Nathan was touched by the constant positive upbeat attitude of this family. They enjoyed each other. Everything was an event whether playing, eating or relaxing. The underlying feeling of togetherness and solidarity was strong, the bond powerful. Inadvertently they’d given him something he’d hitherto found but hadn’t realized was lacking.
He was great at business, at art, and enjoyed saving those he could. Although he had Jim, and they were best buds, the sharing with and inclusion into this family meant as much to him as Nathan.
Jim joined forces with Nathan years back when he’d lost his family in a tragic fire in a Hotel half way around the world. He’d been involved in the military, received extended training as a bodyguard then moved into the field of protection. When Nathan heard about him, he met and enlisted him immediately. They’d become fast friends, confidants, more, brothers. There wasn’t anything Nathan wouldn’t do for Jim.
He could see Jim was attracted to Jenna. Although he was trying to maintain a distance and objectivity, often Nathan noted a look of pleasure or endearment in Jim’s eyes. His first thought was ‘how the mighty are fallen’ since although Jim enjoyed female companionship, hadn’t gone out of his way to look for a partner.
If this turned into something for both of them, Nathan would be pleased since the connection they’d established seemed sincere on both sides.
As soon as they’d cleared everything away, it was decided they’d engage in more outdoor activities. Everyone bundled up and while some donned snowshoes, others grabbed toboggans and sleds and even what appeared to be bits of plastic and they all headed to the far side of the property where “Snowman’s Bluff” awaited.
They were half way there when Emma flopped on the ground and made her first snow angel. Nathan roared and dropped beside her to create his own. Before long nearly everyone was involved and a line of snow people encircled them. Everyone laughed at the variety of sizes and shapes before they carefully moved around their ‘works of art’ heading to their favourite hill.
As soon as they’d reached it, Nathan understood why. The name was definitely in keeping with the humour of this family. It was a most modest hill, barely a hill. With enough angle to move if given a push, it was up to you, flailing arms like oars to continue down the hill. Soon, though, the snow was compacted enough you slid faster than greased lightning and ended up in the underbrush on the far side if you didn’t know enough to hop off before you reaching the end.
Whether hurrying down the hill in solitary fashion or racing in teams, they bounded back up with eager anticipation. Someone produced a frisbee and those that tired of racing began chucking it about. This was followed by a game of tag that the taller members of the group easily won hands down for the snow was fairly high having drifted during the night and the game was a workout.
Suddenly Jim was moving. Only Nathan noticed his departure as everyone else was involved. He tracked Jim’s movements with his eyes stiffening when Jim produced a gun and ran harder and faster.
Nathan immediately captured everyone’s attention, “Boys and girls, ladies and gents, let’s race back to the cabin. I have a special surprise to warm us all up. Whoever wins the race back, chooses his or her gift first.”
It was on. They grabbed whatever they’d brought to play on and hustled back toward the cabin as fast as possible. Some tripped, others slid, some tumbled in the snow, but they were all laughing and involved. Nathan lagged behind watching for Jim, listening. All was quiet as the snow blanketed most sound and very silent. Taking one last look for Jim who had disappeared into the woods, he had no choice but to follow the family. In part to keep them safe, in part to keep them in the dark in case there was nothing to report.
He knew Jim. If Jim felt there was a concern, he’d act on it immediately. Therefore he had some concerns.
Nathan had to race to catch up and watched Jenna tag the cabin door first, jumping arms in the air, she whooped and hollered her victory for all to hear and witness. The rest gave up, walking to join her and patting her on the back, pushed her aside like a rag doll entering first. Even Sarah and Jake enjoyed the outing. It was a little tamer, a little more enjoyable for them especially as they cuddled the little one on a baby sled and hauled her around. Before they’d finished, she’d been fast asleep. Holding hands they were the last through the door. Jake turned and gave Nathan a look that suggested he was aware something was amiss and what’s more expected an explanation.