**CHAPTER 1: NEW BEGINNINGS**
A pair of brown eyes followed by a curly head of hair appeared from behind the curtain. She held her finger between the pages of her book to guard from losing her place, and hoped the young hero wouldn't escape from his prison without her. "Yes, Grandad?"
The older gentleman smiled and patted the spot next to him on the sofa. Jules climbed out of her window seat and set her book down on the coffee table. She curled up on the end of the couch.
"I want to talk to you about something. My doctor's appointment," he paused. The look on his face was pained, although as loving as it had ever been. He struggled to find the right words. "Jules, the results weren't very good. My kidney count is worse."
"Oh Grandad. Isn't there anything they can do?"
"Dialysis is an option, but I really don't think I want to go down that road. It would be very painful, and very time consuming. I chose to take my chances without it."
"I see," Jules paused, looking down at the carpet. For several moments the only sound in the room was the slow tick of the grandfather clock. The curtains rustled slightly while the wind blew through the open window. "Grandad..."
"They gave me about a year. Two, at most."
Jules struggled against her tears. Duncan held out his arms, and she went to him. They cried together. After several moments, Jules was calm again. Her Grandad sat in thought for a while before turning towards her to speak. "Jules?"
"I want to move back to our old home in Hamilton."
Jules' face lit up. "Oh Grandad, really?"
"Yes, really. Will that make you happy?"
"Very much. It's been so long."
"Yes, we moved here right after you turned 18, didn't we?"
"Yes. That was about two and a half years ago. Wow. Makes me feel old."
Duncan chuckled. "And how old do you think that makes me feel, Jules?"
"As young as the heart that beats free in your chest."
"True. Very true. When can you be ready to move?"
"I won't need very much time to pack, Grandad. Maybe two weeks? What will we do with this monster of a house?"
"Rent it out."
"Good idea. Should I start packing now?"
"No, that can wait until later. What book were you reading a little while ago?"
"To Have and to Hold."
"Will you read it to me? You can just start where you've left off. I've read it before."
Jules worked tirelessly at packing for the next two weeks. The house was large, and filled with many treasures and tangible memories. She was sitting cross-legged in front of a wooden chest with oriental carvings on the top of it. It smelled like cedar. She pulled the lid up and began to sort through its contents. After a few minutes, she heard Duncan calling to her from downstairs. "Yes Grandad?"
"Come down here and look at this."
"Coming!" Jules placed the old China teapot back in its compartment in the chest. She glanced out the window on her way down the stairs to the library; it looked like a lovely day. Jules walked over to where her grandfather was sitting. "What is it, Grandad?"
Duncan help up a small porcelain statue. "Do you remember this?"
"Not quite... remind me of where we got it."
"Uncle Danny bought it for you when we took you to the San Antonio Zoo that first year after you moved in with me." Duncan chuckled.
"Ohhhh," Jules twinkled, "And I named the little monkeys after you, Uncle Danny, Aunt Mary, and me. Wasn't that the day that I finally spoke to Uncle Danny for the first time?"
"Yes, yes I believe it was. In fact he won your heart with these very monkeys."
"Oh, how sweet! Of course I have to take this with me. Where did you find it?"
"It had fallen behind the dictionaries up there on the top shelf. I'm certainly glad I found it."
"Me too, Grandad." Jules kissed him on the cheek before she headed back upstairs to finish packing out the guest room.
A young man with dark, wavy hair and deep brown eyes looked over. He stood up from the bench where he sat and rushed over to greet her. "Jules? Oh my word, what are you doing here?"
"We just moved back to Texas! Do you still live here in Dallas with your mom?"
"No, we moved to Hamilton. I'm just here for the day to visit an old friend. I can't believe you're here! Good grief, it's been at least two years! What brought y'all back?"
Jules' laughter pealed out with infectious joy. Martin threw back his head and joined in.
"I'm sorry for appearing to laugh at you," Jules sheepishly tried to explain herself. "But do you have any idea how good it feels to hear someone besides myself say 'y'all'?"
"That's totally understandable, Jules, even though you weren't that far north. Are you and Mr. Keith living here in Dallas now?"
"No," Jules smiled. "We are living in Hamilton again, which means we're neighbors."
Martin grinned. "I bet you're glad to be back home."
"I am," she sobered. "I just wish we had been brought back by happier circumstances."
Concern clouded Martin's face. "What's wrong, Jules? You aren't sick or anything like that?"
"No, I'm perfectly alright."
"Thank God," he whispered under his breath. "Then, what is it?"
"It's Grandad. He's in the fifth stage of Chronic Kidney Disease. He wanted to... well, he wanted to spend the rest of his life here. So we came home."
"Oh Jules, I'm so sorry."
"Thanks. We're making the most of our time."
"I bet. Anyways, what brings you to the historic square by yourself?"
"I'm just wandering around to kill time. Grandad had an important meeting with his lawyer today, and he won't be home 'til later this evening. What about you? Didn't you say you were visiting a friend?"
Martin grinned. "Yeah, but he'd forgotten about an appointment he had with his dentist. So I'm killing time, too. Should we kill time together?"
"Sure. I'm just browsing these old book stores right now."
"I remember you were always a book-worm."
Jules laughed. "I still am, Martin."
"Well then," he opened the door to Books and Nooks with a flourish, grinning from ear to ear. "After you."
Jules laughed and walked through the doors. "Thank you, kind sir." She walked over to a shelf of old, hardback books and ran her fingers down the title of a leather-bound classic. She pulled it off the shelf and thumbed through its creamy pages. "This is amazing."
"Hmm?" Martin looked up from the display of journals he was thumbing through. "What did you find?"
"See this?" She held the book up with a triumphant grin. "This was published nearly 60 years ago, but it's still in mint condition."
Martin gave an amused, but kind smile. "That's amazing, Jules." He laughed. "You and your books."
A few minutes later, Martin walked over to her and handed her a smooth, leather-bound Journal. "It's a welcome home gift," he explained. "I hope you like it."
"It's beautiful!" Her eyes lit up in a brilliant smile. "And just in time, too. I only have a few pages left in my current journal. Thank you, Martin."
After a few hours, she headed to pick Duncan up, and then they drove home while Martin re-joined his friend. They chatted about their day while Jules drove. "How did the meeting go, Grandad?"
"Very good. Did you know that Daniel McCarthy is retiring?"
"Oh! No, I didn't. What will you do?"
"Oh, I suppose I'll have more time to golf with him."
Jules laughed. "No, Grandad, I meant what will you do about your lawyer retiring."
"Oh, that." Duncan chuckled. "Danny suggested a new, young lawyer for me, and we met today. I'm very pleased with him."
"Good, I'm glad. By the way, I ran into Martin Ortiz while I was out shopping this afternoon."
"Oh really? Do he and his mother still live in Dallas?"
"No, they live somewhere here in Hamilton now."
Duncan looked closely at Jules. "Hmm, I suppose we'll be seeing a lot of him around here, won't we?"
"I suppose so," Jules absently replied. She slowed down for a red light. "It's not like Hamilton is a very big town."
"You're right," Duncan said. He smiled to himself.
Once they were home, Jules walked into the kitchen and set her keys down on the counter, and Duncan headed to the library. She patted the paper bag from the little, dusty book store and smiled. She joined her grandpa in the library and sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the bookshelf. Jules started trying to find places for her new purchases. She was contemplating whether or not she should put They Loved to Laugh on the shelf with her Jane Austen collection. Or maybe she should put it on the shelf below with her other miscellaneous classics? She decided on the latter, and stood up to face Duncan. "I've finished putting my books away. Are you ready for me to make dinner?"
"Yes. Wait, no. I forgot to tell you that the McCarthys want us to go to their house for dinner at 7:00. That means we have thirty minutes to get ready and head over there."
"Oh! Good. I guess I'll run upstairs and change real quick."
Before long Jules was changed into a fresh, pale pink dress, and they were on their way. They had only been in the car for one minute before Jules spoke up.
"Do you want me to read the rest of the last chapter of To Have and to Hold while you drive?"
Duncan chuckled. "Go right ahead. We'll be there in twenty minutes, so you'd better get to it."
The moments flew by along with dusk-crowned scenery while Jules wrapped up her tale of chivalry and commitment. "The end," she read, right as they pulled into the McCarthy's drive. "And that's it! I love that story."
"Mm. It's one of those books that I've read many times throughout the years. It's a classic."
"Yes it is. There's Aunt Mary! Oh, and James is here with his wife and little one. I haven't seen them since the wedding." She vaulted out of the car. "James, Linda! It's so good to see you both."
"Jules! It's been too long. Here, would you like to hold James Junior?"
"Oh yes. Hello Aunt Mary, how are you?"
"Happy to see you dear. Now, you all come in before dinner gets cold! It's nice to have each one of you children here together."
James, Linda, and Jules all laughed.
"Hmm, doesn't it feel funny to be called children?"
Jules smiled. "Maybe for you two it does, being married with a baby now. I still feel young enough to be called a child."
Linda gave Jules another hug. "I don't think you qualify as a child anymore, dear. You're the same age as me, and just as mature if not more. Here, I'll put little James down in his crib while we eat. You've got him fast asleep."
Once the baby was snuggled into his crib, the family gathered around the table. Daniel spoke up. "Thank you, Duncan and Jules, for joining us. We're all very pleased that you both could make it. Especially since James and Linda will be driving back home tomorrow. Would you ask the blessing, James?"
"Yes, Grandpa." They all joined hands around the table. "Thank you, Lord, for this time we have together. Please bless our fellowship, and let us bring You honor and glory with the words we speak. Please bless this food, and bless the hands that prepared it." He squeezed Linda's hand. "In Jesus' name, amen."
"Amen," everybody chimed in.
It was a long evening of delightful fellowship and sweet reminiscing. All too soon, Jules and Duncan said their goodbyes.
"You know you're welcome to come over here and visit me any time, Jules."
"Of course, Aunt Mary. Thank you again for dinner."
She gave her a motherly hug. "Any time. Will you and Duncan be at Redeemer Baptist tomorrow?"
"Yes, we will. I've missed being there. Our other church was nice, but it was never quite the same as our church here at home."
"I felt the same way about my old church when I first moved here. But this one has certainly grown on me in the last twenty years."
Jules chuckled. "I look forward to the day when I can say I've been here for that long. Goodnight."