Mom, how much longer?"
"Hours. It's been hours."
As the twin whines rasped her eardrums, Liz Jordan's hands tightened on the steering wheel. "Forty-five minutes isn't hours. We'll be there soon."
"Don't know why we have to move to some hick town."
"Yeah, we'll be bored."
Their voices inched toward supersonic wails. She glanced in the rearview mirror and saw twin scowls. Justin and Brandon had inherited their father's handsome features and his hazel eyes, but their hair was dark brown like hers. "Guys, why not give Eastlake a chance? You lived here for two years."
"We were babies," Brandon said. "How we gonna remember anything?"
"Yeah, babies know nothing," Justin added his comment.
They had celebrated their fifth birthdays in Eastlake. Now they were nine going on two or forty-two depending on their mood. Maybe they didn't understand why she'd made the decision to return to here, but her reasons were valid. In the city, they'd been prey to pressure from a gang of boys headed for juvenile hall. This move was right for them. And her?
As the car rounded a bend, she saw a shopping mall that hadn't been here four years ago. What other changes would she find? She knew the hospital had expanded. The unit where she'd be in charge had been opened just three years ago.
When this fact popped into her thoughts, once more she wondered if making a lateral move had been the right choice. Being nurse manager of the ortho/neuro unit at Eastlake Community Hospital had to be less stressful than the same position at a city hospital. Here she wouldn't have to cope with nursing students from three different programs or with interns and residents. What about prima dona surgeons? She chuckled. That breed came with the territory.
At Eastlake, she'd be with the friends she'd made during the two years at Grantley College. She'd been the oldest of their clinical group and the one they'd come to for advice. Three of them lived and worked here. How great it would be to be with Jenessa, Laurel, and Megan again.
What about the unit's neurosurgeon, Dr. Jeff Carter? She remembered golden hair and summer blue eyes, broad shoulders and a lean body. She recalled memories of a dark night and the scent of wild roses. Don't go there. As the memories surged, her cheeks heated. That evening she'd made a foolish mistake, one she'd never make again.
"Mom, why do we have to live here?" Justin asked.
"Because I have a new job, and it's here."
"If it ain't that far from our home, why can't you drive every day?" Brandon asked.
"Yeah. Then we coulda stayed with our friends." Resentment filled Justin's voice.
And I would have gone gray from worry. "Enough. You'll live in Eastlake and like it."
"Or lump it," the boys said in unison.
"Is Pop still behind us?" Justin asked.
"If he gets lost, we'll lose all our stuff 'cept our collection." Brandon thumbed the box on the seat between Justin and him.
"Your grandfather's there," Liz said. "Justin, sit down and fasten your seatbelt." Would he ever learn to think before jumping into action?
"Just had to check."
"He's always doing dumb things."
She heard a grunt. "Guys, enough. Do I have to pull over?" She had to stop them before they came to real blows, something that had never happened. Though they were identical in looks, their personalities were opposite. Like his dead father, Justin plunged into action without thinking, while Brandon plodded and planned.
The noise from the back seat ceased. Liz spotted the sign announcing their arrival in Eastlake and released a sigh of relief. "We're almost there."
She saw her sons turn in their seats to look out the windows. The sight of houses with lawns instead of blocks of tall apartment buildings made her smile.
"Is our house like them?" Brandon asked.
"Maybe a little bigger." She turned the car into Main Street. Many of the shops she remembered were still there. "There's the Hot Doggery. We'll go there for dinner some evening. Best chili dogs I've ever had."
"Tonight?" the boys asked.
"No. Some of my friends are coming by after work to help us get settled."
"That's not fair," Justin said. "We had to leave our friends."
"Do they have kids?" Brandon asked.
"Laurel and Alex have a son. I think he's six."
"A baby," Justin said. "Who wants to play with a baby? Now me."
"Your choice," Liz said. "You don't have to play, but you will be nice to him."
"Where's the hospital?" Brandon asked.
"When we come to the next corner, look up the hill. The brick building at the top is the hospital."
"Wow," Justin said. "Think of coming down that hill on a bike."
"Think, but don't do," Liz said.
"You're no fun."
"Not supposed to be. I'm your mother."
Three blocks beyond the street to the hospital, Liz made a left turn and pulled into the driveway of the house her friend had bought just weeks before her wedding. Lucky for me, Liz thought. Laurel had agreed to rent with the option to buy.
Since her husband's death, Liz and her boys had been apartment dwellers. Sometimes, she resented the loss of the house she and Derek had bought, but the sale had allowed her to attend Grantley for a BS in Nursing. Once again her old resentment flared. Volunteer firemen who were determined to be heroes seldom left their families large legacies.