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

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Chapter 20: Bring your Kid to Work Day

ANNE

I was so glad that I didn’t have to go to the Summer Center today. After yesterday’s embarrassing fight with that meanie, Kyle, if I never went back, that would be fine with me!

Maybe if Rob agreed to let me do community service at the rehab, I could just talk everybody into letting me just go there for the rest of the summer.

I didn’t like the possibility of Kyle coming to the rehab, too, so I secretly hoped Rob would just say I could come, no one else, though I knew Mom was hoping to make it a program for the entire town. Rainie’s Dad wouldn’t let her come anyways, so being by myself would be better than having to be around Kyle on my own, even if it were only for a week.

Mom looked nice this morning. Even though she knew Rob really well, she still dressed up in her “I’m serious about this proposal” pant suit and looked fabulous!

By the time she and Miss Rhonda were done talking yesterday, she was on a mission. She’d probably win!

Overall, I felt better today. No one was really mad at me and Rainie, and Mom and I had a good evening together. Though the best part was going out to meet her dolphin down at the dock! I decided to call him ‘Dusky’ since he always came to see Mom at dusk. He had hung out with us for a good fifteen minutes before leaving back to where he lived in the ocean. Florida was nice, I had officially decided.

Miss Rhonda pulled up right after we did in the parking lot at the Gulfside Aquatic Rehab Center, and as soon as I saw Rainie in the passenger seat, I knew things were going to be good!

“Rainie!” I shouted as both of us got out of the cars at the same time.

“Anne!” We squealed with delight in unison, running over to see each other.

I could tell Mom was surprised but happy to see Rainie, too, as she said hello with a big smile, waiting for Rainie’s grandma to get out of the car.

“I thought your dad said you couldn’t come,” I asked her quietly while Mom and Miss Rhonda chatted on our way to open the rehab.

“He had an emergency call this morning, so had to go in. Grandma talked him into letting me come with her.”

“That’s awesome! Well, not the emergency part, but that you’re here!”

Once Vickie and Chuy came in and got settled, Mom let me and Rainie go downstairs to help them out. I explained to Rainie on our way that I was practically born at an aquarium.

“Yeah, my mom was pregnant with me when she worked at the San Antonio Aquarium. I guess she started to go into labor while she was doing a checkup on one of the dolphins who was also pregnant and was going to have her baby soon. Anyways, Mom didn’t want to stay home yet because she was concerned about the dolphin’s pregnancy. She said the dolphin must have known what was happening because she started nudging Mom like she was trying to help her out or something after Mom’s contractions started! We made it to the hospital just in time for her to have me!”

“Whoa! Really?!” Rainie looked amazed.

“Yep! The mamma dolphin had her baby - a girl, too - a week later and the aquarium named her Ana to go with my name! Anne and Ana!”

“Awww, that’s soooo sweet!” My friend cooed and I giggled.

“So, do you have any experience with dolphins or aquarium animals?” I asked, ready to impart any wisdom I’ve learned over my thirteen years around my mom’s work.

“I’m actually pretty familiar with dolphins,” Rainie replied to my surprise. “I’ve swam with them quite a bit in the Gulf all my life, living here in Navarro Beach.”

“Really? That’s so cool! I’ve never swam with wild dolphins!” Rainie smiled in return as we entered the kitchen where Vickie was preparing breakfast for the dolphins and seal.

We spent most of the morning following Vickie around as she fed all the animals who ate in the morning. Well, all of them except for Dan the dolphin. Mom had made strict rules about him last week when he tried to knock Vickie into the tank.

No one but staff were allowed near his tank, and no one could go alone - I guess he was the bully of the rehab, I joked when Vickie told us we had to stay out while her and Chuy fed him.

“If he messed with us, we’d just give him a bloody nose and a black eye!” I teased, and Rainie laughed so hard that she made me laugh just as hard, both of us remembering Kyle’s shocked expression yesterday. He probably never had a girl, let alone two beat him up before!

At that moment Mom came outside smiling, “What are you two giggling so hard about?”

We quieted down, thinking Mom probably wouldn’t appreciate us making fun of Kyle, and I simply said, “Oh, just how tough we are!” And we giggled again.

}<<(((}> * <{)))>>{

RHONDA

~~~~~

Normally I ate lunch in the office, but with Rainie and Anne here today, both Tobie and I decided it’d be fun to have a little picnic of sorts in the pavilion. There used to be a concession stand where visitors would buy popcorn and pretzels for the dolphin and seal shows when this was the aquarium. But all that was left now were a couple of picnic tables with umbrellas.

It was a perfect day for a picnic, and I thought that I should probably come out here to eat more often. Tobie and I were talking up our plans for the kids’ internship, since our meeting with Rob was a huge success. He had loved the plan, wondering why he hadn’t thought up some sort of event like that himself, having worked in the events department at a museum in his younger years.

“I’ll have Chuy and Vickie go over their list of duties to see what we can have kids safely do, and if it’s a one-, two-, or three-person job. This week they can test it all out with the kids and determine what will work best,” Tobie continued.

My phone buzzed and I knew it was Torin from the ring tone. “Excuse me, honey,” I said to Tobie as I stepped away so the giggling teens could continue their fun while I answered my son’s call.”

“Hey, son!” I answered as I leaned against the tall brick wall of the building.

“Hi Mom. How’s Rainie?”

“She’s doing just fine, sweetie. Tobie brought Anne with her today as well, and the two have been nonstop giggles all day!”

There was silence on the other end, and I wondered if I’d dropped the call or something. “Are you there? Torin?”

“Yeah, I’m here.” Another pause. “You’ve had them both in the office then?”

“No, of course not. They’ve been under supervision all day helping to feed the animals. We’re having lunch right now.”

I could tell he didn’t like what I’d said, hoping I had holed poor Rainie in my office filing papers away all day. I didn’t want to be inside filing papers on a day like today, and I wasn’t going to let my granddaughter do that either!

When Torin didn’t answer, I continued, “It’s been good for her to tend to the animals. Think of it like if she were volunteering at the assisted living place in town. Rob approved the community service internship, by the way.”

He huffed in response, then finally said, “She’s not going near Dan, right?!”

I laughed, “No one’s allowed near Dan by themselves, Torin. And the kids are definitely not allowed near him, period. That’s Tobie’s rules, not mine. Don’t worry! How’s things going on your end?” I changed the subject.

While he told me about the drug bust from this morning, I watched the girls interact with Tobie who had apparently told them something funny. It was nice seeing Rainie so relaxed around others. I hadn’t heard her giggle so hard in years, and the closer she came to her teen years, the quieter and more solemn she’d gotten.

“Torin, you know I worry about your safety just as much as you worry about Rainie’s,” I reminded him. “And you don’t have your grandmother watching out for you out there, yet I let you go and do these big scary things. Trust me with Rainie, son.”

I knew he missed Sandy, and frankly, so did I. She was a wonderful daughter-in-law, mother, and wife to my son. But, the aquarium where she’d gotten sick and died was not the same place it used to be, and I trusted Rob and Tobie with the lives of the sea life they cared for here at the rehab. I truly believed that they were going to make this place the sort of place it should have been all along.

“Hold on sweetheart,” I said to Torin as he was telling me about coming home a little late tonight. Using my phone, I snapped a quick photo of the girls at the table. I had the perfect view of Rainie’s beautiful smile as she talked to Anne next to her at the round picnic table. Tobie was leaning towards them, smiling her gorgeous smile that matched Anne’s. Something about the way the three of them interacted just had “family” all over it.

I messaged the image to Torin’s phone, then got back on the line, “I just sent you a picture of Rainie out here having lunch. I’ll let you go now, okay? I’ll leave you some supper in the oven and you can just heat it up if you get home real late.”

We said our goodbyes and I headed back to the table. I felt younger than I had in a long time and wouldn’t mind if work was like this every day!

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