A State of Grace Pt. 06

bycarbinemaster©

"Enchante, Fleur," he said, quietly, and released her hand.

Fleur smiled in delight at the old-fashioned gesture. Then she leaned forward and hugged Jack.

"Charmant, Frere Jacque," she said, lightly. "I have heard much about you!"

"All good, I hope!" Jack replied, with a self-deprecating grin. "You are lovely! My little sister has exquisite taste!"

"Tu es le plus Charmant, Jacque!" Fleur said, laughing lightly. "But you are also, as you Americans say, full of it!"

"You aren't the first to say so, and no doubt, you won't be the last, either," Jack said.

He surveyed the rest of the people there. He gave Paulson a sharp nod of greeting and gave his attorney a brief handshake. He acknowledged the protective officers with polite, if somewhat confused nods, then he saw Crystal. I saw my dear friend draw a deep, sharp breath as Jack's eyes lit upon her.

"Well, hello there, I don't think I know you!" he said, smiling at her, but not approaching. He obviously didn't want to scare her.

"I'm John Collins, but most people call me Jack."

"Hello," Crystal squeaked. She closed her eyes briefly in embarrassment, then continued. "I'm Crystal Edwards."

"Oh! Miss Edwards, I'm told I owe you a lot of thanks for helping gather the evidence that got me out of this place!" Jack exclaimed, delightedly.

"Well," Crystal said, casting her eyes briefly downward and smiling coquettishly. "For my part, you are very welcome, Jack. But really, your cousins Kevin and Grace did most of the leg work. All I really did was present the evidence to the court."

"Still, thank you very much! I can never repay you for your help!" Jack said, moving a little closer to her.

Crystal reached out a hand, which he took in his. He caressed her hand and arm very gently. Her other hand was behind her back, waving at Mr. Andrews, letting him know all was well.

"Damn!" I thought silently to myself. "If Crystal gets any hotter, she's going to soak her panties through!"

I was standing a good three feet away from my friend, but even so, I could smell the slightest hint of female arousal coming from her direction! "Well, why not?" I silently asked myself. "In fact, good! They both deserve a chance at happiness. If things actually work between them, it might turn out to be a good match! Who knows?"

We all piled back into our respective vehicles and made our way to Elizabeth and Fleur's house. They were going to take Jack in for a while until he found a job and got himself set up in a place of his own. I couldn't help noticing that, as Jack got into the back of Fleur's Trailblazer, he cast a longing and appreciative look at Crystal's retreating ass in her skinny jeans.

"Huh, did you see that, Kevin?" I asked as he settled himself behind the wheel.

"What? Crystal's panties melting? Yeah, I'm pretty sure we all saw that Grace," he replied. "If you want my opinion, it could be a good thing, as long as she doesn't screw things up. Lord knows, she needs someone in her life that will take care of her needs and love her. It would be good for Jack to have someone, too!"

Kevin shifted the Jeep into gear and pulled into line behind Fleur. He looked thoughtful.

"I hope if they do end up making a go of it, that Jack can understand and accept Crystal's unique issues. It will take a strong man to deal with the scars left behind from what she's been through. I hope that Jack can be that man," he finished. "I want our cousin and our friend to be happy. I also hope he likes children! Sometimes, I get the sense that Kayla is looking for a daddy, you know?"

I smiled to myself. Kevin wasn't particularly perceptive when it comes to most people, but even he had seen Kayla's deep-seated need. I gently stroked Kevin's leg and smiled at him.

"I love you, Kevin," I said. "I love you for your own sake, for who you are, but I love you all the more for remembering the ones you love, and seeing their needs!"

It truly did touch my heart.

"I love you, Grace," he replied, sparing me a quick smile. "I love Crystal, and I love that little girl. I want her to grow up happy, loved, and fulfilled. I know that I don't have your empathy with people. I can't read people like you can. You truly have a gift for that sort of thing. I stand in awe of your talent, sometimes, I really do! But even I can see that that child is in need. Since Crystal can give her just about anything she could ever need, the fact that she isn't getting it means she must need something Crystal can't just go out and buy. A father is the only thing I can think of that fits that description."

I sighed, and shook my head, impressed at Kevin's perception.

"Yes, I think you're right about that," I said.

###

I was counting down the days to graduation, now. Less than a month to go! Already, the first round of trials of the members of Trent's criminal enterprise was wrapping up. So far, six men and three women had been tried and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. The trials of what the local newspaper called the 'big fish' were fast approaching, too. I looked forward to them with mixed feelings. On one hand, I wanted to see justice done (and get this over with, so Kevin and I could get on with our lives!)

On the other hand, I hated courts. I hated seeing people - some strangers, some people I actually knew on some level - revealed as the monsters they were. In the case of the people I knew, I hated having my perception of them destroyed when the facts were revealed. I lost all respect for several people during those initial trials.

At least I didn't actually have to take the stand myself. I wasn't a witness to anything, except the secret room. But there were enough other people who saw that, that my testimony was thought to be superfluous.

Jack and Crystal did, in fact, end up in bed together. Afterward, they started dating. Jack enjoyed spending time with Kayla as well, and things appeared to be going well so far. In fact, Crystal stopped grabbing people's asses at random moments. Even more surprisingly, she stopped rubbing herself against my body whenever we hugged. I took that as a sign that perhaps, she was starting to heal.

Not surprising, though, was Elizabeth asking Jack to be the one to walk her down the aisle and give her away at the wedding. I had privately guessed it was going to happen. Jack, naturally, accepted the honor.

Kevin and I were both studying one evening when we were interrupted by the security panel chirping. We both looked at it in annoyance, and Kevin stood up to go check it.

"Yes?" he said into the intercom, seeing that it was someone at the door.

"It's me, can I come in?" came Fleur's voice.

"Sure!" Kevin replied, buzzing her in.

Within a few moments, she was knocking at the door to the condo. Keith and Kevin met her there and let her in.

"Bon Soir, Fleur," Kevin said, hugging her. "Would you like some coffee?"

"No, thank you, Kevin" she replied.

I was instantly concerned, and I could tell that Kevin was too. Fleur's eyes were red, and her face was blotchy, as though she had been crying. Keith, seeing that there was no need for his presence, excused himself to go back to watching TV with Carmen in the spare bedroom. Kevin took her arm and led her to the couch, where she sat awkwardly. Kevin sat next to her and put one arm around her shoulders, squeezing her in a gentle, friendly hug.

"Do you want to talk about it?" he said after a few moments had passed.

She looked up at him, her facial expression close to desperate.

"I-" she faltered, clearly not sure how to put whatever it was into words.

Kevin and I waited patiently, not wanting to push her. Whatever was wrong had her on the ragged edge of despair, from all appearances. I prayed nothing had happened to Elizabeth.

"Elizabeth needs to know what happened the night Jack was arrested," Fleur finally said. She looked up at me, her eyes pleading. "Please, Grace, tell her what a bad idea it is to ask him! I don't know what happened exactly, but whatever it was, it had to have been truly horrible! Whenever the subject comes up, Jack goes quiet. And Lily? Well, Lily gets this blank look on her face, like she's a million miles away! Please tell Elizabeth to let this go! Forget it! Nothing good can come of digging all of that up! Please, Grace! She will listen to you!"

I sat back on my seat and regarded my soon-to-be cousin-in-law with compassion. Unfortunately, I'm not into lying, not even in order to spare a loved one's feelings.

"Fleur, you must have seen this coming, dear!" I said. "I think that eventually, Elizabeth will wear Jack down and convince him to tell her. Frankly, I think it's better to get it out of the way. I know her well, and there's no way she'll ever let it go. Why does the idea scare you so much?"

Fleur shuddered and leaned against Kevin. "With all of this, this 'brainwashing' that went on with Trent, what if she discovers that the love she feels for me is just a part of Trent's programming?"

Ah, now that was a fear with a somewhat logical basis, I thought to myself. Or at least, it was one I could understand the reason for. Before I could say anything, Kevin dipped his oar into the pond.

"No fucking way, Fleur!" he said fiercely. "No way is that true! That woman loves you! I can see it in her eyes when she looks at you! She has never looked at anyone the way she looks at you! What you have with her isn't the result of some kind of MK-Ultra mind control! It's love!"

"Besides," I said, "It's not like you need to worry about some man moving in on her."

Fleur smiled, but it was a smile without humor.

"Elizabeth isn't really a lesbian, just for the record," she said.

"Huh?" Kevin and I said, displaying our repertoire of witty comebacks.

"Well," Fleur said, "She's not. Not the same way I am. It's something we've talked about on many occasions. Elizabeth didn't fall in love with me because I am female. She fell in love with me because I'm me, whatever that means. She has said she would love me just as much if I had a penis! I am attracted only to women - not that I don't find some of you men adorable in your own way, Kevin! Elizabeth, though, is different. She is attracted first of all to the person. The plumbing arrangements are a secondary issue, as she says."

"Doesn't that just prove Kevin's point, Fleur?" I asked, gently.

"It does if that is the way she truly feels, and not the way she's been programmed to feel!" Fleur shot back. "I know I'm probably being ridiculous, but I can't help it! I'm so afraid I will lose her! She's the best thing in my life! She's what keeps me going!"

I stood up and walked to Fleur's side. I pulled the distraught woman close and held her. After a few minutes, I pulled back so I could see into her eyes.

"Don't be afraid, Fleur," I told her. "We will come over to your place right now and put this issue to rest this very night. We will also find out for Elizabeth's sake what happened on the night Jack was arrested. You won't have to go one more night feeling this way!"

*****

Author's Notes:

Sorry for the long delay. As some of you guessed, I was injured on my ill-advised trip to Puerto Rico to volunteer with the Red Cross. Still, I'm not at all sorry I did it! For once, I was doing something that wasn't morally, ethically, or legally questionable in any way! It was something I could feel good about. My wife (the ever-patient gungurl_300blk, as some of you, have guessed) enjoyed the trip, despite the hardships involved. And no, to answer yet another set of questions, no one was shooting at me. I was incautious, and my lack of caution bit me in the ass, so to speak. I wasn't badly hurt, but the injury was enough to send me back to the Hoosier state with my tail tucked firmly between my legs!

I don't normally give spoilers, but this case is an exception. I want you all to know that the next chapter will be mostly about what Jack has to say. It will be quite dark, and it may disturb you. Just a friendly heads-up.

Until next time, dear readers, I wish you and yours the very best!

- CM

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by Anonymous

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by Anonymous09/03/18

Great stories.

You, sir, are a great writer.

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by Anonymous08/18/18

Where did all of these great author's go?

I swear many of these authors are teachers, seasonal workers, or something because many of these stories come like tsunamis from so many of these authors around summer vacation time for teachers and wintermore...

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by Anonymous08/08/18

Where are you.

Carbine hope your alright. We need more Grace!

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by Anonymous08/08/18

Hope you finish

Love this entire series. I hope you're in good health and I hope you can keep writing

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by Billythekid196806/22/18

Great story and can not wait for more

I have read both your stories My saving grace and a state of grace several times and can not wait for more. I hope you keep writing more

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