Chapter 34: Rainie Night
Upon arriving at my office first thing Sunday morning, I was greeted with an urgent message from the Navarro Beach Police Department. Someone matching the description of known drug smuggler Hank Jimson had been spotted in town yesterday. Turns out Jimson had possible ties with the guys we’d taken down a couple weeks ago. But that was nothing. I knew him from his heavy involvement with the aquarium’s previous owner. Jimson was on my own personal bad-boy list. If he was in town that meant something was up. My already bad morning was turning darker by the minute.
I briefed my guys on the situation—we’d be on the lookout for Jimson, and if the son of a bitch showed his ugly mug again, we’d be on him like a fly to sugar. While the police department had first dibs on anything to do with Jimson, he’d been known to traffic his wares via boat, so that’s where me and my department came into play.
Pouring my coffee, I retreated to my desk, nodding gruffly to my secretary, Alice. She’d been with the Marine Patrol Department for twenty-five years—much longer than me—and had seen a number of chiefs come and go under her watch. She regarded me this morning, noting my disgruntled attitude (most people already had as I came in).
“Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed,” she stated pointedly.
I sighed, “You could say that. Sorry. I’ve just got a lot on my mind.”
She smiled understandingly and I settled at my desk, waiting for the computer to boot. I rubbed my temples from behind my monitor, my mind going back to yesterday evening when everything went wrong. I was so mad at myself. I should have taken Rainie home as soon as I realized October was at La Azteca’s. But now I was feeling guiltier than ever and my daughter was mad at me.
I had lowered my guard for once, and even apologized to October for being an ass. I had no intention of getting too friendly with her; I was just tired of being angry and wanted to enjoy her company for multiple reasons. Sure, she was a beautiful woman, but as a fellow single parent whose kid was my daughter’s best friend, we had a lot in common. And she was likable as a person. Even if I did have unwanted feelings for her secretly, she would make a good friend if we had to continue hanging out on our daughters’ behalf.
But Aunt Beverly and Uncle Ted showed up just in time to make me realize that my biological soul mate attraction to October would never allow the relationship to end at mere friendship. It would drive me to want more from her, and I already felt that she could possibly be attracted to me, had I not been such a prick to her from the start. Just dancing with her was enough to turn me on.
When Aunt Beverly mentioned Sandy though, that was the last straw. I knew I had to end this before it began. Yet, as I left with Rainie, I felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest twice over. Once for all the memories of Sandy that Aunt Beverly stirred up—God, I missed that woman!
Secondly, I’d heard the disdain in Aunt Beverly’s tone when the aquarium was mentioned in regards to Mom’s work, Rainie’s volunteerism, and finally October’s job. Everybody that I loved or felt like I could have something with was embroiled in the new aquarium, and Aunt Beverly was only stating what the entire dolphin shifter community felt regarding that. The past of the aquarium was just too horrific for any good to come from there now, and it was off limits. We were treading in taboo territory.
That meant that October Davis was off limits, and any desires I had to pursue her in friendship, or more, were to be frowned upon as well.
But Rainie didn’t see it all that clearly, and when we’d gotten in the truck, she was pretty confused. Out of breath from catching up with me she’d instantly asked as she buckled up, “What was that all about Dad? I thought we were staying?”
She sounded concerned and a bit put out, though not whiny.
“I don’t want to talk about it, Rainie. We need to go home.”
She was silent the entire ten-minute drive home, but as I put the truck in park in the driveway she crossed her arms, looking at me in the dimness of the streetlight, looking more grown up than ever and so much like her mother.
“So, what are you going to do now? You won’t talk to me or Grandma. All you do lately is mope around or get upset, then let Onyx out while you hide away inside him.”
“That’s not true!” I retorted without thinking.
“Yes, Dad. It is. We don’t talk anymore and I’m the one that’s supposed to be the moody teenager!”
I had to laugh a little at her astute assessment, but quickly pushed my humor away and shook my head. I felt as confused and hormonal as a teenager, but I wasn’t going to admit that.
“I’m sorry. I just have a lot on my mind.”
“No kidding! But it’s gonna stay on your mind if you don’t get it out and talk to somebody! What’s wrong, Dad?”
I met her gaze and felt her sincere desire to help and it pulled at my heartstrings. If she weren’t a child herself, I just might take her up on it. But I just sat there.
So, Rainie took it upon herself to initiate the interrogation. “I know a lot of this is about Mom, isn’t it?” Her words were firm, but tender at the same time, and I winced. She was right on, of course. “Well, you’re not the only one that misses her. I do, too! But I don’t go around mad and hurt with everybody!”
Ouch! She was right. I never had problems with her over her mother being gone—not like you hear about some kids who lose a parent.
“Yes, I miss her a lot. And it makes me angry sometimes,” I said painfully, yet honestly.
Rainie took a deep breath, this was obviously hard for her to talk about, and confronting me now took a lot of courage on her part. “Dad, I know I was only seven when Mom died, but I remember how she was. I remember her being happy almost all the time. I remember when she started getting sick, too, and how she didn’t want anyone to be sad for her. She’d always say that ‘time was too precious to waste being unhappy.’”
I swallowed heavily, tears already trying to form in my eyes.
“She would be very sad that you’re wasting time being so mad and sad. She would want you to be happy,” Rainie went on.
I nodded, still holding back the tears that were ready to come.
“Dad, Grandma and I want you to be happy, too. We want you to be happy with us, but it feels like you’re hardly with us, even when you are with us.”
We were silent for a moment before I was finally able to speak. In a shaky voice I said, “I’m sorry, sweetheart. I never meant for you or Grandma to feel bad. And I love you both very much. You’re the only things that make life happy.”
Rainie shook her head, “That’s just it, Dad. I don’t want you just to be happy with me and Grandma. You should be happy all the time. You should be happy with life! You used to love your job. You used to love a lot of things.”
I couldn’t reply. I knew she was right. Sandy would have said the same thing—I should be happy in my entire life. But that was much easier said than done at this point.
Finally, I muttered, “I understand. I’ll try, okay?”
Rainie smiled at me, then she looked nervous and I knew she had something else on her mind.
“What is it, sweetie?” I prodded.
She searched my face for a moment before finally building up the courage. “Dad?”
“Do you like Tobie?”
Whoa, I did not see that coming! I was expecting her to talk about herself—something that was perplexing her; say her shifter transition or school. Even boys! I don’t know, anything but October Davis!
And what exactly did she mean by “like?”
“Uh, sure, she’s a nice lady,” I replied unemotionally. “She’s been nice to you, right?” I knew that if she hadn’t, Rainie would have said something already, and she wouldn’t be so happy to see the woman whenever we ran into her in public, giving her hugs. But I figured I better make sure. Plus, it was a good way of avoiding the subject of my feelings by putting it back on her.
“Oh definitely, I like her a lot. She’s awesome!” Then, she got serious again. “Dad, that’s not what I mean. I mean, do you like her?”
My heart began to beat rapidly, and I felt as though I was under an interrogation lamp, instead of the streetlamp. No one was supposed to know how I really felt about October, that way I could shove those feelings away and lock them up forever. I hadn’t given myself a chance to ‘have feelings’ for her on an emotional or personable level, but instinctively and with every ounce of my manhood, I had extremely deep and needy feelings for her, and those scared me.
“Yeah. I said she was nice.”
She glared at me. “That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m old enough to know about boys and girls liking each other. Do - you - like - Tobie?” She spelled it out so there was no mistaking her meaning.
In a higher voice than I’d expected, I replied, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
She crossed her arms again with a smirk. “You do!”
“Sure, she’s pretty, but I would never go out with her or anything,” I shot back quickly.
She laughed out loud, then said, as if it all had become clear, “So it is true—sometimes when a boy likes a girl, he tries to hide it by being mean to her!”
“What?” I said incredulously. Was she really comparing me to immature little boys in grade school and middle school? Then I internally face-palmed. Ugh, she was right! And that was a difficult pill to swallow.
But she ignored my question and raised her eyebrow in confusion. “But, why? Why wouldn’t you go out with her if you like her?”
It was my turn to be surprised. I never thought Rainie would be interested in me being interested in someone else besides her mother. Isn’t that how it worked? Kids didn’t want some stranger replacing their missing parent.
I just stared at her in confusion, so she continued, her eyes lighting up despite the darkness around us, “Dad, you both are soul mates!”
I literally choked on air as she stated this so factually and happily. How the heck did she know? I knew Onyx hadn’t said anything to Penny. Maybe being so closely related to me she really could pick it up instinctually, like I had feared before.
“What makes you say that?” I finally got out.
“It all adds up! I’ve seen you around other women who like you, but you never give them the time of day. It’s like they don’t exist. But then, I figured out that you really did like Tobie, so that has to mean something, right? And when Onyx and Gina mated, it would only seem right that you would find your soul mate, too, since Gina isn’t a shifter and can’t be your soul mate. And that also means that your soul mate wouldn’t be a shifter either, since Gina isn’t.”
I nodded slightly, knowing she was on the right track. But apparently, she was holding one card that trumped all this. Folding her hand of proverbial cards, she looked me in the eye and seriously stated, “Did you know that Tobie and Anne get visited by a dolphin almost every evening at their dock?”
I shook my head—I didn’t know.
“Actually, there’s two of them and Anne named them Dusky and Dawn since the male always comes around dusk, and she thought Dawn was cute for the female who came with him sometimes. You know, dusk and dawn?”
I nodded, not sure where this was going. People always saw dolphins around here, we lived in Florida for Christ’s sake.
“Dad, Anne showed me a picture of Dusky and then, she finally got a picture of Dawn the other day.” She pulled out her phone, pulling up her photos. “She sent me the pictures on text message.”
I leaned over to take a look and felt the bottom fall out of my world.
“Onyx, Gina!” I whispered in shock. “What, how?”
“Dad every time you let Onyx out, he and Gina go and find Tobie. They’re trying to tell you that she’s your soul mate, but you’re not listening.”
I closed my eyes. “Rainie, I can’t. I can’t have another soul mate.” I was beginning to shake inside, and the air seemed to have been sucked out of the truck.
“But why, Dad? If Onyx can, you should, too! There’s lots of people who find another soul mate after their first one dies.”
“Rainie! No!” I almost shouted. “I just can’t!”
“But Dad!” She pleaded.
I lost it then, the pressure being too much, and I yelled, “How can you? I don’t understand how you want someone to replace your mother!”
Rainie was shocked, and at first just blinked at me in surprise at my outburst, then tears rapidly filled her eyes and she shook as she screamed back at me, “You’re the only one who’s afraid of replacing Mom! No one will ever be able to replace my mom, Sandy Waters. But I would like to have someone like a mom in my life. And I want you to be happy, too. And Tobie is perfect for us! And you know it!”
And with that she opened her door and jumped out of the truck, running into the house, and slamming the front door behind her.
“God damn it!” I yelled to no one. I was screwed at this point with no one on my side. Even my own daughter and my own dolphin wanted me to give up Sandy. I’d be damned if I was going to let that sneaky-assed dolphin out ever again!