Note: Pretty short chapter, I know, but I wanted to split it up.
Surprisingly, after calling it quits, Phoenix and Jeanine noticed a marked improvement in their relationship with one another. They didn’t exactly have problems before, but the tension that existed between them for this past semester has disappeared.
Of course, the sleeping situation was rather uncomfortable and, as there were only a couple of weeks left for them to stay at the house, Phoenix temporarily moved in with Millie in her room. She didn’t mind. If anything, they had more fun rooming together, chatting and helping each other with assignments and schoolwork.
While Phoenix was slightly consternated about the fact that Jeanine started dating Eddie as soon as the two of them broke up, he had to admit – whenever she was with the guy, she looked positively in love. And she didn’t really look that way when they were dating. Loathe as he was to admit it, while the two of them did have great chemistry, it seemed that they truly did mistake their longtime friendship for real romantic feelings.
Finally, this crazy school year dragged to a close.
Millie, having taken most of the classes she needed back in Hidden Springs, was able to graduate, with all straight A’s, landing herself the valedictorian title and earning herself great acclaim from professors and classmates alike. Even though she was happy with her success, she was most happy to be heading home to her husband and son, for good.
The rest of the housemates weren’t doing any worse. Phoenix and Trev both pulled their grades up and made the Dean’s List. Phoenix, because he was now set on doing well and Trev, because he knew that, even though he was going to change his major, he still needed a good grade standing to stay at the school.
Back in Hidden Springs, life went on as usual. While David and Irene were now feeling the effects of age, having had both children later in life, they weren’t letting it slow them down in the slightest.
Even after the long years spent together, they always took the time out to be romantic and do something special for each other.
And they were extremely happy to have their son back home! Between taking care of Felicity and keeping the house, they both made sure to spend hours talking to Phoenix, asking him about everything, from schoolwork to new friends.
As they ate Irene’s always amazing pancakes, his parents mentioned the romantic situation that arose back on campus.
“I’m so sorry you and Jeanine broke up,” Irene admitted. “She’s such a lovely girl and Tia and I have been friends for ages. Are you sure it’s all over between you?”
“Yeah, Mom, it is. But honestly, it’s for the best. You just need to see her and Eddie together to understand that – she practically glows when she’s with him,” he explained.
“Oh, I’ve seen him. He was at the Blakely house the other day. Did you know she invited him home with her?” Irene continued. “Tia called me the other day – she was so confused. One day she’s dating you and today she’s introducing the parents to a new person…”
“Yes, of course I know, Mom. I was kind of the person who suggested she invite him to Hidden Springs,” Phoenix chuckled. “To make him consider moving here after college.”
“You? Really?” David nodded, approvingly. “So, you’re really ok with them being together.”
“I am. I’ll always love Jeanine. But as a friend. And she sees me the same way. Really, guys, you don’t need to worry about me. Anyways, you should have your date tonight. I can use the time to chill out with my baby sis. How has Felicity been doing? No more ear pain?”
“She’s pretty well, although, we’re still having trouble with her not sleeping through the night well,” David admitted. “It seems she’s taken after me with bad nerves.”
“I can calm her down with my tales from around the world,” Phoenix offered. “I know she loves foreign fairy tales.”
“That she does,” Irene chuckled. “Oh, that reminds me! Gerald wanted to talk to you about something. He mentioned a travel opportunity you might like.”
“Really?” Phoenix always did want to see more of the world.
“Yes, he said it’s something to do with your work at the newspaper. He was in a rush when he told me, though. Jeanne and Trev wanted to take him fishing and they were hurrying him out the door,” Irene explained. “But he’ll be here sometime today or tomorrow and talk to you in person.”
“I’ll stay home, then. I haven’t had much time to chat with Uncle Gerald, except for feedback on articles,” Phoenix admitted. “It would be nice to catch up.”
“I know, dear. And once again, we are both so proud of you improving your grades the way you did. It’s impressive.”
Just as he promised them, Phoenix stayed home, keeping one eye on Felicity and the other on the article he had open on his laptop, about current events in China and how they were both caused and affected older traditions.
This was nice. He didn’t get much time to just sit down and write the way he used to in high school, with university putting a big strain on his time. And now, with some free time, he was catching up on one of his favorite activities.
He was just about done reading an interesting piece on the country by a popular travel writer when the doorbell rang. Approaching, he could tell it was his uncle.
“Phoenix, my boy! It’s good to see you. My, you’ve gotten taller, haven’t you? Time away will do that to you,” Gerald laughed. “I’m not going to ask how university went, I’ve already heard all and more from Jeanne and Trev. But how are you?”
“I’m good, Uncle Gerald. Better, now that I’m not failing anything,” Phoenix admitted ruefully. “Last semester was quite embarrassing – definitely would not want a repeat.”
“I can understand, but I’m glad you took the failure in stride and improved. That is the true mark of growth, dear,” Gerald gave him an approving nod. “I’m sure your mother told you about this, but I have an interesting travel opportunity and I thought you might like to join me?”
“She mentioned a bit. I’m all ears.”
“In a couple of weeks from now, there will be a media conference happening in Al Medina, Morocco and I thought, as someone interested in both media and foreign cultures, you would like to go with me? Room and board are paid for by the newspaper and we will have enough time to see some of the local sights while we’re there.”
“Morocco? For real? That’s amazing! Of course I’d love to go,” Phoenix lit up at the idea. He always had a fondness for Eastern countries and the opportunity to see one of them in person? Well, it was a good opportunity.
“Wonderful! Now, I’m sure Irene wouldn’t want you spending your vacation time away from her, but it’s only for two weeks. And the conference is a really good experience for someone in your field of studies.”
“I agree, Uncle Gerald. And thank you for the invitation.”
“Consider it a reward for that academic 180 of yours,” Gerald chuckled. “Well, take care. Jeanne was planning on a restaurant outing for the whole family. Would you like to come?”
“Thanks, but I promised Mom and Dad and I’ll keep a watch over Felicity. Besides, the writing juices have been flowing well today.”
“Oh! Of course. Well, enjoy your writing and home stay, Phoenix. We’re going to be jet-set soon enough,” he understood.
After his uncle left, Phoenix finished his article, but his mind was only half-there. Now, thoughts of Morocco and his upcoming trip preoccupied his head.
That night, long after everyone has gone to bed, he was still up, looking up information about the country and the city of Al Medina. It was an ancient city, with many historical spots still present and visible to the naked eye. Despite that, now there were plenty of hotspots and businesses that truly blended with modernity. The culture was still very traditional, which often caused clashes with this wildly changing world and its new ideals.
Without a doubt, Phoenix knew he wanted to see this place. Finally, his dream of foreign travel was coming true!