incredibly beautiful to me. My sister is too. Physical looks are just one aspect of beauty, people become more or less beautiful to me as I get to know them. As soon as someone is unkind, I no longer find them as attractive as I did. My daughter and my sister can be extremely cutting, but rarely does this happen, and typically they are provoked. I've seen them melting down, and it is not pretty. My daughter hates violence and conflict of any kind, I have a tendency to forget that others have feelings and realize that many people have no idea how easily I'm hurt by things that they say, do, or neglect. A lot of my life is spent thinking things like - I need a job. People will be at this job. Sometimes people are fun and neat and interesting and I will learn things from them. I psyche myself up by listening to certain songs, I try to tell myself, you are in control, you can have a good day regardless of what others may do or say. I try not to let others see how they are negatively affecting me. For the most part I withdraw, do my own thing, or seek out others who will be uplifting, supportive, and encouraging.

All of these people have hurt me very deeply, deeper than people who call me names, or try to undermine me or bully me. When someone who is a jerk or a bitch goes after me, I know how to deal with that. When someone who isn't cruel decides that they no longer want me to be in their life, it is one of the most hurtful things I can think about. Most of the time I really don't care what others think about me. I typically know who I am and while I may not love everthing about myself, I know I have worth, value, and a place on this earth. When I'm involved in a situation where I'm the source of someone else's pain, fear, or anger, it hurts. Intuition isn't a feeling, but it directs my feelings if that makes sense and I trust it because the times when I haven't, it has not gone well for me. The night that the people who had purchased our bunk beds came over, my youngest daughter was in a mood. I can no longer remember why, but she was angry and upset, and I was trying to deal with these people and her. She was lashing out, saying horrible things, and I know that they as parents understood that children have their moments, but I was stressed out and did not deal with any of this as well as I wish I could have.

On a torn half sheet of paper there was a heart about the size of a half dollar piece. It was an apology from Jane and the heart on the paper had been done in her own blood. My father's grandmother spent quite a bit of time being treated at various psychiatric facilities when she was younger. She had graduated from high school at sixteen, gotten married, and then went on to start a family with my grandfather who was two years older than herself. They both had red hair and blue eyes, he was Norwegian, she was Swedish, all three of their children have red hair and blue eyes, my aunt married a man with red hair, and they passed that on to three of my cousins. The rest of us inherited the fair skin, but most of the people on my mom's side have eyes that are gray, green, or blue-green, so the parents my children had inherited those. I took my daughter's note seriously and made an appointment for her to talk to someone about it. I don't know if it helped or not, but I thought it was the right thing to do at the time. When the first woman wasn't a hit I tried someone else. I liked her better, but my daughter still complained.

I won't get into how upset I was when their father never paid his portion of the bill for counseling services, that's on him, but it illustrates the priority he places on mental health services. My oldest daughter has scars on her arms from harming herself. I'm in a much better place than I have been previously, I'm not worried that suicide is going to be how I die anymore although there was a point in my life where I thought it could be the easy way out I longed to take. It wasn't because I hated other people and wanted to punish them, it was because my world had become so harmful to me that I didn't think I could cope any longer. I didn't sit and think about how I could or would do it, I would be going along, something would happen, and I would instantly think of the fastest, cleanest, and easiest way to get from one side to the other as if I could jump from life into death without actually standing on a bridge because the last thing you want to do is arouse suspicion of any sort. I created a character named Stan and gave him a girlfriend named Carole Ann to help him work through some of his issues while she was dealing with her own.

He's very smart, he's going to become an orthopedic surgeon, and then he realizes that he hates practicing medicine. She's a nurse, she loves babies, she's very feminine and womanly, he has a feminine side, but he can also be very cold and harsh because he's trying to protect himself. She doesn't fit the ideal beauty standards most men are looking for, she's overweight, but sometimes it seems as if she has higher levels of self esteem than he does. They start talking, she's attracted to him because of things she's seen, he likes her because she has an off beat sense of humor. He needs a roommate because his is studying abroad, her roommate is getting married, they talk about living together, she goes to the condo that he's staying at, they talk, and they find that they have some things in common like a very sarcastic streak. They're both introverted, he makes jokes about hating people, she makes comments to further the conversation, I learned a lot by writing about them and how they faced their challenges together. Unlike some of my other characters they aren't wealthy, gorgeous, athletic, and well dressed. 

His dad comes over, leaves a partially burning cigarette in their garbage can, and starts the condo that his cousin Brad is letting them use on fire. They escape, but they're left with very little and that's essentially where the story really begins, the parts leading up to that are mostly background. He wants her to be a part of his life, they don't really go on dates, the first night that she came over they made tacos together, but most of the time they just sit around talking. He has a secret that he doesn't tell her. She guesses part of it, and knowing what she does about him makes her determined to try and make his life better going forward. She has things going on in her personal life that he doesn't like. Her parents are getting divorced, her father had an affair and now she's going to be getting a new brother or sister at her age. Her mom thinks her life is over because she was a part time coach at a small local school, her dad was the bill payer, and now her mom is freaking out because she doesn't know what she's going to do for money.

When Stan and Carole Ann get to Wisconsin he gets a job working for his cousin. He writes, but he doesn't really share it with anyone. Then his cousin tells him that they're going to be implementing a strategy at work where they have classes that people can attend; one of them is writing, another is art, fitness is a third, his cousin wants the organization to be healthier and this is his plan. Stan quickly recognizes that his cousin knows more than he does about running a business and talks to Carole Ann about quitting when he sees that he's unable to do the job he was hired to do. A woman at work has a mild heart attack, Stan is in art class when he has an episode where the project in front of him becomes this woman's heart, and this was my very long winded roundabout way to talk about the tiny paintings that I see. The first one started out as red lines, then it had a black background that became the ace of spades on a white background. White card, black spade, red lines depicting the flow of blood in someone's forearm and hand. This was scary, but at the same time I thought it would be kind of a cool piece to do if I could get it to come out right and I wasn't sure that I could.

One day I was on my way to work when I tripped over my daughter's shoes and cut the area above my eyelid. This summer I got bit by a dog. Both times I had spectacular bruising, this was the next painting that I saw, and just like before, it came out of nowhere without me really doing anything consciously. The owner of the company appeared in my mind, I couldn't really see him, I could sense that he was there though. I don't care for him, and I didn't want to be feeling sorry for him. The bruised painting went away, and then, this is even weirder to me, the painting above his head became completely blank. It was as if I could see something that wasn't there that was supposed to be there, this sounded off even to me, but that's still there today, the painting that isn't there that should be, like a place holder waiting for the pain or problem to emerge so it can get out onto the canvas and he can start dealing with whatever this is that I think he might have in his life. It was dark that night as we drove back out of the city. I let my eyes rest on the sky and then I saw our company logo against a black background.

The next person who came into my head was my former PT. I thought I could give him this painting and he would know what to do with it. We are not close and I don't think I would actually do this, but I might and I wouldn't ask my friend with the crush about it either. I think it could be a way to communicate to him - hey, you did something foolish, but it's okay. You're forgiven, there are no hard feelings, and I know that you may never set foot in the store again, but it's okay for you to feel those feelings when they come over you. Even though the subjects are emotionally charged, the paintings seem flat and still, they're just objects, they can't do anything on their own, it's up to me to decide whether I want to try and get them out to see if that helps, or I should just let time pass and see what happens. Another painting that came to me was blue stripes with a red object that I think was either a heart or a diamond. I have a blue striped bag that I carry practically everywhere, I love stripes, and I like it when things match. This painting was not scary, but it also didn't have an owner. It was abandoned art, uncreated, unclaimed, unpredictable, unforgettable.

Today I was thinking about my bathroom and I wonder if there is an absence of softness and beauty in my life. Things are too loud, they're too harsh, too abrasive, too cold, too fiery, I want peace, calm, the Bible says - come to me all who are weary, and I will give you rest. I wonder how much longer I'll put up with going to work and taking what I do from people who have skills I don't. I can deal with it, but that doesn't make it right or okay. I can sense who will retaliate, most of the time I just don't engage. I think letting them live with who they are as people is consquence enough for the actions even though I can see how speaking up could possibly help, but I've also learned it goes nowhere and often comes back at me in ways I didn't expect. These women are ganging up on me. They're making excuses for not doing work that they were hired to do, and I'm not the person who is going to try and change anyone. 

One of the cute tiny paintings I can see is the one I want to do for my manager, maybe I will put that one next on my list. She was born on March 17, her middle name is Maureen, and I want to do a shamrock for her in different shades of green. This is trite, but I know that she will appreciate it. I really want to do a green diamond for her, but the shamrock seems more appropriate. I just love diamonds. I love the coolness, the color, the brilliance, the depth, what they represent, I hate how they are extracted from the earth, but you can buy uncut diamonds as well. Years ago I read a book on the pearl industry. I love pearls too. The luminous quality, how they are the result of an irritation, the luster, the water that surrounds them, it's not pretty to read about in most cases. Workers are exploited, divers are underpaid and subjected to atrocities and conditions I can't imagine, everything comes at a price.

I love beautiful things and places and my apartment does not feel beautiful to me the way that my home did at times. This is my refuge, I spend a lot of time here, and after I went through some of my books I started thinking, what would make this place more comfortable, less cluttered, more inviting, less random, more fluid, warmer, softer, more inspiring, and more intimate and personal? I want it to be a place where the world starts to retreat when I walk through the door. A place where I can unwind, relax, take a bath, eat a meal, sit down to write, reflect on my day, have people over without being embarrassed, I want to get out of the shower and wrap myself up in a really nice towel before I have to start getting dressed for the day. I want it to smell nice, to ease the stresses of our days, a place where there is love, harmony, light, honesty, where we can listen to rain and music and onions sizzling while squash bakes. 

I'm so tired today. It's not the kind of tired that a nap can fix, it's tired of being on my own, of feeling like I have to explain or defend myself, of feeling like I haven't been accepted for who I am when I've tried to make others feel that way so they don't have to go through what I am. I wonder what the painting above my head looks like and go to the mirror and check. Then I realize that my face lets people see what I am thinking and feeling and I think about going to work tomorrow, I can't think about it. I've never written in the calendar my boss gave me for my birthday. I use it the same way I used to use books and magazines on decorating, as pictures that make me feel better. My taxes are on my list of things to do and once again I'm reminded of the fights from years gone by. Last year I had all sorts of trouble with them, but this is a new year. I'm just tired today. Exhausted from taking care of other people and not knowing how to ask for help with the things I need because I never learned before. It feels like I never will, but this is a lie too.

I'm going to go lie down for a while. I just need a break...

Xoxo,

J

***

"What's this?"

"It's a present, for you."

"I see." He flipped open the book and studied the blank pages. "This is about my speed. Books with no words. Where are the pictures?"

"It's a journal. You can write down your feelings. I thought it would help."

It wasn't a large book, but it felt heavy in his hands. "Thanks Ginny."

"What are you feeling right now?"

"Um, I don't really know."

"Happy, sad, confused, overwhelmed, scared, joyful, angry?"

"All of the above?"

"You give so many other people presents, I thought you might like one yourself."

"That's, really not how it works."

"How does it work?"

"I don't know."

"What do you know?"

"I don't know. Not much."

"Why do you shop at the Vietnamese grocery store?"

"Cheap mangoes, cilantro, and ginger. These other stores are such a rip off. Plus I like to support local community run businesses."

"Now tell me the real reason."

"That is the real reason."

"I did some snooping. Did you want to change your story?"

"What did you find? Discount pricing on bulk champagne mangoes?"

"Are you The White Dragon?"

"No. Are you?"

"Who is?"

"How would I know?"

"I found something and I think it belongs to you. I did some research, there's something you're not telling me. I'll find out what you're hiding eventually. I am very good at research."

"I believe you."

"You don't have to tell me."

"I'll tell you, but, Lana is The White Dragon. It started out as a totally stupid joke and then got very out of control."

"Can you tell me the story?"

"She gave me a pair of pants that had a white dragon climbing up the side of the left leg. They didn't fit so I was going to send them back. She sent me another pair, this time the dragon was on the right leg. We were goofing around and talking when I noticed that one of my spring training caps was missing. I don't wear it often, but I thought it was weird that it was gone. I was shopping one day and this guy comes up to me. He's about my height, but his hair is lighter and he's got a bunch of acne scars on his face. He tells me he wants to talk to me and I'm like, okay, what's up?"

He paused, and continued. "He asks who I am, I tell him, it's not a secret or anything. He shows me some money, two hundred bucks, it's in twenties. He tells me that two guys approached him and told him that they were making a movie based on a professional athlete who goes to Australia and gets attacked by a shark. He makes a dramatic recovery, blah, blah, blah, this kid tells me that his mom is involved in the theater and these guys aren't. He thinks, he doesn't come out and say this exactly, but his feeling is that these are some bad hombres and then he hands me this brown paper bag. It's got some of my clothes in it including the spring training cap that was missing. I ask him where he got it and he tells me these guys tell him he can keep the clothes as partial payment for services rendered. They had him out in back of the store to see if he could do things like walk on his hands, swing a baseball bat, throw a football, and do cartwheels. They told him they would get back to him if he fit the bill and then they asked if he'd be willing to color his hair if he gets the part. He asks a couple of questions like does he need a passport for this role, legit questions any actor would ask is what it sounded like to me. He gave me his name and number and we've been in touch on and off since. His girlfriend is missing. I know her. I go to the bank across the street, she one time helped me out with a problem, I couldn't get Fern's name off of my account unless she was physically at the stupid bank herself to sign the paperwork. I was annoyed, she travels, I do, I trust Fern not to take money from me, this woman pulls up my name, she pulls up Fern's, then she says something about this other account that I don't have, but I look, and sure enough, there's an account that I didn't open and there's six hundred grand just sitting there. Lana is into micro loans and lending. People come in looking for small amounts of money, a couple hundred dollars. They tell the cashier that they want a discount on a case of mangoes, they go upstairs, their store card gets linked to the account Lana has for them, I have a massage therapist named Lily who needed some extra cash, and I guess that this is what Lana came up with for a job. The store is her project, she wanted it cleaned up, she worked for my grandparents, still does actually, and she helped them become more profitable." He took another sip of his water and put his glass back down.

"I called in a favor from a guy I know. I told him what was going on and he said she had to make sure she didn't make a profit from this, or she would be in real trouble if she was ever caught. I forget if it was banking regulations, or FDIC requirements, this is just fun for her. She wants to help people. Most people pay on time, she sends a bag of free groceries to people who don't pay, it's a kind of public shaming that is remarkably effective. She does debt forgiveness every Friday, and nobody gets picked if anyone defaulted on a payment that week. She's got a system and it works. People think I'm someone important just because I'm a local celebrity, they take care of me, and I try to take care of them. I would rather not have her involved in this, but I'm not going to stop her either. It's honestly been so stressful thinking about what would happen if whoever, I don't know who would bust up an operation like this, but I don't want her involved in it, I don't want Gretchen to know anything about it, I guess you can take care of yourself, I just don't like it, but I get it. These people can't get loans from regular banks and they're mostly hard working decent people with some pretty good stories. Lana can read people and so can Lily. There aren't a lot of requirements, you can get recommended by a friend, if Lana or Lily thinks you're up to no good, you ain't getting no money from either of them. This guy is named Andy, he seems like a good kid. He hangs around and he noticed the store had more traffic than usual. He talked to his girlfriend, I just don't like the fact that she's gone. She's sweet. She's not drop dead gorgeous or fabulously intelligent, but she does her job and she's always nice to me and other people. I was annoyed and she was still pleasant and professional. It's bugging me that she's not answering her phone or her door. She's not there. He got in, I went with him, the place looks dusty, like someone hasn't been there in a few days."

"What did you do with the money that was in the account that you didn't open? My second question for you; does Brad know about this?"

"Yeah. I told Lana she had to tell him or I'd shut it down myself. It's so sad, this guy needed money to go down to Alabama to visit his dying mother. I helped get him a ride there, but he needed bus money for the ride back. That's his life, he couldn't raise bus money on his own. He looks greasy and grizzled, but he's not a bad dude or anything. This other guy wanted to go out west to see his first grandchild. His daughter fell down the stairs when she was pregnant and hurt her back, people need money for car repairs and prom dresses, it's really opened my eyes to how much I spend without even thinking about it. Twenty bucks is a lot of money to these people. I go in and try to just, I don't know, just be there I guess. It's a break from everything else. I go there and people are super nice to me, they gave me office space, it's a room that I can't even stretch out in, but I know that this is a big deal to these poor souls so I put some stuff in it and I go up there when I'm at the store to keep up appearances. I didn't do anything with the money, it's still there. I didn't think I should touch it. That is a lot of lettuce to just be sitting there doing nothing."

"Do you think this Andy kid is telling you the truth about the clothes and the money?"

"I don't see how he could be making up a story like that. One of the guys sounds like Lily's uncle John. The other guy was white. Lily is partially Japanese, her mom was white. I know her because Fern and I worked with her uncle when we lived in Toronto, he actually moved out to Seattle because Brad told him he could make more money if he followed us and hopefully that was true, he does a lot of martial arts stuff, I've never worked so damn hard in my life, if you ever need someone who will teach you how to take a hit to the throat, or your genitals, he's the man. This motherfucker is in his seventies and he could easily whip the shit out of almost everyone I know. There isn't a muscle on his body that he can't control. He's a little much for me, but apparently Fern got something out of learning how to take a kick to the vulva. That's a joke."

"Do you think you're in trouble?"

"I don't see how I could be."

"If someone was hired to impersonate you, and his girlfriend is missing, are you scared?"

"Hell yeah I'm scared. I play a game for a living. I go out on the field and someone tries to get balls past me. Then I stand around with a little stick and try to swat at balls that are thrown at me. I did not sign up for this. I don't want to get all paranoid or anything, but ten to one says that woman is dead. I just know that she is. There's no fucking way she just stood up, didn't call in sick, didn't show up for work, didn't tell her boyfriend where she was going, and just vanished. She's dead. I know it. I don't know it, but I know it."

"What are you going to do?"

"I have no idea. Panic. That's about the only option I have left."

"You could plan."

"No, Brad is the planner. I do not plan things. I walk outside, and if there's snow falling, I guess I'll be cold because I forgot to grab a jacket."

"Why would someone go after her? The money is still there. What role did she play that they went after her? Could her disappearance be unrelated to these other events? What happened immediately before she disappeared? Do we have a description of the other man who was with Lily's uncle?"

"He's about my height, he was wearing jeans, boots, a flannel, aviator sunglasses, he smokes, he was wearing a minor league baseball cap, the kid didn't recognize the team, but I did, it doesn't exist anymore so that's interesting. He's left handed, and he's the one who seemed to be running the show, but the Asian dude handed over the money. He was wearing a navy blue suit and a red power tie with a white dress shirt. He had a gold watch, a bracelet that looked expensive to this kid, and he had a wedding ring. No ring on the other guy. They're both older, probably fifties or maybe even early sixties. One of the things I got back was a shirt that belongs to my uncle Dave. The kid said, get this, he said, I thought something was off because the pants smelled different than the shirt and cap. Can you believe that?"

"You smell nice. Interesting that he picked that up though. Do you think most people would have?"

"I have a super amazing sense of smell. I don't know that I would have though. I don't go around smelling other people's clothes."

"Do you have a relative who fits the description of the white man?"

"I hate to say this, but he kind of sounds like it could be my uncle Mark. Just from the things that this kid was saying, this kid can imitate others, he has my uncle Mark's mannerisms down. The way he smokes, the way he talks, what a fucking prick he is. Mark kind of dresses like that too. He's an engineer, but he doesn't dress like one. He's the meanest son of a bitch and I don't care that he's my blood relative. He has done a lot of shit to a lot of people. Burned them, raped them, assaulted them, degraded them, tried to kill them. Brad has a life threatening wheat allergy which I'm sure you heard about. We were at home and he shoved his sub sandwich into Brad's face and then tried coming after me, but I ran away from him and went over to the neighbor's house and I was sure that Brad was going to die, he spent a week in the hospital after that. Another time Mark took a folding chair, threw me down to the ground, and put it over my neck. I could breathe fine, but it was the psychological impact of having him stand over me like that while he spit in my face, I could tell you other stories, but you get the idea. Never open the door for him. Don't even answer the door if you see who it is, pretend you're not home and call for help. Like police type help. He shot people in Vietnam just for the hell of it."

"What do you think he's hoping to accomplish by partnering with Lily's uncle?"

"I have no idea. What do you think?"

"Who gets your money if anything happens to you?"

"Brad, Lana, Gretchen, and my sister Natalie. I told her to share it with her husband."

"Do you have a will?"

"Oh yeah, I had to redo it after I got divorced. Brad is good about things like that. I could die in a plane crash is what he said. I do not enjoy flying, Gretchen loves it. She likes my uncle Mark. She thinks he's funny. He does treat her very well. He thinks she should take flying lessons, Brad has his license, Gretchen thinks Mark is, she knows he's a bully, but she thinks he's misunderstood. She's not dumb, but my dad has spelled things out for her, I don't know, I honestly don't think he would do anything to her, but with someone like that, you just never know. He is pure evil. Brad and I are twins, one year he sent Brad a birthday present, but not me. I was a baby and cried about it, but that is just, it's a dick move. It's totally how he is too. He said he had something for me and didn't know why it didn't get sent. What a bullshitter."

"Does he have any social media accounts?"

"I think he's on Facebook. Don't send him a friend request."

"We can start doing some research. If he was in town, and met with your friend, then there's a trail of evidence, we can show Andy pictures of him, and see what he says. What do you think?"

"You are fucking brilliant. I never would have thought about any of that."

"If he's your uncle, we might even be able to get his social security number. We can get his date of birth, we can run his credit report. If he owes large sums of money to creditors, that would be interesting."

"A tree fell on their house and they're not dealing with that. I don't think it's a financial issue though, they live out in rural Colorado. My aunt is an OB-GYN. They have money."

"There's no other reason for anyone to go after you. You're young, you're athletic, you're in your prime, they know that they can't beat you in a fight, you'd run if you couldn't best them any other way, they have to be smart enough to realize that a face to face conflict is their loss and you would win if it came to that. You're not married, Gretchen gets along with him. It has to be about money. It has to be."

"I honestly would piss myself if my uncle Mark came after me because that dude does not care. I don't know if he's a psychopath or a sociopath or even what the fucking difference is, he is bad news. Seriously. I'm scared just thinking about that douche bag."

"Unless he's trying to ruin your name or reputation. But what is his underlying motivation? What does he want? Why hire this kid and give him clothes, and tell him that he can keep them? That doesn't make sense to me, none of this does. These are stupid criminals. Stupid criminals, stupid criminals can be caught. We need evidence."

"What were you going to say?"

"Josh's dad, he wears a suit to work, your uncle and Lily's remind me of him. The bat I gave my dad is missing. Josh's dad is a Cubs fan, but he wanted that bat when he saw it. His parents never liked me. Even before they found out he couldn't have kids of his own, they hate me."

"Why?"

"I see them for who they are and they don't like that. I don't play their games and they hate that. I know more about baseball than them and they can't handle that. They're old school. They don't understand advanced metrics. I did some digging and found out that Josh had money in an account I didn't know about. His parents put it there so they wouldn't have to pay taxes on it. I moved it on them."

"Whoa. What did they do when they found out about that?"

"Nothing. I don't think they know yet. They hadn't set up online banking. I did. It was very simple."

"How much money are we talking about?"

"Enough. I don't want you to get into trouble, I shouldn't have told you any of this."

"Is it, like really big money?"

"It's not that much, but it would make them mad if they knew it was gone."

"These people sound like they would be lovely partners. What does his dad do for a living?"

"Besides boss his secretary around? Nothing really. His job is a joke. He's the VP of marketing. I have better ideas than he does and I don't have a marketing degree. He has a history degree. His dad helped him get the job years ago. He needs to be phased out."

"Sounds like what happened to Lily's uncle John. He was in banking and got let go when there was a merger and he wasn't up on the computer side of the business like he needed to be. My uncle Mark is a technology junkie. That's not his problem. He loves electronics and those kinds of toys. I hate to say anything nice about him, but he can land a plane or a helicopter anywhere. No lie."

"Then they're perfect partners. It's the differences that make a match work. Look at Brad and Lana. He's the thinker, she's the feeler, together, they're a perfect match."

"I guess. I never really thought about it that way."

"You and Gretchen, thinking and feeling. It works."

"It sounds very stereotypical."

"It is."

"Then why didn't Brad and Gretchen work?"

"Introvert and extrovert. She was too much for him. Brad and Lana basically share the same brain. He cares about facts, she cares about people. Together they use facts to help people. You see how that works?"

"My mind is blown."

"Me and you, introvert and extrovert, I'm more thinking, you're more feeling, I plan, you need planning help. It works."

"How did you get so fucking smart?"

"My dad told lies about me. Then I had to try and figure out ways to make them be true. He's a pathological liar. He told people I could swim and golf, I had to learn how and I had to be great. Gretchen lies, you don't care. You have lied to me, but usually it's to protect other people. I think you want to tell the truth."

"My dad can't stand liars. He absolutely will not tolerate it. Brad either. Lana is slightly more tolerant. I used to lie. Gretchen still does. That bugs me."

"Why do you put up with it?"

"I love her."

"Then love her enough to break it off if she continues to lie to you. Honesty is the foundation of healthy relationships."

"I know."

"It's okay to be scared."

"I'm not scared of her."

"Really?"

"Okay, maybe a little I am."

"You don't share your feelings with her. Until you do, your relationships will continue to fail. You go after the feeling types and then you shut them down when you think they can tell how you feel."

"I don't think Fern could really tell how I was feeling like ever."

"Really?"

"Yes, really."

"Fern and Lana are very similar personalities in my opinion. Fern could read you and you couldn't read her so it didn't work. You lied to her and you scared her. Introvert and extrovert, intuitive and intuitive, thinking and feeling, it could have worked, but you were too immature."

"That's what my dad said. He said she outgrew me. She's five years younger than I am."

"You probably broke her heart."

"I don't think she has a heart to break."

"It's under layers and layers of defense mechanisms to prevent people from getting too close. You both have issues. Work on them please."

"I'm trying."

"Use the feelings journal. It will be hard, but it will help."

"What can I do to help you?"

"You're letting me stay here. That's enough."

"It doesn't seem like enough."

"I tell the truth. You are helping me. I'm scared. I may not show it, but I am. Brad offered me a job and I'm going to take it. He's going to help me get out of Illinois and away from people in my family and his. I'm very grateful to you and Gretchen and him and Lana and the rest of your family as well."

"Gosh Ginny, of course we're going to help a distressed neighbor."

"You don't have to, I appreciate friends. I don't have many."

"I'll be your friend. I can't speak for anyone else, I think Brad and Lana like you though."

"They're too into themselves right now. Which is okay. They should be. They're young, and in love."

"Yeah, they have kind of earned it."

"I'm going to go lie down for a while."

"Do you need anything?"

"No. Thank you."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive."

"I don't believe you."

"I just need to rest. I have an inoperable tumor on my pituitary gland. By the time I was fourteen I had breasts that were so large they hurt my back. I had surgery to reduce them, but the tumor is still there. It won't kill me, it gives me headaches though."

"Shit, that sucks. You want me to come hang out with you for a while?"

"No, like you said the other night, I just need some time to myself. Thank you though. That's very sweet of you."

"I love you."

"I love you too. Thank you for that. It helps. Goodnight."

"Goodnight sweetheart. Kisses." She walked down the hall, laid down on the bed that wasn't her own, and stared at the screen in front of her with dry eyes. It was going to be a long night.

***

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