Mrs. Langley’s bright blue, country kitchen was bustling with hungry teens. Andy, Connor, Daisy, Maria, and Mark had divided up the dinner chores. Each one was executing their task in full force.
Andy was not much of a cook, but he was great with a knife so his task was mostly cutting up anything that needed cutting up. Whenever he finished cutting something he would wave his knife in circles over his head shouting, “Next!” Everyone would duck with simultaneous laughter in order to avoid Andy’s swinging, knife bearing arm.
Maria’s job was the baked potatoes. Once they were in the oven, she didn’t have much to do so she washed the different things that Andy cut up and passed them to Daisy and Connor.
Daisy and Connor were the real cooks in the group. For them, cooking was a survival skill that worked to their advantage in situations such as this. Connor was stir frying onions and peppers on the stove while Daisy put together a secret broccoli casserole she had learned from her Grandmother.
Mr. Langley was right outside the kitchen sliding glass door working the grill. He was humbly sporting a blue jean apron and baseball cap for the occasion. He kept calling out to his wife, “Do the steaks look done, dear? Do they look done?”
Mrs. Langley walked out onto the patio to investigate. “They look fine dear. Bring ’em in.” She returned to the table, humming a little tune as she finished setting it. She was always extra happy when all her family members were home at the same time. However, that wasn’t the only thing making this day special. She was also glad because Maria’s situation had risen to the surface. Her teens had included her and Mr. Langley in their problem solving attempts. A steak dinner was the very least she could do for them.
With the table set, steaks and other dishes cooked, they sat down to a feast and ate until pleasantly full. Then Mrs. Langley pulled out apple pie and ice cream for dessert.
As they enjoyed dessert, Mr. Langley cleared his throat and began to speak on a more serious note. “Children, I’m thankful that you have included me and my wife in this problem that has been going on for… well… I don’t know how long, but as it has been unfolding bit by bit to me, questions fill my head.” Mr. Langley, knowing how very temperamental his daughter was, spoke carefully.
“What are they, Dad?” responded Mark easily, not being the temperamental one in the family.
Everyone looked at Mr. Langley so he continued, “During the meeting this afternoon, Alison and also Coach Timbers mentioned a man named Mr. Adams. They mentioned him in such a way that I decided to search for him online and find out who he was. Now, I wish that you all would, uh… take your time, and just explain to me what Mr. Adams and his sons have to do with all of this mess with my Maria.” He looked at each of them, not really sure which one of them would speak up first.
It was Andy who spoke up. He explained about the Florida Regional Championship and the regular harassment from Gary, Glenn and sometimes even Alison. “Honestly, Mr. Langley, it had always been just competitive natures ‘gone bad’ between just us guys. It never affected Maria until now. The problem is… they don’t like us winning. They have their eye on the Florida Championship.”
Then Connor jumped in to explain the Family Mart incident the day before. He concluded with, “If they touch any of the girls again, I don’t know how we can avoid a fight with them.”
“And you know, Dad, they think Susan is my girl because they have seen us together even though she isn’t really. She’s more of a target than Daisy or Maria because she’s alone. We will have no idea if they go to her house or pick on her. Know what I mean?” Mark’s voice had true concern for Susan in it.
Mr. Langley sat back in his chair, taking in all that the kids were reporting to him. “Well, as I said before, I Googled Mr. Adams. He seems very popular on the internet. I realize now where I knew his name from. He does own a lot of land around here. Some people have accused this, Mr. Adams, of illegal land deals, but nothing was ever proven in court. He is presently under investigation for illegally importing girl dancers from other countries, but that also goes unproven in court. He had a sloppy divorce with Gary and Glenn’s mother. Boy, the tabloids had a heyday with that one. Their mother ended up deported. The list of accusations against this man just goes on and on,” Mr. Langley sighed, “But there’s nothing solid. He seems quite slippery.”
He took a long sip of his coffee. After a moment he resumed in a sadder tone, “These two boys of his… they are obviously growing up in a very troubled environment.” He stopped his report again as sad thoughts overcame him. He sipped his coffee, taking a moment to try and switch his thoughts from the troubled twins back to his daughter.
None of the kids had ever stopped to think about Gary and Glenn’s home life. They had never pondered what reasons might be behind their mean behavior, as Mr. Langley was now doing. They studied Mr. Langley, hoping for more insight.
Mr. Langley resumed, “I have now learned, at the school meeting, that Alison’s parents work for Mr. Adams. They seem to think that he can keep Alison running on the Surfside team, and that affects my Maria. So I want you all to keep me posted on what is happening with these boys, as well as Alison. Every time you see any of them around I want to know about it. Okay?” Mr. Langley dug into his pie and quietly worked on it as he thought about what to say next.
“What about Susan, Dad?” Mark ventured to ask.
“Well, son. You are right that we need to watch out for her. Why don’t you invite her over tomorrow night, and we’ll see how we can help her, okay? Isn’t she the gal that you brought to church?”
“Yea, that’s her. She likes our church and running. Maybe she can start running at the boardwalk with us.” Mark looked at his friends hopefully.
Andy nodded in approval. “That’s probably a good idea. If she goes to church with us and also runs with us then at least we would know if the irritation twins have been around her at all.”
Connor reached under the table and took Daisy’s hand while whispering in her ear. “Are you okay with that? Cause you and I can run on a different schedule, if ya want.”
“I’ll be fine. Maybe we’ll have a chance to be friends with Susan the correct way,” Daisy whispered back.
“Well,” Mrs. Langley jumped in cheerfully, “We have a lot of cleaning up to do kids. Shall we start on the dishes?”
The boys gave little moans as they stood and stretched their achy legs. “Man, I’m still sore from those highway steps!” Connor complained.
“Me too,” Mark and Andy chimed in. With plates in hand, they wandered slowly off to the kitchen to do dishes with the girls.
Mrs. Langley smiled sympathetically at the funny way all the boys were shuffling to the kitchen. She’d heard about highway 74 and felt their pain, but there was not a whole lot she could do about it. “I’ll have to have them over again sometime,” she thought to herself.
“Maria,” Mr. Langley spoke from the dining room.
“Why don’t you and I take a walk? It’s a nice evening out. I ate so much I could use a little walk. The others can clean up without us, don’t you think so?”
“Yea, they’ll be fine.” Maria smiled while looking back at her friends.
The others moaned again, but this time it was about how unfair it was that she got to skip cleaning.
Maria walked out of the kitchen, unmoved by all their complaining and limping around.
“I just thought a little father-daughter time was needed right about now,” Mr. Langley said as they stepped out into the night air together.
Later that night, much later, Maria woke from her sleep thinking about what her Dad had said. “I found out a lot about the Adam’s family on the internet.”
She quietly got out of bed, turned on her computer and began researching the Adam’s family. She secretly found their entire family to be fascinating. She went through hundreds of pictures that Glenn had posted of himself on Facebook. He seemed to love showing off his muscles and a barb wire tattoo around the upper part of his left arm. She also noticed for the first time that Glenn had a single hoop earring in his left ear.
“So… there are ways to distinguish between you two after all,” she thought to herself.
Gary posted very few pictures of himself, just one or two of him standing with Alison. He displayed no tattoos. He only wore a black chain with a black crucifix attached to it. All the rest of the photos on his Facebook page were surprisingly of horses.
The most touching part of her whole search was that she discovered that Gary conversed with his mother on Facebook. They talked about horses of all things.