...You Are Cordially Invited The Wedding Part 1

The penultimate chapter of this series. A later story is setup but that will not come for a while.


John Finn was in the midst of a test in class and was lost in thought. It was just three day aways from his son Michael's wedding to Courtney Bollinger. John had just turned 38 and couldn't believe that in just a couple of months he would become a grandfather as well a father-in-law to two amazing people as his beloved daughter Jaimie would marry her fiance Rick Samuels and adopt his newborn daughter as her own child.

His concentration was broken by his nieces giggling at his expression, indicating that the test was over. He sighed and told the class to talk quietly for the rest of class while he graded their exams. This was what they had hoped he would do and for the next 20 minutes he enjoyed the quiet as he concentrated.

Class ended as did school. John walked out to observe the college football team practicing outside the school while giving his nieces time to gather their things and join him for the drive home. They were happy to get home, it was date night and John needed the break to help him think about other things.

John was met by his enthusiastic younger kids with Cat Finn all but jumping into his arms as she celebrated having her dad home for the next 10 days. Her twin JD was blase about it, he just wanted to play with his best buddy/cousin Julio Lopez while his elder brother Logan and sister Ella went off with their cousins and friends. John just smiled at all four of them, they had made plans for themselves and were going to enjoy their own things even if their plans weren't entirely doable.

The kids enjoyed a fun-filled day with the other kids the next day as Cat and Ella got dressed in their dresses for the wedding while the boys enjoyed learning to play football from some great players and one jerk. John ended up helping babysit his nephews while their mothers and fathers enjoyed a day off giving him a chance to calm down as the boys all gave him a fun morning before tiring out and sleeping. When they returned, the boys did the same as they simply played video games while the adults watched the football game and talked in the living room.

Miles Finn was on TV as the dads watched the game causing John to know that the family was in the spotlight again and it was going to be a long week for them as they remained in the news due to the wedding after Miles' sudden fame receded temporarily. Miles was able to handle it, but John was still concerned about him. John was just afraid that he would be put on display as something that you should aspire to even if Miles never wanted to play again.

He had the shock of his life as he saw for the first time what his future daughter-in-law looked like in her dress, which was followed by pictures of his nieces and Jaimie in theirs. John shed a tear at his kids becoming men and a woman, his little boy was no long a boy and his daughter was no longer the little girl he had grown to love more than any other person in the world.

He fought back feelings of being old but it was tough not to think back to seven and a half years before. Back then, Michael was a short, skinny, lonely boy who wanted his mother to find a man who would love her and him. If it hadn't been for a blown engine and Michael calling out to a complete stranger the family would never have come together over time, that little boy was now a man and about to marry the woman of his dreams and have a child with her while John was married to his mother and given her and Michael six brothers and sisters to know and love.

That night, he hugged and kissed the four kids goodnight with Logan sensing that his father needed to show his affection even though he knew that Logan was growing too old for it. Logan hugged him back and kissed his cheek, offering his father a somber "he's a big man now dad, you need to let him go." John kept silent and moved on to the others, knowing that Logan knew exactly what was affecting him.

Ella just hugged and kissed him on the cheek, turning away to let John continue on, she wasn't the best at helping others with their feelings. JD hugged him and turned away as well, knowing it was not his job to console John. Cat though hugged him tightly and kissed his cheek and told him happily "we all love you, daddy" which calmed him down, she always did that for him.

It took a while but John struggled to fall asleep. His wife Valerie was struggling to find the right words to comfort him as she herself was feeling the gravity of her son marrying the girl who won his heart six years before on the day they met in school. Courtney Bollinger was the second girl he ever had a crush on but the first girl whom he had gotten close to and by all accounts it was love at first sight.

John fell asleep after being rocked to sleep by Valerie who herself fell asleep late. Logan had his siblings up and fed when the couple entered, telling them "we are going out with Aunt Leslie so you don't have to worry about us. Cat isn't feeling well though." Valerie just smiled and nodded, Cat was a bit sick because she snuck in a few pieces of candy overnight and that morning and would be fine in time for John's meeting.

Ella and Logan walked around the corner to their cousins Neil and Faith Jones' house while JD walked next door to Julio's house. Cat stayed downstairs, curled up in her mother's lap while John got together some paperwork for the upcoming meeting with a man by the name of Trent Valens. John was dreading this meeting as the man's boss was a hard lady to please but had a soft spot for kids and people with issues such as gender identity, sexuality, and special yet underappreciated talents.

Valerie informed John that Sylvia Roberts and her fiance Mitch Gibson would be coming by as well as they had a meeting with Trent that John would be able to help with. John nodded, while Cat perked up at hearing about Sylvia. The little girl loved Sylvia like another cousin, but was more interested in keeping her safe and happy as it would make her little niece healthy making everyone happy.

Sylvia and Mitch arrived with Jaimie Finn dropping them off. She opted to go next door and allow the couple to talk with Trent without her being there to make things awkward for all. Sylvia gave her a hug while Mitch told her "his boss is a great woman, she's not in any trouble or she'd be here herself."

Trent Valenz arrived a few minutes after Jaimie left and was shown into the dining room where John was sitting with Mitch and Sylvia. 

"Good afternoon, Mr. Finn, Mrs. Finn. Sylvia, Mitch. Thank you all for making time for me." Trent sat down and offered John several packages of papers which Valerie took to read over. "Take your time Mrs. Finn. You'll find everything in order."

John waited until she had read through them and nodded in approval, signing off on them before handing them to John who signed them himself.

Valerie smiled to Trent. "Very nice Mr. Valenz."

Trent nodded then began saying "Ms. Tessa Frost offers her thanks, on behalf of Little Ones Found, for the kind donation and gives your Finn Foundation a donation for the furthering of education to those in need. Especially those like herself." Cat asked what he meant, getting a soft "She's like your sister, she's a special woman who was born wrong and became who she really is inside." Cat smiled and was satisfied with the answer, she knew everything else from listening to others talk about it.

Trent asked. "We are curious, why the Finns took interested in and sent a donation to Little Ones Found?" 

"We recently gained experience with people who have suffered like those whom Little Ones Found helps. Two of the newest members of our extended family are victims of the same kind of case that her charity helps. I believe several of the kids helped by their shutting down of the pedophile ring are even receiving direct help from it. It's all well and good to give to scholarships, but sometimes it's a lot better to give to those who need it for longer than just four years, which those kids will need." John replied sadly.

Trent had to agree with him about that as some of the kids suffered greatly from betrayal by parents and close relatives and could not trust anyone without others being around. He had seen it himself as he and his boss visited a hospital that was treating several victims. It was a tough situation for everyone and made worse by the kids' expressions of hopelessness and despair.

Trent sighed. "Unfortunately, you are correct Mr. Finn."

The two thought best to turn the discussion around to other things and addressed Sylvia. Trent handed her a letter from her benefactor, complete with letterhead of her amusement park. She read it over and cried, forcing Mitch to read it and hug her tightly.

Valerie read it after Mitch and gave a sly grin, then asked "so she really isn't upset that one of her recipients has sullied her scholarship fund's image?" 

Trent shook his head. "Sullied? Not in the slightest. Sylvia fell victim and that is how she sees it and won't hear otherwise. If she was upset she would have personally delivered a notice of termination of her scholarship. She doesn't blame her for what happened and had it not been for your support, she would have come herself and insisted on Sylvia staying at the park as a year-round resident until she graduated from a local college."

He then addressed Sylvia in an authoritative voice, proclaiming "Queen Tessa takes care of her people, which you are and has decreed that you are to continue with your studies. This is not negotiable. While working this summer, you are to stay with your fiance's family. She had a long talk with them about you two and she is pleased that they are treating you like the future daughter-in-law that you are. They want you to remain healthy and happy so you will be required to meet with a psychologist to ensure that you have neither postpartum depression nor PTSD. Queen Tessa also has made it clear to everyone who will be working with you that you have done the bravest and most selfless thing any person could do in choosing to allow your daughter to live with her father and his wife and that anyone who feels otherwise can enjoy unemployment."

Trent was serious, with Valerie adding "she understands you, Sylvia, and has people who have dealt with what you will experience firsthand. I take it that several of the staff are mothers and aunts so they are familiar with how you will be feeling after the baby is born. It's not singling you out, it's trying to help."

Cat was intrigued and asked "why does she understand?"

Trent saw the concern in her eyes and offered her a simple "Again, she's like your sister. She's unable to be a mother and understands what becoming one means to your sister. She wants Sylvia to not suffer alone, she will need to talk to someone about it."

Cat was happy with that answer then asked "why do you call her Queen Tessa? Is she royalty?"

Trent smiled and offered her the normal VentureRealm explanation of "she's the owner of the park so she is the Queen of the land. She has three princesses who oversee different parts of the park. Everyone who is employed and many in the town of Baylston have taken to calling her 'Queen Tessa' even outside of the park out of respect and admiration for what she has built and done. The park is really like its own little city and she runs it smoothly and with great authority."

Cat was thrilled and begged "can we go daddy? Please? Can we meet the Queen? Michael got to meet the queen over in England, can we meet the Queen of the park?"

John had to smile at her pleading and the looks she was giving were ones of longing. He looked at Valerie who nodded, so John offered her a hearty "we will see. If Willie has the time off we can make it a family trip. Your uncles and aunts are busy with work so they won't be able to go, but I think he has a week marked off for a family vacation."

A call was made to Willie Pena and his wife Kennedy with both having a week off in July. Michael, Miles and Jaimie were busy with work or their kids so they weren't able to go making it just the six of them making the trip with the five Penas.

Trent jotted down the information. "Queen Tessa will ensure passes for the group are sent. She'll even set aside time to meet with you all personally. With done, I believe my work here is finished."

Trent showed himself out and left to catch his private plane back home. Tessa met him at the airport and drove in with him, listening to the plans. She nodded in agreement, it was within reason and expectations of the Finns.

Jaimie entered with her cousins to seek out Sylvia and ask about the meeting. Sylvia hugged her tightly and explained "it was the best thing that could have happened. She is like you, she understood what I was doing for you and Rick. She's keeping me as a recipient and making me see a psychologist while I work this summer. She even got Mitch's parents to let me stay with them."

Jaimie smiled at hearing that, Sylvia kept hugging her until she calmed down then kissed Mitch for keeping quiet the whole time about the internship. Jaimie teased him "she's spending all summer with your parents while you only get a month." He just smiled and teased "they get to meet your parents too. I know my parents will find a way of meeting little Sylvia's grandfather."

That piqued her interest which caused Mitch to go "oops" as he revealed the trip without thinking. Jaimie just nodded and added "I figured that would happen. He comes all the way here to do some business and Cat is just siting there listening. There's no way she could let dad get out of taking them to the park, and she knew we are going to be busy with Sylvia and Johnny that we can't go with them. The little weasel wanted to do something and found the perfect thing to do."

Iris and Rachel Sylvester looked at Jaimie with grins to which she countered "I miss out on the trip but Sylvia comes first and I don't think she's going to be big enough to go on a long trip. Dad may get a nice van or motorhome to accommodate all of us but she's still going to be crying all night and pooping every few hours making things uncomfortable for everyone. I'd rather wait until she's bigger to take her anywhere."

The two just smiled brightly as the mother in Jaimie shone through while Valerie added "you are doing a great thing for her. She won't be ready yet to see Little Sylvia, she is going to be distracted and trying hard to keep up with her work. Seeing Sylvia will only cause her to suffer depression, it's best that she takes her time and only see her when she's ready. She will see her, it's unavoidable."

The two looked over at Sylvia who was shedding tears over them caring so much about her feelings to keep from enjoying a trip with family. Jaimie hugged her again, while Valerie gave Mitch a happy grin as he wisely kept quiet about everything. He knew what his parents were going to ensure that Sylvia was well fed, went to her appointments, and didn't overwork herself during the summer.

Iris and Rachel asked about the rehearsal dinner that night, Valerie gave them a bored "same as the others. Knowing your cousins it'll be a bunch of baby pictures and attempts to make Courtney and Michael uncomfortable." The two groaned at that, it was what they always did at the dinners only this time they were actually fully involved in the fun.

Iris asked if everything was set for the honeymoon. Valerie blushed but Jaimie explained "they have a trip to Washington to meet with the President then spend some time with Uncle Walter. He's probably going to also be forced to visit the British embassy and eat with the ambassador. Other than that it's up to them so hopefully they go outside of the hotel suite for more than a meal."

Iris and Rachel shook their heads at Valerie's dirty mind. Jaimie groaned and proclaimed "you act like the two never had sex before. Geeze, you know all of us have. The only ones who haven't are Reed, Jessie, Eric, George, Jenna, Jessica, Will, and Claire. Even Thomas and Rebecca have done some things. Don't you dare tell Uncle Dan I told you that but it's true. His angel is no angel."

Iris and Rachel blushed deeply and tried to get away while Valerie demanded "just what have you two been doing with Sam and Reyna and how much time should I tell your mother you need to spend apart?" Both said a somber "it was after the last dance, we didn't go straight home. Mom knows already, she told us to be careful and not to overdo things because Marcus might ask about it."

Valerie grinned widely while Jaimie groaned at the two confessing to her what they hadn't wanted to tell her. Jaimie complained "do you have to get us to tell you everything? You knew already didn't you?" Valerie nodded, adding "Leslie wanted me to make them squirm about it. She's fine with it. They are almost 17, they can enjoy their sex lives so long as they don't go overboard and end up in legal trouble for doing things in public."

The girls still blushed deeply while Jaimie led them out of hearing range of the giggling Cat and Ella. Ella followed behind them, keeping close to Jaimie and listening to the girls talk about their mothers trying hard to trick them into telling everything about their sex lives. Ella listened quietly while they talked about their girlfriends making plans for the holiday away from everyone so they could finally give each other their greatest gift- sexual pleasure.

The two noticed Ella who didn't say anything about it. Jaimie had them just act normally, she was not trying to be nosy and was more curious about sex than anything. It was better to just have her hear it from them than have her asking questions Valerie wasn't ready to answer.

Ella just listened as Jaimie complained about her fiance Rick getting her lingerie that she didn't ask for while Rachel complained that Reyna was looking for some scented, edible lotions. Iris blushed as she told them "Sam got me a vibrator. It's supposed to be realistic but it looked huge."

Ella gasped as the ladies looked at her in shame. Jaimie sighed and explained "it's no different than you having to use your dilator after your surgery, only they know how to make it feel nice. You wanted to be an older girl, well we talk about these things too. Are you done pretending or do we need to get into some more graphic detail that you might have nightmares over?"

Ella thanked her for letting her hear and left blushing. Jaimie shook her head and when Ella was gone she asked "what did they really get you?" Iris blushed deeply while Rachel gasped in shock, Jaimie grinned and added "it figures, you told the truth. It does seem like something she'd get you though."

Rachel sighed and grumbled "Reyna got me Midol and tampons because she was sick of me forgetting mine at home. She then gave me a necklace with a raven on it, matching the crown I got her." Iris gave her a happy smile while Jaimie complained "next year it'll be matching engagement rings, watch."

Downstairs, John asked Ella what the girls were talking about. Ella confessed "Rachel got some kind of lotion that Reyna licks off and Iris got something she puts in her privates." John nearly choked on his soda while Valerie laughed at the girls treating her like she was a big girl that she thought she was.

When he recovered John asked if it was true. Valerie just smirked while John shook his head over the two girls being so mature yet so immature with their two lovers. He loved them but sometimes they were the most immature among their group of 10 especially when it came to pranks.

Valerie was texting Leslie Sylvester, their mother, and got the truth and snickered at the girls having fun and ensuring they weren't treated like kids anymore. They were mature enough to accept sex and what it entailed, they were also mature enough to keep their parents in stitches. Leslie had been preparing for when her daughters popped the question to Reyna and Sam, knowing it would be coming soon and knowing that they were the ones who were closest despite not having been together the longest..

John calmed down after a bit and had Cat sitting in his lap for much of the afternoon as they killed time before the big rehearsal dinner. Cat was doing what she did best, when John would get anxious Cat was usually the one to calm him down as things calmed down around him. Cat was a daddy's girl, but she was also the one who knew best how to get into John's head and manipulate him to her needs.

Logan and JD came looking for their father so they could get dressed up for the evening. John thought they'd fight him over it but it was something all of the boys were doing with JD actually initiating it as he saw his big brothers preparing their suits for the wedding. Logan wore what his father was wearing as per his unofficial tradition as he had picked up a lot of habits from John that made sense to him.

John saw what Logan was wearing, a polo shirt and tan slacks, and shook his head; explaining "you don't have to look like me. You are your own man, you don't have to always act like me to try to make me impressed." Logan countered with an upset "I liked this and picked it out because it's nice."

John hugged him tightly, quelling his tears and understanding his reasons. John sighed and offered a solemn "I don't want you to think that you have to think that you are less of a son because you are new. You are my son and I love you no matter what you choose to wear and how you act." Logan hugged him and kissed his cheek, going off on his own to think while settling down.

Valerie saw the outfit and hugged Logan, happy that he was doing his own thing as his friends were going to wear something different. Ironically Neil Jones and Junior Kelly were often dressed the same but in different colors while Ethan Smith wore similar clothes as Logan but due to habit. He was his own man and just happened to closely match his father like the others matched theirs.

Ella came down dressed in a blouse and skirt that matched Jaimie's outfit while Cat wore a dress that was similar to the one her best friend Willow Reagan was wearing. The girls purposely coordinated to give themselves some fun but also because Logan was feeling bad about matching John. JD was the only one to not match anyone, he wore whatever Valerie set out which was a pair of black slacks and blue sweatshirt.

John drove over with the boys while Valerie delayed driving to take care of some last minute things. She had a big grin to which John muttered "better not be any of mine in there." She smiled and nodded but had no intention of embarrassing him again. It was all for Michael and Courtney's fun.

John was forced to set up the tables for everyone and greet people as they arrived. Logan all but ran him over when Piper Stoner arrived, giving him the much needed affection and distraction while JD helped John with the centerpiece placements. Piper gave John a big kiss for letting them have time to themselves and not freaking out about her kissing his cheek, he blushed deeply which she blushed at.

Justin Stoner came in with his nieces Aggy, Tabby, and Melinda while his wife Savannah walked slowly and was forced to sit down or else she would have helped John. Justin was adamant that she not do anything and had the girls keep her occupied, while he went off to keep Piper and Logan from being too friendly with one another. John shook his head, he was in full dad mode that evening.

Logan and Piper sat at a private table and held hands with Logan putting his head on her shoulder. She asked why he was dressed like John, getting a meek "I didn't mean to, I just found something I liked and put it on. I didn't know what dad was going to wear, I thought he'd wear a suit."

She hugged him and let him calm down, kissing his cheek as he slumped in his chair. Justin had to hold off saying something, noticing how she was making him feel a lot better and calming him. John offered a solemn "they can't stay kids forever, they are on the cusp of finding themselves. He likes her, she likes him, and they are making the boys and your nieces become more mature towards one another."

Justin smirked and added "it helps that he has someone who is just like him. I may not have known you but I can see he is you. She's either his Melanie or his Valerie. Either way, they are going to be close."

Aggie, Tabby, and Melinda were fighting the urge to say something about their cousin and Logan but stopped when they saw Ethan, Neil, and Junior enter. The three were now all smiles and once the boys reached their table they were all hugs and kisses with the girls forgetting anything they were going to say to Piper. The boys didn't know what spurred their sudden affection and didn't care so long as the girls were giving them kisses and hugs.

Justin shook his head in shame at the trio's sudden change to which John smiled and explained "they are maturing just as fast as Piper but have a little more catching up to do. Be glad that they are being so close to them without the sexual pressure, I damn near had a heart attack earlier thanks to Iris and Rachel talking about it with Valerie and Jaimie. I really don't want to think about them that way."

Justin let it go as the girls and boys had hands held and heads on shoulders as they sat together. Karen Smith, Sarah Jones, and Amanda Kelly had to fight saying something while Nigel Smith, William Kelly, and Mick Jones were fighting the urge to cheer at their sons' big step into manhood. John gave them a happy smile and pointed toward Logan and Piper who were even closer, with Logan embracing Piper in a hug and kissing her cheek as they sat alone.

The kids were left alone when the older and younger kids entered. The Kings caught the attention of the girls and boys with Jordan King getting dragged off by Piper and the girls while Jacob and Joshua King were grabbed by the boys. Neither of the three had a chance to refuse as the eight were insistent.

The girls tried hard to find the right thing to say to her but Piper was the boldest, asking "are you going to let your hair grow out?" Jordan blushed but the girls were eager to hear her answer. Jordan nodded, saying "I don't want to cut my hair short again. I hate short hair, it itches and it doesn't look good."

The girls giggled at that which was what Jordan hoped for. Piper looked up at her with anticipation, she was seeing Jordan as another big cousin but one who understood her more than the others. She heard from Ethan and Logan about her and understood what she was going through more than anyone else.

Jordan was just happy that someone outside her circle of friends and her girlfriend had seen her as a girl and wanted to talk with her. She wasn't sure how she should react to the others but Piper was hard to refuse and see as anything other than a girl like her. They were both former foster kids, but she had the trouble of people trying to get at her while Jordan simply had a gender issue that was solved.

Justin shook his head and smiled at his younger daughter unintentionally helping the anxious Jordan. He told Jordan's mother and father, Yvette and Ivan, that she was idolizing Jordan since she knew life like she had even if there were others who were former foster kids around. Yvette was happy to have the two getting along and the more she was around Jordan the more Piper made her relax.

Joshua and Jacob fared better as the boys wanted someone to talk with who wouldn't make mention of the girls hanging off of them. It helped immensely that the two knew Ethan well and were told to just consider him as their cousin because Yvette and Karen were so close. The fact that Nichole Smith and Joshua were close enough to be joined at the hip at times helped a lot as well even if they wouldn't say.

Joshua asked what they were doing after the wedding, getting Ethan and Neil to complain about them just playing video games all day while their sisters went off some place fun. The two were happy to do that, it was something they hadn't been able to do before. The two saw the look in the older boys' eyes and were left to feel bad but Junior added a happy "you at least get to come over to play too!"

Karen watched as the boys started to plot what they would do and where they'd go. She had to keep from laughing as the boys were deep in thought and going back and forth while Joshua and Jacob kept quiet. Karen happily told Yvette "you had better have ear plugs for tomorrow morning, and expect the six boys to come by once word gets around that they have the newest system."

Yvette gave her a happy grin while Ivan groaned at the implications. Karen nodded, telling him "did you really think he'd let them do without? I actually got the system and the twins got the games, but you know by now that John will not let anyone do without and they aren't the only ones to get them."

She looked over at the talkative Piper who was going to get a gift from the family that she would be cherished for the next few years along with the traditional pendants all of the kids got to show they were part of the family. It was almost tradition that the kids got a laptop and iPad for school but it was also a sign that they were trusted to keep their grades up and mature to be able to get online and talk with their friends when they couldn't leave home. She had done without for so long that it was a sign that she was no longer the girl who couldn't afford new clothes nor decent food.

The boys talked animatedly while the girls talked with the blushing Jordan. She had never had this kind of talk with girls before, they talked about stuff that she understood like TV and videos but it was also a lot of talk about boys and their intricacies. Since she had a unique perspective they were hanging on her every word as she talked about them.

Being the only one with an old brother who cared about her it was tough to not respect her views. Tabby and Aggy had brothers but they ignored their sisters while Melinda's was thrown out for assaulting his aunt when his cousins stayed over. The girls saw Jordan as a girl who understood them, the other girls were still distant but given that she was new to the family too Jordan shared the same understanding as them and could empathize.

The girls were soon joined by Nichole then her other friends as the rest of the sixth graders arrived. Seeing Joshua with the boys she gave a happy smile to Jordan who shrugged her shoulders. Kylie Pena gave her a hug and kiss as the four fifth graders giggled at Jordan's blush.

Off to the side, Kennedy and Willie Pena let out a sigh as their daughter had all but shown that the new girls were perfect fits with the girls and with their accepting of Jordan's relationship they were much more mature than their older brothers. It was tough to accept that their little girl was starting to become a woman but seeing her helping the younger girls accept life showed Kylie was growing up fast. She had found love with a young lady who needed love and had the younger girls seeing her as a person whom deserved to be cared about despite her differences and intricacies.

Willie walked over to John to ask about the family's trip out west to the amusement park, with John telling them that he was going to take the short route due to four kids. Willie felt like it was too good of a trip to not enjoy the scenery so he opted to drive the 1,500 miles and if they timed it right they could stop in major cities to catch some of the sights across a couple of days. Kennedy gave him a glare but John heartily agreed, but added "don't take your car, rent one so you could join us on the flight back if you want to. It's a long drive, trust me when I say it's best to just drive one way and fly back."

The kids sensed something was going on which none of them liked. Kylie snickered and explained "we are going to visit the park Sylvia is going to work at. The owner invited Uncle John and he's paying for mom and dad to go. Dad wants to drive there but Uncle John is going to fly because it's too hard to drive all six of them to the park especially with Cat and JD."

The kids looked at her in shock while Nichole added "it figures, Uncle John is getting away so Jaimie and Rick and Michael and Courtney can get used to being parents without their help. I think he wants to get away from my nieces and nephews too. Hannah and Bryan have been getting cranky and threatening to send their twins to him to watch especially with full diapers in retaliation for laughing at them." The others laughed as they knew it was true too.

The kids barely noticed the next to arrive, Arthur, Charles, and Grace Evans, and the elder Smiths, Bradford and Ophelia. The five saw the kids and asked who the newcomers were, having not had the chance yet to meet any of them as they were busy with their own planned activities while the newcomers had kept close to their new parents and relatives. Arthur explained "I think those are the new King and Stoner children. The others told me that they were just adopted."

It was tough for Charles and Grace to see children like those whom they wanted to foster and adopt being happy with the other kids but it wasn't their fault that the two had troubles with social services. They saw the kids as being close and felt a jab of jealousy while also seeing Arthur smile at what was to come for the family in the near future. Their resolve was at a low but Arthur's smile and nod to them showed that he hadn't given up hope that he would be a brother to other kids even if it took a while.

Off to the side, Mark Sylvester was typing away on his phone then sending off an angry email to the head of social services for the Evans' borough. He copied it to his boss Anne Connors who added her own email, one that explained exactly what they were doing wrong and why and that she would be in contact with their supervisors to have them explain why a family who was eligible, loving, and had a proper support network in place were ignored while multiple rotten families were allowed to host kids.

Mark walked over and introduced himself to Charles and Grace and explained "your son had told a few people about what is going on with your family and I have asked my boss to look into things on your behalf. You would not accept our help but you need it. We have glowing reports about you and I have seen just how much Arthur has been acting like a proper big brother to kids especially ones in the age range that you were hoping to house. Anne will get her way and have the ears of people who can force a change, they have tangled with her before and lost badly so she is not one to be taken lightly."

He had a shark-like smile that gave the couple cause to shudder but it was one meant for others. They saw his determination and were appreciative of the support even if thy didn't expect anyone to do a thing about it. It was one thing to have people like the Smiths support you, it was another to have a few people from an entirely different country to do the same for them.

Arthur looked at his parents' forlorn longing and shook his head. He was aware of what Mark was trying to do and why but he didn't think it would help much. The family was going to have to face them head-on and with their own supporters helping directly as they held the real power in the borough.

The Smiths watched Mark work and had a big smile on their faces as Charles was in for a big treat if Mark was offering his support. Bradford had his own solicitor adding pressure and had him ready to file suit against the borough on behalf of the family to ensure that their names were cleared and the reason why was made public. Grace was his friend and he helped his friends in every way possible.

Ophelia was deep in thought and smiled as she made a quick phone call to someone in the UK, a person who had the ear of the media and whom was ready to tear down those who needed a kick in the rear end. She was happy to help out and the story was one she had been seeking for a while. Charles and Grace were two people she admired for their unwavering support for Arthur's transition and were more than just victims in her eyes- they were targets for wrongdoing.

Ophelia looked to her husband who nodded back to her. It was a full-frontal assault that would include a council questioning, a legal investigation, and a press inquiry. Social services were about to go face to face with people who were angry and not willing to back off no matter what was threatened by them.

The next to arrive at the rehearsal dinner were Poppy and Dora Walker and Sienna Smith. As soon as they were spotted by the girls the couple were dragged over to where they were sitting while Dora was swept over to where the adults were congregating. Dora wasn't sure if she should be offended or happy that she was pushed away so easily, Nichole just gave her a big smile while the other girls looked up at her with a pleading look that showed they were trying to get some girl-time with the couple first.

Dora was forced to walk over to where Karen was holed up and sat down next to her while Yvette offered a hearty "the novelty of the couple will wear off as soon as their older cousins arrive." Dora nodded as she could understand the anxiety and boredom they were suffering from as the ladies were trying to be fashionably late. Karen added "they are trying to let the kids settle down first, obviously they aren't going to until they get here especially with the six pregnant ladies getting their attention."

Austin Woods arrived next with Sean and Danielle Kelly. Dora offered him a seat and tried to move off but Austin refused, Sean and he were setting up shop in their own area while the ladies sat close. It was their own way of having a "guy's area" as they fully expected the grandparents to stay close while the "kids" and grandchildren were in their own areas.

It made sense to her and she understood why he was trying to keep a low profile after his own dramatic week. She may not have been involved n any of it but she understood the man's need to keep away from the rest. If it was up to her, she'd be at the hotel but her niece would never allow that.

Karen offered Dora a drink and hug, knowing that she was feeling a bit out of place. Dora was only related to one person there, but Karen wouldn't let her back away especially not when she could use the comradery that only single mothers could know. Karen gave her a happy smile while adding "you know that the kids will be telling everyone about your designs and trying to get you to open up an online shop so you can do more business. I think Gabby Bollinger will be giving you a good set of designs for your site for helping the girls achieve their dream dress designs."

That was surprising to Dora but Karen added "first it was Courtney's wedding dress then it was Jessie's prom dress. There's no way she would ever let you have someone else create the website. Think about it carefully, she would be happy to talk about it and knowing her she has sketches already created."

It was a blessing for Dora as it had been talked about before by Sienna and Poppy. It would allow them to do some of their easiest business while allowing the hiring of someone to help put orders together. It would give another girl a chance to work while also allowing Dora more time for her design work.

Karen gave her mother-in-law a nod which showed it was actually a joint idea that the savvy Ophelia had thought up but Karen got put into production. Gabby had been thinking up designs for the Walker Clothing and Designs business but Karen's suggestion sealed the deal. Everyone had a vested interest in the shop thriving with Ophelia's own monetary interest being one of several.

Lilly Peterson was the next to arrive, bringing with her Ella, Faith, and her own rambunctious daughter Daisy. It was a long day so far for Lilly but it was also something she had loved doing. She handed out Christmas bonuses to all employees of her family's company much to their excitement.

Daisy made her way for her cousins but stopped short when she saw Poppy and Sienna there. She then made her way for the adults' area and gave John hugs, knowing he'd need them. She looked up at him with a big smile which he took to mean that she was expecting him to say something about her caring behavior but he played along and didn't give in to her.

Daisy stayed on John's lap for a bit until she got bored and sought out the girls, giving Poppy and Sienna hugs as they said hello. The girls didn't react to her, Nichole gave them a nod that she needed to do that for her own reasons. They understood, knowing it was a tough time due to the family business.

Lilly sat down with John and relaxed while he offered her a caring "you made a lot of people's week. It is one thing to say things are changing, you showed them that you are in charge and care about them as people. You did what Acme would never do, you gave back to the workers. When Acme is finally done with their shares next month I suggest offering a percentage to the employees as incentive for staying."

Lilly offered him a deep hug, he understood her like nobody else did. He offered a solemn "you are the sister that I wish I had growing up. I love Karen and Leslie but you are closer to me than they were and you understand me. I hope you can find love again, but it's impossible to replace Jerry."

Valerie hugged her sister tightly so she didn't burst into tears while giving John a bright smile. She gave him a happy "you do know that you did meet him before. Karen said you and he talked a few times when you were waiting for Hannah and Bryan at school. It was during a slow time at the factory so he was able to spend time with Claire and the boys but you did meet him."

Lilly gasped at the memories while John just nodded, it was something that would have happened as they had interacted indirectly in the past before their kids became classmates. Lilly gave him a smile that melted John's heart, telling him happily "you guys are the best brother and sister ever. You are a couple of angels, you know how to make someone's day by accident."

John had to get up to hide his blush while Lilly gave Valerie a loving look. John barely made it outside before being stopped by the incoming eighth graders as well as a grumpy Sydney Stoner. She asked if they were late but got a smile and calm "you are early. The ladies are purposely delaying things so everyone could be here together. Your cousins and sister are awaiting you."

The girls walked inside but Al Samuels made a diversion for Austin. She gave him a big hug and kiss, causing the elderly man to become speechless as she said "hi grandpa." Austin wasn't used to anybody calling him that let alone his youngest grandchild, he still found it hard to believe that he had family.

Al left him to his pondering while Sean offered him a hearty "she's not one to beat around the bush, she knows you are her grandfather and is not going to let you say otherwise. Besides, she's a little vixen at times and wanted to stake her claim to you as her grandfather in front of everybody."

Austin nodded in agreement, she was feisty and from what he could gather she was not one to take any sort of time to make up her mind about things. Danielle just smile and offered a happy "Rick and Thomas are just has thrilled as she is but are too old to show their affection. Thankfully that girl is just young enough to still need affection but not too old to give it. She's her father's daughter."

Austin's smile was interrupted by Walter and Lillian Gorman coming to the table to sit. Walter gave Austin a big grin while Lillian gave him a teasing "the novelty of being called grandpa will wear off. I still have to poke Walter whenever he gets nostalgic about being called uncle by the kids."

Austin nodded in agreement while Walter gave her a glare. Sean burst into laughter and asked "do you think it'll wear off in a week or will it last until he moves in with his son's family?" Lillian happily told him "it'll be a month, the three will not let him get out of being grandpa until then."

The next to arrive were the Reagans followed closely by Jorge and Victoria Castillo and the combined Porter and Vincent families. Jorge had the food while Louis Reagan had the drinks. Their wives carried the plates, cups, and cutlery which only caused the two to complain about them using them as pack mules. Tamara Reagan had to swiftly give Victoria a warning glare before she called them a couple of jackasses which would have been overheard by the throng of kids nearby.

Louis looked over at Austin then Walter and casually asked "how is it that you retire only to get a new job that pays better and comes with some nice perks?" Walter glared at him while Austin added "you could have had that anytime you wanted, no need to be jealous that he was asked and you weren't." Walter had to hold off laughing but Tamara, Lillian, and Danielle lost it and laughed hard at him.

Louis knew he was outsmarted and offered a toothy grin followed by swift "just make sure to always check your bed for snakes and rats. The folks down there are nothing like the ones up here, they take dirty politics to a new level and made it an art from." Walter agreed, adding "you act as if I haven't been to the White House before. It's alright, maybe I'll get you a ticket or you can join Michael and Courtney when they go there next week when they speak with the President and President-Elect."

Louis was about to counter but he knew he was beaten. He offered a humble "the three of us- you, me, and Michael, would make that witch burst into flames at knowing we had met the most powerful person not named Finn." Austin laughed now, adding "hell there's a few of your old buddies who would have heart attacks if they knew Michael was Brent's grandson. You should do it just for fun!"

The old buddies left it at that, letting the bad memories go for a night as they remembered good times with a man who died years before. They looked over at John and saw their old friend in the flesh but as a man who had done what Brent could never do- overcome his demons. He was what they had wanted their friend to become but he had never been able to, not after his heart was torn out and stomped on.

Trent is used with permission of Alecia Snowfall and the story that his appearance sets up is being written at the request of Alecia. You can read all about VentureRealm, Tessa, Trent, and the park here

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