Saturday, July 30, 2011

Chapter Fifteen


His beige trench coat flapping in the cool autumn wind and a host of dark clouds swirling overhead, Dan marched toward the front entrance of Karla’s Cakery, prepared to be nauseated by the greasy, sweet smells that fill every slop-selling bakery in the world. As if his day hadn’t been annoying enough- heck, this whole week had been a pain in the butt, starting with his worry over his sister and self-torture over a student.

Monday had begun with low-rumbling thunder, his annoyance with poor study habits gripping him as soon as he’d revisited the grades on the Tess papers.

Kids like Rose could certainly do better. She was smart, so why the blankety-blank wouldn’t she apply herself?

Did people like Brian Cruise enjoy growing cobwebs on their brains while they engaged in immature behavior- like smashing donuts on young women’s heads?

He’d never understood kids like Brian but he wanted to. Despite fully deserving Rose’s punch in the nose…Oh, hell.

Dan pulled the glass door open.

Brian needed a swift kick in the butt, a slam against the wall and a bit of antagonizing.

Then, once he’d been beaten into submission, a good counselor.

But Dan didn’t usually work that way.

His hands in his pockets, he stopped beneath the dangling pumpkins and cardboard cut-outs of cherub-looking children dressed in various costumes. Thank God whoever had decorated this place had abandoned the typical Halloween décor for something more cheerful and innocent. He’d never been a horror fan, so the oodles of coffins, witches and werewolves displayed during this time of year only invoked the feeling of being forced through an endless haunted house.

Many of his fellow Christians deemed this time of year as being Satanic and rightfully so, given the background on the Halloween “holiday,” but most people didn’t celebrate for that reason. He understood the fun behind it, but must he participate in the ridiculous parties and other such nonsense?

He’d been asked to chaperone the school Halloween dance – no doubt because he was young and muscular- and he looked forward to that like he looked forward to a visit with his parents.

OK, so it might have been interesting to hang out with some of the kids, get to know them a little better. It might have been a nice break from sitting at home on the weekends, worrying about Allie; but he’d be subjected to more fake gore, the real horror of the party being the mountains of junk food.

Like the crap sitting inside the glass display case in front of him. Nothing but a bunch of sweet nightmares, guaranteed to eat holes in someone’s teeth and spike their blood sugar to unfathomable levels.

And feed bacteria.

He knew Ryan occasionally slipped stuff like this to Allie and it was all he could do not to go on a psychopathic tirade.
Most people hadn’t a clue how taxing this slop could be on the immune system, especially for someone like Allie.

Very few people understood that eating preposterous amounts of sugar was akin to swallowing slow poison.

Frustrating as hell.

How could anyone sell this stuff, let alone spend so much time making it appear artistic and beautiful? He’d readily admit the cake with the pumpkins and the farmhouse looked enticing. But knowing the main ingredients- lard and powdered sugar- he nearly gagged.


His chirping phone signaled that he’d received a text, so he ripped it from his side pouch. Normally he’d tune out Ryan’s messages at a time like this, but he’d been far too worried about Allie to ignore it.

The message on the screen had nothing to do with Allie, however: Hey, Bro, I’m inviting Rebekah over tonight. Cool with you?

Dan felt like he’d been stuck in a chemist’s tube and covered with a highly reactive chemical to test his volatability. As if he hadn’t been agitated enough, now Ryan wanted to invite Rose to the house.

Somehow his heart managed to flutter and the lump in his throat felt like it would burst through his larynx. Rose in my house, Lord, how can I possibly deal with that right now?

No doubt he’d been worried about her. Hadn’t seen or heard from her since Monday and Ryan refused to grant him any details of their visit, the little punk. He’d a good mind to say “no” just for that reason.

“Can…can I…help you?”

Dan looked up. Across from him, coffee gurgled into empty pots and slightly to the right of that was the entryway to the kitchen. A woman stood there, her long, golden-red spirals nearly identical to Kelly’s, her green eyes equally as striking. But apparently she wasn’t as bold, as she held her white frock closed in front of her and stepped timidly out of the back.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “The girl working lunch shift just left, so I was getting ready to man the front.”

“Not a problem.” Dan tilted his head as she peeked toward a man sitting in a booth by the west windows. The blond in the flannel shirt tossed her a wave and a smile, which she returned.

The woman, most likely Kelly’s older sister and legal guardian, stopped about a foot from the edge of the display case.

“Are you interested in something, or…” She glanced out the east window. “Are you…?”

You haven’t even introduced yourself. How can you possibly handle this, the way you’re feeling today?

“I’m sorry,” he said, extending his hand. “I’m Dan Shields, Kelly’s English teacher. I’m assuming you’re her sister…Grace?”

She nodded, gazing at his hand for several seconds before reaching to shake and then stepping back.

Weird, Dan thought but went on, “It looks like I picked the wrong time to drop in?”

“Well…yes, I guess so. I’m sorry, I didn’t know anyone would be leaving today and thought we could talk.”

“It’s not a problem. If you have help arriving, I can wait a little while.” He fought a grimace because he hadn’t time to linger around this greasy-smelling though undeniably festive-looking joint. But he’d willingly pay for this woman’s classes if she’d learn to make her creations healthier.

“Is…Kelly in some sort of trouble?” she asked.

Dan took a breath, not willing to spew the whole story in front of the other patrons. But looking around, he realized the man by the window was the only one, and he’d begun writing furiously into a black leather notebook.

Turning to the Grace, he found her green eyes a deeper color than they’d appeared at first, yet enhanced by the light eyeliner that framed them. Her complexion was smooth and fair and he liked the way her full hair framed her oval face.

She stepped back as though uncomfortable with his gaze and he cleared his throat.

“There have been some issues,” Dan confessed and she clutched her frock more tightly in front of her. “But we can talk about it later, when you’re able to sit down.”

Rubbing her arms as though standing in a chill, she nodded choppily and glanced at the other man worriedly. “I’ll be back,” she said and disappeared into the kitchen.

Dan withheld a grumble. Allie had made him promise to take her to the mall today and he’d much rather have been tending to her needs and desires than sitting here.

If Kelly hadn’t been such a problem student- a flirt and a bully with average grades- he wouldn’t have even needed to make this trip.

He supposed he could have settled for phone conversations but had found it difficult to discuss in depth problems that way. Across the table seemed a much better way to handle it, because body language spoke volumes about the kids’ situations. If the parents slumped in their seats and stared out the window during a meeting, as was the case with
Bryson’s parents, Dan wondered if they even gave a big flip about their kids’ issues.

However, he could already tell that Grace cared. So did Kaye. Both women were a blessing in that regard.

He slid down and seated himself at the empty counter and glanced at his watch.

His phone chirped again and he suddenly wished he’d brought his Tums. Did this place sell anything remotely healthy, like herbal teas?

Wincing, he peeked down at his iPhone screen and read: Come on, Dan, she’ll only be here for a couple of hours. I want to take her to a movie tonight.

Ryan and Rose, sitting in a dark theater. How comfy and convenient.

How had Ryan managed to snag Rose’s interest? He couldn’t help wondering if it ultimately had something to do with Dan, and that raised concerns for Ryan’s emotional well-being. He doubted she’d purposely mess with his heart, but who knew? He’d believed her side of the Towers story almost without question, a sure sign that his brains had dropped below his belt. Pretty girls like her always had been one of his weaknesses and that needed to change.

That’s not the only reason you believed her- stop being so hard on yourself.

His jaws taut, he positioned his thick finger over the tiny keyboard and glanced toward the kitchen. Grace had no reason to spy on him and the flannel-wearing blond to his right had traded writing for traffic-watching.

Slowly, Dan typed: Not sure that’s a good idea.

Why hadn’t he been able to type an outright “NO!” He should have, for the love of all things sacred, and knowing Ryan
he’d take a mile with that proverbial inch.

A few moments later, Ryan returned: It’s not like she’s coming to visit you. Just remain scarce, Dan my man.

Not like she’s coming to visit you.

The tips of his fingers sank gently into his left temple and he wished Grace would at least bless him with a glass of ice water. What was taking her so long?

Why wouldn’t the drama ever end?

After sitting with his eyes closed a few more seconds, he once again placed his hand in position to write a text. The “no” would have been easy to type. Just an N and an O, but that didn’t mean Ryan would comply. Despite Dan’s reply, the kid would do whatever the heck he felt like doing.

For that reason, Dan sighed and typed: Fine. I’ll try to stay scarce.

As soon as he sent the message, he leaned back in the squeaky swivel chair, frowning as the screen faded to black.

Rose in his house.

What would she wear? How easy would it be to keep his distance, knowing she was right around the corner and doing
God only knew what with Ryan? And how could he resist lecturing her further about her grades?

Her grades? Dan snorted quietly.

“Can I get you some coffee or something?”

Dan raised his head. Grace had returned, having pulled her hair back to reveal the full beauty of her face. She’d tied her frock around her white cotton dress, showing off a somewhat chunky, hourglass figure.

Looking at her, Dan could almost forget that she sold garbage for a living.

Chapter Sixteen:


  1. Oh, Dan! :(

    I hope this whole nervousness, agitation as you correctly called it, will not cause a complete melt down for him.

    Are we gonna se more of Grace or was it an honest randon moment of appreciation from a man to woman?

    I'm a little worried about how he will react to the news of a possible relationship between Ryan and Bekah. I see some major angst coming!


  2. Heya. Mostly all your detecting is just a really bad day when everything is annoying him more than usual. But yes there is major angst coming. :) lol

    As for Grace- we'll be seeing more of her. ;)

    Thanks again for your comments.

  3. Ah, I don't want to see more Grace! Dan needs to keep going after Bekah and get jealous when she's with Ryan! I don't want Grace to get in the way, ah :-(

  4. Don't worry too much. ;) I don't want to give too much away but I think you'll wind up loving the way things work out.