Beyond the Ocean's Depths (Not an Average Shifter Romance)

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Chapter 18: A Plan

TOBIE

I needed to make sure Salvador and Chuy were okay before I took Anne home, I also wanted Rhonda to book an appointment for her and I to sit down with Rob in the morning to talk about putting together a community service program, so we headed from the Summer Center, directly to the Rehab.

Anne was feeling a bit better by time we left the school, and once on the road, I ventured, “So, Rainie seems nice.”

Anne smiled, “Yeah, she’s the girl I told you about that likes my drawings.”

Ah, so luck would have it that the one kid my daughter finds for a friend ends up being Torin Waters’ daughter - how bizarre and random is that?!

“She can play the guitar really good! They have one in the music room, and she said she’d teach me how to play if I teach her how to draw.”

“That sounds good. Did you know that her grandma works with me?”

“Nah-uh. Not until you said something in Mrs. Williams’ office. I guess we never talked about her grandma or our parents much. I don’t think she even knew you worked at the rehab until today when Kyle asked me why I moved here.”

“Ah, so that’s how it started; him picking on you, huh?”

She nodded. “Mom? Is it weird to be best friends with somebody so fast?”

I regarded her, figuring that a fight like today’s would definitely create a stronger bond of friendship between the two girls. “There are no rules for how quickly you know someone is your friend. It can take years or seconds. Just depends on the people and the circumstances.”

“Well, I was thinking about my friends in Cincinnati, and I don’t think I would have, like, punched someone like Kyle for them. I mean, I probably would have screamed or something to get the teacher’s attention. And I don’t know, maybe I would have tried to shove him or something. But, um, I just felt like... Like he was going to hurt my best friend, or like a member of my family. I don’t know, it’s hard to explain.”

I nodded my head. Much like Anne, while I got along with most people, I considered few people to be real friends. I only had one ‘BFF’ and we’d been like sisters from the start, meeting through work just after Anne was born. Anne had always thought of Mary more like an aunt than a family friend, and if something happened to me, she was supposed to go live with Mary in California as my parents were getting older.

“I know what you mean, honey. That’s really nice!”

When we got to the rehab, Anne and I went upstairs to see Rhonda who was thrilled to finally meet my daughter, and very surprised to hear that not only was her granddaughter involved in the fight that the school called for me about, but that Anne and Rainie were already friends. I guess Torin was going to wait until she got home to fill her in.

Knowing Rhonda had been one of the first on staff at the rehab when Rob started things up, I knew she had a lot of insight on the inner workings of the business and I wanted her input on my community service plan for at least Anne and Kyle before involving Rob.

I had Anne go down to visit Vickie and Chuy, as I knew she knew her way around the aquarium environment and would be okay. Once alone, I explained to the older woman how exactly my idea evolved from an idea for Anne’s community service to Ida asking if Kyle could do it as well.

“I don’t suppose Torin was too keen on Rainie coming?” Rhonda astutely guessed.

“No. But I did invite him to bring her if Rob okays it, of course. I thought it might work for you guys in case you wanted to keep an eye on her or something, not knowing what your situation is like. Since her and Anne are such good friends now, it’s a shame.”

“Pfft, Torin is as hard-headed as an eel,” came her odd, but funny reply, and I almost laughed out loud. I had to admit, eels didn’t seem to be very amenable creatures in my experience.

Then going back to the subject at hand she continued, “But I think overall it’s a great idea, Tobie! You know though, instead of spinning it as a community service project, we could turn it into a youth internship. We can see how it goes for a week first, and if it seems like the kids are learning and we’re getting some good help out of it, then maybe we can extend it up to four to six weeks and do it every summer!”

The wheels in my head started turning, “Yeah! And we would have just a select number of openings, so we’d have good oversight. Parents would have to sign up their kids each year, like they do at the Summer Center!”

We talked for a bit longer, as I took notes. Tonight, I would draw up a legitimate plan to present to Rob, and tomorrow morning Rhonda and I would try to get him to buy off on it. Finally, I was ready to get Anne home, and said goodbye to Rhonda, thanking her for her thoughts.

“No problem, dear. I’m excited! And don’t worry, I’ll talk to Torin about it and see if I can knock some sense into his thick skull. If we can get three kids in here, we just might pull it off as a legit test program!”

Collecting my daughter who was helping Vickie feed the three seahorses we had in an indoor tank, we drove home feeling pretty good about things. After supper that evening, I talked Anne into going down to the dock for a change. I was hoping that my new dolphin friends would come by and that Anne would be able to see them, too. Sometimes only the male would come by. It wasn’t every night, though often enough for me to know that it was the same dolphin and that he was beginning to recognize me, as well.

“Have you named them yet, Mom?” Anne asked as we strolled down the long walkway and through our tree-tunnel in the dimming light.

“No, not yet. Maybe you will think of something if you get to see them. I wish they didn’t come by so late so I could see them in better light.”

We sat on the edge of the dock and chatted for a while, dangling our feet in the warm Florida water as the sun completely set. Just when I thought they weren’t going to show, Anne heard the distinctive clicking of a dolphin, and we sat super still, waiting.

I grabbed the flashlight waiting. By now they weren’t hesitant about the light, and I felt as though they saw the beam as a signal that the human on the dock was just me. Usually, they’d come right up, but tonight I heard the familiar clicks and squeaks and yet no one appeared at my feet. Maybe they sensed Anne and weren’t sure it was safe. So, I flipped on the flashlight, shining it into the water, looking for the source of the dolphin-speak.

“Hello?! It’s okay! I brought my daughter this evening,” I thought my familiar voice might tempt them to come closer.

Finally, after a minute, the male appeared at my feet. Anne gasped with delight as I shone the flashlight towards him, and he bobbed in the water taking us both in.

“Hi boy! This is Anne!”

Anne threw him a tiny wave as she gushed her own hello towards the beautiful creature. “Come on, get on your belly and see if he’ll let you touch him,” I prompted.

We both lay on the dock so that our heads were over the water. I reached out first, and my dolphin friend splashed a bit as he happily nuzzled my hand. “Ah, I love you, too!” I cooed.

Anne moved closer to me, stretching her arm out next to mine. It didn’t take but a moment of acknowledgement on the dolphin’s behalf that there was another human seeking to give him affection, for him to quickly move over to Anne. She giggled as he touched the tip of her fingers with his nose, then loudly called out in his high-pitched dolphin voice.

“I think he likes you!” I exclaimed laughing with her.

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