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Justin Campbell Justin Campbell
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Daniel Morgan [9]


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Under the Double Star - Chapter One

July 2nd, 1991


After two weeks, Daniel still felt hugely refreshed and giggly that his second child, Edwin James Morgan, had been born.


       The boy had been born in late June, with Daniel at his wife’s side. The delivery had been relatively quick and even easy; there was no long labor as was usual with other pregnancies. It was relieving to the both of them.


       His wife, Lauren, had been the same receptionist he’d set eyes on several years ago at the CJOH station. She still had auburn hair and that pale complexion, but these days she was happy and comfortable and enjoying life with Daniel, whom she wed in 1989, three months before their firstborn, Colin Leonard, had come along. Their story had been an unwitting one at first: when he’d walked up to the reception desk one afternoon, a week after Edwin’s funereal, and asked her out, she’d simply replied that she already had a boyfriend. Instead, they started out as friends, a relationship throughout which she realized that she had this particular feeling about the blonde narrator/field reporter. It was a new feeling of security and comfort, something she began to feel deep down. There was something about him, she’d found. From Daniel’s point of view, this feeling had been apparent since he’d walked up to her and asked her out.


       Eventually she decided her relationship with her boyfriend, Benjamin, did not give her that same peculiar feeling that she had with Daniel, and they broke up. After dating for a year and a half, they both knew they were definitely ready for commitment, and that’s when Lauren realized she was pregnant; the wedding, held in mid-August, was attended by many people including Daniel’s parents and siblings, his uncles, aunts and cousins, his friend Nick, and all of Lauren’s relatives and select friends. Even Nick’s sister Andrea came, looking happy for Daniel. Nick served as best man.


       The couple moved out of the garden home on Meadowlands Drive right after they returned from their honeymoon and moved to a small house on Falaise Road, in a neighborhood originally constructed for returning veterans from the Second World War. The place was small but the property was big, and both Daniel and Lauren had decided that that counted more than how big their house was; they had a big yard for the children to play in, and it wasn’t too expensive; if they wanted, money-permitting, they could demolish the small house and construct a much larger one in its place.


       Daniel’s career continued to move forward. After a couple of years of being on the news, he’d developed a new confidence and persona for the camera; he was an almost bouncy, likable presence on the screen. This led to him getting a few phone calls from agents who were interested in representing him, and while their offers of getting him bigger exposure and larger audiences were inviting, he wasn’t ready for the big changes that came with it – notably, moving to Toronto or Vancouver. So instead he got his own segment on the channel, co-produced and co-written by Daniel himself, until he had things settled down.
His younger sister Beatrice, meanwhile, had found her niche in teaching, having taken sociology in university before moving on to teacher’s college in 1987, and now taught at the middle school level. Leonard had left Ottawa altogether in 1990, having taken a big step and moving to Los Angeles in the States to try to pursue a screenwriting career. They always heard from him at least once a month, and he seemed to be doing all right – working odd jobs while staying up all night writing pilot scripts for TV and screenplays for comedy/drama films. He was persistent; every studio in Hollywood received something from him virtually every week, and he was bound to break one of them soon.


       When Colin had been born, Daniel had felt a rush of emotions that had him feeling extremely sentimental and tender, and he felt the same way when Edwin was born, when he heard the newborn crying. He knew he’d started a sort of legacy – creating a part of himself to live on, and in this case also attaching an aspect of his late grandfather to live on eternally in a child he would raise and shape the life of, and he felt very young again. It was new life. A new generation. And he would ensure it would be loved and guided and happy.
--
       Lauren was breastfeeding little Edwin when Daniel came home from the station, having wrapped up a segment on the mess still left by the Canada Day celebrations the previous day. She was on maternity leave from her job at the graphic design firm (her job as a receptionist was basically the equivalent of Daniel’s job at the second-hand bookstore) to take care of the baby and the two-year-old Colin, who was off spending the afternoon with Beatrice; since she was a teacher, she got the summer off just like the students.
      
       “Hello love, what’s new?”


       Lauren said, “Nothing much, just been feeding little Edwin here. How was work?”
      
       “Great. We did a table reading for a local interest segment I’m doing. I’m looking forward to it. Where’s Colin?”


       “Off with your sister, Beatty took him, I think they went to Baskin Robbins. She said something about the beach, or Mooney’s Bay.”


       “Ah. That always was a great place to go. Remember the walks we’d take there?”


       “That and the swimming. Those were good days.” She looked down at Edwin. “Now they’re awesome!”


       Daniel smiled. “I’ll be in my study, do you need anything?”


       “No,” she said. “I think I’m fine for now.” Daniel came over and kissed her, then went into his study, which was a fancy word for their living room as their house didn’t have one. This false name for the room was relevant though because he intended to mean that he was going to do some work at home rather than watch TV.


       He put his briefcase on the floor next to the desk and sat down. The space was small, but it would do for now. As he held his head in his hands, for a second, his mind wandered. Things were pretty good at the moment, but deep down, he sometimes had a recurring fear that it was too good to last much longer. Everyone had their self-doubts and moments of crises, and he was no exception. They had something of a mortgage to pay, and while he was doing relatively well in his career, it wasn’t as secure as he sometimes felt confident it was. He had a voice and face for television. He even had somewhat of a persona developed in front of the camera. The few offers he’d gotten from agents willing to represent him were almost unbelievable but they had called. The thing was, you could only go so high, and he’d made a lot of crazy progress in the space of a decade. Ten years ago he’d graduated from university with pretty good grades, above average, but they weren’t top of the class. Ten years ago he’d started working in the mailroom at the TV station, handling letters, and he’d somehow rose through the opportunities like a balloon filled with excess helium. How much further could he really go? Especially with a growing family to feed and house? He hated even thinking about the possibility of depending on his wife to singularly support them, and he even felt the security of their relationship wasn’t totally static or guaranteed; people change as they get older. What if they grew apart?
His head itched; after scratching it for a second, he noticed something he did not expect to see at all, and it frightened him.


       A single white hair lay in his hand.


       Four years after his grandfather died, his hair was already losing its color. Was he getting old already? He was only thirty-three. The elderly man’s last words surfaced in his head again, the ones about him about to ‘pounce’ on the answer to the mystery, or myth, or whatever it was of life, even now he was starting to forget. That worried him more than ever. While finding out what the meaning of life was wasn’t really his belief or something he felt he needed to dedicate himself to discovering, the wonder sometimes took hold of him on nights he couldn’t sleep (not that he’d be getting much sleep in the coming days thanks to the baby). It even annoyed him sometimes that his grandfather would leave him with such a task, such a seemingly unusual parting wish.


       The white hair was an ominous sign, he decided, that it was time to be careful. He was aware of some of the petty looks he’d gotten at work from some of his co-workers; they were obviously jealous of his success at advancing so quickly and getting all that exposure. Of course he shouldn’t focus on what any of those small minds out there thought, but you never knew when life could pull the carpet out from under you.
--


      Later that evening, Beatrice stayed over for dinner and Nick stopped by as well, so it was almost like a little party. Having finally trimmed his hair, Nick had been working at a sound studio in Lowertown, as an assistant engineer and technician on the equipment and consoles. Unlike his earlier job as a roadie, which involved him with a lot of various Canadian bands and musicians, the place he now worked at primarily recorded radio jingles and commercials. “There’s hardly much of a music presence in Ottawa,” he’d explained. “We get the random young artist now and then, or start-up band, but it’s always an EP and often always one-time. They never have the money for an album or a distribution contract, and they aren’t famous by any standards, so it’s kind of dead-end, almost.”


       Colin had had fun with Beatrice at the beach, meanwhile, where they’d picnicked. “It’s so unfortunate they filled in the ponds,” she’d said. “Remember the water under the bridges?”


       “Those were always nice,” Lauren said.


       “Well now it’s grass and weeds. Ever since they removed the little water channels through the bridges they look out of place and boring. But Colin and I had fun, didn’t we?” 2 comments


       “Yeah!” the boy said.


       They had chicken and mashed potatoes with a side of carrots and broccoli. Afterwards Lauren took the children to have a bath and Beatrice helped with the dishes while Nick cleaned up the table with Daniel.


       “So how’s the TV going?” he asked.
      
       “It’s going well, still. But I don’t know, we’ll see what happens.”


       “Ah. Hey, I was going to ask you, I wanted to tell you something but not at the table.”


       “Oh? Do you want to go outside then? There’s a shed in the back of the yard, I was thinking actually of making room in there for a card table or something.”


       “That would be great.”


       “Okay, well let me finish here and get the stuff in the dishwasher and I’ll be out in the minute.”
--


       “This is awkward, but you’ve always been around for the longest time, so I figured I’d tell you first before anyone else.”


       “Okay,” Daniel said. In the shed, he’d turned on a light, moved a couple of yard-work tools and sat down in an extra lawn chair they had stored in there. Nick, instead of taking the other seat offered by him, stood against the wall by the doorway, leaning forward, looking like a weight had been put upon him.


       “I have…I don’t know what to do. I got someone pregnant.”


       Daniel’s eyebrows raised. “Really? Who?”


       “Not anyone you know, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know. It was one of those bands that came in one time, you know? One of those hopefuls. And the lead singer, a girl, took a liking to me. We went out one night after we got her guide vocals down.”


       “Is that all you did?”


       “No, we went back to my place on Lisgar and uh, yeah.”


       “And you’re sure she’s pregnant?”


       “She came to me a couple of days ago and told me. We aren’t in any real relationship. I don’t even know if it’s really mine, she could have been having liaisons with someone else at the same time, but she claims I’m responsible.”


       “What are you going to do?” Daniel expected his friend would stay and properly find out – and then help raise the baby, if the girl decided to keep it.


       “She’s not getting an abortion, doesn’t believe in it,” he said. “I don’t really want to deal with this, you know? I can’t have this govern the rest of my life.”


       “What do you mean?” Daniel said, surprised at those words. “That’s not the right attitude, Nick.”


       “What do you mean, ‘not the right attitude?’ I don’t even know if it’s mine. It might very well not be. Look, Dan, I have no time to raise a kid like you do.”


       “No time!? I’m running around at work writing and researching and narrating and developing news segments everyday! I have two children now! How do you think I manage that?”


       “Must be crazy,” Nick agreed, feeling pushed backwards. “And I’m not interested in crazy right now. I’ve got a job offer in Toronto, at a place called Lakeview. I intend on taking it.”


       “That’s incredibly selfish!” Daniel exclaimed, feeling frustrated and angry. “Nick, do you care for no one but yourself?”


       “Of course I care about more than myself! I’m not a little kid anymore, guy, you just can’t let little things like this change everything you do!”


       “Having a child isn’t a little thing!”


       “It’s probably not mine!”


       Daniel sighed. “Do what you want. But I can’t believe you’re so self-centred that as soon as you knock someone up you run away.”


       “I’m not running – “


       “Yes, you are.”


       “It’s a freaking job opportunity – “


       “It’s an excuse.”


       Nick threw his hands up in the air. “Whatever. I thought you’d understand. Whatever.” And he left the shed, into the night.
--
       That night, Daniel climbed into bed while his wife Lauren put Edwin down in his crib.


       “That was an awesome dinner, great for everyone to be there,” Lauren mused.


       “Yeah, it was great. I think we did a good job of it. Sorry I wasn’t there to help with the bath right away.”


       “I heard you had a chat with Nick outside.”


       “We did. And I have a feeling we won’t be seeing Nick for a while, now.”


       “Why’s that? You two get into a fight?”


       “Kind of. But he’s leaving for Toronto.”


       “Really? Why?”


       “New job offer. And he got someone pregnant.”


       “Nick got someone in Toronto pregnant?”


       “No. He got some girl pregnant, so he’s grabbing this job offer as an excuse to run away.”


       “No, really? That’s irresponsible.” Lauren clucked her tongue. “He’s always moving around, isn’t he? Never really content to be in one place.”


       “Well, he was a roadie. I guess he likes to let life take him places. But I’ve never really considered how self-centred he’s always been, and now he’s taken it to a new level.


       Lauren looked at him lying next to her. “What do you think will happen?”


       “I don’t know. I think he’ll end up giving this girl a lot of grief, though, and her unborn child will definitely have a different life. I almost want to do something, help out in a way.”


       They lay there in thought for a few moments.


       “You know,” Lauren said, “There should always be a balance between what you do for yourself and what you do for others. Sacrifice one thing, but focus on another.”


       “That makes sense,” Daniel said. “I’ve been doing some sacrificing at work to focus on here, us, but I haven’t neglected it either.”


       “Are you sure?” Lauren said. “Maybe you should take one of those offers. You know I’m here to support you as well as keep you grounded.”


       “You think so? I just don’t want to jeopardize anything.”


       “You don’t want to do the same with your career though, either.”


       They lay in silence for another few seconds. Finally, Daniel said, “I found my first white hair today.”


       “What do you mean?”


       “I mean, when I scratched my head earlier, a hair came loose. And it was white.”


       “Ah.”


       “No one stays young forever.”


       “No. So, you see what I mean. Take what you can in life. In work or in family.”


       Daniel smiled. “Okay. I will.”


       With the future sleepless nights evident in their minds, they turned out the lights and went to sleep.


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Justin Campbell's website: http://justincottawa.blogspot.ca/

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