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The flight to Los Angeles wasn’t particularly full. Sharon, Michael and Inez sat in a center section in the first-class cabin, a luxury Sharon seldom indulged in, but a necessity for Michael. Still, Sharon had to concede, as she sat back in the bigger seats and stretched out her legs, that first class had its compensations.
Michael had head phones on even before the plane took off and was soon in his own little world, switching through the channels on the seat back TV. Inez dozed for a bit, then as the flight attendants served drinks, she and Sharon began chatting.
“You sure you’re okay about Toby living with you guys?” Sharon asked, finally. “You seemed so ambivalent about it last night.”
“Oh, it’s not Toby,” Inez said, glancing at Michael, who clearly hadn’t heard a word. “Seriously, it isn’t. I adore her and we’ve always gotten along well. It’s just… My biological clock, you know?”
Sharon’s eyebrows lifted. “I thought you didn’t want kids.”
“I thought I didn’t either.” Inez smiled. “But now there’s Michael and he’s such a great dad. I see some of my friends with their babies and I can’t help thinking how nice it would be.” She shrugged. “Maybe not.”
“Michael want to?”
“He’s warming to the idea, I think. He doesn’t want to start over, and he’s afraid we’ll split and he’ll be parenting from a distance again.”
“I can’t blame him for that.” Sharon shook her head. “If there was anything that Cameron did that made me mad, it’s the way she didn’t want Michael around as much as he wanted.”
Inez nodded. “Well, I’m pretty sure Michael and I won’t split. And even if we do, I hope I have the good sense not to keep him from his kids. Those girls adore him.”
“Yeah.” Sharon nodded and sighed.
Inez nodded as well and the two lapsed into silence. Sharon found herself musing about babies and having one and was rather startled to realize that she was seeing Mark Jerguessen in the background as the father. She looked over at Inez, who had started dozing again. Sharon shook her head to clear her mind and picked up a book, hoping somehow that she could exorcise that last image.
Sharon felt somewhat wrung out by the time she followed Michael and Inez off the plane at Los Angeles International airport. Michael already had his phone out and was dialing.
“We’re down,” he told the person on the other end. “Terrific. We’ll meet you at the baggage claim… Uh-huh. Cool. See you there.”
“Meet who?” asked Sharon, shifting her carry-on.
“Sarah and Susan,” Michael said, grinning. “Suse said she can take me to their car while you and Inez get the bags.”
Sharon glared at him as she addressed Inez. “Amazing how he always manages to get out of tiresome little chores like that.”
“I know,” said Inez. “One of these days.”
“What?” Michael asked.
As the three spilled into the waiting area next to the baggage claim, Sharon spotted Sarah first. Her youngest sister was bouncing up and down and waving. Sharon cringed, hoping that people wouldn’t recognize who she was waving at. Michael didn’t seem to mind and scooped Sarah up in his arms as the young woman ran his way.
“How’s the baby!” he teased.
Sarah slapped his arm. “Michael, put me down!”
She was about Sharon’s height and mostly slender. Her hair that day was its natural light brown and cut shaggy and short. She had a small dimple in her nose where she’d worn a nose ring until piercing got popular.
“Hey, Sarah,” said Sharon, as Sarah pounced on her.
“It’s great to see you!” Sarah crowed.
“You’re looking abnormally normal,” Inez said as she got her hug.
Sarah was, in capri jeans and paint-splattered t-shirt.
She shrugged. “Why not? I’ve got my artist cred. Hey, Suse! Here they are.”
“No kidding,” Susan said back, being almost on top of them.
Somewhat paler than she’d been before her accident, Susan still carried herself like the dancer she was, at least from the waist up. Her left arm was in a brace, but she sat in a yellow-striped racing wheelchair. Her brown hair had also been cropped and she wore a black top and jeans. Sharon bent to hug her.
“Good to see you, Suse,” she said softly.
“Good to see you.” Susan grinned. “And since Sarah here has done such a great job of attracting all kinds of attention, I’d better get the Swelled Head to the car before we get swamped by autograph seekers.”
“And he wonders…” Sharon sighed, spotting the furtive looks aimed at Michael as people in the crowd tried to figure out who he was.
“I’m not attracting attention,” Sarah said. “My god, we’re in an airport. You expect people to holler and hug and all that.”
“It’s not like they’ve been gone that long,” Susan replied. “We saw them at Christmas. That was only a few months ago.”
“Come on, Suse,” said Michael. “Let’s get to the car.”
After the luggage was collected, the group re-united at the older Honda Accord that was actually their parents’ car. Michael had bought more recent models for his parents, but they kept the older car as back up for when their children visited. Michael did help load the trunk with Sharon’s suitcase, Sharon’s and Michael’s guitars, and Susan’s chair.