MY NIECE WANTS ME TO GET MARRIED!
I, Shana Berrie, am my sister's official navy "parenting plan." That means I'm in charge of adorable Jazmine until my sis returns. But--surprise!--nine-year-olds have lots of opinions, including ones on my love life (or lack thereof). Now she's trying to set me up with our family friend, Adam Kennedy. Excuse me--Lieutenant Commander Adam Kennedy. So he's great looking and very helpful (if dictatorial), but I am not in the market for a navy husband.
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April 30, 2008
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Excerpt from Navy Husband by Debbie Macomber
"This is a joke--right?" Shana Berrie said uncertainly as she talked to her older sister, Ali, on the phone. Ali was the sensible one in the family. She--unlike Shana-- wouldn't have dreamed of packing up her entire life, buying a pizza and ice-cream parlor and starting over in a new city. Oh, no, only someone completely and utterly in need of a change--correction, a drastic change--would do something like that.
"I'm sorry, Shana, but you did agree to this parenting plan."
Her sister was a Navy nurse stationed in San Diego, and several years ago, when she'd asked Shana to look after her niece if necessary, Shana had immediately said yes. It had seemed an unlikely prospect at the time, but that was before her sister became a widow.
"I did, didn't I?" she muttered lamely as she stepped around a cardboard box. Her rental house was cluttered with the makings of her new life and the remnants of her old.
"It isn't like I have any choice in the matter," Ali pointed out.
"I know." Pushing her thick, chestnut-colored hair away from her forehead, Shana leaned against the kitchen wall and slowly expelled her breath, hoping that would calm her pounding heart. "I said yes back then because you asked me to, but I don't know anything about kids."
"Jazmine's great," Ali assured her.
"I know, but--but..." she stammered. Shana wasn't sure how to explain. "The thing is, I'm at a turning point in my own life and I'm probably not the best person for Jazmine." Surely there was a relative on her brother-inlaw's side. Someone else, anyone else would be better than Shana, who was starting a new career after suffering a major romantic breakup. At the moment, her life still felt disorganized. Chaotic. Add a recently bereaved nine-year-old to the mix, and she didn't know what might happen.
"This isn't a choose-your-time type of situation," Ali said. "I'm counting on you, and so is Jazmine."
Shana nibbled on her lower lip, trapped between her doubts and her obligation to her widowed sister. "I'll do it, of course, but I was just wondering if there was someone else...."
"There isn't," Ali said abruptly.
"Then it's me." Shana spoke with as much enthusiasm as she could muster, although she suspected it must sound pretty hollow. Shana hadn't had much experience as an aunt, but she was going to get her chance to learn.
She was about to become her niece's primary caregiver while her sister went out to sea on an aircraft carrier for a six-month deployment.
Shana truly hadn't expected this. When Ali filled out the "worldwide availability" form--with Shana's name--she'd explained it was so the Navy had documentation proving Jazmine would have someone to take care of her at all times, ensuring that Ali was combat-ready. It had seemed quite routine, more of a formality than a possibility--and of course, Peter was alive then.
Ali had been in the Navy for twelve years and had never pulled sea duty before now. She'd traveled around the world with her husband, a Navy pilot, and their daughter. Then, two years ago, Peter had been killed in a training accident and everything changed.
Things had changed in Shana's life, too, although not in the same unalterable and tragic way. Brad--Shana purposely put a halt to her thoughts. Brad was in the past. They were finished. Done. Kaput. She'd told her friends that she was so over him she had to force herself to remember his name. Who was he, again? That was how over him she was. Over. Over and out.
"I don't have much time," Ali was saying. "The Woodrow Wilson's scheduled to leave soon. I'll fly Jaz-mine up this weekend but I won't be able to stay more than overnight."
Shana swallowed a protest. For reasons of national security, Shana realized her sister couldn't say any more about her schedule. But this weekend? She still had to finish unpacking. Furthermore, she'd only just started training with the former owners of her restaurant. Then it occurred to Shana that she might not be the only one upset about Ali's sudden deployment. She could only guess at her niece's reaction. "What does Jazmine have to say about all this?"
Ali's hesitation told Shana everything she needed to know. "Oh, great," she muttered under her breath. She remembered her own childhood and what her mother had termed her "attitude problem." Shana had plenty of that, all right, and most of it was bad. Dealing with Jazmine's moods would be payback, she supposed, for everything her poor mother had endured.
"To be honest, Jazmine isn't too excited about the move."
Who could blame her? The little girl barely knew Shana. The kid, a true child of the military, had lived on Whidbey Island in Washington State, then Italy and, following the accident that claimed her father's life, had been shuffled to San Diego, California. They'd just settled into their Navy housing, and now they were about to leave that.