The following summer Eddie and Rory went back to the resort where the girls got reacquainted with each other. Eddie spent much of that summer working on his mermaid book and was in the process of starting a visual novel for preteens to enjoy. After some discussion Eddie was able to talk Rory into buying a summer home in Isla Paradiso where they could both spend a couple of months writing without interruption other than the beautiful island, good friends and their daughter. Before they knew it five years had passed.
“Ity do you think your parents will change their minds and let you come to my slumber party?” Hannah asked a couple of weeks before her eighth birthday.
“I don’t think so Nana,” she bit her lip “they might feel better if it were here instead.”
“What difference does it make whether it’s here or my house?” Hannah asked confused.
Shrugging Charity fell silent not wanting her best friend to be disappointed “my parents just worry about me and they don’t like the idea of their being boys there.”
“I wanted you to meet all my other friends,” Hannah sighed this was the first time they were celebrating her birthday on the actual date instead of waiting to go home so they could have all her friends there. She had done everything she could think of to convince her dads to have her birthday party now so that Charity could be there this time. Now Charity’s parents were being stupid. “Hey I know,” she bounced up and down excitedly as an idea came to her “I’ve got it.”
“You’ve got what?” Charity asked giggling watching her best friend jump up and down like she had eaten jumping beans.
“I’ve got an idea” Hannah clapped her hands “I know it’ll work. It just has to work. We should have it here that way your dads can be here and they’ll know the boys aren’t bad.”
“I never said that,” Charity protested.
“You didn’t have to,” Hannah laughed happy with the solution she had come up with. She did however omit the fact that she had overheard her parents discussing this very same idea when they thought she wasn’t there. Frowning she asked “do you know what co-ed means?” It was a word her parents had used and she didn’t know what they meant by it.
Shaking her head Charity put a finger to her mouth thinking “maybe it has something to do with boys. They didn’t have a problem until they found out there were going to be boys at your party.”
“Why would boys make a difference?” Hannah made a face “boys are gross anyway. They’re only coming because I’ve known them all my life.”
“I don’t think boys are gross,” Charity confided in her friend “my dad’s are boys and I like them.”
“Dads and boys are different,” Hannah said giving her friend her sage advise.
“Oh” Charity nodded accepting that Hannah knew what she was talking about even if she herself didn’t see the difference. There had to be one if Nana said there was.
After going home Hannah was watching her favorite TV show. Her parents were snuggling on the couch behind her. She couldn’t help but think she was pretty lucky to have two parents who loved each other. She had been at Divia’s house once and her parents were yelling at each other. Divia had given her such a miserable look that she felt like putting her parents into timeout for causing her to look like that. She made a point to ask Divia over to her house at least once a week to give the poor girl a break from her parents fighting all the time.
She tried to concentrate on her show Hannah smiled. She couldn’t wait to see all of her friends again. The slumber party was going to be epic. If, she thought, if Charity was allowed to come. “Dad” she said when a commercial was on “what’s wrong with boys coming to my party?”
“Who said it was wrong?” Rory asked her.
“Charity said her dad’s won’t let her come to my party because there will be boys there,” she explained “you did tell them they’re all nice not like normal boys right?”
“We did,” Eddie said hiding his smile “how would you feel if we had the party at the resort instead of here?”
Rory gave him a sharp concerned look “I thought we weren’t going to mention that until we knew for sure.”
“I know but,” he sighed looking at Hannah’s hopeful look “it’s not for sure but Zane is trying to convince Graham into letting the party take place at the resort. Would you mind Hannah if we had it there?”
“I don’t care where the party is as long as Charity’s there,” she told him turning her attention back to the TV with a huge grin. Phase one complete she thought, now it was up to Ity to complete phase two.
Charity covered her ears. She didn’t have to see a calendar to know it was the first of the month. Her parents were arguing again, like they always do when the bills were due. It was the only time they did argue and she was lucky it wasn’t worse. Her parents got along fine except when it came to money.
“Daddy,” Charity said when they had become quiet for a while. She hoped they were done with the bills for the month so that things could go back to normal.
Graham looked down at his little girl “what is it sweetheart?” he always had a ready smile for his daughter no matter how hectic or bad things were.
“Hannah’s birthday is coming up in a couple of weeks…” she turned pleading eyes on him “I really really want to be there.”
“Charity we already gave you our answer, no,” Graham told her firmly “now quit asking.”
“She’s my best friend,” she cried “I need to be there.”
“Charity what did I just tell you?” Graham asked his temper rising. He looked up as Zane moved towards their daughter to comfort her wearing the same hurt look Charity had.
“Sweetie why don’t you go to your room,” Zane told her gently taking her hand and leading her to the door “I’ll talk to your dad.”
“You have my answer,” Graham said crossing his arms tired of how Zane always gave into Charity’s every whim.
Charity glared at Graham before opening the door and running to her room.
They stood glaring at each other listening to their daughters sobs as she slammed the door to her bedroom. “Why do you have to be so stubborn?” Zane asked “can’t you see how important this is to Charity?”
Graham turned his back on his husband “I don’t see what the big deal is” Zane said. He hated talking to Graham when he was being unreasonable “it’s just a bunch of eight year olds. What do you think will happen?”
“It’s not just this party,” Graham sighed “it’s the one after that and the next one and the next one. Than they’re all sixteen and boys will be hanging all over her and…”
“That’s going to happen regardless of whether or not she goes to this party,” Zane said with a smile “it’s just a fact of life. Kids grow up. One day we’ll even be grandparents.”
“I know,” Graham said turning around to face his husband “I just want her to stay a little girl forever.”
“So do I,” Zane held his arms out for his husband to snuggle into him “can I tell our daughter she can go to the party?”
“Only if it’s here,” Graham sniffed “I want to be sure nothing happens.”
“Alright I’ll let Eddie know,” Zane said glad the party was settled for now. He couldn’t wait to see Charity’s face light up when she found out.
Grabbing Charity’s hand Hannah led her up to a group of kids, “everybody this is Charity. Charity this is everybody.”
“What do I do now?” Charity whispered to Hannah “they’re just staring at me.”
“Say something,” Hannah told her.
“Like what?” Charity swallowed audibly as one of the boys stepped forward with a smile.
“Hi I’m Ryan,” he extended his hand.
She took it feeling as if everyone was watching her “hi I’m Charity.”
“I know Hannah told us,” he continued to grin at her “I’m Hannah’s cousin so you can come to me if you ever need anything.”
“Thank you,” she looked around for Hannah who had been beside her but was now no where in sight.
“Would you like to play a game?” he asked.
“We could play cops and robbers,” a blond boy with light blue eyes suggested.
“She doesn’t want to play that, do you?” a girl with red hair said “that’s a boys game anyway.”
“We’re not playing house,” another boy piped up with.
“We’re not playing trivia either,” Hannah said joining them “Vincent and Divia always win.”
“We can’t help it if we’re smart,” a girl with blue hair said staring at her shoes.
Biting her lip in thought Charity grabbed a pillow from the pile she had helped her dads bring into the daycare area in preparation for the slumber party. Squeezing it tight she wondered if she should do what she was thinking or if someone would get mad at her. Nothing ventured nothing gained she thought as she hurled the pillow at Ryan’s head shouting “pillow fight.”
There was a mad dash as everyone grabbed a pillow and started hitting each other. Graham came running into the room to see what all the screams were about. What he found were seven eight year olds laughing and screaming while being beat senseless with pillows. His eyes searched the crowd until he found his daughter.
Charity was ducking behind one of the boys who seemed to be taking the brunt of the attacks. Listening closely he heard the boy say “I’ll protect you my queen.”
A blond little boy with glasses sneered back saying “impossible. We have captured the princess. It’s only a matter of time until you surrender.”
“I will never surrender to the likes of you,” the dark-haired boy shouted back “Stand back and prepare to meet your doom.”
“Urgh,” another blond boy yelled falling theatrically to the floor holding a hand to his heart “I’m dying, dying, dying.”
“Yeah die already,” Hannah said stepping over him. The boy went through a spasm before finally lying still, his tongue hanging out. “I’m free at last,” Hannah smirked in triumph “prepare yourself evil king to feel my wrath.” She screamed as she charged the group taking the fight to them.
Graham walked out of the room shaking his head. Noticing his smile Eddie asked “how’s it going in there?”
“Fine,” he laughed “they’re playing some sort of mid evil drama with pillows instead of swords.”
“That’ll be the boy’s influence,” Trent said with confidence.
“Or the girls,” Gayle added “I’m sure Zach suggested cops and robbers. Then the pillow fight began as some sort of compromise.”
“You’re probably right,” Rory nodded. Turning to Graham “were all the kids playing?”
“I think so,” he thought back “I didn’t see anyone sitting out or off by themselves.”
“Good” Rory sighed “Divia and Vincent are good at isolating themselves and burying their heads in books. I want to make sure everyone is having a good time.”
“I don’t think we’ll have to worry about them sleeping tonight,” Zane said approaching the group of parents “they’re going to wear themselves out.”
Nodding Eddie said “they’ll go until they drop which is why we don’t have many slumber parties.”
“It’s not the kids who can’t handle it,” Trent explained to the combined shock on Graham and Zane’s faces “it’s the parents who can’t handle it. We stay up just as late as the kids. One kid or another will get homesick and want to go home.”
“Or one of them will have a stomach ache from eating too much,” Gayle added.
“Or they get into an argument and you have to play referee,” Eddie put his two cents in.
“So you now see why we’re all grateful that you volunteered to have the slumber party here,” Rory laughed adding “we can all get sleep while you two get to stay up all night handling child sized emergencies.”
“Is it too late to change our minds?” Zane asked as the others shook their heads at him. He glanced over at Graham who looked somewhat stunned “honey it’s going to be alright. I’m sure it won’t be as bad as all that. We can handle this.”
“Vince what’s wrong?” Teasha asked sitting on the floor beside him.
Wiping his eyes he held out his mangled glasses “my parents are going to kill me.”
“It’s not that bad,” she told him “they’re just glasses.”
“I can’t see without me glasses,” he sniffed “they cost a fortune and I just got them after breaking the last pair.”
Taking the glasses from his hands “maybe they can be fixed.” Walking over to her twin brother she asked “can you fix them?”
“I can bend them back into shape but I can’t replace the missing lens,” Zachariah told her “if you can find it. I’ll pop it back in.”
Standing on a chair Teasha clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention “Vinny lost a lens for his glasses. I want everyone to look around for it and be careful so you don’t step on it.”
Six kids got on their hands and knees to scour the floor. Vincent sat with his feet propped up so he wouldn’t step on it in his temporary blind state. He could see fuzzy colored shapes moving around on the floor but he couldn’t tell who or what anything was. He jumped when he heard Charity’s excited voice shouting “I found it.”
They gathered around Zach as he tried to fit the loose lens back into the eyeglass frame. “It’s no use,” he whined “it won’t stay. It just pops right out.”
“What if you make the hole smaller?” Ryan suggested.
“I need pliers to do that,” Zach rejected the idea “besides the hole is the right size. We just lack glue to keep it stuck there.”
“What about glue?” Divia asked.
Nodding Zach said “that might work,” turning to Charity “do you have any?”
“In the craft area maybe,” she moved to that part of the daycare “come on guys help me look.”
Thirty minutes later they had pulled every box out of its shelf and the contents were strewn all over the floor. “All we have are these,” Hannah showed Zach the glue sticks they found.
“That’s not going to work,” Zach told the group “we need something like super glue. You know the stuff that glues your fingers together.”
Several heads nodded all turning to Charity. “Oh no we can’t leave the daycare area,” she protested “we promised we wouldn’t.”
“This is an emergency,” Hannah told her “Vince can’t see without his glasses.”
“Plus his parents will shoot him if they find out he broke another pair of glasses,” Teasha informed everyone.
“They cost oodles of money too,” Divia added.
“We have to help him,” Ryan put a hand on her shoulder “We understand if you don’t want to break your promise to your dads. Don’t we guys?” The group all nodded in unison “why don’t you stay behind and stay with Vincent. I’m sure he’d like some company.”
Charity considered his offer before shaking her head “you don’t know where anything is. I know all the short cuts and hiding places.” She walked towards the door “you don’t all have to come. Probably better if you don’t.”
“You can’t go alone,” Ryan protested “I’ll come with you.”
“No I’ll come,” Hannah objected “she’s my best friend.”
“Hannah as much as I want you to come with me you should stay here,” Charity told her “you’re the best liar in the group. We need you here to cover for us.”
“Oh alright but I’m not a liar. I prefer story teller” she agreed even though hated seeing Ryan go in her place.
Charity led Ryan past the front desk as quickly as possible as that was the most likely spot for them to get caught. Luckily a group of four rather drunk adults with yipping dogs made them rather invisible to the beleaguered receptionist.
“Wow you own this,” Ryan looked around the resort with interest “this is so cool.”
“Do you really think so?” she asked. She had never thought about owning a resort as being cool before.
“Yeah. Your parents are home all the time. My dad travels a lot on tours and when he is home he practices with his band a lot. It’d be nice if my parents were always around,” he told her.
“It’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” she told him “my dads notice everything. I hardly ever get away with anything.”
Ryan shrugged his shoulders “I just wish my dad was home more that’s all.”
Charity went into her parent’s office “I know I saw some glue in here,” she whispered despite knowing her parents were downstairs. “You look over there. Be careful not to mess anything up.”
Nodding Ryan began searching. “I found it,” he shouted in triumph.
“Not so loud,” she scowled at him. She took the glue from his outstretched hand “come on let’s go.”
“Were we missed,” Charity asked slipping into the room.
“Nope they didn’t even check on us,” Hannah told her wishing she had a chance to use her well thought out story as to where Charity and Ryan were.
“Did you get the glue?” Vincent asked his voice squeaky with anxiety.
“Sure did,” Ryan beamed.
They gathered around to watch Zach glue the lens in place. “We just have to wait until the glue dries,” he told them “otherwise Vincent should be able to see again.”
“Yay,” they all shouted together feeling good about their accomplishment. The glasses were fixed. The frames sat lopsided on his face and glue had run down the sides but Vincent could see and that’s all that mattered.