February 2018 Featured RPG

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Loves is in the air and Lovematch.com is back to spread it around. If you are curious what to do this Valentine's Day then look no further than the front page of The Lochland Times.

Craziness continues through the town. Some is funny, some is political and some is just plain weird.

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Beautiful buildings and sculptures made of ice glowing under a halo of fireworks? What a beautiful place for a Valentines Day Date.

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The ice skating rink from last year has returned. Ice Cream Dream will be selling hot drinks at the door. When you get cold why not stop for a treat?


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 The ups and downs, + Casey Wallace / Wick [M]
Nina Wallace
 Posted: Apr 18 2017, 07:19 AM

February 10th, 2017

It was amazing how things turned out for Nina.

She was thankful for it, and was convinced she must be doing something right for her to run into the kind of luck she has right now. She was always one to take whatever was thrown at her, knowing things in life can only come once, and with the great opportunities she has been presented she knew she had to go for it. Granted she did have her moment of confusion, and the always sure Nina didn’t seem so sure anymore what she was going to do or what she wanted to pick.

It was hard, and for a while she was torn. She didn't want to let go of what she had been doing, just because there was this opportunity that sprung up--no matter how big it was. She loved being Casey in his competitions and helping him out. Even with her dreams, she was not going to stop that.

Luckily she had Casey who was, as always, so good to her and so good in knowing just what to say. He was the greatest gift to her and he has helped her so much since they had met. He was the one that made her feel the luckiest. The most loved. Even the most beautiful. And Nina gets all shy whenever her physical beauty was given too much attention, but the way Casey looks at her just makes her feel like she really was the most beautiful person he has ever met. He was more beautiful though. To Nina he was always more.

For the past few months Nina has been working towards accomplishing something for her career. First, a famous tennis player wanted her help in setting up his own line of sportswear instead of going to bigger and well-known names. Next, she meets someone who encourages her to submit her designs for LA fashion week to get her stuff out for the world to see. They were enormous things for Nina, and things she has decided to take on. The website wasn't in the works yet. It was something they were planning on launching after fashion week--when she has more things to show in the site. Her other site, however... with the accessories... that was put on hold. She had to, otherwise she would have too much on her plate. That one she would have to continue after the clothes for fashion week were done.

That was where she was at. She had said yes to Rafael, saying he can help him design his own line of sportswear, but made it clear that it was not going to be mass produced by her. Anything that he wants to wear can be made by Nina if he so requests, but she has decided that mass producing her wares was not something she wanted to take on. That was still in the works, but he was set to meet up with the tennis star again sometime in April.

As for the fashion week, well, Shelley helped her to get in, just as promised, and that was what’s keeping her busy at the moment. She needed to work on several clothes, and she had a little over two months to complete them for Fashion Week where she would showcase her designs for the first time in the industry that she wants to penetrate. It was a dream for Nina, and one that was giving her lots of excitement…and also lots of pressure.

It was February now, and while spring was slowly approaching it was still cool outside with the snows still present. Casey’s cast was finally off and Nina finally let him do more exercises to get his arm back in shape. Gram and Gramps were filling up that letter book Philip gave them. Philip did end up taking Anna to the Cavs vs Warriors game in California, and as of two weeks ago Phil informed Nina that they were officially dating. Her parents were in Hawaii, getting busy with honeymooners coming to the island and Lucas giving more tours, and Eiji and Caitlyn are still together, thank goodness.

Risa is starting college in April and she would be going in a good school in Tokyo for that. Uncle Momo is very proud, but he worries about his daughter being on her own. Mariko was very supportive of Risa being on her own though. Grandma Kyo was well, though apparently the change in the weather has left her feeling a bit under the weather lately so Uncle Momo was looking after her and her Ma was planning on visiting to help keep her stubborn mother in line.

Meanwhile, it was another day in the Wallace household. Nina was in her sewing room, feet kept warm by socks she had gotten last Christmas, hair up in a bun, garbed in shorts and a tank top, making her third dress and feeling a bit pressed for time since she still had more to do. But she seemed calm while working on her machine, the hum of it filling the room as she sewed two parts carefully to complete the first layer of the skirt she was putting together.

She stood as she pulled it away afterwards, turning it over and inspecting it, the silence that now filled the room allowing her to hear Casey call out to her from the living room. ”I’m over here!” She yelled back, holding the skirt against her waist now as she heard Casey’s footsteps. She turned to look, and greeted him with a smile as he approached.

”Kea,” Her chin was tilted up, and she welcomed the kiss she was given before she turned to wrap her arms around him and kiss his neck. ”Sell all the apples?” The skirt was set aside so she can jump on her husband’s arms and wrap her legs around his waist. ”I know I wasn’t there to woo all the people but I hope you had everything taken care of.” The bright smile appeared on her face again as his face was cupped between her hands and she offered him short, sweet kisses. ”I missed you.”

She had been very busy the past few weeks, and while they still had time for each other, she was often in her sewing room--concentrating and designing. Sometimes she would call Casey just to get her mind out of things and help keep her relaxed. Ideas came when she was relaxed, and Casey was very good in getting her mind off of things. Whatever which way he decides to do it.

”Did you have a good day?”
Casey Wallace
 Posted: Apr 18 2017, 04:43 PM

The Wallace side of the family had been busy too. The grandparents were fully moved in, having unpacked their last box a week or so ago. Gram had always said that you’re not officially moved in until you’ve emptied each and every box. Of course Gramps had to point out that they still had the boxes of decorations in the garage, but that was him just trying to poke fun of his wife. They’d recently headed back to New York for a reunion with friends, Finlay’s perish, and to be in the Big Apple for the big St. Patrick’s Day celebration – something Gramps always loved attending, if for no other reason than to wear his kilt and correct everyone that he was Scottish, not Irish.

Since having his cast off Case was barely contained. It was as though he was attempting to make up for lost time in his handicap. He’d spent the mornings out on the range, bundled up against the early chill, and spending quality time behind his bow. He’d noticed right away that his time away from shooting had adversely affected him, and sensing that he wasn’t at the top of his game gave him all the drive he needed to make sure he was putting a good amount of time behind the bow to re-hone his dwindling skill. On this particular morning Case was out and shooting shortly after there was just enough light in the sky to see his target. He was up early, or EARLY as Nina would put it. Case had a lot to get done this morning, and if he was going to have any time to work on his archery he’d have to squeeze it in where he could. He kept it simple, standard targets, standard ranges, and as the fog rolled out from Cannon Lake it provided Case just enough challenge to make sure things weren’t too easy for him. In two hours Case had fired somewhere in the neighborhood of two hundred arrows, twenty at a time, and each time he’d approach the target he’d assess and reassess his efforts. It was going to be a process, and according to Case’s math he had about 41 months to get it all sorted out.

Following a long morning of shooting Case checked in with Steve Davis on the farm. This was the year they were hoping for their first cherry blossom. Having put the trees in last year there was at least a 50-50 chance that this year they’d actually bloom. Steve had carved out fifteen acres of the farm as a test ground for the fifty Balaton cherry trees they were testing. If the trees took, there were plans to expand to another 250 trees. It wouldn’t be long now before the bloom could start, likely early April, but Mother Nature would have to ensure there wouldn’t be any late freezes to thwart the very fragile bush’s efforts. Case checked in, talked a bit with Steve, then helped with some of the herbicide efforts on the Crispin trees. They talked about the plans for the upcoming year, the farm, and what Case’s thoughts were on bringing on an extra hand or two should the cherry trees actually bloom. Case was fine with Steve’s suggestions, but in the end decided that if the cherry trees bloomed – their very first bloom – that he’d have the city announce the event and they’d open the farm for the public to come and pick all the cherries they wanted for free. Though surprised at Casey’s decision, Steve understood. It would have been something his father would have done – especially since when they first had their apple trees bloom, Cecil had done the same in offering the fruits of Wallace farms free to all in Lochland Grove.

After working a bit on the farm Case had to head off to the market to see what he could do about manning the Wallace booth, and ensuring his usual customers had access to his farm’s remaining bounty. He didn’t have much, but as usual he included a batch of honey, and some jars of cinnamon apple sauce that Nina and Gram had collaborated on during the winter. More than anything Case had the opportunity to once more interact with the masses, to shake hands, catch up on families, and when prompted, to share in a few stories of his own. He saw the usual faces, talked with those whose appearance was a surprise, and of course went out of his way to try to charm all the tourists he might never see again. His bright smile made sale after sale, and about the time it was over he’d sold off over three quarters of what he’d brought with him.

While packing up to head back home Case’s phone chirped. He pulled it out of his pocket, and taking a seat on the tailgate of Ol’ Blue he read the email that came through. It was Temaru. Instantly Case’s face broke out in a giant smile. He quickly read the post, and as he did the smile on his face only grew. Temaru and his Tahitian Rowers would be competing this year in the New England Rowing Championships come May. Apparently they’ll be competing out in Quabbin Reservoir, near Springfield, Massachusetts, and was wondering if there was any chance they might be able to get together afterwards. “Well duh…” Case muttered to himself, smiling brightly as he read the phone one more time before shutting it down and thinking he’d have to see what Nina’s thoughts on the matter were as soon as he got back home. Case loaded up the last of his things, buttoned up the truck, and headed back to the farm.

“I’m home!” Case proclaimed as he was soon mobbed by Nai’a, Rex, and eventually Rufus. The old Bloodhound was getting on in years, and his giddy-up had all but left him. Rufus was a porch dog at this point, content to watch the two younger dogs run about while still offering a bark or two when he felt the need to tell them they were doing it wrong. He was a good dog, always at Case’s side, and vigilant in keeping watch over the house while everyone else slept.

Nina called out to Case from what was now affectionately referred to by Casey as the Skunk Works – mostly because the first time Case walked in on Nina busy doing her early designs, she had some new Glade plug-in stuck into the wall that was, to put it nicely, very strong. Plus, the Skunk Works was a pretty bad ass effort back in the day, and Case was convinced that Nina had every bit as much creativity and ingenuity as those engineers did who brought us some of history’s greatest aircraft.

Case stepped in, over to his wife, and leaned down as he planted a soft kiss on her lips while she leaned back to look up at him. “Here…” he said, handing his wife a lone flower. “First flower of the year,” he said, having pulled it from the farm just before making his way up to the Lakehouse.

“Yup,” Case answered when his wife checked up on his day’s sales. “Brought back four jars of honey and five of the apple sauce. Not bad, considering. Also ran into the Suthersby’s. They said to say hello. Oh… as did Mr. Pitkins,” Case said.

Case smiled as Nina pointed out that his sales would have been greater had she been there with him. “Isn’t that the truth. That bright smile of yours always draws a crowd. Maybe next time,” he said, watching his wife stand from her work and leap into his arms. “I missed you too,” he echoed, smiling brightly before getting covered by countless kisses.

“It’s been a busy morning. Got some time down at the range, then met with Steve. He thinks there’s at least a fifty-fifty chance that we’ll have a cherry bloom this year. We talked a bit about that, about how if they do bloom, that we’ll open the farm to the public to pick the cherries. Anyone who wants them can come on down and take whatever they want. Oh!” Case said, bouncing a bit as he continued to hold his wife up in the air. “Guess who I heard from today?” he asked, his bright smile showing it was clearly someone he was glad to hear from.

“Temaru and the boys are coming out in late May for a rowing competition up in Massachusetts. He wanted to know if we’ll be around and would be interested in maybe meeting up with him after the event. Of course I’m thinking we go watch them compete, hang out after, but I thought I’d first check with the Most Busy Woman in the World,” Case said with a grin before leaning in to give his wife another kiss.

“What do you think?” Case asked, a good deal of hope in his eyes.

…but a quick glance on his wife’s progress had distracted him enough to slowly lower his wife and reach for the outfit she’d been working on. “Holy cow!” he said, quietly, looking at his wife’s work. “Is this what you were showing me on paper the other day?” he asked, flabbergasted at his wife’s skill and effort. “Wow…” he muttered, holding the garment up as he continued to gaze upon it. “Hia… this is… You made this?” he asked, somehow still astonished by his wife’s skill. “This is great! Boy I wish I could see you in something like this,” Case said, at first with complete honesty and sincerity, then getting a bit of that naughty smile on his face as he imagined his wife wearing something like that for him.

“Looks like I should be the one asking you how your day went…” Case said, looking around the room just then at everything else his wife had been working on.
Nina Wallace
 Posted: Apr 19 2017, 08:51 AM

”Aww, Kea… Aren’t you the sweetest?” Nina smiled and carefully took the small flower that was offered to her and stuck it onto the bun on her head. ”Thank you.” She loved these random little things he did, and the small flower was most appreciated, just knowing that she had crossed his mind that day.

Seems he had a pretty productive day. She listened to him tell her about everything he had done, and was particularly hooked to his mention that he talked with Steve about giving away their first harvest of cherries. ”Oh yeah? Was he up for that? Pop did that a long time ago, right? I think you mentioned that before.” It seemed like a good tradition to follow--give to the people first. Let them have the first harvest, and then see if the other harvest don’t become more fruitful. When you give generously, you reap generously. ”And isn’t that like a lesson pop told you before? About sharing?” She remembered that… It was the first story she had ever heard from Pop.

It was still sometimes surreal that Casey was the one in charge of the farm. Even if she had only been with Pop for a short while, the man had made such a big impact on Nina that his presence was still something she missed in the farm even now.

”What?” Just as Casey’s face lit up, so did Nina’s. She could already tell there was exciting news just by the way he smiled and even bounced a bit. ”Who?”

“Temaru and the boys are coming out in late May for a rowing competition up in Massachusetts.”

Temaru and the boys!

Oh, Nina gasped loudly at that! They had seen the boys in Rio, and they had cheered for Casey when he needed all of the support he could get. Nina was very grateful for her friends from Tahiti, and she would of course be very willing to come and see them compete in Massachusetts--cheer for them just as they had cheered for Case. She was nodding already even if he wasn’t done talking, and right after their kiss Nina wanted to blurt out her response to his question, but something else caught his attention…

She had opened her mouth to reply, but ended up turning to the dress that was on the mannequin standing by the wall in her “Skunk Works”. It was pretty funny what Casey coined for her workplace after that little Glade incident. Nina had a cold that day and couldn’t really tell that the place reeked of lavender before Casey pointed it out. It was funny, and it was perhaps a fateful happening even if it made Casey want to steer clear of her workplace until the smell dissipated completely.

It became the inspiration for some of her designs though.


Casey lowered her onto the floor, and she watched as he gushed over the dress that she had finished. ”You like it?” It seemed like he liked it. She started on the more difficult designs for her collection--the long, flowy dresses with the intricate details. Nina loved the fabric she had chosen for them, and she hoped they would look as well once finished as they did in her head.

She was pretty pleased with how Casey was responding, but a bit of her more critical side was really not yet satisfied with what she has done. She felt she could still do something to make it better, but she had to pause and think about that first so she moved on to another dress for the meantime. She stood by idly, nodding her head here and there and reaching out to inspect something that seemed a wee bit out of place, and was scrutinizing her own work before her husband said something that made her laugh.

It wasn’t actually what he said, per se, that made her laugh. It was the grin that followed shortly afterwards. ”Well, they all fit me, I can wear them later and you can help me find what doesn’t look right when it’s worn. You have pretty sharp eyes, right?” Nina grinned, reaching out to lightly massage his shoulder before turning her gaze back to the dress.

Lately she really had more things in her schedule than Casey did. Video call meetings with Rafael, photo shoots, shopping for fabric, consulting Shelley about her designs, settling documents she needs, arranging logistics for fashion week… She was a busy bee, but she liked keeping busy. Though, it was kind of strange that most of her activities for the beginning of the year was largely hers. It was something she was adjusting to but perhaps Casey’s Olympic win was timed so perfectly that they won’t be both busy when Nina is offered something to move her designing career forward.

Compared to Casey today, however, she hasn’t really been doing much. She had been working on the same dress since morning, and had only started on something new before he arrived. Where he had been practicing, then handling farm things, then selling farm wares, Nina had been measuring, cutting, sewing and correcting in the confines of her room. The only time she left was when she had to go to the bathroom, and when she got hungry.

”I’ve just been sewing. Cutting things and rethinking what I have drawn when they don’t look right.” She chuckled, pinning the skirt she had been making onto the mannequin she had nearby. ”I feel like I am on the right track one moment, and then the next I am completely doubting what I am doing.” She shared, chuckling once again as she shook her head and sighed. There was a certain level of stress to it, but she was having fun. This was fun for her, and you can see it in her eyes.

”Oh, and of course we will come see Temaru and the others! Of course! We have to make time for that! You don’t have anything scheduled yet for May, we can do that. I think I can work my schedule around the date of their competition. Lemme know when it would be?” She took a deep breath and rested her hands on her hips. ”It will be something to look forward to when things slow down for me.”

An apologetic expression took over her face after that, and she reached out to once again embrace her husband. She nuzzled his neck and just held him--needing just that moment to not think and just be held in his arms. ”I’m sorry I’ve been so busy…” She muttered against his skin. ”You know sometimes I stop and wonder what it is I got myself into.” Her statement was followed up by a laugh, but the bit of doubt lingered inside of Nina. This was such a big deal to her, and many times she found herself wondering why she was there doing it. "This is really.... I don't even know how to describe it. I am so thrilled, but at the same time I am standing here feeling a bit lost."

Other times nothing could bring her down and she was full of confidence, and then some day she just stares at what she was done and his probably a bit too hard on herself.

There was certainly pressure for her, and sometimes consulting people who know what they are doing only make her feel even more pressured. Albeit-challenged.

"You know," Nina pulled from her husband, beaming up at his face. "I need a break. Let's order in some pizza and we can both take a break for a while. Maybe see a movie or something before I have to go back to work. What do you think? Yes? Pizza and beer? Fluffy blanket and a funny movie? Maybe you want to join me for a bit of yoga so I can stall coming back to the Skunk Works a bit longer and I can admire my shirtless husband while he does some fancy yoga poses?"
Casey Wallace
 Posted: Apr 20 2017, 02:30 PM

Case smiled and nodded. “Yes,” he agreed, being reminded of his father’s wisdom he’d imparted some years ago about sharing. “We’ll make sure to make it an event,” Case added, thinking that the free cherry pick might be a good bit of publicity for the farm as well. Nothing makes people happier than free.

At Case’s hint that he’d heard from someone, Nina was quick to want to know who’d reached out to him. When she heard that Temaru and the gang would be coming out, her face also lit up. Case got a bit distracted though by what it was Nina was working on, and reaching over to take a look at the beautiful gown she’d pieced together made Case almost doubt that such a thing was only bits and pieces of fabric not that long ago.

Nodding when Nina asked if he liked it, Case gently picked it up by the straps and admired it. He’d made his comment about her wearing the dress, and Nina pointed out that she could indeed wear them. Since Nina had the figure of a model herself, it wasn’t too far a stretch to imagine that anything she was making she might be able to wear what it was she’s sewn.

“Very sharp eyes,” Case said, smiling as he turned back towards his wife. “This is great though,” he said, looking back at the dress and all the little details his wife had worked into it. Case tugged on the gathers of the dress, pulling it out to the side to see the lines, the stitching, and the care his wife was putting into her work. He listened as his wife explained how she’d been working away, feeling like she was making good progress one minute and the next she was second guessing her work. Case gently set the dress down again and turned around to see the slight look of anxiety on his wife’s face.

Nina switched subjects, talking about Temaru and the others, and how she too wanted to make sure they took the time to go see their race. “I believe their race is on the 27th. They’re only entering the full team, but my guess is that this’ll earn them points towards getting into Tokyo – kinda like we all do. Make the big competitions, and you can earn your way into the Olympics by bypassing the try-outs. I shoot them a reply and let them know we’ll totally catch up with them. I’ll get their full schedule, maybe try to convince them to stay an extra day or two, and then we’ll start formalizing plans,” Case spoke as if to both assure Nina they’d catch up with their friends, and to do so in such a manner as to convince Nina that he’d to the scheduling – that she wouldn’t have to worry about doing anything.

Case peered onto the desk where Nina’s drawing were laid out. He poked his nose into a bit more of what Nina’d been doing, and when she started to apologize for being so busy lately Case turned her way to shake his head. “You’re fine,” he explained, making it clear that he knew right well that she’d be busy for the next couple of months. She continued, wondering if she’d bit off more than she could chew. He could see how the reality of what it was she’d gotten herself into started to weigh on her. She was still excited – it was something she loved doing, but he could also tell she was feeling things were a bit different now when there were deadlines and people counting on her.

Again Nina changed subjects, wanting a bit of a break and something to eat. Case smiled warmly as his wife’s first thoughts were to find an excuse for the two of them to spend a bit of time together. His smile grew all the more when Nina not only suggested pizza, but that they have beer with it to boot. “You trying to think up excuses not to be working?” Case half-teased. “That’s fine. Why don’t you go ahead and finish up here and I’ll go order us some pizza. I think we still have a few beers in the fridge. Maybe by the time the pizza guy arrives you’ll be at a reasonable stopping point. As for the yoga…” Case said with a bit of an unsure smile. “I tell you what. I’ll do some yoga with you, but when we’re done you need to put a few solid hours into your work before the day’s out. Deal?” Case said, making sure that as much as he kept his wife from working that she’d eventually return to it.

Case pointed to her dress on the table. “Now you do what you can and I’ll go order us some pizza. When the doorbell rings you’ll know its quitting time,” Case said with a very fatherly tone.

For a moment Case just stood there in the doorway, regarding his wife with a very proud look on his face. “Remember, that’s your name on those labels,” he said softly, pointing towards the dress once more. His point was concise; make something you’re proud of.

“I’ll see you in a bit,” Case said, giving Nina a wink and a small smile before heading back into the living room to grab his tablet and order them a pizza.

Case had placed their order, and had managed to put together an email to Temaru. He’d explained how excited they were at the possibility of seeing them, and that they’d definitely find the time to sync up while they were out. He wanted a copy of their schedule – at least as they had one, and to invite them to stay an extra day or two if they had the time. He also asked if they’d be bringing Tania and Vaihere with them, that they’d love to see them too if there was any chance of that. Case closed with some well wishes for Reva and Manu, and for Maaka’s grandmother. He hit send and then set his tablet back onto the charger. He dug out Nina’s favorite blanket, then headed into the kitchen to get out some plates and napkins. He also grabbed the bottle of tobacco he loved.

It wasn’t long before the doorbell rang, and hopping around the furniture Case dashed to the door.

“Someone order a pizza?” the young man with the Lou’s Pizzeria hat and pizza carrier asked.

“Yes sir!” Case said, soon after which being handed a receipt for him to sign. Case took the small clipboard and pen and added a five dollar tip to the receipt. He signed, right about the time he was hearing Nina dashing out from her Skunk Works.

“There ya go,” Case said, handing the clipboard and pen back in trade for the piping hot pizza.

“Thank you!” the young man said after seeing a tip greater than his usual dollar or two.

“Thank you,” Case said, taking the pizza inside and slowly closing the door behind them.

“I believe lunch is served,” Case proclaimed, taking the pizza to the coffee table by the couch, and setting it between the plates and napkins. “Take a seat, my dear. I’ll get us a couple of bottles of suds.” Case dashed into the kitchen, opened a couple of bottles, and made his way back to the couch before handing Nina’s over to her.

“There you are,” Case said as he headed Nina her drink. He rounded the coffee table to take his usual place next to his wife. “You know…” Case said, looking around at their couch. “I think we’re finally making a couple of butt grooves into this thing,” he said with a smile as Nina opened up the pizza box to reveal what Case had ordered.

“As for the movie…” Case said, reaching for the remote and pressing a couple of buttons. He brought up Netflix on their smart television, and after making his way to the comedy section started looking through some of the classics. “Caddyshack?” he asked, getting to some of the more timeless comedy movies. “Caddyshack, The Jerk, Airplane, or Blazing Saddles?” he asked, narrowing their selections down for Nina to choose from.

Once Nina picked he hit the selection and put the remote back down on the table. “I also emailed Temaru, asked him a few more questions, and told him we’d love to see him. Once he give me a few of the specifics of their trip we can put something official on the calendar. Now then…” Case said, reaching for a slice of pizza one minute, and putting his free arm around Nina the next. He pulled her next to him and feigned a bit of a toast by clinking Nina’s pizza slice with his. He then leaned in and gave his wife a soft kiss on the side of her temple. “I love you regardless,” he said, though he suspected he didn’t need to explain the rest of his thought. Regardless of how busy she was, regardless of how unsure she may be, and regardless of how things turned out. He just loved her, Nina, the girl he fell in love with back on that fateful first night.

Case took a bite of his pizza, smiled to his wife, and turned towards the television screen as the movie began. “About this yoga…” Case said, not turning towards Nina and kinda whispering the question in secret. “Did I get a hint there that you wanted me to do that without my shirt on?” he asked, still looking at the TV even though he was smiling in anticipation of Nina’s answer.
Nina Wallace
 Posted: Apr 21 2017, 08:54 AM

There was a thankful smile on Nina's face as Casey implied that he would take care of things regarding their visit to Massachusetts to see Temaru and the gang. It would really be a big help to her. She could squeeze it in her list of things to do, for sure, but she would accept whatever help she can and she knew Casey was always there to help make things easier for her. He was a godsend. Always is.

He was very understanding of where she was right now, and he was always asking after her and checking if she needed anything whenever it seems like she has been quiet for too long in her little cave. He would sometimes bring her food, or rub her back, or just pop in quietly to see how she is doing without her knowing it. He was wonderful, and she was really glad he was around to lend her his strength and his sanity. It was easy for her to get caught up in what she was doing, and when she was too focused on it she could either be really productive or really stressed.

It really helped her that he was there, if only to brighten up her mood.

”I am definitely stalling, yes.” Nina nodded, not even a tinge of guilt in her tone as her eyes grew wider in anticipation. He was up for pizza though, and the giggle an skip from Nina was a clear indicator of how she felt about it. He was very adamant about her getting more work done before she tries to get a break though, and Nina pouted at that for a teenie second before she nodded her head and turned back towards her machine. ”I can do that.”

She would look forward to a bit of downtime with Casey, but in the meantime perhaps she can finish sewing the top for the second gown she was making. Well, save for the little details she needs to sew in by hand. She sat down in front of her machine, retrieving the skirt she had been sewing as well as a few piece of fabric for the top while Casey instructed her to get on with her work. ”I’m on it, I’m on it…” She chuckled, waving him away to get the pizza.

Just before she turned on her machine, however, Casey’s voice caused her to look back and find him still in the doorway… and giving her a good reminder.

It was her name on those clothes.

Nina Wallace.

Just a couple years ago, her dream of being a designer seemed still so far away, and now here she was getting ready to show LA what she had to offer, and even had a chance to design something for the Olympic Archers. It was incredible, and also unbelievable. Sometimes she looked back at it all and was amazed at the progress she has made in just a few years.

”Thank you.” Nina nodded, smiling up at Casey after his reminder, and just before he disappeared she blew him a kiss.

This was all largely thanks to Casey who brought her out into the world. Had they not met she knew her path to designing would not be as smooth. It was funny how things go, and she was again thankful that things were the way they were. She had his wonderful opportunity, she grabbed it, and now all she had to do was give her best. She knew that as long as she gave it her best she would not regret anything. She could succeed, but she could also fail. But she was working towards success and going to do what she could to see to it that she makes something that would maker her proud.

That would make her loved ones proud. Her Ma, her dad… Philip, Eiji, and now Casey as well. They believed her and she was going to do her best for them.

And so as soon as she was left alone, Nina started on her sewing. She had already almost finished the dark purple one, but there were details she needed to add to the waist. Something also still needed to be adjusted with the straps and how they came together across the chest. That part she felt needed to be on a model before she could really fix it, and she had considered getting someone to wear it while she adjusts it. Perhaps later on she can consider it, and perhaps she should try it on first and let Casey have a look.

The second dress she was working on was the simplest of the five designs. It’s skirt was long and flowing, made of chiffon and organza that would move as the wearer moves. She needed to add beaded and lace applique’s to it later, but for now she had to just finish the two parts she needed to put together for it.

Nina actually really loved the dresses when she wasn’t critiquing her own work. They were pretty and reminded her of spring, and in her head she could already see how she wanted the models to be styled for the gowns they would be parading. It was thoughts like those that pushed any anxiety away momentarily, and she would be so focused on what she was doing that things around her just fade into the background.

So that’s what happened. She actually got a few more things done before the sound of the doorbell completely distracted her and she just jumped up from her seat and wiggled her bottom. Nina took a deep breath, stretched her arms high above her head, and then rushed to the living room just as Casey was tipping the delivery boy.

”Thank you!” Nina echoed, plopping onto their couch where her fluffy blanket awaited her. She let herself lay there a moment while Casey let the delivery boy go, and she let the softness of the fabric caress her face and hold her frozen in place. It wasn’t until Casey told her to take a seat did she pull herself up and actually sat properly, taking her usual spot on the couch, and watched as the pizza was set on the coffee table. ”Ohmigod it smells heavenly.” She gasped, her hands reaching for the box right away so that she can open it and get a slice for her and her husband.

She accepted the beer with a thankful smile and put it on top of a folded napkin on the table. ”I think so too. I think this spot right here…” Nina wiggled a bit on her seat. ”It’s like perfectly grooved to my butt. Like, even if I turn to the side like how I do when we cuddle, it follows the shape of my hips. Like it has a memory foam or something.” She finished with a chuckle, and took her slice of pizza to take a big bite of the tip. ”Blazing Saddles!” She didn’t know what it was but it sounded like it would be fun.

And so she got comfy, already taking a second bite from her pizza and listening to Casey tell her about an email he sent to Temaru earlier, and as soon as Casey was settling down as well, she leaned in to him and easily fit right by his side. They clinked pizzas, and at the kiss and assuring words, Nina smiled.

It was that smile that came with a soft sigh of relief. It was a smile that showed her comfort when there next to him and just enjoying each other’s company while they get some food in their system. It was something that she needed, and was so happy to have.

The movie started to roll and her eyes soaked in the old school resolution contentedly. She had really grown to enjoy these old movies that she would see with Casey. While she still had to see every Disney movie that comes out, whenever they were home and just relaxing, more often than not they reached for an old movie to see together, and it reminded her of their farmhouse home.

”Hmm?” She didn’t look at him either and just continued to munch on her pizza, but a smile also formed on her face as he recalled something she had said earlier. ”Well, of course. If I am going to ask my husband to do yoga with me, he might as well be shirtless so I can enjoy the view a bit more and it can help drive away the stress.” She said matter-of-factly, and looked to Casey from the corner of her eyes. ”If that seems unfair we can always even things out and I can take off my shorts. These are pretty tight anyway.”

Of course they had to also just strictly do yoga and not anything else. Otherwise the couple or so hours that Nina wants to get as break time might end up being… longer.

”Or actually…” She turned to look at her husband, and then outside their large window. ”Maybe a walk? I’ve been seated for hours and have been stuck here all morning. Maybe some fresh air will be nice. Yeah…”

They ate, and they let the movie play while they did as they always did. It was such a simple thing, but was one of the many simple things Nina loved doing.

”I don’t want to work on Sunday.” She later mused softly. ”Let’s do something Sunday. It’s my off day. I want to go back to that place where you took me for my birthday before… The red place. What was that? Where they had this large grill outside? Can we go there?”
Casey Wallace
 Posted: Apr 25 2017, 02:46 PM

Nina seemed to agree that their new couch was finally breaking in a bit to their usual positions when seated on it. It was interesting to Case as he thought about it, but every time he was sitting on the couch specifically, he’d have Nina leaning against him. Probably because each time he sat on the couch it was to watch movies with his wife. It was interesting now that they had a room specifically for watching movies. Sure there were bean bags to sit on, but when it came to movies part of the joy was to have Nina leaning there against him. He could wrap his arm around her, hold her close, and sometimes just watch her reactions when he was watching a movie he’d already seen and she was seeing for the first time. They were sequestered away in their basement, locked in the darkness, and in this case enjoying a rather fantastic pizza from a new pizzeria that had just opened last fall.

“Blazing Saddles it is,” Case said, hitting the button and starting the movie. Case was a fan of early Mel Brooks. Though in the man’s elder years his antics seemed a bit more antiquated, his early films were pure brilliance.

Case enjoyed his first slice of pizza, taking a bit bite as the credits started to roll. He then squeezed in a bit of a comment about doing yoga with his wife – about her suggesting he do it without his shirt on. Nina fired right back with a comment that it was all part of her enjoyment. He smiled and nodded as he lifted his bottle and took a swing of his beer. Nina then added, right about the time Case had a mouthful of beer, that if he felt there was any kind of double standard that Nina could always take her shorts off. That comment nearly made Case spit out his beer. The suds rolled up into his sinuses as he forced his mouth closed tight in spite of his body’s desire to spray the beer onto the carpet. He closed his eyes tight, along with the rest of his face as he almost balled up on the couch for a moment before swallowing and fending off his near sprinkler-like reaction.

“I see…” he managed to get out, now turning slightly to regard his wife and that smile on her face like she was hoping to get such a reaction from him.

Nina quickly changed the subject to the possibility of a walk. He regarded her with a bit of a confused look. It always took Case a long moment to catch on to Nina’s subtleties, in this case her foresight into what might happen if the two of them were tucked away in a quiet room with only half their clothes on. “Fresh air, huh?” he asked, smiling as he continued to sniff back the beer he almost sprayed. He swallowed a couple more times before eventually clearing his throat. “A walk it is then,” he agreed, picking up his pizza slice again as he continued to devour a bit of his lunch.

The movie rolled on, leading to several chuckles from Case as even now, after seeing the movie several times, still found the more prominent parts as humorous as the first time. He watched his wife, pulling her into him as they both finished the initial attack on their pizza. Case’s hand gently stroked Nina’s arm, often as it did in an aimless and independent fashion. Case would lean down and kiss Nina’s hair, take in a deep breath of its floral scent, and otherwise occupy his mind with thoughts of his wife between funny moments in the movie.

“No?” Case answered when Nina stated that she didn’t want to work Sunday. “Okay,” he seemed to agree, just before Nina indicated that she wanted to get out of the house and do something. Case chuckled, “Sure thing.”

Nina suggested they return to The Place, where Case had taken her for her birthday. He smiled and nodded as Nina tried to recall the name. “The Place,” he said, which led to a bit of an Abbot and Costello sort of moment where Nina would ask for the restaurant’s name and Case would answer The Place. Eventually Case smiled, “The Place. That’s its name. The restaurant where we picked what we wanted and they grilled it out on the giant outdoor grills – The Place.” He smiled, “…and of course we can go there. That sounds like a great idea, actually. I’d been craving a bit of crawdad for a while now – I’m pretty sure they have those there,” Case said, thinking a moment as if reviewing the giant red, billboard-like sign out in their open-aired dining area.

“So a walk… dinner out on Sunday… and some sort of excuse for me to get my shirt off?” Case asked rhetorically as he glanced over towards Nina with a slightly mischievous expression on his face. “I’m sure we’ll work something out,” Case said as he picked up his beer and brought it to his lips. He paused, giving Nina a bit of a look before he drank, giving her an ample opportunity to get some other crack out before he once again tried to drink his beer.

“I’m really proud of you, you know,” Case said, still mostly watching the movie as Nina looked up at him. “I seem to remember a waitress not too long ago who wanted to travel and design. No matter how things turn out you made an opportunity for yourself. You got your design through the Olympic committee, and next thing you know opportunity came a’knockin’. Regardless where things go from here I’ve learned one very important thing about you from all of this,” Case said, turning from the movie to regard his wife. “I truly believe no matter what you want in this life, you can make it happen for yourself.” Case smiled softly into his wife’s eyes as he nodded one, punctuating nod.

“Sometimes I lie in bed when you’re asleep and just wonder if the little girl growing up in Hawaii, surfing the days away and bathing under the sun, if she knew this was where she’d end up. Meets a random guy after two moves that were never planned, travels the world with him, and somehow decided he’s the one she wants to be with. She’s got her own home now, and a future that’s just about as bright as she wants to make it. And still… if she wanted… tomorrow she could be going back to college to start down some other path in life. When I look at you, you know what I never see? Someone who was done. I don’t see the woman who’s had enough. I don’t know what else this life might have in store for you, but my guess is that the adventure is only just beginning.” Case smiled broadly, “…and the best part is I get a front row seat.” Case chuckled.

They continued to watch the movie, each had a slice or two more of the pizza, and Case even got up to put the left-overs back into the kitchen as an excuse to get each of them one more beer. For the remainder of the movie Case held Nina close, combed his fingers through her hair, and occasionally laughed at her laughter. The movie credits eventually rolled, and without saying a word Nina turned in his arms, crawled up him, and planted a soft kiss on his lips.

She looked into his eyes, and in them he saw her purpose. Regardless of the humor of the film, or of their conversation earlier, she simply wanted him – to gift him some small token of her love and appreciation. It made Case smile. In that moment, in that little kiss, there was only one thing – him. He hadn’t asked for it, hadn’t leaned in to prompt it, just was sitting there minding his own business when Nina decided to share her gift with him. It was one of those little things – the kinds of things Case swore he’d never take for granted.

“Still interested in that walk?” he asked, turning his eyes briefly to his watch. It was sneaking up on half-past one. Even if they walked for a couple of hours Nina would still have another three or so hours before he’d be pulling her away for dinner.

Nina agreed, and taking their empty bottles to the kitchen Case picked up their blanket and deftly folded it before stowing it away. Nina was first up the steps, and Case not too far behind her. He met up with her in the bedroom, where Nina was getting her socks and shoes on in anticipation of their walk. Case did helped, digging the shoes she wanted out from the closet and handing them over to her once she had her socks on.

“Do you feel grown up?” he asked, seemingly out of the blue.

After Nina had given him a bit of a surprised and confused expression he continued. “I guess I’m just having one of those moments when I’m taking an outside look at my life and wondering how it all seemed to get so serious so fast.” He smiled, “Not that serious is bad, just… I have a wife now. I have people depending on me for their livelihood. I have a responsibility to others – the Scouts, the Lodge, my country…” Case looked around them. “I have a house! …and not just any house, a house we built together, to live in, grow old in, and hopefully raise a family in. It just… It seems like I went from some wet-behind-the-ears kid to a real adult, in like… a year or so.” Case shrugged.

“If you were looking at me and wondering if I’d ever imagined this is where I’d be though… I think I’d have to say yes. I think this is exactly where I was supposed to be. Here, in this house, with this farm, and with you. Maybe part of the reason I never tried to imagine where I’d end up in life was because I knew it’d all work out for the best.” He grinned widely. “…which means, of course, that you’re the best.”

Case smiled and offered his hand to his wife.

Nina Wallace
 Posted: Apr 28 2017, 02:39 AM

”Oh my goodness, are you okay?” Nina asked through the smile and giggles that followed Casey’s reaction to her nonchalant suggestion that she take her shorts off.
She reached back to the side table for some tissue and offered it to him while he tried to keep himself together, and her other free hand now rested on his back. It was such a refreshing time for her to be sitting there just enjoying dinner and a movie with Casey. It hasn’t even been an hour and she was already more relaxed than she had been earlier.
He agreed to go on a walk with her, and after making sure he was okay, Nina sniggered and easily settled in next to her love as he leaned on the couch again with his food. Taking a walk was the wiser choice if Nina was expected to be productive today with her designs. Their intimate moments have become less than usual since she started getting busy for LA Fashion Week, and it has been established that--when it comes to being patient--Nina often failed. Whenever they had to go for days without being together, it was usually Nina who gave in and lured her husband into loving her in bed. If she needed to be strong, she needed to avoid instances when she would be more tempted to take what she wanted from Casey.
And in this Case, half-naked yoga with her husband was going to be her demise.
Watching this movie could potentially lead to her demise, too, what with Casey stroking her arm, or smelling her hair, or just nuzzling the side of her face sometimes. Usually with movies she hasn’t seen, unless they were kissing and getting frisky, Nina was paying attention to what was on screen. Casey, however, being the one who has most likely seen whatever old movie they put up, was usually a tad distracted. Which also sometimes leads to Nina being distracted.
He seemed to be content with just the skin on her arm and the smell of her hair today though, so Nina was safe, and she was able to watch the movie with little distraction from her affectionate husband. That did not mean that her thoughts never wandered though… When the scenes were less interesting or funny, her thoughts would go to something else. And in this instance, to her Sunday plans. Nina asked about the place where Casey took her for her birthday, and she was confused when it seemed like he was toying with her.
”Yeah, the place with the grill. The big one, outside, and then we went to Gillette Castle after. What’s that place?” And of course he said it was The Place, and they had a couple more back and forths before Nina narrowed her eyes at her husband and he made himself clearer and said that the place was aptly called… The Place. Which made Nina laugh and roll down her eyes. ”Yes. Walk, dinner on Sunday, and… I want an excuse to get your shirt off but I probably should be good.” It was with a hint of disappointment that the statement was said, though nothing else was sad that could make Case spit out his beer again. That emotion was easily pushed back as Casey spoke again though, this time showering her with those words of his that was meant to build her up and let her know how he feels.
No matter what it was she was doing, whenever Casey would get in that ‘speech mode’ of his, Nina will pause to listen to all that he has to say. So she paused, and she listened, and she smiled up at Casey as her eyes grew distant with the memories he was speaking of.
He was proud of her, and he believed that she can make anything happen for herself. Those were words that warmed her heart and gave her an extra boost of confidence. Hearing how much he believed in her was something she needed. Sure she knew that Case loved her and supported her, but it was still nice to be reminded of it when she sometimes found herself in a situation where she doubted her skills and her capabilities.
Did she know this was where she will end up? Certainly not. But there was no place she would rather be. She loved how her path brought her to the arms of the man looking into her eyes and seeing in her someone who was not done… Even if she had been so close to being done many years ago. Now she was just moving forward and forward as long as life would continue to let her. There was always a new adventure to take on. There was always something more to do.
Nina smiled up at her husband and nodded her head. ”Front row seats all the time, sometimes even getting up on that stage with me.” She leaned in for a quick kiss, her soft lips gently pressing onto his, lingering for a moment before she pulled them away. ”I’m happy you are with me.”
Perhaps those words were enough. She could have all of this, but without him there would always be something else missing in her life. The rest of the movie was watched and enjoyed, but somewhere at the back of Nina’s head that thought and feeling lingered--how glad she was that he was there. And that was probably what prompted her heart to just go ahead and kiss him.
It was her heart wanting him. Reaching out to him, just because. They kissed, Nina attaching herself to her love in that kiss, and the smile on her face only served as a punctuation for what her heart was telling him.
”Me?” They were in their room now. After agreeing to go on a walk, they cleaned up at the movie room and went upstairs to get ready. Casey had asked her a question out of the blue, and it left her looking at him with a puzzled expression. Did she feel grown up? Her husband’s question certainly made her reflect upon her current status and life and ask herself if she feels grown up.
”I guess sometimes I do… But… I don’t usually think about feeling grown up?” Things certainly have changed for her, and she has been doing more ‘adult’ things now, but her usual carefree attitude didn’t even let her think of her recent activities as being grown up. It was just… living. ”This is exactly where you are supposed to b. In this house, with this farm, with me. I am the best for you. Only you.” Nina repeated what he said, tone full of conviction. ”And I am right here where I am supposed to be too. With you.”
With her shoe now perfectly laced, she dropped her foot, and she took his hand--just as she had that first time they met, when their souls knew that they were meant to be together.
They checked what needed to be checked inside the house before they stepped out, and Nina made sure to put on something warm over her clothes because, well, even with the sun up in the sky it was still cold. Cold for her. She didn’t bring her phone, not wanting to be distracted or interrupted by it while she breaks away and escapes from the rest of the world, but she did bring the dogs. Or, well, they tagged along.
”Come on, boys…” Even Rufus seemed okay with coming along, just as long as he didn’t have to run around with the younger dogs.
”Is it bad that I don’t think I’m grown up?” Nina opened up, chuckling some as her hand easily found her husband’s as they took the first few steps outside their front door. ”Kinda feels fast sometimes, doesn’t it? Is it just me? Like I don’t realize where time went, but then I look back to it all and see that we have done so many things together.” She was probably talking nonsense, but it was how it felt to her sometimes.

The hand that was holding Casey’s crawled up to snake around his arm, and she pressed her cheek against his shoulder as they walked. ”It’s exciting, isn’t it? Like when you’ve checked off so many things on the list you want to do in life… and then suddenly you’re face to face with something new and big that you didn’t think would come so soon. I think the reason why I am anxious is because I feel like I needed to learn more before I got this big break. Like, I feel like I’ve jumped a few steps or took a short cut that I am cheating or something. You know?” Her brown eyes lifted to look up at her husband’s face, hoping what she said was making sense to him, and that like before he can say the words that would make things better.

”I just know things must still be right because you are with me. You’re with me so I know I am where I should be.” Nina nodded, seeing looking at the lake as they approached. ”We need to have a boat on this side. When it gets warm again let’s put a dock here, yeah? Ooh, can we make our own boat, too?”
Casey Wallace
 Posted: Apr 28 2017, 03:03 PM

Even before Nina had answered Case had a pretty good idea of what she’d say. Nina was a free spirit, and as such she often wasn’t one to stop and analyze where she was in life. Unlike Case, who had the tendency to overthink things, Nina faced life head-on. She would never stop and wonder if she was being too adult, she’d just be herself – whether she was being particularly mature at that moment or not. Nina wasn’t one who’d get caught up in age or self-assessment, even though at this particular moment in her life Case would argue that she’d coming to terms with a bit of it. Nina had more riding on her shoulders now than she’d ever had before. Being a part-time model meant that she’d just hop at opportunities when they came up. Being Case’s manager meant that she just needed to iron out the machine of Casey’s tournament schedule that had been going on for years now. Being a designer was a different matter. Now there was no one for her to look up to, no one to help her take things in the direction she wanted, and no pre-established routine to fall into. All of this was new, and sometimes when doing something new one was forced to take a step back and ask if this was where they really wanted to be in life. Perhaps this was part of Case’s question in asking if Nina felt more grown up now than before. Nina was at one of her largest crossroads, and it was Case’s job to check in with her from time to time to make sure she was still doing okay. Though he was always at the ready, always willing to lend a hand, he also knew when it was important for him to step back and not get in the way.

Nina did think that this was exactly where she was supposed to be in life. She knew she was supposed to be with Case, to have a house of their own, and to live on the farm. More than anything she knew that they were supposed to be together – something Case would never argue. It was good to hear that she was happy with where she was in life. Though Case wasn’t one to second guess, they now lived in more of a world that Case grew up in than Nina did, and perhaps he just needed to assure himself that she was just as happy in life as he was. It was the promise he’d made to himself so long ago that he always wanted to make sure he was doing everything in his power to keep his wife happy. Nina’s smile was a gift to the world Case never wanted to see extinguished.

Taking Case’s hand in hers the two headed for the door. They called for the dogs, bringing Nai’a and Rex out of the woods, and getting Rex to lift his slumbering head from the porch. Nai’a and Rex were like endless balls of energy, but by this point Rex was the good ‘ol dog who just walked along Case’s side as if assuming a position reserved for the eldest of Case’s family.

“No… not at all,” Case answered back when Nina asked if it was bad she didn’t think about growing up. “I just… you know…” Case offered, sheepish about pointing out how he had been thinking a bit too much about where they found themselves in life. “You know…” Case replied, thinking of how much time had already been shared between them. “In some ways it feels like yesterday that we’d met, and then others it seems like we’ve lived a whole lifetime together. You know what I think it is? I think it’s the effort we’ve made to know everything about one another. You wanted to know what life was like for me as a kid, and you’ve swung in my tire swing, swam in the same lake, and even lived in the same house as I did growing up. I got to visit Hawaii, hang out with your family, be in your home, and even run a tour on your father’s ship. We’ve done as much as I think we possibly could to share in our pasts – stories, trips, experiences, that it almost feels like we’ve known one another for far longer than we have. We know a great deal about one another, and then on top of all that we’ve had so many experiences of our own. We’ve visited places, met countless people, and had our own accomplishments along the way we both got to share in. Some of those things have been big enough that they’d be the best moments in other people’s lives, yet in our case they’re just one of many instances where we’ve done such wonderful things together. That’s the big difference. We’ve had both a lot and a little time together – all in one.”
Nina hand slipped up Case’s arm, pulling him close as they walked along. Nina expressed her thoughts on how exciting their life had been, and now she was faced with something else just as exciting, if not more so, than the rest. Case chuckled when Nina seemed to think that having this opportunity land in her lap like it had that somehow she was cutting life’s corners. “Naw…” Case disagreed, shaking his head. “Fate’s a funny thing, and don’t think for a moment that there weren’t things in play here that you did for yourself. You’re the one whose always had the passion for fashion. You’re the one who got your design on the U.S. Archery Team. You’re the one who called Rafael to tell him what you wanted to do. Sure there’s been a few blessings along the way, but don’t sell yourself short here…”

Leaning her head against Case’s shoulder Nina said that all would be well so long as he was with her – that wherever she ended up had to be the right place if he was with her. Case nodded, and reached up to cup Nina’s head to his shoulder for a moment in a loving gesture of a hug. “You’re kinda stuck with me. Not sure if you read the fine print of that Marriage Certificate, but it pretty much said somewhere in there that from that day on you had no choice but to put up with me,” Case said with a smile as he looked over at his wife.
Nina looked out over Cannon Lake, voicing her thought that they needed a boat on this side of the lake. They only had one boat, and it was kept near the old barn by to Farmhouse. Case thought that perhaps having a second boat might be a reasonable idea – so long as Nina wasn’t thinking of anything too big. Her following idea to build a pier once it got warm was an idea Case instantly started nodding his head to, “Yes! I’m totally down for that. No idea how to build one, but I’d wager we could figure it out.” Instantly Nina’s mind had another thought. “Make? You mean build our own boat? Like from scratch?” Case asked, his eyebrows rising. “That’s…” he started to shake his head a bit before his brain kicked into a new gear and started mulling the idea over. “I don’t even know where to start,” Case pointed out, having never done anything even remotely similar to building a boat. Nina then fired right back that he didn’t know how to build a house, and yet they had a wonderful home to show for it. “Well… that’s different,” he argued, but only to then hear Nina point out that this was no different, and that a boat was smaller too. Case’s demeanor melted a bit when he looked into his wife’s eyes and saw that look that showed that she believed in him. It was a look he’d seen several times before, and a look that always brought out the absolute best in Case. “Alright…” he said, nodding. “We will build our own boat,” he agreed, looking into his wife’s eyes with that committed look he often got when encouraged by her to bit off a bit more than he might otherwise be confident he could chew. “A small boat,” he said with a grin, knowing it was wiser to start with something reasonable.

They continued their walk, making their way around the lake like they often did when they wanted a walk slightly on the longer side. It was brisk, but not too cold. In the shadier parts of the wood it’d chill them, but when they’d make their way out into the sun once more it’d almost feel hot. “I love the pier idea though. I can just imagine being in the water, reaching up and encouraging my kid to jump in so we can teach them to swim. Almost makes me wonder why we never built one over at the Farmhouse. Something long enough you could even fish off of,” Case said while his mind was already playing through all the different possibilities of what they might build. “One more excuse for you to see me with my shirt off,” Case said with a grin, knowing how often Nina would suggest he take his shirt off while they were building the Lakehouse.

“The boat though… That I’ll have to research. I mean… people have been making boats for centuries, how hard could it be top make something that could navigate a quiet lake?” Case turned to his wife, “What color boat do you want?”
Nina Wallace
 Posted: May 3 2017, 06:18 AM

It was beautiful outside. The sun was bright and warm that even with the snow still around it was warm enough for Nina not to wear too many layers underneath her. She had changed into her fleece leggings and put on a chunky sweater, and to top that off she wore a long winter jacket. The air was crisp, and there was a steady breeze to cool her cheeks and perhaps make it flush pink during their walk.

She had asked Casey if it was wrong that she did not reflect often upon being grown up now, but he was quick to assure here it was okay--that he had simply been his usual thinking self. It was something that kept the balance between them. He thought about things Nina didn’t usually, and his thoughts bring her ideas and make her think as well. It helps keep her wondering about what else there would be in the future, and what else she can do today. Casey was, in a lot of ways, opening her eyes to things her eyes wouldn’t usually take in as deeply as he would.

And often, whatever it was she was feeling or thinking that was hard for her to put into words, he could easily express for her. Nina nodded as she listened to Casey, a smile appearing on her face as she clung to her husband, enjoying the added warmth that his body provided her.

”Yeah…” The small word was all she could say in reply as she took in his words and thought about how it was this giant opportunity landed on her lap. It was certainly something that could easily feel too much for her, but Casey was always there to help her gather her thoughts and she really was just amazed at how things had fallen into place the way they had.

Being told she was stuck with him always made her smile grow, and that’s exactly what happened when Casey said it again while affectionately holding her head to his shoulder. ”You might have missed the fine print within the fine print that I put in there. It says you have to make sure I don’t go crazy and lose myself.” Nina fired back, nuzzling his shoulder a moment. He brought out the best in her. They were a team. They had each other’s backs. On days when she needed to take a deep breath and cancel out things that make her feel like everything will cave in on her, the simple thought that Casey had her back would be enough to keep her going.

She was not alone in this, no matter what, and that was very comforting.

The beautiful, clear waters of Cannon lake was a sight to behold and she knew it would be so wonderful to row into its center in summer and just hang out there. Casey was receptive to the suggestion of building a dock there, but he seemed a bit hesitant when Nina said they could build the boat instead of making it. ”You can do it. I know you can. You built our house, did you not? You had never done that before but look at the house you’ve built for us with your own hands? It looks straight out of magazine. We can put that in a poster.” She smiled, looking into Casey’s eyes with all the confidence that she had in him. ”A boat is no different. And it’s smaller, too so it should be easy as pie for you.” There were a lot of videos they can find on how to make row boats, she was sure of it. And they can build their own very easily if they wanted to. It will mean so much more if made by their own hands.

Her eyes said it all, and her eyes also easily convinced him that he could build a boat. And whatever else he put his mind to, really. ”A small boat. For us two, and maybe a couple kids in the future.”

They walked on, Nina’s mind on things that made her relax more and smile, and when Casey once more piped up about how he loved the idea of a pier, she could not help but feel excited for it again. She loved how he was already imagining all that they could do with a pier by the lake near their home, but it was his statement about having his shirt off that made her laugh. ”Oh of course... Bare-chested and wet? So sexy.” She teased, giving her love a wink. ”I can make sure I lounge around in a bikini so you have something to look at, too. If you’d like that.”

The question about the boat made her grin. ”Red.” Perhaps Casey would think she wants it blue or colorful, but it seemed perfect for her to paint it a simple red color. ”And maybe a natural wood color on the inside. We can name it Fate! Or Red String? Akai Ito?” They were standing in front of a different view of the lake now, and Nina looked around as though deciding where it was she wanted the dock. ”Maybe we can put it a bit to the side? The pier. Over there? We need another one near where we will put up the tree house one day too. I don’t know about letting the kids row to the tree house though… Not unless they have life vests on, or are big enough.” Somehow all thoughts about what they can do with their home always leads Nina to think about their future kids and how they would also fit right in to their perfect sanctuary.

”Can you imagine it?”

It was a question Nina asked after a moment of silently listening to Casey’s thoughts. ”Maybe in a few years this could look different in our eyes. Maybe I can stand here and see a bit of the tree house, and we can see the kids playing over there. Maybe I have a garden somewhere at the back. Herb garden. Or a small greenhouse? Maybe I can try that?” So many possibilities for their future… and she was excited to see what will become of their dreams one day.

Nina nudged Casey so they could keep walking. ”I want that small shop in town where people can come and visit me, asking me to create something special for them.” Nina nodded to herself as the notion popped inside her head again. ”I love that idea. I want to sometimes put my stuff out in fashion week, or help Rafael with a design he wants for his new athletic wear. I want to design costumes for the play in the elementary school, or have my dress worn by an actress as she receives her Oscar. Is it so bad to want so many things?” Her brown eyes lifted to meet her husband’s. ”I also want to go with you when you travel to compete--to be there in the bleachers cheering you on… I want to do whatever I can while we haven’t started a family… because I feel like, when we do, I really do need to let go of some things. But right now I can do these things… So I want to do these things… or work my way towards them.”

She then paused, looked up to Casey, and looked into his eyes with a serious expression. ”Is there anything else you want to do? You have the gold for your mom, and we have Tokyo to show the world again that you can get another gold… But what else is it that you want? For the farm? For yourself? I don’t like that things are all about me lately. I know you are supporting me and wanting me to pursue my dreams but… I want to do something for you too. I want to know what else I can help you with.”
Casey Wallace
 Posted: May 3 2017, 10:49 AM

Casey had never built a boat, but he would for Nina. I suppose the list of things Casey hasn’t done is rather extensive, but if at any moment his wife had asked him to take on any one of these many tasks he’d never tried before he’d be more than happy to try. For Nina he’d do anything, and if it was something Nina wanted he’d make a concerted effort to ensure it happened - whatever the cost.

“Red?” Case repeated, questioning whether or not he’d heard Nina correctly. “Really?” he asked, making sure that was what she wanted for the boat. When Nina explained that they could name the boat the Red String, or Akai Ito Case started to nod his understanding. “Ah… clever. I like that. Okay… red on the outside, and bare wood on the inside.” Casey’s mind was racing now, imagining how the boat might look. He was also thinking of where he’d build it. They had a garage, but it wasn’t a shop. Case could built an outbuilding by the house, but it seemed a bit overkill if there were already several other barns on the property. Perhaps he could use the equipment barn for the farm, or even the old barn out by the Farmhouse. Either would be a better area – he’d just have to think about getting some woodworking equipment into either of them.

Nina pointed to where she thought the pier should go, and followed that up with the idea there should be a pier where they planned on building the treehouse. Case nodded with a bright smile, “That’s a great idea! It’d be awesome to be able to row out to the treehouse just as easily as you could walk to it.” Case smiled when Nina started to fret over kids being out on the water. He rubbed Nina’s back to reassure her, “I’ve no doubt their mother would be teaching them to swim as soon as they knew how to walk.” Knowing Nina, as an island girl, likely learned to swim at a very early age, Case knew that she’d make sure that her kids knew how to swim. Besides, when you live on the edge of a lake it’d be silly not to teach your kids such things.

Looking out over their lands Nina was imagining what things might look like in the near future – a treehouse, a pier or two, the boat, kids, a garden, and maybe even a greenhouse. Case could imagine the same. In fact, the more Case imagined their future together the more he imagined him working around the house. It got him thinking about what the future might hold. Would he compete less? Would he dedicate himself to the family business? Would he just be tied up with project after project around the house?

Nina seemed to be thinking a great deal about her own future; talking about her hopes to own a shop in town, creating things for the people of Lochland, sometimes putting her wares into fashion shows, sometimes doing designs for famous people, and even hoping that one day one of her dresses gets worn at the Oscars. That made Case smile. Nina’s rambling left her wondering if she wanted too many things. Case shook his head, “Not at all. We should always dream big, otherwise why dream at all?” he asked with one of those expressions on his face that shown he was all for Nina shooting for the moon. “Live life, love life, because eventually you have to leave life. Let’s not leave wanting to have done the things we could, or should have done. Let’s make as much happen as we can; boats, piers, shops, dresses, you name it,” Case said with an assuring smile.

Nina continued that she wanted to continue to travel with him, to be there in the stands cheering him on. She also felt she needed to do it all now, before they settled down to raise a family. Case nodded slowly. “Well… I’ve never had kids, but I’m going to guess they’re going to take a lot of time off our hands. But I also think that our life would be more than shutting ourselves in while we raise our kids. Maybe they too should travel, see a bit of the world. Maybe they should help build that greenhouse, learn a skill or two. Maybe they should help their mother sew, their father tend the farm, or help their parents make the next batch of cyser. Maybe what we should be thinking about is not how many things we’ll have to stop doing, but how many of them we can do together as a family,” Case said with that warm smile of his – like he’d just struck himself with his own good idea.

They walked on, but not too far before Nina slowed and looked up into his eyes with hers full of thought. She asked Case about him, about what he wanted, and about what his plans were. Just as they were talking about her or them as a family, she wanted to check in on him. Her concern made Case smile softly, reaching out to pull her into a big hug before he answered her barrage of questions. His answer was simple, “I want you happy.” He then nodded, as though it was the only thing in life he wanted at this point. Nina even had to poke him to pry more of an answer out of him.

Case wrapped his arm around his wife as they continued to walk around the lake. “I want you. I want to be with you. I want to share life with you. I want to talk to you, laugh with you, and make love to you. If you were to ask me what I wanted when I was twelve I would have told you I wanted to be a fireman. If you asked me what I wanted to be when I was fifteen I would have said a stunt man. When I was eighteen I would have told you I wanted to be the #1 archer in the world, and when I was twenty I wanted to be a gold medalist. Today though? I want to be a good husband. I want to look after our family – everyone, those we have now and those we will have. I think I want to get more involved in my father’s farm. I think if I can walk away from Tokyo feeling like I did my absolute best I might move on from archery. I’m worried less about me, and more about us, as a couple, as a family. I have a gold now, and although it wasn’t won exactly how I wanted to, I think a great number of people managed to help me win it when I needed their help.” Case shrugged. “I gotta be honest, I’m not sure what my future holds. I’d like to compete in Tokyo healthy, but after that? I don’t know. That’s four years from now. I’ll be over thirty. A lot could change between now and then. I’m all in for Tokyo, but after that…” Case shrugged, “I’m just not sure yet.”

With a slow smile Case looked into Nina’s eyes. “My list of wants are broader now. It’s not about awards, or trophies, or titles. I’d trade all golds for you, all records for a family, and all titles for the title of Dad,” Case said with a soft smile. “Maybe we should be helping Lochland? Focusing more on the community? Maybe running for office, who knows,” Case said a bit tongue-in-cheek.

Case pulled Nina along with him as they walked. “I think about the times we spend with our families and how much that means to me. I think about the young Scouts and how I wish I had more time with them. I think about kids and making absolutely sure I’m as involved in their lives as they’ll allow me to be. But more than anything I think about you. You started all of this,” Case said with a smile. “When I met you things changed – for the better. You are my number one – always will be. I know right now you’re feeling like the world’s revolving around you, but I’m good with that. I’ve been revolving around you for years now,” Case said with a grin. “A lot of the things I thought I wanted to do I’ve managed to do. Now I’m just getting a different perspective on life. It’ll take me a while to sort that out, but in the meantime, I help you, train for Tokyo, and then we’ll see how things play out in four years. My guess, things will be different in four years, and I’ll already know what I want by the time I’ve finished in Tokyo.”

“Lots of life left to live, and I think it’s okay that not all of it’s scripted. You were never part of the plan, at least, not that I ever knew about you prior to that night at the laundromat. But now? Now that I’ve met you? Fell in love? Married you? You’re definitely my biggest accomplishment,” Case said with a bit of a chuckle. “Getting you to marry me is my greatest achievement,” he said with a bright smile before leaning over and giving his wife a big, loving kiss.

“How’s that for an answer? Too much of a non-answer?” Case asked, curious if he’d sated his wife’s curiosity at all with his long winded answer.
Nina Wallace
 Posted: May 9 2017, 08:39 AM

She would teach her kids how to swim, alright. And surf, too. She and Uncle Eiji would have to teach them how to do it whenever they go to Hawaii for summer vacation. Of course they could choose not to do it if it wasn’t what they were interested in, but swimming was a basic life skill that they needed to learn early on in life.
It was difficult not to get caught up thinking about their future together when they were walking around in the farm. Especially with such great new opportunities are before you, it is easy to let the mind wander to what other possibilities the future held. And somehow Nina’s musings led her to ask her husband whether or not he thought she was wanting too many things.
Of course he was quick to assure her that she wasn’t, and his reply brought a thankful smile to her face. One should live life to the full… do all that they can, while they can do it. Nina knew about leaving this life. She had been in the position where she felt she had not done enough in her life, and so when she was given a second chance she promised to embrace all that life had to offer her. She tried her best, and fate has been kind in giving her all the great chances to grab. She had dreams, and she worked towards them, but on her way Nina also developed new dreams and started to want new things--different things… and that sometimes made it difficult for her to determine which she wanted more. Or if she even had to choose between her options.
That seemed to be what she struggled with lately--choosing what she wanted more.
As usual though, her husband had the words she needed, and his words were often encouraging and strengthening. ”Right.” She nodded, her smile bright and inspired as her brown eyes gazed lovingly at the man before her. ”We’ll do all that we can while we’re here.” Life was fleeting, and that was something they both knew and understood. What better way to live life than to just live it, right?
Even Casey’s words that they should not think about what activities they were giving up lifted Nina’s spirits. He was right, and the expression on her face was one of amazement that once again he had said something that made everything better. Maybe in place of things that they would let go are things they would do with their family. ”Gotta pass on that knowledge to the kids. Very important. Family business.” While they would in no way subject their kids to take it on when they had their own dreams they wanted to pursue, she was sure she wanted them to grow up having done things around the farm just like Casey did.

With all this talk, however, Nina had to ask about what it was her husband wanted. She had a feeling she knew what he was going to say, but she wanted to know what else. What else he dreamed about, or what else he wanted to achieve for his career, or the farm, or his personal hobbies. So as she waited for his response, she looked as though she was about to hear the greatest of life’s secrets from him. She was expectant and eager, and her brown eyes were big looking intently at him. Even as he held her in her arms, she cast her eyes towards him as though her full attention required that she was really looking at his face as he spoke.

What he said first, however, earned him a look from her wife before she reached out and gave his arm a squeeze to let him know she was really eager to know what he wanted. ”No, what else? I know that. I know you want me happy. But what else do you want to accomplish?”

Casey did say something else to appease his wife though. He started, again, with just the usual sweet things circling around his want of her and everything about her. But when he moved from being a good husband and taking care of everyone, he started to say things along the lines of what Nina was waiting to hear. He said he might want to focus more on the farm, and even that he might stop with archery after Tokyo. That one had Nina looking up to Casey as they walked. Tokyo did seem far away still. With his goal of a gold already attained, there wasn’t much he probably felt he still needed to prove or achieve in that department.

Nina nodded thoughtfully at that, smiling her assurance that no matter what he decides in the future, she would be there with him. She knew their dreams would change. She knew their priorities would change. Maybe what she wanted before was not what she wanted anymore. What she wanted now might not be what she wants in the future.

Oh, and Nina didn’t miss that comment about running for office.

In fact, that made her gasp and regard her husband for a long time, studying his face to see how serious he was about that comment, and even had to imagine him in a campaign. That would certainly be something to aim for in the future should he want it. Nina was not big on politics, but she was all about helping a community and she knew that even now Casey could do great things for Lochland Grove.

She let her husband pull her along as she mulled over his words, and when he mentioned not minding that everything was revolving around her she could not help but give her a somewhat concerned look. She didn’t think anything started with her, and nor did she wish to be the center of everything, but it was very much like Casey to verse everything that way. It certainly expressed to Nina how much she meant to him, and that always made her heart swell, but it was also such a big deal to be the center of someone’s world. She knew because she was the same with Casey. And maybe that was what’s making it difficult for Nina to be the center. She wanted it to be Casey at the center. Her whole world revolved around him now and this bit of adjustment was… strange. Maybe needed by both of them, but strange nonetheless.

Still though, his words soothed her and put her at ease. She smiled, looked into her husband’s eyes, and nodded her head. If anyone knew what it was to go into life without any scripts, it was Nina. She was all about spontaneity, and she was very willing to just see what sort of things they jump into together once they meet it.

Nina smiled in that kiss at first, and then just melted into it as her hands found Casey’s waist and she held onto him. Even after the kiss she had kept her eyes closed, a slowly lazy smile forming on her face before she revealed her brown orbs.

”Good answer.” Her eyes were on his, and she leaned in for one more kiss before she moved to wrap her arms around his neck and pepper his face with kisses. ”We’’ll sort things out together. See where we end up.” She told him with a sure nod as her hand reached up to play a bit with the now longer strands of hair framing Casey’s face. ”I think it was pretty easy for you to get me to say yes though… You sure that’s the greatest achievement? Seemed too easy. It was a sure win from the start.” Nina teased, pulling from Casey but keeping their hands linked as they continued to walk.
She needed this. More than ranting about whatever was on her mind, it made her feel better whenever she would listen to Casey talk. Listening to him got her mind off of things or helped put her in the right perspective.

”So… Running for office? Is that really something you’ve been thinking about?” The question was asked with a bright, curious smile. ”Like Mayor? Do I get to be your campaign manager too? Though, actually, maybe I shouldn’t be. Someone else is probably better for the job. I can make the campaign shirts though.” Never in her life would she have imagined herself married to someone holding a significant position in town, but if that was something that Casey sincerely wanted, she would support him. She believed he could do it too.

”I might know some people who can help you with that. But I do see how there are so many things we can do for Lochland instead of being away and travelling all the time… Like, I know your scouts miss you when you are away. And I know your church would love to see more of you, too. Oh! By the way--” Nina snapped her fingers and pointed at Casey. ”Remember I told you I had second cousins? Philip said he ran into one of those cousins and they mentioned that reunion we’re supposed to have soon. I think they want it to be all cousins only or something. They might set that up for summer maybe. Like it will be a trip to the beach somewhere and we can all just catch up. Think you wanna come to that with me?”
Casey Wallace
 Posted: May 9 2017, 04:02 PM

Nina had listened, sometimes watching Case’s profile as he spoke, sometimes looking along the path they were walking as if digesting what he was saying. She’d even nod, or smile, or offer up one of her witty comments. Talking with Nina was something that Case couldn’t even begin to tell you how much he relished. Nina always listened, and she listened in such a way that she was perhaps the only person Case felt he could talk with that would leave the conversation understanding Case’s exact point of view. Case’s communication style was always consistent, and although there were others he’d talk to, he always felt Nina walked away knowing his mind better than anyone else ever did.

To no surprise Nina wasn’t satisfied with Case’s answer as to what he wanted out of life. It didn’t diminish the truth of Case’s interests however, just that perhaps Nina was looking for a more personal answer than Case’s typical answer of putting Nina before all else. She wanted to know what was rattling around deep in the recesses of Case’s mind, and with just a little prodding eventually got him to spill the beans and speak from his heart.

Case wasn’t sure, and that was the truth of it. He was a goal driven man, and as such had a laser-like focus on what his immediate wants were. Much like his initial answer, he was focused on Nina, after that, Tokyo. When thinking about September of 2020, he suddenly had less to draw from. Perhaps he’ll have competed successfully without having to deal with some sort of spontaneous injury. Perhaps he’d even defend his gold. After that though, it was hard for him to know how much interest he’ll have in a sport that took so much of his time. It wouldn’t be that he’d lose interest, only that it may no longer hold the top spot in his list of priorities. He may have a family by then, or any number of other things that may take a tighter grasp on his interests. Time would tell, but Case was open to any number of possible futures.

Nina did seem accepting of Case’s eventual answer though, voicing that she too was more than willing to see where it was the two of them ended up down the road. And as for Case’s comment on Landing Nina as his single greatest achievement in life, she mere blew that off as though there was no way she could have ever refused him. “You didn’t see the look on your face when you stumbled upon me at the laundromat – and apparently having run into a few half-naked guys at the time. I was just a name on a list, a statistic at that point. I had to prove I was worth your time,” Case said with a bright smile on his face as he felt as though he needed to make up a bit of ground considering how it was Nina first stumbled upon him.

She did seem to cling to Case’s off-handed comment about running for office though. She wanted to know just how serious he was about the idea. Case shrugged. Already she was imagining him as mayor of Lochland and wanting to be his campaign manager. Case chuckled, but Nina soon changed her mind, thinking that perhaps that would be something she best leave alone. She, like Case, knew little about running for office – even if she did like the idea of designing a campaign t-shirt for him. She did point out that she knew a few people in that field though, that she might be able to drum up some pointers or at least someone worth talking to had there been much truth to Case’s desire to run. Nina also pointed out that focusing more on the community would keep Case around more. The Scouts, their church, and even the grandparents would appreciate him being around a bit more. Case nodded at that idea.

Speaking of family had reminded Nina that she had her own family event coming up. She and her extended cousins would be getting together soon – an event that they’d been planning for the last couple of months now. “Ah yes,” Case said, remembering a few conversations he and Nina had. “Did you guys ever decide where it was you were going to meet? I got the beach thing, but I’m fairly sure there are more than just a few beaches you guys could end up at,” Case said with a small smile.

Nina asked if he was interested in attending and Case was quick to nod. “Oh sure, but I’m not anyone’s cousin – at least in your family. I’m like a cousin-in-law at best,” he said with a bright smile. “I can come out with you, attend the big event, and then let you hang out with family as I entertain myself. Who knows, maybe some other guy will be drug out there as a cousin-in-law and he and I can hang out,” Case said, imagining the two of them being third wheels to someone else’s family event. “I’ll go anywhere with you,” Case said as he hugged Nina tight to him while they walked along. “I think I’ve managed to get along with your family fairly well to this point, what’s a few more people I’ll have to get to know?”

Of course Case had always tried to be at his absolute best around Nina’s family. Not only to make a good impression, but that subconsciously Case wanted that family. Having lost so many of his own family members, Nina’s family seemed to fill a niche that perhaps he didn’t even know he needed filled. Phil and Eiji were the brothers he never had, Lucas and Yuriko were his surrogate parents, and of course the Japan-clan were a familiar bunch of faces that Case always went out of his way to try to include. The Wallace-Hensley bunch were pretty tight – especially for a group that had only been together for a year or so at this point.

The continued along in their walk, now about half-way around the lake. They’d transitioned from holding hands to holding one another close as they walked. Rex and Nai’a were bounding all about, disappearing at times and reappearing at others. Rufus was right at Case’s side, like a sentry keeping an eye out to the world around them while his masters fawned over one another. There was a cool breeze, chilly in the shade, and comforting in the sunlight. Here on the far side of the lake though they were solidly in the shade though, and Case was doing his best to keep his wife warmed with the help of his own body’s heat.

“Maybe not mayor,” Case said, thinking back to his comment earlier on running for office. “…though I suppose anything’s possible. I just don’t imagine this town voting someone into the office of mayor who’s never actually held a political office before. Maybe, but maybe something like county commissioner would be a better jumping off point. I guess I’m just compelled to give back to the community that’s given me so much. I suppose I could focus more on the farm too, but with as much of a handle as Steve has on the orchard I’d feel like I was stepping on his toes if I tried to weasel myself into more and more of the day to day workings. The farm’s in great hands, I just need to make sure I know what all goes on there so that I can help out when Steve needs me.”

“Like you said though, we’ll see where we end up. We’ve got plenty in mind and on our plates at this point that I’m fairly certain we’ll blink and it’ll be September, 2020. We’ll have four kids, put two dozen more pins in our travel map, and you’ll be more famous than you ever wanted to be,” Case said with a wide grin as if somehow wishing that would be true. “I’ll have to beat your fans back with a stick every time I try to take you out on a walk. We’ll have paparazzi popping out of the lake to take your picture every time you try to get a breath of fresh air,” Case said with nearly a chuckle.

“Maybe we’ll both be famous – knock ol’ Brad and Angelina off the tabloid racks. Casey and Nina…” Case said, waving one hand in front of them both as if imagining the headline for himself. “…will their marriage hold? Will photographer Brian’s advances on Nina be accepted? Will Ki’s divorce pose a threat? Will…” Case was about to continue when even the mere mention of Ki’s name got him a swift elbow in the ribs from his wife. “Hey now… I’m just brainstorming here…” Case said with one of his broad and warm smiles – making clear that he was only looking to tease his wife to spite his complete admiration of her. “Will Nina continue to put up with her husband,” Case asked, getting a bit more serious as he peered deeply into his wife’s eyes. “…inquiring minds want to know,” he said with a soft smile as he recited the old tag line from the national Enquirer.
Nina Wallace
 Posted: May 11 2017, 09:45 AM

Even now Nina looked back to their first meeting very fondly. She remembered that night like it was yesterday--the feelings still fresh in her head and the giddiness returning at the put of her stomach every time she would look back to that bushy-haired man in his speedos who had asked him for pie not long after meeting her.

”I’ve never been so glad to meet a near naked man.” She teased, lifting his hand to touch her cheek to the back of it. ”Now I also get to see that man completely naked for me, that’s a plus. He was rather nice to look at from the start.” She grinned, having mentioned to him once or twice before that she had easily noticed how fit he was when they had first met. Sure it was an awkward way to meet someone, but she also pointed out that perhaps it had told them early on just how open Casey was going to be in their relationship. ”You are worth every second, Casey. Every waking moment.” He made her even happier to be alive, and she knew life would simply not be the same without him any more.

From thoughts of what all they could be doing in the future, the conversation moved to something that would happen in the near future for them. A reunion. ”I think they want to go somewhere in Florida. It’s the closest for most of us. Don’t want to be travelling to California beaches, and they don’t want somewhere overseas either.” She knew he was taking Casey with her to that trip. Travelling anywhere without him was just weird now. Also, she was permitted to bring him. ”Oh, we’ll all be bringing spouses or fiances… Maybe even kids. You don’t have to worry about being the odd man out there. Never the odd man out.”

Nina wasn’t very close to her cousins. She didn’t see them often enough, and truthfully she did not know what to expect with the reunion. Perhaps things would be easier for them now that they were all adults, but when they were kids and didn’t get to hang out very often, it was not as rowdy as when Nina and her brothers got together with Risa and Mariko. It was true that Casey had fit right in though. He had won over her family and belonged to her family, it was as though he had known them for years now. She was proud of him, and she was so happy that he was getting along so well with her family. She had no doubt that he would get along with her cousins as well.

They walked and walked, and once they were in those shady areas that left Nina a bit too cool for her liking, she clung to her husband, letting him hold her against his warm body. She had let her hand slip under his jacket to rest on his waist, rubbing up and down over his shirt to create the friction she wanted to make her hands warmer. He would take her other hand in his and blow his warm breath onto her fingers, sometimes even let her reach under his armpit for warmth. Which also ends up with Nina trying to tickle him.

When Casey spoke again, it was to tell her that perhaps Mayor was too high a position to aim for, and that made her laugh softly. ”That would work.” She nodded, agreeing that giving back to his beloved Lochland Grove was a good idea. ”I think you do need to know how things are run. See what all Pop has taught everyone and how else everyone is being efficient. We have to constantly review these things.” Steve was great with the farm. He was a trusted friend and someone who knew what he was doing. It would be good to learn from him. Perhaps knowing more things about the farm can also give Casey more ideas on how to make things better.

And then somehow Casey found a way to tease Nina about being famous. It was as though he was certain that was to be part of their future together. Nina just smirked, rolled down her eyes, and shook her head. ”I doubt that….” She grinned. ”Lochland is pretty chill about these things. If a gold medalist was able to hide here and live normally, I think I can too.” Though that made her laugh because she was implying that she will get famous. It was not something she hoped for. Not really. She just wanted to be known enough and trusted enough to make good clothes and accessories for people. Special pieces that contain a bit of her heart.

She was more amused, however, when he included himself in the fame and even compared the two of them to Brangelina. That made Nina laugh. Well, up until he mentioned Ki. Nina’s jaw dropped at that, and her elbow easily found his rib. ”Casey!” She still didn’t think Casey should have been involved with anything regarding Ki’s arranged marriage, but he was a kind soul, and Nina was compassionate. If Casey could somehow up the woman’s chances to marry someone she loved, then she would not be selfish about it. She got to marry the person she loved most in the world. Ki deserved that too.

She still, however, could not help but glare when he was mentioning Ki to tease her.

His next brainstorming question, however, softened the look on her face despite still eyeing her husband suspiciously. ”You keep joking about Ki and I don’t know.” Nina teased back, smugly lifting her chin before a bright smile broke that expression on her face and she moved to give Casey a side hug. ”Don’t worry, I won’t accept Brian’s advances.” She played along and offered her love another grin. ”You will always have me. I’m all yours. And you’re mine. Mine. All mine. Mine forever.”

They walked some more until Nina decided she was getting a bit too cold and wanted the warmth of their home again. They turned to walk back to the lakehouse, the dogs still following them--or mostly Rufus following them--and Nina was kept warm beside Casey. They did pause under the sun somewhere during that walk back to the lake house. Nina wanted to just stand under the sun, and she just held Casey for a while as they stood there in the sunlight. It also led to a bit of slow kissing, and then smile-kissing, and then eventually the two of them continuing the rest of the trek back home.

”Home, warm home!” Nina rubbed her hands together after Casey helped her out of her coat. She reached for the remote and turned on the music in the background, and then she scurried over to the fireplace to stand next to the fire before retrieving her phone from the coffee table. ”Ma was calling.” She shared, eyebrows crawling up her forehead. ”Nine missed calls. Why?” It made her frown, and immediately she dialled her mother’s number to ask her what had seemed so urgent that she had to call her so many times for the past hour.

”Ma? You were calling?”

The first thing she noticed was the tone on her mother’s voice. It was a tone that almost made her heart stop, and instantly made her expect something unpleasant to be said right after. ”What’s wrong? Everything okay there?”

”Nina, I got a call from your uncle.”

”Uncle? Uncle Momo? What’s wrong?” Casey had noticed it earlier, but now it was more evident that Nina was a bit distressed already from what she was hearing. She was silent a moment, her face stern, and then her hand rose to her mouth to stifle a gasp from the news she just received. ”What?” Her voice was soft now, and the tone hinted how she was reeling from her mother’s words and didn’t quite know how to react. ”How?”

She had reached for Casey--her tether. She didn’t know when she did, but perhaps as soon as Casey was standing by her side her hand had reached out to him. Her expression continued to change the longer she was on that call. And when she hung up, she did so with just a soft ‘okay’ to her mom. She looked confused, and she also now looked like she was on the verge of tears. Her brown eyes looked to her husband, and the hand that had been holding on to him tightened its grip.

”Casey…” She started. ”Baa-chan… She’s gone…”

Her only living grandparent... gone. The words rang in her ears as though they were supposed to carry more weight in them but now just seemed empty. They had known her grandmother was bot getting younger, but the last time Nina checked on her she was still healthy and doing okay. She had a cold from the weather changing but she was fine. Now this was the news...

"Her blood pressure was low and they took her to the hospital but..." The first tear fell. "Grandma Kyo is dead."
Casey Wallace
 Posted: May 11 2017, 11:15 AM

Hearing Nina say that Case was worth every second, worth every waking moment touched him. It was one of the little things she’d say that really spoke to his heart. When he loved someone as much as he loved Nina it was always great to hear her make some comment about how she loved him to, wanted to be with him, or needed him in her life. It was just a small way for her to remind him that he meant every bit as much to her as she meant to him.

Nina explained that the plans for the reunion looked as though they’d take place somewhere in Florida. That made Case’s face light up a bit as he was already imagining a few places in Florida he’d love to check out while they were out there. Nina explained that no one wanted the hassle of traveling too far, so California or any place out of country wasn’t an option. Case nodded, “That’s fine.” She also pointed out that he wouldn’t be the only ‘outsider’ at the gathering. There were other spouses and even children that would be there. “I guess I just assume that like in your family, you’re one of the older kids – that you’d be one of the few who was even married, let alone had kids. Clearly I was wrong,” Case said with a smile. “I’ll be fine. I’ll try to be good and assure everyone you married someone worthwhile,” Case said with a playful, bright grin.

They continued along, and while amidst the shade of the wood it was clear Nina was getting cold. Case pulled her close, giving her a tight, warm hug as they walked along. It wasn’t a surprise that Nina had to weasel her hands up Casey’s shirt in an effort to warm her hands. His skin was almost hot to the touch, a bit of a surprise to Nina with as cool out as it was. Upwards and upwards her hand went, eventually finding solace under Case’s arm. Case looked down at her with a bit of a confused look on his face. “You’re lucky it’s not a warm day,” he said with a soft smile as putting her hand in his armpit when he was overheating wouldn’t be as pleasant. “Are you that cold?” Case asked, even though he could feel how chilled her hand was against his skin. Case grabbed Nina’s other hand with his, gripping it in both hands as he tried to warm her digits with a bit of friction. He brought her hand to his mouth, breathing a plume of hot air from his lungs onto it, and then kissing the top of her hand before going back to the brisk back and forth of rubbing his hands on hers.

Nina still seemed to like the idea of Case running for office. Case smiled and rolled his eyes a bit, “We shall see,” was all he could offer her. Nina did seem to think that getting a better idea of what all goes on at the farm was a smart idea though. There was a lot that Steve did for the farm that Case should get a bit more exposure to – if for no other reason than to have a bit more redundancy as to who knows what. Case nodded in agreement, “Yeah, you’re right. I just don’t want Steve to think that I’m second guessing him or anything. He’s a huge asset for the farm and I wouldn’t want him worrying that I’m having him show me all he knows because I was thinking of relieving him from his job.

As for the Ki comment, in Casey’s defense, he was just using names he thought the media might grab onto when looking to drum up a scandal. Ki was the obvious pick for Case, and even though Case couldn’t think of anyone better than Brian to be used against Nina, mentioning Ki’s name again brought about a swift and strong reaction from Nina like it always did. Since getting her out of her arranged marriage with her father out in Seoul her name hadn’t come up at all. But, as it always did, hearing her name brought about reaction that Case couldn’t help but be amazed that to this day still gets such a rise out of Nina. Case paid for his comment though, getting ribbed before scolded. “Of course you know,” Case fired back. “We weren’t ever a thing. That was all media hype – much like what I was trying to suggest by using her as an example. Famous people get hounded all the time, you know that. Heck, even I get hounded from time to time,” Case said with a small smile.

Nina did assure him though that she wouldn’t accept Brian’s advances. Case smiled softly, and Nina confessed that he’d always have her – and that she’d always have him. “Yours forever,” Case echoed before giving his wife another long hug.

They continued their walk, making it around the last of the lake before approaching their home. Even now Case would look upon their house and marvel at the fact that they’d built it themselves. It was a one of a kind, built to their needs and specifications, and there it stood just as Case hoped it would for the decades to come. Nina picked up her pace, eager to get back inside. “Sure, sure… just leave me bhind…” Case teased as Nina shuffled quickly towards the deck. She encouraged him to pick up the pace, which just made Case smile and wave her onwards. “Go on ahead, I’ve got to bring in a load or two of firewood,” Case said, turning towards the woodpile as Nina headed into the house.

Case brought in the wood, getting it stacked by the fireplace as Nina joined him to get warm. Case stoked up the fire from the coals, putting on a few twigs to catch flame and then a couple of fresh logs to get things going. Nina grabbed her phone, apparently to find a rather persistent mother trying to get ahold of her. Case kept poking at the fire, making sure the wood was open enough to get enough oxygen to flowing around it. The fire came back quickly, lighting the twigs and then the logs to illuminate and warm the room.

The moment Nina’s voice changed Case stopped. He turned her way to see the accompanying expression on her face. Case knew Nina’s expressions, and this one was worry laced with fear. Case hung the fire poker back up on the rack and stood next to his wife. Nina reached out for him, pulling him close to her as she spoke to her mother. She hung up the phone following a tone that told Case whatever it was she was about to say wasn’t good news. Admittedly, Case had thought the worse for Uncle Momo, but when Nina’s glistening brown eyes looked up into Casey’s and she mentioned her grandmother’s name he instinctively knew what she was about to say.

Grandma Kyo had passed.

“Nina, I…” Case said quietly, pulling his wife into his arms and into a long hug.

For a long time Case held his wife, holding her close as she explained what her mother had told her. He stood there, Nina tightly in his arms as she quietly wept. The expression on Case’s face was one of sadness, but there was also a look suggesting he’d grown weary of loss. He held onto Nina for a long time before taking her a couple of steps towards the couch. Slowly he sat he and his wife down, his arm still around her as he held her next to him.

“It’d be how I’d want to go,” he said amidst the crackles and pops of the fire. Nina looked up at him with perhaps a confused look, and Case met her expression with one of his warm and soft smiles. “She got to see her kids grow up – grandkids too. She got to see her granddaughter get married, and enjoyed good health up to her last days. Then, after living a full live, passed. No long drawn out decline of her health, no cancer, no horrible accident, just passing from one world to the next. None of us get to pick how we leave this earth, but if I did, I think I’d choose the way Grandma Kyo left.” Case smiled down into Nina’s eyes with his own glistening with moisture, “…and my parents finally get to meet her.”
Nina Wallace
 Posted: May 15 2017, 08:57 AM

Nina clung to her husband, holding him tight. Speaking the words out loud didn’t help in making the words sink in quicker, but being held by Casey easily brought on the tears that she was trying to hold back.
When you hear someone close to you has passed, what do you do? What first comes to your mind? For Nina, she would always think to the last time that she saw that person. She would think to the last time they had spoken, or the last time she had seen that person alive. After figuring out when that last time was, Nina would then start to really take in the loss. Her mind would allow her to understand that whatever that time was, that was the last… and she would never have another.
And that was what would bring the tears.
Grandma Kyo was dead.
The last time she saw her was in Thanksgiving, when she and Casey invited the family over to their new home. She had stayed with them, spent hours just looking out their large window that overlooked the lake, and helped Nina in the kitchen despite her insistence that Grandma Kyo just sit back and relax.
The last time she talked to her was Christmas, after she and Casey came home from dinner with his grandparents. They had a video call to greet their family in Japan a Merry Christmas, and Grandma was the first to excitedly reveal that Mariko was going on a date later.

That was the last, and thinking back to it made her feel like a hole was left inside of her. It made her miss the old woman right away, and it made her wish she had been there to at least say goodbye.
She was quiet, weeping in her love’s arms while she remembered her grandmother and the strongest memories of her that she could recall. It was always hard to lose someone, and it didn’t seem so long ago that Nina lost her husband’s father too. It was always a terrible feeling, and one that always made her reflect on life… and even made her worry about losing the other people she loved too.
That thought tightened her hold on Casey, but she let him lead her to the couch where she remained in his arms. And soon on got his lap. She just had to be as close to him as possible, and so she instinctively moved to sit on his lap to hug him. The tears had stopped, but she was still in that state of shock that kept her silent in Casey’s arms. Until, that is, his voice broke her reverie and her brown eyes slowly turned to gaze questioningly at her husband.

She listened to him, absorbing his words like she always does, and the more that she did, the more her yes got wet with tears. Her grandmother has lived a good life. And Casey was right… she had passed just with old age and not because of something tragic. It would be how she would like to pass on to the next life as well… She would want to be on her bed, thinking about all the good things she has experienced in life, and be happy to not ever wake up from a good night’s rest.

Still though, it hurt to lose someone.

She smiled though. Through the tears in her eyes, Nina smiled at her husband and his attempt to comfort her. She smiled at his words that now his parents could meet Grandma Kyo, and she nodded her agreement as Casey reached up to wipe her damp cheeks. ”That’s true… I bet they love her.”

Nina had nothing else to say, words seeming to have escaped her, but she stayed in Casey’s arms for a good while, just hugging him and sometimes weeping. She tried to digest what was happening, and sometimes she actually wasn’t thinking of anything at all. She was just quiet in Casey’s arms until she took one deep breath and sat up, smiling at him. ”I’m going to call Ma, see what her plans are. I know she might want to go back to Japan for the funeral. Maybe with dad.”

It was said, almost, like she had no intention of going to Japan as well to pay her last respects to her grandmother. Which, if she was asked right now, she was not sure she was ready to do. There was that finality with funerals that she did not quite like. There was that need to accept that one has already passed on to the next life… and seeing the body that used to house the person you love isn’t easy. Nina was not sure she was ready for it.

Nina gave Casey a kiss and another long hug before she took her phone and dialled her mother’s number. All her other activities took a back seat, and now she just wanted to make sure that her mother was taken care of if she wanted to get a quick flight to Japan at the soonest possible time. She was already thinking of sharing their flyer miles to her. After the call to her mother, Nina reached for Casey again and just gave him a long hug once more--just needing to have him close while she dealt with the loss of her grandmother.

”I hope she was not in any pain. I hope Uncle Momo was there with the girls, and she got to see their faces before she passed. I hope it was like sleeping and not ever waking up…that she would just be dreaming all the time.” Nina said quietly, her head resting on Casey’s shoulder as she held him close. ”Is it bad that I don’t want to see her? That’s okay, right? It’s just that… I don’t see her often. She is someone I know is always around even when she lives far away and… I just don’t want to stop thinking about that just yet. If I see her… If I attend the funeral it would be too real that she is gone.”

Grandma Kyo was her last living grandparent. She didn’t see the old woman very often, but she had seen her more and more since meeting Casey, and she could not help but think that it was one of the reasons why she met him. He allowed her more time to travel and visit family she saw once every two years, or sometimes in larger intervals. But after meeting Casey she had spent more time with Grandma Kyo.

”She loved you, you know… I am so glad she got to meet you. That teapot you gave her? She used nothing else but it, Mariko says so. Anytime she wants tea, she would use that tea pot.” It was something that made her smile, even just a bit. ”Thank you… Because of you I got to spend more time with my grandma before she passed. You have really brought my family even closer to me. You have brought us all closer.” She leaned in, thanking him with a loving kiss to his lips, and wrapped her arm around him once more. "Ma and Dad and Eiji are going to Japan. Ma says she isn't sure yet if Philip can work out his schedule to come as well, but Ma, Dad and Eiji are coming for sure. There will be a small ceremony for her and she will be buried next to Grandpa in the cemetery near Grandma's home... Uncle Momo is taking care of things right now and the girls are being really helpful..." There was a pang of guilt that she did not want to be there, but she wanted to extend her help where she could and hope that her grandma understands that she was not ready to say goodbye.

The tears reappeared because of that thought, but she roughly wiped those away with the back of her hand. "She'll understand, right? That I don't want to say goodbye yet?"
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