In under twenty minutes Rick and Misty arrived at Memorial Park. Misty couldn’t wait to get out of the car and have a look around.
“Look Rick. The park looks beautiful in the winter.”
“I can see that. Today’s snowfall makes it look even better. I love how the branches of the trees look when they’re covered by snow and the amber street lights reflect off them. There is so much in nature that we just don’t appreciate,” Rick said.
“Let’s walk through the park and go over the Osborne Bridge,” Misty suggested.
“Sounds good to me. Let’s do it,” Rick answered.
As he held Misty’s hand as they started to cross the bridge, Rick realized that this was the way he felt when he first met Sasha. This was definitely better than getting drunk or stoned. No feeling could compare to being in love.
The couple stopped walking when they were about half way across the bridge. Misty pointed out the beauty of the gnarled, snow covered branches of the trees on the river bank.
“This is a beautiful scene,” Rick agreed. If I had my sketch book with me I would start drawing what is right before our eyes,” Rick said.
“You’re an artist, too?” Misty asked with surprise.
“Yes, actually I’m pretty good at it. I mostly draw pictures of cartoon characters from Looney Tunes. Some of the little kids on our block like them,” Rick said.
“That’s another thing that we have in common. I like to draw too, mostly pictures of animals. I especially like to draw pictures of horses,” Misty said.
“That’s great. We should arrange a time when we both have our sketch books and do some drawing together,” Rick suggested. “Look Misty, there’s a Salisbury House just across the bridge. Could I buy you a coffee or a hot chocolate?”
“You bet,” Misty answered.
As soon as they arrived Rick found them a booth at the Salisbury House. When they got their winter clothing off, an attractive young waitress asked them for their order. Misty wanted a hot chocolate with marshmallows and Rick asked for a coffee.
The lights always seemed bright at a Salisbury House restaurant. The couple didn’t really notice but the Osborne Sals started to fill up with customers. As a result, all the ongoing conversations greatly raised the noise level.
Rick said, “You will need to speak up a little bit. I have trouble hearing in crowded places.”
“Why is that?” Misty asked.
“When I was a little boy I had a lot of ear infections. My doctor later told me that the infections probably reduced my ability to hear out of my left ear.”
“That’s too bad. I’ll speak more loudly for you.”
“I would appreciate that,” Rick said.
“Rick did you hear the rumour going around that I was hospitalized in a psychiatric ward when I was living in California?”
After the straight to the point speeches by Sheriff George Anderson and William Everett, there wasn’t too much for Elaine Tanner to say to the audience. After Elaine’s brief speech, the crowd started to disperse. Elaine and the other organizers had set up both a literature table and a refreshment booth covered by a bright yellow canopy. As it was very warm this afternoon several participants in the demonstration made their way over to the refreshment stand to buy themselves a soft drink.
Garry Hardy was one of the first people to buy himself a coke that was poured into a plastic cup by one of the volunteers. He turned around rather quickly and bumped into Stephanie Richards who was standing just a couple of feet behind him. Stephanie was deep in thought and was not watching out for Garry. When Stephanie and Garry collided with each other, some of Garry’s soft drink splashed on Stephanie’s tee shirt.
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” Garry said as he started to blush. I’ll get you a towel to dry you off.”
Garry would have dried off Stephanie’s shirt himself but most of his drink had spilled on Stephanie’s chest and modesty and decency were what was called for in this situation.
Garry was able to borrow a towel from one of the volunteers and handed it to Stephanie.
“Well, seeing that I kind of wrecked your tee shirt, the least that I can do is buy you a new tee shirt and pay for your soft drink. What kind of pop would you like?”
“You don’t need to buy me a new tee-shirt, man, but I would like an Orange Crush to drink,” Stephanie answered. Even though Garry’s clothes appeared to be rumpled, Stephanie found that she was somewhat attracted to the young man. She had always appreciated males that demonstrated good manners as Garry did.
“Did you come with anyone?” Garry inquired.
“No, I just came on my own to see what all the excitement was about. Plus, I wanted to get away from my Aunt Meg’s house for a while. I’m kind of having a rough day.”
“What’s making it so rough? Oh, by the way. I guess that I should introduce myself. My name is Garry Hardy.”
“And I’m Stephanie Richards. To answer your question it’s been a difficult day for me because I wanted to go on a research expedition to look for Ogopogo. My dad, my brother and his girlfriend are all going, but Dean Sanderson said they won’t have room for me. I’m really bummed out about it.”
Garry started to pull the tab off of Stephanie’s Orange Crush can and poured it into a plastic cup.
“I’m also going on an expedition to look for Ogopogo. In fact, we started on our first trip on the lake yesterday. My friend Wally and his grandfather, Winston took a boat ride out around Squally Point and Rattlesnake Island. It was awesome. We got a real close up look at Ogopogo and were able to take some pictures and to capture the creature on video,” Garry said.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” Stephanie said. You actually saw Ogopogo and took pictures of it?”
“Every word is the truth,” Garry answered, removing his Vancouver Canucks baseball cap. “Winston said that we had done enough work for one day and was concerned about our safety, so he turned his cabin cruiser around and we rode back to his house.”
“What did the creature look like? Up close I mean?” Stephanie asked.
“It was like something right out of a horror movie. In fact I had a nightmare about Ogopogo last night,” Garry said.
“How would you describe the creature?” Stephanie asked.
“Well, we only got a good look at its head and neck. Its neck was very long, thick and muscular. It was at least the width of a telephone pole. It was a dark greenish color with a horse shaped head and a beautiful mane of emerald green hair running along the back of its neck. It had large amber eyes. The expression on its face was very ferocious,” Garry answered stopping to take a sip of what was left of his Coke.
“Why don’t I take you to see Winston Standfield. I’m sure he would let you join our expedition,” Garry offered.
“I would love to!” Stephanie said almost spilling her Orange Crush.
Chapter One Hundred Sixty-Six:
“I know how you feel. I miss the kids over the summer months when they are with you,” said Susan. “It makes it a difficult situation for both of us.”
“You’ve changed over the last year, John. I can no longer push you around. Don’t take this the wrong way, but the old John I knew was kind of wimpy. You seem surer of yourself, more in charge somehow. I like the new John much better.”
“Thank you. I’ll take that as a compliment. I tend to agree with you. Before this expedition I kind of let people and circumstances walk all over me. I was much too passive. I had goals and dreams but I didn’t have the courage to carry them out. The truth is that I didn’t like the old John very much myself. I was too sensitive, too introspective and full of self -pity. I really didn’t blame you for divorcing me.”
“I don’t want you to give up your sensitive and caring personality John. I just wanted to see you show yourself as strong and capable of handling life,” said Susan.
“I have to admit that my own way of coping was escape, mainly through my writing. When I write I become someone else. The characters in my novels are strong and heroic, the way I would like to be. Also, when I write I can control other people and life and I got addicted to that feeling. I guess that I was living in my own fantasy world,”
“I don’t want you to give up your writing, John. I’ve read some of it. It’s very good. I just want you to spend less time writing and more time with me and the kids,” said Susan.
“I think I could do that,” said John with a hint of a smile crossing his face.
“John, I want us to try again.”
Chapter One Hundred Sixty-Five:
“I didn’t get a chance to tell you John, but I was terrified when I saw you dive into the lake to look for those two divers,” said Susan.
“It was probably not the smartest thing to do, but I reacted almost by instinct. I didn’t really think about how risky my actions were at the time. All I could think about was that two of our crew could be in serious trouble and that someone had to take immediate action. As I had once been trained to be a scuba diver I knew that I was the only one aboard the ship that could look for the two missing divers,” John explained.
“You can’t imagine how relieved I was when I saw you return to the surface. Those ten minutes when you were underwater seemed like the longest ten minutes of my life. I was afraid that I was going to lose you forever,” said Susan.
“You are starting to sound like you really care about me,” said John. “but you care about everybody. That you were worried about my safety shouldn’t surprise me. After all, we used to be husband and wife.”
“I’m starting to get thirsty, John,” said Susan.
“There’s a Tim Hortons along this trail. We should be there in about five minutes,” said John.
When John and Susan arrived at Tim Horton’s the restaurant was only half full of customers enjoying their coffee and doughnuts.
“What would you like Susan?” asked John. John had found them a booth near the back of the restaurant. Susan looked out at the natural beauty surrounding the lake.
“I need a large glass of cold water and then I’ll have a coffee with cream and sugar. I think I’ll have an apple fritter too. Can you order for us John? I need to use the washroom.”
“No problem,” said John.
When Susan Richards closed the door to the women’s washroom, she began to sob quietly.
I had no idea how much I missed that man. It feels so good to be spending time with him after all this time apart.
After she used the washroom and washed her tears away, Susan collected herself and walked over to their booth. John had already brought their order to their table. John had ordered the same thing as Susan had.
“What’s the matter? You look like you’ve been crying,” John said looking at the red in Susan’s eyes.
“I can’t hide it from you John. I just enjoyed our walk so much. Just being with you and talking to you filled me with so much joy. I don’t think I realized how unhappy I’ve been living in Winnipeg. This time with you also showed me how lonely I’ve been and how good it felt to be close to you,” said Susan reaching for a tissue to wipe another tear from her eye.
“It’s been hard for me too Susan. It’s been a very miserable time. The only season that I perk up a bit is during the summer when Ryan and Stephanie come to visit me.”
Chapter One Hundred Sixty-Four:
“Well, things may work out for Ryan and Monique. I’m happy about that. I really like Monique. I think that she’ll be good for Ryan,” said John.
The trail that they were walking on was covered with stones and loose branches. Susan stumbled and was about to fall over when John grabbed her and held onto her. It was almost an embrace and John remembered how good it felt to hold Susan close to him.
“Oh, I’m sorry John. I should have been watching where I was stepping,” said Susan. She was starting to blush. She, too, had missed the feeling of having John next to her. Both of them looked into each other’s eyes and held their gaze for over a minute. Neither one of them wanted to break the embrace but John let go of Susan, not wanting to show that he still had strong feelings for her.
They were both a bit flustered now and Susan thought that this would be a good time to continue their conversation.
“What do you think is going to happen with Stephanie and Ryan?” Susan asked. “I’ll bet that Stephanie will want to stay with you too. She won’t want to move away from Garry.”
“That is very likely but I don’t know what Garry has planned for his future,” said John.
The wind had picked up and it was starting to get a bit chilly. Susan forgot to bring a sweater along for the walk.
“John can I ask a big favor from you?”
“Sure, sweetheart,” said John immediately putting his hand over his mouth. “Sorry, that kind of slipped out. I guess old habits are hard to break.”
Susan laughed. “I thought that I was going to have to work up the courage to ask you the favor, but now I don’t feel so afraid. Sweetheart,eh? I always liked it when you called me that.”
“Really? Now you have me really curious. What’s the favor?” asked John.
“I want to borrow your windbreaker and snuggle up to you.”
John smiled and said, “My pleasure, honey,”
Chapter One Hundred Fifty-Eight:
Stephanie leaned her back against the railing of the boat. Garry liked the way the wind moved through Stephanie’s hair.
“What about you Steph? What are your plans for the future?” asked Garry.
“Not so fast. You still haven’t told me what you want,” said Stephanie.
“That’s hard to say. When you have been ill for a long time and have been in and out of institutions like I have you don’t think very far ahead. You just take each day as it comes. I’m just happy that my condition has remained stable for the last couple of months,” answered Garry.
“Let’s pretend that it stays stable for years. Then what would you want from life?”
“I would like to live a normal life. I would like to stop living in treatment centers and group homes. I would like to have a steady job that I enjoyed and that paid well. And, of course, I would want a girlfriend,” said Garry.
“Those sound like good plans to me. And you’ve already achieved two of your goals,” said Stephanie.
“I have? Which ones?
“You are mentally stable now and you do have a girlfriend, if you want one,” said Stephanie.
“Are you my girlfriend?” asked Garry.
“Only if you want me to be.”
“Of course I do. I like you a lot,” said Garry with tears welling up in his eyes.
“All right. It’s official now. Garry and Steph are an item,” said Stephanie.
Chapter One Hundred Fifty-Seven:
Garry Phelge and Stephanie Richards were alone on the main deck of Winston’s massive cabin cruiser. Winston named his boat, Discovery. They were both leaning on the railings just enjoying today’s beautiful weather. It was a hot sunny afternoon and the water on the lake looked calm. They were both enjoying the cool breeze coming off the lake. It was the first time since their conversation in the town commons that Stephanie and Garry had an opportunity for some personal time together.
“Do you know what you would like to do in the future, Garry?’’
Garry chuckled, “How far into the future are we talking now?”
“Let’s say in the next five years,” said Stephanie.
“Do you mean, what do I want to do when I grow up?”
“That’s part of it, I guess,” said Stephanie.
“I don’t know. The best that I’ve been able to do is work some casual labor jobs. People who have schizophrenia are not that much in demand in the workplace. Plus it’s really hard to keep it all together for eight to ten hours at a stretch,” answered Garry.
“I think I understand what you are saying, Garry. Maybe that’s part of the reason that I feel such a strong connection to you,” said Stephanie.
“And I thought it was my irresistible, animal magnetism,” said Garry in a deprecating manner.
“Don’t take such a negative view of yourself. I do find you physically attractive, but that’s not the main thing that I’m looking for in a guy,” said Stephanie.
“What are you looking for in a
“A lot of things. I don’t mean to sound old school but I mainly look for integrity and character in a man,” answered Stephanie.