Here's the "wrap-up" chapter, which is mostly what I already had in mind. The lyric at the opening is from my pick for the best "Passenger" song I've run across; if anyone wants to look it up, I would recommend a "Tram Session" video. Thanks to everyone who comes through all the way!

Von and Ronnie ate breakfast by ther fireplace, listening to Passenger: "Sometimes you can't change, and you can't choose, And sometimes it seems you gain less than you lose. Now we got holes in our hearts, Yeah we got holes in our lives... Well we've got holes, we got holes, but we carry on."

Ronnie was telling her about watching the last game of the Birds' season at the Peoples household the day before. "I still say, you should have been there week before last," Ronnie said. "Pat asked me to invite you, and I told you something was going to happen. It was the whole family, and Tiffany was getting along with everybody, especially Patricio... She even went along with it when he caught a neighbor kid wearing a Vikings shirt under his jacket... Then when the game started, she just climbed in Pat's lap, and I swear, they hardly moved until the last time-out. Then, right before the Birds went for the touchdown instead of the goal, he asked her to go help Jeanette get the crab cakes out of the oven. Then when she came back, he was on one knee... Of course, practically everybody had a camera out... And you know what she did? She took his hand, sat back down and said,`Pat, I'm going to tell you something you don't know... I love football.' Then DeSean made the throw, and everybody shouted, `YEEESSS!'"

She glanced up from a magazine and smiled. "And hey, Pat wanted to tell you thank you for handling the papers, helping Nikki... Say, is it true she met with Tiffany this week?"

"Yes, Nikki asked for it, so I convinced Tiff to come along for a meeting," Von said. "It was kind of funny, they didn't really talk about Pat. Tiff told Nikki a bit about Pat's self-help stuff, but mostly, Nikki kept asking questions about assertiveness training, and Tiff told her a lot. Then we all shook hands, and Nikki went home."

Ronnie nodded. "It sounds like she's going after what's good for her right now," he said. "I always said, what Nikki needs most is to learn to stand up for herself. I always knew that's why Pat didn't take care of her the way he should have, and I think it's the real reason she had the affair with the other guy; she just couldn't put her foot down with either of them. That self-help stuff, it really could turn things around for her, you know, show her she can run her own life. Then, in a year or two, who knows, she might be ready to try with a guy who's good for..." His already nervous banter trailed off at his wife's downcast gaze.

"Ronnie," she said with dry eyes but a quavering voice, and then she thrust a manilla envelope into his hands. "If this is what you want, I'll give it to you. I'll give you anything you want. Just... let me see Em."

He leaned over to look at her. "Von... If you need an answer, there's nothing to say."

Pat surveyed the sports section. The Birds were done, and they hadn't gone all the way, but that was okay. Now, the sports page was alight with stories about contract renegotiations and draft picks, including a deal to keep DeSean Jackson. "Synchronicity," he said. Then he picked up to make the call, and tell what needed to be done. Not because it was the alternative to something bad, but because it was good, and it was meant to be.

"Hey, Junior!" he said. "Yeah, I know, but they got a long way, and things are looking very good for next season... I saw it, tha man's still there... Well, actually, no, that's not what I wanted to talk to you about. I'll tell you why, I wanted to ask you a question... You ready to marry that girl yet?... Of course, but I mean the ceremony... You don't know when? Well,then, I've got an idea for that... How about today?"

Veronica ran toward the sound of Emily's cries, while Ronnie tried to figure out how to silence the squeal of the smoke alarm that had woken her.