Once Connor got cleaned up, he poked his head in Daisy’s front door and yelled, “Daisy, are you ready to go to the pizza place?”
“Not yet!” Daisy hollered from her room.
He could hear the hair drier blowing so he just plopped down on the couch to wait for her.
After a short wait, Daisy rushed out. “I’m so sorry I’m taking so long. Don’t be mad. All I have to do is find my shoes, and I’ll be ready to go!” she said as she rushed around the house looking for her missing shoes.
Connor put his hands behind his head and leaned back, entertained by the sight of her. “Wait Daisy. Turn around a minute. What are you wearing?”
She stopped and whirled around to look at him and then look down at her dress. “Am I too dressed up for the pizza place?” She hesitated and then looked down at herself again, afraid he might not like what she was wearing.
He gave her an approving once over, with a grin. “Geez Daisy, you look really nice in that dress. I like it.”
She was wearing a black sundress that laced up the front and fit tightly across the chest. It had thin straps and a full skirt to the knee. She found her black sandals and put them on quickly.
“Thanks, you look nice too.” She smiled back at him. He was wearing her favorite, light blue, Adidas v-neck sports shirt. She loved this shirt more than the others because it made his ocean grey eyes look so unbelievably blue.
“There’s only one thing you’re missing,” he added thoughtfully.
He crossed the room to stand next to her and pulled out a gift.
“I made it for you, would you wear it?” He held out a leather strip with a sharks tooth that he’d found at the beach, attached in the center.
“Oh, it’s beautiful. I’d love to wear it.” Daisy smiled at the new romantic side she was seeing in Connor. She bent her head a little into his chest, and he tied the leather strap ends behind her neck. She stood straight again. He took a step backwards and admired her.
“You look real pretty Daisy.”
“Thank you,” she said a little bashfully. Then she got an idea.
“Well, if you are giving me a necklace then I should give you one too.” She reached back up to her own neck. Under the sharks tooth necklace that Connor had just given her lay a silver chain with a little silver star on it.
“That’s your mother’s necklace, you’ve always worn it.”
“I have always worn it. But I want you to wear it for me now.” She hesitated a moment afraid he might say no.
“I’ll take real good care of it,” he assured her.
She reached up and clasped it around his neck the same way he had done to her. “It is a little bit feminine, but I think you can pull it off,” she joked quietly.
“Thanks.” He touched her cheek like he wanted to say more, but he didn’t know exactly how to go about it.
“Let’s go,” they both said together. They opted to skip the awkward moment and go down to the parking lot instead.
Connor’s Dad’s car was a black firebird. It was an old car but well taken care of and very clean. Connor opened the door for Daisy and she slid in. He skipped around to the other side and got in and started the engine. He was about to pull out into the traffic when his cell phone started ringing. He stopped to answer it.
“Hey Andy, what’s up?” He listened to what Andy had to say then answered him. “Yea, I did see that. Hmm… yea… I noticed that. Hmm… well, I can ask. I’m going to Family Mart first. Meet us there. Okay, bye.” He hung up the phone, leaned back in his seat and pulled out into traffic, heading for the Family Mart.
Connor chuckled lightly to himself as he thought about Andy’s words.
“What are you laughing at?”
“Daisy, babe, why are you and Maria keeping secrets?” He looked over at her smiling.
Daisy was puzzled not knowing what he was referring to. “What do you mean?”
“Do you know what happened to Maria’s knee and elbow at the meet today?”
“Oh, that,” Daisy said relieved. “Maria wanted to tell Andy herself after they left Surfside. I’m sure she will tell him soon. I don’t think I need to say anything,” Daisy explained.
“It seems that Maria is not telling him anything, and Andy is a little bit ticked off because she won’t tell him the truth. They’re not at Surfside now. They’re at the pizza place. Now Daisy, please tell me what happened.” He flashed her a quick suspicious glance as he drove, like she really knew some big secret.
“Well,” she hesitated, “The 10-mile girls took their places to start the race and you know that girl… Alison, the one who hangs out with Gary and Glenn?”
“Yes, I know who you mean.”
“Well, she positioned herself really close to Maria, and when the gun went off Alison just rammed her shoulder into Maria really hard. Maria fell down and scraped her knee and elbow, probably her hands too. But Maria got up really quick and started running. When she ran passed me, she said specifically not to tell Andy. I figured it had something to do with Andy’s prayer about sportsmanlike behavior. I’m sure she’ll tell Andy soon Connor, really,” Daisy said confidently.
Connor took Daisy’s hand as he drove. “You can always tell me anything, no matter what it is. You don’t need to keep secrets from me, okay? And if Maria is afraid of Andy’s temper she can tell me too, and I’ll handle Andy. But you two really need to tell me and don’t keep secrets. Especially if anybody does anything like that to you again.” Connor gave Daisy the parental type look that he’d developed over the years from looking out for her when her Grandparents were away.
“Okay,” Daisy replied softly. He turned up the music and hummed along to the song playing.
“Are we in trouble?” Daisy asked shyly.
“Absolutely not!” he stated strongly. “But I can’t say the same for that girl, Alison,” Connor huffed.
“Maria just didn’t want any trouble, you know,” Daisy said trying to smooth things over. Connor pulled Daisy’s hand into his lap and laced his fingers into hers as he drove along.
“You’re not in trouble and neither is Maria. You can tell me anything. okay?”
“Okay.” She sighed a sigh of relief and then sat back more relaxed now.
Connor backed his car into a spot in the Family Mart parking lot. A few minutes later, Maria and Andy pulled in next to them. When they got out you could tell that Andy and Maria were both ticked off.
Connor gave Andy a twenty dollar bill and said, “Daisy and I want two peach teas and an SD card for this camera.” Connor handed him his camera, then continued his list, “You can get Maria and yourself whatever you guys like. Go into the store and take your time. Give me a minute to talk to Maria.”
Andy gave a reluctant nod then disappeared into the store.
Connor looked over at Maria who was standing at a distance. He stuck his arm out to her. “Maria, come here girl. I don’t bite,” he encouraged. She came closer, and he put his arm around her. “Maria, Daisy saw Alison knock you over with her shoulder. Is that right?”
Maria looked down at her feet, afraid to admit anything. “Connor, I don’t want Andy getting in a fight.”
Connor held Maria’s chin up. “I can handle Andy. You just tell me what happened okay?” He smiled gently.
“Alison did knock me over, but that was it. That’s all that happened. I just got up and started running. Nothing else happened after that, honest,” she confessed.
“It’s not good for you to try to keep it a secret. If you’re afraid of Andy’s temper you can tell me or you can tell Mark even, but don’t keep it a secret. Don’t tell Daisy to keep secrets, okay? Mark and me, we can handle Andy.”
Maria wiped a tear from her face as quick as she could. As proud as Maria could be sometimes she always melted when Connor spoke softly to her. Connor wrapped both his arms around her for a minute. She mumbled into his shoulder, “Connor, I know Andy, he will fight. I tried to tell him I just fell down, but he wouldn’t believe me.”
Connor chuckled. “You’re a lousy liar Maria, even when you give your best poker face. A kindergartener could tell if you were lying. Telling the truth is the best thing. He won’t fight with anybody tonight. Now you need to tell him the truth.”
Just then Andy returned from his little shopping expedition. He had various items in his hands. He had cooled down a tiny bit while walking around Family Mart. He gave the peach teas and the SD card to Daisy and Connor. He had lemon tea for himself and Maria.
“Here you go Care Bears.” Andy held out a tea for Maria sheepishly. “I’m sorry I got so angry. Can you forgive me?”
“Yes, can you forgive me for trying to lie to you?” Maria gave Andy a crooked smile when she admitted her wrongdoing.
“Sure I can, now will you pleeeeaaaase tell me what the hell happened?”
Maria looked at Connor then at Andy. She then repeated the event as simply as possible for him.
“Jeez, Maria, why was that so hard to tell? I pretty much figured out it was something along that line anyway. Why wouldn’t you tell me?” Andy asked frustrated.
“It’s just that I don’t want some huge fight with Gary or Glenn happening over this. I was afraid you’d go hunt them down because of what Alison did,” Maria confessed.
“Hum.. yea well, if you had told me at Surfside I might have done that, but I won’t do that now.” Andy turned to Connor. “What should we do?”
Connor was wondering that very thing. “I think we need to take some photos of her knee and elbow with my camera because the scrapes will go away soon. Let’s tell Coach Peggy for starters. Maria should probably show her scrapes to her Mom too. Let her Mom and Coach Peggy handle this through the school system you know? Do it the proper way,” Connor suggested.
“That sounds good…” Andy looked back at Maria. “How about that? Can we tell Coach Peggy and your Mom? Maybe they’ll have an idea?” Andy asked hopefully.
Maria smiled. “I could tell my Mom and Coach Peggy.” She laid her head on Andy’s shoulder thankful that no one was running off to fight. He hugged her gently.
Connor then tossed Andy his camera. “Take some pictures of her knees and hands, man. Daisy and I still haven’t eaten. We’re going to the pizza place now.” Connor opened Daisy’s door and helped her in.
“Alright, catch you guys later, man.” Andy stuck his hand out to Connor and he slapped it. Connor and Daisy drove off, leaving Andy to take photos of Maria in the parking lot.