John turned down a gravel driveway. A small sign with faded black letters indicated that they had reached the Public Boat Launch. An arrow pointed towards a small open space where several aluminum boats had been pulled up out of the water.
Yuki noticed a man and a small boy standing by a boat that had been partially pulled up onto the sand and gravel landing; the front was on the landing and the back was still in the water. Both were wearing knit hats and bulky coats.
“There they are!” said John. Yuki could hear the excitement in his voice.
He rolled up close then shut the truck off. As he pushed open the door, he told her, “Leave your stuff here for now and I’ll introduce you.”
Yuki noticed a huge grin on John’s face as he walked up to Jordin. Jordin returned the same warm smile. They shook each other’s hands firmly then gave each other a hug, slapping each other’s back. John then turned to the small child, bent on one knee and shook the boy’s hand. Yuki hung back a couple of steps, feeling a little uncomfortable and out of place.
He stood back up and motioned for her to come closer. “Yuki, Jordin. Jordin, Yuki.” She shook his hand; it was rough and cold. “And this is his daughter, Caroline.”
Yuki’s glasses suddenly came to life. A boarder of red light encircled the right lens, Qbit’s list flashed up and then zoomed in to the line about meeting Jordin. The words, son, Peter were flashing and highlighted in red.
Yuki thought, what do I do? This time her training kicked in quickly, remaining calm, she asked Jordin, “I thought your son was coming?”
“He’s home, sick, so I decided to bring Caroline instead…”
The AVATAR detection software running in the glasses’ computer used images from a miniature camera mounted above the left side lens to determine if he was telling the truth, the word True, written in green,flashed up.
“…I told Qbit my son Peter would be here, but he got sick suddenly, and I had no way of letting him know.”
As a final precaution, she looked at John to see what his response would be.
“He’s fine. I’ve known Jordin and his family for a long time. You can trust him and his daughter.”
Yuki, not realizing she had been holding her breath, exhaled, the flashing red stopped. “Sorry, but Qbit told me to be careful.” Was she overreacting?
Jordin smiled, “That sounds like Qbit, always erring on the side of caution.” He seemed to notice Yuki’s unease. “I imagine everything here must seem pretty strange and unfamiliar. Qbit was the one who suggested I bring Peter, perhaps he thought it would make things a little easier for you, having a child around. Less intimidating I guess.” He looked at Caroline and put his hand on her shoulder, she looked up and smiled at Yuki.
Yuki smiled back, feeling a little more at ease.
John looked at his watch and said to her, “How about you get your stuff so we can get going while the weather holds.”
Caroline tugged on her father’s sleeve, she looked at Yuki, then at the truck.
He said, “I don’t think Yuki would mind if you helped her.” He looked at Yuki, “Is it okay?”
“Sure, that would be great. You can meet Kit.”
Caroline’s expression changed, her eyes opened wide and she looked at her father. He laughed gently and said, “Don’t be too long.”
Caroline took Yuki’s hand as they walked back to the truck.
John and Jordin watched them go. When they were out of earshot, Jordin turned to John and asked,
“Can she do it yet?”
“You mean communicate?”
He sighed, “I’m not sure. I don’t think she’s picked up anything from the fox, but, then again, neither have I. Plus, she’s fresh off the moon where she hasn’t even had the opportunity to find out if she can do it. Nobody up there had any idea; Qbit was the first one to mention it so, I don’t know how all that’s affecting her ability to open herself up.”
“Qbit said she’s got to do it soon; a lot depends on that connection.”
“Easier said than done. She’ll get it, I’m sure.”
“Hm…does Marie know she’s coming?”
“Yeah.” He chuckled at the thought of the two of them meeting. “Man, I would love to be a fly on the wall when that happens.”
“Qbit told me he talked to her, but she didn’t want him to tell her too much. She said, get this, ‘She doesn’t want her expected outcome to be skewed by biased evidence,’ or something like that.”
“Always the scientist. A one-track mind.”
“Yeah, tell me about it. Sometimes, too much. It tends to blind her to the things around her.”
“You mean, like with you.”
He looked away, “Exactly.”
They stood quietly for a moment.
Jordin said softly, “I’m really sorry to hear about what happened to Katie. I really liked her. It must be hard raising your kids on your own.”
“Yeah, thanks. Somehow, I manage. I get a lot of help from their grandmother and her sisters. But let’s not talk about that right now, okay?”
“Okay, sorry. Oh, hey, have you heard anything from your son? He’s been gone a while.”
“Wow, you’re certainly a bundle of joy. What are you doing, writing a book or something?”
“I don’t know, I haven’t seen you in a while.” Jordin put his hand on John’s shoulder. “I’m concerned about you.”
John fidgeted with his jacket zipper. “To be honest, I don’t know where he is.” He looked out to the water of the bay, he suddenly felt cold. “Marie and I really messed up with him. I don’t blame him for running off. I just wish I knew where he was and if he’s doing okay. I worry about him all the time.”
“I’m sure he’s fine.” The words didn’t sound as confident as he had hoped.
Their gaze shifted back to Yuki and Caroline. They stood quietly for a second as they watched Yuki pull the carrier out from the back seat of the truck.
This time it was John who asked a question, “Do you still talk to them?”
“The animals? Yeah, sometimes, when the time is right.”
“Me too, when there’s nobody else around.”
“Did you know whales can carry on a pretty good conversation?”
“Whales? Really? I didn’t know that, next time I’m out there I’ll have to give it a try.”
“You should.” John checked his watch again, “We need to get moving.” He yelled to the girls, “Come on ladies, times a wastin’.”