Excerpt for Young Lovers by , available in its entirety at Smashwords




FAMILY

FOREVER


YOUNG LOVERS

BOOK II


Tamara Miller


Smashwords Edition


ISBN: 9780463268513



FAMILY FOREVER



Book 1 – In The Beginning

Book 2 – Young Lovers

Book 3 – Betrayal Blessings

Book 4 – Tragedy, Tears, and Trust

Book 5 – Decisions


This book is a work of fiction. References to real people, events, establishments, organizations, or locales are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity and are used fictitiously. All characters and incidents and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real.


Copyright 2018 Tamara Miller

All rights reserved.


This eBook is intended for your personal enjoyment. It may not be resold or given to other people. Please respect the rights of the author.


DEDICATION

To my top Kickstarter Backers

Anna Graeber

Lauren and Scott Hendrix

Sally Crebs

Barbara Bass

Carol Bennett

Bonnie Cummins

Darriana Davis

Darren Davis

Mindy Davis

Vern Fix

Betsy Garman

Cory Miller

Lynette Morgan

Tonya and Ryan Sweeney

Gary & Gwen Williams


PROLOGUE


Isla Whitman was sitting at her kitchen table in her breakfast nook, like she did every morning, eating cinnamon toast and drinking a cup of coffee. She got up to adjust the window blinds because the sun was especially bright that day.

As she pulled the cord to lower the blinds, she saw the Franklin sisters sitting on their front porch across the street. Isla stuck her tongue out at them. That was a stupid thing to do, she thought afterward. But they're such busybodies. She remembered seeing them gawking out their front window the day the police came to get her so she could identify her husband’s body, which had been found hanging from a tree in Upland. I saw their mouths fall open so far a fly could have gone straight down their throats, and they could have choked to death. Shame on me for thinking such a horrible thing.

As she turned to go back to her chair, out of the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of the duplex just two doors over, where her daughter Franny and Franny’s husband Harry started their life together. It was also the place where her twin granddaughters, Emma and Jani lived after they had been born. Those sweet girls are my reason for living. They give me a purpose in life.

What was Franny thinking, turning her back on those precious darlings and running off with another man? Thank goodness Harry loved her enough to take her back. What would have happened to our family if he had not forgiven her? I love those two girls like they are my own.

Isla sat back down at her table, quietly sipping her coffee, and remembering the two times after her daughter’s marriage that Franny and the twins had lived with her. After Harry was drafted into the Army, Franny and the twins had moved home with Isla and lived with her for two years. Then there was the time Franny took off with that other man. Harry was devastated and concerned about the welfare of the twins. The girls came to live with Isla, and during the couple’s reconciliation period, Franny lived there, too.

She remembered making all the twins school clothes and their costumes for their dance recitals. As the girls grew older, it was easier to tell them apart. They are both tall, but Jani’s hair is darker and she always wears it in a ponytail. Isla thought about how much she enjoys makingtheir formals for their school dances. I suppose next I’ll be making their wedding dresses, she thought with a smile.

Thinking a moment about the twins’ boyfriends, I don’t think Nate is the right one for Jani. He’s not much taller than her but he’s nice looking and very quiet. I haven’t made up my mind about Emma’s beau Brad. He’s tall, handsome, and very personable.

Her mind drifted back to her own first love, Jonathan, Franny’s father. I was so much in love with him. I was sure he was the one for me. I was such a young fool. He sure liked to chase the girls. Things were never right between us, especially after the incident with the baby, but he did give me Franny. I can thank him for that.

And then there was Jake. Although I never was in love with him, I thought he would take care of Franny and me. My mother thought so, too; another mistake. I’m happy we moved to Pomona, California, and I had the time with my sister, Amy. I’m glad I was able to take care of her to the end. Isla reached into her apron pocket and pulled out a tissue to wipe the tears that had started to spill down her cheeks.

So many years and my little ones are growing up so fast. I wish I could give them some warning about life’s challenges, but they are going to have to find their own way. I hope they choose their men more carefully than I did. But if they don’t, I’ll be here to hold them tight and love them unconditionally.


YOUNG LOVERS


CHAPTER ONE



Christmas vacation was over, and the twins were back at school. On Saturdays and a few afternoons during the week, Emma taught dancing at a local studio. The rest of the time she worked at the Orange Belt Emporium, a major department store in downtown Pomona. Emma went out with Brad on Saturday night, and they were together all day on Sunday.

Nate picked up Jani after school on the days she didn’t work at the Owl Drug Store. They stopped at Mel’s for a bite to eat and then on to the stables. She made sure she was home before dinner because she didn’t want to be put on restriction.

The girls weren’t allowed to go out on a school night, but Brad called Emma every night and they talked until her father, Harry, finally told her to get off the phone.

One Thursday after work, the phone rang and Jani answered it, “Hello?”

“Hi, it’s Frankie. Is Emma there?”

“Yes, just a minute, I’ll get her,” said Jani as she went to Emma’s room to let her know that Frankie was on the phone.

“Frankie?” Emma said surprised. I hope this is a friendly call, she thought. Our recent breakup didn’t go well. She had been going steady with him for about a year. He was already out of school and he picked her up at the Orange Belt every night she worked. They spend a lot of time together. Emma broke up with him because she wanted to date Brad. Picking up the phone, she said, “Hi. How are you doing?”

“I’m doing fine. Just thought I would let you know that I’ve asked around about your new boyfriend. Do you know he is engaged to someone named Irma?”

There was dead silence on both ends of the phone.

Could it be true? Brad, engaged? she wondered. “You must be mistaken.”

“I don’t think so. If you doubt me, ask him yourself. He’s playing you, Emma.”

“I certainly will. I’ll talk to you later,” she said and hung up.

Jani was listening at the door, waiting to see what Frankie had called about. “Emma, what is it?” She could tell by the look on Emma’s face that she was upset.

“Come on. Let’s go to your room. I don’t want Mom or Dad to hear,” Emma whispered.

Going into Jani’s room, Emma closed the door behind them. “What is it?” Jani asked again.

Emma sat on the edge of Jani’s bed. “Frankie called to tell me that Brad is engaged.”

The room seemed to blur as her eyes filled with tears.

“Oh, no! Maybe it’s a mistake. Maybe he’s just saying that to cause trouble between you and Brad.”

“No. Frankie’s not that kind of person.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to ask Brad when he calls tonight. I feel like such a fool because I was really falling for him.” She sat on the edge of Jani’s bed with her head in her hands. “I think I’m going to be sick to my stomach. I wish Brad would call so we can talk.”

Finally, after dinner, the phone rang. Emma rushed to answer it. “Hello.”

“Hey, what are you doing?” Brad asked.

“Not much. Actually, I was waiting for you to call.”

“Why? Do you miss me already?” he said sounding playful.

Ignoring his question, she said, “I need to ask you something.” Brad was quiet. He could tell by Emma’s tone that she had something serious to say. “Are you engaged?” There was complete silence on the phone. “Well? Are you?” she asked, starting to lose her temper.

“Well,” he hesitated. “No.”

“Why did you hesitate?”

“Well, I was engaged, but we broke up just before New Year’s Eve. I’m not engaged, now.”

“Were you engaged when you came by the house, and we went for a ride?”

Brad hesitated to answer. “Yes, but we hadn’t been getting along. I knew I was going to break up with her. I wasn’t engaged when I saw you at the New Year’s Eve party. That’s why I was at the party with Jimmy.”

“I don’t date boys who are engaged,” Emma said angrily.

“I’m sorry,” Brad sounded regretful. She waited for an explanation. “Emma, I’m not engaged now,” he repeated.

“I don’t believe you. I have to go. Bye,” she said abruptly and hung up. She was feeling sick again. Going to her room, Jani followed closing the door behind them.

“Was that Brad?” asked Jani.

“Yes. He was engaged, but he said he’s not now.”

“Do you believe him?”

“I don’t know,” said Emma. There was uncertainty in her voice.

“Maybe he’s one of those guys that cheat whenever they can.” They both sat on the edge of Emma’s bed in silence. “What do you know about him? He’s from another town and you don’t even know any of his friends,” continued Jani.

“I’m glad I have to go to school and work tomorrow. It’ll take my mind off of him.”

“I think he’s nothing but trouble,” said Jani. “I’m tired and going to bed. If you want to talk some more, let me know.”

It seemed to take forever for Emma to fall asleep. She couldn’t turn off her thoughts. Lesson learned, she thought. Don’t get involved with people you really don’t know. It’s a new year and off to a pathetic start. Get over it.

The school day seemed long, and Emma was eager to get to work. It was the first of the month, and her assignment was to send out customer statements. She was looking forward to operating the elevator at lunch and dinner break, and later she was going to be on the switchboard, a task she always enjoyed.

It was time for the regular switchboard operator to go home and Emma to relieve her. As soon as she sat down, she answered the first call, “Thank you for calling Orange Belt Emporium, how can I help you?” She listened for the caller to ask to be connected to a department or to ask how late they were open, which was the usual request.

“Hi, Emma?” It was Brad

Her stomach did a flip-flop. “Why are you calling me?”

“I really feel bad about not telling you my situation, and I just needed to talk to you again.”

“I don’t think we have anything to talk about.”

“You mean you are never going to talk to me again?”

“I guess that would be a little silly, wouldn’t it?” Emma was smiling. She hated to admit it, but she was glad to hear his voice.

“I hoped we could at least be friends. I really like you. I thought we had fun together, and right now, I’m not engaged.”They talked for quite some time; she put Brad on hold when she answered other calls.

Returning to Brad, she said, “I probably need to go back to Frankie, if he’ll have me. I’m sure your girlfriend will be glad to have you back. This is all too complicated for me.”

“But, I don’t want to get back with her,” said Brad.

“I better go. I don’t want to get in trouble with my boss.”

“Okay. Hope to see you again soon.”

“We’ll see. Bye.”

Shutting down the switchboard at 9:00 p.m., Emma went to the bus stop and sat on the bench waiting for the #8 bus. She was tired and ready to go home. She watched all the cars cruising back and forth and thought she saw Brad’s car coming her way. Her stomach was doing that flip-flop thing again. As his car came closer, she waved. Oh no, he’s with a girl. The girl turned and flashed her middle finger at Emma. Brad almost had a wreck as he jerked the steering wheel while reaching over to grab her hand.

Emma was so embarrassed. There were other people sitting next to her waiting for their bus to arrive. Did they see what that girl did? she wondered. Emma wanted to disappear under the bench, but she just kept looking straight ahead. She was humiliated. No one had ever done that to her before. Boys do that to each other all the time, but not girls. Where is my bus? Hurry and get here, I want to go home. She wanted to cry.

When the bus arrived, she stepped on and went straight to the back and found a seat in the last row. When it came to her stop she jumped off and ran into her house, straight to her room. Harry, Franny, and Jani were watching television. Other than greeting her with, “Glad you’re home,” they didn’t pay much attention to her.

Emma had been home for about thirty minutes when the doorbell rang. “I’ll get it,” said Jani. When she opened the door, there stood Brad.

“Is Emma here?” he asked.“I know it’s late but I need to talk to her.”

“Yes, she just got home. I’ll get her.” Going to Emma’s bedroom door and opening it a few inches, she said, “Brad is at the front door.” Emma’s mouth dropped open with surprise. Her eyes were red from crying. “What’s going on?” asked Jani.

“I’ll tell you later,” said Emma.

“Brad? What are you doing here?” asked Emma when she opened thedoor.

“Emma, I am so sorry. Please come out here and talk to me.”

Emma stepped out on the porch and closed the door behind her. “Was that her? Was that your fiancé with you?”

“Yes. No, I’m not engaged! She asked me to give her a ride to Pomona. She wanted to buy a sweater at Lerner’s. I’m so sorry about what she did. It’s over between us. I told her that this time I really meant it. I don’t want to ever see her again. I didn’t realize how much I cared for you. When she did that to you, and I saw the look on your face, I felt so bad.”

“I have never been so embarrassed in my life. Right there in front of everyone!”Emma’s emotions were welling up inside, and her voice was shaking as she fought back her tears. She didn’t want him to see her cry.

Brad put his arm around her. She couldn’t help herself as she snuggled up to him. “That is what I like about you,” he said. “You are so sweet. She is a little rough. I guess I just got used to it. We have been going steady for four years. We broke up several times but always got back together. I bought her an engagement ring a year ago, and she had even bought a wedding dress. It was to the point that everyone expected us to get married. I felt trapped. Then I met you, and I realized that marrying her would be a huge mistake. Please believe me when I tell you, it’s over.” He was still holding Emma close as he spoke. “I would like to date you and only you.”

I want to believe him. Is he going to make a fool out of me? she wondered. “I would like to date you, too. But, I’m not going out with you again unless you show me that you have the engagement ring. Then I’ll know she isn’t wearing it.”

“You’ve got a deal. Again, I’m sorry about what happened tonight. I know it’s late, but I had to see you.” He reached to pull her close and gave her a passionate kiss. “I’ll call you tomorrow,” he said and left.

Wow, that was a delicious kiss. I’m so confused, she thought. Emma stayed on the porch as she watched him drive away. I hope he’s telling the truth, she thought. I really do care about him, but I’m not into playing games. I’m not sure I’m up to getting involved in this triangle. Brad’s ex might be trouble. I hope I’m doing the right thing.

CHAPTER TWO

Jani was keeping a low profile at home. She knew her parents weren’t thrilled about her hanging around the fairground’s horse stables with Nate. She had started lying to her parents about where she was so they wouldn’t know how much time she was actually spending with him. She was careful to be home on time and not give them any reason to put her on restriction.

In the meantime, Emma’s relationship was doing well. Before she went out with him again, she made him show her that he had the engagement ring. He was ready, he took the ring set from his glove compartment to show her. He picked her up every night after work, and they would spend hours listening to records at her house. On weekends, they would go to a movie or just for a drive. They had been dating for over a month, and Emma believed him when he said he was only dating her.

“How about going to a birthday party at one of my friends’ house tomorrow night?” asked Brad one day. She had not met his group of friends yet and he thought it was time.

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said with a frown. “They are all friends of your ex’s. They aren’t going to like me.”

“You’re wrong. My friends aren’t like that. They all know that it’s over between Irma and me. You’ll have to meet them sometime.”

Emma thought for a minute. I probably should go. Jani said that I don’t know any of his friends. “I guess you’re right. I can’t avoid them forever.” She paused, and then said, “Okay. I’ll go.”

Brad reached over and gave her a hug, “You’ll be fine,” he said. “We’ll have a good time.”

There were six couples who hung out together, which previously included Brad and Irma. Emma didn’t expect Brad to drop all his friends because of her, but she was nervous about being introduced to the group. She knew she was an outsider and was afraid of the reception she would receive from the girls. Girls can be so mean sometimes, she thought. I’ll be as friendly as possible.

Driving to the party, Emma asked, “Where is the house located?”

“It’s at the top of the hill,” answered Brad. As he turned on a winding road in San Dimas, Emma looked out the car window and saw a few large homes scattered along the hillside.

“I always wondered who lived up here. Are they rich?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I do know that Cindy’s father is an attorney in La Verne.”

“Is it Cindy’s birthday?”

“Yes, she’s eighteen, one of the younger girls in our group.”

“Is she a real good friend of Irma’s?”

“They’re friends,” replied Brad. She doesn’t need to know that they’re best friends, Brad thought to himself.

When they arrived at Cindy’s house, Jimmy and Terry were hanging out in the garage with some of the other guys by an ice chest full of beer.

.“Aren’t you the two guys that pretended to be hitchhikers and Brad picked you up as a joke?” Emma asked the two boys. They nodded and laughed. “That really scared me, but it was funny at the same time.”

“Glad to see you again,” said Terry.

Brad introduced her to his other friends who gave her a welcoming smile. “Let’s go inside and I’ll introduce you around,” said Brad. He took her hand and led her into the house where most of the girls had gathered in the kitchen.

The house was a modern ranch-style home. The view from the front room window looked out over the valley. Emma thought the furnishings looked like something right out of a magazine.

Brad proceeded to introduce Emma to the group inside. Much to her surprise, they all seemed friendly. Bev, Jimmy’s girlfriend, was especially nice and said she was glad to meet her.

“I’ll be right back,” said Brad. “I’m going to get a beer from the garage.”

Bev made sure Emma didn’t feel uncomfortable at being left in the kitchen without Brad. Three of the other girls had separated themselves from the group and were talking quietly in the corner. I suppose they’re talking about me, thought Emma. I’m sure they don’t like it that I’m dating Brad.

“Would you like a beer?” Cindy asked Emma.

“Oh, no,” said Emma, surprised at the offer. Seeing that Bev was drinking a soda, Emma said, “I’ll have a soda like Bev’s,” pointing to her Pepsi.

Sipping on her soda, Emma soon joined in the conversation with the girls. Most of the talk was about clothes they had bought and parties they had recently attended. Brad returned from the garage along with a few of the other boys. They joined the girls as Cindy opened her birthday presents. Her mom served cake as everyone sang, “Happy Birthday.”

Afterward, they all paired off in couples and danced to record music in the front room. The boys kept turning the lights off, and Cindy’s mother kept coming in and turning them back on. Although she felt a little uncomfortable in the beginning, all-in-all Emma had a good time.

On the way home after the party, Brad said, “I hope all the girls were nice to you.”

“It was okay,” she said, giving him a smile. “Bev was the nicest. She made sure I didn’t feel out of place.”

“That’s good. Even though she is friends with Irma, I knew she would make you feel welcome,” he said. “Bev is my favorite of all the girls. I’m glad you had a good time.”While waiting for a traffic light to change, he bent over and gave Emma a kiss.

“I know I had to meet your friends sometime,” said Emma, rolling her eyes. “Now they can go back and report to Irma.”

“I’m sure they will,” said Brad, as they laughed together. “But we don’t have to worry about that. They’re going to have to get used to you as my girl.”

“Am I your girl, Brad?”

“You betcha,” he said, as he parked the car at the curb of Emma’s house. He pulled her close to give her a long kiss. “What are you doing tomorrow?” he asked. “I’d like you to meet my parents, and come to my house for Sunday dinner.”

Wide-eyed, Emma replied, “I would like that. I want to meet your family.” Soon Franny started flashing the front porch light. “I guess I better go in,” Emma said reluctantly, pointing to the flashing light.

Brad walked Emma to the door. Despite the bright porchlight, he gave her a long kiss good night. “I’ll pick you up tomorrow afternoon around one.”

The next morning at breakfast, Emma told everyone about the party and meeting Brad’s friends. She told them he wanted her to meet his parents and had invited herto have Sunday dinner with them.

Jani commented, “Nate’s father came to the stables yesterday to see him. They hadn’t seen each other for five years. His dad has been living out of state but is planning to move back to California.” She stopped to take a drink of her milk. “His father wants to take Nate and me to dinner.”

“Well, it looks like it will just be the two of us tonight,” Franny said to Harry, as she started to clear the breakfast dishes.

“Don’t you mean the three of us?” commented Harry. Giving her a childish grin, he said, “Did you forget that your mother is coming to dinner?”

“Oh, yeah, the three of us.” Franny smiled as she realized the twins might not be around much anymore for Sunday family dinners.

Nate called to let Jani know he would pick her up around four o’clock to take her to meet with his dad at Espiau’s, a Mexican restaurant in Pomona. Jani wasn’t looking forward to meeting Nate’s father, knowing how abusive he had been to Nate. Nate said he wasn’t too excited about them getting together, but that was his dad, and he hadn’t seen him for a while. Besides, he wasn’t going to pass up a free meal.


***


When Emma arrived with Brad at his house, his father, Lee, was working in the front yard. He was a small-framed man and walked a little bent over. He was handsome and had a big smile when Brad introduced him to Emma.

“You two go on inside. Mom is in the kitchen,” said Lee.

The aroma of cooking filled the house. It was an older home on Bonita Avenue, La Verne, modestly furnished. The front room furniture was arranged facing the television set. Against one of the walls was an upright piano. There was a separate dining room with a large table.

Brad’s mother, Mary, was a pleasant-looking woman with a friendly smile and a gentle demeanor. Brad put his arm around his mother and gave her a kiss on the cheek as she dried her hands on her apron front. That is so sweet, Emma thought.

His little sister, Sherry, seven years younger than Brad, came bouncing into the room and giggled when she met Emma. Sherry wanted to sit in the front room, right next to her brother and his new girlfriend.

Emma looked around the room, seeing many framed pictures displayed on a small table. “Who is that?” Emma asked Brad, pointing to a picture of a sailor.

“That’s my brother, Vince. He was in the Navy, but he’s home now. He lives in Oregon with his wife and their two kids. They will probably come down for the holidays, and you can meet them then.”

“Is that Vince’s wife?” Emma asked, pointing to a picture of a girl next to the one of Vince.

“No, that’s Irma,” said Brad, a little embarrassed. “Sorry about that, but she has been around the family a long time, and she’s still friends with my mom. She comes by to visit with her, even though we’ve broken up.” Pulling her close as they sat on the sofa, he said, “You’ll have to give me a picture of you, so you can be included in the group.”

Emma tried not to feel bad, but she had a tinge of jealousy. After all, Brad and Irma had been together for four years, so her name would probably come up more than once. Maybe it’s a good thing Mom doesn’t have our photos around the house, Emma thought. Between me and Jani, she would constantly be changing the pictures of our boyfriends.

“You have pretty hair,” Sherry said to Emma, plopping down next to her.

“Thank you, Sherry. It’s a gift from my mother. Her hair is naturally curly and it was passed on to me.”

“My hair is so straight. It won’t hold a curl,” replied Sherry, twisting the side of her hair between her fingers.

“I think your hairdo is cute,” complimented Emma.

“Sherry, come in here and help me,” Brad’s mother called from the kitchen.

“Yes, Mother,” said Sherry, giving Brad a look that said she didn’t want to go. She wanted to stay with her big brother and Emma.

After Sherry left, Brad asked Emma, “Do you want a Coke?”

“Sure, that sounds good.” Brad reached over and tried to kiss Emma. “Oh, Brad, your mom is in the other room,” she said, as she ducked and pressed two of her fingers on his lips.

Kissing her fingers, he said, “It’s okay, she knows you’re my girl.”

I would never let Brad kiss me at my house, she thought. I would die if my parentsunexpectedly walked in, that would just not be acceptable. Physical expression was not common in her home. Harry and Franny considered that private. In fact, the girls were never allowed to go into their parents’ bedroom unless they were invited, which seldom happened. Emma remembered one day when her parents were at work, she went into their room and just stood there and looked around. What’s the big secret? she thought. I don’t see anything special in here. It’s just another bedroom.

“Lee, it’s time to wash up,” Mary hollered out the kitchen window. “We’ll be ready to eat in a few minutes,” she told Brad, taking a few steps into the front room.

Sherry helped her mother put food on the table. “Come on in and sit down,” Mary instructed Brad and Emma.

Sitting at the table, Emma couldn’t believe all the food. Mary had cooked a big pork roast, mashed potatoes, fresh green beans, and corn, and prepared a large green salad. This was like a Christmas dinner at Emma’s house.

The dishes of food had been passed around the table and after taking a few bites, Emma said, “Everything is so delicious, Mrs. Mills. Thank you for inviting me.”

“We’re glad to have you,” responded Mary with a smile.

During dinner, Mary asked Emma where she was born and a little information on her family background. Emma freely told them about her dad and mother and having a twin sister.

“Gee! A twin sister,” said Sherry. “That must be so neat.”Because of the age difference of her two older brothers, Sherry sometimes felt like an only child.

Emma told them about her grandmother, Isla, and her wonderful dressmaking skills.

“Brad, where were you born?” asked Emma.

“We’re from Oklahoma,” he answered.

“We came to California when Brad was five,” said Mary. “We went back to Oklahoma a few times, but finally settled in San Dimas. There were more job opportunities here for Lee.”

“I was born here, just like you,” said Sherry, wanting to be part of the conversation.

“I rode a horse to school when we lived in Oklahoma,” said Brad. Emma’s mouth dropped open. She was not aware that some states still had rural conditions. Although, she really hadn’t given it much thought, she assumed everyone lived like she did. She believed it when her grandmother would tell her about taking a horse and carriage to town, but someone close to her own age riding a horse to school was beyond her.

“You’ve got to be kidding!” Emma replied in disbelief.

“No. In fact, my school had only two rooms. One room was for first to fourth grades, and the other room for fifth to eighth grades. Each grade had a separate row. The high school was ten miles away,” explained Brad. Emma was fascinated. She couldn’t believe his school was so small.

“We lived on a farm,” said Lee. “I worked the cotton fields with my dad and two older brothers.”

“Our house was next to Lee’s parents,” Mary added. After Lee’s father died, the family gave up farming and that’s when we made our final move to California.”

“Before we moved to La Verne, we lived in an apartment above an auto shop in San Dimas,” said Brad. “One of my best friend’s father owned the shop.”

After dinner, Mary brought out a German chocolate cake that she had baked from scratch. Dessert was seldom served at Emma’s house. Sherry brought in dessert plates and helped her mother serve the cake.

“Oh, this is really yummy,” declared Emma. Brad reached over and wiped a bit of frosting off Emma’s lip. She hurriedly reached for her napkin and wiped her mouth. Brad poked at her lip again.

“He’s teasing you,” said Sherry. “You don’t have anything on your mouth.”

Emma lightly socked Brad on his shoulder. “Not funny!” she said.

We never have sweets at my house, she thought. Dad says it’s bad for my teeth. Even the Coke that Brad had offered her earlier had been a surprise. There were never sodas at Emma’s house. She had also noticed a dish on the coffeetable in the front room filled with candy. Mom has a candy dish on our coffee-table, but it never has candy in it. I wished we had sweets at home, once in a while.

Finishing their dessert, Emma helped Mary and Sherry clear the table. While they were doing the dishes, Emma told Mary that her mother worked at Buffums, in the credit department.

“Oh, that’s really a nice store. They have the nicest things there but very expensive,” said Mary. “What does your dad do?”

“He lays hardwood floors. That’s about all I know that he does,” she said with a slight laugh. “I know he has a big machine he uses to keep our floors shiny.”

It was getting dark, and Emma said she needed to get home. She had school the next day and still had some homework to do. She thanked Mary again for the delicious meal. Mary told her they were glad to meet her and hoped she would come back soon.

“Oh, you are going to see a lot of her,” said Brad with a wink, and they all laughed.

On the way home, Emma said, “I can’t believe you rode a horse to school. If your parents hadn’t been sitting there I would have thought you were pulling my leg.”

“We were farmers. Everyone rode horses.”

“Your school was so small. It must have been hard to catch up when you moved to California.”

“Not really. In fact, I was ahead of the other kids at my grade level, and they advanced me two grades. I’m only a year older than you, but I graduated from Bonita High two years ago.”

When they reached Emma’s house, they sat in the car and talked and kissed for hours. The porch light came on and soon Franny was flashing it several times.

“I guess I better go in,” said Emma. “I hope you meant it when you said your family was going to see a lot more of me.”

“I did.” Then he gave her one more passionate kiss. Brad walked Emma to the door but didn’t linger. He didn’t want Franny to come out and confront them about being late.

“Where have you been?” asked Franny when Emma closed the front door.

“You know where I’ve been,” she said as she crossed her arms in front of her and glared at her mother.

“Yes, you have been parked outside for hours,” said Franny, with a disapproving glare.

“You and Dad always told me not to park in strange places.” Emma’s attitude was showing. “Don’t look at me that way,” said Emma, seeing her mother’s disapproving glare. “We were just talking.”

Emma is getting a sassy month, thought Franny. She’s starting to sound like Jani.

“Don’t tell me you’ve been talking until eleven o’clock at night.”

“Oh, Mother! I’m going to bed.” Emma turned, leaving Franny standing in the front room.

“Your father will have a talk with you about this tomorrow,” said Franny, as Emma walked away.

CHAPTER THREE

Waking early, Emma planned to talk to her mother before anyone else was up. Knowing she was in trouble for staying out late, parked beside the house with Brad, she thought an apology might lessen the punishment.

While Franny was cooking breakfast, Emma put her arms around her, saying, “I’m sorry, Mom, about last night. You were right, I was out too late. After meeting Brad’s family and hearing about his childhood, I had a lot of questions and lost track of time. I won’t let it happen again.”

“It was a school night, Emma. Now that you’re working, as well as going to school, you need your sleep,” Franny said earnestly. “Emma, I’m not stupid, so don’t try to convince me there was nothing but talking going on between you and Brad. Your dad wants to talk to you after work, so don’t be late getting home.”

“Mom, I’m sorry.”

Jani walked into the kitchen as Emma was apologizing. What a suck-up, she thought, rolling her eyes when she looked at Emma. Maybe it’s time for her to feel what it’s like to be on the outs with Mom and Dad.

Emma did as she was told. When Brad picked her up after work, she told him, “I have to go straight home. I’m in trouble for sitting in the car with you so late last night.”

“I’m sorry,” said Brad. “I don’t want you to get in trouble because of me.”

“I just have to be more conscious of the time. I hope my dad won’t put me on restriction. Call me later,” said Emma as she hopped out of the car.

“Your dad is waiting for you in the den,” Franny told Emma when she came in the back door.

Emma went to see her dad. Standing in the den doorway, she said, “Dad, Mom said you wanted to talk to me.”

“Come here so I can look at you.” She stepped into the room and stood in front of her father. “What were you thinking? Sitting out in the car until eleven o’clock at night? That’s how girls get in trouble. Do I need to explain that to you?” Harry asked.

“No, Dad. I understand, but we were just talking about our families, and I lost track of time.”

“Emma, you know that you are supposed to bein the house by nine o’clock on a school night. Not at the house parked outside.”

“Yes, I know.”

“Consider yourself on restriction for a week. Maybe that will help you remember. Brad is not to pick you up after work, and you will take the bus home. Is that understood?”

“Yes,” with tears forming in her eyes. “Can I go now?”

“I expect you to honor our house rules from now on,” he said, giving her a stern look. “You can go.”

Running to her room in tears, but not slamming the door, she threw herself on the bed. How can I go all week without seeing Brad? she wondered. I hope he understands.

Jani went to Emma’s bedroom door and opened it slightly, “Are you all right?” she asked.

Emma motioned for her to come in and shut the door. “I’m on restriction for a week. Brad can’t even give me a ride home from work.”

“Now you know how I felt when I was forbidden to see Eric. When Dad told me I couldn’t see him again until I was eighteen, I thought my life was over. At least for you, it’s only a week, not the rest of your life. It will be okay,” she said sympathetically, sitting on the side of Emma’s bed.

“I guess you’re right. It’s only a week. I told Brad today when he brought me home that I might be on restriction.” Feeling a little better, Emma told Jani about meeting Brad’s parents and asked her about dinner with Nate’s dad.

“It was all right. Nate and his father, Ed, didn’t talk much. I just sat quietly and listened.”

“That’s hard to believe.”

“What, that I sat quietly and didn’t talk?”

“Of course.” They both laughed.

“It’s true. I don’t feel comfortable around him and neither does Nate. You know he physically abused Nate when he was growing up. I feel so bad for him. I wish I could make it all go away, but that’s not possible. I thought seeing his dad again would make him happy, but it didn’t. And now, his dad is going to move here.”

“What kind of work does he do?”

“I’m not sure. I think he was in sales of some kind. He was living up north, in Washington somewhere. He lost his job, and that’s why he’s in town.”

“What does he look like?”

“Nate looks like his father, but Ed’s shorter with light-brown hair. I don’t think he looked too good. He had on a suit and it was wrinkled.”

“Is he married?”

“He was, but they’re getting a divorce. That might be another reason why he is moving here. He said something about starting a church.”

“A church! Is he a minister?”

“He recently became ordained. I guess that’s what you call it. He said he’s looking for a good location to start his church. As soon as he finds a place he’ll let us know because he wants Nate and me to attend.”

“It sounds a little weird, but I guess that’s how you get started,” said Emma.

“Weird, yes,” said Jani making a silly face that made Emma laugh. “I’ve got homework. We’ll talk later,” she said and went to her room.

When Brad called after dinner, Emma gave him the news about being on restriction and that she had to take the bus home from work the rest of the week.

“Emma, I’m so sorry. It’s my fault. I won’t let it happen again,” said Brad. They chatted until they ran out of things to talk about and then they just listened to each other breathe.

“Guess I better go. Please call me tomorrow night,” said Emma and hung up.

On the way to school the next morning, Jani reminded Emma that Easter vacation was coming up, and if they wanted their parents to let them go to the beach for a week, they needed to be on their best behavior. Every year groups of kids rented beach houses during that time. The girls hoped their parents had not heard about the wild parties that went on at Newport Beach. They had not asked to go before because they were sure the answer would be, no. But this was their senior year which they hoped might make a difference. They had been saving their money to pay for part of the expense in case their parents used the excuse that they couldn’t afford it.

That night at dinner, Franny asked Emma about meeting Brad’s parents.

“Brad is from Oklahoma,” said Emma. “They had a farm there for a while and then came to California because there were better jobs. Brad was so smart that when he started school here, they moved him up two grades.”

“Well, that’s impressive,” said Franny.

Looking at Jani, Harry asked, “How was your dinner with Nate’s dad?”

“He was the nicest man. He’s moving here from Washington State. He wants to be closer to Nate. He’s going to start up his own business here,” responded Jani.

“What kind of business?” asked Harry.

“Oh, I don’t know. I don’t remember what he said. Just that he is looking for office space around here.” I’m not going to tell them he wants to start a church, thought Jani. They might think it’s crazy, too, she thought.

Franny and Harry nodded with a smile. I wish I had my own business, thought Harry. Maybe someday. He had always dreamed of having his own flooring company. Franny had encouraged him to get his contractor’s license, but he didn’t have enough self-confidence to take the test.


***


Both girls knew they had to keep out of trouble before they sprang the Easter week request on their parents. During Emma’s restriction, she tried her best not to let her negative attitude show. Usually, the girls asked to get off restriction before the week was up, but this time Emma decided to let it go. She helped with dinner several times without being asked. Jani was also helpful in the kitchen.

“We’ll finish up the dishes, Mom,” said Jani after dinner one night.

“Why don’t you go sit in the den with Dad,” said Emma.

“My, my, girls!” said Franny. “What’s the special occasion?”

“No special occasion,” said Jani.

“We just feel like helping out,” said Emma.

“Okay, I think I will,” said Franny. She untied her apron and placed it in a drawer and went to the den. “I think the girls are up to something,” said Franny, sitting on the couch next to Harry’s chair.

“Why do you say that?”

“They are being too good. They helped with dinner, and they wanted to do the dishes afterward without me nagging. Emma just told me to come to the den and sit with you. That’s a first.”

“Well, enjoy it while it lasts. We’ll soon find out what they’re up to.”


***


Easter vacation was five weeks away. The cheerleaders were planning on putting a deposit on a beach house and had asked the twins to commit to going. Emma was included in the group because she was Jani’s sister. That meant all the expenses would be divided nine ways. It was time for the twins to make the commitment.

Wednesday night, all four were at the dinner table. Emma caught Jani’s eye, making sure her parents weren’t looking when she mouthed, You ask, dropping her head quickly and continuing to eat. Jani looked at Emma, also making sure her parents weren’t watching, and mouthed back, No you, glancing back down at her dinner plate.

“What’s going on here?” asked Franny, sensing the girls were up to something.

“Emma has something to ask,” said Jani.

“Emma?” asked Franny, “What is it?”

Taking a deep breath, Emma blurted out, “Jani and I would like to go with the cheerleading girls to Newport Beach during Easter week.”

“Well, which day?” asked Franny.

“Not a day, Mom, for a week,” said Emma, as Franny turned to look at Harry. “All the girls rent a house during Easter week every year. We wanted to go last year but were afraid you would say no. This is our senior year, and our last chance to go as a group.”Again, silence at the dinner table as Emma stared at Jani willing her to speak up.

“It’s not like it’s a free-for-all. Several mothers go along as chaperones,” said Jani. Franny looked at Harry, again.

Seeing the questioning looks on her parents’ faces she hurried to continue. “Before you say no, there’s a meeting tomorrow night with all the mothers and the girls. Just go to the meeting with us and meet the other mothers to see what a nice bunch of girls they are,” said Emma.

“All the cheerleaders are in our group,” Jani continued. “If you’re worried about the cost, Emma and I have been saving our money and will be able to pay for most of the expenses.”

“What do you think?” Franny asked Harry.

“Go to the meeting. Meet the other families and see what it’s all about,” Harry responded.

“Okay. I’ll go, but that doesn’t mean we have agreed,” Franny warned the girls.

“The meeting is at seven o’clock at Mrs. Wesley’s house,” said Emma. The girls could hardly contain their excitement, but at the same time, understood their parents had not agreed.

Mr. and Mrs. Wesley owned a popular restaurant in town, and their daughter, Jenny, was a cheerleader. Their family had prominent status in the community. At the meeting, Franny met some of the mothers for the first time who lived in north Pomona. The so-called “upper class” and professionals always impressed Franny.

The father of one of the cheerleaders was a teacher at the high school. Another father was a professor at Pomona College. One girl’s parents owned a major furniture store in Pomona. Many of the women belonged to the Ebell Club, a ladies-only social club, which Franny considered a prestigious membership.

Franny remembered how all the neighbors looked down on her when she was a child because her father was a drunk. Sitting in the meeting among those she considered wealthy, she was happy that her girls were included. Acceptance was what Franny always wanted. She felt that letting the twins spend a week with the elite would give them status. She would talk to Harry. She wanted to let the girls go.

At the meeting, the group talked about the deposit on the house, the meals, the cost of food, curfew, allowing boys to visit the house, and who would be chaperones. They decided they only needed one chaperone at a time. After all, the girls would do the cooking and cleaning. None of the mothers’ offered to be responsible for the whole week, so they decided to split up into shifts. Two mothers volunteered for mid-week and one for the last weekend. They still needed someone for the first Friday and Saturday nights. No one willingly spoke up. One of the girls said, “How about you, Mrs. Stein?”

Oh, no, thought Jani and Emma. Not our mother. That will spoil all our fun.

“Well, I work, but if it’s only the weekend, I think that would be okay.” All the girls cheered, except Jani and Emma. Then the twins looked at each other and realized if she chaperones that means we can go. They joined in with the cheering.

When they got home from the meeting, the girls thanked their mom for volunteering. They left Franny to tell their father the news.

“How did the meeting go?” Harry asked as Franny climbed into bed.

“I met some of the nicest ladies and their daughters. It’s a lovely group of girls. In fact, I volunteered to be a chaperone.”

“You what! Are you crazy?” he said raising his voice. “No telling what will go on during that week. Do you want that responsibility?”

“Settle down, Harry. First, I think it was a privilege that our girls were included. Several groups are renting houses, but this was the best bunch of girls for the twins to join. Second, if I’m going to chaperone, I can see firsthand what is going on. If I don’t like what I see, I’ll bring our girls home.”

“Well, I guess it’s settled then,” said Harry, a little perturbed that he had not been part of the decision making.

“I’m sorry, that I didn’t have a chance to discuss it with you first, but I was kind of roped into volunteering. They needed one more mother, and no one was speaking up. Then one of the cheerleaders asked me, and it was done. It’s the first weekend, so I won’t have to take off work.”

“I hope you know what you’ve gotten yourself into.”

“I do, and the twins are so happy.”

“At least that gives us a carrot to dangle in front of them for good behavior during the next five weeks. I guess that’s worth something. I’m going to sleep now. I have to get up early for work in the morning. You better stock up on your sleep, too. I doubt you’ll get much during Easter week,” he said as he rolled over and went to sleep.

He’s over reacting, thought Franny. They are nice girls. What could go wrong?

CHAPTER FOUR

Nate had been quiet ever since the dinner with his dad. Normally, he picked up Jani after school, and then they grabbed a bite to eat and went to work out the horses. Jani had been waiting for him for thirty minutes, he hadn’t shown up. This had happened a few times before if he was working with one of the trainers and couldn’t get away. She decided to take a bus to the fairgrounds. When Jani arrived, she went to the stables, but he wasn’t there. Then she went to the track area where he might be working one of the horses. He wasn’t there either.

“Have you seen Nate?” Jani asked one of the stable workers.

“He called in sick. He won’t be in today.”

“Okay, thanks,” replied Jani, a little puzzled.

Nate’s house was about a mile from the fair so Jani decided to walk. If he’s not there, I’ll catch the bus and go home, she thought. Arriving at Nate’s rooming house, she found the front door unlocked, so she went in and then upstairs to his room.

“Nate?” said Jani as she knocked on his bedroom door. No answer.

“Nate. It’s Jani.” Still no answer. She tried the doorknob, it was unlocked. Opening the door she saw Nate on his stomach sprawled out on his bed fully dressed. “Nate! Nate!” she said as she reached over to grab his shoulder and shake him.

“Hi, babe,” said Nate with a slur in his voice as he rolled over on his back, his eyes half- shut. Is he drunk? she wondered. She looked around the room but didn’t see any beer cans or other signs of alcohol. But she did notice a strange odor in the room. On the nightstand, next to his bed, was a clear plastic bag with something in it that looked like dry grass.

“What’s this?” she asked, holding up the bag.

“What do you think it is?”

Jani remembered seeing pictures like this in her Senior Problems class at school when they were studying drugs. “I don’t know. You tell me,” she said angrily.

“It’s pot. Do you want to try it?”

“Of course not! I don’t use drugs, and I don’t date boys that do. What has gotten into you?” she demanded, as she dangled the bag in his face.

Nate had been smoking pot for years. It was easy to score around the stables. He knew that Jani wouldn’t approve and had hoped he could keep it from her. Moreover, he hoped she would never find out that he was a dealer. Small time, but he was the go-to-guy. It was extra money.

“I’m sorry, babe,” said Nate as he propped himself up on his elbows. “Seeing my dad again brought back bad memories and things I’ve tried to forget. I don’t expect you to understand, your family is good.” His body flopped back on his pillow.

“I’m not going to stay here with you like this. I’m going home.”

“You can take my truck,” he said, pointing to the keys on his dresser. “I won’t need it tonight, and I can walk to work in the morning. You can bring it back after school tomorrow.”

As she reached for the keys, he added, “Just because you’ve got a license now, don’t think you can race all over town.” He closed his eyes and drifted off in a stupor.

“Okay. Sleep it off,” she said, staring down at him. She found herself once again, feeling sorry for him and his circumstances with his dad, but there was nothing she could do to help. Jani hated to leave him in such a condition but took the keys and drove home.

“What are you doing with Nate’s truck?” asked Franny, when Jani came into the kitchen.

“He has to work tonight and didn’t want me to get home late, so he told me to take it. I’ll take it back to him after school tomorrow.”

“Oh, that was nice. Just be careful driving.”

“Is Nate here?” asked Emma as she came in the back door.

“No. He’s working late, so he told me to go ahead and drive home. I can take us to school in the morning,” said Jani, trying to sound excited about having the truck.

“That’ll be fun,” replied Emma as she went to her room.

I’m never going to tell anyone about the marijuana. Not even my sister, Jani thought.

It was fun having a truck to drive to school, but not under the current circumstances. Drugs scared Jani because of what she had been taught in school. When she saw Nate again, she was going to let him know that drug use was something she would not tolerate. After school, Jani drove Emma to work and then headed to the fairgrounds.

Nate was cooling down one of the horses when Jani arrived at the track. “I brought your truck back,” she said in a disgusted tone. Slamming the keys in his hand, she looked around to make sure no one was close enough to hear them talking. “Let me remind you, I don’t date anyone who uses drugs.” She said adamantly.

“I know, and I’m sorry about yesterday,” he said, sounding remorseful. Jani stood with her hands on her hips as she listened to Nate’s explanation. “I don’t believe my dad is here to open a church. He’s always saying things to make me think he is going to settle down, but I don’t trust him. How can anyone just start a church? It doesn’t make any sense.”

“I guess we will just have to wait and see,” she said, trying to sound positive. “Do you have anything for me to do today?”

“Sure,” he said, handing her the reins of one of the horses. “Take this horse and walk her around the ring. I have another one coming off the track in a minute.” He gave her a kiss and then a swat on the butt. That made Jani smile, so Nate thought everything was forgiven.


***


The girls told Nate and Brad about going to the beach during Easter week. The boys planned to go on the weekends and after work during the week.

Even if Franny was going to be there, the twins still anticipated on having a good time. She was only going to be there for two nights; they certainly could behave until she went home.

Harry took off work early on Friday to drive them to the beach house. He helped them get settled in and stayed long enough to meet some of the other parents as they dropped off their daughters. Harry told Franny he was going to the races the next day but would call her afterward. Around ten o’clock he said his good-byes to Franny and the twins and reminded the girls to stay out of trouble.

Franny watched Harry leave. She had an uneasy feeling. She noticed he hadn’t insisted on her going with him lately. Was he meeting Tina there? Ever since the time they took Tina to the horse races, Franny has been leery about him going to the races alone. Tina had such a good time, and Harry expressed that they should ask her again. Does he pick her up and take her with him? I saw her flirting with him that day. Does he feel he has a free pass to get even with me because of my affair with Clyde? she wondered.

Tina usually alternated working Saturdays and Sundays with Franny. They switched their schedule the past weekend because Franny was taking this weekend off to chaperone at the beach. Tina could call in sick and I wouldn’t know. Was she at the races with Harry? Franny pondered these questions but was afraid to ask. If there wasn’t anything to worry about, she didn’t want to give Harry any ideas. She decided not to bring it up but planned to keep her eyes and ears open for any clues that something was going on between the two. I’d better take advantage of the girls being gone for a week and, when I get back home, add some spark back in our marriage.


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