Chapter 1

Copyright© 2013 by Salladin

The sun was shining, a light breeze was blowing and the smell of fresh growth from the forest was in the air. Could anything make it better? Yes I thought.

Things just were not going as well for me as I thought they should or could be. Not that there was anything wrong, I had good health, a job, of sorts, and a few 'sort' of friends, acquaintances really, both male and female. Just not anyone I might consider close.

This day though made me realize that things could be a lot worse. It also made me realize that as I grew older, things would get worse and lonely too. Speaking of work made me think of what I should be doing. The Park Service had been a source of a very good summer job for me. I guess not many people wanted to go this far out but the weather in August here was wonderful. The area was fairly remote, but a lot of tourists came this way to and from Seattle and Reno. It was a small but rewarding side trip. It had also brought me out to California, I imagined that this area would be a lot different than Iowa had been.

The job was ramping down and early September it would be over. Money would always be a concern but I had some saved, made some on this job and would or should get something from the insurances and lawsuit settlements from my parents death. We had not been close. Recently there were a lot of things said that troubled me still but it was too late to resolve anything with them. Army stint could be inserted here, Re-up might even allow Ranger or Spec-op training/

Apres work could show the frustration of starting over as a civilian.

I sat down on a rock near the beautiful lake and looked at a map of Northern California. In planning when I left Iowa, I had decided that the Northern part of the state was where I had wanted to start. It was a mixture of forests and an ocean to the West.

Clear Lake State Park did have a lake but as many people had mentioned, it was not very clear. Mendocino was a nice sized city nearby and I was considering going there when this job ended. The big city close was Sacramento. Maybe it was too big for me though. I really did not socialize well and I knew that the beach, high prices and life style was not for me. Willits was close too but a bit too isolated for me and had a reputation that I did not want to 'deal' with, literally. I was not escaping anything, just wanted to start a life that might have some meaning.

I did choose Sacramento. I stayed at the Best Western in Sutter while the lady at Allpoint on C street checked my references. It was a very small place, my apartment was tiny but there were parks within walking distance, she let me have a 6 month lease and the area had a lot of city services. The freeway was near but living in the city was going to take some getting used to. Finding work or even a longer term job was going to be one of my first priorities. I had already gone through all those nasty forms, registrations and stuff in order to move to California. Since I had a job with the government, was not applying for aid or welfare and was single the process went fairly smooth. I just was moving States though and it felt like it was a move to some foreign country. I might need a car and I knew that if I did, it would be much easier to get one here.

UC Davis had an extension at the Galleria Center and it was very close to my new home and even closer to the Sutter General Hospital where I was going to apply for several jobs they had posted on the Internet.

Sutter Memorial Hospital in River Park was closing soon. Like all things change happens. I found out later that the entire city was that way since the time it was founded. Changes could be good or bad depending on who you where and how you were affected.

I did have some experience in medical and trauma work from 2 years in the Army and my GI benefits and intention to use them nearby got me one of the jobs at the new hospital. They wanted to mention too that as I got on in school more professional slots would be made available. The lady I interviewed with told me that getting good, long term employees had been difficult and she and the hospital were willing to help when they could. It was more than I thought would happen When I told her where I was living, she mentioned that there was a bulletin board where employees would post odd jobs, cars and apartments or requests for roommates or shift coverage. She would become a good source of information and a real friend later on. I was beginning to like having selected here.

I did look at that posting board and found not only a car but what would turn out to be a girlfriend. She had just become a full fledged RN and her parents were helping her to get a newer car. It was not 'instant' love or anything like that, but when we started to discuss the car, our jobs at the hospital and plans for the future we were speaking to each other as though we had grown up together. Between my new job, soon school and her new assignments we both were not going to have much free or scheduled available time. It was like we both recognized that at the same time, both offering to help each other out and even go places together when we could. It was not real romantic but her offer to let me 'buy' her old car and pay her over time was followed by my offer to pick her up or share the car until 'we' could get her a new one. That 'we' got me a look from her and a twinkle in her eye.

Her name was Samantha, 'Sam' for short. I was Gabe, Gabriel like the Angel. I smiled at her and said "I might be a devil though, if you keep smiling like that Sam!"

We were to be friends until death. 'We' did go and get her that car. One of the things I told her was to try to keep the choices to models she really liked, to check out the local dealers or Internet ads and determine the price ranges. This ended up saving about $1,000 and several hundred more in repairs the dealer had agreed to. To celebrate we went out to dinner. Yep, it was a 'real' date and we both ended up with smiles on our faces the next morning. It was now a change in our relationship and I found that as a couple, both of us not only started to be more confident, we both seemed to be more friendly and open at work. It made a difference. The better we were the better we were both treated. Sam got two doctors who wanted her in their department. I got several opportunities to cover for people in other departments and also an offer for more training from the hospital.

Early on we both recognized that we would never be more than friends or 'Friends with Benefits' and that helped when first she than I started to get offers for dates. Yeah, there was some of that green eyed jealousy on both our parts until one day over lunch we held hands and both admitted that dating others left a lot to be desired, that if we both agreed we would be friends with benefits forever, no matter what our status was. In looking back it was a rather weird but good thing.

As we both grew, we knew no matter what life threw at either of us, that we were there for each other, in good times or bad and there would never be any demands that would tear us apart. It might seem strange to many but to us this new relationship made perfect sense. Our future spouses might not like it though and to that we both took a very military approach, 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' seemed very reasonable.

To cement this new strategy we both canceled our dates for the weekend and went to Reno to 'celebrate'. On the way back, counting our decent winnings and trying to see who could open their clothes quicker, we both made comments that could be summarized as 'God, I feel like we are married and every time we meet now will be like a honeymoon'! It was very prophetic because that really was the way it was going to feel. There was nothing that either one of us would not do for or to each other. At a few parties, it even caused a few red faces when we looked at each other with more love, understanding and longing than the dates we were with. In the future that happened once or twice with a date or two for each of us. Our relationship though was a stronger bond than marriage even. One or two times the idea of children or a family came up.

That ended up changing 'our' lives when Sam came in with Gina at the hospital cafeteria. "Gabe, 'we' have a problem"! Sam briefly told me how both of Gina's parents were involved in a very bad accident and were in the ICU.

Sam looked at me and I just nodded. No words were necessary. She spoke softly to the 12 year old Gina. Sam took my hand and we walked to ICU, with Gina holding both our hands and crying her eyes out. The doctor on duty listened to Sam, looked at me, I nodded and he made a call to the office. The administrator came down, he spoke first to the doctor, then to Sam and I then to the little girl Gina. He then went into the ICU. He came out with tears in his eyes but a smile on his face. "I never wanted to tell anyone they were dying, but they already knew that, could feel it. Their only concern was for Gina. When I told them that you both wanted to look after her, the relief on their faces was medicine that we just don't often have. I'll call for legal."

They did sign for Sam and me to be guardians for Gina, as well as trustees and executors of their estate. The court would need to rule as well as we both would need the agreement from CPS to keep Gina. We were 'lucky' in many ways, one, that Gina came into our lives so easily and that CPS and the State of California agreed that two parents, even if single were a better choice than foster care or an orphanage. That we were both professionals, had jobs and were guardians went a long way to have Gina placed in our care. On that day, we spoke to our landlords and took a large rental house together. We would remain in there until Gina left for College. Sam and I tried a few dates, they never seemed to work out though. We were just to damned used to the freedoms and open lifestyle we were living. In many ways, neither one of us wanted anything to come between us. Hell we had the 'Marriage' discussion. We could not come up with much of a reason until Gina was to be enrolled in school. When she asked what name she should use, we now had a reason to get married, at least legally. We did and adopted Gina, changing her last name.

That it had no impact on anyone or anything we did together, the fact that Gina, on paper had two parents again made her recovery that much faster and better when we all sat down to discuss some of the things her parents had planned for her and discussed with us. Basically, Gina would be well taken care of financially and Sam and I made certain she knew that we both loved her now and would always be there for her in the future. It became true also that she was to be there for us.

Sam and I became closer too, if that was possible. That we were married soon spread through the hospital and things did become less for either of us to become jealous about. Even the occasional new doctor or nurse with roaming hands was 'informed' by others that we were indeed a couple and not available to play with.

We had one or two 'arguments', they lasted about 5 minutes or so and the first hug or kiss made the problems non-issues. We had come together because we wanted to, not for any other reason.

That day they brought Sam and Gina to Emergency from a car crash caused by a drunk driver could end my life as far as I was concerned. If I could just hold them in my arms before they died, and tell them both how much they mean to me, how much I loved them, things in the future might be different for me. As it was, as I said earlier, my life without them would be stopped.

ER became like a narcotic. I could not, would not leave. Mrs. Greene, my boss came down when she heard the news about Sam and Gina. She told me not to worry, that everything would be fine. That she knew the Doctor inside pretty well, it was her husband, the other was his brother. That I should eat, sleep, drink water and I would soon have my girls wanting to go shopping. If only I thought, they could live, if only they would be OK.

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