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Sighing in unreserved happiness, Sonya’s eyes wandered to her new husband sitting in the adjacent seat, and she couldn’t prevent the smile from encompassing her entire face.  They were winging their way to Paris, a honeymoon trip planned for over two years.

They lived with Sonya’s sister and her family in Calgary, in the third floor apartment of their Victorian home, where they only paid for their utilities. This allowed them to salt away both of their salaries for the down payment on their own home. Sonya had been in the process of completing her Bachelor of Commerce degree and at the same time worked for the family company, which was her legacy. And she was determined to ensure its future, its very rosy future!

With her recent marriage that future was now set. Uncle Stefan had bequeathed twenty percent share in Snytyza, Inc., the company created by her three uncles and Gus Geisbrecht, who was the proud father of two of her aunts and had been her grandparents’ best friend.   Pride to be a part of this successful family enterprise fired her resolve to make it even more successful.

Her history with Bryan was somewhat storied.  She so clearly remembered their first meeting on the University of British Columbia campus during her second year there.  She had been seventeen at the time, and when her father discovered the nine year difference in their ages, he reacted in a manner that Sonya had never before witnessed.

The scene had been most unpleasant, ending in tears and a slamming door.  She had not been able to convince her father that her decision to abandon her studies in the Faculty of Education was solely based on the fact that she had come to the realization that teaching wasn’t to be her career.  Or that this decision was hers alone.

Arguments and rationalization had fallen upon deaf ears.  Both her parents had been educators before their retirement. Her father had been the principal of a high school and her mother a grade school teacher. They loved teaching with such passion that they could not fathom their youngest daughter’s disenchantment with their chosen profession.  Instead, they placed the blame for her decision directly upon her older boyfriend’s influence, refusing to believe that he had, in reality, tried to coax her to remain in the faculty.

Sonya had no doubt at all that Bryan’s decision to accept a post-graduate scholarship position in Paris, was his way of giving her time and space to make some serious decisions about her life.  It had been so very difficult to watch him walk away and board his flight, but Sonya had accomplished it without a tear – at the time.  The tears flowed later, in private.

When her aunt and uncle decided to take a long-planned trip to Australia, Sonya jumped at the opportunity to stay with her elderly grandmother while they were gone.  Her parents lived only blocks away and she adored her Gran.  They spent hours cooking and talking. Sonya had even succeeded in presenting the wonders of the internet to her grandmother, proudly revealing photos sent by her aunt and uncle from Australia.

Then the bubble burst.  Her beloved grandmother died in her sleep at the age of 96 while she was under Sonya’s care.  Unfortunately, this was only the beginning in a series of deaths that left the entire family devastated.

The nightmare began when her parents had been killed in the massacre that was September Eleventh.   Her sister Susan’s strained voice informing her that their parent’s plane had been hijacked and crashed, would be forever etched in her brain.  She was still numb, even after all the time that since passed.

Part of it was the guilt of having argued, yet again, with her father regarding what direction that her education would take.  Even now, she felt the guilt bubble up in her throat.  It had been their last conversation.  Certainly, it had not been what she would have chosen to be her last words with her father. She and Susan had discussed it many times since, and Sonya was beginning to forgive herself, for as Susan had so bluntly put it, simply being human.

A soft caress kissed the back of her hand.  “A penny for your thoughts,” Bryan whispered as dimples flashed and his smile widened, reaching dark brown eyes, peeking from behind wire rimmed glasses.

“I was just thinking that it’s taken us a long time and a few bumps in the road to get here, hasn’t it?” she replied as a slow smile crossed her face and flashed into her eyes.

Bryan gazed into her striking, china blue eyes and saw the love of his life.  The fact that this stunning woman chose to be his wife still had him shaking his head in disbelief and thanking his lucky stars.  He had never considered himself to be handsome.  In true fact, his childhood had been spent wearing the labels of geek and nerd.  In an effort to fit in, he had let his dark hair grow, but unfortunately, his thick, curly hair had portrayed far less than the ‘cool’ image he strove for and made him even more of an outcast. The fact that he grew up on a ranch cemented his fate as an outcast.

Finally deciding to be true to himself, Bryan cut his hair and stopped trying to be someone that he wasn’t.  Graduating from high school a year early, he pursued his love and talent in art and graduated ahead of time with a degree in fine art.

Because he could, he continued his studies, next obtaining a degree in teaching.  It was while working on a post-graduate degree in art that the lightening bolt that was Sonya entered into his life.

That first encounter flashed in his mind as if it were yesterday. A goddess walked into the department office. He had been in a word, thunderstruck.  Hair the colour of ripe golden wheat was windblown around a perfect face, flushed from the wind.  Then, she looked at him with the most brilliant china blue eyes that he had ever seen.

What struck him the most was her absolute lack of conceit. It had been his experience that beautiful women seemed to be very aware of their effect on men, especially those men that they considered to be geeky and awkward.

This stunning creature in the office had no such hang-up.  In fact, she appeared to be totally unaware of her effect on men.  He found himself wondering if this girl ever looked into a mirror.  Surely, she knew just how beautiful she was.

To his surprise, she appeared to be somewhat shy, but she spoke to him as if she was actually interested in what he had to say.  She made him feel so comfortable, that he seemed to lose his awkwardness and spoke to her as if they were old friends.

Before he knew it, they were dating. And, he considered himself to be the most fortunate man on the face of the planet.  Perhaps God was rewarding him for his difficult youth, for which he would be eternally grateful.

It had been an idyllic time.  For the first time in his life, Bryan had confidence, something foreign to him until then. He felt desirable.  The longer they were together, the more self-confidence he gained.

Then, Sonya decided she didn’t want a career in Education.  He did his best to change her mind, but she was adamant.  As sweet as she was, she was just as stubborn and once her decision was made, her decision was non-negotiable.

Unfortunately, her father didn’t agree with his daughter’s choice.  It was easier to blame Bryan than to accept Sonya’s decision.  Their argument about Bryan, especially when the difference in their ages became an issue, had become really bitter.  That was one of the reasons Sonya had jumped at the opportunity to stay with her grandmother while her aunt and uncle were in Australia.

It was the beginning of a string of the tragedies that had paralyzed the family.  The first of which, was the death of the venerable head of the family, Gran Maria, who passed away in her sleep while Sonya was staying with her.  Sonya still held guilt about it, despite the fact that her Gran was 96 years old at the time.  Only weeks later, came the news that Sonya’s parents had perished in the wake of the massacre that was September 11, 2001.

He had been in Paris at the time and had gone so far as to put his name on a waiting list for a flight to Canada after the North American air embargo was lifted.  Sonya had been steadfast in refusing his offer of support.  She had shown him a strength that he never knew she possessed, insisting that he remain in Paris and finish his art scholarship and doctorate. Her decision had been devastating.  Why wouldn’t she accept his support?  Why didn’t she want it?

Her emails had, over the course of time, explained her frame of mind.  She still needed him, his input and his point of view, but she was trying to deal with life on her own, especially now that her parents were gone.  It took every ounce of strength for him to stay in Paris but finally, they reconnected upon his return to Canada.

At that time, Sonya had been living with her sister, Susan and husband, Kevin. To their credit, Susan and Kevin had welcomed him because Sonya wanted it that way, something for which Bryan would always be indebted.

Sonya’s decision to change switch her education direction to the Faculty of Commerce, was triggered by her part-time job with Snytyza Inc, a family owned company.  The tragic suicide of her elderly aunt and uncle, Stefan and Nadia, had only fuelled her desire to succeed.  Her uncle’s bequeath of twenty percent of the company stock had come about because she was the only member of the family other than his son, Peter, that took any interest in the family company that he had been instrumental in creating. And Bryan supported her all the way.  Whatever she wanted or needed, he would move heaven and earth to provide, regardless the cost.

“Yeah, we’ve earned what we have,” he readily agreed, pulling her hand up to his lips and grazing it softly.  “Happy honeymoon, Mrs. Brody-Mylowsky.”

“Back ‘atcha, Mr. Mylowsky,” Sonya grinned.  “I can’t wait to have you show me Paris from an insider’s point of view!”

“You’ll love it!  The art, the buildings, the history – you’ll love it all!”  Bryan continued enthusiastically.  “I know you will.  I’ve even rented my old place from when I lived there before.  It’s centrally located, and the landlady is a one of a kind gem.  Madame Lalonde will make even you gain weight with her cooking.  Buckle up, Babe, we’re about to land.”

They held hands as the large aircraft began its decent and touched down at Charles de Gaulle Airport.