"They are your sister's children?"

"Yes," Jared said.  He looked over his shoulder at James, Henri, and Austin.  It had only been a few days since Miranda had been laid to rest.  Those days had been spent dealing with custody issues.  Jared was named the children's godfather and, therefore, rightful guardian.  That didn't stop all the background checks and whatnot.  "My sister died three days ago."

"I'm sorry," the woman said.  She moved her eyes to a computer screen and impatiently tapped some keys.  "What are the children's full names?"

"James Michael Hyde, Austin Michelle Hyde, Henri Renee Hyde."

The woman stopped typing.  "Wasn't their mother's last name Pierce?"

"Her married name, yes, was Pierce," Jared said.  "She divorced her husband and took her maiden name a few weeks before she died.''

"Had the divorce become official before she died?"

''I'm not sure."

"We'll look into that," the woman responded.  "For now, we'll have to keep their last name Pierce."  She took a paper out of the printer and handed it to Jared.  "Sign here."

"What was that all about?" James asked as he, Austin, and Henri followed Jared to his SUV.

"Legal issues," Jared said.  "Don't worry.  It's done now."

"Where are we going?" Henri asked as James helped her into her carseat. 

"We're going to live with Uncle Jared now," James said.

"Why?" Austin asked from the carseat next.

"Well," James said, with a small sigh.  "Mom's gone and Uncle Jared is the only one left to take care of us."

"What about Daddy?"

"James looked at Jared; seeking an answer.

"You're dad's gone, too," Jared said.  "He's not coming back either."

Henri and Ausitn nodded and said nothing.  Their faces looked too solemn, as if they understood all to well their circumstances. 

"jared pulled his SUV out of the parking lot and drove the three miles out of Coldwater to his old farmhouse.

The house had been in the Hyde family for nearly five generations.  The interior had been entirely redone after years of damages.  The exteriro was half done:  new siding lined the east side, but the west side was detoriating slowly.  Behind the house was an old barn that hadn't housed animals in quite some time.

"Home sweet home," Jared said. 

"Home sweet home," the children echoed.

"You all can go inside," Jared said.  "Get settled in.  The truck will be here with your things soon.  Go on."

Hand in hand, the children bravely crossed the threshhold, burning away all bridges and ties binding them to their old life.

The End

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