Episode 9: Filling A Hole
By Bernard Doove © 2010
Tina was showing off her new tea set by serving Jazmyn milk and cookies on the picnic table that had been set up in the yard in front of the sawmill house. Matthew was shooting hoops with the new basketball that Rick had bought him, through the basketball ring and backboard that Ken had set up for him.
Jazmyn was enjoying the pleasant afternoon sunshine while watching the two children, and the cookies and milk were genuinely appreciated. She made a fuss over the afternoon tea that Tina had prepared for her, and the young girl beamed in pleasure.
"Hey, Jazmyn!" Matthew called. "Thatís ten straight! Did you see?"
"Yes, Matt, thatís very good. Now step back a couple of yards and letís see if you can do ten more from there."
Matthew did so, gamely trying to show off his skills. Jazmyn smiled. The boy was always up for a good challenge.
The faint sound of an approaching car made Jazmynís ears prick up. She listened for a moment, then relaxed again. "It sounds like your mom is nearly home, kids."
"Yay! Pizza time!" Matthew shouted.
"Go wash up and youíll be ready as soon as your mother arrives."
"OK!" Matthew raced off at his normal exuberant headlong pace.
"You wanna have pizza too?" Tina asked her.
"No, hon. Your lovely tea has filled me up already. Itís a good thing that you gave me the most because now youíll have more room for pizza too."
Tina looked happy Ė both at the prospect of having pizza and that Jazmyn was satisfied with the milk and cookies that she had served.
"Now you had better wash up also. You donít want Matt to take all the pizza first."
"Yeah!" she agreed, and took off for the house.
Jazmyn grinned and then finished off the cookies and milk while she waited for Elizabeth to arrive. Her keen hearing meant that she could hear and identify her friendís car from a long distance, so it was a few minutes before Elizabeth arrived. The woman stepped out of the car with a couple of pizza boxes. She barely had time to smile at Jazmyn before her son raced out of the house and tried to grab the pizzas.
"Whoa there! Patience, you galloping food pit! Has he been behaving himself, Jazmyn?"
"No problems whatsoever, Liz," Jazmyn assured her.
"I wish that was the case all the time. OK Matt, take them inside, but let your sister have her pick also."
"Yes, Mom!" Matt said and hurried inside with the food.
Elizabeth turned to Jazmyn and said, "Thanks again for babysitting the kids for me. It would have been very awkward to have taken them with me to attend to the emergency."
"It was my pleasure, Liz. You know I like Matt and Tina, and it was a good excuse to spend a little time with them and get out of the house."
"Youíre welcome to join us for pizza too, if you like?"
"Thanks, but Tinaís milk and cookies will keep me going until dinner, which incidentally I have to start cooking soon."
"Would you like me to give you a lift home?"
"No thanks. You know I prefer walking."
"OK. Iíll see you on Sunday for the barbecue then."
"Right. Bye, Liz!" Jazmyn said as she waved and started off down the now-familiar forest path.
Jazmyn never tired of walking through the forest that surrounded her home. It always revitalized her when she was feeling a little down. Nevertheless she still felt a bit wistful as she meandered unhurriedly back to the cabin that had been her home now for over a year and a half. Spending time with Elizabethís children reminded her that she would never have children of her own. No amount of loving from her mate, Ken, could make up for the fact that they were genetically incompatible, and this world lacked the technology to overcome that hurdle.
Ken noticed that Jazmyn was a little bit subdued that evening. When they had finished cleaning the dishes and settled down on the sofa for their usual eveningís entertainment, instead of turning on the TV, he said, "Alright, Jaz, whatís bothering you?"
"What? Nothing Ė Iím fine."
"Like heck you are! Have I done something wrong?"
"Oh no! Itís nothing like that."
"So there is something wrong that I donít know about."
"Well, I wouldnít exactly say that," Jazmyn hedged.
"OK, out with it! I wonít have my wife moping about the place if thereís anything that I can do about it."
Jazmyn sighed. "Thatís the trouble Ė you canít do anything about it."
"Are you going to tell me what it is, or am I going to have to tickle it out of you?" To back up his threat, he put his hand on Jazmynís most ticklish spot.
"Eep! No! Iíll tell. Liz asked me to babysit for her while she had to go and attend to an emergency. I really like spending time with the kids, so I said yes."
"I see. Iím guessing that this is about not being able to have any kids of your own?"
Jazmyn nodded. "Most of the time I put it out of my mind, but at times like today, it really hits home."
"Did you really want to start a family right away? Even if it was possible, weíve only been mated for nine months."
"Itís not that I urgently want my own children, itís that I can never have them thatís bothering me."
Ken cuddled Jazmyn tenderly. "Iím sorry that thatís beyond my ability to fix, but I promise you that Iíll do my best to make sure that you donít lack in any other way."
Jazmyn sighed and cuddled up to Ken. "I know you will. You already do. I wouldnít change a thing if I had to do it all over again. Oh Ė with the possible exception of that TV studio incident."
"Yeah. Iím so glad that seems to have faded away without further drama."
"Itíll be nice to see Kayde and Jason again at Sundayís barbecue. Iím curious to hear how things are going with them."
"Me too. Now Ė have you decided what you want to watch tonight yet?"
Ken pondered the problem the next day. He realised that while Jazmyn would get over it for the moment, it would inevitably reoccur. He mentioned it to Rick as they walked from their office to a nearby café for lunch, but his friend and business partner shrugged helplessly.
They had to walk past a park where children were playing. Normally the park was a quiet place during the week where he would sometimes go to eat while sitting in the shade of a tree. Now though, school holidays saw it filled with kids of all ages, playing games, climbing trees, and doing all those other things that kids do when released from the tyranny of school. Watching them though, Ken suddenly thought of something, and a smile grew on his face.
"I know that look," Rick said. "Thatís the face that you make when you solve a difficult problem."
Ken grinned at Rick. "Youíre right, and the solution is right there in front of us."
Rick looked but did not see what Ken meant. "I give up. What?"
Ken told him and Rick nodded. "You could be right. Itís sure worth a try."
"When we get back, Iíll have to make a call and see what I can organise."
"Whereís Ken?" Sakura asked as she carried inside the baked goods that were her contribution to the cookout.
"Your brother is getting some last-minute supplies for the barbecue. He should be back any moment," Jazmyn replied. "You can take all that out the back already. Weíve got the tables and chairs all set up."
"OK. I thought that Ken might be out the back. I can smell the smoke."
"No, that would be Kaydeís handiwork. He says that heís a great barbecuer, and Jason backs him up."
Sakura laughed as she headed back outside. "Men are all the same, no matter the species or what universe they come from. Give them fire and raw meat, and they all think they are Godís gift to cooking."
Jazmyn had to smile at that as she followed Sakura out with bowls of coleslaw and potato salad. Her ears pricked up at a distant but familiar sound. "Kenís close. I can hear his car."
"I sometimes wish that I had your ears," Sakura remarked.
They set everything down on a table under an awning that Ken and Rick had set up earlier. The morning was turning into a beautiful autumn day, perfect for barbecue picnics. Soon the cold weather would come and these kind of gatherings would stop here for several months.
"Hi, Kayde!" Sakura said.
Kayde looked up from the barbecue that he was tending and smiled. "Hello, Sakura. You are looking lovely today."
"Why, thank you, big guy. If you werenít gay and taken, Iíd think you were coming on to me."
Kayde grinned uncertainly. By the tone of her voice, he thought Sakura was joking with him, but his grasp of the new language was still meagre at best.
"Donít tease him, Sakura," chided Jason, who was a little protective of his partner. "Heís doing very well in his language lessons, but itís not that good yet."
Jazmyn was a little chagrined that Jason was making better progress with teaching Kayde English than she had. Part of it was that Kayde had more incentive now, but another significant part was that Jazmyn was not a very good language teacher. Ironically, because she had such an incredible talent for learning languages, she tended to be impatient with those who had difficulty with them, nor was she trained to teach well. Jason though had patience, and worked hard at trying to teach the wolf. She suspected that Kayde would be reasonably fluent in a few more months.
Soon Kenís car pulled up out front. Rick, who had accompanied Ken, came around the back laden with bags of ice that he dumped into a tub filled with a selection of everyoneís favourite drinks. Ken soon followed, carrying a large cardboard box.
"Hey Jazmyn," Ken called. "I picked up something special for you. Tell me if you like it."
Jazmyn had not been expecting anything, so she was very curious. She came over to where Ken had set down the box. Even before opening it though, she knew something was odd. Lifting the lid revealed two bright eyes, a bundle of fur, and a tail wagging happily. Jazmyn gasped in delight as she reached into the box. "A puppy!" she exclaimed as she lifted the young dog out.
"Not just any puppy," Ken said. "This is a keeshond, a breed of dog that gets very attached to its owners, loves getting attention, and needs care and discipline to stop it getting into mischief. Just like a child, wouldnít you say?"
Jazmyn cuddled the delightful creature and felt tears welling in her eyes. She looked at her mate with love and appreciation. "I donít think that you could have given me a finer present. I love you so much, Ken!"
Ken stepped up to the vixen and brought her and the puppy into a warm hug. "Iíd do anything to make you happy, Jaz. I hope that youíll enjoy bringing up the new member of the family. First, however, she needs a name."
That started a round of suggestions from everyone. It continued while the meat was cooked and food was served up.
"Where did you get her?" Jazmyn asked between feeding herself and giving titbits to the puppy.
"I called up Beth to ask her advice on what breed of dog might best suit you. She suggested a few, but the keeshond puppies were available immediately, so Beth got one for me. I picked her up from the clinic just now."
"Beth should have come to the barbecue so that I could thank her also."
"I invited her, but she had to decline due to a previous appointment."
"Iíll thank her in person when I take Suzie in for a check-up," Jazmyn decided.
"Suzie? Is that the name youíve decided on?"
"Yes Ė she reminds me of someone that I knew who was named Suzie. It seems to suit the puppy pretty well too."
"Suzie Morita it is then."
Jazmyn came back inside after taking Suzie for a long walk. Ken had afternoon tea ready and he put it on the coffee table in front of the sofa.
Jazmyn cleaned off Suzieís muddy paws as well as her own, then joined Ken on the sofa, cuddling up to him. Suzie jumped up next to Jazmyn and made herself comfortable with her head in Jazmynís lap.
"Weíll be getting snow tonight," Jazmyn predicted.
"I reckon youíre right. More excuse to stay inside and cuddle in front of the fire."
"Just you and me and our daughter." Jazmyn stroked Suzieís head. "Have I thanked you lately for making us a complete family?"
"Only every day for several weeks, hon," Ken said with an affectionate grin.
"Not enough. Hereís another thank-you." She drew his face to hers and kissed him.
The afternoon tea was quickly forgotten.
All characters and this story are copyright © 2010 Bernard Doove.
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