Glitter – Chapter 11 – Free Spirit

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“Come on I’ll take you home” Royce suggested helping Christopher from the bike.

“No way” he pushed Royce away “my parents will kill me if I show up like this.”

“Then you’ll have to come over to my place” Royce said.

Rolling his eyes Christopher allowed him to help him towards his car. “Fine” he muttered.

Smothering a grin he sympathized with his friends feelings. “This time will be different. Jason has friends over so he won’t be bugging you.”

“Good” his voice betrayed his relief the he wouldn’t be asked for information on his brother. “It’s not that I don’t like him” he tried to smooth over the offense.

“Don’t worry about it” Royce waved his apology away. “I’ve talked to him about it. Told him if he liked the guy that much he ought to just tell him.”

“That’s asking for trouble” Christopher sighed “Ben isn’t interested.”

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“I know but the only way Jason will accept it is if he hears it from Benjamin” Royce went around to the driver’s side of the car. “I don’t look forward to picking up the pieces when it happens.”

“Maybe he’ll meet someone else before it does” Christopher suggested.

“Well there is someone….” Royce paused at the sound of someone tapping on his window. “Can I help you?”

“You no” he shook his head “your friend definitely.” He handing Royce a folded piece of paper. Then before anyone could react he turned and walked away. “I think this is for you” he tossed the paper over to his friend.

“What is it” he mumbled staring at the folded piece of paper on his lap like it might bite.

“Open it and find out” Royce said as he backed out of his parking space. “If I were to hazard a guess I’d say it was his phone number.”

The silence from the passenger seat had him glancing across at Christopher. Curious he asked “so am I right? Is it his number?” When Christopher nodded he asked “so will you call him?”

“I don’t know” he sighed thinking back at how they met. “Do you think I should?”

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“If he has you at a loss for words I’d say go for it” Royce chuckled “who knows what might happen.”

“But I was so wasted” he put a hand over his eyes embarrassed at how he was acting.

“You said he helped you” Royce reminded him “obviously he likes playing hero.”

“Yeah maybe” he mumbled fumbling with his phone. “I’ll think about it.” To change the subject he asked “so what was so important you wanted to talk to me alone?”

“Well there’s this girl…”

“And you’re hoping I can give you some pointers” Christopher asked filling in the blanks.

“Well yeah” he shrugged “I’ve seen you pick up girls in the past.”

“”I have but I’m better with guys” they both laughed “do you know the girl?”

“Of course I know her” he huffed “It’s one of Jason’s friends.”

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“In that case I’d say relax and by yourself” he suggested “be casual about it and see if she looks for ways to be alone with you.”

“Then what do I do” he asked.

“You really like her don’t you” Christopher asked. He had yet to meet someone he couldn’t walk away from. He felt somehow jealous of the younger man.

“I do” he sighed a goofy grin on his face “she’s perfect.”

“I sincerely doubt that” Christopher laughed getting out of the car. “How about I meet her then I’ll give you some pointers if you still need them.”

“Just don’t go getting any ideas” Royce warned.

“I won’t. I promise” he waved his phone around “besides I have the hero from the bar to occupy me.”

They were both laughing as they entered the houseboat.

***

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“Hey you’re just in time to light the grill” January announced when Royce entered the room.

Glancing up Jason seemed to be searching for someone beyond his brother. His smile faltered when he realized it was only Christopher who had come. “Glad you join us” he mumbled attempting to appear happy to see him. Disappointment gnawed at his stomach that someone else wasn’t there.

He caught Royce staring at him. Plastering a grin on his face he said “Jace could use some help with the grill.”

Clapping a hand on Jason’s back Christopher said in jovial manner “point me in the direction of the grill and I’ll get it going for you.”

“It’s on the deck” Jason mumbled pointing in the general direction of the grill.

“You ok bro” Royce asked beneath his breath. He had seen the disappointment in his twin’s eyes.

“Fine” he lied “why wouldn’t I be?”

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Royce knew Jason was pretending not to be hurting and valiantly trying to hide his feelings. Maybe for the others he was successful but Royce knew. “Sorry I should have called first” he apologized.

“It’s your house too, invite who you want” Jason said turning away. “January have you met my brother yet?”

Her eyes moved up down checking him out. “I’ve seen him around” she said in an overly bored voice.

“I’ve been around a lot” Royce tried to appear casual and unaffected. He knew he was failing by the look Jason was giving him. His voice always took on a quiver when he got nervous. It wasn’t real noticeable but it was there. Jason knew him better than anyone and had picked up on it.

“Guess I haven’t noticed” she yawned taking out her phone she directed all of her attention to it.

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“Um” Royce strained his mind for something else to say to get her attention. “I’m in a band” he squeaked earning himself a concerned glance from his twin.

“Oh yeah” she raised her face from her phone. “I haven’t seen you play anywhere. What’s your band’s name?”

“Um well…” he groped for words “it’s still being put together.” He glared across at his twin daring him to say anything.

“Too bad” January said returning her attention to her phone “you were almost interesting.”

Feeling like he just received a mortal blow Royce wandered off. He couldn’t help but wonder if this was how Jason felt each time Benjamin failed to notice him. If it was he had a new found respect for him for being able to persist. He was distracted from his thoughts by the sound of Christopher’s laughter.

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“You’ll never get it lighted like that” Christopher’s laugh was boisterous causing the younger boy to jump back.

“I don’t like fire” Jace stammered taking shelter behind Christopher when flames shot upwards from the grill.

“Watch it” Christopher yelled as Jace jostled his hand sending it perilously close to the flames. “What’s the matter with you? You almost got me burned.”

“Sorry” he took a step backwards “I didn’t mean to. I guess I kind of freaked out.” His eyes were glued to the flames watching them as if they were a living breathing thing.

“It’s ok kid” Christopher said deciding to give the guy a break. “We can’t all be brave like me.”

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“You can be brave for both of us” Jace mumbled.

Shrugging Christopher decided to drop the subject. “Where’s the steak” he asked instead.

“Err” Jace pointed towards some tofu burgers and hot dogs. “January’s a vegetarian” he explained.

Shaking his head Christopher arranged the tofu on the grill. He could feel Jace’s eyes following every move he made. It filled him with a warm fuzzy feeling deep inside. Something he hadn’t felt since Lindsey dumped him.

***

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“Where do you think you’re going” she asked as her son ran past her to the door.

“I’ve got things to do” Aaron said without stopping.

“Like Raven” Riley snickered from the table where he was helping himself to another stack of pancakes.

“Shut it” Aaron glared at his younger brother.

“K I S S I N G” he sing songed ignoring the murderous glare his brother directed at him.

“Have you gotten the balls to ask Unity out yet” Aaron challenged.

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“Leave her out of this” Riley shouted getting to his feet.

“Boys” Erika yelled putting her hands up as if to referee between them “enough.”

Her son’s glared at each other. Neither one wanting to back down or apologize.

“I’m out of here” Aaron announced turning towards the door.

“No you’re not” Erika called after him “I need your help today.”

The slamming of the door was the only response she received from her departing son. “What was that all about?” she asked her youngest.

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Sitting back down at the table he stuffed his mouth full of pancakes. Riley shook his head shrugging his shoulders.

“Who is this Raven” she asked when the plate was empty.

“Just some guy” he mumbled getting up to wash his plate. “You might want to talk to Aaron about it.”

“I’ll do that” she agreed “so you like Unity?”

“Mom don’t” he begged running up the stairs to his room.

Shaking her head she cleared the rest of the dishes up from breakfast. Afterwards she went outside to collect the mail. Walking outside she noticed a moving van outside the house next door. Shuffling through the mail she didn’t notice the dark-haired man approaching her.

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“Hello” his voice was deep and pleasant “I’m Malcolm.”

Glancing up she felt her face flush with heat. He was as good-looking as his voice indicated he would be. “I’m Erika O’hare” she squealed internally as he took her hand. She felt like a teenager again facing her crush instead of a thirty-six year old single mother of two teen boys.

“It’s nice to meet you” he said with a debonair smile that resembled more of a smirk.

“Dad” a young girl called “the dork is refusing to help.”

“I’ve got to go” he said a look of regret in his eyes.

Erika sighed watching him go “pity he’s married” she muttered to herself.

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Keli glared at her father as he hurried towards her. “You can chase skirts after we’ve moved in.”

“She’s a nice lady” he said winking at his daughter. “If you want to ask her out for drinks and a nightcap that’s none of your business.”

“Whatever” she rolled her eyes at him. Grabbing a box she stomped towards the house.

“You like that lady” his son asked pointing towards the neighbor’s house.

Malcolm could see the troubled expression in his son’s eyes “she’s nice” he said.

“I don’t want another mother” the boy said before turning and running towards the house leaving his father alone beside a pile of boxes.

***

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It was generally a bad idea to walk with your head down watching your feet. Yet that’s exactly what Kyle was doing after his interview. He let his nerves get the best of him. He completely bombed the interview. He was so distracted by his failure that he collided with someone as they were entering the resort.

“Excuse me” the mild mid range voice said “I should have been paying attention to where I was going.”

Kyle looked up in time to see a pair of gorgeous eyes. He was struck dumb as his mouth moved but no sound was produced. His mind was mush.

“Are you alright” the man voice asked with a note of concern.

Shaking his head Kyle managed to single stammered “yyyesss.” He tried to stand p but found his limbs to weak to support him. Closing his eyes Kyle counted to ten willing himself to pull himself together.

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“Here let me help you” the guy with the gorgeous eyes offered taking Kyle’s hand and pulling him to his feet.

Kyle blinked wondering how they guy could be so casual like he had no idea how he affected others. “Thanks” he mumbled leaning against the door frame.

A frown creased his perfect skin as he observed Kyle. “Should I get a doctor? They have one on call here. I can get him.”

“No really I’m alright” Kyle took a deep breath. He stood tall and straight “see? I’m fine.”

“That’s good to know” the blonde flashed Kyle a boyish grin that would have diffused a bomb. “I’m Douglas Bennett. My friends call me Doug.”

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“It’s nice to meet you” Kyle took his hand giving it a shake as an electrical charge surged between them. “I’m sorry for running into you” he started to apologize.

“Don’t worry about it. It was my fault for not paying attention” Douglas assured him.

“We’re two peas in a pod then” Kyle said laughing a bit “I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going either.” For some reason he found himself telling Douglas about his interview and how bad it was.

“We all have off days” Douglas commiserated “don’t let it get you down.”

“I won’t after all it led me to you” Kyle could feel heat warming his cheeks “err I mean if we were paying attention we wouldn’t have met.” He couldn’t seem to stop the words as the dribbled from his mouth. No matter what he did the dribble continued.

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Douglas for his part didn’t seem to notice. “Are you new to the island” he asked once Kyle’s ramblings ceased.

Instead of replying Kyle simply nodded hoping that would keep him from saying anything else embarrassing.

“My sister is having a party tomorrow” Douglas continued as if he didn’t notice Kyle’s lack of response. “It’s just a small group of friends really but it’ll give you a chance to meet some people.”

Kyle met Douglas’s eyes. There was an anxious hopeful look in them. It made Kyle think he might be afraid Kyle would tell him no. “I’d like to come if it’s alright with your sister. I don’t want to intrude.”

“Sandi won’t mind. She said I could invite a friend.” Douglas seemed to relax and the anxious look in his eyes disappeared. “Give me your number and I’ll send you the details.”

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“Only if I can have yours” Kyle teased pulling his phone out his nervousness abating.

“No problem” Douglas said “you’d have had it anyway once I sent you text.”

Kyle paused a moment to wonder if Douglas was really as innocent as he appeared. “I’ll text you later” he promised.

“Great” Douglas grinned “I have to go or I’ll be late.” He turned to walk away. Halfway to his car he turned to wave relieved to find Kyle still standing there.

Kyle smiled to himself. What seemed to be a lousy day was suddenly not so bad. He was looking forward to seeing Douglas again.

Chapter 10 – Beauty Finds Me /

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Glitter – Chapter 10 – Beauty Finds Me

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With a feeling of trepidation making if feet feel like lead weights and his heart race in his chest Will trudged up the stairs towards the intimidating door. He stood at the top gathering the courage to bring his hand up to knock on the same door to summon from inside the house.

The door opened while he was still coaxing himself into knocking. “What are you doing here” a girls unfriendly voice demanded.

His eyes lifted to find Temperance scowling at him holding the door like a shield between them. He dropped his eyes to her feet where he could see small scratches going down her legs ending at an ace bandage around her ankle. “Did I do that” he asked his voice coming out in a squeak.

“What do you want” she repeated moving the door like she was about to close it in his face.

“Temperance who is at the door” Hannah called coming up behind her.

“Just some idiot” she pointed in the direction of Will’s shocked face.

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Hannah frowned “isn’t that Unity’s cousin?”

“Yeah the loser” Temperance said emphasizing loser rolling her eyes.

“Temp” her mother’s voice rose in reproof “ask your guest inside. Honestly where’s your manners?”

“I don’t think that’s wise” Temperance objected “Dad might kill him.”

“Whatever for” she exclaimed shocked.

“He’s the one who did this” she waved a hand towards her wounds.

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“Let him in” Hannah insisted “maybe he came to apologize.”

“But Mom” Temperance whined.

“Invite him in” Hannah insisted giving Will an apologetic smile.

“It’s your funeral” Temperance mumbled stepping aside and motioning Will inside.

Will gulped loudly as he was met by an older red-haired male. He took the offered hand “I’m Donovan” the man smiled introducing himself.

The ice blue of the man’s eyes made Will think of the iceberg that sank the Titanic. “I’m sorry” he yelped “I should have stayed to help. I’m sorry I didn’t.”

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Donovan stared at him noticing how the boy fidgeted under his glare. “Just don’t do it again. We all make mistakes. I trust you’ve learned something from this.”

“Yes sir” Will nodded his head feeling the anxious knots release from inside his stomach.

“That being said I’m not the one you should be apologizing to” Donovan nodded towards his daughter. She was leaning against the door giving her visitor a nasty look.

“Err” Will murmured tongue-tied at the prospect of facing her. It was worse than facing her parents. Taking a hesitant step forward he said “I’m sorry.”

“You should be” she snapped unwilling to give him an inch much less to forgive him.

“I should have helped you get home” he continued “I’ll do anything to make it up to you.”

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“Anything” she asked her eyes brightening.

Nodding he felt he had somehow walked into a trap. “I guess” he said with some trepidation.

“Take me to the end of summer social at the resort” she said.

“Temperance” her mother scolded “you can’t use his apology to get a date.”

“But mom” she cried “ how else am I supposed to know he’s sincere?”

“You know better than that” Donovan’s voice was stern making her sigh and gave him a penitent look.

“I’m sorry” she said turning to face Will giving him a sweet smile. “I accept your apology. No strings attached. You don’t have to take me to the summer social.”

***

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Benjamin hopped out of his truck hurrying towards the hood where steam was coming from beneath it. In his head he could hear his dad rebuking him. He had been warned to have the radiator checked. He thought it would be okay. It’s not like his dad was a mechanic or anything. He knew computers not cars. No doubt his mom would use this as an example of why he should follow the recommended maintenance schedule. Sure he received the email alerts from On Star every month. It’s not like he read them all. Who had time for that?

He reached for the hood release only to jerk his hand away with a muttered curse. “Shit” he shouted waving his hand around attempting to cool it off.

“Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to open the hood when there’s steam coming out of it” a voice asked behind him.

Scowling he turned around “mind your own damn business.”

“Whoa” the boy raised his hands up in mock surrender. “Whatever your issue is I didn’t do it.”

A low rumbling growl from the dalmatian standing at attention beside the stranger had Benjamin taking a few steps backwards. “Call your mutt off” Benjamin snapped eyeing the dog uneasily.

“He’s not a mutt” the boy cried defensively his hands rubbing the dog’s head as if to reassure it. “He’s a purebred dalmatian.”

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Rolling his eyes he stretched his neck. “Whatever” he mumbled. The last thing he wanted to do was get into a discussion about dog breeds.

“You should get your hand looked at” the boy observed “I live just over there. If you wanted to follow me I could put something on it.”

“It’s not that bad” Benjamin lied wincing as he forced his fingers to bend.

“Suit yourself” he shrugged turning to leave. “Whatever you do better make it quick before infection sets in and you can use that hand anymore.”

Benjamin scowled watching at the boy walked away with his dog in tow. He looked at his hand and the painful red blisters stretching his skin. “Wait” he called hoping the boy was still willing to help him.

Stopping the boy turned “change your mind” he asked giving him a doe eyed innocent look.

“Yeah” he shrugged “give me a sec while I get my stuff from the truck.”

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Reaching inside the cab he grabbed his duffel bag and laptop case. He could feel the curious gaze of his benefactor watching him. Catching his reflection in the rear view mirror he hastily finger combed his hair.

“Do you always have a laptop with you” the boy asked eyeing the case with distaste.

“Only when I have work to do” Benjamin shrugged “currently I’m redesigning the web page for a friend’s resort.”

“Oh” his eyes lifted with interest “that’s ok then.”

“You have a problem with gamers or something” he asked unable to contain his curiosity.

“Not especially” he shrugged “it’s a long story.”

“Maybe one day you’ll tell me about it” Benjamin flashed him a boyish grin. “For now I’ll settle for your name.”

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“Oh” the boy seemed somewhat flustered “I’m Jonas Matthews.”

“It’s nice to meet you Jonas. I’m Benjamin Bennett” he said introducing himself. “If you haven’t guessed yet I work for the best resort on the island.”

“I kind of guessed that” he smiled. As they entered to houseboat Jonas asked “do you need any help with your redesign? I have a lot of ideas on how you can improve their site and get the most from social media.”

“You may have just saved my life” Benjamin announced “I’ve been stuck on how best to redesign it. The last guy really botched the job and made a royal mess.”

“Let me fix up your hand and you can show me what you’ve got” Jonas suggested.

“Aren’t you curious how much you’ll get paid? It won’t be much. This is pretty much pro bono for me” Benjamin lost his smile becoming serious.

“How about we get the job done” Jonas suggested “When it’s done you pay me what you think it’s worth. I just really want to get my name out there. If I do a good enough job on this maybe it’ll lead to something else.”

***

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Christopher swung a leg over his motorcycle as his eyes swept the parking lot. He had arrived early just as Royal requested. “Typical” he muttered beneath his breath. He had only agreed to come because Royal said it was super important. Royal’s words not his. Everything to Royce was super important. With an irritated huff Christopher stood from his motorcycle, striding towards the bar.

The bar was fairly empty. The bar man nodded, a knowing grin on his rugged face. “The usual” the barman asked.

“Yeah” Christopher sat at the end of the bar closest to the speaker. The music so loud and the base so high it vibrated through his chest. Lifting the drink to his lips he gasped as the whiskey burned it’s way down his throat. His eyes watered blurring his vision. Blowing fumes from his nostrils it felt like he had snorted gasoline. “What the hell” he croaked.

Despite the ringing in his ears he knew the bartender was laughing at him. Someone slapped him on the back sending him reeling.

“Hey leave the kid alone” someone said moving to help Christopher up. “Here let me help you.”

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Feeling like an idiot he jerked his arm away falling completely off the bar stool to the floor. The gales of laughter making his face burn.

The bartender nonchalantly leaned over the bar “next time you come into my bar pup, order a man’s drink.”

“Leave the kid alone” Christopher’s self appointed protector repeated.

“The kid shouldn’t be in here” the bartender growled mopping up the spilled drink.

“You’ve obviously served him in the past,” the man pointed out.

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“Always coming in here ordering coke” the man muttered.

“Good thing too” the man said “you could have your liquor licence pulled if anyone found out you were serving minors.”

“Hey now” the bartender scowled “I was just having a little bit of fun.”

“You had your fun” the guy growled “now leave the kid alone.”

Christopher pulled his feet beneath him. With flushed face he staggered to the exit. Bumping into someone on his way inside. Looking up he found his Royal staring at him in shock. Growling he snarled at Royal as he pushed past him to the outside.

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“Hey” Royal shouted after him.

“What do you want” he demanded sitting on his motorcycle revving the engine.

Running up to him Royal yelled over the noise “I thought we were going in for a few drinks.”

“Change of plans” he breathed heavily into Royal’s face.

“Have you been drinking” he asked waving a hand in front of his face. “Should you be driving?”

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“Who the fuck cares” Christopher shouted back revving the engine louder.

Reaching for the kill switch Royal said “I care for one. Your parents for another.”

Somewhere the words sunk into his brain making inroads into his anger. “Sorry” he sighed “I don’t know what got into me.”

Nodding towards the entrance Royal asked “anything to do with that guy?”

“Naw” shaking his head Christopher said “he tried to help.”

***

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Talia leaned into her date as they walked along the shoreline. It felt nice to have someone hold her hand and treat her like she were special. A small contented sigh escaped her.

Jeremy looked down smiling “I be I know what that was for.”

“What was what” she asked wishing she could pretend everything was alright.

“You’re wishing Will liked it here” he stopped gazing at the ocean. The seagulls calling to each other was the only sound besides the lapping of the waves.

“That would help” she agreed.

“But…” he looked at her expectantly.

“But he doesn’t like you either” she admitted.

“Do you want him to like me” he asked.

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“Of course” she agree a little too loudly and without meeting his eyes.

“Then why haven’t you introduced us” he asked “I don’t mean the incidental introduction either. Let us get to know each other.”

“I guess” she said somewhat hesitantly as if she had something else on her mind.

“What” he prompted. He half suspected what she was about to say.

“Do I get to meet your kids” she asked “I gather from the frowns your daughter gives me she  doesn’t like me anymore than Will likes you.”

“It’s not that bad” he protested laughing softly. “She just wants to make sure you’re not some sort of nut job.”

“This weekend” she said “we do something as a family. You me and the kids.”

“This weekend won’t work” he shook his head “it’s my weekend rotation at the E.R.”

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“I thought you were an oncologist” she frowned up at him.

“I am but the E.R. is short-staffed so everyone is taking turns to cover the E.R.” he explained.

“That’s nice of you” she said.

“It is but I’d save any emergencies for another weekend” He chuckled at the shocked look she gave him “I’m a little out of practice on skinned knees and flu bugs.”

“That’s not the only emergencies the E.R. gets” she chided him.

“I know but those are the ones I’m hoping for” he said. “How about the following weekend? We could have a family picnic at the beach.”

“Sounds like a plan” she smiled up at him not exactly hiding her concern how the kids were going to react to their plans.

“Don’t worry so much” he put a gentle arm around her shoulder “it’ll be great.” He chuckled at the image of Tony the Tiger that entered his mind. He could only shake his head at Talia when she gave him a baffled look. Instead of explaining he kissed her cheek instead.

Chapter 9 – Seek Beauty / Chapter 11 – Free Spirit

Glitter – Chapter 9 – Seek Beauty

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It had been a day since London had announced she needed a break from all the responsibility she was under. Teasha couldn’t help but wonder if she had really put that much stress on her daughter. That had never been her intention. A tear rolled down her cheeks “what have I done” she cried.

Tugging on her hand Phoenix gave her a worried look. “Don’t blame yourself. I should have let you hire the live in help you suggested. Maybe if you had this could have been avoided.”

“It’s not your fault” she protested giving his hand a squeeze.

“Than whose is it” he asked “London is reacting like any normal teenager would. She’s tired of taking care of me.”

“No” she gently lowered herself onto his lap. “Don’t do this. London loves you. Sure she gets upset because she doesn’t have the average life other kids her age have. That doesn’t mean she loves you any less. In time she’ll learn that her friends have problems she doesn’t have. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.”

“I know” he sighed running his hands up her arms. “I just can’t help but wonder if we expect too much from her. She shouldn’t have to take care of me on top of getting good grades and keeping a jog.”

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“If it makes you feel better” Teasha nodded with determination “I’ll call the agency and arrange to have someone come over during the day.”

“Oh” he murmured glancing away.

“Hey” she gently moved his face towards her “don’t shut me out. I thought that’s what you wanted. Tell me it’s not and I won’t call.”

“It’s not that” he leaned forward resting his forehead against her. “It’s just suddenly real. I won’t be even remotely independent.”

“They’re not going to keep you from doing what you want” she protested “they’re just going to help you when you need it.”

“It feels different when it’s not your family” he lifted sad eyes to meet hers. “It doesn’t make sense I know. It’s just how I feel.”

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“It’ll take time to adjust” she lifted his chin up “if it doesn’t work out we’ll try something else.”

“Alright” he agreed letting her kiss his lips. On his worst days he often wondered if he should have told Teasha to forget all about him. Maybe things would have been better for all of them if he had.

“Don’t” she cautioned.

“Don’t what” he grumbled wishing he had legs that worked so he could easily go some place on his own to think.

“Shut me out” Teasha stroked his face “I love you. London loves you. You know she does.”

He chuckled a little “I know I just worry I’m the reason she’s like this.”

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Teasha gave him a smile “I’ll talk to  her. I promise.” Snuggling into him she rested her cheek on his shoulder. She didn’t want him to see the worry in her eyes. She was afraid this was more than their daughter rebelling against the rigors of taking care of her dad or the rigid rules of that were in place to insure Phoenix received the best care they could provide him. There was something more.

Phoenix stroked her long dark hair that was just beginning to show strands of gray. He hadn’t missed the hooded looked in her eyes. He knew she was trying to hide her concern from him. He hated being trapped in this chair. At times he felt more of an invalid when his wife and daughter tried to shield him from the problem. He wished she would allow him to help. “You know you can tell me anything, right?”

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“I know” she whispered softly “sometimes I forget. I’m sorry.”

“Something’s bothering you about London” he said watching her closely.

“Yes” she sighed leaning into him “I think there’s more to it then her wanting a break.”

“The pain meds” he asked.

“Yeah if you didn’t take them…” she let her half formed thought fade.

“Then she did” he finished for her.

Nodding she sniffed a little “it’s a dangerous slope she’s on and I’m scared.”

“So am I” she squeezed her tight “what do we do about it?”

“I don’t know” she admitted” but we have to do something.”

***

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“You’re late” Dante stated the moment he heard his brother come home.

“Look who learned to tell time” Micah clapped his hands scowling at his older brother. “Where’s Dad?”

“Upstairs” Dante rolled his eyes “where else would they be?”

“Then why all all the attitude over me being a little late” he demanded flopping into a chair.

“I’ve had to listen to them” Dante whined “they’re not exactly quiet.”

“You’ve got a point” Micah conceded “but you could have gone outside or something.”

“It’s my house too” Dante protested “why can’t they be considerate of us?”

Shrugging Micah shook his head. There was no answer to that. It was a complaint he’d heard before. Deciding not to add fuel to his brother’s complaints he asked “what’s the emergency?”

Before Dante could respond their father came into the room. “Nice of you to join us” Quentin groused adjusting his clothes. Cassidy followed close behind her new husband sitting beside Dante on the couch.

Micah glared at his father. “It’s not like you were waiting for me” he gave Cassidy a sideways glance his lips thinning at the irritating sound of her repressed giggles.

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“That’s beside the point” Quentin glared “you were supposed to be home an hour ago. Where were you?”

“I’ve got things to do and places to go” Micah shrugged nonchalantly.

“Cut the crap” Quentin snapped crossing his arms.

“Why don’t you act your age” Micah demanded jumping to his feet.

“Sit down” his father ordered.

“I’m not a dog” he growled intent on leaving the room.

“Get back here” Quentin called “we’re not done.”

Ignoring him Micah walked from the house. The pictures on the living room wall vibrated from the force of the slamming door.

“Do you know what’s up with your brother” Quentin demanded.

Shrugging Dante shook his head. If Micah wanted him to know then he’d have told them. Until then he wasn’t going to be the one to squeal on him.

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“You must know something” Cassidy tried to persuade him.

Flinching from her touch Dante jumped to his feet. “Maybe it’s you” he shouted running from the room and up the stairs to his room.

Sitting beside his wife Quentin sighed taking her hand “I don’t know what’s gotten into them.”

“I think it’s obvious” Cassidy spoke softly her hair falling into her eyes. “They don’t want a new mother.”

“They’ll adjust. Just give it time” he brushed her hair back “I promise things will get better.”

“I’m not so sure about that” she tried to smile up at him despite the tears floating in her eyes.

“Maybe this wasn’t a good idea” she murmured.

“This isn’t your fault” he insisted “the boys will grow to like you. They just need time to get to know you.”

The expression in her eyes showed she wasn’t convinced. “I think we were to wrapped up in how we felt that we didn’t stop to consider how it would affect them.”

***

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Raven came to a skidding halt a few feet from where Will sat glumly staring into space. “Hey what’s up” he asked letting his bike fall to the ground without attempting to use the kickstand.

“I hate this place” he complained holding his head in his hand.

“We can go someplace else” he offered.

“I didn’t mean this place I meant here in general” Will grumbled “I want to go home.”

“This is your home now” Raven said sitting on the ground beside his friend.

“You don’t understand” he snapped “your parents are still together. Your mom didn’t drag you halfway across the world from everyone and everything you know.”

“True” Raven acknowledged “I don’t know what that feels like. I imagine it’s terrible. But I thought you said your Dad was a jerk and that’s why you moved.”

“He is” he mumbled “that doesn’t mean I want to be here or see mom dating someone else.”

“Ah that’s it then” Raven said as if a light had just went off inside his head. “Afraid your mom will fall in love again….”

“I already have a dad” he growled “I don’t need another.”

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“Still that no excuse for the way you’ve been acting” Raven pointed out.

“I haven’t been that bad” he protested getting to his feet.

“Wanna bet” Raven challenged.

“Alright” Will stuck his chin out stubbornly refusing to accept what Raven was hinting at. “Tell me one time where I’ve been a jerk to someone. I mean without a reason.”

Considering the challenge Raven knew how to wipe the insufferable smirk from Wills face. “How about the time you knocked Temperance Bennett down and refused to help her home?” He knew he had him when Will looked away kicking at the loose gravel. “I may not like the girl but even I know that was a jerk move.”

“You don’t like any girl” Will said as if that was reason enough to dismiss his friends words.

“That’s beside the point” he said in a stern almost angry tone. “A jerk move is a jerk move no matter the gender involved. I also recall how a few weeks ago how you told me how much you liked the girl.” He could see he was getting to his friend by the way the color in Will’s cheeks deepened. “You even went so far as to say you thought she was beautiful. A goddess among girls.”

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“I did not” Will protested “I never said she was a goddess.” He looked away the wind blowing his already messy hair. Releasing an aggravated sigh he asked “was I really that bad?”

“What do you think” Raven asked.

Kicking at some loose pebbles Will’s shoulders rose and fell “I guess I ought to apologize.”

“That would be a step in the right direction” he agreed.

“Her dad’s going to kill me” Will mumbled.

“If her brothers don’t beat him to it” Raven said clapping him firmly on his back “at least you’ll have the satisfaction of seeing her face again before you die.”

“Ha ha very funny” Will snapped without amusement. A goofy grin replaced the sour expression he had been wearing when he said “but at least I’ll die happy. I mean who wouldn’t want to see her pretty face right before they died?”

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“Ugh” Raven moaned “spare me the details.”

Smiling at his friend Will asked “have you told Mr Wonderful yet?”

It was Raven’s turn to look away “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Uh huh” he nodded enjoying himself “you’re about to get your chance.”

Turning Raven groaned closing his eyes as if he were in pain “that’s not who I think it is, is it?”

“Depends on who you think it is” Will laughed out loud at his friend as he looked around desperately for someplace to hide.

***

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“Hey” Will waved at the approaching boys. “What’s up” he asked as they waved back.

“Not much” Aaron shrugged.

“Says you” Riley grumbled at his older brother.

“I’m not the one working myself up into a coronary” Aaron rolled his eyes. “Casanova here has been rehearsing what to say when he asks a girl out.”

“There’s a first time for everything” Raven mumbled staring at the ground.

“Tell me how it’s done” Riley begged eager to have someone else’s input other than his brothers.

“You’re asking the wrong person” Will snorted.

“Shut it” Raven warned glaring at him.

“I’ll take any advice” Riley said desperate for help.

“He can’t help you” Will insisted.

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“Can’t or won’t” Riley eyed Raven suspiciously.

“Can’t” Will said “he’s never asked a girl out either.”

“Oh” air escaped him in a defeated sigh. “I guess I’m doomed then.”

“Just tell her you like her” Aaron urged “what’s so hard about that?”

“It sounds easy enough” Riley agreed uncertainly “it’s not like you know. You’ve never asked a girl out either.”

“Doesn’t matter” Aaron shrugged glaring at his brother “it’ll work regardless of gender.”

“Why don’t you demonstrate how it’s done” Will suggested pushing Raven forward “ask Raven out.”

“Um” Raven gave Will a desperate look that somehow conveyed his need for help and the wish to kill at the same time. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

Shrugging Aaron stepped forward “I don’t see why not. It’s not like I’m actually asking you out or anything.”

“Yeah right” Raven agreed. Hesitantly he stepped forward struggling to breath. He looked up at the boy who occupied a place in his most erotic dreams.

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Smiling nonchalantly Aaron winked at him. A small smirk spread across his face as if he knew exactly the effect he was having on the other boy. “I’ve been meaning to ask you  something for a long time now.”

Raven squeaked when Will nudged him forward reminding him he was supposed to say something. “Um yeah what’s that” he gave Aaron an almost pleading look.

“I like you a lot and would like to know if you’d like to go out with me sometime” Aaron stepped forward staring into the other boys eyes.

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Panic flashed in Raven’s eyes a moment before he too stepped forward. The next thing he knew he was smashing his lips into Aaron’s. A dream come true except Aaron wasn’t reciprocating. He was standing there frozen. Thinking it was from disgust Raven broke free and fled the area as fast as his feet could carry him.

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“Is that a yes” Aaron yelled after him laughing hard at the retreating boy.

“Don’t be mean” Riley cautioned “he’s embarrassed enough.”

“He has nothing to be embarrassed about” Aaron smiled “that kiss was nice” turning to Will “does he like me?”

“That’s fairly obvious don’t you think” he shook his head “you’re not going to beat him up are you?”

Riley knew that despite the bland look Aaron wore his eyes were bright with excitement. “You like him too don’t you?”

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Shrugging Aaron said “I didn’t say that. All I did was give you a demonstration of how to ask someone out. Hope you learned something from it.” Turning he walked away in the opposite direction that Raven had disappeared into.

“What do you think just happened here” Riley asked Will confusion making his voice squeaky.

“I think if I wasn’t already a dead man walking Raven would kill me” Will said with a devil may care grin.

“You set them up” Riley laughed enjoying the moment someone was able to get something over on his older brother.

“Maybe” he shrugged “I’ll never tell.”

Chapter 8 – Style of Wisdom / Chapter 10 – Beauty Finds Me

Glitter – Chapter 8 – Style of Wisdom

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“Maybe Kaia’s dad is right” Temperance suggested watching her friend leaning against a tree catching her breath.

“It’s just a little nosebleed” Unity objected.

“Yeah maybe the first two not the four or five that came afterwards.” She crossed her arms “I don’t think that’s normal.” She nibbled on her bottom lip not wanting to mention how pale Unity had become. For someone who had spent all her life on the island she should have been a lot tanner.

“Don’t look at me like that” she dried “I’m pale because I’m inside a lot more lately.”

“I guess” Temperance said unconvinced.

“If I was really sick don’t you think I’d know it” Unity insisted “I’m fine.”

“Promise me if you get anymore nosebleeds you’ll tell your mom” Temperance insisted.

“There’s nothing wrong with me” Unity pushed her away “don’t worry.”

Walking backwards Temperance said “if you die I’m going to kill you.”

“I’m not going to die” she giggled.

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“Hey watch it” a boy called out right before he plowed into Temperance.

Unity ran to where Temperance lay sprawled on the ground “Temp are you alright?”

“Get this goon off me” she cried struggling beneath the bulk of a young teenage boy.

“I have a name you know” he grumbled getting to his feet.

“Why should I care what your name is” Temperance demanded inspecting herself for damage. A couple of bruised and scraped knees. Nothing much. She looked up sharply when Unity gasped in shock. “What’s wrong?”

“I know you” Unity pointed at the boy “you’re my cousin.”

The boy gave her a hostile glare. “Our mothers were adopted by step siblings. I don’t see how that makes us anything.”

“Excuse me for trying to include you in the family” Unity wrinkled her nose at him.

“Um guys” Temperance winced as she attempted to put weight on her right ankle. “My foot really hurts.”

“What do you want me to do about it” Will growled.

“You could carry her or something” Unity demanded “it’s your fault she’s hurt.”

“Is not” he protested “she’s the one walking backwards not paying attention.”

“Why don’t you just go” Temperance interrupted the boy her best friend had been arguing with. “I’ll just call my dad to come get me. You should stay though. I’m sure my dad will want to meet the boy who hurt his little girl then refused to see her home safely.”

“Why would he want to do that” he asked without thinking it through.

“You really are dumb” Unity slapped the back of his head. “Her dad will beat you up.”

“I’d like to see him try” the boy challenged confident he could take on an old man. Listening to Temperance as she spoke to her dad he decided to leave changing his mind. “I’m out of here” he scooped up his skateboard and took off downhill.

“Coward” Unity called after him.

Temperance giggled as she sat down to rub her ankle. “I don’t know…he was kind of cute.”

“Really Temp” Unity shook her head at the girl “only you would think that he was cute.”

***

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“Were you embarrassed when the girls were ogling your dad” Aubrey asked her best friend.

“Well” Kaia shrugged “maybe a little. I mean they’re my age and he’s my dad. It was just kind of gross.” They walked for a while silence “what about you? Didn’t you think he was cute?”

“Not really” her blond curls blew around her face. She gave her friend a penetrating look “if I tell you something you have to promise not to tell anyone.”

“I promise” Kaia vowed glad the girls had accepted her into their group.

“I’m not really into guys” she whispered. She stepped backwards blinking in surprise as Kaia erupted into giggles.

“Is that all” she cried “I was expecting some deep dark secret. Maybe an admission of who you like.”

“You act like you already know” Aubrey pouted.

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“It’s not like it’s a secret. I see the looks you give London when you think no one is looking.” Kaia giggled making a face at her friend “I promise I won’t tell.”

“Pinky swear” Aubrey held her pinky up.

“Pinky swear” Kaia agreed linking fingers together. “Are you going to tell her?”

Glancing away she slowly shook her head. “I don’t know. I mean I tried once but she kept interrupting me and changing the subject.”

“Sounds like she’s not ready or not interested” Kaia surmised. “Who else is there?”

“What do you mean” Aubrey asked.

“You know what I mean. Keli. I’ve seen the way she looks at you.” She gave Aubrey a knowing grin. “You should ask her out.”

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“I’ll think about it” Aubrey said kicking dirt around with the tip of her shoes. “Do you really think she likes me?”

Kaia stared into her friends hopeful blue eyes. “There’s only way to know for sure. You have to ask her.”

Biting her lip she gave it some thought. “I don’t know. I mean I haven’t even told my parents yet. Me showing up with a girl on my arm isn’t the way I want to let them know I’m gay.”

What are you waiting for” Kaia asked. “I’m sure they’ll support you. I mean they have gay friends. What are you afraid of?”

“I’m not afraid” she protested in a loud squeaky voice. “I’m their only child. What if they want grandchildren someday?”

“You’re not making sense” Kaia shook her head. “Lesbian couples have babies all the time not to mention adoption.” She gave her friend a serious look “what’s with all the excuses?”

“I’m not making excuses” she protested “I’m weighing all my options.”

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“Life isn’t perfect” Kaia said “sometimes it’s messy. Uncontrollable. Things happen when you least expect it.”

“Not for me” Aubrey shook her head “I know exactly how things should go.”

“What if I tell you Keli’s walking towards us right this second” Kaia asked giggling at the horrified expression on her friend’s face.

Grabbing Kaia’s hand Aubrey took off running along a side road that would take them twice as long to get home. Running alongside Kaia demanded “what’s wrong with you? You could have just asked her. Now you’ll have to explain why you ran away. If she lets you explain.”

“I wasn’t ready” Aubrey gulped for air “it wasn’t perfect.”

“It doesn’t have to be perfect” Kaia felt like shaking the frustrating girl. “Your drive for perfection just might cost you more than your prepared to pay.”

“I know” she crossed her arms “I can’t help it.”

***

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“Hey Micah” she waved at the boy riding towards her.

Stopping Micah sauntered over to her “did you enjoy the party last weekend?”

“Yeah….sure” she gave him a weak smile “my hurt for days afterwards though.”

“You’ll get used to it” he assured her “so we’re planning another one on Friday.”

“I don’t know” she looked away “we may be out-of-town…”

“Everyone’s counting on you” he protested “I told them you’d be there.”

“I can’t” she shook her head trying to take off on her bike when Micah reached out and grabbed the handle bars.

“What’s your hurry” he demanded “surely your dad can get along without you for a few hours.”

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“Let go” she pleaded.

“Not until you tell me you’ll be there” he insisted giving her a level gaze.

“I can’t” she cried “my mom will get suspicious if I take too many too often. The bottle is pretty low.”

“I’m sure your mom has already ordered a refill” Micah said using his most persuasive tone.

“My dad needs these pills” she objected her stomach twisting in panic.

“Hey you’re the one who wanted a way to escape reality” he pointed out “you liked how it made you feel didn’t you?”

Nodding her cheeks burning with guilt over what she had done. Sneaking her dad’s pain medication. Letting her mom believe he was taking more than he should. The constant arguments. “I can’t do it” tears rolled down her cheeks.

“You want to feel good again don’t you” he asked gently wiping her tears away. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to escape reality. The release from all the pressure your parents put you under.”

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“Please” she begged “don’t make me do this.”

“I’m not making you do anything” he let his hand fall away from the handlebars of her bike. “I know you don’t want your friends to suffer anymore than you want to suffer. Believe me we’ll suffer if you don’t come.”

“Leave me alone” she begged taking off as fast as she could on the dusty island road. She could feel Micah staring after her. He was so sure she’d do as he requested. Could she afford to lose the only thing that helped her cope?

She felt lethargic and heavy all day after the party. She could live with that if it meant she could feel that wonderful weightless feeling again. It made her feel like she could do anything. No worries. No responsibilities. The opposite of what her life was really like. With a heavy heart she opened the door to find her parents waiting for her.

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“You were supposed to be home an hour ago” her mother cried as soon as she opened the door.

“I went to the beach with the girls” she stammered.

“The least you could have done was text us to let us know you were alright” her mom said.

“I know I’m sorry” she cried “it won’t happen again I promise.”

“I’ve heard that before” Teasha crossed her arms “what’s up with you?”

“Why does something have to be wrong with me” London shouted “don’t I deserve a break? None of my friends have to come home and take care of their dad.” She ran up the stairs ignoring the stunned looks being exchanged between her parents.

***


379“Are you ready to go” Mindy asked as she came into her office.

Jumping a little Coral placed a hand to her chest. “Oh” she gasped.

“I didn’t mean to scare you” Mindy said watching her.

“No it’s not that” she shut her Kindle down. “I was so absorbed in the book I was reading. You just startle me.”

“Sorry” she apologized “are you ready to go?”

“Soon” Coral gathered her things “did you finish that design you were working on?”

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“Almost” Mindy mumbled “I couldn’t concentrate…”

“I shouldn’t have bothered you” Coral cried believing she was the distraction.

“It’s not your fault” she assured the jumpy girl. “I’ve been having trouble with this design from the start. Something just isn’t right.” Shrugging Mindy sighed “I just can’t figure it out.”

“Can I see” Coral asked. She could see the reticence in Mindy’s eyes. “Never mind it’s alright. It’s like trying to read a book while the author is still writing it. I’m sorry.”

“It’s ok” Mindy smiled “you don’t have to apologize. I’m a solitary worker. I don’t often show my designs with anyone until they’re complete. I hope that’s not going to be a problem.”

“It’s ok I understand” Coral assured her walking from the room. “It doesn’t keep me from being curious though.”

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“It’s a good thing my work room is locked” Mindy said locking the office door and turning the lights off as she went. “I wouldn’t want you succumbing to curiosity.”

“Don’t worry I won’t let it kill me” Coral giggled “sorry it’s the saying curiosity killed the cat. I’m not a cat so …. Um yeah.”

“You need to relax” Mindy said ushering her out of the boutique. “I know what you were trying to say

“Sorry” she mumbled “I ramble when I get nervous.”

“What’s to be nervous about” Mindy asked leading the way to the car.

“What time is it” Coral asked staring up at the darkening sky.

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“Almost ten” she shrugged “I got carried away.”

“I had no idea it was no later” Coral said “I must have really been absorbed in my book to notice the passage of time.”

“Are you hungry” Mindy asked “I might be able to scrounge something up at home but I haven’t been shopping in weeks.”

“I’m good” she patted her bag “I have granola bars. Want one?”

“Yes please” Mindy held her hand out “I’m starving.”

“If your hungry why don’t we go through a drive thru or something” Coral demanded.

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“Aren’t you tired” Mindy asked “I know you want to get to be sometime tonight.”

“I’m fine” she rolled her eyes “it’ll take a few extra minutes and if I’m that tired I could sleep in the car.”

“Well if you don’t mind” Mindy made a u-turn and back tracked to the center of town. “Would you like anything” she asked as they waited their turn in the drive thru.

“Um” her stomach growled reminding her that it had been a long time since lunch. “A big mac.”

“With fries” Mindy asked with a grin.

“Make it a meal. Change the coke to a strawberry shake” Coral instructed.

Chapter 7 – Seek to Know Truth / Chapter 9 – Seek Beauty

Glitter – Chapter 7 – Seek to Know Truth

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Coral stepped out of the taxi as soon as it stopped in front of the resort. The driver smiled holding the door open for her “one of the best resorts on the island.”

“It is” she agreed. He friend had said the resort had undergone extensive renovation in last few years. Turning to the driver she gave him, what was to her a lavish tip. His grin of appreciation was thanks enough.

Taking a deep breath she pulled out the handles on her suitcases. This excursion outside her comfort zone might be the answer to her dreams. Her family had been opposed to her traveling to meet her online friend. That same friend happened to be the owner of a popular boutique. They started chatting online and had gotten along well considering Coral had always found social situations difficult. She preferred to be left alone with her books.

Mustering her courage she stepped forward ignoring the flutter of butterflies in her stomach. She glanced around the lobby hoping to see where the boutique was located. There were several tourists milling around enjoying their afternoon siesta. Taking a deep breath Coral approached the receptionist at the front desk. “Excuse me” her voice squeaked “could you tell me where the boutique is?”

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A huge grin brightened the woman’s face “that boutique is quite popular with the younger crowd. My daughter’s shop there all the time.” Picking p a brochure the woman pointed at a small map of the resort “this is the lobby where we’re at right now.” Looking she made sure Coral was paying attention to her.

Nodding Coral was amazed at the variety of shops and services the resort offered. It was like a being on a cruise ship without the need for motion sickness pills. “Is that the boutique” she asked putting her finger over an area that was nearby the resort but was a separate building.

“Sure is” the woman nodded happily “take the brochure. The resort has many amenities for the public and guests alike.”

Taking the brochure Coral held it up smiling “thank you for your help.”

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“Have a nice day” the woman said turning her attention the next person in line.

Coral followed the map to the boutique. She stopped to stare into the store front windows. The colors were eye-catching. The fashion was what most young women were looking for. Classy with edge. Modern but fun. She could see several young girls helping customers throughout the store. Pushing the door open she was greeted almost immediately by one of the employees “may I help you?”

Coral self-consciously ran a hand over her wrinkled outfit wondering if the girl could sense how out-of-place she felt. “I’m here to see the manager Mindy “_”

The girls eyes grew large otherwise her smile remained as brilliant as ever. “Follow me please” she said turning expecting Coral to follow.

***

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Knocking on a door marked Manager Coral they waited a moment before a clear musical voice called out to them to come in. Coral found herself staring at a young woman in an animal print outfit that actually suited her. “May I help you” the woman asked pushing away from her desk to stand behind it.

The teen girl slipped from the room closing the door behind her. “I’m Coral “_” You invited me to visit…”

“Coral” the woman frowned trying to place the name.

Coral could feel her heart sink as her mind raced. “I should have called first. I mean we’ve only ever talked in online. I should have known you really didn’t mean it.”

The woman grinned “why didn’t you tell me you were coming a day early?”

“What do you mean a day early” Coral asked frowning. “I told you I was flying in today. It’s right there on your calendar.”

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Turning Mindy glared at her wall calendar. Sure enough in large bold ink was the time and day of the flight. She had even drawn a large star on the calendar to mark the day. “I’m sorry. I forgot.”

Coral’s shoulders rose and fell beneath her over sized sweater. “It’s alright. You’re a busy lady. I mean look at the place.” She couldn’t keep from gushing. The more nervous she became the worse it got.

Staring at the floor behind her young guest Mindy said “you came right here from the airport?”

Nodding Coral sighed “I know I should have dropped my things off at the hotel. I probably left scuff marks all across your beautiful floors….” Her voice faded remembering the excitement she felt coming here. Too bad Mindy wasn’t as excited to see her. If she had been she wouldn’t have forgot.

“Let me check on the girls then we’ll go out to lunch” Mindy offered moving towards the door.

“You don’t have to do that” she protested her words jumbling together. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll get something to eat on the way to find a hotel.”

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“Don’t  you have a hotel already” her eyes narrowed behind her glasses.

“Well yeah I mean….” she bit her tongue to keep from rambling even more. “The hotel double booked. So I um…”

“Don’t have a place to stay” Mindy finished for her.

Staring at her feet Coral felt the hot sting of tears. This was not the impression she had wanted to make. The one time she stepped outside her comfort zone and it’s one catastrophe after another. She couldn’t imagine what Mindy thought of her. A successful business woman no doubt wouldn’t have made the same mistakes she had. At the very least she should have verified her reservations.

Without saying a word Mindy took one of the suitcases from Coral’s hands and walked swiftly from the room. Given no other choice Coral followed her into the salesroom. She watched as Mindy approached the two young girls running the registers and checking customers out. When the last customer had been taken cared of she smiled at the girls. “Excellent work” she complimented them. “I’ll be stepping out for the afternoon. I’ll be back to close up at three. Until then London’s in charge.”

***

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“The best restaurant on the island is right here at the resort.” Mindy informed her walking at a swift pace her heels clicking on the floor as she lead the way. “We’ll stow your things in the car then come back inside to eat.”

“You really don’t have to go through so much trouble” Coral protested jogging to keep up.

“You came all this way to see me” Mindy said “the least I could have done was pick you up at the airport. Failing that, lunch is on me.” She pressed a button on her car releasing the trunk “this is going to be fun” she enthused “I could us a break from work.”

“But you have that new line coming out in the few weeks” Coral objected “maybe I should have chosen a different time to visit. When you were less busy.”

“Nonsense” Mindy waved the idea aside. “It’s not like I’m never not doing something. Designing and fashion are my life. I eat, breathe, sleep my work.”

“Don’t you do anything just for fun” Coral bit her bottom lip realizing how judgey her words sounded. “I mean if  you enjoy your work maybe it’s not work to you.”

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Shaking her head Mindy laughed at her question. “Believe me you’re not the only one who has asked me that. I’ve lost more than one girlfriend over it I’m afraid.” She sighed somewhat wistfully gazing off in the direction of the ocean. Her long hair blowing in the wind. “You must be starved. Let’s eat.” She clapped her hands together. “The chef here is to die for. People travel all over the world to eat her cuisine. She’s the granddaughter of the famous Ferrari from Monte Vista.”

Coral nodded her head as if she knew exactly who Mindy was talking about. She seldom if ever paid much attention to what she ate not to mention know anyone who cooked for a living. She made a mental note to google this chef when she got the chance. “I can’t wait” she enthused finding herself just enjoying the way Mindy’s voice sounded. Kind of like a lilting bird. It made her stomach tingle a little inside. She could listen to it for hours and never tire of it.

Once they were seated in the crowded restaurant Coral gasped. The prices lining the pages of the exquisite menu were astounding. A mini fortune for an entrée “I um….” she dropped her eyes to the tablecloth “this is kind of expensive.”

“It’s my treat remember” Mindy said “order anything you want. It’s all delicious. This place is my weakness.”

Tentatively Coral picked up the menu searching for something that didn’t leave her breathless at the price. Even though she wasn’t paying her eyes continued to search out the dollar signs. “What would you suggest” she asked fearing that she was taking too long.

“The calamari is excellent” Mindy said closing the menu “that’s what I’m having.”

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Once the food was ordered and served Mindy dabbed the cloth napkin over her mouth hiding her amusement. “You don’t like it do you?”

“It’s not that” Coral objected setting her fork aside. “I’m not sure what to think.” She knew it was a lame response. “I’ve never had it before.”

“I see I’m going to have to sophisticate your palette” Mindy chuckled.

“Oh” Coral cried tossing her napkin aside “I knew I’d embarrass you.”

“What? No” Mindy cried “it’s not that at all. I was teasing you. Not very well but teasing nonetheless. I like you. We’ve had a million chats on-line and I still have no idea you never had calamari before.

“I guess we have a lot of things to figure out about each other” Coral murmured.

“Which brings me to my next idea” Mindy took a sip of her Perrier. “Instead of staying in a hotel why don’t you stay with me. I have plenty of room.”

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Coral stared wide-eyed at her companion “you want me to live with you.”

“Well for the summer at least” Mindy nodded “please say yes.”

Feeling like this was a scene from one of her favorite books Coral nodded “yes I’d like to very much.”

“Great” Mindy said waving over the waitress to pay for the meal. “I could either take you to the houseboat right now or you could hang  out at the store until I’m done for the day.”

“I’d like to watch you work if you don’t mind” Coral said.

“I hope you brought something along to read or something” Mindy said getting up and leading the way to the exist. “Once the store is closed I spend a few hours working on my designs.”

“I’m covered” Coral patted her bag “I downloaded several books to read. If you allow me access to the internet I could work on my book blog.”

***

361

After 3 o’clock the girls changed in the small apartment Unity’s parents kept at the resort when one or both of them had to stay several days. When they were all in their swimsuits they headed towards the beach. Spreading their beach blankets on the hot sand Aubrey asked. “Is Coral Mindy’s new girlfriend?”

Landon shrugged “they could be just friends.”

“I suppose” Aubrey sighed “it’d be nice if she met someone new after the last one.”

“We could always set them up” Unity suggested excitement making her eyes bright. “Unless you’re hoping she’ll still be single this time next year.”

Aubrey’s cheeks flushed crimson. It was a running joke amongst them that she had a crush on Mindy. Thankfully Mindy herself didn’t seem aware of all the times Aubrey stared dreamily at her or said something stupid. It was like her mouth couldn’t form words or coherent thoughts when she was around the older woman. “She doesn’t know I exist” she sighed wistfully.

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“It’ll happen one day” Kaia said “my mom says there’s someone for everyone. We just have to be patient.”

“Do you believe in love at first sight” Landon asked the group. She always thought she and her childhood crush would get together. But now that Justice was eighteen he treated her even more like a kid then he did before and there were only two years between them.

“I don’t know about at first sight” Kaia said “but I do think if they’re the one for you there will be some sort of connection. Kind of like your souls will recognize each other.”

“What if you think you’re in love with someone and they’re in love with someone else?” Unity wondered aloud. It was something she always wondered about. She’d heard the stories about her grandfathers and how they met. It was a fairytale story at first until things changed. Now they were divorced and married to someone else. They both seemed happy but for some reason it bothered her.

“Sometimes I think people confuse like each other with being in love.” Kaia said “I don’t understand it myself. Some people are lucky the first time around while others have to keep on searching until they get it right.”

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“OMG” Temperance cried interrupting her “look at that hunk.” Catching the other girls attention they all looked around trying to find the guy she was talking about.

“I don’t see anyone” Kaia said frowning. The only other one more mystified than her was Aubrey and that was because she wasn’t into guys.

“Him” Temperance nodded with her chin “the guy in the green striped shorts. The one who looks like he could be a lifeguard. Man look at those abs.”

“Eew gross” Kaia cried gagging.

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“He’s awfully old” Unity pointed out.

“Who cares” Temperance enthused “that guys hot. Just look at him.”

London was holding her sides trying not to laugh “don’t you know who that is?”

“No” Temperance shook her head “should I?”

“That guy” Kaia cried sounding like someone was strangling her “is my dad.” She ducked down trying to hide when she saw him walking in their direction.

“Your dad’s hot” Temperance giggled.

“Please stop” Kaia begged. “How you like it if I said your dad was hot?”

Shrugging Temperance laughed “go ahead. He’s hot for an old guy. At least mom seems to think so.”

“Gross” Kaia said “I don’t look at men my father’s age like that.”

“I certainly hope not” a deep voice said above them.

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“Dad” Kaia cried her face turning red.

“What are you girls doing today” he asked scanning the beach as he talked.

“Just hanging out Mr. Tovar” Unity supplied frowning when he stepped over to her holding out a kerchief.

“Here take it” he insisted “your nose is bleeding.”

“Oh” she cried taking the small square of cloth from him.

Temperance moved over to help her lean back. “Have you told your mom yet about the nose bleeds?”

“Not yet” she mumbled “it’s just the air is so dry. It’s not a big deal.”

The girls looked at each other than towards Mr. Tovar as he asked “have you been having a lot of nosebleeds lately?”

“Well…a few” she said. She had two while already that day while she had been working. She almost ruined one of the expensive displays. Thankfully Aubrey had noticed before she had bled all over it.

“I think it’s something you should have checked” he said “it could nothing” he sighed seeing the instant fear in each of the five girls eyes. “It’s better to have anything out of the norm checked out. I’m sure it’s probably nothing.”

Chapter 6 – Summer Jobs / Chapter 8 – Style of Wisdom

Glitter – Chapter 6 – Summer Jobs

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Dakota twisted a strand of her long blonde hair around her index finger. She hummed softly to herself looking up every once in a while to see if her twin had closed her book yet. Twenty minutes later at the end of her patience she demanded “are you almost done?” She rolled from her bed to bounce on the edge of her sisters bed causing as much motion as she could.

“What is your problem” Montana asked sticking a finger inside her book to mark her place.

“I want to go out” she whined.

“Then go” Montana opened her book reading a few more paragraphs before her sister’s humming drove her to distraction. “Do you mind?”

Dakota gave her sister her best blank innocent look “am I disturbing you?”

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“Go away” Montana mumbled determined not to let her sister spoil her first day off from school. She was going to enjoy her downtime with a good book even if it killed her.

“I’m bored” Dakota whined bouncing up and down.

Then go do something and leave me alone” Montana said her nose buried in her book again.

“Come with me” she pleaded.

“I want to finish my book” she flipped a page determined to ignore her sister.

“That’ll take forever” Dakota wailed seeing the thick volume that must have had thousands of pages with hundreds of words on each one. The idea of reading all that made her head ache. “Please. Just for a little while.”

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Looking up Montana found her twin giving her large sad puppy dog eyes. “Fine” she sighed slipping a book between the pages before closing the book. Swinging her legs over the bed she said “remember your promise. This summer we get real jobs not like last summer.”

“We got paid didn’t we” Dakota demanded.

“It was babysitting” Montana rolled her eyes “we’re too old to babysit. We’re going to college in the fall.”

“What’s left” Dakota asked flopping backwards on the bed.

“Hollis Resort” Montana snapped her fingers to her sisters attention. “It’s perfect. We go there every summer anyway.”

Dakota sat up “I’m listening.”

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“Not to mention all the hot guys coming and going from the beach surfing” Montana enthused fanning herself.

“Don’t forget the girls” Dakota added eyes shining.

“Speak for yourself” Montana teased “you know I only look at the boys.”

“You don’t know what you’re missing” Dakota replied. “If we get jobs we’ll have to stay there for the whole summer and not just the few weeks we normally go for.”

“Yeah I know” she acknowledged. It was the only flaw in her plan.

“Do you think Daddy’ll let us go” Dakota asked no doubt thinking the same thing she was.

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“We’re both eighteen now. Daddy knows we aren’t little girls anymore.” It was kind of depressing to know she would be making her parents sad by being gone all the summer before college began.

“Don’t be sad” Dakota reached for her hand “they have to let us go sooner or later.”

“I know I just wish I didn’t know it was going to hurt him when we tell him” Montana wiped a stray tear away.

“Let’s talk to dad first” Dakota suggested “he’ll know what to do.”

“You’re right” Montana nodded despite her own misgivings.

“You’re not changing your mind are you? You’re the one who thought this was a good idea” Dakota pointed out needlessly.

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“That was before I realized I’d be breaking Daddy’s heart” she confessed.

“Let’s send in our applications first. See if we get hired” Dakota suggested “then we’ll tell them.”

Considering her sister’s suggestion Montana nodded. “Yeah let’s do that” she gave her a relieved smile “after all we might not get hired. Why make Daddy worry for nothing.”

Dakota laughed “you’re always worrying about him.”

“Well someone has to” Montana said.

Shrugging Dakota said “that’s Dad’s job not ours. Now let’s go out and have some fun.” She hopped off the bed grabbing Montana’s hand in the process pulling her towards the door.

***

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Montana was finishing drafting her thank you email to Charity when Dakota bounced into the room. “We have jobs” she announced.

“Awesome” Dakota clapped her hands “did we get the positions we applied for?”

“Well…not exactly” Montana said.

“What does that mean” her sister frowned at her moving towards the computer to read over her shoulder.

“It means we get something in the area of what we wanted but not what we wanted” Montana explained in a roundabout way.

“Meaning” Dakota tapped her toes willing her sister to come to the point.

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“Well you wanted to work with animals” Montana gazed up at her “your the new dog walker.”

“But I wanted grooming” she cried.

“Evidently you need experience and training before you can become a groomer.” Montana sighed sharing her sisters disappointment “don’t kill the messenger. I didn’t do much better.”

“Athletic supplies” Dakota read “what exactly is that?”

“It means I’m charge of keeping the gym stocked with fresh towels and stuff” she sat back in her chair with a wounded expression.

Laughing at her sister Dakota said “so much for being the yoga instructor.”

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“Evidently that requires experience too” Montana admitted “Charity said at the very least I’d need to be certified before I could instruct a yoga class.”

“Well it’s a start at least” Dakota sighed.

“And we have jobs that pay” Montana enthused.

“Plus we’ll gain some much needed experience” Dakota added.

“I guess that means we need to tell them” Montana said looking to her sister for support for informing their dads they’d be away all summer.

“It’s not going to be as bad as you think” Dakota assured her. Standing up she said “we better get it over with now. The sooner the better.”

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Reluctantly Montana followed her sister out into the living room were their parents were cuddling on the couch watching a romantic comedy. “Hey guys” Dakota said plopping herself in front of the TV blocking their view. “We have something to tell you” she waved towards Montana indicating she should take over.

“Can’t it wait” Waylon asked frowning at his daughters for interrupting their movie night.

“Honey” Zach patted his hand “they need to tell us something. It’s important.” He knew the girls had perfected this maneuver over the years. The only way to wrestle Waylon’s attention from the TV was to block it.

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Turning the TV off Waylon demanded “what’s so important it couldn’t wait?”

“We um got jobs for the summer” Montana announced her eyes darting from her parents to her sister.

“That’s great” Zach enthused “just remember to get the time off for the weeks we’ll be on the island.”

“Um well that’s the problem” Dakota said “the summer jobs we have are at the resort. We’ll be there all summer.”

“At least until we have to get ready to go to university in the fall” Montana added nibbling on her lower lip.

***

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Zach’s bottom lip quivered as he listened to his daughter’s excited voices telling them about their jobs. All he kept hearing was they were leaving him and he wanted to be happy but an oppressive sadness clutched his heart. They weren’t his little girls anymore. His heart lurched painfully in his chest as he pushed up off the couch. He gave each of the girls a hug. His mouth forming the necessary congratulatory words that he didn’t feel. He could see the worry in Montana’s eyes as he stepped away from kissing her cheek.

His lips thinned to form a caricature of a smile. For all he knew his life was ending. Grinding to a halt. He thought he had the summer to get used to the idea of them being gone. Stepping back he let Waylon have his time with the girls. Feeling heavy and light headed at the same time he slowly walked to his room. He heard Montana ask “is Daddy alright?”

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“Don’t worry sweetheart” Waylon assured her “he’s happy for you.”

“But he looks so sad” she protested.

“Give him time to absorb the news” Waylon reached a hand out to stop her from following Zach.

“Are you sure” Dakota asked her voice now just as worried as her sisters.

“I’m positive” he sighed “it’s just he had so many plans for the summer.”

“We don’t have to go” Montana offered.

“No sweetie” Waylon pulled her close “that’s the last thing he’d want. Take the jobs. You dad and I will adjust.”

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“Are you sure” she asked watching him closely.

“I’m positive” he kissed her forehead “why don’t you to out and celebrate.” He pulled his wallet out and handed them money “go shopping. See a movie. Have dinner.”

“You want to get rid of us for the night” Dakota surmised.

“I do” he glanced over his shoulder.

“Tell him we love him” Montana urged.

“Yeah” Dakota agreed taking her sister’s arm, pulling her towards the door.

“Bye Dad” the called from the door before they left.

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The silence of the house seemed somewhat oppressive if not mournful after they had gone. Turning Waylon went in search of Zach. He found him curled up on the bed softly crying. Gently Waylon sat on the bed beside him gently pulling him into his arms. He placed soft kisses on his neck and cheek. After a minute or so he felt Zach take his hand and squeeze it.

“I’m sorry” he mumbled “I should be happy for them. They’re such beautiful young women.”

“Yes they are” Waylon agreed “they know you’re proud of them and love them.”

“I’m a wet blanket on their parade” he sniffed trying to get control of himself. “I knew this day was coming. I thought was prepared but the nightmares…”

Waylon didn’t need to know what nightmares. They were always the same. “We’ve taught them well” he assured his husband “they’ll be ok.”

“I know it’s just I’m so scared” he leaned into Waylon for support “I just don’t want them to be like me. I want them to enjoy this time in their lives.”

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“They don’t have the same experiences you or I had when we were their age” Waylon said.

“Thank goodness for that” he cried “I still worry. I’ll never not worry.”

“They’ll be ok. They’re smart. Self-reliant young women. They have the tools we taught them to succeed.” Waylon could only hope his words were enough to reassure his husband.

“Thank you” Zach smiled stretching up to kiss Waylon’s lips “you always know what to say and do to make me feel better.”

“It’s because I love you and the little family we created together” he nuzzled into Zach.

Closing his eyes Zach felt himself relax “we should let the girls have the house while they’re on the island.”

***

330

The twins stood in front of their families island home. “Are you sure Daddy” Montana asked turning towards the smiling blonde male.

“I’m positive” he nodded “you and your sister will need a place to stay while you’re here. Charity could use your help too at the resort.”

“Thank you” she squealed throwing her arms around him. Dakota followed soon afterwards. “We love you so much.”

“We love you too” Waylon asserted smiling down at his daughters.

“You’re still coming in August right” Dakota asked.

“Wouldn’t miss it” Zach assured her “unless you don’t want your old dads staying with you.”

“Don’t be silly Daddy” Montana laughed “we’ll always have room for you and Dad.”

“And you’re not old” Dakota asserted.

“Do you have everything you need” Waylon asked looking at the empty trunk.

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“We have everything we need” Dakota nodded.

“If not the house is stocked and we can buy whatever else we need” Montana added.

Looking at his watch Waylon put an arm around Zach. “Our flight home takes off in a couple of hours. We should be on our way.”

“Do you have to go soon” Montana cried hoping they’d change their minds and stay a  few days.

“I’m afraid so” Zach nodded “we couldn’t find anyone to watch the ranch while we were gone.”

“Oh” the girls mumbled together with dual disappointed expressions.

“Hey we’ll be back” Zach said hugging them both “you can’t escape us that easily.”

They giggled as they watched their dad’s walk hand in hand to their rented car. Briefly they waved as they drove away. “This is it” Montana said when the car was  out of sight. “We’re on our own.”

“Party” Dakota suggested.

Shrugging Montana suggested “call the boys and see if they want to come over for pizza and a movie.”

“If we call them you know Unity and Justice will tag along” Dakota said as she pulled out her phone.

“Let them” Montana shrugged “they’re good kids and it’s not it’s a date.”

“Eew gross” Dakota wrinkled her nose at the thought.

Chapter 5 – Everything Nice / Chapter 7 – Seek to Know Truth

Glitter – Chapter 5 – Everything Nice

325

“Daddy” London glanced up from her desk where she was working on her homework. “Did you need something?” She had seen him straining to reach something that was just out of his reach on the floor.

“My pillow” he said sitting back with an irritated scowl. “It fell out of my chair” he attempted to reach for it again stretching as far as he could. His fingers scraped the edges of it but no dice.

Moving quickly London retrieved the pillow. “Is that better” she asked placing the pillow behind his back. She watched him for a moment looking for signs of discomfort.

“Do I pass inspection” he asked catching her watching him.

Instead of answering London threw her arms around him. “I love you Daddy” she cried squeezing him tight.

“I love you too sweetheart” he reciprocated attempting to mask the pain her unexpected hug ignited.

“Daddy” she sounded worried “are you ok?”

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“Sure I’m fine” he lied giving her a huge grin that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “You don’t have to lie to me to protect my feelings” she reprimanded him. “I can tell you’re in pain.”

He gave her a quizzical look “you can?”

“Yeah it’s in your eyes” she touched his skin around his eyes “you’re all tense right through here.”

“Sorry” he apologized “I am in pain. The air is too cold and humid around here.”

“Do you your pain meds” she inquired “I can get them for you. Mom showed me how just in case.”

“No not yet I can manage” shaking his head rueful “at least until Mom gets home.”

“Are you sure” she asked her voice taking on a tone he knew she picked up from her mom. “The best way to manage pain is to nip it in the beginning before it gets too bad.”

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Looking at his daughter he nodded in agreement. It was amazing this grown up little person was only ten years old. She spoke about pain management like it was a normal everyday topic of conversation. He supposed it was for her. “If you know where Mom keeps it then I’ll take some.” He regretted the necessity of needing a gatekeeper on his own meds; especially his ten year old daughter. Unfortunately it was necessary after he had inadvertently taken too many when one of his other meds affected his memory and he couldn’t remember when or how many he had taken. It was a scary time for all of them.

Without hesitation London went to retrieve the meds for her dad. Returning she held out a glass of water along with a couple of pills to him. “Take these Daddy” she instructed.

“Thank you sweetheart” he murmured accepting her offerings. It was depressing to think how fast his little girl was having to grow up because of him and his condition. He wanted her to have a normal life not one that included taking care of him.

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“Don’t be sad Daddy” she gave him a grin “I like helping. I’m going to be a doctor one day. I’m going to make sure no one else has to be in a wheelchair.”

“Don’t you want to be something more exciting” he asked feeling guilty for robbing her of her carefree childhood. It reminded him too much of how he had joined the military thinking that was how he could honor his father who died for his country. He didn’t want London feeling obligated to follow a course she thought he wanted her to do.

“What could be more exciting then helping people” she asked “I love you Daddy. I like helping you. I hope one day I can help other families not have to go through what we do.”

The conviction in her soft spoken voice was enough to ease his conscience. He knew her goals could change as she got older but so far it hadn’t wavered since she was old enough to know what a doctor was and why her daddy was permanently attached to a chair with wheels.

***

321

Late that evening Teasha joined Phoenix in their room. “How did she take the news” he asked.

“As well as could be expected” she gave him a tired smile.

“I suppose she hates me now” he mumbled looking away.

Silently Teasha crossed the room. Gently she knelt beside his chair holding his face. “Our daughter loves you. She understands this will help you.”

“But” he blinked back frustrated tears as they rolled down his cheeks. “She shouldn’t have to sacrifice her happiness for my health.”

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“She’ll see her friends every summer” Teasha assured him “she’ll be ok.”

“She’ll have to go to a different school” he said “she likes it here. I just don’t think we should uproot her from everything she knows.”

“I agree it’s going to be difficult and it’ll take time to adjust but we have to do this. Believe me when I tell you she’d rather have you than any of the things she’ll be giving up in the move.” Stroking is face remembering the way it once was so full of life. “You’ll see this will be good for all of us.”

“I hope so” he leaned his forehead against hers. “I just don’t want her hating me because of this.” Closing his eyes he knew all too well how difficult it had been on his family to move every few years. Being an army brat meant moving wherever his dad was stationed at. His younger brother resented each and every move. Phoenix didn’t want that for his daughter. He never wanted to see his daughter looking at him the way his brother looked at their dad.

“She won’t” Teasha assured him. “She loves you. She wants you to be healthy. She’ll understand why we need to move. You’ll see it won’t be as traumatic as you think.”

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A soft knock on their bedroom door interrupted them. “Come in” Teasha called squeezing his hands hoping to reassure him.

“Mom. Dad” London murmured as she entered their room. Her eyes were red rimmed “are you sure we have to move?”

“I’m afraid so” Teasha said “I know it’s going to be difficult to leave your friends behind but it’s the best thing for Daddy.”

London lifted her eyes up before stepping forward. “Why can’t we move to Isla Paradiso? It’s an island too. Why does it have to Sunlit Tides?”

“That’s a good question” Phoenix said looking towards his wife. “We asked the doctor for suggestions and he suggested Sunlit Tides maybe Isla Paradiso could be a possibility. What do you think?”

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“I think it’s worth looking into” Teasha agreed “we already have a houseboat on the island so moving there wouldn’t be too bad. Plus London knows a few people there already so it wouldn’t be like starting over.”

“Thanks Mom” London sighed with relief “I’d go anywhere if it meant helping Daddy but if it could be somewhere we already know than all the better right?”

“We’ll check into it” Teasha assured her. She moved to her daughter drawing her into a hug “I love you sweetie.”

“I love you too Mommy” she squeezed  her arms around her mother’s neck. Next she approached her dad “Daddy I love you too” she leaned in close kissing his cheek “I hope you know that.”

“I do” he nodded thankful that she had come to them with the suggestion they hadn’t considered. He hoped the doctor would think it was a good alternative.

***

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A few months later they were sitting on the deck of their houseboat enjoying the evening breeze coming in off the ocean. “Are you ready for school to start” Teasha asked her daughter sitting across from them.

“Yeah I guess” she shrugged “I wish I knew someone in my close. Justice at least is in the same school along with Unity.”

“Justice will be in middle school sweetie” Phoenix pointed out.

“Oh” she sighed “you’re right. I thought we’d be in the same school. I guess it’ll just be me and Unity then.”

“Unity is in fourth grade isn’t she” Trinity asked leaning against the railing.

“Yeah a year behind me” London turned towards her dad who was busy lighting a fire to roast marshmallows. “Unity says I need to decide who I want to be my boyfriend before school starts. How do I do that if I don’t know who my options are?”

“She said what” Phoenix choked on the words “you’re way too young for boyfriends.”

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“I’m ten Daddy not a baby” she rolled her eyes “what do you think Mom?”

“Well” Teasha glanced at her husband who was still glaring into the fire. “I agree with your father. You are too young for boyfriends.”

Standing she dramatically stomped her feet. Rolling her eyes she announced “I knew you wouldn’t understand.”

“Understand what” Teasha demanded “and before you answer cut the attitude or you can go to your room.”

“Fine” she sighed “a boyfriend gives you status. Someone to do your homework with. Someone always to be your partner for in group activities in class or projects. It’s not like we’ll be doing any gross mushy stuff.”

“Oh a friend” Teasha said relieved.

“Does it have to be a boy” Phoenix asked still stuck on boyfriend.

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“Argh” she cried stomping towards the door “Why do I even bother. Why do you insist on asking questions when you know you won’t like the answers. All I want to do is fit in. I’m the new kid. The one on one wants to be friends with.”

“I don’t think that’s a good enough reason to get a boyfriend” Phoenix persisted watching her slam the door shut but did little to keep her from eyesight.

Looking at the fire Teasha laughed “I guess we get to eat all the smores.”

“I guess so” Phoenix agreed “thanks for backing me up. I know you didn’t think it was a terrible idea like me.”

“No not terrible. Just too soon” she sighed “I was hoping not to have to deal with boyfriends and hormones for at least another year or two.”

“A year” he gasped “I want her to be my little girl longer than that.”

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“We have no choice” she sighed sitting on his lap “she’s growing up and boyfriends are going to be a part of the package.”

Wrapping his arms around her Phoenix sighed “I’m not ready for this.”

“Do you think I am” she teased giving his cheek a quick peck “we’re getting old.”

“Speak for yourself” he said giving her a tender kiss on the lips “I’m planning on being young forever.”

“Keep telling yourself that when you see all the kids tomorrow at the resort.” She leaned her head on her shoulder “the teenagers out number the kids now.”

“For tonight let me pretend we’re still as young as we were back in college” Phoenix grinned at  her.

“Alright” she conceded taking his hand and watching the moon rise over the ocean.

***

316317Smoothing the wrinkles on her dress London mumbled “I’m a mess.”

“You shouldn’t have let Justice talk you into racing him” Unity giggled.

Temperance nodded linking arms with Unity “I think someone has a crush.”

Unity’s eyes grew large “do you like my brother?”

“No” London’s cheeks grew hot as both younger girls giggled at her.

“Good” Aubrey said joining them “you can dance with me instead. I promised Daddy I wouldn’t dance with any boys.”

“Oh” London bit her bottom lip “I was hoping to dance at least once with Benjamin and Justice.”

“Good luck with that” Temperance giggled “Jason has already been bugging Benjamin to dance with him.”

“Does Jason like Benjamin” Aubrey asked.

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Shrugging Temperance nodded “he acts like it. It’s kind of cute in an annoying sort of way.”

“Don’t go to thinking you need to be annoying to get Justice to notice you” Unity advised turning to London “I guarantee that won’t work. Justice doesn’t like clingy people. At least that what he says.”

“Did the older boys bring dates” Aubrey asked. They all knew she was referring to the three teen boys Christopher, Noble and Loyal.

“They’re too busy mooning over Dakota and Montana” Temperance giggled “they’re gorgeous and older.”

“Which means” London asked.

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Giggling Unity said “which means the boys are out luck. I mean my brothers are cute but they’re doofasses.”

Pointing towards an older man pushing his way through the crowd of people Aubrey asked “who is that guy?”

“He’s not supposed to be here” Temperance said turning to Unity with concern.

Unity shook her head “he promised he’d be good or I wouldn’t have told him.”

“Who is he” London asked repeating Aubrey’s question.

“That’s Zane” Temperance frowned “Unity’s other grandpa.”

“Oh” the two girls nodded wide-eyed. They had all heard about Graham’s first husband but neither of them had seen him before.

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“Hey Gramps” Noble said cutting him off from going any further.

“Out of my way” Zane said straining to see Graham through the milling guests.

“He doesn’t want to see you” Loyal said joining his twin. “Why don’t you leave before you make a scene.”

“He’s my husband” he snapped attempting to go around the boys.

“Ex husband” Noble corrected “has been for almost fifteen years.”

“He didn’t know what he was doing” Zane protested “this is ridiculous to keep me from the resort we built together. I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“Says you” Loyal snickered.

“We’ve see you talking to old man Hollis” Noble added “if you really cared about Grandpa like you claim you’d have cut all ties with that creep.”

“Mr Hollis has done a lot for me” Zane protested.

“Sure he has” Loyal agreed “like having you beat up.”

“Ruining your marriage” Noble added.

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“All so he could get his grubby little hands on our resort” Charity said joining her sons. “Boys I’ll take care of this.”

Nodding Loyal said to Noble “you stay. I’ll go get Dad.”

Zane eyed the boys with distaste “they act like I’m the enemy or something” he complained.

“You are” Noble growled.

“That’s enough” Charity chided him even she was proud of him for standing up for Graham. Turning her attention to Zane she said “Dad you promised you wouldn’t come. Not today.”

Zane craned his neck trying to catch a glimpse of Graham in the crowd before someone warned him he was there. He wanted to see his face without the perpetual frown that his presence always brought on. “I love him. I had to be here. To make him understand….”

“It’s too late for that” Charity shook her head “leave him alone. He’s happy shouldn’t that be enough to convince you he’s moved on with his life.”

308

“I need to talk to him” he entreated her like she hadn’t said anything “to explain why I did all of this. I did it for him.”

Putting a hand up Charity signaled for him to stop. “No dad. You did it for you. Daddy would have been happy running the dog shelter you had before you sold it and borrowed money to buy the resort. Daddy never wanted to it. That was all you. It was you who went to the one person you knew Daddy hated, Donnie Hollis. You took his dirty even though you knew how much it would hurt Daddy.”

“Do you really think I would do something like that to intentionally hurt him” Zane asked. “I wouldn’t do that. If I had known I’d have done things differently.”

“Somehow I don’t believe you” Charity shook her head sadly hugging her arms tight around herself. “You knew he’d be devastated once he found out or you wouldn’t have felt the need to lie about where you got the money.”

307

“That’s not….” he stopped as a hand came down heavy on his shoulder. Turning he looked into the serious disapproving eyes of his son-in-law.

“Mr Koehler it’s time for you to leave” Ryan said firmly “we don’t want to hear anymore of your lies.”

“I” he swallowed looking into his daughter’s eyes “I’m sorry” he mumbled turning and allowing Ryan to escort him from the property.

Chapter 4 – Sugar and Spice / Chapter 6 – Summer Jobs