Chapter 1

"Kokhana …"

I hated the tired and defeated sound in Vit's voice. I hated more what had put it there.

I told him, "Stop worrying about me. Okay, so we had plans. But this isn't the first time we've had to prove how flexible we are, and we aren't the only people this is affecting."

He sighed but consented to me massaging his shoulders and then leaned back into my embrace. "Yes. We had plans. I promised …"

Trying to not show how upset and angry I actually was, since it wasn't at Vit, I said, "We put off having kids because it is what made sense at the time. Things were too crazy, and we had a lot to do around Pembroke House, work that I couldn't have helped with had I been pregnant. Then there was the wars and rumors of war thing that has been going on. Waiting a little longer won't hurt. Just tell me at the end of this, even if … if we haven't found a place to call our own, we'll still discuss it."

"Of course my Kokhana. And forgive me. I simply cannot … cannot …"

We'd been over this same ground too many times to count. Vit's fear of leaving me pregnant and alone, of leaving a child of his without a father and some type of financial security that would keep them from growing up in an orphanage as he had. I told him, "Stop believing it is somehow your fault. We had an agreement. Life just handed us … a bowl of lemons. It isn't your fault."

"Isn't it? If I had not invested in those bonds, we would have had the cash to buy the house ourselves. You would not be leaving your family behind once again. It is too high a price to pay for my failure."

Stoic around all others, with me Vit could be highly emotional and fixated on what he saw as his shortcomings and their effect on me. In reality, while I was very angry, he was the last person I would direct that anger at.

"You didn't fail."

He tried a different track. "Veta, see reason. Stay with your family. There will not be as much communication as we had on the Sun and O'Meg."

"That's fine with me. Communication apparently isn't all that important to them."

Vit blinked and struggled for a response for a moment before acknowledging, "You … remain angry with them."

"I remain furious at them."

"Kokhana … they didn't know what would happen."

Snarling I spit out, "Of course they didn't. They only thought of themselves."

"Kokhana … Love …."

"Vit, I still love my family but some of them …" I shook my head. "I know they gave me a lot of help growing up and then getting on my feet as a young adult. They put up with a lot as well. I know I owe them way more than I will ever be able to repay. But they didn't even think to give us a chance. Nothing we said made a dent. They wanted everything as fast as yesterday and refused to think beyond what they believed to be their own needs."

"Derrick needs the operation."

"I know that!" I jumped and turned away. "God I'm sorry Vit. That was uncalled for. I'm so …"

And then it was him holding me. "Shhh. It is all very much for you." He sighed. "Are you certain Kokhana? The situation is going to be a difficult one with an uncertain end date and uncertain duties in uncertain places. And the rest of it …"

"I will not be separated from you. I'll deal with everything else, even the family stuff, but I won't lose you."

"You'll never lose me Veta."

"You know what I mean. And this is all because they …"

"Veta. Please. Do not let these circumstances cause a vohora … a feud. I will leave on my own if that …"

"You do that Vit Dymtrus and I swear on everything holy that there will definitely be a feud. The only reason there isn't one now is because they all act so … so …" I sniffed in contempt. "They are all so tragically apologetic." Sneering and mocking them, "We didn't know. No one told us what the consequences would be. It was all supposed to be painless." Returning to a more normal tone of voice I hissed, "Painless? If they had only given us a little more time, a few days at most, we could have purchased the house ourselves and kept it in the family. At the worst we could have paid them all incrementally and they wouldn't have been hit with the capital gains tax that cut their profit in half. But no … they 'needed' the money immediately. They had debts that were eating them alive and selling the house would make all of their problems go away. I cannot believe how stupid my own family has been."

"Gently Veta."

"Gently? Gently?! Who in their right mind ties revolving credit accounts to their house equity with the economy the way it is?! And at their ages?! They should have known better. Poppa taught them all better. And because they didn't get the amount they thought they were getting the loans are being called in anyway and their creditors are taking liens. What really gets me is now that I've had time to examine things that not even Charlie or Dylan thought it was a bad idea. They went right along with the rest of them thinking that it would solve everyone's problem and get rid of a problem asset that didn't bring income but created expenses. Expenses that WE were taking care of and they never even had to pay for!"

"Veta. Kokhana …"

I continued to rant. "Only it wasn't painless for anyone. And they created a huge problem for us!"

Trying to distract me he said, "You are sad to lose your childhood home."

I stomped my foot. "It isn't the house no matter what anyone thinks! They put you at risk! Your green card! It was nearly cancelled Vit! We were just this close … this … close … to the immigration hearing. What would we have done if Baird hadn't called out of the blue like that?!"

"Shhhh. Shhhh. God's ways are unknowable. It happened the way it did. Don't question it."

Who would have thought Vit would have ever become a member of what Charlie calls the Amen Pew? But somehow that is exactly what has happened. It is the contacts at the church and amongst Devin's crowd, that militia masquerading as a neighborhood watch group, that has allowed him to stay employed and keep his Green Card good. But times are hard and no matter what or how people are willing to help, the government says you can't be dependent on charity or subsidies to remain an immigrant in good standing. Farm workers are especially scrutinized and have a completely different Visa – nonpermanent – than Vit has. Only that is the category his short time contract work but him into.

See when my siblings, equal members in the Trust my parents left behind, voted to sell Pembroke House and split the proceeds, what no one seemed to realize is that the government worker that handled Vit's records would take it as a sign that he was homeless, especially since we weren't able to secure a lease on a rental where we could find work. It was one of those Catch-22s … no permanent job so no lease, no lease therefore we couldn't find a permanent job. That set off the alarms and then the case worker found that Vit didn't have a permanent job per se but was dependent on what they considered piece work. A hearing was set and if Byron Baird hadn't called us desperate the night before Vit was to appear to ask if we knew of anyone willing to do the job we had done previously … I don't even like to contemplate what could have happened.