Tag Archive | Mindy Bridges

Chapter 35 – A Day Out

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Fawn watched the gathering dark clouds with a worried frown. A raindrop splattered on her forehead “looks like it’s going storm.”

Frowning Peter glanced at his phone pulling up his weather app. “According to this it should blow over.”

“Are you sure that app is accurate” Francesca asked a worried tone in her voice

“As accurate as any weather man I guess” shrugging he couldn’t help but laugh as the clouds chose that moment to deluge them with water. “Girls you should probably go below until this blows over” he shouted over the wind and rain.

“What about you” Francesca demanded letting the rain pelt down on her.

“I’ll be fine,” he assured her with a quick kiss on the cheek “go”.

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Meanwhile Fawn was already climbing down the ladder when a large wave splashed over the side of the boat causing her to swallow water. Her hands were losing the grip on the metal rungs as she tried to catch her breath. Another wave lapped up against the boat causing her to lose what little strength she had.

“Fawn” Francesca screamed running for the side of the boat as she swayed with the bucking of the boat. Once the boat settled down after the wave she leaned over the side catching a quick glimpse of her friend before the girl was lost beneath another wave.

Strong arms pulled her from the side of the boat. “Put this on” Peter shouted thrusting a life jacket into her arms.

She tried to push it away struggling to see where her friend was. His persistence paid off as she finally allowed him to slip it over her head. “What about you” she shouted as the rain pelted them

“I’m an expert swimmer” he assured her like that would make a difference if he was knocked overboard.

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She made to pull it over her head, “I’m not wearing it if you’re not.”

“Ugh fine” he grunted slipping one over his head “better?”

“Much” she turned to lean over the side of the boat once more. “There” she pointed at a spec in the distance.

Nodding Peter lifted binoculars to his eyes. Grimly he moved back to the helm to turn the boat around. “Keep an eye on her,” he handed her the binoculars “I’m going to radio for help.”

Worry gnawed at the inside of her stomach. She should have insisted she wear a life jacket. Maybe they should have double checked the weather before setting out. There had to have been something they should have done that should have prevented this from happening.

Her hands clamped around the binoculars keeping an eye on the girl in the water, wincing each time a wave washed over her. Each time the head went under she held her breath waiting, hoping to see it come up again. In the distance she could see another boat. Were they coming to help? Would they see her in time?

***

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“Sorry guys” Lee pointed towards the darkening sky “we’re going to have to turn back.”

“But the weatherman said it’s going to pass” Edelle pouted. “Can’t we just wait it out?”

“I think the weatherman is wrong” Lee shrugged “I don’t want to chance it.”

The wind was picking up, whipping her long blonde hair around her face. He was right of course. She was just a little disappointed. Once he suggested going out on his boat she had to admit she was looking forward to it. It had been a spur of the moment decision and Prisha had been willing to watch Avery for the weekend. Glancing over at Castel she could tell he was nervous. “Looks like we’ve been rained out” she smiled at him “Lee thinks it’s best that we turn back.”

Nodding Castel breathed a sigh of relief, “do you have any rain gear” he asked.

“I don’t think umbrella’s are going to do much good” she shouted back as the wind picked up.

“No not that” he shook his head “raincoats?”

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“Here” Lee approached them handing them each a life jacket. “Put these on.”

“Is it going to get that bad” Castel asked putting the life jacket on.

“Better safe than sorry” he said with a grin. “We probably won’t need them.”

They were all wearing life jackets by the time the first drops of rain began to fall. “Is that another boat” Edelle asked pointing ahead of them.

“Looks like it” Lee nodded “we’ll want to keep our distance. We don’t want to run into them if the wind picks up. Handing Castel a pair of binoculars “keep an eye on them for me.”

“Oh no” he groaned “I think someone fell overboard.”

Lee’s muscles tensed as his jaw ticked as he absorbed the news. His knuckles turned white as he steered the boat towards the other. “Keep an eye on them and warn me if I’m overtaking them to quick.”

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“What about the girl” Castel asked “Shouldn’t we try to rescue her?”

Reaching for the radio he called the coast guard giving them their coordinates. “That’s all we can do for now. Keep watch on that boat. I bet anything they’re turning around. The last thing we need is for them to collide with us.”

“Right” Castel nodded pressing the binoculars to his eyes. “I see her” pointed “she’s struggling to stay above water.”

“Must have fallen in before putting on a life jacket” Lee muttered. “I’m going to lay anchor. The current will bring the girl towards us.” He took off his life jacket, then his shirt and shoes.

“What are you doing” Edelle demanded of her cousin.

“I’m the best swimmer here” he shrugged “that girl doesn’t stand a chance if we don’t do something quick.”

“But” she snapped her mouth shut. “Do what you need to do but wear this” she handed him his life jacket.”

***

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Turning the weather channel off Mindy turned to Coral. “We can’t go out with that storm coming in.”

“It’s going to be that bad” Coral asked setting her tablet aside.

“It’s not so much the storm as it’s my limited boating skills” she admitted. “Maybe if I knew more this little storm wouldn’t be so bad.”

“It’s okay” she smiled looking relieved “I didn’t really want to leave dock.”

“Why is that” Mindy asked sitting beside her.

Sighing she stared at her hands “it’s hard to explain. I mean I never had a near drowning experience or anything. I just don’t like water.”

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“Is that why you never go swimming” Mindy asked curious now that it wasn’t some dramatic event in her girlfriends life.

“I guess” shrugging unable to look up. “When I was a kid I had this fear that my shoes would fall in the water and soon everything else would follow.”

“Why didn’t you just wear the shoes” she asked reasonably.

“I don’t know” she huffed “I know it’s stupid. I don’t even know why I was so worried about losing my shoes”

This time Mindy didn’t even try to hide her amusement. “I’m sorry it’s just so funny.”

“I know it’s stupid she covered her burning cheeks behind her hands.

“We’ll have to work on that” Mindy said once she’d quit laughing.

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“Now that you know my unreasonable fear you have to tell me something.”

“What do you want to know” Mindy asked.

“Hmm” she thought for a moment. Turning to look at the woman beside her “why do you work so much? It’s like you never relax and enjoy life.”

“Relaxing means I’m not accomplishing anything” she said “since we’re not going out I really should go back to work.”

“Do you measure your success by how much work you do” Coral asked keeping her from retreating to her drafting room. “What about family and friends? Having fun?”

“I really don’t have family or many friends” pausing she took Coral’s hand “except for you. I don’t really need anything else.”

***

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Grant hadn’t heard from January since the night she left with her brother. How could she not see the guy was no good? He could understand it though. He wouldn’t be able to believe his brother Rex being that way. Not that Rex would ever be like that.

A feeling of restlessness came over him causing him to pry himself from the bed he’d been glued to for the past week. Had it really been that long? He’d ever been that messed up over a girl before or anyone for that matter.

The house was silent as he made his way outside. He was sure Rex and Sandy were asleep. From the sounds from their room the night before they’d been up all night. Breathing deeply, he filled his lungs with the early morning breeze coming in over the ocean. Humming softly he began walking along the road. A casual stroll to the beach would do him good.

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He needed to get back into a routine. He had no reason to feel guilty over what happened. He hadn’t done anything wrong. He had tried to stop them from leaving. He’d been hit over the head while they left him behind. His only hope was that January didn’t waste her life trying to help someone who didn’t deserve it. Unfortunately that’s exactly what it looked like she was doing.

A blast from a car horn scattered his thoughts as he jumped grabbing his chest in surprise. The car came to a screeching halt inches from him. Shaking his head he wondered how he’d managed to wander out into the road.

The driver got out “what the hell’s wrong with you?”

Flinching at the man’s angry words Grant shrunk back. “Sorry. I guess I wasn’t paying attention.”

The anger in the man’s eyes faded “are you alright? Do you need help?”

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“I’m okay thanks” he turned around “I should probably go back.”

Nodding the man watched him “I’m on my way to the Hollis Resort. I’m attending a business convention.” He paused “I could skip the meeting if you’d like to join me. I could use a relaxing day on the beach.”

“Um I” Grant stumbled over his words but nodding at the offer. “I’d like that. I could use some fresh air.”

“Hop in” he motioned towards the car. “I’m Kade by the way.”

“Grant” he introduced himself “what kind of business are you in” he asked as he got into the car.

Chapter 34 – Pleasant Encounters /

Chapter 33 – Accepting Advice

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Justice leaned back, eyes closed the sun beaming down on his face. He just wanted to pretend everything was the way it was before the summer began. They’d all be happy, making plans. No would be sick. No one had been doing drugs. No one had been attacked.It was a beautiful dream.

A shadow fell across his face. Opening one eye he gazed up to find Jenna staring down at him. “You’re blocking the sun” he grumbled his bad moved dampening his joy.

Rolling her eyes she huffed “why do I even bother?”

“I don’t know, why do you” he quipped closing his eyes.

“Whatever” she turned taking a few steps away.

Jumping to his feet he ran after her. “Don’t go. Please. I’m sorry.”

Stopping she stared at the hand he placed on her arm, then at his face. “Let go” she spoke calmly but firm.

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He jerked his hand away as if her skin had become too hot to handle. Stepping back shoving his hands in his pockets “sorry. I didn’t mean to…I wasn’t thinking.”

“No harm done” she smiled up at him. “I just really wanted to know if you were alright.”

For a moment Justice wanted to play the clown, make a joke. Pretend nothing was wrong. The sincere interest and concern in her eyes making him change his mind. “No I’m not. Everything’s falling apart.” He hadn’t realized how close he was to tears until something wet rolled down his cheeks. “I’m sorry. You don’t really want to know my problems.”

“You might be surprised” she murmured in a low voice. “If you want to talk I’m a pretty good listener.”

He humphed giving her a grin. “I’d like that but what I really feel like doing is going for a walk.” He put a hand up up drying his eyes on the back of his hand. “Want to join me?”

“I’d like that” she ran her hands down her uniform “I should change first. I’m all grubby from working all day.”

“Now that you mention it I was wondering what that smell was” he laughed at the way her eyes sizzled with annoyance.

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“I’ll have you know I smell way better that you” she snapped.

“Do not” he huffed “I had a shower and changed my clothes.”

“Owners perks” she said with mock disdain.

“My parents own the resort not me” he corrected her. “I’m no resort owner. I’ll leave that to my brother Noble.”

“You don’t wound to proud of what your family has made here” she observed looking around at the beautiful surroundings.

“Oh I am it’s just” shrugging he laughed “I want to do something different. Something that I can put my stamp on. I don’t want to succeed just because of who my family is.” Sighing he looked around “I don’t know, maybe I’m being ungrateful for not wanting to tag along on their success.”

“I wouldn’t say that” she enthused “I understand it better than you know.” She took a couple of steps away. “Shall I meet you here in an hour?”

“Sound good” he watched her go pondering her words.

***

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Stretching her tired sore muscles Stacy couldn’t wait for this day to end. She liked her job most days but today wasn’t one of those days. Dealing with unreasonable crabby customers was not her forte. It never ceased to amaze her the amount of people who would eat their meal only to complain about how bad it was in order to get out of paying for it. If it was that bad why’d they eat it?

Her mistake was in asking one customer exactly that. She knew better. She just couldn’t help herself. It was ridiculous. The man had cleaned his plate to the point he could have licked it clean. When she asked him how everything was he berated the service, the chef, the resort. He was loud and boisterous drawing the attention of Noble to come and soothe his rants. She felt bad watching him do his best with the difficult person.

Turning to leave she bumped into something that yielded just enough to let her know it wasn’t an inanimate object. “Excuse me” she murmured looking up cheeks turning red upon seeing who she’d bumped into.

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“Are you alright” he asked a hand going to steady her.

“I’m fine. A little tired” she could hardly look into his kind concerned eyes.

“It hasn’t been the best of day” he observed with a sigh.

“You could say that again” she snorted stepping back. “I do want to apologize for what happened today. I should never have said what I did.” His smile made her rehearsed apology fade from her lips.

“He was a pompous ass. Don’t worry about it” he waved her apology away. “He’s well known around here.”

“I take it he’s a regular” she observed disbelieve evident in her tone.

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“Unfortunately” he nodded “my parents could tell you stories about him. For the most part he’s harmless.”

“Well I’m still sorry that I lost my professionalism” she sighed.

“Apology accepted” he smiled as they both fell silent.

Sighing once more Stacy turned “I should be going. I have tons of homework to do.”

“Oh” it was how much of his disappointment registered in that single word. “I um was hoping to um…”

“Yes” she bit her bottom lip looking back at him.

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Taking a deep breath he stepped forward “I was hoping you’d maybe want to, you know, go out for dinner or something.”

“Are you asking me out on a date,” she asked.

“Yes” his confidence dropping “I guess…if you want…I mean….”

“You guess” she giggled “don’t you know?”

“Yes I’m asking you on a date” he huffed, “do you want to go out with me.”

A slow beautiful smile lit up her face like the sun rising “yes I do. Tomorrow?”

Relief surged through him as he returned her smile “I’ll pick you up at 8:00.”

***

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The first thing that Talia saw as she came into the room was her son. He sat staring out the window with a gloomy expression on his face. The room was dark. The TV was off. Not even his earbuds were in. “Hey” she greeted him with fake cheer “let’s talk.” She flipped on a light before going to sit next to him on the couch.

Dragging his eyes from the window he pulled his knees to his chest. “Talk about what” his voice listless and a hint that he may have been crying.

“For starters about what you did….”

“Mom how many times do I have to say I’m sorry” he rolled his eyes jumping to his feet.

“Sit” she snapped pointing to the cushion he’d just vacated.

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Reluctantly he returned. His face a frozen mask. “Fine” he grunted picking at a loose thread on the couch.

“Will I’m proud of you for wanting to help. I really am. What I’m not happy about is the way you went about helping.”

His eyes slid in her direction. “Would you have taken us to see Unity if we’d asked?”

“No” she placed a hand on his knee.

Brushing it off he scowled up at her. “See. We had no choice but to do what we did. We had to do it.”

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“I know that’s what you believe and this time it worked for you.” Sighing she fell silent thinking for a moment. “Did you know that Unity’s doctors hadn’t wanted her to have visitors?” His eyes shifted confirming what she thought. “She hasn’t been responding well to treatment and it’s vital that she’s not exposed to any virus that any of us are carrying. Every visitor is a carrier. A risk. You want her to get better right?”

“Yes but….”

She gave him an understanding smile. “You wanted to help Temperance see her friend. That’s a wonderful thing. I love that your heart guided you to want to be there for her. You’re a lot like your father that way.”

“I am” he asked looking at her eyes full of wonder.

This time when she reached out to him and ruffled his hair he didn’t object. “You are. I should talk about him more I guess.”

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“You don’t have to” he mumbled “I know it must be difficult and painful for you.”

Remembering doesn’t hurt” she gave him a small sad smile “it’s the forgetting. The moving on without him that hurts.”

“Is that why you dated that creepy doctor guy” he asked.

“Maybe …a little” she conceded “did it bother you?”

“A little. At first” he admitted “I just want you to be happy.”

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“What makes you think I’m not happy” she asked.

“We moved here away from everything that reminded us of Dad. You started dating that guy” sighing he rubbed his eyes. “You never smile anymore. You know the kind of smile that makes your eyes light up.”

“I know what you mean” she sighed “it’s the way eyes sparkle when you look at Temperance. That’s why I’m not telling you not to see her again. I want you to be happy. I also want you to be safe. So many things could have gone wrong. You could have been hurt.”

“I’m sorry mom” he met her eyes “it won’t happen again. I promise.”

“I know it won’t” she turned to give him a squeeze “I love you so much.”

***

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Mindy sat at her drafting board putting the finishing touches to her latest designs. She looked across the room where Coral lounged on the couch immersed inside one of her books. Glancing at the time she knew she should continue working but she felt restless. Putting down her pencils she announced, “It’s a beautiful day. We should do something.”

Looking up confusion written all over her face “you still have a couple of hours of work to do.”

“Not today” she grinned putting her things way with a flourish. “Today I’m breaking out of the routine. I want to do something.”

“Like what” Coral asked sitting up and powering down her tablet.

“How about we take the boat out and we’ll go diving” she suggested.

Shaking her head fear in her eyes. “I … I don’t know how to dive.”

“I’ll teach you” Mindy said walking over to her. “We’ll…” she paused “do we have any food in the fridge?”

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Frowning Coral shook her head “we’ve been meaning to go to the store for the past week but….” She shrugged. They both knew they’d put it off preferring to do other things they enjoyed more.

“No problem” Mindy said “we’ll run to the store first. Get a few essentials then go.”

Won’t it be too late” Coral squinted up at the sun wishing it were lower in the sky.

“Don’t you want to go” she asked as if noticing her lack of enthusiasm for the first time.

“It’s not that” she licked her lips “I’m just I don’t like water.”

“You’re joking right” she laughed so hard her side hurt. “You’ve been living on the water for weeks now.”

“That’s different” she cried “we’re attached to the ground.” Nodding towards the ocean “it’s different out there.” Shivering she turned away “what if…” she snapped her mouth shut afraid she’d said too much.

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“What if what” Mindy demanded. Her eyes caught the title of a local gossip magazine. “You don’t believe in that garbage do you? It’s an old wives tail. Nothing more.”

“I believe something’s out there” she admitted “maybe not a monster but a large sea creature yes.”

“There’s nothing to that story” she huffed “that magazine is nothing more than sensationalism for tourists.”

“What do you think happened to the people that were interviewed for the article” Coral asked not willing to let it go.

“I don’t know” she shrugged “maybe their imaginations got the better of them or the money they were paid to tell these stories. Besides, I’ve been out there plenty of times and haven’t seen anything. We’ll be safe. You trust me, right?”

Nodding “okay I’ll go but you’ve got to promise me that we’ll leave if anything weird happens.”

“I promise” she chuckled pulling the girl close “don’t worry so much.”

Chapter 32 – Receiving Advice /

Glitter – Chapter 22 – Crossroads

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Kaia approached the clothing rack where Aubrey was working to organize. It was a slow day. A small rush in the morning followed by clean up. They were short handed with Unity in the hospital and Temperance gone. Having both girls absent had put Mindy in a bad mood. “Do you think they’ll come back” she asked her friend.

Aubrey looked up a momentary look of confusion on her face. “Unity wants to return when she’s better. I don’t know if Temperance will be allowed to.” Her eyes moved upwards where they both knew Mindy was working.

Rubbing her arms Kaia nodding “I’ve never seen Mindy this upset before.”

Shrugging Aubrey mumbled “I have. It’s not pretty.”

Giving her a curious look Karen asked “really? How come?”

“It was…”

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“Is this a private meeting” a familiar bubbly voice asked “or can anyone join?”

“Oh hi Olivia” Aubrey stammered almost dropping the garment she’d been putting back into the rack.

“We were just discussing work stuff” Kaia explained moving away trying to give her friend some privacy.

“Just as long as you’re not trying to steal my girl” Olivia warned in what was meant to be a teasing tone but was anything bu.

“You’re girl” Aubrey questioned glancing towards Kaia clearly asking for help. “We only ever went out once…”

“And you’re going to a party with me tomorrow night” Olivia stated. “Which is why I’m here” she looked at the rack of clothing “I need a new outfit.”

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Kaia stepped forward “I can help you with that. What are you looking for…”

“Nothing you have to show me” she wrinkled her nose at the girl. “Aubrey is the only one who can help me.”

“It’s not my turn” she stammered “besides I need to organize this rack.”

Grabbing the garment from her hands Olivia tossed it at Kaia. “She can do that” taking Aubrey’s hand she pulled her away “the customer is always right and I’m the customer.”

“Err” Aubrey looked back at Kaia unsure what to do.

“Go” Kaia urged “I’ll cover for you.”

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Nodding Aubrey turned her attention to Olivia. “We have some new outfits over here.”

“Nope” she turned her nose up at them in disgust. “None of those will work” looking towards the stairs “what do you have up there?”

“That area is off limits today” Aubrey hurried to block her. “Mindy is working on a new design not ready for display yet.”

“Sounds like something I need” Olivia said pushing her way past the girl.

“You can’t go up there” she cried desperate to stop the girl. “You’re going to get me fired.”

“Oh” the girl’s eyes lit up “that sounds like a good thing. Then you’d be available whenever I wanted you.”

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“Please don’t go up there” Aubrey pleaded as the girl took several steps up. “I’ll do anything.”

“Anything” Olivia asked coming down a couple steps “You’ll come with me to the party tomorrow night?”

“I can’t” she shook her head “it’s a school night. My parents.”

“It’s either that or I” she looked up the stairs her intent clear.

“Fine” she resigned herself “I’ll think of something.”

Clapping her hands Olivia giggled like a delighted little girl. Walking past Aubrey she whispered “wear something provocative.”

***

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“This is what I get for hiring teenagers” Mindy huffed upon seeing Aubrey’s ineffectual attempts to keep the customer from coming up the stairs and into the VIP area.

Coral frowned “I don’t think it was Aubrey’s fault. That girl was obviously up to no good.”

“You’re too soft” Mindy retorted tossing her scissors onto her work table.

“I’m not” she objected getting and placing her hands on Mindy’s shoulder’s massaging them. “You’re working too hard trying to run the store with so few employees not to mention designing. You need a break.”

“I can’t afford to take a break” she protested as she moaned as Coral’s fingers dug into tense muscles. “I have too much to do and deadline to meet.”

Kissing the back of her neck Coral asked “didn’t you tell me once that you work better when you’ve taken time out to do something out of the norm?”

Sighing Mindy stepped away. “I wish I could. I just don’t see how I can.” Crossing her arms she walked towards the mannequin wearing the design she just couldn’t get right.”

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“You could if…” Coral bit her bottom lip. When the other woman turned to glare at her she added “I have an idea. One I know you’re not going to like.”

Mindy rolled her eyes “I already don’t like it and I haven’t even heard it.”

“Forget it then” Coral said moving towards the chair she’d left her tablet at.

“Alright tell me” Mindy huffed.

“Promise not to yell” she requested unsure she should continue or not. She knew how demanding Mindy could be regarding work and the store.

“I’m already grumpy. You may as well tell me” she said watching the girl closely. She had yet to convince her to wear anything more fashionable than her frumpy sweatshirt.

“Close the store….”

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“Absolutely not” Mindy all but shouted at her.

“You said you wouldn’t yell” Coral pulled her knees into her chest where she sat her tablet laying forgotten on her lap.

“I can’t close the store” she protested.

“Why not” she cried “is making money the only thing that matters to you? The girls are wore out. You’re wore out. I’m tired of being your doormat.”

“My what” Mindy asked astonished.

“You heard me. You just take your frustrations out on me…”

“I don’t” she humphed at a loss for words. After a moment or two of silence she asked “have I really gotten that bad?”

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“Yes” Coral nodded “you need a break. We all do. Your work is suffering.”

Glancing at her mediocre designs. “You’re right. It’s not the money” Mindy explained “I just don’t know how to just relax. All I know how to do is work.”

“Well” Coral smiled unfolding herself from the chair. “I can help you with that.”

A smile tugged at her lips “your the best thing that has happened to me this summer.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment although the summer has just begun” standing up she joined Mindy as her work station. “Let’s take a look at the books and see where we can cut some hours.”

“Alright” she agreed on a sigh.

***

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“Are you going to the party tomorrow night” Keli asked as she flipped through the channels on the big screen TV.

“No way” Dante said “I know what happens at those parties.”

“Come on. It’ll be fun” Keli cajoled.

“Don’t tell me you’re into those kinds of parties” he frowned into the phone he was speaking into. “It’s bad enough seeing my brother come home wasted.”

“Not everyone does drugs although I don’t see the harm in it” shrugging she sat up to yell at at her bratty little brother. “Tristan get out of my room. You know you’re not supposed to be in here.”

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“You should be nicer to him” Dante said wincing at the way she talked to the kid.

“Why” she demanded “he isn’t nice to me.”

“Maybe he would be if you were nice to him” he suggested knowing he was wasting his time.

“You’re not my father” she retorted “if the little brat stayed out of my room we’d get along fine.”

“He just wants attention” Dante attempted again “he misses his mom.”

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“So” she demanded.

“Nevermind” he sighed knowing it was pointless.

“Ugh” she cried “you think I should play nursemaid to him.”

“No” he denied “I think you should just be nice to him.”

“I’m not the brat’s mother” she growled “besides Dad will take care of it. He’s dating someone so I have no doubt wife number three is just around the corner.”

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Dante shivered. As much as he didn’t like his new stepmom he hoped he wasn’t that mean. He just wished his dad had told them he was getting married. “Do you think Micah is going to those parties because he wants to get back at my dad for marrying Cassidy?”

“What” she grunted not really listening. “I thought we were talking about my bratty brother not yours.”

“We never not talk about him” he shook his head wondering why he was even dating her. She was pretty but she wasn’t the most caring person in the world. Things tended to be one sided in their relationship.

“Sounds like a conversation you should have with him not me” she scolded throwing a book across the room at her brother. “We should send all bratty brothers to Siberia or something.”

“I should probably let you go” he said knowing he wasn’t going to get any help from her.

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“So you’ll come to the party tomorrow” she asked going back to the original question.

“No I think I’ll pass” he said.

“You don’t know what you’ll be missing” she said getting up to slam her bedroom door shut.

“I think I do” he smirked “a big headache.”

“Your loss” she said obviously unconcerned with his opinion.

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Dante lay on his bed staring at the ceiling. He wasn’t any wiser than he was before. He wondered what he saw in her other than she knew how to make him feel good. They didn’t have anything else in common. He didn’t like the idea of going back to being the invisible kid at school but he didn’t want to keep seeing her either.

Thinking of his brother he wondered if he should tell their dad he suspected Micah of doing drugs. Maybe he should wait and give him a pass this time. See what happens. Like Keli said not everyone did drugs at those parties. Plus he’s going out with London. She was the last person who’d ever do drugs.

His decision made he rolled over and fell asleep.

***

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Tristan scurried beneath his bed just as Keli stomped into his room. “Come out from beneath there” she demanded.

Giggling he pressed himself tight against the wall where he knew she couldn’t reach him to drag him out.

“Ugh” she screamed “don’t ever come into my room again.”

“I’ll do whatever I want” he taunted from beneath the safety of the bed “or I’ll tell daddy what you and Dante do when he’s not home.”

“You wouldn’t dare” she growled her hands clenched in fists.

“Maybe” he said “depends on what you’ll give me to keep me quiet.”

“You’ve been talking Maura again haven’t you” she asked.

“She has good ideas” he giggled again “what’s it worth to you?”

Sitting on his bed she asked “what do you want? A new toy? Video game? What?” She had money saved up to buy a new outfit for the summer forma but at the rate she was going she may have to go with a used one.

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Standing she walked to the door. “You better make up your mind before I walk out this door.

“A new game” he shouted “you know the one.”

“Yeah I know. The one dad said would give you nightmares.”

“Yeah that one” she stuck his face out from beneath the bed ready to duck back without hesitation if she came close to him. “Maura said it’s great!”

She hesitated a moment a flicker of concern for her bratty little brother crossed her mind then it was gone. “Don’t come running to me when you wake up in the middle of the night from bad dreams.”

“I won’t” he promised. The both knew he would but that was a discussion to be had later.

Once she left he hurried from beneath the bed. Pulling his phone out he called the familiar number. “It worked” he said grinning like he’d just won an award.

“See I told you it’d work” she gloated.

“I guess” he sighed.

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“What’s wrong” she asked “isn’t this what you wanted?”

“Yeah but” he sat on the floor “it doesn’t feel right somehow.”

“Trust me that’ll pass” Maura assured him with a knowing air.

“I don’t know…”

“You said she’d get into a lot of trouble if your dad ever found out what she and Dante do together, right?”

“Yeah” was his unconvinced response.

“You’re doing her a favor” Maura said “she won’t get in trouble and you get the game you want.”

“I heard something tonight” he said unsure if he should tell her.

“About someone we all know” she asked eagerly.

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“Do you know Dante’s brother” he asked.

“Not really” frowning she thought for a moment. “He goes to those parties Olivia organizes.”

“So you know about the party” he asked disappointed that he wasn’t about to share something new and interesting.

“Everybody who’s anybody knows about the party” she said.

“Did you know they do drugs at these parties” he wanted to know. “Drugs make people do bad things. Some even die.”

Not these drugs” she assured him “these are drugs doctors give people to take. They’re safe.”

“How do you know they’re safe” he asked remembering his dad talking about side effects and overdoses.

“Olivia says they don’t do any drugs that’ll hurt you. My sister knows. She knows everything.”

Tristan frowned but decided to let it slide. He didn’t know anything about drugs so he didn’t know if that were true or not.

Chapter 21 – Crossroads / Chapter 23 – Must be Nice

Glitter – Chapter 13 – Unique

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It felt like a million hands reaching for him taking the child from his weakening grasp. Falling to his knees he watched someone perform CPR on the toddler. The blonde woman was stroking the boy’s wet hair back. Staggering to his feet he approached the group. “How is he” he asked between gasps. His chest still labored to draw in enough oxygen to breathe.

His question went unanswered until the crowd around the boy erupted in applause. “What’s happening” he asked someone standing next to him.

Turning with moist sad eyes the older woman replied. “The dear little darling…”

Panic rose inside him. He’d been too late. He failed. So lost in his thoughts he didn’t notice the crowd thin around him. He saw the blonde woman cradling her son in her arms. The child’s eyes were mercifully closed. He was about to leave when his eyes met hers.

“Thank you” she murmured holding her hand out to him. “You saved my little boy’s life.”

“I’m sorry” he said locked inside his own thoughts.

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“Sorry” she frowned moving aside for the paramedics who just arrived on scene.”For what?”

“I tried” he stammered puzzled watching the paramedics.

“You did more than try” she hugged him.

“Oof” his meager air supply whooshed from him. Blinking he tried to clear his vision from the black dots dancing in front of him. “He’s alright” he said shocked “I thought he was…” He didn’t finish his thought as his body decided it was a good time to turn to jelly. He felt himself falling forwards. The blonde woman reached for him but her hands slid along his arms doing little to keep him upright.

Several minutes later he came to inside the ambulance. An oxygen mask firmy covering his nose and mouth. It wasn’t all bad when his eyes found the pretty blonde smiling down at him like beautiful angel. “You must think I’m an idiot” he mumbled attempting to remove the mask and sit up.

She gently touched his hand stilling it “leave that alone” she ordered.

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Laying back he closed his eyes only to open them with a jerk at the sound of a little boy asking “mama?” Castel watched as the blonde turned lifting a small boy into her lap.

“Mama’s right here sweetheart” she squeezed the child in her arms. “That’s the man who save you” she explained with a smile.

Her smile warmed him from the inside out. Castel watched as the little boy whispered something in his mother’s ear.

“He wants to know if you’ll come to our house” she said her eyes hopeful.

Castel was silent considering the invitation. Lifting the oxygen mask he said “it depends.”

“On” she asked raising an eyebrow at him.

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“If you tell me your name” he gave her his most charming grin. “I was told to never talk to strangers.”

“I’m Edelle Bennett” she said “and this is my son. Will you come to dinner Saturday night?”

“I’d love to” he grinned lying back wondering what fate had in store for him.

“Good” she grinned back at him. “Now put that mask back on. Can’t let my hero faint again now can I?”

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“I didn’t faint” he protested.

“What do you call falling on your face” she asked with a giggle.

“I was overcome by your beauty” he said.

“That has to be one of the cheesiest things I’ve ever heard” she laughed. “Now up that mask back on before you say something else that’ll make me regret inviting you to dinner.”

“Yes ma’am” he said complying to her wishes.

***

515

Prisha pointed at the paper “and you wonder why I don’t like it when you bring Neel to the beach with you.”

Ajay glanced at the paper. He was aware of the story of the near drowning of a two year old toddler. “The mother admitted to turning her back on the child. He wandered off. The beach isn’t dangerous.”

“What if Neel wanders off” she pressed her lips together forming a thin hard line. “You can’t tell me you watch him every second of every minute.”

“Of course not” he took a sip of his coffee “but there’s no reason to assume that Neel will do the same thing that other little boy did. Neel has been taught not to go into the water without someone being with him. Plus he knows how to swim.”

“Tell me what your son is doing right now” she challenged.

“He’s playing with his blocks” he smirked knowing he was right by the slight widening of his wife’s dark eyes. They expressed her surprise. “Don’t you trust me” he asked.

“It’s not a matter of trust” she mumbled “things happen so quickly.”

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“No more here than at the beach” he reached across the table taking her hand. “Remember when Kaia wandered off at Neel’s age?”

Nodding she gave him a stiff lipped smile. “I was so scared she’d get run over. She was so little and fearless…”

“I know” he said softly “I share your concerns but we can’t lock our kids in the house either.”

“I know” she squeezed his hand “I do trust you. I just worry. He’s so little.”

“I worry too” he said getting up and planting a kiss on top of her head.

“Will Kaia be there” Prisha asked watching him as he gathered his things.

“I think she has to work” he looked up “I’ll probably see her and her friends this afternoon.”

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“Do you know if her friend has mentioned anything about her nosebleeds to her parents yet” she inquired.

Ajay gave her a blank look “um.”

“Unity” she prompted.

“Oh her” he shook his head mystified “I doubt it.”

“Do you think we should mention it” she asked “I keep thinking if it were my daughter I’d want someone to tell me if they thought something was wrong.”

Raising an eyebrow at her he just stared at her. They both knew that wasn’t true. She’d be upset if someone hinted that she didn’t know something like that about her kids. “I think we should mind our own business” he could tell that wasn’t what Prisha wanted to hear either. “If you’re that concerned I’ll mention it to Kaia again when I see her.”

Nodding she got up to retrieve her purse. “Be sure to keep on eye on Neel.”

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“I will” he promised “he’ll do no unauthorized swimming.”

She tried not to laugh but she could only refrain for so long “that was so lame.”

“but you still smiled” he gloated wrapping his arms around her trim waist.

“When will you grow up” she complained.

“Do you really want me to” he asked waggling an eyebrow at her.

“Just once I’d like to know what it feels lit to be married to a stuffy old man” she pushed away from him. Walking towards the door she paused “I’ll pick up Chinese on my way home for dinner.”

He nodded watching her leave with a smile before he leaned down to pick up Neel to go to the beach.

***

510

Kaia nudged Aubrey forward. “Go” she urged.

“She’s your customer” she objected.

“Not anymore” Kaia pushed her friend forward “you’ll thank me later.”

“Oh hi” Olivia greeted when she recognized Aubrey. “I didn’t know you worked here.”

“Err” she choked trying to find something to say “yeah I do.” Glancing over her shoulder she tried to ignore the thumbs up sign Kaia gave her. “Can I help you” she defaulted to the well rehearsed lines she was supposed to say to their customers.

“I’m really just looking” she said pulling a shirt off the rack. “What do you think” she held the orange floral top up to her neck.

“No” Aubrey shook her head. Walking to another rack she pulled out a more subtle burnt orange. “This is more you I think.”

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“Hmm not bad” the girl agreed “do you have it in yellow?”

“Yellow” Aubrey thought for a moment “not in this style.”

“Oh” the girl’s bottom lip pushed out “I really wanted something to brighten my wardrobe.” Walking to another rack she pulled out a bright yellow shirt out. “That the right color but the wrong style.”

“Mindy just finished a new line. I’m sure it’s something you’ll like. The style is fun and flirty. Its upstairs thought.” Aubrey turned to lead the way to the second floor.

Following her Olivia looked around the second in wonder. “Wow this is so cool.”

“You haven’t been up here before” Aubrey asked. “The best stuff is up here. At least the newest creations.”

“Well” Olivia bit her bottom lip “others have offered but I was kind of hoping that you would be the one to bring me up here.”

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“Um” Aubrey looked around somewhat confused “I thought you…um.” She stopped before she could be accused of criticizing a potential client. “I can’t let you go any further then this area. The rest is off limits to unauthorized personnel.” She hesitated unsure what the girl’s intentions were “I’ll go get the shirt. I’m sure you’ll like it.”

Walking towards the display rack she could feel Olivia’s eyes on her the whole way. Taking several deep breaths while she searched for the garment she wanted. Her hands shook as she removed it from its place.

“Oh that is lovely” Olivia clapped her hands squealing excitedly.

“You haven’t even tried it on yet” Aubrey pointed towards a door “the changing room is over there.”

“No need” Olivia giggled taking the shirt from the hanger to hold it up to her chest. “I know it’s perfect.”

“You really should try it on” Aubrey urged “there are no returns once you purchase…”

“Oh I know” the girl winked at her pulling the shirt she was wearing over her head and tossing it to the floor.

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“You can’t undress here” Aubrey cried attempting to push the girl towards the dressing room. “Someone could come up here.”

“No they won’t” Olivia protested “I timed it just right so that it’ll be right before closing time. Besides what’s the difference if I’m in my bra or a bikini top?”

“There’s a big difference” Aubrey insisted.

Ignoring her Olivia twirled around “how does it look” she asked.

Reluctantly Aubrey appraised the girl smiling in front her. Grudgingly she said “it looks good.” She had to admit the material of the shirt hugged the girls curves just right.

“Good. I’ll take it” she said walking confidently towards the stairs. “You can ring me up now.”

Shaking her head Aubrey picked up the girls discarded clothing and followed her down to the tills. “Mindy” she gulped upon finding her boss standing beside the registers.

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“It’s past closing time” she said with an impatient wave of her hand.

“I…um just need to ring her order up” Aubrey stammered. She wondered how she was going to do that with the girl inside the garment.

“I’m sorry for holding you up” Olivia said sounding sweet as honey. “I couldn’t make up my mind. I just needed a new outfit for my date tonight.”

“Is that why you’re wearing it before you’ve purchased it” Mindy asked her tone not disguising her displeasure.

“I couldn’t be bothered to change once I put this wonderful shirt on. It felt so nice against my skin. Anything else would be a disappointment.”

The girl knew how to schmooze Aubrey thought while trying not to giggle.

Reluctantly Mindy smiled “hurry up so I can close.”

***

530

Castel stood outside Edelle’s house. He carried a bottle of wine in one hand and a stuffed bear in the other. He felt a little silly but somehow the boy had gotten inside his heart. He kept telling himself that it was because the mother was super hot but the truth was he’d spent way more time picking out the bear then he did the wine.

The door opened before he was able to knock. “I see you were able to make it” she greeted him with a peck on the cheek “Avery will love the bear.”

“I hope so” he grinned glad he had taken the time. “You wouldn’t believe how long it took me to choose this bear.”

She gave him a knowing grin but before she could say anything a high pitched excited voice interrupted her. “Ako man” Avery cried running up to Castel throwing his arms around his legs.

“Ako man” he raised his eyebrows at Edelle.

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“That’s your new name” she said patting her son’s soft curls. “He’s been asking for you everyday since the beach incident.”

“I’ve been called worse” Castel said handing her the wine.

“Thank you” she smiled “we may have to save this for another time. My cousin brought wine as well.”

“Cousin” he asked trying to keep his disappointment from showing.

Ushering him inside she waved a hand towards a couple in the living room. “This is my cousin Lee and his fiance Fawn.”

Fawn’s eyes grew wide like she somehow recognized him “I have to know. Are you related to the Hurst’s of Bridgeport?”

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“Um” his eyes darted around the room. No matter how old he got he still had a difficult time admitting who his family was. But one thing he learned from being with Blair if he wanted a relationship he had to be honest. Taking a deep breath he nodded mumbling “they’re my parents.” He didn’t miss the way Lee’s eyes brightened at that bit of information. It was like he just rose several rungs on a some invisible ladder just because of who his parents were.

“Weren’t you engaged to Blair Gray at one time” Fawn continued displaying her deplorable tabloid knowledge.

“Yes” he kept his answer curt hoping she’d drop the topic soon.

“Is it true she dumped you to get with Bentley Adams” she continued to ask questions like she didn’t think he had any feelings at all. At least that’s the impression he got from the interrogation.

“I’m sure he doesn’t want to discuss his ex” Edelle said coming to his rescue.

“If you ask me it’s his ex who made the wrong the choice” Lee observed pouring wine into a glass for Castel.

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“It wasn’t Blair’s fault that things ended the way they did” Castel murmured taking a sip from the wine.

“Castel would you mind helping me in the kitchen” Edelle asked taking him by the arm.

“Sure” he smiled down at her.

Entering the kitchen Edelle said “don’t let Lee get to you. He likes to talk and pretend he’s more important than he is.” She handed him some tongs “will you toss the salad for me?”

Taking the tongs he began to toss the salad. “He brought up a few bad memories” he admitted finding her easy to talk to. “I wasn’t honest with Blair and it created a barrier between us when things came to light and instead of explaining why I became angry saying and doing things that repelled her.”

She leaned her head to the side considering his words “sounds like you learned a few things from that experience.”

531

“I hope so” he grinned at her “I still find it difficult to see their smiling faces from the tabloids as I stand in line at the store.”

“Oh dear” she shook her head “then you meet Fawn. I swear that girl must memorize every word she reads from those magazines.” She covered her mouth giggling “I’m sorry. I honestly didn’t know she’d do that. They’re really not that bad. I promise.”

“You owe me big time” he teased.

“I’ll let you take me out to supper next time” she said.

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“How’s that paying me back for my pain and suffering” he asked.

“You do want to take me out on a date don’t you? Just the two of us” she asked stepping closer batting her eyelashes at him.

“Put like that how can I say no” he asked going back to tossing the salad.

“You can’t. You may as well quit trying” she nudged his shoulder with hers exchanging smiles before going back to work.

Chapter 12 – Energized / Chapter 14 – Rare Expressions

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.

393

“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.”

***

388

“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.”

***

384

“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.”

***

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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