Duncan gave Richie a dirty look as he passed through the office and the teen was still on the phone. "I do not pay you to talk to your girlfriend on the phone. Hang it up."
Richie gave him a sheepish grin. "I gotta go, Ange," he said. "I'll call you when I get off." He hung up the phone.
"How many times, Rich? When you are on the clock, you are not on the phone."
"Chill, there isn't even anyone here. I would'a hung up if someone came in."
"Richie, I know you like her and you like going out with her. But in order to take her out, you have to have money, and in order to get money you have to…."
"Work," he filled in the blank.
"And where do you work?"
"Really? Because you don't seem to be keeping up too well." He nodded at the stack of invoices that had been piling up on the desk.
Richie blushed. "Sorry, Mac, guess I just got distracted." He got up and picked up the invoices and went to the filing cabinet.
"Rich, I was just as girl crazy as you at eighteen," Duncan said, attracting the boy's attention. "But I also learned that I had to prioritize."
"How?" he asked, taking the bait.
"Let's just say it involved a switch and my back side."
Richie winced. "At eighteen?"
"He couldn't exactly take away my Game-boy."
"God bless technology."
Duncan chuckled. The phone rang and he reached for it. He spoke to the person on the other end for a minute then covered the receiver and told Richie: "Go tell Tessa she has a call on line three."
Richie returned a few minutes later and began to help Duncan rearrange the store in order to make room for a shipment coming in. Half and hour later, Tessa came downstairs with the phone in her hands and a smile on her face.
"Who was that?" Duncan asked.
"That was the Bureau of Arts and Monuments in Paris. I've been chosen to curate "a historical retrospective on sculpture and form"."
"So," Richie asked. "You'd, like, sit in a museum all day and… curate?"
"Actually," she admitted. "It's a traveling exhibition; it'd be on tour."
"And you'd go with it?" Duncan asked.
"No. But the post is in Paris. That's where the collection will be gathered."
Richie's mouth went dry. "Hell of a commute," he commented.
"It's not exactly a fly over kind of job, is it?" Duncan almost accused Tessa.
"Hold on here!" Richie interrupted before Tessa could answer. "You're not thinking of closing up and jamming off to gay Paree, are ya?" he asked. "I mean, you guys have a big investment here… in time, effort, building up a clientele. And-and reputation. That kinda stuff takes years to build."
"I'm not asking you to do that," Tessa told Duncan as Richie tried to distract himself with whoever was knocking at the door. It was a delivery boy with a package for Duncan.
"You opened it?" Duncan asked, taking the package.
"Just doing my job," he shrugged, glad for the distraction.
Duncan took out the leather pouch and poured its contents onto a display case. He moved the little stones around until he came to rest on an arrangement. "Someone's coming to pay me a visit."
Richie trudged along behind Duncan in the snow, grumbling about the stupid Washington weather, having to cancel a date to rummage in the wilderness, and anything that could be complained about.
"Fine, we're done," Duncan announced in a groan.
"Good." Richie came to a stop beside him, panting as the elder stretched his muscles.
"So, why exactly did I have to come?" Richie asked again.
"Because in the real world, hormones do not rule everything." Duncan ruffled his hair. "I tell ya what, I'll give you a day off next week to spend with Angie, alright?" The two had dated all summer and spent any amount of time together they could.
They built a fire and sat down to warm up. "So..." Richie asked fingering the runes from the little pouch that had been delivered. "What do these things say exactly? I mean it has to be more than, "Grayson arrives on noon stage, sharpen sword…"
Duncan explained to Richie the runes and explained to him exactly who Grayson was and what was going on.
"Victor Paulus? I heard of that guy; he, like, leads rallies and stuff. He's one of you guys?"
"Actually, he's one of you guys."
Richie smiled. "So, is this why you drug me out here? So you can beat this Grayson dude?"
"He's fourteen hundred years older than I am. There's reason to take him seriously."
Somewhere off in the distance, a wild animal yelled an echoing roar.
"What was that?" Richie asked, panicked.
"Cougar." Richie's eyes widened at the simple answer. "It's not on the island."
"Just tell me they don't swim."
"Actually, they're great swimmers."
"Well, actually, that's just great."
Duncan chuckled. "Don't worry."
"I've told you a thousand times, I don't do the outdoors."
"You're fine, Rich. Why don't you tell me some more about Angie? I'm not sure I know where her birthmark is," he teased.
Everything had moved a little to fast for Richie to keep up with all the details. Apparently, while Duncan held him captive at the island, Grayson had come to the shop to harass Tessa. And Duncan had thwarted an attempt to kill Paulus that had that reporter lady sniffing around again. And somewhere within all the shuffle, Tessa had accepted the job in Paris.
"Take that one down," she told him as he came up from a lunch date.
Richie rolled his eyes at the order and grabbed the suitcase in question. "Whoa." He put it back down. "This feels like a permanent move."
"It could be. I don't know."
"Oh," Richie realized. "That's cool… I mean… no roots, you know…no …bonds… liabilities…"
"Richie…" She realized a moment too late how this was affecting the teen.
"Lemme ask you one question. Why are you going to Paris? I mean, why now?"
"I'll only be a distraction," she told him, loading books into a carry on. "Duncan will think more clearly if I'm not around."
"Well, I think he should worry about you and all those French dues, if you ask me."
Duncan came in from the back room. "That's why you're going with her." He handed Richie and envelope.
"This is a plane ticket to Paris."
"Guess you should pack."
"How long?" Richie asked.
"I don't know."
"I can't go; I can't just move out of the blue like this… what about Angie?"
"What about her?" Duncan asked, after all it was merely teenage love.
"I can't just leave her," the teen insisted. "I mean, I got something going on here!"
"So that's it? I just gotta pack up and go?"
"It's not safe for you here, Richie. Grayson came after Tessa, he may come after you next."
"So I'll go stay with Angie."
"And put her in danger?" Duncan asked. "If you really like her as much as you say you do, you won't want that for her."
Richie thought about it, then nodded, going back into his room to pack.
He knew that he had to call Angie, but he didn't want to break up with her. But was it fair for him to ask her to put everything on hold until a more stable decision was made about this trip? He picked up the phone, dialed the now autopilot number and made arrangements to meet her in half an hour outside.
As luck would have it, Angie showed up as they were beginning to load the taxi that had been called to take Tessa and him to the airport.
"Hey, what's all this?" she asked.
"I gotta talk to you, and I really couldn't do this over the phone," he explained.
"Where are you going?" she asked looking at the bags.
"Yeah…uh, see, that's what I wanted to talk to you about. See…I'm kinda… moving."
"What?" Angie demanded.
"We're moving. Tess and me. To Paris. I don't wanna go Ange, but I got no choice."
"Are you kidding me?" she yelled. "How lame can you get? 'I'm sorry, I can't date you anymore, I'm moving across the world last minute?'"
"No, see… when they first started talking about it, it wasn't gonna happen, then Tessa was gonna go, and I thought I was staying," he explained. "Then I get home from lunch and find out that I'm going and the plane leaves in a few hours. I just found out."
"You just found out?" she folded her arms.
"You expect me to believe this?"
"It's the truth, Ange."
"Why, why are you moving so suddenly?"
"I, uh," his mind raced. "I dunno, I just work here."
"So are you working in Paris, as well?"
"I….dunno…" he suddenly realized that he had no idea what he was going to do once they moved. "Guess I'll work for Tess at the museum or something, I dunno."
"Guess you didn't think this through as much as you thought you did," she pointed out coldly, turning on her heel and walking away.
"Ange!" Richie called after her. "Angie, c'mon! I'm not making this up!" She didn't even turn around. "Man!" he kicked the tire of the cab.
"Watch it, kid," the driver barked at him, loading the last of the bags.
"Sorry," Richie mumbled stepping out of the way. Angie had already disappeared around the corner. She was gone. End of story. He heaved a great sigh.
"Are you ready, Richie?" Tessa asked briskly walking out to the building with the plane tickets in her hand.
"Good." She went straight for the back seat of the car and beckoned him to get in with her.
"Go on, Rich," Duncan said from behind him patting his back.
"You and Tessa broke up?" Richie asked.
"No. You and Angie?"
"Sorry, partner." He gave him a one armed hug. "You better get going. Can't have Tessa mad at both of us."
"See ya, right?" Richie asked.
"You're gonna come to Paris when this is all over, aren't you?"
Duncan smiled patiently at him. "I don't know. We'll just have to see what happens."
"That's why you're making me go," Richie realized. "Cause you're not gonna come back."
"I will if I can, Richie," Duncan vowed.
Duncan just nodded, and gave him a push toward the car. Richie got in and let Duncan close the door behind him.
Richie sighed and the taxi turned the corner and slumped in his seat.
"What's wrong?" Tessa asked him gently, a contrast from her brisk behavior a few minutes later.
"Angie doesn't believe me. She's pissed," he explained. "I mean, this figures though, I should have known. I get a girl who likes me, her mom likes me, her dad likes me… and I just get moved again. Picked up and tossed in the back of a car and shipped off to God-knows-where at a whim…"
"Richie…Duncan and I don't mean to just rip you away… It's just for your…our protection." She put her hand on his arm. "You and I aren't so different right now, you know. Both suddenly having to leave home, someone we love…"
Richie looked at her. "You really don't think Mac is coming?"
"I don't know. But I think we will both survive, non?" Richie quirked an eyebrow at her. "Besides you have your memories, long distance calls, and letters. I can help you pick something out for her, if you like."
Richie thought it over and when they got to the airport, grabbed a postcard off of a rack and borrowed a pen from Tessa.
'Angie-' he wrote. 'I know you hate me right now, but I'm telling the truth. I'm at the airport right now. I'm going to miss you. Really, I am. You were my first actually serious girlfriend.' He paused at the unexpected admission. 'Well, I guess this is it. I had a great time this summer, even if it ended on a bad note. I guess I'll write again when I get our address. -Richie'
He sighed, returned Tessa's pen, and slid the postcard into this backpack.
"You can mail it as soon as we get there," she promised him.
Angie sat quietly on the park bench, waiting for Cameron and Beth to arrive so they could hit the mall.
"Hey, Ange!" Beth called as she and Cameron approached. "Where the hell is Richie? I've been calling him all day and the store is all boarded up. What happened?"
"The store is closed?"
"Yeah, sign says 'til further notice'."
Angie's mouth went dry. He had been telling the truth. "He moved," she answered.
"Last week… I have to go." She got up and walked briskly away, toward Westbrook, not stopping until she was in front of the store. Just as reported, the windows were boarded up and the doors firmly locked. She leaned against the front door. He was telling the truth. He really was moving. He really had moved. He really was gone. "I'm sorry," she whispered to the empty street. She sighed and slowly walked back home.
"Angie, what are you doing home?" her mom asked when she came in.
"Didn't feel like going out."
"You got a letter today."
On her bed, Angie found a postcard with the picture of the lighthouse in High Cliff Park on the front. On the reverse was the familiar, girlish handwriting of her ex-boyfriend. At the end of the note, a hopeful arrow pointed at the return address. With an amused grin, she went to her desk and pulled out a few sheets of loose leaf paper from her backpack, wondering how much postage to France would cost her.
AN: many thanks to LoriBelle and Beth for all their help! Please Review!