Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chapter Fourteen, Part One

Just a note: see my tab at the top labeled "editorial notes."  I'll be posting any changes I make there and will be sure to tell you when I do. I've got one listed there now.

Sorry about the spacing on this one- the site keeps messing me up.


Dan tossed the tube of ointment onto the nightstand and folded his arms.  His sister, sitting up on the bed and scowling at him with all the indignation of a two-year-old who couldn’t get her way, mirrored his stance.

“Dan, stop fussing over me, OK?  I’m fine!  If I find any boils, I’ll let you know.”

“You didn’t find the one on your arm- the nurse pointed it out as I recall.”

“And your point is?  The thing wasn’t big enough to draw my attention, so I’d say it was far from dangerous.”

“What you’re saying is that you’d rather wait until a really dangerous one develops and then call for help? Is that it, Allie?”

“No…just..Ugh, would just let me rest?”  She fell back on her stack of fluffy pillows, her elbow resting over her eyes reminding him of the position Rose had taken when she’d been awakened Saturday morning.

Only Allie wasn’t near as healthy looking as Rose.  She needed more fattening up as well as an alternative to the antibiotics, because antibiotics were quickly losing the war against the superbugs.

He checked his watch and reached for the roll of Tums in his pocket. These past three days had been a nightmare. Just when he’d thought Allie was on the mend, they’d found another spot on her arm.  Not only that, but he could have wound up losing his job if news of his late night visit to Rose’s ever reached the principal.

Thank God Kaye seemed to believe his side of the story- Rebekah had gotten drunk and phoned her teacher, falling asleep on the line so that he was forced to ride out to their house to awaken her mother.  God only knows what Rose could have done to herself and he doubted she’d been completely honest with anyone.

One common ground shared by Allie and Rebekah- they were both stubborn.
But Allie had never managed to slug any of her tormenters as Rose had done today in the hall.

That was the problem. Allie never fought hard enough. She hadn’t even finished the chicken salad sitting on the bedside tray.

“Allison, eat your dinner.  If I come back here and find this damned plate still full, I swear-“

"Don’t cuss at me!” She removed her arm from over her eyes.  “You’re not my father, so stop acting like it!”

“Dad never treated you the way he should, so who else was going to do it?  Who’s going to do it now, when you’ve retreated into this…space?”

She looked at him as though he’d just slapped her.  “I don’t know what you mean, but would you please leave me alone?”

“Fat chance, woman, I’ll be back.”  While relieved some of her spunk had returned, he was a bit surprised by her snotty remarks.  Allie usually fought with a soft touch.

“Stay gone.  Fantasize over that girl or whatever you want to do, but just-”

Dan whirled to face her again, her comment lingering in the air like a clap of thunder.  “What did you say?”

Allie, sitting up slowly and allowing her hair to fall over her shoulder, blinked dumfoundedly.  “Sheesh…” Swiping the back of her hand along her forehead, she added gently, “I’m sorry, Dan. I wasn’t thinking right.”

He stammered.  “Allie, I told you…nothing’s going to happen with her.”

“I know that, I know.”

“She’s still a kid in a lot of ways, and-”

Allie produced the same screwed-up look she’d given when he’d tried to serve her tofu casserole. 

Apparently she’d begun to worry about him, even though he’d already spent at least fifteen minutes explaining the situation to her:  he’d been amazed by Rose’s appearance and felt a bit concerned and curious about her- that was it.

Allie scooted toward the tray of food and began picking at the lettuce and the chicken with her fork.  She shrugged and the shoulder of her loose-fitting, pink sweater slid down her skeletal arm, managing to draw a cringe from him in his state of disbelief.

“She doesn’t look like a kid, Dan.” Peeking at him without raising her head, she added, “I’m sure you have to remind yourself.”

Dan pursed his lips. He’d no intention of discussing this any further with anyone.  He’d screwed up like the biggest imbecile on the planet but he wouldn’t be repeating the mistakes- if in fact they were mistakes.  The Old Dan apparently still dwelt close to the surface and perhaps, at times, took the wheel more than he’d like to admit. His past was filled with scheming, so it made sense he’d occasionally revert to it, whether he was completely aware of it or not.

One would question why, after Rose arrived at school looking like a model, he’d made the flip decision to meet her mother at the bowling alley. True, he’d no intention of making any moves on a student, but he’d hoped she’d show up. In fact, he’d half hoped the girl would call him after he’d given her his card.

God, what is wrong with me?

And then way he’d lusted over her…If he wasn’t bordering on predator status, he didn’t know who was. 

He caught himself shaking his head as he wiped a bit of sweat from his temple, a move which caused Allie to lower her fork.

Now his screw-ups were affecting his sister’s progress.

“Don’t, Allie,” he said sternly.  “I’ve got it under control.”

But she knew his past with beautiful girls.  Probably suspected he couldn’t handle it as much as he thought he could.

“Don’t let Dad’s influence get a hold of you again,” she said.

"I’m not, I told you that.  I’ve stepped back and everything’s fine.”

Though he couldn’t deny the swell of pride he’d felt upon learning that Rose had slugged Brian, nor could he deny wishing he’d been there to watch the gorgeous girl in action.  She may have crumbled afterward- a good sign that her heart was softer than he’d thought- but just imagining the whole thing-

Right now he needed to spend some time in prayer, but the stack of work on his desk continued to call his name.

“Eat up, Allie.  I’ll be back later..”

“Dan?” she said timidly as he began to turn. 

He nodded.

“I’m sorry…really, I am.  I don’t really think you’ll step out of line.”

He didn’t really think he would, either.  After spending Sunday morning in prayer and mentally beating himself for the past few days, he was determined to keep his eyes from roaming. If he could at least master that much, he wouldn’t act on foolish whims.  Of course, in order to act on anything, the opportunity needed to present itself, and he’d make sure it didn’t.

He sulked out of the room, knowing he’d failed to convince his sister of his internal strength, once again failed to set a good Christian example; but standing around feeling sorry for himself wouldn’t help a thing.

He jogged down the stairs, intending to first research some options for Allie on the internet…then head back upstairs to nag her into letting him check her for more wounds.  She didn’t need to remove all of her clothes, but for pete’s sake, someone needed to scan her back and other out-of-sight areas before she wound with a serious infection.

Her weakness seemed to be reclaiming her, no doubt thanks to their mother.  He’d yet to call the woman, but instead had phoned Richard, one of his father’s PI’s who occasionally helped Dan on the side. 

“Nothing’s going on here,” the man had insisted.  “If your mom begged you to come home, my guess is your dad has something to do with it. She seems prissy and on top of things as usual.”

Dan had sighed, his disappointment more than a little acute.  It seemed not even time nor space could extinguish his desire for his mother’s care.  “Thanks, Richard,” he’d said. “Keep an eye on her, though, OK?  Let me know if anything seems out of place.”

“Will do, my man.  You take care.”

With that, they’d hung up.

Dan had just entered his den when he heard Ryan laughing from the basement around the corner. The door stood wide open, so he leaned in to see if anyone had dropped by.

“You seriously punched this dude in the nose?” Ryan laughed again, his shadow dancing across the end of the stairway.

Dan felt deflated and leaned against the nearby wall.  Ryan had called her.

“Man, that must have been painful…do you need some company?”

Rose had been suspended for the remainder of the week and so had Brian, but he doubted she’d want any company.  Not only was she probably ticked at the unfairness of her treatment- again- but she struck him as the kind of girl who only allowed certain people in.  And as to whether Ryan had met the criteria-

“Sure, I can do that.  No, no, not a problem.  I’m there, just give me about an hour, OK?”

Dan frowned into the entryway and then peered down. His brother’s shadow had moved, his voice a little lower as he added, “Yeah, I just need your birth date, I think.  What pharmacy is it?”

Pharmacy?  Dan rolled his eyes as he realized the doctor had probably prescribed a pain pill- not the wisest thing to give a potentially suicidal girl.  She’d put on a good show after they’d awakened her, but he still wasn’t convinced of her stability, especially after today.  The powers that be continued to punish her for standing up for herself and she’d seemed extremely shaken by the fact that she’d once again snapped. 

The powers that be needed a slap in the chops and Rose needed a genuine friend to help her sort through this mess.  God, help him, it was hard not to reach out like he’d done for Allie and Ryan and Denise more times than he could count.  Forget his attraction to her, she needed help, but right now, Ryan seemed to be her only choice.

How could Dan discuss this with his brother without drawing suspicion?  Without giving away the fact that his emotions had begun to tip a little in the wrong direction?

For the life of him, he didn’t understand why they’d begun to tip.

She was a kid.  An eighteen year old with problems that he may have multiplied by allowing his attraction to show. As a matter of fact, he knew he’d added to her heartache. He’d seen the look on her face when he’d told her they needed to keep their distance.

How could he have been such a stinking, clumsy idiot?

He heard Ryan on the stairs and backed into his den, waited a few seconds and then came out. Running his hand through his hair, he stopped just as his brother reached the hallway that lead to the living room.

Wearing his typical, nutcase grin, he announced, “I get to go help the damsel in distress.”

Dan gnawed his inner cheek. “Excuse me?”

“Rebekah Rose.” He wiggled his brows.  “She told me she smashed some guy’s nose today.   She broke a knuckle and needs some medication from the pharmacy, so guess who gets to go pick it up?”

Dan forced his voice steady. “Where’s her mom?”

“Work. She didn’t have time to pick it up.”

“I think you’d better watch Rebekah with those pills.”

Ryan frowned. “Huh?”

“Are they pain pills?”

The kid nodded. “I do believe so, Daniel-San. What else would they prescribe for that?”

“Don’t leave the bottle with her. Give her one and keep the rest.”

“What the heck are you talking about? I’m trying to impress her, and how am I going to do that by acting like her babysitter?”

Ryan still had no clue what had happened the other night, but he supposed it best to fill him in a little. Rose probably would, anyway.

Dan explained how she’d called him drunk and depressed and that he’d paid a visit to her mother afterwards.  “She’s dealing with a lot of BS, Ry, and she doesn’t need anyone feeding her addictions or adding to her problems.”

“You saying I’d do that?”

“Don’t give her any alcohol, Ryan.”

“I’m not, would you relax?  She’s only eighteen, man, I’m not into intoxicating school girls.”

“Yeah, how about bedding her?” He hadn’t been able to stop the question and felt slightly out of line. Though he and Ryan regularly blurted offensive comments toward one another, this time Dan risked piquing his brother’s curiosity.

“Hey- she’s eighteen, I’m twenty. There’s no law agin’ that in these parts, Pilgrim!”

Dan’s head jerked up. “Ryan!”

“I’m not going to do it, I’m just saying.” He grinned. “Don’t worry, this is too early to try and bed her, anyway.  Gotta get to know her better.” With a wink, he turned away and reiterated, “Don’t worry, thou great and powerful Dan Almighty.  I’ve got it all under control!”

“Wait, Ry….”

His brother stalled at the end of the leather loveseat. 

“You be careful out there, man.  Her neighborhood-”

“Yeah, I know.” He waved his hand.  “She told me.  Don’t wait up, Bro.”

Dan listened as he gathered his jacket and left the house, and then stood at the edge of the hall, feeling like he’d just been snowed.  Ryan had barely reacted to the news of Rose’s drunkenness or her midnight call. 

Had he already known?  

He took a breath and turned back to his den. 

Just how the heck did Ryan plan on keeping this situation under control? The kid who hit the snooze button umpteen times every morning, hadn’t found a job because he was happy living off of his inheritance, and lived in a dreamland, thanks to his TV-watching addiction.  How might he influence Rebekah for good? 

Closing a folder filled with graded papers, he sat down in front of the computer and began rubbing his eyes, lamenting the fact that his stress load had just risen another twenty percent. Ryan in that neighborhood- Rose in that neighborhood.  Heck, he’d been tempted to slam twenty thousand dollars on Kaye’s dining room table just so they could find a safer place to live.

Lord, help them, he thought. Help Ryan, keep him safe and make sure he keeps his hands to himself. 

Rose didn’t need more confusion and Ryan needed to learn a thing or two about self control.

But enough of that.

Right now he needed to focus on Allie’s condition and then later he’d call Kelly’s parents.  He’d been distracted too much by Rose and it was time to shift the attention to other troubled kids.

Still, as he typed into the web browser, he glanced at his iPhone, which sat at the edge of his desk. 

No.  No, calling her was out of the question, no matter how concerned he was about the pain pills- or about the fact that she and Ryan would be alone in that little house with the bare walls and a sofa big enough…for just about anything.

Chapter Fourteen, Part Two:


  1. Poor Dan, he really has it bad for Bekah! :)
    I could so feel his words and thoughts in this chapter!

    I'm curious though, as to what is going on with his parents... they seem "trouble".


  2. Hey, Suzie! Dan is attracted to Bekah on the surface, but mostly, like he said, he's curious and his urge to help anyone he's begun to care for is driving him crazy. It's very hard for him not to reach out personally, so this is a serious test for him.

    I guess, I can't say a part of him isn't falling for her- there are certain aspects of her that intrigue him but just wait until later. ;)

    THanks for your comments. :D