Connor tapped on Daisy’s front door. “Anybody home?”
He heard Daisy’s feet running through the house towards the front door. The energetic sound was music to his ears.
She swung the door open and greeted him happily, “I thought you’d never get here!” She grabbed his arm, pulled him into the living room and plopped down on the couch next to him.
He chuckled lightly at Daisy’s friendly but rough manner. “I had to walk home. Maria wouldn’t give me a ride. She’s mad about having to run extra laps because of my talking.” He was basically unconcerned about Maria’s little attitude. Daisy was okay, that was the important thing.
“Wow, you’re in the dog house with everybody these days.” She laughed lightly as she took a quick sip of peach tea then set it back down on the coffee table in front of her. “Want some tea?”
“Naw, I’m good.” He stretched his arms out across the back of the couch. “That girl will be over it by tomorrow, guaranteed. Four laps are easy as pie for her.” He remained unconcerned.
“Maybe Maria will be fine, but Willie is not fine at all. He thinks you’re the biggest scumbag the world has ever known.” Daisy shook her head in amazement.
“Oh, Willie.” Connor rolled his eyes dramatically. “Who the heck is he anyway? I never met him until last night. Doesn’t he have a sister named Barbie?” Connor scooted closer to Daisy as he spoke.
“Willie is in all my classes and on the team. I think I remember him mentioning a sister but that’s not important. What’s important is, you need to apologize for fighting with him,” Daisy informed him matter-of-factly.
Connor dropped his forehead to her shoulder moaning pathetically into her hair, “Not another apology. I hate apologizing. It’s not his business what’s going on between us anyway.”
“He’s my friend and so is Grace. I don’t want you having such a bad reputation with my friends. Bad reputations are hard to shake. You need to apologize and get it all cleared up. I told Willie the same thing.”
Connor moaned in her hair for a few minutes, but when he saw she wasn’t moved by it he gave in. “Okay, I’ll apologize, but I can’t promise we won’t fight again.”
Daisy laughed at his moaning. “We’ll take it one fight at a time then, how’s that?”
“That’ll work. I guess.” He glanced down at the coffee table in front of them and saw Daisy’s homework spread out all over the little round table. “I got homework too.” He slid to the floor and opened his back pack. She moved her stuff over to give him space for his books then sat down on the floor next to him and resumed her work silently.
They worked at each other’s side with no more sound than the flipping of pages until Connor’s stomach rumbled hungrily. He looked at his watch. “Man, it’s already dinner time.”
Daisy laughed gently at the humorous sound Connor’s stomach was making as she wrote the last answer to her History questions and closed her book. “I bet the boardwalk shops are still open. Do you want to get some yakitori chicken down there?”
“Sounds good. Let’s go.” They packed up all their school work and left for the beach.
Walking down the dark street, Connor shyly took Daisy’s hand. They were an odd looking pair to be sure. He was tall, blue eyed with wavy blonde curls. She was short, brown eyed with brunette hair all the way down to her waist. As different as they seemed in appearance, they were a perfect matching pair in every other way. Anyone who knew them well would tell you the same. They belonged together like pine trees along an ocean coastline. So different, yet so often found together.
The stars twinkled overhead. Daisy looked up into the night sky. “It’s a pretty night,” she sighed.
Connor looked up. “Yea it is. It’s especially nice because you’re not mad at me anymore. I’m real sorry for being such a lowlife last night. I don’t care if anybody else is mad at me, but I can’t take it if you’re mad at me.” His cool blue eyes looked down at her in a serious fashion.
“If it happens again I might have to kick sizzling Susan’s butt,” Daisy joked.
Connor placed his hand on her head and gently tussled her hair. “Susan’s pretty tough. Stay away from her, okay Babe.”
“No. I won’t stay away from her. I saw how she was rubbing up against you. I didn’t like it one bit,” Daisy fussed.
Connor laughed, mostly because Daisy was so tiny. It was humorous to think of her in a fight. “It won’t happen again, I promise.” He petted her head briefly then took her hand again.
When they arrived at the boardwalk, he led her up the steps and down the wooden platform, looking for the chicken yakitori stall.
Jeremiah and Jason had already started the bonfire on the beach. You could see them from the food stalls on the platform. Several guys were circling the fire, poking it here and there with poles to get the air under the giant burning logs. The flames rose higher and higher into the night sky. Other students were laying logs around the outskirts of the fire for people to sit on. The crowd enlarged as time passed and the guys completed the set up.
Mark and Andy were positioned near the fire with their guitars. They were strumming a familiar melody and chatting with Maria. The gentle strumming of the instruments set a peaceful mood among the large group of teens.
Daisy and Connor found a spot next to Mark and sat down to watch the fire and listen to them play.
“The fire is huge.” Daisy gazed in awe.
“Yep, Jeremiah did a good job. It’s as tall as you are Daisy.” Connor’s eyes scanned the crowds quickly and landed on his jovial buddy Jason on the other side of the flames. Jason tipped his head slightly in a friendly greeting when he noticed Connor looking in his direction. Daisy saw him too and waved. Jason’s grin got bigger. He waved back at her and started moving through the crowd in their direction.
“Great,” Connor mumbled. He thought quickly about how to handle the situation and then decided to reposition himself. He plopped down in the sand at Daisy’s feet and squished in between her knees. He leaned back and put his arms along her legs as though he were sitting in an armchair. Daisy giggled at the snug position he had made for himself. He looked up at her smiling face and held out his cup of chicken to her. “Want some chicken?”
“Sure.” She took one and stuck it in her mouth.
Jason made his way around the fire to the spot that Daisy and Connor were sitting at and sat down next to them. He was not going to let Connor’s defensive sitting arrangement detour him. “So how are my good friends Connor and Daisy doing tonight?” He asked cheerfully.
“We’re good.” Daisy smiled.
“We’re tight as ever,” was Connor’s odd reply. Daisy looked down at Connor briefly. His comment was a strange one in her opinion.
Jason seemed to understand the comment just fine. “Are ya now?” he chuckled.
“Yea. We are.” Connor smiled smugly as he snuggled back against Daisy. “Want some more chicken, Babe?” He held out his cup of chicken for her again and she took another one. He then turned and held the cup out to Jason, “Want one?”
“Thanks, man.” Jason helped himself.
An ocean breeze suddenly blew across the sand and aroused the bonfire flames to great heights. Everyone stopped chatting. They were captivated by the stirred up tongues of fire. The teens watched the glowing flames quiver and shake in and out around the logs. The fluorescent burning branches were mesmerizing against the dark night sky. They were now speechless by the hypnotic sight of the fire.
Time passed, the breeze died down, the fire relaxed and the teens began to chat again.
“So Daisy, do you like sushi?” Jason asked with a bit of mischief in his voice.
Daisy started to answer the question, but Connor spoke up quicker than she did, “It’s not her favorite.” He passed Jason a sly smile for his mischievous question.
Jason smiled at Daisy’s surprised expression and bravely continued, “So what’s your favorite food then?”
“It’s none of your business, Jason. She runs and she eats with me,” Connor declared.
Daisy looked down at him, puzzled by his strange responses. “What’s with you?”
“Nothing, Babe,” Connor smiled up at her. “Just don’t tell him what your favorite is.”
She stared at him, confused. “Why not?”
Jason patted Daisy’s back. “Don’t sweat it Baby-Day. My mission has been accomplished.” He got up and moved to the next log where Andy was sitting with Maria and Mark.
Connor watched Jason whisper to Andy and receive 20 bucks from him. He watched them roar laughing during the money exchange. The lights clicked on in Connor’s head! “You sneaks!” he yelled.
He picked up a shell and threw it at Andy’s feet. “You paid him to do that?”
Andy laughed hilariously. “You wouldn’t have believed the show if I had done it. I have a girlfriend. I needed a single guy to do it, someone believable, who could pull it off!” Andy yelled back at Connor as he laughed uncontrollably at the little prank.
Daisy started laughing then.
Connor looked up at her in surprise. “Was this your idea?”
“No, I think it was Andy’s. He and Maria found me crying near the girl’s bathroom because of all the writing Susan had done on the bathroom walls. Andy said he’d take care of it. But I had no idea that he’d pay Jason to… well… I’m not sure what Jason was doing, but it sure got you going, that’s for sure.” Daisy poked Connor in the ribs, hoping he would laugh too but he didn’t.
He looked back over at Jason. “The thing in the locker room, was that just a prank too?”
Jason smiled. “You should have seen your face man! You were ready to kick my butt!” He laughed some more at Connor’s shocked expression.
“Oh, yea? Well, I might still do it, man!” Connor growled.
“Does the winner get the girl?” Jason rubbed his hands together hopefully.
“Hell no! The girl is mine! You and your lousy manners wouldn’t last five minutes at Daisy’s house. Her Grandfather is very particular, you know!”
“I got manners!”Jason defended himself, clearly wounded by Connor’s insult. “You better watch out Sir Screw-Up because I am presently girl-less and she…,” Jason pointed at Daisy, “She is a nice girl!”
“Cool it you two.” Maria rolled her eyes.
Jason shut up, and Connor leaned back against Daisy, whipped.
“Connor, man, when you saw Jason walking around the fire to speak to Daisy…” Andy held his belly with both arms as he laughed. “My God, man! You nearly sat right in her lap! I thought you might march her right home again and not even let Jason speak to her!”
“Why’d ya do it, Andy?” Connor threw another shell in his direction.
Andy stopped laughing then. “I did it because you made Baby-Day cry, man. That stinks. She asked me to help her out. So I did,” he explained soberly.
“You make Daisy cry all the time with all your stupid teasing, man!” Connor accused defensively.
“Teasing is not the same as breaking someone’s heart. Besides, I don’t make her cry. I make her angry. There’s a difference.”
Connor slumped against Daisy’s chest defeated. He knew there was no winning this argument. He had been wrong to do what he had done, and his friends were just trying to teach him a lesson.
Connor turned in his “Daisy armchair” and looked up into her face sadly. “I’m so sorry, Babe. I should never have gone to that stupid party. Now every time anyone sees me, all they see is what I did. I don’t know if I will ever be able to live this down,” he moaned.
Daisy leaned over him and smiled tenderly. Her long hair fell down like a curtain hiding their faces from everybody around them. Behind the curtain, they were alone with each other. She lovingly moved her fingers down his cheek bone and across his lips. He kissed her finger tips.
Her eyes met his. “Connor,” she whispered.
“I’ve loved you my whole life, but I have never dared to kiss you. Would you… you know… umm, would you be okay… if I kissed you?” She whispered shyly.
Connor reached up and touched her cheek. He slid his hand gently past her ear to the nape of her neck. “I’d be okay,” he whispered.
She shut her eyes and touched his lips with hers for the very first time. Every movement she made, he matched. Such excitement ran through her system that she could not help but grin half way through the kiss.
“I can’t help it,” she giggled. “It’s so much fun to kiss you” she whispered at his lips.
He smiled. “Yea.” He pressed in to kiss her once more. She giggled off and on throughout his kiss.
He smiled whenever she giggled. “Day-Day you’re the sweetest thing,” he whispered. “Your kisses remind me of candy apples and cotton candy.”
She smiled. “Is that good?”
“Yea,” he chuckled softly. “That’s so good.” He brushed his lips back and forth across hers while looking into her eyes. “Sweetest kisses I’ve ever had.”
“Have you had many?” Her question stung him just a little, but he supposed it needed to be asked, so he answered it as gently as he could.
“No, Babe. Not many.” He shut his eyes and moved down her neck.
“Oh my God,” Daisy mouthed the words. The sensation he was causing in her was more than she could take.
“Yea?” He looked up.
She touched his face with her hand, but she didn’t speak.
“Are you okay?” He pressed her hand against his cheek and looked at her.
Smiling uncontrollably, she whispered, “Umm… maybe I need to stop a minute.”
“I’m embarrassed to look up at everybody. I don’t think I can take the grin off my face,” she admitted as crimson flooded her cheeks.
Connor smiled into her eyes lovingly. “Come down here and sit next to me,” he suggested.
She managed to get off the log and next to Connor while keeping her head down at the same time. It was quite a feat. Connor chuckled lightly the whole time she did it too. She curled up in his arms, resting her head on his shoulder. He petted her hair and kissed her head a few times as he watched the fire, silently.
After some time Daisy relaxed. She dared to look up at the others around the fire. Andy and Mark were still playing their guitars. She watched them play and secretly admired their skill. Andy looked up from his strings and caught her looking his way. She was still smiling ear to ear against Connor’s shoulder. Her smile made Andy smile.
She mouthed the words, “Thank you.”
Andy winked at her then returned his attention to his strings.
The wind picked up again. The flames soared up into the air making a big whooshing sound. Some of the logs crackled and broke in half. Small specks of fire rushed out in every direction like swarms of escaping fire flies.
Andy moved next to Daisy. “Maria and Mark are going home now. They haven’t finished their homework.”
“We did ours,” Connor mumbled. He was still caught up in the magnificent glowing scene before him.
“You’re looking so intently into the fire, Connor. What do you see in there?” Daisy asked quietly.
“The fire reminds me of my Mom. Remember when she told us the story of the fiery furnace?” he mumbled still in a hypnotic state.
“Yea, I remember that. She told us to resolve to do what’s right no matter what, just like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did,” Daisy remembered.
Connor pulled Daisy closer and whispered into her hair, “Mom always had the best advice. I need to work harder at holding to it.”
Andy grinned slyly. “Yep you do, ’cause if you don’t, I can always tell Jason what Daisy’s favorite food is.”
Connor got an irritated look on his face and punched him, quick as lightning. “Shut up, man. You don’t even know what Daisy’s favorite food is.”
“Connor, you seriously need a reality check if you think you are the only one who knows Daisy. I grew up with her too ya know. If you are taking her out at night, her favorite dinner food is lobster. If you are taking her out in the day time then she likes Mexican food or sub sandwiches. Am I right?” Andy grinned at Daisy’s surprise and Connor’s irritation. Then to poke Connor further he added, “And, if you take her to waffle house for breakfast, she’ll order biscuits and gravy every time.”
Daisy looked at Andy completely baffled. “I thought all you ever noticed about me was my big ears.”
“Can’t help but notice those.” Andy winked at her again. “If he gives you any more trouble Dumbo, you just tell me. I’ll straighten his inconsiderate butt right out.” Andy slapped his buddy on the back and laughed at the steam rising from his ears.
“There won’t be any more trouble,” Connor mumbled in humiliation.
Daisy snuggled deeper into Connor’s arms, repressing laughter the best she could. Connor had gotten in trouble from every angle imaginable. She saw no need to rub it in by laughing about it now. Besides, he still needed to face Willie tomorrow.
One last thing, my ISBN is finally done! Yeah!
Bowker LLC, All Rights Reserved. ISBN 978-0-615-54925-5
Have a good week. Julia French