When they arrived back at Daisy’s home they all went straight to the kitchen and sat down at the table looking hungry and tired.
“Who’s making lunch, man? I’m starving.” Andy gave Connor a direct look as he leaned back in his chair.
“I guess me.” Connor got up from the table and started digging in the Greene’s refrigerator for anything that might be good for lunch. “Looks like slim pick’ ins today, man. When are Joe and Rose coming back? They need to do some serious shop ‘in, babe.”
“A couple more days. There’s lots of sandwich stuff in the bottom bin.” Daisy pointed where she meant.
Connor redirected his search. “Man, this whole thing really ticks me off, ya know?” He pulled things out of the fridge and tossed them up on the counter as he grumbled, “Dad was gonna take me, Daisy and Coach Peggy out to the steak house and give us the royal treatment, man. Those stink ’in Surfsiders ruined our day a-g-a-i-n!”
“I know what ya mean. I was supposed to go to Maria’s. Mr. Langley was gonna break out the grill and everything,” Andy huffed in agreement as he propped his feet up on an empty chair.
Connor looked over the items on the counter for a few moments. “I was gonna have steak,” he mumbled then turned around and stared at Andy relaxing at the table. He narrowed his eyes in an annoyed fashion. “Hey don’t put your dirty shoes on Rose’s chair.” He pulled on the chair which caused Andy’s feet to drop back to the ground with a heavy thud. “Get up here and help me, man.”
Andy grinned because he almost got away with doing nothing. “Yea… alright.”
“Hey Day, can I take a shower here?” Maria asked.
“Sure, go ahead.”
Maria excused herself and headed for the bathroom.
“Come here.” Connor waved Andy up to the counter. “I’ll make grilled cheese sandwiches, and you look up in the cabinet and find some soup.” Connor pointed to the correct cabinet that soup could be found in and passed him a stew pot.
Andy took the pot. He looked at it, then looked back at Connor. “Isn’t this pot kinda big man?”
“It’s a pot, Andy. What difference does it make what size it is. Just use it,” Connor barked as he dropped the butter on the floor. “Aw, man…”
“Shut up man. Hey, by the way, you nearly got us killed driving to the hospital!”
“I took the back roads!” Andy defended his ability to maneuver through downtown traffic.
“They were one way roads, man! Don’t you know a ‘do not enter’ sign when you see one? There’s a reason why those roads are empty. They’re for the ambulances.” Connor dropped the butter again. He picked it up and tossed it towards the trash bin and missed. “Shit.”
He walked over, picked it up and tossed it a second time. It hit the side of the bin and slid slowly down the side leaving a greasy trail behind. “Man!” He grabbed a washrag from the sink and stomped back over to the bin and wiped it off.
Daisy smiled at Connor, but he didn’t see it. He was too busy grumbling unmentionable phrases at the uncooperative piece of butter.
“Those roads are empty for people like me who are in a hurry! We got there faster than it’s taking you to butter that stupid bread.”
Daisy held her sore arm and giggled at the quibbling pair. “You guys are so funny in the kitchen.”
Andy and Connor smiled sheepishly when they remembered they had an audience. Neither one of them felt like making lunch. The wrecked track meet had thrown a wrench into the workings of their day, but hearing Daisy’s laughter encouraged them to ham it up a bit and salvage what they could. So, like the true athletes that they were, they rose to the occasion and made the best lunch they were able to with a bit of silliness on the side for Daisy’s amusement.
She showed her appreciated for their outstanding efforts by giggling at all the right moments.
By the time Maria returned from her shower the table was set. There were hot sandwiches and soup in the middle of the table waiting to be devoured.
Andy moved to Maria’s chair quickly and pulled it out for her just like a waiter might do at a fancy restaurant. Maria smiled at his formal manner. “Thank you. Maybe it’s not steak but there is no reason why we can’t enjoy eating together just the same.”
“That’s right Care Bears,” he said as he sat down beside her.
They all held hands in a circle around the table and Andy prayed a prayer of thanks for the food and for helping Daisy through the hospital ordeal. At the end of the prayer he got a sly look on his face and added, “Help that intern dude to chill out too.”
“I guess I should say thanks because the TV crew was there to tape my fall. Everyone saw what happened, plain as day,” Daisy threw in.
Then Maria put in her two cents, “Let the solution to this problem also become plain as day.”
Connor took his turn at the end, “And… thanks for clearing the way when Andy drove down that one way road like a maniac. I am soooo glad to be alive!”
“My drive ‘in isn’t that bad,” Andy mumbled.
Then everyone said, “Amen,” together.
“I don’t know what was with that intern anyway. I don’t think you have to take your shirt off to put on a sling. Why did he insist on doing it that way?” Maria asked the group.
“He should work on his bedside manner, that’s for sure!” Connor snapped.
“He probably saw a pretty girl and flipped out eh, Daisy?” Andy poked Daisy in the ribs again.
“I am all sweaty and dirty from running and falling in the pavement. I doubt that was his problem. I think I gave the poor guy a heart attack.” Daisy looked down at her plate a tiny bit embarrassed. “I suppose I over reacted just a tad, but did you see the size of those scissors?! They were huge!” Daisy looked up from her plate and held her good hand out from her body trying to show how huge they were.
“He scared me first, that’s all I can say.” Daisy took a bite of her sandwich as the hospital scene replayed in her mind. “Then, on top of it all, he wanted Connor to leave the room, Maria! Can you believe that!” Daisy anger began to rekindle. “Honestly, that scared me more than falling at the meet!”
“He had it come ‘in, Day, don’t worry about it. He should know better than to wave scissors the size of hedge clippers around injured girls. That’s a ‘no brainer’ man.” Connor shook his head at the stupidity of that particular act. He dished some more soup into his bowl and tested it. “Achhhh, hot.”
He looked up from his bowl. “Take your medicine after you eat,” he tried the soup again, “then I’ll help you with your shower.”
“How’s that gonna happen? I mean she is a girl and all.” Maria looked at Connor puzzled.
“It’s easy, her clothes are already dirty right? Just take off the sling and set her on a stool in the shower with all her clothes on and hose her off. I can soap up her hair and rinse it out, but the rest of her I just hose off with water.” Connor smiled at his plan. “Just like in fifth grade eh, Daisy?” He grabbed another sandwich off the plate and stuck it in his mouth.
Andy started laughing again. “Yea, that’s how they bathe Dumbo in the cartoons isn’t it?”
“A-n-d-y,” Daisy moaned.
“What, I just call ’em like I see ’em, man,” Andy teased.
Maria continued her questioning, “Okay. Well then, you just leave her standing there dripping wet in the shower?”
“No, I don’t just leave her standing there dripping wet.” Connor was already irritated by all the unwelcome events that had taken place throughout the day. Maria’s questions just stirred the fire further. “Haven’t you ever seen those towels that button down the front?”
“Well,” he rolled his eyes like everyone but Maria knew how to use a button down towel, “Daisy has one of those. We use that when we take off the wet stuff. I don’t see a thing and neither does any crazy intern dudes.” He stared at Maria, not liking her questions. “Just for the record, I wouldn’t take advantage of her, if that is what you’re getting at. So you can relax, Maria.”
Andy chuckled. “Burned you girl.” Andy gave Connor a high five right over Maria’s head.
Maria rolled her eyes and continued, “I am just curious as to how you get it done, that’s all. I will only help if Daisy thinks it’s needed.” Maria smiled at Daisy and added, “You aren’t a fifth grader anymore.”
Daisy sighed. “Look Maria, Connor has taken care of me my whole life. I have always been fine with it, you know that. But if you think it makes him look bad to be alone with me like that then you’re welcome to help because I don’t want you to have the wrong idea.” Daisy didn’t like Maria’s questions either but she was too tired to fight about it.
“You see?!” Connor sat back in his chair vindicated. He rested his arm on the back of Daisy’s chair and played with her hair, stewing in unhappy thoughts. Maria wasn’t saying it out right but he suspected that she was thinking about his drunken episode with Susan at the beginning of the year, and that was really why he was being questioned now. He’d noticed Maria becoming close to Susan over the past few months. He imagined that she’d heard another version of what happened that night at Jeremiah’s party. A version that made Susan a victim and him a cad. “Daisy is different than Susan. I would never take advantage of her.” He put up a wall that no one could see but all could feel. Internally, he was preparing himself to defend his care for Daisy to the bitter end if the needle-nosed questions persisted.
“How did Susan get into this?” Maria raised her voice in frustration. “I only want to help Daisy get cleaned up!”
“You didn’t say her name but you were thinking about the party incident with her in September,” Connor growled defensively. “I know how to take care of Daisy. I don’t need any help.”
“Where in the world did you get that! I was not ‘thinking’,” Maria made little quotation signs in the air, “about Susan or Jeremiah’s party. I was ‘thinking’ about Daisy needing a shower, and I want to help. That’s all, Connor. So calm down.”
Usually, Andy enjoyed spicy conversation between his friends but this conversation was starting to take an ugly turn. “Time out!” He stuck his hands in the air to form the letter T. “Boxers return to your corners!”
When he had everybody’s attention he said, “What happened to ‘maybe it’s not steak but there is no reason we can’t enjoy eating together just the same’. Hmmm? What happened to that?”
“He started it.” Maria pointed across the table at Connor. “He’s telling me what I think and don’t think. I wasn’t thinking anything about Susan.” Maria crossed her arms and looked at Andy for help.
“Why all the nit-picky questions then?” Connor growled.
“I was looking for a way to help.” Maria threw her hands in the air, frustrated. “If you didn’t need help with the hosing Dumbo off part, then maybe, I could help afterwards when she puts on new clothes. Why is that so hard for you to see? I was just looking for a way to squeeze past your bullet proof shield and do something for Daisy.”
Connor stared at Maria, silently stewing on what she’d said.
When Daisy noticed the awkward, silent moment she stuck her hand in the air.
“Dumbo has something to say.” Andy nodded in Daisy’s direction like a teacher might do during class time.
“Can you guys quit calling me Dumbo? I’m Daisy, which is a flower not an animal.”
“Sorry, Daisy.” Maria gave her a sad smile then looked back at Connor who still had not responded.
“Ball is back in your court, Connor, my man.” Andy pointed out.
“So… your questions really had nothing to do with you thinking I would take advantage of Daisy like I had done in the past with Susan?” Connor humbly ventured.
“I wasn’t thinking anything like that at all, Connor. I was only looking for a way to be helpful.”
“So… Susan doesn’t call me names behind my back, making me look like a cad in your eyes?”
“Well, she calls you names all the time. Her favorite one is ‘The Brush-off Master’, but that has nothing to do with what is happening right now. I don’t think you are a cad, and Susan can’t make me think that either.”
“The Brush-off Master, huh? Is that it?”
“That’s it, but Connor, you have to see that these are two, very different situations. They are not connected at all. Why are you connecting these two separate events together?”
“I don’t know. I’m sorry.” He looked like he wanted to say more so everyone remained quiet. “Well, that night with Susan still sort of haunts me. I can’t seem to shake it. Sometimes it’s just because others remind me about it. You know, make jokes about Susan and me, in the locker room at school or something like that. I could handle it if that were as far as it went.” Connor stared at his hands on the table trying to put his out-of-whack feelings into some kind of understandable order before continuing. “When it really gets to me is when people think, or rather I think that people think, that because I did that with Susan, that I would do it again with Daisy.”
Connor looked at his friends with pleading eyes. “Daisy is the straightest 2 by 4 in the pile. Ya know what I mean? She would never do some of the things I have done. I don’t want people thinking she’s a free pass. It makes me, like, crazy defensive, when I feel like someone is challenging my relationship with her.”
“I hear ya, man,” Andy soberly said like a true comrade. “Put ‘er there.” He stuck his hand out to Connor.
Connor gave Andy’s hand a slap. “Thanks man.”
“I believe you.” Maria smiled compassionately. “But if this thing haunts you like you say, maybe you should, you know, take it to the Lord. Ask Him to cleanse you from these things from your past that haunt you. Cut them off from your present life so you can move on from them.”
He blew out a big gush of air and gave Maria a hard look. “Yea, okay, but uh, if you don’t mind, I’d rather do that kind of praying with just Andy. It’s kinda guy stuff, and he already knows most of my crap anyway.”
“Sure, that’s fine, however works best for you,” Maria agreed.
Connor slapped his thighs with his hands like he was making a decision about something then he looked at Daisy. “Are you mad?”
“No.” She smiled softly. “It’s good to get things out on the table. We need to do that sometimes.”
He wrapped his arms around her and hugged her tight. “I love you so much, Day,” he whispered. “Here you are with a hurt shoulder and I’m the one kick ‘in up a fuss. I’m sorry I’m such a mess. Can you still love me?”
Daisy gave him a look that melted his heart. “I kicked up an ugly fuss at the hospital. Didn’t you see that?”
“I saw the entire show and will love you forever for it.” He chuckled lightly at the memory of her tantrum.
“Love finds a way past the mess, and I will always love you too, mess and all. Now, go sit in the living room with Andy and give your mess to the One who can actually wipe it away,” she whispered back.
“Kay.” He reluctantly loosened his hold on his girl and nodded in Andy’s direction. “Let’s go in the living room for a while, man.”
“After you.” Andy followed Connor out of the kitchen, leaving the girls at the table.
The phone rang. Daisy got up to answer it. “Hey, Davis. Yea, I’m fine… we just ate. Yes, we have the x-ray. Oh… hummm…. okay. Yea, I will tell him. Do you want to talk to him yourself? Oh… okay… bye.”
Daisy sat back down at the table with Maria.
“Everybody is still at the police station with Alison and Gary,” Daisy explained. “Mr. Adams and the McNeal’s have these fancy lawyers down there trying to get their kids out of jail. Both Gary and Alison are 18 years old so the police won’t release them. Their parents are trying to cut some kind of deal with Davis and Mr. Langley.”
“Why is my Dad still there? Shouldn’t it just be Davis, Coach Peggy and Principal Murray working this out?” Maria questioned.
“Well, from the news team tapes it was obvious that the broom was really meant for you but you managed to jump it. I was so close that it hit me instead. Alison’s first attack was on you too, remember? So your Dad wants to team up with Davis and Maxwell. They’re going to press charges together.” Daisy finished her glass of tea and placed the glass in the sink.
Maria began cleaning the kitchen up. Daisy tried to help but Maria wouldn’t let her. “No Day-Day, you don’t need to help. Take your medicine. Go lay down in the family room and see if the news is on yet.” Maria ushered her out of the kitchen, through the living room where Connor and Andy were huddled in prayer and into the family room. Then Maria returned to the kitchen to finish the dishes.
Daisy laid down on the couch and began flipping through the channels. She stopped on a cooking show she liked and watched it until the end. Then she started flipping through the channels again.
“Hey, get out here!” Daisy hollered. “Look you guys! We’re on TV!”
Everyone piled into the family room. Sure enough the Columbus High School meet was all over the news.
“Look, there’s Gary and Alison hiding in the crowd with that broom!” Andy pointed to the screen excitedly.
“Why do you think that’s Gary?” Maria questioned.
“Because it’s his name at the bottom of the screen, Maria, see?” Andy pointed to the words running at the bottom of the TV.
“When Davis called he said it was Gary down there at the police station too,” Daisy added in.
Maria stared at Alison’s companion deep in thought. “The words said Gary, Davis said Gary, but the earring said Glenn.” She chewed on this thought silently.
Connor suddenly pointed to the TV screen and yelled, “Aw man! Look! Gary’s telling her when to throw it!” They all stared at the set and watched Maria jump the bouncing broom.
“You’re just like a gazelle!” Andy praised Maria’s gracefulness.
Maria wanted to smile at Andy’s praise but she just couldn’t because Daisy came next. Daisy was also like a gazelle. A beautiful gazelle falling off a cliff and smashing to the ground.
When the camera moved to Daisy it switched to slow motion. Her entire fall replayed slowly, step by step before them. The cameras moved across the field showing Alison and Gary trying to escape then back to Daisy sprawled out on the pavement with Connor and Andy carefully flipping her over. The cameras zoomed in on Connor setting her shoulder then they swung back across the field to Alison and Gary fighting with the cops.
“Look at them arguing with the cops trying to get out of it!” Connor yelled furiously.
“Well, they are down at the police station right now not getting out of anything. So you can relax,” Maria said then added, “Let’s pray for them.”
“What? Not again, Maria! I prayed for those idiots already. Look what they did to Daisy!” Connor’s anger was about to peak again.
“And they were aiming for you, Maria!” Andy piped in equally upset.
“Well, you want the truth to come out, right?” Maria said carefully.
“Of course,” Connor fumed.
“Well, do you think you can manage to agree with me in prayer for the truth to come out?”
“Well, yea… I guess.” He started to calm down.
“How about praying for the right kind of punishment? Asking for a punishment that would help to set them back on the right track, bring correction? Could we all manage to be in agreement about that?” Maria asked cautiously.
Connor eyed Maria for a few minutes thinking about what she was saying. “Those two were born off track. There’s no right track where they’re concerned,” he grumbled.
“That’s how it looks to you, but there is a lot we don’t know about Gary and Glenn,” Maria reasoned. “Maybe God knows something we don’t, something that can correct them.”
Connor let out a gush of air and reluctantly said, “Yea, I guess I could agree with you if you were to ask God for that.”
Andy rolled his eyes and moaned, “I’d like to start with a face correction.”
His comment caused Connor to crack a small smile so Andy continued, “Then after that, a double deluxe attitude correction.” Andy banged the knuckles of his two fists together displaying what he meant by “double deluxe”.
Daisy was lying on the couch listening. “I’m in. I think they need serious help. The kind only God can give. But if they come anywhere near me I’m gonna kick ’em!”
Connor’s sliver of a smile enlarged. “Maybe we need to pray for Daisy and her kicking problem!”
“No, don’t pray for that! I want to see her kick the tar out of those two!” Andy hollered out.
“I don’t see my kicking as a problem. Everybody I have kicked had it coming as far as I could tell.” Daisy patted her hurt arm in a protective manner.
Maria rubbed her hands together like she had a job to do. She bowed her head and prayed for the things that they mentioned then she closed with, “Please help Daisy to find a better way to express herself than by kicking.”
Connor, Daisy and Maria said, “Amen,” together.
Andy held back his amen.
“What’s wrong, Andy? Can’t you say amen?” Maria asked a little hurt.
“I can say amen to everything but Daisy’s kicking.” He crossed his arms defiantly. “If some weirdo comes along and wants to touch her, she should be able to kick him without feeling guilty about it,” he explained.
Maria thought about what he said. “Okay then. You pray about her kicking thing and I will agree with you.”
Andy bowed his head. “Dear Lord, if anyone comes near our girls with bad intentions in their heart, make our girls fast and make ’em mean! Help ’em fight if they ever need to, amen.” Andy looked up, completely confident in his request.
Connor smiled at Maria, wondering what she’d say about that kind of prayer.
“Well, okay then. Amen, I guess…,” Maria finally choked out. “Everybody is free to say what they like to the Lord. I’m not in charge of that. I’m just hoping to guide you into a praying lifestyle that’s all.”
Daisy smiled as one tear slid down her cheek. “Thank you, Andy.”
“You’re welcome, Dumbo.” He stuck his knuckles out to her and she tapped them gently.
Daisy looked at the others and decided she needed to explain. “I don’t like feeling like a victim. I don’t think God wants us to be victims either. He would want us to fight if someone were to try to hurt us. Don’t you think so? I mean, if you told me I couldn’t kick, what else could I do? I am not very big. I can run, I can kick… that’s really about it.”
Connor understood her perspective. He didn’t like feeling like a victim either. “I think you are right, babe. I would want you to fight too.” He wiped her tear and smiled at her. “You can kick anybody you want but me. I’ve seen you kick. I don’t know if I could recover from a Daisy-kick.”
Andy shot his fist up into the air and hollered, “We are not victims! We are victors!”
They all raised their voices and hollered Andy’s phrase in unison, “We’re not victims! We are victors! We are not victims! We are victors!”
Once the shouting died down, Andy made a suggestion, “Let’s grab a shower at your place, Connor, then come back.”
“Sounds good to me,” he agreed. “Don’t move around too much Day-Day. When I come back it’ll be your turn.”
Daisy smiled a sleepy smile. “Kay.”
Maria sat on the floor looking through Daisy’s DVD’s for a good one. “Hey, let’s watch this one!” She held her movie choice up in the air for Daisy to see, but there was no answer. Daisy had drifted off to sleep. “It must be the medicine,” Maria mumbled as she slid the movie into the player.
When the guys came back they were going to sit down with the girls to watch the movie but the phone rang again. Daisy was completely asleep so Connor grabbed it.
“Hi, Dad. Yea, we’re all okay over here. What’s happening down there at the police station?” Connor was quiet for a long time. He listened carefully as his Dad explained what was happening at the station.
When he got off the phone Maria paused the movie. She and Andy looked at Connor wanting the scoop right away on what was happening at the station.
Connor gently lifted Daisy’s head, slid under her and sat on the couch with her head in his lap. Once he got into a comfortable position, he began telling them the whole story.
“We all have to be at the court house at 9 am tomorrow morning,” he said simply as he stretched his arms out over the back of the couch. “Alison finally admitted that she rammed Maria in the stomach on purpose and she also dropped the broom on purpose. She made a deal with our parents that if she explained Mr. Adam’s involvement she would have a lighter punishment. She said that Mr. Adams was promising her college tuition if she would help Gary and Glenn push us out of the races,” Connor explained shaking his head. “Can you believe that?”
Andy looked down at Maria’s knees. “She has scars that will never go away because of that day,” Andy stated. He was still upset about that. He pulled Maria over closer to him and brushed his hand over the scar on her leg. “They should pay big for what they did,” Andy said angrily.
Daisy rolled over in Connor’s lap and blinked her eyes sleepily. “What did I miss?” She yawned.
Connor looked down at her and brushed her hair out of her eyes. “We’re going to the court house in the morning, babe.” He looked back at Andy. “Dad said Alison will probably only have to do community service, but Mr. Adams will have to pay a lot of money to us and to the school. I’m not sure about Gary or Glenn. Dad says that it turns out that they are not even U.S. citizens so he’s not sure what will happen with them.” Connor looked back down at Daisy. “We should probably get you cleaned up. How do you feel?”
“Sleepy,” she said as Connor helped her up. “My arm doesn’t hurt at all now.”
“Good, good, the medicine must be working. That will make a shower and getting changed easier,” he stated encouragingly then he glanced in Maria’s direction. “Are you gonna help her or am I?”
Maria looked at Daisy. “Do you need me?”
“Yes, I need you Maria.”
Connor plopped back down on the couch next to Andy. “What are we gonna do til they get back, man?”
“Bet I can do more sit ups than you can,” Andy challenged.
“Bet you can’t.”
“Looser has to make a trip to the ice cream shop and bring back hot fudge sundaes for everyone.”
“You are soooooo ON!”
Late that night, when everyone was sound asleep, Maria went to the bathroom with her book bag. From her bag she pulled out a post card that she had been saving. It had a picture of a horse on it. On the back side she wrote, Why are you letting them blame you? You weren’t even there? She signed it, A Friend. She stuffed it back in her bag and returned to bed.