To Thine Own Self (Chapter Two, page 1 of 10)

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Even though her ten year class reunion was scheduled for Saturday afternoon, Alex chose that morning to start her training. Immediately after breakfast he took them all out for a buggy ride. Ed kept looking back as if to ask how many more people they thought he could pull. Soon the surrey would be altered for two horses.

Alex took them to the place where he target practiced with Bill and Jonathan. Pulling her rifle from the box under the seat, he left Jonathan with the younger children and walked Carmen to a spot facing the target.

It wasn't the first time Carmen had used a gun, but it was the first time Alex had seen her use one. Dad had taught her how to shoot when she was only ten years old. She hadn't practiced since she had met Alex, though. To her, the rifle was a method of defending herself or getting food when there would otherwise be none. Alex had been around to protect her for the last seven years - physically and financially. Regardless, she didn't like to shoot with anything but a camera - and they didn't need the food.

In spite of the time lapse between practice sessions, she did well enough to win his praise. There had always been a loaded gun in their house when she was young. Dad had taught her early that it was a weapon, not a toy. She had shot a few rabbits with it, and once a skunk that threatened the chickens. Other than that, she had given his gun little use. She had given his rifle to Josh before she met Alex. After Josh died, Lori had given it back to her. Alex had taken care of it all this time.

Jonathan was eager to get his turn, so Carmen watched Matthew, Natalie and Destiny. Alex had taught Jonathan to shoot the first year after they had adopted him, but today he still got the same precautionary lecture that her father had given her. It was times like this that she realized how much they had in common. It was difficult to believe that Alex had been brought up wealthy. But then, maybe things weren't that different for wealthy people.

Destiny covered her ears after the first shot. Matthew whined while Carmen cuddled him, and Natalie couldn't be consoled until Alex lifted her from the carriage. The session was mercifully short and they decided to go to check out the renovated house and make sure it was ready for the new renters.

Once in the house, they all scattered. The children ran upstairs and Alex set out to check the bathroom for leaks. Carmen changed filters and turned on the air conditioner for the summer. With that done, she went to the kitchen. The refrigerator was clean and there was no sign of mice or insects.

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