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Like Father, Like Son

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As soon as I had buckled Rene into his seat, I just happened to look out one of the airplane windows back at the terminal and caught a brief glimpse of black-clad figure that seemed familiar to me.

"It can't be, " I thought as I watched through the glass wall of the terminal.

The figure in black took long strides and before I could get a good look at the figure, he quickly disappeared from my sight. The long brown hair brushed back from the face, the determined and purposeful walk, and the shoulders that swayed back and forth with each step all combined in my brain and shouted "Michael" to me.

He wasn't supposed to know, I thought desperately. Maybe it wasn't him, only someone who looked like him, I told myself. And if it was him, does he hate me for the bargain I made with Cold Eyes, the woman with the long brown hair and eyes as cold as ice, who had watched Michael when he visited me at the Library?

While Rene sat beside me and hugged and talked to his teddy bear, my thoughts flooded back to that day when the cold-eyed woman came to see me at my home.

"You stole Michael's child from him with Simone's assistance?!" I shouted at her. "Just so you could get him to focus on his job and not on his family? Did you get rid of Simone for the same reason? I was shaking with rage.

Cold Eyes smiled. "Well, yes, Michael does focus more now, no more distractions for him There is just one more problem now," she said.

"What is that," I asked, knowing what the answer would be.

"You!" she replied. "He still comes to you for comforting. You soften him. You assist him in releasing his emotions. We need him hard and with his emotions in check. We need him controlled."

I sat back in my chair and sighed. "So, are you going to get rid of me, like you did with Rene and Simone?"

"Actually," and she smiled again, "We want you to disappear and take one of our problems with you" She rose from the sofa and started pacing the length of my living room.

I was stunned, but finally asked, "What problem."

Her answer, when it came, took me completely by surprise and made me shout joyfully when she said simply, "Rene."

"He's alive! He's really alive, but ...Michael said he was killed by a hit and run driver. Simone told him..." A coldness spread through my bones, "My God, she lied to Michael. How could she? He was devastated by Rene's death. How could she?" I cried, not believing that the Simone I knew could ever do such a thing to someone she loved as much as she loved Michael.

" She could ," Cold-Eyes said, " because we told her Rene would be taken away anyway if she didn't go along with our wishes. She knew that Rene should never have been conceived or born. She knew Section policy and both she and Michael ignored policy, so we gave her a chance to save Rene's life as well as Michael's. She took the chance and helped us to convince Michael that Rene was dead. Michael would never have given Rene up."

Now," she continued, "our control over Michael is threatened once again through you, so we have to take care of this problem. You need an incentive to leave Michael and we need a more permanent solution to Rene. My proposition to you is for you to take Rene and disappear from Michael's life. He knows that we know about you and he will believe that you have moved away to remove the threat you represent. I have already told him that I will take care of you. Your safety is of the utmost importance to him, so he will follow our orders to not see you again.. The foster parents are no longer suitable to keep Rene long-term and we need to move him, so it only seemed logical to take care of two problems with one solution. And that solution is you," she said matter-of-factly.

"But I just can't take Michael's son from him," I argued.

"Of course you can, Rene is dead to Michael and if you want to assure the safety of both Rene, Michael and yourself, you will agree to my proposition. What alternative do you have?" she asked.

I considered everything she said and, in the end, I knew there was only one decision I could make. I would raise Michael's son and keep him safe. I could only hope that Michael would understand if he ever found out. God help me, I thought, I hope he won't hate me.

************

I sighed. Rene seemed to be a well-adjusted six-year-old. The foster parents he had been placed with after he had been taken from Michael and Simone had apparently taken good care of him. He missed them, but he told me that he was a lot happier being with me if he couldn't be with his mommy and daddy. Big tears formed in his green eyes whenever he spoke of them.

His questions about them had started the first moment I had taken him in my arms at the airport. At first, I didn't know what to say. How do you explain to a six-year-old why he was ripped from his parents as a three and a half year old? But this was Michael's son, he was an intelligent, intuitive and wary child. I would not be able to lie to him, nor would I want to...what to say to explain to a six-year-old something that I as an adult found difficult to understand.

So, I told him in terms that he might be able to understand. I told him a story all about a brave prince, his beautiful princess, an evil cold-eyed queen and the dragons that had to be fought.

Rene looked up at me as I checked his seat buckle once again. "Grace," he said slowly, "What happened to my mommy and daddy? Why was I taken away from them? Will I ever see them again?"

"How do I tell him," I thought to myself, then I said to Rene, "Let me tell you a story."

And so, I told him a story about a brave prince and his beloved princess who together fought the dragons that were attempting to destroy the land where they lived. The queen of the land was grateful for what the prince and princess were doing for the land, but she was worried that they would decide to stop fighting the dragons as fervently as they had been doing when they started a family. Because even in the midst of their battles against the dragons, the prince and the princess loved each other so much that a son had been borne to them. The little prince was a brave as his father and as beautiful as his mother. The princess had taken time off to care for the young prince, and the queen become more worried about her land, which was threatened by the dragons. Because the brave prince loved his family so much, he spent as much time as he could with them and still the queen worried. She wanted the prince to be more concerned with the fight against the dragons than the welfare of his family.

The queen worried so much, that she began to plot against the prince and the princess and to plan how to make the prince focus more on the fight than on his wife and son. She finally decided that the best way to make the prince do what she wanted was to send the young prince away from his parents, so they would continue their fight against the evil dragons who were ravaging the land.

************

Rene snuggled closer to me while listening to my story. I folded the seat arm up so I could put my arm around him and to draw him closer. I continued with the story....

Even while the queen was plotting against them, the brave prince and his beloved princess lived happily with their young son. They often took him to a magical place where one of the village women would read to Rene and send wonderful books home with him which his parents would read to him. They continued their happy lives together and the brave prince was often away from home fighting the queen's battles for her. But the queen wasn't satisfied. She wanted the prince to concentrate more on the battle and less on his family.

One day, the queen sent the prince and princess away on a mission to fight one more dragon. While they were gone, she took the young prince far away from his home and gave him to a childless couple in a remote part of her kingdom.

When the prince and princess returned home, the queen told them that their son had died and since it was not known when they would return from their mission, the young prince had already been buried so they could not see him one last time to say goodbye. They were grief-stricken and very, very sad.

The prince and the princess were inconsolable in their grief. All the princess could do was look at the prince and cry. The brave prince began dressing only in black in mourning for his lost son.

The queen's plan had worked. The prince, now called the dark prince, became totally focused on killing the dragons and tried very hard to harden his heart so nothing could ever hurt him again. He fought even harder to rid the land of the dragons. The queen smiled her cold smile, but the smile never reached her eyes.

The princess was still very sad, but she continued to join the dark prince in his battles, but one day, the princess was lost in a battle with a particularly evil dragon. Of course, the prince blamed himself when he lost his princess. He shut himself off from everyone he cared about.

Everyone, that is, but the village woman who had read stories to the young prince. He started visiting her, often listening as she read stories to the children of the village where she lived. For a few minutes while listening to her, the dark prince felt peace and he could live again with something that the little prince loved. He could imagine holding his son in his arms once again. His wonderful green eyes would glisten with unshed tears as the dreamed that he was back with his son and his beloved princess.

The village woman tried her best to comfort the dark prince because she felt like the prince and his lost family were her family also. She tried to draw him out of his depression, but he wouldn't be comforted. One day when he was visiting the village woman, the evil queen followed him to see what was diverting his attention from the dragons. When she saw where he was going, what he was doing and who he was seeing, the cold-eyed queen once again started plotting.

***********

I smiled down at Rene as he continued to listen intently. "Are you getting sleepy, Rene?" I asked.

"No, I want to hear the rest of the story. It's about me and my mommy and daddy, isn't it?" he whispered. "Please, Grace, finish the story."

And so I continued the story....

The evil queen went to the village woman and discussed a proposition with her. If the village woman would move far away, and stop seeing and trying to comfort the dark prince, the queen would resurrect the young prince from the dead and would give him to the village woman to raise. At first, the village woman refused. It was wrong to take a child from his parents, she told the queen.

The queen smiled and asked the village woman if it was better for the young prince to remain dead and for the dark prince to be consumed by the dragons that he fought? The village woman thought about the queen's threat and finally made her decision.

"Yes." she told the queen, " I will adopt and raise the young prince, but only if you guarantee our safety and the safety of the dark prince as well.

The queen assured her that the dark prince would be safe, as safe as one can be when fighting dragons. After all, a dragon killer whose only focus was on the fight would be safer in his quest to slay the dragons.

So, it wasn't long before the village woman prepared to move far away from the dark prince who she had come to love as the son she had never had. She took the young prince and moved away and kept him safe from the cold-eyed queen.

I finished the story by looking down at Rene, searching his green eyes for an understanding of the story.

He was quiet for a few minutes, and then looked up at me from under his long lashes so like his father's. "My daddy thinks I'm dead and my mommy really is dead, isn't she? he asked.

"Yes, baby, that's right." I whispered.

He closed his eyes tightly and then fumbled with his seat belt as he unbuckled it, climbed into my lap and snuggled into my arms. Rene cried silently until the pilot announced that we would be arriving at our destination in 20 minutes.

"Will I ever see my daddy again, Grace?" he finally said, sniffing and rubbing his red eyes to wipe away his tears.

"I don't know, Rene, I just don't know," I told him while trying to keep my own tears from overflowing. "Just remember that he loves you very much, and that will never, ever change, Rene."

***********

Rene and I reached our final destination, our new home, in a medium-sized city in Texas, not far from Dallas. We settled in a comfortable house in a quiet neighborhood as a single parent and her six-year-old son.

Rene started school in the fall as a first-grader at a good elementary school not far from our new house. He grew to love the school, his teachers, and all the new friends he made. From his comments, this was the first time he had been able to play with so many different children. His foster parents had kept him close, seldom letting him venture out to play with children in the neighborhood. He reveled in his freedom and his friends and I loved sitting in the yard and watching him. I often thought of Michael in these moments, wondering where he was and what he was doing, so far away from his son. Rene had not mentioned his father or mother since that time on the plane. When I asked him about it, he told me sadly that if he talked about them, he would cry and he wanted to be strong like his father. I told Rene he could be both strong and talk about his parents if he wanted. He just looked at me with those sad green eyes and shook his head. I didn't push him. I knew he would talk in his own good time.

I worked out of our home and so became a stay-at-home mom for Rene. I was able to indulge my secret dream and so began to write children's books. As time passed, my books started selling well. My new profession enabled me to be available whenever Rene needed me. During our first year together, I learned alot about PTA, being a soccer mom and carpools. We were warmly accepted into the life of our neighborhood. Rene and I settled in happily and our lives became routine, normal.

Sometimes in the middle of the night, Rene would cry out. His nightmares were infrequent, but when they came, he would sometimes wake up shivering and crying out for his mommy, but more often, for his daddy, for Michael. I would go to him and hold him and talk quietly to him until he calmed down and went back to sleep. In those dark moments, I wished that things were different, that Rene could be with Michael, but things were as they were and our lives went on.

Before I knew it, a whole year had passed. Rene had turned seven and was now a second-grader. His nightmares lessened, but we both still missed Michael...

***********

The knock on the door startled me, I wasn't expecting any visitors on this, the first Saturday of spring. I opened the door to find an attractive young woman standing there with a clipboard in her arms. Oh, no, I thought, someone trying to sell me something.

"Hi," she smiled. "I'm doing a market survey...."

"I'm not interested," I said quickly, and started to shut the door.

"Oh, please," she said, "It's my first day and I need this job. Please do my survey, please!"

Just call me and old softy, I thought, and asked her, "How long will this take?"

"Just a few minutes, I promise!" she said hopefully, "May I come in?"

"Just a minute," I told her as I closed the door and unhooked the chain. Opening the door wider, I invited her into my home. "What kind of survey is this?" I inquired.

"The company I work for makes bicycles and I noticed one of our bikes in your front yard, so I hoped I could ask you some questions about how satisfied you are with the bicycle." she said in a rush, trying to smile, sit down and balance the clipboard on her knees. She seemed awkward and ill at ease, but I guessed that if this was her first day on the job she was probably very nervous. She was blond and had huge blue eyes. I'll bet she has charmed herself into a lot of houses today. This young lady would probably be doing a lot of surveys today.

"The bicycle belongs to my son," I told her. As if he had been called, Rene chose that moment to come exploding into the room. "Mom!!" he said breathlessly, "oh, I'm sorry, I didn't know you had company." I was always Mom to Rene. Simone was and always would be Mother to him.

"Calm down, Rene." I told him as he sat down next to me. "This young lady wants to ask us questions about your bicycle. She works for the company that makes and sells the same brand as yours. Are you interested in answering her questions? It won't take long." I said as I looked at the young woman over Rene's head, trying to signal her that he would not stay interested for very long.

"Yeah, I don't mind, Mom" he said, "it's a great bike, I love it."

The young woman started asking Rene questions and writing down his answers. After about ten minutes, I noticed that the questions were no longer about Rene's bike, but she was asking him about himself. Her eyes were locked on him as if she were trying to memorize every aspect of his being. I began to get a bit uneasy. She was asking what subjects he liked in school, what games he liked, did he like computers, but when she asked about his father, I stepped into the conversation.

"Rene, I think that is enough. Don't you have some homework to do?" I asked as I put my arm around him protectively. Something wasn't right about all these questions.

"I finished it all, Mom," he told me as he looked up at me with a puzzled look on his face.

"Rene, remember, you haven't finished your book and the book report is due on Monday. I think you should go to your room and start reading." I urged him up with a pat on his shoulder and a Mom kind of look that he knew meant do it now, no questions.

"Okay, it was nice talking to you," he said smiling at the young woman.

"It was wonderful meeting and talking with you, Rene," she said smiling back at him.

Rene quietly left the room, glancing back at me with a question in his eyes.

When I heard the door to his room open and then close, I looked directly at the young woman and said, "Who sent you here? You are not interested in doing a market survey. You came here to find out about Rene. Did that cold-eyed bitch send you to check up on Rene and me?"

She looked surprised and her eyes took on a faraway look before she focused on me and said, "All right, I will." That comment was definitely not addressed to me.

"Who are you and who are you talking to," I demanded.

"The cold-eyed bitch, as you call her, says her name is Madeline and she doesn't like to be called a bitch," she said with a quirky little smile as she seemed to struggle to keep from laughing out loud. "She also said I could answer some of your questions as long as they are not too detailed or probing. She also told me to be careful, that you were too smart for your own good."

"How is Michael?" were the first words out of my mouth, then, "Tell me about him. Is he okay? I haven't seen him in almost two years!"

"He's okay, if you like blank stares, long silences and men in black," she said sarcastically. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that. I know you care about him as does Rene. How is Rene coping? Madeline is particularly interested in how Rene is adjusting. And Michael is fine, but he always seems so sad. Now I understand. It took me a long time to see that in him. He never wants to talk about himself. He has always been an enigma to me. He is so exasperating sometimes!"

I laughed, happy to hear about Michael as well as to realize that sitting here in front of me was Michael's material. "That's what he said about you. That you were exasperating!" I stopped laughing as she reached out and put her index finger on my lips and started writing on her clipboard furiously and then held it out for me to see. I moved from where I was sitting and sat down on the ottoman in front of the chair where she was.

I leaned forward to read what she had written. "Keep on talking about Michael and Rene, but don't say anything personal about Michael or what he might have told you about me. She's listening and I don't want her to know anything personal about Michael and me...Please!" she wrote. I nodded and picked up a legal pad, one of many I kept around the house. I used them whenever I was working on a new story or book.

My legal pad and her clipboard became our lines of communication as I talked out loud about my life with Rene in our new home and Michael's material and I wrote to each other what we really wanted to say to each other.

************

Keep talking, she scribbled on her clipboard. I nodded in acknowledgment.

So we continued to communicate on two levels. I talked out loud about my life with Rene and we wrote down what we really wanted to say. Madeline got an earful of Rene's every move, his school projects, and his friends. Nikita and I spoke without words about her, but mostly about Michael...

The picture she gave me of Michael's life without Rene saddened beyond words. She hadn't known about much about Rene, just that Michael had a son and that the boy had died. It was only when Madeline called her in for a briefing that she had learned about Rene and me. Madeline had threatened her with cancellation if she spoke to anyone, especially Michael, about her mission to gather intel, as she phrased it, on Rene and me. Nikita told me she had already decided to keep her meeting with me secret from Michael. I don't think he could stand to know that Rene was alive and that he couldn't see him, she told me.

I think he may already know, I wrote on my legal pad. I told her about the man in black I glimpsed at the airport.

How could he stay away if he knew, she scribbled. You know, she continued, once Walter, a friend, told me that after Simone died that Michael just shut down, shut out everyone and everything. Maybe by shutting out every thought of Rene is the only way that he could survive.

That's Michael, I told her, I saw that in him, too, after Simone's death. I think he wanted to die, but I told him he would survive. And I think he did because you came into his life. I noticed a difference in him and then he told me about you. He seemed...hopeful and some of the shadows were gone from his eyes.

She told me that it took her a long time to recognize that Michael cared about her. When I first met him, she wrote, I was terrified of him, but as I got to know him, I could see the pain in those fathomless green eyes, but it was easier for me to think of him as someone with no soul, with no feelings for anyone. I was carrying around a lot of pain myself and I had to take it out on someone and usually that someone was Michael. He manipulated me so many times, but only recently have I started to understand that every manipulation, every lie, was his way of saving me. I was always so impulsive. If it hadn't been for Michael, I know now that I would have been dead a long time ago. The people we work for are pretty unforgiving, but Michael always seemed to be there to take the heat for my messes.

Nikita looked at me and continued writing. Michael communicates with his actions and now I know how difficult it has been for him. I needed more than he could give me.

And what was it that you needed? I wrote, even though I think I knew what her answer was going to be. She stared into my eyes, the tears welling up in her blue eyes. I was right.

I needed him to tell me how he felt and he hasn't been able to do that, yet. I need the words. The closest he ever came was after a mission where we posed as husband and wife. He told me that he couldn't tell me what I wanted to hear, at least not yet. Another time, he told me that he never realized how much he needed me. She stopped writing and the threatening tears started to run down her cheeks.

You love him, I wrote in my turn, and now I know that he loves you as well. As she leaned her head on my shoulder and I could feel her tears as they soaked into my blouse.

Suddenly, she sat bolt upright and seemed to be listening to a voice not present in the room. "I have to go!" she told me as she gathered her things and stood to leave. "Madeline says she is very happy that you are taking such good care of Rene."

"I don't care what Madeline thinks," I told her as I gave her a hug and showed her my legal pad on which I had written, Take care of Michael and watch his back! She smiled and mouthed without a sound, I will.

For Madeline, I told her, "I wish you could tell Michael and Walter that I send them my love, but since I know you can't, just give them both a big smile when you see them, for me."

Her eyes widened and her mouth dropped open when I mentioned Walter. "You know Walter?" I almost laughed out loud at the expression on her face.

"Yes," I confirmed, "I know Walter. Isn't he the biggest old teddy bear?"

She almost giggled as she furiously wrote one more time on her clipboard, YOU ARE GRACIE? WALTER'S GRACIE? I nodded and waited as she scribbled, he once told me that a woman named Gracie was someone he could have spent the rest of his life with. When I asked him what happened, he just said, Circumstances, Sugar, just circumstances beyond my control. I think he really liked you.

I really liked him, I wrote back to her. Remember to give him an extra big smile for me. She nodded her head, and walked toward my front door.

Turning, she hugged me once more and said, "Take care of Rene and yourself and perhaps the next time Madeline needs someone to check up on you and Rene, she will choose to send me." She hugged me again and walked out the door. She turned before getting into her car and smiled at me one last time and then she was gone. Another link with Michael had been severed...

************

Rene often had nightmares about losing his parents in the first weeks that he was with me, but after a while, the nightmares came less frequently. They didn't stop, but more often now, he slept through the night, untroubled by the bad dreams.

One night, I heard him call out in his sleep for "Daddy!" and it was then that I heard a soft murmuring. Someone else was in Rene's room. As quietly and as quickly as I could, I moved down the hall toward his room. As I got closer, I could hear someone singing softly. It was a lullaby.

As I stepped into his room, a figure was standing over Rene brushing a stray lock of dark hair from his brow. The figure pulled a chair from the corner of Rene's room to a place right next to Rene's bed. He sat down in the chair and silently watched as Rene finally slept quietly, the soft rise and fall of his chest attesting that the nightmare had been chased away.

I stepped up behind the man in the chair and put my hand on his shoulder. He never moved, but accepted my touch.

"Do you hate me for taking Rene?" I asked nervously.

"I could never hate you, Grace," Michael answered with a sigh. "If I can't be with Rene, you are the only other person I would want him with." He put his hand on mine as we stood silent watch over the child that we both loved beyond reason. Finally, I knelt down by Michael's chair and we gazed at one another before looking back at Rene, holding hands in a companionable silence that drew into the night as Rene slept on in an untroubled sleep.

We talked quietly through the night. After a while, we moved to the kitchen and as I fixed a pot of coffee, I told Michael everything I could remember about the last year and a half of Rene's life with me. He hung on every word, his green eyes glistening at all of the lost moments with Rene. Like any proud parent, I had saved every memento, every picture, every school project that Rene had brought home from school. I had always hoped that one day Michael would be able to see these things, and now, here before me, he was carefully examining each item as I handed them to him.

"May I keep this one, Grace?" he asked as he held up a silhouette of Rene that had been cut out of white paper and pasted on a piece of black construction paper. This had been one of Rene's projects when he was in the first grade.

"Michael, of course, you can have anything that you see here." I said, my heart aching for him. "Is there anything else? What about this? This is one of my favorites." I handed him a small blob of hardened clay with one small thumbprint pressed into the clay, capturing forever Rene's six-year-old print. "Need a keychain?" I said brightly.

"Thank you, Grace," he whispered, accepting the keychain and closing his fingers around it tightly.

When the sky outside started its inexorable voyage to dawn, Michael got up to leave. He walked back into his son's room. I watched as he touched Rene's cheek, sighed heavily and started to move away from his son's bed.

"Michael?" I ventured, somehow not expecting an answer, but continuing to hope. "When will you be back?"

"I don't know, but I will try to visit again soon," he looked up at me through his long lashes and smiled, "I can keep track of you and Rene through our system, but I will also try to get away for short visits." He smiled sadly, as if remembering a long ago hurt. "A friend of mine, actually Rene's namesake, once told me that it's not enough to keep track, that you have to see them. He was wrong about a lot of things, but on this one thing, he was so right. I have to see Rene, if only for brief moments. Grace, I just want to thank you so much for taking Madeline up on her proposition. I can't imagine Rene growing up with strangers. I'm so glad he is here with you. This way I know he's safe and will be loved very much." Hi said this as he put his arms around me and embraced me for what we knew might be the last time. But I had thought that before, so I smiled in the hope that he would be back, even if it meant moving heaven and earth to do so. The Michael I knew was probably capable of doing just that.

"Michael," I whispered as I hugged him back, "I met your Material, I met Nikita." I felt him stiffen and pull away from me.

"She knows about Rene? How?" I explained and told him that she had said that she wouldn't mention it to him, that it was up to him to tell her about Rene in his own time.

"Michael, she's beautiful, and has such a kind heart. And Michael, she loves you so much," I whispered, searching his green eyes for a clue to how he really felt about her. I found that truth in his eyes as they began to glisten. I saw his love for her and I was glad for the both of them. They needed each other. Two halves of a whole that I hoped would carry them through the rest of their lives. I saw too the pain in Michael's eyes, but I hoped that together they could persevere and continue to be each other's strength.

Michael smiled a small sad smile and said, "I can't love her. She is my weakness."

"No, Michael, she is your strength. Remember, I once told you that I saw something different in you when you came to me the year after you lost Simone? I could see it in your eyes then and I can see it now. Trust your heart, Michael!" I told him as we left Rene's room in the dim light before dawn. "Trust yourself!"

"I'll try, Grace. They don't make it easy for me, but I will try." He enveloped on more time in his arms and said quietly, "I'll come back when I can. Take care of Rene and yourself."

"Always, Michael, always. You keep yourself and Nikita safe," I said as I watched him move towards the door. "And Michael, say hello to Walter for me, tell him I miss him too."

"Always, Grace, always." He smiled and then he was gone.

************

The next day at breakfast, Rene was very quiet. He finally looked at me and said, "Mom, my Daddy was with me last night. I had a bad dream and he was there. He sang me one of our old lullabies and then he tucked me back under the covers."

"Rene, you Daddy will always be with you," I told him. "He will always be right here for both of us." As I said this, I placed one of my hands over Rene's heart and another over my own heart. "And he carries us and your Mommy in his heart always."

"I know he's always in my heart, Mom!" He looked at me with Michael's eyes and said again, "my Daddy was here. He knows I'm alive, doesn't he?"

"Yes, Rene, he knows, but he also knows that his presence is dangerous for us and so he cannot visit openly. It would be dangerous for him as well. You cannot tell anyone about his visit. We may be watched, so he has to be very careful."

"Will he come again?" he asked.

"He said he would try, but it's best if you don't get your hopes too high," I told him sadly. "Your Daddy does important work. Remember the story that I told you on the plane when we first came here?"

I watched him nod. "Sometimes, Rene, the dragons are real. They are people who want only to hurt and destroy. Your Daddy has to fight these dragons, these bad people, everyday. And just like the dark prince in the story, your Daddy is not always free to do what he wants. The people that he works for want him to focus on the dragons, and if he has that focus, he will be safer than he would be if he always was worried about us. So, we have to be strong for him. Can we do that, Rene?"

"Yeah, Mom, we can do that!" I smiled to see the steely determination in Rene's jade green eyes. I sighed.

Like father, like son.