From the Cradle to the Grave

By NiteSkyStar

Notes: See, I told you it wouldn't take too long! And just as a general response to some of the reviews I've gotten, I just want to reassure everyone that again, THIS WILL NOT TAKE LONG! Like I said, it's mainly the first third or so of the story that's been bothering me, so after that gets revised and posted, the rest of it will probably be posted 2, even 3 chapters at a time. I really plan on barely changing the more recent chapters, if at all, so no worries. Anyway, here's chapter 2 with a new scene added. Enjoy and REVIEW! Thanks!

Chapter 2 - Gone and Back Again

Months passed. Then years. Fall turned to winter, winter turned to spring, spring turned to summer, and summer turned to fall, over and over and over again.

And, without fail, every time Meredith's parents decided they needed to go out for a night on the town, they would call Chris. Certainly it was known that Katrina and Victoria could easily fill the position, particularly as time passed and all the children got older. However, their parents were not ignorant; they saw how deeply attached their precious baby girl had become to Chris over the years... saw how great he was with her, saw how well he played with her and how kindly he spoke to her, and, conversely, how enamored she was with him. Katrina and Victoria's idea of babysitting, on the other hand, was to plunk their sister down in front of the TV with a never-ending stream of Disney movie and disappear into their rooms, leaving her to her own devices; not exactly their idea of stellar childcare.

So they continued to conveniently ignore this fact, and kept hiring Chris to come over and watch their darling little girl. He always obliged without hesitation and with much enthusiasm. Money was not an issue, they figured, so why not? The beaming look of complete and utter adoration on Meredith's face whenever she found Chris waiting on the front steps when she opened the door was priceless in itself. Sure, as the years had gone on, their activities had progressed from hula-hooping and picture-drawing to movie-watching and video game-playing, but regardless, their mutual fondness for one another hadn't seemed to change. In Meredith's parents' eyes, Chris was the doting, loving older brother she never had.

And on one sweltering summer evening, three years after little Meredith had so adoringly drawn Chris the picture of them together, the two of them sat side-by-side on the couch watching a movie, a bowl of hot, buttery popcorn between them.

Young Meredith, who was now nine and freshly graduated from the third grade, snuck a quick glance over at Chris.

The little girl frowned.

Something was different about him tonight, she couldn't help but think. She didn't know what exactly, but regardless, she could feel it. Something was just... off.

Chris, now 18 and on the brink of adulthood, was slumped back on the couch, his usual easygoing smile mysteriously absent this evening, mindlessly popping popcorn into his mouth periodically. Though his bespectacled stare remained glued to the screen, his turquoise eyes had a certain hollow, glazed-over look to them, as though his mind were on something else completely. Normally, he would've been talking and laughing and joking around with her; however, tonight, a strange air of quiet melancholy had been hanging around him all evening like a gloomy, dark storm cloud.

He just seemed... sad.

Shifting uncomfortably in her seat, the concerned Meredith finally worked up the courage to speak up. "Chris?" she asked, quietly, tentatively.

Chris almost seemed to jump at the sound of her voice, as if snapped out of a trance. He turned to look at her, and gave her a slightly forced grin, doing his best to look cheerful. "What's up, Mere?"

The little girl stared up at him with her big, searching brown eyes, curiosity and worry filling her gaze. "What's wrong?"

He tilted his head sideways in puzzlement, but even in spite of his calm, cool, collected front, Meredith could still see the sadness in his eyes. "Nothing. Why?"

"I dunno," she responded, shrugging. "You look... sad."

Chris's eyes widened. A tender smile beginning to tug on his lips, he shook his head slowly, letting out a soft chuckle, clearly touched at her concern. "Aw, Mere, I'm ok," he said, scooting over on the couch and wrapping an affectionate arm around her shoulder. He gazed down at her, fondness in his eyes. "No need to worry. I'm just... in a bit of a weird mood, that's all. But thanks for asking."

At the feeling of his big hands touching her upper arm, Meredith stiffened slightly, unable to help herself. Staring up into his beautiful, kind blue eyes magnified by his over-sized glasses, she couldn't help but feel a pleasant tingle course down her spine and spread throughout her entire body. Face steadily reddening, she looked away uncomfortably, confused.

Lately, as a burgeoning nine-year-old who was slowly but steadily creeping towards puberty, Meredith and her friends had found themselves deciding that perhaps boys weren't as "icky" as they had previously thought. The long, antagonistic, fierce boys vs. girls games of tag she and her classmates had used to play at recess had recently begun to evolve into something else; the beginning awkward, unsure stages of flirtation, all of the girls shrieking with feigned terror and secret excitement as the boys used the playground game as an excuse to chase after them. Maybe, they had begun to think to themselves, boys' cooties weren't such a terrible thing to catch after all.

And suddenly, Meredith had found herself feeling strange whenever Chris was around. She couldn't quite identify the emotion (she was still too young to really decipher the complexities of her fledgling heart); all she knew was that it made her feel "weird", as she had so aptly described it to her friends. An accidental touch, that winning smile... all of it was suddenly causing her body to react very bizarrely. Now, whenever she was around him, she found her heart racing, her palms sweating, her body tingling, always keenly aware of the space between them.

Sure, he wasn't conventionally handsome; he had finally lost the braces, and his acne had cleared up slightly over the years, but he was still as tall, scrawny, and awkward as he had always been. However, in spite of all of his physical shortcomings, Meredith found herself strangely not caring. She suddenly couldn't help but notice the appealing curve of his strong, square, masculine jaw line, how deep and pleasant and gravelly his voice was to the ear, how radiant his smile was, how incredibly, strikingly blue his turquoise eyes were.

And of course, how kind he was. How smart and funny and compassionate and caring and sweet he was. How he treated her like an equal, like a peer, always careful to be respectful of her intelligence in spite of the fact that he was nine years her senior. He was the only boy she felt truly understood her, who really "got" her, unlike the bumbling, immature, clueless boys her own age. She had always adored, admired, and respected him... but now, a different emotion towards him had begun to slowly and surely creep onto her radar.

It was all very odd and unfamiliar. She didn't like it.

Heaving a deep sigh, still very disconcerted by these new feelings, Meredith turned her head back to face the TV screen, doing her best to purge those thoughts from her mind. She was just beginning to get absorbed back into the movie, when suddenly, Chris's voice came again, his tone slightly different this time.

"Mere, do you think I'm a loser?"

She snapped her head over to look at him, surprised.

So that's what had been bothering him. He was staring at her, eyes wide in anticipation, leaning forward, eager to know the answer. There was a kind of sad, despondent desperation lingering behind his beautiful ice blue stare; a certain vulnerability she had never seen before, and Meredith felt her heart suddenly ache for him. She shook her head wildly. "No!" she responded vehemently, looking scandalized. "You're not a loser. You're the coolest boy I know!"

Chris let out a slightly sad laugh, his lips curling upwards into a semblance of a smile. "Thanks, Cabes. I appreciate it." He paused, his mouth twisting into a depressed grimace once more, his voice sounding crestfallen. "I wish the kids at school thought the same."

Meredith stared up at him, at a loss for words. She knew perfectly well that Chris wasn't exactly the most popular or well-liked boy at his school; Katrina had been only too eager to emphasize that point time and time again, always with a snobby, disdainful sniff. She had even heard her older sister tell her mom in private that Chris was often picked on by the jocks, mocked for his scrawniness, for his intelligence, for his shyness, for the fact that he even dared have a crush on Katrina, a girl clearly light-years out of his league. At this thought, the little girl felt her face get hot, clenching her little fists in anger at anyone who had dared be mean to such a gentle, kind soul. Meredith looked back up into his sad, forlorn eyes, and felt her heart go out to him, sympathy for his plight welling up inside of her.

"Well, don't listen to them," Meredith said dismissively, doing her best to lift his spirits. "They don't know what they're talking about."

Chris chuckled, reaching out and affectionately ruffling her hair. "Thanks, Mere. Glad I at least have you on my side." He paused, heaving a deep sigh, getting a faraway look in his eye. "I mean, sure, don't get me wrong, I'm gonna miss home and all, but I can't wait to get away from here. August can't come soon enough."

The little girl's brow furrowed in confusion. "August...?" she repeated dumbly.

He glanced down at her, surprised. "Yeah. August," he said with a nod. "I'm going away to college, remember?"

And suddenly, she felt a searing stab of pain in her fragile young heart. How could she forget? Chris was leaving. Certainly the little girl was somewhat familiar with the process... after all, her very own older sister had gone away to Yale the year prior. But somehow, the thought of Chris leaving was so incomprehensible, so depressing... she hadn't even really thought about it. But sure enough, in a mere month's time, he was going to be gone. Finally confronted with the harsh reality of the situation, she felt her heart plummet.

She gave a sad sigh of defeat, her eyes immediately finding the ground. "Oh, yeah," she said slowly. "I forgot."

She could practically hear the gears in his brain grinding away in the silence, trying to come up with an appropriate response. "It's going to be weird, but I'm excited. A fresh start, you know?" he began, before pausing. "I'm gonna miss you though, Mere."

The little blonde girl looked up at him again, eyes wide and sad. "Are you gonna forget about me?"

Chris shook his head furiously. "No, silly," he said, doing his best to sound reassuring. He reached over and gently touched her arm. "You're a very special little girl, Meredith. Of course I'm not going to forget about you."

She did her best to smile at him, but her smile didn't quite reach her eyes. "Yeah," she said slowly, her voice tentative. "If you don't babysit me again before then, you're gonna come say goodbye, right?"

"Well, duh," he responded as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "Of course I am."

Heaving a deep sigh, the little girl turned her attention back to the TV, her heart heavy.


August came and went.

Failing to keep true to his word, Chris didn't come and say goodbye.

The last Meredith heard of him was that he was "having a great time at Princeton and making a lot of new friends", according to her mother, who had heard it from the lips of Mrs. Shumway herself.

And after that, nothing.

Chris Shumway was gone.

At first, the little girl was devastated, her young heart mourning the loss of the older boy who had grown to become her dear friend. However, as things tend to go with children, who are resilient beyond measure, any temporary loss she felt was gone quickly; she was kept plenty distracted by the new world that middle school soon brought her, the boys, makeup, and clothes that had been slowly entering her life beginning to take over.

And soon, she forgot about Chris. He faded from her mind as she grew and changed from year to year.

But of course, traces of his memory still lingered in the back of her head, just waiting to be re-awakened.

And little did she know that Chris Shumway was soon to walk into her life again, and this time, change it beyond her wildest dreams.




Three, four. Five, six, seven...

The sun shifted its position in the jewel-toned afternoon sky, and Meredith squinted as the golden sunlight shone directly into her eyes, interrupting her sailboat counting. Covering her bronzed face with her arm, she reached up and placed her sunglasses back on her nose. Heaving a deep sigh of contentment, the blonde girl readjusted herself on her float, completely relaxing all of her muscles, idly dragging her hand through the crystal clear, vibrant turquoise ocean waters of Key West.

Meredith was now 17, and the once tiny, cherub-cheeked little girl had blossomed into a stunningly beautiful young woman. Her long, silky, straight blonde hair now fell down her back like a golden waterfall, her petite figure now slender and toned, with elegant curves in all the right places. Her pretty face was not artfully stunning like Katrina's, with her delicate, sculpted bone structure, or unabashedly sexy, like Victoria's, with her cat-like, seductive eyes and the constant come-hither look that seemed to grace her visage... but youthfully, innocently, naturally beautiful, with apple cheeks, big, brown doe eyes, a pleasantly upturned button nose, and plump, full lips.

Letting out another happy sigh, the girl resumed counting the numerous white sailboats drifting leisurely through the clear Florida waters. Ah, this was the life. She didn't know how long she had been at the beach... in fact, she didn't know the date, the time, whether it was Monday or Friday. She had lost all track of everything. There was nowhere she had to go, nothing she had to do... she could just lie back on the sandy shores, tan, sip umbrella-embellished tropical drinks, and relax.

What a perfect last vacation before school started again.

"Ahhh! Hey!" She sat bolt upright on her inflatable float as she was splashed with ocean water. Her brown eyes looked down just in time to catch the culprit giggling and laughing before sinking back underwater.

"Vic!" Meredith cried, brushing water droplets off her skin. "Stop it! I'm trying to tan."

All smiles, Victoria emerged from the clear ocean water, running her fingers through her soaked blonde hair. "You look tan enough to me, Mere," she said with her trademark mischievous giggle. "I think you need to get in the water."

"No thanks," Meredith retorted, settling back down on her float. "I'll swim with you later. Right now, I'm just trying to relax."

With a roll of her electric blue eyes, Victoria reached up and grabbed hold of her younger sister's wrist. "Come on, Mere, you promised."

"Let go!" Meredith cried, wrenching her arm free from her sister's determined grasp. She glared at Victoria over her sunglasses. "Why don't you get Katrina to take a swim with you?"

"You know as well as I do how much Katrina hates the water. It ruins her perfect hair," she said, gesturing towards the shore. "She's up on the beach tanning and seeing how many guys she can reel in and then reject."

Her younger sister gave her a disapproving look. "Hey, Katrina's not that bad."

"Uh huh. Sure," Victoria deadpanned, raising her eyebrows. "I mean, god knows I love her to death, but we all know she's a bitch and a half when it comes to men. Doesn't stop them all from being completely obsessed with her though. Can you say ice queen?"

Meredith chuckled, a sly grin spreading across her features. "Um, you're only say that because you're the most boy-crazy girl alive."

Victoria put on a fake look of shock. "Meredith Cable! How dare you!" Giggling, the girl reached under the float and grabbed hold. "This means war."

"Oh, no, Vic, you wouldn't… Ahhh!" Meredith's laughing screams echoed through the breezy late summer air as Victoria overturned the raft, sending her tumbling into the warm ocean.

After several seconds, the girl emerged, coughing and sputtering, and Victoria laughed and laughed and laughed.


"At this time tomorrow, we're all going to be separated again. Back to boring Silver Springs. I can't believe summer's almost over."

Katrina and Victoria exchanged rather annoyed looks as Meredith got a faraway look in her eye, absent-mindedly sipping her strawberry daiquiri.

"Shut up, Mere," Victoria grumbled, rolling her eyes. "Me and Kat's leisurely summer vacations ended a while ago, so don't complain. High school's a piece of cake compared to college."

"Especially medical school," Katrina added, and both of her sisters responded with an irritated glare. "What?" the girl asked incredulously, noticing that all eyes were on her. "It is!"

The three sisters were eating out at a charming little seafood restaurant to celebrate the last night of their wonderful tropical vacation. They were sitting outside around a table full of delicious food, talking and laughing and eating as they watched the blood-red Florida son sink beneath the ocean horizon, none of them wanting the night to end.

As the years had gone on and their respective five-year age differences gradually became less noticeable, Katrina, Victoria, and Meredith had become extremely close, finding themselves privileged enough to share that special bond that only sisters could have. Though they were still vastly different (Katrina was still undoubtedly the strong-willed superstar overachiever of the family, Victoria, the free-spirited, carefree wild child, and Meredith, the slightly quieter, more mild-mannered "good girl"), they loved one another deeply, and didn't let the fact that they were hundreds of miles apart from one another for most of the year get in the way of their relationship.

"Sheesh, Kat, I don't know how you do it," Victoria said with a shake of her head. "Med school, I mean. I'm not cut out for that kind of thing. Hence why I want to be an actress." She struck a pose, jokingly blowing kisses to her sisters.

Meredith laughed. "Vic, you were made to be in the spotlight."

She smiled. "Thank you, thank you very much."

"It's so hard to break into the film business," Katrina, ever the responsible one, said, frowning slightly. "It's such a cruel industry."

"Yeah, but I'm prepared to do anything to become a star," Victoria shot back with a wink. "Anything! I'll sleep my way to the top if I have to."

Katrina pursed her lips, shooting her sister a disapproving stare. "Why am I not surprised to hear you say that?" She turned to the youngest of them all. "What about you, Mere? Any plans for your future?"

Meredith let out a slightly irritated sigh, dropping her gaze and studying the floor. The future. Her absolute favorite topic of conversation. "Gotta get through senior year first," she muttered.

"Oh, hush!" Victoria cried, throwing up her hands in frustration. "I don't know what you're worried about. You're gonna have a blast. I'd love to go back and be a senior in high school again."

"I dunno." Meredith let out a quiet sigh, running her manicured fingers absently through her golden blonde tresses. "It's just that it's senior year. I don't wanna screw it up. It's my last year at O'Connell, and I want it to be perfect."

"For me, senior year was awesome," Victoria said, looking rather wistful. "Wow. I partied nonstop the entire year... and somehow, still got good-enough grades to get into Florida State."

"Senior year was pretty great," Katrina agreed, nodding her head. "Definitely my best year of high school by far."

"Trust me, Mere, this year is gonna be awesome for you," Victoria assured her younger sister, smiling encouragingly. "You're at the top of the pyramid now. All the little freshmen are petrified of you. You have nothing to be scared of."

"What are your goals for this year?" Katrina wondered, leaning forward on her elbows and examining her sister closely with her striking blue eyes. "It's always good to set goals."

Victoria grinned, rolling her eyes. "There you go, Kat. Trying to shrink us all again."

Pointedly ignoring her younger sister, Katrina continued to gaze at Meredith expectantly. "Well?"

"Let me see..." Meredith leaned back in her chair and sighed, listing her goals in her mind. "I guess just keep my grades up, improve my field hockey game, get into college... no clue what college though. It'd be nice if I could get an athletic scholarship."

Victoria raised an eyebrow, chuckling to herself. "And all your goals are school-related? Pssh... you're so boring. You're starting to sound like Katrina." Katrina shot her a nasty look. Victoria smiled sweetly back, and sat up in her chair, leaning forwards towards Meredith. "Hell, in my senior year, my goals were to party hard, get laid, have fun, get laid, and here's a shocker: get laid some more."

Katrina flashed her a disapproving glare. "You're such a bad influence on our baby sister."

"Bad influence? No way!" Victoria turned to Meredith and winked. "I'm just teaching her to have fun. And besides, I'm an artist... I knew I wanted to be an actress. Actresses don't need good grades. Math and science and all that shit is of no use to me."

"Well, you may think that now, but later, you're going to wish you had focused more," Katrina grumbled. "Maybe if you hadn't been so boy-crazy..."

"I was not boy-crazy!" Victoria protested. A pause as she mulled this over, and a silly grin spread across her face. "Ok, well... maybe a little."

"More than a little," Meredith laughed. "Victoria, you lost your virginity when you were 14. And in the backseat of a truck, too."

"Hey, I really liked that guy!" Victoria said, giggling to herself.

Katrina rolled her eyes. "Well, at least we know our little Meredith won't end up like you."

"Agreed," Victoria said, glancing over at her youngest sister and sticking out her tongue playfully. "Meredith hates boys."

"No, I don't!" Meredith retorted, looking offended.

"I'm just teasing you, Mere," Victoria chuckled. "But seriously... you're single now. Forget everything with You-Know-Who... it's all in the past. You need to start playing the field again. Get back out there. When are you gonna find yourself a new boyfriend?"

"I'm with Vic there," Katrina said. "You just get so... shy. And awkward. What gives? Watching your lame attempts at flirtation is just downright painful."

"I mean, jeez Mere... you're awfully pretty to look at but then you open your mouth." Katrina and Victoria exchanged looks, bursting into a fit of raucous giggles.

Meredith grimaced, her face getting redder and redder by the moment, her body sinking in her chair. "Well, thanks guys, that's so sweet of you," she muttered, desperately wishing she could disappear.

"I don't get it," Victoria continued finally after their laughter died down. "You have fairly decent social skills normally, but the second you're talking to some hot guy you clam up. It always happens the same. Some cute boy thinks you're attractive, so he approaches you. You exchange small talk for several minutes, he attempts to flirt but you totally come off totally uninterested and awkward and frigid, and so he gives up. Like what the hell?"

"That is not true!" Meredith retorted, feeling her cheeks get hot. "Give me a break, will you? It's... it's hard to put myself out there after everything that happened with my ex. I sort of feel like I don't even know how to talk to guys anymore, as pathetic as that sounds."

"Well, you need to get back in the saddle," Victoria replied matter-of-factly. "Practice makes perfect. You'll get back in the swing of things."

"What about that guy that we met earlier in the vacation?" Katrina spoke up. "He accidentally bumped into you when he was throwing around a football with his friends on the beach. He apologized, you guys chatted for a bit, and he offered to buy you a drink to make it up to you. Clearly trying to flirt with you. Your response? 'Uhh, no thanks, already got one,' as you awkwardly point to your water bottle?"

Victoria started slapping her knee in uproarious laughter. "Mere, get it together, woman!" she howled. "That guy was cute, too. You're so clueless."

Meredith grimaced, her face getting increasingly redder by the minute. "He had weird chest hair, ok? And besides, I didn't really feel any kind of... connection with him. Maybe with the right guy I won't be so cripplingly awkward. So back off!"

Silence. Victoria and Katrina rolled their eyes.

"Ok, then, Mere, tell me, because I'm dying to know," Victoria began, taking a large swig of her wine. "What's your idea of a perfect guy? Describe him to me."

"Hmmmm." Her soft brown gaze finding the little speck of orange peeking above the horizon, Meredith allowed her eyes to slip shut as she pictured the perfect guy in her mind. The ideal man... yes, that wasn't too hard to imagine. A dreamy smile crept across her lips. "Tall, brown hair, blue eyes, chiseled features. He'd be kind and charming and sweet and funny and caring and sensitive and generous and-"

Katrina scoffed, interrupting her, shaking her head slightly. "Well, that's quite the laundry list of hard-to-find characteristics. Good luck finding him, Mere. Hate to break it to you, kiddo, but no guy is perfect. You won't find a single one on this earth who is."

"It's the sad truth," Victoria sighed. "But don't worry, Mere... your 'perfect' guy is out there somewhere, waiting for you."

Meredith grinned. "Well, even if he never comes along, at least I'll always have you guys."

Her two sisters smiled back. "Definitely," Victoria said with a smirk. "Boys come and go, but nothing can break the bonds of sisterhood."

"I think that we should toast to this," Katrina laughed, raising her wine glass. "Let's drink to us, the Cables, sisters and best friends!"

"Cheers!" both Meredith and Victoria said simultaneously.

The three sisters clinked glasses, laughed, and drank to their everlasting bond as the sun finally disappeared beneath the ocean line, giving way to the cool night stars.


Amid many tears and kisses, the three sisters parted ways the next day, Katrina returning to Harvard in Boston, Victoria driving back up to FSU in Tallahassee, and Meredith returning to Silver Springs, the quaint, affluent Long Island town that she had called her home since she was born.

Meanwhile, their mother was back home in New York, sitting out on the marble terrace of the Silver Springs Country Club, having her regular weekly lunch date with some of her tennis buddies.

It was a simply beautiful warm afternoon, the breezy weather quite typical of late summer. The six impeccably-dressed women were sitting around the table, delicately nibbling their finger sandwiches and chattering away, enthusiastically dishing out and soaking up the latest dirt and gossip on all of their fellow townspeople.

And Andrea Cable just sat there, looking interested, but not really hearing a word any of them were saying.

Despite the passing of ten years, Meredith's mother was still as beautiful as ever. Her hair was still a brilliant shade of naturally golden blonde, her face still relatively wrinkle-free, her figure still slim and trim without the help of any plastic surgery. And as she leaned back in her chair, daintily sipping her tea and looking quite lovely in her light blue sundress, one could not help but be jealous.

Andrea wasn't really listening. She had tuned out long ago, not particularly eager to hear about Michelle Smith's nose job or Lawrence Brown's scandalous secret affair with his secretary. All of it was quite trivial to her, and her mind had turned to more important matters.

Sighing, she checked her watch. It was 12:05. She was going to have to go and pick up Meredith at the airport soon...

"Oh, and James and Elizabeth Shumway. Have you heard about their son?"

Upon hearing the familiar last name, Andrea snapped to attention. Her gaze rested upon the person sitting across from her, a rather snarky, gossipy woman by the name of Kristin Foster, who had opened her mouth and eagerly begun to talk.

"I'm sorry, Kristin," Andrea interrupted, waving her hand slightly. "I wasn't listening. Could you repeat that?"

"Certainly," Kristin said with a smile. "You're good friends with James and Elizabeth, aren't you?"

Andrea nodded. "Yes. We've been friends for years. Unfortunately, I haven't seen them in ages."

"That's because they've been off in Paris for the past several months," Kristin replied smugly, clearly reveling in the fact that she knew more about their lives than Andrea did. "James' firm transferred him over there for a year or so, apparently. For business." She sighed. "They sold the house and everything. Said that when they came back to the States, they didn't want to live in Silver Springs anymore now that they're empty nesters."

"Speaking of an empty nest," another woman said. "I hear their son Chris has been up to quite a lot lately."

Andrea raised an eyebrow, her curiosity stirred. Chris Shumway. Now there was a name she hadn't heard in ages. "Really? Like what?"

"He's some super successful advertising executive in Los Angeles now. Was one of the original start-up employees at Wyman & Baer, which is now hugely successful, as I'm sure you've heard. He's positively rolling in money," Kristin replied, taking a small bite of her sandwich.

Andrea couldn't help but smile slightly as she heard this, memories of the kind and caring boy who had so skillfully watched her youngest daughter filling her mind. "I always knew Christopher was going to be successful," she said. "I remember he was always very bright and quite charismatic. Such a charming boy."

"It sounds like he's used that charm to his advantage," another lady said with a grin. "He was named LA's Most Eligible Bachelor by some magazine a while ago."

"So he's single?" Kristin asked, eyebrow raised.

"Last I heard, he's still in the market. Has had dozens of girlfriends, though, from what I hear," the woman said. "He's quite the playboy nowadays, apparently."

Andrea stared at her in total disbelief, an incredulous smile appearing on her face. The thought of the tall, gangly, bespectacled Chris being swarmed by beautiful woman was one that she just could not wrap her head around. "Christopher? A playboy?" She almost laughed out loud at the idea. "He was the most skinny, awkward, geeky teenage boy I knew! In a very lovable way, of course, but all the same..."

"Well, apparently, he grew up," Kristin said with a shrug. "From what I hear, he's become quite attractive. Perhaps he was just a bit of a late bloomer."

"Handsome, successful, rich, and charming?" another woman said with a sigh. "Sounds perfect to me. I can't wait to see this new-and-improved Chris Shumway for myself."

"We ought to set him up with one of our daughters," said Kristin with a giggle. "He'd be a welcome addition to my family!"

"Oh, hell, forget our daughters... how about we set me up with him? If he really is as great as he sounds, I'd cheat on Richard for that!" another woman declared jokingly.

Tinkling laughs from all around the table.

Andrea chuckled slightly. "Too bad he lives all the way on the other side of the country," she said. "Otherwise, that'd be a lovely idea."

"Oh, you mean you haven't heard?" Kristin said, looking quite shocked.

Andrea glanced over at her curiously. "Heard what?"

Kristin looked around the table for dramatic effect, before turning back to Andrea and smiling brightly. "Christopher's been transferred to the city on business. He's coming back to New York in a week or so. And apparently, he's coming back to stay."

Author's Notes: Hope you liked it! Please review :) I'll keep the chapters coming as quickly as possible, I promise. Thanks again!