“Secrets Acknowledged”

by shel

© august 2001  

disclaimer:  lee stetson, amanda king, and the rest of the cast of characters we’ve come to know and love belong to warner bros. and shoot the moon enterprises and possible other copyright holders.  i intended no true infringement on their copyrights; i only wanted to borrow these marvelous characters for a short time in my own scenarios and hopefully return them no worse for wear; the only things i’ve gained from this story are the satisfaction and pleasure of having written it and in knowing that others may have enjoyed it too . . .  

rating: “pg”

summary:  what happens after the stetsons realize dotty realizes the truth about their relationship . . .

timeline: august 1987

notes: there are references to specific characters or situations from the following episodes:  “the first time,” “stemwinder,” “any number can play,” “saved by the bells,” “playing possum,” and “the man who died twice” which all belong to the respective authors of those eps . . . this is a continuation to ‘secrets revealed’ which, hopefully, if i was successful, can stand as a tale on its own . . . many thanks to all who requested this sequel – sequels often don’t live up to their expectations so i hope this one doesn’t disappoint you too much . . . please let me know if you enjoyed my tale and why and, if not, why not . . . and, please, don’t bother wasting your time or mine by sending any flames . . .      

I tighten my robe’s belt.  It’s not really loose but, for some reason, the action makes me feel more secure.  I’ve been listening to Amanda and Lee bustle about the kitchen for the past 20 minutes.  Seven A.M.  It’s time.  I know they’re waiting for me.  Heavens, it’s not like I’m going to ground them.  I simply want some answers . . . I don’t imagine either one slept well.  Amazingly, I had a wonderful night’s sleep.  I look down the staircase.  The moment of truth.  Deep breath, Dotty, Deep breath.  Okay, I can do this.  One step and the rest will follow.  

But I can’t move and I stand in my spot at the top of the stairs.  Oh, for goodness sake, I tug on my belt again, I shouldn’t be this nervous.  I’m not the one who has to explain how I eloped six months ago without telling my mother.  I’m not the one who has to explain why I pretend to work for a film company when I’m actually involved in some government agency like I’m a spy or something.  To think, if I would’ve spent all of last night with Captain Kurt like I’d wanted, I would’ve missed the entire conversation between Lee and Amanda.  All right, I wasn’t supposed to be eavesdropping but how else would I learn what’s going on in my daughter’s life? Here I thought she led a double life trying to hide the extent of her love for Lee from the boys when it’s really a triple life with her also hiding her job!  Busy beaver, my daughter.  

I suppose it’s been hard for her never able to talk about her day and unwind.  Constantly on guard.  Poor Amanda.  She’s had such a rough week.  Stressed from work, which she wouldn’t discuss with me, and suspecting she might be pregnant before realizing she’s not, I don’t know how she still managed to keep it all a secret.  I probably wouldn’t have even discovered the truth about their relationship if the boys hadn’t spent the night by Joe.  With the boys away and me supposedly out for the evening, why shouldn’t Amanda have felt relaxed enough to talk to Lee in her own family room about all she avoids telling us?  

To think she . . . they . . . have kept their marriage a secret for six months!  Why, when I married her daddy, all you had to do was take one look at us to know we were newlyweds.  Well, it’s obvious now that Amanda and Lee are talented at keeping secrets.  Why they had to keep their marriage a secret, I’ll never understand.  Even if they had a good reason, did they honestly think they should keep it a secret from me? Amanda’s own mother and they couldn’t trust me with the truth?   

Oops, better watch my step or I won’t get to hear their explanations.  Maybe this was a wake-up call for them.  Maybe they would have confessed.  They did talk about it last night.  They’ve both seemed so tired lately.  Whatever’s going on at work is taking its toll . . . No, it still doesn’t excuse their behavior completely.  They . . . Amanda should have known better.  California . . . What if Amanda...What if she . . . I can’t think about that.  But what would have happened? Would Lee have just disappeared from our lives as though he was never a part of it? And what if Lee had been hurt worse last week than just a deep cut to his arm? Would Amanda have kept everything bottled up and let us think he was nothing more than her boyfriend? My gosh, those two have left us out of one of the most important events of their lives.  They’d better have darn good reasons for lying all this time to me and the -- last step and I’m properly riled up again.  I always did have perfect timing.  

Outside the doorway, I strain to hear conversation but all is now quiet.  I peek into the family room and see Amanda and Lee, dressed for work, sitting on the couch, almost at attention.  They’re holding hands and, even from their backs, I can tell they’re nervous.  Taking a deep breath, I enter the room and greet them, “Good morning, Amanda.  What is that heavenly smell? Lee, good morning, you’re here awfully early.”  

Both quickly rise and match my smile with hesitant ones of their own.  Amanda kisses my cheek and dashes into the kitchen.  

“Good morning, Dotty,” Lee says as he accompanies me into the kitchen.  “How did you sleep?”  

“Wonderfully,” I answer with another cheery smile.  “And you, Lee? How did you sleep?” I ask pointedly.  

Before he can answer, though, Amanda shoves a paper cup in my hand.  “Here, Mother, it’s a new blend, Vanilla Hazelnut Cr&232;me.”  Avoiding the question, daughter?  

I can’t help but breathe in the coffee’s delightful aroma.  “What a treat,” I say with a smile, “but whatever did I do to deserve such an early morning delight?  My, are those croissants over there?”  

As Lee leads me to the bench, where the table is already set, Amanda displays the basket. “They’re fresh, Mother.  Would you like one?”  

I nod and smile again.  Fresh croissants, muffins, and special coffee.  These two went all out this morning.  They must really be feeling guilty.  Well, I’ll find out soon enough.  Breakfast first.  

They sit opposite me and I can’t help but notice, as I take a bite from this delicious croissant, that their plates remain empty.  “Aren’t you going to join me?”  

They look at each other.  “Well, uh, I’m not much of a breakfast person, Dotty,” Lee explains.  

I give him a motherly frown, “That’s not very healthy, Lee.”  

“So I keep hearing,” he comments with a look to Amanda that tells me my daughter hasn’t completely rubbed off on him yet.  

“And you, darling?” I ask Amanda.  “You always eat breakfast.”  

“Actually, Mother,” she fidgets, “I’ll probably grab something later.  We have to be in early today.”  

“That’s right,” Lee adds in relieved agreement.  He stands up and Amanda follows.  “We’ve got to be in by eight and I’d like to beat the rush hour traffic.”  

“Joe’s going to drop the boys by at dinnertime,” Amanda says as she steps back from the table.  “You should start eating if I’m not back.  I’ll call you later, Mother.”  

I let them get about two steps away when I call out, “Nonsense.  Both of you come right back to this table and eat something.  For heaven’s sake, one small croissant will not make you late for work.”  

“But,” they stammer as they nervously look at each other, “we really . . . ”  

Interrupting, I point to their seats and insist, “Sit.  How do you expect keep working such long hours if you don’t keep up your strength? These are absolutely delicious.  Have one.”  

With guilty looks, they sit quietly and begin to go through the motions of eating.  I continue as though I notice nothing wrong.  “Wherever did you find these, Amanda? I can’t remember the last time I had such a delicious croissant.”  

“Actually, Mother, Lee brought them.”  

I look to Lee who nervously glances to Amanda before answering.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen him quite as nervous.  “Yeah, uh, there’s this little bakery near me and, rumor has it, they make the best croissants on the Eastern Seaboard.”  

“Not a rumor as far as I’m concerned,” I say as I munch on another bite.  

Lee tries a smile.  “The boys probably wouldn’t appreciate them but I thought you would and since I was coming here to pick up Amanda, well . . . ”  

So, he went home last night.  Interesting.  “Well, I am enjoying them, of course, thank you.  But, Lee, you shouldn’t have gone through all that trouble just for me.”  

“No trouble,” Lee quickly insists.  “No trouble at all.”  

“Once you’re here, of course, I don’t expect you to travel back to your neighborhood just to buy me delicious coffee and croissants.  Everyday cereal works just fine for me.”  

“Once I’m here?” Lee asks warily as he glances to Amanda.  

I put down the last bit of croissant on my plate and look directly at him.  “You are moving in, aren’t you?”  

They look at each other.  I see Amanda reach for Lee’s hand under the table.  Now it begins.  

“About last night, Mother, we really should --”  

“Dotty, it’s all --”  

I raise my hand to stop them.  “I love you.  Both of you,” I add as I look at Lee, “but I expect complete honesty now.  Ground rule numberone.  You are going to explain to me why you eloped and kept your marriage a secret.  Ground rule number two.  You are not leaving this table until you have told me everything there is to know about your jobs.  Your real jobs.  Am I clear?”  

Both nod respectfully and look down at the half-eaten food on their plates.  “Yes, ma’am,” Amanda responds solemnly just as she did when she was five and broke my perfume bottle while she played with it without permission.  

“Now,” I begin, “if I understand correctly.  This past February, when you took your vacations, you didn’t take separate vacations but one together.”  They both look up and nod.  “What you really did was elope.  You’ve been married for six months.”  Again, they nod.  “So you weren’t on vacation alone, Amanda, when you were shot.  You were really on your honeymoon.  And you didn’t lie to the doctor about being her husband, Lee, to stay in her room.  You lied to me by telling me you lied to the doctor because it was the only way you could stay with her.”  I almost regret my harsh tone when I see Lee squeeze Amanda’s hand but I continue, “For the past six months, you’ve kept this turning point in your lives a secret from everyone.  From me.  The boys.  Your family.  Your friends.  Your colleagues.  I want to know why.  What possible reason could you have had?”  

“It’s complicated, Mother.”  

I shake my head, “Don’t tell me that.  Tell me the truth.”  

Lee looks to Amanda and sighs.  He turns back to me and says, “We’ll tell you what we can.”  

“So,” I wave my hands, “Why keep your marriage a secret? When did you propose? Where do you work? Who --”  

“It’s all mixed-up together, Mother,” Amanda interrupts as she looks to Lee, “I’m not even sure where to begin.”  

“The beginning would be best,” I strongly suggest.  

After receiving a quick nod from Lee, Amanda turns to me and asks, “Mother, do you remember Dean?”  

“Of course I remember Dean.  I thought you would marry him.  What does he have to do with all this? Are you,” I point to Lee, “the reason she stopped seeing him? I thought there was someone at work but I didn’t realize you were involved so early in --”  

“Mother,” Amanda interrupts, “I was going to end things with Dean anyway.”  

“Really?” Lee pipes in with interest.  

“Really,” Amanda repeats as she turns to look at him.  

With a satisfied grin, he comments, “I told you it wouldn’t have worked.  He was all wrong for you.  Too plaid.  Too boring.”  

“Lee!” Amanda reprimands, completely forgetting she is supposed to be talking to me.  “Dean was charming and funny and cared deeply for me and the boys.”  

“But,” Lee says as he kisses the tip of her nose, knowing it annoys her, “he was all wrong for you.”  

Amanda wrinkles her nose but smiles anyway when she kisses him gently on the lips.  “He was all wrong for me.”  

How can I not smile? They’re right.  Looking back, I realize that I was pushing more for a commitment with Dean than Amanda.  It wouldn’t have worked for them.  The difference I see in Amanda when she’s with Lee is like night and day.  They’re in love.  But their next kiss reminds me again why we’re here.  “Ahem, if you two don’t mind, I’m still waiting for an answer.”  Both face me again.  I ignore their embarrassment and ask, “Amanda, if you were going to break up with Dean anyway, what does he have to do with all this?”  

Amanda leans forward, resting her elbows on the table.  “Do you remember that October morning in ’83 when I took Dean to the train, had that little mix-up getting on it, and came home with a package?”  

“Not really.  Why?”  

“It was a small box that Phillip opened and played with when he wasn’t supposed to and you mailed it for me?”  

“I’m sorry, Amanda,” I shake my head, “it sounds vaguely familiar but I don’t remember exactly.”  For a second, she seems almost sad that I don’t recall.  “I take it, this was the event that got you involved with all those crazy jobs and then IFF and Lee?”  

Amanda nods.  “Dean had just gotten onto the train and I started walking down the platform when I,” Amanda looks at Lee and smiles, “was suddenly grabbed by an extremely rude and agitated waiter.”  

“I was not,” Lee quickly snaps.  

They exchange looks and, again, I’ve been forgotten.  It’s really quite sweet but if they’re like this for every answer, we’ll be here all day.  “Why did Lee grab you and why did you think he was a waiter?”  

My voice startles them from their memories and Amanda answers, “He needed my help, Mother.  There were some men chasing him and he wanted me to get on the train and give the package he was carrying to the man in the red hat.”  

I give a short laugh, “Give it to the man in the red hat.  That sounds like it’s straight out of a bad spy novel.”  They exchange uncomfortable looks.  “Oh my gosh.  You’re not a...”  Their looks haven’t changed.  “You are.  Lee, you’re a spy.  You’re both spies.  My daughter’s a spy.”  

“Actually,” Lee replies with a slight frown, “I’ve never cared for that word.”  

“He prefers ‘intelligence operative,’ Mother,” Amanda adds with the hint of a smile to Lee.  

Again, I’ve missed something between them.  Well, they’re entitled to a few private jokes.  “But why my daughter? How could you get her involved in something so dangerous?”  

“Good question, Mother,” Amanda says as she turns to Lee.  “Why me?  In all the time we’ve known each other, you’ve never told me.”  

With a glimmer of something in his eyes, he quickly asks back, “Why’d you help me?”  

“I asked first,” Amanda banters back.  

“I --” Lee suddenly interrupts his retort and, instead, caresses her cheek.  Suddenly quite serious, he says, “Your eyes . . . Your eyes told me I could trust you.”  

Amanda smiles shyly and nods, “Those few seconds . . . I knew I could trust you.  I had to help.”  

They simply stare at each other and I can only imagine what they’re thinking.  It’s that silent communication they seem to have.  I sigh quietly.  I don’t remember Amanda like this with Joe.  They loved each other and still do but what I see with Lee is different.  They’re so connected.  I think this one’s going to last.  But, “Look, if you two don’t stop that right now, you will be late for work.  Finish explaining.  What happened next? What was in the package?”  

With her gaze still on Lee, Amanda smiles in a way that I know is just for him.  “I got on the train and found 25 men in red hats.”  Then, turning back to me, she continues with a shrug, “I didn’t know what to do so I took the package home.  Lee contacted me again and --”  

Lee interrupts, “From the information Phillip remembered from the broken music box, we were able to crack the code and catch Mrs. Welsh before any more agents were killed.”  

“Mrs. Welsh? The cooking show? Pilgrim’s Peach Puff? What a marvelous dessert.  So easy and yet so -- My gosh, I remember now.  She was arrested on her own estate by a pair of federal agents.  She was involved with the KGB, wasn’t she?”   

Lee nods and acknowledges Amanda, “Amanda’s quick-thinking and improvisation saved my life and impressed the hell out of my section chief.  He asked if she’d be willing to help out from time to time and she --”   “Said yes,” Amanda finishes.  “But Lee never wanted my help.  It was torture for him every time Mr. Melrose ordered me to work with him.”   “Mr. Melrose?” I interrupt.  “William Melrose? The federal agent who was in charge of the investigation of that mess you were in last year?  The one you had me contact when Harry was in trouble and I wanted someone to help?”   “Yes, Mother,” Amanda replies as she cringes slightly when my voice rose half an octave.  “I’m sorry we pretended not to know him but we couldn’t tell you we already knew him because we worked for him.   By then, it was too complicated.”   

I nod my acknowledgement and get back to her previous comment and focus on Lee.  “Working with my daughter was torture?”  

Lee glares at Amanda as though she has gotten him in trouble, “She’s exaggerating.  It wasn’t like that.  Sure, I wasn’t --”  

“Come on, Lee,” Amanda interrupts, “you thought of me as a nuisance.  A civilian who had no business trying to help.  I couldn’t do anything right and didn’t fit into your world at all.  You couldn’t wait to get rid of me.”  

“That’s not true,” Lee insists again.  “You were bright and intelligent and persistent and Billy was absolutely right in wanting me to work with you.”  


“Really,” Lee repeats with a smile.  “I’ve told you before, I’m a better agent because you were partnered with me.”  

As they lean towards each other, I interrupt, “Don’t even think of kissing again until you’ve finished confessing.”  They smile sheepishly at me and face me again, sitting properly. “So there were no clubs or jobs like caring for pets or plants?” I ask Amanda.  

Amanda shakes her head.  “I wasn’t able to tell you about working for the Agency, Mother, so I came up with all those excuses.  I’m sorry for lying to you.”  

Lee confirms her statement with a nod.  “It’s true.  In matters of security and safety, Amanda wasn’t allowed to tell you what she was doing.  But she tried to tell you as much of the truth as possible.  She just didn’t tell you everything.  And she did watch my fish for me once when I went on vacation.”  

I notice Amanda’s quick shake of her head to Lee.  She obviously doesn’t want me to know about it but I’ve had enough secrets.  “What happened with the fish?”  Lee realizes his slip and hesitates.  “What happened to the fish?” I ask again.  

“The fish were fine, Mother,” Amanda answers instead.  “It’s just that . . . some Russians found me in Lee’s apartment and thought I was him and kidnapped me.  Lee found me and I was fine and nothing --”  

“You were kidnapped.”  I’m stunned.  “Wait.  How could the Russians possibly think you were Lee?”  

Lee thinks a moment and explains, “They knew to go after the . . . um . . . Scarecrow but didn’t know what the Scarecrow looked like.”  

Amanda picks up from there, “When they found me in the Scarecrow’s apartment, they assumed I was Scarecrow and took me.  But they didn’t hurt me and everything worked out.”  

“So . . . Scarecrow’s not some strange pet name but your code name?”  Lee nods.  “I don’t believe this.  I simply don’t.  You, Amanda, mother of two small boys, wanted to find some part-time work to help pay the bills and end up working with government agents mixed up with the Russians? All those times you were handing me the craziest excuses and – Oh, my gosh.  The bomb.”  

“What bomb?” Lee asks in surprise.  

I look directly at Amanda.  “You told me there was a nuclear bomb in Washington and that you were a spy and you had information other spies needed and we had to leave and . . . Amanda, you were telling me the truth.”  

Amanda nods and quietly says, “I was scared for you.  I wanted you and the boys safe and couldn’t think of any other way to convince you.”  

“And I didn’t believe you.  You told me the truth and I didn’t believe you.  I’m sorry, darling.”  I reach for her hand and give it a slight squeeze.  

“It’s okay, Mother,” she says giving me a squeeze in return, “it was pretty hard to believe and I wasn’t very truthful with you with all those other excuses.”  

“If it helps at all, Dotty, Amanda hated the excuses.  She wanted to tell you the truth from the very beginning.  But she couldn’t and the more time went on, the harder it got to even begin to explain.  Like I said, she always tried to tell you as much of the truth as she could.  If she . . . never mind.”  

“No, I do mind.  What were you going to say?”  

Lee hesitates but Amanda’s nod allows him to continue.  “If Amanda told you she was running late because she was tied up, she was probably telling the truth.  But she meant it literally and didn’t correct you when you inferred that it was paperwork or something like that.”  

I nod slowly and the implications suddenly sink in.  The late hours.  The sudden trips.  The car accidents.  The ruined and torn clothing. “The danger,” I whisper. “California?”  

“Oh, no, Mother,” Amanda quickly says.  “California didn’t have anything to do with the Agency.”  

I look to Lee and he nods his head in agreement.  “I never lied when I said that Amanda was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It really was an accident.  We were in California for us.  For our . . . ”  

“Honeymoon,” I finish as I find my voice again.  “But why keep it all a secret?”  

“A number of reasons, Mother,” Amanda answers as Lee takes her hand in his.  

Lee answers quietly, “Dotty, my relationship with Amanda has changed in the years I’ve known her.  She’s gone from being an occasional help to me at work to a friend and some-time partner to full-fledged partner and someone who meant more to me than just a friend.  It was a long time before I could admit to myself that I loved Amanda.  Cared for her, yes.  Wanted to be with her, yes.  But love?  I have not had the best track record when it comes to love and the thought of loving her scared me.”  An encouraging smile from Amanda lets Lee continue.  “But I did love her.  And when I found out she felt the same way, I realized I couldn’t be without her. I wanted to share my life with her and share in her life.”  

“I loved him,” Amanda says without taking her eyes off Lee.  He gives her hand a squeeze and she turns to me.  “I knew he was serious about our relationship but I didn’t realize he’d thought of marriage.  Lee’s proposal caught me off-guard but I loved him.  And I didn’t think.  I just said yes.”  

“So why not tell us? Or me? I’m your mother.  I know how hard the separation and divorce from Joe was for you.  I know how hard it was for you to raise 2 children on your own.”  

“I had you,” Amanda whispers.  

I smile gratefully for those three small words but continue, “All I wanted was to see my baby happy again.  You know, you changed, too, in the past few years, Amanda.  I’ve watched you regain your self-confidence, your independence.  In spite of your running around, and all the excuses, you were happy again.  Happy in a way you hadn’t been since you first married Joe.  I would have been thrilled to know you had fallen in love.  Fallen in love and wanted to marry again.”  

“Oh, Mother, I wanted to tell you about Lee and how serious it was.  It’s been hard keeping it all inside.  But you and the boys barely knew Lee.  You would’ve thought it was a sudden thing and wouldn’t have understood.  And I didn’t know how to explain that I had really known Lee for years without explaining how I really met him or what we really did.  So we,” Amanda acknowledges Lee, “thought it was best to have Lee slowly spend more time with us.  To give the boys the chance to know him better on their own.  You saw how Jamie was at first.  It would’ve been worse if I had immediately announced that Lee and I were engaged.”  

“That’s true, I suppose.  But you didn’t have to run off and elope.  Why not simply announce that you wanted to get married after some time had passed?”  Amanda and Lee look uncomfortably at each other and don’t say anything.  “Were you afraid I was going to spoil things by taking over and planning a big bash? I wouldn’t, you know.  I would go along with whatever you wanted. I don’t have any problems with a simple elegant affair.  I wouldn’t have --”  

“It’s not that, Mother,” Amanda interrupts.  “It’s just that it was all so . . . ”  

“Complicated,” I finish.  “Yes, I’m beginning to see.  So, you love each other and want to get married.  You’re not worried about Mother taking over wedding plans so you eloped because . . . ”  

Amanda nudges Lee who asks, “Me?”  

“It was your idea,” Amanda teases.  

“You agreed,” Lee counters.  

“But you were --”  

“Enough,” I say, “I heard this part last night.  I don’t want to know who thought of it first or who agreed to what.  I want to know why it so important to keep your engagement and marriage a secret.”  

After a moment, Lee speaks, “We became involved with a case at work.”  He looks at Amanda and doesn’t continue.  


“It was a kidnapping, Mother,” Amanda volunteers.   

“The young son of an agent, a friend of mine, was kidnapped to get to his father,” Lee finally explains.  I can see this is difficult for him to discuss so I let Lee continue at his own pace.  “It made me realize that it, just as easily, could have been Phillip or Jamie.  We were so caught up in getting the boys used to me so that we could eventually announce our plans that we forgot about the risks to the family.  So, I thought that if no one knew how involved I really was with Amanda and her family, no one could use them as leverage to get to me.  I . . . I would never forgive myself if anything happened to you or the boys because of me.”  

I feel tears forming in my eyes but am so frustrated by their decision.  “But that’s ridiculous!  Lee, you’ve spent so much time here getting to know us all, as you’ve said, that you’re already a part of the family.  If anyone wanted to put us in danger to get to you, they could do so without you being married to my daughter.  You’ve already said that Amanda was put in danger when you weren’t even involved in a relationship with her.”  

“It made so much more sense at the time,” Amanda explains with a far-away look on her face.  “We kept thinking about that little boy.  We were worried about your safety and thought it was the best way.”  

I shake my head, “Putting your happiness on hold indefinitely is not the best way.”  

“We didn’t --” Amanda starts before I interrupt.  

“Of course you did.  You were worried about what could possibly happen to me or the boys.”  They nod slowly and I continue, “I appreciate that.  I truly do.  A lot of things make sense now.  But, darlings, risks are a part of life and you can’t let your fear of them keep you from living life to the fullest.  By keeping this secret, you’ve denied the boys an open relationship with their stepfather.  You’ve denied me the delight of being a mother-in-law. Don’t look so worried, Lee.  Most importantly, though, you’ve denied yourselves the wonders and pleasures of newlywed life.”  

“We haven’t, um, exactly...” Amanda tries to politely correct me.  

“I’m not talking about a few pleasurable hours in bed, Missy,” I say as Amanda blushes and looks down.  “I’m not worried about you in that department.  What I meant is that you’ve missed out on the simple everyday pleasures of living together as a new family.  Your family.”  

“These aren’t ordinary risks,” Lee says as he shakes his head.  “We’re not your average policemen or detectives.  There is real danger of retaliation for what we do.”  

“We’re careful, Mother,” Amanda adds, “but we still have to do whatever we can to lessen the possible risks to our family.”  

“I understand and appreciate that.  But you’re still missing my point,” I insist.  “Nobody knows you’re already married but it seems to me that the risks you’re so worried about still apply.  So why do you need to keep your relationship a secret? Wouldn’t it be better for all of us if you were both open about it? From what I understand now, the two of you make a formidable pair.  Wouldn’t the risks be lessened if you were here permanently, Lee?”  

Lee glances at Amanda before he admits, “We’re, uh, beginning to realize all that now.”  

“We talked last night about it,” Amanda quietly adds, “and you’re right.  We’re ready to make some changes.  We need to make some changes.”  

“I gather your marriage will be a problem for your partnership,” I say, recalling part of last night’s conversation.  “Will you be split up? Will you be happy enough doing something else?”  

“We’re not sure yet what all our options are,” Lee explains.  “We have to talk to Billy first which is part of the reason why we’re going in early.”  

“Once we complete this . . . case,” Amanda appears nervous saying the word, still not used to speaking to me of work, “we’ll be able to sit down and make concrete plans.”  

“I still have more questions that need answering but I can accept that for now,” I say as I rise from the bench.  “In the meantime, you two best get to work.”  The two rise and look at each other.  

“Um, Mother,” Amanda hesitates, “you do know you can’t tell anyone about what we do?”  

“Amanda,” I say in a disappointed voice, “I know how to keep a secret.  You don’t think you got all your talents from your father, do you?”  

“This is serious, Dotty.  You can’t tell anyone or let anything slip.  As far as everyone is concerned, Amanda and I work for a documentary film company.”  

I nod and turn serious, “I understand.  I do.  But I want you both to understand something, too.  No more stories about editing rooms or premieres.  If there’s something you can’t tell me because of security then tell me that.  But I want nothing less than the truth from here on out.  Agreed?” Both nod their heads obediently and I want to send them on their way so I hug Amanda.  “I’m so happy for you, darling.” Now, of course, I start to tear up.  “And I’m sorry about the baby,” I whisper in her ear.  

Amanda rubs my back and I barely hear her respond, “I love you, Mother.”  

“It’s going to be all right,” I answer as I pull back.  I face Lee.  He still seems nervous, unsure, I guess, of what comes next.  “I meant what I said before,” I say as I reach out and hug him, “I do love you.”  I’ve never really hugged him like this before and he’s a little stiff in my embrace.  “Welcome to the family, son,” I honestly add.  At my last word, Lee tightens his arms around me.  

“Thank you,” he whispers without letting go.  

We stay that way a moment longer before I push him back.  Lee clears his throat and I wipe my left eye.  As I silently shoo them off to work, Lee places his arm around Amanda’s waist and guides her towards the front door.  I follow them and start up the stairs as they open the door.  

Just as I’m at the top of the stairs, I remember and call out after them as I hurry down the steps, “Don’t forget about tonight.   I know you said last night that you’re working undercover on this case but try to be home at a decent time.”  

Standing in the doorway, almost mid-kiss, they look up at me.  Why did Lee just roll his eyes?  

“Why, what’s tonight?” Amanda asks with another one of those ‘Lee-only’ smiles.   

“Well,” I grin, “tonight is when you tell the boys.  Stay safe and have a good day, you two.”  Before they can say anything, I climb the stairs and enter my bedroom.  I close my door and realize it’s still silent downstairs.  I hope they close that door at some point or flies will come inside the house.   Hmmm, I wonder what I should make for dinner.  I take off my robe and set about getting dressed.  Something special, I suppose, it’s definitely going to be an interesting evening . . .    

the end . . .  

really . . . .  

no more sequels . . .  

really . . .  

: )