June 30th/July 1st – Home Sweet Home

This last entry has been a long time coming. And today has been nearly unbelievable. The US was pulled back into the war last night when several simultaneous attacks occurred on British soil and we went to the aid of one of our closest allies. They want to evacuate the Royal family but they won't go, they won't leave their people. They have removed to Windsor which has become a militarized fortress, but that is as far from London as they would move. I wouldn't bet against their survival. The Mountbatten-Windsors aren't the Romanovs.

I wouldn't say the same for the leadership in France. They tried to run counter to the will of the people, and while the guillotine wasn't pulled out, the threats being made came close. I don't know whether that is going and for now don't have the energy to even think about it.

We were finally told we were free to go. That we were small fish compared to what they were dealing with. But how we took advantage of that freedom was up to us. Vit's service and heroism were acknowleged and went a long way to them finally believing our travels weren't a cover story for some other scheme.

Vit was and is exhausted though I finally got him to sleep. He wanted to watch over me. When they released us we were allowed to go back onto the ship and gather our personal belongings but we weren't given any help to do it. Vit is injured, his arm is in a sling, but he knew we had to work while we could. Mr. Baird accompanied him onboard as there was a salvage operation going on, trying to separate out what belongs to him and what was brought on board by DeCampo and his forces.

Only one of us could go so I stayed on the dock and kept calling, trying to reach Dylan. His number wasn't working. No one's number was working. Thanks to the hurricane, communication in much of Florida was still down and there weren't enough spare parts to get it back up and running, at least not without a lot of work arounds.

I accidentally dialed the wrong number and connected to Nicholas Marchand who was thrilled to be the one. He nearly blew my speaker running through their house yelling to get Madam. Hearing a familiar voice loosened my tongue and our circumstances came pouring out. And Madam is Madam and she promised to get right on it.

When Vit came back he was pulling a dolly with two trunks. It didn't compute at first but Mr. Baird and Vit acted like it was completely normal so I said nothing just told Vit who I had finally managed to reach and Madam's promise of assistance.

We sat there for an hour while I tried to reach any of the family only to be met by the same frustrating dial tone and message that the lines were overloaded and to try again later. Not even my texts were going through. I was becoming so frustrated I nearly threw my phone though that wouldn't be a good idea as the screen was already cracked in multiple places and the battery didn't want to charge.

Then things went from complicated to circus-like. The news media had gotten wind of the O'Meg and her story. Neither Vit nor I wanted any part of the spotlight or the blasted news conference that was quickly staged. Mr. Baird understood and agreed to keep our names of out of it. At the same time I got a call from Madam herself and she told me that she'd arranged for a rental car to be brought as close to the government facility we were at but that's as close as she could get it as it wouldn't be allowed on base. I nearly wept in relief. Vit visibly wilted as well. He held up so well but even Superman has his limits and Vit was reaching his. I on the other hand had been energized and was going to grab whatever chance was being offered.

We said our goodbyes to the others and Mr. Baird promised to be in touch. Their hand shake meant something but I was too intent on escaping to make room to think abot it. When the press conference started we snuck out a side door and made for a car being held just beyond the military guard posted to protect the building. Once we proved our identities the driver smiled and turned over the keys.

"With Madam's compliments."

He only stayed long enough to help us load the two trunks into the sedan's trunk. The car came with a full tank of gas, a case of bottled water, some snacks, and a satellite capable radio where we cold listen to what had been going on in the world. Vit would have driven but I was the one with the Florida driver's license and new my way around on the interstates and state roads. The traffic was hideous in some areas and in others it looked like a ghost town.

Eventually we did pull over at a rest stop to wash up and change out of the clothes we'd been wearing for multiple days straight. Vit wouldn't leave the car unattended so we had to take turns. He came out of the men's room looking mystified at the "luxury" that could be found on the roadside. Despite his world travels he'd never been to the States, so his learning curve is going to be interesting. The rest stop was busy and not everyone was friendly, especially when they heard Vit's accent. Their reaction reminded me of Vit's warning that his status as an immigrant it might make us a target. Somehow that only made me more determined. After DeCampo and the hurricane I don't think there was anything I would let stop me.

Vit and I agreed to remain as unnoticeable as possible. Part of that was me watching the road to not stick out by driving too fast. Fat chance of that. The I95 corridor was a wasteland of debris in the road, and road blocks. Even getting off the interstate didn't help. Cities were forcing traffic to reroute and to get into an area was sometimes impossible and the detours added hours to an already eight-hour drive. I was growing concerned as the few gas stations that were opened had very long lines, even outside the hurricane's path which came ashore in Sarasota and then cut up the center of the state. Thank goodness it had expended a lot of its energy and got sheared apart by some upper air system and was barely a Cat 1 at the time. But the storm was a wide one with an excess of microbursts that had tropical storm force winds. That is what caused the state-wide debris field. It also dumped a lot of rain. It officially ended the drought the state was in and in some areas created the exact opposite problem. The rivers and other bodies of water were at flood stage, but it hadn't closed any bridges thank the Good Lord.

We'd just hit a road block and were directed to detour around Jacksonville when my phone rang again causing Vit to jump awake from a nap where his injuries had sent him. Vit answered so I could drive.

"Mr. D! Oh my gawd it is good to hear you!"

"Nicholas?!" Vit asked sitting up straighter.

"Yes Sir! Look, if you can tell me where you're at I'll relay it to Miss Veta's brother. Frankie managed to bang around on Travelling Marchand and reached Benji. Francine helped Benji to pass the news along and now her whole family is like waiting for word. But their phone service is out but … some of them do have fiber optics up and working. Gawd it is so good to hear your voice. Miss Veta's okay?"

"Yes," he said explaining that I was driving. He put it on speaker and I was able to assure everyone that we were on the fastest route I could devise around all of the road blocks and detours. Francine then got involved and found several gas stations that were open around the route I was going to take and any road issues to avoid.

"Gawd Mr. D, it really is good …" he stopped obviously struggling with his emotions.

Francine got on the phone and said, "Let us know as soon as you can that you arrived safely. Grandmother and the parental units are at the hospital bringing Miss Betty home or I'm sure she'd say the same thing."

We said good bye as there were lit signs along the road warning of driving and being on the phone and the fines involved. There were also lots of State Troopers making sure people were abiding by the rules and getting them out of the road way if they broke down to avoid any more traffic snarls than could be helped. I finally snaked us onto US90 and headed west.

We were on fumes as I pulled down Pembroke Lane, but it didn't matter that the car gave up its last a few feet from the Pembroke House drive way. Vit stepped out of the car and came around to help me out where I was shaking so bad. Then I heard, "Dad! Dad! They're here! I see Aunt Veta! It's her! And Vit! I know it is!"

I think the entire world could hear Benji's announcement. It very nearly felt like it when people poured out of houses up down the road.

I could barely breath I was so suffocated with hugs and kisses and drowned by tears. Ask me if I care. I kept looking and calling for Vit and finally spotted him leaning on the car as Derrick gave him a good once over. When it was determined he wasn't in need of major surgery right that second he got pulled into the love fest and it was only when I saw that he was pale and overwhelmed at his welcome that I said we needed to get inside and sit down.

It was like being carried along by the sea we'd been traveling on for so long. Charlie, ever practical, organized a posse to bring in luggage. Angie had already fixed a huge communal pot of soup and wouldn't let up until Vit and I had eaten two bowls and some cornbread muffins. Kids climbed all over both of us and Vit looked like he didn't know whether to freeze, laugh, or maybe cry. Family. He was already considered a member, but he was finally starting to find out just what that was going to mean. But we were exhausted, and the adrenaline finally wore off.

Angelia insisted or putting us to bed … and no one objected to it being the same room and the same bed. The only thing was I must have gotten a dozen winks from the females in the family before we could finally escape for some privacy to start processing our new reality.

Derrick had done a number on Vit once there was light to see by. He said Vit's medical care was adequate, but he was unsatisfied to leave it at that and cleaned and redressed his wounds. He also gave him a shot of antibiotics to ward off infection in a couple of places that were looking redder than he liked. It zapped the last of Vit's strength and he fell asleep so quickly and hard that I grew worried all over again. Derrick took me aside and said we needed to watch for pneumonia as Vit's lungs were starting to sound a little wet. He hadn't been able to take proper rest since his injury in Dover and between that shock and all of the little shocks along the way, and the new injuries, his body was slowly losing the battle. Tomorrow he will fuss but if I can just keep him still and feed him properly for a day or two I know he'll turn the corner and avoid the worst. Pleast God let that be what happens.

We tried to get messages out to the people we promised to notify. The Marchands, Mr. Baird, and of course the authorities want to know where we are in case they need to question us again. I have a to do list to start but at least I was able to knock that off of it.

Sleep eludes me right now. It is some o'clock in the morning and the sun isn't near up yet. I walk around the house and can't help but smile. It's like when I was little. There are brats and sisters and nieces and nephews draped all over the place. Some of the family did have to go home but most stayed here. They'll have to go home tomorrow though. Just because we made it doesn't mean time stops and the world doesn't move on.

I've learned so much in this last year. I thought I had changed completely but being home, amongst my family, has proven that wrong. I'm different yes, in some ways very different, but I'm still me. God it was so good to be wrapped in Derrick's arms, almost like it was Poppa's and Momma's arms … and maybe in a way it was. I met Christine and several other new members of the family but it is going to take a while to process and get to know them.

Vit and I have a lot of work ahead of us. The house … well it is good to be home but it will be better when we can deal with some obvious issues we are facing. Vit whispered we'll do it together and not to worry at it. It is still a castle compared to where he grew up. It wasn't until after the bedroom door closed and I went to take out something for us to sleep in that I found out what the look was for between Vit and Mr. Baird.

Booty.

Pirate booty.

I looked at Vit and said, "You have some 'splainin' to do Cossack."

He grinned despite his exhaustion and said, "Tomorrow?"

"Fine. I trust you. But there better be a good story behind this stuff."

He grinned even broader and said, "Oh Kokhana, there is."

And still I roam the house. The heat is nearly suffocating but sometimes that happened when I was little too. It is all the people and the fact that the brown outs don't let the AC run long enough to do much more than keep the humidity at bay.

I'm going to be running just enough to keep the chaos at bay in the coming days. I'm home. But home isn't a place it is the people. Vit. Derrick. Charlie. Dylan. Devin. Angie. Christine and her daughter. All of them. Tomorrow is time enough to find out about the ones that aren't here but that's okay too.

I'm closing this journal and will pack it away. This is the end. On the other hand … maybe I'll start another journal tomorrow or in the next few weeks. A lot is going to be happening. Maybe I'll have the time to write about it. Maybe I'll need to write about it. Who knows? But that's for later. For now I think I'm finally able to go lay down beside my husband and rest. Yes. I think I'll do that. Rest. I need to. Because tomorrow is another day. And I'm finally home.