Daisy and Connor’s World
by Julia French
This book is dedicated in loving memory to Sugano.
She was a fellow believer, a loving wife and a wonderful mother of two.
She is someone who simply should not have died. I think about her
often and miss her gentle smile at church.
As the author of Daisy and Connor’s World, I’d like to say that every word of this story comes from my own imagination. All the characters and all the establishments have been created by me for your entertainment. If you find any likenesses to real people or real establishments it is completely coincidental and was not intended by me.
I would like to ask that none of my story be reproduced, copied or sold in whole or in part without my permission. I would appreciate your respect on this point.
Julia Ann French, author of Daisy and Connor’s World
Copyright August 17, 2011
Bowker LLC, All Rights Reserved. ISBN 978-0-615-54925-5
Special thanks to my sister Elizabeth, sometimes known as Elizathon. She is a great adviser, great runner and friend. I’d say more but I know she’ll delete it if I do so I’ll stop here.
The idea that our feet are springing mechanisms, briefly mentioned in Chapter 35, came from an article I read on teamdoctorsblog.com.
I would also like to thank my son, Roger French, for use of his sketch, entitled, “Pulled from the Sandpit.”
DAISY & CONNOR’S WORLD VOLUME I
I wait patiently for the Lord’s help. Then He listened to me and heard my cry. He pulled me out of a dangerous pit, out of the deadly quicksand. He set me safely on a rock and made me secure.
—Psalm 40:1 (the Good News Bible)
CHAPTER 1: THE BEACH RUN
Daisy Ray Greene and Connor Bailey jogged down the back stairs of their apartment complex into the fresh evening air. Homework was finished, and chores were done. The very last thing on their list of things to do was throw the trash out. So with one big mighty swing, Connor chucked his bag of garbage squarely in the nearby dumpster.
“So much for house chores,” he grinned, happy to be set free from the mundane activity of housekeeping for the rest of the evening.
Daisy took off running towards the beach boardwalk as fast as she could.
“Cheater,” he hollered and took off after her.
She laughed as he chased her all the way to the beach where their friends were waiting for them.
As they approached the boardwalk, they could see their friends leaning against the railing, arms crossed, waiting for them to join the group on the wooden boardwalk platform. Behind them, the sun was beginning to set all pink and yellow against the grey evening sky and ocean. It was a beautiful night to run, but their friends seemed tense.
Daisy waved energetically at her friends as she climbed the wooden steps with Connor right behind her.
“Hey Maria,” she greeted her friend cheerfully.
Connor knocked knuckles with Mark and Andy. “Hey man. How’s it going?”
The boardwalk was generally a lively place peppered with people engaging in various beach type activities such as jogging, dog walking, chess playing and chatting.
Shops ran up and down the sides of the boardwalk selling surfing gear and every kind of food imaginable for those who were in the mood for spending money.
Daisy loved the hustle and bustle of this place. She came here nearly every evening to run with Connor and his cross country buddies. She was very excited because she was now an official tenth grader at Maxwell High School. This meant that she could finally join the Maxwell High School’s very competitive track and field team. Connor, Maria, Andy and Mark were all seniors at Maxwell. This was their third year on the team. Daisy had been waiting for this day since as far back as she could remember. The two year gap in school between Daisy and her friends had made it impossible for her to run on the same team as them until this year. On top of that, this year was the only year that she would be able to run on the same team as them because they would graduate. Therefore, this year was monumental in her 15-year-old mind.
Daisy Ray’s happy face quickly went sober when she caught the mood of her friends. Their arms were crossed defensively as they stared across the platform in the direction of the picnic tables. There at the tables sat ‘The Surfside Trio’, Gary, Glenn and Alison. Gary and Glenn were identical twins and Alison was Gary’s girlfriend. The three of them were staring smugly in Andy’s direction. Daisy Ray knew at this point that tonight’s run would be a hard one.
“Surfside Academy has got to have the most irritating runners in the entire universe,” Daisy stomped her foot and mumbled. “Whenever they show up all the fun runs right out of everything.”
Connor made eye contact with Andy, “So what’s the plan?”
Andy took one glimpse in Daisy’s direction and said, “Babysitting again Connor? She can’t come.”
Connor looked down at Daisy thinking for a moment. “She’s on our team now Andy. She can come if she wants. If she can’t keep up she’ll just go take a rest on the beach and not hold you up. Kay?”
Andy glanced at Daisy again. “Don’t make us look bad, Baby Daisy.”
She nodded soberly, put her foot up on the railing and began to stretch out. The others did the same. With every stretch Daisy told herself, “You mustn’t quit. You have to keep up.”
Andy decided to run north. The north end of the boardwalk had a look out station with benches for the birdwatchers to watch the wildlife along the beach. It was a beautiful place to run if you could run at you own pace, but that was not going to be the case on this night so Daisy just made her mental adjustments and started off with the rest of them at Andy’s backbreaking pace.
At first, it just seemed that they were alone as a group.
“Maybe the Surfside trio had something better to do with themselves than to bother us tonight,” Daisy hoped within herself. But this small hope was soon crushed when she noticed the trio running north, parallel with them. However, they were not on the platform. Instead, they ran barefoot along the water’s edge. The sand was a much harder run for sure, but they were all grins about it. Gary was running exactly head and head with Andy.
Andy stuck his I-pod ear piece in his ear and said to all of them, “Here we go! Let’s take it up a notch guys!” And they did.
Normally, they would go the two-mile stretch down to the end of the wooden planks and take a rest at the bird watchers post. Then they would double back, but not tonight. They ran straight through with no stops. It reminded Daisy of an old military photo she had seen in her grandfather’s photo album of the soldiers running in sync. Andy and Maria were out front running side by side. Connor and Mark ran side by side behind them while Daisy took up the rear. It was a painful pace for Daisy. Her body complained miserably. She hated the pain; she loved the togetherness, the unity. She loved running. She kept her eyes plastered on the back of Connors head. She found his rhythmic bobbing helpful. Daisy knew if she could just match his rhythm she’d make it to the end of the run, so she focused on that.
They turned at the birdwatchers station in unison.
“Guys, let’s take it up another notch! The Surfsiders will slow down on the way back just watch and see!” Andy barked.
Then a few minutes later, “One more notch guys! Push it! Come on! Let’s move out ahead of them!” Andy chided the group further.
As expected, grim expressions replaced the smiles on the Surfsider’s faces. The Maxwell team had a small lead but not enough to be considered any kind of a real victory. Soon, Andy would become dissatisfied with their tiny lead and start hollering again. “Push it! Take it up a notch!”
Sure enough, Andy switched into his ‘I’m going to beat these guys phase’. He began pulling out harder, the pressure was on.
“You either keep up or drop out!” he yelled over his shoulder. “Baby Daisy, are ya cry’n yet!?”
Daisy answered, “No,” but her voice would not carry under such pressure so she just kept pushing. She needed all her air for the run now. There was none left over for chit-chat. She could no longer feel anything aside from her chest heaving in and out and her feet hitting pavement.
Andy ran faster, pulling out farther ahead of Gary and Glenn. The twin’s smug expressions were now completely gone as they pressed in. The Surfside trio was giving it everything they had in the hopes of beating Andy.
No one in Florida could keep up with Andy. He’d won the State Regional Competitions two years in a row, and he had every intention of doing it again this year. The twins still had a long way to go if they were planning on beating him in the State Regional this year. Andy pulled out far ahead of them all.
When the Maxwell runners finally reached their beginning spot, they slowed down to a fast walking pace. They walked around in circles with their hands on their hips, grinning largely at each other, happy that Andy had won. They each gave him slaps on the shoulder and high-fives as they passed by him. They reveled in Andy’s win with real team spirit. The Surfside trio kept on going and disappeared down the beach somewhere.
“Gary’s getting faster,” Connor mumbled in Andy’s ear.
“We all are,” was Andy’s reply.
“Yea, but they were in the sand….bare……foot…..” Connor dropped his thought because Andy wasn’t listening. He’d walked off to the drink stand with the rest of the gang to buy water to chug down and pour over their heads. Connor followed.
At the drink stand, Daisy Ray was elated over the run. This was the first time she had been able to keep up and not end up on the beach during one of Andy’s hard runs. Everyone was too focused on Andy’s win to notice that Daisy had kept up until after a few moments with their water bottles.
Andy looked at Daisy and then at Connor. “Well looky here. Baby Daisy is still with us! Not bad for a baby, huh, Connor?”
Connor halted his water drinking on the spot. He suddenly lunged at her, grabbed her head in a head lock and poured water all over her head saying, “Yeah, not bad for a baby I guess.”
Daisy screamed and kicked but she could not get free till Connor chose to let her go, which he did only after his water bottle was completely empty. He then bought another one and walked off like nothing had happened.
Mark, Maria and Andy roared laughing and hit her on the shoulder as they passed by her. Flashbacks of her grandfather’s military photo album again went through her head. Daisy brushed her wet hair out of her face and followed her friends as they walked home. She was not going to let a little water steal her joy. It was just Connor’s way of saying good job anyway, and she knew it. He always poured water on her head when she did well. She had remained with the group for the entire run and in their own way her friend’s behavior had said, “You did good Daisy.”
Mark suddenly spoke up, “Hey Andy lets go back to Connor’s place and play Halo 3!”
Maria, Andy and Daisy Ray all looked at Connor for his answer, which was always yes. He just nodded his head and shrugged his shoulders in a positive manner, and they all started jogging back to Sunset Hill apartments.
On the second floor, to the right side was apartment 202, Connor’s apartment. Directly across the hall, 205, was Daisy Ray’s apartment. Everyone pushed through Connor’s doorway as fast as they could attempting to get the best spots on Connor’s couch and floor in front of the TV.
Connor took a huge leap and landed stomach first laying flat over the whole couch and yelled, “It’s my house! It’s my couch! I’m first to play, and Daisy Ray is my partner!”
Everyone started moaning and yelling, “Why do you want the baby to be your partner? Doesn’t she have to take a nap or something!! Awe man, why does the baby get to play first?”
“Cause she can run, and she is going to beat all your butts one of these days, that’s why” Connor stated, obviously very proud that his neighbor, who was like a baby sister to him, didn’t drop out this time but finished with the group.
“Yeah right. Baby Dumbo is never gonna beat me,” Andy coolly responded.
“Shut up, Andy!” Connor returned as he picked up his controller and tossed Daisy one.
There were still two controllers left for the three others to fight over. Maria, not liking to be tackled for a controller, bowed out.
Mark and Andy settled down into their spots intent on beating Baby Daisy, mumbling all the while, “No baby is going to beat us at Halo 3. Absolutely not!”