On Stove Pipe Hill

The day of the climb Connor's older sister Megan, Briana and Brittany, Liz, her older brother and sister, Philip and Trish, and younger sister Naomi, Kenny and his younger sister Nancy, and Freddy all showed up.

Briana was standing with Connor. She was helping him arrange the, "contraption," in the special back-pack he'd made for it.

"Are you sure you can carry all this?" Briana asked.

"No, not sure," Connor said. "Won't know 'til I try."

When he was ready to start, Briana hugged and kissed him. "In case I never have another chance to tell you, I love you Connor Moore."

Connor looked at her ruefully, then said, "I love you too, Briana Arnault, at least until you become Briana Moore."

Then he kissed her and, while Briana stood their with a shocked look on her face, he started to climb.

As Connor said, the climb to the top at that part of the hill was not at all difficult, and in less than forty five minutes he was standing on a tiny ledge just below the crack in the overhang when he looked down and gave them a thumbs-up.

From below it looked like he was getting ready to throw the anchors through the crack. He brought the back-pack around to his side and pulled out what looked like one of the anchors, but instead of throwing it, he was using it to hack away at the ledge. Almost immediately, pieces of the ledge broke away and came tumbling down the cliffs face.

Even from the ground they could see the crack had become a huge opening, and they all gasped when they saw Connor lift himself into the crack and over the edge to the top of the hill. The next thing they saw was Connor standing and waving. He'd done it.

Connor disappeared again, and the spectators assumed he was just looking around. In a little while, they saw ropes dropping from the top through the enlarged crack, and in a few more minutes they saw Connor come over the edge of the top through the crack, using one of the ropes to repel down.

The ropes did not reach to the ground, but when Connor reached the end of the ropes he began climbing the rest of the way down which was no more difficult than the climb up.

Everyone gathered around him as soon he landed, asking what he saw, and congratulating him on the climb. Connor said he hadn't seen much, which was sort of true, and that he was tired and wanted to get away.

Connor and Briana had arranged with Liz to have the ice cream party the next day at the Blake farm, where most of their gatherings were held.

Everyone who had been at the climb was there, as well as the younger Blake children, Naomi, Ray, and Teresa. The Parents, Veronica Arnault, Lester and Jasmine Moore, and Elaine Jackson were also there. Anthony was giving a lecture on history somewhere and Peter Arnault was away on business, else they would have been there too.

Freddy's mother and father had been invited, but the Crosses did not approve of the Arnaults, the Blakes, the Moores, or the Jacksons. The Crosses referred to them as, "Nochose," an old term for those who did not conform to Forbidder policy, which the Crosses certainly did. They did not approve of Freddy's association with them either, but could not do anything to prevent it.

"Forbidders," if you read the first Nyrandan story you know are what those who would be called rulers on earth are called on Nyranda.

Freddy was a great favorite of the others. He was the best story teller, a terrible tease, and had an irresistible sardonic wit.

At the table, Connor and Briana were sitting with Connor's sister Megan who was seated next to Philip, and they were all enjoying one of Freddy's outrageous stories.

Megan whispered to Briana, "Sometimes I wish Philip wasn't my cousin."

"Why?" Briana asked.

"Because then I could be in love with him."

"He's not really your cousin, you know," Briana said.

"But his father is my uncle," Megan said.

"He's not really your uncle, Megan. Everybody calls him Uncle Eddy, and he really is my uncle, but he's not yours. Lester and Jasmine are not related to Eddy or Yuwon.

"Oh Briana. Are you sure?" Megan asked.

"Positive," Briana said.

Everybody had finished their ice cream and Uncle Eddy was off with the women, and the others were sitting around talking or teasing the younger children when Connor said, "Briana, let's go someplace else."

"Jasta, do you know how many times I dreamed of hearing those words? Let's go," she said.

"Where did you learn that word," Connor asked.

"Jasta? It's a word your mother uses sometimes. I don't even know what it means. Is there anything wrong with it?"

"No. It's just you are the only other person I've ever heard use it except my Mom."

"Where are we going?" Briana asked.

"Any place away from the others."

"What do you have in mind?" Briana asked a bit enthusiastically.

"I have something I have to tell you. Something I saw on Stove Pipe Hill."

"Oh!" Briana said.

Connor stopped walking, and took Briana in his arms and kissed her. "Please don't sound disappointed," he said. "It's part of my world."

"I'm sorry, Darling," she said. "What did you see?"

"There's a building on the top of Stove Pipe Hill. A huge sprawling building and someone is in it, because there was smoke coming out of chimneys all around it."

"How could that be, Connor? How could anyone get there. Surely they aren't climbing the hill like you did, are they?"

"I have no idea who they are or how they get there or what they are doing there. I'm going back, but I want to be prepared for it."

"Connor, if you go back, I'm going with you."

"Briana, you can't. You'd have to climb the hill just they way I did."

"Not all the way. You left the ropes hanging. I could do it if you went with me. I know how to climb with a rope and I want to do it because its the only important thing you've done without me."

"Do you know how much it would worry me. I couldn't bear to see anything happen to you."

"Then you know how I felt when you made your climb. I didn't stop you, did I?"

"Well, if we're both going, I think we need to tell someone else."

"We can tell the others, but only Kenny, Freddy, and Liz."

They went back to where the others were now gathered in the Blake's huge kitchen, and left shortly after that.

Connor was driving Briana to his house where she was staying for a week while her parents were on a business trip. Brittany had been invited too, but had chosen to stay at the home of one of her friends.

"Connor, why does everyone call my Uncle Eddy uncle?" Briana asked Connor.

"It's because Uncle Eddy and my mother have a very special relationship. They fell in love while very young children and will always be in love in just that way, and everyone just regards them is 'related' in a very special way."

"Why didn't they marry?"

"I know the answer, but you should ask my mom," Connor said.

"I couldn't do that. That's such a personal thing."

"It is, and for anyone one else to ask her would be presumptuous. But Mom loves you, Briana. I asked her, and she didn't mind telling me at all. She won't mind telling you either," he said.

"I'm sorry Connor. I just can't ask her that."

Connor and Briana had been home for most of an hour before Lester and Jasmine finally got home. Connor was sitting on the couch and Briana was lying back against him. They were listening to music and talking. That's the way they were when Lester came into the room.

"Hi Briana," Lester said. "You two left early."

Connor and Briana sat up holding hands.

"Did we miss anything?" Connor asked.

"Not really. I'm sure what your doing is more interesting than anything that was going on there. What are you doing?"

"Just talking. Dad, Briana has a question, but she's not sure it would be right for her to ask. It's about Mom and Eddy. I tried to tell her Mom wouldn't mind, but maybe I'm wrong. What do you think?"

"What does he think about what?" Jasmine asked coming into the room.

"About whether it would be right for Briana to ask you about you and Eddy," Lester said.

"Well, Briana, it depends. You were afraid to ask me that question, but I'm not afraid to ask you one. Do you love Connor?"

Briana did not hesitate for a second. "Oh yes. I do, and have for a very long time."

"Well then you call me Mom, and you can ask me anything you want to about anything.

"But you don't have to ask me about Eddy and me. I want you to know. Eddy and I were in love with each other from the moment we met as very young children, long before we went to school, and will always be in love in that same way. But that love was not to be the love of our lives. Neither of us ever thought of it that way. I discovered the love of my life when I met Lester, and Eddy discovered the love of his life when he met Yuwon, which made us both happy, because it's what Eddy and I wanted for each other."

"But you have to understand that kind of love is very rare. I don't mean just the love between Eddy and me, I mean Eddy's love for Yuwon and hers for him, and my love for Lester and his for me. I know you think Connor took a long time to discover he loved you. It's what I thought about Lester, too. Perhaps the woman always knows first, although that wouldn't be true in Eddy's case.

Lester laughed at that. "Eddy was in love with every girl he ever met," he said.

"He still is that way," Jasmine said, "but Yuwon is the love of his life and was the moment he laid eyes on her."

"We're going to bed," Lester announced. "We'll see you in the morning," he said coaxing Jasmine to leave with him.

Briana got up and walked over to Jasmine. "Thank you!" she said, then added, "Mom."

Jasmine hugged her and said very softly, "I just love you, Briana. I'm so glad Connor finally realized what he has."

Then Lester hugged her. "Call me Dad if you want to, Briana. Connor could not possibly do better," then turning to Jasmine he said, "c'mon Darling, let's leave them alone," and they left.

Briana snuggled back up to Connor. "I love your parents," she said.

"Well their yours too, now," he said.

"I have a question?" Briana said.

"Another one?" Connor laughed. "You know you can ask me anything, Briana."

"Is our love a 'first' love? It is for me. Or is it the love of our lives?"

"There is no reason a first love cannot be the love of one's life."

"That really wasn't my question," Briana said.

"I don't know the answer, Briana. I know what might be half of it, but I can't decide it. I know if you're not sure your love would be the love of your life if it could be, than it isn't."

"Oh Connor, sometimes you talk in riddles. What does that mean?"

"It means, you are the love of my life, but only if you know I am the love of your life."

"Can't I just say I love you and live to be with you and share my life with you and to love you always?"

"Well that's what I'd expect you to say if your going to be Briana Moore."

Briana's eyes got big, "Then that is what you meant at the bottom of the cliff."

"Did you really have any doubt, Briana?"

"No! Not really. But it happened so fast and everything else was going on, and I couldn't believe my ears, but I should have known, because I know you. Are you sure you really want to be mixed up with this silly girl?"

"Yeah! Pretty sure," he said hugging her.

Connor and Briana did tell Kenny, Freddy, and Liz about Connor's discovery on Stove Pipe Hill and about their plan to return together. Though they only told those three about their plans, their plans were soon known by everyone who had been at the original climb which included Megan, Brittany, Philip, Trish, Naomi, and Nancy. When every one knew that Briana was going, Connor's older sister Megan insisted on going as well, and Liz's older brother Philip also insisted on going. Megan happened to be very athletic and could have made the climb with ease, but Philip? Philip was very strong, probably the strongest of all of them, but he could do almost nothing athletic without some kind of mishap.

"Do you know how to climb?" Connor asked Philip.

"Sure," Philip said. "Just like walking, only it's up instead of straight ahead."

Connor just shook his head.