As planned Anna texted Gabby at 9:45 am "You guys still up for brunch or should I grab the ferry and catch you all next time?"
Phoenix is finishing his first cup of tea, having wakened and showered and dressed already. He hears the tone of Gabby's phone and reaches for it. Reading the message, he replies in Gabby's stead. "This is Phoenix. Gabby and Sky are out for the count. Would brunch be so bad if its only me?"
Anna gives a little sigh at the screen and texts back "Ok. Not bad at all. Can I bum a ride?"
Phoenix looks at the text message with a raised brow. "If the gas in my car hasn't evaporated. I can meet you on the access road in 5 minutes?"
Anna texts back "Ok I'll pack up. See you soon." She shoves a few things back in her pack and pulls on her sneakers. The ground is damp and her shoes squish a bit in the mud. But it's a sunny morning and she walks to the access road and casually leans against an old wooden fence, her auburn hair reflecting the morning light.
Phoenix reads the message but does not reply. Instead he gets his keys, glad he never parted house ring from car ring, put on his shoes and left his apartment for the sidewalk. There were some people out and about by now and he nodded to many as he walked to his car, parked in the hotel's parking lot. It was dirty but didn't need a wash, thanks to the winter rains. Getting in behind the wheel, it takes a couple of tries before the engine turns over. But it odes and he pulls out of the space and drives through town to the school and onto the access road that wound through the North Woods. Quickly enough, he spots Anna and stops, not leaning over to unlock the car door, because it wasn't locked. He smiles at her and waves.
Anna hops in and tosses her bag behind her in the back seat before sitting down and pulling at the seat belt. It's one of those tricky belts that locks up and doesn't want to cooperate in crossing her body to the latch. She fiddles with it a few times and tries to joke "You still have this car....and the belt still hates me..."
Phoenix smiles as he watches her, looking thoroughly amused. "My first and only car." he reminds her. "I don't drive it much anymore, but ... it comes through for me every time. Carbon emissions and all that." he grins. "And how was the birthday party?" he asks, his voice sounding alive, wake and energetic. As if he's had plenty of sleep and is ready to tackle the day. He is one of those lucky people who is just always cheerful and upbeat.
Anna smiles about the car knowingly, finally clicks the belt into the latch, and exhales. She hesitates before she answers "Oh...um fine. We had dinner from her solar cooker...a little underdone but it was vegetarian so no worry about poisoning.....crunchy rice with curried chick pea something....Sunflower wrote some kind of ritual and we threw herbs at the fire and sang chants. Dad was very polite even though he still thinks religion, any religion is the opiate of the masses. It wasn't exactly Pagan but more free form ....I dunno something....then she went to bed and Dad and I chatted by the fire....which was actually kinda nice."
Phoenix hears the latch and then throws the car back into drive, starting to move along the access road. "Ah, yes. Well where the is she doesn't benefit from the town's solar generators." he explains. "Very ironic, don't you think?" he smiles at the explanation of the evening. "Naked or dressed?" he asks and lifts his hand. "Never mind." he looks at her with a grin and a twinkle. "Dressed." he didn't think that Anna was a prude, but she was shy and modest. "Well, a man can tolerate a lot from a woman he loves or cares about. Even religion. Did you have a good chat?" he asks. "I can ask him. He usually stops by on his way off the island for a little of my herb." he is hardly a pot farmer, but he does have a small plot for his own personal use on the roof of his building. In the privacy of his car, he can be more honest than he was in Earthcakes.
Anna looks mildly amused "We did. But you're going to ask him anyway right? I could just tell you super random shit about it to see how much comes back to me..." She jokes "And yes we were dressed, which she complained about, but Dad, respecting me, insisted." She chuckles "I won't ask if you were dressed last night. I know the answer already. Where are we going for breakfast?"
Phoenix laughs, delightedly. "I wouldn't have been dressed even if I DIDN'T have Sky and Gabby with me. I was only dressed when you texted Gabby because I knew you were going to." he drives around through the dense trees. "Well, if you're really hungry I thought The Breakfast Nook. If not then Perkatory." he wouldn't give a large company like Sigh his business. He pauses. "And you know well that your father and I talk on a regular basis ... and about YOU." the words tell her that he knows things SHE did not tell him. But her father would. There had been high hopes coming from her dad at one point that Phoenix would become one of the family.
The last part stops her kidding around for a minute while she tries not to think too hard on it. she knew her father's views on Phoenix. But their lifestyles would just clash and she didn't want Phoenix to try to be someone he wasn't for her. It was a circular conversation every time it happened "How bout that Breakfast Nook place? It would be nice to have that kind of food without being the cook..." She smiles, feeling strange not working on a Sunday but the new part timer was doing great.
Phoenix nods as he concentrates on the road. "Anything you want." he tells her as they pass a tall thin man with long, wavy, raven black hair walking along the road int he same direction they're heading. The man waves and Phoenix waves back, but doesn't stop the car. "So your not angry about Morgan telling me about what happened to you?" he goes on, casually.
Anna observes the man with a casual nod. He looks like someone Phoenix would befriend. At Phoenix's question she tenses a little, shifting her body towards the door unconsciously. She suspects what he might be talking about but isn't sure she she asks back "Um...can you be more specific?"
Pale brows on a pale face above pale blue eyes lower into a rare frown. "Your attack." he replies. "That's around the time you stopped speaking to me again ... REALLY stopped. Not for a month or two but ... stopped." he sounds a bit upset but not at Anna. More likely at what happened to her.
Anna looks back from the door begrudgingly "I'm sorry. I kinda stopped talking to....well more than just you Phoenix. But I didn't mean to make you feel like it was a you thing....it was a me thing....."
Phoenix sighs and pulls off the access road and back onto the paved road. "Morgan told me, even though he didn't have to. And then the end of your relationship with that Yamada fellow. And then the earthquake." he sighs again. "He's kept me up to date." he holds up his hand as he drives, as he can move faster on the streets. "Morgan knows we will never be what he wants us to be., but he knows I still love you." he shrugs "But I also love Sky and Gabby." he sighs. "And I know you weren't alone through it, but I missed you leaning on me."
Anna looks pained at his words and quietly asks "Can you just ....park for a second? I don't want to have this conversation in a restaurant.....Phoenix, I din't know how to reach out to ANYONE after that day in the lighthouse. Even Steph and Tams and my Mom. They all took care of me but I didn't talk about it beyond the physical injuries healing and truing to get myself well enough to work and show my face in town....I've never been through ANYTHING like that....I didn't know what to say....how to ask for help. I still don't. Garrett and I ended because he kept asking if I was OK. You can only say no so many times without details before it just feels futile. I was HORRIBLE to him. I went for counseling and had half conversations. I took a few rounds of anxiety medication. I took a self defense class....and the guy is due for parole soon...." She shrinks back and curls up into herself. This is the first she's had to talk about this since her feeble attempts at counselling.
Phoenix pulls into the parking lot of the clinic and they face the water with the APD, AFD and private boat docks. He listens to her and sighs deeply. "Yea. I was afraid that might be the case." he tells her. He reaches for her hand and will take it if he can. "In so many ways you are so closed, Anna." he tells her. "I could make jokes about using pot to relax or meditation or orgasm, but ... I won't." he pauses. "Did you talk to NO ONE? Not even Mother?" his belief is more along the lines of the Earth Mother worship. "You kept it ALL inside?"
Anna lets him take her hand "No, not all. Bits and pieces. I did eventually talk to my friends, Tams especially, she found me...she's dealt with helping people through some pretty violent experiences. I talked to Lee a bit but then Lee.......well Dad told you all that too. That's a whole other thing. And I tried ALL the other stuff on your list, believe me. By Mother I'm assuming you mean Earth Mother not my mother?" She gives a little smile, knowing what he means and squeezes his hand "It's a work in progress Phoenix. I'll get there eventually. I just wasn't so good at the first part I guess. I know so many people in the world deal with violence on a daily basis so in a way it gave me a lot of empathy. I mean what if that was something that could just happen to you when you left your house and went to the market right? I live in a safe town in a country free of war and dictatorships...and fuckin Trump. I know I have privilege and safety on a day to day basis based on stuff I didn't even choose.....I guess David Martin, in a way, made me realize how much I get to take for granted."
Phoenix listens quietly. "Yes. THE mother not YOUR mother." he almost teases. "Anna, yes. You've been very lucky and I had hoped your whole life could go by without ever having to be anything but a spectator. But this year ... it all came tumbling down on you, didn't it?" he sighs and leans back. "You're worried about this Martin guy getting out?"
Anna shudders "It did. I testified against him in court so...yeah a bit....but I'm sure he won't be released anywhere near Cedar Point and I'm being needlessly paranoid." She leans, back too, meeting his eyes, her body posture finally opening to his so she's not withholding her energy so much.
Phoenix nods. "I'm sure they won't. And he probably knows that Cedar Point is a small town ... and that you surely have friends." he grins. "I'm sure Tamela wouldn't mind having a little chat with him. She's no pacifist." he meets her eyes and is glad to see her relaxing. "I could always see about getting you a puppy." he teases her. "When you're non violent like us, sometimes it helps to have connections with people who aren't as like-minded. Here we have Sam." he winks, mentioning her cousin. "A cop. Who saw that coming?"
Anna shrugs "Well I've only met Sam a handful of times, and his brother Alex even less but Alex seems more the pacifist. He marveled that he wasn't allergic to me too, so that was interesting..." she laughs "Alex that is. I do have my cats, but they're hardly guard cats....lazy furry bums is more like it. But I bet they'd beat up a puppy..." she sighs "OK, we can go eat now. There's no danger of me becoming a basket case at this point. Thanks Phoenix..." She leans forward like she's going to hug him but the seat belt snaps her back and she chuckles "Your damned car...."
Phoenix smiles. "Adum Brate has a guard cat ... she'd do the trick. HE might be glad to get rid of her but .... well wait you know Megan. Silly me, I must be getting old." he watches her struggle with the seat belt and chuckles. He leans over and undoes her seat belt. "Oh this poor old car is probably just testy because I haven't taken her anywhere for so long." and he moves to hug her. It's more than a friendly hug, but also not a hug lovers give each other. But it is familiar and solid.
Anna nods "Oh I've heard about that cat, Voldemort, brilliant name. Tamela was there for the kittens, Voldemort's kittens.......god that should be a Harry Potter nerd rock band. And you are not old..." She slides into the hug. Phoenix's arms are still incredibly comforting even though she's not craving them the same way she used to back on Salt Spring. He's always given amazing hugs. She hugs him tightly, breathing him in and sinking the side of her face a bit into his shoulder.
Phoenix laughs. "It should be!" He agrees. "And I'm almost 50. Well 45. But I keep young in my head, which counts for a lot. Many of these blonde hairs are gray now.". He hugs her with a hum of appreciation.
Anna hugs him for a long time but is the first to let go, not pushing him away, just easing out and looking at his hair as she does so "Well I can't see any. I've got a few white ones hiding in the red so it's inevitable." She scoots back and fights with the seat belt again "Oh goddess of vehicular violence.....show me your mercy..." She jokes as she finally clicks back in. "Brunch? I'm pretty hungry. I didn't really like the chick pea thing Sunny made. Too much tamarind..."
Phoenix holds on to her only a moment longer before pulling away. He grins as she struggles, but then reaches over to click her OUT of it again. "The Brunch is only the other side of the pharmacy here." He tells her. "I'm hungry too. Sky made a fantastic dinner, but ... ". He shrugs. There were many calories burned in the night between he, Sky and Gabby.
Anna jokingly holds up a hand in protest " I don't need details, just food." She reaches for the door handle and steps out, assuming they can just stay parked and then makes to walk with Phoenix to the restaurant.
Phoenix chuckles. Heading in with her, he nods to a table. "I won't give you any. It's Gabby loves to tease you, but ... she's the only one of us who hasn't been able to feel your love so ... you can't really blame her."
Anna doesn't answer on Gabby but just plunks down and smiles at him. He knew her answers. She had never been particularly drawn to women and the idea of intimacy with more than one person at a time was just overwhelming. She opened the menu and redirected "So what do you like here?"
Phoenix doesn't open the menu. "I get the multi-grain waffles with whatever fruit topping I am in the mood for." he tells her. "I think apple and cinnamon today." he looks almost as if he IS basking in her, its been so long since he has seen her.
Anna looks a little self conscious under the intensity of his energy coming her way but smiles at him "That sounds good. I'll do that too. I've always considered waffles at work but it might be an unpredictable prebatch. Our crowd size is super varied."
Phoenix smiles and, when the waitress comes they can order. "Well, didn't they have recipe that could be either/or?" he asks. "Then its only one batter? I am still a dead simple cook. Probably a good thing or I'd be wider than the door. This sedentary life ad a shop keep ... I don't know ... The wheel it turning and I feel it, Anna."
Anna orders politely after Phoenix and then looks at him "Are you feeling like this isn't the place you want to be anymore? Or just not in that job?"
Phoenix shakes his head. "No. I will die here, I think." he grins. "And I love my little music shop. I'm still whining about getting old. My father would be rolling in his grave. But I still keep mostly to the wilderness. I'm not in Vancouver, at least. Alexandra is as big town as I ever really want to go." he chuckles.
Anna grins at him "You're not old. Heck you're not that many years older than I am Phoenix. Do you think I'm old too?" She teases.
Phoenix chuckles. "Good point." he grins. "And FOR my age, I'm doing pretty well the doctor tells me. He wants me to stop smoking pot, but ....." he shrugs. "You are forever young, ANna. Hows your mother? Your Dad is usually quiet on the topic."
Anna looks intrigued "Are you going to stop smoking it? I hit a threshold where it pretty much just puts me right to sleep now. No fun at parties." She sighs "Dad still has guilt. Only on this topic. I think Mom was the one that got away or something ...and now she's dating a cop - worse, he's the police chief." She has to giggle.
Phoenix sighs. "I'm getting to that point ... but it helps me sleep, so it evens out." he grins. "Guilt? Oh, because of the two pregnancies thing?" he laughs softly. "Seriously? Your mother is dating a police chief? Gods ... how can that work?" he seems to be trying to imagine it, although he does know it is only a man in a position.
Anna shrugs "Nick's actually pretty cool. He was married to our ...cousin though,,,Eryn's mom.....so you know small towns....well your life is just like that no matter where you live." She teases a bit "So what do you do with your free time when Sky and Gabby aren't in town?"
Phoenix chuckles. "I do know small towns." he shrugs a bit. "Well, if he's a good man, then more power to them both." he grins a little bit. "Well the store actually keeps me pretty busy with inventory and the like." he admits. "Add to that I own the entire BUILDING and I get enough income to not worry TOO much. But I hired a young man ... college student. He works weekends for me and I let him work the days he doesn't have class. So he can save up money. Now he's living in his parents sort of built on extra apartment, so his rent isn't as high as it could be. That helps save some money ... but he has a boyfriend now, so ... more money down the drain." he laughs. "He's part of one of the larger families here. Reinhardt's his name. Very good looking too. Excellent eye candy for me." he winks at her.
Anna snickers "College student eye candy? Maybe you are getting old.." She jokes "Does this kid have a man bun like Sky? I'm assessing if you have a type..."
Phoenix nods. "See ... he's just delicious looking but he's also 19." he looks at her when she asks about the man bun. "No man bun, Anna." he pauses and looks aver the table t her. "But he IS a redhead..."
Anna turns beet red and then sighs "Well bloody hell.." She laughs nervously and then food arrives "Saved by waffles.." she mutters.
Phoenix sighs and leans back as the waffles arrive. He cuts into them and takes the first bite, chewing and swallowing before he tells her. "Anna, he isn't you and I don't want him to be you. But I don't care about him. Sure, he's handsome and build AND a redhead." he gathers up and cinnamon apples onto his fork. "I've mourned you ... I'm over you ... well ... that part of you. I still love you ... or maybe I love the memories of our time together." he sighs and looks at the apples on his fork. He had mourned her for a long time, but could not be the man she needed.
Anna leans back from him "I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to make it a thing about me. Phoenix you are free to enjoy looking at anyone you want. I was teasing. You know I love you too and I've had to let go not being the person you needed in that way to be your happiest you. I want you to be happy." She gives him an emphatic look and finally cuts into her waffles.
Phoenix looks relieved. "Good, because I LOOK plenty." he eats the apples. "I know you could never live your life like I do." he snorts a little. "Like Sky does." he's always found it ironic that both he and Sky had cared so deeply for Anna and now were together without her. "We're happy. I'm happy. I am in love with two incredible people. I just want YOU to be at least as happy as we are." he begins to dig into his waffles. He hadn't realized he was as hungry as he was.
Anna smiles genuinely "Well that's good. I'm actually pretty good on my own right now." She eats a bit. It's hard to tell if she means it. After a bite or two she says "Reinhardt? I have a friend with the same last name. His brother and family are here. What's the eye candy 's first name?"
Phoenix considers her as they eat, trying to decide of the words were truth or niceties. "If you're sure." he murmurs. "Not that I can think of anyone to set you up with." he teases. He pauses. "His name is Logan Reinhardt. And his father is John." he grins. "Now HE'S closer to my age, but completely straight and married." he mock pouts. "Poor me."
Phoenix laughs. "Ah ... it is a small world. But I love how close the sister cities are. It's really got a connected feeling." he grins. "So I can stop worrying about you?" he asks. "Your Dad's getting his needs met. I am. You have friends ... which is something but ..." he sighs. "I know. Stop wanting to see you with someone. But such a soul should never be alone."
Anna reaches out for his hand "I'm not alone. I have friends like you, Steph, Tams, Micheal....I'm OK and my soul is not rotting away. I don't think I should meet someone just for the sake of coupling up....or sex...not that any of that is bad, it's just not on the front page for me if I do connect with a person." She looks out the window "They really are intertwined...the towns."
Phoenix takes her hand. "You know perfectly well I am actually the same as you when it comes to that, Anna. I don't just have casual sex. The emotion is everything to me. I just love more than one." he grins. "They are." he pauses. "Tell me about your cats ...." he asks, curious.
Anna smiles begrudgingly at him and admits "I know." If it wasn't for his loving more than one need, she would have given every piece of herself to this man forever. She has to giggle at his question "My cats? Frodo and Sam. Both rescues and hilarious pals now, thankfully. They're even typecast with Frodo being more of an adventurer and Sam being a little bit of a pudgy fur-ball who tends the food bowl more.
Phoenix laughs. "Well SOMEONE has to tend it." he insists. With a grin, he tells her. "I still have Flea, you know. She's 12 years old. The vet thinks she could love to be 20 or older even."
Anna melts a bit "Aww Flea. I'll have to come by to see her. I'm so happy she's still alive and well!" She looks thoughtful "I've been bad for keeping in touch with Joyce and the kids.....do you talk to them?"
Phoenix smiles. "Yes you do. She's still tiny and still likes to sleep in my hair." he cants his head. "I keep in touch. Both kids are in their teens now. Thinking themselves quite the adults. In other words, they're driving Joyce crazy." he laughs and takes a big bite.
Anna chews her current bite and swallows and then takes a long sip of coffee while he talks "Hmmm some things never change, cats and hippie farm kids....."
Phoenix chuckles. "Well, I'm a long way from my farm boy days." he takes another bite and looks at her, thoughtfully. "It's really SO good to see you, Anna. With my own eyes." he suddenly tells her. He knows most of what she's been up to, but they don't physically see each other as much as they used to. Especially after she and Sky broke up.
Anna blushes a little but accepts this comment over some others "You too Phoenix. I'm not hard to find either, but I imagine it's hard to get away from the shop for you?"
Phoenix pauses. "Not really. I ... partly just don't leave Alexandra very much. But also ... after you and Sky broke up ... I decided maybe it was best I give you a little space ..."
Anna looks self conscious "Well...same shit different pile, but less....um emotionally attached? I actually wasn't as messed up by he and I ending as.....well it's a circular conversation. And history we don't need to rehash. I've run into him a few times in Cedar Point. He's a big fan of Molly and the Moles still and they play at the Black Hole a lot. I'm also a fan, and a friend of mine is in the band so I go to shows to be supportive. Anyhow, Sky and I are cool. Heck, I think I'm even cool with Gabby. I like her as a person. She pushes me a bit, but I don't think it's ever in malice."
Phoenix nods. They've been over it more than once. When they had broken up it had shattered him to the point he'd left the area and wandered about for a while. "Well Gabby I think knows how much we loved you. Sky and I. For a while she was torn between feeling guilty because she knows she is why you and Sky broke up and just being happy she could still be with Sky." he pauses. "You know, if it ever comes down to monogamy ... I will lose them both ... it will be him and her. But I will still have Flea."
Anna can't keep a little bitterness from her voice as she replies "They're as likely to be monogamous as you are Phoenix. Unless one of you just loses interest or has a true mid life crisis and runs off with a college student, your trio is pretty solid sounding." By the end her tone is joking but the beginning comes across a little harsher. The parts Anna never told Phoenix, was that she had to let go that she had really found her soul mate in him. She had envisioned it all with him while they fell in love, life together, years of blissful love, kids, growing old. Somehow now she had missed it because no one else had fit the bill in quite the same way. Looking at friends like Steph, she supposed it could still happen, but she was becoming a little doubtful.
Phoenix hears the bitterness, but chuckles anyway. The one thing he missed in their relationship was her need for monogamy. And when the idea had come up, he had tried and was unhappy. One little thing to him ... but a HUGE thing for her. "Well, I am at mid-life and much as sexy as I think Logan Reinhardt is ... he is a one man man. And you should see how he looks at his lover. A German boy who is as outgoing and huggy as any hippy." he laughs, hoping to steer the subject in some other direction. He starts in on the last of his brunch.
Anna gives a little laugh "Sounds like your kind of folks. That's good." She finishes hers and then sips more coffee, looking out the window. This was wonderful but in some ways a little bit of an emotional roller coaster. Phoenix always brought up a lot of buried stuff in her, and asked the tough question on the the issues where he wasn't even a co creator in the stuff that came up. It was probably good for her, but it wasn't a walk in the park.
Phoenix finishes his food and laughs. "Well ... yes and no." he admits. "They really are too young for me. But Logan is a good hard worker." he shrugs. "But I know he won't work for me forever. I am just a way-station, which is fine by me. Harmony or Shine will take the place over from me when they are done exploring life. They're as close to being my kids as anyone."
Anna smiles at this "I like that plan. I miss them. They were hilarious as children. I bet they're fun teens even if they're a challenge. I've been trying to really give a lot of time to my niece, Rosalee. She has her Uncle and Aunt and Grandmother that she lives with but she needs all the love in the world right now. And I heard there's a baby that Lee fathered.....he probably didn't even know. I haven't met them yet. I know the woman but she and Lee had a sometimes volatile connection....she may not want to reach out to us at all....so yeah....that's my close as having kids....and sometimes Steph's son Tristan....but he's being adopted now by Micheal Reinhardt, who's marrying Steph."
Phoenix nods. "Family is important. And good on Michael Reinhardt." he glances at the clock on the wall. "I should get you BACK to that family." he says, taking out his card to pay. "Sky and Gabby will sleep for some time, but I will give them your love .. so to peak." he winks at her and prepares to go.
Anna grabs her card too "Yeah I should get back. And thanks Phoenix. I needed this today." She pays her tab and then reaches to hug him again for a long time before getting into his car "You wanted the me leaning on you thing. I think we may have covered it now for the near future anyways." Without thinking too hard about it, she turns her face and sweetly kisses him on the cheek.
Phoenix smiles at her words. "If you ever need me ... I'll be here, Anna." he smiles as she kisses his cheek. A rare and sweet gift he will cherish. But he doesn't bring attention to it. Instead he starts the car and drives her to the ferry, seeing her safely off.