The Bailey men were just getting their Christmas Eve morning started. Connor was in the shower, and his Dad was slowly moving around the kitchen, minding his own business, making breakfast when the door bell suddenly rang.
“Who in the world…,” Davis set his coffee down and went to the front door.
A young man in a business suit stood politely at the door.
“Yes, can I help you?”
“Are you Connor Bailey?”
“No, I’m Davis Bailey. I’m Connor’s father. What can I do for you?”
“I have a summons for a Connor Bailey. Do you know where he is?”
Davis took a step back and yelled in the direction of the hallway, “Connor!”
“Yea? I’m in the shower!”
“Someone’s at the door. Get out here!”
Connor came down the hallway dripping wet with a towel around his waist. “Who is it? Can’t they wait?” he grumbled standing in the living room entrance way.
“No, they can’t. Just sign for this summons and you can go back to your shower.”
Looking annoyed and puzzled Connor marched to the door, took the summons and signed that he’d received it. “Is that it?” he queried.
“That’s it, thank you.” The young man turned and left as quickly as he’d come.
Connor read the contents quickly. “Oh, I know what this is. This is about testifying against Mr. Adams. I heard him confess to underage girls in his clubs, remember? That’s what this is. What a drag! I have to be in court on Christmas day!” He handed the letter to his Dad and stomped off, mumbling unrepeatable names for Mr. Adams as he went.
Davis stood in the living room looking over the summons. “Somebody has got to put this guy away, might as well be us. Merry Christmas Clearwater.” He spoke mostly to himself because Connor had left the room. Davis returned to the kitchen, disappointed that things seemed to be coming to a head, right on Christmas day.
After dressing, Connor entered the kitchen looking for orange juice. He grabbed the carton from the refrigerator and chugged it down in seconds. Then taking his usual basketball pose, he tossed it lightly into the trash can. “Yes, I am such a winner,” he cheered in a hushed tone.
Davis looked up from his newspaper. Balancing reading glasses on the end of his nose, he chuckled lightly at his son. “Is that your breakfast? I got eggs on the stove.”
“I’ll eat later. I’m going to Jeremiah’s. Daisy’s gonna call me when she gets home from shopping with Grandma. We’ll meet here and eat with you before church.”
“Sounds like a plan. Joe and I are going bowling with George, Cindy and Peg. They will be eating here tonight too.” Davis tossed Connor the car keys.
“Thanks,” he said and he was out the door faster than his Dad could say, “Bye.”
“That boy can’t hold still for a split second unless Daisy’s around,” Davis mumbled under his breath as he returned to his paper.
Connor pulled up to Jeremiah’s house and parked at the end of the driveway. He could hear the guys talking loudly over blaring heavy metal music as he walked up the drive into the cluttered garage.
“Hey Connor, good to see ya, man,” Jeremiah lifted his head out of his car engine to greet him.
Connor grinned at the friendly greeting. He couldn’t really hear the words because of the outrageously loud music but he could make a pretty good guess at what was being said to him. He knocked knuckles with Jason and Jeremiah. “Hey man, what’s go ’in on?”
“You know Ramone, don’t you?” Jason yelled and pointed to some legs under the car. Ramone rolled out from under the car on a skate board.
“No, I haven’t met him,” Connor slapped his hand in a friendly greeting, “Hey Ramone.”
“Maybe you don’t know me, but I know you…”
“What?” Connor put his hand to his ear.
Ramone spoke up louder, “Maybe you don’t know me, but I know you. I’m in Daisy’s English class. Our teacher is always asking her to read her stuff out loud. All her poetry is about you, man.”
Jeremiah elbowed Jason and pointed to the boom box on the counter. Jason reluctantly turned down his favorite tunes for his friends.
“Really? I didn’t know that. So you’re in tenth grade with Daisy, huh? Why don’t you join the cross country team and run with us?” Connor smiled.
“Not me, man. I’m in wrestling and football. That’s enough for me.” Ramone shook his head.
“Yea, he’s in wrestling with us, man!” Jason yelled over the still, very loud music. The guys resumed looking into Jeremiah’s car engine with serious faces as Ramone rolled back underneath.
“What are you looking for?” Connor asked as he peered into the engine with the others.
“Just changing the oil. Ramone got me and Jason the good stuff for Christmas,” Jeremiah announced.
“Okay, I think that does it.” Ramone rolled back out from under the car. “It’s all drained out. Now you can put the new stuff in, man.”
Jeremiah poured new oil in, then slammed the hood shut and turned the engine over. He revved the engine for a few seconds and all the guys grinned at the amazingly good sound that his well-tuned hot rod made.
“Sounds good.” Jeremiah patted the side of his vehicle affectionately. “We’ll take her out for a spin after midnight, when the roads are empty,” he promised his buddies.
“We need some girls to go with us,” Jason moaned.
“Susan can barely squeak out ‘hello’ to me since she started hanging out with Mark, so she’s out. And Chrystal, well, she isn’t allowed to see me anymore. Her Dad is majorly pissed off at me for bringing her home late the last time. So you’re on your own for finding girls, man.” Jeremiah shook his head for a brief, sad moment. Then quick as lightning, he popped out of sadness and switched gears. “Okay then… let’s move on to happier, more reachable targets shall we?” He rubbed his hands together and gave them all a challenging grin. “Next, on our very important holiday agenda is a little friendly weight lifting.” He pulled the cover off his Dad’s weight bench.
Jason laid down first. “Come on man, pile those babies on! I’m gonna kick butts today!”
“Hey, friendly, man. Remember I said friendly?” Jeremiah chastised.
“I’m friendly. I will, in a very friendly way, kick your butt.” Jason waved his arm for the guys to add more weights onto the ends of the bars and he began.
They took turns trying to outdo the other, until early afternoon. By the end of it all, Ramone won hands down. He was, by far, the best when it came to plain old brute strength.
“I guess I should have known you’d win, Ramone. You’re a two hundred pound monster, man.” Jason sat on the bench, wiping his sweaty face with a towel, unable to match what Ramone lifted.
“I don’t weigh two hundred pounds, man.” Ramone laughed.
“What do ya weigh? It’s got to be close to two hundred.”
“I came in at 140, but the coach said I was overweight so I’ve been trying to lose a few. I think I’m around 130 now… I’m feel ‘in pretty good too.” He shook out his arms as though he could do more if the guys were up for it, but they weren’t. They wagged their heads, dismissing his body language proposal.
Jeremiah switched gears again as he headed up the garage steps that led to the kitchen door.“Anybody want a soda?”
“Water’s good,” Connor patted his stomach lightly.
“Oh yea, I forgot to tell you Ramone. Connor here, he’s a health freeeeeaaaaak! If you want to lose weight you should stick with him,” Jeremiah said over his shoulder as everyone followed him into the kitchen.
“Yea, emphasis on the freeeeeaaaak!” Jason teased with a high pitched voice that made your ears hurt.
“Do you know what soda does to your bones, man? In gym class Coach Peggy soaked chicken bones in soda for a week. It was disgusting. Orange juice, tea or water are fine for me,” Connor defended his taste buds.
“I got a well behind the house if ya wanna go super, health-freak natural, man! I also got tea, for normal people. Tea is right here.” Jeremiah put a pitcher of tea on the counter along with some sandwich making things. “You can make a sandwich if ya want one.”
Connor poured a glass of tea and sat on a stool by the counter, unbothered by his buddy’s teasing remarks. “So Ramone, does Daisy talk about me a lot in class?”
All the guys grinned as they threw together sandwiches, hoping to hear something good.
“She doesn’t really talk about you. She just writes about you. She wrote a poem about your ‘ocean grey eyes’ once,” Ramone started laughing then continued, “All the girls were love sick for days after that stupid poem, man.” The guys laughed and knocked Connor around for a few minutes after that juicy tidbit of news.
“You lucky dog, I wish I had a girlfriend.” Jason punched Connor’s shoulder again.
“Ow! Quit hitting me, man!” Connor complained.
“I want a nice quiet girl, who can help me with my homework.” Jason declared.
“Bertha Blake, she’ll help you with your homework!” Jeremiah offered with roaring laughter.
“Shut up, man. I ain’t going near that girl. She’s scary!” Jason returned.
“I don’t want a quiet girl. I want a wild one I can wrestle with!” Jeremiah pounded his chest like Tarzan.
All the guys turned on Jeremiah, hollering “Bertha Blake! She’s your girl!”
“No way, man! I want her pretty too, with big blue eyes, like that Alison girl that follows Gary around!” Jeremiah hollered out while the guys punched him around.
Connor froze when Jeremiah mentioned Alison. “You’re kid ‘in, right? You better stay away from her. She’s major trouble. Need I remind you, she has a psycho boyfriend.”
“I’m just saying she has pretty eyes, that’s all,” Jeremiah defended his comment.
Connor’s phone buzzed. He dug his phone out of his pocket and sat back down on his stool to answer it.
“Hey babe, are you home?” he smiled down at the floor as he listened to Daisy talk. “Okay, babe. I’m coming… see you in five. Bye.” He hung up and looked back up at his girl less buddies. “Well… it’s been great hanging out with you guys but I got to go.”
“Aw, man, it’s not fair. How does an ugly guy like you get a nice girl like Daisy Ray?” Jason moaned dramatically.
“Maybe it’s his ‘ocean grey eyes’,” Ramone teased as Connor tried to leave.
“Shut up!” Connor laughed as he pulled himself away from his buddies. “Leave me alone you bunch of desperados. I got to go.” He jogged out to his car, turned his music up to match the vibrating sound coming from Jeremiah’s garage and made his way back home again.
When Connor arrived home, he immediately disappeared down the hallway, hollering as he went, “I’m taking a shower Dad!”
Joe, George, Cindy and Peggy were all in the kitchen with Davis getting dinner ready.
“Okay son, but hurry up because dinner is almost ready!”
After some time passed, the door bell rang and Davis went to answer it. “Hello there ladies, come on in!” he boomed.
“Merry Christmas,” Daisy managed to say as she plunked a heavy case of orange juice into his arms. She rubbed her shoulder, mumbling, “Man, that’s heavy.”
“Do you need some ice?” Davis gave her a concerned look.
“I’m okay, it’s just that my stupid bum shoulder doesn’t always want to cooperate.” She kept rubbing it as she walked into the house.
“Well, thanks for lugging this heavy box up here, that was quite a chore.” Davis gave both Daisy and Rose a peck on the cheek as they passed by him.
“It was kind of you to invite us over. We’ve been out all day, and I haven’t had any time to cook before church.” Rose smiled.
Daisy looked around. “Where is Connor?”
“He’s in his room, I think. Go get him. Maybe you can hurry him up because we are almost ready to eat out here.” Davis put the case of orange juice on the floor behind the kitchen door.
Joe came out of the kitchen to greet his wife. “Hey dar ‘lin, how’d the shopping go?”
“Took us all day, but we did manage to find a dress Daisy was happy with.” Rose shook her head as though it had been more difficult than she was admitting.
“Hey Daisy, don’t take too long back there! Come to the table and eat with us!” Davis repeated his request in order to hurry the kids up as parents often do.
Joe grabbed Rose’s hand. “Come on in here and help me and George. We’re making a mess with this salad.” He pulled her off to the kitchen.
Peggy and Cindy wandered out of the kitchen across the living room to admire the Bailey Christmas tree.
“Your tree looks beautiful,” Cindy complimented.
“Thanks, it was sort of a group effort.” He turned on the blue lights to get the full effect. “There you go ladies.” Davis smiled at the reflection the lights made across Peggy’s face.
The stove buzzer rang. He darted back into the kitchen to pull the roast out.
Daisy tapped on Connor’s door. “Connor, can I come in?”
“Yea, come in!”
When she pushed the door open, Connor took hold of her and lifted her off the ground in a big bear hug. “I missed you,” he said into her hair. He’d just finished his shower so his hair was wet and he smelled like soap. He was completely dressed for church, wearing black jeans, a white dress shirt and a V-neck, forest green, pullover sweater.
“I missed you too. Want to see my new dress? It will match what you are wearing, I think.”
She pulled out a dark green satin dress. It had a square neck line and long sleeves. Black lace lay on top of the green satin. There was a sash that tied in the back as well. “Isn’t it pretty?” Daisy smiled ear to ear as she held it out for him.
“Yea.” Connor was looking more at her than the dress, but she didn’t mind. He softly ran his finger along the side of her face. “You will look great in it.” He pulled her closer and gave her a kiss. Then he heard his Dad hollering from the living room.
“Connor! Daisy! Get out here! We want to eat!”
Connor tapped his forehead against hers and moaned. Daisy ran her fingers into the back of his hair, aiming for another kiss. He grinned at her eagerness but he knew he couldn’t go along with it so he pulled up a tiny bit. “I wish we had more time but Dad will walk right in here if we don’t get out there real fast.” His eyes flashed into hers and she knew that he was right.
“Okay, okay, okay,” she whispered, frustrated.
“That’s my girl.”
She laid her dress out on his bed and they walked out to the living room for dinner.
“What took you two so long?” Davis queried.
“I was showing him my dress,” Daisy answered as she sat at the table.
“Well my goodness girl! How long does it take to do that?”
“Leave her alone, Dad. She just wanted me to see her dress.”
“Must be quite a dress.”
Grandpa Joe jumped in, “Let’s pray and go to town on this great food we have here, Davis!” Joe winked at Connor then grinned hungrily at the food before him.
They all held hands and prayed a prayer of thanks for the food and began to eat.
“This is delicious, Davis,” Rose praised.
While they passed the food around the table, Davis asked Joe, “Do you know what came to the door this morning?”
“Connor has been summoned to court to testify against Mr. Adams on Christmas day. Can you believe that, Christmas day?!” Davis stared at Joe, showing his displeasure at the timing of the whole affair.
“Really, what time on Christmas?”
“One o’clock I think… wasn’t it one, Connor?”
“Yea. Will you go with me Dad? Mr. Adams is so super irritating, even in cuffs. I just wanna punch him every time I see him.”
“Sure will,” Davis agreed while he ate some more. “I’m interested to hear what else he’s been doing besides bullying teenagers, anyway.”
“I also received a summons to court, and so did Principle Murray,” Peggy announced.
George looked up from his food. “You know that forest property behind Palmer?”
“Yea, the piece the company has never been able to buy.” Davis looked at George seriously.
“Mr. Adams is supposedly the owner of it.” George gave Davis a suspicious eye.
“Well, isn’t that something,” Joe chuckled.
“Sure is. That’s one pretty piece of undeveloped land,” George hummed. “I wish it were available.”
“Mr. Adams going to jail doesn’t automatically make his land available, does it?” Connor asked.
“It might, it might not. There are a lot of factors involved that I don’t know, as yet.” George went back to his food.
“Well, don’t that beat all.” Joe chuckled again.
“One thing at a time, people. Right now, we’re spending part of our Christmas putting this guy behind bars. I’m glad it’s get ‘in done, but personally, I hope it’s the last time my kids have to ever see him.” Davis pointed at Daisy and Connor across the table with his fork. “My children shouldn’t have to deal with criminals.”
“I know my Andy has had about all he can take from those Adams boys,” Cindy quietly said.
“I agree, this man has scared my students and their parents for a very long time. It needs to stop,” Coach Peggy added in.
“Okay everyone, don’t get your dander up.” George smiled. “I’ll wait until the holidays are over with before checking on the property.”
Davis looked at George and wagged his head. “You can check on it if you want, but I’ll just tell you right now, I don’t want anything that that man has had his hands on.”
“Even if the city is the seller?”
Davis let out a gust of air, thinking. Finally, he gave in, “City is different…I guess.”
They ate quietly. Davis got up and took his plate to the sink. “Connor, you and Daisy clean up the kitchen before you leave.”
“I’ll only be a minute, Peggy.” Davis patted her back quickly then disappeared down the hallway to get changed.
Rose and Joe excused themselves saying, “We’ll head over to our place to get ready for church and meet you there.”
“Okay, see you there.” George, Cindy and Peggy moved back over to the Christmas tree while Connor and Daisy cleaned the dining table.
Once Davis was ready for church he went to the kitchen and gave Connor a few last words then he was off with Peggy, Cindy and George.
Connor had his shirt sleeves pulled up to his elbows, washing the last plate. Daisy laid her head against his back and hugged his waist holding him there with all her affection.
“I think we got everything,” she whispered into his back.
He drained the water from the sink and turned around drying his hands off on a towel. He draped his arms across her shoulders, receiving her love.
“I’m gonna miss you tomorrow,” Daisy said sadly.
“I’ll hang out with you all morning, okay? And I’m sure, I’ll be back before dinner,” Connor encouraged.
“Can I go with you?”
“No babe, stay with your family. I won’t be gone long. You don’t want to go to court on Christmas. I will be back as soon as I can, okay?”
“Kay,” she agreed then looked up with sudden alarm, “Oh no!”
Daisy ran out the front door leaving Connor standing in the kitchen blankly. After a few minutes she returned slowly, deep in thought.
“What happened?” He was still in the dark.
“I’m locked out of my house. I don’t have my house key. Grandpa and Grandma have left for church.”
“Well, umm… your dress is over here. What else do you need?”
She continued to think. “Well, I guess I don’t need anything really. But I have no shoes to match my new dress over here. I can’t wear these.” She held out her foot to show him her sneakers.
He walked over to her and pulled her close to him again. “That’s not so bad. I’ll carry you on my back, barefoot.”
“We will be quite a sight! Me coming in on your back,” she giggled.
“Mmmm, you could wear my flip-flops?” He grinned at the thought. Then he took on a sly look. “Or I could keep you here, all to myself.” He started to kiss her again. “I like that idea the best,” he mumbled into her neck playfully.
Daisy smiled at his playfulness and put her arms back around his waist, giving him a squeeze.
“Oh, you like that idea too. Great, let’s do it,” Connor teased further.
“You know I would get in trouble if I did that.”
“Hum, I wouldn’t want you to get into trouble. Maybe, you could say it was all my fault,” Connor whispered against her neck.
Daisy smiled at what he was saying but she sort of wanted to go to church. She didn’t want something like shoes to stop her. “I think I will wear your flip-flops,” Daisy decided.
“Too bad,” Connor moaned dramatically. “We could have had so much fun if we’d stayed home alone.” He wandered into the living room and plopped on the couch looking sad.
Daisy laughed at his drama, she knew he was only “acting”. She walked off to his room to change, still laughing.
In a few minutes she returned in her new dress.
“WOW!” Connor’s face lit up. “You look great!”
“Thanks.” She looked down at her bare feet and they both grinned.
Connor dug in his closet and found his flip-flops. He brought them out and dropped them on the floor next to her feet. “There you go, babe. Nobody ever notices shoes anyway.”
“Kay.” She stuck her size 6 feet into his size 11 flip-flops and they walked out of Connor’s home together and headed for church.