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AWLL 3 - Book 5 - The Pumpkin Patch

Michael Loucks

AWLL 3 - Book 5 - The Pumpkin Patch

July 18, 2002, Östersund, Sweden

"Did you enjoy the show last night?" I asked Kara at breakfast.

It was only Kara, Jessica, Suzanne, and me because Ashley was staying at Tina's, and would be there until after my wives, Jesse, and I came back from Russia.

"I did!" Kara replied happily. "And I was very happy you were able to go one more time back at the hotel!"

"Encouragement from his three beautiful wives did the trick!" Suzanne exclaimed.

"What's the plan for today?" Jessica asked.

"We'll hang out at Tina's, ride horses, walk in the countryside, and generally chill. Oh, and if anyone who wants to make love in a hayloft, I'd be happy to oblige!"

"Including Tina?" Kara teased.

"No, because Nils would never agree to that, and because that's not where Tina and I have been for nearly two decades. She's my best female friend, bar none."

"Speaking of that," Kara said, "what are you going to do about Bethany?"

"I don't see how the relationship can continue, nor do I see how she can have anything to do with our kids or any of the cousins. She'll poison their minds if we allow that. Things will be bad enough with society in general, and allowing a wolf in sheep's clothing into the flock is a non-starter."

"Don't you think that's a bit harsh?" Jessica asked.

"No," I said firmly.

"What about Nicholas?" Kara asked.

"I won't punish the children for the sins of the mother. Albert and Jane are basically locked in, so nothing Bethany says to Nicholas will really affect Albert, and he'd ignore it, anyway. I'll speak to the parents of the cousins to make sure they understand just how far off the rails Bethany has gone.

"When I speak with Kathy, I'll encourage her to have a conversation with Bethany. Maybe she'll have success, but I won't count on it, despite them having been friends since sixth grade. The other thing I'm going to do is order several cases of the current edition of Smart Teens; Smart Choices so I or the kids can hand them out to counter the 'revised' version Bethany is preparing."

"You can't stop it?"

" I will try to talk to Bethany once more, but I don't think it will have any effect. Tom said the publisher is pushing for the revised version to counter the pushback they've had over the years. You know they get complaints all the time from the Kent van der Meers and Tim Saddlers of the world."

"You should make it your mission to deflower every virgin female in their flocks!" Kara suggested with a smirk.

"Trouble I do not need," I replied. "All it would take is for one girl to claim it wasn't consensual, even if she were over eighteen, and it would all be over. Vickie and Sandy were special circumstances. You know I have to be more careful, because the world has changed, and that's why we changed the rules to be firm about age of consent with very limited, if any exceptions and approval in advance from the three of you. And parents who won't lose their minds. And even then, fifteen is the minimum, no matter what. And honestly, with few exceptions, girls under eighteen are not going to be interested in me. They'll go to Jesse instead!"

All three of my wives laughed.

"For a kid who does not want to be defined by his dad, he's sure a lot like you!" Suzanne observed.

"That's true, but having similar outlooks doesn't make him my clone, which is what concerned him. He's made his own way, even if some of the results are similar. That said, he, like my other kids, believes in monogamous marriage for life. Heck, Albert and Matthew are already permanent. And I still say Stephie and Nicholas will get back together once Nicholas turns fifteen or so."

"I spoke to Mom yesterday," Kara responded, "and she said Stephie is in a much better mood and seems happier."

"I think Stephie needed a break from us, not just Nicholas," I said. "Just as Birgit wanted a break from you. The kids need their space and their asserting their independence and we have to encourage that, not fight it. Remember, they get to define the relationship, not us, and if we want a positive relationship with them for the rest of our lives, we can never forget that."

"It's so easy for you to let go," Jessica observed.

"I'm not sure 'easy' is the right word," I said. "But I learned the dangers of not letting go from my experience growing up. And we've seen how ineffective 'positive control' is with teens, with Vickie, Sandy, and Kara being perfect examples. All three grew up in Evangelical households and chose a very different path despite the best efforts of their fathers."

"Dad was coming around," Kara interjected.

"Yes, but he would never have approved of our trio or quartet."

"I hope Kathy can get Bethany to see things differently," Kara said.

"Me, too." 


 🎤 Ashley

"How did you meet my dad?" I asked Tina when we were doing dishes after breakfast.

"He never told you the story?"

"No. I think Birgit might know, but I don't."

"It was April, 1980, and he came to my school in Alingsås to speak about America and encourage kids to become exchange students. I thought he was totally cool and handsome, and I followed him around like a puppy dog!"

I giggled, "You and every other teenage girl on the planet!"

"I actually wasn't a teenager. I had just turned twelve, and I was sure your dad would think I was too young to be a girlfriend, even though he was only sixteen."

"A girlfriend, as in having sex?"


"I turn eleven next month and I can't imagine wanting to do that a year from now. Fifteen or sixteen, but not twelve."

"I didn't say it was a good idea!" Tina said with a smile. "But I was careful not to do or say anything that would make your dad uncomfortable. He only visited for a day, and other than introduce myself, I didn't say anything. After he left, I asked the YFU coordinator for his address in Göteborg. I wrote to him and asked if we could be pen pals. He agreed, and over twenty years later, we write to each other about once a month."

"Why not use email?" I asked.

"Because there's something special about writing a letter, putting it in an envelope, affixing postage, and sending it across the sea!"

"Weird!" I said. "Just text or email!"

Tina laughed, "Totally not the same!"

"Did you see him again before he came home?"

"No. We wrote, and then in June 1982 he came to Sweden on a vacation and visited. I was fourteen, then."

I giggled, "I know what that means!"

"Your dad does have a reputation in that regard."

"Well," I smirked, "he seems to make the girls very happy and they tell their friends..."

"It doesn't bother you?"

"Why should it? It bugs Stephie, but not Birgit, and the boys simply do not care and do not pay attention."

"But you do?"

I giggled, "Yes, but not as much as Birgit. I think she has a list!"

"That does sound like your sister!"

"So what happened?" I asked. "I mean, besides the obvious!"

"We talked about a future together, but it really wasn't practical. Your dad was nineteen and in college, and I wasn't even in «gymnasiet». Moving to the US wasn't really something I wanted to do, and had your dad moved here then, I think he'd have been with Karin. I love your dad more than anyone in the world except Nils and Anna, but the situation made it such that we'd be best friends, not a couple."

"Did you plan for it to happen?"

"Yes, but your dad had no clue because I had been very careful in my letters not to let on what I wanted. I surprised him, and it turned out to be a beautiful experience that I will always treasure. We saw each other again in 1984 when he was in Sweden again, but after that, even though I hoped there would be a way, there wasn't, and I started dating. Eventually I married Nils, and we had Anna."

"Would you have been OK with Dad having more than one wife?"

"NO!" Tina declared emphatically. "And neither would Karin, Katt, nor Pia. We Swedish girls are open-minded, but not that open-minded!"

"Ashley?" Anna said, coming into the kitchen. "I finished my chores. Do you want to ride horses?"

"Yes! We're almost done!" 


 [Stockholm, Sweden]
🎤 Birgit

"Did you defeat Loki?" Jesse asked me with a sly grin when we had a moment alone together.

"Finally!" I exclaimed. "How was Anna?"

"No details, Sis."

I rolled my eyes, "If I could listen to Rachel tell me about being with Dad, what's the big deal?"

"Anna's privacy! And the same is true for Kjell."

He had a point, because I had asked Kjell to keep what we'd done private.

"Sorry," I said. "You're right."

"You're OK, though?"

"Are you kidding?! I've been ready for months! And we figured it out!"

Jesse laughed, "It's pretty simple, and even little kids have an idea of how it works!"

"I think you know what I meant! We were both virgins! You had a teacher!"

"No comment," Jesse replied.

"I thought we agreed we'd talk about anything," I protested.

"But we still have to respect everyone's privacy. I mean, sure, you can figure out who Dad has been with, but does he discuss them with you?"

"Well, no," I admitted.

"Exactly," Jesse said. "I only asked you to make sure you were OK."

"I appreciate it."

"You know I'm here for you," Jesse said. "And if anyone treats you badly, they'll have to deal with me!"

I laughed, "I can take care of myself!"

"I'm sure you can, brown belt and all, but if anyone even thinks about hurting you, I'll end their existence. Period."

"Thanks, Jesse. I've never said this before, and I may never say it again, but I love you, Brother."

"And I love you, too, Sis. Let's NEVER speak of this again!"




July 20, 2002, Stockholm, Sweden

🎤 Jesse

"How was your sailing and camping trip?" Dad asked when he and his wives arrived back in Stockholm on Saturday.

"A lot of fun! We swam, played football, grilled, listened to music, and hung out."

"Remember we have to leave for Arlanda tomorrow at 8:00am," Dad said.

"Kjell's party ends at midnight, so it won't be a problem," I replied. "By ending then, everyone can get home on the «Tunnelbana» or a bus. They're all going to hang out tomorrow, too."

"I heard from Vanya, and your dinner at the Officer's Mess is set for Monday night."

"I wish my uniform still fit!" I grinned. "General Jesse!"

"I think you might find them less receptive to that being cute now than when you were a little kid. Did you speak to Eugen?"

"I called yesterday when we came back from the island. I'm staying with him on Tuesday night. We'll hang out with his friends all day both days, including going out to dinner on Tuesday night."

"OK. That won't affect the hotel because we have a suite with two bedrooms. I switched that once your sisters decided they weren't going to Russia."

"What are you doing Wednesday?"

"Probably walking around the city, doing some sightseeing, and spending time with my wives."

"No girls for you in Russia?" I asked with a smirk. "Eugen's mom is married and so is Lucy Alexa! And she's pregnant!"

"Saint Petersburg is part of the extended honeymoon with my wives. Other than our dinner with Vanya, Anna, Yuri, and Lyusya, we don't have any specific plans. As I said, we'll do some sightseeing, but otherwise, we'll just relax."

"Cool. I need to go meet the gang at the park for the start of the party."

"Have fun!" Dad said.

I left the hotel and headed for Nicholas' apartment so we could go to the park together. 


 🎤 Steve

"What time will the kids be here?" I asked Karin when we arrived at the apartment.

"After they have dinner at the new pizza restaurant, so around 7:00pm. We'll be gone by then because we're meeting my parents, you, and your wives for dinner. I figured we'd go give them space, which is why I arranged dinner for tonight. Kristian and I plan to arrive back at the apartment around midnight when the party ends. Birgit and Jesse are going back to the hotel, right?"

"That's what they said. We leave for Arlanda at 8:00am, so if he ends up staying here, he'll need to be up early, so I doubt he'll do that. Birgit will take the «Tunnelbana» here. Thanks for taking her in while we're gone."

Karin smiled, "Of course! She'll be in the guest bedroom."

"None of my business," I replied.

"I think they're still trying to figure things out," Karin said. "Being fourteen, it's still a bit young."

"Says the young woman who wanted me at thirteen!"

"I didn't say it was wrong," Karin replied. "Just that things aren't so clear at that age. And Kjell only turned fourteen four days ago! Birgit, on the other hand, is fourteen going on thirty-four!"

"As adult as she usually is, she's still occasionally a kid," I replied. "But she's learning and maturing."

"Far faster than you did," Karin said lightly.

"That's a fairly low bar," I replied. "You were crucial in helping me grow up."

"That did seem to be my role in your life, as opposed to the one I wanted when I was a teenager. But I'm happy, and happy that we remained friends though it all."

"It was touch and go at times," I replied. "Mostly my fault."

"We were kids, Steve. I don't blame you for anything, nor do I regret anything. You shouldn't either."

"Except for how I treated you," I replied.

"Forgiven long ago. If I don't blame you, you shouldn't blame yourself. I know you don't buy into that crap that your Catholic mom does! That whole guilt trip thing is a surefire way to mess yourself up, which I think you know."

"I do," I replied. "This isn't guilt, but I do sometimes wonder what would have happened had I not rejected you when you first wanted to sleep with me."

"You weren't ready," Karin replied. "I don't think it would have changed anything except it would have been a conscious act on your part, with me."

"Which might have made all the difference in the world," I replied. "But that's water under the bridge."

"It is. And given other things that happened, probably for the best."

"I'm not sure about that," I replied. "I think it would have completely altered the trajectory of my life. That said, you know I won't trade my current situation for a 'what if?' scenario, and can't imagine a world without my kids."

"It's one of those points in our life where a decision completely altered the future, and there is no going back, not that either of us wants to."

"True. Did Birgit speak to you about hosting her in two years?"

"Yes. We're happy to do it, of course. Her Swedish is very good, though I find it amusing she speaks «Göteborska»!"

"Not just «Göteborska», but «Göteborska» with twenty-year-old slang, inflection, and vocabulary! I've actually heard a change in her accent since we've been here."

"I assume you'll teach Ashley, given she wants to do the same?"

"Yes, though she's thinking of staying with Katt and Kristina."

"She's at Tina's now, right?"

"Yes. She'll take the train here on the 27th."

"She said she'd call me with the details. What time do you get in from Göteborg?"

"Mid afternoon. We're taking the earliest train."

"Shall we join the others before they get the wrong idea?"

I laughed, "My wives always have the wrong idea, but Kristian knows better!"

"He does!" 


 🎤 Birgit

"You put your things in the guest room,?" Kjell said in Swedish as we headed for the park to join his friends. "Are you sleeping in there tonight?"

"No way!" I declared. "I'm sleeping in your bed! But that's between you and me, and nobody else."

"My parents?"

"Well, OK, but they won't say anything, will they?"

"I don't think so, but Mom and your dad are really close."

"That's one way to put it," I giggled.

"That was a long time ago, before either of us were born," Kjell said. "Dad had girlfriends before Mom."

"Sorry, I didn't mean to imply they were doing anything now, just that they had."

Kjell shrugged, "So? I mean, am I the only person you'll ever have sex with?"

The answer was obviously 'no' because I'd definitely had sex with Lilibeth.


"And if we stay friends, and people know we were together, does it matter? I mean, in the sense that because we did it, we'll always do it?"

"Sorry," I said again.

"Birgit, you want to keep our situation private, right? So why are you talking about what other people do? Why do you even care?"

He was right, of course, and he was saying the same thing other people had said to me, and maybe it was just that I was so fixated on Dad that I couldn't help myself. I still wanted him, but I also knew it wasn't going to happen because I'd been too obvious about it.

"You're right, of course," I agreed. "Is there anything special you want to do tonight to celebrate your birthday?"

"You mean you and me? Or everyone?"


"I like what we've done together, and I'm happy with anything you want to do."

"We need to take a shower together in the morning!"

Kjell laughed, "Our showers here are very short because we don't want to use too much hot water."


"Before I forget, Mom signed up for the laundry for tomorrow so you can wash clothes."

"That is so weird," I replied. "But Dad told me about it. Do people really start feuds over washing clothes?"

"Absolutely. If you try to use the laundry room when it's not your time, it's a serious violation of the rules and people get very upset."

"I like living in a house where I can just do laundry whenever I want."

"What about a conflict? There are a lot of people living in your house."

"We just kind of go with the flow, really. And everyone is cool about it."

"You start High School, right?"

"Yes. And you have two years before «gymnasiet», right?"

"Yes. Most likely we wouldn't be in the same class when you come here. And someone will have to arrange for you to go to a specific «gymnasiet», it's not like your High Schools."

"Actually, I'm going to a private High School," I said. "My moms felt we'd do better at the Lab School at the University of Chicago where they both work. Jesse will stay in the public school so he can play ice hockey."

We arrived at the park where Per, Ester, and Henrik were waiting with a soccer ball. We greeted them, and when the rest of the group arrived, we split into teams to play. 


 [Cádiz, Spain]
🎤 Matthew

"Mom, do you have a minute?" I asked when Chelsea was in the shower.

"What's up?"

"Privately, please."

Eduardo nodded and Mom and I went to the great room.

"Is something bugging you?"

"Yes, but it's not something I really want to talk about or know the answer to."

"You've lost me," Mom said.

"Please do not confirm or deny," I said. "I just want to know how to handle Chelsea because she has this idea that Dad and her mom got together."

"What makes her think that?" Mom asked.

"Dad gave her away at her wedding, and Chelsea doesn't think that makes any sense unless they had been together before that."

"I think your answer to Chelsea is to simply tell her to ask her mom. I'm not sure how Aunt Jennie will respond to a question like that, but that's between them. Would it bother you if it were true?"

I shrugged, "Would it be any weirder than marrying my first cousin?"

Mom laughed, "Once removed, which is why it's OK in Illinois. And yes, a lot of people would find that strange. But you don't tell people that, right?"

"Because things would just get weird," I replied. "People get too bent out of shape about stuff that doesn't matter. You know me. I just do my own thing and let everyone else do their own thing. I'm happy, Chelsea is happy, and that's all that matters. I wish she'd just drop it because I can't think of something about which I'd care less."

"Then just do what I suggested and encourage her to talk to her mom. It's up to Aunt Jennie what she says to Chelsea."

"Thanks, Mom. I'll do that." 


 [Cincinnati, Ohio]
🎤 Stephie

"You seem to be in a much better mood," Grandma Nancy said. "Being here, away from everyone, seems to have helped."

"But I love my family," I protested.

"Which doesn't mean you don't need time away from them! Each of us needs our own space, and you have yours here, and don't have to worry about your parents or your siblings. You've spent time with your Grandpa, your Aunt Joyce and her family and your Aunts Deborah and Chrisy and their kids. You're enjoying yourself, and that's a good thing."

"Dad thought I was being a bitch," I said.

Grandma Nancy smiled and shook her head, "No, that was your sisters! Your dad thinks you were kidnapped by aliens and replaced with an evil clone!"

I laughed, "That's what Mr. Felipe at the dojo said about teenage girls!"

"He's not wrong!" Grandma Nancy said with a smile. "I remember when your mom turned sixteen."

I laughed, "Mom met Dad! She wasn't kidnapped by aliens! It was hormones!"

"Which I think is what your friend Mr. Felipe is trying to say, but being silly!"

"But Mom wasn't a bitch!"

"Do you know the story of what your mom and dad call their 'Year in the Wilderness'?"


"You should ask them. I think you'll learn something important about your parents."

"Deborah said the same thing about the girl I'm named for -- that I should talk to dad about her and that I might learn something about him and about myself."

"I think Deborah is correct," Aunt Nancy said. "I don't think you've spent enough time talking with your parents."

"Didn't you just say it was good to be away from them?" I countered.

"I did, but both can be true. I think part of it is that you object to your dad's arrangements with your moms. But if they allow you to live your life the way you want, shouldn't you allow them to live their lives the way they want?"

'As long as he doesn't try to fuck my friends!' I thought, but didn't say. Fortunately, they all thought he was too old, unlike some of Birgit's friends. But I couldn't talk about that with anyone outside the family.

"Yes," I agreed.

"Do you want to talk about Nicholas?"

"Not really," I replied.

"OK. I'm here if you want to talk about it. Shall we get started making cookies?"



 [Stockholm, Sweden]
🎤 Birgit

"You guys need a Chicago-style pizza place here!" I declared when we finished eating. "This was good, but deep dish or pan pizzas are way better!"

"What's the difference?" Per asked.

"Chicago pizzas are about eight times as thick -- thicker crust, which goes up the sides, and way more toppings, like five centimeters thick. You eat it with a knife and fork, usually."

"I could only eat like one piece," Hanna said.

"Me, too, except for if we have it right after karate. Then I can eat two pieces. But it's SO good with lots of gooey cheese and lots of sausage and pepperoni."

"Is everyone finished?" Anna asked. "If so, we should head to Kjell's house for the party!"

Anna and Per paid the bill, then we all got up from the tables and left the restaurant. We took the «Tunnelbana» to Kjell's family's apartment, where his parents had set out all kinds of snacks and drinks, though no alcohol, which was OK with me. His parents had gone out with my dad and moms and Karin's parents, leaving the apartment to the fourteen of us who were going to dance and have fun.

Kjell put a CD in the player and turned up the music. I danced with all the guys, including Nicholas, and had a great time. I thought again about what it might be like to have both Per and Kjell at the same time, but I didn't want to do anything that might bother Kjell because we were basically a couple during this visit.

Jesse had fun dancing with all the girls, and it was obvious that Anna, Freja, and Maja all wanted him again, and I was positive he could have Ester, Sara, and Hannah if he wanted them! That made me rethink what I'd thought before, but in the end, I had promised to sleep in Kjell's bed, and it would be totally awkward to be with one of the other guys.

The party was a blast, and everyone left at midnight, including Jesse, who went back to the hotel. Fortunately, the apartment wasn't a mess because people had been careful, so it only took a few minutes for Kjell and me to straighten up, finishing just before his parents arrived home. We said 'good night' to them, and after brushing our teeth and using the bathroom, Kjell and I went to his room, undressed, and got into bed. 



July 21, 2002, Saint Petersburg, Russia

🎤 Steve

"How was your flight?" Vanya asked after he greeted me in the lobby of the Nevskij Palace Hotel on Nevsky Prospect.

"No trouble. SAS was efficient and the car you sent to pick us up was waiting. No trouble with passport control, either, thanks to the ministerial visas."

"Good! All checked in?"

"Yes. Are Yuri and Lyusya here?"

"They'll arrive in about an hour. We'll have dinner at my flat tonight as planned."

"Jesse is eating at the Officer's Mess tomorrow, then spending the rest of the time with Eugen and his friends."

"Do you have other plans?"

"Just sightseeing," I replied. "And spending time together."

"I certainly would, in your position!" he said with a grin. "I do not think Anya would approve!"

"Nor Tanya, which is why she is married to Dima! As we've said, perhaps Jesse and Larisa will unite our families."

"Dima says Jesse has grown into a fine young man! He's sixteen, yes?"

"Yes. He starts his Junior Year of High School."

"Has he decided on a university?"

"He's thinking about the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and he plans to study business."

"If he has your head for business, he'll do wonderfully! Is there anything you need?"

"Not at the moment."

"Good. Then I will send two cars later for you and the others. 5:30pm."

"We'll be ready!"

We shook hands, he left, I went back up to the suite I was sharing with my wives and Jesse. 


 [Östersund, Sweden]
🎤 Ashley

"What are we doing today?" I asked Anna.

"Dad is taking us to Frösö Zoo," Anna replied. "Kristina will come along, as will three girls from school."

"Cool. How far is it?"

"About fifteen minutes by car on Frösön, an island named for the god Freyr."

"The twin brother of Freyja, right?" I asked.

"Yes! You know Freyr?"

"And Loki, Thor, and Odin! Dad is always talking about Loki messing things up and Birgit blamed him because she kept getting interrupted every time she tried to have sex!"

Anna laughed, "How many times?"

"At least four! It was totally hilarious. Well, for me, not for her!"

"Do you have a boy you like?"

"No. The boys in my class are all stupid, and I'm too young. What about you?"

"There's one boy I know who's in «gymnasiet» who is cute and really sweet, but I only turn twelve next month so there isn't anything I can do."

"Did you get your period?"

"In April. Mom got hers right before she turned twelve, too. You haven't, right?"

"No. Nine would be really young. Mom didn't get hers until she was fourteen. I'm in no hurry!"

"It's a pain in the butt!" Anna agreed. "Especially because mine isn't regular yet. My doctor says that's common."

"Ready to go, girls?" Nils asked, coming into the kitchen.

"Yes!" we both exclaimed.

We left the house and got into Nils' Volvo for the drive to the zoo. 


 [Leeds, England]
🎤 Albert

"Is there anything special you want to do before you go home?" Amanda asked on Sunday morning.

"No," I said, "but if we could go to London for a day, that would be cool."

"We can do that! Do you have any idea when you'll come back?"

"No, but Doctor Jon said you were making a trip to Chicago sometime next year."

"That's the plan; we just need to work out holiday schedules and coordinate with your dad. Let me check with Jon, and if it's OK, we'll go tomorrow."


"What are you and Jane doing today?"

"Getting together with some of her friends from school at one of their houses. We'll have dinner there. Karen knows."


"Albert?" Jane called out. "Are you ready?"

"I'm a guy!" I replied. "We're always ready!"

"That's for sure!" Amanda tittered.

Jane and I left the house, holding hands, and walked to her friends house, which was about ten minutes away. I knew most of the kids because we'd hung out with them before we'd gone to Lisbon for three days. The trip had been fun, but way too short.

"When do you think we'll get married?" Jane asked.

"Probably when I graduate from the Naval Academy," I said. "I'll be twenty-two and you'll be twenty. You can finish your A-levels and then move to the US. I'm sure our dads can work that out."

"You can't marry until you graduate?"

"Correct. They won't accept anyone who is married and you're not allowed to marry until graduation. But that's about the right age, really."

"And we can have our honeymoon early?"

"If you want, yes. When you're old enough."

"Yes, of course! Probably when I'm fifteen or sixteen."

"We'll need to do some planning because of the distance," I said.


We arrived at her friend's house, so the conversation about our future would have to wait for, well, the future. 


 [Saint Petersburg, Russia]
🎤 Steve

"You've finally done it!" Lyusya exclaimed. "No more management, just coding."

"Except for cleaning up a few details with our buyout of Knowles and Jackson, but that's mostly just approving what our legal team is doing."

"I thought that was completed."

"The important part, the VLC division, is; this is about the Brauns and the remnants of what used to be Lone Star Systems."

"I thought those two jokers were in prison."

"Yes, but they haven't pled guilty or been convicted, and there's a bank involved that Braun pledged the Lone Star intellectual property against. It's all just lawyer games, but I started it, so I have to finish it."

"How are the kids? I haven't really spoken to you in about four months."

"Great! Only Jesse is here with us. Stephie decided to go to Ohio, Matthew and Michael are in Spain with Elyse and Eduardo, Albert is visiting his girlfriend in Leeds, and Birgit and Ashley stayed in Sweden."

"You seem to have added a third wife," Lyusya declared with a smile.

"Just before we left home," I replied.

"Still collecting?"

"No. And dialing back."

Lyusya laughed, "That'll be the day! I know a Russian girl or two who would tempt a dead man!"

"Besides you?" I asked with a grin.

"If Yuri and I weren't married, I'd prove it to you. Again!"

"I have no doubt! Though being due at the end of next month would make that difficult!"

"I wasn't sure they'd let me get on the plane, but Yuri has connections. But the worst part is trying to get comfortable to sleep."

"And in about six weeks, it'll be trying to sleep, period!"

"Ugh!" Lyusya groaned. "Don't remind me!"

"Shall we join the others?"



 [Madrid, Spain]
🎤 Matthew

"All I can say is ask your mom," I said as we got into bed at the hostel in Madrid. "I honestly don't want to know, and no matter what your mom says, please keep it to yourself."

"Why?" Chelsea asked.

"Because it's literally none of our business. And why does it matter?"

"I don't know," Chelsea replied. "It's just weird."

"You realize if it did happen, you weren't even born? It would have been before my dad and my mom met at your mom's wedding, so it's like, ancient history! Just let it go and don't worry about it."

"You're upset."

"No, I'm not upset. I just don't care about who my dad might or might not have had sex with. I only care about you and me, and we've only been with each other and we'll only ever be with each other."

"Will you make love to me?"




July 22, 2002, Saint Petersburg, Russia

A Russian Army lieutenant came into the lobby of the hotel and walked over to me.

"You are Jesse Stepanovich Block?" he asked.


"Lieutenant Kyrylenko. I am tasked with bringing you to «Здание Главного штаба», is Building of General Staff, in English, on behalf of Colonel Dezhnyov. I have car with driver outside. You have passport with you?"


"Then we go."

We left the hotel and got into a military staff car with a sergeant behind the wheel. Neither the officer nor the enlisted man spoke during the drive, except to ask for my passport to show the guard.

"Jesse!" Lieutenant Colonel Konovalov called out as soon as we entered the building. "Welcome!"

"Hi, Colonel!" I said as we shook hands.

"«Лейтенант Кириленко, вы уволены!»" Lieutenant Colonel Konovalov said to the lieutenant.

"«Да, полковник!»" the lieutenant replied, saluting.

"I understand using my rank in front of the lieutenant, but please, during the meal, call me Yuri Anatolyevich."

"By your order, Comrade Lieutenant Colonel!" I said with a grin.

Lieutenant Colonel Konovalov laughed, "You are not one of my soldiers! We are friends! Come, and I'll introduce you to the other officers who will dine with us."

We made our way to the dining room where Colonel Vasily Vladislavovich Dezhnyov was waiting with ten other officers, mostly captains and majors, but one very pretty female lieutenant who I guessed was about twenty-three.

"Jesse Stepanovich, you are a grown man!" Colonel Dezhnyov exclaimed. "You are taller than me! Are you still playing ice hockey?"

"Of course!"

"Let me introduce you to the other officers."

He did, and I tried to remember the names, but the only one that stood out was Svetlana Aleksandrovna Smirnova, who had auburn hair, brown eyes, and a uniform that was filled out in all the right places.

"How did your team do this year?" Colonel Dezhnyov asked after introducing me.

"Not so well. We didn't make it to the finals. We had one bad game, and that's all it took. We lost 1-0 because they had two five-on-three powerplays in the first period."

"Undisciplined play will cause you to lose every time!"

"Tell me about it!" I said, shaking my head. "I was at hockey camp last month and I think I've improved my game, so hopefully will advance past the city finals. I have two more years to win a second championship."

"Let us sit. You can sit next to me, or, if I understand the looks, next to Lieutenant Smirnova!"

I laughed, "I'll sit with you, Vasily Vladislavovich. I can chat up the cute lieutenant later when you're all drinking!"

"Will your father allow you to have some vodka?"

"Yes, but I don't drink."

"A sip or two, perhaps? To drink toasts with your friends?"

"I can do that, yes."


That was a preview of AWLL 3 - Book 5 - The Pumpkin Patch. To read the rest purchase the book.

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