Short, I know, but as I typed the last sentence, I knew… the chapter had to end there. I'll be furiously typing the next! Much love!

Fade into You

Chapter Twenty-Two:

The Welcome

"You never told me it was going to be this mountainous," I breathed, watching the trees blot out the mountain-edged sky, only for it to reappear a second later as the car moved through the wilderness. "You grew up in a paradise."

"I grew up Montana," he snorted. "But I like it anyway."

"So is your dad still running the store?"

"Dad's retired now, but my sister's husband runs the store. The entire family lives within 20 miles of each other, except for my brother Grant. He's still a city boy." Ruben winked, and then redirected his attention to the road. I felt a thrill of fear crawling up my spine. I was a city boy. And there I was, surrounded by trees, wild creatures, and enough mountains to blow the mind of any flat, desert-born fool.

"Do you…like… live near these mountains?" I had an image of bears crawling down and ripping me to shreds while I meandered in the dark, searching for the outhouse.

"No," Ruben said with a chuckle, and I felt a moment of relief. "We live in the mountains. The town rests at the bottom of them, but it's a short drive up to the house."

My nervous foot-tapping started up as I remembered our little arrangement for the next few months. While Ruben got settled, found a place for us to live, and cemented his job, we were staying with his parents. I managed to keep my title as Rookstool's "foreign correspondent," communicating and working with her online, and so the checks would keep rolling from my end. But Ruben was a hard worker; he couldn't stand to be idle for long.

"You look frightened," Ruben mentioned, just as the town came into view. He wheeled the rental through the rough streets - in dire need of repair - and turned onto the mountain road.

"I don't like bears," I muttered, staring at the rock spiking into the sky.

Ruben barked a laugh, clapping me on the shoulder. "If that's your biggest worry, you're in for a surprise! You should be afraid of me."

I gave him a reluctant smile, sensing that things were about to get silly. "Why's that?"

"I'm in my natural habitat now," he bragged, deeply inhaling the filtered, chilled air of the car rental, pretending that he was sucking in fresh mountain air. "You've got a bonafide mountain man on your hands, boy. Do you know what that means?"

My brow arched. "Sexy lumberjack role playing?"


He growled.

By the time we arrived at his childhood home, the atmosphere in the car was playful and relaxed. But once I saw his father, well-tanned and sitting on the lawn in a plastic lawn chair, drinking beer, my mood shifted.

"Dad!" Ruben cheered, leaving me to linger by the hood of the car. Arms open, he approached his father, who only stared at him in response. "Oh, come on, Dad. I know it was a terrible loss…"

"Forty-two to eleven!?" Nigel Knight jumped up from his lawn chair, kicking it onto its back, and crushed the can in his fist. He was more bearlike than any human had any right to be, and he towered over his 6-foot tall son.

"Sorry, Dad. They'll do better next time."

The smell of grilling hot dogs mingled with the smell of trees, and I realized that I was way out of my element. Ruben came from a big, passionate sports-loving, outdoor cooking, baby-having family. I was an only child born in suburbia to a couple of the most boring, lifeless people on earth. The Knight family was going to swallow me whole, and I knew it the instant I saw Ruben's mother.

"HONEY BEAR!" The plump, red-faced woman bolted from the back yard, balling her "Kiss the Chef" apron into a ball and tossing it into the air. It floated to the ground as Theresa Knight tackled Ruben. She was half his height, and wide enough to welcome one and half Ruben's into her waiting bosom. She was the picture of motherhood with long, stringy blonde-and-silver hair pinned up unsuccessfully, absolutely no makeup, and those "comfy" shoes that look like shit but feel like heaven.

It didn't stop there. Cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and friends flowed out of that back yard. By the time anyone remembered my presence, lurking by the car, a crowd of at least 30 had accumulated around Ruben.

"And this," Ruben shouted over the clamor of his family and friends, "is Dillon."

It was like being hit by a hot-dog scented tidal wave of arms and lips. His aunts and female cousins smothered me with kisses: on my nose, my cheeks, my forehead, and even my lips, once. The males smacked my shoulders, roped me into hugs, shook my hands, and then praised my strong grip. It was a long, warm welcome, and as everyone decided to shuffle back to the food, I felt it happening. Ruben and I were alone, thankfully, when I burst into tears.

Aw. ;) I want this family. I guess that's why I wrote it this way.