Masks of Morality

By T.L. Mumley All Rights Reserved ©

Other / Mystery

Chapter 15

Later the following week, as she was sitting at her desk making yet another to-do list, Caryssa’s Skype line rang. She hit Video Call and there was Sarah smiling back at her. “Hi, Caryssa. How are you doing?”

Caryssa took the hair tie out of her mouth, pulled her hair back off her face and into a ponytail. “Great. Great, Sarah. A little frazzled. Lots going on this weekend and I’m behind. You?”

“Oh. Great too. Busy too. Hey. Do ya know about the “Save the Parks” event this coming Saturday?”

Caryssa nodded. “Hmmm…I seem to remember something on the group calendar. Why?”

“Well … we’re a little short-staffed this weekend. I know you said you’d have to sit this one out. But we’re hoping you’ll rethink it and be there to work the booth? Sorry, it’s so last minute. We had some cancellations yesterday and we’re tearing our hair out. You know how important this event is to our cause.”

Whee! More saving the world for free! Only this time? I’m not taking the bait. I’m putting my mud bath insights into practice, starting now!

“Sorry, Sarah, as I told you before, we have soccer on Saturday at noon. That conflicts with the event. This is a busy weekend—soccer on Saturday, sleepover Saturday night, and birthday party on Sunday. Plus friends are coming over Saturday evening. I’m just jammed. I hope you find somebody.”

After Sarah signed off, Caryssa patted herself on the back. Good job finally learning to say “no” to so much community volunteer stuff!

And what a relaxing, superb Saturday night it turned out to be! Sam and Jim Owens came over with their son Ben again. Little red-haired, outgoing, confident Ben came running in the door ahead of his parents, his usual backpack in one hand—full of this weeks’ show and tell, toys, jammies, a change of clothes, and toiletries for his night’s stay—and his favorite pillow in the other.

He greeted Caryssa as he ran past her, through the living room, and into Tyler’s bedroom to deposit his stuff. Caryssa heard the two boys, who had been friends since infancy, excitedly run down the list of what they wanted to do on their overnight, and where to start. “First we should build our tent!” she heard Ben say, and Tyler counter with “No, first we should go outside and I’ll show you my new fun house!!!”

Next thing she knew, Sam and Jim were standing in the kitchen offering her the bottles of wine they had brought to share. It was one of those fresh-smelling, clear San Francisco Bay Area nights. The kind that only happens after the winter rains hit hard all week and then it warms up for a day. The therapeutic scent of eucalyptus, juniper, and flowers was wafting through the air again.

Caryssa had been in a great mood all day from the sudden delightful weather, and after having had a fabulous weekend skiing in Tahoe. She had decided to go all out with the food. She had made everything herself. Since she knew her guests were fish lovers, she had made a seafood cioppino, but without mussels as she couldn’t find those on sale. For hors d’oeuvres, she laid out homemade shrimp egg rolls, wingettes, her favorite goat cheese with rosemary pita slices, and crab Rangoon.

The boys, now in first grade, played happily outside. Tyler’s new fun house, lovingly built by George, offered them a little hide-a-way in which they could talk about all the important stuff happening in their nearly seven-year-old lives. Like the coolest and latest Lego sets, the play they made in soccer or baseball, the massive dinosaurs in their books.

The parents sat around the fire pit in Caryssa’s backyard paradise overlooking the San Francisco Bay. The sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge was stunning. It cast a mystical glow over the tranquility of the evening.

“I am finally happy!” Sam said, taking a sip of her Chardonnay.

“What do you mean, Ms. Happy Feet? You’re always happy!” Caryssa responded, laughing.

“Oh, but I mean really happy, not just life in general, but my job too. I finally cut back to twenty-eight hours. I don’t feel so guilty anymore. I spend more time with Ben. Maybe I’ll even go all out and bake real cookies to bring into the class rather than store bought!” Sam said.

“Heck, who needs to be a ‘working mom’ to not have time or motivation to bake versus buy! We feel guilty too, isn’t that part of motherhood? Can’t say I’ve ever baked anything for Tyler’s class,” Caryssa admitted.

“Yes, you have Mommy! Remember the gingerbread cookies we made together?” Tyler chimed in on his way past in search of more toys to take into his fun house.

“But of course! The little gingerbread boys we made together for your class Christmas party! Hey, I am a Betty Crocker mom after all!” Caryssa laughed. “No but seriously. I’m so happy to hear how happy you are Sam!”

“Thanks, girlfriend. Truth is, I’ll be even happier if I quit! I mean, it’s great to be working a shorter week, but still the commute from Oakland to Alameda takes too long with all the traffic. My day is shot with all the driving!”

“Would you really quit?” Caryssa’s mouth half full of spring roll.

“Heck yeah, might even quit without a new job lined up!” Sam said after taking another sip of her wine.

“But…I thought you were happy!”

“Oh, but I am happy, because I am making Ben much happier with my time! It’s not the job, it’s that awful commute that will kill me! I can’t work from home anymore. They decided I need face time with the lawyers in the office.”

“So…they agree to cut your hours but then take away telecommute privileges?”

Before Sam could respond, George yelled from the kitchen “Hey Caryssa, why did you cook dinner before our guests arrived? It’s getting cold!”

George, the discerning chef. Always giving Caryssa cooking and serving tips, even when she didn’t want them.

“Don’t worry dear, I guarantee it will still be delicious if we heat it up quickly in the microwave,” Caryssa called back, rolling her eyes at Sam, who giggled and gave her a thumbs up. “I didn’t want to be in the kitchen cooking when our friends got here. I wanted to chat!”

“You can’t chat while cooking?” George asked, by this time standing behind Caryssa’s chair and giving her a peck on the cheek

“Not with this recipe, sweetie. I needed all the concentration I could get. Only you have that special talent of cooking and talking at the same time! Did you check out my seafood cioppino, by the way?”

“Sure did, looks pretty good.” George sounded hungry.

“Just pretty good? Dude! Show a little respect! I slaved over that dish!” Caryssa laughed, reaching back to poke him with her elbow. “By the way. If you’re hungry, feel free to heat some up! Anybody else ready for the main course?”

By now the light was fading and the fog was starting to show up on the horizon, promising a chill to the air. But it was still warm near the fire pit and so lovely with the tiki torches, they decided to take dinner outside. Once they were all seated again, this time with their food, George poured more wine into uplifted wine glasses in vibrant colors.

“Girlfriend, I love these glasses! They’re so pretty. You’d never know they’re plastic!” Sam said. “Where’d you get them?”

“Thanks,” smiled Caryssa. “I love them too. They go with everything, and great for outdoors. They were on sale at Pier 1. A real steal.”

The conversation flowed easily, with soft background sounds of clanking silverware and dishes. Discussions about the boys’ school activities, family trips planned for the year. And, as usual, work.

Caryssa glanced over at her beautiful garden again, marveling at the multitude of flowers. She saw color, succulent stems, and glistening leaves. There were pink and white low borders enclosing Spanish and Greek lavender, rose beds, cactuses, Mexican sage, and other various plants she could not even name.

Then she noticed something even more beautiful and sat riveted, watching.

Tyler stood among the scented, now misty garden, his striking blue-green eyes gazing happily up towards his fun house, calling for Ben to come see some amazing little critter lurking in the borders. Good God, did this beautiful boy come from me?

She watched her son as he jumped up and down squealing with delight over a butterfly fluttering from flower bed to flower bed. “Where do I want to land, here? No there!” he giggled, mocking the butterfly’s flight in search of nectar.

He did not know that to his mom he was the most beautiful thing in that garden. This world. Drowsy birds peered at him. Bees blew about him and one landed on his chestnut hair for a moment before lifting off again. A white butterfly, probably the same one that had just delighted him, came to rest on his shoulder, raising and dropping its wings.

Caryssa had never felt a love so deep. A compassion so enormous that it could make her almost physically ill and wretched. She loved each moment with her Tyler, living life one day at a time. Was it through this deep, abiding feeling she had learned compassion for all of humanity? She had come to view every person out there—the good, the bad, and the ugly— as someone’s son or daughter.

Sam interrupted her reverie. “So how is the gig going with MFS?” she asked.

Caryssa filled Sam in on her contract job, how she felt about not gaining any of the new digital marketing skills, how she was growing weary to the bone hearing all the factoids about pollution and its direct link to increases in cancer and other diseases, and how we can’t do anything about any of it because somebody on some committee always has a roadblock to offer.

“Truth be told? I love the concept of what I’m doing—creating awareness of the environmental hazards we’re imposing, specifically on children, and coming down hard on politicians and corporations causing it. But it’s…I don’t know…it’s distressing. Not only distressing, but I’m beginning to feel it’s all an uphill battle against political corruption.”

“And besides,” Jim interjected. “You environmentalists may be helping to cause our economic downturn. Don’t forget we make the biggest profits off all those terrible things!”

“That’s the corruption I’m talking about,” Caryssa countered. “Money buys pollution and war. It’s the money spent on the mindless military that’s causing economic disaster. Not environmentalism.”

Sarah had introduced her to documentary after documentary exposing the ugly truths about industrial pollution and poisoning, as well as our obsession with materialism and what it is doing to our world. Who Killed the Electric Car, The World According to Monsanto, Food Inc., Garbage, Crude, GasLand, Your Milk on Drugs—Just Say No!, The Story of Stuff, and others.

Now Caryssa had to stop herself from becoming furious while driving down the street and seeing the fumes and oil creeping out from exhaust pipes, knowing what it is doing to human and animal health. Knowing that with all this technology we have, we could surely have many more alternative cars out there.

She had never even thought about this stuff before having a child. And now, with all she’d learned working with Sarah, it was almost all she could think of.

As if reading her mind, Sam said: “It’s scary how many people are getting cancer.”

Caryssa nodded. “I know, right?! And from all indications, it appears that compared to other industrialized nations many government and medical organizations are behind the eight ball with respect to regulations vs. credible scientific research. So why should it surprise any of us?”

“But to get back to our original topic,” she continued. “I like working from home as far as the flexibility is concerned, but it’s hard. I have to get my work done while Tyler is in school. Otherwise I’d be sitting at my home computer telling him to go out and get fresh air, not to get on the computer or watch TV. Inevitably he sneaks downstairs to the family room and turns the TV on. Then I feel guilty that I’m not spending time with him. But then, on the other hand, when he’s at school is also the only time to run errands, exercise, and take care of this thing called life. It’s like I still have to be in two places at once, and I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere.”

Working from home had also created other tradeoffs. Because George had grown used to her staying home, certain primal gender specific assumptions had been activated. He went to work. She did pretty much everything else.

In her attempt to adopt a routine, she had unconsciously stepped into some kind of 1950s June Cleaver stereotype. Even so, when was the last time her kitchen floor had been mopped? Months ago? There weren’t enough hours in the day.

She could not imagine doing even more…for instance, like Stan Gafferty. He was everywhere. On the Board of Directors for the baseball league AND school, coaching his sons’ team, PTA President, VP of fundraising before that, volunteer extraordinaire for both the elementary school and his younger son’s preschool, all drop-offs and pick-ups for both his kids, taught chess, and more. And still, he found the time to bake cakes for school events.

“But he doesn’t work!” George would respond when Caryssa brought up the topic.

“I can assure you, George that what Stan does is work,” Caryssa would insist. “He just doesn’t get paid for any of his hard work. We would have to live in Europe to have that benefit for this job! Stan doesn’t work in one job, he does at least ten jobs! The guy is utterly amazing, a hero.”

There she was each morning, dragging Tyler like a pull toy to school. No makeup, no power suit, no pressed pants. No manicured nails. No expensive shoes. No status jewelry. Just her happy, humbled honesty. And the community of people at the school was never looking at the face, the features, or the body anyway. They were looking inside—at the soul. All those wonderful dedicated souls seeing to their children’s needs.

Caryssa had never complained. She loves her mommy job. She so looked forward to picking Tyler up and asking him how his day went. Hearing the excitement in his voice about some cool art project or getting another of his many “Student of the Day” awards. These years were too precious to put aside.

It’s that she found it so difficult to ever think about herself too. She had made a commitment in her mud bath spa day to get better about that. But it was hard to find the time to do things she loved to do. Golf, for instance.

“Hey Caryssa and George, you guys going up skiing again next week?” Jim asked.

“Yup! We’ll be in Tahoe all through President’s Day week. Renting a condo right at the base of the mountain again. Can’t wait!” Caryssa answered, forgetting all about golf in her excitement about ski week. They had nine glorious days ahead of them, skiing every day, hot tubbing every night, walking through the quaint village, window shopping, seeing friends, and enjoying the night life at the ski resort. “Who cares if it’s colder than a witch’s tit right now…”

“Well, I hate to break up the party,” Sam winked, “but I have some partying of my own to do with this man of mine now that we have the night to ourselves. Thank you guys so much for dinner. As always, give us a call if anything goes wrong. And the next overnight is at our house.”

Caryssa laughed. “You guys get going! And don’t worry, nothing ever goes wrong between those two. They’re thick as thieves. We’ll give you a call in the morning after breakfast.”

“Great, thanks!” Jim said. “We can see ourselves out. You two stay here and bask in the ambiance.”

After hugs all around, Sam and Jim made their way out to the street. As their car started, Caryssa could hear the boys giggling in Tyler’s room. She sank back into her seat and sighed a contented sigh, reaching out a hand for George.

“Life is sweet, isn’t it honey?”

He squeezed her hand. “It sure is.”


Presidents Day week came in a flash, and before Caryssa knew it, she was skiing her favorite trail. They had rented the same little condo they usually got, at the Norwegian-style inn just off the slopes, and could see two of the hot tubs and chairlifts from their balcony.

They saw many of their ski pals and had a great time. Tyler attended the ski school program a few of the days and skied with Caryssa and George the other days.

Even though it was as magical as ever and she was happy to be there, Caryssa felt a sense of impending doom. She couldn’t shake it. She would check off all the things she normally worried about and see that nothing was there she hadn’t already taken care of. So why was she feeling this way? She couldn’t attach the feeling to anything, but it was as if God were trying to tell her something.

After a couple of days, she realized the feelings were about her father. So every chance she got she would call her parents’ home.

Each time she called, her Dad answered with the robotic voice he had after having the laryngectomy. Using his electro larynx, he would try to tell Caryssa something, but she could never get what he was saying. Eventually, he would hang up in frustration. And she would be living in a moment of helplessness…

One afternoon after one such difficult conversation, Caryssa headed out of the condo towards the mountain to get a few more runs in for the day. While carrying her skis over her shoulder, trucking through the heavy snow, she had a sudden and overwhelming déjà vu. She was a little girl, her Daddy beside her. He was carrying her skis over his shoulder as they walked through the snow towards the ski slopes.

She didn’t realize that she had tears streaming her face until she bumped into one of her friends on the chairlift.

“Are you okay Caryssa? You looked like you were crying as we boarded the chair,” Joe asked. She told Joe about her Dad, and about her déjà vu. They were both quiet all the way up the mountain. She knew Joe understood, and Joe knew words wouldn’t be helpful right now, but companionship would be. So he just sat with Caryssa as the lift moved them up the slope.

Caryssa looked behind her to appreciate the view unfolding as they rose. The spectacular blue of Lake Tahoe, the snow-capped mountain peaks all around, the valley below them. The air so fresh and clear. Such a beautiful world. Skiing was so pleasant. Skiing and golf, two things her dad had loved for years, and had taught her to love, and would never be able to enjoy again.

The lift approached the top, and she soon faced the downslope. She most always skied the expert slopes and this was one of the toughest. Joe was next to her.

“You going?” he asked.

“In a minute,” she answered. “You go ahead.”

As Joe pushed off and floated down the bumps, Caryssa looked out at all the beauty of the receding layers of mountains in front of her, rose-tinged in the glow of afternoon winter light. She took a deep breath and let out a sigh. Tears streamed from her eyes and froze on her cheeks. She barely noticed.

“This run is for you, Dad. This run is for you,” she whispered.

And then she pushed off.


Shortly after this emotional ski run dedicated to her dad, the cancer took him to heaven.

There were so many things she needed to say to him, things that had been trapped in her heart through the years. She said them before he slipped away, gently and lovingly, while holding his hand---hoping it would ease his pain.

She got those words out, that hand touch, those hugs, into the crucial last moments. Words. Loving words—transferred from her heart and soul to his heart and soul. So her dad could take all those good words with him into that afterlife place. And no doubt, that loving spirit went to any heaven that might exist.

To help her push through the grief during the weeks that followed, she made sure to enjoy her favorite things: the sunshine on her face, swooshing down the ski slopes with friends, loving life and remembering the man who had instilled in her the love of life and skiing. Skiing was the best antidote for her heavy heart.

Caryssa loved après ski as much as skiing; sitting in the sunshine sipping wine, chatting with friends, smelling the barbecues, and watching all the shiny, happy people.

I’ve never seen an unhappy person walk around the ski slopes. Caryssa joked to passersby “You’d think we are all snorting cocaine or on ecstasy, everyone so cheery.” But no … skiing tends to bring out the best in people, naturally.

One day, she sank down onto their bed, head in her hands. It was too much. Too many loved ones dying of cancer! They had also lost George’s Dad and some close friends.

“I feel like I’m dying of heartbreak,” she told George.

George tried to be helpful. “Honey, why don’t you do one of those causes? You know the ‘walk your ass off for a cure’ thing or something?”

“Because we’ve had enough of looking for cures! We’ve had cures, pushed aside on purpose! We need prevention! Oh don’t even get me started!” she shouted.

“Sorry honey,” George said, throwing up his hands. “I wasn’t looking for a lecture. I was just trying to help. I’m suffering too, ya know. It’s not all about you.”

A profound realization hit Caryssa. An oddly strange, peaceful feeling that pushed past the anger. He was right! She held him close. “Oh honey, I’m so sorry!”

An enlightening engulfed her. Some moral lessons from the death of loved ones teaching her about life itself. A transformation, awareness. A consciousness. Absorption. A stillness, and connection. Of just … being. In the moment of every moment, life has to offer.

And that enlightening motivated her…


Caryssa did end up doing an exercise your ass off thingy to fight cancer: “Swim Across America” a charitable organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness for cancer research, prevention, and treatment through swimming across our nations beautiful open waters and pools. Unlike some other such causes, proceeds go directly to the beneficiaries.

When she told Tyler what she was going to train for, he said “Oh great! Just like Dory says in Finding Nemo, when life gets you down, just keep on swimming, keep on swimming!”

No matter what it took, she forced herself to drive down to the shoreline a few times every week for months, don wetsuit, bathing cap, and goggles, walk into the waves, and immerse herself in the deep, cold water. Out, out, out she swam so that when she stopped and tread water to gauge how far she had gone, the people on the beach looked tiny.

She swam back and forth along the shoreline, past all the people and past the rocks and back. Over the course of three months’ training, she felt herself getting stronger and stronger physically and emotionally. The water was absorbing her grief. Battling the waves was challenging her muscles. She was healing.

On the day of the event, the swimmers tossed flowers dedicated to their loved ones into the water before jumping off the ferry into the bay. Caryssa wasn’t in any competition. She was swimming for the cause. She blew past her fundraising goal and swam the mile and a half from the Golden Gate Bridge to Chrissy Field Beach.

When she found herself standing on the beach, exhilarated and out of breath, she stopped to soak in the incredible beauty around her—the majestic bridge, this time in the distance rather than looming over her as she swam, Sausalito, Alcatraz, the sailboats on the bay, the blue sky, the seabirds.

George was at the finish line, camera in hand. He knew exactly what she would want, and they headed over to the party on the beach, the delicious cooking on the grills, the people laughing. It was a warm, beautiful day, with a clear view far past Alcatraz. Music was playing, booths were set up with all sorts of food, and somebody handed her a bag of goodies specially put together for the swimmers.

Caryssa made her way to the changing area, stripped off her wetsuit and changed into the dry clothes George had packed for her. When she found George again, he was talking with one of his coworkers who had also done the event, Elaina.

Elaina, a PhD as well as an MD, works as a toxicology specialist. She had spent the first fifteen years of her career as a surgeon, treating children with cancer. Now she was working in environmental protection, like many of the other swimmers, in order to find and eradicate causes.

“So Caryssa, how did your first swim go?” she asked.

Caryssa laughed. “As well as could be expected, I guess. At least I finished! I thought I would never finish, I was so exhausted I was ready to give up. But then I remembered how so many had battled cancer, so I kept going. And I’m so glad I did! It was so wonderful in every way—emotionally, physically, spiritually!”

Caryssa was laughing as she spoke, and nearly in tears. She felt so good, punch drunk.

“It is such an amazing experience, isn’t it?” Elaina said. “This is my third time doing it, and I resolve to do it each year. I have to say, though, I’ve stopped using the word ‘battled’ to refer to healing from the disease, or even fighting.’ Have you listened to what they’re saying over on that stage?”

She pointed off to a corner stage, where Caryssa spotted a woman speaking about the many scientifically and clinically recognized environmental links to cancer. Most of it focused on food. Ah-ha…No wonder all the foods on the tables were identified as non GMO or organically grown.

Elaina continued. “I treated so many little cancer patients when I was a practicing surgeon. At Children’s Hospital in Oakland. And I learned a lot about how our approach to the disease can make a difference. I truly believe that if a person feels they are battling something inside them it only makes them sicker. Attitude is everything. Cancer is not an alien object or something apart from our bodies to kill off. We are all born with a potential cancer gene. More people than we realize are born with a genetic mutation—a ‘predisposition.’ But there needs to be a number of cells before it becomes cancer. Without going too far into details, I can tell you that eighty percent of cancers come from environmental toxins. Meanwhile, our whole society and medical system wrongly look at cancer as some sort of ‘us versus them’ fight.”

“That makes a lot of sense to me,” Caryssa said. “I wonder about the cancer clusters forming around my home town and surrounding areas on the East Coast. So many people are dropping like flies. It’s scary to watch. And there are toxic super funds all over that area. People don’t recycle, and they use more pesticides. When I mention this to my family, they claim I’m an alarmist, or going all negative.”

“I know exactly what you mean,” Elaina responded. “I have relatives near Buzzards Bay. It was found to be one of the most toxic bodies of water in North America, with hundreds of pounds of PCBs dumped in it. It’s a Federal Superfund site—highly contaminated or was before actions were taken to clean it up. How many people could have been protected from cancer caused by just that one site?!”

Music played in the background and the air smelled of barbecues and sunscreen. People were dancing off to the side, laughter and life abounded.

Elaina continued. “This ’fight cancer attitude gives cancer itself more power. It instills fear. And this fear only gives the disease more power over people. Cancer treatment is an industry, a four hundred billion dollar industry. Conventional medicine and its ‘battle’ against cancer kill both good and bad cells through chemo. We try to burn it out, radiate it out, and cut it out.”

She recognized the look of dread on Caryssa’s face. No more awareness, please! I’m trying to live in the moment!

“Oh…don’t get me wrong, there are times these may seem like the only choice, but more because it’s too late than for any other reason. The amount of cancer that could have been entirely prevented is astounding. I believe wholeheartedly that out of the hundreds of children I worked on, few had any genetic predisposition. It was almost always some form of toxin that caused that tumor, whether in or around the household or in the surrounding environment. It nearly killed me. Once I knew about the environmental causes, I had to put my surgical practice aside and get to work on prevention.”

Caryssa was growing weary of this conversation. It brought up such a sense of sadness and helplessness. She wanted to get back to the party and that heady feeling of celebration that had faded for her as she listened to Elaina. But she also wanted to take advantage of this woman’s expertise while she had access to it, to get some questions answered. “Is it true what I’ve read, that the medical profession has seen more than one potential cure emerge, only to have the science purposely pushed aside?” she asked.

“Oh sure. Lots, in fact. Cancer is a very profitable industry. And not just for the highly paid oncologists. All those diagnostic machines. The pharmaceuticals. It’s huge. Fight or battle? We need to fight for clean science. It seems our entire political/economic system has a serious allergy to the truth. So here I am working in toxicology, making less money but feeling far better in my heart and soul. I just hope our next generation of doctors are conscious enough to push for including the environmental aspects of both medicine and prevention. It’s a critical element missing right now.”

At that moment a live band started to play. Caryssa and Elaina looked at each other and smiled. Enough of this, let’s go celebrate!

they were all dancing, laughing, drinking, and eating all the healthy delicacies set up on the various tables. Caryssa felt so calm, happy. She glanced out at the San Francisco Bay, past the palm trees, the beach, and all the people celebrating life. Celebrating the finish line of the Swim Across America, celebrating the “fight” or “battle” or “healing,” whatever they wished to call it—against cancer. Loving and living their life to the fullest.

She looked around for George. There he was, next to one of the food tables, talking with a colleague. Always the intellectual was her George. Always getting sucked into heated discussions about important issues. She snuck up behind him, put her arms around his chest, and nuzzled his back. He turned his head to acknowledge her.

“Come on, honey. Let’s get back to dancing. Enough serious talk for one night!”

“Shut up and dance with me?” chimed in the colleague.

George laughed and set his wine glass on the table. “Shut up and dance with you? It’s what I live for, gorgeous.”

As they moved a little closer to the band and began to move in rhythm to the music, Caryssa leaned in to whisper into her husband’s ear.

“You were right, that day we fought. This was a good thing to do. And I’m so glad I did. Thank you, honey. And know what? Elaina brought up exactly what I was angry about. Despite that issue being true…I feel at inner peace! I’m learning to let go!”

George winked at her and pulled her into a wild swing that lifted her off her feet.

“Anytime, beautiful. Anytime! Now try to keep up! Show me your best moves!”

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