Shadows Have Offended

Chapter Ten
OCFF#12: Sometimes, in order to move forward, you have to look back at how we got here in the first place.

He watched her. Silently, while she sat gazing out at the horizon, he stood in the window behind her, never once taking his dark, merry orbs from her form. Everyone else was too busy masking their disappointment in each other with fake smiles and pleasantries, but she was the only one who wasn't pretending, and Sandy was sick of the petty fight separating his family. It was time to move on; hell, it was way past time, and the only way that could be accomplished was to welcome and accept Marissa into their family. If no one else was going to make the gesture of good will, then, so be it, he would. After all, of all of them, he had been the least surprised and most supportive of the idea of Ryan and Marissa dating. Although he had never said anything, he had quietly, on the sidelines, noticed his youngest son and his girlfriend growing further and further apart from each other, and he had also noticed the lingering looks his oldest son had sent in the blonde beauty's direction. His only regret was that the couple had not gone about starting their relationship a different, better way.

A part of him could understand Kirsten's attitude towards Marissa. While she and Ryan had somewhat mended the fences by burying the hatchet, thankfully not in each other's back, by putting the past where it belonged, there was still a tension between them, and the attorney feared it would always be there despite his wife not having a valid reason to protest against their son's relationship with the soon-to-be professional photographer. Marissa was smart, talented, classically gorgeous, and, most importantly, she loved Ryan with both a fierce passion and a blind sense of loyalty - just as he loved her. But Kirsten couldn't look past the wedge the young woman had caused between her children; she couldn't forget the pain the now twenty year old woman had caused Seth. Although Sandy had long since figured out the fact that it was more Seth's pride that had been hurt than his heart, Kirsten had always been protective of their youngest son, almost too much so, but he knew that if she continued to struggle against Ryan's decision to be with Marissa, they would eventually lose a part of their family, and, if that happened, nothing would ever be right again.

In fact, he wished that his wife would simply take her cues from Seth himself, as frightening as that thought was. He had moved on, going from girlfriend to girlfriend, and, the father of two suspected, from one night stand to one night stand. It seemed as if some mysterious twist of fate had caused the two brothers to almost switch identities when it came to their personal lives. When one left his womanizing ways behind to become a devoted boyfriend to someone he cared deeply for, the other forgot about the respect he had for women and became a playboy, a cad, and, while the purely male part of Sandy couldn't help but feel a sense of pride in his youngest son's philandering ways, the father in him knew that enough was enough. If he didn't stop his dangerous behavior soon, he would do something he couldn't come back from, and Seth was not emotionally ready or mentally ready to face such severe consequences. Apparently, his body thought otherwise though.

However, thinking about the changes that needed to be made in his family was certainly not going to yield results, so, stepping out from his vantage point just inside the open french doors of the kitchen, Sandy slowly approached the woman lost in thought in a patio chair, smiling softly to himself at the picture she made. He knew that if Marissa could have an out of body experience, she would have wanted to take a picture of herself at that precise moment. Despite the tension surrounding her in the household, she was perfectly content and at peace. Her body and expression were soft with happiness. With her hair blowing gently in the ocean side breeze, and her demure little sun dress fluttering softly with the currents surrounding her, she simply remained there, silently observing the setting sun as he approached. Not even her hands which were resting gently in her lap showed any signs of her awareness of his presence, but he knew she was perfectly alert, and the fact that she spoke first only proved him right.

"Are you sure you want to be doing this... being seen with me, public enemy number one? If you get caught, you might be spending quite a few nights on the couch."

Sandy chuckled, knowing her warning held a strong vein of truth to it. "I'll take the risk."

"Suit yourself." Although the comment was accompanied with a delicate shrug of her bare shoulders, he could tell that her attitude was anything but unaffected or indifferent. She wanted to be acknowledged; she wanted someone to actually accept her as a part, a very important part, of Ryan's life.

"So, may I ask why you're sitting out here all by yourself instead of coming inside?"

Simply stated, she explained, "Ryan needs this time with his family. I know that last year when Kirsten found and confronted us about our relationship, he told her that he would be perfectly fine without her in his life, but he was just lying to cover up the pain. She's his mother, Sandy, just as you're his dad. Nothing I do or become in his life can replace that, and, if I have to stay outside for a few hours by myself to give him that bond back, then I will." Turning around in her chair and curling her legs up underneath her again, the young woman stated confidently, "I love him enough and I'm secure enough in his love for me to do that. I just wish others were so confident."

"Hey," he quickly reassured her, holding up his hands in perhaps what was a gesture of either surrender or compliance, "I agree with you. This little battle of wills between the three of them has gone on long enough, but you hiding out here isn't going to fix anything."

"Ryan and Kirsten need to be on better ground before I try to make peace with her, too."

He nodded his head in acquiesce. "You might be right." Stepping aside momentarily, he reached out for another chair and pulled it closer to the photography major. "But, in the meantime, what are you going to do? You and Ryan are here in town for the weekend. You can't mean to stay out here or in the poolhouse that whole time?"

"My Mom will be home soon, and, when she gets back, I'm going over to spend the next few days with her. She went up to LA this morning to do a little shopping..."

"Julie Cooper, shopping," Sandy mocking teased, making his companion smile for the first time since their conversation started. "Now, that's just something too strange for even me, a relatively open minded guy, to believe."

"I know," the twenty year old agreed, giggling slightly.

He liked when she laughed; he always had. In his rather untrained and biased opinion, she came alive when she was so filled with amusement it spilled forth around her. Her bright blue eyes started to sparkle, and her face was transformed from something of mere outward beauty to something that simply glowed with inner radiance. It was no wonder both of his children had, at one point, fallen in love with the young woman sitting across from him.

"Anyway," Marissa continued, returning to their discussion. "She's stuck in traffic right now, but she called me a few minutes ago and said that she should be here within the hour. When she gets home, I'll sneak away, and it'll be like I was never even here."

"I highly doubt that," the father of two reassured her. "I think you leave your mark wherever you go, kid."

Again, she simply shrugged. Glancing back at the house, he noticed all three members of his family staring at him through the window. Ryan was grinning, Seth looked bored, and Kirsten was glowering, so he decided to stay outside with the little neighbor girl who had grown into a remarkable young woman despite the odds stacked against her thanks to her parents and younger sister for just a little while longer.

"So, how's life as a photography major treating you," he inquired socially.

Immediately, she warmed to the subject. "It's amazing. Before I went to college, I thought that I would just be honing my craft, that there wasn't much they would be able to teach me, but I was wrong, Sandy, so very wrong. By the time I graduate in two more years, I think Ryan is going to be sick and tired of both me and my cameras. I'm always taking pictures of him."

"Well, that makes sense. You love him, so, of course, he would inspire you artistically." Thinking for a moment, he proposed, "you know, I would love some nice photos of him. He was never quite the ham Seth was growing up, so he wouldn't pose for pictures, and forget about getting candid shots of him. That kid is always ten steps ahead of me, and it's impossible to sneak up on him."

Confiding cheekily, Marissa revealed, "no it's not."

"And that's enough of that conversation. I do not need to hear details," the lawyer stated with an amused chuckle. "Remember, he's still my son, and you're still the little girl who hated wearing her diapers when she was a baby and would constantly take them off and try to run around buck naked." Almost instantly, the twenty year old's face turned a bright shade of embarrassed red. "I might be pretty liberal, but even I still like to think that all you and my son do is hold hands together."

"And that is all we do," the leggy blonde lied through the skin of her teeth just to placate him and curb the dangerously uncomfortable territory their conversation had veered into.

"Now, tell me about Ryan," Sandy asked, effectively moving on. "When he calls home, he doesn't say much. He just finished his second year of law school, so he's probably pretty burnt out."

"Actually, I think he just wants thing to be over with already. If he could have taken a full course load of classes this summer, he probably would have. He's ready to get on with his life - to take his bar exam and actually start practicing."

Interestingly, the father of two posed, "and this hurry to take that one last leap into adulthood, that wouldn't have anything to do with you and your relationship with him, would it?"

Guardedly, she queried, "why would you ask that?"

"Because I think my son wants to marry you," the dark haired man revealed, "and I think he wants to hold your hand until the point where you're pregnant with his child."

Flabbergasted, Marissa stammered, "a baby?"

"They're known to happen when two people love each other."

"But we haven't talked about children, and we're certainly not trying, but..."

Patting her knee in a fatherly fashion, Sandy stood up and went to leave, offering her just a few more words in parting. "Even when you're not looking for something to happen, fate has a strange way of stepping in and taking control. All I want to say is don't completely shut out the idea. Worse things could happen, kid." And, with one last smile in her direction, he left, chuckling to himself as he watched his various family members scatter to the winds as he approached the house. Chickens - all of them.

Do not doubt us, for our actions have been true. Nothing that has occurred here was an accident. Although the paths we set out for our subjects might seem slightly too twisting, there is a reason for every obstacle life, through our designs, throws at you as humans. Sometimes, you must suffer through great pain or loss to see the truth that is waiting there before you, and, while it might sound cliche, everything in life happens for a reason.

And do not dismiss what the wise man has just said. While his thoughts of a child might have appeared sudden or even out of nowhere, we are always around lurking, observing, even molding. The seed of thought needed to be planted, and, as we are sometimes forced to do, we used a human as our means of speaking. You, as humans, cannot hear us; our voices are too soft. You as humans cannot see us; our forms are too small, practically a ghost if nothing more. But we can certainly see and hear you. In fact, we are always with you, helping to guide and decide your fate.

As for Marissa, her body is indeed preparing itself for new life. While, to the outside eye, it might appear as if she and Ryan are not ready for a baby, we know otherwise; we know everything. A child can often be the means of bridging the gap between two otherwise separated people, and, with just the right amount of magic, this child will heal this otherwise injured family, bringing them closer together than ever before. We know this, so, despite you humans trying to avoid or deny your destiny, we force you to accept it, because, in the end, we know what is best for you while you're simply attempting to be so wise.

Do not try to thwart our designs. You, as humans, will never succeed, especially on a midsummer's night. Those are the nights when fate truly is inescapable, when our magic is in its most powerful stage. A Midsummer's Night is perfect for love and romance, happily ever after's, and prophetic dreams that will help guild you throughout your life. It's the perfect time for two people to come together and make a child - a precise and pure combination of two people we previously determined should be together. And tonight, for Ryan and Marissa, is no exception.

However...

If we shadows have offended, think but this (and all is mended), that you have slumbered here, while these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme, no more yielding but a dream, gentles, do not reprehend.