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ELEVEN

          Having suffered relentlessly for two-and-a-half years beneath Tampa, Florida’s heat I was ecstatic to have left the overcrowded, schizophrenic, stand-your-ground, perpetually unpleasant peninsula 53 weeks earlier. Still, sitting comfortably up in the far north-eastern section of the state I had grown to hate, wearing nothing beyond shorts and a long-sleeve tee-shirt outside on December first, the sun dipping below the horizon I silently and begrudgingly admit that waiting for Sean and Loren that yes, today Florida’s weather is luxurious. Jean hates the cold, I hate the heat and adore a little winter; even so, pleasant is pleasant. I’ve got three months ahead of me to relish our looming season of darkness and Florida here and now is soothing.

          I again call Sean who replies with, “Almost there. Pulling off the highway now.”

         “Cool, No problem. I’m waiting outside so you don’t have to go in. You need a room key in order to park in the lot; there’s a gate.”

          “Got it. See you in ten,” Sean responds, disconnecting.

         Sean’s ten is more like five and even though I’m looking for them to arrive Loren’s white Honda manages to surprise me. I stand, wave, dig into my right front pants pocket for their room key and hold it out to them as I walk from my bench to the parking lot’s security gate. “Hey!” I shout with a smile, handing the envelope with the key-cards to Loren and then swiping the gate’s data reader with my card, “good to see you!”

          “Good to see you, too,” Loren replies, handing the envelope to Sean. “Hang on and I’ll park,” she adds, driving into the lot.

          I look at the raised gate and decide to walk through the center of the two armed barrier in case it begins to lower before I’m safely out of the way, thus giving me more time to clear its potential punch should it lower quickly. Jean steps out of the hotel’s side entrance where she’d entered earlier and I smile at her smile; she is not the most demonstrative of women and seeing her joy at the arrival of our son is  heartwarming. I join her by the car and we take turns hugging both Loren and Sean.

       We haven’t seen them since April when they came up for my birthday and we exposed Loren to her first waterfall with a hike near Ashville and it is a pleasure to be with them both. We chat, they gather luggage from Loren’s car and then go to Jean’s to retrieve our own. The backseat holds my valise with lap-top but no jacket. In the trunk are both Jean’s suitcase and mine but no jacket. I grab the cases from the back of the car and wonder if I have indeed packed a raincoat; rain is on its way, the only question being when, not if. I shrug, hand Jean her bag and we enter the hotel and take the elevator to the third floor.