Cheering could be heard up and down the hallways of Maxwell High School when the school bell finally rang! Kids ran here and there, laughing and screaming like wild birds released from tiny cages into the wonderfully free realm of… CHRISTMAS BREAK!
On the way to the parking lot, Daisy made a pit stop at the sophomore locker bay. One paper at a time she cleaned out her locker. After making an enormous pile of unwanted trash at her feet, she pushed it with her foot to an overflowing trash bin near the door and left it there. She had to duck a few times as airplanes made from discarded test papers flew haphazardly over her head, but she did manage to make it through the wild crowd of laughing kids, into the open-air freedom of the parking lot.
Grace and Willie ran up to her. “Hey, Daisy, what are you doing?”
“I’m supposed to be going to the mall with Connor, but I don’t know where he is. Have you seen him?” Her eyes roamed the parking lot in search of him.
“He’ll turn up.” Grace smiled because she saw Connor approaching. He had his finger to his lips though so she knew to keep a straight face, but it was hard. A giggly smile was creeping slowly across her face which confused Daisy.
“What’s so…,” Daisy started to speak but Connor snuck up behind her and grabbed her suddenly!
Daisy screamed at the top of her lungs! She turned around and started playfully pounding Connor in the chest with her good arm, for scaring the day lights out of her.
Connor laughed and took her playful pounding in good humor. “Let’s go find Coach Peggy,” he suggested in between punches. “She’s supposed to drive us to Dad’s work place so I can get the car.”
“Oh, is that the plan?”
“Yep.” Connor placed his arm lightly across Daisy’s shoulder, in a guarded fashion, just in case she took to pounding him again as they strolled off to Coach Peggy’s office.
Coach Peggy was just locking up when they reached her gym office.
“Are you kids ready to go?” she asked over her shoulder.
“Yea, we’re ready. Here, let me carry that for you.” Connor took Coach Peggy’s computer bag.
Connor looked carefully at Coach Peggy. He had never seen her with her hair down. It appeared to be a pretty golden type color with just a few grey hairs here and there. She normally wore it tied back so tight she almost looked Asian. But today, she was wearing Daisy’s Christmas head band so her hair hung attractively down her back. Connor secretly pondered this newly revealed side of his Coach as they walked to the car and left for his Dad’s work place.
Davis came out of the front door of the Palmer Company to greet them when they arrived. He put his arm around Peggy as soon as she got out of the car. “You didn’t return the head band yet, I see,” Davis teased.
“Maybe I won’t.” Peggy laughed.
“Do I still need it?”
Davis kissed Peggy right there in the parking lot, right in front of Daisy and Connor.
Daisy and Connor did a lousy job of concealing their shock.
Davis eyed his son’s expression. “You’re catch ‘in flies boy, shut your mouth.” He took the headband off Peggy’s head and handed it to Daisy with a big grin. “Thanks, Daisy Ray.” He dug his car keys out of his blue jeans and handed them to his “fly catch ‘in” son. “Okay you two, go Christmas shopping. Pick me out something real nice, okay?” Davis joked then continued, “We will meet you at the jewelry store between 5:30 and 6, okay?”
“Great,” Connor choked out, still in shock.
Finally Davis looked Connor straight in the eye. “What boy? You think you’re the only one around here who knows how to kiss?”
Connor did a little cough-laugh. “No Dad, I don’t think that. It’s just that we’re out here in the parking lot. You just surprised me a bit, that’s all.”
“Well, you kiss in the hallway. What’s the difference?”
“I guess, there isn’t any, Dad. I will just have to get use to it.” He grinned ear to ear as he realized “family adjustments” were definitely on the horizon.
Daisy tugged on Connor’s hand, he followed her lead by turning and scoping out the parking lot for the Firebird.
Davis pointed. “It’s over there.”
“Jewelry store, between 5:30 and 6, got it, Dad.”
“Bye Davis. Bye Coach Peggy.” Daisy gave a little wave.
“Bye Darling.” Coach Peggy smiled cheerfully.
Connor and Daisy then left for the mall.
Daisy and Connor strolled lazily through the mall, window shopping. They didn’t really know what to buy anyone yet. They stopped at a drink machine for drinks.
“Peach tea?” Connor looked over his shoulder at Daisy to make sure he was picking the drink she wanted.
“Yep, peach tea. I don’t know what to buy anyone but Maria,” she moaned with frustration.
“What do you want to get Maria?”
“In the jewelry store, I saw a charm for her bracelet that I liked. It was the tiny word ‘friends’ in gold. I think she would like that.”
“Okay, let’s get that for Maria,” Connor agreed then added, “Mark and Susan are really into music, we should get them some CD’s.”
“Yea, let’s do that.” Daisy regained hope in their Christmas shopping skills. “Mark is always looking for new running tunes to download on his IPod.”
“Yea, so’s Willie and Grace.”
They went up the escalator, to the next floor, where the music store was located and bought CD’s for Mark and Susan. They also saw a couple that Willie and Grace would like so they got those as well.
They went up another floor, to the sports shop, looking around for Andy and agreed that compression socks were good for him. “He’s always wearing mine. He needs his own,” Connor mumbled as he looked over what was available.
Daisy saw a Jaguars football jersey on display in another aisle. “Hey that’s on sale.” She jogged across the aisle to take a closer look. “Grandpa will love this.”
Connor followed her. “I think you’re right, let’s get this stuff and move on.”
Daisy quickly found Grandpa Joe’s jersey size then followed Connor to the checkout counter to purchase the items.
“Where to next, babe?”
“How about a photo album for Grandma Rose?”
“Okay, let’s go to the stationary store and find that.” So they walked off to the stationary store. They bought Christmas paper, tape and a photo album for Grandma Rose.
Daisy began looking at the beautiful picture frames. There were tons of different types to choose from. Daisy’s hand stopped on a silver wedding frame. It wasn’t real silver, of course, it only looked silver but Daisy really liked it. She liked anything silver.
“Do you like that?” Connor asked as he came up behind her. He held her around the waist and propped his chin on the top of her head looking at the frame.
“Yea, I do. When I saw it, I got a flash picture in my brain of your Dad and Peggy in it. Let’s get this for Peggy.”
Connor dropped his head to her cheek and kissed her tenderly “Okay, babe.”
She leaned back against Connors chest a few minutes, day dreaming, as she looked at the frame.
Connor quietly laughed at her dreamy state. He gently took the frame out of her hand and examined it more closely. “Yep, I can see my Dad and Peggy in there too. Let’s buy it.” He chuckled once more then took Daisy’s hand and led her to the register. “I know what my Dad wants.”
“He loves those sausage, cheese and cracker sets.”
“Oh yea, that’s right.” She grinned at the thought, that this year might be the first year she ever got all her Christmas shopping done in one shot. “Let’s get a couple of those.”
They wandered off to another store and bought Christmas sets for Davis, Joe and the Langley family.
“Let’s go back downstairs to the jewelry store. It is about time for Dad to show up.” He placed his hand on Daisy’s neck and guided her slowly through the crowd onto the escalator. Every now and then he would glance down at the dreamy expression on Daisy’s face and chuckle.
“What are you thinking about?” Connor whispered in her ear.
“Your Dad likes Coach Peggy,” Daisy replied dreamily.
Connor chuckled. “Yea, that’s pretty cool, huh?”
When they arrived at the jewelry store Daisy went straight to the charms. “Do you see that one there?” She pointed into the glass case. “Let’s get that one for Maria.”
Connor motioned for the sales person to open the case. He showed him which one they wanted and paid for it. Then he turned to Daisy, “That is pretty much everybody isn’t it?”
“Yep, everybody but you. What do you want for Christmas?”
He took her hand and walked her around to a different glass case. “I want you to pick out something from here. It will be a present for both of us, together.” He stood behind her and gave her a gentle nudge towards the counter.
Daisy gazed at the promise rings in the glass case before her. “There are so many different kinds,” Daisy said in amazement.
“Take your time. We have all night.” Connor leaned over her shoulder looking with her.
“I sort of like silver better than gold. What about you?”
“Mmm yea, I knew you liked silver better. How about those, there.” Connor pointed to some smooth silver bands. “They will engrave names inside if you ask them to.”
“Mmmm, I’d like your name inside my ring.” Daisy smiled dreamily.
Connor gave her a tender squeeze. He loved her dreamy state and wished to enter it with her. He leaned his head down to her ear, “I love you, Daisy girl. Let’s get our names engraved inside them and exchange them on Christmas day.”
“Kay.” She smiled dreamily.
Connor called the salesperson over and showed him what they wanted. The salesman took the rings to the back for the engraving. When he was done, he handed the rings to Daisy for inspection.
She took the little treasures in her hand, with a big, beaming, ear to ear smile. “They’re perfect,” she whispered.
Connor chuckled lightly at her happy face and paid for the rings.
They left the shop looking for Davis and Peggy. “Where are those two?” Connor wondered out loud.
“Maybe they’re kiss ’in in the car.” Daisy giggled.
Connor smiled down at her “That’s all together possible. Dad is, sort of full of surprises these days. Let’s go sit over there at one of those coffee shop tables. We can see them coming from there.” They walked over and found a table out front with good visibility and sat down. Connor spread his arms out over the backs of the adjacent chairs, placing one hand on Daisy’s back, he stretched out his legs into his waiting position.
Daisy proceeded to go through her bags and organize the things she’d bought. In her mind she ran through all her friends and family, “Did I forget anyone?” Eventually, she came to the promise rings. She pulled them out to look at them again. “They are very pretty Connor, thank you.” She leaned her head back against his shoulder and gazed at them some more.
He kissed the side of her head. “You’re welcome, babe. I can’t wait to put them on.”
She put the rings away and they watched the people walk by for a while. “Everybody is in such a rush.” Daisy suddenly realized.
Connor chuckled. “Are you just now noticing that? Everybody, but you, is in a rush, babe. It’s Christmas shopping time. Everybody runs around trying to get it done quickly. You don’t do anything fast, but run, remember?” He laughed while he drew circles on her back lightly.
“I guess, I live in my own world sometimes.”
Connor smiled. “Your world is the best, babe. If I could, I’d live in it all the time with you.” He leaned over to see into her eyes. “I love Daisy’s world.”
She thought about that for a moment. “How about Daisy and Connor’s world? Wouldn’t that be even better?”
“Yep, that’s even better. Where nothing is fast but beach running.”
“And no household chores at all,” Daisy added.
“That’s right. No chores.” He smiled and touched her hair with his lips. He wanted to go there with her. He shut his eyes and imagined it. A place where only he and Daisy lived. He pulled her closer and sat with her tucked up under his arm for a quiet moment in their private world.
“It’s the best world ever. Isn’t it?” she whispered.
Davis and Peggy strolled up slowly, hand in hand, and sat down at the coffee shop table next to Connor and Daisy.
“How did your shopping go?” Davis asked looking at all the bags around Connor’s chair.
“I think we did pretty good. I’m getting sort of hungry now though. Do you want to buy us dinner?” Connor grinned hopefully.”We spent all our money.”
“Yea, I’m hungry too. Let’s walk across the street to the steak house and eat dinner,” Davis agreed.
“Great! I’ll take all these bags to the car and meet you over there. Daisy, you go with Dad. Okay, babe?”
The steak house had dark wood walls and deep family size booths with red and white checkered tablecloths. Davis found a booth for his family and ordered T-bone steaks for everyone.
Connor entered the busy restaurant and found them situated snuggly in a big booth. “Did you order for me, Dad?”
“Yea, I ordered you a T-bone.”
“That’s perfect, thanks”
Davis cleared his throat and rubbed the side of his face like he was struggling to say something.
“Something bothering you, Dad.”
“Not bothering me exactly, but I was hoping to get a chance to talk to you about something.”
“Well, you know I have been bowling with Peggy for maybe three years now, and uh, I have really become quite fond of her… as you know, and uh…”
“Yea, I know that.” Connor smiled, sensing his father’s awkwardness.
“Well, I was wondering… how you felt about Peggy and I get ‘in married?” Davis looked his son in the eye searching for his true feelings on the subject.
Connor’s smile got bigger. “WOW! That’d be great! When are you thinking about doing it?”
Davis released a large breath of air in relief. “Well, um, we were thinking about getting married in June. Is that okay with you?”
“June is great, Dad.”
“Well son, if that’s how you feel about it. Then we are buying rings right after dinner, and you should consider Peggy and I engaged,” Davis announced triumphantly. He stretched his arms out over the back of the booth to encompass his new fiancé, overjoyed that Connor was being so agreeable.
“Congratulations!” Daisy and Connor both said in unison.
Their food arrived and they began to eat heartily. As they ate, a thought occurred to Connor. “You know Dad, Daisy and I bought promise rings today.”
Davis looked up from his steak, “Oh, you did?”
“Yea, we did. I want to marry her as soon as she is old enough to marry.” Connor seized the opportunity to pour out his own news.
Peggy smiled at Connor’s optimistic, youthful tone.
“Well, I wouldn’t let Daisy marry anybody else.” Davis chuckled over his food. “Nobody else knows how to take care of her, but you.” He took a big bite of his potato and chewed hungrily for a while then continued, “I got a letter from the hospital. It seems one of their interns quit. He decided to go into a different line of work.” Davis eyed Daisy suspiciously. “Something about having the tar kicked out of him by a little girl.”
Daisy quickly looked down at her food and took another bite.
“That stupid intern was trying to kick me out and take her shirt off! You know she’s not going for that!” Connor defended Daisy with rekindled anger.
“Like I said son, she can’t really marry anyone else, but you. Nobody else could take care of her.” Davis smiled at his son. “Daisy is like my own daughter. I couldn’t bear to have her go with anyone else but you.” Davis took a gulp of his tea then added the question, “What are you going to do about college?”
“I don’t want to go away to college. I want to stay here and work at Palmer part time and go to the Junior College to become a teacher. I don’t want to leave home or Daisy.” Connor looked at his Dad, hoping that he would see things the same way.
“Really?” Coach Peggy jumped into the conversation, truly interested, “I might be able to help you if you wanted to be a teacher.”
“I was thinking about teaching younger kids.”
“Andy thinks Connor would be perfect for running a day care center. He is always teasing him about it,” Daisy added in.
“You haven’t got any experience with young kids. Why would you want to go with younger kids?” Davis asked.
Connor leaned back and put both his arms up on the back of the booth. One hand he rested on Daisy’s head and he played with her hair gently. “I have experience with babies, Dad.” He turned and looked affectionately at Daisy.
Coach Peggy choked back a laugh.
“Well, I guess I should have seen that coming,” said Davis also choking back a laugh.
Daisy looked up from her tea. She wasn’t catching what everybody was choking back laughter about. “What?” she said truly lost.
Davis quickly changed the subject “You have people throwing money at you, left and right, for school but you want to stay here,” Davis said shaking his head.
“The Junior College takes scholarship money, grant money or any other kind of money a person’s got. I want to go to school. I just don’t want to leave to do it. Mr. Adam’s money will work just as well for the Junior College as it would at any other college.”
“I suppose you are right about that. I don’t really want you to leave either, son. I like having you around.” Davis smiled and then asked for the dinner bill. “Well, Peg and I are going to go buy some rings. What are you two doing?”
Connor looked down at Daisy. “We haven’t decorated the Christmas tree at my house yet. Do you want to help me decorate our tree?”
“Sure, then we can wrap all our presents and put them under your tree. Grandma’s tree is already full.”
“Okay then, after Peg and I finish at the jeweler’s we’ll come home and help you,” Davis said as he got up from the table.