“Tale of the Tape”
by shel
© may 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 productions 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”
archiving:  the fanfic archive and…all others, please ask first…
summary:  surprises abound for amanda, lee, and her family on amanda’s birthday…
timeline: october 1987 – the Stetson marriage is still a secret…
notes: there are references to specific characters, situations, or dialogue  from: “fearless dotty,” “unfinished business,” “need to know,” “sudden death,” “the triumvirate,” ”the eyes have it,” “stemwinder, part 2,” “santa’s got a brand new bag,” "mission of gold," “always look a gift horse in the mouth,” and “nightcrawler”  which all belong to the respective authors of those eps…the basic idea for my story popped into my head one day but, while i was working on it, liddy’s “images” was posted…i figured mine went in a different enough direction so i kept working on it and, well, here it (finally) is…please let me know if you enjoyed it and why and, if not, why not…and, please, don’t bother wasting your time or mine by sending flames…

 “Happy Birthday, Mom!” Phillip and Jamie shouted together as they cornered their mother, who still sat at the dinner table.  They quickly shoved a small wrapped gift into her hands and said, “This’s for you.”
 After a quick glance to both Lee, who sat next to her, and her mother, who stood up and left the table, Amanda asked, in genuine surprise, “What’s this? My birthday’s not until the end of next week.”
 “I told them you would rather wait but they insisted,” Dotty commented as she closed the door to the dishwasher, pressed some buttons, and nodded in satisfaction when the machine began its routine humming noises.  “They just have no willpower.”
 Amanda smiled and turned her attention to her sons, “Fellas, can’t it wait until my birthday?”
 “No,” both boys emphatically stated.
 “Go on, Amanda,” Lee encouraged, “what’s the harm?”
 She shook her head and explained to them all, “No opening cards or presents before birthdays, you know that.  Mother started the tradition when I was a little girl.”
“Dumb tradition, if you ask me,” muttered Jamie.
“Jamie!” Amanda admonished.  “Look, fellas, I’m sure I’ll be just as happy and surprised when I open it on my birthday next week.”
 “Grandma?” Phillip asked in near-desperation.
 But Dotty wanted no part and simply said, “I can’t help it if you have no will power.”  Amanda grinned and Dotty pointed at Phillip, “That, you did not get from your mother.”
“Come on, Mom,” Phillip whined, “just this once.  You’re gonna love it.  Promise.”
 “Yeah, please, Mom,” Jamie added, “It’s gonna be great and we’ve been dying all week to see it.”
 Amanda regarded her sons suspiciously, “You haven’t seen it? Then how do you know I’m gonna love it?”
 Both boys answered excitedly, “You will, trust us.”
 Amanda’s curiosity was getting the best of her so she turned to her secret-husband and teased, “I don’t know, do they look trustworthy to you?”
 Lee glanced at the boys who were mouthing to him, begging him, to convince her so he dramatically ‘thought it over.’  “Hmmm, I don’t know.  They seem to be a rather sneaky bunch.”
 “Now, that they got from their mother,” Dotty matter-of-factly stated as she sat down.
 “Lee,” Phillip groaned, “you’re supposed to helping us here.”
 “Yeah,” Jamie added, “you’re the one who gave everything to Mr. Walters.”
 “You know about this?” Amanda turned to Lee.  “What did you do? And who is Mr. Walters?”
 “Thanks a lot, Jamie,” Lee muttered.
 “We suffer, you suffer,” Phillip said in his brother’s defense.
 “All right, all right,” Amanda laughed at the annoyed expressions on the faces of her three men, “I’ll open it.  I don’t want anyone suffering because of my birthday.”  While the boys cheered, Amanda leaned in close to Lee and whispered, “But I might make you a little uncomfortable later.”
 Lee grinned, kissed her quickly on the lips, and was about to say something when Phillip interrupted, “Save the mushy stuff.  Let Mom open her present.”

 Lee’s grin widened and he leaned back in his seat to give Amanda room to open her present.  “It’s from all of us,” he said as he indicated to Dotty and the boys.
 “I wonder what it is,” Amanda smiled and considered the object before she carefully began opening the wrapping. “It’s a book, isn’t it?”
 “No more birthday books,” Dotty insisted, “or don’t you remember being mugged when I bought Sky Chief Rides Again for Phillip?”
 “Mother,” Amanda sighed as she rolled her eyes.
 “Come on, Mom,” Jamie piped up, “open it already.”
 “Yeah, before your next birthday,” Phillip added.  “Just rip it.”
“You’re only gonna throw the wrapping out anyway,” Jamie finished.
 “Someone took special care to wrap this,” Amanda patiently explained, “so it should be opened with special care.”  She stopped from her task to flash an amused grin to the chorus of groans she heard before she removed the last of the wrapping with a flourish.  Then she looked at them quizzically, “A video?”

 “Not just any video,” Lee answered with a knowing smile.
 “Yeah, this one’s all about you,” Jamie added excitedly.
 Amanda looked at the tape, “Me? How on Earth did you get a video about me?”
 “We made it,” Phillip explained.
 Amanda’s eyes widened in surprise, “You made it?”
 “Not exactly,” Dotty replied in amusement.  “Darling, remember a few weeks ago when I said I hadn’t seen our home movies in ages? Well, the boys thought they would transfer all of them onto videotape and --”
 “Yeah, no one watches those old 8 millimeters anymore,” Phillip interrupted, “Video’s the way to go.”
 “We thought it would be neat to get them all onto a tape for you for your birthday,” Jamie continued.  “Grandma had all the movies labeled so it was easy to pick out just the ones you were in.”
“She even gave us some old pictures to add,” Phillip said, “and --”
“And we also gave in some of the tapes we’ve shot with the camera Dad gave us after he came home last year,” Jamie breathlessly finished for his brother.
“The car wash?” Amanda interrupted in a worried tone.  Phillip and Jamie looked at each other.  “Fellas, you didn’t…”
“We voted on everything that went onto the tape, Mom,” Phillip explained.
With a smile, Lee finally spoke up, “Majority ruled.”
“Maj -- did you contribute anything to this other than a vote?” Amanda asked suspiciously.
“Of course he did, Mom,” Jamie supplied, “we couldn’t have done this without him.  When we told him what we wanted to do, he took everything to Mr. Walters.”
“Walters owed me a favor,” Lee said as he shrugged, “several actually, and this was one way to start clearing the balance.”
“Wait a minute, are you talking about Walters, Walters who never leaves the,” Amanda looked around at the others, “um, dark room and has that fetish for strawb--”
“That would be Walters,” Lee quickly interrupted.  “I gave him the pictures, movies, and tapes and he put them all together onto a videotape.  Well, almost all of them.  There were a few reels that had deteriorated so badly he couldn’t salvage them.”
“And Lee had him make a separate tape for the rest of the movies we didn’t use on yours,” Dotty added gratefully.
“I can’t believe you all did this…Why does Walters owe you any favors?” Amanda asked Lee as an afterthought.
Lee smiled as he remembered, “I helped him out of a jam once.  A sticky situation, really.  An indiscretion on his part and I just happened to --”
“He’ll tell you later,” Jamie interrupted, “or we’ll never get to see this video.”
“All right,” Amanda chuckled at her sons’ impatience, “we’ll watch it now.”
“I always miss the juicy stuff,” Dotty complained as she stood up.
Lee stood up and whispered to Dotty, “I’ll tell you later.”
“Lee, she’s going to hold you to that,” Amanda warned.
“Hush, darling, you never tell me anything about work so if Lee would like to share some war stories, who am I to stop him?” Dotty said with a grin, “Now, everybody, into the family room.”
“Yes!” Phillip shouted as he grabbed the video from Amanda’s hands and raced with his brother to the TV stand where he popped the video into the VCR.

While Phillip and Jamie sprawled themselves on the floor, Lee settled in a corner of the couch and Amanda sat next to him.  Dotty, meanwhile, had settled into the armchair.
“Maybe I should make popcorn,” Amanda suggested.
Dotty shook her head, “We just ate dinner.”
“And dessert,” Phillip added as he licked his lips.  “Awesome cake, Mom.”
Amanda smiled, “Thank you, sweetheart, but next time I’ll cut your slice or the cake won’t last more than two days.”
Jamie turned around to his mother, “I could go for some popcorn.”
“Next time, sport,” Lee said as he grabbed Amanda’s hand to keep her from getting up.
“After I see it, I’ll decide if there is a next time,” Amanda murmured as she settled back into Lee’s embrace.
“There will be,” Lee assured her with a quick kiss to her cheek.
“Why? Have you seen it?”
Lee shook his head, “I promised the boys I wouldn’t sneak even the slightest peek.”
“Then how can you be so sure there’ll be a next time?”
“With you as the star, how could there not be?” Lee asked with a wink.
“Shhh,” both boys insisted, “it’s starting.”

*****     *****     *****

While a faint melody played in the background, shiny gold letters that spelled ‘Amanda’ scrolled across the black screen and stopped in the center.  The letters grew slightly larger, sparkled, and faded from view.
“The Music Box Dancer,” Amanda happily exclaimed.  “How’d you know I love that tune?”
“You should know by now, I have my ways,” Lee replied as he brought her hand to his lips and kissed her knuckles lightly.
“You certainly do,” Amanda whispered as she shifted position so her legs stretched out on the couch.  Amanda snuggled back against his chest, pulled his arm around her waist, and held his hand comfortably in hers.

*****     *****     *****

An old black and white photo of a bride and groom slowly faded in.
“That’s you and Daddy,” Amanda said in surprise as she turned in her mother’s direction.
“Well, we had to start with us before we started with you,” Dotty responded with a smile.  “Look at how handsome he was in that suit.  He bought it brand new, just for the wedding.”

A short montage of photos of Amanda’s parents followed.  Images of a happy couple at home, with friends, at celebrations, and on vacation.  The camera froze on a photo of a very pregnant Dotty standing at the edge of a pier gazing at a sunset.
“Mother,” Amanda said quietly, “you look beautiful.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen that picture before.”
“With you on the way, your daddy was working extra long hours and I knew that he needed a break so I surprised him with a weekend getaway at this little inn by the bay.  Serenity Bay, it was called,” Dotty wistfully reminisced.  “At the last minute, I had second thoughts about going away.  I looked, felt, and moved like a whale and didn’t think he’d enjoy himself but your daddy, he didn’t care, he just didn’t.  He wanted us to go.  So we did…” While Dotty paused a moment, Phillip paused the tape.  “We had a wonderful time,” Dotty continued, “and, well, anyway, shortly after we got to the inn, your daddy lay down to take a nap but I was feeling a bit restless so I took a walk along the pier.  I had no idea he even followed me until I saw the picture later. You know, you were born a week after your daddy took this picture.  I still don’t know why but it was one of his favorites and he always kept it protected in one of his books. When the boys asked for help with the video, I knew I had to include it. Because your daddy would have.”
“Oh, Mother, I --” Amanda began in a choked voice before Phillip resumed play and a new picture faded in.

*****     *****     *****

A newborn wrapped in a blanket, supported by large pillows, was in the middle of a couch.
Jamie piped up, “There you are, Mom.”
“Beautiful,” Lee whispered in Amanda’s ear as he gave her a kiss.

The next image was of Dotty holding the newborn followed by a picture of Amanda’s father holding her.
“You were such a beautiful baby,” Dotty said, “with such a good nature.  You were just a happy baby and smiled at anyone and everyone.  Everyone simply adored you.  Especially your daddy.”

A montage of family photos with baby Amanda as the center of attention followed.  Amanda in her crib, in her stroller, in her playpen, and in the arms of family and friends.
“At least you didn’t use any of the bathtub pictures,” Amanda sighed but, when she noticed Lee shift slightly behind her, she added, “You didn’t.”
“Those are standard family photos, darling.  Everyone has them,” Dotty commented with a smile.

*****     *****     *****

Onscreen, a new picture faded in and froze for a minute - a happy baby Amanda bathed by Dotty in thee kitchen sink.
Amanda shook her head and Lee commented, “Come on, it’s a cute picture.”
“I seem to recall you being totally amused by the picture my mother stuck in her diary.”
Amanda turned to look at him, “That’s different.”
“Oh,” Lee replied with amusement, “How?”
“All right,” Amanda conceded as she turned back to the TV which was still frozen with her bathtub image, “but did you have to freeze it so long?”
“Mom, if you hate the picture, how come you took the same ones of Phillip and me?”
“Jamie, I --”
“Shhh,” Phillip said, “here come the others.”
“The others?” Amanda asked in horror.

The next picture was of baby Amanda lying on a blanket on her stomach without any clothing or diaper of any kind.  That was followed by a picture of a naked baby in mid-crawl across the floor which was followed by one of a naked baby posed in the middle of some stuffed animals.
“Mother! I can’t believe you used all these pictures,” Amanda groaned as she hid her face in embarrassment.
“Well, now,” Dotty began with a grin as Amanda peeked at the TV between her fingers, “I did have some help selecting the photos.”

A montage of similar photos began.  All of baby or toddler Amanda dressed in nothing but her birthday suit.
“Fellas!” Amanda exclaimed.
Both boys turned to her and quickly shouted, “It wasn’t just us!”
Amanda turned back to Lee who seemed to know he was really in for it, “You chose these pictures?”
Lee shrugged sheepishly, “I couldn’t decide on which one or two so I --”
“Chose them all,” Dotty finished.
Lee tried defending himself, “Everyone agreed.”
“Yeah, Mom, majority ruled,” Jamie added in Lee’s defense.
“What?” Amanda asked as she quickly rose off the couch.  “Phillip, stop the tape.  Give me that remote control and -- Lee, what are you doing?” she asked as Lee grabbed her from around her waist and pulled her down.
After she landed in his lap, Lee tightened his arm around her waist and locked her in place.  He whispered low in her ear so the others wouldn’t hear, “I can’t help it if I love seeing that cute bottom of yours.”
“Lee…” Amanda tried squirming out of his lap but that only seemed to encourage him to kiss her further.
“Come on, you guys,” Phillip complained, “mushy stuff later.”
“Okay, okay, you win,” Lee sighed as he leaned back and relaxed his hold on his wife.  “Start it up, Phillip.”

*****     *****     *****

The melody continued playing and the home movie began with little Amanda, dressed in a party dress, sitting on the couch in a decorated living room, surrounded by friends as she unwrapped presents.
“You were five years old.  Such a big girl,” Dotty remembered.
“I loved that dress,” Amanda smiled.  “I still have it, too.”
“Why?” Jamie asked.
Amanda sighed, “I thought I could pass it down but you and your brother weren’t little girls so --”
“Hey, is that your dog, Mom?” Phillip interrupted.
“Pinto!” Amanda nodded excitedly, “Gosh, I haven’t seen a picture of him in ages.  Look at him…”

Amanda and her friends played musical chairs.  They played Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey.
“Oooh, there’s my cake,” Amanda said as she watched herself blow out all the candles.
While Lee and Jamie applauded, Phillip teased, “Good job, Mom.”
“Your grandmother’s cake,” Dotty said.  “Orange cake with chocolate frosting, just for her Amanda.  We had a devil of a time keeping Pinto out of the frosting.”
“He loved chocolate,” Amanda added with a smile.
“And there you are, caught red-handed,” Dotty accused as she watched little Amanda sneak the dog some frosting under the table.
“It was my birthday,” Amanda said defensively.
“You and your father, always sneaking that dog chocolate,” Dotty commented in an annoyed tone.  “And every time, Pinto ended up sick as a d--” Dotty interrupted herself when she realized what she was about to say.  Without skipping a beat, she continued, and pointed at Amanda, “It happened every single time but you, missy, still went ahead and fed him and who was the one who cleaned up after Pinto each time?”
“Mother, how could I say no to that face?” Amanda asked in a childlike voice as she pointed to the screen and tried to ignore the chuckling from behind her.  “Just look at him.  Look at my Pinto.”

*****     *****     *****

Little Amanda held her mother’s hand as they walked down the block.  They stopped in front of a building and Amanda turned to the camera and stood there while her lower lip quivered.  She looked to her mother who indicated she should go inside.
“First day of school,” Amanda and her mother announced at the same time.
“Poor baby,” Lee sympathized as he hugged Amanda.
“She didn’t want to go in the worst way,” Dotty said as she watched the image of her daughter holding onto her tightly.
“I was scared,” Amanda defended herself.  “I didn’t think I’d know anyone.  I didn’t know why I couldn’t just stay home with you.”
“But you didn’t cry,” Dotty added as she saw herself let Amanda go.  “As soon as your daddy and I promised you again that you’d have fun and that we’d be there to pick you up at the end of the day, you said, ‘Okay, Mommy, I’ll go.’  And off you went.  Just like that.  My big girl.”
“Poor Grandma,” Phillip said.
“Well, I didn’t say I didn’t cry,” Dotty commented as she saw herself sobbing after her daughter entered the building.

A hand reached out to Dotty with a handkerchief that she accepted.  After quickly blowing her nose, she hurried inside the building after Amanda who was standing in the hallway with a teacher and happily waved good-bye to her mother.
“Mrs. O’Shea,” Amanda said with a smile.  “She used to make us oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.”
“Old lady O’Shea?” Phillip questioned.
“Phillip!” Amanda reprimanded.  “She was not old when you had her and she’s not old now.  She’s gotta be, what, Mother, in her sixties?”  Dotty didn’t answer and Amanda turned to look at her, “Mother? Are you okay?”
“Just a little something in my eye,” Dotty explained as she dabbed her eyes with a tissue.
“Mother,” Amanda repeated softly.

*****     *****     *****

Young Amanda was dressed as a witch and raced to the front door carrying a jack-o-lantern.  She opened the door to her costumed friends who entered in a rush and surrounded her.
“Prettiest witch I’ve ever seen,” Lee commented with a kiss to Amanda’s cheek.
“That was my combined tenth birthday/Halloween party,” Amanda replied as she watched everyone onscreen dancing in her living room.
“Who is that Dracula,” Lee asked as he suddenly tensed up, “and why is he kissing you?”
“Aaah,” Amanda replied in an amused tone, “That would be Bobby Jackson.  He was my boyfriend at the time.”
“The Jacksons lived down the block from us,” Dotty explained as she watched herself bring out the birthday cake.  “Bobby and Amanda played together all the time.”
“What happened to Bobby Jackson,” Lee asked in a still slightly jealous tone, “and why didn’t you tell me about him?”
“You never asked,” Amanda teased.
“Wait a second, what happened to no more sec--”
“He wasn’t a secret,” Amanda interrupted as she patted his arm, “and, don’t worry, Lee, Bobby moved away when I was eleven and, last I heard, lives in New York with his wife of 13 years and their four children.  I’m all yours.”
“And don’t you forget it,” Lee teased back.
“Mush Alert!” Phillip and Jamie shouted, just as Amanda had turned slightly to kiss Lee.
“All right, later, then,” the couple agreed as they sighed together.

*****     *****     *****

A teen-age Amanda stood with three girls next to a car and posed beside it as though they were showing off the car as a prize.  Amanda excitedly waved car keys in front of the camera and got behind the wheel while her friends piled into the car.
“I can’t watch,” Dotty said.
“Mother,” Amanda rolled her eyes, “You know Daddy would never have let me get my license if he didn’t think I was a good driver.  We kept telling you, you worried all for nothing.”
“I’ll remind you of that in a few years when that one starts to drive,” Dotty answered as she indicated to Phillip.
“Lee’s gonna let me practice on the ‘Vette,” Phillip piped up with a grin.
“He said no such thing, Phillip,” Amanda corrected as she turned to make sure Lee wasn’t hyperventilating at the thought of her son driving his beloved vehicle, “so you shouldn’t -- Lee? What is it?”
Lee shook his head and asked, “What?”
“What’s so fascinating?” Amanda asked as she turned back in time to see herself pulling the car out of the driveway, waving to the camera.
“I just can’t -- Your long hair -- You looked -- That mini-skirt…”
Amanda grinned, “You’ve seen pictures of me before.”
“Pictures are one thing.  Movies are definitely something else,” Lee mumbled as he gave her a gentle squeeze of approval.

*****     *****     *****

Amanda, dressed in formal attire, twirled for the camera to show off her dress.  A hand reached out in view and held up a sign that read ‘Amanda’s Prom.’  She answered the doorbell and admitted a young man dressed formally in a suit and tie.  She blushed from a comment and shyly looked back at the camera.
“And that would be…” Lee began.
“Kevin Sanders,” Amanda replied with a smile as she watched herself chastely kiss Kevin after he pinned a corsage to her dress.
“The college guy with the motorcycle?” Lee asked.
“So you do pay attention to my stories,” Amanda teased.
“Motorcycle? What motorcycle?” Dotty asked with interest.
“Oops,” Lee said sheepishly, “She didn’t know?”
“Um, no,” Amanda replied.

Dotty took pictures of the couple before ushering them out the front door.  She waved good-bye as the car pulled away from the curb.
“At least he had a car with him that night,” Dotty sighed in relief.  “I’m glad you didn’t see him that long, I’d hate to think of you riding with him on a motorcycle.  They are menaces on the road.  Simply menaces.”
“Kevin was a very good rider,” Amanda said.
“Amanda, you didn’t go with him,” Dotty said in a worried tone.  “You never went riding with him, did you?”
“Maybe a couple of times,” Amanda reluctantly agreed.
“You rode a motorcycle?” Phillip exclaimed as he paused the tape.
“Phillip, don’t pause the tape,” Amanda said.
“You rode a motorcycle?” Dotty echoed.
Jamie, impressed, added, “Cool, Mom.”
“You don’t even like motorbikes,” Lee commented with a disapproving frown.
“I don’t,” Amanda insisted.
“Then why’d you let him take you on a cycle?”
“How could you, Amanda?” her mother asked.  “Did you want to give us heart attacks?”
“Lee, Mother!” Amanda answered, exasperated.  “I was seventeen years old.  He was my boyfriend and I wanted to go.”
Dotty shook her head, “You could have been killed.”
Amanda sighed, “He was an excellent rider, Mother.  He never took any chances.  Besides, it all happened years ago and I’m fine.  You shouldn’t be so upset about it now.”
Phillip’s eyes lit up, “You know, Mom, Kenny Williams’s older brother got a new Harley and --”
“And he’s been taking all of Kenny’s friends for rides and we --” Jamie joined in.
“Not a chance, fellas,” Amanda replied as she cut off them off.  “Now start the tape again, Phillip.”
The boys and Dotty grumbled while Amanda settled back against Lee who chuckled in amusement.

*****     *****     *****

A little girl dropped petals from a basket as she walked down a church’s aisle.  Shortly after, Amanda, in a wedding gown, was escorted down the aisle by her father.  Her father kissed her on the cheek after they reached Joe, who waited for her with a smile.
“Whoa, get a load of Dad,” Phillip laughed, “and that goofy grin.”
“Phillip…” Amanda warned.
“What about that goofy suit?” Jamie asked with a laugh.
“Well, he did look a bit goofy,” Lee admitted.
Amanda quickly twisted around, “Lee!”
“But anyone would look like that when you’re the bride,” Lee quickly said.
Amanda’s features softened and she smiled as she faced the TV again, “Bet you say that to all the brides.”
Lee leaned in close and whispered low in her ear, “Just to the ones I marry.”
“Lee!” Amanda hissed.  She quickly looked around to make sure no one heard but her family was instead paying attention to the wedding reception that played onscreen.  To take advantage of the moment, she twisted around and kissed Lee firmly on the lips.
“Hey, Mom, who’s that guy in the punchbowl?” Jamie interrupted.

A heavy-set gentleman leaned over the punchbowl, liberally poured punch into his glass, and ignored its overflowing onto him and the floor.  A horrified Dotty rushed over and tried convincing him to leave the glass and go sit down.
“Uncle Iggy,” Amanda and Dotty said simultaneously.
Lee’s eyes widened, “That’s your Uncle Iggy, the wizard?”
Phillip paused the tape, “We had a wizard uncle? How come I don’t remember him?”
“No, sweetheart, Uncle Iggy wasn’t a real wizard and he passed away shortly after you were born.”
“Actually, he was a real wizard,” Dotty corrected.  “He had a certificate and a robe and even a wand.”  She turned to Lee, “Did Amanda tell you about my Uncle Iggy?”
Lee looked to Amanda, “Uh, not exactly.  It came up in passing.  Something about him joining a cult and becoming a wizard.”
Dotty sighed, “Yes, well, at least he was a friendly wizard.  I’ve heard about some of those cults.  People join them, change their names, and disappear.  But not Uncle Iggy.  He came to each and every family event.  Invited or not, he just had to be there to provide his blessings.”
“That’s right,” Amanda laughed as she remembered, “he gave me that little heart charm to carry with me down the aisle.  He said it would ensure that the love I felt that day would be returned to me a hundred-fold.”  Amanda smiled as Phillip resumed play, “He was very sweet.  My gosh, I think I wore that heart for months after we got married…”
Trying not to think of Amanda’s love for Joe, Lee commented, “Anyway, it looks like he’s enjoying himself.”
“Wizard or not, Uncle Iggy always enjoyed himself when there was punch around,” Dotty smiled.
“Especially if there was champagne in it,” Amanda giggled as she watched the image of her uncle boisterously raising his glass in toast to anyone around him.
“Look at us,” Dotty complained, “your Aunt Lillian and I dragging him back to the table all by ourselves.  You’d think Aunt Edna would have helped but, no, look at her, dancing up a storm as though she didn’t have a care in the world.”

Amanda danced with her father and Dotty danced with Joe.  Dotty and Joe laughed while Amanda’s father kissed her gently on the forehead and then quickly spun her around to her delight.
“Are you okay?” Lee asked quietly after he felt Amanda stiffen in his arms.  Amanda didn’t answer but slowly nodded.  Lee hugged her and Amanda leaned back against him and pulled his arm tighter around herself.  Lee kissed her cheek and, when he realized it was damp, gently wiped away her tears.
Jamie heard his mother’s soft sniffle and turned around, “Are you okay, Mom?”

Amanda’s father twirled her into Joe’s arms and quickly took Dotty back in his.  Each couple danced close together, oblivious to the antics of some of the children also on the dance floor.
Dotty, who had watched her daughter and Lee, quietly explained to Lee and the boys, “We lost him six months after the wedding.  This was one of the last movies we had of him…Just look how handsome he looks.  Just as on the day I married him….”
 The screen faded to black

*****     *****     *****

 “Ta da!” Phillip’s voice announced as Amanda entered the kitchen.
 “Not too shabby for some ancient threads, huh,” Amanda said as she ruffled her son’s hair causing the camera to shake slightly.
 “Amanda, the dress looks wonderful on you,” Dotty said as she admired Amanda. “ I don’t know why you didn’t want to wear it.  You’ll be the hit of the reunion.”
 “Mother,” Amanda groaned.
 “What made you change your mind?”
 “Change my mind?” Amanda asked as she filled a glass with water.
 “About going to the reunion,” Dotty explained.  “Not a half hour ago you were all uptight about it, refusing to go, and suddenly you’re all dressed up and running out the door.”
 “Mother, I didn’t really change my mind, I was going to go, I just needed a little push,” Amanda quickly said as she rushed to the front door.  “I’ll be back late,” she called out, “I love you.”
 “And just who pushed you?” Lee whispered in Amanda’s ear.
 “I don’t remember exactly,” Amanda teased, “but it could’ve been someone who said something about being the perfect couple.”
 “And who did the pushing?” Dotty asked but Amanda was already gone.  “And how are you getting there without your car? What am I going to do with you, Amanda?” she sighed.
 “What’s the big deal, Grandma,” Jamie asked, “it’s just a dumb reunion.”
 “Someday, Jamie, when you have children of your own, you’ll understand.”
 Jamie gave his grandmother a strange look and the screen faded to black.

*****     *****     *****

Jamie stood at the end of the driveway on his skateboard and Phillip’s voice announced, “March 1986 and Jamie King is --”
“Hey, doofus, it’s still February,” Jamie said in annoyance.
“Hey, doofus, the annual competition’s in March,” Phillip’s voice called out, “and, at the rate you’re going, you won’t even qualify for the finals.  Now are you gonna go or what?”
“I’m going,” Jamie glared at his brother, “just back up more, I need more room.”
“Ahem,” Phillip cleared his throat as the camera moved back, “March 1986 and Jamie King is up for his final round.  Quiet in the stands, please.”
Jamie took off, jumped, and spun with the board but didn’t manage the landing and fell on the ground.
“Jamie!” Amanda exclaimed in concern.
“I was okay, Mom,” Jamie muttered, embarrassed that the moment was caught on tape.  “Shoulda cut this part,” he muttered again.

 “Yes, ladies and gentleman, that was Jamie King showing you how the jump should not be landed.”
“Shut up, dogbreath!” Jamie grumbled as he pushed up his sleeve and checked out his elbow.  When he looked up, he pointed straight ahead, “Didn’t she just clean them?”
The camera was quickly turned to the patio where Amanda angrily tossed two small rugs over the line and began beating them.  Jamie ducked out of sight behind the gazebo wall while the camera stayed focused on Amanda.
“Three more days!” she complained aloud.  “Three more days with him!  And I thought it would be fun to be his superior for five days?!  What was I thinking? The only way he’ll get better in three days is if I don’t kill him first,” she rambled as she slapped the rugs some more.
“Amanda, I wasn’t that bad,” Lee said crankily, “I told you I didn’t need anyone to baby me.”
“Baby you? Why you just -- Phillip!” Amanda squeaked.  “What were you thinking taping me from the bushes like, like some…”
“Like a spy?” suggested Jamie.
Lee grinned and whispered in her ear, “I wonder who he picked that up from.”
“We weren’t in the bushes, Mom,” Phillip answered defensively, “we were barely out of sight.  You’d have seen us if you’d looked.”
“Phillip, that is not the point,” Amanda insisted.

“Amanda, darling, that rug didn’t do anything to you,” Dotty said as she joined Amanda on the patio.
“Why are men such lousy patients?” Amanda asked without looking away from her task of beating the rug more.
“I am not a lousy patient,” Lee insisted again and ignored the glare Amanda gave him.
“Genetics,” Dotty answered as she took down one of the rugs.  “Now, are you talking about men in general or men in specific?”
“In general, Mother,” Amanda huffed as she took another swing at the remaining rug.
Dotty looked doubtful, “Oh, because I’d hate to think you were this mad at Mr. Simpson after he’s just gotten out of the hospital.  Especially after you said how nice he is.”
“You said I was nice?” Lee teased.
“I was very tired,” Amanda squirmed, “I’d been up all night waiting for you to wake up from your concussion and spent the next day running after you making sure you didn’t collapse.”
“Shhh,” Dotty admonished, “I’m enjoying this.”

“Mother,” Amanda groaned.
“Of course,” Dotty continued rambling, “I wouldn’t know one way or the other how nice he really is since you’ve never seen fit to introduce us.  Somehow, you always manage to switch the subject whenever I bring him up.”
“Mother…” Amanda grabbed the rug from the line and gave her mother a quick kiss.  “I’ve got to go,” she said as she rushed inside.
Dotty shook her head, “She did it again.”  Dotty went inside and called out after her daughter, “Try to be gentler with Mr. Simpson than you were with those rugs, dear.”
“And was she?” Dotty asked Lee in amusement. “Gentler, I mean.”
Lee’s and Amanda’s cheeks turned pink, and he answered, “Just remind me never to get sick again.”
“Just remind me never to accept a job as your superior.  You never listen and are totally impo--” Amanda was interrupted by a kiss from Lee.  She pulled back as soon as she heard the groans from her sons.  “Teenagers,” she apologized to Lee and gave him a quick chaste kiss before turning back to the TV.

*****     *****     *****

The kitchen door opened to the dark outside.
Jamie crept outside along the edge of the camera’s view.
Phillip’s voice whispered, “September 1986.  There are strange noises coming from outside the King home.  Two agents have been sent to investigate.”
“Shhh, I think it’s coming from over there,” Jamie pointed towards a corner of the backyard.  Switching on his flashlight, the boys followed the beam towards the bushes that divided their property from their neighbor’s property.
 The camera zoomed in on the bushes and Phillip said, “It’s in there and it’s alive!” Jamie rolled his eyes and reached into the bushes.  “Did you get him this time?”
“If you think it’s so easy,” Jamie retorted, “give me the camera and you get him.”
“You’re bigger than he is.  Just reach in and pull him out,” Phillip said as Jamie dragged a small black bushy dog from the bushes.
“Man, I wish the Fergusons would keep him in their yard.  I’m tired of fishing him out of our bushes all the time,” Jamie complained
“The Fergusons really do have a dog?” Lee asked in wonder.
“What, did you think I just made him up as an excuse?” Amanda quietly teased.

“Phillip, Jamie, your dad’s about to leave!” Amanda’s voice called from behind them.
“Coming, Mom!” Phillip answered as Jamie sent the dog on its way into the other yard.
“Hey, Mom seem weird to you?” Jamie asked as they walked back to the house.
“Nah, not any more than usual, why?”
“Phillip!” Amanda exclaimed.
Phillip turned around and shrugged, “All parents are weird.  It’s the natural order of things.”
“I don’t know,” Jamie said as he stopped by the door, “I just thought she just seemed really anxious to get out of here.  I mean, she’s been in trouble and hasn’t been home for days and it’s like she couldn’t wait for Dad to leave.”
“You’re imagining things.”
“I don’t think so,” Jamie answered thoughtfully.  “She’s changed, Phillip.  Maybe I never noticed before because I was younger but she’s changed in the last couple of years.  And now, this trouble she was in with federal agents after her and her boss…I mean, I know it was all just a big misunderstanding but it’s…I thought when Dad came back things might be…”
“Back to the way it was before? Come on, Jamie, they’re divorced.  They’re not gonna get back together.”
“I know but…She’s just different now.  It’s like she doesn’t have time for us anymore.”
“Jamie,” Amanda said softly.
Jamie turned around, “It’s okay, Mom.  I understand now.”
“That’s ridiculous.  She always has time for us.”
“She missed my open house,” Jamie looked down. “Can you shut that thing off already?”
The screen went black.

Phillip paused the tape and turned to his mother.  “It doesn’t matter if you missed an open house or a play, Mom.”
“That’s right, Mom,” Jamie added quietly, “You were always there for us when it really counted.”
Amanda left the couch, knelt on the floor, and pulled both her sons into a hug, “I am so proud of you guys and I love you both sooo much.”
Jamie squirmed, “All right, all right, enough with the mushy stuff.”
Amanda quickly kissed them both on their cheeks and went back to Lee’s side on the couch.  Once she was settled again, Phillip resumed play.

*****     *****     *****

 “Mush Alert!” Phillip’s voice shouted as Lee and Amanda were caught on tape kissing under the mistletoe.
 Dotty stood in the background and commented to her sister, “I was beginning to think they’d never find it.”
 Without breaking her embrace from Lee, nor taking her eyes off his, Amanda instructed, “Turn it off, Phillip,” and promptly kissed Lee again before the screen faded to black.

*****     *****     *****

In the lower right corner of the screen, the date of March 1, 1987 was displayed.  The camera panned the busy airport gate.  Jamie looked anxiously at the doorway when Dotty came up to the boys and said, “The passengers should be out any minute now.”
“Look, there they are!” Phillip’s voice shouted.
“Where?” Jamie asked looking around.
“There!” Phillip’s finger pointed towards the arrivals.  “Mom! Lee!”
The camera zoomed in on the couple who suddenly noticed their waiting party.  Amanda happily waved and turned back to Lee who smiled and carefully led her through the crowd.
“Mom!” Jamie said as his mother caught him in a tight hug.
“Oh, I’ve missed you,” Amanda said with tears in her eyes as she looked Jamie over.  “My gosh, I think you’ve grown another couple of inches in the short time I was away.”
“How was the flight?” Dotty asked Lee as she gave him a quick hug.
“Long,” Lee said tiredly, “a bit turbulent and the food was lousy.”
“And how is she?” Dotty asked, referring to Amanda who hugged Phillip and caused the camera to jerk up and down.
She is fine,” Amanda said as she turned to her mother for a hug, “and very anxious to get home.”
“Well, then, let’s get this show on the road,” Dotty announced.  “Boys, why don’t you and Lee get the bags and we’ll catch up with you.”
“It was so good to be home,” Amanda murmured as the scene faded to black.  Lee wrapped his arms around her tightly and she squeezed his hands.

Balloons and signs decorated the family room.  Amanda sat on the couch while noise could be heard from the kitchen.  “I wish you’d let me help in there,” she called out as she opened and read a ‘welcome home’ card.
“Absolutely not,” Dotty insisted as she stuffed a pillow behind Amanda’s back.  “The doctor said you should still take it easy and you’ve already had a long day.”
“Phillip, at least turn off the camera.  You’ve been filming me from the moment I got off the plane.”
“But, Mom…” Phillip began as the camera continued to focus on Amanda.  In the background, Lee and Jamie could be seen moving around in the kitchen.
“Phillip, I look a mess.”
“No you don’t, Mom,” Jamie said quietly as he entered the family room, “you look beautiful.”
Amanda smiled tenderly at her son, “Thank you, sweetheart, but I think you’re a bit biased.”
“Nonsense,” Dotty insisted as she brushed her daughter’s cheek, “You’re absolutely beautiful.”
“That’s no better,” Amanda smiled.  “You’re my mother.”
Dotty sighed, “All right then.  Lee, could you come in here for a moment? We need an objective opinion.”
The camera turned to Lee who entered wearing an apron.  “Dinner’s almost ready.  What’s going on in here?”
“How does she look?” Dotty asked.
Lee looked over Amanda and suddenly frowned, “She looks tired.”  Looking to Amanda, he suggested, “Maybe you should go upstairs for a while and lie down.”  Amanda turned triumphantly to her mother who glared at Lee.  “What?” he innocently asked Dotty.
“Nothing,” Amanda smiled, “and I’m fine.  Just a little hungry.”
“Another five minutes,” Lee said, still confused.  “Come on, Jamie, let’s finish up the salad,” he added as Jamie joined him and they re-entered the kitchen.
“Well, that doesn’t count,” Dotty murmured as she watched Lee leave the room.
“Why not? You wanted an objective opinion,” Amanda said as she watched Lee in the kitchen.  Turning to the camera she added, “Now, Phillip, turn off the camera.”
Dotty waved her hand, “ I forgot, he’s in love with you and he’s lost all objectivity when it comes to you.”
“She’s right about that,” Lee whispered in Amanda’s ear.
Amanda rolled her eyes, “Mooother.”
The screen faded to black.

*****     *****     *****

“On this July morning, there’s important work to be done at the King house,” Phillip’s voice narrated as the camera panned the driveway.   Both Amanda’s and Lee’s cars were lined up and the couple, wearing t-shirts and jeans, stood nearby filling plastic buckets with water from two garden hoses.
Droplets of water splashed the camera lens and Jamie stood angrily in front of the camera holding a bucket that was overflowing with water and he was trying to steady it.  “Hey, fishface, watch where you’re going!”
 “Fishface? That’s real original…” Phillip’s voice teased.
 “Come on, fellas,” Amanda sighed as she came into view, “the sooner you get started, the sooner you can play with your friends.  Phillip, put down the camera and help your brother with the wagon.  I’ll help Lee with his car.”
 Jamie picked up a large sponge and began soaping a section of the Wagoneer.  The camera then focused on Amanda hosing down the Corvette while Lee stood ready with his own bucket and sponge.
 “Phillip, why don’t you fast forward through this?” Amanda asked.
 “Phillip, don’t do any such thing,” Lee ordered.
 “Amanda, I still don’t know why you’re so embarrassed by this.  Everyone had fun.”
 “They’re royalty,” Amanda insisted, “and shouldn’t have been - -”
 “It was very amusing, darling,” Dotty interrupted.  “The Prince and Princess of Zakir had a lot of fun.”
Everyone was involved in their task of washing, soaping, and rinsing the vehicles.
 “Yeah, Mom, they were pretty cool,” Phillip agreed.

 “Phillip King, do you think you could put down the camera for one moment and join us,” Amanda insisted as she stood with her hands on her hips, “or do you need a royal command?”
 Suddenly, a spray of water came at the camera, Phillip twisted out of the way, and, over the camera’s rocky movements of a view of the ground, Lee’s and Jamie’s laughter could be heard.  “Slimeface, you got the camera all wet!  You could’ve ruined it!” was Phillip’s angry reply.
 “Jamie, don’t spray your brother while he’s holding an expensive camera and Phillip, if you had put the camera away when I asked you, it wouldn’t have gotten wet,” Amanda replied unsympathetically.
 While she had been talking, from the other side of the car, Lee grinned, raised his garden hose, and sprayed Amanda from behind.  She squealed in surprise and turned around to face him.  “Stetson!”
 Jamie laughed and the camera zoomed in on the couple who engaged themselves in a water fight.
 “What’s the matter, Lee? It’s just a little water,” Amanda snickered after she emptied a bucket of water on Lee.
“I’m sorry I missed this part,” Dotty chuckled. “Amanda, you were so serious.”
 “Mother, the cars needed to be washed,” Amanda said in annoyance.  “Do you know how hard it was to get everyone together on a Saturday morning to work on them?”
 “Well, at least you were properly cooled off,” Dotty commented as she watched Lee grab Amanda by the waist and hold her in place while Jamie came at her with another bucket of water.
 “Mother!” Amanda squeaked as Lee chuckled behind her.
 ”James King, don’t even think about it!” Amanda warned.
 “What’s the matter, Amanda?  It’s just a little water,” Lee mocked.
 Just as Jamie was about to toss the water, Amanda jabbed Lee in the ribs, ducked, and Lee received the water shower instead.  Amanda sat on the ground and laughed as Jamie apologized to Lee.
 “Don’t worry, Jamie, I know exactly who’s at fault here, and she will suffer the consequences,” Lee said with a dangerous glimmer in his eye as he got to his feet.
 “Uh, oh,” Amanda said as she quickly got to her feet and started to run to the other side of the car.
 Using the garden hose, Lee filled the bucket with water and warned his wife, “You can run, but you can’t hide.”
 “Come on, Lee, we have to finish the cars,” was Amanda’s reply as she crouched behind the ‘Vette.
 “You know, you’re right,” Lee suddenly agreed.  “Come on, Jamie, let’s finish up.”
 Lee and Jamie went back to work on Amanda’s car while the camera stayed focused on Amanda who peeked from around the side of the car.   She was near the edge of the lawn and, when she seemed satisfied that Lee was really working on her car, she sighed and picked up the second garden hose and started to rinse off his car.
 “Here it comes,” Phillip commented.

 While Amanda wasn’t looking, Lee handed Jamie the bucket and started sneaking towards Amanda.  As soon as he was close enough, he leapt at her and grabbed her by the waist and turned her towards Jamie.  “Now, Jamie!”
 Jamie tossed the water at Amanda who, in her surprise, lost her balance, fell back against Lee, and sent them both to the ground.   While Lee laughed, Amanda reached for the garden hose she dropped and, as soon as she grabbed the nozzle, she quickly rolled over and sprayed the surprised Lee at close range.  He tried to grab hold of her again in spite of his shower and, finally, got her into an embrace.  He pulled her closer and kissed her. A moment later, she dropped her hose and wrapped her arms around him in return.  Jamie groaned and shook his head, “You guys, we’re in public.”  He grabbed the bucket and started refilling it with water.
“There’s the limo,” Phillip announced as, in the far background, a limo pulled up in front of the driveway.
“And this is where I came in,” Dotty said as she saw herself enter the scene and ask if anyone noticed the limo that pulled up.
Jamie went over to the couple on the grass and announced, “Time to cool off.”  His mother and Lee barely had time to look at him in surprise before he dumped the water over them.
Phillip and Jamie sat on the floor laughing hysterically while Amanda commented, “It wasn’t that funny.”
Even Lee chuckled, “I just can’t believe that it was Jamie who did that.”
Phillip looked at his brother proudly and said, “Guess there’s still hope for you, after all.”
Jamie jabbed his brother good-naturedly in the ribs, turned to Amanda and Lee, and laughed, “Boy, if you could’ve seen your faces…”
Watching herself and her grandsons hysterically laughing at the shocked couple, who were just beginning to join in the laughter, Dotty smiled at her younger grandson, “Darling, they have seen their faces.”
“Yeah, Grandma,” Jamie agreed, “but it’s just not the same.”

The camera pulled back from the couple to reveal numerous people standing in the driveway staring at them.
“Ahem,” the woman said with an amused grin.
Everyone turned their attention to the couple standing with robed members of security.
“Princess Penelope!” Dotty exclaimed.
“Penny, please,” Penny said with a smile.  “How are you, Mrs. West?”
“Dotty, please,” Dotty answered, “and I’m certainly feeling very dry right about now.”
Amanda and Lee scrambled to their feet.  “Your highness,” Amanda said as she formally acknowledged Prince Raisa Khan.
“Amanda, we’re off-duty, so to speak, right now.  There’s no need for formality,” Penny smiled as she carefully hugged the wet Amanda.  “We’re just friends dropping by to say hello to friends we haven’t seen in a while.”
“I still can’t believe they helped wash the cars,” Amanda said as she shook her head and watched the prince hand his jacket to a member of his staff and pick up a sponge.
“Nice model,” Raisa commented as he admired Lee’s Corvette, “but I much prefer the ’57 I have in my collection.”
Amazed, Phillip said, “He knew all about cars and baseball.”
“He did live in the States for a number of years,” Lee explained, “and his wife is American.”
“See, Mom, he is pretty normal.  For a prince and all,” Jamie added.
“But, that’s my point.  He’s royalty and he’s not even dressed for washing cars,” Amanda said.
“He didn’t seem to mind,” Dotty smiled as she watched the Prince “accidentally” spray his wife.
“Yeah, but that security guy did,” Phillip grumbled as a somber man approached him and tried to block the camera lens.  “I can’t believe he made me turn off the camera.”

The screen went black and the melody from the beginning of the tape began to play again.
“Thank you, that was a wonderful present,” Amanda told everyone as she started to rise from the couch.
“But it’s not over yet, Mom,” Jamie said.  “There should be one more movie.  Right, Lee?”
“After I gave everything to Walters, your mother found one more reel,” Lee explained, “so I told him to just stick it on at the end of the tape.”

*****     *****     *****

Little Amanda wore a sailor dress and ran to the only available swing in the swing-set.  The camera panned the grounds of the park which was filled with families spread out on picnic blankets.  Children were running around, some people were waving American flags, and various dogs ran in and out of the crowd.  The camera turned back to Amanda who swung to and fro.
“Fourth of July,” Dotty announced.
“Rock Creek Park,” Amanda smiled, “for the fireworks.  We went every year when I was a little girl.  Do you boys remember when I used to take you?”
“Sure, you used to let us get hot dogs and ice cream and cotton candy,” Phillip answered as he smacked his lips.

A little boy approached the swings and watched Amanda.  She stopped swinging and watched him a moment before allowing him to use the swing she’d been on a moment before.
“Another boyfriend?” Lee teased.
Amanda squinted at the screen, “I’m not sure.  The tape isn’t that clear.”
“I was kidding,” Lee said, slightly concerned, “you couldn’t have been more than, what, five?”
“Oh, and I suppose,” Amanda grinned, “that you didn’t have any girlfriends when you were five?”

Amanda smiled as the boy went faster and higher.  She clapped in delight and he slowed to a stop.  She pointed towards the slide and he nodded.  The children ran to the slide and the boy climbed up the ladder first and slid down.  He turned to watch Amanda who waved to the camera when she reached the top of the slide.  She then waved to someone in the distance and the camera turned to find Dotty approaching.  The camera switched back to Amanda who slid down and landed on her feet in front of the boy.
“Hmmm, if I didn’t know better, I’d think that was you,” Amanda teased.  Lee didn’t answer and Amanda asked, “Lee?”
“It is,” was all Lee said.
“It is what?” she asked in confusion.
“Me,” Lee replied in wonder.  “That is me, Amanda.”
“No,” Amanda murmured in disbelief.
“Cool,” Phillip commented at the same time Dotty said, “My goodness.”
“Phillip, rewind the tape,” Lee requested.
“How far?”
“Just to the beginning of the slide part.”
After watching the children slide down, Dotty agreed, “There is a strong resemblance there.”
“I’m telling you, it is me,” Lee insisted.
“What year is this from, Mother?”
Dotty thought a moment, “I’m not sure.  The label on the reel didn’t say which is strange since I always kept careful records of all our movies and photos.   You did get that dress from your grandmother for your fourth birthday and only wore it two years so it was prob--”
“1955,” Lee interrupted in a choked voice.
“How can you be so sure?” Dotty asked.  “You haven’t --”
“My mother,” Lee indicated to the screen as he saw a woman join Dotty and the children.
Amanda held Lee’s hands tightly in hers while she watched the little boy run into his mother’s arms.

Amanda and Lee sat on the blanket and took the sandwiches their mothers handed them to eat.
“I can’t believe this.  Mother, how did you meet the Stetsons? Why didn’t you say anything when you met Lee?”
Dotty shook her head, “I didn’t remember this particular fireworks, darling.  Remember, we went every year.  And, even after seeing it, I still don’t remember it specifically.  I don’t think I even knew their last names.  It was just one of those times where you meet someone at a picnic, get to talking, find out you have children the same age, and end up spending your picnic together.”  Dotty smiled sadly, “It was a one-time only thing and not a very formal affair.  I’m sorry.”

The children rose from the blanket and began to wander off when they suddenly turned around and faced the camera.  Lee obviously saw someone out of range and jumped up and down.  The camera followed him as he ran towards a man dressed in a business suit.  The man caught Lee and spun him around to Lee’s delight.
“That’s your dad?” Phillip quietly asked.
Lee nodded but couldn’t find his voice.
“Except for that mustache, you look just like him,” Dotty commented as she watched the camera get a closer look of Matthew Stetson.
 Amanda twisted in place to turn around and she hugged Lee tightly before turning back to face the TV.

 The fireworks lit up the sky and the camera panned the faces of those on the blanket.  Amanda clapped as she sat in her mother’s lap.  Lee sat in his mother’s lap while Matthew sat with his arm around Jennifer.  Lee pointed to the sky and Matthew spoke to him.  Jennifer kissed Lee on the top of his head when she suddenly laughed and nudged her husband who kissed her on the cheek.
 Lee leaned forward in his seat and rested his chin on Amanda’s shoulder.  She wrapped his arms around her waist and gave his hands another squeeze.

 Amanda and her mother folded up their blanket and the camera turned to the Stetsons who had packed away their belongings.  Matthew reached out a hand to Amanda’s father and the camera view shifted slightly and caught Lee holding his mother’s hand.  Jennifer and Dotty said goodbye and Jennifer then nudged Lee.  Lee moved closer to Amanda whose mother had gently pushed her closer to Lee.  Lee stuck out his hand which led the adults to chuckle but Amanda took his hand and shook it heartily.  Lee grinned and returned to stand between his parents.  The Stetsons started to walk away when they suddenly turned around.  Amanda ran to Lee, quickly kissed him on the cheek, and quickly ran back to her mother.  Lee grinned again and waved good-bye.
 “And here I thought you were the shy type,” Lee whispered and gave Amanda a gentle kiss on the cheek.

 The screen faded to black and the melody stopped playing.

*****     *****     *****

 “That’s it,” Jamie announced.
 “Rewind the tape, Phillip,” Amanda requested.  “This was a wonderful birthday present.  Thank you all,” Amanda said as she acknowledged everyone, “so much.”
 “You’re welcome,” the boys answered as they got up off the floor and left the room, chattering to one another.
 Dotty stood up and walked over to Amanda.  She kissed her daughter on the top of Amanda’s head and said, “Happy birthday, darling.”  She squeezed Lee’s shoulder, gave him a comforting smile, and headed into the kitchen.

 When they were alone, Amanda shifted in her seat so she faced Lee.  “Are you okay?” she asked as she tenderly stroked his cheek.
 Lee nodded, “I just never…Seeing them again…It’s like…”
 “Like what, sweetheart?”
 “It’s like I said earlier,” Lee began as he held Amanda’s hand, “pictures are one thing but movies are something else.  I mean, I know there wasn’t any sound but I could see them walking and talking and smiling and laughing…”
 Amanda drew Lee into a hug and whispered, “I know…”
 Lee pulled back, “The funny thing is, even after seeing it, I still don’t remember it having happened.”
 Amanda smiled and shook her head, “Neither do I.  I can’t believe we met when we were five.”  Lee looked thoughtful and Amanda asked, “What is it?”
 “I wonder if, that day at the train station, somewhere, deep down, maybe we did remember,” Lee looked at his wife.  “There was this split second where you looked at me….”
 “Where you looked at me…” Amanda insisted.
 Lee chuckled, “I suppose it doesn’t matter now.  But, maybe…just maybe it was fate.”
 Lee nodded, “That, out of all people that morning, I picked you again.  And fell in love with you.  And married you.”
 “Shhh,” Amanda quickly looked around, “my mother will hear you.  You know how she is about the ‘m’ word.”
 “Amanda,” Lee said, “she didn’t hear me.”
 “Lower your voice, please,” Amanda requested as she quickly looked for her mother.  “Besides, Fate sure took its time.  It took you three years to fall in love and another half a year before you married me.”
Lee leaned in to kiss her but Dotty shouted, “Married?! You’re getting married?!” Lee and Amanda both started stammering but Dotty continued, “Oh my gosh, I was beginning to think you would never go through with it.  Phillip!  Jamie! Get down here! And bring the video-camera!”
“Mother, we didn’t --”
“Dotty, I think I should --”
“What’s going on?” Phillip asked excitedly.
“Your mother and Lee are getting married!” Dotty excitedly announced.
“Well, it’s about time,” Phillip said with a grin.
“Congratulations,” Jamie added with a smile of his own.
“Oh, wait until I tell Lillian,” Dotty gushed.  “She’s just not going to believe this.”
“Mother, we weren’t --”
“Going to say anything until I gave Amanda the ring,” Lee interrupted.
Amanda stared at Lee in shock, “Lee…”
Lee quickly got off the couch and knelt on one knee before Amanda.  “Amanda King, you are the best, the bravest, the smartest, the most beautiful woman I have ever known.”
Amanda smiled and, with shimmering eyes, said in a whispered voice, “I love you.”
“Then will you marry me?”
Amanda gazed into Lee’s eyes, sniffled, and answered, “Can I think about it?”
“Amanda!” Dotty exclaimed in shock as Lee’s eyes widened in surprise.
Amanda grinned, grabbed Lee by his collar, pulled him close, and, just as she was about to kiss him, murmured, “Gotcha!”
Lee’s protest was promptly smothered by her kiss.

Fade to black….