Chapter 1 - Part 6: Warmth of the Sun

After Morand tucked Cecil into his tent for the night, Dixie grabbed his hand and lead him off down the beach to enjoy the sunset.  He was overwhelmed with the feelings the day had brought along with it.  Happiness, enjoyment, fun, family, and now... romance?

"I've had an amazing time," Dixie said, smiling at him in the glow of the setting sun.  "I haven't had such a good day in a long time."

"I think this might have been the best day of my life," Morand replied, putting his arms around Dixie.  He held her close as they both watched the waves rolling in.  He'd never felt so good.  Everything finally felt complete.

The kiss came naturally and unforced.  They were so comfortable with each other that it felt good to finally express how each of them were feeling.

This was a moment that Morand wanted to remember forever, as the beginning of something amazing.

"I... really like you," Morand told the glowing beauty.  "I've never felt this way before and I like what I'm feeling," he finished quietly, shyly.

"Let's sit for a second," Dixie replied and sat down, with Morand sitting beside her.  His heart stopped in his chest.  This is it, this is where she tells me it's over or that she just wants to be friends, he thought with uncertainty.

Dixie looked over to the nervous Morand and said, "I really like you too."

He let out the breath he'd been holding with a huge sigh of relief.

She continued, "I thought it might be too soon after my breakup, or that it would be too much to start anything so soon after moving to a new town, but this really feels right to me.  It's you that really feels right to me."

For the first time since meeting Dixie he was able to fully relax, knowing that she felt the same way about him.  This was how it was supposed to feel, how being cared for felt.  It felt really good.

As the sun fell below the horizon and the beach started to get dark, Dixie suggested that they make their way back to the campsite and then hinted that she wouldn't mind if he also tucked her in for the night.

That was an offer that Morand couldn't refuse.

This is the way life is supposed to be, Morand thought as he made his way back to his own tent.

Title / The Beach Boys

Chapter 1 - Part 5: Girl on Fire

Saturday night had finally arrived.  Morand thought Dixie looked amazing, as he nervously sat them down at the bar for a quick bite to eat.  The venue "Gamer's Hideout" was an interesting place.  While the decor was that of a broken down mechanic's shop, it was actually a very chic place.

"I'm so glad you asked me to come out with you tonight, I was getting a bit of cabin fever at my place," Dixie said.  She brushed her hair off her shoulder and leaned in towards Morand for another bite of fine French cheese.

He blushed a bit and concentrated on his own plate, "I'm glad you said yes.  And you look very pretty," he managed to get out, but wasn't able to quite meet her eyes.

When he first met her in rags and a t-shirt, he hadn't expected her to clean up so well.  Her beauty alone was making him nervous.

After their meal, Morand ordered the two of them drinks.  He didn't know about Dixie, but knew that a drink would certainly help to calm his nerves.  What he didn't know was that Dixie was just as nervous as he was.  It had been a long time since she'd been out with someone, and never with a Fire Chief before.

"Cheers!  To a memorable evening!" Dixie laughed, the drink(s) doing their job to help the two relax around each other.

The conversation flowed between them.  Morand learned that Dixie had moved to Harmony when she graduated school to get herself out of a bad relationship.  She also wanted to be a teacher and loved kids and had been applying to the school that Cecil attends.

Morand was able to share with her that he had a son, including the story behind Cecil's mother.  That it had been a mistake, but one that he didn't regret because it lead to an amazing kid.  He was a bit afraid that him being a single father would scare her off, but it seemed to do just the opposite.

Unfortunately there wasn't a band playing there that night, but Dixie asked Morand to dance anyway.  She was a sucker for music and loved to dance when she had the chance.

Morand couldn't stop smiling the whole time.  Dixie made him feel so comfortable and normal.  He was starting to feel something change in himself, a sense of being fulfilled.  Of being whole.

Here was this amazingly beautiful and funny woman who seemed to feel the same way about him.  It was at this moment that he felt like the luckiest guy in the world.

Before he realized what was happening...

... he kissed her.  And it was beautiful.

Then reality hit and he was suddenly shocked and afraid that it might have been too soon for her.  "Oh, I'm sorry!  I shouldn't have done that, I mean, I should have asked you first, I'm sorry," he babbled on, apologetically.

"Morand," Dixie laughed, "calm down.  It was okay.  It was more than okay."  She laughed at his shyness.  He really didn't know how charming and attractive he was, did he?

"It is getting kind of late, however," Dixie said, "but I'd love to see you tomorrow if you're up for it?"

Morand's beaming smile was all the answer she needed.

"So, how do you feel about camping at the beach today?" Morand asked Cecil over breakfast the next morning.

"Yes!  I can wear my new swimsuit!" he squealed, rushing off to his room to change.

Once they got to the public beach, Morand pulled Cecil aside, "So, I hope you don't mind, but I invited someone to join us.  You remember that lady that moved in across the street from us?  Her name is Dixie, and she's become a friend of mine and wanted to come with us."

"Sure, Dad," Cecil said, with a knowing smile, "I think that's great!"

Dixie showed up soon after, looking amazing as ever in her beachwear, and Morand made the introductions.

The trio hit it off instantly and wasted no time getting down to the fun.  Dixie was certainly a natural with children and kept Cecil feeling like a part of the group and not as if he was a third wheel.

For most of the afternoon, it even appeared that she was having the most fun out of all of them.  Constantly coming up with new activities and things to do to keep them all entertained.  The waterslide was a definite win for all involved.

You'd think that she was a kid herself with how many times she'd gone down the slide, but with each time, the boys would laugh and join in.  Morand was happier than he'd been since he could remember, just having Dixie around made their little unit seem whole for the first time.

The two got a moment to talk on the seesaw, and Dixie couldn't help but bring up Cecil and how hard it must have been for Morand to be left with such a large responsibility with no notice.

Morand had feelings of regret in not being able to spend as much time with Cecil as he would have liked because of the demands of his job.  He knew, though, that he had an amazing son who has had to deal with a lot of his own abandonment issues regarding his mother.

Morand can't help but think about Cheri and how much pain she's caused his family, but can only hope that Dixie can see passed that.

As dusk drew near, the three sat around the fire pit roasting marshmellows and relaxed after a fun filled day.  Morand relayed a few of his firefighting stories and Cecil told a couple of new jokes he'd heard at school.  Dixie smiled the whole time. 

For a moment it almost felt like a real family.

Title / INXS

Chapter 1 - Part 4: The Heat is On

The next morning at breakfast, Cecil couldn't help but notice the change in Morand's look.

"I like your hair, Dad.  You look different now.  Good different."

"Thank you, Cecil.  I'm just trying something new," Morand replied, still not feeling completely satisfied.  He wasn't sure what was wrong with him, only that he felt something missing inside.  He had a job he was successful at, a sweet and charming son, a house that had most everything they needed.  What else was there?

"You should go on a date," his son said matter-of-factly between spoonfuls of frosted flakes.

Morand coughed in surprise.  "A date, huh?  And where would I find one of those?" he joked with his son.

"You should try the lady that just moved in across the street.  She looks nice."

At Cecil's insistance, Morand was basically peer-pressured into going across the street to introduce himself.  He took with him a fresh plate of Cecil's homemade cookies as a housewarming gift.

He showed up to the house to find a rather cute looking blonde cleaning up the outside.

Morand passed her the box of cookies and introduced himself, somewhat clumsily.  He'd never really had much experience with women.  In fact, the end result of his only experience so far was the one who pushed him into talking to this woman at all.

She turned a bit red at being caught off guard, "Oh, hi!  Thank you for the cookies, yes!  They smell amazing.  I'm sorry," she blushed, "I wasn't expecting company, I look like a complete mess!"

Morand learned that her name was Dixie Murray and she'd just moved to Harmony to chase her dream of becoming a musician.  She didn't know many people in town and seemed grateful that Morand had stopped by to say hello.

"So, what do you do, Morand?" Dixie asked.

He put on a deep, sexy voice and said "I'm a firefighter, baby".

Which made them both crack up.

The conversation flowed quite easily between them and after a little while Morand completely forgot to be nervous around her.  His shy nature usually told him to run and hide from strangers, but Dixie somehow made him feel quite comfortable.

Before he knew what he was doing, he said those dreaded words that he feared the most...  "So, uh, do you want to maybe do something this weekend, possibly?"

Dixie looked at him with a little smile on her face.

Morand rushed ahead, "I don't go out a whole lot, but I heard that the Gamer's Hideout was just recently renovated and they sometimes have live music there.  I thought maybe you'd like that, being a musician and all?"

Dixie could barely contain her excitement, "That would be amazing!  Yes!  Of course, I'd love to go with you!"

Morand thought it was too good to be true and didn't want to press his luck by saying anything more that might ruin the moment.

 "Okay then, I'll see you on Saturday," he told the excited woman.

"Yes, see you then!" She replied.

While Morand was trying to contain himself with Dixie, Cecil was busy in the park with his best friend Jett Boggs.  The two were getting pretty close, spending almost every day after school together, playing in the park across the street or helping each other with their homework on the school playground.  They were practically inseparable.

Over the next couple nights, Morand suddenly found that he couldn't sleep.  His mind racing with the trepidation of the upcoming date.

Here he was, almost an Adult, and he'd never even been on a date before.  What were they going to talk about?  What could this beautiful woman possibly see in him?  What if she was only going out with him because she felt sorry for him?  All the baggage that Cheri left him with started to resurface, making him doubt himself.

He knew this is where a decision would have to be made.  Would he run towards Dixie, or keep running away?

Title / Glenn Frey

Chapter 1 - Part 3: Jump Into the Fire

The time for living in the fire station had come to an end, Morand realized.   While that kind of situation worked for a young adult working his way up the ladder, it didn't work for a young father with a newborn child to take care of.

He built a modest two room house, basically a box with bedrooms.  He didn't have the funds to build anything extravagant for his son, as much as he wished he could.  That meant he needed to work even harder to keep providing and keep them both happy.

With a new house comes new chores.  Through his work as a fireman, Morand had been getting really handy at upgrading appliances and plumbing, he quickly put those new skills to work around the house.  Plus, it really helped to get frustrations out by beating things with a hammer for several hours at a time.

The nights that were the worst, though.  It was very quiet living out on the land that was left to him, beautiful - no doubt, but very quiet.  With just him and Cecil, and Cecil not being able to say much, Morand felt pretty lonely.

But a routine was established, once again.  Fight fires during the day and take care of Cecil at night.

Morand loved his job, not just for the adrenaline rush, but because he felt he was really contributing to the well-being of his city.  Every fire put out and every person he convinced to run from it gave him a sense of pride.

Nothing, however, compared to being a father.  On those days when his work kept him late and he had to hire a babysitter, Morand raced home to be in time to tuck Cecil in himself.  He wanted Cecil to know that he was loved and cared for.

Before he knew it, it was Cecil's birthday.  Since Morand spend almost all his time either at work or at home with Cecil, he hadn't really had the chance to make many friends.  It was a quiet celebration with only the two of them.

When Cecil wondered what his mom was doing, Morand's heart broke for the boy.  He didn't want his son to feel any less loved because his mother wasn't around.  He gave Cecil an extra big piece of cake to lighten the mood.

He also got a brand new bedroom redesigned in his favorite color, pink.  Morand didn't question the boy's taste, he just let him choose what he wanted.  After all, he was old enough now to dress and think for himself, so who was he to say if the boy liked pink, or that his favorite music was French?

Soon enough, it was Cecil's first day at school.  While most kids are embarrassed to be seen with their parents, most kids don't get driven to school in a firetruck.  Morand hugged his son and watched him walk into the school as an independent little man.

In the middle of upgrading the dishwasher so that it would never break again, Morand felt a change come over him.  What was he doing with his life?  He spend almost all his time alone now that Cecil was in school.  He was becoming a recluse!

Change comes from within, but to make that change he had to go out!  He threw down the wrench and decided to go to the gym.  Getting out of the house felt great and it wasn't long until he was exhausted from the work out.  But he still didn't feel fulfilled, his mind still craved change.

He found himself back in the tattoo chair, this time to mark himself with a positive message.  Always be at the top of your game.  No more feeling down and lonely, it was time to reclaim himself!

Morand picked up an award from City Hall after a particularly amazing fire and went home to find Cecil working on his homework.  He sat down to help him when it finally hit him, he's not just a father, but a Dad.  He was needed by this boy, relied on and believed in.  He wanted to make this kid proud.

The next morning Morand caught his reflection and really started looking at himself.  While he'd been doing some changing on the inside, his outsides had yet to catch up.

So, he found himself wandering into the salon on his way to the grocery store.  He was almost too ashamed to admit to the stylist that he was looking for a make-over, but something inside of him desired it.  This might be a midlife crisis for all he knew.

Midlife crisis or not, change had come, and Morand was ready.

What is it with birthdays and crossed eyes?

Ahh, that awkward "tween" stage.

Title / Harry Nilsson