AUTHOR'S NOTES: Finally. I apologize for taking FOREVER with this. It's all Ann Marie's fault.
She ran off to be an Observer in Alaska, then she joined the Navy. She hasn't there, on-line, to constantly pester me about it. I'd like to thank Ann Marie, Pat, and Jennie for all their usual support and guidance, though they've probably forgotten by now what they did (unless they have all the emails and/or IM chats). =================================================== "Less Than Perfect" Christina L. Bartruff Epilogue DECEMBER 24, 2000, STALLIONS SPRINGS, NM It had been a emotional day for Al. He had stood, holding Beth, for a long time before he opened his eyes and looked at her. Then he kissed her. He knew her well enough to knew she sensed a difference about him. She didn't say anything, but he saw it in her eyes. They returned to the Christmas party and Al marveled how the same staff couldn't plan the same party for the same day. Naturally, he got stuck doing the same thing. This time, Al didn't mind so much. It gave him the chance to be with his children and grandchildren. He pried Sammie Jo away from Trudi, who was planning the scientist's maternity wardrobe and wedding dress with enthusiasm, long enough to find out how she was doing. Sammie Jo had that vague sense as before, but nothing she could recall clearly. Al was grateful for that. They were alone, their family members had all turned in, though it was still before ten. Beth had put `It's A Wonderful Life' on. It was her favorite movie and she preferred the original black and white version to the more update colorized versions. Al, muttering darkly about angels, let her curl up next to him on the couch in their private sitting room. ``I almost forgot,'' Al said suddenly in Beth's ear. He reached around the picture on the little end table. In his hand was a wrapped gift. ``I have an early Christmas gift for you.'' She gave a gentle chuckle. ``I wonder where I heard *that* line before.'' Beth examined the gift and shook it. Curiosity won out and she opened it. Inside the box was a ruby encrusted heart pendant. ``It's beautiful, Al,'' she breathed, carefully removing the chain. She let the dim sitting room lights catch the stones. ``I don't have an early gift for you, though.'' Al chuckled, realizing she said the same thing, all those years before. ``Marry me,'' he murmured in her ear. Beth turned her head to look at him over her shoulder. ``Didn't I already do that, thirty-nine years ago? The girls are certainly going to be surprised to hear this.'' ``Just reliving the day.'' Of course, his plans for tonight were different from the night he proposed. Beth snuggled closer to him as they sat on the couch, his arms wrapped around her. Forty years ago, Christmas Eve, Al had proposed to her. ``Once again, you didn't get down on bended knee.'' She sighed theatrically. ``I'll have to think about it. I might get a better offer.'' ``What can I do to convince you to accept my proposal?'' he asked, seductively. ``Agree, without protest, to renewing our vows this June,'' she replied promptly. ``Anything else?'' ``Yes. Promise to tell me what happened.'' Al studied her face. She'd get the truth from him, eventually. ``I promise,'' he replied sincerely. `` Anything else?'' She gave him one of her smiles. ``Oh, you'll think of something. You always do.''