Shana met Bert three times before Spring Break started. She didn’t want to like him, but she did. Shana didn’t tell Larry why she was hesitant to go with Bert, but he could tell there was a reluctance. When Spring Break started, Shana packed a bag and went with Larry to A Bar Called Always. She gave her dad a big hug and left with Bert. Bert was beside himself with joy.
When Shana was gone, Larry turned to the bar, where Jersey was waiting. She was leaning against the bar, waiting for him.
He went and stood very close to Lisa. “You might say that.”
Her eyes closed seductively. “Invite me home, Larry.”
He hissed in air. “Is this a good idea?”
“Why not? You don’t have anyone waiting for you. I don’t either. Also, this doesn’t have to be any more than a one-night stand with a friend. No repeats expected. No obligations beyond acknowledging that it happened. And breakfast in the morning. And you have to bring me back here.”
He laughed. “I would very much like the company.”
“Then take me home.”
Larry grinned and slipped his arm through Jersey’s. “Is it ok if I keep calling you Jersey? I really like that name.”
She laughed. “Yeah, you can do that.”
He grinned, gave her a quick kiss and led the way out of the bar.
Shana and Bert were at the bar before Larry. She wanted to get there as soon as possible that Saturday night. When Bert mentioned that they would have to wait for the appointed time, Shana didn’t seem to care. Bert convinced her to wait, but only barely. As soon as they could, they went to the door. It was in an alley way, like in Larry’s time, but unlike Larry’s time, Shana could see it here. It made her pause.
Bert was walking behind her, carrying her backpack. She was a few steps ahead. Until the alley, she had been walking by his side. Once they reached the alley, she started walking faster. Now, she stopped dead.
“I can see the door here.”
Bert stood by his daughter and placed a hand on her shoulder. She didn’t push him away.
“I can’t see it in dad’s time.” She opened her eyes wide and looked to Bert. “My other dad’s time.”
He could see the blush on her face. “It is all right for you to call him dad. He raised you.”
She gave a shy smile.
Bert started her walking again. When they reached the door, he opened it and indicated Shana should take a seat at a booth. He placed her backpack down in the seat, then went to fetch drinks. It was a busy night. A lot of people were crowded around Lana, who was talking about one of her expeditions. Bert had heard about her, but never talked to her. He didn’t like finding out too much about other people’s past. He felt that might disrupt the future. Although if anything disrupted the future, it was Shana being born and raised in another time for so long. He shook his head and took the drinks Mort placed in front of him.
At the booth, he sat on the opposite side from Shana. He wanted to talk to her while facing her, to be able to watch her expressions.
“I finally figured something out, Shana.”
She took her orange soda and frowned. “What about?”
“Why are you so worried about Larry? I know he raised you, but you seem to think something bad will happen.”
She blushed and slouched in her seat. Bert was able to read her better than Larry. She decided not to play dumb and told him the truth. “Dad lost his wife and kid before taking care of me. He said he was lost without them. I’m not sure what time without me will do to him.” She looked Bert in the eyes. “I’m worried.”
“You are as lovely and caring as your mother.”
She blushed again. “We didn’t talk much about mom this past week.”
“Shana, do you want to come with me for the summer, as Larry suggested?”
The door opened then and Larry walked it.
Everyone in the bar turned to see Shana jumping out of the booth and running to Larry. He caught her in a great big bear hug and held on tight. She let go a moment later and smiled up at her dad.
“I missed you.”
“Did you have fun?”
“Yeah, but I missed you.”
“I missed you, too.”
He looked around the bar, saw Bert standing at the end of the booth and nodded. He also saw Jersey in the group of people talking with Lana. Larry took Shana over to the booth and sat with her. Bert took his seat again and smiled.
“How are you, Larry?”
“Good.” He looked to Shana. “Glad to have Shana back, but I hope the two of you had a good time.”
“I want to go back in the summer.” Shana said quietly.
Bert looked to Larry as he took in this news. He could see the sadness in Larry’s eyes. He decided not to have any secrets with Larry, even if it meant exposing Shana’s worries. He didn’t want Shana’s absence to cause Larry to harm himself.
“Larry, Shana brought something up with me, and I want you to know her worries.” He looked to Shana. “Please tell him what you told me. It’s best for everyone if you do.”
Shana blushed and gave Bert an angry look. “I didn’t want you to do that.”
“But he needs to know your worries, Shana. He deserves that, as a human, and as your father.” His voice was gentle.
Shana rolled her eyes and pulled away from Larry to be able to look in his eyes. She was trying not to look embarrassed and failing miserably. “Dad, you said once that losing your wife and kid was the worse thing that ever happened to you. You also said you didn’t know what you would do without me, on numerous occasions. Are you going to be ok without me? You’re not going to do something stupid, are you?”
Larry looked shocked and took a moment to process everything she had said. It was true he had said he couldn’t live without Shana to Shana on numerous occasions. He also told her losing his wife and unborn baby was the toughest thing he ever went through. He sighed and pulled Shana in for a hug.
“Honey, I love you. I don’t want to lose you, but if Bert tells me I can visit with you here, then nothing will stop me from meeting you here.” He pulled back and looked into her eyes. “Bert gave me the opportunity to raise you. I wouldn’t be surprised if he thinks it was a very good idea, especially once he gets to know you more. You are my daughter, maybe not by blood, but by love. If you decide you want to live in the right time, then I won’t stop you. I also won’t do anything to harm myself. I promise you. I want to see you grow up, Shana. I know that might not be in my time, but I still want to know you, ok?”
Tears formed in her eyes and she hugged him hard. Tears steamed down Larry’s face as well, and he did nothing to stop them. The two stayed locked in a hug for a few minutes. Finally, Shana broke away.
“This is frustrating and sad and awesome at the same time. I love this and hate this.” She turned to Bert. “I really do, you know?”
Bert nodded as he wiped away a tear.
Larry sighed. “It’s ok. It’s a weird situation and we can’t control any of it. But as long as the three of us try, we can work it out.”
Shana turned more toward Bert and stuck her hand out, palm down. “We’re a team.”
Larry put his hand on top of hers, and Bert put his hand on top of Larry’s when he understood what to do. Once they were all touching, Shana said it again.
“We’re a team. We’ll work things out.”
“Agreed.” Larry spoke the word first and Bert followed suit. He looked to the two and knew he would do what he could to make sure Larry would always know Shana.
The three stayed and talked for a while, but while Bert said his goodbyes to his daughter, Larry went to Jersey. She met him at the bar.
“Things going ok?”
“Mostly. She likes him. I’m glad.”
“Is she going with him for the summer?”
Jersey caressed his face with her eyes. “Can I see you again before then? If only for drinks?”
He smiled to her. “I would like that.”
“What day is best for drinks?”
“Probably Fridays. My work schedule is changing.”
“So I’ll see you Friday?”
“If only long enough for a kiss.”
She giggled. “I like that.”
Larry gave her a lingering kiss on the cheek, then turned back to the booth. Shana and Bert were hugging. They let go as Larry approached. Bert gave Shana her backpack and left first. Larry took Shana’s backpack, slung it around his shoulders and left with his daughter. He smiled all the way home, glad to have Shana back, but also glad to have a date with Jersey set for next Friday.