On their last night together they arranged to meet up with Brody and Monica for drinks.
But it seemed that Brody had an announcement to make.
"So last night I asked Monica to marry me." He began.
"And I said YES!" Monica squealed, finishing off his sentence for him.
Finlay felt sick to his stomach.
he wished that hearing his friends news did not make his heart sink so much, he wanted to be happy for them, but he couldn't help feel that it should be he and Cherry celebrating.
Swallowing his emotions he patted Brody on the shoulder, "Well done man! That's great news."
He looked over at Cherry to gauge her reaction.
But she and Monica were already engrossed in discussions of flowers and colour schemes. He and Brody left the girls talking and ordered a round of drinks at the bar.
After the night was over, Finlay suggested they walk home. He wanted to prolong their last evening together as long as he could.
As they approached the stairway which climbed to the top of the bridge Cherry stopped.
"Finn, you do think I'm doing the right thing don't you?" She asked, wrinkling her nose in the sweet way that she had.
"This internship is a great opportunity." Finlay answered, trying his best to sound encouraging.
"Right, but you didn't answer my question." Cherry pressed, "I know you said lets do the long distance thing but....."
"Hey, come on." Finlay said drawing her close to him, "I meant it, we can make it work i know we can."
"We wouldn't have to make it work, if you came with me?" She asked fixing him with her soulful eyes, "You want to get into politics right?"
Finlay nodded his agreement.
"Where better than Sim City to get a start?" Cherry finished.
"You know i can't leave Bridgeport." Finlay answered, stroking her cheek in an attempt to lessen the disappointment.
"I have too many responsibilities here, with the house and all."
"Can't you just give it to your sister?" She asked, pleading with her puppy dog eyes.
"I'm sorry Cherry, but Mom entrusted me to be her heir, I have to stay."
They walked the rest of the way home silently.
"Can I spend the night?" Cherry asked when they reached Finlay's house.
As if she even need ask that question, he thought nodding.
Finlay drew Cherry into his arms and kissed her soft lips. He was close to giving into her wishes, saying no to Cherry wasn't easy.
What if she was right? Why should he have to stay here when a career in politics would be so much easier to achieve in the capital city?
His train of thought was soon interrupted by Cherry removing her clothes, she took his hand and lead him to the bed.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" He asked.
"Of course Finn." She answered biting her lower lip, "I love you, i want you to be my first."
"I love you too Cherry." He replied before kissing her softly.
Waking up the next morning with Cherry in his arms Finlay drew a large intake of breath and tried to commit her fragrance to memory.
He wondered how long it would take before he forgot all the little details of her that he loved so much, like the exact colour of her amber red hair or the tiny cluster of freckles on her left shoulder.
Sighing he realised her bus would be leaving in an hour and he kissed her gently awake.
After breakfast he found Cherry standing outside in the back garden staring out over Bridgeport.
"Hey." He called softly, "Are you alright?"
She turned around and he could see the tears in her eyes. Pulling her close he whispered in her ear, "It's not forever."
"If it's OK with you I'll go to the bus station alone." She asked tearfully, "I can't handle a big scene, it's just too hard to say goodbye to you Finn." She explained.
"Lets just say see you later instead." He suggested, wiping away her tears.
Hugging her for a final time Finlay tried his hardest to fight back tears of his own which were threatening to fall.
He kissed her hastily saying, "Don't miss your bus."
As she turned and walked away he allowed the tears to release and looked out towards Bridgeport with blurred eyes.
The next few days passed at a snails pace for Finlay and he spent every minute thinking of Cherry, wondering what she was doing and if she was safe. The only happiness came when his cell phone would flash into life with her name on the screen.
But he was forcibly dragged from his bedroom by his sister to celebrate their Dad's birthday. It was hard to believe that Tate was turning 65.
As he aged into an elder Finlay couldn't help but wonder if seeing Tate was like looking into his future.
It seemed that there was more than just Dad's birthday on the agenda for the Traytor household that day as his Mom explained.
"The foundation has really taken off and I've been invited to help build a centre in Twinbrook to support people who want to make the transformation."
"How long will you be gone for Mom?" Eliza asked
"We'll be a few months at least." Tate explained.
It seemed that Tate had decided he was too old to continue on his landscape gardening business, and as Finlay showed no interest in taking it over he had sold his client list to someone else. He was accompanying Audra to Twinbrook.
Eliza and Finlay watched their parents pack up the car for their trip. Eliza grabbed Finlay's hand as a tear slid down her cheek, "It's just me and you now Finn." She said, wiping the tear away before her Mom could see.
After his parents left Finlay fell into an even deeper depression, the loss of so many people who mattered to him was hard to take and he just could not shake it off.
Eliza dealt with it in her trademark style, she hopped on her bike and headed for downtown.
Although she loved nothing more than heading out with no particular destination in mind today she had a purpose.
Her attempts to become a private eye had so far resulted in one job involving a missing cat, which had turned out to have been locked in the owners shed by accident. Hardly a case for Hercule Poirot, she thought.
But a notice in the Tribune that morning had caught her eye, it wasn't a wanted ad but an advertisement for Detective services. She had noted down the office address and was intent on securing herself a job.
When she arrived she double checked the address, this couldn't be the place could it?
But sure enough there was a sign reading Detective Agency above the door.
God this place was a dump, and right next door to a strip joint too! Eliza could only imagine the sort of clientele that would use this agency, but not to be deterred she pushed her way through the door.
The interior of the building fared no better than the exterior, the wallpaper had seen better times and it smelled of stale tobacco smoke. A well worn sign announced that she needed to be on the fifteenth floor, however the elevator wasn't so obliging and was posted with an "out of order" sign.
Eliza made the trek up the fifteen flights of stairs, thinking that she deserved to be given a job just on perseverance alone!
She finally arrived at the door and pushed her way inside finding a single room furnished sparsely with just one desk and one man.
She had been expecting a busy office filled with prospective clients and a friendly receptionist but instead she found herself being completely ignored by the man at the desk.
She cleared her throat loudly, but the man didn't flinch. Instead he called, "Yeah, Yeah come in, take a seat." As though her presence was an annoyance to his otherwise busy day.
Eliza took the only one available opposite his desk and waited.
"So what is it lady?" He asked impatiently still not looking up from his screen, "Let me guess, Husband playing away from home? And you want me to catch him in the act."
"No!" Eliza exclaimed disgusted at his flippancy, "I have a proposal for you actually."
This seemed to capture his attention and he looked her square in the eye, "You have a proposal for me?" He questioned, "Well it's a little early in the day for a wedding, wouldn't you say?"
"Not that kind of proposal." She fired back quickly, "I propose a non romantic partnership."
"Listen lady it's been a long time since i paid for those kinds of services, i think you best try Gentleman's Choice next door. I'm sure they'll cater to your needs."
"Gentleman's Choice! The strip joint! Ewwww!" She cried realising what he was implying, "I'm not offering you sex you pervert! I'm a private detective!"
The man started to laugh, a full hearty chuckle from his gut. "Sorry lady, but I get all sorts in here." He apologised.
"Look I'm more of a lone wolf, i don't need a partner. Anyways a pretty young thing like you has no place in this job."
"What's that supposed to mean?" She asked.
"Look this is a dangerous business, and you're clearly still wet behind the ears. This town will eat you alive." He replied, turning his attention to his computer screen once more as if to dismiss her.
But Eliza wasn't detered that easily. She leaped from the chair and paced over to his current case board, looking it over she grasped a piece of paper from it.
"I read this article in the paper." She revealed.
The bistro on Fuller Street had been closed down by the health and safety executive after a routine inspection had found a rat infestation in the kitchens.
"Why are you investigating this?" She asked.
The man sighed as he rose from his seat, "So you read the Tribune and like everybody else in town you ate up every word they printed." He mocked.
Eliza regarded him through narrowed eyes, if she wanted to impress him she needed to put her investigative skills to use.
"So maybe the paper got it wrong." She began nervously clutching at straws, "Maybe the rats weren't there because of bad hygiene, maybe they just wandered in from the street?"
He laughed another belly laugh at her presumption.
"Look you might think I'm just some stupid joke but I'll prove you wrong!" She shouted.
"Whoa! Slow down there." he replied, stepping back in shock at her outburst. Holding up his hands in defeat he answered, "OK so if you really think you got what it takes then solve the case."
"But you haven't even told me what the case is." She retorted eyeing the man as if he were crazy.
"If you're even half as good as you think you are then you'll figure it out." He replied, giving nothing away.
Eliza kept the newspaper clipping of the story from his investigation board, she stuffed it in her pocket and said, "You're right, i don't need some washed up old man to help me out."
She flounced out of his office intent on proving him wrong.
Eliza didn't have much information to go on, she perused the newspapers for any further stories but none appeared. She realised that to solve this mystery she would need to get out among the citizens of Bridgeport and get her hands dirty.
As she folded the newspaper away she regarded her brother slumped in front of the TV, he hadn't even bothered to get dressed. She couldn't recall him leaving the house since Cherry and their parents left, he was obviously in need of some sisterly advice.
"So Finn, you planning on showering today?" She asked sarcastically, eliciting only a shrug of his shoulders in response.
"Why don't you take a look at the paper? There's a pretty interesting article on page two." She suggested.
He remained transfixed on the screen and whatever mindless programme was playing, so she left the paper folded out for him and headed off towards downtown to start her first real investigation.
The sound of the door slamming as Eliza left registered with Finlay, who awoke from his trance like state. What was it she had said to him, have a shower? He sniffed his arm and realised she was probably right!
But why did she want him to read page two? What could possibly be of interest to him in this lousy town?
He hauled himself from the couch and picked up the paper.
Flicking to the second page he realised instantly what Eliza had meant and silently praised his sisters sage advice.
The story read ~
Bridgeport Mayor to be opposed in upcoming election by
candidate John Cain.
This was big political news for Bridgeport who's faithful Mayor had served for as long as Finlay could remember. She had always successfully beaten off any competitors as she was as much a part of Bridgeport as the Llama stadium.
Finlay knew that an election could mean only one thing, an election campaign! And John Cain would need an all star campaign assistant if he was going to win.
Finlay threw the paper down, suddenly experiencing a sense of urgency he hadn't felt since graduation day when he rushed to propose to Cherry. His blood was pumping and his mind racing with all the possibilities this day could now bring him.
He jumped in the shower and washed away his melancholy over Cherry and his parents. His Mom had left him in charge for a reason and he couldn't let her down now.
Searching through his Dad's wardrobe he found a black suit to wear, making a mental note to spend his first pay check on some professional clothes of his own.
Straightening his tie he began to physche himself up for the task ahead.
There was no doubt in Finlay's mind that there would be a lot of competition for the job, so he needed to be on top form when he met the candidate.
He started to practice his opening lines.
"Mr Cain, it would be an honour....." No, too formal.
"The name's Finlay and I'm your guy!" NO! Too creepy!
Then he remembered the day of his speech for class president, it wasn't the prepared speech that had won him the election it was his improvisation.
He smoothed down his jacket and set off towards Bridgeport with a spring in his step.
When he arrived at the election campaign office he entered through the glass sliding doors and was presented with a sleek modern office. There were a number of workers already at desks and the room was filled with a positive buzz of energy.
This was where he belonged, he knew it. He had to get this job.
"Can i help you?" A girl called out to him from behind a desk.
"I'm here to see Mr Cain." Finlay advised confidently.
"Is he expecting you?" She asked.
"Not exactly." Finlay replied honestly, "But if you could get me in for just five minutes I'm sure he won't regret it." He fixed the girl with a winning grin.
"I'll see if he's available." She smiled in return.
He stepped back from the desk as she placed the call and once again took in the atmosphere of the office, just being here made him feel alive again and all of the worries of the past few weeks began to recede.
"Excuse me!" The girl called interrupting his thoughts, "Mr Cain will see you now." She gestured toward the gold trimmed mahogany door, inviting him to enter.
Finlay took a deep breath, this was it his big opportunity. I can't loose focus now he thought and confidently strode toward the door.