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

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Chapter 21: Family Photos

TORIN

I hung up with Mom and wiped my hand down my face in frustration. Mom had a very valid point - okay, a few. And I knew she’d never let anything happen to Rainie. Maybe I was being too uptight. It’s not like I could do anything about it anyways, not with work right now. And I suppose Rainie being there with Mom wasn’t the worst place she could be.

I just didn’t have to like it.

I almost put my phone back in my pocket when I remembered that Mom said she was sending me a picture of Rainie, so I unlocked the screen again and tapped the message icon.

Her message simply said, “Love you!” And I smiled a little, knowing that she really did have me and Rainie’s best interests in mind, even if I didn’t always agree with her. Tapping on the attached file, I did indeed see my beautiful baby with a giant smile on her face. God, she had her mother’s smile, and I guess I hadn’t seen it nearly often enough lately. That needed to change I realized.

As I examined the snapshot, I wondered what had made her laugh and then I took in the whole picture. Rainie was looking at October’s daughter Anne, who was obviously talking, and on the other side of Rainie, facing the two of them was October, comfortably interacting with the pair, laughing as well.

It was the first time I’d seen the woman relaxed and in her normal element without some sort of confrontation going on, and I studied her for a moment. A part of me got lost in her warmth, emanating from her relaxed posture and gaze as she lovingly watched the two preteens. Her smile was beautiful in its own right, completely different than Rainie’s, yet equally lovely and genuine.

The three of them looked good together; happy, natural... No, there was a specific word. What was the word I was looking for?

Family.

I suddenly closed down. They looked like a God-damned family! It was one thing for fate to try and set me up with a second soul mate. I didn’t have to take destiny up on that offer.

But it was another thing for this woman to try and weasel her way into my Rainie’s life - she didn’t need a second mother. That’s why my mom was here with us!

“Damn you!” I said aloud, and the sergeant passing my desk looked at me with surprise as I threw my phone down on my desk.

Scowling, I looked back at him half apologetically and mumbled, “Not you, Sergeant.”

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

TOBIE

Right after Rhonda and I got out of our meeting with Rob, I called Ida, letting her know that we were on for the official first day of the trial Gulfside Aquatic Rehabilitation Center’s Youth Internship Program. Its mission: To provide kids with the opportunity to learn responsibility and teamwork through the care of the aquatic animals at the center.

Ida was thrilled, and said she’d drop Kyle off at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow morning. The girls weren’t necessarily happy to hear he’d be showing up, but it was what it was, and the three of them might learn how to work together, if not tolerate each other in the end. It was only going to be for a week anyways, I reminded them.

Rhonda had mentioned that Torin would be tied up with work for the next few days, so he wasn’t able to get Rainie set up with anything else. Therefore, she was able to ‘talk him into’ letting Rainie come along for the internship as well. I had a feeling that Rhonda did more telling than convincing, but who was I to judge, I thought with a smile to myself. At least someone out there could tell him something!

I wasn’t exactly sure what Torin had said to Rainie about her fight with Kyle, though from Rhonda I didn’t think he was upset with her. Yet, the mother in me felt compelled to take a moment before Kyle entered the picture tomorrow to explain some things to the girls, and hopefully smooth things out a little since they were technically the ones in trouble for the physical fight.

“Do you girls understand why Kyle said what he said?” I broached the subject as we waited in the entrance for Rhonda to close up her office.

“He was upset because his dad got fired and he thinks you stole his job,” Anne ventured.

“Yeah, that’s pretty much the gist of it,” I replied. “But I want you to understand that while he was wrong to pick on you, he did it because he felt bad for his dad and because things at home have been really difficult.”

The girls didn’t say anything and so I continued, “If I lost my job I wouldn’t get paid until I found a new job, and if I didn’t find a job that paid the same or better than the first job, then I would have a hard time paying the mortgage on the house, buying groceries, and other things, right?” They nodded.

“Well, that’s how it’s been for Kyle’s family. As a parent you want to take care of your family, and Kyle’s dad has been scared that he might not be able to do that.” They again nodded.

“When we get scared, sometimes we say things we don’t necessarily mean, and Kyle’s dad had said things about me and the rehab that weren’t very nice. But he probably didn’t mean them, really. Kyle didn’t understand that his dad was just upset, and he believed what he’d heard him say. So, to him, you and I, Anne, were the bad guys. We moved here and I got a job instead of his dad, and you were moving into his school. But his mom and dad feel bad about that and his mom has already apologized. So, we should be the bigger people and forgive them, okay?”

The teens absorbed this information slowly, then lowered their heads a bit in shame. “Yes, ma’am,” Rainie replied softly and Anne nodded her head in agreement solemnly.

They both had obviously been bad-mouthing the boy between each other and I knew that was going to have to stop. Sure, I believed in standing up for yourself and others, and sometimes someone had to be smacked in the nose to ‘wake up,’ but a little compassion and empathy went a long way, too.

Rhonda made her way down the stairs and as a group we made it out to the parking lot after locking up the building. I told the girls how proud of them I was today, and their mood brightened again, knowing that I wasn’t upset with them, just wanted them to be kind. In all, I felt like today was a success. I think Anne enjoyed today more than anything she’d enjoyed in a long time.

Earlier, Rhonda had forwarded me a photo she’d snapped with her phone of me and the two girls at lunch on the pavilion. It was nice to have a picture of Anne looking so happy. While we had a lot of good times together, she had become more serious lately (I blamed hormones), and it warmed my heart to see her loosen up.

Shoot, I looked happy in that picture, too! I didn’t have too many photos taken of myself over the last few years, and as I gained weight after the divorce, I made sure that I was the one taking the pictures instead.

I was actually looking good, I thought, impressed with all my hard work to get in shape again. While it wasn’t exact where I wanted to be yet, I was happy to see noticeable progress. Being a candid shot, I was also pleased with the way I looked (in body and mind) when I thought no one was looking.

That evening, Anne and I set out for the dock just as the sun was setting, hoping to see Dusky yet again. I was hoping his girlfriend would also show, as I knew Anne would enjoy seeing both of them. She swore they were married, though I told her dolphins didn’t stick with each other like that, preferring to be boyfriend/girlfriend more than long term. For being a kid with a dead-beat dad and a very single mom, she still managed to have a hopeful heart when it came to romanticized couples. Oh well, that was the age talking I though. It went right along with the kittens and unicorn phase.

As for the dolphin ‘husband and wife,’ she already thought Dawn would made a cute name for Dusky’s wife - Dusky and Dawn. It was a bit too cute for my taste, but fun, nonetheless.

But neither one showed, and we were both a bit bummed. There was a lot of cloud cover this evening, and I thought the weather channel had said something about rain coming.

“Maybe they know the weather’s gonna get bad and are hunkering down for the night. We’ll try again tomorrow, okay?” Anne nodded as she got up from her seated position on the dock.

We headed back indoors and got ready for bed early since tomorrow was going to be a big day with the official internship beginning, and we wanted to be up earlier. Unfortunately, the weather forecast had been right, and it rained extremely heavy overnight and into the next morning. As we left for the rehab, I prayed internally that the turn of weather wasn’t a foreshadowing of stormy weather for our little internship.

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